Bush Names Somalis "Terrorists"
- Painting terrorists in Somalia
by Bill Fletcher Jr. (FinalCall)
The Bush administration, as it has done in other parts of the world
selectively chooses when to classify an insurgency or resistance as
terrorist-based almost solely according to whether the target of the
insurgency/ resistance is a friend of the Bush administration.
Bush's so-called war against terrorism entered a further, cynical
stage with the recent classification of a Somali group as alleged
"terrorists." Al Shabab, the military wing of the Union of Islamic
Courts, was declared by the State Department to be a terrorist
organization. The Bush administration claims that some members of Al
Shabab are affiliated with al-Qaeda.
In order to understand the cynicism of this move it is important to
remember that Somalia was a basket case for over a decade after the
overthrow of dictator Siad Barre. Filled with clan-based warlords, the
country had no stable government. An international attempt to forge a
transitional national government resulted in no further stability or
end to the violence.
The rise of a right-wing Islamist group known as the Union of Islamic
Courts, however, brought about a period of relative stability and
internal peace. While the group was and is ultra-conservative in many
of its tenets, it was successful in crushing or co-opting many of the
warlords. Further, it was an indigenous group to Somalia and not an
arm of another country or an external social movement.
Using the pretext of an alleged, and unproven, connection between the
Union of Islamic Courts and Al Qaeda, Ethiopian troopsencouraged and
backed by the Bush administrationinvaded Somalia in 2006 with the
stated objective of supporting the Transitional National Government,
an institution that was on its last legs, and had little support
within the population. Though the Ethiopians defeated the Union of
Islamic Courts in formal battle, the situation in Somalia devolved
into guerrilla war and chaos. The situation has been going downhill
Al Shabab, whether one supports it or not, is an armed resistance
movement. It has been carrying out military actions against troops of
the country that invaded Somalia. One does not have to support the
Union of Islamic Courts or the actions of Al Shabab to recognize that
a people have a right to oust those who invade their land.
The Bush administration's action in classifying Al Shabab as
"terrorists" further complicates an already difficult situation. As
opposed to recognizing that Al Shabab is the military wing of a
legitimate movement, classifying them as alleged terrorists makes
efforts towards a political resolution of the conflict unlikely, if
not nearly impossible, just as has happened in Iraq. One does not have
to like Al Shabab, or agree with its objectives, as long as it can be
demonstrated on the ground that this is a movement that has a real
constituency and is militarily confronting an occupying army.
The Bush administration, as it has done in other parts of the world,
e.g., in Turkey with the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), in the
Philippines with the Communist Party of the Philippines (and their New
People's Army), selectively chooses when to classify an insurgency or
resistance as terrorist-based almost solely according to whether the
target of the insurgency/resistance is a friend of the Bush
administration. In the case of Somalia, the Ethiopians are doing the
bidding of the Bush administration as well as serving their own
There is another piece to this which is worth noting. Throwing around
the label of 'terrorist' is also aimed at suppressing dissent here at
home in the USA. Whether one is a Somali, Somali American, or simply
someone who supports Somalia's right to national self-determination,
the label of terrorist has a chilling effect on one's willingness to
speak out. As witnessed during the Cold War with the manner in which
the charge of "communist sympathizer" was used to suppress dissent,
the suggestion that someone is either soft on terrorism or, worse,
aiding and abetting an alleged terrorist group shuts down all
So, let's be clear: the Bush administration is not interested in
reasonable discussion. We, however, should be, so we need to push back
against this latest outrage.
--Bill Fletcher, Jr. is a senior scholar with the Institute for Policy
Studies and the immediate past president of TransAfrica Forum. He can
be reached at papaq54 @ hotmail.com. This column was distributed by
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