A new expose from the Nation by Jeremy Scahill detailing the CIA’s same, old dirty tricks is certainly troubling. Candidate Obama assured the American public that extrajudicial actions by the CIA and Defense Department were a thing of the past. Transparency, much like hope and change, were buzz words that were constantly used to show everybody that the era of Bush was over. A new ethical era was to take hold in the White House, and would be anchored by Nancy Pelosi’s vow to oversee a Congress of integrity.
Just as Obama campaigned to make the most sweeping changes when it came to the realm of foreign policy (Guantanamo Bay, ending the war in Iraq, ending torture, etc.), it was in foreign policy that he became the most like Bush. In fact, many would argue that Obama has not only continued many of Bush’s odious practices, but has institutionalized all of these practices because of his refusal to change course.
While the secret prison that was discussed in length surely was troubling, it almost seems like the least of worries when compared to some of the statements made by officials concerning future plans for Somalia. And yes, that comparison still holds for a prison “infested with bedbugs and mosquitoes” that result in prisoners getting “rashes” prompting them to “scratch themselves incessantly.” These prisoners, who like at other covert rendition sites run a high chance of being completely innocent, “described the cells as windowless and the air thick, moist and disgusting.” Additionally, torture and perpetual interrogation are commonplace. Again, I don’t wish to trivialize the significance of yet another secret prison site, but there are much more troublesome plans in the future for Somalia:
During his confirmation hearings in June to become the head of the US Special Operations Command, Vice Admiral William McRaven said, “From my standpoint as a former JSOC commander, I can tell you we were looking very hard” at Somalia. McRaven said that in order to expand successful “kinetic strikes” there, the United States will have to increase its use of drones as well as on-the-ground intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance operations. “Any expansion of manpower is going to have to come with a commensurate expansion of the enablers,” McRaven declared. The expanding US counterterrorism program in Mogadishu appears to be part of that effort.
The neverending “War on Terror” knows no bounds or limitations. Wherever and whenever, if there is even so much as a perceived threat, then a new theatre in the war could be opened. Al-Shabaab is currently the aggressor du jour, competing for the spotlight with Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.
And just like enhanced interrogation was the Newspeak of yesteryear, so today is “kinetic.” No, drone strikes that kill dozens is not indicative of a war. Nor are recon missions and surveillance. It’s just the new style of diplomacy, albeit bloody, messy and in the dark.
What’s even more frightening is that McRaven is already talking about bringing in more diplomats (read: special ops, surveillance, and all different kinds of boots on the ground). The only way that such an operation would ever be able to take off, naturally, is with a little kickback to the military industrial complex in the form of “enablers.”
Later on, if a Congressional hearing is ever scheduled to review the covert operations in Somalia (don’t hold your breath), the chickenhawks and policymakers can use justification by quoting Abdulkadir Moallin Noor, the minister of state for the presidency, “We need more; otherwise, the terrorists will take over the country.” I hate to break it to Noor, but the 30 square miles that the Somali “government” controls in Mogadishu is hardly what I would call a sterling record.
It is this statement from Noor that succinctly summarizes everything that is wrong with American foreign policy. Surely, Al Shabaab is dangerous to Somalis. It would be foolish to deny that their hardline Islamism and ruthless attacks on innocent civilians is problematic. But why should the US be concerned? Why should more money be poured into a far off land only to achieve minimal, if any results?
The American public will continue to hear the trite justification that Somalia is becoming a safe haven for terrorists or that terrorism, no matter where, must be fought at all cost. But before the United States begins yet another doomed military adventure, Washington ought to remember that Al-Shabaab has only once launched an attack outside of Somalia.
The target: Uganda. The justification: foreign intervention.