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Cold War Origins of the Somalia Crisis

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For the past seven months world news outlets have provided daily coverage on what has been described as escalating piracy off the coast of Somalia in the Gulf of Aden and attempts by international, primarily Western, military vessels to combat it.

Absent from such reporting, as the exigencies of commercial news broadcasting inevitably entail, is how and why the situation in the region reached the impasse it has and what its broader significance is.

Instead the picture presented is, according to the standard formula, a point on a blank canvas with no historical depth, no geoeconomic and geopolitical width and no strata of diversified and interrelated causes that contribute to and dynamics that result from what is in truth a lengthy and complex process of developments.

In short the Somali situation is portrayed as a simple and self-contained event that at a seemingly gratuitous moment was declared a crisis.

There are dozens of comparable cases in the world, analogous in the general sense of presenting economic, security, national and regional threats to other nations and their environs, but these have not been declared crises and so aren't given world attention.

The determination of what constitutes a crisis, and a world crisis at that, since the end of the Cold War is a prerogative of the United States and its allies, the governments of which render the verdict, with their own and much of the world's news media echoing the claim.

And the evaluation is inevitably a one-sided affair. What has been observed about Europe's most mature writers - Shakespeare, Goethe and Balzac, for example - that their antagonists were never mere villains, that they reflected the complexity and even ambiguity of real life with no character monopolizing the virtues or the vices - is summarily discarded and a broad panorama of multifaceted motives, players and conflicts reduced to a banal pseudo-morality play with just three actors: Evil culprits, innocent victims and valiant heroes.

The first category is assigned to any individual or group which is opposed to the designs on their nation by major Western powers or, what is interpreted by the latter as the same thing, pursue a policy of protecting local rights and interests. The second is comprised of whoever can be cast into the role to arouse indignation and hostility against the first, currently the crews of Western commercial vessels in the Gulf of Aden. And the third is led by the United States, NATO and the European Union, the self-deputized military vigilantes of the world.

That many of those off the Somali coast capturing foreign, mainly Western, vessels and holding them, their cargo and their crews for ransom are reported to be former fishermen driven out of their sole occupation by years of intrusive and illegal large-scale poaching by world commercial concerns or affected by eighteen years of toxic, including nuclear, wastes dumped off their shores isn't acknowledged. To do so would complicate the narrative contrived by those who have with disastrous consequences interfered in the internal affairs of Somalia and its neighborhood for several decades and are in large part responsible for the current crisis.

Instead the action begins where the governments of the Western states that have deployed warships, helicopters, snipers and bases to the region script its opening act: With pirates.

As though a director would begin a production of Shakespeare's Hamlet with the protagonist thrusting his sword through Polonius and not with the visitation of his father's ghost, so that Hamlet appeared as a brutal murderer and not a reluctant avenger of parricide and regicide.

The national tragedy of Somalia didn't begin last summer with an increase in the seizure of foreign vessels off its coast; it didn't begin with the armed conflict between the Transitional Federal Government and the Islamic Courts Union in 2006 and the invasion by military forces of the US proxy government of Ethiopia; it didn't commence in 1991 with the ouster of long-time president Siad Barre and internecine fighting between militia groups.

It started in 1977.

Eight years earlier, almost forty years to the day, a military government headed by General Siad Barre came to power in Somalia. Anticipating what would become a general pattern in Africa and indeed throughout most of the non-Euro-Atlantic world, the government pursued a path of non-capitalist, avowedly socialist development. The term Barre and his allies used was scientific socialism; that is, Marxism.

In the decade between 1969 and 1979 similiar political and socio-economic transformations occurred throughout Africa, resulting in socialist-oriented goverments allied with and receiving assistance from the Soviet Union. In addition to Somalia, nations matching this description included Angola, Benin, Capo Verde, the Republic of Congo (Brazzaville), the Republic of Guinea (Conakry), Guinea Bissau, Libya, Madagascar, Mozambique and Sao Tome and Principe, with Namibia, Rhodesia, South Africa and Western Sahara poised to follow suit.

The pattern also emerged in Asia - Vietnam with its unification in 1975, Laos, Cambodia (after the ouster of the Khmer Rouge in 1978) and Afghanistan; on the Arabian peninsula with South Yemen; and in Latin America and the Caribbean with Chile, Nicaragua, Grenada, Jamaica and Surinam during the same period.

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Rick Rozoff has been involved in anti-war and anti-interventionist work in various capacities for forty years. He lives in Chicago, Illinois. Is the manager of the Stop NATO international email list at: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/stopnato/

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If anyone dumped nuclear waste off the coast of Ca... by shirley reese on Thursday, May 7, 2009 at 2:25:05 PM
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