Our readers write: US intervention in Somalia —and Yemen

Over the past weeks, Somalia has seen the worst fighting since the fall of the Said Barre dictatorship in 1991, leaving some 350,000 displaced from the capital, Mogadishu. (BBC, April 27) Our April issue featured the story “Somalia: the New Resistance” by Osman Yusuf, examining the Islamist factions that took up arms against the US-supported transition government and its Ethiopian allies. We also featured the story “Yemen: On the Brink of Sectarian War” by Mohamed Al-Azaki, a chilling account of the armed Shi’ite rebellion and harsh government repression shaking Washington’s strategic Red Sea ally. Yemen, although rarely in the news, lies just across the Gulf of Aden from Somalia—and we can be sure that the Pentagon is warily eyeing it as a “next domino,” and potential threat to the stability of the bordering Saudi dictatorship. There have already been reliable reports that US Special Forces were directly involved in the Somalia fighting. Our April Exit Poll was: “Is Somalia the next Iraq? Is Yemen the next Somalia?” We received the following responses:

From Jay Dobkin, New York City:

Only from the stato-nitensecentric point of view. Although you wouldn’t know it from the mainstream media, these are actually all different countries with their own separate histories and cultures, whose significance does not lie entirely (or even more than very slightly) in their impact on the U.S.

On the other hand, if you’re asking whether Talleyrand’s description of the Bourbons (“they have learned nothing and forgotten nothing”) applies just as well to the current rulers of the evil empire, I’d have to say yes.

WW4 REPORT responds: “Stato-nitencentric”? Heh. An Interlingua neologism for “US-centered”? Nice. But we take issue with your use of the word “significance.” Poland may not have perceived its “significance” as lying primarilly in its “impact” on Germany or Russia before September 1939, but that soon became the overriding factor by any definition…

From Kim Sky, Eugene, Oregon:

Is Somalia the next Iraq? NO. Is Yemen the next Somalia? I hope not. I’m applying for a job there!

stories are better told each day… they’re wearing me down. i can no longer loose sleep over the idea of this tragedy. perhaps that’s the point of all this threat-mongering — drive the pacifists mad, helplessness and hopelessness – the utter scope of the insanity.

WW4 REPORT responds: We don’t think driving the pacifists mad is the point of the war-mongering—it’s just a side-benefit. Good luck with the job application. Send us a postcard from Sana’a.

From JG, New York City:

Yemen more like a Pakistan – US support vs ‘Al Qaida’ – though smaller. Somalia maybe the Congo – neighbors at arms while the West wrings it’s (our) hands. I get the feeling there’s a move afoot to remake the 80s charity ballad as ‘Rearm the World, Rearm the children …. ‘

WW4 REPORT responds: Dylan is doing ads for Victoria’s Secret these days… Why not Lockheed-Martin or Carlyle Group? We think you’re on to something.

From Richard Lyman, somewhere in cyberspace:


WW4 REPORT responds: Yes, readers, more responses to the Exit Poll would indeed by appreciated…

The most thoughtful response comes from Ann Garrison in San Francisco:

Tell you what astonishes me about all the reporting on religious war between Coptic Christian Ethiopia and Moslem Somalia. No one ever looks back far enough to note, simply by reading the damn Wikipedia, that, when Italy invaded Ethiopia, feeling bereft of an African colony, before WWII, Haile Selassie took refuge in Somalia and addressed the U.N., asking whether the world would be ruled by force or by law.

Neither the North American nor European world came to his aid until Hitler invaded Poland and Mussolini lined up with the Axis…

How’s about getting this Somalia/Ethiopia history out there? Please. It’s right in the invaluable Wikipedia. Just see if you can reprint that.

Asked via e-mail what the pre-WWII politics have to do with the present dilemma, Ann responds:

My point was that the strife between Ethiopian Coptic Christians and Somalian Moslems has most likely been stirred up by CIA agents and the like, that these peoples were allies against European occupation just before WWI [sic, presumably WWII], but they got no help from Europe or North America till Hitler invaded Poland and Mussolini lined up with the Axis.

I think it’s also worth noting that Ethiopia is the only Sub-Saharan country which became Christian–Coptic Christian—on its own, instead of having it forced down its throat by the Pope of Rome. Coptic Christianity is essentially indigenous Christianity, as opposed to European conquest Christianity.

Forgetting all this seems like extraordinarily short memory to me. Shouldn’t we understand that, as Robert Fisk says, these are the “New Crusades”?

Also, what’s with this term Islamist that I now here [sic] all over Pacifica? Obviously short for Islamic fundamentalist. Democracy Now is the only Pacific outlet I haven’t heard use it, routinely and I’m horrified. Has anyone ever heard of a Christist, as in Christian fundamentalist? We may have talked about this before, but it’s still really bugging me.

WW4 REPORT responds: You make some good points, but also miss some important ones.

Blaming the demise of pan-African solidarity entirely on “CIA agents and the like” denies local context, and is therefore patronizing in its own way. If the neo-colonialists are playing divide-and-conquer, they have found fertile ground in the region’s ethnic and religious rivalries.

Yeah, us lefties are supposed to love Robert Fisk, but WW4R dissents. He has got his facts wrong on occasion, but (more importantly) he suffers from the same problem of denying local contexts—for instance in his bewildering denial that there is a civil war in Iraq. (Is he still saying this? We hope not.)

The terms “Islamism,” “Islamic fundamentalism” and “political Islam” are pretty much interchangeable, and they describe something all too real. “Political Islam” is probably the most accurate, but “Islamism” is a convenient short-hand. The term “Christian fundamentalism” certainly is widely used, and if you want to call it “Christianism” that’s fine by us. If you oppose the folks who blow up abortion clinics and want to impose biblical law in the United States, you should oppose the folks who stone women to death for getting raped and want to impose sharia law in Iraq (and Somalia, and Yemen).

On the factual tip, Haile Selassie assuredly did not address the UN over the Italian aggression, because there was no UN back then. You presumably mean the League of Nations. This is why we don’t trust the notoriously inaccurate Wikipedia.

See our last posts on Somalia and Yemen. See our last Exit Poll results.

  1. 21st century hit parade
    More wit and wisdom from JG:

    All we are saying …
    is give war a chance

    Bombed by the USA
    I was
    Bombed by the USA

    good god yall
    What is it good for?!
    Profit margin
    say it again

    What can a poor boy do
    ‘cept bill an extra hundred grand?

  2. Another response…
    From Bill Richey, Aurora, CO:

    I hit a link to this Web site while browsing around after Googling “Ogaden oil”, thus certainly adding another tempting variable in making predictions about future wars. There are so many international oil companies and foreign governments who are wheeling and dealing with governments in sub-Saharan Africa to extract oil, natural gas, copper, cobalt, coltan (for your cell phones, folks), gold, old growth forest wood, etc., that any unilateral attempts by Bush or his successor to dominate this region is a pipe dream. The oil industries are going to squeeze the #$%&! out of this planet in order to make their last few trillions of bucks before the wells run dry, and their stockholders start dumping their soon-to-be worthless stocks. I predict the oil companies will get their way, once again, constructing drilling fields, pipelines, oil tanker ports, etc., in countries where social injustices, genocide, starvation, kleptrocricies, international exploitation of the resources, has decimated what were once proud cultures.

  3. Late response on Somalia and Yemen
    From Dennis Watts, somewhere in cyberspace:

    I think Iraq was the third Somalia, behind Afganistan… At this point, what difference does it make. We are headed for our own Dunkirk, only it won’t be limited to some coastal city, it will be world wide and we will be in a sticky wicket.

    Yemen is a blip on our radar screen. But as all submariners know, one blip, could be our last blip.