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The War That Must Not Be Named Flares Up In Kenya


Kenya has once again become a frontline in the Lord Voldemort War: the war that must not be named, the conflict once known as the Global War on Terror. So far, as many as 59 people are reported dead as the result of an ongoing siege at Nairobi’s Westlake shopping center. The BBC is reporting that a representative al-Shabab, the Somali Islamist group that has known links to al Qaeda, has taken responsibility for the attack. Among the casualties were members of Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta’s family.

The official al-Shabab line is that this attack is in response to Kenya sending troops to Somalia, but religion appears to have played a role in the massacre:

“They came and said: ‘If you are Muslim, stand up. We’ve come to rescue you,” said Elijah Lamau.

He said the Muslims left with their hands up, and then the gunmen shot two people.

The correspondent in Nairobi for the Economist, Daniel Howden told the BBC he spoke to one man with a Christian first name but a Muslim-sounding surname who managed to escape the attackers by putting his thumb over his first name on his ID.

However, the man told Mr Howden that an Indian man standing next to him who was asked for the name of the Prophet Muhammad’s mother was shot dead when he was unable to answer.

In addition, the mall was part Israeli-owned.

This latest battle in the unnamed war comes at an important juncture for Kenya, as it is weeks from offering Sub-Saharan Africa’s largest ever debut sovereign bond issue, valued at $1.5 billion. With a thriving middle class profiting handsomely from tourism, a nicely developing energy sector and a recently-discovered aquifer that solves the country’s water problems well into the future, Kenya is a success story.

An outrage like this probably won’t make a difference in Kenya’s big picture outlook (unless it were to become a regular feature of life in prosperous Nairobi and start to eat into tourism revenue), but it’s an important reminder to some in the West that civilization is delicate and vulnerable. Wishing with all your might that forces hell-bent on destroying it will just go away is not a sound strategy.

[A woman who had been held hostage is carried in shock by rescue personnel on September 21, 2013, after she was freed following a security operation at an upmarket shopping mall in Nairobi. Photo courtesy Getty Images.]

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  • Lyle7

    If only there wasn’t Islamophobia, right progressives? This is just Islamophobes getting what they deserve.

    • bpuharic

      Oh brother…progressives, of course, see the right wing love of religion as THE problem. There’s little difference, historically, between Christianity and Islam in levels of brutality. Other than the accident of time and space, the 2 are virtually identical.

      • Damir Marusic

        Let’s suppose I grant you the time and space argument. Can you bring yourself to sympathize with the forces of modernization against this barbarism? Or do you float above that as well?

        • bpuharic

          That goes without saying. What I AM saying though is that progressives are little surprised by the barbarism of religion. It’s what fanatics do.

          • Lyle7

            Are Tea Party fanatics throwing people off of tall buildings yet?

      • Lyle7

        Keep apologizing for the brutality of people who live alongside of you today.

        That’ll be your historical legacy.

        • bpuharic

          And your historical legacy is that of Santayana.

  • gwvanderleun

    And it won’t be named. Why? To keep the many sedated up until the moment the knife cuts their throat.

    Belmont Club also looks at this “narrative:” “The existence of organized aggression will be painted over for as long as possible and ridicule of the “tinfoil hat brigade” will be encouraged. There’s nothing to see out there in the dark, we will be told. Even if you can hear its approach and feel its heated breath…. The existence of organized aggression will be painted over for as long as possible and ridicule of the “tinfoil hat brigade” will be encouraged. There’s nothing to see out there in the dark, we will be told. Even if you can hear its approach and feel its heated breath.”

  • Kavanna

    It’s completely imaginary, ginned up by some imaginative right-wing fantast at Fox News.

  • USNK2

    Another ViaMeadia post written by an intern who thinks everyone else reads Harry Potter, assuming that is the reference to “Lord Voldemort War”
    Islamists like Al Shabab are aware that killing innocent muslims has not been good for Islamists, so it makes total sense these Al Shabab jihadis would let the muslims leave Westlake Mall unharmed.
    Kenyan forces are part of the African Union military intervention in Somalia, which has not had a real government in twenty years.
    May Kenya and the AU win this battle to give Somalia a chance at reversing total failed state status.
    It is admirable that the Kenyan government openly acknowledges that Israeli forces are helping resolve the final hostage crisis in Westlake Mall.
    Sometimes, a terror attack IS specific, not always part of the larger clash of civilizations.

    • Damir Marusic

      I assure you, USNK2, the Harry Potter reference comes straight from WRM’s notes for this post. Indeed, I had to look it up, not having read the books or seen the movies.

      • USNK2

        Thanks Damir.
        I know I am being rather harsh past few weeks at trying to ‘out’ which VM posts are written by Mr. Mead or his interns. I used to look forward to Mr. Mead’s blog, but not with so much since the interns got involved – their naivete shows.
        Still do not think the terror attack at Westlake Mall in Nairobi is part of the GWOT.
        All signs are that Al Shabab is striking Kenyan participation in the AU military presence in Somalia.
        That Westlake Mall is Israeli-owned seems to be a non-factor for Al Shabab, but of more interest to the usual western media who focus on anything Israeli.
        Since I have not (yet) read any of the Harry Potter books or films, I did know the reference*, but not what it means.
        * I have the distinction of having been banned from playing Jeopardy at my elite college in the early 1970’s, due to genetic dot-connecting abilities.

        • Damir Marusic

          USNK2 no hard feelings here, we’re all just trying to put out a compelling read seven days a week. We do the best we can with limited staff and limited WRM time. And as I pointed out in the post on Pakistan, we try to leave the truly big picture stuff for the essays. Think of the short posts as glosses on the headlines, using the big essays as a lens to put them in perspective.

          WRM is very involved in setting the narrative and tone for the short posts, and sometimes we get very detailed notes which we basically just lightly edit for punctuation. Other times, we’ll just get a few words. And other times still, we’re looking for the stories ourselves. In this case, WRM’s notes were pretty much only the reference to Harry Potter, as short-hand for the GWOT narrative.

          You’re probably right about the Israeli detail, though the horrific pop quiz style executions certainly lead one to believe that if they knew beforehand that some Israelis were part-owners of the mall, they would’ve concluded “all the better”.

          As to the GWOT narrative, it’s been something we’ve been on about for a long time here at Via Meadia. The goal is to remind readers that there is a global strain of violent Islamism that is hostile to modernity, and that it’s not necessarily in decline. We are not advocating any particular course of action with any particular story, but we do think they’re worth paying attention to on their own. Your average reader may be inclined to not read the latest article about Boko Haram’s latest beastliness on page A12 of their paper. We hope we’re remedying that on the margins. It’s an important story.

          • USNK2

            Good-o Damir! Now that this is the skinny part of this thread, must make it my last here.
            1) If you need a second read before posting anything that mentions Israel, I volunteer. Am still angry about the TOTAL misread of reality in the VM post on Gaza, now highlighted in this Week’s highlight summary.
            2) Political Islam IS hostile to “modernity”, but what most westerners fail to understand is that a commitment to secularism is the measure for an Islamic nation’s adaptation to “modernity”.
            3) According to Debka, the sort-of reliable source, Kenya and Israel have a secret defense pact if Kenya is attacked by a foreign force, which makes sense, especially the secret part.
            So, Al-Shabab got a twofer: attack Kenya for their AU presence in Somalia, and do so by attacking an Israeli-owned shopping mall. However, this post tries to persuade the reader of the primacy of a religious motivation for the attack.
            In closing, Mr. Mead needs to rethink VM. Too many broad topics, not enough resources is one way quality disappears, in any endeavour. And, young interns are NOT the answer – their post-modern multi-culti biases are glaring.
            Maybe you should ask WigWag why he rarely comments at VM anymore.

      • Nick M.

        Has the floggings reduced intern mistakes, or simply improved morale?

  • Nick M.

    When reading stories like this, I wish our leaders would summon our least ethical spooks and units and simply order them to viscerally show the financial backers, middle-men, and leaders of groups such as al-Shabab that condoning actions like these are… unwise.

    I may feel guilty about desiring such a thing, but then I go back and reread the grisly details and then I am freed from such guilt.

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