A new report from Amnesty International reveals that U.S. air strikes from aircraft and drones have increased in Somalia, resulting in the deaths of at least 14 civilians.
Due to a literal black out of all news related to the ongoing wars waged by the U.S. military, most Americans cannot name the nations in which the military is currently engaged in conflict or dropping bombs. The average American does not realize the U.S. is still involved in conflicts in Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, Syria, Pakistan, Libya, and Somalia. A new report from Amnesty International, a non-governmental organization focused on human rights, attempts to provide a little more clarity regarding what exactly is happening right now in Somalia.
The report, titled “The Hidden US War in Somalia”, details the history of terrorist attacks by Al-Qaeda and Al-Shabaab, the history of U.S. military involvement in Somalia, the current numbers on drone strikes and the impact on Somalis. The report also outlines conclusions about how the U.S. military should approach the situation moving forward.
The report shows the U.S. military has tripled the annual rate of drone strikes in Somalia since April 2017. The number of strikes in 2018 was higher than strikes taking place in Libya and Yemen combined. Despite the increase in strikes, the U.S. military continues to claim that no civilians have died. The Amnesty International report investigates five incidents in Lower Shabelle, Somalia, in which 14 civilians were killed and eight injured. Amnesty International states that the report is the result of interviews, satellite imagery analysis, corroborating the information through a variety of open-source investigation techniques, and speaking to doctors.
The Department of Defense responded to the report, stating that U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) has no aircraft that would have been involved. “We appreciate Amnesty’s efforts to allow us to contribute to the report prior to its publication,” the official said, “but we really do believe the report does not accurately reflect AFRICOM’s record in mitigating civilian casualties.”
Brian Castner, Amnesty International’s senior crisis adviser on arms and military operations, says the Amnesty International team spoke to people in person or through an encrypted app with smartphones to get their side of the story. Amnesty conducted 150 interviews and not a single person said they were interviewed by a government official from the U.S. or Somalia.
“From 2017, the AFRICOM did a report to Congress that they killed zero, as the official number. In 2018, they said that was true for that year, as well—110 strikes, 800 terrorists killed, zero civilians,” Castner said on a recent episode of Democracy Now! “And we would maintain that in war, nothing is perfect, and so going 800 for 800 is just not a reasonable conclusion. It means that investigations, really thorough investigations, are not being done, as opposed to just having a perfect record.”
Castner said he worries that AFRICOM says they are striking at Al-Shabaab affiliates without detailing what type of activity an individual must be involved in to be considered an affiliate. “So, in several of our cases from our report, AFRICOM says they did the strike. We say that four died. They say four people died. But they will call those four al-Shabab or al-Shabab affiliate members.”
What’s important to remember is that the Ruling Class Oligarchy, and their friends in the corporate media, do not want the free minds of the world to wake up and resist the war machine. They know they can prevent the growth of a massive anti-war movement if they just stop talking about it and pretend it doesn’t exist. This is why earlier this month, AFRICOMcommander General Thomas Waldhauser, told a Congressional Hearing that he wouldn’t call what the U.S. is doing in Somalia a “war.” Why? Because part of the agenda is to change the very words we use so the public becomes desensitized. This is why wars are conflicts, torture is enhanced interrogation, and killing civilians is just killing militants.
As Castner noted on Democracy Now!, the war in Somalia is not confined to airstrikes from planes and drones. “There’s also advise-and-assist missions going on on the ground. There’s raids going on, where U.S. marines and SEALs and soldiers are advising Somali units and are, you know, participating in those activities, as well,” Castner stated. “It sure looks like a war to us. There is political pressure to not use that word.”
Check out the graphic novel version of the Amnesty International Report: Graphic novel: Zero Civilian Casualties – The hidden US war in Somalia
The U.S. has been covertly engaging in conflicts in Somalia for decades, but in April 2017, the Donald Trump administration upped airstrikes and attacks targeted at the rebel group Al-Shabaab.
With so many little wars to keep track of, you probably haven’t noticed that the US has quietly been increasing its airstrikes against targets in Somalia. And, as RT's Polly Boiko points out, it seems few people in Washington have either. In recent months, dozens of Al-Shabaab terrorist suspects have been killed by American drones and planes in Somalia, reportedly thanks to a surplus becoming available from Syria. However, in a familiar pattern, the US military has denied any civilians were harmed, while locals and aid agencies deny that denial.
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