Friday, October 14, 2005

I Have Seen the Future, Baby...

The world according to the news is not the world as it is. It's far worse-- and at the same time no nearly as bad as the media would have us believe. It's terrible in person when under direct attack; but if it happens on the corner it's not that bad at all; and further, one can be across town and not even be aware of danger until one reads of it in the paper the next day. Or one might live in a state of constant fear simply by being in a danger zone, knowing that there is no security, that it's a matter of time before something horrible happens, that it is inescapable. We in the West are in that heightened state of anxiety of terrorism as it happened over there in the paper next day. Let's consider it objectively, though, and see that our chances of harm are minuscule at this time. Even if we were to be attacked we might well survive. It's not a great risk, our being alive in the West. But there is a growing sense of danger closing in on us. It's immediate in the news, which we can then set aside after the morning coffee. We can forget, or at least ignore.

The following excerpts from an Amazon review of The World's Most Dangerous Places gives some insight into how the media and state presents it to us and how we react to and assimilate danger from a distance. The following pieces in this entry look at Somalia, perhaps the worst of all bad places on Earth. It's very much "Over There," and it is also coming soon to a city near you. We can strike a reasonable balance between being terrified by the impending chaos and violence on the one hand, and the forgetting of its coming on the other. We can see the future, and we can prepare for it. Our world will become Somalia in time. It's not the worst that could happen. The smart and the daring will thrive. Below we'll see some of what we're in for.

Reviewer:Robert D. Steele

I've heard Robert Young Pelton speak, and he is, if anything, even more thoughtful and provocative in person. He has written an extraordinary book that ordinary people will take to be a sensationalist travel guide, while real experts scrutinize every page for the hard truths about the real world that neither the CIA nor the media report.

Unlike clandestine case officers and normal foreign service officers, all of them confined to capital cities and/or relying on third party reporting, Robert Young Pelton actually goes to the scene of the fighting, the scene of the butchery, the scene of the grand thefts, and unlike all these so-called authoritative sources, he actually has had eyeballs on the targets and boots in the mud.

I have learned two important lessons from this book, and from its author Robert Young Pelton:

First, trust no source that has not actually been there. He is not the first to point out that most journalists are "hotel warriors", but his veracity, courage, and insights provide compelling evidence of what journalism could be if it were done properly. Government sources are even worse--it was not until I heard him speak candidly about certain situations that I realized that most of our Embassy reporting--both secret and open--is largely worthless because it is third hand, not direct.
What most readers may not realize until they read this book is that one does not have to travel to these places to be threatened by them--what is happening there today, and what the U.S. government does or does not do about developments in these places, today, will haunt this generation and many generations to follow.

The World's Most Dangerous Places, by Robert Young Pelton


This story comes from Radio Netherlands, and covers the murder of a Somali peace activist. We have to look at the world as it is and see objectively what a peace activist does in a place where there is no peace. How will our middle class anti-war activists fare if the world of the West slides into conflict with Islam in our midst?
Unidentified gunmen assassinated Abdulkadir Yahya Ali, a prominent Somali peace activist, in his home on Monday. As many as ten attackers climbed the walls of the compound in which he lived with his wife, cut through telephone wires, handcuffed his guards and shot him.

Mr Yahya was highly respected for his work, which included founding the Centre for Research and Dialogue, a think-tank working towards rebuilding Somalia. He is the latest victim of the violent lawlessness which has grown in a country shattered by 14 years of fighting and hunger, and without a central government. An interim government was established in 2004, the fourteenth attempt since 1991 to put in place a central authority.

Most dangerous place in the world
Somalia is one of the most dangerous places in the world, the capital Mogadishu particularly so. Mr Yahya's death is one in a long line of attacks on people with foreign links working in the country, particularly those involved in humanitarian operations.

Mr Yahya's killing also comes on the tail of a report compiled by the International Crisis Group, released last week, which pointed to a new al-Qaeda affiliated group operating in Somalia, which is accused of killing four aid workers and ten ex-police and military officers working in counter-terrorism.

This piece comes from, including comments from our favorite writer, sonofwalker, with quotations from Mark Bowden, Blackhawk Down.

Despite the recent formation of a transitional government, Somalia remains a quasi-anarchic state. Of course, the only solution for the fundamentalists is the creation of an Islamic state. From the AP:

An influential religious leader and alleged al-Qaida collaborator vowed in an interview Wednesday to establish an Islamic state in Somalia, a lawless Horn of Africa nation the United States fears could grow into a major base for Islamic terrorists.

"The Western world should respect our own ideas in choosing the way we want to govern our country, the way we want to go about our own business. That is our right," said Sheik Hassan Dahir Aweys, a key figure in a growing religious camp vying with secular factions for control of Somalia.

Apparently, Somalia becoming an Islamic state is already a foregone conclusion for Sheik Aweys. Otherwise he would have considered opposing secular factions residing in his own country before ranting about the West.

Speaking by telephone from a mosque in northern Mogadishu, Somalia's capital, Aweys told The Associated Press Wednesday that his enemies invented allegations he is a terrorist and that non-Muslims too often think that all fundamentalist Muslims are terrorists.

He said he and his followers, who include armed militiamen, would not rest until they had established an Islamic government in Somalia. He said he opposed efforts to install a Western-style democracy and called for the international community to leave Somalis alone to choose their own future.

Aweys said he would wage holy war on any foreign forces that enter Somalia and that he plans to have an important role in the country's future.

"I can influence all of my people with the faith and our religion," Aweys said. "The existing government is not an Islamic one and we will be having our own Islamic faith and we will be very strong in influencing our people."

Sheik Aweys' position is clear: Islam and nothing else.

Posted by Eric at October 12, 2005 05:48 PM

He said he and his followers, who include armed militiamen, would not rest until they had established an Islamic government in Somalia. He said he opposed efforts to install a Western-style democracy and called for the international community to leave Somalis alone to choose their own future.

Mark Bowden writes in Blackhawk Down, Penguin: 2000, that America had a responsibility to try to save Somalia. Of the local warlord, he writes:

Aidid's hardline forced the Clinton administration to take sides in what was nothing more than a civil war. We should have said no. Once a peacekeeping force starts shooting, it becomes part of the problem. Arresting Adid would most likely have given the Habr Gidr leader a more fervently motivated following, and would have elevated a two-bit Somali warlord to the status of an anti-imperialist hero in many parts of the world.

If the U.S. and the UN had tried to simply phase out their involvement in Somalia, critics all over the world would have accused Americans of leaving an important humanitarian task undone, and they would have been right.

That said, once we had committed ourselves to the effort, I believe the US should have seen the mission through even after the battle on Oct. 3--especially after the battle.

It was important to see the mission through once Task Force Ranger was committed. The lesson our retreat taught the world's terrorists and despots is that killing a few American soldiers, even at the cost of more than five hundred of your own fighters, is enough to spook Uncle Sam. Perhaps more important, however, is the lesson it sent to Americans, and in particular the men and women who serve. It's hard enough convincing Americans that events in some distant part of the world are worth jeopardizing American lives without being half-hearted about the intervention. Try rallying troops with the battle cry "We'll fight them on the beaches, we'll fight them on the cliffs...but we'll give up if they fight back." Military credibility is not just a mater of national pride. It lessens the chances of of war because enemies are less inclined to challenge America. [America's] only weakness is its will. Routing Adid would have, in the long run, saved American lives. (pp.355-56.)

Most of us understand that. However, most of our fellow citizens in the West do not. For those who do not, we direct them to Thucydides' "Melian Dialogue" for a clear perspective on the nature of power in the world:

But to return to Bowden and after all these years:

The victory was even more hollow for Somalia, although it is not clear even five years later how many people there understand that. The fight was a terrible mismatch. the Somali death toll was catastrophic.... Aidid died in 1996 without uniting Somalia under his rule, a victim of the factional fighting the UN had tried to resolve. His clan still struggles with rivals in Mogadishu, trapped in the same bloody, anarchic standoff. Clan leaders I spoke with in that destroyed city in the summer of 1997 seemed to think that the world was still watching their progress anxiously.... I told the Habr Gidr leaders who were hostile to our project that this would likely be their only chance to tell their side of the story, because there weren't journalists and scholars lined up at the border. The larger world has forgotten Somalia. The great ship of international goodwill has sailed. The bloody twists and turns of Somali clan politics no longer concern us.... Rightly or wrongly, they stand as an enduring symbol of Third World ingratitude and intractability, of the futility of trying to resolve local animosity with international muscle. They've effectively written themselves off the map. (pp. 333-34.)

But here they are again. Instead of being only a genocidal menace to each other, now Somalis are trying to involve themselves in a genocidal campaign against the modern world at large. due to a lack of resolve in the past, we now face an emboldened enemy we had beaten badly before we ran away from them. Can we ignore the threat?

Bowden continues:

The idea used to be that terrible countries were terrible because good, decent, innocent people were being oppressed by evil, thuggish leaders. Somalia has changed all that. Here you have a country where just about everybody is caught up in hatred and fighting. You stop and old lady on the street and ask her if she wants peace, and she'll say, yes, of course, I pray for it daily. All the things you'd expect her to say. Then ask if she'd be willing for her clan to share power with another in order to have that peace, and she'll say, "With those murderers and thieves? I'd die first." People in these countries...don't want peace. They want victory. They want power. Men, women, old and young. Somalia was the experience that taught us that people in these places bear much of the responsibility for things being the way they are. The hatred and killing continues because they want it to. Or because they don't want peace enough to stop it. (pp. 334-35.)

As the Modernist revolutionaries struggle toward greater accomplishments of equality and prosperity, we are dragging along the Third World primitive clinging to one foot, and on the other the Left dhimmi fascists who hope to pull everyone back into the dismal life of feudalism and barbarism. We must shake them loose, stomp them silly, and continue our course. Or join them. There is no possible compromise. Reason and Irrationality cannot co-exist any longer. We have to face reality as it is in the physical world of Humans. Anything less is suicidal.
posted by sonofwalker
And finally we have the nature of the world in contact with the future. This is what we get:

Somali pirates free hijacked ship

-- Pirates in Somalia have freed a UN-chartered ship carrying food aid, two days after hijacking it from the southern port of Merka.

The MV Miltzow's owner told the BBC no ransom had been paid and his company was suspending operations to Somalia until security had improved.

Maritime officials say Somali waters are some of the world's most dangerous.

Somalia's transitional prime minister has asked neighbouring countries to send warships to patrol the coast.

Somalia has not had a functioning central government since Mohamed Siad Barre was overthrown in 1991.

'Stay away'

The United Nations World Food Programme confirmed the release and said the gunmen had initially demanded a $20,000 (�11,000) ransom, Reuters reports.

Karim Kudrati of the Kenya-based Motaku Shipping Agency, which owns the ship, said that the eight-member crew were safe and a Somali businessman had negotiated the release.
The gunmen had taken the vessel to Barawa port from Merka, 100km (60 miles) south-west of the capital, Mogadishu.

A similar cargo ship, the MV Torgelow, was seized earlier this week.

Another UN-chartered ship carrying food aid to tsunami victims in northern Somalia, the MV Semlow, was released last week, after being held by hijackers for 100 days.

The Kenyan government has asked its citizens to avoid sailing to the Somali coastline because of the high incidence of piracy and kidnapping witnessed recently.

Government spokesman Alfred Mutua said Kenya was discussing with the transitional government of Somalia how to deal with these incidents.

Kenya is also investigating whether the gunmen behind the hijackings could be connected with the interim Somali government.

We can read about the peril, then, finishing our morning coffee go on to the next thing. There is really nothing to get excited about regarding the state of Somalia. Except that there is a huge and growing number of Somalis in, for example, the Netherlands. There are small but growing hotspots, as it were, and when they connect, the heat gets hotter. It's only those few who pay attention to the news and who concern themselves with news from afar who will worry about these things. Our point above is that it can creep right up to the corner and one will be vaguely interested in the event so long as it isn't a direct threat to ones person. Conversely, one might get nervous reading about a violent event in ones city that occurred across town the night before. Or there could be a looming fear that it's only a matter of time before something bad happens in the flesh. One must take a reasoned view of these things. Somalia is coming. It might be on the corner. So, what is reasonable?

1 comment:

DocRichard said...

Our world will become Somalia in time.

I hope not, although it does look as if we are moving in that direction. Equally, if the world could solve Somalia, perhaps by transforming it into an African Costa Rica, Somalia's current pain could lead to a great change in governance.

The future is not set. Bad things happen, but good things happen too.