Tina K. Russell

October 26, 2008

Somalia and “the Islamist threat”

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , — Tina Russell @ 8:34 pm

Op-Ed Columnist – The Endorsement From Hell – NYTimes.com
Today, Somalia is the world’s greatest humanitarian disaster, worse even than Darfur or Congo. The crisis has complex roots, and Somali warlords bear primary blame. But Bush administration paranoia about Islamic radicals contributed to the disaster.

Somalia has been in chaos for many years, but in 2006 an umbrella movement called the Islamic Courts Union seemed close to uniting the country. The movement included both moderates and extremists, but it constituted the best hope for putting Somalia together again. Somalis were ecstatic at the prospect of having a functional government again.

Bush administration officials, however, were aghast at the rise of an Islamist movement that they feared would be uncooperative in the war on terror. So they gave Ethiopia, a longtime rival in the region, the green light to invade, and Somalia’s best hope for peace collapsed.

“A movement that looked as if it might end this long national nightmare was derailed, in part because of American and Ethiopian actions,” said Ken Menkhaus, a Somalia expert at Davidson College. As a result, Islamic militancy and anti-Americanism have surged, partly because Somalis blame Washington for the brutality of the Ethiopian occupiers.

“There’s a level of anti-Americanism in Somalia today like nothing I’ve seen over the last 20 years,” Professor Menkhaus said. “Somalis are furious with us for backing the Ethiopian intervention and occupation, provoking this huge humanitarian crisis.”

This is one of the biggest and most-ignored tragedies of recent American foreign policy, and it breaks my heart. I don’t like the Islamists one bit and I don’t think religion has any place in government. But, our attempt to instill that bit of political wisdom by force—by funding the an army with a dismal human-rights record, at that—has caused untold suffering in yet another faraway land.

Somalia is near an important Middle Eastern trade route (a large reason piracy is such a problem). Stability in Somalia would be great for the region (particularly Eritrea—ancestral homeland of a friend of mine—which would like to be known as a Singapore-like trading hub one of these days), which includes the affluent Persian Gulf and the struggling and developing nations in East Africa.

Anyway, Sens. Pat Leahy (whom Cheney once told to “go #@$! yourself”) and Russ Feingold (the one vote against the Patriot Act in the Senate!) are co-sponsoring a bill to tie additional funding to Somalia to them cleaning up their human-rights situation. Call your representatives! Go!

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