In general, America's friendship is a dangerous thing

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TODAY we have a special guest, General Aideed, who has agreed to take time out from his work in Somalia to answer questions about the world scene from his very particular viewpoint as one of the major players in international politics.

General, you are often described as a warlord. But what is a warlord and what does he do? Could you perhaps describe your daily routine as a warlord?

There is no such thing as a warlord. This is one of those terms dreamt up by the Western media to turn politics into a soap opera. It makes things more interesting for the public if the people they see on TV are described as 'warlords', 'robber barons' or 'czars of crime'. Personally, I think the Americans are mostly to blame. Having very little history of their own, they like to use feudal and imperialist imagery in modern politics.

But surely the Americans have a great sense of history?

How could a nation with a sense of history have built Euro Disney? How could a country with a sense of values be happy to take McDonald's everywhere? No, my friend, the Americans like to call me a warlord because it makes me seem a foe worth putting on prime-time news.

Does it not worry you that the entire might of the American nation is ranged against you?

It has not done me much harm so far, has it? It has served only to unite my forces and bring people flocking to my banner.

But they are bound to win eventually, are they not?

I see no grounds for saying so. The opposite, rather. In the past, whenever the Americans have determined to topple a leader of whom they disapprove, it has tended to keep him in power. Think of all the world leaders who have been in power the longest: Castro, Gaddafi, Saddam Hussein - these are all men whom the US has sworn to get rid of, many years ago. They are still there. But the men who were proteges of the US, the friends of the Americans, where are they now? The Shah? Sadat? Gorbachev? Marcos? All gone. No, my friend, a pat on the back from the Yanks is a death warrant.

Hmm. Incidentally, do you have a McDonald's in Somalia?

Our food situation is desperate, but it is not that desperate.

But the situation is still very bad?

Oh, yes. The problem of keeping a large force of American soldiers well fed, thousands of miles from home, must be a nightmare for the Yanks. For us Somalis it is not too bad. We are used to having little food. But these UN soldiers are different. They have to be pampered. It costs money to pamper them. I wish we could have half the food that is shipped out here for the US forces.

You seem to use the terms US and UN interchangeably.

Why not? They do, don't they?

Yes, well, coming on to religion . . . you are a Muslim, are you not?


Would you describe yourself as an Islamic fundamentalist?

This is another word that has lost all meaning, thanks to the Americans. It now means a 'terrorist'. But really, it just refers to someone who wants to get back to basics. All Catholics are fundamentalists, because they are never allowed to get away from basics. Last week I saw the Conservative Party on television imploring Mr Major to return to basics. And when, on the last day of the conference, he promised a return to traditional values, they rose to their feet and clapped with a peasant-like adoration on their silly faces. Believe me, your Tory fundamentalists make the average Muslim crowd look like spectators at a chess game.

Have you been following the Kasparov vs Short match?


Do you have any advice for Nigel Short?

Things are difficult for him. I would advise him to bomb his opponents and make enemies of the Americans. It is perhaps his only chance now.

Changing the subject, have you had a chance to look at Mrs Thatcher's memoirs yet?

Yes, there was a chap out here not so long ago from HarperCollins trying to persuade me to write my memoirs for them, and he left behind a copy of the Thatcher book for me to look at.

And . . . ?

I looked myself up in the index. I was not there. I looked no further. The book seemed to be all about her, a subject in which I have little interest.

But Mrs Thatcher was a great figure on the world stage . . .

She was just another friend of the Americans, and therefore inevitably doomed to fall. I gather that the Americans have now come out fully in support of Boris Yeltsin. Previously, I would have put odds on Yeltsin's survival. Now I feel worried for the poor man.

General Aideed will be back soon to answer more of your questions.