Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Scandal of the USA's Somalia Aid Blockade

The US is playing politics with the lives of starving children
Last week, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urged members of the al-Shabaab militia - the Islamist group who control 60% of famine-hit Somalia - to allow aid in. Just as in Libya, crocodile tears and hand-wringing over supposedly 'humanitarian' concerns mask predatory imperialist interests.

Somalia is located in East Africa, which is facing a food crisis following the worst droughts in sixty years. There has been no functioning central government in the country since the Somali Civil War broke out twenty years ago, when the US removed its support for dictator Siad Barre. Most of the country is currently presided over by al-Shabaab, who the western media routinely link to al-Qaeda, though the US government's own National Counterterrorism Center has found no organisational links. The US backs its rivals in the so-called Transitional Federal Government, which is more open to western interests than al-Shabaab.

More than "terrorists" gaining control of an African country, the US and its allies fear the loss of a strategically important location to Chinese influence. Though Somalia is not particularly rich in oil, gas or mineral resources, it lies at a major crossroads of world trade by sea and air.

In the recent period, the biggest intervention of US imperialism into Somalia happened in 1992, when outgoing president George Bush Snr sent thirty thousand American troops into the country, on the pretext of providing aid. His successor Bill Clinton faced a humiliation two years later, when he was forced to pull troops out after the battle that was misleadingly portrayed in Black Hawk Down.

Dictator Siad Barre was successfully courted by US imperialism in the 1980s
Now, as famine grips the region, the Obama administration sees a potential opportunity to re-establish US hegemony. In her speech last week Hillary Clinton stated that: "The relentless terrorism by al-Shabaab against its people has turned an already severe situation into a dire one that is only expected to get worse”. Even by the standards of imperial realpolitik, this is staggering hypocrisy.

In reality, it is the US and United Nations which has long denied aid to the 2.8 million people who live in the territory controlled by the al-Shabaab, by designating any such aid material assistance to a terrorist organisation. This was exactly the pretext the Obama administration used two years ago, when it forced the World Food Programme to close its programmes for mothers and malnourished children on the grounds that it was assisting a terrorist organisation.

As initially happened in Libya, US regional allies are proposing a no-fly zone over the al-Shabaab territory. However, al-Shabaab has no air capability whatsoever. The aim of any western military intervention would be to overthrow al-Shabaab, and replace it with a dictatorship of the west's choosing. Already, US-backed African Union forces have launched an offensive against al-Shabaab in the capital Mogadishu, as well as the town of El Wak.

The threat of starvation cannot be solved by the replacement of one capitalist ruling class with another. Every day, enough food to feed the hungry of the world is destroyed, in order to keep profits high. Many farmers are paid not to grow food for the same reason. Like the overwhelming majority of the Earth's population, the interests of starving Somalis lie in an economic system based on human need, not elite greed.
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