For the past few days there has been intense fighting behind an alliance of warlords and the Islamists in Mogadishu. The Voice of America reports:
Hundreds of residents of Somali’s lawless capital are fleeing as militia groups battle for control of the city.
The death toll has risen to at least 133.
Witnesses say fighters have begun looting homes in Mogadishu in between intense fire fights.
Islamic militias and an alliance of warlords have been fighting for control (mainly in the northern Sii-Sii neighborhood) for the past six days.
Gates of Vienna has posted previously on the situation in Somalia. It’s worth noting that, although the news stories don’t mention it, the Islamic militias are an “alliance of warlords”, too. It’s just that their alliance is based on Islam, and represents the coalescence of an Islamic force around the shari’a courts and the institution of Islamic-based justice. Their enemies have formed an alliance against them, based on the shared interest of a common defense.
It looks like a two-sided civil war is coalescing here, with the Islamists against everyone else. The Islamists have the natural advantage, since their rule is slightly less corrupt than that of their rivals, based as it is on the austere precepts of Islam. In addition, they are the known enemy of America, which gives them an undeniable cachet in the streets of Mogadishu.
The VOA continues:
Many Somalis, including the interim president, Abdullah Yusuf Ahmed, say the warlord alliance has U.S. support, a belief that has fueled anti-American sentiment in Mogadishu.
U.S. officials say they are working with many Somalis to support the establishment of the interim government. But officials have declined to comment on any relationship with the warlords.
Well, of course we back the “warlords”! The alternative is to stand by and let a Somali version of the Taliban take over and make Somalia into Afghanistan South.
But as long as the media frame the conflict as one between “Islamic militias” and an “alliance of warlords”, we’re going to have to appear to keep our hands off the situation. The usual equivocations are in order: condemning “all violence”, deploring “excesses on both sides”, etc. etc.
Words matter. It would be just as accurate to refer to it a battle between “Al Qaeda-affiliated gangs” and “secular militias”. That description has just as much truth in it. But don’t expect to read that in the media, not even in the Voice of America.
Next thing you know, Michael Moore will be referring to the Islamic gangs as “Somalia’s Minutemen”.