— The Erimtan Angle —

At the beginning of this month, I posted an entry on Mali and the recent misdeeds of the Islamist group Ansar Dine.[1]  Now the insightful historian and journalist Stephen Kinzer has written an op-ed that connects the dots between the Assisted Rebellion in Libya and the current Islamist reign of terror in northern Mali: “This catastrophe did not “just happen.” It is the direct result of an episode that may at first seem unrelated: the US-led intervention in Libya last year. Rarely in recent times has there been a more vivid example of how such interventions can produce devastating unexpected results. Under the regime of Moammar Khadafy, who was killed during the Libyan war, a portion of the army was made up of Tuaregs. They are a nomadic people whose traditional homeland is centered in northern Mali. After Khadafy was deposed, they went home — armed with potent weaponry they brought from Libya. Seeking to press their case for a homeland in Mali, they quickly overran the lightly armed Malian army. Into this upheaval stepped another group, shaped not by ethnicity but by devotion to an extreme form of Islam. It has attracted Al Qaeda militants from many countries, including Nigeria, Pakistan, Somalia, and Algeria. They seek to create a pure Muslim state — and are destroying mosques and Islamic monuments that they believe represent the wrong kind of Islam”.[2]

It think that it is very telling that Kinzer actually talks about “Al Qaeda militants from many countries” to describe the people that make up Ansar Dine, the Islamist group that has hijacked the Tuareg incursion against the Mali central government in Bamoko. In other words, even serious writers have no qualms about appropriating U.S.foreign policy talking points, insinuating that the West is really at war with extremist Islam. Kinzer continues in this vein, indicating that this “is an emerging crisis that could engage the world for years. A vast region has fallen out of the control of central government and into the hands of violent radicals. They may cause far more death and suffering than Khadafy ever did. Four officials in Washingtonpressed hard for intervention in Libyalast year and managed to persuade President Obama that it was necessary to avoid a humanitarian disaster. When the four of them — Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Ambassador to the United Nation Susan Rice, and two staff members at the National Security Council, Samantha Power and Gayle Smith — decided to lobby for this intervention, did they consider the possible consequences?”.[3]  The population of northern Mali seems destined to go through a rough period in the foreseeable future. Recently, the African Union (AU) has called upon Ansar Dine to renege their ties with the “catch-all ghost entity” that seems to secure media coverage and global notoriety. The news agency Reuters reports that ‘Malian Islamist rebel group Ansar Dine can be part of a negotiated political solution to reunite the divided West African country if it breaks with al Qaeda and its allies, a senior African Union official said on Monday [, 16 July]’.[4]

In Addis Ababa, AU Peace and Security Commissioner Ramtane Lamamra declared that “We have not yet exhausted all the possibilities to reach a peaceful solution to this situation . . . We do encourage Ansar Dine to distance itself from al Qaeda and come to the table as a Malian national group”.[5]  Writing before this latest AU initiative, that seems doomed to fail, Kinzer rhetorically muses: “By building a jihadist army in Afghanistan, the United States helped create a transnational terrorist force that has plunged an entire region into war. The invasion and occupation of Iraq set off a shattering civil conflict. Now Mali can be added to the list of countries that have been pushed into instability by American-led military action”.[6]  Kinzer seems to have forgotten the countries ofYemen andSyria as examples of areas that have been destabilised as a result of American interventionism and fear-mongering.

On a purely technical note, one cannot but wonder who or what constitutes the link with “al Qaeda” that Ansar Dine is now supposed to renounce. The world has been reshaped into another bi-polar opposition in the aftermath of the Cold War. On the one hand, there is the USAand its allies and facing them is the new, unseen enemy known only as the “catch-all ghost entity” “al Qaeda”. The fact that U.S.military interventionism leads to numerous unintended consequences, instability and bloodshed seems incontrovertible. However, inserting the name “al Qaeda” into the equation seems nothing more than a narrative device employed to compose a readily digestible plot that can be sold by the world’s media outlets and other talking heads. The founder and leader of Ansar Dine, Iyad Ag Ghaly is a Malian Tuareg who has been fighting the good fight against the central government in Bamoko since the 1990s. As an Islamist fighter, he has “rumoured ties to Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb”, as expressed on his dedicated Wiki page.[7]  The only references cited in connection with this rumour are some recent AFP articles dealing with the current events inMali. In other words, who or what is Ansar Dine’s connection with this perfidious enemy of the West???  What is Al Qaeda???  The name of a “catch-all ghost entity” that has no counterpart in the real world??


[1] “What is happening in Mali and where is Timbuktu???” A Pseudo-Ottoman Blog (July 2012). https://sitanbul.wordpress.com/2012/07/01/what-is-happening-in-mali-and-where-is-timbuktu/.

[2] Stephen Kinzer, “US inadvertently creates a terrorist haven in Mali” The Boston Globe (15 July 2012). http://articles.boston.com/2012-07-15/opinion/32661023_1_tuaregs-malian-army-timbuktu.

[3] Stephen Kinzer, “US inadvertently creates a terrorist haven inMali”.

[4] “AU urges Mali Ansar Dine rebels to break with Qaeda” Reuters (16 July 2012). http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2012-07-16/news/sns-rt-us-au-mali-ansardinebre86f11u-20120716_1_mnla-tuaregs-iyad-ag-ghali.

[5] “AU urges Mali Ansar Dine rebels to break with Qaeda”.

[6] Stephen Kinzer, “US inadvertently creates a terrorist haven inMali”.

[7] “Iyad Ag Ghaly” Wikipedia. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iyad_Ag_Ghaly.

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