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Somali, pirates, war on terrorism « Previous | |Next »
April 15, 2009

The British are leaving Iraq. Basra--with its open sewers, uncollected garbage and shortage of electricity---has been handed over to the Americans. It has been cleared of Shia gunmen who had imposed extremist Islamist views on the population. That leaves the rationale of the threat of international terrorism -- specifically al Qaeda -- justifying the costly, long-term engagement in Afghanistan and Pakistan that threatens to turn into a walk into a quagmire.

BellSleavingIraq.jpg Steve Bell

If the US is still the only imperial power (American servicemen and women are stationed in the 153 countries to protect its imperial interests), then the Somali pirates indicate the limits of the US's military power. Somalia has been a collapsed state for nearly 20 years, it harbours bands of men in light craft armed with rifles who can seize 50,000-tonne tankers flying the flags of western states in the Gulf of Aden. Piracy is Somalia's biggest industry.

Though the Americans could nuke Somalia flat in a few minutes, they are unable to protect the 25,000 commercial vessels every year that transit the Suez Canal, Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean while travelling between Europe and Asia.

The outraged conservative Republican blowhards in the US, who love sabre rattling on their little papier-mâché Mount Olympus, yearn to blow the pirates out of the water and assert the imperial fist against the Islamists. American sovereignty rules the waves, and to make this point the US needs to hit--nay wipe out-- a few countries.

Somalia is of key geo-political importance for the US. It lies at a commercial crossroads between the Middle East and Asia. A large portion of the world’s oil tankers, particularly European and Chinese, pass along its coast. It has had no central government since 1991.

It was the fear that Somalia could end up as yet another Talibanised state and a safe haven for al-Qaida terrorists prompted the Americans to support the Ethiopian invasion of Somalia in 2006. In this war Ethiopia was perceived as fighting America’s war against Islam--- a partner with the United States in the “war on terror” in Africa.

The rationale for the Ethiopian military deployment to Somalia was to oust Islamist forces Ethiopia believed represented "a clear and present danger" to its national interest. The Ethiopian forces, who spent the next two years fighting a deadly Islamist-nationalist insurgency to prop up a pro-U.S. "transitional" government, withdrew under fire from the same Islamists they came to crush. The client transitional Federal Government (TFG) of warlords collapsed following the Ethiopian withdrawal.

The US now tacitly welcomes an Islamist government that is not markedly different from the one that the US/Ethiopian invasion of Somalia helped to overthrow 2 years ago.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 7:54 AM |