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Ethiopia and Somalia
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February 22, 2008                                                                 



                              Ethiopia and Somalia


As President Bush winds up his trip to Africa I am struck by the “Alice in Wonderland” quality of it all that has been largely overlooked in the media.  The President must be given great credit for the vastly higher AIDS funding that the US provides on the continent. 

A recent article entitled, “US Aid to Africa Buoys Bush Image There,” noted that developmental aid to Africa has tripled and AIDS funding has increased to $6 million annually under Bush.  The motivation has been partly due to altruism, but also an increasing recognition of the importance of the continent to national security and the economy. 

Despite this, I am still troubled that it took a conversation with former Tennessee Sen. Bill Frist early in his tenure as president before Bush realized the magnitude of the AIDS problem in Africa.  How can you get to be president without being aware of that?  I would also note that even though the two previous Democratic administrations never submitted a budget to the Congress with these funding levels, what was submitted was always resisted by Republicans who said that the amounts were too high.

Anyway, today an honest but shocking portrait of our African policy finally hit the mainstream media.  In a piece called, “US Policy in Africa Faulted on Priorities,” the Washington Post finally addressed in-depth some issues that many have been concerned about for quite some time.

In order to provide some background, let me digress.  Prior to the holiday season in 2006 the State Department’s senior officer in charge of African affairs appeared engaged diplomatically in the issues in the Horn of Africa.  The US was concerned about the rise of a conservative militia backed by a shadowy group called the Islamic Courts.

In November 2007, the US general commanding the newly-formed African Command visited Ethiopia to attend an African Union meeting.  At this time, the public faces of both the diplomatic and military wings of our government were urging caution and moderation on the question of any possible military intervention in Somalia.

Several weeks later however, Ethiopia invaded Somalia to prop up a UN created government that never had any legitimacy or power and sent the Islamists into the bush.  More than a year later, the Islamists appear to have the upper hand in a brutal insurgency.

Now we know that the our government’s words to the public were mere posturing; part of a carefully orchestrated plan, because US special forces rode into Somalia with the Ethiopian army.

In the past year over 6,000 Somalis have been killed and well over a half million displaced by the fighting.  Was all of this necessary?  Was the Islamic Courts movement so dangerous?

The Washington Post’s article notes that, “More than a year later, no high-level terrorism suspects have been killed or captured.”  Moreover, “…critics say that several less-than-democratic African leaders have skillfully played the anti-terrorism card to earn a relationship with the United States that has helped keep them in power.”

Somalia has been in ungovernable chaos for almost two decades.  Former President Bill Clinton deserves blame for some of this.  He cut short his nation building effort there when he folded to Republican criticism in the wake of the "black hawk down" incident.

Now, the US has repeatedly said that it believes that there are wanted terrorists within the Islamic Courts organization who have killed Americans but have offered no proof.  The indiscriminate bombing from US naval vessels during the invasion apparently missed them, if they were with the group’s leadership at all.

What do we know for sure about the conditions in Somalia?  The Islamists had brought  calm to a large part of Somalia in the short time that they had control.  This was the first period of relative tranquility in recent memory.  The airport and sea port of the nation’s capital opened for the first time in a decade.  The dreaded clan militias had been controlled or brought under their banner.

The Islamic Courts fighters were accused of a few instances of killing people for such things as continuing to show movies in theaters after they had been warned not to and killing  journalists reporting stories critical of them, similar to the Taliban.  These types of instances were few and some were unconfirmed.

We know for sure about the carnage and the hunger that has come in the wake of the US supported Ethiopian invasion.  Clan chaos and killing have resumed.  Killing of journalists continues, as well. 

We also know that the Ethiopian government killed dozens of opposition party members protesting a stolen vote during Ethiopia’s last election.  We also know that they have discriminated against the Somalis in the Ogaden region of their country; killing many innocent civilians in their professed hunt for insurgents that have more recently been labeled “terrorists” to impress the government's American benefactors.

All the while America, essentially, looks the other way.  Are they fighting in Somalia so that people can watch movies?  Or, are we discriminating against Muslims out of fear?

Once again, the US has caused mass suffering to others in their pursuit of its own “security” with absolutely no proof that they would cause us any harm.  We have chosen the immoral model used throughout the Cold War of “the ends justifies the means” in terms of choosing our allies.  In this circumstance, it is clear that America went out of its way to cause an unnecessary war.  How does God judge us in this?

How can we say that we are Christians who support democracy and freedom and at the same time encourage this policy in the Horn of Africa?  This also repeats the failed Israeli model of fighting terrorists: killing enough of them will ensure victory.  In other words, we have given birth to another Iraq.

Once again, we are seen as selfish hypocrites.  Manipulating people and situations for your own ends is reprehensible.  We should be trying to do the will of the righteous heart of God.



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