Nairobi: The Blisters of War

September 25, 2013
AP Photo/Jonathan Kalan

Izvestia has deep ties to the Kremlin, and if anyone is unclear about Izvestia’s motives, a sense of history and a quick read of their editorials will quickly shed light on their ideology. This article, for instance, was published on the front page this week, and claims to explain the historical causes of the tragic terrorist attack on a mall in Nairobi, Kenya. It is written by a poet, Igor Karaulov, and there appears to be significant “poetic license” with facts.

The author argues that most of Africa’s problems are the result of “resource wars” and American efforts to establish democracy. In reality, however, Somalia’s problems had more to do with lack of food and water, and pre-date any of the other historical references made by this author. Karaulov also states that “Al Shabaab,” the group that has claimed responsibility for this attack, has only recently affiliated with Al Qaeda, a “fact” that is patently false as the group sprang from other terrorist groups in 2006.

Karaulov also states that the Boston Marathon bombers, the Tsarnaev brothers, were linked to Chechen rebels, and those rebels were backed by the United States. Only one of the Tsarnaev brothers, Tamerlan, had contact with Chechen rebels, and they advised him to stay out of the fight, which has nothing to do with the United States. Furthermore, there is no credible evidence that the United States ever backed the Chechen rebels in any way.

The conclusion of the article is that Russia’s foreign policy, especially with regards to Syria, will avert these disasters, while the policies of the United States will spark more of them. One could easily look at the weak argument and factual inaccuracies and Izvestia is less concerned with history and more concerned with capitalizing on a tragedy to advance their political line.

All hyperlinks to cultural references were put there by The Interpreter. – Ed.

It was a children’s holiday, a children’s cooking contest. Suddenly, people in black masks strung with grenades burst into the building, shouting “Allah akbar” and opened machine-gun fire on the crowd. After the first storm of gunfire, they released all the Muslims — all those who could recite a prayer. About 70 people were murdered, and the rest became hostages. At the same time, Twitter informed the world of the terrorists’ demands: the withdrawal of forces, the end to the counter-terrorist operation.

It’s a familiar scene for us, it simply deja vu. But now it had happened not in Moscow and not in Beslan. And not in Eurasia at all. It was Nairobi, the capital of Kenya. All around were the African savannah, lions, antelopes, and naked Masai with spears. What was the point of this tragedy? What were these stylistic clones of Shamil Basayev doing in these exotic decorations?

Nairobi today is a pain point pulsing simultaneously on several maps. On a detailed, large-scaled map, the event looked like one more move in a regional conflict having its own specific history. The terrorists were operating in the name of Al-Shabaab, the jamaat controlling several regions of the south of Somali. The butcherous pseudo-state cannot live without raids, and neighbouring Kenya in fact had suffered from such raids. In reply, two years ago, Kenyan forces crossed the border and created a buffer zone, created as a self-proclaimed state of Azania. The Islamists long vowed revenge, they published threats on the Internet and exploded homemade bombs on the streets of the Kenyan capital, and now, finally, they resolved to do this bold and bloody act. The target chosen was the Westgate Mall which is owned by Israelis, a fashionable place for rich Kenyans and ex-pats to hang out.

But on the map of Africa as a whole, this event looks a little different. The dark continent has long since ceased to provoke ordinary interest in our country, but Africa is constantly on CNN. That’s understandable. Africa is famed for the wealth of its depths: oil, uranium, gold, copper and diamonds. But Africa is a source of as yet undeveloped human resources; many believe that gradually world manufacturing will move here as the demand for workers grows from China and other Asian countries. And Africa also means war.

Our liberal economists love to speak of Russia’s “resource curse,” but it is in Africa that we see a real, not figurative, resource curse, distinguished by a sea of blood, mountains of cut-off heads and severed arms. The blisters of war now and then break out on the body of Africa. Today, the swathe of wars and terrors have stretched out like the Russian letter Г turned around right to left, or, more accurately the Hebrew letter dalet along the whole Sahel (the southern flank of the Sahara) to the Africa Horn and from there southwest and south to the former Belgian Congo. Kenya lies on this bow. Until now, the resource curse had bypassed it; the mining industry in Kenya is not so developed yet. But the geologists are working and their successes do not bode a peaceful future for Kenya; niobium has been discovered, rare earth metals have been discovered, and there is the prospect of oil.

But Nairobi is not a blank spot on the map of Islamic extremism. The dog of terror has returned to its vomit. Fifteen years ago, the American embassies in Nairobi and Dar-es-Salaam were bombed, after which President Clinton undertook a limp missile attack on Afghanistan and Sudan, which in any event served as a prologue to Bush’s Drang nach Osten. Al Qaeda was accused of those explosions; at that time, the name was still a novelty. But since last year, Al Shabaab has become an affiliate of Al Qaeda. All of a sudden there seem to be a lot of these affiliates: there is an Al Qaeda in Mali, in Libya, in Egypt, in Yemen, and in Syria. Bin Laden must look out with his only eye from his ocean grave in surprise on the unexpected success of his brand franchise.

America has treated Al Qaeda contrary to the slogan of Taras Bulba: it has almost killed it, it has also resurrected it. In the heads of American politicians, there is a clash of ideas: the inertia of Bush’s “war on terror” (above all with Al Qaeda) has imprinted on Obama’s ideology of the “emancipation” of the Arab countries from their rulers who have stayed too long (an ideology which Al Qaeda naturally supports). As a result of this chaos in Northern Africa and the Middle East, just as many predicted, a fertile matrix has emerged for the multiplication of terror, and exchange of experience, weapons and cadres.

In fact, the cadres come not only from the regime itself. According to reports, among the terrorists who seized Westgate, three or five are citizens of the USA. Likely these are Somalis who have lived for at least five years in the world’s superpower. With the example of the Brothers Tsarnaev, the Americans already know that the terrorists which they approvingly slapped on the back in the Caucasus are capable of sowing fear in the New World. Has the FBI taken an interest in the local Somalis?

The East African Rift passes through Kenya — a crack in the earth’s surface which in several millions years will lead to East Africa breaking off from the rest of the continent. Now a process is underway on the African continent similar to the tectonic one, but far more rapid; the geopolitical layer of the Islamic world, set into motion by “democratic” experiments, is spreading, and beginning to pressure the layer of black Africa, already torn apart by a resource war. It is possible that the Al-Shabaab raid on Nairobi is one of the first signals that the armed groups of Islamists from the North are prepared to become a new force in this war for resources and await further assignments from interested persons.

And of course we have once again seen how united the world has become. The tension accumulating around Syria finds its release in other parts of the planet. Terrorist acts have grown more frequent in Iraq and Pakistan and now it is Nairobi’s turn — that is the territorial amplitude of terror. The Kenyan tragedy illustrates once again how justified and clear Russia’s policy is on the Syrian question by contrast with the actions of the pretender to worldwide hegemony, who has undertaken to divide up the world with crooked hands and without a clear plan.