Jason Ditz puts this week’s horrific bombing in Uganda by Somali extremists in perspective: the perspective of the relentless killing of civilians perpetrated by Western-backed forces in Somalia for years.
The American-led meddling in the ravaged nation has led directly — and inevitably — to the rise of extremist militias like al-Shabab, and to the deaths of thousands of innocent people. As we noted here back in 2008:
Somalia is the invisible third front of the Terror War, an American-backed “regime change” operation launched by the invading army of Ethiopia and local warlords in December 2006. In addition to helping arm, fund and train the army of the Ethiopian dictatorship, the United States has intervened directly into the conflict, carrying out bombing raids on fleeing refugees and nomads, firing missiles into villages, sending in death squads to clean up after covert operations, and, as we reported here long ago, assisting in the “rendition” of refugees, including American citizens, into the hands of Ethiopia’s notorious torturers.
Together, the American Terror Warriors, the Ethiopians and the [Somali] warlords (some of them directly in the pay of the CIA) have created the worst humanitarian disaster on earth. Thousands have been killed in the fighting. Hundreds of thousands have been driven from their homes …
The United States is not only backing the Ethiopians and the Somali transitional government (TGF) propped up by the occupation; Washington has also provided “robust financial and logistical support to armed paramilitaries resisting the command and control of the TGF,” according to a major new study of the conflict by the human rights organization, Enough. In addition to these freebooters, it turns out that the wide-ranging Somali pirates … are supported by “backers linked to the Western-backed government” in Mogadishu.
In other words, the United States is sponsoring a hydra-headed conflict that spews fire and destruction in every direction, and is trampling an already ravaged people deeper into the dirt. It is by any measure — even the mass-murdering standards of our day — a sickening abomination, a war crime of staggering proportions. Yet it goes on, day after day, without the slightest comment, much less criticism, from the entire bipartisan political establishment, and almost all of the media — including most of the “dissident” blogosphere. The Somalis are simply non-people, a nation of ghosts, unseen and unseeable. [For more, see Background section below.]
And still it goes on today. The Ethiopians have finally pulled out of Somalia, but as Ditz points out, other Western-backed forces remain:
The world has, far from “ignoring” Somalia, been trying to prop up illegitimate governments there for years, and Uganda has been at the forefront of this, contributing the most troops to the African Unions military adventure into Somalia.
This [week’s bomb] attack [in Uganda] did not happen in a vacuum but rather came after repeated threats from the Somali militant faction to “retaliate” against Uganda for its many, many attacks on residential neighborhoods under al-Shabaab’s control.
Though one can not but condemn al-Shabaab for taking out its retaliation on innocent civilians, it is also impossible to notice that the Ugandan troops in Somalia have been doing virtually the same thing, responding to ambushes against them by shelling residential neighborhoods, on a regular basis since the troops got there.
In fact since we’re so keen on the soccer aspect of the killings, let us not forget an incident in mid-January, when AU troops responded to an attack on the presidential palace by al-Shabaab by launching artillery shells at a playground in al-Shabaab-held territory, killing seven children who were playing soccer at the time.
It was shortly after this that al-Shabaab started talking about banning soccer, and while the official line on this is that it proves the group’s extremism the reality is that it largely isn’t safe to play soccer in Somalia not because of al-Shabaab but because Ugandan troops have declared the right to attack any region under “insurgent” control, which considering the self-proclaimed government owns little more than a few city blocks in Mogadishu, puts virtually the entire civilian population of Somalia directly in the line of fire.
Before the American-backed invasion of 2006, Somalia had achieved a precarious but growing level of stability for the first time after many years of anarchy under the violent rule of warlords. But this government was made up of a broad coalition of Islamic groups. And although the coalition, led by moderates, was not remotely as extreme as, say, the sectarians of Saudi Arabia, it was outside the control or clientage of the Potomac Empire, and thus could not be allowed to survive.
And so the CIA’s warlords and Washington’s Ethiopian proxies went to work. The coalition was destroyed — and with it the hopes of a moderate, secure, independent Somalia, working out its own destiny, its own path toward development. In the resulting swamp of carnage and suffering, only the extremists were left standing to confront the extreme violence being inflicted by the forces of ‘civilization.’
Now the brutal — and brutalizing — cycle of violence spins ever more furiously, feeding on its own momentum, lashing out beyond the borders, and creating its own nightmare world where whole generations are being devoured.
As Ditz says, the bombing in Uganda is a contemptible, abominable crime — as is the killing of all innocent people by the forces of organized violence. But it did not come out of nowhere, it did not spring from some abyss of mysterious, mystical, motiveless evil. It was an entirely rational act within the system adopted — and imposed — by the “Great Powers,” which holds that the slaughter of innocent people is a perfectly acceptable way to advance your political, economic and ideological agendas.
The United States and Great Britain (among other defenders of civilization) have practiced this for centuries. Yet for centuries, they have always been surprised — shocked — outraged — when the “lesser peoples” follow their example and strike back in like manner. What is high policy for the Great is base terror when employed by the Low.
But as there is absolutely no sign that the Great are about to give up the profitable path of state terror — quite the opposite! — we can be assured of many more such “logical” responses from their all-too-apt pupils around the world.
NOTE: In the wake of the Uganda bombing, we will doubtless see and hear more of this kind of thing from the Peace Laureate and his blood-and-iron secretary of state. From August 2009:
[Hillary] Clinton has pledged to double the recently announced supply of American weapons to Somalia’s “transitional government” — a weak reed cobbled together by Western interests from various CIA-paid warlords and other factions, and now headed, ironically, by the former leader of the aforementioned fledgling state overthrown by Washington. (Yes, it is hard to tell the players without a scorecard — or even with one. But if you follow the weapons and the money, you can usually tell who is temporarily on which side at any given moment.)
Clinton, bellicose as ever, accompanied the shipment of 80 tons of death-dealing hardware with a heavy dose of the wild fearmongering rhetoric we’ve come to know so well in this New American Century. As AP reports, she declared that the radical faction al-Shabab, now leading the insurgency against the transitional government, has only one goal in mind: bring in al Qaeda and destabilizing the whole entire world.
Yes, dear hearts, once again the survival of the planet — not to mention the sacred American way of life — is under imminent threat from a gang of evil maniacs; a threat requiring the urgent enrichment of the U.S. arms industry — sorry, I mean the urgent intervention of American know-how. For as the history of American foreign policy in the last 60 years has clearly shown us, there has never been an internal conflict in any country of the world that was not actually, deep down, a direct threat to all the sweet American babies sleeping in their cribs.
The interim Somali president, Sheik Sharif Sheik Ahmed — an Islamist who only a few years ago was considered by Washington as, well, an evil maniac in league with al Qaeda — agreed with Clinton, saying that al-Shabab aims to “make Somalia a ground to destabilize the whole world.” This would be the same al-Shabab that Ahmed has spent most of his presidency trying to negotiate a power-sharing agreement with. (Where’s that scorecard again?)
As usual, the AP story buries some of the most blazing, salient facts way down in the uncritical regurgitation of official rhetoric. But credit where it’s due, the story does finally note that the new American assistance is not confined to stuff that can kill more Somalis; it also includes – wait for it again — U.S. military “advisors” to help “train” the forces of the ever-collapsing transitional government.
Clinton also shook a sword at neighboring Eritrea, accusing it of supporting al-Shabab and “interfering” in Somalia’s internal affairs. This, while she was announcing the delivery of 80 tons of American weapons to be poured into Somalia’s internal affairs. This line is of course just an echo of the continual Bush-Obama warnings against “foreigners” interfering in Iraq. The gall of these gilded poltroons — denouncing foreign interference while standing on mountains of corpses produced by the endless American “interference” in other countries — is truly sublime. Clinton said that if Eritrea doesn’t start toeing the imperial line, “we intend to take actions.” (All you future Gold Star mothers and war widows out there better get out your atlases: your loved ones could soon be dying in yet another part of the world you never heard of.)
What will be the effect of this new “humanitarian intervention” of weapons and advisers? Same as it ever was: more death, more ruin, more suffering, more extremism, more hatred, more sorrow — and more money for the war profiteers. That is the point, isn’t it?
ANOTHER NOTE: For more on the direct American involvement in the dismemberment of Somalia, here’s a snippet from 2007:
How many people did American forces actually kill when they attacked refugees fleeing from the U.S.-backed Ethiopian invasion of Somalia last January? We know from reports by Oxfam, the Guardian, the Associated Press and Reuters that dozens of innocent civilians were slaughtered near the Kenyan border, including villagers and nomadic tribesmen hit by American gunships seeking to kill alleged al Qaeda operatives who may or may not have been among the refugees. But a new story in Esquire magazine — detailing the creation of America’s most recent military satrapy, the Africa Command — provides disturbing indications that the post-invasion killing by American operatives in Somalia was far more extensive — and deliberate — than previously known. [Extensive background on the war in Somalia can be found here.]
The Esquire piece, by Thomas Barnett, is a mostly glowing portrait of the Africa Command, which, we are told, is designed to wed military, diplomatic, and development prowess in a seamless package, a whole new way of projecting American power: “pre-emptive nation-building instead of pre-emptive regime change,” or as Barnett describes it at another point, “Iraq done right.” Although Barnett’s glib, jargony, insider piece — told entirely from the point of view of U.S. military officials — does contain bits of critical analysis, it is in no way an expose. The new details he presents on the post-invasion slaughter are thus even more chilling, as they are offered simply as an acceptable, ordinary aspect of this laudable new enterprise.
Barnett reveals that the gunship attacks on refugees were just the first part of the secret U.S. mission that was “Africa Command’s” debut on the imperial stage. Soon after the attacks, “Task Force 88, a very secret American special-operations unit,” was helicoptered into the strike area. As Barnett puts it: “The 88’s job was simple: Kill anyone still alive and leave no unidentified bodies behind.”
Some 70,000 people fled their homes in the first wave of the Ethiopian invasion. (More than 400,000 fled the brutal consolidation of the invasion in Mogadishu last spring.) Tens of thousands of these initial refugees headed toward the Kenyan border, where the American gunships struck. When the secret operation was leaked, Bush Administration officials said that American planes were trying to hit three alleged al Qaeda operatives who had allegedly been given sanctuary by the Islamic Councils government decapitated by the Ethiopians. But Barnett’s insiders told him that the actual plan was to wipe out thousands of “foreign fighters” whom Pentagon officials believed had joined the Islamic Courts forces. “Honestly, nobody had any idea just how many there really were,” Barnett was told. “But we wanted to get them all.”
Thus the Kenyan border area — where tens of thousands of civilians were fleeing — was meant to be “a killing zone,” Barnett writes:
America’s first AC-130 gunship went wheels-up on January 7 from that secret Ethiopian airstrip. After each strike, anybody left alive was to be wiped out by successive waves of Ethiopian commandos and Task Force 88, operating out of Manda Bay. The plan was to rinse and repeat ‘until no more bad guys, as one officer put it.
At this point, Barnett — or his sources — turn coy .. So there is no way of knowing at this point how many survivors of the American attacks were then killed by the “very special secret special-operations unit,” or how many “rinse-and-repeat” cycles the “88s” were able to carry out in what Barnett called “a good plan.”
Nor do we know just who the “88s” killed. As noted, the vast majority of refugees were civilians, just as the majority of the victims killed by the American gunship raids were civilians. Did the “88s” move in on the nomadic tribesmen decimated by the air attack and “kill everyone still alive”? Or did they restrict themselves to killing any non-Somalis they found among the refugees?
And even then, three years ago, it was easy to see the outcome of these murderous policies. From that same 2007 piece:
No doubt, the brutal destruction of the broad-based Courts government — which had brought Somalia its first measure of stability in more than 15 years of violent anarchy — will in fact spur the rise of al Qaeda-related groups in Somalia, feeding on the chaos and despair engendered by the Bush-backed invasion. Thus, American forces will always have a handy excuse for striking Somalia whenever they please, as they strive to “project dominance” over Africa.
BACKGROUND: For more on Somalia, see:
Pirates of the Horn: U.S. Backs Reign of Crime and Death in Somalia
Work of Evil: Beyond the Worst-Case Scenario in Somalia
Willing Executioners: America’s Bipartisan Atrocity Deepens in Somalia
Alliance With Atrocity: Bush’s Terror War Partners in Ethiopia
Black Hawk Rising: CIA Warlords Take Control in Mogadishu