Monday, October 21, 2013

Attention Shoppers!
The Westgate Mall In America's Jihad Bargain

I know that events in Africa during the weekend of September 21st are, in terms of American historical memory, a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, but I’m going to pay them some belated attention. The attack on the Westgate Mall in Kenya was, after all, a horrific action by the  Somali jihadi group, al-Shabaab, lasting over a number of days, in which at least 61 civilians died. It was also, as USA Today opined: “the post-9/11 nightmare that Americans have been half expecting: al-Qaeda gunmen attack a shopping mall, take hostages, leave behind carnage and a sickening repeat question: ‘Why us?’" 

I’m sure many Americans felt exactly that dread on watching the events unfold – and well they should, since, given the forces in play, it’s quite possible that something similar will, again, happen here.

For Americans who might have more than a passing interest in understanding why such atrocities happen, and who might want to do more than shake their heads, after the fact, in bafflement and moral self-righteousness, one might start out with the always-cogent Jeremy Scahill’s explanation of “where al-Shabaab came from,” and how it came to target Kenya. It's a somewhat complicated story of how American special ops forces used favored Somali warlords as an “assassination squad” against perceived “al-Qaeda” militants. This was followed by American connivance with Ethiopia and Kenya to invade Somalia and break up the network of local institutions, known as the Islamic Courts Union, that had been established by a broad Somali movement to achieve some order and stability in the country. Al-Shabaab started as a marginal groupuscule within that movement, and only rose to prominence as a result of the foreign incursion.

As Scahill explains:
Most Somalia experts said that there were no more than a dozen al-Qaeda-connected individuals in Somalia right after 9/11. And so, the CIA hires these warlords ostensibly to go in and hunt these people down. Well, they end up murdering vast numbers of people who were imams or religious scholars, and in some cases, I was told, that they would literally like chop people’s heads off and then bring them to their American liaison and say, ‘This is so and so, and I’ve killed them.’ And so, you had this utterly thuggish collection of warlords murdering people, and doing so, they believed, with the backing of the United States of America, the most powerful nation in the world.
In this segment (about five minutes) from Democracy Now (full interview and transcript), Scahill lays out quite clearly how the US “made the very force they claimed to be trying to fight the most powerful force in Somalia”:

In Scahill’s rendering, aggressive American actions, ostensibly aimed at destroying “al-Qaeda,” end up fostering the rapid growth of would-be affiliates like al-Shabaab.  The inevitably brusque and brutal interventions of a foreign power transform these groups from locally suspect and marginal factions into foci of religious, cultural, and national resistance, exponentially increasing their popular support and accelerating recruitment.
At this point, however, Americans cannot be content to see this as matter of “unintended” –and therefore implicitly innocent – consequences. The first time this happens, one can argue that it’s unintentional, but when you get the same result, from the same actions, over and over again, you cannot claim you didn't know what to expect, what you were actually doing. (Unless you’re very crazy or very stupid, and the architects of US policy are neither.)  If we start post-9/11, this has been going on for twelve years.  But it would be a mistake to start at 9/11. This has been going on, often with quite obvious intention, for over thirty years. Indeed, as I've shown before, America's original bargain with Islamic fundamentalism goes back sixty years!

But it was some thirty years ago that it became a real devil's deal. During the Soviet-Afghanistan conflict, the US, Saudi Arabia (and other Gulf states), and Pakistan, with huge infusions of arms, cash, and political support, turned isolated, outlier factions of Sunni fanatics into an organized, well-armed and well-trained combat force, capable of fighting the Soviet army and forming an ambitious global agenda. Since then, the US and its Gulf allies have had a strategy of shopping around jihadis, repeatedly funding and arming their favored jihadi factions against the villain of the week – always some regime that is perceived as potentially threatening to American hegemonic interests. In other words, a regime that is too quasi-socialist, too staunchly nationalist, and/or too anti-Zionist, unlike the conservative, submissively religious, monarchical authoritarian regimes that have been compliant with American and Israeli hegemonic ambitions in the Arab and Muslim world since WWII.

Crazy like a fox, maybe. As I’ve discussed (especially here, but also herehere, here, and here), the supremely cynical and arrogant calculus is that these jihadi groups can be used as instruments of US and Gulf policy, that their chaotic violence can be used opportunistically to disrupt any independent states, create an infinite series of "wars on terror" that are financially and ideologically profitable, and can be kept under control (and away from the "homeland") with constant droning -- supplemented by occasional cruising, stealth bombing, special ops-ing, and, if necessary, lite-invading.  It’s a foolish fox’s calculus -- maybe not stupid, but certainly not smart enough to control so much crazy. Yet this is American foreign policy, as fully embraced by Obama.  It's a disgrace, a crime, and a disaster.

Afghanistan, Libya, Syria, Kenya. Westgate is the Mall of America. As Tony Cartalucci puts it in his excellent analysis of the obvious, though systematically-obfuscated, context of jihadi violence: “The Same Terrorists the US is Arming in Syria are Killing Civilians in Kenya."  As he remarks further:

"Al Qaeda, for the West, serves as the ultimate geopolitical tool  It can be used as a pretext to invade, as well as a nearly inexhaustible mercenary army to carry out ruthless terrorist campaigns and even full-scale war as seen in Syria and Libya, to achieve Western objectives. Additionally, the omnipresent, nebulous nature of Al Qaeda serves as justification to strip away the rights and liberties of people at home, across Western civilization - perpetuating a climate of fear within which the seeds of very profitable war can be sown and continuously reaped."

This is a disaster that is, first of all, continually visited upon the lives of the people of the Middle East and North Africa, but a disaster, as Cartalucci indicates, for Americans as well – though its full cost is yet to be understood or felt by the American populace. (No, 9/11 was not the full cost, just a down payment.) The architects of this policy complacently presume that the American people will continue to go along with this forever, as most have for the past thirty years (including most Democratic liberal politicians, and, for the past four years at least, much of that party’s constituency).

It’s a disaster that, since the great humanitarian adventure in Libya, and in synergistic tandem with the increased footprint of the US AFRICOM command, is now being spread across Africa:
"This cooperation between AQIM, Boko Haram, and Al Shabaab has been clearly bolstered by the immense influx of NATO-provided cash and weapons flowing into Libya first to overthrow the Libyan government, then to be shipped to Syria to overthrow the government there. NATO's assistance in expanding Al Qaeda's operational capacity in North Africa can only be helping terrorists like those behind the Kenya Westgate Mall siege carry out cross-border operations of this scale."
“Al Shabaab's continued existence, along with its counterparts AQIM across Northern Africa, LIFG in Libya, Boko Haram in Nigeria, and Al Nusra in Syria, is due entirely to both covert and overt Western military and financial backing "
“[W]hat Kenyans and the world as a whole must remember, is who armed them, who continuously props them up, provides them entire nations (Libya) as safe havens, and swells their ranks and armories with billions in cash and thousands of tons of weaponry at a time in war zones like Syria.”
Criminals like Obama and Samantha Powers may, in their narcissistic self-delusion, work themselves up into believing that there is some “humanitarian” project, some “exceptional” American moral mission, hidden in all this. These rationalizations cannot be taken seriously, and deserve only to be slapped down when they appear. Let’s not forget that, if they had their druthers, we’d be bombing Syria on behalf of such jihadi groups right now!  At this point, taking their self-justifying “humanitarian” excuses seriously is the epitome of stubborn credulity. They are criminals, aggressive war-makers, imperialists, and need to be treated as such. 

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