Wednesday, December 18, 2013

A spoonful of spin makes the sugar-pill go down [updated]

“Oh Jake," Brett said, "We could have had such a damned good time together."
“Yes," I said. "Isn't it pretty to think so?”
― Ernest Hemingway, The Sun Also Rises

[update 18 December 2013]  NPR just broadcast a wonderfully PC version of what-all is going on in Centrafrique.   Michele Keleman reports that, according to Samantha Power,

"President Obama has just authorized up to $100 million to support the African Union forces on the ground."
The U.S. is also providing equipment and training and considering military advisers to help the African troops restore order.

Have no fear, the Africans are here! -- No indication that African “troops” have been there for some time, while the country swirled downwards into slaughter and mayhem 1 ,  and that any actual restoration of order, or effective combat,  has been almost entirely the work of a handful of Frenchmen, and that within a very few days:

Lorsque les soldats français sont arrivés à Bossangoa (Ndlr : nord-ouest du pays, le 9 décembre dernier), ils ont immédiatement embarqué et désarmé les Séléka . … Les Séléka ont semé la terreur pendant longtemps dans cette partie nord ouest du pays, assurément la plus dangereuse.

etc. etc., not even worth citing such things, you can read all about it yourself in non-P.C. channels.

[Footnote :  1 “Since the beginning of the BINUCA mission, the traffic of firearms, the violence and destruction of public or private assets  never stopped, but increased in a deadly spiral  causing much more political turmoil, numerous victims and destruction, as well as massive migrations of refugees within the CAR itself as well as in neighbouring countries, where they are still endangered by spreading violence and by lack of protection and assistance.”  --]

I searched the NYTimes and WaPo etc. in vain for any word on this notable $100 million move towards “Africanization” of the conflict (cf. the equally euphemistic Nixonian “Vietnamization” of the Viet Nam war [i.e., surrender]);  so you’ll have to read about it here:

Incidentally -- What exactly are these “African Union forces” (Here they come, to save the da-a-ay… !).   They are (or will be, or might be) to give them their name:  la Misca (Mission internationale de soutien à la Centrafrique sous conduite africaine).  So far they exist primarily in the post-prandial reveries of UN diplomats.
There is a long history of such phantom forces.  (See below, re the Cédéao.)

[Coda]  Recall the sequence of events in Mali some months ago:

            (1) A handful of dedicated and fearless Islamist jihadis moved into Northern Mali, and shooed away the tribesmen who had declared its independence under the name of Azawad.
            (2)  At the first sign of trouble, the regular Mali army threw away their weapons, doffed their uniforms, and evaporated into the bush.
            (3) Azawadi Christians, suddenly persecuted, fled for their lives.
            (4)  Finally, a  handful of French fighters choppered in and chased the jihadis into the surrounding mountains.

Remember that one?  No?  Learn anything from it?  Of course not.

So, a trip down memory lane (cited in our post )

[Update 10 April 2013]:
Mali : les troupes de la Cédéao « totalement incapables », juge le Pentagone
Un haut responsable du Pentagone estime que les troupes engagées au Mali par les Etats africains ne sont pas « à la hauteur ». Et salue en revanche l'intervention française.

Note, btw:  If I cite so many things from French sources, it is not out of francophilia, or to help you all brush up your French, but because such things are typically whitewashed out of the P.C. anglophone press.   You certainly won't hear about it on NPR.

Mission civilisatrice

Further note:

This is by no means the first time that rainbow goodthink has tried to prettify the scene in Africa.  Thus, from our post of 28 April 2012 ( ),
during the honeymoon period when thumbsuckers could still dream the impossible dream, before AQMI surged in and burst their bubble:

A number of scholars have been making soothing noises about the situation in Azawad;  e.g.

where a former Ambassador and CFR bigwig  proclaims “the Tuareg rebels seem to have most of the cards”.

Even sillier is this line from a well-bearded scholar:  
“A secular Berber, pro-Western, nation is born
in the middle  of Sahara.”

Meanwhile, back in the real world, the Touareg tribesmen have retreated from Timbuktu, their tails between their legs, on orders fron AQIM:

Without a fight.

As for this blossoming "secular" society-- most of the Christians in Timbuktu  have fled for their lives, so perhaps you could call that secularization of a sort.  Anyhow, religious cleansing.  For in case any of these infidels are so unwise as to hang around, Boko Haram has sent an armed contingent to do mop-up.

Nor does this desert blossom of a secular society count as a Paradise for women and children:
And lest, lulled by the Small-Small World happytalk from the likes of such scholars, you imagine that Azawad is a post-racial paradise as well --  check this out:

All this spinning helps the right-thinking to feel good about themselves;  but the unfortunate practical effect is that we are left with the illusion that by continuing to shower millions upon billions of tax dollars upon African intermediaries, we can then sit back and watch the garden grow.   The result so far has been poverty combined with kleptocracy.

[Lord, this is all so depressing.  Why am I even bothering to write about any of this?  Nobody learns anything anyway, that they don’t want to know.   -- Here, read about Dickens instead:

For another instance from NPRistan, where a kernel of news was immersed in a syrup of spin:
Si cela vous parle,
savourez la série noire
en argot authentique d’Amérique :

~  ~ {Original post from 10 Dec 2013:] }  ~ ~

Though it’s shooting fish in a barrel, and we probably shouldn’t bother, we devoted a post to exposing some of the sleights of hand whereby the New York Times slants stories in the direction of the politically correct:  in particular, as regards armed French intervention in Africa.

The P.C. narrative is:  Just lately there has been a spot of bother in one or two countries of the continent, but the Africans themselves are going to sort it all out with their noble peace-keeping forces -- aided, to be sure, from time to time, by their furry friends the French (modestly shouting encouragement from the sidelines, and making coffee for the African warriors, one supposes).   These conflicts have lately taken on an unfortunate inter-confessional dimension, in which blame is to be found equally on all sides.

That narrative is being repeated in the case of the current French intervention in RCA.

Thus, this morning’s New York Times refers to “shootouts between the mostly Muslim rebel fighters who overthrew the government this year and rival Christian militias”.   This isn’t false, per se, just… massaged a bit.  For, “mostly Muslim” leaves open the possibility that the Séléka (to name it by its name; that’s Sango for “alliance”) is indeed an alliance -- say, 55% Muslim to 45% Christian;  kumbaya around the campfire to follow immediately upon our interfaith services.  More realistically, Wikipedia reveals that “Nearly all the members of Séléka are Muslim”.  And this, in a country that is eighty percent Christian.
As for that “rebels versus militias” picture -- well, that’s true enough in the present landscape;  but the causal lead-up thereto  was asymmetric, with Muslims being the aggressors, and the Christian militias  a belated response in defense.  The English Wikipedia is silent on the matter, but here is a summary of the timeline from the French:

Le 24 mars 2013, les rebelles de la Seleka — avec à leur tête Michel Djotodia qui se proclame président de la République — prennent Bangui, ce qui conduit le président François Bozizé à fuir le pays pour le Cameroun.
Dans cette progression, de nombreuses atteintes à la laïcité ont été constatées.

Le 22 août, suite aux refus de la population civile du village de Bohong de subir les persécutions de la Seleka16, le village subit de violentes représailles entraînant de dizaines de morts, des viols et des pillages17, visant spécifiquement la population chrétienne18. Un millier d'habitants quittent le village.
Dès sa prise du pouvoir en mars, Michel Djotodia dissout la Seleka, mais les ex-rebelles se livrent par la suite à de nombreuses exactions contre la population, notamment en octobre 2013

Reuters, too, is frank about the actual sequence of events:

The country has been gripped by chaos since mainly Muslim Seleka rebels seized power in March. Months of looting, raping and killing since has brought reprisals by Christian militias and allies of ousted President Francois Bozize.

[ Update 18 Dec 2013:  NPR is still peddling the bonnet-blanc/blanc-bonnet version of the origin of interconfessional slaughter:

"Central African Republic is not a place that has seen mass atrocities committed by one religious community against another in the past," she said. "There have been some interfaith tensions — but what we have seen in recent months since a military takeover of the government are atrocities on religious grounds."

So:  The bad military vs. the good civilian government.  Only -- Why should that unleash a frenzy of Muslim-on-Christian killing?
Answer:  Because it wasn’t the “military” that overthrew the government, an expression that naturally misleads the audience into thinking it was the regular national army, as in Turkey or Egypt;  it was a Muslim rebel ragtag coalition, the Séléka, in no way representative of the country as a whole, which is 80% Christian.  As to its composition by nationality, no-one is talking about it, thus leading everyone to assume that they were all RCA.  Perhaps they were;  I have no idea.  But in recent clashes between local Christian militias and Séléka, the Muslims have been kicking butt when not outnumbered;  which leads one to suspect that there might be some tough and seasonsed extra-RCA carpetbaggers involved, as was the case in Iraq, in Azawad, and now in Syria.   AQMI-connected?   It would be nice if someone looked into this.]

All right, so, a bad business;  but fortunately the African Union has this well in hand, n’est-ce pas,  fortified by gifts of brioche and ammunition from their French buddies, who are there purely by African invitation.   Thus again, the P.C. Times:

A resolution passed last week by the Security Council tries to strike a balance. It strengthens an intervention force of up to 6,000 African troops, to be aided by 1,600 French soldiers.

La France et l’Afrique announcent leur union indéfectible
[BTW -- for those who might have trouble deciphering the French font, it says "Bisou du matin, calin".]

The reality has historically been otherwise, as we saw in the case of Mali.   Today’s Le Figaro  has a more nuanced assessment;  and as for this “support” role, their readers are not fooled, as witness this reader’s comment:

Curieusement (!) personne en France n'évoque qu'une dizaine ( de mémoire ) de soldats sud-Africains ont été tués en RCA il y a quelques mois , ce qui a conduit les sud-Africains à retirer leurs troupes en RCA - Alors parler aujourd'hui de forces armées "africaines " pour "épauler" l'armée française .. relève, au mieux, d'un dénis des réalités,  et au pire d'une désinformation délibérée de la part de leurs auteurs.

The Washington Post has rather a better article about all this, containing this tidbit about some onomasiological pill-sweetening:

The French move into Central African Republic is dubbed Operation Sangaris, after a local butterfly. The 1979 intervention to depose Jean-Bedel Bokassa, Central African Republic dictator and self-proclaimed emperor accused of cannibalism, was called Operation Barracuda.

The Christian Science Monitor alertly notices a different semantic connotation of the name that France wistfully chose for the op:

Reality Check
A brief French intervention in the Central African Republic? Maybe not.
When France announced deployment of 1,600 soldiers to a former colony last week, President François Hollande promised the intervention would be quick and easy. The Central African Republic, after all, has no terrorists, he said, unlike in Mali, where France intervened in January.
In reality, however, CAR could turn into a potential quagmire. Driving home that possibility is the fact that two soldiers have already been killed, France confirmed this morning.
Sangari[s], the name chosen for the operation, refers to a red Central African butterfly with a short lifespan.

Bonne chance, les gars ...

And, another tidbit of Sango philology -- balaka.  English Wikipedia actually has an entry for it (the French version is so far behindhind in this):

Anti-balaka is the term used to refer to the Christian militias formed in the Central African Republic after the rise to power of Michel Djotodia. Anti-balaka means "anti-machete" or "anti-sword" in the local Sango and Mandja languages

The group name thus incidentally incorporates the actual causal sequence of events:  the two armed camps did not spring up simultaneously, equally at fault.

Actually, a richer source of news about this  turns out to be a blog:

For a selection of individual detective stories,
available for your Nook or Kindle,
visit this site:

A radio essay by the journalist Robert Buissiere  begins by quoting the ludicrous remark of Hollande’s likewise Socialist presidential predecessor, “"la France sera africaine ou ne sera pas".  (One wonders whether, as with Shepherd’s celebrated but bungled line, lors de la lunaison, “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind”, an article was inadvertantly dropped, and the intended sentence was rather “ou ne le sera pas”, in which case it would have been a tautology, and quite in keeping with Mitterand’s yen for the fatuous platitude.)
Listen to it here:

[Update 19 Dec]  I spoke with some specialized operatives with downrange experience in theatres of this sort, mentioned the proposed gift of $100 million (of which they had not heard word) to forces of the African Union.  They shook their heads.  “If you have that kind of money to throw around, better to use it on bribes.”


For more on the saga of Franco-American journalism, try this.

[Update 25 Dec 2013]  Reports concerning the behavior of the African Union troops in Centrafrique, saviors of the situation according to Samantha Powers and NPR, and trickling in, and are … concerning.
The Chadian forces, which blatantly favor the Muslim side, have already antagonized the Christian majority in Bangui, further inflaming tensions rather than calming them;  but more, they have engaged in gun battles with their brother Burundians in MISCA.   So they are basically being sh*t-canned -- er, redeployed, far away into to jungle where it is hoped they can do no harm.  However, as the specialist interviewed by Medi1 points out, they will then have a free hand in the still-unpacified Séléka northern stronghold, so this actually doesn’t bode well either.

Bienvenus dans le bourbier, les gars

[Update, 25 Dec 2013]   These, then, are the African Union forces which NPR approvingly reported were about to be showered with $100 million from the US.  Note that we are not picking a nit here -- the Chadian contingent is the main one in MISCA, both in terms of manpower and field experience.  And it is not training or equipment that they lack:

Des pick-up de l'armée tchadienne, qui forme la plus grosse part de la force africaine, filent sur le goudron. … Bien formée et bien équipée, l'armée tchadienne était l'un des éléments clés sur lequel Paris comptait pour soutenir sa mission en Centrafrique.

What they lack is something essential, and which no amount of money can wish into existence.

A consulter aussi:  Leçons de géometrie hexagonale.

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