The U.S. and Woyanne’s blunder in Somalia – By Gwynne Dyer

December 17th, 2008 Print Print Email Email

Statesmen ought to have a special prize just for themselves, like fools have the Darwin Awards. The Darwin Awards commemorate very stupid people who did a service to human evolution by accidentally removing themselves from the gene pool. The statesman’s equivalent could be called something like the Cheney-Zenawi Award.

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Statesmen ought to have a special prize just for themselves, like fools have the Darwin Awards. The Darwin Awards commemorate very stupid people who did a service to human evolution by accidentally removing themselves from the gene pool. The statesman’s equivalent could be called something like the Cheney-Zenawi Award.

I mention this because the shining stupidity of the US Vice-President and the Ethiopian Prime Minister are on special display this week, as the Ethiopian army prepares to withdraw from Somalia two years after its foredoomed invasion, leaving the country in the hands of precisely the people whom they wanted to eliminate. We need negative role models too, and you couldn’t ask for worse than this pair.

I can’t actually prove that getting Ethiopia to invade Somalia was Dick Cheney’s brainchild, but it smells exactly like a Dick Cheney idea: crude, violent, and barking up entirely the wrong tree. Just like invading Iraq, in fact.

As for Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, he had already distinguished himself by becoming obsessed with the stupidest border war in modern African history. It wasn’t his fault to start with: Ethiopia was attacked out of the blue in 1998 by the insanely aggressive regime in Eritrea, but Ethiopian troops drove the Eritreans back. By the ceasefire in mid-2000, Ethiopia had recovered all the ground it lost at the start.

An international commission found Eritrea guilty of aggression, and another one arbitrated all the disputed stretches of border, granting Ethiopia most of its claims. Both sides said they would accept the rulings—and then Zenawi walked away from the deal. He has been getting ready for another war with Eritrea ever since.

Going to war with Eritrea again would mean defying the United Nations ruling, so Zenawi needed the backing of some great power that could protect him from the UN’s censure. Who better than the United States, which has assiduously ignored and belittled the UN under the Bush administration? Now what could Ethiopia do for the Bush administration in return?

Well, it could invade Somalia. Washington didn’t want to put American troops into Somalia again, having had its nose bloodied in 1993, but it did want to overthrow the civilian regime that was restoring peace in southern Somalia and put its favourite warlord in power instead. Ethiopian troops would do the job just as well.

I think I can see the self-satisfied smirk on Cheney’s face as he closed the deal: another triumph for the subtle master of geopolitics. I can’t make out the look on Zenawi’s face, but maybe he was smiling too. Too clever by half, as the saying goes.

The job was to overthrow the Union of Islamic Courts, a mass movement funded by local merchants in Mogadishu who wanted to end the constant robberies and kidnaps that made life impossible in the Somali capital. The UIC mobilised the desire of ordinary Somalis for an end to the violence that had ravaged the country for fifteen years, and the peace they brought to Mogadishu soon spread over most of southern Somalia.

Unfortunately the courts were “Islamic” and they wanted to enforce sharia law, which in Washington’s book made them practically terrorists. They did have a few unsavoury allies, notably an extremist militia called al-Shebab, but they gave people in Mogadishu their first real hope of security and justice. They should not have been destroyed.

The Ethiopian army invaded Somalia in December 2006, drove the Islamic Courts out of Mogadishu, and installed Abdullahi Yusuf, the president of the “Transitional Federal Government” (TFG) of Somalia, in power. Well, not exactly in power, since the citizens and militias of Mogadishu immediately began attacking the hated Ethiopians, who only controlled whatever was in their gunsights. As for Abdullahi Yusuf, he only controlled a suite of rooms and some telephones.

He was originally chosen as president of the TFG, with ample US support, at a conclave of Somali warlords dignified with the name of “parliament” in Kenya in 2004. He would never have made it back to Mogadishu without the help of the Ethiopian army, and accepting that help made him deeply suspect in the eyes of most Somalis.

The resistance has driven the Ethiopian army out of most of southern Somalia in the past two years, and now the Ethiopians are going home. Abdullahi Yusuf will have to leave too, since he has no supporters except the Ethiopians and the Americans. Which will leave Mogadishu in the hands not of the Union of Islamic Courts, alas, but rather of the extremist militias that have pushed the UIC aside during their struggle against the foreign troops.

It’s almost as perverse as the Bush administration’s decision to eliminate Iran’s two great enemies in the Gulf, Saddam Hussein’s Iraq and the Taliban in Afghanistan. Ethiopia and the United States have not only plunged Somalia needlessly back into war. They have made it possible for the nastiest, craziest extremists, people who think it is their duty to kill other Muslims with “un-Islamic” haircuts, to take power in Mogadishu.

The world needs a Cheney-Zenawi Award for Gross Political Stupidity, and I know who the first nominees should be.

Gwynne Dyer’s new book, Climate Wars, has just been published in Canada by Random House.

  1. Haimanot
    | #1

    Correct analysis. May be what should be added is why Meles invaded Somalia.1) war is all he knows 2)is getting military hardware, traing,loan guarantees from the US which will help him stay in power using force. 3) the only losers in this deal are the Ethiopian people, so what’s new?

  2. KOKOBAY
    | #2

    MELES ZENAWI is very smart leader the world diden’ know very well he knows how to defend his ENEMIS BOTH INTERNAL AND EXTERNAL ENEMIS I AM PROUD OF HIM. AS SOMANY MILLIONS OF ETHIOPIANS I HAVE GREAT RESPEACT FOR ZENAWI THE SMART LEADER.HAWEVER THERE ARE WEAK VERY WEAK POLETITIANS TRYING TO TEST ZENAWI BUT AGAIN HE KNOWS VERY WELL HOW TO HANDEL IT. OH GOD BLESS PM ZENAWI AND ITS STRONG ARMY THE GREAT WOYANE.
    DEATH AND SUFFER FOR OUR ENEMIS EXTERNAL AND ENTERNAL ENEMIS. OHH YEEEEEEEEEE.

  3. Lema
    | #3

    The Cheney – Zeanwi Award by Gwynne is the best piece based on a documented truth.

    I would have put the 100 000 souls dead in the 1998-2000 war for a needless and ridcolous war which brought nothing but a dead colonial treaty for Ethiopia. Making Eritreans the smartest partner in the tragedy of that war. Hey this is Africa and it is particularly Ethiopia – NO ACCOUNTABILIY FOR THE DEMISE OF SO MANY PEOPLE AND SO MUCH RESOURCES.

    Just after the war Zeanwi went on the Air on most of the int’l media outlet announcing 20 million Ethiopians are starving. With in a couple of years he started another war to make the US happy.

    If Zenawi and his Tigrians are not an animal then who is? He is a shame to the black race and humanity.

  4. geremew
    | #4

    KOKOBAY,

    Did you leave your brain somewhere when you wrote this comment. Such comment is not expected of a human with brain.

    Zenawi imprisoned, killed and abused so many people inside and out.

    History will judge him.

    Geremew.

  5. Wakyo
    | #5

    KOKOBAY =ILLITRATE WOYANNE AS USUAL

    YOUR SAYING OF MELLESES SMARTNESS SHOWS THAT YOU ARE ONE OF THE BRAIN DEAD FROM THE MAFIA RING IN ETHIOPIA WE CALL THESE TYPE OF PEOPLES
    NOT SMART RATHER (LIER ACHBERBARI RESPECTLESS AND INHUMAN)HE IS ONLY SMART FOR YOU AND YOUR LIKES TILL BUSH AND FRIENDS TELLS HIM YOUR TIME IS OVER THEY NEED HIM ONLY FOR SHORT BECAUSE THEY WELL KNOW ZENAWI IS NOT PEOPLES CHOICE EXCEPT OF THOSE GOOD FOR NOTHING LIKE YOU

  6. mola
    | #6

    How many times we talk the samething over and over in politics about Meles Zenawi.
    Think about the years he ruled Ethiopia in the past and think about any condition that inforce him to get rid of his power this time .There is nothing.
    So this man is prepared to stay on power for the next one or two terms ecause he is smart politician if we dont swallow this and bark on the same bullshit agian and again.The result is always a big Zero.

  7. geremew
    | #7

    mola,

    if you call Zenawi a smart politician, then there is something wrong with you…

    He is just a dictator with white lies. Dictators are usually so myopic. Their downfall is usually a ugly one.

    Meles is not smart. He has a brain with the size of a chicken.

  8. Kiflu
    | #8

    The only group of people desparately screaming about the same topics are Enemies of Ethiopia
    1.member of Shabeas
    2.Member of OLF lead by Shabeas.
    3.Power mongers of Diaspora Ethiopians.Other than that Ethiopia is good this time

  9. | #9

    Sometimes we are losing sight from the glaring fact, that we are dealing with the most backward, uncivilized and uncultured peasants from one of the least developed parts of the Empire. This is the same crook who happens to lie everyday to hoodwink the people.

    This ethnic embiciles are a malignant cancer destroying the nation and the sooner they are surgically removed and discarded the better.

  10. | #10

    I can’t believe there are people who consider this western puppet, shaebia x-student, Ethiopian back stabber, and his own people killer smart! my friend go ahead and celebrate with weyanes development, dimocracy, and 10.9% economic progress but don’t also forget under weyane Ethiopia had been broken in to so many little Somalia! There had been to much hatred and bloodshed that was created by these tribalist junta and mafia for their own personal gains but at the expense of to many Ethiopian people!

  11. KOKOBAY
    | #11

    MATEOS ANTA WEDI LETEBRHAN GAHEBA. ZENAWI IS 100% BETTER THAN YOUR ASS HOLE IGNORANT PRESIDENT ISAYAS AFESERAKY. HE PANISH HIS WHON PPL. AND YET YOU ARE COMING TO SHOW US YOUR DUMEN ANGER GO AND TALK TO YOUR CRAZY ISAYAS YOUR BIG BOSS WHO KILL YOU IN MASS DENKORO GO AND WATCH ….WWW.TV.ZETE THEN COME BACK AND TALK ABOUT THE SMART LEADER PM ZENAWI. HE IS JUST KILING YOU SOFTLY WITH NO WAR NO PEACE.
    KKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKK GO AND BLOW NOW WEDI KEDAMIT CHENAWIT LETEBRHAN.

  12. Wakyo
    | #12

    KOKOBAY AND MOLA DO ME A FAVOUR AS AN ETHIOPIAN GO TO SCHOOL IF YOU ARE YOUNG AND TO WORK HARD AND EARN MONEY THIS WAY YOU MIGHT HELP YOUR COUNTRY BUT NOT IN POLITICS WHERE YOU DONT HAV NO CLUE AT ALL

  13. KOKOBAY
    | #13

    WAKAYO. ARE YOU A ROCKET SINTIST OR WHAT? PLS CLOSED YOUR DIRTY MOUTH. HERE IN THIS ROOM YOU DONT NEED TO BE A POLETITIAN OR RICH ANY ETHIOPIAWI HAVE THE RIGHT TO WRITE HIS/HER FEELING ABOUT OUR COUNTRY SO IF YOU ARE A LOOSER ETHIOPIAWI IAM SORRY BUT YOU CAN GO AND BLOW. GUREGNA;

  14. bini
    | #14

    oh my God i dont even think on this days that stupid zenawi got such a blind folded suported like kokebe i am just also wondering what Ethiopians poeple said about their brutual enemy legese zenawi.hr is the all truth pleas dont make yourself confused.kokebe we Ethiopians are not naming by other ‘Kehadiwoch.’the world’s knows who this terorist leder is he terorise his own nation he cant hide from the truth even his followers try to cover his crime.one day he will get his big panishment.we dont have time for arogants like kokebe……

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