FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Somalia’s Worsening Drought: Blowback From US Policy

by

The eastern African country of Somalia is currently suffering from a drought that has lasted for more than two years. A drought in an underdeveloped agrarian country that also lacks basic sanitation systems means further complications stemming from a lack of food production, subsequent malnourishment, and outbreaks of bacterial diseases such as cholera.

In fact, Somalia is currently reporting 200-300 cases of cholera a day. It’s a treatable condition, but aid agencies are consistently stifled in getting affected Somalis the care they need because the worst areas hit by the outbreak are in the southern part of the country––areas controlled by a group called Al-Shabaab. Al-Shabaab is a radical Islamist militia that arose as a response to American covert operations in the country, as well as the US backed invasion of Somalia by Ethiopian forces in 2006. As with all policy decisions, there are unforeseen and unintended consequences. US foreign policy provided the catalyst for Al-Shabaab’s formation, who are in turn exacerbating this humanitarian crisis which has claimed over 500 lives so far this year.

In the early 2000s, Somalia was governed by a string of warlords that were supported by the US government, so long as they agreed to help target suspected terrorists that were taking refuge there. Growing tired of the warlords, a group of independent militias joined together to form the Islamic Courts Union (ICU) and took control of the capital Mogadishu, and other parts of the country.

Because of the radical Islamist nature of the ICU, the Bush administration viewed them as an outgrowth of al-Qaida, and therefore could not be allowed to control such large swaths of the country. The US  conducted a proxy war, sponsoring neighboring Ethiopia to invade Somalia and force the ICU out.  What was left of the ICU became Al-Shabaab, a jihadist group that “emerged as the vanguard of the fight against foreign occupation,” according to investigative reporter Jeremy Scahill, author of the 2013 book Dirty Wars: The World is a Battlefield.

Despite being pushed back from urban areas, Al-Shabaab controls a number of  rural areas – many of the same areas that have been hit the hardest by the drought which is now threatening so many people. The group is reticent, or in some cases entirely unwilling, to allow aid workers into their c territory.

Even if rain does come soon to these regions, it will take time for plants and livestock to re-emerge, and the problem of poor sanitation will not have gone away. The drought is affecting close to 6 million people, and the World Health Organization is predicting the number of cholera cases to reach 50,000 by the end of the summer.

None of this suggests that life would be great if the US took a different approach to Somalia and the War on Terror. Somalia would still not be a developed nation with sustainable institutions of governance, and there have always been struggles with corruption and theft when it comes to aid. The Islamic Courts were ushering in an (admittedly short-lived) era of relative stability and peace, but they were also Islamist and repressive by any reasonable measure. But the fact of the matter is that a militant group whose existence is owed to blowback from American foreign policy is blocking aid to people in need.

This doesn’t shift the blame – responsibility lies with those that are prohibiting aid from reaching the affected populations. But the US should not deny its role in laying the foundation for the emergence of Al-Shabaab either.

As if the civil war in Iraq and the rise of the Islamic State in Libya are not enough, Somalia is another example of the unintended, negative consequences of an aggressive, militaristic foreign policy. The Islamic Courts Union may not have been any liberal-minded person’s ideal of a governing body, but it was so short-lived that we cannot know how it would have behaved long-term. Al-Shabaab, however, is imposing misery on innocent people.

Jerrod A. Laber is a non-profit program manager living in Northern Virginia. He is a Young Voices Advocate.

More articles by:
January 16, 2018
Mark Schuller
What is a “Shithole Country” and Why is Trump So Obsessed With Haiti?
Paul Street
Notes From a “Shithole” Superpower
Louisa Willcox
Keeper of the Flame for Wilderness: Stewart “Brandy” Brandborg
Mike Whitney
Trump’s Sinister Plan to Kill the Iranian “Nukes” Deal
Franklin Lamb
Kafkaesque Impediments to Challenging Iran’s Theocracy
Norman Solomon
Why Senator Cardin is a Fitting Opponent for Chelsea Manning
Fred Gardner
GI Coffeehouses Recalled: a Compliment From General Westmoreland
Brian Terrell
Solidarity from Central Cellblock to Guantanamo
Don Fitz
Bondage Scandal: Looking Beneath the Surface
Rob Seimetz
#Resist Co-opting “Shithole”
Ted Rall
Trump Isn’t Unique
January 15, 2018
Rob Urie
Democrats and the End(s) of Politics
Paul Tritschler
Killing Floor: the Business of Animal Slaughter
Mike Garrity
In Targeting the Lynx, the Trump Administration Defies Facts, Law, and Science Once Again
Thomas Hon Wing Polin
Hong Kong Politics: a Never-Ending Farce
Uri Avnery
Bibi’s Son (Or Three Men in a Car)
Dave Lindorff
Yesterday’s ‘Shithole Countries’ Can Become Classy Places Donald, and Vice Versa
Jeff Mackler
Lesser Evil Politics in Alabama
Jonah Raskin
Typewriters Still Smoking? An Interview with Underground Press Maven John Campbell McMillan
Jose-Antonio Orosco
Trump’s Comments Recall a Racist Past in Immigration Policy
David Macaray
Everything Seems to Be Going South
Kathy Kelly
41 Hearts Beating in Guantanamo
Weekend Edition
January 12, 2018
Friday - Sunday
George Burchett
Wormwood and a Shocking Secret of War: How Errol Morris Vindicated My Father, Wilfred Burchett
Roberto J. González
Starting Them Young: Is Facebook Hooking Children on Social Media?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Between the Null and the Void
Andrew Levine
Trump After Bannon: What Next?
John Davis
Mud-Slide
Ajamu Baraka
The Responsibility to Protect the World … from the United States
Robert Hunziker
Global Warming Stirs the Methane Monster
Paul Street
Lazy Liberals and “the Trump Effect”
Carmen Rodriguez
Trump’s Attack on Salvadoran Migrants
Mike Whitney
Oprah for President, Really?
Francisco Cabanillas
The Hurricane After Maria
Luciana Bohne
World War I: Crime and Punishment
Steve Martinot
The Ideology of Pepper Spray: Force and Violence in a Can
Martin Billheimer
Beyond the 120 Days of the Silicon Valley Dolls
Patrick T. Hiller
An Olympic Glimmer on the Horizon – North Korea and South Korea Stepping Down the Escalation Ladder
Ron Jacobs
The Vietnamese War: a Different Take
Binoy Kampmark
Fuming in the White House: the Bannon-Trump Implosion
Joseph Natoli
What to Worry About and What Not to Worry About
Colin Todhunter
Monsanto, Bayer and Neoliberalism: A Case of Hobson’s Choice
Brian Cloughley
Trump’s Bullying of Cuba
Kenneth Surin
Bigger in Texas
Arturo Desimone
The Untouchable Leader Who Stood Up to Gandhi
Peter Crowley
To Cheerleaders of Iran Protests: Iran is Not Our Enemy, a Sponsor of Terror or a Tyranny
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail