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The War Nerd / April 20, 2011

Stories about the riots in Northern Nigeria are starting to come in, full of amazing details and ridiculous lies. The lies are the first thing you notice.

It’s like a rule of reporting for a mainstream news service that you should avoid depressing facts at any cost. So, halfway through a story of bodies thrown into wells and mobs hunting for southerners, comes this little gem:

“Authorities have however argued that the rioting was not based on religion or ethnicity but was instigated by those unhappy with the victory of incumbent Goodluck Jonathan, a southern Christian.”

In other words, the rioting is by Northern Hausa Muslims angry at the fact that a Southern Christian won, but it’s not “based on religion or ethnicity.” That settles that. Maybe it was one of those cat-fancier vs. dog-lover riots you get in Beverly Hills on a Saturday night. Give me Shar Pei or give me death!

The lies are so obvious they’re embarrassing. And that’s not the worst thing about them. The trouble with all this non-stop lying about ethnic/religious riots is that we put tons of energy into not noticing the details, not seeing what’s really going on. And if you ask me, that just feeds the big fear. When you can’t talk honestly about what’s happening, people get the idea there IS no sense behind the violence, and there you are, right back at African-stereotype central, believing these people just go off now and then for no reason. That’s why, if you ask me, the lefty self-censoring do-gooders and the rightwing Muslim baiters work hand in hand, whether they know it or not. And sometimes they work so damn well together you can’t help thinking they’re in it together and split the royalty checks.

How about if we look at a riot like this as contemporary warfare, exactly the kind of contemporary warfare you should expect when first-world military hardware is just too expensive and dangerous to use. When that happens warfare drops down a whole bunch of notches in tech level, back to a kind of medieval warfare. And these wars are carried out for obvious, sensible reasons that you could even call “democratic.”

When you’re talking about an election in Nigeria, you’re talking about something more like one of those plebiscites from the 1930s than what we imagine as an election. Those votes were like, “Who are we going to be, Austrians or Germans?” These votes are much more like those 30s votes than they are like an off-year congressional race. They amount to a head count to decide which group IS Nigeria, the Christian Southeast or the Muslim North.

Nigeria ethnic map: Muslim North, Christian SE, Mixed Yoruba SW

There’s no individual choosing—Hell, there’s not that much in any election, people vote by ethnic group even here—but in Nigeria, it’s strictly dueling lines on a graph, us and them.

And if you lose the head count, your whole tribe has been dissed. You’ve got a few options: You can believe it was rigged. Which it may have been, I don’t know. And even if it wasn’t, you’re better off believing it was than accepting that your people aren’t THE people. And you can hit the streets to let the other bunch know you’re not going to take it, to let them know that, outnumbered or not, your people want it more—to the death, like.

If you read these stories from Nigeria carefully you can see that numbers are very important—so important that “authorities” won’t even report them:

“Authorities say many were killed the violence, which saw corpses burnt beyond recognition and bodies reportedly thrown into wells, but have refused to give a toll, saying it could spark reprisals and would be inaccurate.”

Amazing! They’re admitting outright that if they say how many Christians died up in the Muslim city of Kano, the Christians of the South-East will read the figures and try to top them. You couldn’t ask for a better proof that this violence is a second head-count, after the election head-count. Only in this case some of the heads are detached.

This had me thinking of something: When the Hausa of the North say the election was rigged, maybe they mean something a little more complicated than stuffing ballot boxes. The Hausa were accustomed to settling things by battle, like most people in the world did until this one-man-one-vote model got forced on everyone. Maybe “rigged” is warrior-tribe code for “I don’t accept that one little skulking clerk in Lagos gets the same weight as a man who’s willing to take up the machete.”

Making their views known

I’ve heard that Sikhs in India feel the same way: “My one vote counts no more than that of each skulking Bengali coward that I could lift with one hand, and who would be afraid to insult a stray dog?”

You’ll notice it’s always warrior or ex-warrior ethnic groups rioting against the tyranny of business-oriented, merchant groups.

Maybe this whole third-world problem with voting isn’t just because they’re primitive and they don’t get it; maybe they get it way too well and don’t buy it.

That shouldn’t be too hard for an American to understand. That’s what the South said in 1860. They knew they were outnumbered in the vote, and would be outnumbered on the battlefield; that’s why they went around writing and yelling that one Southron was worth a dozen Yankees. Because that’s a different kind of arithmetic, a different kind of way of counting your support.

And even if it’s not nice, I’m not sure it’s any worse than what I grew up with in California. Where I come from nobody mattered except real-estate developers. They owned politics; everybody knew that. It wasn’t one man one vote, it was one million one vote. And that was disgusting, because these guys were always puffy little old men, dumb and greedy and ugly. If I had to choose a kind of unfair, would I pick that kind of unfair over, “May the best warriors win?” I really don’t know.

Hey Nerdoids and Nerdettes! Note Gary Brecher’s functioning email: gary dot brecher at gmail dot com

Would you like to know more? Gary Brecher is the author of the War Nerd. Send your comments to gary dot brecher at gmail dot com. Read Gary Brecher’s first ever War Nerd column by clicking here.

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Add your own

  • 1. Evilcor  |  April 20th, 2011 at 9:00 am


  • 2. Keith  |  April 20th, 2011 at 11:25 am

    Great read Brecher!

    Check this out: just released leaked footage of China’s new stealth fighter.

    You being a hardware guy and all, I’d love to see a War Nerd blog post on any enlighted musings these clips stir up.

  • 3. Keith  |  April 20th, 2011 at 11:30 am

    correction – I have no idea why I decided to drop the second “en” in enlightened.

    Must be like that thing where you read two consecutive “the”s as one.

  • 4. The Dude  |  April 20th, 2011 at 11:33 am

    Does everybody see?
    This is what democracy REALLY looks like.

  • 5. Keith  |  April 20th, 2011 at 11:48 am

    Hory Shiit!

    While you are at it, take a quick look at this General Atomics railgun prototype test.

    It might be useless, but I think I just came in my pants.

  • 6. C. of V.  |  April 20th, 2011 at 11:55 am

    What must be understood that democracy and voting only make sense in small and homogenous society. The exampe is ancient Athens, and even there they woted on who should leave the fuck out of the city, not on who should rule.
    In any bigger society and territory, only hierarchical rule apply, like ancient Persia. That is why NWO and their one world government “democracy” will be the worst tyranny ever: because it only works that way.
    In a society not homogenous, but “Multicultural” ie. peoples of different races, religion, ethnicity live together, democracy and voting simply does not make sense. Why would your group of people allow the other different groups’ representatives mouth into your peoples business just because of lots of peoples who has nothing to do with your folks voted on them? It is a laugh and a riot. Take riot literally…

  • 7. gc  |  April 20th, 2011 at 12:45 pm

    One criticism: I think you’re underestimating the extent to which Americans also vote on tribal lines. Elections here have basically been about who IS America – the northeast and the west coast, or the south – since 1968, and especially since 2000.

    And neither side reacts well to being humiliated at the polls. But since we’re relatively rich people, and have a relatively low young-person-to-old-person ratio, we express our dissatisfaction in less violent ways. When the southerners lose, they buy guns but don’t use them; when the coastal people lose, they circulate “Fuck the south” on the internet.

  • 8. GuidedBombUnit  |  April 20th, 2011 at 1:20 pm

    Gary, if I were you, dude, I’d perform the following:

    Acquire a nice piece of wood, say 24″ x 8″ x 1″. Sand down corners, make a nice beveled edge. Use a router to write a word in the wood. Sand it some more, apply stain. Hang it on the front of your abode.

    What word, you say? Ah, but “Brechertesgaden”, of course.

  • 9. allen  |  April 20th, 2011 at 1:23 pm

    The geographical divide in the U.S. in politics is real, but it is also somewhat exaggerated. The most conservative state is Utah, and even there 30% of the people vote Democratic.

    I think in most other Southern states it is in the 40 percents, when it is a reasonably close election and not a McGovern blowout.

  • 10. Wyse Guy  |  April 20th, 2011 at 1:30 pm

    have a relatively low young-person-to-old-person ratio

    Haha! True, true.

    we express our dissatisfaction in less violent ways. When the southerners lose, they buy guns but don’t use them; when the coastal people lose, they circulate “Fuck the south” on the internet.

    HAHA That’s so true and hilarious.

  • 11. Wyse Guy  |  April 20th, 2011 at 1:34 pm

    Re; Keith (#5) I just wanted to say about the railgun, this is a very, very nice artillery piece and (just to annoy the Exile) I will add, I actually knew what a damn railgun was when they advertised it in the middle of Transformers II. :-) Stupid movie, a time pass, but wow, it was strange to see the Pentagon launch this weapon into the hivemind using such a disgusting (but retrospectively obvious) platform like Transformers II.

  • 12. NIB  |  April 20th, 2011 at 1:53 pm

    “That’s why, if you ask me, the lefty self-censoring do-gooders and the rightwing Muslim baiters work hand in hand, whether they know it or not. And sometimes they work so damn well together you can’t help thinking they’re in it together and split the royalty checks.”
    If this were any more on the button the weight of the insight would cause it to collapse in on itself into a singularity of truth…. (Its not easy being a militant pacifist conservative liberal reactionary. – But I try).

  • 13. tam  |  April 20th, 2011 at 2:17 pm

    Looks as though even some democracies are having some doubts about this one man-one vote way of doing things

  • 14. frank black  |  April 20th, 2011 at 2:19 pm


    So that would be “Berchtesgaden” then.
    And what’s your point? How is WN a nazi?

  • 15. Dammerung  |  April 20th, 2011 at 4:47 pm

    You get into the gritty of the demographic causes of warfare like nobody else. Gary, will you be Secretary of Defense?

  • 16. Charles  |  April 20th, 2011 at 6:41 pm

    An excellent article Brecher and once again exposing the hypocrisy of left/liberal thought.

    And the inevitable result is that the tribalism in Nigeria starts off a baby breeding war, if it hasn’t already for decades, like in northern ireland, kosovo, israel/palestine, -Demography is destiny. and good piece about the geology too, in political/socio/economic discourse we tend to ignore such factors like the natural environment- a consequence of the division between arts and sciences perhaps.

    And then African countries get famines becuase they don’t have enough resources to feed themselves– or at the very least they will be reduced to extreme poverty surviving on a UN provided bowl of rice a day (assuming we can maintain present levels of agriculture output for a growing population, which is unlikely).

    Someone will be wheeled out on the cameras to say it’s all the West’s fault*. And of course, there will be a refugee situation in the west which we cannot absorb, except maybe the highly educated professionals (of which their are quite a few Nigerians).

    But as a country reduces itself to beggary then gradually it won’t be able to fund medical schools, engineering schools etc, at least not in proportion to it’s ever increasing population.

    Or it’ll be Rwanda all over again, all out genocide caused by tensions over the amount of land. I’m thinking of something like the Jared Diamond book, Collapse, subheaded “How some societies choose to collapse or survive”– emphasise the ‘choose’- because that is what it is, Nigerians are signing their own death certificate and we can’t do anything about it.

  • 17. Charles  |  April 20th, 2011 at 6:43 pm

    *forgot to add, many of the people in Britain who push the ‘collective guilt’ line are from the upper and upper middle classes, with ancestors involved in the colonial service, and they have inherited wealth passed down from that period.

  • 18. Soj  |  April 20th, 2011 at 8:02 pm

    Last I heard, Nigeria couldn’t even conduct a national census for exactly the same reason – everybody thought their group should’ve been bigger.

  • 19. Indophile  |  April 20th, 2011 at 8:20 pm

    Hey Gary.Could you do an article on the Rajputs? These guys were even more tougher than the Sikhs.

  • 20. Down and Out of Sài Gòn  |  April 20th, 2011 at 9:51 pm

    What must be understood that democracy and voting only make sense in small and homogenous society. The exampe is ancient Athens, and even there they woted on who should leave the fuck out of the city, not on who should rule.

    I think you’ve utterly missed the point of what Gary is saying. The reason that Nigeria is less stable that heterogenous Canada (or super-heterogenous India) is that “one man, one machete” is still a common vibe over Nigeria way.

  • 21. postman  |  April 20th, 2011 at 10:15 pm

    tam (13)

    That Guardian article is a bit deceptive.
    See, in Hungary there is a “liberal democracy”, which Hungarians perceive as a certain minority rule, and they had enough of it. Now at long last, a patriotic Government is in place from the majority.
    They wanted to give extra votes for parents who hold the harder responsibility of raising children, the future of the nation, compared to singles and others.
    However, this is very controversial, and the people were outraged. Not because of the concept itself: the concept is good. They were outraged because of the recent demographic trend, another beloved ethnic minority, the Gypsies would have benefited and would have gained extra political power. Giving extra voting rights to the Gypsy welfare mothers and Gypsy criminals terrorising the countryside? Never! The Government was too chickenshit to say, the extra voting rights are given only to ethnic Hungarians raising children, the Gypsies are excluded. Because of this, even the good intentions of the Government was questionned.
    But I bet this was too non-PC for Guardian to mention…

  • 22. Esn  |  April 20th, 2011 at 10:46 pm

    The difference between us and them is that here things get settled by money, and there things get settled by violence.

    More or less.

    The EASIEST way to have more influence than your one vote here is to get wealthy or popular. Perhaps in some of these African countries, it’s easier to get want you want through violence than it is to get yourself wealthy, because of poor social mobility in those countries.

  • 23. Jesse the Scout  |  April 20th, 2011 at 11:24 pm

    Democracy’s like a finger in the “every one killing each other” dyke. It never holds forever because its power base is little different than every other form of despotism, generally bigger groups fucking over smaller ones. Problem is we still haven’t figured out any permanent solution to the problem, so a stop gap is still better than nothing.

    Seems to me societies tend to do best when people with overall positive intent are handed a great deal of power, such as the Marcus Aurelius nerdy types. But figuring out a system that could actually elevate an honest few without just being gamed by the dime a dozen dictators or succumbing to corruption is a hazy proposition at best. It just seems like there’s no realistic alternative to mob rule in one form or another.

  • 24. BahamaPapa  |  April 21st, 2011 at 1:14 am

    @#9: “The geographical divide in the U.S. in politics is real, but it is also somewhat exaggerated. ”

    Yeah, but there is something sort of like the “Gentlemen’s Agreement” in Nigeria where the parties agree to shift Northern and Southern canditates from time to time. (US) Southerners tend to vote Republican, but they also tend to vote for Southerners. When the Democrats think they have a chance of winning some Southern states, they’ll usually try to run a Southern candidate. The Republicans will also look to run a Southerner (even a fake one like Bush) when they think the Democrats might challenge the Southern vote.
    @16: “And the inevitable result is that the tribalism in Nigeria starts off a baby breeding war, if it hasn’t already for decades, like in northern ireland, kosovo, israel/palestine, -Demography is destiny.”

    Demography may be destiny, but it does not inevitably lead to breeding contests. One way that group A may lord it over group B is by becoming the demographic majority (see Anglo America). Another way is by sleeping with group B until you’ve created a large enough group of half-breeds and quarter-breeds that the lines between the groups become blurred (but don’t disappear altogether: see most of Spanish America). Another still is to bring some wild-card group C, D or E into the picture. Divide and rule and all that. Nigeria has certainly got a few wild cards in its mix. That’s why it’s hard to call an election there based on tribal head count. It doesn’t really work like that: not all the time, anyway.

  • 25. Trevor  |  April 21st, 2011 at 6:54 am

    Could Africa be headed for it’s own great big war like 1930s Europe? That would be a hell of a sight — especially with all the First World countries trying to steer it in their preffered direction. So maybe more Thirty Years War than WWII…

    Also, Gary’s supposed to be an Okie right? Dolan’s the one from Pleasant Hell (great book by the way).

  • 26. retho  |  April 21st, 2011 at 9:17 am

    Last I heard, USa couldn’t even conduct a national census for no reason.

  • 27. GuidedBombUnit  |  April 21st, 2011 at 10:49 am

    @frank black: What? WN’s name is Brecher. Thus, Brechertesgaden. If he’s a Nazi, it’s news to me. What does it have to do with Nazism? Because Hitler lived in a similarly spelled place? Who cares? Brechertesgaden. Brechertesgaden. Brechertesgaden.

  • 28. DrunktankDan  |  April 21st, 2011 at 12:48 pm

    Naw man, Gary lives in Fresno and grew up in CA. Dolan grew up in Pleasant Valley, CA, a shithole I know very intimately as I used to construct Koi ponds for boomers with false wealth out there. They are all broke and my business is gone, but not before I pocketed a shitload of money out of their retirement accounts. Gotta strike while the iron is hot, right?

  • 29. C. of V.  |  April 21st, 2011 at 2:47 pm

    Down and Out of Sài Gòn (20),

    I think I am spot on. Democracy only would make sense if you elected your representatives and leaders from your own people (but even this not really works IMO).
    That means homogenous society. If you have some small minorities, you may play nice and give them place under the sun if your people are in a good mood.
    But in countries where big chunks of different populations live? Especially with historical enmity between them? In that case democracy simply does not make sense…
    The examples you gave are not really good. Heterogenous India had her times of matchete-wielding, the results are on the map: former India, now Pakistan-India-Bangladesh, all kind of homogenous: Muslims and Hindus in their own separate countries.
    I am convinced Canadian democracy works because the white people maintaining it are still in majority. Try to maintain democratic Canada, or USA for that matter when white men will become a minority, and I am convinced the result will be something between Zimbabwe and South Africa…

  • 30. altekeks  |  April 22nd, 2011 at 2:55 am

    What if it’s you who’s got causality wrong and ethnic or religious identities are a function of conflict lines, instead of the other way round, as you’re suggesting?
    I mean, we know that we have got at least as many different groups living together peacefully as groups warring with each other…

  • 31. fnord  |  April 22nd, 2011 at 5:45 am

    22: Too true, too true. The main difference between the west and the rest is that if you get too rich and/or popular out there, you get a lot of attention from the poor guys with machetes. Or, in Russias case, by the former KGB agents with radioactive poisin just quietly expiring on date and needing to be used.

    (Donald Trump would have been dead meat anywhere but in the US. Obama should just have him chopped, in a homage to his Kenyan roots, lol.)

    BTW, WarNerd: You should do a writeup on the role of the black economy in warfare. Nigerian mafya very strong, Siciliy during WW2, Chechnian mafia, opium in the Af/Pak, the whole Iran COntra issue…. Worth a text.

  • 32. Phoenix Woman  |  April 22nd, 2011 at 8:23 am

    “One criticism: I think you’re underestimating the extent to which Americans also vote on tribal lines. Elections here have basically been about who IS America – the northeast and the west coast, or the south – since 1968, and especially since 2000.”

    See also: The corporate-bigot alliance called the Southern Strategy (also known as the GOP’s pissing on their heritage as The Party of Lincoln so rich people don’t have to pay taxes). Or as Reagan strategist Lee Atwater said back in 1981:

    ”You start out in 1954 by saying, ‘Nigger, nigger, nigger.’ By 1968 you can’t say ‘nigger’ — that hurts you. Backfires. So you say stuff like forced busing, states’ rights and all that stuff. You’re getting so abstract now [that] you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is [that] blacks get hurt worse than whites.

    ”And subconsciously maybe that is part of it. I’m not saying that. But I’m saying that if it is getting that abstract, and that coded, that we are doing away with the racial problem one way or the other. You follow me — because obviously sitting around saying, ‘We want to cut this,’ is much more abstract than even the busing thing, and a hell of a lot more abstract than ‘Nigger, nigger.”’

  • 33. Singh  |  May 12th, 2011 at 5:18 pm

    lol @ the sikh part.

  • 34. Carpenter  |  May 13th, 2011 at 4:01 am

    No-no War Nerd, don’t you know only evil Whites care about race? Don’t you know racism was invented by capitalists in the 19th century? The rest of the world lived “in harmony with nature” forever, which was paradise, before Whites came along. No slavery, no wars, no tribalism/nationalism/racism.

    At least if you read school history books.

    Then comes this: “Europeans caused wars in Africa by drawing nation lines so that tribes ended up in the same country.” Wait – isn’t that supposed to be GOOD? A melting pot? While sticking to your own is bad? One line for Western countries, another line for the rest of the world.

    Drawing nation lines to cater to every little tribe in Africa would be impossible, of course. There are thousands of them.

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