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A Commentary by
Toronto (Canada)

15th Feb. 2002


M. M. Afrah

Since the dawn of history moguls, kings, emperors, rajahs, pashas, military dictators, warlords and present day political bigwigs have been pointing their fingers at what they considered as the enemies of the state, i.e. those who threatened their shaky thrones.

Most of the draconian consternation dates back in the middle ages, when those in power declared an all out war against their enemies, hallucinatory or real, using all the means at their disposal.

Chaka Zulu of South Africa relentlessly fought massive British invaders with spears and arrows facing Maxim machineguns, howitzers and cannons. Somalia's Sayid Mohamed Abdulle Hassan put the British in an awkward corner until they decided to use airplanes of the Royal Air Force, the first to be used in Africa. In a long article a distinguished British writer described the Sayid as the "Mad Mullah who shamed us." Then the Sayid dropped out of sight and later died peacefully in Imey, a small nomadic encampment in Western Somalia.


The thunder of fear and condemnation continued against Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini and Tojo of Japan in the 1930s/40s when the axis tried to put the whole world under their jackboots. They mercilessly destroyed cities and massacred civilians in the name of leben's raum (nazi Germany) Asian Co-prosperity (Japanese imperialism) 100 anni di pecora meglio un giorno di leone (Mussolini's fascism). Europe and Asia lay under the rubble of heavily bombarded cities until the American military under General Dwight Eisenhower and General Douglas McArthur came to their rescue with Uncle Sam's superior firepower and tenacity. The Soviet Red Army routed the German army in the eastern front with the help of the "Old General Winter" and the Japanese received their first taste of atomic bomb that decimated the twin cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

But the thunder of fear and condemnation continued unabated. Communism at the behest of the then Soviet Union became the Enemy Number One in capitalist West, and according to Winston Churchill in his Iron Curtain speech described Joe Stalin and the Soviet Red Army "as menace to Western civilization." The Americans dubbed the Soviet Union as "The evil Empire."


During the Cold War several "enemies of the state" made their debut with flying colours. These included Fidel Castro, Che, Carlos the Jackal, Abu Nidal, General Noriega, Idi Amin, Colonel Muammar Qadafi, Kim Il Sung (late father of the present Kim Jong Il), Saddam Hussein, Yassir Arafat, and a host of third world leaders, including Nobel Peace Prize Winner and father of his nation, Nelson Mandela. (He was described as Africa's Number One Terrorist by the white apartheid regime in the 1960s) and Patrice Lumumba, the first Prime Minister of Congo. Last week Belgium apologized for the role it played in his assassination after just four months in office. And to a lesser degree General Mohamed Farah Aideed, the late South Mogadishu faction leader, who died in a gun battle during an offensive and until very recently Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe who put the white farmers and the opposition leaders in a corner. And of course Slovodan Milosevic, "The Butcher of the Balkans" and the first Head of State currently facing a war crimes tribunal in The Hague.


Again the thunder of fear and condemnation still continues. The war against terror can go on indefinitely, whether in Afghanistan, Yemen, Somalia, Malaysia, the Sudan or the Philippines. The terrorists, we are told, are everywhere, including the United States and Canada. There's even an American Taliban fighter by the name of John Walker Lindh, a 20-year old Californian, who according to top US Administration officials, choose to kill his own countrymen. I am wondering if there is a Somali Taliban or a member of the Al-Qaeda network out to kill Americans? It was not Somalis who attacked September 11, but Arabs from affluent families in Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Every single person identified as a plane hijacker in the September 11 attacks in New York and Washington DC entered the United States legally with visas issued by the Government of the United States. "They were not people claiming to be refugees, and it is absolutely unfair and silly to suggest otherwise," Ruud Lubber, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees said during the weekend in Ottawa.

Yet Washington continues to insist that Somalia is a safe haven for Al-Qaeda terrorists, "because it is a failed state." American journalists who visited the country said that no foreign terrorist worth his salt would show his face in Somalia, where every body knows everybody and where secrets are in the public domain. As I wrote before on this website a foreign terrorist will stand out like Count Dracula on a chicken farm.

However, there's one exception. Somalia gave shelter, money, weapons and diplomatic passport to Meles Zenawi, the current Ethiopian Prime Minister, who was then considered as a terrorist and enemy of the state by the late Emperor Haile Selassie and later by the Dergue strongman Colonel Mengistu Haile Mariam who is himself in a safe shelter in Zimbabwe. Ironically, Meles Zenawi is now out to bite the hand that fed him when he was on the run. He now emphasizes that Somalia is a safe haven for international terrorism, a futile exercise to win the old "Good Guy" label from the Americans with financial assistance to boot.


Writing in the Globe and Mail newspaper Canadian columnist Thomas Walkom said "in George Orwell's novel Nineteen Eighty-Four, the enemy of the state is personified in Emanuel Goldstein. Goldstein is the Osama bin Ladin figure of the novel, an elusive figure who is never seen, never captured but believed by all patriotic citizens of Oceania (Orwell's fictitious state, an amalgamation of North America and Europe) to be an evil genius bent on their destruction.

"Since Goldstein is never captured, Oceania's battle against him must never cease. Sometimes it wages war on one country said to be aiding the nefarious Goldstein, sometimes on another. The battleground may change but the war never ends."

My own response to these knotty problems is to make unfairness fair and focus our attention on the "evil genius" instead of beating about the bush and convicting innocent people.

M.M. Afrah 2002



Reuters long time correspondent, M.M. Afrah was there when military dictator, Major Mohamed Siyad Barre came to power in a military and police coup in October 1969. He was there when General Barre was ousted from power by poorly trained, poorly equipped youths in beach sandals, after more than two decades in power. He was there when the militia youths turned their guns on each other for the control of Mogadishu, the Somali capital. He was there the US Marines, Army Rangers and the Delta Forces stormed the beaches of Mogadishu to spearhead an international task force under the code name of Operation Restore Hope. And he was there to see them leave. He watched as their initial goodwill turn into an impotent rage, and saw their efforts to impose Western-style democracy end up in fiasco. It cost the UN and US billions of dollars and the lives of several UN and US soldiers end up in body bags. The cost to Mr. Afrah was one of his sons and the destruction of his house after it received a direct hit from a tank shell. He buried his son at the steps of his demolished house. In an article in the British edition of ESQUIRE magazine, Aiden Hartley, who worked with Afrah in Somalia, described his frontline reporting as "A Bravery under Fire."


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