Wednesday, February 01, 2023
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  • Opinion

Hypocrisy on the Risch-er Scale

By Mohammed Yuusuf

Early in the morning of the 24th of February 2022, Russia launched a full scale invasion of Ukraine. It was long expected despite the Russian denials. It didn’t take long for Western leaders to condemn Putin for his actions and to impose severe sanctions that prepared for this eventuality.  On the same day, Joe Biden, the US president, and Boris Johnson, the British Prime Minister, both delivered speeches that were televised around the world. They made all the right noises and repeated the same buzzwords about freedom and sovereignty and respect for international law.

President Joe Biden

“We saw a flagrant violation of international law in attempting to unilaterally create two new so-called republics on sovereign Ukrainian territory. And at the very moment that the United Nations Security Council was meeting to stand up for Ukraine’s sovereignty to stave off invasion, Putin declared his war.” said Biden. He immediately announced sanctions that he said were “going to impose severe costs on the Russian economy, both immediately and over time.” Biden made it clear this was in the interest of America, “But this aggression cannot go unanswered. If it did, the consequences for America would be much worse.” Why? You might ask. Biden says: “America stands up to bullies. We stand up for freedom. This is who we are.”

Putin is a bully because he “has committed an assault on the very principles that uphold global peace.” according to Biden. He didn’t stop there. He talked about “Putin’s desire for empire by any means necessary – by bullying Russia’s neighbors through coercion and corruption, by changing borders by force, and ultimately, by choosing a war without a cause.”

That is not good. Desire for empire. Bullying neighbours. Changing borders by force…

Boris didn’t disappoint either. In his usual bombast, he declared, “…and with permission I will update the House on our response to President Putin’s onslaught against a free and sovereign European nation. … Earlier today, Putin delivered another televised address and offered the absurd pretext that he sought the ‘demilitarization and denazification of Ukraine’. In fact he is hurling the might of his military machine against a free and peaceful neighbour, in breach of his own explicit pledge and every principle of civilized behavior between states.

Above all, the House will realize the hard and heavy truth that we now live in a continent where an expansionist power, deploying one of the world’s most formidable military machines, is trying to redraw the map of Europe in blood, and conquer an independent state by force of arms, and it is vital for the safety of every nation that Putin’s squalid venture should ultimately fail and be seen to fail.  However long it takes, that will be the steadfast and unflinching goal of the United Kingdom. I hope of every Hon Member of this House, and of every one of our great allies, certain that together we have the power and the will to defend the cause of peace and justice, as we have always done.”

Free and sovereign nation, free and peaceful, principles of civilized behaviour, expansionist power, redrawing the map, conquest…— all the keywords accounted for. Sanctions were imposed.

Ukraine is a free and a sovereign nation. It is unacceptable for Russia to redraw the map of Ukraine and interfere with its internal politics by using the “absurd pretext” of protecting the people of Donbas from genocide by launching what Putin calls “special military operation”.

Moving on …

Senator Jim Risch (R-Idaho) with the Ukranian president.

Days later, the president of the breakaway region of Somaliland was in Washington DC mingling with both Republican and Democratic senators in the US Capitol. He met with Jim Risch (R-Idaho), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) and Mike Rounds (R-S.D). He met the Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, Representative Adam Smith (Democrat).

On the 17th of March 2022, U.S. Senators Jim Risch (R-Idaho), ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) and Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), chairman and ranking member of the Subcommittee on Africa and Global Health Policy, introduced what they called the “Somaliland Partnership Act” requiring “the Department of State to report to Congress on engagement with Somaliland, and to conduct a feasibility study, in consultation with the Secretary of Defense, regarding the establishment of a partnership between the United States and Somaliland.”

They continue to say, “The United States continues to be a steadfast partner of the Somali people and its federal government, but the Biden Administration has limited itself to the confines of a ‘single Somalia’ policy at the detriment of other democratic actors in the country,”

A ‘single Somalia’ is considered an “outdated policy approach” and a “diplomatic framework […]” that does not “meet today’s challenges”. In other words, it doesn’t serve the interests of the United States and is an impediment to its ambitions as a global power that must get what it wants by any means necessary.

It is unacceptable for Russia to do that in Ukraine, but when it comes to the Americans it “is key to advancing U.S. interests, improving regional stability, and supporting the rule of law and human rights.”

It is authoritarianism when Putin locks up peaceful protestors. They call it “suppression of dissent and stifling of democracy”, when Muse Bihi does the same, he is still one of “those in the region that value democratic governance and fundamental freedoms”. This is the man that locks up journalists doing their jobs for absolutely no reason, sometimes for months on end even a court has cleared them of wrongdoing, and sets his goons loose on peaceful protesters demanding elections be held on time— one of those protesters, a woman, was dragged on the road by the British-trained and funded Rapid Response Unit (RRU), and deputy commander of that unit was videotaped kicking her in the gut! The RRU has a habit of conducting nightly raids on innocent families sleeping peacefully in their homes and abducting them to locations hundreds of miles away from their homes.

It is widely known that NATO’s expansion eastwards played a major role in Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, because Russia does not want NATO at its doorstep. But it is ok for America to use Somaliland to “(B) counter Iran’s presence in the Gulf of Aden and China’s growing regional military presence.” as the Act states on page 9.

President Bihi of Somaliland

Senator Risch is a Russia Hawk. In an opinion piece “Why Ukraine Matters” on the 24th of March 2022, he says: “Vladimir Putin is a madman. He is a thug. He is a power-hungry criminal with no regard for the rule of law or human life.”

In the past two weeks, Muse Bihi’s militia men killed over 20 innocent civilians in cold blood and wounded close to a hundred more. They were children, elderly men going about their daily business, women, and men who had done nothing wrong. Some protested the apparent assassination of a local man. Then they were met with live bullets rather than answers on the said killing. Further protests resulted in more indiscriminate killings, and the cutting off of all communication, including mobile money used to buy necessities. Electricity and water were cut even to the hospitals treating the wounded. Early evening on the 4th of January 2023, a man who was getting into a car was deliberately killed with a hail of bullets for absolutely no reason, and when bystanders attempted removing the body from the street, they were threatened with the same if they got anywhere near the body. So many were arrested and are kept in inhumane conditions without food and water, let alone the necessary health care. Mind you, they include children. Their families are not allowed to bring them food. Some of the detainees were taken to a prison hundreds of kilometers away near Hargeisa. 

That is the entity that the United States government is making deals with. If the US wants its own “Dombas” in Somalia, it should be brave about it and say so. If it wants American-backed militia in Somalia it should say so. While at it, it should also conduct a referendum on that region of Somalia joining the USA.

The Senator doesn’t want Putin to “meddling in Ukraine’s internal affairs”, but he himself wants to interfere in the internal affairs of the Federal Republic of Somalia. He applauds Ukrainians showing “their resolve to defend and die for their freedoms and sovereignty, just as the American people did in 1776.” but doesn’t respect the sovereignty of the Somali people.

The same way that Donbas is just a pawn for Putin, for Senator Risch and his folk, Somaliland is a pawn in the coming war with China; “However, the stakes of this war are much higher than this conflict alone, and China is closely watching how we respond to Russia’s aggression. A rising China and resurgent Russia are challenging the United States for dominance on the world stage. Xi and Putin want to impose their authoritarian power structure, norms and practices on the world. For them, this competition is a zero-sum game. If America shows weakness, they will press their advantage and pose a grave threat to America.

This war is not just about Ukraine. The fight in Ukraine is a strategic challenge with long-term implications for the free world. Ukraine is the opening move in a game to tip the balance of power toward Russia and China to dominate the world for the next century or more. For the sake of our country and the sake of the free world, the Administration needs to get serious about supporting Ukraine with war-fighting materials so we can prevent a more sweeping conflict from coming to our shores….… from coming to our shores.” — build bases around the world and fight the Chinese there.

It is the same excrement coming out of different openings. Russia wants Donbas (Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics) to break away from Ukraine. These American senators are campaigning AGAINST it in Ukraine and FOR it in Somalia. Putin talks about ‘demilitarizing and denazifying’ Ukraine, and America talks about fighting terrorism and piracy in Somalia/Somaliland.

The West talks about Russia’s desire for “imperial-style war of expansion”, where Biden says: “Putin’s actions betray his sinister vision for the future of our world – one where nations take what they want by force.”, but Russia and Ukraine share a border, while America wants to build an outpost for its empire almost at a distance of almost 12,000 km.

The West likes to preach to others to “abide by accepted international norms,” but doesn’t like to practice what it preaches. They should do for Somalia what they want Russia to do for Ukraine. The West is saying the norms don’t apply to us— do as we say not as we do.

It is very hard to resist the imperial impulse, and that reminds of the quote attributed to Saint Augustine, “Please God, make me good, but not just yet.” although I prefer what some consider the more accurate translation of the original statement: Oh, Master. Make me chaste and celibate — but not yet!

Fittingly, there is a Somali remark that expresses a very similar sentiment. An ‘unchaste’ woman was brought before her family elders to advise her on mending her ways and ceasing her transgressions. Unfortunately for them, they were taking too much of her time and making her late for her “clients”. So she told them in no uncertain terms: hurry up I have men waiting for me!

At least she was more forthright than those who want to have their cake and eat it. 

Let me close with this from the philosopher Slavoj Žižek (The Guardian)

“Yes, the liberal west is hypocritical, applying its high standards very selectively. But hypocrisy means you violate the standards you proclaim, and in this way you open yourself up to inherent criticism – when we criticize the liberal west, we use its own standards. What Russia is offering is a world without hypocrisy – because it is without global ethical standards, practicing just pragmatic “respect” for differences. We have seen clearly what this means when, after the Taliban took over in Afghanistan, they instantly made a deal with China. China accepts the new Afghanistan while the Taliban will ignore what China is doing to Uyghurs – this is, in nuce, the new globalization advocated by Russia. And the only way to defend what is worth saving in our liberal tradition is to ruthlessly insist on its universality. The moment we apply double standards, we are no less “pragmatic” than Russia.

Mohammed Yuusuf
Email: [email protected]


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