Thursday, August 16, 2007

The World After Bush Part II: Somalia

By Liam Bailey

I said in a recent article that the U.S. arms sale to the gulf is a possible sign that a U.S. withdrawal from Iraq might be closer than Bush wants to admit. With all my conviction I say: there will be no U.S. victory in Iraq and eventually they will have to pullout, if not before Bush leaves office then sometime soon after.

When reading an article about the continued violence in Somalia with my last article still fresh in my mind, I asked myself the question, where will the world be after the Bush administration? Further, will things calm down, or have the Neocons caused so much friction and meddled so much that the explosion of violence in so many places around the world will continue to worsen?

I will attempt to answer my questions in a series of articles, and through the course will also inadvertently show why electing the son of a U.S. President, as President is perhaps a mistake, that should not be repeated.

In most of the worlds current conflict zones the U.S. has had some involvement, but never has their involvement been as catastrophic as under (the infantile megalomaniac) President Bush Jnr.

Part II: Somalia

Somalia is another country that the U.S.' mistakes in the past have caused problems leading to current, recent and probably future mistakes. After Somalia's dictator Siad Barre was ousted in 1991 a similar situation as that of present day Iraq arose: with the brutality of a dictatorship gone, a ticking time-bomb exploded -- though unlike Iraq the bomb was clan warfare not sectarian warfare.

Somalia's civil war began -- it still hasn't ended. In 1993 the U.S./U.N. sent in peacekeepers because of the heavy civilian death toll. Their mission: to enforce the latest peace agreement, disarm clan militias and engage one faction that refused to cooperate with the peace initiative -- namely, warlord Mohamed Farrah Aidid's faction. Aidid's militia inflicted heavy casualties on the U.S./U.N force, culminating in the Black Hawk down incident Oct 3 - 4 1993, with the vicious killing of 18 American soldiers, 1 Malaysian, and the wounding of 83 U.S, 7 Malaysian and 2 Pakistani troops.

On October 6 President Clinton ordered an end to all U.S. operations in Somalia except self-defense, announcing that all U.S. forces would withdraw no later than Mar. 31 1994 -- not least because the dead soldier's bodies were dragged through the streets by elated civilians. There were similar scenes during the recent peacekeeping mission.

When the peacekeepers left, Somalia went back to much the same as it had been before: protection racketeering, hijacking and open battles between rival warlords and their respective clans/factions. Mogadishu residents -- as always -- suffered worst.

The warlords formed the Transitional National Government when they met in Djibouti 2000, but it improved nothing in Somalia. The battles between the warlords and rival clans/factions lessened, but that just freed up more gunmen to roam the streets robbing, raping and pillaging. The situation remained the same after the Transitional Federal Government was formed at a second meeting in Kenya 2004.

The Union of Islamic Courts began to sweep to power mid-2006, they swept the chaos and violence away, replacing it with their brand of socially restrictive but peaceful and secure calm in the areas they controlled. Children could go back to school and nurses could treat the sick instead of droves of war wounded.

Because of this the U.I.C. enjoyed popular support, not least from the businessmen who founded and funded the growingly popular group. The U.I.C. had the T.F.G. and its warlords holed up in one town, Baidoa within months. Ethiopian troops began appearing in and around Baidoa to strengthen the T.F.G. foothold. The U.I.C. began to attract the world's attention, not least with their threats to attack the Ethiopian invaders, as well as reports of the U.I.C. closing cinemas and stoning women for not wearing Hijab's.

Their hard-line brand of Salafist Islam and Islamic (Sharia) Law put the U.I.C. on the U.S.' radar; in the crosshairs of the War on Terror. Not too long after that the inevitable Al Qaeda connection was made. I am not denying an Al Qaeda connection to a few members of the group, though I would say more U.I.C. hardliners sought Al Qaeda affiliation than actually had it. But nor will I deny that a large number of U.I.C. followers were (are) hard-line Islamists, because it was in fact that branch of the group that was responsible for their firepower and rapid sweep to power. But there was a moderate following just as large and powerful within the group.

Now anyone with any sense, seeing that the U.I.C was easily defeating the warlord T.F.G. and seeing that they were restoring order in Somalia for the first time in 15 years, would have been attempting to talk with the U.I.C. -- even if only the moderates. Attempting to gain assurances on its treatment of women and civilians, attempting to get them to make a public address condemning Al Qaeda and all it stood for -- in return for international recognition and assistance.

But the U.S. and all its followers including the U.N. still refused to give the group validity. U.N. Resolution 1725 was passed authorizing a possible peacekeeping force, and reiterating that the T.F.G. was the only recognized Somali government, that the U.N. saw the T.F.G. as the only route to a peaceful Somalia, and stating that any group targeting the T.F.G. would be dealt with.

But it was when the U.I.C. made their final advance to crush the T.F.G. once and for all that Bush really excelled himself in the proving stupidity stakes.

Bush would have been told (he certainly wouldn't have known) about the long-running (since 1964) history of hatred and violence between Somalia and Ethiopia. So, Bush, supporting, or possibly even initiating Ethiopia's invasion of Somalia to re-instate the T.F.G. government and crush the U.I.C. was like supporting an Israeli invasion of Lebanon to crush a movement regarded as a terror group. Oh, that's right, Bush did that too, but that's another article.

With the summer Lebanon war and the Iraq quagmire as models Bush should have known that a nation invading a country where it is hated is going to meet fierce resistance, from dedicated but invisible fighters coming from and/or bedded into the civilian population. An insurgency of almost never ending numbers, well, more recycling numbers; every innocent killed by the invaders creates more insurgents. But from a man who said while speaking in Vietnam about Iraq that the U.S. only lost the Vietnam war because it pulled out, and he won't make the same mistake in Iraq, Bush probably thought with his courage to stay the course he could bring peace to Somalia.

So Somalia's citizens are still suffering from Bush's error. The calm and relative normality under the U.I.C. has been replaced by their insurgency and the same tribal issues as before the U.I.C. took power: sporadic gunfire, mortars, Ethiopian and Ugandan peace keeper deaths, civilian deaths, general insecurity and anarchy. The situation is worse in Mogadishu than much of the country.

This is all made worse by the fact that there was no reason to invade Somalia, as I said the UIC were restoring order. The moderate elements should have been strengthened by conditional international recognition and support. Like doctors who bury their mistakes, this is just another U.S. mistake that the world has to live with.

So, I have looked at Iraq and Somalia, both very different in terms of how the Bush administration meddled, but both very similar in their chances of enjoying peace and security in the near future. In Somalia the U.S. involvement has always been indirect (on the surface), but because of Bush and with the help of U.S. contractors, money and weapons, Ethiopia is now occupying Somalia. Given their history that will never be a peaceful occupation. The Ugandan peace-keepers have been attacked also. But even if everybody withdrew tomorrow, or after Bush leaves office, Somalia went 15 years of anarchy before the U.I.C. restored some semblance of order, left to their own devices it could well be another 15 years before it happens again. It certainly won't be anytime soon.

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