FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Domestic Fear is the Price of Empire

If you find no other argument against American intervention abroad persuasive, how about this one? When the U.S. government invades and occupies other countries, or when it underwrites other governments’ invasions or oppression, the people in the victimized societies become angry enough to want and even to exact revenge — against Americans.

Is the American empire worth that price?

We should ask ourselves this question in the wake of the weekend news that al-Shabaab, the militant Islamist organization that rules parts of Somalia ISIS-style, appeared to encourage attacks at American (and Canadian) shopping malls.

Maybe the Shabaab video was just a prank to scare us. Maybe it was an attempt to plant violent thoughts in the minds of Somalis living in the United States. No one believes that the organization itself is capable of attacking Americans where they live, but that doesn’t mean Shabaab-inspired violence is impossible.

At any rate, it’s unsettling to be advised to watch out for terrorism when we shop at the mall.

Here’s the thing: We don’t have to live this way. The empire is just not worth it. We must understand that people in the Middle East, Africa, and Central Asia who subscribe to fringe militant interpretations of Islam would not be wishing us harm except for the violence the U.S. government has inflicted or helped to inflict on Muslim societies for many decades. In fact, those militant interpretations wouldn’t be nearly so attractive without the American empire and its ally Israel.

Why won’t the media describe this context? It’s because their job, despite what they say, is to be the government’s megaphone, not its adversary.

Let’s look at Somalia, where the latest threat originated.

U.S. intervention goes back to 1992, when President George H.W. Bush sent the military into a civil war there. Among the military’s activities was the suppression of the Somalis’ use of the intoxicant khat, which has been part of their culture for millennia.

That’s right. The U.S. government imposed a war on the Somali drug of choice.

President Bill Clinton withdrew the forces after two Blackhawk helicopters were shot down, but that was not the end of U.S. intervention. After the September 11 attacks, Somali warlords seeking American largess played on the George W. Bush administration’s concerns about al-Qaeda. The CIA obliged the warlords with suitcases of cash. As a result, everyday life became intolerably violent. So when the Islamic Courts Union (ICU) — a relatively moderate coalition of Sharia courts in the capital, Mogadishu —drove out the warlords and produced a measure of peace and stability, the Somali people were relieved.

That should have been deemed satisfactory, except that the warlords and their American backers were unhappy with the new situation, as Jeremy Scahill reported in 2011. “Most of the entities that made up the Islamic Courts Union did not have anything resembling a global jihadist agenda,” Scahill wrote. “Nor did they take their orders from Al Qaeda.”

Nevertheless, the U.S. government was determined to oust the ICU. To achieve that goal the Bush administration in 2006 backed a military invasion by Ethiopia, Somalia’s long-time Christian adversary, which overthrew the ICU.

“The Ethiopian invasion was marked by indiscriminate brutality against Somali civilians,” Scahill wrote.

Ethiopian and Somali government soldiers secured Mogadishu’s neighborhoods by force, raiding houses in search of ICU combatants, looting civilian property and beating or shooting anyone suspected of collaboration with antigovernment forces.… If Somalia was already a playground for Islamic militants, the Ethiopian invasion blew open the gates of Mogadishu for Al Qaeda. Within some US counterterrorism circles, the rise of the Shabab in Somalia was predictable and preventable.

To make things worse, the U.S. government has waged a drone war, with civilian casualties, and special operations against the Somalis. According to Scahill, the CIA also operates a secret prison and other facilities there.

So the U.S.-sponsored intervention sowed the ground for the most militant group in Somalia, al-Shabaab. Had the ICU been left to govern, we might never have heard of these young Islamists, whom the Obama administration now uses to scare American shoppers.

We can live without the fear of terrorism — but only if the U.S. government stops antagonizing foreign populations that have never threatened us.

Sheldon Richman  is vice president and editor at The Future of Freedom Foundation in Fairfax, Va. (www.fff.org).

More articles by:

Sheldon Richman, author of America’s Counter-Revolution: The Constitution Revisited, keeps the blog Free Association and is a senior fellow and chair of the trustees of the Center for a Stateless Society, and a contributing editor at Antiwar.com.  He is also the Executive Editor of The Libertarian Institute.

April 19, 2018
Ramzy Baroud
Media Cover-up: Shielding Israel is a Matter of Policy
Vijay Prashad
Undermining Brazilian Democracy: the Curious Saga of Lula
Steve Fraser
Class Dismissed: Class Conflict in Red State America
John W. Whitehead
Crimes of a Monster: Your Tax Dollars at Work
Kenn Orphan
Whistling Past the Graveyard
Karl Grossman - TJ Coles
Opening Pandora’s Box: Karl Grossman on Trump and the Weaponization of Space
Colin Todhunter
Behind Theresa May’s ‘Humanitarian Hysterics’: The Ideology of Empire and Conquest
Jesse Jackson
Syrian Strikes is One More step Toward a Lawless Presidency
Michael Welton
Confronting Militarism is Early Twentieth Century Canada: the Woman’s International League for Peace and Freedom
Alycee Lane
On David S. Buckel and Setting Ourselves on Fire
Jennifer Matsui
Our Overlords Reveal Their Top ‘To Do’s: Are YOU Next On Their Kill List?
George Ochenski
Jive Talkin’: On the Campaign Trail With Montana Republicans
Kary Love
Is It Time for A Nice, “Little” Nuclear War?
April 18, 2018
Alan Nasser
Could Student Loans Lead to Debt Prison? The Handwriting on the Wall
Susan Roberts
Uses for the Poor
Alvaro Huerta
I Am Not Your “Wetback”
Jonah Raskin
Napa County, California: the Clash of Oligarchy & Democracy
Robert Hunziker
America’s Dystopian Future
Geoffrey McDonald
“America First!” as Economic War
Jonathan Cook
Robert Fisk’s Douma Report Rips Away Excuses for Air Strike on Syria
Jeff Berg
WW III This Ain’t
Binoy Kampmark
Macron’s Syria Game
Linn Washington Jr.
Philadelphia’s Top Cop Defends Indefensible Prejudice in Starbucks Arrest Incident
Katie Fite
Chaos in Urban Canyons – Air Force Efforts to Carve a Civilian Population War Game Range across Southern Idaho
Robby Sherwin
Facebook: This Is Where I Leave You
April 17, 2018
Paul Street
Eight Takeaways on Boss Tweet’s Latest Syrian Missile Spasm
Robert Fisk
The Search for the Truth in Douma
Eric Mann
The Historic 1968 Struggle Against Columbia University
Roy Eidelson
The 1%’s Mind Games: Psychology Gone Bad
John Steppling
The Sleep of Civilization
Patrick Cockburn
Syria Bombing Reveals Weakness of Theresa May
Dave Lindorff
No Indication in the US That the Country is at War Again
W. T. Whitney
Colombia and Cuba:  a Tale of Two Countries
Dean Baker
Why Isn’t the Median Wage for Black Workers Rising?
Linn Washington Jr.
Philadelphia’s Top Cop Defends Indefensible Prejudice in Starbucks Arrest Incident
C. L. Cook
Man in the Glass
Kary Love
“The Mob Boss Orders a Hit and a Pardon”
Lawrence Wittner
Which Nations Are the Happiest―and Why
Dr. Hakim
Where on Earth is the Just Economy that Works for All, Including Afghan Children?
April 16, 2018
Dave Lindorff
President Trump’s War Crime is Worse than the One He Accuses Assad of
Ron Jacobs
War is Just F**kin’ Wrong
John Laforge
Nuclear Keeps on Polluting, Long After Shutdown
Norman Solomon
Missile Attack on Syria Is a Salute to “Russiagate” Enthusiasts, Whether They Like It or Not
Uri Avnery
Eyeless in Gaza   
Barbara Nimri Aziz
Iraq Then, Syria Now
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail