It’s all a mystery to us

December 26th, 2006
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After months of warnings by bloggers like war specialist Bill Roggio and intermittent reporting by wire-service journos and stringers, the mainstream news media have noticed the renewed trouble in Somalia. No sooner did they notice than they began moulding and massaging “the story”.

Last night the CTV was up. Omitted from its report were key facts like Somalia’s 17 identified terrorist training camps, the clear (and openly expressed!) ties between the rebellion led by the Islamic Courts Union (ICU) and al Qaeda – ICU leaders have boastfully compared their movement to the Taliban – and many other warning signs. The ICU is officially supported by both Osama bin Laden and his deputy, Ayman al Zawahiri.

Instead, the CTV described the (unnamed) ICU as a local “insurgent” movement with allegedly widespread popular appeal.

Does every generation have to re-learn every lesson learned by the one before? Have today’s journos never heard of staged demonstrations and faked “man-on-the-street” interviews? Don’t they realize every totalitarian movement throughout history has had a similar playbook?

The ICU are popular the way Kim Jong Il is adored by devoted North Korean peasants (those nourished just well enough to stand), or the way crowds lined the streets and threw flower petals at the old East German tyrant, Erich Honecker.

Granted, in Somalia’s case many people were disgusted and weary of the violence, arbitrary rule and sheer criminality of the warlord-instigated anarchy and nihilism. So the ICU’s promise of law and order must have found eager listeners.

But by the time it dawns that the new crew isn’t exactly as advertised, it’s usually too late. Waking up in impotent alarm to a brutish new landlord has been the sad experience of dozens of complacent or naïve populations throughout the past century.

Sure enough, in the cities they seized, ICU councils have imposed sharia law. They’ve banned movies, smoking, alcohol, public playing of music, and even the sale of khat, that low-level narcotic that’s a Somali staple and the backbone of the local economy. Spontaneous demonstrations were met with force, numerous people were shot, and there’ve been public executions. One can only expect that worse is on the way – the Taliban didn’t mellow like fine French wine, but simply grew more irrational in their cruelty.

Here’s how the ICU themselves describe what’s going on. Declared one Yusuf Mohamed Siad Indohaadde, the ICU’s “defence minister”: “Our country is open to Muslims worldwide. Let them fight in Somalia and wage jihad, and God willing, attack [the Ethiopian capital of] Addis Ababa.”

Again, the go-to guy on this one is Bill Roggio and his site, The Fourth Rail. He’s posted dozens of times on this topic, with numerous links and excellent maps. He’s described the current round of fighting in detail. Here’s a typical current post.

If a sap like me can find out this stuff, then it surely shouldn’t prove overly elusive for International Heroes of Journalism. Yet they persist in presenting the ICU as a purely indigenous and largely benign movement, sanitizing the radical Islam.

One wonders why. Am I excessively suspicious to think that the news media are setting up conditions to present Ethiopia, Somalia’s historic foe and the protector of what’s left of Somalia’s recognized government, as the bad guy?

Ethiopia is an ancient Christian land. Somalia is Muslim. Perhaps it’s as simple as that: Ethiopia just has to be the villain.

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