US foreign policy, one of the main aims of which has been declared as the fight against international terrorism, is taking on ever more bizarre forms. There are strong grounds for holding this view if we look at what is happening in Somalia, where after a short period of inactivity fierce fighting has resumed between various groups of field commanders. Now this confrontation more and more resembles a “normal” war, no longer being bloody chaos where everyone is killing everyone else. But this is of no help to ordinary Somalis, for whom life is not getting any easier.
The first round of hard-fought battles took place about two months ago. Some international news agencies which have correspondents in Somalia report that now, just as in March, almost for the first time in the 15 years of civil war there it possible to discern who is fighting against whom and over what. It turns out that in one part of the country some level of order has been imposed, courts have started to function and hospitals and schools have even begun to open, which is especially hard to believe, considering Somalia ’s conditions. However, to Washington’s displeasure, this has all been done by Islamic groups on the basis of sharia law.
In order to uphold order the Islamic courts acquired military units, which almost immediately were attacked by field commanders who had quickly organized themselves into subdivisions and who prefer anarchy to the existence of any form of authority.
For marketing reasons, as some observers note with bitter irony, this grouping called itself “The Alliance in favour of restoring of peace and the fight against terrorism”, which immediately gave the calculating leaders grounds to count on help from Washington. It seems as if the Alliance fighters really are obtaining this help. From January onwards a group of UN observers has been informing the Security Council that a certain state, in breach of the UN embargo, is giving financial support to the fighters in return for them organizing resistance against bands of Islamic fundamentalists in central and southern parts of Somalia.
Let us not forget that in Somalia a so-called transitional government does nominally, at least, exist. Representatives of the “official” authorities are afraid to appear in the capital, preferring to spend most of their time in Kenya or small settlements in the south of the country. Representatives of the government and in particular members of the local, and to a large extent nominal, parliament who are alarmed by the continuing violence are not afraid to openly and ruefully declare that the help for organizing the latest battles comes from the USA.
The White House and State Department do not confirm any of this, but do not exactly refute it either, preferring to make announcements about the infiltration of secret Al-Qaeda emissaries in Somalia. Washington is worried about the possibility of Somalia becoming a base for international terrorism, which the Bush administration promised to fight against with all its might.
But this position provides more questions than answers. We know that there is no generally accepted definition of terrorism. Somali politicians and experts are directing Washington officials’ attention to the fact that among those who are now waging war against the Islamists are commanders who inflicted a painful defeat on American forces in 1993. This gives the impression that the only difference between Somali “terrorists” and those fighting against them is their religion.
If the USA continues to adhere to this tactic, then the consequences could be catastrophic. Even without this it is hard for American leaders and diplomats to constantly convince everyone that for them terrorists do not have to be Muslim. For ordinary Somalis the “fight against terrorism” brings no benefits whatsoever”: just in the space of a few days, according to modest estimates, 150 people were killed in Mogadishu.
Translated by James Platt