Domestic Fear Is the Price
By Sheldon Richman
February 25, 2015 "ICH"
- If you find no other argument against
American intervention abroad persuasive, how
about this one? When the U.S. government
invades and occupies other countries, or
when it underwrites other governments’
invasions or oppression, the people in the
victimized societies become angry enough to
want and even to exact revenge — against
American empire worth that price?
We should ask ourselves
this question in the wake of the weekend
news that al-Shabaab, the militant Islamist
organization that rules parts of Somalia
ISIS-style, appeared to encourage attacks at
American (and Canadian) shopping malls.
Maybe the Shabaab video
was just a prank to scare us. Maybe it was
an attempt to plant violent thoughts in the
minds of Somalis living in the United
States. No one believes that the
organization itself is capable of attacking
Americans where they live, but that doesn’t
mean Shabaab-inspired violence is
At any rate, it’s
unsettling to be advised to watch out for
terrorism when we shop at the mall.
Here’s the thing: We don’t
have to live this way. The empire is just
not worth it. We must understand that people
in the Middle East, Africa, and Central Asia
who subscribe to fringe militant
interpretations of Islam would not be
wishing us harm except for the violence the
U.S. government has inflicted or helped to
inflict on Muslim societies for many
decades. In fact, those militant
interpretations wouldn’t be nearly so
attractive without the American empire and
Why won’t the media
describe this context? It’s because their
job, despite what they say, is to be the
government’s megaphone, not its adversary.
Let’s look at Somalia,
where the latest threat originated.
U.S. intervention goes
back to 1992, when President George H.W.
Bush sent the military into a civil war
there. Among the military’s activities was
the suppression of the Somalis’ use of the
intoxicant khat, which has been part of
their culture for millennia.
right. The U.S. government imposed a war on
the Somali drug of choice.
President Bill Clinton
withdrew the forces after two Blackhawk
helicopters were shot down, but that was not
the end of U.S. intervention. After the
September 11 attacks, Somali warlords
seeking American largess played on the
George W. Bush administration’s concerns
about al-Qaeda. The CIA obliged the warlords
with suitcases of cash. As a result,
everyday life became intolerably violent. So
when the Islamic Courts Union (ICU) — a
relatively moderate coalition of Sharia
courts in the capital, Mogadishu —drove out
the warlords and produced a measure of peace
and stability, the Somali people were
That should have been
deemed satisfactory, except that the
warlords and their American backers were
unhappy with the new situation, as Jeremy
reported in 2011. “Most of the entities
that made up the Islamic Courts Union did
not have anything resembling a global
jihadist agenda,” Scahill wrote. “Nor did
they take their orders from Al Qaeda.”
Nevertheless, the U.S.
government was determined to oust the ICU.
To achieve that goal the Bush administration
in 2006 backed a military invasion by
Ethiopia, Somalia’s long-time Christian
adversary, which overthrew the ICU.
“The Ethiopian invasion
was marked by indiscriminate brutality
against Somali civilians,” Scahill wrote.
Ethiopian and Somali
government soldiers secured Mogadishu’s
neighborhoods by force, raiding houses
in search of ICU combatants, looting
civilian property and beating or
shooting anyone suspected of
collaboration with antigovernment
forces.… If Somalia was already a
playground for Islamic militants, the
Ethiopian invasion blew open the gates
of Mogadishu for Al Qaeda. Within some
US counterterrorism circles, the rise of
the Shabab in Somalia was predictable
To make things worse, the
U.S. government has waged a drone war, with
civilian casualties, and special operations
against the Somalis. According to
Scahill, the CIA also operates a secret
prison and other facilities there.
So the U.S.-sponsored
intervention sowed the ground for the
most militant group in Somalia, al-Shabaab.
Had the ICU been left to govern, we might
never have heard of these young
Islamists, whom the Obama administration now
uses to scare American shoppers.
We can live without the
fear of terrorism — but only if the U.S.
government stops antagonizing foreign
populations that have never threatened us.
Sheldon Richman is vice
president of The Future of Freedom
Foundation and editor of FFF's monthly
journal, Future of Freedom. For 15 years he
was editor of The Freeman, published by the
Foundation for Economic Education in
Irvington, New York.