Dead Somali = EKIA
America prides itself with its ideals and glorious declaration that all men are equal and deserve the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. It has justified using its military might to deliver its ideology to millions around the world, all the while proclaiming a very high set of military ethics which focused on removing the ‘bad guys’ and delivering freedom and rights to the helpless innocents.
Although America still claims to adhere to a strict protocol, over the years, the world has witnessed quite the opposite through events such as unjustified wars like in the Iraq invasion, the abhorrent treatment of prisoners at Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo and black sites around the world, and the atrocities against civilians in Vietnam.No matter how many Geneva Conventions or treaties it signs, America’s military actions are contradictory to its press releases and media image. And while America continues to preach principles and standards, in the eyes of the world, a gradual decay has tainted the larger part of its ideals leaving nothing more than a hollow statue with no substance.
The Drone papers,a series of articles released by The Intercept, give some insight into very recent US military terminology, tactics, and protocol which is another chapter from the decline of American ethics-in-action. The papers describe various military operations in Afghanistan where the targets are called objectives and eliminated objectives are called jackpots. Astonishingly, everyone else who gets killed, specifically military-age-males, is called an EKIA (Enemy Killed In Action), regardless of who they are or what they were doing before they were assassinated.
This flawed categorization blatantly opposes America’s publicized principles and goals, but it also has a seemingly positive aspect in that it looks good in military productivity reports because whether getting the jackpot or not, the military seems to be busy eliminating the bad guys by way of EKIAs. Josh Begley of The Intercept presented a five month period of operations in Northeastern Afghanistan in his article titled A Visual Glossary which revealed a horrific picture of that policy in action on the ground. It documented 27 operations with 155 people killed.
Only 19 of the deceased were jackpots, meaning intended targets, while the remaining 136 were simply labeled as EKIAs.“This means that almost 9 out of 10 people killed in these strikes were not the intended targets,” said Mr. Begley. His research illustrates shockingly new standards in war and reflects a further decay of America’s ideals. This is a clear effect of the continual strain and pressure of America’s longest war and a frustration with the ever-elusive true victory. Furthermore, the Drone Papers have given a peak into a general American policy that is not just limited to Afghanistan and can therefore shed light on policies and trends elsewhere.
Another of The Drone Papers, Target Africa by Nick Turse, delves in the expansion of the small footprint of the US military in Africa. A number of new military facilities have been opened in the past years in at least 10 different countries with a special focus in East Africa. “Recent reports also indicate that the military’s Joint Special Operations Command, or JSOC, is now working out of two bases in Somalia— one in Kismayo, the other in Baledogle,” said Mr. Turse. These bases facilitate military operations, more specifically air strikes by drones and other aircraft. This has led to an increased willingness and ability to execute operations which, when combined with the protocols witnessed in Afghanistan, spells devastation for the Somali people.
To illustrate what that means we just have to look at a few recent operations that were well covered in local media to see the protocols and terminology in action. For example, in mid-August 2017when a group of people were bombed on their farm in the Jubba region they were immediately labeled as terrorists or EKIAs. It didn’t matter that there was an elderly man and women amongst them, they were all terrorists who deserved to die. Later in August when another group of people were attacked and killed in the now infamous Barire Massacre, the US military claimed once again that they were terrorists, or EKIAs. It didn’t matter who they were or that there was a child present,they were evil terrorists who could not be shown mercy. Another example occurred in late November 2017 when a group of traveling Bedouins were bombed near Afmadow. Three were injured and much of their belongings were destroyed. Additionally, in early April of this year a Bedouin family was targeted in an airstrike near Kismayo which devastated the poor family. There were seven casualties,all of them children; three being killed and four seriously injured along with livestock and belongings being decimated. Moreover, recently on May 10th 2018 in a village near Afgoye named Ma’alinka, a group of travelers, exhausted from traveling on the muddy roads, stopped for a rest. In the middle of the night, with no warning, they were brutally attacked with at least five being murdered in cold blood and at least another handful injured or missing. The details are still disputed but the bodies of the five victims were immediately taken to Mogadishu for all to witness and at least one of the injured was a young teenage girl.
Those families and children and travelers whose lives and wealth were targeted were categorized as default terrorists and written down as EKIAs.The US military terminology seems to have digressed even further because in contrast to northeastern Afghanistan, in Somalia it doesn’t seem to matter if you are male or female, young or old, you can still be branded immediately as a terrorist and an EKIA.
Furthermore, take the controversial January 2018 raid on a school in the Lower Shabelle region that was covered in the international and local media. The target was immediately claimed and labeled as an indoctrination center by the US military. (Is it probable that some around the world may use the claimed justification for this operation to logically deduce that American schools which provide JROTC courses are legitimate targets?) AFRICOM released a statement and mentioned that their raiding forces received hostile fire and returned fire in self-defense. As a result, five “enemy combatants” were killed and six were injured. They went on to say that some of those killed appeared to be under the age of 18. Approximately 30 male children were reportedly recovered and were going to be reunited with their families. They also mentioned that ‘US forces will continue to use all authorized and appropriate measures to protect US citizens and to disable terrorist threats.’
At first sight that seems like a plausible story but after understanding the tactics and jargon used by the US military you would immediately question the narrative. All of those killed have been labeled as enemy combatants or EKIAs but even AFRICOM had to admit that they appeared to be under the age of 18 which points to the fact that they must be considerably younger than 18. The undisputed fact is that a late night military raid was conducted on some type of school for boys. Locals report that one armed teacher was killed along with a handful of other unarmed children in their early teens. There were no children armed to the teeth defending themselves from the surprise night raid, instead they were helpless innocent victims. Another interesting point to note in the operation is that all of the boys killed were labeled as “enemy combatants” whereas all of the boys who were forcefully “rescued” were simply labeled as male children who were going to be reunited with their families. That is quite amazing and convenient to say the least.The US military has become so used to lying and misleading that they can’t seem to help it and rather than protecting their citizens, they may actually be putting them at more risk with their blatant targeting of innocents.
Thanks to The Drone Papers and other investigative reporting more of the shameful bigotry and reprehensible crimes of the US military is being exposed. The bottom line is that America is expanding its operations which target innocents while not showing the slightest integrity to admit and take responsibility for its crimes. And even though the US military may be forced to pledge an extensive inquiry or murmur an empty apology from time to time when they feel that the people of the Horn of Africa will not put up with their arrogant atrocities, the cold truth is that, in their eyes and policies, the blood of a Somali is only worth the ink needed to write four letters; The harsh reality is that from the cloud piercing camera lens of a drone or the invading night vision goggles of a US Marine every Somali Muslim is an E; an E who could be written off as an EKIA at any moment. But don’t worry because if you or a loved one is ever labeled as an EKIA, it will be in the name of American freedom and ideals, and for the greater good of protecting US citizens.
By Hasan Ali
Political analyst based in Mogadishu