The attack on the Westgate shopping centre in Nairobi
"What's the name of Mohamed's mother?" asked the al-Shabab fighters of some poor innocents out shopping; and when the answer wasn't forthcoming, men, women and children were lined up and executed. Such is the twisted, depraved and gruesome logic of these religious fighters that, even in the face of the daily global horrors of decomposing capitalism, such events still shock and sicken us. Executed by members of al-Shabab, who seem to have come from Kenya, Somalia and further afield, for not knowing the name of Mohamed's mother or not being able to quote from the Koran shows the depth of the depraved horrors that capitalism serves us up on a plate.
But al-Shabab, like the terrorists who attacked the Ain Amenas gas plant in Algeria last January killing 38 people, picked their target with care. Nairobi is East Africa's most prosperous hub full of western tourists, business interests - both regional and international, diplomats, military agencies, spies and aid operations. From this there's no doubt that the intensity of the news coverage in Britain about the attack by al-Shabab militants on the Nairobi shopping centre is reflective of the number of western victims. The sort of numbers affected, at least 70 killed so far and possibly up to 200 still missing, is around the almost daily casualties and wounded in terrorist attacks in Iraq, the less frequent but regular attacks in Pakistan, not to mention the now "international community" sanctioned daily killings and destruction in Syria. But this doesn't at all mitigate the horror of the Westgate attack where men, women and children, along with around 200 workers in a supposedly safe and benign environment, had to face the sudden, deadly and frightening prospect of all hell breaking loose.
What this attack ultimately demonstrates is a further example of how the greatest achievement of the "War on Terror" is the generalisation of terror, terrorists and terrorism. It's a further example of the how the Clinton/Bush/Obama policy of US imperialism directly contributes to aggravating and spreading the very problems that this policy is supposed to deal with. To that extent it's also illustrative of the growing historical weakness of US imperialism despite it being the most powerful military force on the planet by far. The whole region around the Horn of Africa and down into central Africa is an imperialist battlefield and contains multiple bases and special forces of western countries, the USA, Britain, France and Israel particularly. Given its strategic importance this region must be among the most heavily surveyed and tracked on the planet and still they were unable to pick up or stop this well-organised and ruthless attack. British and American security officials are now suggesting that they knew an attack was coming but didn't know exactly where - but anyone with any interest in the region would be aware of that. There's no doubt that the Kenyan security forces are inept and corrupt, more concerned with lining their own pockets; but fundamentally they are just pale reflections of their more efficiently provided western counterparts.
The responsibility for the devastation of the whole region around Somalia and the rise of even more irrational forces lies fundamentally with the major imperialisms whose frequent actions and incursions here contribute to the growing instability and chaos which then demands further actions and incursions which contribute further to growing instability and chaos.... and so it spirals outwards and downwards. Of course it is mainly the poor and the masses that pay. There are around half-a-million Somali refugees in the biggest such compound in the world in Kenya, with another 500,000 reckoned to be outside. Here the usually optimistic NGO's comment that the situation is hopeless. Amid all the misery, famine, deprivation and poverty of the region are corrupt local bourgeois and western special forces bases bristling with the latest weaponry and technology. The US has set up its "Africa Command Post" in Kenya backed up by British and Israeli intelligence and special forces.
Obama said on September 23 that he was committed to "dismantling these (terrorist) centres of destruction" but the fact is that the general decomposing conditions of capitalism and US attempts to deal with them creates such phenomenon, spreads them and fosters a steady and growing stream of recruits, local and international, to the jihadi causes. Since operation "Restore Hope" and the battle of Mogadishu in 1993, from which US forces had to retreat, greater instability has spread through the entire region. Even when it looked like there was a relatively stable government in Somalia, with the moderate Islamic Court Union a few years ago, any attempt at stability was destroyed by the US counter-offensive in firstly backing the Ethiopian army's invasion of December 2006 and then the US and British backed African Union body which forced the overthrow of the ICU, the setting up of the Transitional Federal Government (now the US-backed Federal Government of Somalia) charade. This in turn provoked the descent into greater chaos and the rise of al-Shabab. Up until then the force was a hybrid movement subject to infighting, which it remains to some extent, and was finding it difficult getting recruits in Somalia, often reduced to press-ganging or bribing unemployed youngsters to join. The dearth of pro-western targets in Somalia, and Ugandan and Kenyan involvement in the Africa Union (AMISON) army sent to Somalia, along with US drones, to rout these rebels, led al-Shabab to undertake two attacks in Uganda in 2010 on people watching World Cup matches outdoors (killing over 70 and injuring hundreds), previous border attacks on the Kenyan army (there's been two more in the last couple of days) and then the Westgate atrocity. The al-Shabab group went from a moderate Islamic force to a ruthless media-wise affiliated al-Qaeda global jihad outfit which, to the great concern of western intelligence agencies, has attracted a considerable number of foreign fighters, particularly American and British, with easy access across western borders and potential access to western targets. Paradoxically this threat becomes even greater if al-Shabab is defeated in Somalia.
Most of the funding for al-Shabab comes directly from Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states and the strident and aggressive Saudi brand of Wahabi Islamism is more and more being forced on the relaxed and open Somali religious expression - the same Saudi imperialism that is inextricably linked to the major western powers. But al-Shabab had its own lucrative activity in the charcoal business and revenues from Somali ports. They don't seem to have been involved in the piracy that stalks these waters, which looks to be made up of impoverished fishermen and local gangsters. But that hasn't stopped these waters from being turned into a sea of militarism, with warships from all over Europe, China, Russia, NATO and India all in competition. At any rate al-Shabab was kicked out of Mogadishu and the Somali ports by 2011. The UN Monitoring Group on Somalia estimated that in 2011, before mainly Kenyan forces took it from them, al-Shabab was earning $50 million a year from Somali port activity in Kismayo (Bloomberg, 22.9.13). After the Kenyan takeover of this port - where, in an echo of the Assad regime’s economic dealings with al-Nusra - there are reports that Kenyan authorities continued to work with contacts of al-Shabab that remained in order to keep the money flowing. But resentment of this grab of Kismayo and its riches by Kenyan imperialism was sorely felt by the rebels and they promised retribution which, in the inhuman logic of imperialist war, they have delivered.
The Kenyan regime of President Uhuru Kenyatta has recently been at odds with Britain and America over its human rights record and both the latter criticised it and loosened political ties with it somewhat, while military and intelligence cooperation continued. But the Kenyan regime played the Chinese card, warming up relations with Beijing and forcing Washington and London to resume their full backing of the regime. Kenyatta, and senior Kenyan politician William Ruto, were both due to face charges at The Hague criminal court for encouraging murder, rape, deportation and persecution when they both unleashed their thugs on the population at the time of Kenyan elections six years ago. The official figures from this blatant democratic terror was one thousand one hundred dead, tens of thousands of wounded and 250,000 people displaced. Kenyatta and Ruto have now been excused from the court so that they can help their country!
There have been reports about the incompetence of the Kenyan security forces in handling the attack and it's true that incompetence goes hand in hand with the corruption and gangsterism that is the hallmark of politics in this region. The first police on the scene at Westgate have been criticised for not knowing what to do, but these lowly police officers wouldn't normally be allowed in the upmarket mall. Kenyan security forces then arrived and, according to some reports, began to shoot each other and, one can imagine, innocent people panicking. Then the heavy mob of US and Israeli commandos entered the scene and while we don't know who set them off, subsequent explosions brought down the ceiling of the building crushing an unknown number underneath.
What's likely to happen now, apart from pogroms and harassment against the Somali population in Kenya, is a very forceful response of the Kenyan military on the still-remaining al-Shabab positions in Somalia. As said above, this could turn out the worse possible option out of any number of bad options, scattering the foreign jihadis around and back to their own countries to seek further revenge. More Boston-like attacks are both the nightmares and creation of the western regimes. This region of Africa, in and around the Rift Valley, was the birthplace of humanity. It's the place where our ancestors began their struggle for survival against all the odds. Today, along with the permanent and depraved battlefields of the "Democratic Republic of Congo" where child soldiers, mass rape, warlordism, religious irrationalism and disintegration are overlooked and manipulated by the major powers, the whole region is increasingly an imperialist free-for-all where any atrocity goes, a true crucible of capitalist barbarism.
(This article was contributed by a sympathiser of the ICC)
The right-wing anti-Muslim US website, "Atlas Shrugs" denounces Muslims present for not providing the answers to the questions asked by the terrorists to the non-Muslims. As if anyone was expecting to take part in a religious quiz where the prize was life or death. But such nonsense is a flimsy cover for spreading the lie that Muslim = terrorist, a sentiment more subtly propagated by all the mainstream media.
 The week after Westgate, Boko Haram killers shot 50 students in their beds at an agricultural college in Nigeria for the crime of engaging in western education. It’s doubtful that the dead in this and similar cases will get the same media coverage as the Westgate victims.