Al-Shabaab, Death and Somalia
U.S. corporate media deploy the most technically sophisticated information delivery systems in the world – yet fail to tell even a semblance of the truth when it comes to American crimes abroad. Satellites brought images of horror from a shopping mall in Nairobi, but “Americans know nothing about Kenya or its role as American partner in keeping Somalia in a constant state of war.”
“Does al Shabab Pose a Threat on American Soil?” So read a headline in the New York Times’ blog, Room for Debate. Despite its name, Room for Debate rarely shows any true differences of opinion on whatever issue of the day is considered significant to the Times’ editors. None of the supposed debaters on this topic actually addressed the central issue of al-Shabaab’s existence and what it says about the United States behavior around the world. A better question would be why the United States turned Somalia into a ruin and why does it keep killing people there.
Sometimes we get the opportunity to see violence up close as in the recent al-Shabaab attack on the Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi, Kenya. But in the absence of good reporting, scenes of carnage tell us nothing. Thanks to liar presidents and their partners in the corporate media, Americans know nothing about Kenya or its role as American partner in keeping Somalia in a constant state of war.
Americans don’t know that their government instigated an Ethiopian invasion of Somalia in 2006 which destroyed that nation and prevented it from emerging from turmoil and humanitarian disaster. They don’t know that Kenya was enlisted in this occupation in 2011 and also gained the enmity of the al-Shabaab resistance. They don’t know that the United States government prevented food from reaching starving people. They don’t know that the so-called pirates in Somalia are fighting in vain to keep European nations from stealing even the fish they need to survive.
Al-Shabaab is dedicated to resisting American aggression and to punishing anyone who assists in that process. There is nothing mysterious about this group’s motives. They are fighting their oppressors be they in the United States or Kenya.
Of course we are shown pictures of murder victims at the Westgate mall in Kenya and hear the word al-Shabaab linked to their deaths. It is justifiable to show that suffering but the media never show the victims of American violence. They remain unseen and therefore unknown.
Various forms of media are now accessible to every person at any time of day or night, but we must hunt to see images of Iraqi, Afghan, Somali, Yemeni, Libyan, Palestinian, Haitian, and Syrian victims of American and American sponsored violence. Because they have been disappeared the American public are kept in a bubble of ignorance without knowing the role that their government plays in creating bloodshed.
When we do see the victims lying bloody in a Nairobi shopping mall we obviously feel sadness about their fates and perhaps anger at the perpetrators. Seeing people killed who were merely engaged in the mundane activities of life is terribly tragic. It would be enlightening and no less tragic to see the images and hear the stories of people who were going about their daily business when suddenly death struck them because of the American empire.
The consequence of propaganda and omissions in reporting mean that al-Shabaab are labeled as fanatical Muslims and evil terrorists and not people who have reason to be angry with Kenya for joining in the evisceration of their country. Their legitimate grievances aren’t addressed by killing weekend shoppers but unless all these facts are acknowledged the cycle of violence can only continue.
Al-Shabaab exists because of the terror the United States brought to Somalia. In 2011 more than 250,000 people died in that nation because of a drought, and an American policy of starving civilians in order to starve al-Shabaab fighters.
So the question isn’t whether al-Shabaab threatens America. The question is how Americans think they can be held harmless when their government goes on killing sprees and creates hatred and a desire for revenge.
When we need hard facts we get propaganda instead. Hollywood is using Somalia again as its backdrop for grotesque stories of exceptionalism and supremacy. A new film, Captain Phillips, tells the story of one brave American who with the help of overwhelming fire power and Navy SEALS overcame three Somalians in a life boat. It is doubtful that the Somalian side of the story will be told. One unlucky Somalian young man, Abduwali Abdukhadir Muse, received a 33 year prison sentence when he chose to surrender instead of fighting the world’s only super power.
The truth is that our government bears responsibility for the loss of life at the Kenyan mall and for attacks on American vessels. Americans may live in ignorance but the rest of the world knows better. The United States first brought death to Somalia and is responsible for creating even more of it.
Margaret Kimberley‘s Freedom Rider column appears weekly in BAR, and is widely reprinted elsewhere. She maintains a frequently updated blog as well as at http://freedomrider.blogspot.com.
Ms. Kimberley lives in New York City, and can be reached via e-Mail at Margaret.Kimberley(at)BlackAgendaReport.com.
Innocent Kenyan Blood Drips from Imperial Hands
The carnage at a Kenyan shopping mall is a direct result of U.S. policy in Somalia. In 2006, Washington and Ethiopia invaded Somalia, overthrowing a moderate Islamic government and plunging the country into a war that has killed hundreds of thousands and left millions displaced. Kenya later joined the invaders, further escalating a U.S.-led conflict that has finally reached deep into Nairobi.
“There has been speculation that the U.S. drive to dominate Somalia’s oil supplyhas prompted an interest in perpetual instability and division within the country.”
A 2011 report prepared for members of Congress lacks significant references to Kenya, but it details eye-opening events in Somalia that set the stage for the recent attack on a Kenyan shopping mall. The Congressional Research Service (CRS) report, titled “Somalia: Current Conditions and Prospects for a Lasting Peace” also contains facts that allow readers to conclude that much of the innocent blood shed by shoppers killed by al-Shabaab militants drips from western imperialist hands.
The recent shopping mall attack was reportedly in retaliation for Kenya’s participation in military operations against al-Shabaab in Somalia in 2011. Al-Shabaab became a force in Somalia after a 2006 military operation that dislodged a government run by “The Islamic Courts Union,” a network of tribunals that administered Islamic law. In 2006, the U.S. State Department’s point person for African affairs was Jendayi Frazer, and she was quoted as saying: “The top layer of the [Islamic Courts Union] courts are extremist to the core. They are terrorists and they are in control.”
Thereafter, the U.S. commenced a military collaboration with Ethiopia, a long-time foe of Somalia. The CRS report says: “According to a New York Times article, the United States actively coordinated with Ethiopian forces in targeting suspected terrorist and Islamic Union forces. U.S. Special Operations troops from Task Force 88 were reportedly deployed to Ethiopia and entered Somalia.
Moreover, the United States reportedly shared intelligence with the Ethiopian military and used an airstrip in Eastern Ethiopia to launch attacks inside Somalia.”
The CRS report raises questions about the validity of the purported reasons for U.S. and Ethiopian aggression. The report says: “The Islamic Courts, while well received by the people in the areas the Courts controlled, received negative press coverage, especially in the West. The Courts’ activities were often characterized as extremist and jihadist. The ICU was accused of shutting down cinemas and prohibiting women from working. Some of these measures were taken by the Courts, although for reasons other than the Courts’ alleged jihadist and extremist ideology. For example, movies were banned in the morning in response to requests from parents because Somali children were going to movies in the morning instead of school. The ban on television did not take place, except for restrictions on watching soccer games late at night…because of disturbances and fighting late at night.”
“U.S. Special Operations troops from Task Force 88 were reportedly deployed to Ethiopia and entered Somalia.”
Why then would the U.S. take aim at such a government – particularly when it was Somalia’s first stable government structure in many years? The answer may be because it was a stable government. There has been speculation that the U.S. drive to dominate Somalia’s oil supply has prompted an interest in perpetual instability and division within the country. Although Somalia had been in chaos for years because of endless battles between clans directed by “warlords” it has been suggested that it was easier and more profitable for western oil companies to pit these warring clans against each other in the competition for oil exploration and extraction agreements than it would have been to negotiate with a single, stable, unified government. U.S. propaganda suggests that military intervention in Somalia during the early 1990s was purely a humanitarian mission to tame the warlords and restore order. However, WikiLeaks noted that informed observers “…wonder about the lucrative U.S. oil exploration going on at the time…[W]hat are we to make of the U.S. using oil company Conoco’s offices as a temporary embassy?”
Oil industry exploitation of division in Somalia has not only been continuous, but it recently captured the attention of United Nations monitors. A confidential report to the Security Council’s sanctions committee explains how various Somali clans have begun to grant oil exploration licenses for overlapping territories. Reuters quotes the report as saying: “Potentially, it means that exploration operations in these blocks, conducted by [Norwegian and Swedish/Canadian oil companies] under the protection of regional security forces, its allied militia or private forces, could generate new conflict…” The report goes on to comment: “It is alarming that regional security forces and armed groups may clash to protect and further Western-based oil companies interests.”
It is therefore understandable why the stability brought by the Islamic Courts Union was welcomed by many of Somalia’s people, but was at the same time a cause for alarm among western imperialists. After U.S. and Ethiopian military forces drove the Islamic Courts Union government from power in 2006, resentment grew among certain sectors of the Somali youth organization known as al-Shabaab. After the Islamic Courts Union government fell, al-Shabaab stepped in to try and fill the void. The group controlled some territory until an African Union coalition that included Kenyan and Ugandan troops moved them out of key areas of the country in 2011. The militants of al-Shabaab began to threaten revenge against Kenya for its role in the ouster. They recently made good on their threat in a Kenyan shopping mall by carrying out unconscionable acts of terrorism.
Those who carried out the killing of innocents have been rightly condemned by the media and others. But justice demands that the world not allow the western military-industrial alliance that in many ways has been responsible for setting off this tragic chain of events to slink away into the night like a vicious jackal leaving carnage and destruction in its tracks.
Mark P. Fancher is an attorney who writes frequently about the U.S. military presence in Africa. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.