Revolution #75, January 7, 2007


Ugly Dynamic in Somalia

U.S. Backs Reactionary Invasion by Ethiopia

On December 19, open war broke out in the Horn of Africa. With U.S. backing and support, at least 15,000 troops of Ethiopia's battle-hardened armed forces invaded neighboring Somalia and quickly routed the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC), an Islamic fundamentalist force that had only recently consolidated power over much of Somalia. Guided by U.S. intelligence and satellite information, the invading army drove the UIC back from the Ethiopian-Somali border and, after barely a week of fighting, poured into Somalia's coastal capital of Mogadishu, accompanied by some armed units of their allies, the so-called "Transitional Federal Government" (TFG) of Somalia.

The U.S. has sent this armed force marching into Somalia in order to assure that no force hostile to U.S. interests will be allowed to consolidate power there. This new and unjust warfare has plunged Somalia into crisis, and will drive its bitterly impoverished people to new suffering and desperation. And this Ethiopian invasion, despite its quick initial victories, is a move that could very possibly draw much larger forces, including other countries in the surrounding region, into a maelstrom of confrontation and reactionary war.

This is nothing new for the U.S. which has backed and used brutal armies to carry out its bidding in African countries as diverse as South Africa, Angola, Mozambique, the Congo, and in Somalia and Ethiopia themselves before this newest round. They have forced people to endure unimaginable suffering as they have installed neocolonial governments, plundered the continent of its raw materials and competed with their rivals over militarily strategic areas.

The cruelest part of the tragedy this time is that the Islamic fundamentalists of the UIC do not provide a progressive alternative to the masses that can shatter the imperialists’ grip and that, once again, a battle is shaping up between two reactionary--and mutually reinforcing--poles.

U.S. Aggression in Somalia

For many long years the people in Somalia have suffered bitterly from the legacies of European colonialism, the operations of modern capitalist-imperialism and the constant clan warfare between rival, backward-looking warlords. Somalia's central government collapsed in the early 1990s, and the attempt by the U.S. to impose its domination by invasion failed there in 1993, after the famous "Black Hawk Down" rout of U.S. forces in Mogadishu.

After September 11, 2001, the U.S. started a new and aggressive series of operations around Somalia--saying that the "failed state" there could potentially become a gathering point for Al-Qaeda forces from fleeing the U.S. attacks on Afghanistan. There was both truth to this statement and rank opportunism--in other words, there actually was and is such a possibility AND the U.S. is at the same time using this threat as a justification to further extend and tighten its domination around the world.

In October 2002, the United States sent 1,500 troops to establish a military base for itself at Camp Le Monier, in the nearby country of Djibouti. Quickly this Djibouti base became the staging area for extensive and often covert operations throughout the Horn of Africa and in nearby Yemen--with the U.S. acknowledging the deployment of hundreds of elite commandos there, while insisting that their main work is "humanitarian assistance" projects.

The U.S. unleashed a campaign of intrigue and superpower pressure in Somalia and tried to impose a government on Somalia in 2004--the so-called Transitional Government. On May 6, 2005, U.S. Marines conducted a major intrusion into northern Somalia, complete with television coverage --all while Pentagon spokespeople insisted that such operations were not being conducted.

Meanwhile, the U.S. actively propped up the extremely oppressive and tottering government of neighboring Ethiopia headed by Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, trained Ethiopia's armed forces, and prepared to use these forces as a proxy force (armed agent) for any future U.S. operations in Somalia.

The Emergence of the Islamic Fundamentalists: A Reactionary Pole of Opposition

As has been happening in so many places in the world, the bribery and belligerent demands of U.S. imperialism brought some forces to its side and bitterly alienated others. The U.S. has failed to impose its domination over this huge, tumultuous and fragmented region--with a population of 165 million people in an area roughly half the size of the continental U.S.--and in many ways reinforced the banner of Islamic fundamentalism (or Islamist Jihad) as a counter pole to its actions.

In Somalia, a new force arose, Union of Islamic Courts (UIC), based in its own coalition of clan and warlord forces. It sought to consolidate national power using Islamic fundamentalism as a unifying force--and imposed a harsh theocratic order in many of the areas under its control, immediately enforcing strict religious codes for dress, behavior, and punishment. This included draconian restrictions on and repression of women, the stifling of intellectual and artistic endeavor, and in general the enforcement of patriarchal authority--that is, the absolute authority of the (male) head of the clan (or extended family) and of the main religious figure in the area. These social relations are based on a feudal form of production--one where peasants are exploited by and beholden to those who own and control the land. The Islamic fundamentalist trend generally aims to both reinforce those backward relations and get a share of the imperialist plunder of the nation.

At one point, the U.S. tended to back these sorts of forces against revolutionary or progressive secular nationalists; but today, through the peculiar way things played out after the collapse of the Soviet Union, they have emerged as a pole of opposition. But this is a reactionary pole of opposition, one that poses no real future for the masses. And, as we are seeing again in Somalia, these two poles both contend with and mutually reinforce each other (with the U.S. pointing to Islamic fundamentalists in Somalia as an excuse to sponsor an invasion, and the Islamic fundamentalists in turn pointing the finger at the U.S. to rally support).

The UIC systematically pushed aside the weak and highly unpopular Transitional Federal Government. By summer, the pro-U.S. TFG leaders and armed units were huddled in the backwater border town of Baidoa under Ethiopian military protection, as the UIC established control over much of Somalia.

In fact, the current Ethiopian invasion was long in the planning, and was unleashed within weeks after top U.S. general Abizaid made a personal visit to Ethiopia to confer with its government and military leaders. While U.S. officials have made pro forma statements denying involvement, the U.S. “encouragement” of Ethiopia’s actions--beginning with Ethiopia’s infiltration of their troops into Somalia six months ago--is a more or less “open secret,” acknowledged in ruling class newspapers like the New York Times.

Press accounts in East Africa reported U.S. Marines entered northern Kenya to interdict any reinforcements or supplies arriving to support the UIC war effort through the southern Somali coast. And they reported that Ethiopian forces received detailed military intelligence during their offensive from U.S. surveillance planes.

The U.S.-sponsored invasion has already intensified the suffering of the Somali people and is quite likely to lead to a new escalation of the internal fighting within that country.

It has bolstered the extremely oppressive government of Ethiopia and will attempt to consolidate new forms of rule by hated clan warlords over the 10 million people of Somalia. And it threatens to further strengthen the influence of reactionary class forces holding up the banner of Jihad--not just in Somalia but potentially within Muslim areas of Ethiopia, and much more broadly in the world.

These events underscore the compulsion felt by the U.S. ruling class to ruthlessly press ahead, on a world scale, making major new gambles and committing major new crimes to reinforce and further impose their domination. And they once more reinforce the deadly dynamic in which the people are caught between the dead ends of Jihad and McWorld/McCrusade, a dynamic which must urgently be broken.

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