What moved President Bush to make a move?|
President Bush took the decision after the election. I'm convinced
that he took it for honorable reasons . I think his desire was to be seen
leaving office on a high note. He had received a great deal of criticism during
the campaign on his seeming unresponsiveness to the situations in Bosnia and
Somalia. And I think he chose Somalia because it looked like it was gonna be
the easier of these two major humanitarian crisis.
What really motivates a politician in this situation? Is
President Bush -- like the American public -- moved by the pictures he sees on
TV? Is this enough of a reason to formulate foreign policy?
Well I think he would have to be responsive to that. He is a
sensitive man, and as President I'm sure he did agonise over these issues and
of course the fact that members of Congress -- one or two of them had actually
visited Somalia, during the period after we began our airlift of food from
Mombasa into Somalia -- he could not have ignored all of that.
Why should Americans be involved in this?
Well we'd been very deeply involved in the horn of Africa. We had
made a large investment in Northern Somalia, and we had certainly used
Somalia as an important pawn during the cold war, I don't think that most
people in Washington, certainly on the policy side, could have ignored the fact
that Siad Barre was about to visit Washington back in 1987. When people
discovered that his forces had killed tens of thousands of people in Habr Gidr.
So there was a consciousness about Somalia. In addition, I don't think that
people in 1992 were entirely certain that the Cold War was really over, and so
there were a lot of considerations that went into that.
What caused the famine?
There are many theories about what caused the famine. Clearly there
had been a drought, there had been an unsuccessful crop year in the southern
valleys back in 1990 and '91, but I think that the food was being used as a
weapon and many of the refugees if not most of the refugees are displaced
persons to use the proper term. In the south of and west of Mogadishu were
people who had previously lived in Mogadishu and in fact, one way of ensuring
that the starving Marra on would not come back into the city of course was to
keep them hungry. And this was a theme that I heard a lot during my
time -- let's not have the displaced persons come back into Mogadishu quite
Was there a genuine shortage of food in Somalia at the
Probably not. It was our view at the time, and I think it was later
borne out by what we saw on the ground, that a lot of the food was actually
being held at warehouses in Mogadishu. I know that many of the people who
were involved in planning the operation conceived of it largely as opening the
warehouses and then getting the food out to the camps.
And what was stopping the food being distributed?
Well I think it was for purely political reasons, the warlords in
Mogadishu, particularly Mohammad Farah Aidid, did not want the refugees and
displaced persons to be fed. This was a way of ensuring that they would not
come back and regain their properties which had been taken from them.
Everyone I think agreed in Somalia that the people who had supported Siad Barre
in a way deserved to be punished, and so there were a lot of conflicting and
contributing factors in this.
Admiral Howe. Tell me briefly who he was and what President
Bush did with him.
Admiral Howe had been the Deputy Director of the National Security
Council at the end of the Bush Administration. He had been much involved in
planning the operation. He was selected, in my view, because he was believed to
be one of the highly skilled managers within the military, although he had
retired by that time. And I think that he went out there with the idea, which
the Bush administration had, which was the main problem in peace operations was
management. And this caused I think the focus to be on having a professional
manager at the head of that operation.
But you can't really take politics out of such an operation can
No, I think that Admiral Howe was in a situation where the tools
available to him really didn't give him the answers [though] I'm not so sure
he was asking all the right questions. When he arrived, I spent a lot of time
with him and his staff trying to identify what were the levers, what were the
political tools which were available, hoping that we could develop some kind of
But he didn't want to get drawn into politics.
Professional military people, by their training, are not interested
so much in politics. They're trained from their first day as junior officers
to stay out of -- they're fighters, they're not politicians. There are three
things that have been continually brought to my attention that the military
don't like. What I call the three P's. And that's policework, politics, and
That's what the US military want to keep out of.
And that basically is the mind-set of many people still in the US
military who are focusing on being war fighters and who feel that when they
become engaged in peacekeeping it detracts from their proficiency.
Tell me about your arrival. What was the scene when you came
I arrived on the 4th of March in 1993 as it happened the day after
Ambassador Oakley had left. I was met by his deputy who I was replacing, John
Hirsch. I was taken from the airport to the oil compound that had been
rented for use of our liaison office. I had barely put my bags down in my
room when I was taken off to meet with Mohammad Farah Aidid. This seemed
to be a regular routine for the Embassy liaison office staff, and in fact
during the first four days I was there, I was in his office on three
Describe Aidid to me. Where was he living? Was he surrounded
by guards? What was the atmosphere like?
Aidid's headquarters was about 200 yards from where we were staying.
Just up the road. Surrounded by guards and a wall with a gate that
controlled access. He met us, very kindly, clearly he knew my predecessor.
He was a very powerful man.
I found him to be rather charismatic, at the same time I found him rather
devious, clearly somebody with a very high opinion of his role. He of course
gained a great deal of credibility during the period of UNITAF. He'd been
treated by many people, not just the Americans, as almost a de facto president
of the country, although as far as I knew he was only president of Southern
My view of the man is that -- here's a man who clearly is going to be someone
we're gonna have to deal with. I felt at the same time certainly by my third
meeting that we may have been overdoing our close relationship with the
gentleman. But as it happened, and I thought it rather fortuitous in some
ways, he left the country to go to some meetings at Addis Ababa, and he
didn't come back to Mogadishu for about six more weeks, during which time we
had opportunities to meet many other people and including many people from his
clan. He did not come back until the end of April of 1993 and after that the
nature of the relationship was not the same.
How did Aidid get to be who he was? And is warlord or clan
leader a good way to describe him?
Aidid had been selected by his clan as a warleader. This is quite
usual within Somali culture where their political leadership and their
military leadership will often be different people. Now the man who had
selected him [who was] the political leader -- and frankly I've forgotten his
name -- died in a Rome hospital in '91. And after that Aidid became more or
less the de facto political leader at the same time. His forces had of
course come from the central region. Many of them were herdsmen, nomads who
had been involved in the drought and had lost their flocks, and are ready
for battle if you will. Certainly providing grist for his army and this was
not a professional salaried military that it formed. It was miscellaneous
armed people and they were promised booty and the booty in fact was found in
Southern Mogadishu. And many of them had settled into the houses that I was
speaking about earlier and they wanted to stay. They had at least a place, a
roof over their heads. And of course much of the civil war in Mogadishu in
1991 and '92 in which 35,000 people -- mostly non-combatants had been killed--
was due to the desire of Ali Mahdi the man who ran North Mogadishu and
Mohammad Farah Aidid in Southern Mogadishu to extend their range of
properties if you will. I thought that Aidid was going to probably be an
Why did you feel that so soon? In the first four days you said
you met him three times and yet by the end of that 4th day, you already had a
bad feeling about him.
Well, I did not see that he was focused frankly on returning to any
kind of normalcy. You know every peace operation tends to begin as a
humanitarian disaster. You can focus on the political origins of the
humanitarian disaster after the people have been fed and certainly by March
people were being fed. And after my discussions with him I could not see that
he had any interest in normalcy. His view was continuing conflict until frankly
he owned all of Somalia.
He thought that the peacekeeping operation would effectively
get in the way of his war?
Well I think in plain military terms the area which had been
occupied by the various contingents in the UNITAF and later by the UNOSOM too,
cut off his internal lines of communication. They tended to slow down his
incursions into areas they did not yet control, he was not able to move his
technicals which had been taken off the streets very early in the operation and
as a result, I think he tended to look at the UNITAF period as a period for
putting his force together, restoring some of his units, but certainly in
preparation for other events after UNITAF had gone.
So in other words he regarded the initial UN intervention as a
chance to build up and prepare for the next phase of the war?
Well I think he would have had to, because we announced at the
outset we weren't going to be there very long. And I think he was genuinely
afraid of confronting the US Marines and the US army 10th Mountain
Division representatives who were there. He simply, I think, was waiting to
attack once the stronger force had gone.
So once the Americans are gone, he's gonna go back to
Well obviously the fact that UNOSOM continued in there was an
inconvenience to him. But it was a less cohesive force. It was not a force
which had really ever had an opportunity to train together. If he was going to
get the UN out of there, which I think was clearly one of his objectives, he
was going to have to take some actions.
What was the point do you think at which Aidid decided that he
actually wanted to get the UN/US out?
Well, despite his efforts, life was beginning to look more normal in
Mogadishu. Tradesmen were back at work. There were initiatives being taken
by NGOs and others to set up trading schools and things like that. So life
was coming back to normal, and if you're a warlord, perhaps uncertain of what
your real popularity is, normalcy is the enemy.
The intelligence sources that you'd obviously developed over
there -- you began to get some rather ominous indicators didn't you? What did
During the month of May we were getting conflicting intelligence [about]
what the overall intentions that Aidid had. Clearly he was planning something.
I guess it was about the middle of month when we got some very good
information that in fact, Aidid was debating within his group the
advantages that might come from assassinating a member of our Embassy staff.
And naturally we were alarmed by this but we were very well-guarded by the
US Marines and we didn't think that we were necessarily in any direct danger,
although obviously we were already taking every precaution.
What did he hope to gain from that?
I think Aidid clearly looked upon us as people who were causing him
some difficulties. We had been able to develop relations with other members
of his group. I was meeting regularly with a group of Somali elders. We were
trying to have many sources.
There were other things that were going on that may have been disturbing to
Aidid and his group. We had a suggestion being brought to our attention by a
Somali NGO closely attached to his clan, who in fact had come to us with a
very good idea to try to get these teenagers with guns off the streets. They
had suggested that from their analysis of the situation the best way to get
'em off the streets was to get 'em into school. And they provided us with some
ideas on how that might be achieved. This was simply indicative in my view [that]
the normal people in Somalia were beginning to have their voices heard.
We tended in the Embassy or the liaison office to look at the Somalis as two
major groups. You had the warlords, you had the normal people. And the normal
people clearly were working toward objectives which would have caused Aidid
On June the 5th -- describe briefly the two ambushes that
Well, the attack at the radio station which started about 9:45, as
evidenced by the gunfire, took place after a Pakistani company had
investigated the radio station and were in fact leaving the compound. The
other attack which is even more grievous and I think there can be no confusion
about, is the fact that they had selected a feeding site -- as I recall feeding
site 50 which was located a couple of miles away from the radio station -- and
they'd simply mowed down the Pakistani soldiers who were delivering food. They
were lightly armed, they were under fire for several hours. Every member of
that group of Paks was either killed or seriously wounded. And very clearly
the intention was to try to break the Pakistani force which was then the one
with control responsibilities in Mogadishu.
How many people were killed at the radio station?
12 of the Pakistanis were killed at the radio station, and 12 others
at the feeding site. The deaths were bad enough but this was a particularly
bloody planned series of ambushes There were 94 soldiers wounded, and I
believe that a third of them had permanent injuries, loss of limbs,
blindness etc. It was meant to be a message in my view and I thought that the
message was not to the Pakistani government so much as it was to my
And what conclusion did you draw from these two
events -- coincidence?
I think there was no coincidence the whole city blew up at the same
time -- at least the Southern part of Mogadishu blew up at 9:45. And telephone
poles were down blocking the streets, there were bonfires in various areas,
there was gunfire brought against UN groups all over the city. Very clearly
we were at war.
So Aidid made his big move.
Aidid had the opportunity to finally rid himself of the
international presence. He had the time and he tried to obscure the issue by
focusing on the radio station. Perhaps we were unwise in that part, giving him
that cover story but essentially it was Aidid's initiative.
The decision is taken now to get Aidid. Who takes the
The decision to get Aidid was not taken in Mogadishu, although we
had no difficulty understanding it. There was a special session of the
Security Council on that Sunday which would have been the sixth of June and
perhaps in an over-rushed judgement, there was in fact a resolution, I think it
was 834, which did not condemn Aidid by name, but condemned those people
who'd attacked the UN forces. And they called for these people to be brought
The meeting had been called by the Pakistani government. I don't know who was
responsible for the actual text of the resolution -- but a resolution was
quickly passed condemning those people who had attacked the United Nations.
Aidid was not mentioned by name but it was clear to everyone who the resolution
was directed against. How to implement that was more difficult.
Whose decision was that then?
Well the Special Representative of the UN Secretary General was
Admiral Howe. It would have been his responsibility to carry out the Security
Council resolution. And as it happened, the fact that the Pakistanis had been
the focus of the attack on the 5th of June caused them to stop some of their
night-time patrolling and to cut back on their daytime repo as well. And as
it happened the force which was the most capable of carrying out the terms of
the resolution was the US Quick Reaction Force.
So, would Admiral Howe have cleared that decision with the
White House? Or was Howe effectively the person to make the decision?
Well Admiral Howe would not have the command and control over US
troops. At that time in Somalia it would have been through the US central
command in Tampa. And the US Force Commander would have referred the matter
back to Tampa and Tampa obviously would have then gone to Washington.
Part of the problem of this whole event is this complicated chain
Just for my own clarification -- the UN passed a resolution, Admiral
Howe is effectively the UN Commander who said, "that means get Aidid," or is
somebody else making that decision? Who makes the interpretation that,'get the
people responsible for that...' then becomes, 'get Aidid.'
Well there was no mystery in Mogadishu who was behind the ambushes,
and to carry out the resolution then, you have to go after the person who would
have ordered that. Which would have been Aidid. The man in charge of the UN
operation was Jonathan Howe. So he made that decision.
And at what point were the Rangers brought into the
Well this happened of course after I had gone. But there was a
desire to bring a supplementary force, which was better able to carry out
clandestine operations -- which could find out some way or another to get Aidid,
as you say. And the US Rangers seemed to be the right unit. Of course, here
you get into an additional problem of command and control, in the sense that
the Special Operations command, which was sort of across the street in Tampa,
still has its main headquarters in Fort Bragg. So you had yet another channel
How did Aidid's forces get the idea of how to down the
Well, we owned the air. This was our great advantage during the
early months of the operation. And the only way that they were able to take
away the air superiority that we had was to study the tactics of helicopters.
Helicopters fly at night. They fly without lights, but after they've fired and
set fires on the ground, the flames are reflected on the bottom of the
So they got the idea that if we start firing -- I guess it was the RPGs or
rocket propelled grenades which were the most popular form of fire power in
Mogadishu in 1993 -- if you fire enough of those toward the helicopters you're
gonna take one down and they did. And of course this was the technique that
they used on the night of October 3 and 4 to attack the helicopters bringing
in the initial force as well as the rescue forces that followed.
You said 'on the night' but the actual raid was daytime.
Well the raid began in daytime but the support to that operation
continued during the night, so that anybody going into that fire zone during
the night of October 3-4 was really in great danger.
Aidid effectively laid a double ambush for the Pakistanis back
in June. In your judgement, did the Rangers actually stumble into what was in
effect a pre-set ambush?
I don't think so. It illustrated that Aidid's people had reached a
level of preparedness that they were able to respond quickly to an operation
into the center of their neighborhood. [It was] I think based on the confidence
that had been built up by their previous successes using the RPGs against
They had succeeded in bringing down two of them.
So in your interpretation, what happened was that there was a
genuine intelligence tip, the Rangers moved on it, and Aidid' s militia were
able to just mobilize fast.
Well I think that clearly there had been previous raids, the Rangers
had been quite active and this was I guess a strategic objective they could
have perhaps judged in advance that it would be a prospective target. But,
given the secrecy of the operation I can't imagine that the Somalis
would have been clever enough to have known about it and had been able to set
themselves up, they obviously were able to respond quickly.
The target was Aidid wasn't it?
Well, of course, under the presidential order which has now been
contended by a number of presidents, we don't target individuals. But I think
implicitly you can imagine that, well, certainly the main target of any raid
would have been to take Aidid alive, or whatever the occasion would have
presented. But it was the view that Aidid was the leader and he was the
In reviewing the operation what's its effect on US policy? Has
it been an inhibiting factor?
Oh, I think so. The ghosts of Somalia continued to haunt US policy.
We have two presidential orders that deal with these matters, the first one
was clearly written in the shadow of Somalia. More recently we're now working
harder to be able to get our policies together, domestically, but I would say
that in general we are still not at a point where we can respond in a proper
fashion, covering the real scope of the peace operation.
In specific terms what international crises were affected by
the Mogadishu effect?
Well, in 1994, clearly our lack of response in Rwanda was a fear of
getting involved in something like a Somalia all over again. And we spent the
summer of '94 quarrelling amongst ourselves as to redefining genocide. The
Haitian operation, I think, utilized some good lessons from Somalia. There the
relationships between the military and the non-governmental agencies went, I
think, quite well. There was a genuine effort to move from the humanitarian
to the rehabilitation. The Bosnian intervention is to me, as a student of
peacekeeping, a bizarre one because there the Dayton Accords tried to make
rigid separation between the humanitarian and the political and the
What are the lessons that people have drawn from this whole
thing? They've drawn different lessons; some people say it's an example of
Well, I don't like mission creep as a term. It has crept in the
back door of US military doctrine in the recent years and it means many things
to many people. To me, mission creep means there are things out there we don't
want to do. And if we have to do them, it's called mission creep. But it can
mean we haven't trained to do these particular jobs. It can mean such things
as, 'I'm tired and I want to go home,' which was, I think, how mission creep
began to be understood in Somalia when I was there. It's an inexact term and
I really dislike it.
British and French military officers in particular talk about
'the Mogadishu line.'
Well, of course, the person who made that expression famous was Sir
Michael Rose when he was in command in Bosnia. I read that as meaning that he
was trying to avoid becoming involved in the problems between groups in
Bosnia. I think that he hued to the traditional notions of impartiality and
neutrality which are explicit in the UN charter but I don't believe are
applicable in situations like Bosnia, at least neutrality. I think we have to
apply resolutions impartially, but you can't be neutral in the face of genocide
and things like that.
The other criticism is that in effect the US became drawn into
one side of a civil war. It ended up effectively fighting on behalf of one
faction against another in Somalia.
Well, I'm not so sure that's the way it was. We got drawn into a
conflict that the adversary himself had chosen. I don't think that you could
say that we were fighting for any other particular clan... clearly, when we get
drawn into a situation where we're fighting somebody else's war for them, as
you could, say, in Somalia, that's a very bad thing. And clearly this is
something that we must avoid... I believe that you must plan your operation
in such a way, that you do not end up fighting somebody else's war.
But you don't think that happened in Somalia?
Well, we ended up in a war with someone who had killed members of
the UN force. Other clans might have gained some benefits from this, but we
were not certainly fighting for them.
In the end you judge this whole thing a success or a
In my view Somalia was not a military failure, it was a well-run
military operation, but which had no political focus. It was a failed
political military operation.
Explain what you mean by that.
In a traditional warfare, you bring force against force. One side
will win and one side will normally lose. If you get into a peace operation,
it's a political military operation, it's a humanitarian battlefield where
the real enemies are gonna be things like impure water, disease, fear,
insecurity, displacement and all of that.
And that's the way these operations ought to be planned. In the case of
Somalia, we didn't even focus on the immediate threats other than food. We
certainly never focused on the longer-term political concerns of the country.
After all, it began as a political problem, we became interested in it during
the humanitarian period and we certainly were not focusing beyond that
You are someone who is still involved, in a sense, trying to
draw the lessons from Somalia, you're actively involved in programs I think with
the military and so on. In broad terms what are you trying to achieve?
Well, I've never been in the military. I've been very fortunate in
my diplomatic career, to have had two assignments one to the Naval War College,
one to the Army War College. On the basis of having been in Somalia where I
was enormously frustrated, I decided in my retirement days that I would work
with the military to bring more focus onto the political side of political
military operations. I don't tell them how to fight their wars. But I do try
to give them some tools so they can understand the political side.
Is it fair to say that maybe the very end of this century --
beginning of next -- it will be more like the end of the last century and we
will be facing a multitude of small colonial actions rather than the big
Well I hope they're not viewed as colonial actions. I know that
people who lose out in these things tend to accuse the UN of being involved in
recolonisation or whatever, but that's bunk. In my view, the world has to
develop some doctrine for its own intervention. I think that the lack of rules
is a real problem. We're still using the tools of the Cold War, which is based
on a UN charter which was developed really to solve the problems of the
1920s-'30s, when it was state against state. We don't have any tools really
available for conflicts within states.
To return to the question I asked you before, why is it
America's problem? Why should America be involved?
America has to be involved. I don't think we have to be involved in
every crisis, because complex emergencies are proliferating. During the Cold
War period there were 3 or 4 a year -- complex humanitarian emergencies. We're
now averaging 16 or 17 a year. We have to be able to respond when our
consciences tell us we must. And often that conscience will be determined by
the media, but we cannot look out at starving kids and old folks and women
weeping over the bodies of their husbands and children without having some
kind of a response. We are a world community. And the US is the principal
player, certainly in terms of power extension. We have the capability; we
can't stand by and let the world go down the drain.