I remember one day in spring 1988 when I was one of the last people to leave the Hargeisa Airport (in northwest Somalia) after the daily Somali Airlines flight. I noticed some men standing around and engaged them in conversation only to discover that they were U.S. Marines waiting for a ride that obviously wasn't showing up.
Hesitant at first to be identified in any way with the U.S. military, I decided it was more important to be neighborly and give them a ride into town. Upon further gentle probing, I discovered that they were there to "... improve the Somalian military."
I so badly wanted to take them to the refugee camp where I worked and wave my hand over the 40,000 war and economic refugees from Ethiopia and say, "See what an improved military does." It was no more than a few months later that the very guns they were sent to service, 105-mm Jeep-mounted Howitzers, were used to kill civilians in Somalia's civil war.
Shortly after returning from Somalia in 1989, I remember scraping every news source to find the smallest item on Somalia. Weak and static, BBC Africa Service (thanks to my ham radio and big antenna) provided my only link back to the land in which I left a part of myself.
America is trying, again, to solve a problem by brute force. I grieve for the wasted human lives, the thrown away resources, and the lost development efforts that this pawn in the Cold War has now to suffer.
Jon Rudy was a Mennonite Central Committee worker in Somalia from 1987 to 1989.