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Blaming Bush for Somalia

Martin Fletcher was feeling a terrible emptiness. With little more than a month left in George W. Bush’s presidency, opportunities to blame further global crises on the most accommodating scapegoat in history were growing thin. Then inspiration struck:

One other debacle should feature prominently . . .

I am referring to the Bush Administration’s intervention in Somalia in the name of the War on Terror. It has helped to destroy that wretched country’s best chance of peace in a generation, left more than a million Somalis dead, homeless or starving, and achieved the precise opposite of its original goal. Far from stamping out an Islamic militancy that scarcely existed, the intervention has turned Somalia into a breeding ground for Islamic extremists and given al-Qaeda a valuable foothold in the Horn of Africa.

It’s got all the hallmarks of a juicy self-righteous accusation against Bush: American military overreach, American ignorance, and dark-skinned victims. Best of all, it allows you to dust off that old treasured “breeding ground for Islamic extremists.” And the fact that this take is substantially wrong on the facts all but guarantees its longevity.

Fletcher writes that the U.S.-supported Ethiopian military effort against Somalia’s ruling Islamist Court government in 2006, “replaced what was, for all its faults, Somalia’s most effective government in memory with a deeply unpopular one led by former warlords . . .” Well, that all depends on your definition of effective. Here’s a 2006 story on Fletcher’s favorite Somali government:

On Friday, around 20 Islamic militiamen raided a wedding party in Mogadishu, flogged a woman and confiscated musical instruments as they enforced a ban on band music in public ceremonies.

On Wednesday, a senior cleric announced that any Somali Muslim who failed to perform daily prayers would be killed.

Gunmen shot and killed two people in central Somalia early this week while quelling a protest against a ban on watching the soccer World Cup at a local cinema.

Effective, no?

And as for the “Islamic militancy that scarcely existed”: that’s the same non-existent entity that helped Somalis kill eighteen American soldiers in the Battle of Mogadishu way back in 1993. If Fletcher is looking to blame an American president for letting violent Islamism fester in Somalia, he can start with Bill Clinton, who pulled out our dispirited forces with no plan to revisit the troubled region. Here’s how none other than Osama bin Laden characterized the significance of Clinton’s Mogadishu disaster:

As I said, our boys were shocked by the low morale of the American soldier and they realized that the American soldier was just a paper tiger. He was unable to endure the strikes that were dealt to his army, so he fled, and America had to stop all its bragging and all that noise it was making in the press after the Gulf War in which it destroyed the infrastructure and the milk and dairy industry that was vital for the infants and the children and the civilians and blew up dams which were necessary for the crops people grew to feed their families. Proud of this destruction, America assumed the titles of world leader and master of the new world order. After a few blows, it forgot all about those titles and rushed out of Somalia in shame and disgrace, dragging the bodies of its soldiers. America stopped calling itself world leader and master of the new world order, and its politicians realized that those titles were too big for them and that they were unworthy of them. I was in Sudan when this happened. I was very happy to learn of that great defeat that America suffered, so was every Muslim. …

You think that might have had an emboldening effect on Islamists and al Qaeda associates over the next few years?



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