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Friday, July 16, 2010

Is al Qaeda Racist?

President Barack Obama is my President just as much as he is anyone else's President, so when I can support him I like to.  I think it drives my wife crazy, but that is NOT why I am doing it.  I am doing it because I am an American and Barack Obama is my President.

So, when the President noted the racism inherent in the recent bombing in Uganda, which killed 74 people, I thought I would write a blog post in his defense.  The attack was sponsored by al Shabaab, an Arab operation affiliated with al Qaeda, and done in Uganda, which is part of Black Africa.  Al Shabaad is a terrorist group out of Somalia.

I thought the President might be on to something.  I am currently reading Making Haste From Babylon:  The Mayflower Pilgrims and Their World:  A New History and it mentions that Arabs were sailing off Newfoundland before the Pilgrams landed at Plymouth Rock and taking as slaves fishermen from Europe using those waters.

But, back to the question of if al Qaeda and al Shabaab are racist.  Quoting from the Johannesburg Times:
A US official meanwhile branded Al-Qaeda, linked to the Somalia-based Shebab group which claimed the attacks, as "racist," as the United States cranked up its diplomatic response to increasingly active extremists in Africa.

Obama, leveraging his African heritage and popularity on the continent, took direct aim at Shebab and Al-Qaeda after attacks on crowds in Kampala glued to the World Cup final on Sunday killed at least 76 people.

"What you’ve seen in some of the statements that have been made by these terrorist organizations is that they do not regard African life as valuable in and of itself," Obama told the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC).

"They see it as a potential place where you can carry out ideological battles that kill innocents without regard to long-term consequences for their short-term tactical gains," he said, in the interview to be broadcast early Wednesday.
But, I did ask someone I know, who knows the territory and got this response:
Arabs often refer to Black Africans by racist names, and I do not doubt that they value Sub Sahara Black lives less.  However, I do not think that is the primary reason for the attacks and am rather surprised that Obama had to see it that way.  In fact, from what I know, the main reason is that the U.S. is using Uganda as a main source for our interests in Somalia and against the LRA.  As usual, there are a bunch of Americans running around Kampala [Uganda] shooting their mouths off and attracting attention.  In addition, Uganda is one of the more progressive countries in Central Africa and has attracted investments and attention from Europe and China.

Obama should be careful not to view the world from the point of view of racism.  He and [US Attorney General Eric] Holder are fueling the flames and masking some real problems and issues.  Of course there is racism, in the U.S. and elsewhere, and it runs in all directions.
And this person is a pretty hard-headed observer of the scene in Northeast Africa and Latin America.

Please note that Uganda is involved in the chaos known as Somalia and the US is backing this intervention.  Wikipedia quotes The Wall Street Journal quoting an International Crisis Group analyst as saying, [Al-Shabaab is] "sending a message:  Don't come here propping up the Somalia government ... It's a message of deterrence."

And, to reinforce my interlocator's note about US involvement, a spokesman for the US State Department, on 15 July, noted that the US is sending 63 FBI agents to assist with the investigation into the July 11 attacks in Kampala (Uganda).  At the same time, the Spokesman noted that the US will be increasing aid for the UN approved African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), and Uganda will add an additional 2,000 troops to its current commitment of 3,500 soldiers.

Not very strait-forward, is it?  Life is usually complicated.  So, I think there is an element of racism present in al Shabaab, but even if it were absent, the bombing would have happened.

Short blog posts are great, but they can lead to confusion.  Long blog posts are complicated, but can add needed perspective.

For those of you who have been thinking that if we pull out of Iraq and Afghanistan it will all go away, please look around.

Regards  —  Cliff

  Lord's Resistance Army.  In Northern Uganda, and elsewhere.

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