[Marxism] Washington losing Somalia war; Washington's nuclear waste kills hundreds

Fred Feldman ffeldman at bellatlantic.net
Sat Dec 6 18:28:01 MST 2008

December 4, 2008

Another CIA Cock-Up 
Fiasco in Somalia 

Until a month ago, no one in the Bush administration showed the least bit of
interest in the piracy off the coast of Somalia. Now that's changed and
there's talk of sending in the Navy to patrol the waters off the Horn of

Why the sudden about-face?

It could have something to do with Ethiopia's plans to withdraw its troops
from Mogadishu by the end of the year, thus ending the failed two year
US-backed occupation of Somalia.

The United States has lost the ground war in Somalia, but its overall
objectives haven't changed. The US intends to stay in the region for years
to come using its armada to prowl the waters around the Gulf of Aden. The
resurgence of the Somali resistance is set-back, but it doesn't change the
basic game-plan. The pirates are actually a blessing in disguise. They
provide a good excuse for the US to beef up its military presence and dig in
for the long-haul. Every crisis is an opportunity.

There's an interesting subtext to the pirate story which appeared in a
recent copy of the Socialist Worker. According to author Simon Assaf:

"Many European, US and Asian shipping firms - notably Switzerland's Achair
Partners and Italy's Progresso - signed dumping deals in the early 1990s
with Somalia's politicians and militia leaders. This meant they could use
the coast as a toxic dumping ground. This practice became widespread as the
country descended into civil war.

Nick Nuttall of the UN Environment Programme said,

"European companies found it was very cheap to get rid of the waste."

When the Asian tsunami of Christmas 2005 washed ashore on the east coast of
Africa, it uncovered a great scandal. Tons of radioactive waste and toxic
chemicals drifted onto the beaches after the giant wave dislodged them from
the sea bed off Somalia. Tens of thousands of Somalis fell ill after coming
into contact with this cocktail. They complained to the United Nations (UN),
which began an investigation.

"There are reports from villagers of a wide range of medical problems such
as mouth bleeds, abdominal hemorrhages, unusual skin disorders and breathing
difficulties," the UN noted.

Some 300 people are believed to have died from the poisonous chemicals.

In 2006 Somali fishermen complained to the UN that foreign fishing fleets
were using the breakdown of the state to plunder their fish stocks. These
foreign fleets often recruited Somali militias to intimidate local
fishermen. Despite repeated requests, the UN refused to act. Meanwhile the
warships of global powers that patrol the strategically important Gulf of
Aden did not sink or seize any vessels dumping toxic chemicals off the

So angry Somalis, whose waters were being poisoned and whose livelihoods
were threatened, took matters into their own hands. Fishermen began to arm
themselves and attempted to act as unofficial coastguards." (Socialist

The origins of piracy in Somalia is considerably different than the
narrative in the media which perpetuates the stereotype of scary black men
pillaging on the high seas. In fact, it is the pirates who are the victims
of attacks on their territorial waters by corporate polluters. Because there
is no functioning central government, there's no one to defend the health
and safety of the Somali people from foreign intruders who choose to use
their country as a dumping ground. 


In 2006, the Bush administration supported an alliance of Somali warlords
known as the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) that established a base
of operations in the western city of Baidoa. With the help of the Ethiopian
army, western mercenaries, US Navy warships, and AC-130 gunships; the TFG
captured Mogadishu and forced the Islamic Courts Union (ICU) to retreat to
the south. Since then the resistance has coalesced into a tenacious
guerrilla army that has recaptured most of the country.

The Bush administration invoked the war on terror to justify its involvement
in Somalia, but their claims are unconvincing. The ICU is not an Al Qaida
affiliate or a terrorist organization. In fact, the ICU brought a level of
peace and stability to Somalia that hadn't been seen for nearly two decades.

Political analyst James Petras summed it up like this:

"The ICU was a relatively honest administration, which ended warlord
corruption and extortion. Personal safety and property were protected,
ending arbitrary seizures and kidnappings by warlords and their armed thugs.
The ICU is a broad multi-tendency movement that includes moderates and
radical Islamists, civilian politicians and armed fighters, liberals and
populists, electoralists and authoritarians. Most important, the Courts
succeeded in unifying the country and creating some semblance of nationhood,
overcoming clan fragmentation."

Somalia's location and resources make it a prime target for US intervention.
According to recent estimates, 30 per cent of America's oil will come from
Africa within the next ten years. Washington's allies in the TFG promised to
pass oil laws that would allow foreign oil companies to return to Somalia,
but now all of that is uncertain. It is impossible to know what type of
government will emerge from the present conflict. Many analysts expect
Somalia to be a failed state for years to come.

The war between the occupying Ethiopian army and the various guerrilla
factions has intensified over the last two years. Fighters from the ICU,
Al-Shabaab and other Islamic groups have moved from the south to the
vicinity of Mogadishu where the fighting has become more frequent. The
security situation has steadily deteriorated leaving Ethiopia with no choice
except to withdrawal its troops. By January 1, 2009, the occupation will be

In a recent Chicago Tribune article, "US Appears to be Losing in Somalia",
journalist Paul Salopek sums it up like this:

"(Somalia) is a covert war in which the CIA has recruited gangs of unsavory
warlords to hunt down and kidnap Islamic militants...and secretly imprison
them offshore, aboard U.S. warships. The British civil-rights group Reprieve
contended that as many as 17 U.S. warships may have doubled as floating
prisons since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks...

"Somalia is one of the great unrecognized U.S. policy failures since 9/11,"
said Ken Menkhaus, a leading Somalia scholar at Davidson College in North
Carolina. "By any rational metric, what we've ended up with there today is
the opposite of what we wanted." (Paul Salopek, "US Appears to be Losing in
Somalia" Chicago Tribune) 

Negotiations are currently underway between guerrilla leaders and the TFG
over a power-sharing agreement, but expectations are low. Somalia's fate is
being decided with rifles not chit-chat. The moderate ICU will regain power
but the country will be ungovernable for years to come. At best, Somalia is
a decade away from restoring the fragile peace that was in place before
Bush's bloody intervention.

Mike Whitney lives in Washington state and can be reached at
fergiewhitney at msn.com

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