Family Matters: How a U.S. Member of Congress was Raised by the Red-Green Axis

Most people’s worldviews are heavily influenced during their formative years. Those influences, and their roots, are important to discern among our national leaders.

The election of Congresswoman Ilhan Omar (D-MN) is often seen as a celebration of diversity: An immigrant from the wasteland of Somalia, and one of the first two Muslim women, elected to the United States Congress.

Omar personifies the Red-Green Axis: an ideological and political combination of Marxism-Leninism and Islamism.

A look at Omar’s upbringing is a key to identifying her extremism, and where she wants to take the country that took in her and her family.

Family beholden to Communist-Islamist Somalia dictator

Somalian dictator Mohammed Siad Barre, whom the Omar family served.

Omar spent the first ten years of her life as a member of a family that owed its livelihood to the regime of Mohammed Siad Barre. Her family is described as “civil servants and educators” – all dependent on the regime and executing its orders.

Her father was a “teacher trainer.” Omar has never explained exactly what a “teacher trainer” in Somalia was or did in the Siad Barre government.

A teacher trainer in any revolutionary communist regime is the political commissar who trains teachers on how to indoctrinate children.

Congressman Omar’s father was a professional propagandist for the Communist-Islamist dictatorship. Of course, the sins of the father cannot be attributed to the child – unless the child carries on the father’s legacy.

This is why it’s so important to look at Ilhan Omar’s formative years.

Combination of Qur’an, Marx, Lenin, Mao, and Mussolini

After seizing power by coup d’etat in 1969, Siad Barre declared a Marxist-Leninist regime that he began to infuse with elements drawn from Islamist political thought. The United Nations country profile of Somalia explains:

“The theoretical underpinning of the state ideology combined aspects of the Qur’an with the influences of Marx, Lenin, Mao, and Mussolini, but Siad Barre was pragmatic in its application. ‘Socialism is not a religion,’ he explained; ‘It is a political principle’ to organize government and manage production. Somalia’s alignment with communist states, coupled with its proclaimed adherence to scientific socialism, led to frequent accusations that the country had become a Soviet satellite. For all the rhetoric extolling scientific socialism, however, genuine Marxist sympathies were not deep-rooted in Somalia. But the ideology was acknowledged – partly in view of the country’s economic and military dependence on the Soviet Union – as the most convenient peg on which to hang a revolution introduced through a military coup that had supplanted a Western-oriented parliamentary democracy.”

To supplant that Western-oriented parliamentary democracy in a country defined most by tribes, Siad Barre needed – in addition to tough enforcement mechanisms like property confiscation and a powerful secret police – softer mechanisms like cadres of “teacher trainers.”

Training and indoctrination

The job of the teacher trainers was to indoctrinate teachers in the government-run school systems to impose that Qur’anic-Marxist-Leninist-Maoist-Mussolini hybrid.

Nur Omar Mohamed, father of Ilhan Omar, was one of those indoctrinators.

As Siad Barre consolidated control, “civil servants attended reorientation courses that combined professional training with political indoctrination, and those found to be incompetent or politically unreliable were fired,” according to the UN country profile. “A mass dismissal of civil servants in 1974, however, was dictated in part by economic pressures.”

Nur Omar Mohamed was loyal enough to save his job.

The regime set out to break apart traditional societal structures and atomize them into powerlessness, while it imposed its own central controls. For this, the teacher trainers were vital.

“Local councils, composed of military administrators and representatives appointed by the SRC [Supreme Revolutionary Council], were established under the Ministry of Interior at the regional, district, and village levels to advise the government on local conditions and to expedite its directives,” the UN country profile says.

“Other institutional innovations included the organization (under Soviet direction) of the National Security Service (NSS), directed initially at halting the flow of professionals and dissidents out of the country and at counteracting attempts to settle disputes among the clans by traditional means,” according to the profile. The UN report continues:

“The newly formed Ministry of Information and National Guidance set up local political education bureaus to carry the government’s message to the people and used Somalia’s print and broadcast media for the ‘success of the socialist, revolutionary road.’ A censorship board, appointed by the ministry, tailored information to SRC guidelines.”

Was Ilhan Omar’s father a part of the “local political education bureaus”? We don’t yet know.  But those bureaus would have required teacher trainers in order to train the existing teachers about what to teach Somalian children.

Red-Green Axis in Somalia

Siad Barre was building what is now called a Red-Green Axis. That is the combination of the red of Communism with the green of Islam.

The UN country profile on Somalia continues:

“Somalia’s adherence to socialism became official on the first anniversary of the military coup when Siad Barre proclaimed that Somalia was a socialist state, despite the fact that the country had no history of class conflict in the Marxist sense. For purposes of Marxist analysis, therefore, tribalism was equated with class in a society struggling to liberate itself from distinctions imposed by lineage group affiliation. At the time, Siad Barre explained that the official ideology consisted of three elements: his own conception of community development based on the principle of self-reliance, a form of socialism based on Marxist principles, and Islam. These were subsumed under ‘scientific socialism,’ although such a definition was at variance with the Soviet and Chinese models to which reference was frequently made.

“One of the SRC’s first acts was to prohibit the existence of any political association. Under Soviet pressure to create a communist party structure to replace Somalia’s military regime, Siad Barre had announced as early as 1971 the SRC’s intention to establish a one-party state. The SRC already had begun organizing what was described as a “vanguard of the revolution” composed of members of a socialist elite drawn from the military and the civilian sectors. The National Public Relations Office (retitled the National Political Office in 1973) was formed to propagate scientific socialism with the support of the Ministry of Information and National Guidance through orientation centers that had been built around the country, generally as local selfhelp projects.

“The SRC convened a congress of the Somali Revolutionary Socialist Party (SRSP) in June 1976 and voted to establish the Supreme Council as the new party’s central committee. The council included the nineteen officers who composed the SRC, in addition to civilian advisers, heads of ministries, and other public figures. Civilians accounted for a majority of the Supreme Council’s seventy-three members. On July 1, 1976, the SRC dissolved itself, formally vesting power over the government in the SRSP under the direction of the Supreme Council.

“In theory the SRSP’s creation marked the end of military rule, but in practice real power over the party and the government remained with the small group of military officers who had been most influential in the SRC. Decision-making power resided with the new party’s politburo, a select committee of the Supreme Council that was composed of five former SRC members, including Siad Barre and his son-in-law, NSS chief Abdullah. Siad Barre was also secretary general of the SRSP, as well as chairman of the Council of Ministers, which had replaced the CSS in 1981. Military influence in the new government increased with the assignment of former SRC members to additional ministerial posts. The MOD circle also had wide representation on the Supreme Council and in other party organs. Upon the establishment of the SRSP, the National Political Office was abolished; local party leadership assumed its functions.”

Collapse

Siad Barre struggled to stay in power, shifting loyalties from the USSR to the United States by virtue of a strategic naval port, waging the Ogaden war against Soviet ally Ethiopia, and relying purely on foreign handouts to keep the economy moving.

Before long, he ratcheted up political repression, arresting prominent figures and even former allies, and setting Red Beret goon squads into the streets.

“Faced with saboteurs by day and sniper fire by night, Siad Barre ordered remaining units of the badly demoralized Red Berets to massacre civilians,” the UN profile report says. “By 1989 torture and murder became the order of the day in Mogadishu. On July 9, 1989, Somalia’s Italian-born Roman Catholic bishop, Salvatore Colombo, was gunned down in his church in Mogadishu by an unknown assassin. The order to murder the bishop, an outspoken critic of the regime, was widely believed to have had come from the presidential palace.”

Exhumed remains of victims of Somalia’s Isaaq Genocide, 1988-89. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

“On the heels of the bishop’s murder came the July 14 massacre, when the Red Berets slaughtered 450 Muslims demonstrating against the arrest of their spiritual leaders. More than 2,000 were seriously injured. The next day, forty-seven people, mainly from the Isaaq clan, were taken to Jasiira Beach west of the city and summarily executed,” according to the UN report.

The Isaaq genocide of 1988-89 exterminated between 60,000 and 100,000 Somalis.

Without Siad Barre dictator as their patron, the Omar family flees

By 1991, the Siad Barre regime collapsed as the country tore itself apart in civil war. Regime loyalists – families like Ilhan Omar’s – could find no safety any more in Somalia. They fled to Kenya, and ultimately made it to the United States.

When they moved to the United States in 1995, they brought their Red-Green ideological baggage with them.

Two years before, Congress, at the urging of the Clinton administration, abolished the law requiring that would-be immigrants declare whether they had belonged to a foreign Communist party. The Omar family was able to move to America without that important element of screening.

No sooner did the family settle in Minneapolis when Ilhan Omar, at age 14, began to get involved in politics. She interpreted for her grandfather, a Siad Barre servant, at political meetings. In high school, she became active in student politics.

From there, the Red-Green Axis import from Somalia, put down her own political roots, became a community organizer, and laid her path to the United States Congress.

Omar is not known to have been critical of the Siad Barre regime or the horrors it inflicted during her childhood in Somalia.

COLUMN BY

J. Michael Waller

J. Michael Waller is the Center for Security Policy’s Vice President of Government Relations.

View all posts by J. Michael Waller 

EDITORS NOTE: This CFSP column with images is republished with permission.

0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *