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Bush and Somalia: When will they ever get it right?

by Bill Fletcher
May 25, 2006

They are doing it again. It has been reported that the Bush administration is supporting Somali warlords in their quasi-civil war against alleged Islamist militias. In the name of fighting terrorism, the Bush administration has apparently decided to secretly support a self-proclaimed anti-terrorist coalition of Somali warlords. Thus, Somalia is plunged back into further military conflict at precisely the time when the interim government has been desperately trying to secure a lasting peace.
U.S. involvement in the Somali conflict is made even more problematic in light of the objections of the Somali interim government. The interim government has asked the Bush administration for support in stabilizing the situation there after nearly 15 years of on-again/off-again military conflict among clans (following the overthrow of the U.S. puppet Siad Barre). Instead the Bush administration has decided that covert intervention is the better course, such that Somalia is now experiencing some of the worst fighting it has seen in more than a decade.
It has been said that a mark of insanity is doing the same thing over and again and expecting different results. If that is the case, then there is chronic insanity afoot in Washington, D.C. In the 1980s, the U.S.A. got involved in the Afghanistan conflict after the then Soviet Union invaded the country. Paying no attention to who was involved in the fighting or the long-term consequences of involvement, the U.S.A. and Saudi Arabia recruited, trained and equipped what came to be known as the mujahideen (Islamic freedom fighters). Some of these same mujahideen later became the core of Al Qaeda, focusing their hatred on the U.S.A. when they saw the U.S.A. abandon Afghanistan. On another front, the U.S.A. supplied Saddam Hussein with weapons of mass destruction such that he could carry out his war against Iran in the 1980s, turning a blind eye when he actually used these weapons killing soldiers and civilians.
The list can go on and on, but the pattern becomes clear. In any immediate situation U.S. foreign policy is driven by a narrow and short-sighted sense of what can and should be done. Further, the U.S. feels no reluctance at being unilateral in its actions, regardless of the consequences.
And 'consequences' is what Somalia is finally all about. The Somali warlords have shown themselves to be completely unsavory. They have agreed, time and again, to various truces and settlements, only to reopen hostilities before the ink is dry on the agreement. What can the Bush administration anticipate coming out of such a situation?

The circumstances in Somalia are reminiscent of something else unfolding in Africa that I have addressed in the past. The U.S. is carrying out military assistance projects in the Sahel region (around the Sahara) for various countries to combat terrorism. Sounds like a good idea? Perhaps in the abstract, but not in reality because terrorism is not a major problem in Africa. Africa has a whole set of problems, but terrorism is not a major one.
Yet the Bush administration in single-mindedly pursuing its war against terrorism has decided that Africa must be a front in that struggle. Thus, at a time when Africa needs to de-militarize, the Bush administration is helping a host of nations, with governments that are a real mixed bag, further militarize. Instead of studying the situation and determining how the U.S.A. can help, the Bush administration fits the facts to back up its already established policies.
And so, Somalia burns.

Bill Fletcher, Jr. is a long-time labor and international activist and writer. He is the former president of the Washington, DC-based non-profit TransAfrica Forum. He can be reached at [email protected].

The opinions contained in this article are solely those of the writer, and in no way, form or shape represent the editorial opinions of "Hiiraan Online"

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