For the typical American, the current Ethiopian invasion of Somalia is just another military operation taking place in a distant land in the war against Islamic terror. For Somalis, this invasion is nothing short of a humiliating catastrophe.
Last year, the Somali people allowed the Union of Islamic Courts to take power to help end the anarchy that resulted from a 15-year civil war in the battered country. Before then, brutal warlords, backed by the U.S. government and the Ethiopian government, had raped, plundered and occupied a terrified citizenry. The United States asserted, without evidence, that the Islamists were providing a safe haven for al-Qaeda terrorists. The Islamic government denied this.
But Ethiopian soldiers, supported by Somalia’s transitional government, recently routed the Islamists.
Ethiopia is a historical enemy of Somalia. Now, U.S. support of the Ethiopian invasion will only fan more hatred toward the United States.
The reason the Islamists rose to power in the Somali capital of Mogadishu in the first place was because the CIA covertly financed Somali warlords, channeling hundreds of thousands of dollars over the past year to them, according to news reports.
Many Somalis, who are not religious, saw their own safety and security improved under the rule of the Islamists. They were willing to give them sufficient time to clean the streets of guns and violence. After restoring law and order on the streets, the Islamists could have chosen to modernize, albeit slowly, some of their interpretations and the applications of Islamic Shariah law, which are already part of the Somali cultural value system.
A large number of Somalis living overseas were willing to return to Somalia and rebuild the country once peace and security were ensured.
But now, we are back to the old, ugly days where teenage boys toting AK-47s in the back of pickup trucks terrorize the local population.
Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, who has faced fierce opposition inside Ethiopia for allegedly rigging elections and arresting his critics, is using the invasion of Somalia to buttress his legitimacy as a leader who can defend Ethiopia against Islamic terrorism.
Internationally, he is positioning himself and his nation as a friend of the United States. As a result, that Bush administration was able to quickly push through the U.N. Security Council the dubious resolution giving Zenawi the green light to invade Somalia.
The U.N. resolution, adopted Dec. 6, authorizes a regional force from the Intergovernmental Authority on Development and the African Union to protect the weak transitional national government in Baidoa, Somalia, and provide training for its forces.
Since Zenawi now oversees Somalia, any peacekeeping force entering the country would have to have his seal of approval.
The Somali population is armed to the teeth, humiliated and angry. It will vent its anger not only against the occupying forces but also against those who brought the occupying forces into the country – the United States. Unless quickly defused, the situation in Somalia could turn into a killing field.
After more than a decade of civil war and amid a subcontinent torn by genocide in Rwanda and Sudan, the future of Somalia again looks grim – thanks, in part, to U.S. policy.
Amina Mire was born in Somalia and now lives in Ottawa, Canada. She wrote this for Progressive Media Project, a source of liberal commentary on domestic and international issues; it is affiliated with The Progressive magazine.