Before 9/11, There Was 8/7

Something happened on August 7th, 1998. There were two terrorist bomb attacks in Kenya and Tanzania by Al-Shabaab against the United States. 213 Kenyans and 11 Tanzanians died over a war that had nothing to do with either country. It was a foreign war brought to African soil.

Kenyans had no inkling on the rising tide of global terrorism. Intermittent local terrorism was a completely different reality. In the 70s and 80s, Shifta bandits in the northern parts and cattle rustling among transhumant communities were the confined dread a few Kenyan communities experienced. But on the day of in question, Kenyans were going about minding their own business as they should, and suddenly, a new concept entered their conscious space. It wasn’t right.

Why was an American war being fought in countries thousands of miles away from the United States? The answer to that can be found in history where powerful countries have the privilege of fighting their wars on other people’s soil.

It’s easier for a weaker enemy to target a superpower’s presence in less-secure countries, and many times, America itself has taken its wars to weaker countries. It’s like having dinner in your own home and going to shit in someone else’s bathroom because you don’t want the stink in your house.

All of Cold War between the US and then USSR was fought in Africa, Latin America and Asia. Citizens of countries like Mozambique who had no business taking up arms against each other in the name of Communism vs Capitalism went at it and slaughtered the daylights out of each other for years.

Ronald Reagan beefed up the war chests of mad butchers like Liberia’s Samuel Doe to avoid a rise in communist opposition. Humble peace-loving Jimmy Carter fueled the brutal Somoza dynasty of Nicaragua. Five US presidents led a massacre of countless Vietnamese in a senseless anti-communism war. Meanwhile America thrived.

The Cold War was replaced by gwot (global war on terror), a well-orchestrated war machine that is still chugging along profitably. Unfortunately for the US, the gwot came with one of its most puzzling shockers- the use of American soil as a battleground on 9/11. Whether you take the conspiracy or no-conspiracy versions, that attack remains mindboggling and leaves American intelligence who dismissed obvious warnings with blood on their hands.

Remember by the time 9/11 came along Kenya and Tanzania had been tested as possible battlefields for gwot, an experiment that almost failed but later gained a measure of success very slowly, thanks to the ease of raising local proxy enemies through neighboring Somalia (enter Al Shabaab). Some devastating blows were dealt on innocent Kenyans, the worst being the slaughter of 148 University students in Garissa.

Kenya’s current president gulped the Kool aid on gwot like a champ. He waxed lyrical about our valiant troops in Somalia (who were either being used for racketeering in the charcoal and sugar trade or getting slaughtered). Kenya was outsmarted by Tanzania. The land of Mwalimu would have none of that send-our-troops to fight a proxy war they have no business fighting.

Meanwhile, America and all its power quickly diverted their 9/11 to Iraq and Afghanistan where hundreds of thousands of Middle-Easterners, and American troops (always the sacrificial pawns) died. Meanwhile astronomical profits were made by the US corporatocracy. Gosh, the money they’ve made.

Remember the famous words of General Smedley Butler: “War is a racket. It always has been. It is possibly the oldest, easily the most profitable, surely the most vicious. It is the only one international in scope. It is the only one in which the profits are reckoned in dollars and the losses in lives.”

So, after being tested as a battleground for a new type of war profiteering and losing over 200 citizens, Kenya’s innocent victims are still fighting for compensation through US Congress. Just to remind you, the same Congress made compensation a priority for its citizens caught in the gwot attacks anywhere in the world.

Had the dead and maimed Kenyans been Americans, they would have been cushioned by very necessary, deserved and available financial compensation. Ask them about their lives now, how they’ve struggled to make ends meet, loss of jobs, limbs, eyesight and minds.

For the rest of Kenyans, victims of any violence are often too quickly discarded into a gaping void of willful disremember. We tell them “kaa ngumu!” (toughen up, get over it). That’s on us Kenyans. Keeping memory alive for our people is our responsibility. It is how we build value for human life. America made sure the world never forgets 9/11. The world does not remember 8/7.

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