Somalis Whose Relatives Were Killed by U.S. Strikes 'Have Yet To Receive Acknowledgement'

A letter human rights groups sent to the Pentagon indicates that the U.S. has reverted its typical callousness. PLUS: 'From The River To The Sea,' a free eBook I contributed to

Somalis Whose Relatives Were Killed by U.S. Strikes 'Have Yet To Receive Acknowledgement'
Two Somali fishermen. Photo by Adam Farris, CC-BY-SA 4.0

A letter human rights groups sent to the Pentagon indicates that the U.S. has reverted its typical callousness. PLUS: 'From The River To The Sea,' a free eBook I contributed to

Edited by Sam Thielman

A COALITION OF SOMALI AND INTERNATIONAL human rights groups have informed the Pentagon that even in cases of "civilian harm confirmed by the U.S. government," Somalis who have lost loved ones to U.S. military strikes have received no acknowledgement—let alone recompense—from Washington. 

"Even as we have contacted [the U.S. government] in every way we know how, we have never been able to even start a process of getting justice. The U.S. has never even acknowledged our existence," said Abubakar Dahir Mohammad, surviving brother of Luul Dahir Mohammad and surviving uncle of Luul's 4-year old daughter Mariam Shiloh Muse, whom a U.S. drone strike killed on Apr. 1, 2018. His quote was given to the African publication The Continent. 

Twenty-four human rights groups from Somalia and abroad included his quote in a letter they delivered to the Pentagon on Monday morning. The letter, seeking redress, underscores the casual manner with which the U.S. leaves gaping emotional and material wounds in people caught in the maw of the open-ended War on Terror long after slaying their relatives. A copy was shared with FOREVER WARS.

Somalia is absent from pretty much any U.S. attention back home. There is no Discourse about Somalia, despite extensive, persistent U.S. intervention. 

With occasional bursts of interest—and important exceptions, like the journalism of Nick Turse—that's been the case since post-9/11 U.S. involvement in Somalia began in 2006. That involvement started with the (first) U.S.-backed Ethiopian invasion, which overthrew the Islamic Courts Union only to see its place taken by al-Shabab, whom the U.S. has fought ever since. I remember learning during the Trump administration that the House Armed Services Committee never did a study of the U.S. war in Somalia. In REIGN OF TERROR, I wrote that you can't even really call Somalia a forgotten war, since that implies it once had Americans' attention. Next year this war will be old enough to vote. 

"The Department of Defense has at its disposal $3 million of annual funding provided by the U.S. Congress to make ex gratia payments to civilian victims and survivors of U.S. operations. We know of no cases in which those funds have been used in Somalia," write the human-rights groups, "despite the fact that in numerous cases confirmed by the United States, the identities of civilian victims and survivors are known and their contact information has been made available through their own reporting or through civil society representatives."

And it's of course not just the lack of reparations. It's the lack of basic U.S. acknowledgement to the families that the U.S. killed their relatives. That is a grimly consistent feature of the War on Terror. In 2016, I interviewed several relatives of people killed in U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan and Yemen. The hurt they expressed concerned not only their dead loved ones, but the refusal of the Americans to even acknowledge what they did to them

The human-rights groups' letter notes that the military indifference is in violation of a stated August 2022 Pentagon policy to "acknowledge and respond to civilian harm when it occurs and to treat those who are harmed with dignity and respect." We'll see if the Pentagon even responds to this letter, let alone to Abubakar Dahir Mohammad and all the other Somalis whom it placed in his excruciating position. 

HERE'S A FREE EBOOK. I'm honored to have my essay, "What The Rules Allow," in Verso and Haymarket Books' joint publication From The River To The Sea: Essays For A Free Palestine

There are some for whom the title of this book is scandalous. I wanted to say a few words about why I wanted my work included under this banner. 

Those who spend time listening to Palestinians tend to understand the phrase to mean the liberation of the Palestinian people from Israeli oppression through the end of exclusive Israeli sovereignty over the land known before 1948 as Palestine. Those who don't spend time listening to Palestinians tend understand the phrase to mean the mass murder or forced exodus of Jews from the land known before 1948 as Palestine—a reverse nakba; though often this warning will come from people who deny there ever was a nakba or that a second one is unfolding before our eyes, in Gaza. 

I once recoiled in horror from that phrase as well. My Jewish education had misinformed me that it was a call for atrocities, not a demand for justice. To oversimplify in the interest of time, when, as an adult, I began listening to Palestinians, and reading their histories, not only did I learn how wrong that was, but I began a path to seeing that instead of being taught the righteousness of Judaism, I had been taught allegiance to Zionism, a 19th century European nationalism. We have some collective experience with those not turning out well. 

The freedom of Palestine will arrive when there is freedom and equality for all who live in the land known before 1948 as Palestine. Jews who lived in Palestine before and even during Zionist settlement did so in civic harmony with their non-Jewish Arab neighbors. It can be that way again. 

Meanwhile, no commensurate scandal exists around Israeli declarations like the one made by the Prime Minister's son, who has in his Instagram bio, "From the River to the Sea, this [Israeli] flag is all you'll see." Or like Tzipi Hotovely, the ambassador to the U.K., who recently told an interviewer that Israel will "absolutely not" accept Palestinian statehood. That is a proclamation of a far different kind of one-state solution: the one we have now, whose violence is on display in Gaza and the West Bank. No one censures those who wield the phrase to mean the permanent oppression of Palestine. 

The end to all of this horror, the slaughter of Palestinians and the kidnapping and murder of Israeli Jews, is not easy, but it is clear: a free Palestine, as defined above, from the River to the Sea. It is in that spirit that I'm proud to contribute my essay. If you're still not sure about the title, I encourage you to read the Palestinian, Jewish and other authors included in this volume, which is available for free download from Verso and Haymarket. 

THERE IS NO EXCUSE FOR THINKING DONALD TRUMP CAN'T WIN THIS ELECTION, and yet the bipartisan congressional leadership put a limited reauthorization of Section 702, with its sweeping and warrantless surveillance powers, into the National Defense Authorization Act that predictably passed last week. Trump is promising—promising—to be much, much more of a dictator than he was last time around. And yet, once again, the prospect that such a person will wield the security state is no deterrent to the perpetuation (and because of the nature of surveillance capitalism, expansion) of mass surveillance. 

Biden will soon sign the NDAA into law. That gives 702 an unreformed lease on life for what is technically four months but more realistically 16 months, owing to the way the FISA Court works, and that could very well be into the dawn of a second Trump presidency. Congress still has a chance to end 702 next year. But nothing about the past year's debate indicates that it will. 

I KEEP SEEING reporting claiming that Biden is accelerating his criticism of the Israeli war campaign. Yet Jake Sullivan, his national security adviser, walked back or smoothed over all of those alleged rhetorical edges in a Friday interview with Israel's N12 News. Sullivan said he wasn't here to "lecture or dictate" how Israel must conduct its war, but share that the Biden team wants to see it transition from what he called a "high-intensity phase" to a "different phase," leaving the listener to infer that it should be a low-intensity phase without actually owning that. Biden's most aggressive criticism was saying that Israel's bombing was "indiscriminate." Sullivan backed away from that, saying, meaninglessly, that the administration wants to see the "results" of the war match what he called Israel's "intent" of not killing civilians—meanwhile, over 18,700 Palestinians are dead and 50,000 wounded. The truest thing Sullivan said was that there was "a wide degree of convergence" between Israel and the U.S. on the war. 

I've written before that as long as the U.S. keeps the weapons pipeline open, nothing Biden says about how Israel should or shouldn't use U.S. bombs and artillery matter. That remains true. But Sullivan is demonstrating that the administration says one thing to a domestic audience and another thing to an Israeli audience—the sort of thing that during the Oslo process, the U.S. and Israel denounced the Palestinians for doing. 

"ACTIVE LISTENING." Joseph Cox at 404 Media reports about a marketing team within the Cox Media Group that boasts to prospective clients of its capability to commandeer your devices and listen to your real-time conversations through them, all to gather data for ever-more-minute ad targeting. "No, it's not a Black Mirror episode—it's Voice Data, and CMG has the capabilities to use it to your business advantage," its website reads. Cox says it "signals that what a huge swath of the public has believed for years—that smartphones are listening to people in order to deliver ads—may finally be a reality in certain situations." I'm going to go live in the woods or something. Seriously, read through this whole dystopian pitch document. "Claim Your Exclusive Territory Before Your Competitors," they say—and you, your private conversations, is the "exclusive territory" they put up for the "claiming." 

[Worth noting here that Cox Media Group, despite not being a household name like AT&T, is partly owned by an even larger consortium of interests bearing the Cox name throughout the Southeast. The majority ownership belongs to one of those faceless private equity groups that sound like something the Joker would use as a holding corporation, this one called The Apollo Group (run by Epstein-adjacent pervert Leon Black), but Cox Enterprises owns tons of wired infrastructure and Cox Media owns a bunch of TV and radio stations. There are a lot of potential inlets for the kind of information Cox Media purports to sell—Sam.]

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