Chris Floyd / Atlantic Free Press & Afrol News – 2007-06-13 22:29:56
‘Kill Anyone Still Alive’: US Special Ops in Somalia
Chris Floyd / Atlantic Free Press
(June 13, 2007) — How many people did American forces actually kill when they attacked refugees fleeing from the US-backed Ethiopian invasion of Somalia last January? We know from reports by Oxfam, the Guardian, the Associated Press and Reuters that dozens of innocent civilians were slaughtered near the Kenyan border, including villagers and nomadic tribesmen hit by American gunships seeking to kill alleged al Qaeda operatives who may or may not have been among the refugees.
But a new story in Esquire magazine — detailing the creation of America’s most recent military satrapy, the Africa Command — provides disturbing indications that the post-invasion killing by American operatives in Somalia was far more extensive — and deliberate — than previously known. [Extensive background on the war in Somalia can be found here.
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 US 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.
Task Force 88: ‘Kill Everyone’
Barnett reveals that the gunship attacks on refugees were just the first part of the secret US 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?
US’ New Policy: Islamocide?
Concerning the latter, evidently it is now a capital crime, worthy of instant death by special ops or air raid or drone-fired missile, for any Muslim of any nationality to visit or take part in an Islamic regime which the US government dislikes — even if, like Somalia’s Islamic Councils government, that regime is not at war with the United States and strenuously denies any connection to al Qaeda.
This is borne out by the “good plan” to kill “thousands of foreign fighters” who had, allegedly, come to the aid of the Islamic Courts government (just like the thousands of foreign fighters who joined the American-backed jihad against the Soviets in Afghanistan). There was an automatic, unquestioned assumption by the Pentagon that these people were to be wiped out to the last man. This does not seem to jibe very well with “Africa Command’s” professed intent to win the hearts and minds of Africa’s Muslims and prevent encroachment by extremists there.
But then, none of Bush’s “Terror War” policies seem designed to produce their ostensible goal. Indeed, a cynic might be forgiven for suspecting that the formenting of extremism, violence and endless, ever-profitable war was in fact the actual aim of these policies.
UPDATE: New US Air Strikes Set in Somalia
Bush’s Terror Warriors are planning more airstrikes in Somalia, this time in the northern region of Puntland, a follow-up to shelling by American warships in the area last week, AFP reports. (Via Raw Story)
US warplanes are overflying the northern Somali region of Puntland in preparation for air-strikes against suspected Al-Qaeda fugitives, more than a week after US warships shelled the area, officials said Tuesday. The semi-autonomous regional government had authorised the overflights to pursue Al-Qaeda members believed to be hiding in the moutainous area, Puntland’s security minister Ibrahim Artan Ismail told reporters.
“‘The warplanes are looking for Al-Qaeda hideouts and when they get them, they will bomb them,'” he said, adding that the air operation covers areas where intelligence shows Al-Qaeda elements are hiding.”
Once again, we see the identification of any Muslim on the outs with the Bushists and their allies as “al Qaeda.” First, the Bush Administration said there were three al Qaeda operatives in Somalia — the ones they killed 70 or more innocent civilians trying to get in January airstrikes. As we’ve seen in the Esquire story above, the aim was actually to kill thousands of Muslims who had joined with the now-deposed Islamic Courts Council government in Somalia, which had strenuously denied ties to al Qaeda. It’s now apparent that anyone who ever fought for the Islamic Courts Council, whether foreign or Somali, will be tarred with the “al Qaeda” brush.
Destroy Stability; Empower Al-Qaeda
No doubt, the brutal destruction of the broad-based Courts government — which had brought Somalia its first measure of stability in more than 15 years of violent anarchy — will in fact spur the rise of al Qaeda-related groups in Somalia, feeding on the chaos and despair engendered by the Bush-backed invasion. Thus, American forces will always have a handy excuse for striking Somalia whenever they please, as they strive to “project dominance” over Africa.
With the new airstrikes coming in Puntland, however, the questions arise: How many innocent civilians will be murdered by the blunderbuss assault? And will these attacks too be followed by the “88s” dropping in to kill everyone still alive? Is this another “rinse and repeat” cycle from Africa Command?
Chris Floyd is the Editor and co-founder of Atlantic Free Press. He is an American journalist now based in Great Britain and the UK correspondent for Truthout.org. For 10 years, he wrote the weekly Global Eye political column for The Moscow Times and St. Petersburg Times. His writings also appear in The Nation, Columbia Journalism Review, The Baltimore Chronicle, The Bergen Record and elsewhere around the world. His book, Empire Burlesque, is published by Expathos Books.
Copyright 2007 Atlantic Free Press
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US Airstrikes “May further Destabilise Somalia”
(January 9, 2007) — Two US airstrikes “against al Qaeda” in Somalia yesterday and today had the blessing of the country’s transitional government, but many Somalis remain firmly against any US interference in the country. Observers fear that a US intervention on the Ethiopian and transitional government’s part may only cause popular resistance.
A Somali official has confirmed that US helicopter gunships today again had attacked suspected an al Qaeda terrorist hiding in the country. The attack came only one day after US troops – based off the Somali coast – had launched at least two air attacks against suspected al Qaeda members based in Somalia.
Yesterday, US warplanes killed a large number of Islamist fighters in the village of Hayi and on a small remote island – both locations near the Kenyan border, where the last Islamist forces still are hiding out from government and Ethiopian troops. According to US and Somali government information, the two locations were al Qaeda training camps. Other reports however implied that many civilians had been killed in the airstrikes.
According to Bryan Whitman, spokesman of the US Pentagon, the military attacks in Somalia had been based on credible intelligence “that led us to believe we had principal al Qaeda leaders in an area where we could identify them and take action against them.” He however could not confirm whether the attacks had succeeded in killing these supposed terrorist leaders.
Also the transitional government of Somalia – which now control most of the country with massive Ethiopian military support – said the US attacks had specifically targeted al Qaeda leader. Somalia’s interim President Abdullahi Yusuf said the US was hunting suspects in the 1998 bombings of US embassies in Nairobi and Dar-es-Salaam. President Yusuf said he had supported the American request to bomb these hideouts.
For the Somali transitional government and Ethiopia, the war actions by US troops may seem as a timely sign of direct support from Washington, as there has been a growing uncertainly about how long Ethiopian troops will be able to stay and maintain peace in Somalia, and whether the international community will take swift action to finance and send other peacekeepers to take over from Ethiopian troops.
But among Somalis, views on the US attacks were strongly divided, with anti-American feelings widely present among residents. Washington has for a long time been seen as one of the main sponsors of Somali warlords among the population, and distrust is widespread.
This scepticism against Washington’s Somalia policies comes in addition to the widespread hatred against Ethiopia, based on historic rivalry and the Ethiopian inclusion of the Somali-dominated Ogaden region during colonial times. While Ethiopian troops are grudgingly accepted by some Somalis during a short transition period until foreign peacekeepers can arrive, their presence is generally unwelcome.
A US involvement on Ethiopia’s side makes the situation even more controversial. For most citizens, it is like two of Somalia’s archenemies have united their forces, making it less and less credible that the foreigners could have good intentions – despite any logics.
This is exactly what many neighbouring nations and most European governments fear – that a US intervention in Somalia may only fuel the conflict and strengthen the resistance to the transitional government. While neighbours and US-allies like Kenya and Tanzania – victims of the 1998 bombings – have defended Washington’s right to intervene against al Qaeda in Somalia, they are uncomfortable about the possibilities of further radicalisation among Somalis.
Critics have been strongest from Europe, where many governments hold that Washington needs to better explain the legality of its intervention. Despite the total defeat of Somalia’s Islamists, European governments still hold that Somalia’s transitional authorities should negotiate a peaceful settlement with the Islamists.
Even assistant US Secretary of State Jendayi Frazer, in a weekend meeting with President Yusuf, had tried to propagate the European view in an open attempt of demonstrating that Washington now is not going solo. But President Yusuf made it clear to Ms Frazer that further negotiations with the Islamists “will not happen.”
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