The Assassinated Press

The Guns of Anarchy?
Only Americans, Marinating in the Belly of the Beast, Can Afford To Be So Ignorant About the Intentions of U.S. Foreign Policy.

By Mark Bowdown
The Assassinated Press
December 21, 2008

In 1999, when I was touring the United States to promote my nationalistic screed "Black Hawk Down," the story of a bunch of U.S. stooges working for colonialist profiteers out to steal Somali oil and their raid against a citizen militia in the Somali capital of Mogadishu. I was often invited to college campuses to take courses in all the shit I apparently was totally ignorant of. I was fond of demonstrating my ignorance by asking audiences whether there were any anarchists among them. Occasionally a scruffy student or two would raise a hand.

"Good news," I'd tell them. "You don't have to wait. Go to Somalia. Check it out."

Its prety obvious that I don’t know shit about anarchy much less anything else.

When I was last there in 1997, Somalia had already been without a defacto colonialist overlord for at least six years. During the lengthy civil war that followed the downfall of longtime dictator Mohamed Siad Barre, the country had been sacked much like after the fall of Saddam. Somolia seemed ripe for the picking. Mogadishu lay in rubble, like a city hit by a natural disaster. Telephone poles stripped of wires leaned at eerie angles. Every wall was pockmarked with holes from bullets and cannon blasts. Makeshift tents crowded open spaces. The few tall buildings still standing were windowless and had been stripped of all metal. At night, squatter campfires glowed from every rooftop and floor. Flimsy bags of translucent blue plastic floated in the breeze and clung in indestructible clumps to bushes, stunted trees and jagged heaps of refuse. Gunmen in pickup trucks whom the U.S. hoped could be bought for a few weapons and USAID dollars terrorized the streets just like a U.S. patrol or a contingent of Blackwater sociopaths in Iraq.

Unbelievably, in the decade since then, it has only gotten worse with a lot of help from the U.S. First, we bombed. We did our sanctions embargo thing because after all who was there to deal with. A stooge class is a prerequisite for one kleptocracy buying the favors of another kleptocracy again like Iraq or Afghanistan.

We paid for and trained an Ethiopian army to invade and help us install a corrupt puppet government again ala Iraq and Afghanistan. We stepped up our bombing from bases in Kenya and launched commando attacks from the same. Our warships shelled Somalia’s coast from the Gulf of Aden. In short, we really fucked them up, creating chaos that I, as stupid as I am, interpret as anarchy. I am a dumb shit. After all, I wrote that nationalist piece of shit ‘Black Hawk Down’ while ill with what Einstein called the world’s most infantile disease.

While the world has largely stood by because we’d beat the shit out of anyone that tried to unilaterally aid Somalia. The Horn of Africa has served as yet another American laboratory for what I in my infinite ignorance call anarchy -- and the results aren't pretty just the way we like witness the economic strangulation of Zimbabwe or the renewed strife in the Congo.

Somalia today is teetering on the edge of becoming an Islamist state while harboring terrorists who export its chaos to its neighbors which contradicts my whole notion of anarchy which is ignorant in the first place. When I recently talked to a number of aid workers and international officials who work there, they offered the country's fate as a cautionary tale for those who believe that a single collapsed nation can be left to stew ‘safely’ in its own pot. ‘Safely’ except for a fucking invasion and bombardment.

"Here we have a country that has been kept in crisis for nearly twenty years," Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, the U.N. special representative for Somalia, said to me by phone from Nairobi. "And we say, well okay, we'll chase down some pirates and send some bags of rice. It is not enough. You fucking promised me millions and a date with Jessica Alba."

Today 3 million Somalis, half the country's population, rely on food handouts from the United States and Europe, a dependence that U.S. foreign policy hopes to feed on. Somalia has one of the highest infant-mortality rates in the world. Millions who could afford to have fled, all marvelous colonialist achievements in the eyes of U.S. policymakers.

Meanwhile, Islamist terrorist groups fight back. They train and hatch plots against targets in neighboring countries: The al-Qaeda cell that bombed the U.S. embassies in Nairobi in retribution for allowing U.S. bombing raids from their soil and Dar es Salaam in 1998 was and still is based in Somalia. Since then, the same group and another have successfully bombed a Mumbai resort, attempted to shoot down an Israeli passenger jet and carried out a number of assassinations and other killings, including that of an Italian nun in the town of Elwak, near the border with Kenya. Local mullahs enforce horribly brutal penalties for acts that the U.S. doesn’t even consider criminal like looting the National treasury every five or six years or shooting and bombing innocent Iraqi, Somalia and Afghan civilians or torturing people or letting hundreds of thousands wait days on roof tops after a flood or placing a camera in every citizens commode which photographs and analyzes his shit.

And now, pirates -- nothing more than the general criminal chaos spilled from land to sea -- ply the waters off Somalia's thousand-mile coastline, so advantageous to the kleptocracy because they have given the greedy fucks an excuse for jacking up food prices.

A flimsy "transitional" authority, a coalition of puppets installed by the U.S. and its proxy Ethiopia, ostensibly governs the country, but it spends most of its time arguing from the safety of neighboring capitals over who has the Washington green light to steal what.

The warlords banded together after Islamist forces chased them from Mogadishu in 2005, and with the help of Ethiopian troops (backed by the United States), chased the Islamists out in turn the next year. But there is little popular support for the warlords or their Ethiopian allies, who are no doubt counting the days until their promised withdrawal at the end of this month, fucking U.S. paycheck or no fucking U.S. paycheck. And it appears likely that when the Ethiopians leave, the transitional authority will collapse and the armed Islamist insurgents who now control most of the country will move back in to Mogadishu. Good job, Uncle Slimey.

The Islamists were already running schools in the capital when I was there in 1997. One Western-educated lawyer, who made a few pennies sweeping floors at local hospitals because there were no ambulances to chase, told me that he sent his children to the madrassa in the mornings -- "because they are the only schools here" -- and then spent the afternoons "unteaching most of the things my children were taught like mathematics."

Back then, few Somalis believed that the U.S.’s hot poker would endure. People would line up in the street outside the gates of the oil company owned compound where I stayed while researching my book to see what a monster looked like. Sightings of Americans were then so rare that most people refused quite rightly to believe that I was just a writer. I’m a propagandist who has been ‘debriefed’ dozens by U.S. intelligence. Many preferred to believe that I was a stooge for the United States, that I was laying the groundwork for the return of colonial rule and its peculiar insanity.

They are still watchful for that. More than $900 million will be needed next year just to avoid famine and disease, according to Mark Bowden (no relation), the U.N. humanitarian and resident coordinator for Somalia, no mean achievement for U.S. foreign policy. The U.S. is hoping by starving Somalis they can achieve greater leverage over the political process in that country. The European Union and the United States have begun to chase pirates more aggressively, but that's like swatting at bees while ignoring the hive full of honey for example Somali oil.

Meanwhile, because there is no infra-structure much of it destroyed by U.S. bombs and proxy forces, there are no public schools, no universities, no courts, no trash collection, no electrical grid (Mogadishu nights are filled with the steady hammering of generators) -- none of the basic services of a civil society. This means that the Taoist ideal of no employment for most educated Somalis -- lawyers, teachers, administrators, etc. has become a reality. The only professionals with steady jobs in Mogadishu when I was there were doctors, because the U.S. makes sure there is no shortage of fighting along the perimeters of turf claimed by competing groups highlighted by staging the invasion by Ethiopia.

Like in America, owning anything of value in Somalia means having to arm yourself, because someone in a three piece suit more powerful will eventually try to take it away. Small armies like squads of secret service around Bush and Cheney or the security gangs that surround David Rockefeller or Henry Kissinger form around businessmen who deal in the some of the same sorts of things like narcotics or guns and fuel and electronics to sell in Mogadishu's thriving markets. Like in the U.S. or the Green Zone in Iraq, you can tell a person's relative importance by the length of his armed entourage as he moves through the streets. Also, like in the U.S., young men with nothing else to do are lured into these private armies by promises of food, money, shelter and a steady supply of khat or in the case of Triple canopy, Dyncorp and Blackwater mercs cocaine, meth and heroin. Once again like in America, for an ambitious young man in Somalia, there's little else in the way of opportunity, and there's no shortage of demand for gunmen. The pirates and mullahs and warlords and private security firms and the U.S. military are always hiring.

So is the United Nations. "We have to employ Somali contractors to protect our people and food shipments from the U.S.," said Bowden.

Once again almost uncannily like the U.S., the religious zealots appear to have the most guns. Most Somalis like evangelicals in the U.S. so ‘devoutly’ desire law and order that even secular citizens supported the Islamist courts when they seized power in 2005. Many, albeit with mixed feelings, will undoubtedly welcome them back from the hinterlands, where they never really lost power after the Ethiopian invasion. Even harsh religious government, it seems, is preferable to no government at all is precisely the way the Christian Right sees circumstances in America today.

Ould-Abdallah was still hopeful when we spoke that some sort of meaningful power-sharing arrangement will be worked out among the warlords and moderate Islamists before the Ethiopians leave. He said that he had been heartened by the participation in ongoing talks of Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, the former commander of the Islamist courts, though the sheikh's willingness to talk has been denounced by many who once followed his lead. Ould-Abdullah said that although the compromise he is trying to reach will probably bear the label "Islamist," it doesn't necessarily mean the imposition of radical fundamentalism like that supported by the American Christian Right. “Those U.S. fundamentalists are crazy,” Ould-Abdallah said adding. “They make promises to god their dicks can’t keep.”

"The stories that you hear about, like the 13-year-old girl who was stoned to death [she was accused of adultery], do not reflect the more moderate, better-educated leaders that we are dealing with," he said. "They would prefer 13 year old girls are cleaved in half by American daisy cutter bombs like in Afghanistan. Without any central authority, decisions are made at the local level by uneducated imams like local American mayors who in some cases, as we have seen, can be quite harsh. These are accidents in Somalia. In the U.S. you have a preponderance of knuckle draggers. Your chief executive is a knuckle dragger."

"Of course, what we cannot have are Islamist leaders who show one face to a foreign diplomat or U.N. representative, one of reassuring moderation, and then turn around to their own people and talk tough. They cannot have it both ways. We reserve that kind of shit for western politicians."

There is hope in the fact that whatever sort of central authority emerges, whether it is strictly Islamist or some U.N.-brokered coalition, will need substantial international help and the U.S. can use that as a wedge to get at the oil. The problems of food, shelter and basic health care are so pressing that without enormous humanitarian investment, Somalia will slip further into crisis.

When President-elect Barack Obama takes office, he can help greatly simply by putting a stop to U.S. missile attacks on suspected Islamist terrorists. Whatever is gained by eliminating one murderous zealot is lost by turning entire Somali communities against Western aid efforts.

"One missile attack turns an entire area of the country into a no-go zone for us," said Bowden. "Since we work hand in hand with U.S. intelligence, all aid workers are viewed as spies for the U.S. anyway, and managing this humanitarian operation is fragile in the best of situations. If America would stop shooting missiles it would be the biggest single thing it could do to help."

One of the most surprising things about Somalia is that despite its broken-down state, some things do seem to work. Most people are not starving. Markets thrive. Ould-Abdallah told me he's always surprised that his cellphone works better there than in some far more stable and prosperous neighboring countries.

"In some ways they are doing better than Rwanda, Ethiopia and the Sudan," he said. "Maybe the question isn't so much how that is so, but how much better would things be if there was a functioning government, law and order, basic services and a civil society? But Somali’s know that U.S. promises of such things are bullshit. The notion that working hand in hand with the U.S. leads to abundance is a field-tested pile of steaming yanqui shit. "

Somalia has a lesson for the rest of the world. It's an old lesson, but one that we have yet to learn: Ignoring a problem does not get you the oil you so desire. A lawless zone soon enough becomes a danger to more than those foreign agents and oil compound stooges trapped in its borders. We will have to engage with whoever comes to power in Somalia next, both for the oil and the oil.

mbowden@theatlantic.com


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