American Graffiti.

We in Africa often compliment ourselves on managing to stay out of the cross-hairs of American imperialism. Unlike Italy we did not support the invasion of Serbia. Unlike Brazil we did not support the invasion of Haiti. Unlike Germany we did not support the invasion of Afghanistan. Unlike Britain we did not support the invasion of Iraq. As compared with much of the world, we are squeaky-clean.
Of course many people here in South Africa, the kind of person who believes what they read in the newspapers and votes for the Democratic Alliance or one of its satellite parties, think that all that is a very very bad thing and that we should have made our contribution to turning the planet into a cesspit.
But hold on a moment. We did not support the Rwandan/Ugandan invasion of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, but we did not oppose it either, and that invasion (unlike the previous year’s invasion of Mobutu’s Zaire) turned a large chunk of that country into a jungle version of Auschwitz and militarised the rest of a country which desperately needed to be demilitarised after thirty years of corrupt military dictatorship. Yes, there were African countries which backed the DRC — pretty much the whole of Africa except Rwanda and Uganda, in fact, and some of them sent troops to help. But that didn’t save the millions who died or the society which was yet again broken and which has never really recovered. And now the Rwandans are pulling the same stunt again.
Almost certainly with American backing. But of course nobody is looking or thinking. Instead, as usual, they are saying how terrible the Africans are to be fighting among themselves. How uncivilised.
Ironically, meanwhile the French have managed to grab one of the people who, they say, was responsible for sparking the breakdown of the Rwandan ceasefire in 1994. You may remember that OAU mediation successfully brokered an end to the civil war there — the invasion of Rwanda out of Uganda by the Rwandan Patriotic Front, a justifiable invasion because the Rwandan government was corrupt and brutal. But the Rwandan President accepted compromise terms — and then his plane was shot down on the way back from the talks, which the RPF used as an excuse to resume the war which they knew they would win. The French, who had backed the Kigali government, were cross, since they knew the Americans were backing the RPF, and they’ve always suspected that the RPF shot the plane down. Now they claim they have evidence and have arrested this Rwandan diplomat whom they say was one of the masterminds.
Very probably they’re telling the truth. Note that if this is true, the Americans provoked as well as opening the way for the Rwandan genocide. This might help explain why they did so much to stop the UN from debating it; maybe they were afraid that someone would talk. In other words, where the Americans touch Africa, pyramids of skulls spring up — half a million in Rwanda, three or four million in the DRC. It seems that they can do this without anyone asking too many unkind questions.
This does come to mind when one looks at Somalia. Somalia is kind of forgotten about when we slap ourselves on the back. We know that the Sudanese situation is pretty bad, but we also know that the big war — the SPLA one in the South — has been held off, even though the Americans are now rearming the SPLA as if they are planning a comeback. We also know that the small war — the Darfur one in the West — has diminished in scope, and is trivial in comparison to other wars in Africa, even though it is the one in all the headlines (and the million people in the refugee camps are still there). Somalia didn’t have a recognised government for a decade and a half. Somalia doesn’t have a seat at the table. Somalia is even fragmented into its former colonial elements. Who cares about Somalia?
But Somalia exists. If you remember so far back, it was once a puppet state of the great Soviet Empire, or so we were told. Then it became a puppet state of the great American Empire, when the neighbouring Ethiopians became a puppet state of the great Soviet Empire, or so we were told. So the two of them sent mighty armoured forces which neither of them could afford into the Ogaden Desert which neither of them had any use for, and slaughtered each other, the remainder mostly dying of thirst. The tanks are still there; it takes a long time for a T-54 to rust away completely.
Well, then there was no need for the Americans to help out Somalia, and it disintegrated (since its Great Dear Leader commanded no support outside his praetorian guard). After a year or so, the UN sent them a few bags of food. (Did the Creator happen to mention that, like the Ethiopians, they were starving all this time, due to droughts and no infrastructure maintenance because all the money had gone on heaps of rust in the Ogaden desert?) The American empire then noted that its President needed some sort of victory urgently in order to be re-elected, the American voting public having already forgotten that the previous year he had scored a titanic victory over the evil Iraqi empire. (Those pesky voters were more worried about unemployment, for some reason.) So the Americans invaded Somalia. And those pesky Somalians, not knowing what was good for them, shot back at the Americans, who were compelled to kill a few thousand (mostly civilians) who were of course caught in the crossfire and in any case these people have no regard for human life and are flogged into battle by their officers and so on and so forth.
Then the Americans went away and the destroyed state was left to ferment in the warm sun for a decade with no interference and especially no assistance.
What then happened was rather unusual and yet not so surprising. With every other element of society disintegrated — except for clan loyalties, which meant that the country was riven by dozens of armed gangs trying to collect tolls from each other — the only surviving unifying factor was religion. And, since it was Islamic, sharia law meant that there had to be courts, which, being fairly non-partisan, became popular. But since they had to enforce the law against people with guns, they needed guns themselves. And so the Islamic Courts became a) the biggest gang around, and b) the only gang with multipartisan support.
So, one fine day, the Islamic Courts decided to unify the country and began speedily doing a very good job of it, spreading out from Mogadishu and gobbling up the little gangsters like chocolate-covered cherries, yummy!
Meanwhile, suddenly, the West was shocked! Shocked! to discover that there appeared to be a degree of anarchy in Somalia. The Americans were particularly worried that the place was absolutely filled with al-Qaeda. (The absence of evidence has never bothered the American empire.) So it was agreed that there would be a true, representative government in Somalia, and to establish this, some expatriate Somalian businessmen (Somalia has always had a thriving entrepreneurial culture, which is why so many Somalian businessmen are murdered in South Africa) were grouped together in a government and given some money to hire mercenaries. They invaded southern Somalia out of Kenya, which was working with the Americans on this. They did absolutely splendidly so long as there was no opposition to them, but then a couple of people with guns arrived saying that they were from the Islamic Courts militia, and the Western-backed government immediately fled over the Kenyan border and went into a huddle in the nearest air-conditioned three-star hotel.
So the Americans empire went for Plan B. Plan B entailed bribing the Ethiopians to launch an invasion of Somalia. Ethiopians love launching invasions, even across the Ogaden again. (The Islamic Courts had been blustering about Ethiopia, but they had no heavy weapons, no air force, and hence no capacity to actually do anything at all to them — almost certainly the bluster was a part of unifying Somalia, although the Eritreans were encouraging them.) The Ethiopians did the dirty work with boots and tanks on the ground, but the Americans, operating out of their base in French-controlled Djibouti and from their navy (also probably from Kenya, but that was concealed because Kenya wouldn’t want to be seen as an official toady of American imperialism) helped with some of the slaughtering. On to Mogadishu! Bring in the despised and incompetent expatriate businessmen under the protection of hated foreign soldiers!
Where have we seen this before? Kabul, not so?
Indeed, what happened was not quite like what happened in Afghanistan; it was faster and more terrible. In spite of (seemingly) having no significant external support — conceivably the Islamic Courts movement might have been financially backed from the Arabian Peninsula, but they had no neighbouring states supporting them, no bases, no training camps — the Islamic Courts movement regrouped with startling speed. Within months they had a guerrilla movement up and running which was striking against anyone who supported the Western puppet government. It would appear that nearly everybody in Somalia supported this. It’s not clear how much resistance was being offered to the Ethiopians, who were harder to kill or intimidate than the puppet government’s ill-funded mercenaries — but it couldn’t have been fun for the Ethiopians knowing that they were occupying a hostile territory where they had no reliable supply lines, no popular support, and the constant possibility of attack.
An interesting point has been the virtual absence of suicide bombing. The Somalis are not into publicity stunts. They want their country back. Within a year, they had the countryside. Today, they control virtually every town in Somalia except Mogadishu and have strong forces even there. Meanwhile, the puppet government is expanding its unelected Parliament to ensure that they have at least a few hundred reliable supporters on the payroll. But corrupt, universally hated political frontmen are not a substitute for an army. Essentially, the only thing which keeps the puppet government alive is the fact that the Courts are worried about a renewed foreign invasion. As things stand, however, the Courts are running the whole show; the puppets are there on sufferance. It is essentially what the Iraqi resistance sought, but never quite achieved — a perfect guerrilla operation.
The only problem with the Islamic Courts is that they appear to be pursuing a quasi-Wahhabi agenda of extremely conservative and authoritarian Islam, not unlike the Taliban in some ways. One hears of rape victims being stoned — this could be mere Western propaganda, but it’s entirely possible; we know that such things happen in many Islamic countries. But then what can one expect? The Islamic Courts have been forced into an authoritarian stance by the American-backed invasion; if they were bad before, they are undoubtedly worse now. And now they are even more clearly the liberators of their nation, with undeniable authority even for those who disagree with their agendas. In short, the Americans have written Talibanism into Somalia, like a child spraying “al-Qaeda!” across the Horn of Africa.
As usual, the Americans are brilliant at making enemies. Sadly, however, most of their enemies are not as efficient or popular as the Somalian Islamic Courts. Sadly, because if they were, the Americans would soon be beaten back to their own horrible country, and would be forced to let the world go to hell in its own way.
Instead of with assistance from the Great Satan itself.


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