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The War Nerd March 3, 2003
 
Congo: The War without Battles
By Gary Brecher Browse author Email
 
 

Writing up the Congo is like dying: you have to deal with it sooner or later, but you're not looking forward to it.

I've tried to get out of talking about Congo every way I could, but the time has come. It's just too big and bloody a mess for an honest war-fan to ignore. Nobody knows exactly how many people have been slaughtered in Congo over the past few years, but the BBC estimates 2.5 million. That's a lot of zeroes, a lot of bodies -- especially for a war without battles. These people didn't die in the trenches. They died African-style: chopped to death with machetes, mowed down by squads of stoned twelve-year-olds, or just driven into the bush to die of hunger or malaria.

UPC troops

UPC troops

There's this term for what's going on in the Congo: "Primitive Warfare." It doesn't mean simple weapons or illiterate soldiers. It means the way people fought before there were any nation states. It's not pretty. It means avoiding combat, slinking around looking for unguarded villages, and then going in and killing everybody in the place, except a few you think you can sell at the nearest slave market.

"Ethnic cleansing" is just a soft word for primitive warfare. It's always been the way people fight. I once took a first-year course in "World Literature" at SCS -- it was required -- and I pissed off the professor good when he had us read a piece of the Iliad. It was about Achilles fighting with Agamemnon about a slave girl, and I just said, "Hey, that's just the way they fight in Africa right now!" He made me pay for that, the PC bastard. Naturally he was white, and naturally he made a big speech that had "racism" in it about a hundred times -- you know, looking around at all the "people of color" in the room to make sure nobody was going to turn him in.

But I wasn't being racist at all, he was. And I still say if people thought about Congo when they were reading "Classics" they'd understand it better. Achilles raids a village, grabs the best-looking girl, moves on to ambush another village. In the meantime one of Achilles's friends, some other ganja-smoking kid with an AK, decides he wants the girl instead. They settle it out in the bush somewhere. Boom: that's the Iliad. But damn it, the one thing people don't want to do is connect the Classics with war, Congo style-"primitive warfare."

First thing: borders. In primitive warfare there are no borders. You know, these spoiled "Anarchy" kids who like to draw a big "A" in a circle, they talk about "no borders" like it's a good thing. You think so? Go to Africa. Congo isn't really a country at all. It's lines on a map. The lines were drawn up by European colonizers at Berlin in 1884-5. Most of the people at the table, the men chopping up Africa, had never even been there. They didn't know or care about tribal boundaries, they were just playing politics. The Congo borders got defined by where the colonies around it ended. It wasn't worth much back then, so they let King Leopold of Belgium take it. I mean, for himself. Private property. The whole frickin' country.

A few years after they gave Leopold the country, rubber got big. Suddenly Leopold's jungle was worth something, and he pushed his luck as far as he could -- drafted every thug he could get in Europe or Africa to go in there and break heads to make sure the rubber quota was filled. Leopold was what you call a bottom-line guy. His goons had this habit of chopping off hands when people were slow getting their rubber. Maybe that sounds familiar? You may remember a lunatic named Foday Sankoh, up in Sierra Leone, who told his "soldiers" to chop off hands and feet to keep villagers in line. Maybe you think that's just the Africans being primitive, but it was the cute li'l Belgians who showed'em how.

Look at Central Africa with the borders erased. Hundreds of tribes, overlapping districts like Bosnia. Worse still, some of the tribes have millions of people and others amount to some schmo and his cousin and their dog. Not exactly nation-building material, even if the fucking Europeans had had the decency to leave them alone. The tribe that gave Congo its name, the baKongo, don't even live in Congo -- most of them are down south in Angola, where they were one side of the big triangular US/Soviet proxy war they had in the 70s. There are at least 280 tribes in the Congo, and the dense rain forest means most are pretty small, isolated groups.


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Gary Brecher
Browse author
Email Gary at war_nerd@exile.ru, but, more importantly, buy his book.
 
 
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