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If we had just left the Islamic Courts alone...


The photo above, taken by a Reuters stringer, serves as a gruesome reminder of the nature of radical Islamist groups and the failure to oppose them. Here is the Reuters caption:

Militants from Hizbul Islam haul the bloodied body of Mohamed Ibrahim, 48, from a chest-deep pit after stoning him to death for illicit sexual intercourse with a woman in the Afgoye district, Somalia on December 13, 2009. Ibrahim was sentenced to death by a local Islamic court after he was found guilty of infidelity.

Keep this photo in mind when Martin Fletcher, Matthew Yglesias, the Los Angeles Times, and a host of pundits attempt to pin the blame for the rise of Islamic extremism and the al Qaeda-linked Shabaab in Somalia on the US. Hassan Dahir Aweys, the current leader of Hizbul Islam, co-led the Islamic Courts with Sheikh Sharif Ahmed, who is now the President of Somalia, before they were ousted by Ethiopian forces in December 2007. The Islamic Courts was by no means a moderate group when it assumed power in the spring and summer of 2006. The Islamic Courts conducted suicide attacks, had women stoned to death for adultery, murdered people in theaters for watching soccer, and committed a host of other outrageous crimes that mirrored what the Taliban have done and still continue to do.

READER COMMENTS: "If we had just left the Islamic Courts alone..."

Posted by Anonymous at December 23, 2009 4:14 PM ET:

Bill - Please give a more nuanced analysis of the ICU. Rogue elements of the ICU who were involved in some extremist activities were punished by the central leadership when caught. The point people are trying to make is that the ICU was a far better alternative than the Shabaab Al Qaeda backed scoundrels who control large swaths of the country now.

Posted by Bill Roggio at December 23, 2009 4:25 PM ET:

Anonymous (if that really is your name),

Shabaab wasn't a "rogue element of the ICU", it was a significant element of the ICU. As was Hizbul Islam. They dominated the ICU; this can be seen with how weak Sharif's faction, who even when siding with the TFG, is. I'm not sure what you are looking for, but my guess is you won't find it here.

Posted by Mr T at December 23, 2009 7:55 PM ET:

I see those cowards have to cover their faces after their muderous acts. Infidelity a death sentence? What a wonderful country. I wonder what Bill Clinton thinks about that. Or even more so what does Hillary think? Since it takes 2 to tango, I wonder what the other persons fate was.

Posted by cordoba.ali at December 24, 2009 2:28 AM ET:

If you had left the Islamic courts alone...perhaps its none of your business to meddle in Somalia and in other parts of the world.

What is your judgment for 'fornication' and 'adultery'? Let them fornicate? Your religions says fornicate and make illicit babies, thats good for u.

Islam says differently. So u do not allow any differences and you claim to be 'fair'.

Posted by Spooky at December 24, 2009 4:52 AM ET:

Well at least Hizbul Islam seems on the verge of implosion now, and Al Shabaab seems to have splintered into two factions, one of which is full of foreign fighters.

The more divided they are, the better it is for the Government, which seems to have managed to hold from further advances northward for the moment.

Posted by Neo at December 24, 2009 6:45 PM ET:

"Rogue elements of the ICU who were involved in some extremist activities were punished by the central leadership when caught."

Like punishing the occasional group of thieves or independent groups of thugs marauding the countryside. Yes it is true, but it is also completely irrelevant to the political situation that existed with the ICU at the time of the United States backed Ethiopian invasion across the boarder. At the time the ICU was very active in attacking the remnants of the UN supported government. They were poised to take their fight both north and across the Ethiopian border.

The primary reason that the ICU has been supplanted by Shabaab is that the ICU coalition had lost face and the support of outside Islamists. In the eyes of Al Qaeda, the ICU coalition failed to vigorously and consistently fight Ethiopian invaders. Al Qaeda opted to back a hard line core within the coalition to either bring the rest into line, or liquidate those that were less than enthusiastic about aggressively pursuing jihad.

If you want to criticize the Ethiopian invasion, do so on the grounds that it had no chance of ever transforming the political situation in southern Somalia. Whether you believe the Ethiopian invasion was a good delaying strategy or not depends on perspective. If you believe that there was a "real chance" of developing some sort of working relationship with the ICU in 2006 than you might be inclined to view the invasion as folly. I do not believe there ever was even the remotest chance of any significant ICU cooperation. I also believe that the conflict in Somalia had already gone on for decades and was destined to go on for decades more. Unfortunately, it is also a political situation that does not merit the monumental amount of resources it would take to truly alter the situation. In lieu of any colossal effort directed at decisive action we must settle for periodic disruption of Islamist activities in southern Somalia. I would say the Ethiopian invasion set the Islamists back at least 3 years. I'll take it. This fall we disrupted Shabaab leadership directly, without using the Ethiopians. Less effective, but also less risk. More of the same will be needed.

Posted by Zeissa at December 27, 2009 7:29 PM ET:

Cordoba, you make a valid point as well as a few lies.

The death sentence for adultery is indeed the choice of a nation, though perhaps there should be an option to opt out. Human biology can not be so easily tamed by all and you intend to kill anyone who doesn't follow the rules. Allow them to leave the country at least.

Your outright lies:
The religions of the west condemn adultery in fact.
The ICU did not leave the world or the west alone, quite the opposite.