The United States is currently waging active bombing campaigns over eight countries in two continents. One of those continents is Africa, and one of those countries is Somalia. The country has been ravaged by sectarian violence for quite some time now, and it is clear that the current American intervention — beginning in 2007 under George W. Bush — has not made things any better.
Despite this, since the Obama administration’s departure in January of 2017, United States military action in Somalia has only ramped up. According to New America — a centrist, non-partisan think tank based in Washington D.C. — American drone strikes on Somalia have increased every year since Barack Obama left office. This was especially true in 2019 where, by less than half-way through the year, the United States had surpassed the number of Special Operations raids and drone strikes of any year previous. By the numbers, from 13 in 2016, United States drone strikes on Somalia totaled 38 in 2017, 47 in 2018, and at least 55 in 2019.
This expansion in drone operations is a direct result of Trump-era rule changes. Under Obama, strikes were required to have some self-defense pretext. That is no longer the case. The new set of guidelines, formally titled “Principles, Standards and Procedures,” drastically lowers the threshold for the use of force.
The man thought most responsible for this policy shift is not actually Trump himself. But, rather, current Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Pompeo, a notorious hawk, has long complained that he feels the United States war machine is too constrained by the legal system. He believes the executive branch should be able to launch attacks on a whim all over the globe without having to navigate through pesky constitutional checks and balances. This sentiment is not unique to Pompeo. It is, in fact, a common talking point among his ilk of neoconservatives.
Aside from an ideological disregard for the law, Pompeo also has an extensive history palling around with bigots, suggesting he may even be one himself. In 2016, the designated hate group ACT for America awarded Pompeo the group’s highest honor, the National Security Eagle Award. The ACT’s American founder, Brigitte Gabriel, has been quoted as saying Muslims “cannot be loyal [citizens] to the United States” and are “a natural threat to civilized people of the world.”
Pompeo is also close with fascist Dutch politician Geert Wilders who has called for Islam’s eradication and for banning the Quran. This, by the way, is only scratching the surface of Pompeo’s problematic associations.
Prior to being Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo preceded Gina Haspel — who reportedly was delighted being involved in the torture of innocent people at the black-sites she oversaw — as Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (C.I.A.). In a public Q&A at Texas A&M University almost exactly one year ago, Pompeo admitted that, during his tenure, the C.I.A “… lied, we cheated, we stole. It was like we had entire training courses.” One must wonder how on Earth such a person was allowed to assume the role of the United States’ top diplomat.
Circling back, what perhaps is most concerning about current Somalia policy is how it does not value human life. Amnesty International — along with other human rights watchdog groups — has demonstrated time and time again that United States drone strikes are killing and injuring innocent Somali civilians. And what is more is that this collateral damage is neither reported on nor investigated.
Amnesty International has repeatedly brought these concerns to the Pentagon, only to be brushed off and ignored each and every time. However, AFRICOM, the U.S. Africa Command, has issued a response of their own by pledging to begin reporting civilian casualties by the end of this month. Unfortunately, this misses a key part of the equation. Without conducting thorough investigations, casualty numbers are doomed to inaccuracy, rendering such reports almost meaningless.
Currently, there is no system of restitution in place for those whose loved ones are lost at the hands of United States drone strikes.