Friday, August 20, 2010

Islam and America in the 21st Century: "Die Stunde der Demagogen" and the Ground Zero Mosque Debate

"Bataille de Poitiers en Octobre 732" by Carl von Steuben depicting Charles Martel (mounted) facing Abduhl Rahman al Ghafiqi (right) at the Battle of Poitiers (aka The Battle of Tours)

The Battle of Poitiers (CE 732) Reloaded for CE 2010
"God’s Warriors" and spineless politicians raise their swords against the invading Muslim hordes in Lower Manhattan

Author’s Note for Act I:  "I wade exhausted into the fetid swamp of American politics, xenophobia, and religious fear-mongering yet again with sword in hand to battle demons and heretics…"

There is a raging debate taking place in the United States over the construction of a new Islamic community center near the sight of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City. It is a planned $100 million dollar building project that before the events of “9/11” would have attracted little attention in New York let alone throughout the whole of the U.S.A. and abroad.

After all, Muslims have been practicing their faith freely in America since the late 1700’s. African Muslim slaves taken to the American colonies in the early 1600’s practiced their faith in secret for fear of severe punishment, and the first known mosques to be erected in the United States were built in Maine, New York, North Dakota, and Iowa in the early 1900’s. Thomas Jefferson, our third president and one of the founding fathers of the new republic, a president who had difficult relations with Muslim countries during his presidency (see the Barbary Wars), kept a copy of the Holy Qur’an (a 1734 edition of the Alcoran of Mohammed translated by George Sale) in his private library.

U.S. Library of Congress
Use of Thomas Jefferson's Koran for Congressional Swearing in Ceremony

The Thomas Jefferson Papers - America and the Barbary Pirates
(American Memory from the Library of Congress)
What Jefferson really thought about Islam by Christopher Hitchens

I was totally unaware of the proposed Park51 Community Center until a few weeks ago when I saw news headlines about the growing controversy in America over the mislabeled “Ground Zero Mosque” and the outpouring of anti-Islam fear-mongering and hysteria from some of America’s best known political, civic, and religious leaders. Upon close examination of what exactly was being said about the proposed Islamic center and mosque in lower Manhattan, it become clear to me that this is NOT about respect for the families of New York’s 9/11 victims as claimed.

This so-called national debate is not about American ‘sensitivities toward Muslims’ who intend to build an Islamic center and mosque near the site of “hallowed ground” (the former NYC World Trade Center), but instead this is about low-down and dirty politics American style___ ahead of the upcoming midterm elections in the U.S. where devious politicians (mainly from the Republican Party but also including many spineless Democrats) are using fear, hatred and ignorance to fan the flames of distrust and fear between American Muslims and non-Muslim citizens. This debate in fact is an impromptu national referendum on Islam and Muslims in America.

FP Magazine’s Stephan M. Walt and Marc Lynch comments on the debate:
What's at Stake in the Cordoba House Debate by Stephen M. Walt


“It doesn't take a genius to figure out what is going on here: All you really need to do is look at how the critics of the community center project keep describing it. In their rhetoric it is always the "Mosque at Ground Zero," a label that conjures up mental images of a soaring minaret on the site of the 9/11 attacks. Never mind that the building in question isn't primarily a mosque (it's a community center that will house an array of activities, including a gym, pool, auditorium, and oh yes, a prayer room). Never mind that it isn't at "Ground Zero": it's two blocks away and will not even be visible from the site. (And exactly why does it matter if it was?) You know that someone is engaged in demagoguery when they keep using demonstrably false but alarmist phrases over and over again.

What I don't understand is why critics of this project don't realize where this form of intolerance can lead. As a host of commentators have already noted, critics of the project are in effect holding American Muslims -- and in this particular case, a moderate Muslim cleric who has been a noted advocate of inter-faith tolerance -- responsible for a heinous act that they did not commit and that they have repeatedly condemned. It is view of surpassing ignorance, and precisely the same sort of prejudice that was once practiced against Catholics, against Jews, and against any number of other religious minorities. Virtually all religious traditions have committed violent and unseemly acts in recent memory, and we would not hold Protestants, Catholics, or Jews responsible for the heinous acts of a few of their adherents.

And don't these critics realize that religious intolerance is a monster that, once unleashed, may be impossible to control? If you can rally the mob against any religious minority now, then you may make it easier for someone else to rally a different mob against you should the balance of political power change at some point down the road.”

End excerpt____

More on the ‘Ground Zero Mosque’ debate at Foreign Policy:

Criticizing the Lower Manhattan Mosque is pretty stupid; saying such criticism helps Al Qaeda is stupidity squared by Daniel W. Drezner

Why the Clash of Civilizations Won't Go Away by Marc Lynch


Last evening in New York, I joined a strong panel organized by the UN's Alliance of Civilizations at the New York Times to discuss U.S. relations with the Muslim world. The room was packed to hear Roger Cohen, Joe Klein, Martin Indyk, Reza Aslan, Dalia Mogahed and I talk about a variety of issues. A surprising amount of the discussion ended up focusing on Israel, which perhaps shouldn't be that surprising, with some real sparks between Aslan and Indyk in particular over the possibility of a two state solution. While I took part in a variety of conversations about Israel, Iran, democracy, and Obama's foreign policy more generally, my main concern was the dangerous resilience of "clash of civilizations" narratives in American and global discourse about Islam. For all of Obama's efforts to change that narrative, to move away from a war on terror and focus on partnerships and respect, recent trends only confirm how deeply ingrained the older confrontational narratives really are. Why? What can be done?

The power of these post 9/11 confrontational narratives about Islam has been on full display of late. What I like to call stupidstorms break out with alarming regularity, driven by right wing media: the frenzy around anodyne comments by the NASA director about engaging Muslims, the firing of Octavia Nasr over her Hezbollah tweet, the especially nasty clashes over the Ground Zero mosque complex. The sheer amount of disinformation, vitriol, and agitation against Muslims and Islam in pockets of the right wing media (new and old) beggars belief. Part of the blame also lies with right wing politicians, who cynically (or, more frightening, sincerely) exploit the anti-Islam tropes to drum up votes and to grab attention. And part of the blame lies in the reality of the persistence and terrorist attacks of al-Qaeda affiliates and sympathizers , and the polarizing effects of the escalating arguments over Israel, Gaza, and Iran. It isn't just the right wing echo chamber, though --- the frenzies over the Captain Underpants failed bomber and the Times Square failed bomber show a mainstream media still hardwired to fall back into the comfortable tropes of the war on terror.

End excerpt_____

This so-called debate is an ugly, disgusting thing to watch from the other side of the Atlantic and it angers me beyond words. To see politicians and high-profile public figures stoop to such depths in order win votes, whip up anti-Muslim fervor amongst the American public, frighten/threaten American citizens of the Muslim faith, people who have committed no crime or acts of sedition against the nation, is outrageous. This hysteria reminds me (and I am certain many other people here in Germany) of the rapid rise of the National Socialists (the Nazis) following the collapse of the Weimar Republic.

The situation in America has gotten so out of control that a growing number of Americans surveyed in a recent national poll firmly believe that President Obama is a Muslim! This is not a new phenomenon on the American political right, but the fact that the findings released on August 18th state that a full 18% of Americans polled believe that President Obama is a Muslim is shocking. The report goes on to state that fully 43% of Americans don’t even know what President Obama’s religion is and that only 46% of Democratic Party voters surveyed say that the 44th President of the United States is a Christian. President Barack Hussein Obama has been raised as a Christian, is a practicing Christian along with his wife and two daughters, and to my knowledge has no intention of giving up his faith or changing religions. End of story!

Author’s Note: I personally do not care whether my president is a Muslim, Christian, or Jew, but that so many of my fellow citizens in America could be so ---damn stupid is absolutely un----ingbelievable! And this is the nation that claims to be the light of the world? Think again, America!

Pew Research Center: Forum on Religion and Public Life
Religion & Politics 2010 - News, Analysis and Data on Religion and the 2010 Midterm Elections
Growing Number of Americans Say Obama is a Muslim (survey report summary and download) (Slate Magazine)
The Republican campaign against a Ground Zero mosque by William Saletan
Why we should build the proposed Islamic center in Lower Manhattan
The dispute over the "Ground Zero mosque" is an object lesson in how not to resist intolerance by Christopher Hitchens

Author’s Warning: Christopher Hitchens is a card-carrying heretic and anti-theist if I ever seen one. Christian, Jewish, and Muslim readers be advised that you might find his views offensive.

The New York Times
Is the Mosque Issue a Risk for Obama? - Room for Debate
Editorial: Xenophobia - Fear-mongering for American Votes

The Los Angeles Times
Debate over mosque near 'ground zero' splits Republicans
GOP takes harsher stance toward Islam by Ben Smith and Maggie Haberman

These kinds of underhanded tactics work especially well with Americans who hold a thinly-veiled fear and hatred of Islam and Muslims worldwide. I had thought that these ‘Hetzredner’ (demagogue, hate speech) were just a lunatic fringe of the American political and religious right until I saw a CNN International report that claimed a full 68% of Americans across the US political spectrum, Republicans and Democrats alike, vehemently OPPOSE the Cordoba Initiative Park51 Center in New York. At this point my heart sank as I realized that a majority of people in a country that I love so dearly may be heading down the slippery slopes of religious bigotry and fear that has plagued humankind for millennia.

The tireless efforts by Middle East and Islamic scholars, religious leaders from all major faiths, and efforts by the U.S. Government (under two administrations) to inform and educate Americans about Islam (the faith) vs. Islamist extremist ideology has simply not worked. Even my own humble efforts to reach out and engage with Muslims here in Europe, the majority of which are very fine and decent, hard-working people from the Middle East, Africa, and Asia who live right here in my neighborhood in northern Germany is of no interest to a majority of Americans. That my personal efforts to help build bridges of knowledge and understanding between “the black American guy” and his Muslim friends, from the very young to wise old sages like myself, could be considered a total waste of time for many Americans back home makes me feel somewhat depressed.

The controversy over the building of an Islamic center and mosque in New York near the site of ‘Ground Zero’ is something that we are all too familiar with here in Europe. It is something that German literary figure and Nobel Prize laureate Günter Grass, a man who understands how fast and low an entire society can sink into the abyss of xenophobia and mass hysteria, calls Die Stunde der Demagogen (The Hour of the Demagogues). Günter Grass knows what he is talking about when the subject of demagoguery comes up because he was a teenaged soldier and member of the Waffen-SS in the Deutsche Wehrmacht (the German Army under the Nazi’s).

(Note: see articles about Islamophobia and integration of Muslims in Europe listed below)

Spiegel Online International (Germany, English language edition)
A Would-Be Role Model Hits a Dead End: Criticism of First Turkish-German Minister Grows

The War on Burqas: French Ban only Latest in European Debate

Tilting at Minarets: Germany's Anonymous Mosque Watchers

Following in Switzerland's Footsteps: International Right-Wingers Gather for EU-Wide Minaret Ban

Islam for the Diaspora: Importing Germany's Imams

Muslims in Germany: Life in a Parallel Society

Opinion: Swiss Minaret Ban Reflects Fear of Islam, Not Real Problems

The World from Berlin: 'Germany Would Also Have Voted to Ban Minarets'

Fears of Eurabia: How Much Allah Can the Old Continent Bear?

SPIEGEL Special: Muslims in Europe (all archived articles on this subject)

Foreign Policy Magazine
Europe's Burqa Wars by Kayvan Farzaneh
Ground zero mosque debate echoes Europe's fears of Muslims

My Personal Position on the Cordoba Park51 Islamic Community Center

Therefore I want to state clearly that I strongly support plans to build the Cordoba Park51 Community Center in Manhattan, 2 blocks from the site of 2,819 people from 115 nations around the world who lost their lives on that tragic day in September 2001. I think it is a great idea and can provide a place for people of the Muslim faith (and frankly all faiths) who visit New York City’s memorial to 9/11 to reflect, interact, and pray. I am a proud member of the 29% of Americans (according to a CNN poll) who say that the other 68% of Americans polled are dead wrong on this issue (as if the location and building of an Islamic center in Manhattan were any of our business to begin with). And before anyone gets all bent out of shape, the Cordoba Project for the center is only in the planning stages, there are no architectural plans completed for the center and financing for the center has not been arranged according to some reports.

(Note: see the Der Spiegel article about the Muslim prayer room at 45 Park Place in Manhattan).
Finding Allah at Ground Zero: A New Manhattan Mosque Hopes to Heal
Photo Gallery: Praying to Allah at Ground Zero

I am also appreciative for the stance taken by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, U.S. President Barack (Hussein) Obama, and the many enlightened people who stand in support of the Cordoba Park51 Center, a place as described by the project heads Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf and his wife Daisy Khan is meant to be a sanctuary of reflection, interfaith dialogue and exchange of religious knowledge, and worship modeled after the great medieval centers of learning in the Cities of Light in 8th Century Spain (see Al-Andalus and links on Islamic Spain below). - Office of the Mayor of New York City
Mayor Michael Bloomberg Discusses the Landmarks Preservation Commission Vote on 45-47 Park Place (Cordoba House Community Center) The White House Blog
President Obama Celebrates Ramadan at White House Iftar Dinner (text summary and video)
Remarks by President Obama at White House Iftar Dinner (transcript)

What bewilders me is that former U.S. presidents and respected political figures from administrations past and present have NOT come out publicly in favor of the building of the Cordoba Park51 Community Center, especially those leaders who worked so hard after 9/11 to encourage Americans not to hate and seek revenge against Islam and Muslims worldwide. Key members of the Bush administration worked tirelessly to convince Americans that these attacks were the work of extremists and terrorists who misrepresent the tenants and principles of a great faith. Even if some political leaders do not support the building of an Islamic center and mosque near the site of the September 11th attacks in New York, they certainly should be speaking out loudly against all of the hate speech and fear-mongering surrounding this project.

Where are the voices of former U.S. presidents George W. Bush, Clinton, and Carter? Why haven’t former secretaries Condoleezza Rice, Colin Powell, Madeleine Albright and James Baker spoken out on this issue? President Obama’s Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, has not said anything about the nasty controversy engulfing the country and electrifying our Muslim allies and friends around the world? Hillary Clinton certainly must be supportive of the work of Imam Faisal Abdul Rauf because the U.S. State Department has sent him overseas as a representative of the United States for conferences on Islamic thought and life in America. Carly Fiorina, the former CEO of Hewlett Packard and aspiring Republican congressional candidate (California), has spoken out AGAINST the building of the Islamic center (to my great surprise and dismay). Why are we hearing from the far right Republican fringe, people like Sarah Palin and former House Speaker Newt Gringrich, two presidential hopefuls who surely do not represent mainstream America on this issue.

The New York Times
U.S. Sends Muslim Center Imam to Arab World to Promote Religious Tolerance - The Lede Blog

The Washington Post – 44 blog
Newt Gingrich compares 'Ground Zero mosque' backers to Nazis
Daisy Khan - On Faith Panelists Blog at

The Wall Street Journal
Mosque Near Ground Zero Sparks Debate That Grows, Splinters

The New York Times
White House Memo - In Defining Obama, Misperceptions Stick
Palin, Shakespeare and the Ground Zero Mosque - The Caucus Blog

PBS Newshour (video and transcript)
Mosque near Ground Zero: Local or National Issue?

Informed Comment by Professor Juan Cole
Palin on the Ground Zero Mosque vs. the Founding Fathers

Yahoo! News (assorted news sources)
White House says Obama is Christian, prays daily (AP)
Mosque debate divides Democrats, especially in NY (AP)
Ground Zero Mosque: Who's For, Who's Against (The Daily Beast)

US News and World Report
Palin’s Unpresidential 'Ground Zero Mosque' Comments
Michael Bloomberg delivers stirring defense of mosque - War Room
How the "ground zero mosque" fear mongering began – Topics: Ground Zero Mosque
Newt Gingrich's summer of imaginary threats – Topics: Newt Gingrich
'Ground Zero Mosque' Park51 Not a Triumph of Radical Islam
Feisal Abdul Rauf, the Moderate Sufi Imam Behind the 'Ground Zero Mosque'
Muslim History Belies Stereotypes in 'Ground Zero Mosque' Dispute
Afghan Women and the Return of the Taliban: Afghan Women Fear Their Fate Amid Taliban Negotiations (TIME magazine cover story July 29, 2010)

Christian Science Monitor
Obama mosque dispute: In backing plans, he parts with many Americans
Is ground zero mosque imam best choice for diplomatic mission to Mideast?

End of Act I – Author exits stage right dragging sword through the murky waters of the fetid swamp singing that old American Negro spiritual “I’m with Jesus, yes I am.”

Part II coming ASAP: A critical look at the history (and myths) about conflicts between Muslims, Christians, and Jews in Europe and the Middle East from the medieval period in al- Andalus (Islamic Spain) right through to the Prostetant Reformation. Don’t miss it!

Information about Islamic Spain, Cordoba, and the Cities of Light

Foreign Policy – FP Passport blog
The other Cordoba initiative (in Cordoba, Spain) by Brian Fung

PBS (USA, Public Broadcasting Service)
Cities of Light: The Rise and Fall of Islamic Spain

Unity Productions Foundation (official website of the 2-hour documentary film)
Cities of Light: The Rise and Fall of Islamic Spain

Chicago Humanities Festival 2008
Professor David Levering Lewis: Conversation about his book "God's Crucible: Islam and the Making of Europe, 570-1215" (multimedia and text)

Author’s Note: NYU Historian and two-time Pulitzer Prize winner David Levering Lewis talks about his book “God’s Crucible: Islam and the Making of Europe 570 to 1215”. This book is one of the most prized possessions in my personal library and I highly recommend it to all readers interested in medieval European history and the relationship between Muslims and Christians and Jews during this important period.

The New Yorker magazine review of Professor Lewis’s book
A Better Place by Joan Acocella – Feb 04, 2008

The Economist – Democracy in America (blog)
Ground Zero mosque: The symbolism of Cordoba

Got Medieval (an excellent blog on European medieval history and the media)
Professor Newt's Distorted History Lesson

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Inside the African Union Mission in Somalia (Part II): Déjà vu Mogadishu

Uganda 7/11: Al-Shabaab Spreads Its Special Brand of Terror to the 'Pearl of Africa'
Draft Version

The African Union Summit held in Uganda last month was understandably overshadowed by the World Cup bombings in Kampala on July 11th. Following the closed-door meetings between African heads-of-state, AU and UN officials and the many representatives from governments and international institutions in attendance there were several public statements made about the shock and alarm at the attacks against innocent football fans trying to enjoy the 2010 Africa World Cup finals. To be frank none of the people attending the summit should have been surprised by the attacks because both al-Shabbab and al-Qaeda spokesmen had been warning of such action against Africans for some time. The only surprise is that al Shabaab chose to strike in Uganda and not against innocent civilians in Nairobi, East Africa’s economic hub and a city which has been serving for several years as a reluctant host to the largest Somali refugee and expatriate community in the world.

Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni, acting as host to the 43 African leaders in attendance, has been pressing the hardest for a change in the AMISOM mandate and a ramping-up of boots on the ground in Somalia along with an increase in support for the mission (military and financial) from AU partner countries and presumably UN member states who have pledged support for the African Union Mission in Somalia. As a matter of fact AU officials and leaders of key East African and IGAD* countries had a very heated four hour long discussion over their dissatisfaction with U.S. support with President Obama’s point man on Africa, Asst. Secretary of State for African Affairs Johnnie Carson. I have found no information that such a heated meeting took place with other ‘key partners’ to the African Union, countries i.e. China, India, Brazil, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and of course representatives from the European Union countries. This should be a ‘red flag’ for anyone who is paying close attention to the crisis in Somalia and the lack of international support for the African Union mission to prop-up the Somali Transitional Federal Government. Don’t forget that it is the lives of young soldiers from Uganda and Burundi that are being lost in Mogadishu as well your tax dollars that finance the AMISOM mission.

At the end of meetings and discussions in Kampala a unified call-to-arms was made by top AU officials and Uganda’s President Museveni along with other African heads of state against the growing threat from al-Shabaab militants in Somalia. Yet this so-called call for unity and action espoused in statements by AU Commission Chairman Jean Ping cannot hide the fact that many African countries who had promised troops for the AMISOM mission as far back as 2006 are more reluctant than ever before to send soldiers to the war-ravaged nation. Below are articles which help to explain the many difficulties faced by the poorly organized AMISOM mission to Somalia today.

Long War Journal
The African Union's beleaguered Somalia mission by Daveed Gartenstein-Ross and Seungwan Chung – July 20, 2010

VOA News (Washington DC)
Analyst says planned African Union troop surge in Somalia would be a strategic blunder - July 29, 2010

World Defense Review (Strategic Interests column)
J. Peter Pham, Ph.D.: 'Muddled on Mogadishu: America's Confused Somalia Strategy' – March 23, 2010

The New York Times
News Analysis - More Troops for Somalia, but No Peace to Keep by Jeffrey Gettleman – July 28, 2010
In Somalia, Talk to the Enemy by Bronwyn Bruton – July 24, 2010
Tea with a Terrorist (in Somalia) by Aidan Hartley – July 24, 2010

Note*: IGAD denotes the Intergovernmental Authority on Development, a group of seven countries in the Horn of Africa and East Africa which includes Djibouti, Sudan, Somalia, Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia, and Uganda. Eritrea has been suspended from the group since 2007 for bad behavior (supporting terrorists in the region).

And to make matters worse there are almost daily reports of the rapidly deteriorating situation in the country including mass defections of Somali government soldiers and police to the extremist al-Shabaab and Hizbul Islam militias. Germany’s Deutsche Welle Radio reports that as many as 1000 German-trained Somali police have gone missing along with their weapons and newly acquired anti-terrorist training enroute from Ethiopia to Mogadishu. A recently completed internal IGAD report reveals that as many as 10,000 EU-trained Somali soldiers may have done the same thing (defected), and the New York Times reports that the personal bodyguards of the Somali president defected to the al-Shabaab in July. This is occurring at the same time that the African Union along with U.S. and E.U. lawmakers and ministers are trying to convince their respective citizens that the AMISOM mission has merit and the fight to support the struggling TFG to help stabilize Somalia must go on at all costs.

The Independent (Kampala weekly news magazine)
Why We Should Pull Out of Somalia by Andrew Mwenda
The Last Word: articles and commentary by Andrew Mwenda

Note: As Andrew Mwenda would tell you, despite his bias toward any policies for Africa emanating from Washington DC, President Museveni will use these terrorist attacks in Kampala to help cement his victory in presidential elections next year. Yoweri Museveni has been in power in Uganda since 1986 with no desire to step down and turn the reigns of power over to a younger, more capable person in sight. The guy is a bigger cult figure in the country than Idi Amin Dada could have ever dreamed! Then there is the problem with Museveni’s inability (and lack of willpower) to stop the murderous, brutal insurgency against women and children in northern Uganda that has been going on for nearly 20 years (Joseph Kony and the feared Lord’s Resistance Army), but hey I’m getting ahead of myself. That’s another can of worms re: M7 (Museveni undercover) for a later post down the road.

The East African (Kenya)
Al Qaeda veterans now run Al Shabaab militia
Kampala twin attacks expose US uncertainty over Somalia

Garowe Online (Puntland – northern Somalia)
African leaders blast US official Johnnie Carson for soft stance on Somalia
Hundreds of German-financed Somali police officers go missing
German government denies Somali child soldiers recruitment allegations (EU Training Mission for Somalia)

DW World (Deutsche Welle Radio Online, Germany)
EU launches new military training mission for Somali security forces
German military cooperation with African countries yields mixed results

The New York Times
Presidential Guards in Somalia Defect to Insurgents

Note: The European Union has at least three major initiatives in place to help the people of Somalia and support the Transitional Federal Government and the AU Mission to Somalia including military training of the Somali National Army (in Uganda and Ethiopia), the EU Naval Force for Somalia (Mission Atalanta against piracy) and loads of humanitarian aid and support logistics to fight hunger amongst the refugees from the long-running conflict. Approximate cost to date for EU taxpayers is more than €100 million Euros and counting. The cost to U.S. taxpayers for various forms of humanitarian and military assistance over the past two decades (1991-2010) is astronomical and probably will never be revealed, especially the cost of support for the Ethiopian invasion and occupation of Somalia from 2007-2009. Financial support to the Somali Transitional Federal Government from the rest of the international community, especially fellow Muslim countries in the region (Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Morocco, and the Gulf States) and richer African countries (South Africa, Nigeria, Namibia, Tanzania, Angola, Kenya) is something that we do not hear much about in the international media, which makes one think that there is no financial support from these countries for the AMISOM mission in Somalia.

European Union websites and resources on Somalia
EU at the UN - Somalia: EU Commission allocates €35 million for victims of conflict and natural disasters
EU at the UN - EU Statement - United Nations Security Council: Debate on the Situation in Somalia
European Union Naval Force Somalia - Operation Atalanta
EU/Norway Joint Strategy Paper for Somalia 2008-2013 (pdf)
NATO - Topic: Somalia, Assisting the African Union in Somalia

The African Union Summit in Kampala was attended by 43 African heads-of-state, including Africa’s top democratic leaders (about 6-10 presidents, max), many whom I admire a great deal for the leadership they have shown on the continent and abroad. Of course there was also the usual crowd of less-than-honorable African leaders in attendance with Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe leading the pack. Libya’s flamboyant Colonel Muammar al- Gaddafi, who held the rotating Chairmanship of the African Union in 2009, was in Kampala protected by his famous troop of Amazon body guards. Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir managed to stay away from the summit due to pressing appointments (a naked fear of an ICC arrest warrant). Egypt’s President Mubarak also could not attend the summit due to urgent business back in Cairo (succession worries and poor health) but he did manage to send an ambassador.  President Joseph Kabila of the Democratic Republic of Congo chose not to make an appearance for unknown reasons (coup fears). No troops for Somalia from any of these guys as they are desperately needed to continue the repression of citizens back home.

The Obama administration sent a high-level delegation of U.S. government officials that included the administration's lead diplomat on Africa, Asst. Secretary of State for African Affairs Johnnie Carson, the U.S. Ambassador to the African Union Michael Battle, U.S. Special Envoy to Sudan General (ret.) Scott Gration, and surprisingly the U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder (head of the U.S. Department of Justice). Eric Holder, who is America’s top law enforcement official, delivered a speech during the opening day of the Kampala Summit that is worth reading as it spells out U.S. policy for Africa in light of the bombings in Kampala. There is an exclusive interview with Asst. Secretary Carson over at that highlights his perspective on U.S.-Africa relations and policies under the administration of President Barack Obama.

President Obama did not attend the African Union Summit in Kampala (he is still cleaning Gulf oil off of his shoes) and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was busy preparing for her daughter’s wedding day.  Actually, President Obama and Secretary Clinton have been busy hosting some of Africa's finest young people and budding entrepreneurs at The President's Forum with Young African Leaders in conjunction with the 2010 AGOA Forum on US / Sub-Saharan Africa Trade and Economic Cooperation. Nonetheless President Obama did manage to send his top cop (Eric Holder) and his Africa A-Team minus some notable figures such as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Dr. Susan E. Rice, an expert on failing and failed states and their links to extremism and terrorism (ref. her earlier work at the Brookings Institution before she joined the Obama administration).

Brookings Institution (Washington DC)
Weak and Failed States: What They Are, Why They Matter and What to Do About Them
Index of State Weakness in the Developing World by Susan E. Rice and Patrick Steward

Note: Many people may not know who Johnnie Carson is or what his responsibilities are in the Obama administration. An experienced U.S. diplomat in Africa serving several U.S. administrations, Secretary Carson is rather soft-spoken and reserved in his public comments___ a Jendayi Frazer he ain’t (the feisty, take-no-prisoners lead diplomat for Africa under Condoleezza Rice and George W. Bush). Dr. Jendayi Frazer always had strong rebuttals ready for Robert Mugabe’s demeaning slurs against her in comparison to the tepid response by Asst. Secretary Carson during a gala event at the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Washington DC in May this year. The Zimbabwe ambassador to the U.S. referred to Secretary Carson as a ‘House Slave’, indirectly placing U.S. President Obama and other African-American lawmakers and political leaders into the racist category commonly referred to as ‘House Negroes’. Mugabe and other members of the Zanu-PF party have been making these kinds of statements about African-Americans for years (see his outburst at the 2009 African Union Summit in Libya). Yet, Mugabe remains a welcome guest and favorite son at the table of African Union summits and conferences, as does Sudan’s Omar al-Bashir and other despots and dictators from the continent. This is something else for the American electorate to keep in mind when the AU comes with hat in hand looking for support and money for a 'troop surge' in Somalia and a lot of other needs it may have in the near future.

Which brings me to the main topic of my short series of posts on Somalia:

What does the world do now that two Islamist extremist groups (al-Shabaab, Hizbul Islam) lead by an international terrorist network (al-Qaeda) have finally succeeded to within a gnat’s ass of taking over an African country that sits upon one of the most geo-strategic sea lanes and land corridors in the world?

Foreign Policy Magazine
Argument: Help Wanted in Somalia by Omar Abdira Ali Sharmarke – June 21, 2010
Prime Minister of Somalia, Transitional Federal Government

End Part II___ Part III coming ASAP