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The myth of U.S. 'humanitarian' intervention in Africa

By  Chris Banks
Tuesday, July 03, 2007

The case of Somalia

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People in the United States have been told that there is a "genocide" happening in the Darfur region of Sudan. We never hear much else about Sudan or Africa in general.

Tens of millions of dollars have been raised and spent to promote a distorted narrative about the humanitarian crisis.

The narrative fits seamlessly with the anti-Arab and anti-Muslim hysteria and racism that has been whipped up by the U.S. government to justify the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan, and the Israeli war on the Palestinian people.

It also has kept the focus away from Washington’s assault on Somalia. The U.S. government has bombed the people of Somalia at least three times in 2007 alone. Washington claims it is doing this to liberate Somalia from "Islamic terrorists" and to support its central government. This is a lie.

For all of its phony concern about people in Darfur, the U.S. government has created a different humanitarian crisis in Somalia—killing thousands and displacing hundreds of thousands.

The U.S. government’s objectives in Sudan and Somalia are the same: securing access to raw materials and markets, security that guarantees the unfettered flow of U.S. capital, and neo-colonial subjugation of the African continent as a whole.

Orchestrated divisions

In 1991, the regime of Siad Barre was overthrown by a coalition of different clans and armed groupings. The coalition quickly fell apart after failing to come to terms on a power sharing agreement. Sixteen years without a central government followed.

The clan structure has been a constant brake on Somalia’s progress. It has been, and continues to be, exploited by imperialist countries, like Britain, Italy and now the United States, as a way to undermine the country’s social and economic unity.

After years of violence and relentless fighting between different clans, many Somalis questioned their clan loyalty and became more conscious of alternative instruments to improve their security, raise their quality of living, and influence politics—instruments with multi-clan membership, like business associations, Islamic organizations, women’s groups, and civil society organizations.

In 2006, the Union of Islamic Courts, with popular support, routed the U.S.-backed coalition of clan-based warlords that had terrorized and extorted Somalia. The UIC consolidated control over much of southern Somalia, including the capital, Mogadishu.

This is why the United States opened up a third front of the so-called war on terror in Somalia. The UIC threatened to unite Somalia across clan divisions and along nationalist lines. The UIC appealed to all ethnic Somalis who share a common religion (Islam) and language (Somali).

Troops of Washington’s client regime in Ethiopia, headed by the brutal Meles Zenawi, accompanied by U.S. special forces, invaded and occupied Somalia in December 2006. The UIC disappeared and went underground.

For Ethiopia and the United States, the strategy was supposed to be to get in, wipe out the UIC, install a puppet government made up of former warlords known as the Transitional Federal Government, and then withdraw Ethiopian troops and replace them with a combination of African Union and U.N. troops.

Like in Iraq, "mission accomplished" was declared prematurely in January 2007, after only a few weeks of fighting. Since then, the United States and its proxy, Ethiopia, have been caught off guard by the strength of the resistance and its shift in tactics to guerilla warfare. Many tactics used by the Iraqi resistance have been adopted by Somali fighters.

What the U.S. imperialists and Ethiopia thought was going to be a quick military operation has turned into a protracted struggle. The Ethiopian army desperately wants to pull out its 25,000 occupying troops.

Somali resistance to the occupation continues. On June 9, the militia loyal to the UIC’s former defense leader took control of two key towns in the lower Shabelle region after heavy fighting with TFG forces.

And the Zenawi regime faces growing internal threats in Ethiopia. On April 24, the Ogaden National Liberation Front, a movement of ethnic Somalis in Ethiopia’s Ogaden region, attacked an oilfield, killing 65 Ethiopian soldiers and 9 Chinese workers.

‘Humanitarian’ intervention?

Hussein Adow, a Mogadishu businessman told the London Times in late April, "In the six months the Islamic courts

were here, less than 20 people lost their lives through violence. Now, that many die in ten minutes."

Over 400,000 people have been internally displaced in Somalia since January. Thousands of civilians have been killed. The situation for the people of Somalia is worse now than it has been in decades.

Twice in January and most recently on June 1, the United States military intervened directly in Somalia, carrying out missile strikes against villages in northern and southern Somalia. The January 8 strike in the city of Afmadow killed at least 70 civilians.

Mogadishu is a war zone again. Schools, businesses, roadside stalls and even orphanages have closed.

Washington’s role in Somalia unveils the myth of U.S. "humanitarian" intentions in Africa.

During a June 7 press conference, Air Force Brig. Gen. Robert Holmes, deputy director of operations for U.S. Central Command, discussed Washington’s strategic outlook in Africa and also hinted at the true aims of imperialism:

"I think it’s very important that we engage there [in the Horn of Africa]. And the foot in the door there, honestly, is humanitarian operations."

Holmes continued, "Ultimately that is … a softer instrument of military power, which then over time builds capacity with regard to combating terrorism and other challenges." (American Forces Press Service, June 7)

No one should be fooled when U.S. generals and politicians start talking about people’s needs in Africa. They do not care about the suffering of Africans one bit. They do not want to give justice to the people of the continent. Nor do they want to work with African countries in the spirit of solidarity and cooperation.

Chris Banks

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