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Tuesday, May 04, 2004

Worldwide Blowback

The latest news from my former home, Jos, Nigeria, is not good:

Over 350 persons are feared killed in the fresh ethno-religious violence which erupted in Yelwa town of Shendam local government area of Plateau State. Similarly, over 250 women and children have allegedly been abducted to unknown destinations between Garkawa and Tunkus in Mikag local government area of the state.


Ethno-religious violence is a term tailor-made for Nigeria. An intense rivalry between Christians and Muslims is superimposed upon the matrix of the ethnic hostilities inherent in the structure of the Nigerian state. When you add corruption, exploitive multinationals, and black gold to the mix, it looks like a catastrophe in the making.

I vividly remember the early morning cacophanies of Jos, the capitol of Plateau State. At around 6 a.m. I would arise to the sound of the call to prayer blaring from speakers outside the mosque. The charasmatic Christians would respond by singing hymns and prostheletizing through their own loudspeakers across the street. Each week it got worse; it was like the arms race in decibel form...Perhaps this is where the violence originates.

In my experience, Nigeria is a country full of deferred dreams; the people have sagged against a heavy load of poverty and oppression, and the situation could very likely explode in the near future.

Since the Biafran War of 1967-1970 in which an estimated 100,000 soldiers and 2 million civilians died, Nigeria's three largest ethic groups have, for the most part, kept the lid on ethnic and religious violence. With 450 reported deaths in the last week in the ethnically-diverse Plateau State, we should be concerned.

What's the solution? I don't know, but I'm afraid the us-against-them attitude of U.S. foreign policy is exacerbating tensions between Muslims and Christians elsewhere in the world.

Call it worldwide blowback.

A group of 53 former U.S. Officials sent a strongly-worded letter conveying similar sentiments to the President about his Middle East policy...

You have placed US diplomats, civilians and military doing their jobs overseas in an untenable and even dangerous position.

Your unqualified support of Sharon's extra-judicial assassinations, Israel's Berlin Wall-like barrier, its harsh military measures in occupied territories, and now your endorsement of Sharon's unilateral plan are costing our country its credibility, prestige and friends.

It is not too late to reassert American principles of justice and fairness in our relations with all the peoples of the Middle East.

Support negotiations between Palestinians and Israelis, with the United States serving as a truly honest broker.

A return to the time-honored American tradition of fairness will reverse the present tide of ill will in Europe and the Middle East - even in Iraq.

Unless we're willing to fight a ethno-religious WWIII, we must adopt a more subtle, nuanced approach to foreign policy--something only one candidate for president this fall seems capable of.


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