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The Name of the Game in Somalia is Oil
By Karamatullah K. Ghori

Continued from

Tens of millions of dollars were sunk into the oil wells of Somalia. The largest investment was made by Conoco. But before any of the wells could spew oil in commercial quantities, Siad Barre licked the dirt. His corrupt regime was overthrown in January 1991, and Somalia was consumed by a civil war which forced all foreign enterprises to fold their tents and get out of the country—all except Conoco. The Houston-based Conoco did not want to desert Somalia for two reasons : one, they had had the largest investment of money in Somalia and, two, their friend George Bush was, by then, in the White House. They were in no hurry to cut their losses and run.

But George Bush, at that juncture, was overly engrossed with Saddam Hussain and Iraq. His " Desert Storm" was just then rolling to oust Iraq from Kuwait. So, Conoco simply cooled their heels in their huge compound in Mogadishu and bribed the civil war combatants to leave them alone. They thought they had all the time in the world to recover their losses whenever calm returned to Somalia. Besides, the thumping success of their buddy, Bush, in "Desert Storm" gave them reason to believe that he would win a second term, hands down, and then look after their interest. That was not to be.

Bush’s humiliating defeat at the hands of Clinton robbed him of a second stint and Conoco of a powerful mentor. But Bush did not want to leave his friends high and dry in Mogadishu, and decided to give his favourite military option a last chance to fashion the chessboard in Somalia to his friends’ liking. That was the backdrop to Bush rushing in 20 thousand American troops to aid the UN, ostensibly, in its plan to restore normalcy in Somalia. Only his perspective of ‘normalcy’ was different.

Bush also sent in a political tribune of his trust to sort things out at the diplomatic level to pave the way for Conoco to get their oil gear out in the field once again. Robert D. Oakley was his czar in Somalia. Oakley, a chip off the old block, had pleased Bush in his stint as ambassador to Pakistan in the crucial, winding- down, days of the Afghan War. He behaved more like a pro-consul than ambassador in Islamabad which did not earn him many friends there but the hawkish, conservative, Republican right was immensely pleased with his performance. They knew he was their man to pull their chestnut out of the Somalian fire.

Oakley moved straight into the Conoco compound in Mogadishu which became the operational headquarters for both the civilian and military activities. While the U.S. soldiers behaved like an occupation army—exactly the way they are acting in Afghanistan, today—Oakley started throwing his weight around in the political arena. There, he soon ran into his nemesis, Farah Aideed, the warlord who had played a big role in chasing Siad Barre out of power.

Farah Aideed had had a chequered career. Once a favourite of Siad Barre , he eventually broke ranks with his mentor. Barre packed him off to India as Ambassador in New Delhi where he lived five years and imbibed a lot of India in him. He returned to Somalia against Barre’s will and soon became one of his tormentors. Aideed repeated his medicine on Oakley, too. And the rest, as they say, is history. American soldiers’ arrogant, colonial, behaviour made them the enemies of all the warring Somali factions, especially Aideed’s. Scores of them were killed in hand to hand combat. Clinton, by then in the White House, cut his losses and pulled the entire U.S. contingent out of Somalia. Conoco’s dream of striking rich in Somalia lay buried in the debris of war.

That was 9 years ago. Bush Jr. now thinks September 11 has served Somalia on a platter to him and his powerful friends in the Texas oil lobby. The new Bush doctrine of fighting evil and terrorism is a rehash of the old Bush doctrine of controlling the energy resources of the Gulf and the region around it. The essential thrust, and end-game, of both is the same: keep the world of Islam in thrall to the west and exploit its rich mineral deposits to the hilt for the benefit of the west. That was the thesis expounded by that redoubtable dispenser of power politics, Henry Kissinger, in the early 70s when OPEC imposed the first oil embargo against the west for its unabashed espousal of Israeli interests at the cost of the Arabs.

Conoco and others of their ilk must have started dusting their old blueprints of Somalia. They have, once again, a friend in the White House prepared to wage a crusade on their behalf. None should doubt his resolve to realise his dreams and those of his friends. He is behaving as if he were in a game of blind man’s buff, swinging his stout stick around with his eyes closed. He has despatched 600 American soldiers to assist the Filipino army to ferret out the brigands of Abu Siaf from the jungle. He has recently responded similarly to a call from Edouard Shavernadze of Georgia to fight his rebels said to be abetted by the Chechens. Anyone who could pronounce Al Qaeda may rest assured that George W. Bush would respond to their call with a missionary zeal. His mission has a single sentence bottom line: he will fight ‘ Islamic terrorism’ in the remotest corner of the world.

Footnote : There is no doubt that Bush has a team of stalwarts who share his conviction as much as they did his father’s. A’hero’ of the old " Desert Storm" team, General Norman Schwarzkopf, was recently interviewed on tv and asked if those accused of harbouring and assisting the alleged terrorists of September 11 did not deserve to be forgiven ? Without losing a breath, Schwarzkopf answered : " I believe that forgiving them is God’s function. Our job is simply to arrange the meeting."

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