Magazine article The Nation

Women in the News

Magazine article The Nation

Women in the News

Article excerpt

The grotesque U.N. mission in Somalia, entirely supervised by the United States, owes a measure of its descent into homicidal mayhem to none other than April Glaspie, the State Department official whose famous July 1990 exchange with Saddam Hussein may have prompted him to think the United States would be complaisant toward his invasion of Kuwait.

After a time working for Madeleine Albright, ambassador to the U.N., Glaspie became senior adviser to the U.N. mission in Somalia. In this capacity she "openly manifested sympathy for one of Aidid's most important opponents ... and was less than discreet about her hostifity to Aidid."

The quote is from Professor Tom Farer, writing in The Washington Post about his investigation, commissioned by U.N. mission head Adm. Jonathan Howe, into the origins of the June 5 ambush of Pakistani troops. This was the opening. round in a U.N. retaliatory escalation that led to the machine-gunning to death from U.S. Cobra gunships of up to seventy-five Somali elders, religious leaders, a pregnant woman and children at a political meeting on July 12, and the later, similar slaughter of over a hundred Somali men, women and children on September 9.

At the start of June the U.N. planned to inspect Aidid's arms dumps, also the radio station he controlled. Glaspie was asked to give the go-ahead for this inspection. The U.N. messenger found her at the airport, about to leave the country. (As U.S. Ambassador to Iraq, she similarly departed on the eve of the invasion.) She glanced at the piece of paper setting forth U.N. intentions and said, "I approve this."

Aidid, warned by the U.N. that the inspection was to take place, was apparently mindful of Glaspie's public expressions of hostility to him and construed the impending inspection as a direct attempt to destroy his power. An ambush was laid, twenty-four Pakistani troops killed and the U.N:s vendetta against Aidid truly launched.

In the face of public disquiet, the Clinton Administration may be reconsidering the Somaha mission. I trust that those in the American human rights community originally urging intervention in Somaha will examine their political judgment in the light of what has happened. The best source continues to be Rakiya Omaar and Alex de Waal's group, African Rights (11 Marshalsea Road, London SE1 1EP; 4471 403-3383). De Waal returned from a trip in the early summer to report that Belgian troops round Kismayu had killed at least 200 Somalis. De Waal's phone jumped off the hook with calls from Belgian journalists desperate to know whether the troops involved were Flemish or Walloon. The Belgian government denounced De Waal but fell silent when, on August 25, Luk Haakeus of Belgium's Radio 1 interviewed some of the returning paratroopers who volunteered--anonymously--tales of brutality and murder in which they or their fellows had been involved, and said official estimates of Somalis killed by the U. …

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