Saturday, March 31, 2007

Somali Diaspora Network issues urgent appeal

Attached in pdf format (click here to download and read) is a media release just published by the Somali Diaspora Network, a cross-ethnic group of young Somalis in the U.S. concerned by the unfolding tragedy in Somalia that I know you're familiar with. The members of this group are especially concerned that news coverage of recent events has given an inaccurate picture of the serious harm done to the Somali people by Ethiopia's massive and unprovoked invasion of their country, an intervention encouraged by the U.S. government ostensibly for purposes of capturing dangerous Islamist "radicals." Hundreds of innocent Somalis have died, many more have been wounded or displaced, and efforts by Somalis to bring long-sought peace and stability to their country have been seriously undermined as a consequence of Ethiopia's actions

It happens that a number of the network's leaders and members are good friends of mine, and many are U.S. citizens. As a former U.S. ambassador to Somalia, I highly regard their integrity and applaud their effort to shed light objectively on recent events in their homeland, irrespective of their own clan affiliations. I sincerely hope you will take a close look at their release and give it the thoughtful consideration it deserves.
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Friday, March 23, 2007

Repeating Our Mistakes in Somalia

I had occasion three days ago to deliver a lecture on Somalia to faculty and students at a small Christian college in North Carolina. The timing couldn't have been better, since recent ugly events in the news served to make my points very clear: (1) the U.S. is making the same mistakes it made in Somalia twelve years ago, when our attempt to be helpful ended in tragedy and humiliation; (2) our efforts this time around have already set back what progress the Somalis themselves had made in overcoming clan enmities and patching their nation back together since we bugged out in 1994; and (3) if we continue to blunder as we have since the first of the year, treating Somalia as a battlefront in our so-called War on Terror, we may well find ourselves sucked back into a problem we can't and don't know how to solve.

In posting my overly long text here, I invite you to browse through it but to pay particular attention to the latter third or so. I hate to claim satisfaction from any supposed "insights," but I believe I've pinpointed some of the reasons why things have turned ugly — and unfriendly toward the U.S. — all over again.

The 2007 Graham A. Barden Lecture
Campbell University — Buies Creek, North Carolina
March 20. 2007
Repeating Our Mistakes in Somalia

I’m pleased to have the opportunity to talk with you this evening about America’s relations with Somalia, a country that’s managed to find its way back into the news headlines recently. Just two weeks ago today, after fifteen years of virtual anarchy, a wobbly “transitional” government was finally installed in the Somali capital, Mogadishu. Curiously, it was put in place by Ethiopian military forces backed by the United States, both countries claiming that Somalia was in danger of falling into the hands of Islamic radicals. And indeed, the Ethiopian invaders had ousted a band of Islamic clerics as they marched into Mogadishu. Shortly afterward, the first elements of an eventual 8,000-man African Union peacekeeping force began arriving from Uganda, empowered by the U.N. Security Council to replace the Ethiopians, train a new national security force, and keep the lid on until the government gets its feet securely planted.

Sounds auspicious, doesn’t it? Some good news at last from Somalia. But whether these latest efforts to resurrect the Somali nation-state will succeed is, to say the very least, uncertain. And what the U.S. should do — or should not do — to move this process along is even more problematic. Personally, I believe we’ve set out on a dangerous path, forgetting lessons we should have learned when our Black Hawk helicopters went down in Mogadishu fourteen years ago. As you’ll see, I think we made matters worse rather than better when we tried to be helpful in Somalia last time, and I’m worried that we’re repeating our mistakes — even compounding them — this time. . . .

As you may be aware, I spent three years in Somalia just before retiring from the foreign service in 1990. Those were fascinating times — challenging, sometimes harrowing, but very satisfying overall, both professionally and personally. But Somalia was no bed of roses. It’s a harsh country, mostly hot, dry, windy and rocky—a lot like the Arizona desert where I grew up. Its people can be harsh too, but you always knew where you stood with them. They’re bold, handsome, proudly independent — and egalitarian, even to a fault. When I traveled around the country — which by the way, I was able to do then, without bodyguards or armed escorts — and stopped to talk to local officials or clan elders, my Somali driver Shariff thought nothing of walking in uninvited, sitting down, and joining in my conversations, often making interesting comments of his own.

If you saw the movie “Black Hawk Down,” you’re likely to have a very different impression of Somalis from mine. But almost all Somalis I met deeply admired America and Americans. Here’s one of my favorite recollections:

• It’s the 4th of July, during our last year in Somalia. Several hundred guests — Somalis from all walks of life, and practically every member of the government — have come to the American embassy to join us celebrating the inauguration of a beautiful new chancery building. The highlight of the ceremony is, believe it or not, a lengthy poem — Somalis take great pride in their rich tradition of oral literature, passed along in the style of Homer from one generation to another. This, however, was to be a brand-new poem, composed for us by one of the country’s rock-star calibre woman poets. It was almost shamefully flattering of America and Americans. It even compared our new hi-tech building, with its bright lights, sparkling windows, shining floors, and blinking electronic systems, to our Apollo moon-landing achievements.

• Picture the scene with me: a clear, star-filled sky in the embassy courtyard, a soft wind blowing off the Indian Ocean, this beautiful young poet, dressed in a flowing red gown that fluttered in the breeze, reciting her extraordinary poem from memory . . . and the crowd roaring its approval at the end of every verse.

So you can imagine how heartbreaking it was for me to see on television, less than three years later, how this very same embassy courtyard had become a scene of devastation and deadly conflict between American soldiers and angry Somali mobs. Shouldn’t my staff and I have seen this coming? Shouldn’t we have prevented it somehow? Well, in fact we did see it coming, and we tried to prevent it. But we were unsuccessful, and I believe I know why.

First, though, let’s recall what happened to turn our relations so bitter:

Just eighteen months after our beautiful embassy ceremony, Somali’s aging dictator, General Mohamed Siad Barre, lost his grip on power and was overthrown, literally dragged from his presidential palace by his own fleeing supporters, after running the country with an iron fist for almost twenty-five years,. The U.S. had been remarkably close to General Siad and his army during the 1980s. My embassy had been in charge of the largest U.S. military aid program in Africa. And in exchange, our armed forces were able to make use of Somali military bases and ports that were important to us for Cold War strategic reasons.

By 1990, however, we could see that Siad Barre’s days were numbered. His government had lost almost all popular support and was steadily rotting from the inside out. His army was unable to suppress the insurgent movements popping up around the country. His brutal treatment of opponents became an embarrassment. We fully expected his regime to collapse, and we had already closed our aid pipeline and sharply reduced our embassy staff. To be brutally frank, with the end of the Cold War, we no longer needed the dictator’s cooperation or access to Somali military facilities. So it made sense to Washington that we distance ourselves from him and hope we could work with his successor, whoever that might be.

And mind you, while these moves President Siad unhappy, they were very popular with the Somali people, who seemed unanimously hopeful that without our support he would fall. What we didn’t anticipate, however, nor I suspect did the Somalis, was how violent and bloody the struggle for power would be when the dictator fell. To be sure, it was a struggle that Siad Barre had largely brought upon himself by playing one clan family against another, but it soon grew into a full-fledged civil war that was not so different from our own. Mogadishu itself was practically destroyed, as rival clan militia sought to take control. Thousands were killed in the crossfire. Hospitals were quickly overwhelmed and medical supplies were soon exhausted. Fighting ravaged the countryside as well, destroying food stocks and decimating herds of livestock. Hundreds of thousands soon faced starvation.

With American encouragement, the U.N. Security Council took steps to curb the fighting, and blue-helmeted peacekeeping forces were flown in, but they were far too few in number to cope with the jealousies and hatreds that had erupted. Before long, television screens in this country became filled with ghastly images of suffering and deprivation.

God bless Americans — those images touched our hearts, and cries arose for our government to “do something” to rescue the starving Somalis. Evidently, the scenes of tragedy even touched the broken heart of poor George Bush—George H. W. Bush, that is—who had just suffered a stinging rebuff by the American people in the 1992 elections. Before leaving office, President Bush launched “Operation Restore Hope”, an unprecedented mercy mission into Somalia led by 30,000 combined U.S. military forces that pushed aside the warring clan militias, broke open the roadblocks they had put up, and cleared the way for relief agency trucks to deliver food, medicine and other supplies to the civil war’s innocent victims.

I had retired and left the government by then, but I was able to return to Mogadishu on the eve of our forces’ arrival, as a consultant to ABC’s “Nightline” news, and to witness their spectacular landing and deployment. Throngs of grateful Somalis danced in the city’s streets and crowded the airport runways to welcome the amazed soldiers. The crowds were so thick, in fact, that crowd control became the troops’ first military challenge. It was one of the proudest moments of my life.

MISTAKE ONE: Trying to “fix” problems we don’t understand

During the next four months, our troops restored a great deal of hope in Somalia. Thousands of weapons were confiscated from fighters. Hundreds of miles of roads were reopened, cleared of mines, and bridges rebuilt by Army engineers. With relief organizations now able to operate in most of the country, medical facilities were reopened and mass starvation was averted. A safe guess is that over a half-million Somali lives were saved. Logically, it was now time for our troops to hand over responsibilities to someone else and come home.
Unfortunately, no one had given much thought to just how or with whom this hand-over would be arranged, in a country with no government at all. The bitter clan rivalries that were at the heart of the civil war had been momentarily swept aside to make way for the relief convoys, but they had certainly not been resolved. Most of us assumed that the U.N. would now take charge, perhaps with a token U.S. military force remaining to back up a refortified U.N. peacekeeping contingent.

However, the new Clinton administration, just then taking office in Washington, rightly suspected it was being handed a hot potato. In its view, Operation Restore Hope amounted to little more than a “band-aid.” Nothing had been done to correct what it perceived to be the “root problems” of clan mistrust and jealousies. With U.S. troops removed, they asked, what was to prevent the conflict from breaking out all over again, with yet another round of misery in its wake?

MISTAKE TWO: Trying to “rescue” Somalia with made-in-USA solutions

After intense behind-the-scenes negotiations, the new Secretary of State, Madelaine Albright, and U.N. Secretary General Boutros Ghali agreed on a plan to return responsibility to the U.N., but also give the United States a major voice in the operation. Instead of merely turning back the clock, the new UN peacekeeping force would be significantly larger, more “robust,” and authorized to use force as needed to impose order. Its commander would be a military officer on loan from the U.S. Navy, Admiral Jonathan Howe; his staff would include military and civilian specialists, mainly from the U.S., whose job would be to coax and prod the Somalis into forming a new democratic national governmental; and his resources would include an American rapid reaction force that would be posted just over the horizon, to be deployed in case matters got out of hand.

MISTAKE THREE: Taking sides in someone else’s dogfight

In fact, matters got out of hand rather quickly after the hand-over, when Pakistani members of the new UN force were sent to take possession of a major weapons cache controlled by General Mohamed Farah Aidiid, the most powerful of the clan warlords in Mogadishu. Gen. Aidiid’s forces objected strenuously, fierce fighting ensued, and some two dozen Pakistani troops (plus an unknown number of Aidiid loyalists) were killed. Admiral Howe was furious, as was Washington, and American troops responded by attacking sites controlled by Aidiid’s followers. One of these was a two-story residence where General Aidiid was believed to be meeting with his lieutenants. U.S. helicopter gunships virtually tore the house apart in two successive waves, the first killing scores of Somali men, and the second, numbers of women and children who had rushed to the scene. Aidiid, however, was not among them. In fact, intelligence later revealed that those present at the meeting were elders of Aidiid’s clan who, ironically, had gathered to discuss ways of restraining their warlord and making peace with the Americans.

MISTAKE FOUR: Applying force when conciliation was needed

Now it was the Somalis who were furious. Admiral Howe placed a sizeable bounty on Aidiid’s head, but it was never collected. Instead, crowds grew increasingly hostile toward foreigners, and incidents involving U.S. troops grew more frequent and intense, culminating in the now-famous “Black Hawk Down” incident that cost the lives of 18 American soldiers and left seventy-three wounded. Upwards of one thousand Somalis were killed in that same battle.
Americans were again horrified by TV images from Somalia, but this time it was by video footage of angry Somali mobs dragging bodies of American soldiers through the streets of Mogadishu. Upset that matters had gotten out of hand and might grow worse, President Clinton immediately ordered a halt to all U.S. military operations against Aidiid and promised to remove all U.S. troops quickly. Five months later, all were gone.

Three lessons we should have learned

Our disastrous experience in Somalia sixteen years ago had serious reverberations on U.S. foreign policy through the rest of the Clinton administration, causing the president to shy away from engaging U.S. troops in Third World conflicts anywhere. Most notably, it discouraged our leadership from becoming involved in the Rwandan genocide that was unfolding just as our troops were returning home from Somalia.

But there were more mundane lessons that we should have drawn from our Somalia experience, lessons that might have prepared us to deal more effectively with future “failed state” crises—lessons that might even have helped if, God forbid, we found ourselves back in Somalia again. Here is my own personal short list:

  1. Don't take sides in someone else’s dogfight. We were even-handed enough when our troops were clearing the way for food convoys. But when we undertook to “level the playing field,” we picked a fight with the bully on the block and made a national hero of him.
  2. Don't try to "rescue" Somalia with made-in-USA solutions. It is not helpful to Somalis when we press them to adopt American-style multiparty elections and free markets. Somalis need to rediscover and update the traditional systems that served them well enough for a thousand years.
  3. Don’t try to solve problems force, when conciliation is called for. Resist the temptation to throw armed "peacekeepers" at every problem. Instead of weapons, offer mediators, conciliators, brokers. Get Somalis talking to each other again, in traditional “palaver” style.
* * * * *
Several months ago, when I first conceived of this little sermonette, I gave it a working title: “Learning from our Mistakes in Somalia” and intended to conclude here. Since then, with the flurry of new activity in Somalia and new headlines about U.S. involvement in the region, my sermon has grown longer (I’m sorry to say), but I’ve come to realize that the Nine-Eleven tragedy in New York had somehow “changed” Somalia, so that — in the eyes of some, anyway — the old lessons no longer apply. Instead, terrorism experts have rediscovered Somalia as a potential hiding place, even a possible training ground for international terrorists. And when it was learned that two or three persons implicated in the 1998 bombings of our embassies in Kenya and Tanzania were reportedly hiding somewhere in Somalia, analysts became more excited than ever: the ungoverned Somali deserts had become the perfect battleground for our War on Terror.

In 2002, the Pentagon became so concerned about Somalia’s potential that it quietly established a small military base in neighboring Djibouti to serve as headquarters for a new Horn of African anti-terror task force. Some 1,500 U.S. civilian and military intelligence personnel are now assigned there, and a new five-year lease just signed will permit expanding the operation to six times its present size.

Among the activities that our personnel in Djibouti conduct “downrange,” as they say, is one that involves helicoptering into Somali villages and offering cash rewards for information on anyone suspected of harboring terrorists or preaching a “radical” brand of Islam. Just imagine the damaging effect this “finger-thy-neighbor” campaign has had on efforts of Somalis themselves to overcome the deep-set suspicions they have of each other — the very “root problem” that was blamed twelve years ago for the country’s civil war. One outstanding Somali peacemaker, a former colleague and friend of mine, was coldly murdered by masked gunmen in front of his wife and family eighteen months ago as a consequence of this project.

Another, even more flagrant example of ignoring the lessons of our past mistakes cropped up in the news just a few months ago:
• A group of determined Islamic clerics in Mogadishu had organized a militia that successfully trounced and ousted the clan warlords who’d been robbing and terrorizing the city’s inhabitants for a decade. Somalis at home and abroad were cautiously applauding these audacious clerics for bringing law and order to the capital city. Then it was learned that the very same ousted warlords had formed a so-called “Alliance for the Restoration of Peace and Counter-Terrorism” and had secured backing from the U.S. Defense department and C.I.A. to retake the city and drive out the clerics’ militia. This unbelievable “alliance” failed in its mission, and the warlords were again sent packing, while the Islamic clerics not only maintained their hold on Mogadishu but began to expand their sphere of influence beyond the capital.

How, I asked myself, could the Pentagon—burned so badly before by taking sides in Somali clan disputes—have repeated their mistake by backing the very warlords who had burned them before? And how had the CIA been conned into joining such a foolish enterprise?

I was still puzzling over this behind-the-scenes foolishness when, just before Christmas, an even bigger bombshell dropped and brought Somalia the front-page news attention I spoke of at the beginning of my talk:
• Somalia’s next-door neighbor and age-old enemy, Ethiopia—with explicit and very public United States approval and support — sent a major combat force across the border into Somalia for the purpose of rescuing a fragile new government that had lately set itself up in the town of Baidoa, close to the Ethiopian border. With the support of U.S. C-130 gunships launched from inside Ethiopia, it took the invading force only three days to blast its way across the country to Mogadishu, chase away the Islamic clerics once again, and plant the new government’s prime minister and his cabinet in their places.

“Wow!” I thought to myself. “Organizing a comic-opera coalition of warlords to track down a few terrorists was one thing; organizing a full-fledged, heavily armed, and distinctly Christian invading force to save Somalia from Muslim radicals was quite another!” Trust me, it immediately brought to mind our disastrous Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba in 1961.

(Now before I conclude and invite your questions, let me say a brief word about this “transitional” Federal Government that the Ethiopians have just propped up in Mogadishu with our help, because its beginning was hopeful and, if all goes well, it may yet turn out to be a good thing. It was formed two years ago in Nairobi, Kenya by a large congregation of rival Somali warlords, political leaders, and clan elders, after many months of acrimonious bargaining and occasional fist fights. Sponsored by the U.N. and generously supported by the Kenyan government, the birthing process was nothing if not democratic. But the outcome was flawed because those elected to office couldn’t agree on where and how to set up shop in Somalia’s dangerous environment. So it sat for over a year, stymied and powerless, in far-away Nairobi. The U.S. has never recognized this “transitional” government and it appeared to take interest in it only with the rise of the Islamic clerics’ movement in Mogadishu six months ago.)

Which brings us back to the Ethiopian invasion of Somalia in December, which the U.S. supported:
• Once again, the justification was our worldwide “War on Terror” and the supposed threat to American interests posed by the movement’s Islamist “radicals.” This time, however, the devastating firepower of our airborne gunships was aimed directly at Somalis — remnants of the clerics’ rag-tag army that had been outgunned and overwhelmed by the Ethiopian invaders and were overtaken by the C-130 gunships as they fled toward the Kenyan border. Those lucky enough to escape our airborne assault were intercepted and interrogated by Kenyan border police—with the encouragement of officials in our embassy in Nairobi. Most have since been forced back across the border, and many — in violation of international laws protecting refugees — have been turned over to the new government’s police. At least one, as it turns out, a U.S. citizen named Amir Mohamed Meshan, is now imprisoned in Ethiopia.

Not all the clerics’ militant supporters fled, however. During the past four weeks, the newly installed government has faced a storm of opposition from armed insurgents inside Mogadishu itself that even its Ethiopian sponsors have been unable to suppress. And already, the African Union’s peacekeeping forces that are now arriving to replace the Ethiopians have run into armed assaults from followers of the defeated Islamic clerics. Far from pacified by either invaders or peacekeepers, Mogadishu itself—after six months of tranquility under the Islamic clerics—has once again become a battlefield.

What remains to be seen is how invested the United States really is in the outcome of this contest. Enough to send in troops of our own if need be? Is it possible that a growing Iraq-style insurgency — and perhaps another “Black Hawk Down” — could force the international peacekeepers to retreat again from Somalia, just as happened thirteen years ago?

Have we indeed learned any lessons at all from our earlier experience in Somalia? Or has the Nine-eleven tragedy simply erased those lessons from our memory? Right now, I’m not optimistic. But I hope I’m wrong.

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Thursday, March 22, 2007

McClatchy: "U.S. isn't trying to free American jailed in Ethiopia"


In another valuable follow-up article today on the disturbing case of Amir Meshal, the American citizen now jailed in Ethiopia on suspicion of terrorism activity, McClatchy Newspapers journalists Shashank Bengali and Jonathan S. Landay reported that Meshal could face the death penalty if found guilty of violating Ethiopia's anti-terrorism laws.

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia - The U.S. government will let Ethiopian authorities decide the fate of a 24-year-old American who was held here incommunicado for more than five weeks, the State Department said Thursday.

The Ethiopians haven't told American officials what charges, if any, they plan to bring against Amir Mohamed Meshal of Tinton Falls, N.J., at a hearing to determine whether he can be held as a prisoner of war - or when the hearing will occur.

The FBI has determined that Meshal wasn't a combatant in the recent war in Somalia and broke no U.S. laws. However, he could face life in prison or the death penalty if he's convicted of violating Ethiopia's anti-terrorism laws or taking up arms against Ethiopian forces, . . . . according to Ethiopian lawyers familiar with such cases.

The State Department made clear Wednesday evening that it would allow the Ethiopian legal process to take its course.

"We have asked that his case be handled in a timely and a fair manner in accordance with local laws and procedures," said Gonzalo Gallegos, a State Department spokesman in Washington.

U.S. officials in Addis Ababa had refused to answer a McClatchy Newspapers reporter's questions for several days, but they indicated considerable frustration when they received permission from Washington Thursday evening to describe their dealings with the Ethiopian authorities. U.S. officials gained access to Meshal on Wednesday after three weeks of "trying very hard," a U.S. official said in the Ethiopian capital. "We are still trying to understand the nature of his being held." The official and others spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the case.

Mohamed Meshal, the young man's father, charged the U.S. government with being "very deceitful and untruthful."

"I felt all along that the State Department and the FBI have known my son's whereabouts from day one, and they know he was not accused of any crimes, but handed him over to a third country. He has nothing to do with Ethiopia, and this happened under their supervision," he told McClatchy Newspapers.

Meshal's case has been shrouded in secrecy since he was arrested while fleeing hostilities in Somalia in late January. He's been held incommunicado in Kenya, Somalia and Ethiopia.

Meshal told Kenyan human rights monitors that he was twice driven to a local hotel to be interviewed by the FBI. According to Meshal's father, when the FBI determined that there wasn't sufficient cause to charge Meshal, the State Department told him that Meshal would be sent home. But for reasons that remain unclear, the Kenyan government then deported Meshal and about 80 other people who had sought refuge in Kenya back to war-torn Somalia, from which he and others were then flown to Ethiopia.

State Department, FBI and CIA officials appear to disagree on who was to blame for Meshal's secret deportation. Some U.S. officials blame the CIA for not using its influence to prevent the deportation, which the State Department said it had formally protested. The FBI has disclaimed any responsibility, saying it wanted to continue questioning Meshal in Kenya. Officials in other agencies are pointing the finger at the Justice Department, which directs the FBI.

Meshal has an attorney, a U.S. official in Addis Ababa said, but it's not clear what charges he could face. Ethiopian authorities have said they're holding an unspecified number of prisoners from foreign countries in connection with December's conflict in Somalia, when Ethiopian troops with U.S. support ousted Islamist militias that U.S. officials had linked to al-Qaida.

Meshal was among at least 150 people arrested in Kenya and questioned about possible links to the Islamic Courts movement, which briefly ruled Somalia until it was toppled by the U.S.-backed Ethiopian army. Another American, Daniel Joseph Maldonado, was taken into U.S. custody and charged last month in federal court in Houston with training in al Qaida camps in Somalia.

The embassy official in Ethiopia said of Meshal: "We try to do everything we can to make sure he's OK while in custody, make sure he's in contact with family and has a lawyer."

The difficulty the embassy faced in gaining access to Meshal suggested that Ethiopian authorities were taking his case seriously.

Prime Minister Meles Zenawi's regime has cracked down in recent years on dissidents and rebel groups along its restive eastern border with Somalia and are holding incommunicado Ethiopian rebels who are believed to have fought alongside Somalia's Islamists. The U.S. State Department, in its 2006 human rights report, said prisoners in Ethiopia were at risk of torture and other abuses.

"The government is very tough on matters affecting the security of the state," said Tameru Agegnehu, a longtime judge and now president of the Ethiopian Bar Association. "I don't think they will be lenient on this matter."

Landay reported from Washington.
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McClatchy: "American's rendition may have broken laws"

Reporters for the McClatchy Newspaper chain are probing the arrest of an American citizen, Amir Mohamed Meshan (shown at left), by Kenyan authorities during the US-supported Ethiopian intervention in Somalia and his eventual deportation to Ethiopia and incarceration in Addis Abeba. Meshan was first mentioned in their report published yesterday and posted below. A second report, published today, supplies a photograph of Meshan supplied by his family, along with assurances by unnamed U.S. officials that Meshan was "in good health."

But the latter report also indicated that Meshal might be detained in Ethiopia as a prisoner of war, and it cited the opinion of "several [American] legal experts" that the U.S. may have violated U.S. law as well as international conventions banning torture and protecting refugees who escape to a neighboring country.

To read the entire report click on the headline at the beginning of the post. To read excerpts from today's McClatchy Newspaper report, click on "Read more!" below.

NAIROBI, Kenya - American diplomats on Wednesday paid their first visit to an American who was detained five weeks ago by Ethiopian authorities after a middle-of-the-night secret transfer from Kenya and said he was in good health.

But U.S. officials couldn't secure the release of Amir Mohamed Meshal, 24, of Tinton, Falls, N.J., who was arrested at the Somali-Kenyan border after the U.S.-backed Ethiopian army toppled the Islamist government in Somalia.

Instead, Meshal will appear at an Ethiopian hearing to determine whether he can be detained as a prisoner of war, said a U.S. official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the case.

In Nairobi, U.S. Ambassador Michael Ranneberger praised the deportations of Meshal and some 80 other detainees who were arrested on the Kenyan-Somali border, saying Kenyan officials had complied with their own laws.

Kenyan officials have said the prisoners - including several Kenyans who were living in Somalia - entered Kenya illegally because the border was closed. They said national immigration laws allow for the detainees to be returned to the country they came from.

"The Kenyans have carried out security operations based on their own security interests," Ranneberger said at a news conference. "It's my understanding that the Kenyans have dealt with all of those people in a way consistent with Kenyan law." He refused to say whether Meshal, whose deportation the State Department said it had tried to block, was among those expelled.

But several U.S. legal experts said American officials who questioned Meshal while he was in Kenya may have violated U.S. law as well as international conventions that ban torture and protect refugees who escape to a neighboring country.

"It's a very serious concern," said Jonathan Hafetz of the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University School of Law. Hafetz is providing legal assistance to Meshal's family in New Jersey.

FBI agents who interviewed Meshal in Nairobi in early February believed he was a "jihadist" who'd trained in al-Qaida camps in Somalia, according to an internal U.S. government e-mail that was read to McClatchy Newspapers by officials at two different U.S. agencies.

But the agents didn't have enough evidence to charge him with a crime if he returned to the United States. They left him in the custody of Kenyan authorities, who secretly deported him to Somalia on Feb. 10.

He was then turned over to Ethiopian forces, which had launched a U.S.-backed offensive to crush the Council of Islamic Courts, a coalition of Somali militias that the Bush administration has accused of being an al-Qaida front.

Hafetz and other international legal experts said that the deportations of Meshal and other detainees to Somalia appear to have broken the Convention Against Torture. The FBI also may have violated Meshal's U.S. constitutional rights, they said.

The Convention Against Torture bars the deportation of people to countries where there are "substantial grounds" to believe they'd be in danger of being tortured or abused.

Ethiopia also has a bleak human rights record; the State Department and human rights organizations have accused the nation of abusing and torturing detainees.

Paul Williams, a former State Department lawyer, said the FBI may have violated Meshal's constitutional right to due process by returning him to Kenyan authorities after twice taking him out of prison and interrogating him at a hotel.

"You can make an argument that . . . he had the right to due process when he was in the physical custody of the FBI," said Williams, who heads the Public International Law and Policy Group, which provides free legal aid to developing nations involved in conflicts. "Your constitutional right to due process travels with you and your citizenship. The moment he was in FBI custody, he had ( U.S.) legal rights and the FBI acted illegally by passing him back to the Kenyans."

Richard Kolko, an FBI spokesman, denied that the FBI ever had custody of Meshal.

"Mr. Meshal was not in FBI custody when interviewed in Kenya, nor are there any outstanding U.S. charges against him," Kolko said. "As such, his situation is in the hands of the foreign government."

Tom Casey, a State Department spokesman, reiterated an earlier statement that Meshal's deportation took U.S. officials by surprise and was contrary to their request that he be released to return home. He said a formal protest was lodged with the Nairobi government.

Another American, Daniel Joseph Maldonado, also was arrested crossing into Kenya from Somalia, but the FBI said he had admitted to being trained at an al-Qaida camp in Somalia, and he was released to U.S. custody, flown back to Texas and accused under U.S. anti-terrorism laws.

Meshal told Kenyan human rights activists who interviewed him in custody and other detainees who since have been freed that the FBI agents threatened to send him back to Somalia if he didn't admit that he was associated with al-Qaida.

Edwin Williams, an attorney in New York who represented detainees held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, said that such a threat - if it was made - could be considered a form of torture.
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Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Fire at Bakaara Market, Mogadishu

My good friend Bashir just forwarded me the following photos of a Bakaara Market building on fire as a result of Ethiopian Army shelling aimed at insurgents in Mogadishu. He commented that there had been heavy fighting throughout the morning during which Ethiopian troops showered the city with artillery shells.

Meanwhile, the Shabelle Media Network's Aweys Osman Yusuf reports: "More than ten die as heavy fighting continues in Mogadishu."

Mogadishu 21, March.07 ( Sh.M.Network) Heavy fighting between the Somali government troops backed by Ethiopians and a large number of armed Somalis opposing the government and the Ethiopians is continuing in the capital Mogadishu on Wednesday.

The heavy gun battle started around 6:10 am local time and then spread into fresh areas in the capital where insurgents toughened their soldiers, increasing the number of combatants with the government troops and Ethiopians in south and north of Mogadishu.

Witnesses around the former Somalia Defense Ministry told Shabelle that they saw at least 10 people, including 7 government soldiers and three civilians, who died in the gun battle.

. . .

The Ethiopians based at the Defense Ministry compound in south of Mogadishu have been attacked by the gunmen while the Ethiopians have been firing tanks and missiles towards north of Mogadishu. It is not yet known the exact number of civilian casualties in today’s fighting. However, the fighting [has continued] for four consecutive hours.

. . .

The fighting comes a day after the Hawiye clan issued a press statement condemning the transitional government and threatening they would fight with the government if it did not change what it called the discriminating policy against the Somali clans.

The complete story with additional photos can be accessed by clicking here. CAUTION: Some photos are extremely graphic. Read more!

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

American is held by Ethiopian forces

According to the McClatchy newspaper chain, Amir Mohamed Meshal, 24, a U.S. citizen who was caught fleeing the fighting in Somalia, was questioned by FBI agents in Kenya about possible links to al-Qaeda, then forced to return to Somalia. There he was handed over to Ethiopian forces and sent to Addis Abeba, the Ethiopian capital, where he is now imprisoned. There, he is being "visited regularly" by FBI agents, according to U.S. officials in Washington.

The full story — extraordinary and unsettling, in my view — can be accessed by clicking on the title, above. As time permits, I'll add some excerpts from the McClatchy report here. Read more!

Friday, March 16, 2007

Comment re: "Ten Things" & more . . . .

My good friend "Joseph Peter" had some important things to say about my recent post listing Ten Things I thought the U.S. should or should NOT do about Somalia (the list was contained in my post entitled, somewhat foolishly, "Speak for Yourself, John Alden"). "Joseph Peter" is in fact Joseph Peter Drennan, a distinguished lawyer, legal scholar, and specialist on international legal affairs. To make sure as many people have a chance to read it as possible, I'm reposting his fascinating and trenchant comments here.

To state the obvious, the increase in violence and chaos in Mogadishu and the ominous reports of attacks directed towards journalists covering the conflict there, that have accompanied the decampment of the putative Transitional Federal Government("TFG") from its redoubt in Baidoa to Mogadishu, augur poorly for the prospects of the TFG, and portend a protracted conflict there, with a further increase in the already alarming level of death and destruction for the long suffering Somali people. When we contrast this misery and bloodshed with the brief period of relative calm and order in Mogadishu and its environs, in 2006, during the interregnum following the ouster of the warlords from Mogadishu by the Islamic Courts Union ("ICU"), and before Ethiopia's military invasion of Somalia to overthrow the ICU and install the TFG, we are compelled to analyze the role of the United States Government in fomenting this shambolic state of affairs in Somalia, if we are to harbor any realistic hope that the United States can change its disastrous policies that have contributed to the unfolding catastrophe on the Horn of Africa.

Although it is true that the ICU imposed Sharia law, the ICU was remarkably successful in banishing from Mogadishu the murderous and thuggish militiamen of the warlords who had held the good people of Mogadishu in a veritable state of terror for well over a decade and a half. In this context, Sharia represented a considerable improvement over the earlier lawless enviroment of a patchwork of militias commiting crimes and running rackets in what was, essentially, a lawless metropolis of over three million people.

The initial question to be raised about the recent role played by the United States is this: what is the taproot of the Zeitgeist that has caused the United States to follow such a benighted course?

[Please continue reading Joseph Peter's comment by clicking on "Read more!" below.]

My efforts to answer this question lead me, ineluctably, to an article penned by Harvard University Professor Samuel P. Huntington entitled "The Clash of Civilizations?", that appeared in the Summer of 1993 issue of the scholarly journal Foreign Affairs, in which future conflicts were envisaged, essentially, as a long, ideological struggle between, as the late Professor Edward Said summed it up, in 2001, in the aftermath of the terrible events of 11 September, "[t]he basic paradigm of West versus the rest(the cold war opposition reformulated)."

In the popular construct of Professor Huntington's proverbial "Clash of Civilizations," Islam is seen as the enemy of the Christian West. Putting aside the utter ignorance displayed by such a simplistic view, it becomes a particularly dangerous mindset in the face of the security challenges posed by the attacks on the American homeland on the 11th of September 2001.

The embrace of Professor Huntington's "vision" by the so-called neoconservative policymakers, who, apparently, still rule the roost in the White House these days, has had disastrous implications for American foreign policy in the Middle East. We need look no further than the fiasco in Iraq to see that. In this context, it is not at all bold to state that the incipient American misadventure in abetting Christian Ethiopia's efforts to create a vassal state in neighboring Moslem Somalia, holds the potential to cause as much, if not more, damage to American interests and prestige over the long term as that caused by the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

Just as the realpolitik of the Cold War caused the Reagan Administration, in the 1980s, to favor the authoritarian regime of Siad Barre, in Somalia over the then Marxist regime in Addas Ababa, led by Mengistu Haile Mariam, in order, as it were, to check Soviet influence in the Horn of Africa, and, concomitantly, to obtain port access to deal with the threat posed by the Islamic Revolution in Iran, the current involvement of the United States on the Horn of Africa appears to have arisen from the notion, dubious though it is, that Somalia is but the latest front in the amorphous "War on Terror." Just as the invasion of Iraq has been touted by its supporters with the specious and inane clarion call that we must take on and kill "the terrorists" there so that we don't have to fight them here, the same is said to be true with regard to Somalia.

It might be said that the tilt of the United States towards Somalia in the 1980s achieved its stated objectives, even if the armaments provided to the Barre regime fell into the hands of the Somali warlords and, hence, increased the lethality of the clan conflict that ensued following the collapse of the Barre regime and persists to the present. However, the same cannot be said about the current conflict in Somalia. Instead of remediating the anarchy and chaos that could be the incubator for future terrorists, the deteriorating security situation in Mogadishu actually appears to have made matters worse, setting the stage for a widening of the conflict, just as the invasion of Iraq has actually created a veritable cauldron of violence and hatred of the West in Mesopotamia that is breeding instability and terrorism there that could soon engulf the entire region.

However, what makes the situation in Somalia potentially worse than that in Iraq is that, whereas the involvement of the United States in Iraq has apparently unleashed a civil war among Arab Sunni Moslems, Kurdish Sunni Moslems and Shi'ite Moslems, the meddling in Somalia, especially the tacit U.S. backing of an Ethiopian invasion of Somalia could, conceivably, be a rallying cry for extremists throughout the Moslem world who seek, wrongly, to portray the United States as a Christian nation with a crusader-like penchant to attack and destroy Islam. This is certainly an incendiary issue, and it is striking how the press and policymakers in the United States appear to have been oblivious to the ominous implications of American interference in Somalia.

Before addressing the fundamental questions of the efficacy and morality of the current American strategy on the Horn of Africa, if it can be assumed that the current efforts of the United States to influence, if not ordain, events in Somalia represents a coherent plan at all, as opposed to a succession of disparate blunders, we need to focus on the flawed premise of the thinking that appears to inform such strategy, namely, that any movement to impose Sharia, anywhere, is an effort to create a haven for al-Qaida extremists that, ultimately, would pose a gathering threat to the United States homeland, or so the thinking goes. Put another way, the ICU sought to impose Sharia; ergo, the ICU, somehow, represents a threat to the West, specifically, the United States, and, therefore, the ICU must be vanquished.

To be sure, in June of 2006, Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Jendayi Frazier, foreshadowed American efforts to topple the ICU by contending that the ICU was sheltering three suspects implicated in the 1998 East African embassy bombings and the 2002 Mombasa hotel bombing, and, since the Ethiopian invasion of Somalia, in December of 2006, approving commentaries from the State Department have, typically, been accompanied by reference to the three terrorist suspects said to be sheltered by the ICU in Somalia. However, what has by and large gone unsaid is that none of the suspects is Somali (one is said to be from the Comoros Islands, another is said to be a Kenyan and the third is said to be Sudanese), much less how three foreigners said to be marauding in Somalia could ever, possibly, pose any credible threat to the United States, either in the near term or else over the long term. Moreover, there appears to have been precious little consideration of the dearth of evidence of significant Islamic extremism in the ICU, and even less of the incompatibility of Islamic extremism with Islam as practiced by Somalis.

Instead, for six months or so leading up to the invasion of Somalia by Ethiopia the pronouncements from the Bush Administration about the ICU were suffused with a steady drumbeat about the three terrorist suspects supposedly harbored by the ICU, the clear implication being that the ICU is a terrorist organization that must be destroyed. It did not pass unnoticed in the region that, in the lead up to the invasion, virtually nothing was said by the Administration concerning the significant abuses of human rights by the Ethiopian regime.

Even more incongruous, and palpably absurd to boot, was the notion advanced by many inside the Administration, that the ICU was on the road to imposing an astringent, Taliban-like regime on Somalia.

That Wahhabisim (Salafism) has only appeared to have generated a negligible toehold in Somalia among a few fanatical followers in the Northern Somali city of Bosaso, and among far fewer souls on the radical fringe of the ICU in Mogadishu, has passed virtually unnoticed among those who have demonized wholesale the ICU. In a sense, calling Somalia under the ICU an "al-Qaida haven" is akin to branding France as racist merely because the execrable Jean-Marie Le Pen and his Front National political party enjoy some modest support at the margins of French politics.

Even if it could be said that there exists some sort of diffuse security threat in Somalia, arising from the fact that three dangerous fugitives are said to remain at large there, the known military operations of the United States military in the region seem to be grotesquely disproportionate, with operations conducted by the U.S.S. Eisenhower aircraft carrier conducting operations off the coast, in conjunction with C-130 gunship raids conducted out of a base in Djibouti.

Whereas American policy towards Somalia in the latter stages of the Cold War may have had some defensible basis in fact, the efforts of the neoconservatives to crush the ICU appear to be utterly indefensible. Indeed, the analogy of using an elephant to swat a flea seems like an understatement here. Worse still, such efforts, if not soon reversed, may well bring about exactly the opposite result to that intended, namely, an increase in support among Somalis, to say nothing of other Moslems across the globe, for the sort of quasi-religious extremism and terrorism that has, hitherto been antithetical to Somali sensibilities.

Whither the professed aims of recent American meddling in the strife that has so bedeviled the Somali people over the past twenty-five years, and the effectiveness, or, more aptly, ineffectiveness, of such hamhanded efforts, there remains an overriding series of profound legal and moral questions that come to mind, a few of which are set forth here, to-wit:

  1. As I queried in one of my earlier postings on this topic, where is the Congresssional authorization for the President to wage war in Somalia? (phrased differently: can the President simply use the putative justification of the "War on Terror" to conduct military operations anywhere, without Congressional authorization?);

  2. Is it justifiable to cause degradation and loss of life on a massive scale to a society and a culture in an effort to apprehend three fugitives who do not pose an imminent threat to the safety and well-being of the United States?

  3. And, as I also mentioned in one of my earlier postings: has any thought been given to the implications of casually equating Islam with extremism? (put another way: Isn't the wholesale demonization of Islam because of the poisonous perversion of Islam by Osama bin Laden and his followers akin to condemning Christianity because of the heresies of David Koresh and the Rev. Jim Jones?).

Moving beyond the issues of the misunderstanding of Somalia and Islam that has so hampered American judgment about what is at stake in Somalia, and has contributed to the flawed execution of our policy there, to say nothing of the legal and moral questions raised by our involvement there, we need to address the appropriate steps to be undertaken in order to restore American credibility and honor in the region, as well as to help the Somali people to find the peace and stability that has eluded them for far too long. Here,I am obliged to defer to the ten excellent suggestions about what to do, and what not to do, about Somalia, that were posted on 8 March 2007, by the Honorable Trusten Frank Crigler, former Ambassador of the United States to Somalia (1987-1990), as I find myself unable to improve on his erudition and wisdom as to the best pathway for the United States to follow. [The list is posted here for easy reference.] . . . .

The Somalis are a resilient people with a rich and vibrant culture, and they are deserving of our assistance and understanding as they struggle to resolve and reconcile their differences, our own past disagreements with them notwithstanding. They are also deserving of our respect. What they do not need is the sort of arrogance, callousness, dismissiveness and belligerency that has been meted out to them in an ill-begotten "War on Terror", as this brusque treatment of a proud, if troubled, people can only serve to exacerbate their troubles and insecurity, and our own as well.

Joseph Peter Drennan

Read more!

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Journalists attacked in Mogadishu

The following report alleging harsh physical abuse of independent journalists in Mogadishu is very troubling. If true, it speaks poorly for the transitional government's intentions with respect to press freedom and human rights generally. Please share your comments below.

Shabelle Media Network (Somalia)
March 13, 2007

Mogadishu (Somali) - The National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ) is today shocked by the declining security situation of journalists in Mogadishu after journalists working for Mogadishu based independent Radio station, Shebelle Media Network, were ruthlessly beaten in two consecutive days. Three Shabelle journalists were beaten today, 12 March, after they went to the ex-building of the Somali Ministry of Defence, which is occupied by Ethiopian forces backing the Transitional Federal Government (TFG). The journalists Ismail Ali Abdi, Mohammed Ibrahim Raggeh and Mohammed Ibrahim Ali (known as Ruush) reportedly went there to confirm unproven news about the departure of the Ethiopian troops from the building, according to a member of the management of Radio Shebelle.

On Sunday, 11 March, journalist Abdirahman Yusuf of the Shabelle Radio, publicly known Al-Adala, was beaten in the neighbourhood of north Mogadishu by the armed forces of the TFG, while carrying out journalistic assignment. On Friday 9 March, Hassan Sade Dhaqane, a reporter for Horn Afrik Radio, was arrested by forces of the transitional government in KM4 area while making live coverage of disarray that existed at the sight. Government officials confirmed the arrest, but the journalist is up till now held in unidentified place.

"We resolutely denounce the fresh life-threatening attacks of journalists Ismail Ali Abdi, Mohammed Ibrahim Raggeh, Mohammed Ibrahim Ali, Abdirahman Yusuf and Hassan Sade Dhaqane," said Omar Faruk Osman, Secretary-General of the National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ). "The time has come for the transitional government to completely examine and elucidate reasons behind the painful violations against Shabelle journalists" Omar Faruk Osman added.

"We are really troubled by the detention of Journalist Hassan Sade Dhaqane," said Omar Faruk Osman. "Arresting a journalist in the course of his duty and detaining him unduly are intolerable acts of aggression, and we appeal to the transitional government to immediately instruct its armed forces to release Hassan Sade Dhaqane and end violating journalists' rights". "This is the time the transitional government is to protect its citizens, mainly journalists, and not to assume them as spies or combatants," Omar Faruk added. NUSOJ commends the cooperation that Ugandan forces of the African Union peace-keeping mission in Somalia are making with the media.

2007 already became another year that journalists are facing grave abuses of their human rights. Journalist Ali Mohammed Omar was murdered on Friday, 16th February 2007, around 20:30hrs local time in Baidoa of Bay region in south-western Somalia by three men. The National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ) is supporting the Report of the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on the situation in Somalia, which said "Limits to freedom of expression are a serious concern throughout Somalia....". In his Report released on 28th February 2007, the UN Secretary General said "I call on all Somali parties to provide unhindered humanitarian access for relief efforts, as well as guarantees for the safety and security of humanitarian aid workers, and to respect the fundamental human rights of all people in Somalia". Read more!

Transitional government moves to Mogadishu

A news broadcast from South Africa records the move of the Transitional Federal Government from its temporary quarters in Baidoa to Mogadishu, assisted by elements of the Ethiopian army.

News 24 (South Africa)
March 13, 2007

Mogadishu (Somalia) - Somali President Abdullahi Yusuf moved to violence-wracked Mogadishu on Tuesday, a day after parliament voted to relocate the government from Baidoa to the capital, an official said.

"The president's office will be fully operational in Mogadishu from today and all other ministers and government officials will follow suit," deputy defence minister Salad Ali Jelle said. "Every minister will set up his offices in the capital," he added.

The president immediately left the airport, the base of about 1,200 freshly-arrived African Union troops from Uganda, and the target of recent mortar attacks. "From what you see on the ground, Ethiopian and Somali troops are at every junction so the president can safely get to Villa Somalia (the presidential residence)," Jelle said. The Somali interim government on Monday overwhelmingly voted to relocate from the provincial town of Baidoa to Mogadishu, where insurgents have stepped up guerrilla-style attacks in recent weeks, killing dozens of civilians.

But the move is pegged on the government's ability to restore stability there. The government on Sunday announced a massive security drive to pacify Mogadishu within a month using its newly trained forces as well as Ethiopian and [African Union] troops. "Thanks to the improved security in Mogadishu that will allow the government to operate from here," Jelle said. So far, attacks have continued, with Mogadishu residents on Monday reporting at least one dead and five injured after a gun battle sparked by an insurgent attack on Ethiopian forces.

The incident was the latest in a string of attacks since January when joint Ethiopian-Somali forces ousted a powerful Islamist movement from the country's southern and central regions. The six-month AU mission aims to deploy about 8,000 troops to enable Ethiopian forces to leave and Somali forces to take over security. It is the first international peacekeeping venture in Somalia since an ill-fated UN-backed, US-led peace mission launched in the early 1990s. Somalia has lacked an effective government since the 1991 ouster of dictator Mohamed Siad Barre. Read more!

Thursday, March 8, 2007

"Speak for Yourself, John Alden!"

After having followed this blog for some time, Tom Schaffer, a political sciences student in Vienna, kindly e-mailed me two weeks ago to ask what I thought should be done in Somalia, and why. I replied by confessing that I had mostly (and rather lazily) been letting my very eloquent friends speak for me. However, I promised to put down some thoughts of my own and post them (see "Ten Things," below).

Please share your own thoughts and comments about my list with me and others by clicking here or at the end of the list.

I also visited Tom's own website and found it to be a most interesting and lively discussion of international affairs issues generally and, of course, Austria in particular—in German. Check it out.


the U.S. should or should NOT do about Somalia
  1. Forget force, think conciliation. Resist the temptation to throw armed "peacekeepers," whether ours or someone else's, at Somalia's problems. Instead, press for enforcement of the Security Council's total arms embargo—against everyone. In place of weapons, offer mediators, conciliators, brokers. Get Somalis talking to each other again, as they did in Nairobi. And be patient—don't expect a breakthrough overnight.

  2. Don't take sides. So long as we continue to view Somalia in terms of good guys and bad guys, we're certain to choose the wrong side. By picking favorites, we only reinforce the ethnic and cultural divisions we should be helping Somalis overcome.

  3. Don't project our terrorism issues onto Somalia. Somalia is not a War on Terror battlefield and isn't likely to become one (unless we make it happen). Embassy bombings elsewhere in Africa notwithstanding, the handful of Somali "radicals" on our terrorist list are simply incapable of seriously damaging vital U.S. interests. Chasing down suspected Al Qaeda followers only turns moderate Somalis into enemies.

  4. Don't try to "rescue" Somalia by applying made-in-USA solutions. Resist tutoring them, even with the best of intentions, in how to organize their politics. Let them rediscover and update the traditional systems that served them well enough for a thousand years. We proved a decade ago that we didn't have the answers to Somalia's problems, and we still don't.

  5. Don't take on the task of keeping peace in the Horn of Africa. Resist the imperial urge. No one appointed us to take on that task, much less to hire the Ethiopians, Ugandans, or Kenyans—each with its own private agenda in the Horn—as our surrogates. When the Berlin Wall fell, we swore we would not become the world's sheriff, but we're becoming just that.

  6. Send a diplomat to be our eyes and ears in Somalia. Despite the risks, make the grand gesture. Establish an official presence, at least part time. Send a courageous veteran FSO to set up an office in Mog; establish regular contact with political leaders, the clergy, the business community, and NGO people; and report back regularly to Washington on what's really happening.

  7. Consult seriously with friends and allies about joint, non-military, confidence-building steps. Listen carefully to what the British, Italians, Saudis, Omanis, and Scandinavians say; they know Somalia better than we do. Explore ways to be jointly supportive of reconciliation.

  8. Be genuinely neutral. Don't be sucked into taking sides in clan or factional disputes. Resist being used by one side or another in settling local scores. Asking Somalis to "finger" terrorists has been highly disruptive of conciliation efforts. . . . and absurdly naïve.

  9. Do good works and make them visible. Send food and medicine through NGOs. Nothing won us more Somali friends and admirers than "Operation Restore Hope." They danced in the streets when our troops arrived and pushed aside the warlords' militias when we brought food to the hungry and medicine to the sick. The mission only went sour when we undertook to repair the "root causes" of the country's disorder; we should have quit while we were ahead.

  10. Try making friends. Deep down, the vast majority of Somalis love and admire Americans. Treat them as valuable friends and seek their collaboration as equals. Allying ourselves with warlords and with Ethiopia, to oust a faction that had actually done some good for lots of people, was a colossal PR mistake that won't be easily undone.
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