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Varieties of ecumenical alliance, in two tweets

Wednesday, July 2nd, 2014

[ by Charles Cameron -- let's just say the world is awesome -- and you can take that to mean amazing, tragic, infuriating, or hilarious -- your choice ]

Let’s have the bad news tweet first, get it out of the way.

The Reuters article Laura links to tells us the Ugandan army now views Séléka, an almost entirely Muslim militia, as “in bed with” Joseph Kony‘s Lord’s Resistance Army, a group generally regarded as Christian — air quotes optional in both cases.

Here we go:

Uganda’s army said on Tuesday the mainly Muslim Seleka group in Central African Republic was now its enemy as the fighters were “in bed” with the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) rebels they are hunting there.

A spokesman for the Ugandan army said its forces in CAR had clashed for the first time with Seleka, killing 12 and suffering one casualty. A Seleka official told Reuters on Monday that 15 of their fighters and three Ugandan soldiers were killed. “Seleka had never tasted our fire. I think it was important that they taste our fire so that they are careful,” Paddy Ankunda, spokesman for Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) said, when asked about clashes on Sunday and Monday in CAR.

The LRA, led by Joseph Kony, is using CAR as one of its rear bases for attacks across regions straddling CAR, South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Uganda heads a 5,000-strong African Union force tracking down the rebels but has no specific mandate to confront Seleka, which seized power in CAR in March last year and was pushed out under international pressure in January. “We know we don’t have that mandate but since they are in bed with our enemy, we’ll treat them as such,” said Ankunda, accusing Seleka of forcing civilians to give food and medicine to the LRA and trading ivory and minerals with them. Seleka’s time in power in Bangui was marked by rights abuses, prompting mainly Christian self-defense militia to spring up across the country. Nearly a million people – around a quarter of the population – have been forced from their homes in cycles of sectarian violence. Tit-for-tat killings continue and Seleka fighters still occupy pockets of the country.

Colonel Christian Djuma Narkoyo, deputy spokesman for Seleka’s armed wing, dismissed Uganda’s claims as “lies.” “If they have proof, let them show it. … There is no reason for us to collaborate with the LRA,” he said.

Enough of that.


Now for the good news:

Mmmm, yes! That’s what I like to see.


DoubleQuotes in DC — and in Hebron, S Africa and Saudi

Friday, May 23rd, 2014

[ Charles Cameron -- anti-semitic? isislamlamophobic? apartheid arguments on buses and street signs, etc ]

I’ve been tracking how geopolitical arguments are conducted on the sides of buses for a while now [ 1, 2, 3, 4 ], and the latest round brought Pamela Geller out again, this time making the connection between the the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem and Hitler on the one hand, and the Qur’an on the other:


I was interested to see whether there was a Muslim bus campaign to counterbalance this, and found this ad, which (it seems to me) preaches to the choir…


So those two ads make a DoubleQuote in my terms, though they’re too long and thin for my usual DQ format.


Okay, but when you go searching, you find things you were not looking for, but that still interest you — and during the searches I made to find those two bus ads, I also ran across this, which looked like a DoubleQuote in the Wild:


That’s an attempt to distinguish between Israel’s situation and that of South Africa, and following along that trail I cam across two other items of interest. The first combats the frequent assumption that Israel is an apartheid state not by denying it but by suggesting that Saudi Arabia certainly is…


While the second, in some ways a perfect match for the first, suggests that Israel is indeed running an apartheid system, as demonstrated by the segregation into Jewish and Arab sections of a street in Hebron:


Part of what interests me in these two shots of roads, however, is that they’re not strictly speaking DoubleQuotes – in each case, we have a single image which serves as a DQ because the division / comparison is already present in the frame of the photo.

In anthro terms, that’s contageous rather than sympatheic linkage — contagious and sympathetic being the two classif forms of magic., one having to do with items in contact with one anoither, the other with objests sharing a likeness. There are also correlattions with CS Peirce‘s ideas of icon, index and symbol, and Korzybski‘s territory and map.

In terms of the theorizing of Hipbone-Sembl thinking, those are interesting correspondences to note.



  • Islamic Jew hatred
  • We’re sweating April 15
  • Apartheid State / Assieged State
  • Islamic Apartheid
  • Hebron, with distinction marked
  • Hebron, original by Michael Huniewicz
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    Two notes relating to Boko Haram

    Wednesday, May 14th, 2014

    [ by Charles Cameron -- one on the scripturally-sanctioned revenge abductions of women and the other on Hausa nomenclature, with a possible correlate in Sudan ]


    Boko Haram and revenge:

    Jacob Zenn and Elizabeth Pearson have an important piece on War on the Rocks titled Boko Haram and the Kidnapping of Women: A Troubled Tactic. Here are some key quotes I’d like to bring the attention of Zenpundit readers:

    Boko Haram members have for some time harassed and abused both Christian and moderate Muslim women. Now there is a new focus on kidnapping women to demonstrate enemy vulnerability, a focus Boko Haram is ruthlessly determined to exploit. The strategy differs from other Islamist groups, to which they have been compared, such as the Taliban. The Taliban are deliberately and increasingly killing women, and have used women as suicide bombers. Boko Haram also kills women, but often deliberately spares them. Kidnapping is now the statement tactic of choice.


    Shekau’s order to kidnap women dates back to 2011 and 2012, when the Nigerian government detained more than 100 wives and children of key Boko Haram leaders, among them Shekau’s own family. In response, Shekau issued his first video message in January 2012 threatening to retaliate by kidnapping the wives of government officials. Several more similar videos and statements followed. However, Boko Haram’s first abduction came over a year later in May 2013…


    After security forces detained ten women related to Boko Haram in September 2012, Shekau’s fifth video message threatened revenge on wives of government officials. In this address, Shekau alleged the possible sexual abuse of the Boko Haram female family members by the government, promising the retaliatory targeting of “enemy” women:“Since you are now holding our women, just wait and see what will happen to your own women…to your own wives according to Shariah law.”

    I want to emphasize these particular quotes, becuase they indicate pretty clearly that this is not “just” blowback — in this case, meaning the Nigerian government doing something that has unfortunate boomerang-effect consequences — this is the religiously sanctioned return of specific tactics according to a rubric that can be expressed as “what you do to us becomes fair game for us to do to you”.

    I’ve said it before: I think that’s an important rubric for us to remember.

    I dealt with this concept in my earlier post, Close reading, Synoptic- and Sembl-style, for parallels, patterns. The key Qur’anic quote, suggesting that it is permissible to replay enemy tactics against the enemy, is found in Qur’an 2.194:

    For the prohibited month, and so for all things prohibited, there is the law of equality. If then any one transgresses the prohibition against you, transgress ye likewise against him. But fear Allah, and know that Allah is with those who restrain themselves.

    And here again, the keywords are “and so for all things prohibited”.


    Education Bad:

    My second note concerns the notion that education is bad, sinful, or haram.

    The very name Boko Haram is generally rendered “western education is forbidden” in English, and for most practical purposes that may be good enough, though the derivation of Hausa “boko” from English “book” has been powerfully discredited by Prof. Paul Newman, see this Christian Science Monitor piece:

    Newman writes that “boko” has a variety of meanings focused around denoting “things or actions having to do with fraudulence, sham, or inauthenticity” or deception. He says the false linkage to the English word “book” was first made in a 1934 Hausa dictionary by a Western scholar that listed 11 meanings for the word -– ten of them about fraudulent things and the final one asserting the connection to “book.” An incorrect assertion, says Newman.

    A big deal? Not a huge one, but a good example of how received “facts” are often far from the truth.

    Dr Newman’s The Etymology of Hausa boko is the detailed scholarly paper that underpins the CSM piece.

    Briefly, then, boko refers to whatever is considered “inauthentic” or “fraudulent” — and western book learning is considered inauthentic and fraudulent by those who view traditional Hausa Islamic education as the superior article. But this may not entirely be a religious distinction — as this quote from the long and interesting Vice piece, Saving South Sudan, that Stephanie Chenault pointed us to in her guest post yesterday:

    Education was often considered a bad thing because of the fear that men who could read and write would show up to interfere with the area’s simple pastoral lifestyle —- specifically Sudanese tax collectors who would arrive at Machot’s father’s homestead and demand cows as payment. To Machot and his family, being “educated” meant you worked for the government and became corrupt…

    Given that Hausa is commonly spoken in both Sudan and Nigeria, that para seems to me to add a possible (political/cultural rather than religious/Qur’anic) sidelight to the issue of the name Boko Haram.

    That’s a guess on my part, nothing more, based on an intriguing parallelism — if any ZP can correct or confirm it, I’d be much obliged.


    Guest Post: Stephanie Chenault Reviews Saving South Sudan

    Wednesday, May 14th, 2014

    Zen here – we would like to give a warm welcome to Stephanie Chenault, with her first guest post at ZP! :

    [ by Stephanie Chenault]

    “Violence and bloodshed can never have morally good results” – The Tragedy of Julius Caesar, William Shakespeare

    Saving South Sudan is an ambitious, multimedia event from “World’s Most Dangerous Places,” author Robert Young Pelton and master photographer/filmmaker Tim Freccia. VICE went big on Pelton’s quixotic journey with Nuer Lost Boy Machot Lap Thiep to “fix” South Sudan. The three enter the world’s newest nation, at a time of extreme crisis and bloodshed, creating a grand yarn with bold characters and high adventure set against sweeping, brutal savagery.

    The story of South Sudan as viewed through a Western lens is unbelievably complex, but Pelton gives us an African perspective where the current crisis is demystified by those closest to it. South Sudan has plunged into another round of playground rivalry where the contested sandbox is the world’s newest country and the opponent’s bloody noses, busted lips and black eyes are dwarfed by the physical and emotional damage inflicted on its spectators.

    Saving South Sudan gives us an intelligent summary of the history, religion, cultural anthropological aspects, militarism, oil economy and “baksheesh-ocracy” that makes South Sudan tick. Serious students of the subject are encouraged to consider all of these facets while reading / viewing this oeuvre: No actions are promoted, no outcomes are predicted- and this is how it should be. This is Africa.

    Pelton’s 130 page print piece and 40 min documentary grants the viewer unparalleled access into an Africa where there are no orange sunsets framed by acacia trees. A place where war is irregular, ferocious and unpredictable. In THIS Africa even the “rebel leader” bristles at being identified as such. In an earnest conversation, ousted Vice President Dr Riek Machar relays his desire isn’t to incite violence but to have a seat at the table in order to discuss options and opportunities to end the conflict. Pelton takes the filter off: behind the rhetoric, the violence continues in real time and we know that securing a seat at the table and successful negotiations (see recent media reports) bear little impact on the battle for oil on the ground. If fighting has indeed ceased, most roving bands have yet to receive the memo.

    I can’t exit this review without mentioning the main reason to take the time to get briefed on the region through Pelton’s Saving South Sudan. The human touch interviews with the rulers, rebels and raconteurs would be reason enough. So would Freccia’s breathtaking portraits of the people, landscape and conflict. But taking you along this expedition is Machot- an affable, handsome (still) young man and former lost boy. His story is one of sorrow, success, and optimism. His is perhaps the best lens of them all.

    Finding the print issue of the magazine can be a challenge but distribution sites are posted at the Vice website. The entire article can be found here.

    The “Saving South Sudan” world premiere documentary can be found on-demand here:


    Stephanie Chenault is the COO of Venio Inc, a service-disabled, veteran-owned small business which focus on plans, policy, architectures and problem-solving across the Department of Defense for multiple clients.


    BBC contrasts those captured with those who escaped

    Monday, May 12th, 2014

    [ by Charles Cameron -- "if wishes were horses" as the saying goes ]

    The BBC made a point of showing a group of the schoolgirls in Boko Haram captivity in contrast with some of those who escaped…


    Here’s Col Pat Lang‘s assessment of what a US intervention to rescue the girls would involve:

    It is clear that the Nigerian government cannot deal with this situation. It is likely that no combination of minor powers can deal with a mass kidnapping followed by slave trafficking across a lot of central Africa. Unless some intelligence analysis of extraordinary quality pinpoints locations and that breakthrough is followed by the availability of high quality troops, transportation, etc. then nothing will be done by European or African means.

    No, to do the job properly would require something like the commitment of much of US Eighteenth Airborne Corps (the 82nd Airborne Division, additional air assets, logistical assets, etc.), a lot of SOF and the redirection of a lot of US satellite reconnaissance, UAVs and SIGINT assets. All these intelligence means are exactly the activities so thoroughly reviled by the press.

    A major logistical base would have to be built, local contracts let and the whole cycle of corruption that has infested Iraq and Afghanistan would begin anew.

    A major campaign would be fought across NE Nigeria. The expense, born solely by the US would be immense.


    If R2P is the Responsibility to Protect, how to we square it with I2P, the Inability to Protect? — and do I need to write a doctrinal paper with that title?


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