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?


33 Responses to “US War Crimes In Somalia: Task Force 88”

  1. ralfast Says:

    The real Crazy 88s….

  2. RickB Says:

    I wonder if like Tiger force it will take 30+ years and a small newspaper to reveal this properly.

  3. ralfast Says:

    Those AC-130s are real weapons of mass destruction. They murdered over two thousand Panamanians in the space of a few hours when they leveled an entire section of Panama’s City slums (the area of El Chorrillo during “Operation Just Cause” no less). Talk about the sins of the father….

    • ptyfulo Says:

      you know what, I am Panamanian. And AC-130 were NOT the cause of Chorrillo going up in Flames. That we can tank Manuel Antonio Noriega for. He placed heavy armaments in the Old Chorrillo “Cuartel” And the objective was if it took a direct hit the collateral damage would cause caos. Which it did. I know this, Cause I lived Just Cause, first hand. Get you damn facts straight before commenting nexttime about MY country, and my criminal ex-general Noriega….

      • RickB Says:

        So you’re saying the AC 130’d did fire but Noriegea is to blame for having assets in Chorillo, so you excuse the gunships? Although as both invasion and Noriega’s career were a US op do you blame the US?

  4. RickB Says:

    Oh yes of course, the Panama attack was incredibly under-reported and they used those huge Hercules like gunships on them? On a city area, jeebus.
    I do remember the Panama Deception doco and leCarre’s The Tailor of Panama (book not lighthearted film) is good too.
    If you really look hard at all the US military actions that go on it basically has never stopped, war is a racket and more troops need to wake up and speak up about their role in the empire.

  5. shafi Says:

    In their incessant pursuit of ‘terrorists’ Americas tentacles are wide-reaching. The AC-130 gunships used in the Southern regions of Somalia simple wiped out entire villages of pastoralists than the ‘Al-Qaeda’ operatives they were supposed to hit.

    Miscalculation it could not have been. Misinformation, too it couldn’t have been. It was a case of brutal massacre of innocent civilians and to pave the way for the beleaguered Ethiopian mercenaries to loot and plunder.

    perhaps America has decided to prove her worth after the great Black Hawk Down debacle! but instead of killing ‘Al-Qaeda’ operatives as they’d wished, they only killed cattle and innocent villagers who know not what hit them.

  6. RickB Says:

    Hey Shafi, thanks for stopping by and commenting.
    Thanks for the additional information, I agree with you, this looks to be a almost unreported slaughter, what chance would anyone have against these huge gunships and form the description they simply set up zones where everyone was assumed to be a legitimate target. And I would suspect that yes there was some vengeance involved for the blackhawk debacle.
    I had a bit of a read around your blog, it’s really good (and free music!) I’ve added you to my blogroll, glad to make your acquaintance.

  7. shafi Says:

    Hey Rick, Thanks for add!

    The world has somehow turned a deaf ear to the bewailing mothers and the agonising cries of their children. America, the great nation that is forever advocating for democacy and is bent on ‘defending’ her interests in foreign lands is today directly involved in the killing and displacement of hundreds of thousand Somali civilians.

    It is almost as if a systematic and well-orchestrated displacement process is in place with the Ethiopian soldiers as the coordinators, put in power of course by the US.

    Driven out of their homes and into squalid camps crammed with compact clusters of tiny huts made of twigs, straws and clothes, the Somalis have become refugees in their own country. Today displaced mothers, malnourished children, feeble elders, and mutilated men all in their serried ranks lay languishing inside the small slouching huts and walk through the makeshift shelters in desperation, their disconsolate voices diminished by the roars of the guns. And of all this, nothing prominent is ever heard.

    Glad to make your acquaintance, my friend! 🙂

  8. RickB Says:

    Hey Shafi!
    Yep, I’ve kept track of it somewhat myself but you are right, when the suffering is caused by or through US activities it is always minimised and as here is virtually invisible, the media reflects elite opinion, they still fundamentally assume America is trying to do ‘good’, which is nonsense. It is servings its own interests (well those of its ruling class) and anyone who gets in the way is in big trouble, the ‘war on terror’ is just the latest cover story for its imperial activities I find.
    I think America has promised to Ethiopia a friendly govt installed in Somalia that will allow Ethiopia access to the coast and Somali assets, but of course the US demands will take precedent and Ethiopia should realise they have made a deal with the devil. And both of them have shown their complete disregard for human life, I do hope this does get better understood and talked about. The situation of refugees you describe is terrible.

    I think to a lot of the domestic audience they can only accept their country does either- fighting evil terrorists (ie anyone they are told by their government & media are ‘evil terrorists’).
    Or- ‘aid’ work (which feeds the national ego).

    The idea they are actually going out there to kill and steal is unthinkable to so many, so the media will not show that truth either.

    I’m certainly going to keep reading your posts and if you have information to publicise I’d be happy to help.

  9. Ethiopia Learning From Its Imperial Master « Ten Percent Says:

    […] a former communist who now espouses neo-liberalisation and hung with Tony. -invades Somalia with US support. Ethiopia and new Somali puppet regime and the US start threatening Eritrea while Somalia is named […]

  10. Easy Says:

    Having a great deal of FIRSTHAND knowledge of this operation, let me assure you no civilians were attacked by 88. If the US is guilty of any shortcoming in Africa, it is only our lack of attention to the Darfur crisis.

    On the subject of 88 in Somalia, there were NO war crimes. I know for a fact. By the way, keep in mind that “Civilian” is a very subjective term. We shoot them, and their friends take their weapons and leave the bodies. Now they look like murdered civilians. It’s a fairly standard tactic, and has been used for a long time. Perhaps you all should not be so quick to judge the actions of a few brave men, based on nothing more than hearsay and guesswork.

    “I will never answer to a man who rests under the blanket of freedom I provide, then questions the manner in which I provide it.”

  11. RickB Says:

    Well thanks for the public affairs spiel, erm you might like to try it on someone whose birth certificate says -yesterday. Civilians continually are the largest causalities of modern warfare and noticeably US tactics which have disgusted UK forces in Iraq (and that’s quite hard as the UK has centuries of tradition of killing brown people). That ‘take their weapons’ schtick is so Vietnam and it didn’t wash then. The ruling class desperately wants people to believe warfare can be conducted in an honourable way, that simply is not true or possible. They push that lie to keep the wars of empire, the wars of choice and aggression viable. So you are either a sucker or are a propagandist for that cause.

    “I will never answer to a man who rests under the blanket of freedom I provide, then questions the manner in which I provide it.”
    Well no, you are not providing me any freedom, you are working for an imperial ruling class, the Islamic courts were no threat to me (here in the UK) or the US only overseas resource ‘acquisition’ & sphere of influence was in jeopardy. I suggest you read Smedley Butler, wise up and realise a statement such as the one above is a veiled fascistic threat against dissent and free speech. So ask yourself what really have you been convinced to advocate? And by whom and to what end?

  12. Easy Says:

    That “take their weapons schtick,” is an occurrence I have seen with my own eyes, many times. Is our government corrupt? Extremely. Were there civilian casualties due to the AC-130 strikes, almost certainly, though I didn’t witness them. TF 88 is the only subject of this forum I am qualified to speak about. Absolutely no civilians were harmed by Task Force 88. As to either being a sucker or a propagandist, I must present you with a valid third option. I am a soldier who thinks war is a vile and disgusting thing. It is an evil, but unfortunately a very necessary one at the moment. As to the question of whether or not the military is currently providing or defending freedom for the American people…well, my only defense of my statement is to simply say that there are, without a doubt, many people in the world who want to kill Americans. At the moment, they are being forced into a defensive role in their own lands. Because of that defensive role, they are less able to take an OFFENSIVE role in my country, where my family lives. I detest the killing of civilians, but let’s face it. If it comes down to it, if a child is going to be a casualty of war, I’d prefer that it is someone else’s child. THAT is why I take the war to the enemy, instead of allowing him to fight that war here. I believe the United States is still the greatest nation on earth. That is quickly changing, and there will come a time when there is no choice but to sink to the same depths as our government, or to fight that government, in whatever way we see fit. When that time comes, I’ll do my part to bring about change. Until that time comes, I just try to do the best I can, to help people every chance I get. Even if I can’t change the world, I can certainly still change a few lifes.

  13. ralfast Says:

    “I will never answer to a man who rests under the blanket of freedom I provide, then questions the manner in which I provide it.”

    Good thing that you are not providing me with any freedom.

  14. RickB Says:

    Easy, I would really urge you to start questioning the reasons you were given for serving the American Empire, read Smedley Butler, check out Stan Goff
    Get the Shock Doctrine
    Read some Chalmers Johnson
    America is not under attack, it is an expanding empire meeting resistance. Stop the imperialism and the world will be a lot safer for everyone.

  15. Easy Says:

    Apparently, I will no longer be allowed to use the internet at work for “unnofficial purposes.” Apparently, my corporate job as a civilian affords me less freedom than the military did. Anyway…anyone who is interested in continuing this discussion with me, feel free to email me at

    I wish to discuss things, not simply as a soldier (I left active duty last year,) But as an intelligent man, a firsthand witness, and as someone who strives to understand the culture and mindset of others. I welcome discussion. I do not, however, welcome “hate mail.” Thanks.

  16. rastaraqi Says:

    This is a very interesting blog that is filled with third hand or worse information that has not been verified. It is all speculation to the further the ridiculous notion that America is an empire or even has imperialistic motivations. Granted mistakes have been made in policy and action. I dare you to take yourself to the streets of Baghdad wearing a sign saying America is an empire. It is at that point that your next of kin will see the freedom provided to you by U.S. military forces. I welcome your disgusting opinion, because that is a right that I have fought to provide for you.

  17. TheWabbit Says:

    The United States is not the creator of radical Islam, however we are its target. I prefer Easy’s way of protecting me then Rick’s lack thereof. As it is, I work, I pay taxes, allow the ruling class to do whatever it wants, travel when I can to foreign countries that dont hate me now but probably will later. I live a life I enjoy, have love and delve 100% into my hedonistic ways. This is what the ruling class gives me. Sometimes they take that away, and when that happens so goes my income and my taxes. The fact remains that I would rather live here then there, believe the United States to be the best country, although not without its faults and will gladly support someone to kill my enemies, because I pay taxes and dont really want to do it myself.

  18. RickB Says:

    Yes clearly Rasta a country that spends more than the rest of the world combined on the military, has over 700 bases in over 100 countries is in no objective way provable an Empire. And if you think Esquire is printing falsehoods you need to contact them with evidence. What Chris Floyd’s article notes is this information is given away in the process of praising AFRICOM. The military protect the ruling class my freedom is protected by me and others, this insistence on people thanking armies for freedom is imperial rhetoric. When exactly did Somalia invade the US?

    Hoho wabbit. The ethos of the ‘good American’. However such insular tribalism is obsolete and empire’s always fall.

    And thank you both for showing zero concern for civilians machine gunned from planes, pat yourself on the back for your immense humanity in the ‘best country’.

  19. ralfast Says:

    “I welcome your disgusting opinion, because that is a right that I have fought to provide for you.”

    Provide for me? No, I don’t think so. Read the Constitution of the United States. Those rights are inalienable and therefore inherent to the person. You can not give me what I already have. Therefore you provide nothing.

    As for Imperial motivations, once you wash away all the detritus of false excuses for invading Iraq you realize that the only reason left, the real reason, its conquest. You can not get more Imperial than that.

  20. johnson Says:

    RickB is a new age pussy. God bless us men who do the heavy lifting for no loads like RickB.

  21. RickB Says:

    You kiss your mother with that mouth?
    Yes, damn my eyes for not supporting invasions & war crimes in countries thousands of miles away that pose no threat. Or as you call it ‘heavy lifting’ a true poet.
    God Bless shooting civilians from a gunship? I really must get a copy of the bible some Americans have as it appears to be radically different to the one I’ve read and studied. Is Chuck Norris in it?

  22. ralfast Says:

    What you expect from someone who names himself after his own dick.

  23. ralfast Says:

    Oh and none of these drive by wankers leave so much as an address. What courage!

  24. FredA Says:

    If any of the clowns spouting on about “tentacles” and “US imperialism” want to leave the US and move to Cuba.

    Be my guest.

    Just see how free you are then to spew your nonsense in a “socialist utopia”. (Thank goodness for free speech in the good ‘ole USA eh boys)

    You’ll raise the IQ of both countries for sure.

  25. RickB Says:

    Thank you FredA the first ever comment in the ‘If you like it so much why don’t you go and live there’ category. And you capped it off brilliantly with a mention of IQ (albeit the odd suggestion of a geographical area possessing one), you’re a comedy genius, a clown even!
    But Fred, you praise American free speech (and thanks for assuming others are American citizen’s, why what possible other countries exists anywhere? Hey guess what, that’s how citizen’s in empires think) but seem to imply if it is exercised contrary to your world view (try some Chalmers Johnson or Stan Goff -ex US special forces- for starters) that such dissent should entail emigration, how strange, after the Chalmers try googling cognitive dissonance. And as ever, keep taking the meds!

  26. ralfast Says:

    Arrogance+Ignorance with a touch of frothing at the mouth anger. What a heady mix they make!

  27. Joshua Says:

    There are those with power and those without. Countries are countries, people are people. If the shoe was on the other foot things would not be so different. If you don’t agree I would suggest you look at history and into the souls of men.

  28. ralfast Says:

    Thanks, that makes it all better.

  29. RickB Says:

    The- if we didn’t do it someone else would- defence. Genius. Works for genocide, paedophilia, badger molesting, you name it, I’m waiting for the discourse to rise to the level of ‘Im rubber you’re glue’.

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