Background Links On Somalia Beyond Pirate Tales & Black Hawk Down

A good summation by Chris Floyd

Task Force 88

Somalia: Western Toxic Dumping And Piracy

Pirates of the Horn

Medialens: Somalia- Hidden Catastrophe

You are being lied to about pirates, Johann Hari

’07 UN officials said that Somalia has higher malnutrition rates, more current bloodshed and many fewer aid workers than Darfur

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Somalia Becomes Shooting Alley

The United Nations Security Council has unanimously approved a US resolution allowing countries to pursue Somali pirates on land as well as at sea. It is an extension of the powers countries already have to enter Somali waters to chase pirates. Countries will need the permission of the transitional Somali government.

Well the transitional government is an Ethiopian installed US propped up sham, it didn’t take long for commerce to have its way…again-

When the Asian tsunami of Christmas 2005 washed ashore on the east coast of Africa, it uncovered a great scandal.

Tons of radioactive waste and toxic chemicals drifted onto the beaches after the giant wave dislodged them from the sea bed off Somalia. Tens of thousands of Somalis fell ill after coming into contact with this cocktail. They complained to the United Nations (UN), which began an investigation. “There are reports from villagers of a wide range of medical problems such as mouth bleeds, abdominal hemorrhages, unusual skin disorders and breathing difficulties,” the UN noted.

Some 300 people are believed to have died from the poisonous chemicals. Many European, US and Asian shipping firms – notably Switzerland’s Achair Partners and Italy’s Progresso – signed dumping deals in the early 1990s with Somalia’s politicians and militia leaders.

This meant they could use the coast as a toxic dumping ground. This practice became widespread as the country descended into civil war. Nick Nuttall of the UN Environment Program said, “European companies found it was very cheap to get rid of the waste.

“It cost as little as £1.70 a ton, whereas waste disposal costs in Europe was something like £670 a ton. “And the waste is of many different kinds. There is uranium radioactive waste. There is lead, and heavy metals such as cadmium and mercury. There is also industrial waste, hospital wastes, chemical wastes – you name it.”

But despite the evidence uncovered by the tsunami, an investigation into the practice of toxic dumping was dropped. There was no compensation and no clean up. In 2006 Somali fishermen complained to the UN that foreign fishing fleets were using the breakdown of the state to plunder their fish stocks. These foreign fleets often recruited Somali militias to intimidate local fishermen.

Despite repeated requests, the UN refused to act. Meanwhile the warships of global powers that patrol the strategically important Gulf of Aden did not sink or seize any vessels dumping toxic chemicals off the coast.

So angry Somalis, whose waters were being poisoned and whose livelihoods were threatened, took matters into their own hands. Fishermen began to arm themselves and attempted to act as unofficial coastguards. They began to seize ships in late 2005. These were released after a ransom was paid. Among them were cargo vessels, luxury cruise liners and tuna fishing boats.

But the nature of this piracy soon began to change. Members of the Somali government, who were part of the then Western-backed Transitional Federal Government (TFG), started to get involved. They transformed the piracy operation into a multi-million dollar industry that funded their lavish lifestyles.

The TFG was ousted during a popular rebellion in July 2006 led by the Union of Islamic Courts. Later that year the US backed Ethiopia’s invasion of Somalia to drive the Islamic Courts out.

This provoked an insurgency labeled by some as the “third front” of the “war on terror”. The US became embarrassed when it emerged that its allies in the TFG were deeply involved in piracy. As concerns grew for the safety of ships heading towards the Suez Canal, global powers began to take notice.

(ht2 Danny Schechter)

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Cuddly Task Force 88 in The NYT

Task Force 88 gets mentioned again, now this the NYT so US military attacks are couched entirely in the context of ‘attacking Al Qaeda’ which make blowing the shit out of unsuspecting people all over the world by the Empire seem acceptable to the hard of thinking (mmm govt source says it was after Al Qaeda, yep I’ll believe them, they never lie). Nevermind the utterly unexamined imperialism, the manifest destiny and nationalist exceptionalism of an empire killing at will anywhere on planet Earth. Thought experiment for the those lacking perspective- Somalia destroys a town in Idaho, they say they suspected some white supremacists might have been there, it also just happens to be part of an ongoing operation to install a state government that will sign over resource contracts to Somalia and its Canadian allies (oh yeah, the canucks invaded with Somali missile strikes wiping out resistance and yet in the news no mention is made of Somalia. Even now hundred of thousands of American refugees are dying of hunger as the media praise the brave Canadian forces and ignore the death toll, even as Somali corporations are profiting from the invasion), is that good with you? Everything tickety boo and war-on-terror-tastic there?

The United States military since 2004 has used broad, secret authority to carry out nearly a dozen previously undisclosed attacks against Al Qaeda and other militants in Syria, Pakistan and elsewhere, according to senior American officials.

These military raids, typically carried out by Special Operations forces, were authorized by a classified order that Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld signed in the spring of 2004 with the approval of President Bush, the officials said. The secret order gave the military new authority to attack the Qaeda terrorist network anywhere in the world, and a more sweeping mandate to conduct operations in countries not at war with the United States.

For example, shortly after Ethiopian troops crossed into Somalia in late 2006 to dislodge an Islamist regime in Mogadishu, the Pentagon’s Joint Special Operations Command quietly sent operatives and AC-130 gunships to an airstrip near the Ethiopian town of Dire Dawa. From there, members of a classified unit called Task Force 88 crossed repeatedly into Somalia to hunt senior members of a Qaeda cell believed to be responsible for the 1998 American Embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania.

At the time, American officials said Special Operations troops were operating under a classified directive authorizing the military to kill or capture Qaeda operatives if failure to act quickly would mean the United States had lost a “fleeting opportunity” to neutralize the enemy.

Occasionally, the officials said, Special Operations troops would land in Somalia to assess the strikes’ results. On Jan. 7, 2007, an AC-130 struck an isolated fishing village near the Kenyan border, and within hours, American commandos and Ethiopian troops were examining the rubble to determine whether any Qaeda operatives had been killed.

Now then can you spot the clue? Once again ‘examining the rubble to determine whether any Qaeda operatives had been killed‘ so of course this village was empty yeah?…no villagers in that rubble huh? The NYT is not concerned with them, like a magic talisman, mention Al Qaeda enough and all is well in slaughterville. So how about a different take on what went on with Task Force 88, bearing in mind it took 2 years for Mai Lai to become openly acknowledged (covered up by one Colin Powell back then)-

Chris Floyd-

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?

Somalia & The Memory Hole

In this story about Somali repsentatives being stranded after a summit the following quick summation of recent history is presented-

The government was strongly criticised for failing to bring peace to Somalia, which has not had an effective national government for 17 years. The government needed Ethiopian troops to oust Islamist forces from Mogadishu but they continue to stage attacks.

Er, what? So the US backed Ethiopian invasion which destroyed the brief stability the Islamic Courts provided is hereby erased, it was helpful Ethiopians cooperating with the Somali government, oh except do you see where the fib rather falls down, by their own words ‘Somalia, which has not had an effective national government for 17 years‘ so this Somali ‘government’ which was helped out by those terribly nice Ethiopian chaps where has that come from? What in fact is it other than the product of a fevered imagination erasing the US involvement. We’ll all be mystified why resource rich Congo is engulfed by conflict next, oh wait… (must go my mobile’s ringing).

PS. The International Crisis Group has a useful briefing (although needs updating) on the Congo, they are not exactly free of corporate motives but it’s worth a read.

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Blackwater Goes Navy

Every invasion an opportunity, the Empire took Somalia and now-

Navy Times (US)– The contractor Blackwater Worldwide is in talks with 13 shipping companies interested in hiring the firm’s ship to escort their cargo vessels through the pirate-plagued waters off the Horn of Africa, the company’s president said.

Blackwater CEO Erik Prince said the world’s shipping firms are eager for as much protection as possible for their vessels, partly because the U.S. and international warships in the Gulf of Aden haven’t done enough to stop or dissuade piracy.

Prince appeared Sunday on “This Week in Defense News,” a television show hosted by Navy Times’ sister publication, Defense News. He said the 20,000 ships that travel past the Horn of Africa each year could provide a steady market for protection services.

The U.S. and international navies that patrol the Gulf of Aden have been stymied by a thicket of legal confusion about what capabilities they have to fight pirates on the high seas and in Somali waters. Adm. Mark Fitzgerald, commander of Naval Forces Europe, told reporters Oct. 21 that NATO is debating rules of engagement for dealing with pirates.

AP- The growing interest among merchant fleets to hire their own firepower is encouraged by the U.S. Navy and represents a new and potential lucrative market for security firms scaling back operations in Iraq.

“This is a great trend,” said Lt. Nate Christensen, a spokesman for the Bahrain-based U.S. 5th Fleet. “We would encourage shipping companies to take proactive measures to help ensure their own safety.”

Yeah, it’s a great trend.

Cut Out

With an early autumn power cut and subsequent downing of the vast telecommunications complex that feeds my secure undisclosed undersea base I offer you some quick cuts-

Chris Floyd again keeps the coverage of Somalia visible, civilians deaths now approach 10,000 and the piracy problem has been reinvigorated by the US backed ‘regime change’.Otto sez- Instead of “Estados Unidos” (United States), the big country up North is being called “Estados Hundidos” (sunken States).

Also see his advisory for what it’s really like in Bolivia as peace breaks out, even as the US pulls out Peace corps ‘operatives’ it is not a dangerous hell hole of anti American horror, perhaps because they value tolerance more than Bushland.

Washington refuses to say who it is funneling millions to in Bolivia, rejecting FOIA’s like they were going out of fashion (which I think they largely have under Bush) (ht2 BoRev).

Bigwood has made several attempts to obtain detailed information about the nature of current U.S. spending in Bolivia, without success. He says he has filed five separate petitions under the Freedom of Information Act since 2005. However, one FOIA request he filed revealed that the quasi-governmental National Endowment for Democracy had funded programmes that brought 13 young “emerging leaders” from Bolivia to Washington between 2002 and 2004 to strengthen their right-wing political parties. “It’s not just the USAID but also other U.S. government entities that are putting money into opposition groups in Bolivia,” Bigwood told IPS, charging that a major part of the funding is apparently aimed at “bribing people” in that country.

Abiding in Bolivia notes how blog coverage has perhaps inspired some mainstream media to a bit less rubbish- Making a Dent.

If you are down Manchester way check out the Convention of the Left which is what actual leftists will be doing while corporate conservatives attend the Labour conference (perhaps though without money off vouchers for lap dancers like the Tories have). Also there is the Stop the War demo in town and an Anti fascist march in Stoke. And also something else is happening…niece number one is flying the nest, she is off to uni in Manchesterland, seems like only 18 years ago she was projectile vomiting milk all over me, whereas now she will get the chance to barf up kebabs and vodka all over Manchester’s rainy streets, truly God’s own country! It’s good stuff, none of her grandparents or parents went to university, she loves what she does, I hope she really has an enriching experience.

And finally, I would recommend subscribing to Pulp of the Day, each weekday a scan of the cover of a pulp novel in all its lurid exploitative glory, today is the brilliantly named Shanty Boat Girl, which is fabulous, it’s a song waiting to happen. The cover promises all kinds of saucy thrills, the guy bottom right clearly has more in mind than telling charming jokes, don’t fall for him Shanty Boat Girl, he’s only after one thing, your Boat!

Burying the Lede- What Do We Do With A Problem Like Somalia?

Does not compute, this NYT article is interesting but it starts like this-

Does the international community have it all wrong on Somalia? After 17 years, 14 transitional governments and more than $8 billion in foreign aid, the country is as violent, lawless – and, many say, as hopeless – as ever.

Oh noes, what can we do? Yes it is a genuine conundrum, but this is the odd thing, the article does tell the truth about what led to the latest catastrophe, except it’s buried in the second half-

By the early 2000s, several of those local courts began to gain strength, and in 2006 they united under an Islamist banner to fight warlords being paid by the Central Intelligence Agency. The Islamic courts won and disarmed and pacified much of south-central Somalia, following their own version of the building block approach. But the United States and Ethiopia considered the Islamic courts a terrorist threat, so the United States helped Ethiopia invade Somalia.

Now I don’t know about you, but surely this context -that so many people have no awareness of (and Meles Zenawi in Ethiopia is a client leader so let’s not pretend America and Ethiopia *considering* is like two completely independent conclusions)- is sort of relevant in like… the first few lines when discussing the situation in Somalia, especially when people are looking for solutions. One of course presents itself- whatever else you do, stop the US Empire from rampaging around the place, it’s not helping! Thankfully for Team USA the NYT editors protects it’s cursory readers from such conclusions. Like a treasure hunt that works only for the dedicated sifter of copy.