Life Goes on After Mali Attack

Girl in Bamako, MaliGiven that we spent almost a week enjoying music from Mali, I figure I ought to say something about the Bamako hotel attack that took place just one week after the attacks in Paris. There are a few things that are worth noting. Note is that this was a terrorist attack. It was apparently carried out by Al-Mourabitoun and Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb. There were at least 19 people murdered. But I guess we don’t really care because most Americans don’t even know where Mali is, and the people there are used to being killed or don’t value life like we do or something.

Maybe it is that it is an attack by people who don’t look like us on people who don’t look like us. (In fact, that’s not true: it was an expensive hotel and over half of the victims were “white” — but only one was American, Anita Datar — working on family planning and HIV.) According to a BBC report, Mali has been under attack for the last three years — a situation that has been made much worse by the destabilization of Libya. It’s interesting to me especially, because the United States acts so much like Don Quixote. We throw ourselves into situations, make them worse, and then ride off thinking that we have done good. Of course, Don Quixote is insane. And the US is supposedly the most civilized of countries with by far the biggest military in the world.

The four or five gunmen who stormed the hotel were yelling “Allāhu Akbar” (“Allah is great”). So I guess that means Sam Harris was right. This is all about religion. It isn’t a question of a decades long separatist conflict with rebels in north Mali and west Niger. And before the Harrisistas start complaining that The Profit doesn’t say it is only Islam that is to blame, let’s be clear: I don’t think there has ever been a war in which most of the people didn’t feel God was on their side. In the Battle of Lena, both side thought Odin was on their side. Here’s a bit of history for you all: none of it was actually about Odin.

Our response here in the US is, “Not our fault! Close the borders! Hide under the bed! Oh, and keep up that drone program, because it’s working so very well!”

This attack took place on 20 November 2015. I looked back a year after the Paris attacks. So let’s look back at 20 November 2014 from the Global Terrorism Database. There were at least 105 fatalities from 39 attacks. And this isn’t taking into account all the people fighting against them, not to mention our own bombing and drone campaigns. I am almost to the point where I want to throw up my hands and just repeat, over and over, “They raped our queen, so we raped their city, and we were right!”

Of course, I fear that most people on all sides of these conflicts would respond the opposite from the way I intend. They would say, “Right on!” I’ve been more than clear over the years that I am not a pacifist. But it is clear that there are ways to make the world better and ways to make the world worse. We all know that the Iraq War destabilized the Middle East and made the world worse. Less known is that after almost 15 years of war, the Taliban have a tighter grip on Afghanistan than when we started. Well played, comrades; well played!

Meanwhile, death is everywhere — random and brutal. And our response here in the US is, “Not our fault! Close the borders! Hide under the bed! Oh, and keep up that drone program, because it’s working so very well!” Meanwhile, the people of Mali get on with their lives. They do not have the luxury to pretend that the world will be safe if only they close their borders.

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

9 thoughts on “Life Goes on After Mali Attack

  1. Outstanding.

    I’m starting to get that sickening feeling I remember from the buildup to Gulf War II. Where a handful of people say “this is insanity” and the vast majority scream “go team go!” I hope I’m wrong.

    Hitchens was a big Orwell fan and so am I. In one essay, “Notes on Nationalism,” Orwell made a distinction between patriotism and nationalism. Patriotism is essentially harmless. You champion your local cuisine, culture, whatever. It’s like me saying “Minnesota has great state parks and libraries! Those outweigh the cold!”

    Nationalism, as Orwell defined it, was an irrational emotional need to feel your side is winning and any victory by other sides diminishes you. He wrote that it includes religious belief, political belief, racial prejudice, what-have-you.

    I keep coming back to this essay. Because I think it’s entirely right. Having pride in your heritage, in your community, is a good thing. It helps build the social bonds which make civilization possible. Being nuts over how your preferred self-defining Favorite Team is winning, this is hugely destructive. Orwell noted that all of us are susceptible to this kind of thing. The trick is to be conscious of it when we note it in ourselves and make a mental effort to resist it.

    I’ll praise Minnesota for its relative lack of snobbishness about income inequality; you can be poor here and still make friends with educated people in a way you can’t (or I couldn’t) on the West Coast. Is it horribly cold? Oh, God, yes. Is the scenery dull? Yup. Is there vast racism? Well, it’s in America, so sure.

    Being happy/proud about your community is fine. Defining yourself by whether or not your particular chosen identified group is “winning,” or “disrespected,” is lunacy. I like “Star Trek: The Next Generation.” You don’t. I hope to convert you someday, but your not liking Patrick Stewart as much as I do doesn’t reduce my enjoyment of Patrick Stewart one iota. I shake my head and mutter, “the poor soul, what he’s missing.” It doesn’t threaten my self-worth (the way many other things do, which are equally irrational.)

    I think Orwell is right. Nationalism is nuts, in whatever form it takes.

    • Hitchens was amazing at his level of cognitive dissonance. Personally, I draw back to Homer — at least — and am proud to be part of that civilization. But that’s to a large extent why I’m not nationalistic. Hopefully, we learn things over time.

      BTW: I don’t dislike Stewart. And I don’t hate TNG. It just has a lot of problems. And I loved Stewart in Macbeth.

    • You have read Senator Franken’s Lying Liars right? His pointing out how the Conservatives love America like a four year old loves their mommy and how Liberals love America like you love an adult was spot on. The conservative view leads to a lot of stagnation and and refusal to accept someone else might have a good idea once in a while. And is why there is such a huge freak out over the idea that Sharia Law might be referred to in US caselaw.

      • I am a big fan of Senator Al, and that is a terrific analogy. Franken is doing great and serious work. I miss him being a humorist, though. He was really good at it!

        I remember when he would debate Arianna Huffington on Maher’s “Politically Incorrect” show. I think he won her over to our side (well, a little, I’m not happy how her website doesn’t pay writers, but she’s more on the good side than she used to be.) His speech at the journalist dinner where he made Newt Gingrich turn beet red with pure rage is a classic. I’m not into confrontation but sometimes, some people need to be called out for spewing evil.

        He’s a good Senator. I think he’s far better at it than being a radio host. I think he was best at being a cultural humorist. I miss that side of Franken the way I miss MST3K. Or Chris Rock doing updates for “Politically Incorrect” from the 1996 GOP primaries. “Well, once again, Bill, I am the only black man in the building.”

        There’s a documentary about Franken, “God Speaks.” And near the start of it he is shown explaining to teenagers how Fox News mangles facts in order to lie. It’s a great scene, not a very interesting documentary, I didn’t watch the whole thing. But Franken was a wonderful, funny political educator. I miss him doing that!

        • I am so jealous of you and the rest of the state of Minnesota since you have Senator Franken and I am stuck with McCain and Flake.

          • We had Michelle Bachmann, so don’t be too jealous.

            Good rule of thumb: when someone starts pimping that “liberal media is out to get me” line, they’re generally dirty as sin. Sure enough, Bachmann was drummed out of the House for being hugely corrupt. I’d guess anything that Ben Carson is a total scam artist, too. We all know Trump is; his particular genius is realizing that reality-show stardom makes you immune from criticism. For a while. The Food Network’s “Pioneer Gal” would probably get more voters, or the “Duck Dynasty” rednecks a year ago.

            • Oh if it is going to be a contest of who has the worst reps-AZ wins because we had Quayle and Renzi (who went off to prison for corruption) not to mention JD Hayworth who I once bested in a debate at 24. :P

              • Agreed — reps who actually go to prison out-corrupt reps who quit right before they would go to prison.

                I give Bachmann extra Evil Points because, above and beyond her maniac “Fox News” persona, she raved about all the foster kids she raised. Anyone who knows the foster-care system is aware that people raising a few kids are often devoted, caring parents; those who raise a ton of them are probably abusive, negligent psychopaths collecting government checks. Bachmann claimed to have raised 23. I guarantee you she caused terrible damage to all those kids, collected checks, and went on to have her five minutes of “Fox” fame decrying Gummint Handouts.

                Plus, her husband is totally gay, but he’s in “recovery” from being gay. And gets government money to run his gay-fixing clinics.

                Minnesota also wins on the Idaho politician caught sexing up unwilling strangers in our airport bathroom.

                I’ll give you the sheriff who brags about abusing prisoners, Arizona wins on that. Your politicos are definitely up there with the Deep South in terms of unrestrained malice. But ours are close to the top in shameless hypocrisy!

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