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Monday, July 18, 2011

U.S. Red Tape Could Doom Somalia!

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Eliza Griswold / thedailybeast.com / Jul 17, 2011 10:30 PM EDT.

Somalia

Three million drought-stricken Somalis' lives hang in the balance because of an ill-defined law that prevents Secretary Clinton from getting them the aid they need.

Last week Secretary Hillary Clinton’s office at the State Department announced that the U.S. was willing to send humanitarian aid to Somalia despite the fact that much of the country is under the control of Al Shabab, a ragtag bunch of grifters and militants, some of whom have ties to Al Qaeda. Somalia is bearing the brunt of the worst famine and drought in 60 years—the worst since Africa’s colonial period. Ten million people who live on the knobby spit off the East African coast called the Horn are suffering the famine’s effects: starvation and death. Somalia is bearing the brunt of this crisis, especially the nearly 3 million people who live in country’s south. The death toll could easily surpass that of Ethiopia in the '80s, which left 1 million people dead.


State Department intervention could spur the international community to act.  But sadly, Clinton’s announcement is meaningless thanks to a bureaucratic snafu within the U.S. government. In 2009 the U.S. spent roughly half as much in food and disaster aid to Somalia ($130 million) as it did in military assistance ($246 million) not including CIA programs, such as drones. Yet thanks to a gnarl of red tape between the State and Treasury departments, it’s currently illegal for America to provide southern Somalia so much as a cup of rice or a bag of corn, due to the vagaries of an ill-defined law against providing material support to terrorists.
Famine, as we’ve learned over the past 30 years, isn’t only about a dearth of food. People starve as a result of economics and politics. Food serves as a weapon, particularly in Somalia, which has had no government to speak of for the past 20 years, longer than any other country on earth. When food prices began to spike several years ago in the Somali capital of Mogadishu, I watched “policemen” brandish AK-47s to muscle sacks of sugar away from a hungry mob—to give to their own families and friends or to sell them on the black market.

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