The Growing GWOT Target List

Categories: Terror and War


A crowd at Ramstein Air Base welcomes the flight bearing Michael Durant, an Army Warrant Officer who had been released after being taken hostage in Somalia in October 1993. (DOD)

All the excitement over Wednesday night's presidential address on Iraq means little attention is being devoted to the U.S. airstrike on Somalia. Normally, it's a big deal when the U.S. bombs a country ... OK, maybe not always (How many times did the U.S. bomb Iraq in 2002, the year before the war: A. Zero times, B. 10 times, C. 100 times [answer here]). But it's usually a big deal when the U.S. bombs a country where Americans last recall their sons' corpses being dragged through the streets.

And with all the talk about escalation in Iraq (er, "surging"), it's worth noting that Somalia joins a list of at least five countries where the U.S. has engaged in military operations of some type since 9-11 and the launch of the GWOT: Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, and the Philippines. In addition, Americans involved in Operation Enduring Freedom have been killed or wounded in Cuba, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Jordan, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Seychelles, Sudan, Tajikistan, Turkey, and Uzbekistan—though those casualties could have been the result of operations to stage attacks on Iraq or the other known combat zones.

Meanwhile, the U.S. alliance with Ethiopia goes un-analyzed. The Somali Islamists were apparently real bastards in imposing Islamic justice. But check out the State Department's own report on human rights in Ethiopia:

    The following human rights problems were reported: limitation on citizens' right to change their government; unlawful killings, including alleged political killings, and beating, abuse, and mistreatment of detainees and opposition supporters by security forces; poor prison conditions; arbitrary arrest and detention of thousands of persons, particularly those suspected of sympathizing with or being members of the opposition; detention of thousands without charge, and lengthy pretrial detention; government infringement on citizens' privacy rights, and frequent refusal to follow the law regarding search warrants; government restrictions on freedom of the press; arrest, detention, and harassment of journalists for publishing articles critical of the government; self-censorship by journalists; government restrictions on freedom of assembly including denial of permits, burdensome preconditions or refusal to provide assembly halls to opposition political groups, and at times use of excessive force to disperse demonstrations; government limitations on freedom of association; violence and societal discrimination against women, and abuse of children; female genital mutilation; exploitation of children for economic and sexual purposes; trafficking in persons; societal discrimination against persons with disabilities, and discrimination against religious and ethnic minorities; government interference in union activities.

Perhaps after 3,008 dead (that's the latest count) in Iraq, Americans are just happy to have a nice, clean surgical strike where someone else—maybe even an al Qaeda bigwig—dies.

After all, no one likes casualties, or the administrations that allow them. Back in 1993, in the aftermath of the U.S. deaths in Mogadishu, former President Bush told a classroom: "If you're going to put somebody else's son or daughter into harm's way, into battle, you've got to know the answer to three questions: [the mission], ... how are they going to do it" and "how they're going to get out of there." Dick Cheney also took a shot at the Clinton White House. According to a Times piece at the time, "Mr. Cheney said the Clinton team seemed to be 'lacking' in 'intellectual rigor and tight command and control.'" Thank goodness we all learned from Clinton's mistakes, eh?


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