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Fri

23

Mar

2007

Getting Away With It: Rendition and Regime Change in Somalia
Friday, 23 March 2007 17:53
by Chris Floyd

Yesterday we wrote of the plight of a U.S. citizen who had fled the fighti ng during the Bush-backed invasion of Somalia only to find himself "renditioned" into the sinister prisons of the Ethiopian invaders -- despite the fact that U.S. officials declared that there were no charges against him. (See the second half of that post.)

Now The Independent reports that Amir Meshal -- the 24-year-old New Jersey man renditioned by U.S. officials because he refused to confess to being an al Qaeda agent -- is not alone in being subjected to the lawless procedure so beloved by the defenders of civilization. (For an early example of this, which also involved Somalia, see Render Unto Caesar.)

Anger at US 'rendition' of refugees who fled Somalia (Independent)
Excerpts: At least 150 people arrested in Kenya after fleeing violence in Somalia have been secretly flown to Somalia and Ethiopia, where they are being held incommunicado in underground prisons, human rights groups say...

Several of the suspects are understood to be held in underground prisons at Mogadishu airport where they are held shackled to the wall. Most have since been sent on to two detention facilities in Addis Ababa. Ethiopia has been accused of routinely torturing political prisoners. A further 50 or 60 people accused of belonging to Ethiopian rebel groups fighting alongside Somalia's Union of Islamic Courts were sent directly to Ethiopia....

The suspects deported from Kenya were interrogated beforehand by American FBI officials in Kenyan prisons, where they were accused of having links with al-Qa'ida. "This is extraordinary rendition," said Maini Kiai, chairman of the Kenya National Human Rights Commission. "Britain and America are involved in interrogating suspects."

Following the US-backed invasion of Somalia by Ethiopian troops, thousands of Somalis have tried to escape the violence by crossing the long, porous border with Kenya. Many of those caught on the Kenya-Somalia border were accused of belonging to the Islamic Courts and refused entry.

At least 150 of those who managed to get through were detained by Kenyan police, including 17 women and 12 children, one a baby of seven months. Many needed medical attention but did not receive it, including a pregnant Tunisian woman who had a bullet lodged in her back.

All were held in Kenyan prisons for several weeks without access to lawyers and family members. As well as being interrogated by the FBI, human rights groups in Nairobi also claimed British officials were involved.

"The Americans had direct access to the prisoners, one on one," said Al-Amin Kimathi of the Muslim Human Rights Forum, adding that US diplomatic vehicles carried the suspects from Nairobi police stations to be questioned. "Senior Kenyan police officers told us they had nothing to do with the operation," said Mr Kimathi. "It was out of their hands."

The US has claimed that Somalia's Islamic Courts, which controlled much of the country until December, was run by an al-Qa'ida cell. Ethiopian troops, backed by US intelligence and logistical support, overpowered the Islamic Courts within a few days of fighting at the end of last year.

This latter claim is baseless. It is simply a reflection of the Bush gang's primitive tactic of labeling any inconvenient Muslim group or individual as "al Qaeda," which then "justifies" any action taken against them: military invasion, assassination, rendition, indefinite detention, torture.

It's clear that no nation on earth will be allowed to organize its own society as it wishes, or work out its own internal conflicts, if the American elite decides they have some financial or strategic interest in the matter. The only nations immune to this power-mad interventionist philosophy are those who can strike back hard enough to upset the elite's apple cart. And thus we have Bush's "war on terror" -- which is, as we've often noted, simply an escalation of the long-running, bipartisan foreign policy of the "National Security State" that has ruled America for 60 years.

This year marks the anniversary of this coup d'etat: the 1947 "National Security Act." Writing on the 50th anniversary of this supplanting of the Republic, Gore Vidal wrote:

Fifty years ago, Harry Truman replaced the old republic with a national-security state whose sole purpose is to wage perpetual wars, hot, cold, and tepid. Exact date of replacement? February 27, 1947. Place: The White House Cabinet Room. Cast: Truman, Undersecretary of State Dean Acheson, a handful of congressional leaders. Republican senator Arthur Vandenberg told Truman that he could have his militarized economy only IF he first "scared the hell out of the American people" that the Russians were coming. Truman obliged. The perpetual war began. Representative government of, by, and for the people is now a faded memory. Only corporate America enjoys representation by the Congress and presidents that it pays for in an arrangement where no one is entirely accountable because those who have bought the government also own the media. Now, with the revolt of the Praetorian Guard at the Pentagon, we are entering a new and dangerous phase. Although we regularly stigmatize other societies as rogue states, we ourselves have become the largest rogue state of all. We honor no treaties. We spurn international courts. We strike unilaterally wherever we choose. We give orders to the United Nations but do not pay our dues...we bomb, invade, subvert other states. Although We the People of the United States are the sole source of legitimate authority in this land, we are no longer represented in Congress Assembled. Our Congress has been hijacked by corporate America and its enforcer, the imperial military machine..."

Obviously, the situation that Vidal describes didn't begin with the illegal implantation of the Bush Regime by the rightwing faction of the Supreme Court (two of whom had family members profiting from the Bush campaign) in December 2000. It has gone on for decades, under "liberal" Democrats and "conservative" Republicans. But it has reached a new pitch of intensity, audacity and recklessness today.

Somalia might seem an odd choice for "the path of action" -- the Hitlerian phrase that Bush incorporated into the official "National Security Strategy of the United States" in formalizing the doctrine of "preventive" -- i.e., aggressive -- war. (It was also then that he declared that his version of corrupt crony capitalism to be the "single sustainable model of national success.") But as "blaqfather," a commentor on the previous points out, before Somalia collapsed into anarchy in 1991, it was being actively explored by major oil companies: "A World Bank and U.N. survey that year of eight northeastern African countries' petroleum potential ranked Somalia second only to Sudan as the top prospective commercial producer. Northern Somalia lay within a regional oil window reaching south across the Gulf of Aden, the geologists said." So Somalia's affairs are not entirely without interest to a Washington regime populated by professional oilmen.

What's more, Somalia's geographic location gives it heightened importance in the Bush Regime's strategy to control the Horn of Africa and dominate the continent's ever-more-vital oil supplies. The Pentagon recently set up its first-ever "African Command," adding it to the string of regions under the command of a military proconsul. (Bush has also created the first such satrapy covering the United States itself, which has never before been the subject -- the target? -- of a military "command.")

And finally, Somalia was "doable." You can crush it without cost, squash it like a fly, and not only do it on the cheap -- with Ethiopian troops and local warlords serving as your proxies -- you can do it without notice. The entire Somalian campaign -- and America's very extensive involvement in it -- has passed virtually unremarked in the U.S. media, and plays no part at all on the national political scene. It is simply a non-event, something happening far away to a bunch of darkies -- Muslim darkies, on top of that -- so who cares? It's not even worth a joke by Leno or Letterman.

But "doability" is a major factor in the "War on Terror" strategy. The Bush gang thought Iraq was "doable," as the BBC's John Simpson noted in 2006:

It was a few weeks before the invasion of Iraq, three years ago. I was interviewing the Saudi Foreign Minister, Prince Saud al-Faisal, in the ballroom of a big hotel in Cairo...he described to me all the disasters he was certain would follow the invasion. The US and British troops would be bogged down in Iraq for years. There would be civil war between Sunnis and Shias. The real beneficiary would be the government in Iran.

"And what do the Americans say when you tell them this," I asked? "They don't even listen," he said.

... I asked him why he thought the US was determined to invade Iraq.

He said he had put the same question to Vice-President Dick Cheney. Mr Cheney had replied: "Because it's doable."

The Bushists were wrong about Iraq, of course, because they are stupid, arrogant, third-rate characters, blinded by their greed and by the ignorant prejudices that boil up in their "guts," which Bush cites so often as his guide. But Cheney's remark is a perfect expression of their approach, which is the way of the coward and the bully, who only beat up people who can't hit back.

That is doubtless the only thing delaying the attack on Iran for which they have openly prepared: they're trying to figure out, with their crabbed little minds, if they can get away with it with all their apple carts intact. Anyone not blinded by greed or drunk on imperial arrogance knows that such an attack will be a costly, ghastly moral horror and a vast strategic mistake. But then, that was also the case with the attack on Iraq, which millions of people across the world marched against, in an outpouring for peace never seen before in human history. But the Bushists -- and their drunken sycophants in the American political and media establishments -- were still stupid enough to pull the trigger. And although some of those Establishment figures have sobered up a bit since then, why should we think that the Bushists themselves -- who rejected the wan Establishment attempts to rein in the Iraq war and instead "surged" into an escalation -- are any smarter now?

Meanwhile, they have slaked their constant craving for "regime change" with this little "do-able" appetizer in Somalia. And they have gotten away with it.
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