Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Socialist Worker on Somalia


Here is a curious thing. Let us look at two reports about the take over in Somalia by the Union of Islamic Courts. One report from the Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN) which is an agency of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs; and one report from our favourite tabloid Socialist Worker.

From UN Agency the IRIN we read:
The takeover of Mogadishu on 4 June by the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC) was the most important political event in Somalia in the last 16 years.
It removed a political class of clan-based extortionists and dealers in everything from drugs to people, known as ‘warlords’, which has divided and ruled the country since the collapse of the central state in 1991. Warlordism created one of the world’s most protracted humanitarian crises. In the absence of any significant political, military or humanitarian intervention, Somalia has suffered chronic impoverishment, exodus, displacement and international isolation.
"However, the recent military victory by UIC, triggered by popular revolt against the warlords, achieved what international military intervention and peace talks have failed to accomplish since 1991. Unable to neutralise or control the warlords, the international community ultimately resorted to working with them.

From Socialist Worker we read: “The takeover of the capital, Mogadishu, on 4 June by the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC) removed a political class of clan-based extortionists and dealers in everything from drugs to people, known as “warlords”. They have divided and ruled the country since the collapse of the central state in 1991.
"The UIC’s military victory, triggered by popular revolt against the warlords, achieved what international military intervention and peace talks have failed to accomplish since 1991.

Unable to neutralise or control the warlords, the Western powers ultimately resorted to working with them. ”

From UN agency the IRIN we read: “Key to the success of the UIC was the fact that it was already an established and accepted presence in local communities, with a demonstrated social welfare policy.
"Apart from bringing security to areas under its control, through its own militia and justice system, it had also set up farms, schools, water points, health clinics and orphanages.

"Although the UIC did not initially have strong popular support, there was a feeling that it upheld moral standards and discipline, and had a unifying and familiar ideology in Islam.”

From Socialist Worker we read: “Key to the military success of the UIC was the fact that it was already an established and accepted presence in local communities, with a demonstrated social welfare policy.
"Apart from bringing security to areas under its control, through its own militia and justice system, it had also set up farms, schools, water points, health clinics and orphanages. Some key businessmen in Mogadishu worked with the Courts.
"Although the UIC did not initially have strong popular support – some were suspicious of its agenda – there was a feeling that it upheld moral standards and discipline and had a uniting and familiar ideology in Islam.”

But the conclusions are different. From UN agency the IRIN we read “In his conversation with chairman Sheikh Sharif, the UN Special Representative stressed the need to respect the ceasefire and to maintain a dialogue.
"He said the chairman had expressed his willingness to work with all parties interested in promoting peace in Somalia. “Dialogue is part of the culture of the Somali people.

I am hopeful that whatever differences exist among the Somalis today can be resolved peacefully. The UN stands ready to assist the peace process in any way possible," he said.”

From Socialist Worker we read the rather different spin; “there is no doubt imperialism has suffered a blow
It is hard to understand this conclusion, there is nothing inherently anti-imperialist about the UIC, any more than the Taliban were anti-imperialist, who after all came to power helped by the Pakistani secret service.

There is no notification in the Socialist Worker article that most of it is lifted straight from an official UN web-site, but it does say: “© Copyright Socialist Worker (unless otherwise stated). You may republish if you include an active link to the original and leave this notice in place

7 comments:

Darren said...

Ouch.

badmatthew said...

Well I'd be interested to know how you got onto this plagiarism. Was it the lack of attribution or should we google everything in SW to see where it's come from?

I do think you are too hasty in decrying SW's conclusion: “there is no doubt imperialism has suffered a blow”. This does come after "It remains to be seen how far ordinary people can take charge of their own futures", which is not that postive or ringing an endorsement of the UIC. There are two elements to the argument, how positive a development is the victory of the UIC over the various warlords. It's a measure of how desperately bad the situation has been in Somalia for many years that religious forces that combine reactionary elements with social welfare looks anything like a good choice. It's not inevitable that the UIC will be as bad as the Taliban regime, one thing that might make it that bad are the policies of the US, if that's the way they try to go.

Secondly, how it fits into the bigger picture? Well, the US was apparently pushing for a different outcome, had links with other forces, so it looks like a blow to imperialism, if you define imperialism in terms of the US's ability to get its way and its economic and geopolitcal interests imposed on other countries. I don't think the analogy to Taliban and Pakistan works - I don't think there is any equivalent 'subimperialist' manuevering going on, and I still think that the war in Afghanistan was an imperialist war and a victory for imperialism.
It is hard to understand this conclusion, there is nothing inherently anti-imperialist about the UIC, any more than the Taliban were anti-imperialist, who after all came to power helped by the Pakistani secret service.

AN said...

I only stumbled across the similarity because I was reading the first class Pambazuka website, and I recognised it.
http://www.pambazuka.org/en/

i certainly recommend pambazuka as a first class source of news about Africa.

With regard to the UIC, as I understand the situation the US accomodated to the warlords as they were unable to impose any other more satisfactory solution. Unlike Afghanistan the warlords had not originally been sponsored by the USA.

This is certinaly the position argued by Global policy Forum
http://www.globalpolicy.org/empire/intervention/2006/0517somalia.htm
That the motivated for backing the warlords was simply lack of faith from the US that anyone could form a strng central government that could stop Islamist terrorists opertaing out of Somalia to attack its interests.

The victory of the UIC over the warlords and establishment of a centralised government will (as you say) not inevitably follow the path of the taliban.

My reading is that neither the UIC not the taliban had an anti-imperialist agenda, both are delimited in their ambitions to domestic policy. In the case of ther taliban they stumbled into conflict with the USA, but it was not a fight they sought. It seems perfectly possible for a pragmatic American response being to welcome an unforeseen development in Somalia, and start working with the UIC to stabilise the country.

In that sense it is not a "clear defeat for imperialism"

AN said...

To clarify what i mean by the UIC not having a clear anti-imprialist agenda, this is an interview with UIC leader, Shaykh Sharif Shaykh Ahmed
http://www.irinnews.org/report.asp?ReportID=54099&SelectRegion=Horn_of_Africa&SelectCountry=SOMALIA

Q: The UIC has been accused of providing protection to people suspected of engaging in terrorism. Is there any truth to that, and do you have any connection with Al Qaeda?

A: These are false accusations. During the fighting with the faction leaders any foreigners fighting with us would have been apparent. The Somali people are distinctive people and any outsider would stand out in the crowd.

Q: How are you going to relate to the other countries, such as the Western world and in particular the US?

A: We will deal with the rest of the world with respect. We will neither transgress, nor harm or hurt any country. We respect everyone and we expect the same.

Q: You [UIC] have been accused of being anti-American. Is that true?

A: I think it is the American government that is against the Somali people. It is they who attacked the Somali people. It is the US government that gave a lot of money to fund the faction leaders [in the recent fighting]. We believe that the American government was responsible for the fighting. It is the Americans who are against the Somali people. We are not against them.

badmatthew said...

All good points, but are we arguing about the difference between a 'blow to imperialism' as opposed to 'clear defeat for imperialism'?

AN said...

Thanks for pointing out the slippage in the language. Yes SW described it as a "blow" rather than a "defeat" against imperialism.

Possibly, but I think even the word blow is much too strong.
A blow in the sense of hitting Mike Tyson softly with a pillow.

Redaspie said...

Well, I think, judging from the condemnatory words of the UIC leader above concerning the US, that we can take this to be a blow against US imperialism in the region yes. The new regime is clearly not enamoured of Washington and will not be willing to be a puppet.