Written by T. J. COLES
In 2006, Britain and America began a proxy war in Somalia by training Ethiopian warlords to invade the country in order to destroy the government, the Islamic Courts Union—and with it any chance of socioeconomic recovery. Journalist Aidan Hartley reported that under the leadership of the Western-backed Abdullahi Yusuf, who governed Mogadishu from 2006 to 2008,
“up to a million civilians had fled the bombardments in Mogadishu: they now live in tents made of plastic and twigs … This is a famine caused by men, not global warming.”1
Until the intensification of the 2011 famine, the Western media were more interested in piracy than in the slow starvation of millions of people. When the famine became a useful pretext to funnel aid to the Somaliland Police Force, the media’s interest picked up significantly.
- Operation Restore Hopelessness
Rarely have a people experienced such torture as Somalis. Most Westerners know the country from the alleged “humanitarian intervention” of late 1992. “If the Americans really wanted just to feed hungry people,” Africa scholar Richard Dowden noted, “they would have come six months earlier when the famine was at its height.”2 Africa specialist, Alex de Waal, wrote that “The humanitarian garb of Operation Restore Hope was superficial from the start.” It was “Launched in December 1992 just as the famine was waning,” having “more to do with testing the newly emerging doctrine of ‘humanitarian intervention’ than saving Somalis.” De Waal concluded that “An independent review by the US Refugee Policy Group concluded that the operation saved between 10,000 and 25,000 lives rather than the two million initially advertised.”3
This is a generous estimate considering that the CIA estimated 7,000 to 10,000 Somalis killed by US forces: many of the victims women and children. Commanding General Anthony Zinni said, “I’m not counting bodies … I’m not interested.”4 The deaths resulted from the mission shift from “humanitarian intervention” to capturing the warlord Farah Aidid.
The purpose of the 1992 invasion was to wreck any chance of a stabilising government, and to secure Somalia’s oil resources, specifically by discouraging Chinese and Russian exploration deals. The country has significant reserves about which few people are aware. The Senlis Council reported that “it is argued – though the US denied allegations – that the AMOCO, CONOCO and CHEVRON contracts in Somalia were a major consideration in the US intervention.” In Africa: Altered States, Ordinary Miracles, Dowden noted the presence of Chevron-owned villas. Since early 2008, “China and Russia have been attempting to make deals with the Somali government for exploration purposes.”5
Between 1992-4, “the Americans intervened, but clashed with the [Somali] warlords. Then, after 9/11, they decided to hire some of them as bounty-hunters,” journalist Aidan Hartley reported.6 After 9/11, the US decided to work with Aidid’s son in tracking down “al-Qaeda.”7 Human Rights Watch noted, however, that “many credible security analysts have long questioned the notion that al-Qaeda could establish a major presence in Somalia, given the country’s complex inter-clan dynamics and volatility.”8 The US also decided to work with Aidid’s advisor, Abdi Hasan Awale Qeybdiid, on behalf of the Ethiopian group the Transitional Federal Government.9
Using 9/11 as a pretext, Somalia’s Al-Barakaat Bank and charity accounts were frozen in an act of gratuitous cruelty which deprived war widows, orphans, the disabled and the elderly of their meagre savings and diaspora-wired donations.
Khalid Medani wrote.
“George W. Bush’s sweeping campaign against Somali money transfer companies—on the grounds that they “finance terror”—is so broad as to defy justification.”
He continued saying that the U.S.A. Patriot Act and the International Emergency Economic Powers Act,
“provide Federal officials with the authority to freeze assets of entities and individuals identified as financing terrorist operations,” Medani continued. Within months of its initiation, Operation Green Quest had “frozen more than $34 million in global assets linked to alleged terrorist organizations and individuals.”
British Telecom is one such company complicit in the freezing of funds. 10 Despite being exonerated of any involvement in terrorism by The 9/11 Commission Report (2004), Somali’s accounts remained frozen.11 As this was going on, Britain and America were sponsoring external talks designed to carve the country up, receiving no input from the Somali people who were not invited to attend the conferences. In October 2002, America’s Inter-Governmental Authority for Development (IGAD) “launched a peace process” allegedly “designed to end factional fighting in Somalia, led by the government of Kenya under the leadership of Ambassador Bethuel Kiplagat,” Congress reported. “In September 2003, the parties agreed on a Transitional National Charter, which paved the way for a Transitional Federal Government.” It was at that conference that Sharia Law was adopted as the official basis of the Charter: again, with no input from Somalis.12
- Aid as a Weapon – “The Battleship”
In 2008, The Times (London) reported that the police in Mogadishu were responsible for crimes against humanity, including torture, and that they were being funded through the UN’s Development Programme with British tax money.
More than £10 million, including £2.5 million of British money, is being used to refurbish government buildings, cover running costs and provide technical assistance. Members of the Somali parliament, many of whom earned their seats through military muscle, receive a monthly stipend of £600. But the biggest chunk of donor cash – some £15 million, including £3.2 million from the DfID [Department for International Development (DID)] – is being spent on … police as salaries and to buy radios and vehicles.13 It was also revealed in a Select Committee hearing in 2011 that British aid to Somalia is being funnelled to the Somaliland Police Force—who govern the most stable area of the country. The Ministry of Defence regularly refers to the Department for International Development as “one of the instruments of national power,”14 and it was referred to in the Select Committee hearing as “a battleship.”
Before the current drought and famine in Somalia, the “battleship” had pledged £3.5 billion per annum of British taxpayers’ money to Somalia. The aid was not earmarked for dying Somalis. Instead, it is going towards training and arming the Somaliland Police Force for counter-piracy operations. This was let slip during the Select Committee hearing on the role of Britain’s National Security Council, which James Arbuthnot (MP) enthusiastically described as “the war cabinet.” The Development Secretary, Andrew Mitchell, told the Select Committee that “We will be training 3,000 police in Somaliland,” at which point the chairman, Arbuthnot, interrupted, saying:
“I am sure that we will be doing some very good things.”15
This was confirmed in a leak to the Telegraph newspaper.16 However, several months before, the Telegraph had revealed that not all of the aid money would be going to the Somaliland Police Force, but to former Special Boat Service (UK) mercenaries to train Somalis in anti-piracy operations. “The decision to call in ex-special forces soldiers earning up to £1,500-a-day is highly controversial”17 – especially at a time when 20,000 pensioners in the UK die every year because they can’t afford to heat themselves.18
- Famine, Fishing and Pirates
If you think that piracy is more newsworthy than the starvation of a nation, we may ask, what are its causes? A Chatham House study published in 2008 by the UK’s leading Somalia specialist, Roger Middleton, found that “The only period during which piracy virtually vanished around Somalia was during the six months of rule by the Islamic Courts Union in the second half of 2006. This indicates that a functioning government in Somalia is capable of controlling piracy.”19 A free media would keep reminding us of what happened to the Islamic Courts Union (ICU).
In 2006, Western-sponsored Ethiopia warlords invaded Somalia in order to destroy the ICU. The invasion by the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) was aided by familiar media lies that suppressed the information concerning the TFG’s atrocities and invented stories about the ICU. “Mogadishu became relatively peaceful, and the Islamic Courts [sic] received support from the population in areas it controlled,” a US Congress report noted. “[T]he group had constituencies from multiple sub-clans and had broad support among Somali women,” waylaying media allegations of misogyny. The report continued:
There is no evidence to support the allegation that women were prohibited from working.. … [T]he assessment of the Islamic Courts by U.S. officials was that less than 5 percent of the Islamic Courts leadership can be considered extremist, according to a senior State Department official.20In 2004, it was announced that the UK would be training the TFG: a ragtag bunch of (mostly) Ethiopian bandits cobbled together to destroy the ICU. The Senlis Council described the TFG as,
“… an incoherent body characterised by a ‘zero sum game’ mentality. … It is failing to deliver any government services, security or aid, prompting the worst humanitarian crisis since early 1990s. … Efforts to establish a government of national unity have been faced with strong resistance by those TFG members who believe that a genuine reconciliation process is not in their interest. (Emphases added).21
“The consequences of the 2006-9 invasion were horrendous. Despite being found guilty of murdering a political opponent by Britain’s own High Court, which also found him guilty of “carrying out retaliations, including executions”22, Abdullahi Yusuf—leader of the TFG—was given a liver-transplant on Britain’s National Health Service, and was also given housing in the UK by the New Labour Party during the Blair and Brown years.
Richard Dowden quotes Abdullahi Yusuf as saying: “They gave me the liver of an IRA terrorist. Now I’m a real killer.”
Aidan Hartley reported,
“British taxpayers’ money is helping to bankroll one side of this vicious conflict and several Somali leaders who have been linked to allegations of war crimes against countless civilians are living double lives in Britain …[having] been given British citizenship, state benefits and a subsidised home in [Britain].”23
Human Rights Watch reported that,
“Since January 2007 at least 870,000 civilians have fled the chaos in Mogadishu alone—two-thirds of the city’s population … Across south-central Somalia, 1.1 million Somalis are displaced from their homes. Hundreds of thousands of displaced people are living in squalid camps along the Mogadishu-Afgooye road that have themselves become theaters of brutal fighting.”24
Every year, tens of thousands of Somalis and Ethiopians risk life and limb to flee across the Gulf of Aden to seek refuge in Yemen, where the UK-trained Yemeni forces have committed atrocities against asylum seekers, Yemeni citizens, and Northern Zaidi Shia Huthis for years. Somalis and Ethiopians are extorted and, if they can’t pay, often thrown overboard.25 Others try to make it to Kenya, where British-trained forces torture and rape the women and girls.
HRW reported that the Kenyan government’s,
“increasing demonization of these refugees—80 percent of whom are women and children—as a national security threat has made them among the most vulnerable victims of Kenya’s notoriously corrupt and abusive police force. During the first ten weeks of 2010, hundreds, if not thousands, of Somali asylum seekers unable to pay were unlawfully sent back to Somalia.”26
With all this going on, is it any wonder that many are resorting to piracy? Furthermore, Britain has links with the Somali pirates: a fact which, like the more important ones mention above, has gone unreported. Middleton wrote,
“The fact that the pirates originate from Puntland is significant as this is also the home region of President Abdullahi Yusuf” —Britain’s favourite warlord.
As one expert said, ‘money will go to Yusuf as a gesture of goodwill to a regional leader’– so even if the higher echelons of Somali government and clan structure are not directly involved in organizing piracy, they probably do benefit … Puntland is one of the poorest areas of Somalia, so the financial attraction of piracy is strong. Somalia’s fishing industry has collapsed in the last fifteen years and its waters are being heavily fished by European, Asian and African ships.27
The latter being another example of the West’s benevolence. During a Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on piracy, Britain’s former Defence Minister Bob Ainsworth (who supported the invasion of Iraq, expanded the occupation of Afghanistan, and voted for the destruction of Libya), acknowledged “a moral argument that “You took our fish and therefore this is what we are doing.”” Likewise, the Chatham House specialist Dr. Sally Healy said that “the kind of issues that matter [to Somalis] would include some sort of recognition that there has been a plunder of Somali resources” by the EU. Since pirate activities began, she added, “there is a visible difference to the amount of fish that have recovered in the ocean,” which is crucial in a country starving to death, giving Somalis “fish to eat.”28 A free media would publish headlines such as “Somali pirates improve depleting fish-stocks plundered by EU.”
Dr. Lee Willett, a specialist of maritime studies at the Royal United Services Institute, was asked during a House of Lords hearing in 2010 whether the over-fishing of Somali waters by the European Union—which is heading the anti-piracy Operation Atalanta from UK bases—was a serious issue for Somalis. “Very much so,” he replied, adding that many said “because Western ships were coming illegally into their waters and taking their fish, they had no other choice.”29
The same issue arose over the EU’s dumping of foetal-deforming, cancer-causing toxic waste on Somalia’s shores, recalling the statement of then-World Bank chief Lawrence Summers (one of Obama’s economic goons) concerning “the economic logic of dumping a load of toxic waste” in the third world.30
Very little of this has been reported in the West. Instead, concern has been focused on Somali pirates, and how NATO and the US are using drones and sonic weapons to stop them—not to stop the raping, looting, and general atrocities being committed by the other pirates: the TFG and the European Union; nor to stop the slow starvation of nearly four million Somalis. This typical imperial attitude brings to mind Rabindranath Tagore’s maxim, that “Power takes as ingratitude the writhings of its victims.”
19. Roger Middleton, Piracy in Somalia: Threatening global trade, feeding local wars, Royal Institute of International Affairs (Chatham House), Briefing paper, October, 2008,
First Published at AxisofLogic.