Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Hate And War

I figure Vincenzo Browne was drunk when he wrote most of today's column. Speaking of the crazy Islamists who controlled Somalia until the Ethiopians went in he says '[w]hile there were human rights abuses perpetrated by the Islamic Courts Union militia, for the first time in over a decade there was a semblance of peace and order in Somalia and, in particular, in Mogadishu...'. Glossy...
"IRELAND'S FOREMOST foreign ally, the US, is bombing towns in southern
Somalia, killing civilians, obliterating homes and driving thousands of people
into refugee camps. No war has been declared on Somalia. No United Nations
Security Council resolution has authorised military action against Somalia. No
justification for these actions has been offered by the US administration, save
for the generalised "cover" of the "war on terror".

Last Sunday, two towns in southern Somalia were bombed by the US. The
US has confirmed responsibility for several airstrikes on Somalia over the last
few months in which more than 100 civilians have been killed. But aside from
these military excursions, the US has backed a neighbouring state in its
invasion of Somalia and has aided and abetted actions of the army of this
neighbouring country, characterised as "war crimes" by human rights

The neighbouring country is Ethiopia, which invaded Somalia in December
2006, backed up by the US with military assistance and military intelligence.
Thousands of Ethiopian troops remain in Somalia.

Just last week, Amnesty International issued a report on Somalia
documenting atrocities against Somali civilians by Ethiopian troops and troops
of the Somali "government"ie, the faction recognised by the US as the
government. The report includes interviews with Somali refugees who describe
Ethiopian and "government" troops routinely slitting the throats of civilians,
carrying out gang rapes, conducting house-to-house searches in Mogadishu and
summarily killing residents, and blasting entire neighbourhoods suspected of
being sympathetic to Islamic insurgents.

The report states: "There is a dire human rights situation in southern
and central Somalia, which has largely contributed to the current humanitarian
emergency. One million Somalis are internally displaced; hundreds of thousands
are newly displaced refugees; journalists and human rights defenders fear each
day for their lives and many are fleeing the country, some 6,000 civilians were
killed in attacks in 2007 and the entire population of Mogadishu carries the
scars of having witnessed or experienced egregious violations of human rights
and international humanitarian law. In addition, all parties to the conflict
have committed human rights violations or abuses, which included unlawful
killings, extrajudicial executions, torture and other ill-treatment, including
rape and beatings, arbitrary detention and enforced disappearances."

The US has a special responsibility for what has happened. The former
dictator of Somalia, Said Barre, who came to power in 1976, first sided with the
Soviet Union in the cold war, but then switched support to the US. However, with
the end of the cold war in 1990, US support vanished and Barre was overthrown by
warlords, who, since then, have ravaged the country and were the major
contributory factor to a famine that cost the lives of hundreds of thousands of

In December 1992, the US intervened, sending troops into Somalia to
create a secure environment, mainly to take on the warlords. But in response to
the killings of US troops and the infamous "Black Hawk Down" incident, president
Clinton withdrew troops in 1993. Since 9/11, the US has supported the very
warlords US troops targeted in 1992/93. This has been mainly due to apprehension
that al-Qaeda had secured a base in Somalia and that an organisation known as
the Islamic Courts Union was gradually assuming control of the country, seeking
to institute Islamic law.

While there were human rights abuses perpetrated by the Islamic Courts
Union militia, for the first time in over a decade there was a semblance of
peace and order in Somalia and, in particular, in Mogadishu in 1996. But then
Ethiopian troops intervened, partly arising from a civil war in Ethiopia but
mainly to support those warlords that opposed the Islamic Courts Union. This
initiative was supported by the US, which gave air support and special ground

Amnesty International reported there was a marked increase in
executions of civilians by Ethiopian troops in the last two months of 2007.
Amnesty said it obtained numerous reports of killings by Ethiopian troops in
which Somali civilians were, according to witnesses, "slaughtered like

This is significant for Ireland for two reasons. One is whether Shannon
airport is being used to facilitate this slaughter. This may be unlikely for
there are no US troops on the ground in Somalia and the bombing by US aircraft
is probably undertaken by aircraft from carriers in the Red Sea or Indian Ocean.
But nonetheless, it would be reassuring to know that Ireland was in no way
facilitating these alleged war crimes.

The second is that the Lisbon Treaty attempts, in my view, to tie us
into a war on terror in a way that never previously arose. While Ireland's
involvement in this war could be vetoed by the government of the day, the panic
of the current Government that the electorate might take a stance on the treaty
that would annoy our allies, suggests that if it were put up to then, the
Government would balk at opting out of "the war on terror". And then of course
we already have signed up to that war via Shannon."
I figure the last drink kicked in before he wrote the final two paragraphs.
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