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Another cold war casualty.

Speaking of missing frames, the story of Somalia has, without doubt, been one of the most poorly contextualized news items of the last several years. The US. media has played Somalia as an unfathomable maelstrom of starvation and strife, beset by inscrutable warlords and bandits; in short, like something out of Rudyard Kipling.

There's more to it, of course. To date, the best reporting on the Somalian situation has been done by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's "Fifth Estate," a weekly news show. On October 28, 1992, CBC aired "Crimes Against Humanity," an hour-long overview of the history of Somalia's still-ongoing troubles.

The segment pointed out that the shattering of Somalia began long ago, when the tiny country situated on Africa's northeastern horn became a geopolitical football. First it was the British, Italians, and French who courted rival tribal leaders as a way of protecting their respective hegemonies; then the United States and the Soviet Union moved in.

Somalia was strategically well placed, located in the Indian Ocean near the oil-rich Persian Gulf and providing incoming ships with a protected deepwater port. The Soviets gladly supported General Siad Barre, who had overthrown an already weakened democratic government in 1969. But in 1977, the Soviets dumped Barre when he brashly invaded neighboring Ethiopia, another of their client states.

General Barre went looking for friends, and he soon found them in Washington. Despite his brutal profile and widely reported reputation for warring against his own people, Washington sent millions in military assistance to the Somali regime.

Armed to the teeth with U.S.-made weapons, the general turned his attentions to the Somali National Movement, or SNM, which was organizing resistance to the dictatorship out of the northern city of Hargeisa, home to the Isaaq people. For years, Barre's men had tortured, maimed, and killed tens of thousands of tribal Isaaqs. In 1988, Barre ordered an all,out air war and leveled Hargeisa.

Many of Barre's officers had been trained through the Pentagor's IMED program (short for International Military Education). Some $7 million had been spent to educate 300 Somali officers at U.S. military bases, among them Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. They then returned to their country to terrorize and strafe the Isaaqs. Congress eventually ordered that all aid be discontinued, but arms continued to trickle in. Even General Norman Schwarzkopf, hero of Desert Storm, saw fit to pay a call on the murderous Somali military in 1989.

Barre fled to Kenya in 1991; by then, his men had been plundering crops and seed grains. Their periodic attacks from Kenya destroyed the irrigation system, and famine followed. Many of Barre's more brutal henchmen escaped Somalia and settled in Canada and the United States; some remained behind and, using U.S. arms and military training, established themselves as so, called warlords, creating an economy of pillage. There is also evidence to suggest U.S. complicity in the slaughter as recently as 1990 - long after the alleged suspension of aid.

These connections have been largely suppressed or ignored by the U.S. media. Not so for the Canadians; Howard Goldenthal who conceived and researched the story for the CBC, told me that their late October broadcast generated a week's worth of headlines in Canada. "Other than a brief story in the Los Angeles Times," said Goldenthal, "this hasn't come out anywhere in the States. It should be a major scandal."

According to the CBC, three of Barre's most brutal sidekicks have settled in Toronto. Mohamed Hassan Ismail Farah had a penchant for torturing young men by pulling out their teeth with pliers. Abdi Ali ("Judge") Nur Mohamud summarily sentenced hundreds of people to death. Yusuf Abdi Ali "Tokeh," a 1986 IMED graduate, has been accused of burning prisoners to death and of dragging one young man behind a military vehicle, shredding his body to pieces. As of this writing, Tokeh has been expelled to the United States, and the refugee status of both Farah and Nur are currently under review by Canadian authorities.

But the story doesn't end there. Goldenthal informed me that many of Barre's men may still be hiding in the United States and Canada. "One of them was living in Virginia," said Goldenthal. "He had fled to the United States after he'd suffocated 49 people in a bunker and participated in the ransanking of the U.S. embassy in Mogadishu. There are quite a few such torturers and thugs currently concealed in the United States, and no legal action has been taken against them."

"They're war criminals," Goldenthal concluded, "and they should be brought to justice."

Gerry O'Sullivan is associate editor of The Humanist, a book review editor at Z Magazine, and the author (with Edward S. Herman) of The "Terrorism" Industry.
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Title Annotation:Against the Grain; Somalia
Author:O'Sullivan, Gerry
Publication:The Humanist
Date:Jan 1, 1993
Words:790
Previous Article:Breach of faith.
Next Article:Good news, so far.
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