Academic Minute Podcast

Jason C. Mueller, Kennesaw State University – Unveiling Silent Suffering: The Covert U.S. “War on Terror” in Somalia

U.S. foreign policy and military actions are usually under the microscope, but not always.

Jason C. Mueller, assistant professor of sociology at Kennesaw State University, looks into a more covert “war on terror.”

Jason C. Mueller is an Assistant Professor of Sociology at Kennesaw State University. Mueller received his Ph.D. in the Department of Sociology at the University of California, Irvine, in 2020. He is an interdisciplinary researcher and educator, drawing inspiration from the fields of global studies, political economy, peace studies, critical theory, and sociology. His work explores how large-scale structures of political, economic, and ideological oppression and exploitation touch down in concrete, local circumstances. He also studies how these structures of oppression are contested via collective action. Mueller’s published research can be found in a variety of interdisciplinary academic journals, including Review of African Political Economy, Critical Sociology, Race & Class, Distinktion: A Journal of Social Theory, and more.

Unveiling Silent Suffering: The Covert U.S. “War on Terror” in Somalia

Many Americans are aware that the US “war on terror” taking place in countries like Iraq and Afghanistan. Fewer Americans are aware that the US has engaged in a war in the East African country of Somalia, for the past two decades. My research documents the hidden human, economic, and political costs of the covert “war on terror” in Somalia.

To begin, the US military waged economic warfare on the population of Somalia, when they shuttered al-Barakaaat in 2001. This was a main remittance system that served as a vital lifeline to the Somali economy at the time. It also operated key telecommunication and water purification systems in the country. The US justified their targeting of al-Barakaat under the auspices of stopping the financing of terrorist network in the post-9/11 world. However, the US government never produced evidence that the remittance system was financing terrorist networks.

Beyond economic warfare, the US has maintained a largely-covert presence in Somalia via their military, and intelligence agencies—such as the CIA. Over the past fifteen years, hundreds of airstrikes have been conducted by the US, with scores of Somali civilians killed. Families of the victims of these covert strikes have few mechanisms of redress, as the US government often downplays their role in these activities.

In summation, the US military has maintained a decades-long presence in Somalia, with little-to-no public awareness. Opacity of wartime activities raises important questions about the US government being held accountable for the actions, both by the American public, and the victims of these activities in Somalia.

At a moment in US history where there is a reckoning with the idea that “Black Lives Matter,” my research documents how the destruction of Black lives in Africa is a hidden costs of the US’ expansive “war on terror.”

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