There is news out of Somalia today that the United States has attacked suspected al Qaeda operatives. It remains to be seen whether we have indeed killed those responsible for the 1998 embassy bombing or not. I have my doubts.
I am not particularly encouraged by the source of the intelligence:
U.S. officials say that the United States received assurances from both the Ethiopian and Somalian governments in the last two weeks that, should they obtain intelligence concerning the whereabouts of the al-Qaida operatives, they would pass it on to the United States.
I guess the "Somalian government" passed on the intelligence. If so, I would not hold my breath.
The Bush Administration has long accused the recently defeated Islamic Courts Union (ICU) of harboring al Qaeda. However, tangible proof has been lacking. Seeing an opportunity, thugs and warlords in Somalia banded together to fight the "terrorists" in Somalia. They called themselves the Alliance for the Restoration of Peace and Counter-Terrorism, or ARPCT for short. The ARPCT fed off the Bush Administration’s one-dimensional anti-terrorism policy. We funded these thugs until they were routed by the ICU. I wrote the following back in June when Mogadishu fell to the ICU:
The ARPCT is a recently rebranded group of Somali warlords who were funded by the United States. They were just routed in the Somali capital of Mogadishu by Islamist militants. The ARPCT warlords are now on the run as the Islamists, known as the Islamic Courts Union (ICU), establish control over war-torn Somalia. The United States claims that the ironically named ICU harbor al Qaeda members and therefore pose a danger to the civilized world. The ICU has thus been branded as "terrorists" for harboring al Qaeda. Seeing an opportunity to cash in, the always opportunistic Somali warlords refashioned themselves into a group of "anti-terrorist" militias. In the "us" versus "them" world of George W Bush, these thugs became "us" and thus became worthy of our support.
Since February, with US financial backing, the ARPCT has engaged in fierce fighting with the ICU. But the ICU gained influence in Somalia by offering the people what they had been craving for decades – a sense of security and stability. When the warlords decided to stop fighting each other and rebrand themselves as the ARPCT they were now fighting against the stability provided or promised by the ICU. The people of Somalia were tired of the warlords and rejected the ARPCT in favor of the ICU. One by one, towns fell under the control of the ICU as they advanced on Mogadishu, until finally Mogadishu also fell a few days ago.
The talibanization of Somalia has begun. Just like in Afghanistan, the Somali people are unsurprisingly choosing security over constant violence and insecurity. With no functioning central government, the people have turned to the ICU for protection. In return, the people have accepted Islamist control over their lives. This is an essential concept that the Bush Administration repeatedly fails to understand. If given a choice between democracy without security and security without democracy, the people will overwhelmingly choose the latter. Failure to grasp this obvious fact and wallowing in an ideological soup that preaches "freedom is on the march" will have the opposite effect. In fact, in much of the world where the United States has engaged militarily in the GWOT, freedom is on the ropes. This is true for Afghanistan, this is true for Iraq, and this is true for Somalia.
Our Plan A in Somalia was supporting warlords – and it failed miserably. Incidentally, these warlords should seem familiar:
Somalia, like Iraq and Afghanistan, has a complex political landscape that does not lend itself to the simplistic "us" and "them" rhetoric. There are no good guys in Somalia. The very warlords who now claim to be "anti-terrorist" forces were fighting the United States and presumably harboring al Qaeda in 1993. These are some of the very people who fought the United States during the first Battle of Mogadishu, which led to the deaths of 18 American servicemen. The Bush Administration has now decided to break bread with these thugs in an ill-conceived attempt at counter terrorism in the Horn of Africa.
Plan A having failed, the Bush Administration threw its weight behind the weak transitional government in Baidoa that was rescued from annihilation by the Ethiopians. It is this transitional government that has now taken residence in Mogadishu courtesy of Ethiopia.
So, just who exactly are the new government of Somalia. It should come as no surprise that they are warlords. A number of them fought the United States in 1993. One of them has a very well-known pedigree. The new interior minister, Hussein Farah Aideed, is the son of Mohammad Farrah Aideed. Mohammad Farrah Aideed was the warlord responsible for the deaths of 18 American servicemen in the Battle of Mogadishu.
To add to the warlord homecoming, other famous warlords such as Musse Sudi Yalahow, formerly of the ARPCT, have also returned to Mogadishu. Unless these warlords are reigned in, Somalia is on its way back to the chaos of the past decades.
So, when the news media refers to the "government of Somalia", think "warlords". And treat with skepticism any intelligence that they might pass along.