MOGADISHU, Somalia, June 25...There was no joy in Mogadishu recently when the war-torn nation of Somalia edged out Zimbabwe and the Sudan to take first place on the Failed States Index.
The Index, put together by Foreign Policy Magazine and the Fund for Peace focuses on " twelve indicators of risk," and is based on "thousands of articles and reports" that are processed by special software.
After studying and grading its indicators the Index has decided that Somalia is the poorest, most unstable, most polluted, most unhealthy and most dangerous place on earth. This angered the Ministry of Tourism, which is trying to promote Somalia as a vacation paradise.
"We feel this is a case of blatant racism," said an official, who preferred to remain nameless for fear of retribution.
To prove it he unveiled what he called his "Somali Index of Crumbling Empires" at a press conference today.
"Using the same criteria as the Fund for Peace we found that the crumbling American empire is as polluted, unhealthy, dangerous and corrupt as we are," he said.
He cited the Fund's claim that Somalia would not be able to respond when an "unexpected food crisis or devastating hurricane strikes."
"The American empire was unable to respond to Hurricane Katrina," he said. "Almost four years later the great city of New Orleans has yet to be rebuilt."
He pointed to a map of the US. "How has the US responded to the flooding of the Mississippi River, the destruction of homes, villages and farmland? We hear reports that the natives who had no insurance have been driven into destitution...Meanwhile, he said, the rising price of food has forced millions of poor Americans to deplete the food banks, of their scant supply raising the specter of starvation and urban unrest."
The official poked bitterly ironic fun at the Fund's "twelve indicators of risk."
"They say we have massive movement of internally displaced persons causing humanitarian crisis," he said. "So did they during Katrina and the floods. So do they when factories close and people are suddenly dislocated from their ancestral homes.. When undocumented immigrants move from place to place fleeing from Immigration Police while they seek exploitative menial employment. " The official paused for a glass of cloudy water..."They say we have tribal conflict and group paranoia," he said. "So do they when black and Mexican gangs engage in open warfare in inner cities and overcrowded prisons. When evangelical Christians threaten Muslims with damnation and say that God doesn't heed the prayers of the Jews."
He was sarcastically dismissive of the fund's economic indicators. "They say we have uneven economic development," he said. "But in America the gap between rich and poor is growing every day. They say we suffer from severe economic decline, but America is in crisis due to the sub-prime collapse caused by the greed of its ruling class."
He shouted down the questions of the mainly Western press. "They talk about deterioration of public services in Somalia, but they have bridges collapsing, urban infrastructure falling apart and no money to fix things because of billions spent in Iraq...He paused for a breath and wiped his face. "They say that we violate Human Rights. What did they do in Abu Gharib, Guantanamo, secret prisons all over the world?"
A group of Somali brandishing AK 47's rushed onto the podium. As they dragged the official away he shouted "you say we are controlled by other states or external political actors. Well, where would America be without Chinese and Middle Eastern trillions propping up its dollar...?"
There was a burst of automatic weapons fire offstage. In the silence that followed the assistant to the Minister of Tourism faced the clamoring crowd of reporters with an ingratiating smile. "We disavow the irresponsible comments of that deranged Ethiopian," he said. He referred the reporters to an interview that Minister of Tourism recently gave to the Economist in which he promoted Somalia as a prime "time share" venue.
Abdi Jimate Osman spoke of Somalia's unspoiled beauty. He said the national parks were among the most "secure and restful" in the Horn of Africa. There is no fear of predatory animals,'he said "because we have eaten them all."
"We will arrange day trips to all the great historic sites," Osman said. "The only problem is they are all destroyed, but the trip can be very exciting as we fight off robbers and rival warlords."
He dwelled on the attractions of Mogadishu's Sharmo Hotel. The restaurant is renowned for its lobsters, which are brought ashore by Somali pirates who raid the fishing boats on a daily basis. The Sharmo terrace offers inventive local cocktails and a breathtaking view of the tribal fire-fights in downtown Mogadishu.
Osman did caution visitors to book an armored car and at least ten heavily armed bodyguards for the trip from the airport. He promised tourists that they will leave Somalia alive and said "hopefully they won't be kidnapped." But if they are, he said the euro will facilitate their safe release.
"Euros please," he said with an apologetic smile. "No dollars."
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