More From Alder's Ledge

March 31, 2014

The First Casualty Of War

Rabid Dogs On All Sides
(PLUCK series)

'Among the calamities of war may be jointly numbered the diminution of the love of truth, by the falsehoods which interest dictates and credulity encourages.' 
~Samuel Johnson, 'The Idler' 1758

It is the common narrative of those who side with the rebels, often blindly, in Syria that these gun toting militants are somehow valiant characters in the overall plot. They have been cast as the defenders of the downtrodden and oppressed Syrian civilians. They have been painted as noble warriors who arose to take a stand against the savage tyrant in command of Syria. Yet the war which they wage has been brutal in it's depiction of reality. With every massacre there comes the picture of rabid dogs surrounding the citizenry of Syria on all sides. Assad's barbarians remain frothing at the mouth as they clamor for new atrocities. And, contrary to their online propagandists, the rebels are equally savage in their attempts to assert authority in reclaimed areas.

It is the common narrative of the blind support that what you are reading here is wrong. By looking beyond the partisanship of either side we are somehow committing an offense. By sifting through the lies, often pitting them against one another, we are somehow wrong for seeking the hard facts behind the fog of war. If you believe that, if you are so vehemently biased, then this is your chance to leave and go back to the media that feeds your glutinous appetite for lies.

We don't claim to know everything. This isn't a blog to tell you what to think, we didn't start this to make you believe. This is a blog that simply exists so as to make you ask questions. Our only goal here is to make you question everything you have been told. Our mission is to create screamers by unbinding the blindfolds that have covered peoples' eyes for far too long. We don't always have the answers, but we'll be damned if we would ever cease in trying to find them.


Syria's crisis began when Assad violently attempted to crush the spirit which we seek for all mankind. It was in Syria's underclass that the masses began to question the legitimacy of Assad's rule. From the ground up the threat was rising to a tyrant who had held power for generations. Syria's crisis began because the leader of Syria felt his dogs were turning in upon him. 

A system in which the majority of the citizenry do not belong to the same class or religion of the ruling party, is a system that becomes to top heavy to survive. When the masses began to realize that Syria's fighter jets, it's tanks, it's helicopters, and it's savage army were no longer meant to protect them but rather to dominate them... it was already too late.

Guerrilla warfare became the only method by which the underclass could rise up to challenge the bigger dog in this fight. Through ambushing, hit and run, and by utilizing rolling battles to engage the regime; the rebels were seen as fighting for their homes and their people. In the beginning this was symbolic in the fact that it made outsiders believe that Syria's masses were in open rebellion. And yet the people of Syria were not yet ready to sacrifice everything for the whims of this ragtag band of rebels. 

Assad, in all his barbaric glory, launched all out war upon his own nation. Cluster bombs, incendiaries, mortars, heavy artillery, tanks, helicopters, and jets were all thrown into the fight to stop the rebellion his own savagery had inspired. Entire villages were laid to waste as Assad sought to bring Syria back under his control. Nothing was sacred to the now rabid leader as he challenged all conventions of warfare by openly targeting civilians. 

This is how the war began. And in it's own right, this is how Syria was devoured from within. Blood spilled on one side was immediately rectified, if ever it could be, by more blood spilled on the opposing side. And eye for an eye rapidly made all of Syria blind. 

Yet it was the bitterness of war that devoured Syria completely. Rebels who had boasted about their restraint in battle quickly gave into the temptations of war. Retaliatory attacks on citizens who remained loyal to Assad began to mount the death toll on the other side. Men that online supporters claimed were somehow noble turned out to be no less barbaric than the savage they claimed to fight. Leaving many to wonder how the rebels could be praised for fighting Assad when they have mirrored their enemies own sins.

Genocide Produces Yet More Genocides
(A History) 

Namibia, the land of the 20th century's first genocide. It is a country in which the German Second Reich began it's experiments with lebensraum and eugenic philosophies. This is the place where a modern nation imposed race laws, built concentration camps, used chemicals to kill their victims, used slave labor to cause death, and committed outright mass executions of the Herero and Namaqua peoples. All of which occurred a decade prior to the Armenian Genocide. 

Turkish leaders would look back upon their German ally's success in Namibia and learn from the Second Reich what it meant to exterminate an entire ethnicity of man. In Ottoman eyes the colonization of Namibia by Germany was seen as a success because the German people never once said a word against it. Instead the German populace was seen as supportive and as willing participants in their government's atrocities. Thus, without little questioning by Turkish citizens, the Ottomans began their genocides in an attempt to maintain their crumbling empire. 

The Assyrians, the Pontic Greeks, and the Armenians would all suffer the wrath of a failing empire. 1.5 million Armenians would perish as Turkey fought to enforce "Turkification" across their territories. There was no limit to the barbarism that the Ottomans would utilize in their attempts to either deport or kill their victims. 

“Who today still talks about the annihilation of the Armenians?”
~ Adolf Hitler, August 22, 1939

Deir-es-Zor, the Turkish death camp to which Armenians were sent, is to the Armenian people today what Auschwitz is to the Jews. The extermination of the Armenian people was so vast and rapidly committed that Hitler himself referenced it while preparing the Holocaust. It was only 24 years after the Armenian Genocide that the next dictator was preparing to unleash the hell of genocide upon Europe once again. And just as with the Turks, the Nazis were simply expanding upon what their predecessors had done before them. 

Six million Jews would pay with their lives for what Hitler had unleashed upon Europe. My ancestors were taken into the mountains and shot by Hitler's dogs in Croatia. Like the Armenians who were marched away from their homes to die, my ancestors looked back upon their village and knew that they would never return home again. From their blood, from those who clung to life in our darkest hour, I'm here today. 

The suffering of my people was the playbook from which dictators like Idi Amin and Pol Pot took their instructions. Acting in the same savage spirit that had inspired hellish acts like that of the Holocaust and the Armenian Genocide, these modern heathens unleashed genocides across the world. In Cambodia about a quarter of the population would perish as Pol Pot recreated the crimes committed by the Germans in Namibia. Idi Amin, who admitted to adoring Hitler, attempted to recreate the Holocaust as he plunged Uganda into a hell from which it has yet to recover from. 

Genocide has been looked upon by governments as the perfect crime because it is supposed to destroy the "problem" at it's root. Yet there are always those who survive. There are always those who watch the crimes and record them in their hearts and souls. These survivors and onlookers are the ones who refuse to let the sins of the past die in the killing fields. And thus, genocide for all it's absolutes, is never a crime that is easily forgotten. 

It is a crime that breeds more of it's own horrific acts in every generation to follow. In cases like that of Rwanda there is the immediate threat of the victimized community retaliating, and thus perpetrating genocide, once the killing stops. The bitterness that remains once the killings end is the seed that genocide sows wherever and whenever genocide occurs. If it does not obtain fruition in one culture it will seek out another in which to grow. It knows and respects no borders society has attempted to create. Every society is vulnerable to it's lures. 

And this is where we are today in Syria.

The brink of allowing one genocide to breed another. 

A War With No Victors

Assad watched other dictators across the Middle East get away with the very sins he has committed. It was only in recent history that Assad has seen tyrants fall to the hangman's knot. And therefore it may be this reality of repercussions for his actions that keeps the dictator clinging to power. He has nowhere left to run. His followers have nowhere left to cast their support. The battle lines are so deeply drawn that there is no crossing over. There will be no forgiveness, there will be no repentance, this is a fight to the death.

It is in the rigidness of Syria's war that the end has already been made clear. An end that will find both sides defeated in their own ways. Syria has no prize for the conquerors. It has nothing left to offer the side that claims victory. For this is a war that will have no victor. 

Far too much blood has been spilled by the true owners of Syria, it's citizenry. Too many young lives have been altered so drastically that there is no walking their hearts and minds back to civility. Young Syrians will now watch as others return home to families that they no longer have themselves. They will be left with the bitterness that comes with seeing a world move on as they remain in hell. Far too much has been taken from the true owners of Syria's hope... it's youth has been bled out. 

The rebels may be the lesser of two evils in this fight. But they are not the heroes. That is a title that they will never be able to claim. For there have been far too many innocent lives lost as their militants pulled triggers and planted bombs that should have never been. Their excesses have stripped them of any praise that civilized man could have ever offered. It is in their sins that they have been found unworthy of any support.

This brings us to the final point of this long winded method of asking...

If the rebels in Syria do manage to win their war and commit even more retaliatory reprisals against the Alawite minority, will their supporters call these acts genocide?

Just as not all Sunni Muslims have offered their support to the rebels (thus marking themselves for reprisals too), not all Alawites have offered their support to Assad's regime. Yet the genocide that has seen Assad targeting Sunni civilians has bred deep animosity against the Alawites as a whole. And it has already been made clear that the rebels exercise little restraint when claiming Alawite areas. They have often been recorded as targeting Alawite civilians trapped by the sudden shift in power. 

In areas where the population is considered traditionally loyal to Assad, the rebels have done little to stop elements of their forces from savagely attacking the unarmed populace. This occurs in all wars as attacking soldiers take casualties and find themselves unable to directly attack the enemy soldiers. It has always been the civilians who suffer the hatred that feeds the will to fight on both sides. Yet when it comes to the rebels these crimes are rarely admitted by their fiercely loyal followers and supporters online. 

Thus we ask once again... If the rebels do win, and they begin targeting supposed supporters of the old regime, will there be the same "humanitarian" outcry by supporters? 

The ground has already been prepared for the next genocide in Syria. Rebels, engulfed by bitterness and hatred, stand ready to commit massacres of their own in the absence of an enemy regime. Civilians who have been told that their neighbors supported the man who killed their families stand prepared to accept that these traitors deserve to die. All the elements are there. The ground has been salted in such a way that nothing but more genocidal acts can grow here. 

So when the rebels, who many of you reading this have so adamantly supported, do openly commit crimes against humanity... will you scream?

“…the Armenian massacre was the greatest crime of the war, and the failure to act against Turkey is to condone it… the failure to deal radically with the Turkish horror means that all talk of guaranteeing the future peace of the world is mischievous nonsense…”
~ Theodore Roosevelt, 1918 

In 1918 Theodore Roosevelt pointed out to the world what they all seemed to be missing as the fog of war began to clear. For all the deaths that had occurred there were still those that the world was ignoring. For all the governments that the world was punishing after the war, there was still one that remained free of society's outrage for it's crimes against humanity. 

In Syria there are still deaths that remain unanswered for. There are still factions within this war that remain free from the outrage of civilized society for their crimes against all of humanity. This is not a war where there is anyone left untainted by the blood that has been spilled. Each and every war criminal deserves to be dragged out and punished upon the world stage. And the fact that anyone who claims to be a "humanitarian" would turn a blind eye to one side while being so partisan as to attack the other... that is why genocide and crimes against humanity go unpunished today. The apathy of good men.

March 10, 2014

The Devil's Bastards

Unholy War Series 

(A Victim Of Boko Haram's Barbarism)

Nigeria has been the front line in an unholy war for the heart and soul of Africa. Along the battlefront the two major religions of Islam and Christianity endlessly spill blood in the name of a god that seems to have looked the other way. Villages are used as urban battlefields and the open wasteland of sub-Saharan Africa acts as no-man's land. Civilians who withstand the urge to join the militants that come and go are left helpless as governments struggle to maintain control. Mutilation, open massacres, and rolling gunfights become far too common as Africa's children watch their hope for a better life go up in smoke.

And for what? So that faith can bleed out entire countries? So that religion can gain a foothold while breaking the back of Africa?

Misleading The Faithful

Amongst this senseless violence is not surprising to find militant groups that use faith to entice their terrorists into endless war. Christian groups (such as the LRA in Uganda) loosely hide behind the cross as they enlist children to die like men for a cause not their own. Islamist groups pitch Sharia Law as a solution for Africa's ailments while creating a laundry list of new ones. In Nigeria the latest bastards to join the fight got their start back in 2002.

Boko Haram, which roughly translates to "Western education is forbidden", dragged out 14th century ideals and perverted ideals of what the Qur'an teaches to create a movement in northwest Nigeria. The overly legalistic approach to Islam that would define Boko Haram in Nigeria originated with the Islamic cleric Mohammad Yusuf. Through his attempts in the 1990's the movement in Nigeria was able to gain traction by 2002. It was packaged and preached to young Muslims as a way of fighting back against the West and the Christian dominated south in Nigeria. In it's packaging any verse in the Qur'an that preached tolerance appeared to be omitted while others were perverted to justify "jihad".

Of course no good "jihad" movement gains traction by first telling it's new followers to pick up a gun and prepare for paradise. Yusuf started out by telling his followers to mock and isolate Muslims in northern Nigeria if they dared to participate in anything Yusuf saw as helping the government. This was highlighted in Yusuf's preaching that Nigeria was illegitimately run since it refused to follow strict Islamic laws (ultimately Sharia). In doing so, Yusuf would transition his message of withdrawing from Nigerian society and governmental programs to a message of Islam's supposed dominance to the secular state.

Sowing the seed of dissent, Yusuf hid behind religion as his message grew more openly sinister. "Withdraw" soon became "resist". And "resistance" soon became "violent resistance".  By the time Boko Haram had reached a reasonable following Yusuf was already preaching to his faithful a message of rebellion and terrorism. In 2009 those seeds sprang forth as Boko Haram's message came to fruition.

Killing In The Name Of...

In July of 2009 the Boko Haram followers pushed the envelop one step too far for Nigeria's police. What seemed like a petty offense (refusing to wear helmets on motorbikes) was the militants' way of antagonizing the state. It was far from the first stage of antagonism deployed by Yusuf's little anarchists. But it was the last stage before the peace broke down and open rebellion began.

When police began cracking down on Boko Haram militants the terror group let loose with all guns blazing. Like children throwing a fit, the foot soldiers of the Boko Haram movement unleashed hell in an attempt to gain attention. In this terror campaign over 800 Nigerian citizens would lose their lives to grotesquely senseless violence.

The military of Nigeria was called in so as to restore law and order. What had been a simple crime was now all out war. And as with all incidents where a corrupt government is given reason to flex it's muscles; the situation rapidly deteriorated. On one side the civilians trapped in the middle had militant thugs and on the other a military hellbent on showing who was in charge. Nobody would come out the winner here.

In the end Mohammad Yusuf would be executed publicly as the state attempted to show all of Nigeria who was in control of northwestern Nigeria. It was an act of capital punishment that would do anything but solve the problem. With one man's blood, Nigeria's government shattered any hopes of peace and radicalized a generation of Islamist. This had given a movement it's martyr.

Bastardized, Boko Haram was ready to exact it's pound of flesh. Nothing was sacred to the scorned movement. Suicide attacks began almost as soon as Yusuf was dispatched. Over the next five years this hellish movement would leave thousands of Nigerians dead as Boko Haram pursued Yusuf's dream of an Islamic state in Nigeria.

Pol Pot Style Genocide

The tactics deployed by Boko Haram became increasingly more perverse and barbaric as the members within the movement challenged each other for control. Students from colleges and grade schools became prime targets for the hedonistic leadership of Boko Haram. In September of 2013 terrorists from the movement attacked and killed 65 students at the agricultural college in Yobe state, Nigeria. These sorts of targeted massacres have also been accompanied by suicide attacks and bombings of schools across northern Nigeria.

This strategy of attacking schools follows the underlying ideal within the movement that "Western education is forbidden". In the beginning the movement would had called for it's members to simply withdraw and be completely unassociated with Nigeria's state schools. It would had encouraged it's followers to seek out Islamic schooling in place of secular education. This would had been a peaceful, if uneasy, way of pursuing a future in which northern Nigeria's youth were completely uneducated (in the modern sense). Yet today it is clear that this message has been completely perverted into one of violent destruction of all "Western" educational systems.

Today Boko Haram seeks to kill those who participate in Nigeria's state run school system. Muslims who dare to seek an education within the system are placed at a higher risk of being murdered due to Boko Haram's hardline teachings. It's devotion to a "pure Islamic" system of governance and education means that all Muslims and non-Muslims are meant to subject themselves to the Mosque rather than the state. There is no room for tolerance or freedom of choice.

Within this framework of what a Boko Haram style Nigeria would look like there is little left to the imagination as to why just this past week 43 students were gunned down. It is easy to see why Boko Haram burns schools and bombs others. It is built into the teachings of the Boko Haram movement that children who are educated by the state system are somehow polluted and a threat to the Islamic system of religious dominance. And thus why the children of Nigeria, all those who are enrolled in education, must pay in blood for Boko Haram's version of Nigeria to become a reality.

One Devil Verses The Other

Much of what Yusuf started when he created this movement was built out of capitalizing on social grievances many Muslims in Nigeria's north have felt for countless years. Yusuf simply had to pander to the existing dissidents while feeding others with a sense of having been wronged by the state. Mixing in extremist rhetoric allowed Yusuf to deepen the divide that was already growing within Nigerian society. 

The efforts made by Boko Haram to feed the anger within Nigeria's Muslim community were only further highlighted by Nigeria's government itself. Corruption within the court systems and military put increasing pressure upon all of Nigeria's population. But it was felt disproportionately in Nigeria's northern states as the government increasingly made it's Muslim population feel disenfranchised and marginalized by the state itself. 

All Boko Haram had to do was come along and give a name to the anger that was festering beneath the surface. Yusuf gave a cause behind which that anger could be harnessed. And in doing so, Yusuf created a beast that Nigeria has to this day been unable to tame. 

Crimes against humanity have become characteristic of the fight between Boko Haram and the government of Nigeria. Both parties have actively sought to demonize the other while persistently bleeding the innocent population of their security, their future, and in far too many cases... their lives. 

Nigeria's Joint Task Force (JTF) of military and police have over the years been seen as thugs themselves. The police in Nigeria have been accused of killing at will, often shooting first and asking questions later. Though many who remain sympathetic to the fight against terrorism globally see this as combating a violent jihadi organization, the tactics often galvanize support for Boko Haram rather than end the group's ability to fight. Meanwhile the civilians the police are meant to protect pay for the polices' brutality in loss of property and at times with blood. 

Yet Nigeria's government, as corrupt as it is, has no option but to find some method with which to end Boko Haram's barbarism. No modern state can be expected to tolerate having truck drivers beheaded with chainsaws on it's highways. The constant flow of blood and sustained anarchy must be ended if Nigeria expects to move forward in any manner of speaking. 

In the meantime the government of Nigeria faces a war with it's own citizenry. From this point it appears to be a war of scorched earth that pits one religion against the other. It appears to be a war that divides a nation along the lines of politics and faith. A war where one party wishes to drag a country back to the 14th century while the other wishes to exploit it's populace and push for a secular state. 

There doesn't seem to be a winner in Nigeria no matter how this battle ends. All there appears to be is a country split by religious fervor and perverse ideology. Leaving it's average citizen to scrape out a living amongst the bloodshed, corruption, and oppression of politics and faith alike. 

Just One Point Along The Front Line

This installment in this series is just the start of Alder's Ledge's look at the long battle front that stretches across Africa. As we hinted at in the start of this series, we believe this battle for the soul of Africa often is characterized as the fight between Islam and Christianity for religious dominance in regions of Africa. And in looking at this struggle between the two faiths we will look at places like Nigeria, Sudan, Uganda, and Niger. All the while we will be attempting to remain fair in our depictions of the problems that arise from this issue. At no point are we taking sides or attacking either faith. We are simply attempting to bring attention to an issue that many overlook.

Source Documents
(not all listed)

PBS News Hour

Aljazeera America

The Telegraph

Human Rights Watch