In a move that caught the world by surprise, Denmark's Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen today announced his country's deployment of 5,000 troops to Somalia in an effort to restructure the government of that troubled African nation and dry up a wellspring of terrorism. The stunning move comes in response to a 28-year-old Somali man's attempted assassination of 74-year-old Danish cartoonist Kurt Westergaard. Westergaard had angered many in the Muslim world with his 2005 depiction of the Prophet Muhammad wearing a bomb-shaped turban with a lit fuse.
Rasmussen denounced the assassination attempt as "not only an attack on Kurt Westergaard but also an attack on our open society and our democracy." Jakob Scharf, head of the nation's intelligence service, PET, said the assailant, whose name has not yet been released, had "close relations to the Somali terror organization Al Shabab and leaders of Al Qaeda in East Africa," was "part of a terror-related network with connection to Denmark," and was "also suspected of having been involved in terror-related activities" during a recent stay in East Africa. Al Shabab denied any link to the attack, but the group's spokesman, Sheik Ali Mohamoud Raghe, said that "we welcome his act."
While Denmark has heretofore been a largely unknown player in the anti-terrorist arena, it has actually contributed troops to current and recent western anti-terrorism efforts in Afghanistan, Kosovo, Lebanon, and Iraq. Since the small Scandinavian nation's Ministry of Defence currently has only 33,000 personnel at its disposal, it is expected that some of the 55,000 member volunteer Danish Home Guard may also be called into action. Potential sources of additional military back-up include Xe Services LLC, formerly known as Blackwater, the private security contractor that figured prominently in the Iraq War, as well as other contractors based in the newer eastern member states of the European Union and the former Soviet Union.
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Informed sources say that Denmark will also seek an arrangement with the US to utilize CIA drone missile strikes against terror bases in the vast regions of Somalia that currently lie outside of government control.
In a clear effort to situate the surprise invasion within the mainstream of the worldwide war on terror directed by Washington, Rasmussen at times appeared to be directly quoting Barack Obama, at one point stating that "our effort will involve disorderly regions and diffuse enemies," words the American President himself has used in justifying military activity in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Some observers saw this as an attempt to innoculate the Danish government from charges of failure that domestic sceptics may see as inevitable in an effort to combat terrorist acts with military operations.
Likewise, in a separate statement, Denmark's highest ranking military leader Lt. Gen. Knud Bartels said while the attempted assassination of Westergaard "ended in failure, we know with absolute certainty that Al Qaeda and those who support its ideology continue to refine their methods to test our defenses and pursue an attack on the homeland" - words identical to those of a U.S. government official commenting on the failed December 25 attempt to detonate explosives on an American airliner.
Somalia has long been considered the prototype of a "failed state," as its central government exerts little control beyond the confines of the capital city of Mogadishu. Pirates operate with impunity off its coast and the United Nations World Food Program recently announced suspension of food deliveries to one third of the nation's population in response to what it characterized as "unacceptable demands and conditions set by armed groups," primarily branches of the Shabab, a group of Islamist militants who control much of the southern part of the nation. Observers also noted that the country is one of only two in the world to have failed to ratify the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Although the White House has yet to formally comment on the Danish invasion, aides who would only speak off the record, seemed confident that the Danes would eventually win President Obama's support for their military campaign, citing his December 1 speech announcing the latest Afghanistan troop build-up in which he declared, "Where al Qaeda and its allies attempt to establish a foothold - whether in Somalia or Yemen or elsewhere - they must be confronted by growing pressure and strong partnerships."
The Danish invasion of Somalia described above has, of course, not actually occurred. The quotes are all real, though, but only in their initial attributions, which is to say that the Prime Minister, the General, and the unnamed White House aides did not actually repeat the statements of President Obama and the unnamed U.S. government official.
This little historical fantasia is intended as an exercise in absurdity. The intended absurdity, however, does not lie in "The Mouse that Roared" scenario of a nation of 5.47 million people and 16,639 square miles invading one of 9.12 million people and 396,221 square miles - greater discrepancies have been overcome by technologically more advanced nations in the past. The real absurdity lies in embarking upon military campaigns in response to acts of terrorism, something which many Americans have come to see as the norm, perhaps blinded to its inappropriateness by the belief that in military matters the U.S. is simply "too big to fail." Meanwhile, as our armed forces are extended to nation after nation, Osama bin Laden's dream of drawing the U.S. into war on "a large scale front which it cannot control" gains reality by the day.
And, oh yes, the other country that has not ratified the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child is the United States.