US War Crimes In Somalia: Task Force 88

From a brilliant article by Chris Floyd about the press’s imperial fawning over Admiral Fallon and his supposed reluctance to attack Iran [“‘Get serious,’ the admiral says. ‘These guys are ants. When the time comes, you crush them.'”] some details from last year of what went on in Somalia (emphasis added)-

This is not the first time that Barnett’s true-believer cluelessness has produced genuine revelations. Last year, in a similarly gung-ho, brass-awed piece on Washington’s latest imperial satrapy, the Africa Command, Barnett revealed that the Bush Administration was using an American death squad in Somalia to “clean up” areas after a bombing or missile strike. As I wrote in June 2007:

The Esquire piece, by Thomas Barnett, is a mostly glowing portrait of the Africa Command, which, we are told, is designed to wed military, diplomatic, and development prowess in a seamless package, a whole new way of projecting American power: “pre-emptive nation-building instead of pre-emptive regime change,” or as Barnett describes it at another point, “Iraq done right.” Although Barnett’s glib, jargony, insider piece — told entirely from the point of view of U.S. military officials — does contain bits of critical analysis, it is in no way an expose. The new details he presents on the post-invasion slaughter are thus even more chilling, as they are offered simply as an acceptable, ordinary aspect of this laudable new enterprise.

Barnett reveals that the gunship attacks on refugees were just the first part of the secret U.S. mission that was “Africa Command’s” debut on the imperial stage. Soon after the attacks, “Task Force 88, a very secret American special-operations unit,” was helicoptered into the strike area. As Barnett puts it: “The 88’s job was simple: Kill anyone still alive and leave no unidentified bodies behind.”

Some 70,000 people fled their homes in the first wave of the Ethiopian invasion. (More than 400,000 fled the brutal consolidation of the invasion in Mogadishu last spring.) Tens of thousands of these initial refugees headed toward the Kenyan border, where the American gunships struck. When the secret operation was leaked, Bush Administration officials said that American planes were trying to hit three alleged al Qaeda operatives who had allegedly been given sanctuary by the Islamic Councils government decapitated by the Ethiopians. But Barnett’s insiders told him that the actual plan was to wipe out thousands of “foreign fighters” whom Pentagon officials believed had joined the Islamic Courts forces. “Honestly, nobody had any idea just how many there really were,” Barnett was told. “But we wanted to get them all.”

Thus the Kenyan border area — where tens of thousands of civilians were fleeing — was meant to be “a killing zone,” Barnett writes:

America’s first AC-130 gunship went wheels-up on January 7 from that secret Ethiopian airstrip. After each strike, anybody left alive was to be wiped out by successive waves of Ethiopian commandos and Task Force 88, operating out of Manda Bay. The plan was to rinse and repeat ‘until no more bad guys, as one officer put it.

At this point, Barnett — or his sources — turn coy. We know there were multiple gunship strikes; and from Barnett’s account, we know that the “88s” did go in at least once after the initial gunship attack to “kill anyone still alive and leave no unidentified bodies behind.” But Barnett’s story seems to suggest that once active American participation in the war was leaked, the “killing zone” was abandoned at some point. So there is no way of knowing at this point how many survivors of the American attacks were then killed by the “very special secret special-operations unit,” or how many “rinse-and-repeat” cycles the “88s” were able to carry out in what Barnett called “a good plan.”

Nor do we know just who the “88s” killed. As noted, the vast majority of refugees were civilians, just as the majority of the victims killed by the American gunship raids were civilians. Did the “88s” move in on the nomadic tribesmen decimated by the air attack and “kill everyone still alive”? Or did they restrict themselves to killing any non-Somalis they found among the refugees?

An Exit What?

Exit polls, y’know the means by which elections can be judged ahead of final counts and can help expose fiddling, so consequently since the Bush era came about they are no longer published and/or published unadjusted by compliant media networks, not just in the US but in various elections across the world (ain’t globalisation cool?). Well one for the Spanish election says the lefty-ish PSOE have retained power. Korova was over there and reported the dynamic was depressingly familiar (perhaps that’s why they can win and exit polls are published, hmmm)-

The current period of pre-election campaigning had Zapatero’s PSOE virtually guaranteed of victory. They are roughly 5 percentage points ahead of the Popular Party, and it is inconceivable that this lead will be surrendered. However, from a progressive’s point of view, there is little to rejoice in these elections. Replace the PSOE with New Labour and the Popular Party with Cameron’s Conservatives, and you have an almost identical political situation. As in the UK, there is very little to choose between the two parties. It would make little difference who was in power, as both parties are beholden to the capitalist economic system. The only other party remotely capable of challenging these two, is Izquierda Unida (or United Left). Much like the Liberal Democrats, they hover around the fringes of the political debate. However, unlike the libs, IU is a viable left-wing alternative to the parties of the establishment. One hopes very much that IU increase their vote across Spain and begin to wield influence although, for the moment at least, this seems unlikely.

PS. Spain dropped its extradition request of former Gitmo inmates Jamil El-Banna (threatened with Gitmo to force him to work for MI5 then kidnapped by the CIA when he refused) and Omar Deghayes (more here) a few days ago, looks like being onside with the Bush gulag is not politically favourable, good-

Baltasar Garzón, the prominent judge who agreed to shelve the case against the two men, explained that he was doing so because of medical reports filed by the men’s lawyers at their last hearing in February. Two doctors, Jonathan Fluxman and Helen Bamber, had examined the men earlier in the month and had concluded that they were suffering from severe medical conditions caused by torture at the hands of their US captors and the inhumane conditions in which they were kept for five years.

UN Struggling In Burma

Myanmar’s military government has rejected a suggestion from the United Nations that it allow independent observers to monitor an upcoming national referendum on a new constitution, state radio and TV have reported. The government’s position on the referendum was made public after Aung San Suu Kyi, the detained Myanmar opposition leader, met Ibrahim Gambari, the visiting United Nations envoy, on Saturday. An offer by Gambari for the UN to provide technical expertise for the vote was also rejected, the reports said, with the government explaining that it had sufficient resources to hold the polls on its own.

Gambari is under pressure to include groups the junta would rather he ignored-

On one of his visits to Burma, Gambari did meet with representatives of some of the ethnic ceasefire groups that were attending the regime’s national convention. The convention was supposedly set up to draft the principles of the regime’s sham constitution, which will be voted on in May. The representatives he met were hand-picked by the regime and told what they could and could not say to Gambari. Ibrahim Gambari has failed to meet with leaders of political or armed ethnic groups that have not signed ceasefire agreements with the regime.

“Burma must be the only place in the world where the United Nations does not talk to all the people involved in order to try to negotiate a solution,” said Mark Farmaner, Director of the Burma Campaign UK. “How are we going to get the junta to hold genuine talks with ethnic groups when even the UN doesn’t?”

Karen National Union General Secretary Padoh Mahn Sha, who was assassinated by regime agents on February 14th 2008, was recognised as one of the most important leaders of Burma’s democracy movement. Yet despite around a dozen visits to the region, Gambari never took the time to meet him, and has still not yet met the top leadership of other significant non-ceasefire groups such as the Restoration Council of Shan State and Karenni National Progressive Party.

But then why should the junta act any diffferently to how Washington acts, Israel acts, Russia acts, China acts, France acts, Britain acts…etc etc. They have all at strategic points refused talks with groups in an effort to impose their will on settlements, to narrow the discourse and favour their desired outcomes. The junta acts as it does because the world acts as it does.

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