As the UN is set to declare Somalia in famine, we are treated to grim descriptions in wire stories of children on the verge of death as their families rot in hot, dry refugee camps both on Mogadishu’s outskirts and at the borders of Kenya and Ethiopia. The suffering is real. The causes are glossed over.
Sure, there is less food because of a seasonal drought. But story after story only briefly covers the conflict that is the reason for the refugee crisis, which puts these desperate people outside the normal food distribution system.
A common refrain here at Antiwar.com is criticizing the idea that “history began yesterday.” Few subjects are treated as if they were new on the world scene as the endless trials of Somalia. No, in fact, al-Shabaab, the scary youth militant organization didn’t always exist, yearning to destroy America — it was an offshoot of the Islamic Courts Union, which swept to power in 2006. No, the ICU didn’t just seize power over unwilling Somalis, it was backed by many to run off the warlords who were wreaking havoc on the country. And no, these warlords weren’t just a by-product of a society without a state — they were funded and armed and backed by the United States of America. To fight al-Qaeda, of course. This “al-Qaeda” presence was always mostly theoretical. But as we know, harmless phantoms don’t keep America from turning weddings into a charred red paste.
Before all this mess, Somalia enjoyed quite a prosperous few years. It had successfully resisted the imposition of up to fourteen foreign-backed governments, made up of former communist regime apparatchiks and the same vicious warlords the US once fought, then funded. It had a functioning civil society and though of course still poor, it had seen leaps in its development since the banishment of the state in 1991.
All this, the power whores of the world make it their business to hide from you. Their 1000-word reports somehow leave out who caused what and why. Why are people fleeing Mogadishu? We won’t bother saying, the media says, but we’ll mention the fact that there is a violent resistance movement — er, insurgency — call al-Shabaab. They’re Muslim. Some of them may have at one point said they like Osama bin Laden. This means they are al-Qaeda. They’re responsible for the famine. No, they don’t say as much — that would be an outright lie — but they infer it. And in doing so, they plant the seeds for the next intervention.
Hasn’t Somalia had enough of our “help”?