Another unwanted war
IN HIS memorable, 1961 farewell speech, President Dwight Eisenhower warned Americans to avoid foreign entanglements and beware the growing power of the military-industrial complex.
It was thus ironic to see American air strikes being launched last week from the decks of the mighty attack carrier USS Eisenhower’ against the East African nation of Somalia.
The US has opened a fourth front in the war on terrorism’ trumpeted the Pentagon, as if it did not have enough failing wars on its hands in Afghanistan and Iraq.
US warplanes and, reportedly, Special Forces units, attacked Somalia from the sea and from the US base at Djibouti. Other US units and FBI agents have been deployed on the Kenya-Somalia border. Much of Somalia is already occupied by Ethiopia’s powerful, US-financed army. Ethiopia invaded defenseless Somalia, with Washington’s blessing, under cover of the Christmas holiday.
But was Somalia really a ‘hotbed of terrorism’ as Washington claimed? The US-Ethiopian invasion of Somalia was sparked by last fall’s defeat of corrupt Somali warlords armed and financed by the CIA. They had kept Somalia in turmoil and near anarchy for 15 years. Last year, a group of Muslim jurists and notables, the Union of Islamic Courts, managed to defeat the warlords and impose a rough form of law and order on many parts of chaotic central and southern Somalia.
The conservative Islamic Courts were sympathetic to pan-Muslim causes. But there is no evidence they were involved in anti-American jihadist movements and had no identifiable links, as Washington claimed, to Al Qaeda. A handful of African Al Qaeda suspects in the 1998 bombing of US Embassies in East Africa may have been in Somalia, but going to war against a sovereign nation to try to assassinate or capture a handful of suspects (some reportedly escaped) is like using a nuclear weapon to kill a gnat and is sure to generate more anti-US violence. Air strikes by carrier- based US F-18s and the deadly AC-130 gunships killed between 50-100 Somali civilians but, apparently, no Al Qaeda suspects.
In line with increasing militarisation of US foreign policy, the Pentagon’s new golden-haired boys, Special Operations Command, pushed aside the humiliated CIA and the feckless State Department and vowed to drain the Islamic swamp’ in Somalia.
Thus begins President Bush’s fourth war against the Muslim World. He failed dismally to capture Osama bin Laden, conquer Iraq, or pacify Afghanistan. Dirt-poor, defenseless Somalia is Bush’s last stab at military glory and a last-ditch effort to convince Americans the so-called war on terror’ is a success.
The administration is again recklessly charging into a thicket of tribal politics in a remote nation it knows nothing about. US policy in Somalia is being driven by neoconservatives seeking war against the entire Muslim World, and self-serving advice from ally Ethiopia. Israel has close intelligence, military and economic links to Ethiopia’s regime and has long conducted covert operations in the Horn of Africa.
Eritrea’s 1993 secession took away Ethiopia’s natural access to the sea, leaving it landlocked. Ethiopia’s prime goal in Somalia is seizing one or more deep-water ports, turning Somalia into a protectorate, and crushing any Islamic movements that might enflame its own voiceless Muslims, who comprise half of Ethiopia’s 73 million people.
America’s attack on Somalia recalls Afghanistan. The US is again blundering into ancient clan and tribal conflicts, using foreign troops and local mercenaries to defend a puppet regime without any popular support. US-Ethiopian intervention in Somalia is certain to re-ignite the murderous clan rivalries that brought it to its current state of anarchy.
Like Afghanistan, Somalia was easy to invade, but may prove very difficult to rule, or eventually leave. The invading Ethiopians, blood foes of Somalis, were not greeted with flowers, as US neocons again promised. Many Somalis saw the US and Ethiopians as invaders, and the now scattered Islamic Courts militias as their best hope for stability and normalcy. Now they are back to zero – or worse.
Like Afghanistan after the US invasion in 2001, Somalis have been slow to organise resistance against their latest occupiers. But in time they will likely mount a fierce resistance to the new US-Ethiopian condominium over Somalia. Again, as in Afghanistan, Somali resistance to foreign occupation was initially feeble, but it is likely to intensify into guerrilla operations if the Ethiopian Army remains for long. From 1899 to 1930, Somalia waged a bitter guerrilla war against British colonial occupation, in which a third of its population was killed. Britain gave the Ogaden region of western Somalia to Ethiopia, thus ensuring permanent hostility between the two neighbours.
So begins yet another unnecessary war.
Eric S. Margolis is a veteran American journalist and contributing foreign editor of The Toronto Sun.
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