Fw: Somalia, & The New World Order
debsian at SPAMpacbell.net
Fri Nov 26 10:05:35 MST 1999
Going over my e-mail this morning found this.
With huge demonstrations planning to "greet" President Clinton and the
World Trade Organization in Seattle and across the world in the next week,
this overview of the almost-forgotten role of US/UN institutions in the
"humanitarian intervention" in Somalia 7 years ago seems most apropos.
Somalia, and the New World Order:
You Provide the Collateral, We'll Provide the Damage
by Mitchel Cohen
"To pull out of Somalia would be] devastating to our hopes for the New
World Order ..."
General Colin Powell, September 1993
"To give food aid to a country just because they are starving is a pretty
Henry Kissinger, 1974
By the time the U.S. had finally removed its troops from Somalia four years
ago, 10,000 Somalis had been killed by U.N. occupying troops under U.S.
command. President George Bush -- who had instigated the alleged
"humanitarian" mission as his parting salvo before leaving office -- had
originally projected it to last a few months at most. But, like all such
"interventions," it quickly turned into a year and a half military
occupation, with serious repercussions still being felt today. Meanwhile,
the U.S. government never truthfully outlined its purpose in Somalia nor
whether it had been accomplished.
Despite many secondary motives, the primary mission of the US/UN occupation
of Somalia was to continue to develop an effective international policing
mechanism capable of forcing recalcitrant regions into the International
Monetary Fund's "Structural Adjustment Programs," co-opt or crush
resistance to it, and -- militarily, if necessary (in fact, militarily
might be the option of choice, at this time) -- prepare the groundwork
needed to reshape whole areas of the world in the image of the New World
On September 9, 1993, for example, U.S. helicopter gunships and tanks
opened fire in Somalia on an unarmed crowd that had gathered to maintain a
roadblock. More than 100 Somali people were massacred.
Three months earlier, in one of the military actions that first prompted
people to begin building roadblocks, Pakistani troops under U.N. command
opened fire on a crowd of 3,000 to 5,000 demonstrators. Witnesses said the
"troops opened fire without being provoked" when the crowd was still a
block away from the Pakistanis. "The Pakistani soldiers shot not only at
the crowd, which immediately dispersed, but also at a vehicle in front of
their compound where some people sought cover. A bullet tore off the top
half of a boy's head as he hid behind a tree. Several women were killed as
well. At a nearby hospital, wounded people lay in the hallways as doctors
tore pieces of cardboard and slipped them under patients' heads for
operations performed on the floor."
A few days later, an artillery and missile attack on Digfer hospital killed
at least 9 patients.
Even at that stage, British media were estimating that at least 3,000
Somalis -- mostly civilians -- had been killed by the U.S./U.N. forces
supposedly there to feed them.
Jamie McGoldrick of the Save the Children Fund said: "the relief work is
dead. This has become a purely military operation." One U.S. soldier
said: "It's not like I saw on TV, we didn't deliver any food, it was mostly
patroling, searching houses and burning stuff."
Of the $1.5 billion earmarked by the United Nations for Somalia in 1993,
only ten percent of that amount was allocated for "humanitarian" work.
More than 28,000 troops occupied Somalia. The U.S./U.N. deployment included
over 100 tanks and armored vehicles, attack helicopters, airborne gunships
and an aircraft carrier. Gen. Colin Powell approvingly called Operation
Restore Hope "a paid political advertisement" for maintaining the
Bush/Clinton $1.4 trillion 4 year military budget.
Former Secretary of Defense Les Aspin followed in step, urging the
allocation of billions of dollars for revamping overall military strategy
so that the U.S. would be prepared to fight two or more wars at the same
time in different parts of the globe. That August, he approved sending an
additional elite Army Ranger unit, basically a 400 person SWAT team, to
Mogadishu, Somalia's capital. While many believed its task would be to
kidnap or assassinate Somali Gen. Mohammed Aidid (who opposed U.N./U.S.
military intervention), in effect -- intentional or not -- the Ranger
unit's activities strengthened Aidid's hand in Somali politics and crushed
resistance to centralized authority.
Even Southern Air Transport, exposed during the mid 1980s as a shadowy CIA
operation running cocaine and death squads between Central America and the
southern U.S. (using, among others, a base in Arkansas while Clinton
governed there), re surfaced in Somalia, contracted by the U.N. for $25,000
per day to transport water from Israel, beer from Germany and, undoubtedly,
CIA personnel from the U.S., to troops stationed in the town of Belet Uen,
How Many Liberals Can Dance on the Tip of a Warhead?
"My approach to Africa is in some ways like the Japanese approach to Asia,
and my approach is not necessarily humanitarian. It is in the long range
interests of access to resources and the creation of markets for American
goods and services."
- Andrew Young, as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations during the
presidency of Jimmy Carter
Most people understandably want to reach out and comfort those who are in
pain, feed those who are starving, house those who are homeless. We want
the government to work that way; but it doesn't, and it won't. Nor will it
reveal its own crucial role in creating all the misery to begin with.
Andrew Young's viewpoint, like that of the odious Henry Kissinger printed
at the beginning of this essay, accurately represents the way U.S.
policymakers think about (and create) hunger: by using food as a weapon.
The new "humanitarian warfare" exhibited by the US, Germany and Britain in
Yugoslavia, was preceded and tested in the killing fields of Panama, Iraq,
and Somalia; it is the Trojan Horse inside of which the ruling class visits
its New World Order on non-compliant populations.
In Somalia, liberals and assorted "pwogwessives" (as Alex Cockburn calls
them) desperately needed to believe the U.S. government would, for the
first time, use its military to actually feed people instead of killing
them. The pages of the nation's newspapers, along with the Congressional
Record, were filled with pitiful self righteous calls for what can only be
described as neo colonialism. Once liberal columnist Murray Kempton wrote
that he was "proud to be an American" again and imagined himself sauntering
the corridors of the U.N. "fairly swollen with the majesty of a United
States that could at last glory in its conscience instead of its might."
Randall Robinson, executive director of TransAfrica, Rep. John Lewis, and
other Black officials, criticized President Bush's objectives in Somalia
not for its neo-colonial objectives, but for being too limited! They called
"for U.S. military forces to maintain order in the famine stricken African
country until an effective government can be established." Aryeh Neier
of Human Rights Watch and organizations like SANE/FREEZE (now Peace Action)
lined up alongside the government, calling on it to use military force to
"insure the safety of aid shipments and relief workers." Instead of
developing an analysis of the role of the United Nations, the IMF and the
World Bank in the New World Order, the American Friends Service Committee
saw U.S./U.N. intervention only as "mistaken" but, overall, well
intentioned. The Committee, which opposed U.S. troops in Somalia,
nevertheless called for an "increased ... multinational force under UN
command, to give better protection to the relief effort ... [including]
deployment of the 3,000 person UN commanded multi national contingent
approved by the Security Council in August with the mission of protecting
humanitarian relief efforts with a minimum use of force; [and] creative
efforts to disarm the rival Somali groups, by purchase of weapons or
exchange of food for weapons, and serious multilateral action to halt the
arms flow into Somalia." Jesse Jackson "brushed aside suggestions that
it would amount to neocolonialism for the United States or the United
Nations to oversee Somalia until a new government can be formed. `If this
were a unilateral U.S. presence searching for some material, some oil or
some minerals or for some geopolitical positioning, one could justify those
fears,' Jackson said. `This simply is not the case.'"
As images of U.S. troops in foreign lands again filled our t.v. screens, we
in the U.S. were being primed for the latest round of imperialist
colonization under the pretext of "feeding starving people" at the point of
a bayonet. From the start we were inundated with breathless propaganda
about "evil Somalian warlords," soon to be exposed, no doubt, as "worse
than Hitler," just in case Somali resistance forces put up a fight against
the uninvited machine gun toting "guests." Coverage of Somalia was, and
continues to be, laced with terms like "warlords," "gangs," "violent
bands," "chaos" and "random violence." NBC News Executive Producer Jeff
Gralnick termed Somali "warlord" Mohammed Farrah Aidid an "educated jungle
bunny." Every Somali killed by U.S. troops was portrayed as a mugger of
some sort, usually "high on drugs." (The "drug" many Somalis chew, "kat,"
is actually less stimulating than coffee.) The demonization of "bad
Negroes" versus those seemingly more docile and compliant with the
interests and intentions of international capital has become a regular
feature of U.S. imperialism's propaganda machine; it is used to make armed
intervention palatable to the sensitive home audience, remaining well
within the bounds of the dominant liberal discourse.
This mindset was driven home by a Marine Corps colonel, Bob Agro Melina,
who described the various bands and communities in Somalia as similar to
"gangs like the Bloods and the Crips in Los Angeles." He added, "To secure
the area, we've got to disarm them."
>From the start the quick rationalizations and sound bites required to rally
Americans around U.S. policy were hammered home, overriding their
occasional squeamishness over the bloodier episodes of imperialism that
sometimes (though rarely) leaked through the TV onto their living room
carpets. This purported general consensus included most progressives, who
called for the U.S. to, "as non violently as possible," remove the weapons
from the hands of those "natives" who, never knowing what's best for
themselves, sought to resist attempts to "modernize" their communities and
pull them against their will into neo-liberalism's version of the 21st
century. Thus, when "the Defense Department confessed that intelligence
reports indicating the whereabouts of Aidid's lieutenants were incorrect
and that U.S. troops [which included some of the 400 elite Army Rangers
sent on special mission to Mogadishu] erroneously apprehended eight U.N.
workers instead," international non governmental agencies could only
express "concern" that the "wrong" people were arrested, still harboring
the illusion that capital "wants" to do the right thing if left to do so
without government interference.
What world are they living in? Haven't they learned anything from history?
Apparently not. Fresh from supporting the "well meaning but fruitless
mistake" in Somalia, many liberals -- including the Congressional Black
Caucus -- called for a repeat: They supported the sending of U.S. troops to
Haiti, allegedly to protect exiled President Aristide! As if U.S. troops
would ever be used to defend the revolutionary rights of the people against
capital. As we have seen, in Haiti -- as elsewhere -- U.S. troops were
used, instead, to crush whatever indigenous popular movements arose and
pave the way for the privatization of the Haitian economy. Just as was
their purpose in Somalia.
Back in 1983-84, the Trans-Century company scoured the northwestern regions
of Somalia, ostensibly searching for heavy metal deposits (and, secretly,
oil), under the guise of trying to find water. In 1983, the Saudi sheiks
had given tons of free oil to the Barré military regime in Somalia to
maintain him in power against concerted and community-based opposition. In
exchange, the Arabic language was forced on Somalia; workers were required
to learn it, and resented this cultural imposition.
In fact, oil has always and continues to be the driving force in the
region. Even during the supposed "humanitarian" food mission, the U.S.
government's special envoy to Somalia staged the military "humanitarian"
landing from the Mogadishu headquarters of Conoco, the giant multinational
oil company, a fact hidden from most U.S. news-watchers. "John Geybauer,
spokesman [sic] for Conoco Oil in Houston, said the company was acting as
`a good corporate citizen and neighbor' in granting the U.S. government's
request to be allowed to rent the compound. The U.S. Embassy and most other
buildings and residential compounds here in the capital were rendered
unusable by vandalism and fierce artillery duels during the clan wars ... "
he said. 
What he forgot to mention was that, Conoco, as a good corporate citizen,
had -- surprise! -- discovered huge deposits of oil in Somalia shortly
before the invasion.
Oily to Bed, Oily to Rise
The "oil connection" slid right past Jesse Jackson. In fact, aside from one
brilliant story in the L.A. Times, it was not printed anywhere else. And
yet, Conoco officials in Houston readily, even proudly, admitted their
culpability. They described the company's logistical support for the
invasion of Somalia as an innocent "business relationship," since the U.S.
government was apparently "paying rental for its use of the compound" in
"In its in house magazine last month, Conoco reprinted excerpts from a
letter of commendation for [Raymond] Marchland [Conoco's Somalia based
general manager] written by U.S. Marine Brig. Gen. Frank Libutti, who has
been acting as military aid to U.S. envoy Robert B. Oakley. In the letter,
Libutti praised the oil official for his role in the initial operation to
land Marines on Mogadishu's beaches in December, and the general concluded,
`Without Raymond's courageous contributions and selfless service, the
operation would have failed.'
"But the close relationship between Conoco and the U.S. intervention force
has left many Somalis and foreign development experts deeply troubled by
the blurry line between the U.S. government and the large oil company,
leading many to liken the Somalia operation to a miniature version of
Operation Desert Storm, the U.S. led military effort in January, 1991, to
drive Iraq from Kuwait and, more broadly, safeguard the world's largest oil
" `They sent all the wrong signals when Oakley moved into the Conoco
compound,' said one expert on Somalia who worked with one of the four major
oil companies as they intensified their exploration efforts in the country
in the late 1980s. `It's left everyone thinking the big question here isn't
famine relief but oil whether the oil concessions granted under [deposed
dictator] Siad Barre will be transferred if and when peace is restored,'
the expert said. `It's potentially worth billions of dollars, and, believe
me, that's what the whole game is starting to look like.'"
But a Conoco executive tried to play down the connection between the Marine
invasion of Somalia and the oil interests: "With America, there is a
genuine humanitarian streak in us ... that most other countries and
cultures cannot understand," he said.
Here's what the former Commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps, Major General
Smedley Butler, had to say about the "humanitarian" role of the U.S.
military "that most other countries and cultures cannot understand," in
testimony before Congress in 1938:
"I spent thirty three years and four months in active service as a member
of our country's most agile military force -- the Marine Corps. I served in
all the commissioned ranks from second lieutenant to major general. And
during that period I spent most of my time being a high class muscle man
for Big Business, for Wall Street and for the bankers. In short, I was a
racketeer for capitalism.
"I suspected I was just part of a racket at the time. Now I am sure of it.
Like all members of the military profession I never had an original thought
until I left the service. My mental faculties remained in suspended
animation while I obeyed the orders of the higher ups. This is typical of
everyone in the military service.
"Thus, I helped make Mexico and especially Tampico safe for the American
oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the
National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of
half a dozen Central American republics for the benefit of Wall Street.
"The record of racketeering is long. I helped purify Nicaragua for the
international banking house of Brown Brothers in 1909 1912. I brought light
to the Dominican Republic for American sugar interests in 1916. I helped
make Honduras `right' for American fruit companies in 1903. In China in
1927, I helped to see to it that Standard Oil went its way unmolested.
"During those years I had, as the boys in the back room would say, a swell
racket. I was rewarded with honors, medals, promotion. Looking back on it,
I feel I might have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was
operate his racket in three city districts. We marines operated on three
One of Butler's successors, General David Shoup, Commandant of the U.S.
Marine Corps (1960 63) and winner of the Congressional Medal of Honor,
expressed similar thoughts:
"I believe that if we ... would keep our dirty, bloody, dollar soaked
fingers out of the business of these nations so full of depressed,
exploited people, they will arrive at a solution of their own. ... And if
unfortunately their revolution must be of the violent type because the
"haves" refuse to share with the `have nots' by any peaceful method, at
least what they get will be their own, and not the American style, which
they don't want and above all don't want crammed down their throats by
You Provide the Collateral, We'll Provide the Damage
The Bush administration piled up lie after lie about Somalia in order to
rationalize its military and economic intervention there. Clinton was quick
to follow suit. His lies included:
Lie 1: Somalia was at the peak of famine and only U.S. troops could save
it. Actually, the peak had passed months before, and the country was on the
road to recovery -- without the U.S. or its puppet despot Siad Barre, who
Lie 2: Starvation was everywhere, due to widespread chaos, random anarchy
and lack of a central governmental authority. Actually, famine was limited
to those areas where the IMF, World Bank and USAID had been able to impose
its structural adjustment programs most forcefully -- precisely those areas
where strong central government had overthrown the agrarian clan
communities and was consolidating its power, just the opposite of what we
Somalia as a whole was NOT wracked by generalized mass-starvation and
random violence. "In fact," explained Rutgers professor Said Samatar, who
is from Somalia, "these horrors are occurring only in a limited portion of
Somalia, notably in the ... southwest between Mogadishu, the capital [where
all the press are clustered], and the regions surrounding Baidoa and
Kismayu. The rest of the country is relatively peaceful and well governed
by an alliance of traditional elders and local leaders that has re emerged
in the wake of the collapse of the central authority."
Lie 3: That up to 80 percent of the food supplied by charities was being
confiscated by "warlords," who had to be met with a more impressive display
of force. Contrary to such U.S. government statements, Rakiya Omaar, the
former director of Africa Watch, cited relief organizations such as Save
the Children and the International Committee of the Red Cross as enduring a
loss rate of only 5 to 10 percent, a fairly constant figure in all famine
relief. Before the U.S. troops first landed, Mogadishu -- which was in the
most desperate situation of all the Somalian cities -- was "totally flooded
with food" and "anybody can buy rice; it's very cheap." The mortality
rate, Omar said, had dropped and the overall situation had been improving
before the troops were sent.
Many relief workers in Somalia went even further, complaining that their
efforts were being hindered by the U.S. military intervention: "We can't
get to people we used to, and they are dying," said James Fennell of
CARE. Before the troops hit the beaches, relief agencies had hired
guards "to ride shotgun on trucks, losing some supplies to looters but
also reaching many thousands of people who were too weak to seek help in
feeding centers. [But] the Marines' first move in Baidoa was to disarm the
airport security force, tough ex soldiers CARE had hired as escorts. ...
Tibebu Haile Selassie, deputy director of UNICEF in Mogadishu ... said,
`the situation is worse than it was before.'"
Lie 4: Without a strong central government, there will only be chaos and
anarchy. In actuality, neither chaos nor famine is accidental. A USAID
representative in the 1980s, who quit the Agency and became a journalist,
wrote: In 1981 "I was working for the U.S. Agency for International
Development. I was one of many aid workers warning that food aid pouring
into Somalia was unnecessary and destroying the country, upsetting the
balance of clan power by enriching friends and family of the dictator
Mohammed Siad Barre, who were stealing much of the food. In addition to
Barre and his pals, the main beneficiaries of the food aid were relief
organizations (or NGOs -- nongovernmental organizations -- as they are now
called), who received funding for delivering the food, and the American and
European governments, who were able to dump surplus food while calling it
foreign aid. ...
"The reports we wrote predicted disaster, but no one paid them much mind.
Food kept coming even as Somalia could have fed itself. As a result, the
nation's food supply was controlled by corrupt officials at the docks, not
by farmers in the countryside."
Enter the International Monetary Fund
Dumping food onto local markets under the guise of aid is a recurrent
tactic used by USAID, among others, to undermine local agriculture while
forcing the development of export crops. Dumping destroys local self
sufficiency and dispossesses small plot farmers, who are unable to compete
with the low (or free) prices, driving them out of the market and off their
lands. It enables ownership of land to be concentrated in fewer and fewer
hands. As these lands are taken over by international agribusiness
conglomerates, more and more cash crops -- often genetically engineered, as
is the case with huge plantations of genetically engineered cassava (yucca)
now grown across large confiscated plantations in various parts of Africa
-- are produced for export, increasing the dependency of previously self-
sufficient people on staples from abroad.
Whatever hunger exists in Somalia is a direct result of U.S./IMF/World Bank
policies over the years, policies that have spawned a strong resistance
movement in Somalia, like everywhere else -- though we hear nothing of it
in the press. None of capital's goals can be accomplished without first
disarming and crushing (or co opting) those movements.
But in Africa, colonialism has not yet fully succeeded (as it has in much
of Central and South America) in breaking the back of the village
structures on which that resistance has been based. Attacks on the village
structure, which go on continuously in order to seize the land the
proletarianize the population, must be cloaked in "humanitarian" garb.
Thus, when elite U.S. forces blew up a building in 1995, they claimed it
was the headquarters of the much vilified Aidid. But the bodies blown to
smithereens were not Aidid's lieutenants as reported, but were actually
communal village and clan elders from around the country who were meeting
to create an alternative to the central government authority the U.S. in
the guise of "nation building", was so keen to install. This information
was reported in the Italian press, but not in the U.S.
Imperialism gains its general domestic consensus by promulgating the idea
that "human nature" -- always portrayed as competitive, greedy, warlike --
requires a strong central government to "keep everyone in line." It must
maintain that "it's always been this way, it will always be this way, and
that that's the way it is everywhere." Any exception to that inevitability
shatters the illusion. Communal village structures in Somalia, despite
problems, were anathema to the spread of capitalism -- er, "globalization"
there. Where they existed, they served as barriers to the
"proletarianization" of the workforce that capital desperately needs in
order to extract value. In order for capitalism to spread, communal and
clan formations must be crushed.
"The survival of communal ties [in Africa overall] and the lack of a
tradition of wage dependence have ... fostered a sense of entitlements with
respect to the distribution of wealth in the community and by the state,"
writes Hofstra University professor Silvia Federici. They are "responsible
for the fact that most African proletarians fail to experience capital's
laws as natural laws, even though the demand for what industrial
development can provide is now a general factor of social change.
"Africans' resistance to capitalist discipline must be emphasized given the
tendency in the U.S. to see Africans either as helpess victims of
government corruption and natural disasters or as protagonists of backward
struggles revolving around tribal allegiances (a myth perpetrated by the
Western media). In reality, from the fields to the factories, the markets
and the schools, struggles are being carried on that not only are often
unmatched for their combativeness by what takes place in the `First World'
but are most `modern' in content. Their objective is not the preservation
of a mythical past but the redefinition of what development means for the
proletariat: access to the wealth produced internationally, but not at the
price capital puts on it."
European colonialism's failure to break the back of the village structures
in Africa, including much of Somalia, cut deeply into potential world
capitalist profits from that continent. Beginning in 1977, when Somali
dictator Siad Barre was dumped by the Soviet Union and became a client of
the U.S., the International Monetary Fund imposed a series of stringent
regulations on Somalia, causing the per capita GNP to drop from an already
wretched $250 to $170 over five years. "Rather than proposing development
and the introduction of democracy, [the IMF and the World Bank] used free
market tactics: slashing government spending, privatizing state owned
companies and banks, eliminating price controls and wage subsidies and
freeing up exchange rates."
For over a decade, the communal village provided bases of resistance
throughout Somalia to the hardline U.S./IMF policies. Two weeks before U.S.
troops first arrived in Somalia, "well armed" and "generously funded"
Islamic fundamentalists were reported trying to "establish a stronghold for
militant Islam," with the strongest group, Ittihad, making "significant
inroads" in Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya. Investigative journalist Andy
Pollack explains the conditions under which opposition to capital's
expansion, however retrograde, arose: "Under IMF programs in 1981 and 1983
these measures [listed above] were adopted by the Somalian government. The
reaction from the people to the new hardships was too great, and the
government backed off partially, lowering the exchange rate, and reimposing
price controls. But the IMF pressed on and, as a result, more social
programs were cut. For instance, Barre abandoned the policy of guaranteed
employment for school dropouts.
"The reporting on the social consequences of IMF and World Bank policies
has been extremely scarce. The Times, for instance, has had articles on
Somalia every day for the last two months on the famine, with not one
single word about its roots. It's as if the country didn't exist before two
months ago. All of the coverage is focused on the `feuding clans' and the
difficulties they present to relief efforts.
"But it is the structural adjustment programs of the IMF and World Bank
which are the roots of the hideous levels of illiteracy (60 percent
illiterate in Somalia), inequity, illness, malnutrition and famine in
Africa. These policies cause a greater reliance on market forces to
'adjust' the country's economy into the structure of the Western dominated
world market. Even in times of adequate rainfall Africa's food production
capability is distorted by this system."
Much of Somalias' income came from relatives working the oil fields in
Kuwait, Iraq and Saudi Arabia. When the monarchies in Kuwait and Saudi
Arabia forcibly replaced Palestinian, Arab and African workers en masse
with cheaper, less class organized labor from southern Asia after the 1991
Gulf war -- in effect reconfiguring the working class in the entire
Persian Gulf region -- the loss of all those jobs cost Somalia around $300
million a year in lost revenue and required thousands of replaced workers
to be re-absorbed into the already strained Somali economy, adding further
leverage to the pressures exerted by the IMF. (That was one reason why the
U.S. government endorsed the sweeping and dramatic changes in the national
composition of the working class in the Middle East -- and some say it
helps explain why the U.S. fought that war, slaughtering 250,000 people
outright.) Following the UN's "humanitarian intervention" Somalia,
which is slightly smaller than Texas in geographic area, owed $2 billion to
Even so, only those areas around Mogadishu, Baidoa and Kismayu -- where IMF
measures were able to break down the traditional structures and be fully
imposed -- and in the town of Baardheere occupied by the forces of Gen.
Mohamed Said Hersi Morgan, the son in law of Siad Barre and, according to
Rakiya Omaar, a major war criminal who invaded from Kenya after being
resupplied by the Kenyan army -- do we find the kinds of hunger, disease
and disruption of domestic life that so powerfully stir our distant
compassion. The starvation was caused by the _imposition_ of brutal
policies via a central authority in Somalia, _not by its collapse,_ as
claimed by most analysts. Somalia under Barre was in as desperate straits
as it is today -- perhaps worse. Its misery is a direct result of U.S./IMF
measures, imposed in some areas of Somalia more effectively than in others
by a central governing authority that no longer exists -- and which the
U.S. government is terribly concerned to reestablish.
A1 Housing vs. B1 Bombers
In a land where 82 percent of the labor force works in agriculture, and
where the average life expectancy for both men and women is 53 years,
people have resisted the foreign attempts to turn their lands into an
enormous toxic dump site and to forcibly proletarianize their
communities. That resistance, over the past 20 years, prompted the U.S.
government to arm troops loyal to now deposed Somali dictator Siad Barre.
In January 1980, President Jimmy Carter announced that the U.S. was seeking
bases in Somalia, Oman and Kenya for U.S. ships and planes patrolling the
Indian Ocean. Somalia requested $1 billion in arms and another $1 billion
in economic aid. In August, 1980, an agreement was signed giving the U.S.
use of military bases and access to the port of Berbera on the Gulf of
Aden, in return for $25 million in 1981 in military aid, with pledges of
more to come, which would total $600 million by 1985.
"Washington was eager for a strategic outpost near the Arabian oil fields
and struck an agreement to take over the old Soviet military facilities.
For the next 10 years the U.S. poured hundreds of millions of dollars into
arming the country." The fact that Barre murdered thousands of
civilians, engaged in systematic torture and imprisoned thousands of
peaceful dissenters meant little to the U.S. government, the IMF, and the
World Bank, which continued to fund his operation.
A recent U.S. State Department report about Somalia "admitted the regime
had killed at least 5,000 unarmed civilians between June 1988 and March
1989 and documented a pattern of torture against civilians involving
`severe beatings, stabbing, prolonged choking, use of metal clips and
electric shock on flesh and testicles and immersion in excrement.' The
report concluded that the [Barre] regime was about to disintegrate, yet [a
U.S.] official commenting on the report said the port of Berbera was `still
important to our interests' because of its strategic position as a staging
post for sending troops to southwest Asia," and therefore the U.S.
government befriended him. Barre, like Saddam, Noriega, Marcos, Mobutu,
Pinochet, Duarte, Somoza, Suharto, et al., was a U.S. client, owned and
armed by American tax dollars. And Barre, like the others, often turned
those U.S. and Soviet made weapons against movements in his own country,
with nary a peep from the U.S. government.
As Alexander Cockburn noted, "Somalis do not forget Siad Barre's massacres
in the late 1980s of some 150,000 northerners in the former British
Somaliland, or his near total destruction of northern towns like Hargeisa
with the help of South African bomber pilots and U.S. logistical backup and
diplomatic protection." More than half a million Somalis were rendered
homeless and forced across the desert into Ethiopia. Cockburn went on to
detail some of the resistance to the imposition of capital a resistance
rooted in the de centralized village and clan social structures that so
frustrate the U.S. and IMF elites: "Although devastated by Siad Barre in
the 1980s and in urgent need of seed and agricultural assistance,
Somaliland [in the north] is not in the desperate straits of sections of
the south, and its chief political organization, the Somali National
Movement, makes a decent case for exercising its right to self
"In May of 1991 the S.N.M. convened a congress of some 5,000 people and
chose an interim government with an interim legislative assembly of 140
people. Although the Isaak clan is dominant, the S.N.M. has reached out to
"Los Angeles based Sael Samater -- his brother Ibrahim is the president of
the interim legislative assembly -- regards U.S./U.N. intervention as `John
Wayne' talk. He outlined for me the suspect motivations of various players,
including [U.N. Secretary General Boutros-Boutros ] Ghali, Islamic
fundamentalists backed by Saudi Arabia and the Emirates, and even Italy,
whose interest in the affairs of its former colony is as intense as
Germany's toward its former dependencies of the Nazi years, Croatia and
Slovenia." Among its hidden rationales, then, military intervention
provided a way of annulling the rebirth of Somaliland and, in the same
breath, imposed the force needed to roll back the enormous gains won three
years before by the national liberation front of Eritrea, which had
embarked on a socialist course of reorganization after decades of war
against Italy and Ethiopia. It is not unreasonable to suspect the U.S.
command of, sooner or later, inventing excuses to deploy troops at Berbera,
near the northern Somalia border, just a short hop over Djibouti (former
French Somaliland) to Eritrea or across the Gulf to Yemen. Thus far, the
press has failed to notice the U.S. desire to repel the Eritrean
revolution, as well as the Somali National Movement in the north,
preferring instead to stick to the sanitized Pentagon script of "fighting
against the warlords."
The U.S./U.N. intervention in Somalia exemplifies imperialism's new
strategy in the era of the New World Order, begun in Panama and continued
in the war against Iraq. First, build up the local dictator (Noriega,
Hussein, Barre) with weapons. Have them do your bidding against forces in
the region hostile to U.S. capital. Then, force them into IMF/World
Bank/USAID "structural adjustment" programs which impoverish the country
and produce famine. If they balk, or if popular resistance to the policies
becomes so overwhelming that they can no longer effectively serve the
puppet masters, remove them (one way or another) and find some other lackey
to rule. All the while, demonize the "enemy" in the all pervasive media
here at home, and sell the mission by inventing a humanitarian sounding
goal to rally liberals and undercut potential opposition.
The meaningful, non-alienated ways in which daily life had been organized
in Somalia's supposedly "chaotic," decentralized traditional villages and
clans had circumvented most prior attempts by international capital and
colonial powers who make no pretense of _their_ need for a non chaotic
central authority to impose capital's wholly unnatural rhythms on
African life. The U.S., under the pretext of feeding starving people (a
hunger inflicted on them by U.S. sponsored IMF and World Bank austerity
programs) is attempting to use its might to "Latin Americanize" Africa by
busting apart the communal village networks once and for all -- as England
had done to collective usages of land at home by enforcing the Enclosure
Acts of the 1700s -- making the continent fit for intensified capitalist
accumulation. The New World [Bank] Order's hot toxic breath is
intentionally blowing up the hunger in the sands. It's part of the plan.
Meanwhile, the death toll mounts. By 1995, the number of people killed by
U.S./U.N. troops in Somalia had climbed to 10,000.
Ironically, as resistance to U.S./U.N. troops in Somalia grew stronger, the
country became more unified -- not through a common central government
working at the behest of the New World Order but against a common oppressor
who had been welcomed, once upon a time not so long ago, with open arms in
expectation of food and friendship but who brought mostly bullets and
intensified grief -- a lesson soon to be learned in Haiti, as well.
1. NY Times, June 14, 1993.
2. Leslie Crawford, Financial Times (London), June 12, 1993.
3. "Why Are U.S. Soldiers in Somalia?," International Action Center.
4. Alexander Cockburn, in the Los Angeles Times, July 13, 1993.
5. Washington Post Weekly, Dec. 14, 1992.
6. Aidid is reported to have died in the summer of 1996.
7. Michael Maren, "The Somalia Experiment: How Will the U.S. Disarm the
Clients of the Cold War," Village Voice, Sept. 28, 1993.
8. Los Angeles Times, December 2, 1992, as reported in War Watch Bulletin,
January 1993. PO Box 562, Santa Cruz, CA 95061.
9. Norman Kempster, "U.S. Black Leaders Favor Longer Mission," Los Angeles
Times, Dec. 1, 1992.
10. From a leaflet advertizing a demonstration on Dec. 22, 1992 at the
U.N., listing SANE/FREEZE as a "participant." Neier went on to apologize
personally to the State Department and members of Congress for Rakiya
Omaar's views, according to an article in the Washington Post. Another
spokesperson for Americas Watch appointed by Neier, Kenneth Roth, was
incredibly the lead government prosecutor against the New York 8, the
Black revolutionary group, in the mid 1980s. Clearly Neier's "progressive"
credentials need to be re examined, as he has taken the role of liberalism
in the service of capital to new depths.
11. "A Statement by the American Friends Service Committee on the Situation
in Somalia," Dec. 8, 1992.
12. Kempster, op. cit.
13. Chicago Tribune, Dec. 4, 1992. The imposition of one's own culture onto
other peoples is remarkable, and typical. And the chickens are coming home
to roost, as well. In rebellion torn areas in the U.S., Jesse Jackson and
banker Felix Rohatyn have called for the placement of "enterprise zones"
no minimum wage, no environmental controls, and a focus on bio tech genetic
engineering Frankenstein factories, as writer Peggy Dye calls them to
"develop" jobs. It is only the Crips and the Bloods, working with former
Black Panther Party organizer Michael Zinzun and others, who are opposing
Jackson's plan and offering the more socialistic alternative of
"cooperative zones" controlled by the community, instead. The fight against
liberalism's "solutions" are the same, whether in South Central L.A. or in
Andy Pollack, in "Somalia: Multi National Capitalism's Latest Victim,"
(Modern Times, Nov. 9, 1992), also takes a "cooperative" approach: "In the
end, however, for a lasting solution to this problem, we will have to
expand upon an action taken in 1985 by Scottish workers at a Caterpillar
tractor plant. In the midst of a plant occupation during a strike for a
better union contract, workers made a tractor and attempted to donate it to
Ethiopian famine relief. The company wouldn't let them make the donation,
claiming it wasn't the strikers' property; and the symbolic gesture never
led to a more long term strategy of West Third World collaboration."
14. New York Newsday, August 31, 1993.
15. Mark Fineman, "The Oil Stakes Factor In Somalia," Los Angeles Times,
January 18, 1993.
18. Doug Ireland, Village Voice, Dec. 15, 1992.
19. Alexander Cockburn, The Nation, Dec. 21, 1992.
21. The Burlington Free Press, Dec. 19, 1992.
23. Maren, op cit.
24. Silvia Federici, "The Debt Crisis, Africa & the New Enclosures," Red
Balloon Magazine, Winter Spring 1992.
25. Andy Pollack, "Somalia: Multi National Capitalism's Latest Victim,"
Modern Times, Nov. 9, 1992.
26. The Washington Post (in the Manchester Guardian, Nov. 22, 1992).
27. Pollack, op cit.
28. The reconfiguration of the world proletariat is one of the least
discussed consequences of the Gulf war and some claim it as one of the
purposes of that war. "What appeared to be a confrontation between nation
states was an event whose determinations partook little of the logic of
inter state conflicts. For Midnight Notes, the re organization of millions
of workers in the planet's most important oil producing region was not an
accidental by product of the war, but rather a central objective, and one
shared, despite some disputes, by the Iraqi, Kuwaiti, Saudi, European and
US ruling classes. As the oil industry in the Mideast (and internationally)
was preparing for its largest expansion in fifteen years, it needed both to
recompose and terrorize an increasingly rebellious oil producing
proletariat. In the environment of an `international intifada' against IMF
austerity plans, any new attempt to vastly debase workers' lives amidst new
accumulations of wealth based on oil price increases was going to require a
leap in the level of militarization. This is our working hypothesis and it
is based not only on the brute facts of the Gulf War, its events and
character, but on historical developments preceding the war and on similar
processes of recomposition and militarization occurring elsewhere in the
oil producing regions of the world." (Midnight Oil: Work, Energy, War (1973
1992), by the Midnight Notes Collective. Available from Autonomedia, PO Box
568 Williamsburg Station, Brooklyn, NY 11211 0568.)
29. Rakiya Omaar and Alex de Waal, "Somalia's Uninvited Saviors: The West
May Be Stepping on People It Wants to Help," Washington Post.
30. Those who might have been able to work out an arrangement among the
different clans without re establishing central authority were removed from
their positions, precisely because their success would have interfered with
U.S./U.N./IMF plans to impose a centralized government on Somalia. The
American Friends Service Committee (12/8/92) criticizes the U.S. on this:
"Processes have been undertaken among traditional leaders facilitated by
Ambassador Mohammed Sahnoun of the United Nations and others, to try to
build peace from below. These will be interrupted and possibly totally
disrupted by an invading army..." And Rakiya Omaar and Alex de Waal write:
"Don't trust the United Nations. The U.N. has been guilty of gross
negligence and incompetence in Somalia, and is a prime culprit in the
current disaster. Except for the work of former U.N. Special Envoy Mohamed
Sahnoun, there have been no serious diplomatic initiatives. [Sahnoun] was
forced to resign in October for his outspoken criticism of the U.N.'s
continuing shortcomings. U.N. humanitarian agencies such as UNICEF, the
World Food Program and the Food and Agriculture Organization declined to
intervene in Somalia to prevent the famine when they could have done so,
and were uncoordinated and unprofessional when they finally became engaged.
A major reason for the U.N. supporting the current U.S. military operation
is to cover up its own failings. In the eyes of Somalis, the credibility of
the U.N. is zero." [Washington Post ]
31. Mitchel Cohen, "Somalia, Haiti and the International Trade in Toxic
Waste," Red Balloon Collective Publications.
32. Information Please Almanac (1989), and Pollack, op cit.
33. Jane Hunter, op cit. "The U.S. was not the only country involved in
aiding Siad. In the mid 1980s, he also is believed to have had military aid
from South Africa and possibly from Israel. The most common explanation for
these ties is that Siad needed spares for Soviet weapons, which South
Africa seized from Angola and Israel both seized and trafficked in.
("Somalia, South Africa and Israel?" Israeli Foreign Affairs, October
1985.) Italy, meanwhile, stopped arms shipments after 1983."
34. Sophronia Scott Gregory, in Time Magazine, as quoted in Ireland, op cit.
35. Pollack, op cit.
36. Cockburn, op cit.
37. ibid. Italy's interest in using Somalia as a toxic waste dump is
sketched out in "Somalia, Haiti and the International Trade in Toxic
Waste," op cit.
Mitchel Cohen is a member of the Brooklyn Greens / Green Party of New York,
Green Party USA, as well as a founding member of the Red Balloon Collective.
by: Mitchel Cohen <mitchelcohen at mindspring.com>
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