My Photo

New York




  • Talmud 7:16 as Quoted by Rishon Rishon in 2004
    Qohelet Raba, 7:16

    אכזרי סוף שנעשה אכזרי במקום רחמן

    Kol mi shena`asa rahaman bimqom akhzari Sof shena`asa akhzari bimqom rahaman

    All who are made to be compassionate in the place of the cruel In the end are made to be cruel in the place of the compassionate.

    More colloquially translated: "Those who are kind to the cruel, in the end will be cruel to the kind."

    Online Source:

  • Abraham Isaac Kook
    "The purely righteous do not complain about evil, rather they add justice.They do not complain about heresy, rather they add faith.They do not complain about ignorance, rather they add wisdom." From the pages of Arpilei Tohar.
  • Heinrich Heine
    "Where books are burned, in the end people will be burned." -- From Almansor: A Tragedy (1823).
  • Simon Wiesenthal
    Remark Made in the Ballroom of the Imperial Hotel, Vienna, Austria on the occasion of His 90th Birthday: "The Nazis are no more, but we are still here, singing and dancing."
  • Maimonides
    "Truth does not become more true if the whole world were to accept it; nor does it become less true if the whole world were to reject it."
  • Douglas Adams
    "Isn't it enough to see that a garden is beautiful without having to believe that there are fairies at the bottom of it too?" Epigram appearing in the dedication of Richard Dawkins' The GOD Delusion.
  • Thucydides
    "The Nation that makes a great distinction between its scholars and its warriors will have its thinking done by cowards and its fighting done by fools."
  • Milan Kundera
    "The struggle of man against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting."


  • Care to Read What I Read?

    I've embarked on a great reduction in privacy by bookmarking my web-based reading on the "" utility. It may tip my hand as to what I have in mind for blogging, but the same may help friends and frenemies alike track my thinking: here is the URL:

  • Author's Wish Each Friday Night
    Shabbat Shalom. May our arguments be resolved through perceptive words and good deeds only; may we live another week helpful to one another in relative peace.
  • Photography: Prints & Services
    A gentle reminder: I'm in business as a producer of fine art prints and as a provider of shoot-for-fee services, including portraiture and weddings plus assigned photojournalism. My general location: intersection of I-70 and I-81; core camera system: Nikon; transportation: Mustang.

    Main web:


    Also: as of 2011, I am building a photography print-on-demand presence at Fine Art AmericaM. This is the address:

    Effort in print-on-demand will not offset the production nor value of signed, limited edition prints made under my own hand. However, for very good convenience, price, and quality, print-on-demand may work out well for many fans and patrons.

  • Research Services

    If you're engaged in funded research in conflict analysis or other areas that may be addressed here and wish to engage my mind in your project, feel welcome to drop me a note at


J. S. Oppenheim's Other Blogs and Webs

  • Flickr!

  • Communicating Arts - Main Web Site
  • Communicating Arts - The Journal
  • Mustang Highways
    American highways and a six cylinder, 190 horsepower Ford Mustang 2000, Nikons, and philosophy.

« Anonymous Gunmen, Beloved Dead: Somalia's Senseless Anarchy | Main | Administering Away Conflict »

July 19, 2008



In the social science sense, Islam doesn't "explain" Somalia. For reading--I've just scratched its surface myself--you may enjoy Catherine Besteman's _Unraveling Somalia: Race, Violence and the Legacy of Slavery_. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1999.

All societies adopting or converting to Islam contain cultures that far predate its arrival and whose characteristics persist in tandem with it. With regard to Somalia, I would venture that common lineage passages in biblical literature weigh nothing against recitals of clan legacy and village acquaintance.

tammy swofford

Thanks for educating me, James.
Regarding lineage, I have reference on my shelf of the ancestry of Muhammad back to Adam. I starts like this:
Muhammad bin 'Abdullah bin Abdul-Muttalib, bin Hashim, (named "Amr) bin....bin...bin.... back to bin Shith, bin Adam.

(Ibn Hisham, 1/2-4; Rahmat-ul-lil-"alameen, 2/18; Khulasat As-Siyar, page 6.)



From Senlis in Afghanistan, a PDF, "Chronic Failures in the War on Terror: from Afghanistan to Somalia":

The Islamic Small Wars are all "detectives' wars", even and especially for the countries that host so much civil discord and violence. Countering sponsoring regimes also involves great emphasis on accessing and understanding private networks.

The Somalian theater involves multiple contributor categories when it comes to violence. Firefights between government, the presence of which entity may be validated, and guerrilla forces, which evolve from several paths themselves, have some clarity, but assassinations and other murders do not. In Somalia, I have read there are parties who are neither government nor Islamist in orientation that have vested interests in sustaining anarchy. Whatever their business, constant war helps sustain it, and courts, moderate or unbecomingly feudal, pose a threat.

However powerful a part lineage has played in Somali society -- Hirsi Ali recalls memorizing her parentage back ten generations -- it has failed to spare the assets and civil way of life of upwards of one million internally displaced persons. Moreover, I have read of no evidence suggesting tribal bias or targeting in attacks against local elements in the humanitarian aid community or in the crossfire of misfired mortar and other weapons that claim innocent lives daily.

While Somalia hosts some internecine and sub-state warfare--e.g., in the Sool, the Ogadan--well related to tribal interests or traditions, the present slaughter in Mogadishu and surrounds seems not to form closely, if at all, along blood lines.

tammy swofford

While in the West a soft target is considered a school (think Beslan), shopping center or hospital, it appears Somalia is a soft target across the board. Government intelligence is hampered by tribal and clan ties which count for more than money in the bank in these agrarian economic structures. There are stronger loyalty structures in place in which the word of a man supercedes any law of the land.



I could be arch and say it's the men who are killing them, but that would do a disservice to men within the local and international aid communities and to military forces and police agents in the employ of TFG, UN, Ethiopian, US, and other elements.

The protest, which may amount to whining about being killed, stems from guerrilla-style (small band) attacks against aid targets. As elsewhere in the world, there's little defending dispersed soft targets; in Somalia, in particular, there may be insufficient government-side intelligence and organization when it comes to identifying and apprehending or interfering with attacking parties who don't fire warning shots, and then wherever they make a mess, make sure to haul ass away from it (if they're not suicides or detained by an engagement with government forces).

tammy swofford

Where are the men? Where are the men to take a stand on behalf of the women and children? The strength of male leadership is lacking. The protective role of men appears to be missing from this "family picture". This looks like widows and orphans, a most vulnerable group within society. It is a picture of the powerless.


The comments to this entry are closed.