Nov
18
2008

Failed Reporting on Somalia–or Didn't-Even-Try Reporting?

As well as being infused with a modern-day "white man's burden" mythology not exactly unheard of in media reporting on Somalia, Time magazine's article "The Suffering of Somalia" (11/13/08) follows the well-documented pattern of misreporting on recent U.S. intervention on Somalia (see Extra!, 3-4/08)–downplaying the disastrous role of recent U.S. policy in that country:

Somalia is not so much a failed-state as a didn't-even-try one. It hasn't had a government since 1991, when warlords took over and embarked on a series of intractable clan wars that have produced one of the world's worst humanitarian crises: hundreds of thousands dead and 3 million people desperately in need of aid.

In the following paragraph, Time notes that "those who try to help too often come to grief."

Yet the record shows that the humanitarian situation in Somalia has gotten far worse in the wake of a U.S./Ethiopian military invasion in '06. According to

Foreign Policy in Focus
, the U.S./Ethiopian intervention ended what had been a brief six-month period of relative peace and security under the rule of the Islamic Courts. By the end of 2007, the situation had escalated into a full-scale humanitarian crisis, and today, "Nearly half of Somalia's population is starving and the stage is set for a famine on par with the horrific hunger that ravaged the Horn of Africa in the early 1990s."

Time concludes by identifying "the emergence of Iraq-style Awakening militias made up of moderate Somalis, who have taken on al-Shabaab in street battles in recent weeks" as an an "encouraging development":

The chances are that this will grow into a full-scale conflict. Still, an Awakening would also offer Somalia's best hope of keeping its extremists in check. Perhaps only in Somalia could the prospect of more war be a sign of hope.

Actually, the use of U.S.-backed militias to fight official U.S. enemies in Somalia is not a new development. As Extra! pointed out:

In early 2006, the CIA provided big payments to brutal and widely despised warlords who formed the "Alliance for the Restoration of Peace and Counter-Terrorism," a group that clashed with the courts and snatched up "terror suspects" to feed to the CIA, actions that managed to backfire and dramatically increase public support for the Islamic Courts; experts argue that without that U.S. involvement, the Courts wouldn't have been able to build up the public support they needed to bring Mogadishu under their control (Agence France Presse, 6/15/06; Chatham House, 4/07).

As for the prospect of war being "a sign of hope" in Somalia, that's something that Extra! observed the mainstream press was saying back in 2006 too, during the U.S./Ethiopian intervention:

-"In a country with such a troubled recent history, including famine, anarchy, isolation and war, a potentially viable government has suddenly emerged" (New York Times, 12/29/06)

-"Somalia now has the best chance in 15 years to end anarchy and establish an effective government" (Associated Press, 1/2/07)