In disregard of international law and in full pursuance of the controversial doctrine of preemption, the United States has conducted air strikes on several locations in Somalia over the last few weeks. The government claimed it was targeting al-Qaeda operators in the area, including those they hold responsible for bombing the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998.
It is unconfirmed that any intended targets were hit in the first strike, but it was reported that at least 31 civilians, including a newlywed couple and a four-year-old boy, were killed. The United States conducted a second air strike in Somalia last week, with no comment from officials, but with indications showing that no ‘valued’ target was killed or captured.
Somalia has witnessed chaos over the past two decades, including civil war between warlords in a failed state, a lack of basic resources, lawlessness and piracy. A movement began among the Islamic intelligentsia in the south to establish Islamic courts which would create a structure of law and order, bringing stability and peace into the lives of Somali citizens.
The anarchic warlords were evicted last June in a move led by the Union of Islamic Courts and supported by most of the population. The warlords fled to an American ship offshore, and the UIC quickly took control of most of southern Somalia, bringing order for the first time since 1991. But the United States immediately started plotting its overthrow.
Washington’s principal instrument in this endeavor was Ethiopia, Somalia’s neighbor to the west. There were consultations between the United States, the European Union and Ethiopia, under which Ethiopian armed forces, well-equipped by the West, were to intervene on the pretext that elements of the UIC had intruded Ethiopia and were spreading radical Islamic teachings that were a threat to the state.
Ethiopia accused the UIC of ‘threatening Ethiopian sovereignty,’ which merely means that UIC members made the same claims about the disputed Somali-Ethiopian border that all Somali nationalists of every party have always made. No UIC troops had even approached that border, but Ethiopia started sending troops into Somalia.
In late December 2006, the Ethiopian army invaded Somalia, eventually driving out the Union of Islamic Courts, the closest thing to a government that Somalia has had since the country collapsed into anarchy 15 years ago. Ethiopia had tanks, jet fighters and the tacit support of the United States; the UIC had only light weapons and the support of Somalis.
The Ethiopian invasion was illegal, unjustified and based on a false premise: Washington’s assertion that the Islamic Courts, backed by Somalis wishing to curb the warlords and bring security, were just a cover for al-Qaeda.
The United States instead backed the warlords who were making Somalis’ lives a miserable nightmare.
The official American position, stated by Jendayi Frazer, Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, is that UIC members were ‘terrorists’ who were ‘controlled by al-Qaeda cell individuals.’ But even U.S. diplomats in the region privately reject this assertion.
It is widely acknowledged, even by the Western media, that the UIC had established law and order in the areas it occupied. Washington Post reporter Stephanie McCrummen, in a report from the Somali capital, reported, ‘In a way, people here said Mogadishu was liberated by the Islamic Courts movement, which managed to rid the city of the militias and roadblocks that had functioned like a hundred Berlin Walls. Movement was so restricted that some residents had not seen friends and relatives in years, and children living only minutes from the crashing Indian Ocean had never laid eyes on the turquoise water.’
A Mogadishu resident was quoted as saying that he carried a weapon to protect himself when the warlords were in power. He put it away when the UIC took power but began carrying it again following the oustering of the Islamists. Numerous reports of a similar nature bear testimony to the fact that the semblance of law and order established by the UIC was regarded as a blessing by most Somalis.
In Somalia, the pro-U.S. government being installed now consists of corrupt warlords from various clans who have been responsible for this state of anarchy and crisis.
It is quite clear that Western governments want to eliminate the Islamic elements in Somalia and create pro-Western elites.
However, if Iraq and Afghanistan are any indication, the majority of the local people want to preserve their own culture and faith, control their own resources and make their own choices. Leaders supported by Western countries do not win mass support. The vast majority of citizens in Muslim countries know that they are following a faith that stands for moderation and peace. The campaign to equate Islam with violence and terrorism is not only based on false assumptions but is also proving counterproductive.
Washington’s experiment in Somalia will unfortunately and undoubtedly involve the killing and suffering of many more innocent people.
Sulaiman Arain is a fifth-year civil engineering student.
Filed Under: Opinion