In his speech yesterday at the United Nations General Assembly, President Obama devoted little time to the recent slaughter of some 62 shoppers at the Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya.
Said Obama, in toto:
But even a glance at today’s headlines indicates that dangers remain. In Kenya, we’ve seen terrorists target innocent civilians in a crowded shopping mall. And our hearts go out to the families of those who’ve been affected.Yes, what happened in Kenya is a terrorist act. But for Obama to tell the rest of the story would undermine his narrative and unravel Washington's strange relationship with the al-Qaeda affilliated al-Shabaab organization that claimed responsibility for the attack. Al-Shabaab, or "Mujahideen Youth Movement," in fact owes its birth to US interventionism in Africa, as it sprang up from the ashes of the Islamic Courts Movement that had ruled Somalia until a US-sponsored invasion by Ethiopia destroyed the Courts Movement in 2007 and divided supporters into factions. Some decided to work with the US-supported Transitional Federal Government (TFG); others, like the al-Shabaab, decided to resist US and other foreign occupation and intervention in Somali affairs.
As globetrotting analyst Pepe Escobar points out in a highly recommended recent article, the Islamic Courts had generally stabilized Somalia and disarmed many of the militias. They were proponents of Sharia law, which the US found intolerable and labeled "terrorist," opening the door for the brand new US Africa Command, based in Germany, to begin working on regime change.
As a nationalist and then religious-oriented group, al-Shabaab may well have been extremist in orientation and even "terrorist" in tactics, but theirs was a localized struggle. The idea that the ongoing battle over who ruled Somalia was somehow covered in the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) against those who attacked the US on 9/11 is a stretch to the breaking point. But the AUMF it was -- and is -- that justifies Obama's ongoing war on Africa.
A counter-argument could be made that al-Shabaab has established ties with al-Qaeda and therefore "associated forces" language from the AUMF may kick in to allow the US attacks against them. But how to then reconcile the fact that many if not most of the rebel groups fighting in Syria who receive direct and indirect support from the US government are also affiliated with al-Qaeda? Some, including "McCain's Moderates" the FSA, have publicly pledged their loyalty to al-Qaeda as recently as this month!
And the al-Nusra Front in Syria, on whose side the US is fighting a proxy war, is also affiliated with Somalia's al-Shabaab -- the guys who attacked the mall in Kenya so criticized by Obama in his UN speech.
Should the US attack itself over its own cooperation with "associated forces"?
Back to Africa. Fast forward to 2011, when the al-Shabaab was weakened by internal rifts and low popularity and finally driven out of Mogadishu altogether.
Then came more outside intervention. The US and France, primarily, pushed Kenya to attack neighboring Somalia in late 2011, providing air and naval support for the operation. US AC-130 gunships provided cover for the invading Kenyan military fighters. US Special Operations forces were deeply involved. US drones continued their near-constant attacks on Somalia, leaving "collateral damage" in their wake and terrorizing the population. The al-Shabaab movement vowed revenge for this attack and not long after bombed a nightclub in Nairobi.
How many US drones flying over Somalia, spying and shooting?
As Wired wrote in a special report about US drone warfare last year:
Since 2007 the Air Force’s Predators and Reapers, today numbering around 300, have flown nearly a million flight hours. By our reckoning, the percentage that may have occurred over East Africa — some 25,000 hours over five years — equates to around 12 hours of robot flight time per day. And that’s assuming the proportion of drone flights devoted to Somalia hasn’t increased lately, which in fact it most certainly has.By proxy, by drone, and directly, the United States has been at war with Somalia for many years. Armed groups in Somalia, especially the al-Shabaab, clash almost daily with the Kenyan military in Kenya's US-supported ongoing military operations inside Somalia.
Conservatively speaking, it’s possible at least one Predator or Reaper drone has been airborne over Somalia half the day, every day since the first Predator took off from Camp Lemonnier in 2007. Flights by Global Hawks, Fire Scouts, Scan Eagles and Ravens adds to this persistent robot presence.
Suddenly the terrorist act at the Westgate Mall, though no less reprehensible, takes on a new light. It was not an attack out of the blue because the attackers hate the freedoms of Nairobi shoppers. An evil act in retaliation for years of murderous foreign interventionism. Blowback.
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