Somali map with Sheikh Shari Ahmed of the Islamic Courts Union from the Somali Diaspora Network

Somali map with Sheikh Shari Ahmed of the Islamic Courts Union from the Somali Diaspora Network

Even Bloomberg has caught on to the big mistake that is US policy in the Horn of Africa: Somali Pirates Thrive After U.S. Helped Oust Their Islamic Foes. There was no piracy during the rule of the Islamic Courts Union. The ICU was overthrown by Ethiopian proxies of the US.

In 2006, militant supporters of the Islamic Courts Union, an alliance of Sharia tribunals, won control of Somalia and imposed religious law.

Under the Courts, there was literally no piracy,” says Hans Tino Hansen, chief executive of Risk Intelligence, a maritime security consultant in Denmark.

Then the U.S. helped drive out the Muslim rulers to prevent the East African country from becoming a terrorist haven, leaving behind a lawless chaos in which piracy has flourished.

“It’s a bad mistake to look at Somali events through the prism of international politics,” says Richard Cornwell, an Institute for Security Studies researcher in Pretoria. “The U.S. turned an internal Somali conflict into part of the global war on terror.”

The 6 months during which the Islamic Courts ruled were by far the most peaceful in recent Somali history, before they were displaced by US proxy war. And Al Qaeda was not successful in Somalia:

Osama bin Laden’s al Qaeda has failed for more than a decade to establish an operational base in Somalia due to the country’s austere environment and inhospitable clans, a new U.S. military report says.

“Al Qaeda found more adversity than success in Somalia,” states the report by the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point. “In order to project power, al Qaeda needed to be able to promote its ideology, gain an operational safe haven, manipulate underlying conditions to secure popular support and have adequate financing for continued operations. It achieved none of these objectives.”

“Al Qaeda is predominately an Arab organization, and Arabs tend to stick out in Somalia, so it’s difficult for them to establish large covert bases. The only thing they (Somalis) hate more than their own homegrown radical Islamists casting themselves as holier-than-thou are foreign terrorists coming in and telling them they are not good Muslims and acting holier-than-thou.”

Back in April 2008 the Somali Diaspora Network described the policy disaster in: U.S. Policy on Somalia: A Recipe for Self-fulfilling Prophecies.

The [US] policies of targeted killings and unwavering support for Ethiopia’s brutal occupation are proving to be detrimental to Somalis and undermining U.S. policy in the Horn of Africa. In addition to hampering reconciliation efforts, these policies clearly undermine the TFG itself, the very government the U.S. purports to support. The Somali people justifiably see an imposed government of warlords and their cronies, a brutal and callous occupation and the world’s only superpower stubbornly and recklessly pushing the country over the edge.

Chris Floyd writes in The 13th Circle: Somalia’s Hell and the Triumph of Militarism:

… today’s Islamists are a harder, more brutal group than the ones who were ousted by an Ethiopian invasion, backed by the United States in late 2006. …
On top of that, the unpopular and bloody Ethiopian military operations over the past two years have radicalized many Somalis and sent hundreds of unemployed young men — most of whom have never gone to school, never been part of a functioning society and never had much of a chance to do anything but shoulder a gun — into the arms of militant Islamic groups.

the extent of Washington’s direct involvement in the ongoing destruction of Somalia, which as we have often noted here, involved not only arming, training and funding the Ethiopian invaders, but also dropping US bombs on fleeing refugees, lobbing US missiles into Somali villages, renditioning refugees — including American citizens — into captivity in Ethiopia’s notorious dungeons, and running U.S. death squads in Somalia to “clean up” after covert operations. (The latter is no deep dark secret, by the way; officials openly boasted of it to Esquire Magazine.)

Now, as anyone not completely blinded by imperial hubris could have predicted, the entire misbegotten exercise has collapsed into the worst-case scenario. A relatively stable, relatively moderate government which held out a promise of better future for the long-ravaged land was overthrown– ostensibly to prevent it from becoming a hotbed of radical extremism. The resulting violence, chaos and brutal occupation by foreign forces led directly and inevitably to — what else? — a rise in radical extremism. Thousands of innocent people have been killed, hundreds of thousands have been driven from their homes, millions have been plunged into the direst poverty and the imminent threat of starvation and disease, unspeakable atrocities and unbearable suffering are arising, as they always do in any situation, anywhere, when a human community is destroyed.

Yet none of this penetrates the glossy shell of imperial hubris …

And as he also says:

Here we see the logic of militarism on full display: the only way to prevent the rise of terrorism in a country is by invading that country and occupying it with a foreign military force — which, of course, only gives rise to more terrorism in that country. This circular reasoning seems absurd on its face, but it is in fact the highly efficient dynamic that drives and sustains the ideology of militarism in practical power.

This is fighting terrorism/creating terrorism using Marx Brothers logic:

[from Animal Crackers, 1930] Groucho says to Chico, “It is my belief that the missing picture is hidden in the house next door.”

Chico: “There isn’t any house next door.”

Groucho: “Then we’ll build one!”

So too with the US policy and terrorism in Somalia, if it isn’t there, we’ll build it.

The US seems bent on an overall policy of militarism. That is why Bush tried to swallow the State Department into the Pentagon with the Africa Command.

And Chris Floyd discusses this as well:

Militarism — either in its overt, unashamed form as espoused by the neo-cons and their outriders, or in the more subtly packaged, sugar-coated (and often self-deluding) version of the “humanitarian interventionists” — is the ruling ideology of the American state. Like all ideologies, it comes in different shadings, different emphases, different factions, and so on, but the national power structure is firmly committed across the board to the use of violence — and the ever-present threat of violence — to advance a bipartisan agenda of American hegemony on the world scene. Some factions take great pains to present this hegemony as benevolent and altruistic; other factions don’t care how it comes across … But all factions are willing to kill people — either directly or by proxy — to maintain that hegemony.

Mahmood Mamdani tells us:

peace cannot be built on humanitarian intervention, which is the language of big powers. The history of colonialism should teach us that every major intervention has been justified as humanitarian, a ‘civilising mission

What worries me is that I don’t see Obama changing this. And he has so much on his domestic plate that he may not be able to devote a great deal of attention or political capitol to this. His cabinet picks and statements to date do not indicate any change in the current militarism of US foreign policy. But I’m not making any assumptions until I see what happens once he becomes President.



Added July 21, 2009

More on the US and Kenya and their role in the Ethiopian invasion of Somalia in December 2006 – January 2007, courtesy of b real’s africa comments where you can follow the ongoing involvement in Somalia:

biyokulule online republishes two january 2007 dispatches from the (expensive) private intel newsletter the indian ocean newsletter, citing closed sources, that sure would have come in handy at that time to have had access to. both provide more information on the active roles of the u.s. and kenya during the late-2006 invasion

According to information obtained in Nairobi by The Indian Ocean Newsletter from a Kenyan military intelligence officer, the Ethiopian army had indeed been accompanied by American military advisors when it went into Somalia. One or two advisors were affected to each Ethiopian platoon command and enabled to improve the coordination of the forces combating the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC). These advisors were from the American Special Forces (the Delta Force commandos) under the orders of the Pentagon Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC). They have sophisticated communications equipment enabling them to receive orders from American military vessels sailing off the coast of Somalia. Before the conflict, the military intelligence services of Kenya, Ethiopia and the United States had drawn up a list of the forces, equipment and positions of the UIC militia, which they had tended to overestimate.

Kenya was subsequently the only IGAD country to have advance information of the air raids against the Islamists in south Somalia. American and Kenyan aid, and not only in military intelligence, has been indispensable in ousting the Somalian Islamists from the Ras Kamboni zone where they had taken refuge. After the air raid by an American AC-130, an American Special Forces commando was sent on the ground to support the Ethiopian army. At the same time, the Kenyan air force intervened using unmarked helicopters to oust Islamist militia hidden in the forest around Ras Kamboni. It was then only after a bloody battle that the Ethiopian army managed to defeat the Somalian islamists, by that time completely surrounded.


In addition to sealing their border to close the exit door for Unionof Islamic Courts (UIC) militia and Somalian civilians fleeing the combat zone, the Kenyan authorities have provided logistic support to the Ethiopian army and its Somalian and American allies. Kenyan air force planes have regularly flown over the Ras Kamboni region to carry out reconnaissance and surveillance operations of this zone where Islamist militia had taken refuge. Other similar air-borne missions have monitored retreating Islamist militia convoys. The Kenyan military intelligence services passed on these data to their American and Ethiopian counterparts, enabling them to carry out their military operations and air strikes. According to information obtained by The Indian Ocean Newsletter from a military intelligence source based in Nanyuki, a Kenyan helicopter flying over the Ras Kamboni region last week near the border town of Hulugho was fired on by Somalian Islamist militia using light arms.

Two other Kenyan helicopters in the same zone were also fired on and the windshield of one of them was hit. On 9 January Kenyan helicopters participated in an air raid against Somalian Islamists in Hayi. A ground fight also took place around Amuna between Kenyan soldiers and Somalian Islamists who were trying to cross the border. The Kenyan ministry of defence sent reinforcements to the border crossing points at Amuna, Liboi and Hulugho. Newsflash alert sent to subscribers on 16.1.2007.The Kenyan government has given strict instructions that no information on Kenya`s direct involvement in this conflict should be leaked to the press. The Kenyan military intelligence services have also asked Kenyan diplomats to deny reports that a rocket from an Ethiopian aircraft aimed at a column of Islamists in the South of Somalia had crashed into Kenyan territory.