Boko Haram

The Depth of Sickness

Women and children from the minority Yazidi sect, fleeing the violence in the Iraqi town of Sinjar, near the Iraqi-Syrian border crossing in Fishkhabour, Dohuk province, August 14, 2014. (Photo: Reuters/Youssef Boudlal)

That we do not dispute this or, really, any other aspect of David Frankfurter’s analysis only adds to our horror:

The social context may be just as important for understanding this new policy of sexual enslavement. One thing learned from the study of the small religious movements that have sprung up in the West over the past few centuries is the systematic restructuring of sexual relations that leaders have often demanded at an early point in the movement. This may involve group celibacy or polygamy, the exclusive sexual rights of the leader, or free sexual relations. It can often mean dissolution of prior marriages.

From the Jewish Frankists to the Mormons, the Shakers, the Branch Davidians and others, there is a pattern of inverting or eliminating prior sexual and emotional bonds to establish a new order, administered through the leader and his acolytes at the most intimate level.

This could easily apply to Islamic State’s sexual enslavement policies. The group is declaring its own institutional domination over both the bodies of women it has captured and the sexual gratification of its recruits — as an explicit feature of its new religious utopia.

This is why.

The thing is that this isn’t just Daa’ish or Boko Haram; they are just particularly ugly, heavily-armed manifestations of a terrifying proposition―deliberate conditioning of females for sexual abuse. I wonder if they would put down their rifles in exchange for a reality television show: 3,000 Slaves and Counting.

Unfortunately, that’s not simply a crass joke.

Neither is the common bond between Western purity cult and Daa’ish; assertions of moral and, in some aspects literal, ownership of females is not some random phenomenon that happened within the Daa’ish experience, but, rather, a driving purpose of patriarchal societies. In the end, it is very possibly the reason why.

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Image note: Women and children from the minority Yazidi sect, fleeing the violence in the Iraqi town of Sinjar, near the Iraqi-Syrian border crossing in Fishkhabour, Dohuk province, August 14, 2014. (Photo: Reuters/Youssef Boudlal)

Frankfurter, David. “The true motives behind Islamic State’s use of sexual slavery”. Reuters. 8 September 2015.

Not Actually a Punch Line

Detail of cartoon by Jen Sorensen, via Daily Kos Comics, 26 May 2015.Even though it would make for a crass joke, there are days when we find ourselves wishing it was a punch line. The thing is that as setups go, Jen Sorensen’s explanation only goes downhill from there. And no, that’s not a complaint or disdainful critique of the cartoon; it’s a very good cartoon worth the click to read. Truth is stranger than fiction. You can’t make this sort of joke up. And, besides, you know. Americans. Conservatives. Family values. It’s not actually funny. She is describing a disaster; no matter how we tell it, the story only gets worse as it goes along.

This is a matter of priorities. We are the United States of America, and we damn well know what is important to us.

And this is how we show it.

(sigh)

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Sorensen, Jen. “Pro-life, Boko Haram style”. Daily Kos Comics. 26 May 2015.

A Bushwhacking

Detail: Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush speaks at the Economic Club of Detroit meeting in Detroit Wednesday, Feb. 4, 2015. The Detroit event is the first in a series of stops that Bush's team is calling his "Right to Rise" tour. That's also the name of the political action committee he formed in December 2014 to allow him to explore a presidential run. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

“It’s almost enough to make you feel sorry for Jeb. All he did was participate in a time-honored tradition among political elites – giving each other awards as a celebration of shared power and influence. It probably didn’t even occur to him that by putting a medal around Hillary Clinton’s neck he was implicating himself in the most significant and far-reaching political scandal of our age.”

Simon Maloy

One might be tempted to wonder what chance Jeb Bush has if the hard right not only isn’t behind him but, actually, stands in specific opposition. And, certes, we have the example of Mitt Romney to consider. But then arises the question of just how far a hardline conservative candidate can make it in the general election; while a Clinton-Bush showdown is often spoken of as a tiresome prospect, who here really thinks enough people in enough states will be able to rationalize, even to themselves, the idea of being an “independent” or “centrist”, and give their vote to a Rubio or Paul? True, most people who call themselves “independent” are actually Republicans afraid to admit their real party identification, but the way in which they push back against that argument is to reject the hardliners.

As Simon Maloy explains:

The explanation ForAmerica offers for why this video disqualifies Jeb is that Hillary will use it to defang any attacks he might direct at her record as secretary of state. “Jeb has absolutely no credibility to criticize her because he has already anointed her as a great public servant.” Eh, perhaps? If you go and watch Hillary’s full remarks, she celebrates Jeb and the whole Bush family for sharing her love of America and the wisdom of the Founding Fathers. Treating praise for the enemy as an unforgiveable political sin is problematic since part of being a politician is showing magnanimity by mechanically lauding your opponents’ patriotism and shared love of public service.

But this is Benghazi we’re talking about, and there’s nothing more important in the minds of conservative activists when it comes to Hillary Clinton and 2016. Jeb hasn’t really said a whole lot about Benghazi (at least not compared to some of his 2016 rivals) but when he has remarked on it, he’s said what conservatives want to hear – that it showed weakness, emboldened enemies, etc. If there’s danger for Jeb, it’s that he’ll come off as a squish compared to other would-be candidates like Ted Cruz or Rand Paul, who declares every few months or so that Benghazi disqualifies Hillary from ever holding public office again.

The reality television market sector has nothing to compare to the 2012 GOP presidential primary, and the upcoming electoral season―the Ames Straw Poll is all of six months away―would appear to be promisimg an even bigger spectacle. GOP 2016 is going to be a show of shows, and Americans who plan to travel abroad between then and the presidential election should probably spend some time rehearsing their sheepish shrugs and noncommittal answers for when our international neighbors ask them just what the hell is going on in the U.S.

Such as it is, one fun exercise in smacking our heads against desks will come in trying to comprehend how the Republican clown car steers its way back toward the political center; leading prognostications suggest the press will help by moving the center in relation to wherever the GOP troupe crashes.

(more…)

Really Happening

Detail of image by Pius Utomi Ekpei

Three depressing paragraphs from Zack Beauchamp of Vox:

One of Boko Haram’s central grievances with the “fake Muslims” who currently run their country is Nigeria’s secular education system. The name Boko Haram, translated from Hausa, is often translated as “Western education is forbidden.” But more precisely, it means “Western culture is Islamically forbidden,” underscoring that Boko Haram’s campaign against schooling is only part of its broader crusade against non-Islamic influences on Nigerian society.

So it makes sense that they’d target a girl’s school. Still, why kidnap the girls?

“Their goal is almost certainly to ransom [the girls],” Daveed Gartenstein-Ross, a senior fellow at the Foundation of the Defense of Democracies who follows Boko Haram, told me. “Otherwise, they have chosen a target that will make everybody hate them. Killing [100] schoolgirls would be a huge PR hit even for some of the rougher jihadist groups.”

Apparently, the group is known for this sort of stunt. And, yes, this really is happening.

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Beauchamp, Zack. “A Nigerian terrorist group just kidnapped 100 girls to keep them from going to school”. Vox. April 15, 2014.

Image credit: Detail of image by Pius Utomi Ekpei (AFP/Getty).