Friday, November 23, 2007

Somalia: "We Want the Islamists Back"

The US-led multinational empire's Plan A is to establish a state friendly to Washington's vision of capitalism. But what is its Plan B when no objective conditions exist for Plan A or Washington has a geopolitical desire that trumps its usual economic goal?

Somalia illustrates Plan B. After a long civil war and foreign interventions, the Islamic Courts Union managed to establish a government. Washington immediately enlisted Ethiopia and overthrew it in a proxy war. Chaos has returned to Somalia, and, combined with natural disasters, the result is a humanitarian nightmare far worse than Darfur: the malnutrition rate in the worst areas of Somalia is now 19%, exceeding 13% in Darfur, according to Jeffrey Gettleman of the New York Times ("As Somali Crisis Swells, Experts See a Void in Aid," 20 November 2007). In short, Plan B is this: if you can't have what you want, at the very least make sure that no one else can have it either.1

Gettleman reports in the same article that even United Nations officials admit that the short-lived Islamist government was superior to the Hobbesian state of anarchy imposed on Somalia by Washington:
Pirates lurking off the coast of Somalia have attacked more than 20 ships this year, including two carrying United Nations food. The militias that rule the streets -- typically teenage gunmen in wraparound sunglasses and flip-flops -- have jacked up roadblock taxes to $400 per truck. The transitional government last month jailed a senior official of the United Nations food program in Somalia, accusing him of helping terrorists, though he was eventually released.

United Nations officials now concede that the country was in better shape during the brief reign of Somalia's Islamist movement last year. "It was more peaceful, and much easier for us to work," Mr. [Eric] Laroche [the head of United Nations humanitarian operations in Somalia] said. "The Islamists didn't cause us any problems."

Mr. [Ahmedou] Ould-Abdallah [the top United Nations official for Somalia] called those six months, which were essentially the only epoch of peace most Somalis have tasted for years, Somalia's "golden era."

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

"We want the Islamists back," said Mohammed Ahmed, a shriveled 80-year-old retired taxi driver.

Mr. Mohammed said he was not especially religious. "But," he said, "at least we had food." ("As Somali Crisis Swells, Experts See a Void in Aid," 20 November 2007)
Ideologues make the empire out to be a progressive force for modernity and pass off all its adversaries as a reactionary force against it. The reality is the opposite. The effect of imperialism delays the development of modernity at best and at worst destroys the minimum necessary condition for its establishment: a national government.

1 While the logic of an individual capitalist may be quarterly cost-benefit calculations, the logic of the capitalist mode of production, whose guardian is the empire, isn't. As Joseph Conrad suggests in Nostromo, the logic of imperialism is a dream logic rather than the reality principle: "Those Englishmen live on illusions which somehow or other help them to get a firm hold of the substance" (Part 2 "The Isabels," Chapter 7). What is a firm hold at one point, however, may later become a quicksand, for imperialists don't have all the cards necessary to win once and for all. When threatened with defeat, imperialists prefer an assertion of power to profit. In Nostromo, if the alternative is allowing the populist rebels to take over the silver mine that he inherited from his father, Charles Gould would rather blow up the mine and half the country with it:
"I have enough dynamite stored up at the mountain to send it down crashing into the valley" -- his [Charles's] voice rose a little -- "to send half Sulaco into the air if I liked." . . . "Why, yes," Charles pronounced, slowly. "The Gould Concession has struck such deep roots in this country, in this province, in that gorge of the mountains, that nothing but dynamite shall be allowed to dislodge it from there. It's my choice. It's my last card to play." (Nostromo, Part 2 "The Isabels," Chapter 5)

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