The village of Kamuda a remote outpost in the Ogaden region of eastern Ethiopia, where the majority are Muslims and ethnically Somali had some unexpected visitors last June, when a platoon of Ethiopian soldiers showed up, announcing their arrival by shooting their rifles into the air and demanding to know why the villagers had been providing food and safe haven to rebels from the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF). With no satisfactory answer forthcoming, the soldiers took action: they picked out seven young ladies, between the ages of 15 and 18, and dragged them off into the bush.
Three were later found hanging from trees, beaten to death. The rest simply disappeared.
This “anti-terrorist” activity is funded by you, the American taxpayer. It comes out of the $97 million in aid we sent to Addis Ababa this year, including the military surplus and training we provide to the Ethiopian military, which is rampaging through Somalia as well as the Ogaden region. The invasion of Somalia by Ethiopian troops held up by the American right-wing as an example of how the U.S. ought to be conducting its own “anti-terrorist” operations has collapsed into a welter of confusion and looming disaster, as the “government” set up by the Ethiopians implodes and the Muslim insurgency shakes Mogadishu, the Somali capital.
Amid the rising chaos, Somalian “government” troops recently stormed the UN World Food Program headquarters, and detained the chief official, Idris Osman: the reasons for this were unclear, but thuggishness is a general principle with the current U.S.-backed rulers of this desolate, tortured land, and perhaps it was just a reminder to people that no one is immune from random acts of violence by the government.
As the Ethiopian- and U.S.-backed Somalian “government” of warlords and criminal gangs rampages through the streets of Mogadishu, and throughout the country, murdering, looting, and raping, the U.S. signals its approval. Indeed, the U.S. has given its backing to Ethiopia. As the Independent reports:
“America’s top official on African affairs, assistant secretary of state, Jendayi Frazer, visited one town in the Ogaden last month. On her return to Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa, she criticised the rebels and said the reports of military abuses were merely allegations. “We urge any and every government to respect human rights and to try to avoid civilian casualties but that’s difficult in dealing with an insurgency.”
U.S. backing for the Ethiopian “former” communist dictator Meles Zenawi who ordered a “recount” of Ethiopia’s last poll until he got a more satisfactory result was a reaction to the sudden rise of an Islamic court system in Somalia, where complete disorder reigned until Muslim fundamentalists filled the power vacuum and set up their own decentralized system that imposed sharia law, yet made the area liveable once more, and received the support of what remained of Somalia’s business community. In faraway Washington, however, this news was received with something less than enthusiasm: al-Qaeda was moving into Somalia, they decided, and it was time to move. U.S. military personnel stationed in Mogadishu are said to be directing the regime’s military operations against the Muslim guerrillas, who were pushed out during the Ethiopian invasion but have infiltrated back in and now control much of the capital city.
A phony “national reconciliation accord” has been sponsored by the Saudis, but this is a farce, considering that none of the insurgents were invited. A rival conference, held in Eritrea which provides safe haven and aid to the insurgents denounced the proceedings. So much for “national reconciliation.”
An equally phony bill that is supposed to call attention to the dire situation in Somalia has been introduced in Congress by Rep. Donald Payne (D-New Jersey): it’s phony because it simply addresses the lack of “democracy” in Ethiopia, demands that the Ethiopians submit to foreign overseers who will measure their “progress” and release aid conditional on the “success” of the program, and the deal-breaker is that the legislation has several loopholes in it big enough to drive a couple of Ethiopian tanks through. For one, Bush can simply waive the bill’s requirements, and, secondly, the military component of U.S. aid is exempted.
In short, even if the bill passes the Senate unlikely those Ethiopian soldiers who terrorized the villagers of Kamuda will still be subsidized and succored by American taxpayers, even as they continue rampaging through the Ogaden, and Somalia.
The history of our intervention in the Horn of Africa is a case study in what not to do, and how to hurt our own interests, in the guise of “fighting terrorism,” and I’ve covered that here, here, and here. The latest chapter in the region’s long agony merely confirms the original diagnosis: that U.S. intervention creates new problems instead of solving old ones.
U.S. intervention has put us in the same corner with one of the most savagely repressive governments in Africa, which is saying quite a lot. Ethiopian strongman Mele Zenawi fits in rather neatly with Washington’s foreign policy: he’s a bit of a neocon himself a “reformed” Marxist who went from hailing the late Enver Hoxha, the dictator of Stalinist Albania, as the leader of the world revolution against capitalism, to hailing George W. Bush as the world’s leader in the “war on terrorism.”
Some are comparing the slaughter in the Ogaden and Somalia to what’s happening in Darfur, and, ironically, we’ll probably be hearing calls by the “humanitarian” interventionist set for the U.S. and/or the UN to “do something,” i.e. send in the troops or intervene in some meaningful way. The big flaw in these sorts of proposals is that we’ve already intervened our guys are in Mogadishu, directing much of the fighting and that is precisely the cause of the problem.
There is only one “solution” to the developing genocide in the Horn of Africa, and it is this: get the U.S. out, end all aid to the Ethiopian government, and immediately airlift our aid workers and American civilians out of the area. Will this solve all the region’s problems? Hardly. The ethnic, religious, and clan-based conflicts that are roiling the Horn are not amenable to any easy solution, and certainly not one imposed by Washington. Many problems don’t have any “solution,” and whatever hope exists for the region longterm economic development, the rational exploitation of oil resources, the liberalization of the neo-Stalinist regimes that infest the area is gong to be nipped in the bud rather than nurtured by our clumsy attempts to mold events to our liking.
NOTES IN THE MARGIN
Be sure to check out my essay, “Ayn Despite the Randians,” written on the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of Atlas Shrugged, over at Taki’s Top Drawer. I had great fun writing it.