View Full Version : The sudden interest in piracy - Another CIA-Backed Coup Blows Up

Magda Hassan
12-03-2008, 06:20 AM
Somalia: Another CIA-Backed Coup Blows Up

By Mike Whitney

"The Ethiopian invasion, which was sanctioned by the US government, has destroyed virtually all the life-sustaining economic systems which the population has built for the last fifteen years." Abdi Samatar, professor of Global Studies at the University of Minnesota, Democracy Now

December 02, 2008 "Information Clearinghouse (http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/)" --- Up until a month ago, no one in the Bush administration showed the least bit of interest in the incidents of piracy off the coast of Somalia. Now that's all changed and there's talk of sending in the Navy to patrol the waters off the Horn of Africa and clean up the pirates hideouts. Why the sudden about-face? Could it have something to do with the fact that the Ethiopian army is planning to withdrawal all of 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 that doesn't mean its geopolitical objectives have changed one iota. The US intends to stay in the region for years to come and use its naval power to control the critical shipping lanes from the Gulf of Aden. The growing strength of the Somali national resistance is a set-back, but it doesn't change the basic game-plan. The pirates are actually a blessing in disguise. They provide an excuse for the administration to beef up it's military presence and put down roots. Every crisis is an opportunity.

There's an interesting subtext to the pirate story that hasn't appeared in the western media. According to Simon Assaf of the Socialist Worker:

"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 coast.

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 Worker)

The origins of piracy in Somalia is considerably different than the narrative in the media which tends to perpetuate stereotypes of scary black men who are naturally inclined to criminal behavior. In reality, the pirates were the victims of a US-EU run system that still uses the developing world as a dumping ground for toxic waste regardless of the suffering it causes. (just ask Larry Summers) In fact, the dumping continues to this day, even though we have been assured that we're living in a "post racial era" following the election of Barak Obama. Unfortunately, that rule doesn't apply to the many black and brown people who still find themselves caught in the imperial crosshairs. Their lives are just as miserable as ever.


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 case was weak and full of inconsistencies. The ICU is not an Al Qaida affiliate or a terrorist organization despite the claims of the State Department. In fact, the ICU brought a high level of peace and stability to Somalia that hadn't been seen for more than sixteen years.

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.”

The Bush administration is mainly interested in oil and geopolitics. According to most estimates 30 per cent of America's oil will come from Africa within the next ten years. That means the Pentagon will have to extend its tentacles across the continent. 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 pundits expect Somalia to descend into terrorist-breeding, failed state for years to come.

The latest round of fighting has created a humanitarian disaster. 1.3 million people have been forced from their homes with nothing more than what they can carry on their backs. Over 3.5 million people are now huddled in tent cities in the south with little food, clean water or medical supplies.

According to the UN News Center: "Nearly half the population is in crisis or need of assistance....Continuing instability, coupled with drought, high food prices and the collapse of the local currency have only worsened the dire humanitarian situation in recent months. The UN estimates that 40 per cent of the population, are in need of assistance. In addition, one in six children under the age of five in southern and central Somalia is currently acutely malnourished." (UN News Center)

The war between the occupying Ethiopian army and the various guerrilla factions has steadily 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 fighting could break out at any time. It's "game-over" for Bush's proxy army and the transitional federal government. They cannot win, which is why the Ethiopian leaders announced a complete withdrawal of troops by the end of the year. By January 1, 2009, the occupation will be over.

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)

The CIA has done its job well. It's created a beehive for terrorism and the potential for another catastrophe like 9-11.

Currently, negotiations are underway between the guerrilla leaders and the TFG over a power-sharing agreement. But no one expects the talks will amount to anything. The moderate ICU may regain power but the country will still 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.

David Guyatt
12-03-2008, 01:58 PM
Great! Steal the fish, dump toxic waste, further inflame anger in the local fisherman by intimidation tactics then sit back and wait for an explosion.

AND then race to the rescue by fighting piracy whilst wearing a white hat for the MSM sound bites.

What a world.

Magda Hassan
12-07-2008, 02:18 AM
Somalia today is approaching a cataclysm not seen since the early 1990s, and the U.S. role has added in no small part to the misery that once again engulfs the war-weary Horn of Africa nation. The brutal Ethiopian military occupation of Somalia that began on Christmas Eve 2006 has sustained heavy losses over the past 20 months. The conflict has strained Ethiopian resources and Addis Ababa is currently reviewing its overall strategy. What remains of Somalia's Transitional Federal Government (TFG), barring a massive new foreign military intervention, teeters on the edge of collapse. In its place an already powerful Islamist insurgency is strengthening rapidly. Warlordism, criminality, and piracy are reaching new heights. All the while, the Somali population remains under siege, caught between abuses on all sides as its society literally disintegrates.
Underwriting a significant portion of the bloodshed has been a U.S. administration engaged in expansive warfare with a preference for covert military operations. Somalia has long been of strategic interest to U.S. policymakers. The country sits next to the strait of Bab al-Mandeb, a key oil transit waterway between the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean—the second closest point between Africa and the Middle East. During the Cold War the dictatorship of General Siad Barre was the long-time recipient of generous amounts of U.S. military and economic largesse. In 1991, after years of unrest, rebellion, and protracted drought, Barre's regime collapsed into famine, war, and chaos. George H. W. Bush ordered U.S. forces into the country a year later in support of the United Nations relief program, culminating in the Battle of Mogadishu and the now-famous Black Hawk Down incident.
At the time of the U.S. withdrawal and international disengagement, no single actor was strong enough to establish and maintain control. Somalia fractured along semi-permanent tribal lines and warlord fiefdoms that would come to define the country's social and political landscape. For more than a decade and a half, the territory was left to fester in ungoverned criminality and violence, only rarely making international headlines.
September 2001 and the wars in the Middle East brought renewed U.S. focus to the Horn of Africa. For some time, a diverse group of Islamists, clan leaders, businesspeople, militia heads, and civic actors had been coalescing into what would in 2005 become the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC), a heterogeneous movement seeking to establish a semblance of law and order after years of chaos.
The Courts proved to be well organized, disciplined, and effective civil administrators. They were popular with average Somalis, even the less devout, all of whom were desperate for relief from the criminal gangs and brutality that had long ruled their country. The Islamists also began to challenge the weak, faction-ridden TFG—the successor to 13 previous failed attempts at creating a central government—which had been confined to the provincial town of Baidoa, headed by President Abdullahi Yusuf, closely linked to Mogadishu's warlords.
http://zcommunications.org/FCKFiles/image/dec08zmoimages/Cole-LeosDemocracy.gifAlarmed at the Islamic Courts' growing strength and popularity, in early 2006 the CIA began supplying significant quantities of arms and money to a coalition of secular Mogadishu warlords under the name Alliance for the Restoration of Peace and Counter-Terrorism (ARPCT). The CIA program had been a poorly conceived attempt to hunt down the small number of al-Qaeda affiliated individuals involved in the 1998 bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, then thought to be hiding in Somalia. But the operation failed disastrously and, according to reports, "the payoffs added to an anarchic situation that led many Somalis to turn to the Islamic Courts for protection" (Washington Post, May 13, 2007).
The Islamists struck preemptively and decisively, routing the warlords and seizing control of Mogadishu within a matter of weeks. For six months in 2006, the Union of Islamic Courts proceeded to establish security and the provision of basic social services in much of Somalia for the first time in 15 years. The peace provided by the Islamists also came with more conservative social policies and a type of sharia law. For average Somalis, however, the security of the Courts brought a brief respite from their usual suffering.
The Bush administration, seeing Somalia and the Islamic Courts through the lens of its war on terror and, having botched the earlier warlord program, began stepping up aid to long-time ally and neighboring Ethiopian autocrat Meles Zenawi. Zenawi has held power in Ethiopia since the early 1990s. During a crackdown against popular protests after fraudulent elections in 2005, Zenawi's security forces massacred nearly 200 people, injured 760 more, and arrested an additional 20,000, among them opposition leaders, foreign aid workers, and journalists. Nonetheless, since 2002, Ethiopia has received nearly $25 million in overt U.S. military assistance while at least 100 U.S. military personnel currently work inside Ethiopia in advisory positions as part of what the Pentagon characterizes as a "close working relationship" with the Ethiopian military.
Less than two weeks before the invasion, in mid-December 2006, Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Jendayi Frazer publicly declared, "The Council of Islamic Courts is now controlled by al-Qaeda cell individuals, east Africa al-Qaeda cell individuals." The claim was dubious and he provided no evidence. Horn of Africa specialist Ken Menkhaus noted in February 2007 that the Islamic Courts "movement as a whole was far from an al-Qaeda front. Only three foreign al-Qaeda operatives were said by the US to be in hiding in Mogadishu, a number far lower than those suspected of residing in neighboring Kenya."
Assistant Secretary Frazer warned of "a risk Al Qaeda may take up bases in Somalia," but denied that the United States would take military action against the Courts. Similarly, then-UN Ambassador John Bolton told reporters in early December 2006: "The United States strongly believes that a sustainable solution in Somalia should be based on credible dialogue between the [TFG] and the UIC and we continue to work with our African and other partners toward that end."
Behind the scenes, General John Abizaid, at the time U.S. Centcom commander, had already visited Addis Ababa to express some last minute reservations to Prime Minister Zenawi. The decision had been made, though, and ultimately Washington lent its support to the invasion.
The Ethiopian military crossed the Somali border on December 24, 2006 and later reports indicated that "CIA agents traveled with the Ethiopian troops, helping to direct operations" (the London Independent, February 9, 2008). The United States provided important satellite intelligence and other battleground information from unmanned Predator drones. "A lot of what we taught them was used to fight that global War on Terror," observed a U.S. military advisor who had trained Ethiopian soldiers now fighting in Somalia. In terms of weaponry, he noted, "They got what they needed."
U.S. Special Forces also conducted periodic operations inside Somali territory, possibly moving out of a rumored CIA base in eastern Ethiopia. The full extent and exact type of activity is not known, but reports of their movements have been confirmed by Somali officials. As TFG Prime Minister Nur Hassan Hussein explained to reporters in February 2008, "The presence of the CIA, the presence of [U.S.] troops, is not a big issue. We like that they are here. But right now they don't have a permanent military presence. They come in and out."
U.S. warships moved into position off the coast of Somalia in anticipation of the invasion. Acting on intelligence from the ground, Washington ordered bombing raids targeting what it believed to be Islamic militants. U.S.-piloted AC-130 gunships and cruise missiles have blasted Somali territory at least a half dozen times since January 2007. The first of these air raids killed what turned out to be 70 Somali goat herders whom the Pentagon had initially claimed were Islamic fighters. After several other attempts, in May 2008, the bombings finally succeeded in killing the leader of the al-Shabaab militia, Aden Hashi Ayro. The strike also demolished the surrounding homes, killing ten others and leading to anti-U.S. protests.
The Ethiopian military captured Mogadishu before New Year's Day 2007. The most powerful army in the region devastated organized UIC forces. But the remaining militants fled and quickly melted back into the larger civilian population. As predicted, the collapse of the Islamic Courts and the subsequent Ethiopian occupation led to a relentless Iraq-style insurgency—one that has been rapidly gaining strength.
The insurgents have successfully used roadside bombs, hit-and-run attacks, and assassinations targeted at government officials to assault the TFG and its Ethiopian backers. Increasingly, they have routed Ethiopian and TFG military forces in direct confrontations, moving to capture and hold swathes of territory for extended periods of time.
Ethiopian and TFG forces, for their part, responded with a ferocious campaign to root out militants in Mogadishu and surrounding areas. The vicious counterinsurgency has seen the regular shelling of densely populated urban neighborhoods. Distinctions between civilians and insurgents are often irrelevant to security forces that frequently prey on the Somali population. Looting, rape, torture, mutilation, and cutting the throats of victims are regular tactics of Ethiopian and TFG forces. These are the same methods the Ethiopian military has used to suppress another ongoing insurgency in the Ogaden desert. The most recent report from Amnesty International recounts episodes too horrific to quote here.
Thus, Somalis are caught in the crossfire between Ethiopian and TFG security forces, insurgents, warlords, criminals, and U.S. gunships. The "more common complaint among ordinary Somalis," according to reporters, however, "is that the Ethiopians are 'indiscriminate' in their reprisals—and that this is why Mogadishu has been emptied of people."
The human cost has been staggering. The forces of war and drought are rapidly converging on the Horn of Africa nation in a perfect storm against the Somali population. The civilian death toll since the invasion is fast approaching 10,000. More than a million people have fled their homes, including half of Mogadishu, and are now living in squalid, makeshift refugee camps.
The food and fuel crisis that has affected international markets has combined with the disruption of fighting, looting, inflation, and a failure of the seasonal rains to push Somalia to the absolute brink. The country now stands on the verge of famine on a scale not seen since the early 1990s when an estimated 300,000 Somalis starved to death. Recent UN estimates hold that more than 3.25 million people, nearly half the population, are currently in need of food aid. International officials have long been calling the situation the most horrific humanitarian disaster on the African continent.
As in Iraq, the war on terror in Somalia has become a self-fulfilling prophecy, sowing the increasing radicalization and anti-Westernization of an entire population of poor Third World people. In recent months there has been new evidence of foreign fighters inside Somalia—decidedly not the case when Jendayi Frazer declared two weeks prior to the invasion that Somalia was "now controlled by al-Qaeda cell individuals."
While the leadership of the Islamic Courts was originally a mix of moderate and conservative Islamic actors, the insurgency no longer maintains this character. A peace agreement between the former moderate elements of the Courts, now called the Alliance for the Re-Liberation of Somalia, and the TFG has already concluded to no effect. The old leaders of the Courts no longer control the insurgency. Battle-hardened al-Shabaab militants, perhaps poised to succeed the Transitional Federal Government, espouse a far more radical and anti-Western Islamic ideology.
For the moment, the intervention in Somalia appears to be coming full circle. In September two Somalis in their early 20s were arrested at a German airport on suspicion of planning terrorist attacks somewhere in the West. They were released due to insufficient evidence, but German intelligence officials believe the men were arrested too early.
Somalia has indeed been a third front in the war on terror. A quiet front, but a front nonetheless. Six months after the Ethiopian invasion, Defense Department spokesperson Bryan Whitman told reporters, "The very nature of some of our operations, as well as the success of those operations, is often predicated on our ability to work quietly with our partners and allies." Now, almost two years into the occupation, few can still maintain delusions of success in the Horn of Africa. Perhaps most troubling is that the current episode must be seen against the background of the recent creation of AFRICOM and the larger militarization of U.S. foreign policy in Africa.
What becomes of Somalia remains to be seen. What is certain is that the U.S. has taken a group of the world's most destitute, desperate, and brutalized people and brutalized them some more. We might expect to see angry young Somali bringing violence to the West in the future. Whether we know it or not, we have certainly brought it to them. This is the Bush administration's legacy and it will be with us for a long time to come.