#2 – More U.S. Bombs

#2 – More U.S. Bombs

dronestrikeThe #2 of top stories in Africa for 2017 is that a lot more innocent Africans are being killed and maimed by the U.S. military than ever before.

Americans may have an impression that our military is the one arm of Trump’s government that’s not in complete dysfunction. Even putting aside a few gigantic megalithic ship crashes in the Pacific and Air Force plane crashes at an all time high, I believe that our increased military in Africa is as undisciplined and misdirected as the rest of Trump policy, so clearly the most dangerous of all.

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Negotiating Position

Negotiating Position

negotiating positionThe Trump Administration’s new military rules of engagement have destroyed years of peace-making efforts that were coming to fruition. Terrorist bombings and conventional attacks are substantially increasing as the U.S. goes on the offensive, particularly in Africa.

So far the U.S. has acknowledged only one soldier killed in Somalia and 4 in Niger, but local reports suggest far more – perhaps dozens – of U.S. casualities as the Africa war explodes.

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Insecure Fantasies

Insecure Fantasies

studentfacesYou’re still overly cautious, I won’t say afraid, of going to Africa, right? Because you’re worried about insecurity, violence. Of course. You’ve heard or seen on TV those face-capped terrorists that go into schools and offices and shoot things up, right? OK.

Are you afraid to go to Spokane? How about Rockford? Memphis? Philadelphia, New Orleans, Clovis, Plano, Inglewood, Sacramento, Evansville, Gainesville?

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Crashing Ceese

Crashing Ceese

maliiiThe big news yesterday about France’s election is prophetically linked to yesterday’s buried news of the collapse of Mali’s election.

Results are not yet known, they will never be, for the 12,000 local and regional Mali officials. Cast ballots were burned, stolen and even blown up by jihadists. In the rebellious north most polling places never even opened.

Yesterday I showed Mali as the quintessential example of climate change and rapid development sabotaging African society. The tragedy goes much further: Soon it will threaten France. Ultimately it will kill Trumpism.

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Decamping to the Desert

Decamping to the Desert

desertjihadistsAs radical jihadists slowly and systematically lose control of Iraq and conditions improve in Somalia, it’s clear where they’re fleeing to: the deserts of Africa.

From eastern and northern Mali to western Niger radical jihadism is on the rise. This is the very southern fringe of the great Sahara. The dynamic is accelerated by Nigeria’s successful campaign against jihadists, both militarily and diplomatically.

Why now, and why the desert?

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Gimme a break!

Gimme a break!

TrumpTerrorWhen asked if going on safari was safe my rejoinder has been, “Well of course it’s not as safe as Disneyland.”

Everything’s perfectly arranged: an angry son of an Afghan immigrant who most psychotherapists think is a closeted gay man; high-powered weaponry you can buy online; an obese anti-terror bureaucracy incapable of stopping carnage; wildly dancing happy go-luckies under a strobe deemed sexual deviants by local evangelists; and the icing on the cake: hated presidential candidates who know beyond doubt that their opponent is the cause.

Did you watch the Tonys last night? Not even close.

And everything that needs to be said already has, so all we can do is repeat:

Terrorism, or the probable hurt or disruption from terrorism is greater in America than anywhere in Africa. Some blanket generalization that you might employ to not travel to Africa because “it’s not safe” couldn’t seem more ludicrous than on this terrible Monday morning.

Your belief that terrorism is worse “somewhere else” is one of the reasons it’s getting worse. Terrorism grows on itself. It’s the cancer you’ll never have. Your denial is its chief accomplishment.

Terrorism is an incredibly daunting phenomenon. It’s not easy to understand why someone becomes a kamikaze. It’s similar to trying to understand why someone commits suicide. So we grasp for shortcut explanations, and that just short circuits our need to explore and understand its complexities.

The most published news story in Africa about Orlando was by Agence France Presse: “With many victims of the carnage yet to be identified… Trump wasted no time in harnessing the assault to his political advantage.”

How does Trump “harness the assault?” With shortcuts like “Radical Islam”, “Political Correctness”,“Muslims”,“Weak Response:” buzz words that seem to relieve us of any responsibility to figure it out.

It’s so easy to exploit things which are difficult to understand like terrorism for political advantage.

A South African was killed in Pulse. Plenty of Americans have been killed by terrorists since 9/11 but the vast, vast majority have been killed in the U.S.

“Americans have … willingly surrendered their civil rights because they are frightened,” writes a Kenyan today.

Don’t we fight ISIS because they deny human rights? So we fight ISIS by giving up our rights? Doesn’t that mean ISIS has already won?

It’s easier for someone to get a high-powered weapon than food, Pope Francis told a convocation today.

These are very complicated issues that can undoubtedly help us understand and prevent terrorism. But you’re not going to get quick explanations at a political rally or on Meet the Press.

When deciding what world press agency would give the most balanced report about Orlando, the South African moderate newspaper, The Cape Times, chose the Chinese press agency Xinhau.

So the stage is set. The worst terrorism on earth at Disneyworld. Tickets now on sale.

Don’t Go? Just Do It!

Don’t Go? Just Do It!

Thank you GreyJed91 on YouTube
Thank you GreyJed91 on YouTube
So what do you do? Play cribbage? Watch Re-Runs?

This week the U.S. said there was credible evidence that a terror attack is imminent in South Africa, France, Poland and … the U.S.: In fact, basically all over the whole damn world.

Britain and Australia issued similar warnings.

This sounds like a spoof. Is there some actuary out there who can give me the odds of dying watching the Tour de France vs. walking across my street? There probably is, actually, and I imagine it’s worse trying to walk across my street so that means DON’T GO OUT!

The explanation for this incredible blanket of warnings – really unprecedented – is that ISIS and other Islamic militant groups are on the run, it’s Ramadan (started June 5) so crazies are likely to lash out.

Crazed mullahs who warp Islam the way freaky tele-evangelists warp Christianity tell suicide bombers that they get more virgins if they blow themselves up during Ramadan.

Particular warnings were issued for the European Soccer Championship, the Tour de France (bicycle competition) this summer in France, the Catholic Church’s World Youth convention in Poland in July, and malls in Johannesburg and Cape Town.

The warnings won’t expire until August 31, the end of the vacation season. To many sensible people, this security-speak means, “Don’t Go.”

Look, whatever inclinations you as a traveler, father or mother, teacher or tour guide might have … don’t you see what’s happening? Without even pulling the suicide rip cord, the terrorists have won!

They’ve stopped life as we know it, the care-free personal will that takes us to the movies on a whim or motivates Dad to shell out a couple thousand to take junior to watch bikes race up the Alps! Bamm! Stop!

Our governments have fallen for this lock, stock and security screen! We’ve spent how much of our national treasures, how much good will, how much time and energy to prevent a single “credible” threat from happening?

Here’s a thought.

What if we just stopped all this nonsense? Well, we’d probably have a lot more bombings and suicide attacks because god knows how many crazies there are out there.

But let’s say that with all those recovered resources: money, time, good will, energy, we flew big planes over troubled areas of the earth and dropped millions – billions of dollar bills, might the crazies decide to alter their travel arrangements and go get an ice cream?

It would be no more insane a world than it is right now.

Ludicrousness aside, take your chances kid. Alter your lifestyle and the terrorists win and it doesn’t matter then if you’re dead or not, you aren’t you.

Listen and be careful, to be sure. Play the odds.

Your kid was so thrilled to be a delegate to the World Convention, don’t stop her from going but maybe don’t let him go the whole time. The last thing on your bucket list was to visit Cape Town, so do it. Go browsing for your curios for the time being online rather than in the mall but for christ’s sake don’t hesitate going to the mall to pick up a quick hamburger.

You’re on your way to the college bicycle team, so watch those guys in France for sure! If you learn something valuable, it’s worth the risk of being blown to smithereens! Just like you risk being demolished by some drunk kid texting in his Mom’s Benz after prom on the highway!

Life’s a bunch of risks and chances and it’s always been this way. So there may be a greater risk today that a crazy will stand next to you at Walmart and blow you up, but there’s a much lower risk that you’re going to die of measles.

Life goes on, just make sure you’re on board and not in some air raid shelter! Everything balances out, and in the end it’s all the same. Just don’t give in to the Dark Side. You’re going to die someday. Just make sure it was worth it.



stopterrorismPolitical extremism cannot be taught against.

There is a huge movement right now, from Kenya to St. Paul, to teach “anti-extremism” in schools.

Last week a number of media outlets featured a finalist for this year’s Global Teacher Prize, a man in Nairobi who promotes school programs designed to convince teenagers to stay clear of terrorist organizations.

Ayub Mohamud’s programs begin with pretty standard stuff, the challenge to students to withstand “brainwashing.”

It’s not long after that, though, that he gets kids to promise to finger possible radicals to the police, or if they can’t do that, at least to confide in him or other trusted adults.

Tempered with a good measure of evidential platitudes on the ability to change society for the better through non-violent, law-abiding means, Mohamud and scores of others around the world are pushing an equally doctrinal lifestyle that for all practical purposes strikes me as simply a new religion: anti-extremism.

I’m not sure there’s anything intrinsically wrong with this, any more than teaching Catholicism or Judaism or love-of-country, all of which expressly disavow violence as a means to their ends.

What’s wrong is to think it works. The greatest flaw in doctrinal religions is that they believe in their infallibility. If nothing’s wrong, it will never be fixed.

Belief that the best way to inhibit extremism is to teach against it destructively blindsides advocates to the root causes of terrorism: poverty and despair.

The photograph in the New Yorker of Mohamud in his Nairobi Eastleigh school suggests he’s preaching to the choir. Eastleigh is not one of Nairobi’s legendary slums from which most terrorist recruits come.

It’s certainly “working class” as the New Yorker points out, but it’s a long way from the day-to-day survivors of the Kibera slum, for example, where the vast majority of al-Shabaab recruits come from.

Of course we’ll learn of this middle-class girl or that boy from an upstanding working class family who join ISIS because because they’ve been mesmerized by some hand-thumping mullah. How many enter Liberty University each year?

Programs like Mohamud’s may indeed discourage these youngsters. But these teens hardly represent the mainstream of young terrorists. In fact, they’re a very small minority. The vast number of recruits would never find themselves in the pleasant looking schoolroom in which Mohamud teaches.

But Mohamud and others like him would never dare teach their program in the Kibera slum. It would take hardly a nano-second before some still clear-headed kid with a distended belly challenged him with the bare facts of life. Everything in poverty is survival. Nothing is done, or believed or otherwise accepted without an equal or greater quid pro quo.

“What will I get?” I can imagine a teenager in the slum asking, “for turning in Odhiambo?”

There’s nothing inherently good about non-violence if there’s no alternative: It’s the reason we accept revolutions and wars, the death penalty and all sorts of other less extreme but violent acts. It would be another thing if Mohamud were teaching pacifism, but he isn’t.

The New Yorker captured the following exchange from Mohamud’s class:

Mohamud: “What does Islam say about killing?”

Student: “It’s only for God.”

‘Brainwashing’ or the determination of what constitutes ‘an act by God’ are deeply subjective. What Mohamud and others are trying to teach is that their way is the right way.

Absent of any inherent truth such teachings become terribly oppressive.

Last year Britain mandated that secondary school instruction include programs that promote anti-terrorism. The Counter-Terrorism and Security Act places a legal duty on schools to “prevent people from being drawn into terrorism.”

A rash of suggested programs and techniques from Britain’s Department of Education which followed the Act has many British teachers up in arms.

The National Union of Teachers demanded the government withdraw the Act, claiming it “created suspicion and confusion rather than safety in schools.”

Getting it much more correctly, St. Paul educators are using federal funds to “cultivate and fund youth programs, job training, and expand after-school programs intended to facilitate mentorship.”

There are components in the St. Paul programs that also teach against extremism, but personally I think that was slipped in as a compromise to get the ideologues on board. Everyone in St. Paul knows that the real problem is that there are too few jobs for the large number of Somali immigrants.

Anti-extremism can be taught and has even been legislated as in Britain, and it may indeed discourage a few well-off kids from joining ISIS, but it will do nothing to stop the flow of the poor and despairing to the battalions of extremists.

And in its worst and more mature form, it will do exactly what the terrorists want it to do: foment dissent.

Mowing down the weeds does not get rid of them. You’ve got to get to the roots.

Happening Right Now, Folks!

Happening Right Now, Folks!

obamawarAstounded. Shocked. No mainstream or even maincreek media covered today’s military conference in Arusha called by and hosted by the U.S.

Even the Army’s own publications buried the story. Talk about a society burying its head in the sand… First, the news…

General Mark Miller, head of Obama’s Africom, hosted 37 of Africa’s land chief heads of force in Arusha, Tanzania, today to talk about … what? Gender mainstreaming?

You have to go to the Army’s Africom twitter account to get what’s really going on. Africom’s website might suggest it’s a conference about gender mainstreaming, but their twitter account revealed the truth.

No, they aren’t gathered primarily to talk about gender mainstreaming. The agenda is obviously secret, but here’s some suggestions:

● Drone Assassinations
● Al-Shabaab & Boko Haram
● Military budgets and hardware
● U.S. Navy docking privileges

As I’ve often written AFRICOM is the mendacious brainchild of Obama. The command’s operating budget is currently a quarter billion dollars. (Navigate to the pdf page 107, document page 104.) This does not include, of course, an equal or greater amount through the CIA or direct country-to-country assistance.

For example, in 2015 Kenya was given around $100 million to fight terrorism and undoubtedly that much or more through other agencies.

It’s a complete guessing game, but I imagine that there’s at least $5-6 billion annually for Obama’s proxy militaries in Africa.

Congress likes AFRICOM, one of the few things that Congress likes from Obama and 2017 funding is expected to increase, and that’s why there are 37 educated leaders with their hands out in Arusha today.

As I’ve conceded, AFRICOM has made America safer for the time being. And, the TV asks, isn’t that the President’s job?

The key qualifier here is “for the time being.” I know from history and common sense that budget-creep, gun-creep, militarism-creep will stifle terrorism in the short term, but terrorism is impossible to extinguish altogether.

So when a relative period of peace and stability arrives, and the budget and the military aid and the overall militarism is toned down, the ugly terrorist raises his head yet again.

Newly reborn with new technologies and a period of good night’s sleeping.

If in this interim period during which the terrorist has been suppressed, the people of the forest terrorized by the terrorist have improved their lot, they probably will support the terrorist less. If their lot has declined, they will all wholeheartedly become terrorist martyrs.

We decry the notion of “nation-building” and it is so historically loaded with baggage I suppose we should. But I can’t really think of a better moniker for what has to be done to avoid this constant cycle of greater militarism and greater terrorism.

It isn’t happening now and that’s why AFRICOM is so mendacious. All it does it rev up this terrible cycle.

And nobody, it seems, cares even to know.

Finders Keepers?

Finders Keepers?

SavingArtifactsShould the obelisk and Rosetta Stone in France be returned to Egypt? Should tens of thousands of artifacts held in western museums be returned to their origin?

The debate is not new but acquired a new edge recently with a proposed new German law and with the upcoming ten-year birthday celebration of Paris’ Musée du quai Branly.

The relatively new Parisian museum was an amalgamation of two older museums in order to consolidate the city’s most precious African artifacts. But according to critics:

“Westerners and their museums seem very keen to tell the history of Africans but they do not seem to understand … that Africans might also want to tell their own history,” explains African artifact expert, Kwame Opuko.

The point is how can Malians tell the story of Timbuktu when it’s under a threat of destruction by terrorists?

Germany is reconsidering its law to tighten ownership of foreign artifacts after a Chilean who had acquired a massive collection of African artifacts slipped into the country to avoid prosecution from authorities at home … with his collection … and then slipped out before the Germans could decide what to do about it.

It’s not clear yet whether Mr. Patterson did anything illegal. But his accumulation of rare artifacts (particularly from Benin) and his popping in and out of a variety of countries to avoid possible prosecution has opened wide the conversation whether it’s ethical to hold any foreign artifacts outside their place of origin.

No, says Yale University. Yes, says the British Museum.

This is a question that really taxes the intellect and it’s particularly timely with the trouble in Syria and Mali.

The Timbuktu library holds the largest collection of very early African manuscripts in the world. Remarkable efforts by people who lived there saved many of them from the destruction ordered during the recent brief occupation of radical Islamists.

But many probably were lost, and had that single hero not intervened all would have been lost. Timbuktu and most of Mali was “liberated” from this 21st century occupation by the French, and the argument continues in France whether the treasures of Mali should be exported there, now.

We see the wanton destruction to many of Syria’s ancient ruins. It seems to me this is example enough that Mideast treasures in the British Museum should stay right where they are.

But once Syria is peaceful, again, should they be returned?

Who will decide that “Syria is peaceful, again”? How long a period of peace is required? Is autocratic peace or dictatorial peace … peace enough?

When it gets down to it, are we just saying that only the west is capable of making this judgement? Might not Donald Trump or a new Adolf Hitler fund their infrastructures with looted artifacts from Mexico or France just as ISIS is doing now?

I believe very strongly that artifact preservation is essential to understanding ourselves. It applies mostly to our evolution but when understood in the context of the time it was created, social insights crucial to our long-term survival may become evident.

Something of this importance can’t be left to chance survival. Artifacts should not be returned to unstable areas, and the threshold of stability must be high.

Who should make the determination? The past.

That’s the best gamble. Yes Adolph Hitlers and Donald Trumps might lose the bet, but wherever artifacts have been well kept for the longest time resides the right to make the determination whether their return is safe. So, yes, the British Museum is a good place and no, Timbuktu is not.

Egypt isn’t as clear. Many precious Egyptian artifacts are held in France, yet to date none in Egypt have been destroyed. On the other hand it came very close during the April Spring.

The Arab Spring fires, looting and wanton destruction occurred right at the edge of the Egyptian National Museum. Its exterior was damaged. It’s now up to the French authorities to determine whether Egyptian artifacts should be returned.

It’s not a comfortable position, but antiquity must be preserved.

Virtual Video

Virtual Video

whichistherealsavimbiWhat’s the difference between a video game and a terrorist?

The family of a controversial Angolan rebel leader who died in 2002 is suing the manufacturer of the “Call of Duty” video game for defaming Jonas Sivimbi.

I interviewed Sivimbi in Paris when I was covering the Paris Peace talks (on Vietnam) for several U.S. newspapers. Back then in the 1970s he was a hero to the independence movement as well as the South African anti-apartheid movement, since South Africa was at the time fighting the independence movement in Angola.

Subsequent to my brief acquaintance, though, Savimbi’s reputation declined substantially.

Independence was won by a rival rebel group, MPLA, from Portugal in 1975, and though initially Savimbi was a part of the overall peace process, he immediately started a brutal civil war against the MPLA that lasted virtually until the moment he was killed by government soldiers in 2002.

During that civil war he grew vicious becoming the first warlord to finance his battle with blood diamonds. UNITA and Savimbi were ultimately investigated for war crimes by The Hague.

“Call of Duty” features Savimbi, or for sure someone who looks (and acts) the spitting image.

In answering the Savimbi family suit, the French creator and owner of “Call of Duty” claimed that Savimbi-in-the-game was actually shown in a “favorable light” and a “good guy who comes to help the heroes.”

Seeking 100 million Euros, Savimbi’s now 42-year old son said, “Seeing him kill people, cutting someone’s arm off … that’s not like Papa.”

I haven’t looked at the game. I can’t stand media violence and I know that “Call of Duty” is one of the worst.

NPR featured “Call of Duty” in its series of violence in video games in 2013 as at the time the most popular and most violent.

UNITA is now a franchised part of peaceful Angolan society, and they are encouraging – possibly joining – the Savimbi family in their suit.

The line between moral freedom fighters and amoral terrorists is thin. But there is no division at all between the violence of a video game and the violence promoted by today’s jihadists.

Games targeted to teenagers who have yet to fully develop their moral compass strikes me as one of the most barbaric outcomes of crass capitalism.

Ratings are only rarely useful and require parents or guardians actually capable of enforcing them.

If Republican candidates will blithely suggest carpet bombing the Levant, I guess it’s not radical for me to suggest that video games like “Call of Duty” should be banned.

I’ve no loyalty to my brief encounter with Savimbi, who at the time was a gentle, highly respected and admired grass roots leader. He turned, and so did a bunch of kids from Minneapolis who participated in the Westgate Mall attack and dozens of others from America who appear on jihadist videos.

Carpet bombing them simply cleans the field for new faces. Getting rid of their platform is the only way to end the game.

All Alone

All Alone

rumsfeld's solitaireJust as you sensed an iota of stability settling onto the Middle East another Syrian debacle starts up in Africa.

And for all the same reasons.

South Sudan is exploding. A UN Report issued last week compares what’s happening in the South Sudan to Syria and Iraq.

More than 2.2 million people have fled recent fighting, the UN is taking care of more than 600,000 as refugees, and the vicious war is replete with widespread rape, conscripted child soldiers and already specific personalities being considered for war crimes.

A high UN official told Reuters yesterday that the conflict “was comparable to the conflicts in Syria, Iraq and Yemen.”

And for all the same reasons:

Ruthless dictators were removed and the vacuum of governance was never filled. Instead, rebels of several or more generations who had fought the ruthless dictator and who were unable to consolidate their interests and power, began to fight one another.

Old big weapons procured from the havoc of the end of the Cold War and new big weapons being rapidly manufactured by military/industrial complexes around the world flooded in (in South Sudan’s case, mostly via the Ukraine).

Well-intentioned aid for such things as food and education was diverted by corrupt rebel leaders to buying weapons, and the aid givers seemed helpless to do anything about it… other than stop giving aid.

Famine and disease grows.

Neighbors either have no interest or not enough power to do anything. In several cases, the neighbors are run by ruthless dictators, and the last thing they want to do is get involved and show their colors.

Organized thugs like ISIS and al-Qaeda hover in the wings.

This morning on the world’s most schizoid cable television show, Morning Joe, a contrite, grandfatherly Donald Rumsfeld could not explain what was happening in the world other than to say it will continue. He preferred to discuss his new ap, The Churchill Solitaire Game.

The most fundamental reason for all of this is weapons. The successful empires of the 20th Century are unable to control their military/industrial complexes.

But removing this component now provides opportunities for the crazy suicide bombers, the mega-terrorist, the ultimate Darth Vader.

But own up, folks. We built the weapons, but we also built the Darth Vaders. The weapons came from steel, the bad guys came from want and starvation with a bit of added military training. Charles Dickens knew it two hundred years ago.

So we had two hundred years to do something, and we didn’t.

So what now?

Some say Trump. I say Sanders. Some say Trudeau. Some say Corbyn. We have no choice. We’ve got to move on to something new.