Imperialism is becoming increasingly worried about the war in Somalia, and in particular the successes of the resistance led by al-Shabaab (‘The Youth’), which now controls the south and central areas of Somalia and most of the capital, Mogadishu.
The completely ineffective ‘Transitional Government’ (TG), headed by Sheik Sharif Sheik Ahmed is holed up in a palace on a hill in the capital, while TG forces, equipped by imperialist funding, try, largely unsuccessfully, to create a few no-go areas for the resistance fighters.
Around 7,000 troops from Uganda and Burundi, under the flag of African Union so-called ‘peace-keeping forces’, have so far saved the TG from being overwhelmed by the resistance. They are there at the instigation of the US and are deployed to protect the TG hill top, as well as key areas like the airport and the port in Mogadishu, inflicting direct casualties on Somali civilians.
The forces backed by imperialism are losing badly, in spite of earlier bourgeois reports about how well they were doing in ‘freeing’, if you please, the Somali people from the rule of al-Shabaab. The successes of the latter, on the other hand, are due to the fact that it has the support of the people. By fighting against imperialist domination, al-Shabaab is representing, and making effective efforts to realise, the people’s aspirations for freedom and self-determination.
Imperialist panic and desperate measures
The bourgeois media are now showing some panic on the part of imperialism, and arguing about different ways to proceed – the same arguments that always surface when failure threatens. Writing in the Financial Times, Justin Marozzi (a senior adviser at Albany Associates) said:
“The West is easily distracted. Just as the war in Iraq diverted attention from Afghanistan, allowing the Taliban to regroup and consolidate its hold over much of the country, so the war in Afghanistan has blinded policymakers to the growing crisis in Somalia. Islamist rebels who on Tuesday killed more than 30 people including MPs and officials in a raid on a hotel in Mogadishu are now exporting terrorism beyond its borders. Somalia poses a genuine danger to the Horn of Africa and the West.
“Last month’s twin bomb attacks in Uganda’s capital, Kampala, which killed 76 people, changed the rules of the game. They marked the first time that the al-Shabaab group, which controls much of southern Somalia and most of Mogadishu, had struck outside the country. At a stroke a hitherto local conflict within a marginal country … was internationalised.” (‘Neglect of Somalia will have a high price’, 25 August 2010)
The thrust of the article was that imperialism needs to do something urgently. Although it tried to cloak its message in falsehoods and misrepresentations, the writer could not hide the fact that the war in Somalia is part of imperialism’s attempt to increase its hegemony in the Middle East and Africa, and that the wars against Afghanistan, Iraq and Somalia (not to mention Palestine and more) are part of the same rapacious warmongering.
Far from being easily distracted and somehow ‘forgetting’ that it has started all these wars, imperialism has actually bitten off more than it can chew. It was not that the Taliban regrouped while no-one was looking; the resistance grew out of the population in response to active imperialist oppression.
And as for the “local conflict within a marginal country”, it is not al-Shabaab that has “internationalised” the war. It was “internationalised” many years ago when imperialism, recognising Somalia’s strategic importance and rich resources, sought to dominate it. The borders of Somalia have been repeatedly transgressed – by imperialism and its puppets. And now the puppets of imperialism, and hence imperialism itself, face defeat.
The above-quoted article called for African Union troops to be increased to 10,000-12,000, with more money for the puppet regime, but admits that these measures will be no guarantee of success. Bombing from high in the air is one thing; putting boots on the ground, even if they are surrogates, is quite another.
There was a similar strain of desperation in a Guardian article by Frankie Martin, which proposes direct US involvement under the title ‘Somalia: America needs to engage – The bloody al-Shabaab attacks in Uganda underline that the US cannot simply outsource policing the Somali failed state’. (guardian.co.uk, 13 July 2010)
The US well knows the danger of sending its own forces, and not only from its experience of the ‘Black Hawk Down’ fiasco. But it is caught between a rock and a hard place – it cannot afford to abandon its efforts to spread its hegemony, it needs strategic control and resources for its existence, but it is being beaten and can ill afford the greater risks of escalation.
History of rapacious warmongering
For 15 years after the overthrow of Muhammed Said Barre, US and British imperialism supported the warlords who terrorised Somalia, and set one against the other in time-honoured divide-and-rule fashion.
Then the Islamic Courts Union (ICU) subdued the warlords and established a unified government that brought peace and increasing stability to Somalia. But such peace and stability was not to the liking of imperialism (in spite of all its rhetoric). The coast of Somalia is long, and of great strategic importance, commanding the Indian Ocean and the Straits of Hormuz, and now oil has been found. A stable, independent government would bode ill for imperialist hegemony!
So US imperialism incited Ethiopia to invade, giving it support with intelligence, bombing raids and shelling from US ships. It was claimed that the personnel of the Islamic Courts Union had been driven to the sea, blocked by US warships, and by the Kenyan border, which Kenya had been persuaded to close. But instead of being trapped, the ICU forces melted away and began a popular anti-imperialist guerrilla struggle against the Ethiopian invaders and their backers.
The success of that struggle, in which al-Shabaab, a constituent of the Islamic Courts Union, played a major part, eventually forced Ethiopia to withdraw. The US, however, at the same time installed yet another US backed ‘Transitional Government’, this time headed by Sheik Sharif Sheik Ahmed, an erstwhile leader of the ICU whom the US had persuaded to renege.
The resistance, and notably al-Shabaab, having evicted Ethiopian troops, was not inclined to roll over and let imperialism in through the back door. The TG is now pinned down in a palace on a hill!
Spectre of ‘terrorism’ raised
Lo and behold, and not for the first time, the spectre of al-Qaeda is being raised. Al-Shabaab is already on the US list of ‘terrorist’ organisations. Now we are being told it is in league with, or part of, or infiltrated by, al-Qaeda.
Once again, an imperialist war of aggression against people fighting for their national independence, for their freedom from imperialist domination, is being characterised as a part of the never-ending ‘war on terror’. This is standing things on their head, and putting them back to front, for the terror of the war that is being inflicted on the people of Somalia is entirely generated by imperialist aggression.
The only reason for imperialists now to be talking ablut ‘al-Qaeda’ in Somalia, is in order to justify their predatory aggression as ‘self defence’. Jonathan Evans, director of MI5, said recently that it is just a matter of time before Somalia and Yemen export ‘terrorism’ to Britain’s streets. (‘MI5 chief warns of terror threat from Britons trained in Somalia’, guardian.co.uk, 17 September 2010)
The imperialists want to demonise Somalis and foster Islamophobia, both to ‘divide and rule’ at home, and to justify draconian imperialist attacks on Somalia.
The British working class, however, has every interest in seeing through all this humbug, and supporting the just struggle of the people of Somalia for freedom from imperialist domination, including by the British ruling class. The successes of that struggle against our common enemy can only be welcome.