Minneapolis forum criticizes US drone strikes, imperialism in Somalia
Minneapolis, MN – On July 26, in response to the Biden administration's decision to deploy 500 special forces troops to Somalia, the Anti-War Committee hosted a forum with the Council on American-Islamic Relations-Minnesota and Women Against Military Madness to educate community members on the current political situation in Somalia.
Meredith Aby-Keirstead of the Anti-War Committee (AWC) introduced the event by describing how drone strikes in Somalia escalated under the Trump administration, and how President Joe Biden is continuing Trump’s devastating policies. “The fact is that Biden amping this up again has us very much concerned,” Aby-Keirstead stated. “We know from Afghanistan, Yemen, Pakistan, Iran and Syria, that U.S. airstrikes kill civilians, increase anti-U.S. resentment, and violate sovereignty on a daily basis.”
Jaylani Hussein, executive director of Council on American-Islamic Relations-Minnesota (CAIR-MN), who recently visited his home country of Somalia, provided the main presentation, covering the history of U.S. intervention in Somalia and the ensuing political instability. He described how the U.S. has been intervening politically, economically and militarily in Somalia since the Cold War, including troop deployments beginning during the Somali Civil War of the 1990s.
Hussein explained that in 2006, after a long period when Somalia had no functional government, a group of religious leaders known as the Islamic Courts Union (ICU) armed themselves and restored a functioning government in southern Somalia. The U.S. designated the ICU as a “terrorist” group and backed an Ethiopian military intervention that destabilized Somalia once again, which, according to Hussein, led to the growth of more armed groups like Al-Shabaab. He said that U.S. foreign policy “literally created terrorists,” adding, “In 2006, if the U.S. just listened to the Somalis, and just allowed us to move forward and not intervene, Somalia today would be projected in a totally different way.”
According to the New America think tank, the U.S. to date has carried out 269 known drone strikes in Somalia, estimated to have killed almost 2000 people in total, including many civilians, with the most recent strike taking place on July 17, 2022. Hussein described how many Somalis know or are related to someone who has been killed by an American drone strike.
Hussein criticized the U.S.’s efforts to ameliorate the ongoing famine in Somalia, noting, “In situations like right now, drone strikes could actually further exaggerate the famine.” Hussein highlighted the role of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) in helping weaken the country’s agricultural industry, by flooding the local market with cheap food produced by U.S. farming monopolies instead of supporting Somali farmers. “The United States policy on food, whether it’s during war or in peacetime – both are wrong. USAID completely annihilates every farming community that exists in the Third World,” Hussein explained. “There is no intention of actually solving the food security issues in these communities.”
Hussein also called attention to state repression of the Somali diaspora community in the U.S. “The FBI continues to target the Somali community in Minnesota. They have a clear distaste for the Somali community,” he said. CAIR-MN helps represent Somalis in the Twin Cities who face FBI harassment and abuse.
“The United States has no interest in helping the people of Somalia, of Ethiopia, of Kenya, in any other way than to have their military have access to do what they want,” Hussein concluded. “We do not ship our American hospitality. We ship our cowboy racist white supremacy.”