Somali-American ‘Terrorists’ Victims of Unfortunate Labeling

I wish it weren’t always necessary to lay out the recent history of Somalia every time it comes up. But it seems with every current event — like US bombings and piracy — Americans are starting with a fresh mental slate. And so it is with the recent cases of Minnesota-raised Somali youths taking up the cause of “jihad” in Somalia. Ever since Western-backed dictator Mohamed Siad Barre was overthrown in 1991, the Somali people have been victimized by foreign intervention.

First the events that led to “Black Hawk Down” — again, Americans only know about it because other Americans were killed invading Mogadishu. Once the US withdrew, and the UN’s staff was reduced to minimal aid duties, an equilibrium of power began to emerge, in which armed groups splintered and one rarely had more power than the other. Eventually the Somali economy, once at the brink of nonexistence, roared with innovation, delivering power, water, telecommunications, trash pickup, health care, shipping, and even Coca-Cola to the masses.

But US influence wasn’t absent: warlord (and former US Marine) Hussein Farrah Aidid and certain other of his colleagues began receiving millions in cash payments to “fight al-Qaeda.” Naturally this simply inflated their power so that they could once again muscle out their militia competitors. The situation worsened until the Islamic Courts Union (ICU) militias joined forces to rid the country of these American-financed warlords — who subsequently fled to Nairobi together with former apparatchiks of the Barre regime to make up the “Transitional Federal Government,” (TFG) the 14th such attempt by the international community to foist a central government upon the Somalis.

The West considered the ICU a terrorist organization affiliated with al-Qaeda, though it was run by some rather moderate elements who simply looked to impose order; strict as they may have been, Somalis considered them better than the US-financed warlords. Their ascendancy ended a liberal period in Somali life, but it was a reaction to foreign intervention. Not being known as good losers, the Bush Administration made an agreement with Ethiopia that it would invade its traditional enemy neighbor and install the TFG to power. As the ICU melted away to become an insurgency — shades of Iraq and Afghanistan; this is the new way of war — the militant splinter Islamist group al-Shabab flourished in the environment of all-out war.

The TFG now controls only a few blocks of Mogadishu and the road to the airport, after al-Shabab took even the government’s erstwhile base of support in Baidoa. Islamists of various shades control many other swathes of the country. Clan-based militias have re-arisen to take up local power vacuums. The economy is once again destroyed after years of war and, where it does exercise power, a hideously corrupt and confiscatory government. This gave rise to fisherman dabbling in piracy to feed their again-impoverished communities. And it also provoked outrage among the Somali diaspora, leading some of the more impressionable elements into holy war against the Ethiopian occupation — into the ranks of “al-Qaeda-linked” al-Shabab.

And now we have the government using the loaded term “terrorists” to describe these Minnesotan Somalis, who never lifted a finger against the United States, the West, or anyone but those occupying their homeland. And the New York Times parrots this use in the headline, and to literally describe the government’s charges. Credit where it’s due, sort of: the article contains the terms “insurgency” and even “occupation,” and the invasion is described correctly as US-backed and the Somali disapora’s outrage is noted as a reaction (as opposed to the natural inclinations of ungrateful freedom-hating Islamonuts).

How are we ever supposed to know who truly threatens us if the government is keen to toss the “terrorist” label at anything, anywhere in the world, that shoots? A Somali-American interviewed says that the undue attention on this small group with absolutely no relation to US national security is making “an underdog out of al-Shabab, which is aiding recruitment. ‘They are reinforcing it.'”

  • Andy

    America should have stayed out of Somalia and kept Somalis out of America. Don't invade the world and don't invite the world.

  • delray

    To claim that Somalia ever "roared with innovation" over the last 20 years is completely absurd. The lack of contract law and a society ruled by internal thugs (not external, western imperialists) keeps Somalia a failed state. Balanced warlords delivering "healthcare"…are you kidding me?? I'm all for Somali-American men returning to Somalia. But guess what?? Most will stay, given the robust social services in the state of Minnesota (wonder why refugees of a desert climate chose to settle in a cold weather state?? So they can dilute the social safety net, which is like the Four Seasons compared to Mogadishu). The press/govt is not calling minnesota somali's "terrorists". They are calling those individuals who joined a known organization that has declared war on the U.S. terrorists. You moron.

    • Andy

      You can largely thank the Lutheran church for this. They are a key component of what could be termed the "refugee-industrial" complex.

  • Cody

    It's not absurd. Peter Leeson wrote an article for some economics woop-dee-doo showing, using statistics from government and non-government agencies, that quality of life substantially improved for the average Somali after the major fighting subsided following the overthrow of Barre, with quality of life eventually surpassing that under Barre.

  • Eric Siverson

    In case you havent noticed it ? The United States government is opposed to Christianity too . At least the funlementalist christians that are opposed to the same sins the muslim extremests are opposing .

  • Eric Siverson

    The US and others are trying to change Islam We support democracy . AlQuida and other Islamic fundamentalist are the least corrupt and the most honest muslims . So in Islamic countries they are the most respected muslims . Islam like christianity is against corruption , The problem is fundamentalist muslims punish sin and corruption in the most extreme ways . The good muslims will destroy sin before the evil even gets a chance to corrupt them . So when the United States gives aid to Islamic countries they always give it to the most corrupt least honorable muslims . Drunkards , adultures ,fornicators ,thieves and homosexuality is not tolerated at all in strict muslim cultures . These sins can destroy a society , Even fundamentalists Christians generally are opposed to these practices of sin . But not the United States government , These sins are now promoted as freedom in the United States and western europe .

  • Marla

    In my opinion, you people should all move to these countries and live. After just one day, you will probably love America more and understand why some of these countries are so out of whack. Actually if you ever have to live in these countries, you may not have this same privledge to talk smack about your country or your leaders. Because just one peep, they will probably take you and your whole family out already. Why do you think we have so many different people from other countries living here. Because they know, that only in America you are free to talk all the crap in the world. You can even dog your president and no one cares. You are free to be free. Think about it…otherwise..pray that your next lifetime you get to experience what its like to live in Iraq, VN, Africa etc…

    • andy

      I HAVE been to many of these countries and its precisely WHY I want to keep America free that I want to stop a lot of them from coming here. The views and values of many of these cultures are inimical to democracy or modern sectarian society.

    • So, because America is so great and awesome because we're allowed to voice our opinions, you're saying we shouldn't be allowed to voice our opinions? Very strange idea of freedom, there.

      • Andy

        "Voicing your opinion" and immigration are two different matters. It seems there is no diversity of opinion about the "strength" of diversity.

  • Lear K

    Why is it accepetable for American Jews to go and fight in Israeli forces?!

    • Andy

      The influence of the lobby is why.

  • Lear K

    SO if the people of China could not “dog “their president,the American people should be thankful that they live in (free country!) and stop trying to make it better.Just shut up and be content!

    In my opinion, you people should all move to these countries and live “America love it ,or leave it ”

    Let the US government do anything ,and do not question it!

  • John P. Jankowski

    One man's "terrorist" is another man's "freedom fighter." Not only do I fear the label "terrorist" being stuck on any legitimate opponent of tyranny or oppression the US finds distasteful–including our homegrown variety–, but "al-Qaeda" seems to be the tag being lopped onto every possible nationalist or revolutionary movement our leaders want eliminated. If the Cold War weren't over, they'd be commies. Now that the Bear has been tamed, al-Qaeda must do.