Many people on all sides have praised president Donald Trump for expressing his desires to pull troops out of the Middle East and bring them home. As these wars have cost hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars and led to the immeasurable suffering of millions of innocent civilians and created a suicide epidemic among US troops and veterans, the idea of ending them and bringing home the troops is certainly worthy of praise. However, like all politicians beholden to the military industrial complex, when it comes to Somalia, Trump says one thing while doing another.
According to U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM), beginning under George W. Bush in 2007, and spanning all the way through the Obama administration, the US launched 42 airstrikes in Somalia. In the first seven months of 2020, alone, the Trump admin has acknowledged 43 air strikes beating out both of those administrations.
AFRICOM claims in their quarterly “Civilian Casualty Assessment” that during these strikes, only a single civilian has been killed. But those on the ground, and advocacy groups investigating the real death toll, paint a far darker and bloodier picture.
According to one of the only reports in the mainstream we could find on Somalia, out of TIME, AFRICOM has launched hundreds of air and ground attacks in Somalia since 2007, but the command has admitted to killing only five civilians in three separate attacks over the last 13 years. An investigation by Amnesty International found that in just nine of those airstrikes, 21 civilians were killed and 11 others were injured. According to Airwars, evidence suggests that as many as 15 Somali civilians have been killed by U.S. strikes in 2020 alone. Airwars – whose database incorporates local and international news reports, photos, videos, social media posts, mapping, and geolocation, and other data for every known U.S. air and ground action in Somalia – contends that between 72 and 145 civilians have been killed in U.S. attacks since 2007.
According to AFRICOM, the US strikes are a part of a concerted effort to increase security in the region by degrading al Shabaab, an extremist group linked to Al Qaeda, and, to a lesser extent, the Islamic State.
However, anyone who pays attention to how terrorist groups build their ranks, these strikes actually act as a recruiting tool for terrorists. If someone loses a child or a relative to a US missile, rest assured, that person will likely dedicate their lives to going after the ones responsible.
In Somalia, 145 dead civilians can potentially turn into a recruiting tool for thousands of people.
It is for this reason that in spite of the record number of airstrikes, billions in taxpayer dollars, and US military troops on the ground, al Shabaab remains resilient after more than a decade in the cross-hairs of the world’s largest military.
The result of such a policy of air strikes and civilian casualties creates an inevitable cycle of more terror and subsequently more death.
Even during the midst of a global pandemic, the US continued to rain hell down on the Somali people who live in constant fear of a missile falling from the sky and killing them.
Imagine if a country was claiming to fight terror here in the United States and was doing so by invading the country with troops and launching missiles in various places. Imagine that they claimed they were here for our “freedom.” Imagine that they “accidentally” killed a family during these strikes and imagine how angry relatives and friends of that family would become. Imagine those relatives and friends taking up arms against the occupying force and fighting back any way they could. And then imagine that invading country continuing to think that dropping more bombs and killing more civilians would be the answer to stopping this resistance.
Sadly, as is evident in Somalia and elsewhere, this is the only policy in which the US engages and this is in spite of decades of endless wars which show it does nothing but lead to more suffering. When Iraq voted to expel US military from its borders earlier this year, it was a democratic decision that expressed the will of their citizens. The US should have immediately pulled out and left. Instead, we stayed, against their will.
When a country stays in another country despite that country openly agreeing they do not want you in it, you must ask yourself who the bad guy is in that situation. Spoiler alert: it is not the people who want to stop seeing their kids’ limbs blown off.