FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Blowback that Created al-Shabaab

by GRAEME ANFINSON

The terrible attack at the Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi has put a spotlight on radical Islam coming from Somalia. The as of yet unconfirmed reports of Americans being involved has put an added emphasis on the Somali American community, the largest of which is here in the Twin Cities. What has been lacking in much of the coverage of the attack, unsurprisingly, is context.

Jon Lee Anderson wrote this for the New Yorker:

The culprit here, beyond poverty and lack of education and all the rest of it, is political Islam and its aberrant variations, which together have taken a religious faith and turned it into a tool of warfare and a toxic adjunct of modern day globalization. The answer has to include a thus-far undetectable bout of soul-searching, especially among political, civic, and religious leaders in the Muslim world.

Well all that might be true, I guess, at least an to an extent. But it’s reactive. It doesn’t tell us much, or further our understanding at all. Who, exactly, is al-Shabaab? Somalis have been dealing with abject poverty since the fall of Siad Barre in the early 1990s, why has Islam suddenly been fused so violently with the politics of the area?

If we remember back to the summer of 2006, Ethiopia was planning on invading Somalia in order to “protect” their borders. This meant getting rid of the scary sounding Islamic Courts Union. The ICU had been capturing territory and establishing stability not seen in Somalia in over two decades, something the western backed, and warlord composed, Transitional Federal Government of Somalia had not been able to do. For their part, the Bush Administration sounded like Jon Lee Anderson. Ignorant of, or ignoring, the history between these two long time adversaries, they sent in a small group of special forces to “advise” the Ethiopians and the TFG. This was a key moment, and one I remember having conversations about with many Somalis around the community. There was some skepticism within the Diaspora surrounding the ICU, but almost everyone agreed there should be dialogue as opposed to war. War would certainly make things worse.

They were right. The Ethiopian invasion is essentially what created al-Shabaab. It was, and is, the perfect recruiting tool. (Over 20 Minnesotans have even went back to fight.)

The ICU was made up of many factions. Instead of allowing the internal debate within the ICU to continue, which very well may have ended up with a power-sharing deal between the ICU and TFG (not to mention give the Somali people a much needed break from war), the invasion marginalized the moderates so much so some actually switched sides and joined the TFG (which certainly suggests they would have been open to talks). When they started losing the areas they controlled to the invaders, the militant factions, those preaching the West and its proxies were at “war with Islam,” were emboldened.

This moment contributed to the attack at the Westgate mall, much more tangibly than an abstract ideology of political Islam, and a lack of “soul-searching“ on the part of Muslim leaders. Instead of talking to a somewhat loose grouping of factions, who had managed to bring stability to a long chaotic area, and who were ruling over a traditionally moderate populous- we opted for the military solution and the blowback created one of the region’s most notorious terrorist groups.

The situation remains intensely complex with past rivalries, ethnic differences, sectarian fighting, autonomous and independent areas in the north, etc., all adding to the confusion and our lack of understanding. Our involvement in Somalia is less direct than the “Black Hawk Down” days, but it’s still part of the problem. We had a genuine opportunity to at least try for a relative peace, but we didn’t. Not only have we not learned from this lost opportunity, we don’t remember it, choosing instead to label this latest deadly shooting spree as simply another example of global jihad that fits neatly into our “extremist Muslim” narrative.

Graeme Anfinson lives in St. Paul, Minnesota.

More articles by:
May 24, 2016
Dave Welsh
Police Chief Fired in Victory for the Frisco 500
May 23, 2016
Conn Hallinan
European Union: a House Divided
Paul Buhle
Labor’s Sell-Out and the Sanders Campaign
Uri Avnery
Israeli Weimar: It Can Happen Here
John Stauber
Why Bernie was Busted From the Beginning
James Bovard
Obama’s Biggest Corruption Charade
Joseph Mangano – Janette D. Sherman
Indian Point Nuclear Plant: It Doesn’t Take a Meltdown to Harm Local Residents
Desiree Hellegers
“Energy Without Injury”: From Redwood Summer to Break Free via Occupy Wall Street
Lawrence Davidson
The Unraveling of Zionism?
Patrick Cockburn
Why Visa Waivers are Dangerous for Turks
Robert Koehler
Rethinking Criminal Justice
Lawrence Wittner
The Return of Democratic Socialism
Ha-Joon Chang
What Britain Forgot: Making Things Matters
John V. Walsh
Only Donald Trump Raises Five “Fundamental and Urgent” Foreign Policy Questions: Stephen F. Cohen Bemoans MSM’s Dismissal of Trump’s Queries
Andrew Stewart
The Occupation of the American Mind: a Film That Palestinians Deserve
Nyla Ali Khan
The Vulnerable Repositories of Honor in Kashmir
Weekend Edition
May 20, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Rob Urie
Hillary Clinton and Political Violence
Andrew Levine
Why Not Hillary?
Paul Street
Hillary Clinton’s Neocon Resumé
Chris Floyd
Twilight of the Grifter: Bill Clinton’s Fading Powers
Eric Mann
How We Got the Tanks and M-16s Out of LA Schools
Jason Hirthler
The West’s Needless Aggression
Dan Arel
Why Hillary Clinton’s Camp Should Be Scared
Robert Hunziker
Fukushima Flunks Decontamination
David Rosen
The Privatization of the Public Sphere
Margaret Kimberley
Obama’s Civil Rights Hypocrisy
Pete Dolack
We Can Dream, or We Can Organize
Chris Gilbert
Corruption in Latin American Governments
Dan Kovalik
Colombia: the Displaced & Invisible Nation
Jeffrey St. Clair
Fat Man Earrings: a Nuclear Parable
Medea Benjamin
Israel and Saudi Arabia: Strange Bedfellows in the New Middle East
Ted Rall
Trump Isn’t Bluffing, He’ll Deport 11 Million People
Kent Paterson
Death in a Shopping Aisle: Jonathan Sorensen’s Fatal Encounter with Kmart
Lisa Sullivan
Venezuela’s Crisis From Up Close
Clancy Sigal
Trump’s Rasputin: What the Donald Learned From Roy Cohn
Manuel E. Yepe
Think Tanks and the US Power Elite
Kathleen Wallace
$25 vs $30, Hats Off to the Two-Party System!
Terry Simons
Mob Politics: the Democrats Have a Problem and It’s Not the Sandernistas
Franklin Lamb
U.S. Financial Regulations Increase Starvation Among Syria’s Children
James Cronin
The Pope and Mercy: the Catholic Church has not Abandoned Its 400 Year War on Science
Linn Washington Jr.
Islamophobia on the Rise in England
Thomas Mountain
25 Years of Struggle Building Socialism in Eritrea; Fighting the Cancer of Corruption
David Wilson
Who Speaks for the Refugee Children of Calais?
Michael Welton
Terry Eagleton: the Cheeky Marxist
David Mattson
Disserving the Public Trust: the Despotic Future of Grizzly Bear Management
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail