July 13, 2010

Uganda Bombings: Obama Mustn't Meddle in Somalia

The Uganda bombings are a sad reminder of the ways that Washington's intervention has exacerbated problems in Somalia.

by Jeremy Sapienza

The 20-year conflict in Somalia has finally bled past its borders: Two bombings hit the Ugandan capital Sunday as locals watched the World Cup. Al Shabab, an armed Islamic group in Somalia, has claimed credit for the attacks. Just last week, a Shabab threat to attack Uganda and Burundi was dismissed by authorities.

Western officials and media have predictably spun this as an anti-soccer attack, which will fit neatly into the "they hate us for our freedoms" zeitgeist - Osama bin Laden and other Islamic disgruntleds are simply at war with modernity itself, you see.

Worse, we may be facing calls to intervene further in a renewed Somali civil war - after all, it now has international consequences. But the West, and especially the US, should stay out of it. Despite frequent claims that Shabab "has ties" to Al Qaeda, the connection is limited to rhetorical support. And for all the warnings about the dangers of a "failed state" in the Horn of Africa, Somalia's bearing on American security is marginal at most.

The US has a long history of intervention in Somalia. . . .


"Black Hawk Down: Somalia in 1992-93," International Action Center, December 12, 2001

David Leigh and David Pallister, "The New Scramble For Africa," Guardian, June 1, 2005

"US, UN Call for Somalia Ceasefire," BBC News, May 12, 2006

Sheikh Sherif Ahmed, "Islamic Courts in Mogadishu Break Silence," Islamic Courts Union, May 2006

Salim Lone, "Somalia: 'Most Lawless War of Our Generation'," Democracy Now!, April 27, 2007

M K Bhadrakumar, "The Great Game of Hunting Somali Pirates," Asia times, November 22, 2008

Enver Masud, "Those Somali Pirates and the Scramble for Africa," The Wisdom Fund, April 11, 2009

Ghaith Abdul-Ahad, "How Somalia's civil war became new front in battle against al-Qaida," Guardian, June 7, 2010

Jeffrey Gettleman, "Rare Haven of Stability in Somalia Faces a Test," New York Times, June 25, 2010

[An African Union peacekeeping force, funded by hundreds of millions of dollars from the United States and its allies, has killed, wounded and displaced hundreds of Somali civilians in a stepped-up campaign against Islamist militants--Sudarsan Raghavan, "Rising civilian toll ignites anger at African force as it battles Somali militants," Washington Post, July 18, 2010]

[Al-Shabaab controls most of south and central Somalia with the foreign-backed government hemmed into a few streets of the capital, where it is attacked daily - there is no truce to defend.

The government of former geography teacher Shaik Sharif Shaik Ahmed has not delivered on coherent government; on basic services; on building security services; or on alliances with other factions. His government has not acted as a rallying point for Somalis and has instead barricaded itself into the presidential palace where it has indulged in wasteful infighting.

The last time Somalia had a functioning central government was a dictatorship which fell in 1991. After that, a disastrous small-scale US intervention against competing warlords ended in ignominy with dead US soldiers trailed through Mogadishu. The larger UN mission that followed was also a failure.

The even more calamitous Ethiopian invasion in 2006, backed by Washington, created al-Shabaab. In each case the presence of foreign forces has served to galvanise Somalia's warring factions and helped to radicalise a country with no history of Islamic extremism.--Daniel Howden, "Surrender to al-Shabaab may be first step to victory for Somalia," Independent, July 30, 2010]

Gwynne Dyer, "The U.S.-Made Mess in Somalia," Salt Lake Tribune, August 27, 2010

[The dangers of turning Africa into a front in the "war on terror" - much as it was a front in two world wars and a cold war that were not of its making - have been starkly revealed in Uganda following the 11 July bombings that killed 76 people watching the World Cup final in popular nightspots. That atrocity was attributed to Somali al-Shabaab extremists seeking to carry out retribution for the presence in Somalia of Ugandan "peacekeeping" troops.--Nicholas Young, "Uganda: a pawn in the US's proxy African war on terror," Guardian, September 25, 2010]

Glen Ford, "Uganda, America's Pit Bull, Wants to Lead a Larger War in Somalia,", October 13, 2010

Rob Prince, "WikiLeaks Reveals US Twisted Ethiopia's Arm to Invade Somalia,", December 14, 2010

[The airstrike makes Somalia at least the sixth country where the United States is using drone aircraft to conduct lethal attacks, joining Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya, Iraq and Yemen.--Greg Jaffe and Karen DeYoung, "U.S. drone targets two leaders of Somali group allied with al-Qaeda, official says ,", June 29, 2011]

Glenn Greenwald, "The War on Terror, now starring Yemen and Somalia,", July 18, 2011

Mohamed Ahmed and Ibrahim Mohamed, "Somali government declares Islamist rebellion defeated,", August 6, 2011

Jeffrey Gettleman, et al, "U.S. Relies on Contractors in Somalia Conflict,", August 10, 2011

[Our experience on 9/11 indicated that while the American people are oblivious to the role our policies may have played in the famine and destabilization of Somalia, our security forces aren't. There are now an estimated 1 million Somali refugees in Kenya, many applying for - and getting - humanitarian visas that allow them to enter the U.S. Are there Somali refugees in the U.S. who have a grudge against their adopted country? No doubt. The U.N. now estimates that 750,000 people may die as a result of the famine. Twenty-nine thousand children under the age of 5 have already died. This is a high price to pay for fighting al-Qaida, and Americans are not the ones paying it.--Susan Zakin, "Suleiman's Travels,", September 27, 2011

Glen Ford, "Somalis Under Relentless Drone Attack as U.S. Tightens Military Grip on Continent,", October 21, 2011

[The Somalis' fear that Somalia will break into more bits has already caused the president of its transitional government, Sharif Ahmed, to denounce the presence of Kenyan troops inside Somalia, even though the Kenyans say they crossed the border only at the invitation of his government.--"Kenya Invades Somalia,", October 29, 2011]

Gabe Joselow, "Kenya to Stay in Somalia Until Safe From Al-Shabab Menace,", October 29, 2011

"Report: Norway oil interests push Kenya into Somalia proxy war," Somalia Youth League, November 22, 2011

[Kenya's invasion of Somalia, hailed by the West and the UN Security Council, was meant to deliver a knockout blow to the militant Islamist group al-Shabaab. Instead it has pulled Somalia's regional rival Ethiopia back into the country, stirred up the warlords and rekindled popular support for fundamentalists whose willingness to let Somalis starve rather than receive foreign aid had left them widely hated.--Daniel Howden, "UN-backed invasion of Somalia spirals into chaos," Independent, December, 2011]

Abdi Ismail Samatar, "An odious affair: The UN in Somalia," Al Jazeera, April 3, 2012

[Washington is relying on proxy forces because Somalia has been essentially off-limits to U.S. ground troops since 1993, when Somali fighters shot down two military helicopters and killed 18 Americans in the "Black Hawk Down" debacle.--Craig Whitlock, "U.S. trains African soldiers for Somalia mission,", May 13, 2012]

[Officially, the troops are under the auspices of the African Union. But in truth, according to interviews by U.S. and African officials and senior military officers and budget documents, the 15,000-strong force pulled from five African countries is largely a creation of the State Department and Pentagon, trained and supplied by the U.S. government and guided by dozens of retired foreign military personnel hired through private contractors.--David S. Cloud, "U.S. is the driving force behind the fighting in Somalia,", July 29, 2012]

Bonnie Kristian, "Biden Sends U.S. Troops Back to Somalia,", July 26, 2022

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