Magazine article The Spectator

Passing On

Magazine article The Spectator

Passing On

Article excerpt

Wild life

As the anniversary of you-know-what comes up I have been reading about the Mad Mullah of British Somaliland. He was inspired by Wahabism and on the eve of rebelling he wrote, `Do you not see that the Infidels have destroyed our religion and made our children their children?' He eluded British forces for the first two decades of the last century, caused newspaper headlines like HORRIBLE DISASTER TO OUR TROOPS, hid in caves and was bombed by RAF aircraft. Remind you of anyone? As the British mobilised expeditions and endless logistics, the Mullah sent a flood of letters in red ink out of the bush. He jeered, 'I like war. You do not. God willing, I will take many more rifles from you, but I will not take your country. I have no forts or houses or cultivation, no silver or gold for you to take. I have no artificers. The country is desert and of no use. There is wood and stone and many ant heaps. But all you get from me is war, nothing else.'

In lawless modern Somalia itself, the CIA hunt for al-Qa'eda is a comic version of a Graham Greene novel. While the German navy patrol the coasts, the spooks in safari jackets are flying in from Kenya on planes transporting the drug qat. Their local base has been Baidoa, chosen because it was supposedly safe - indeed far from al-Qa'eda in the capital Mogadishu - surrounded by bush and pro-American, since this was the epicentre of the famine ended by US Marines in 1992. I shall call the CIA's man Mohamed to protect him because I sense he's quite a nice chap only all the Somalis in Baidoa know this individual by the epithet 'CIA', as in `Mohamed CIA'. Until recently it was all very cosy, with the spooks staying at a hotel run by Mohamed's brother, where they left all their Tom Clancy thrillers after they'd read them. The only problem was that Mohamed's brother had a penchant for les fines whom he had to evict every time the CIA turned up unannounced. He requested the CIA, therefore, to please book ahead. That didn't go down well.

The CIA considered setting Mohamed up as a bogus charity, with a sign and everything, so that they could store all their equipment with him. The arrangement would mean more rental income for Mohamed, more cars hired. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.