I am heartbroken by current events in Mali and the Maghrib. I have a soft spot for the region because of my love for the music it has produced.
Going back decades, when the master, Ali Farka Touré first broke through in the West as "the African John Lee Hooker," through the great griot Salif Keita, to the present day Tuareg bands Timariwen and Tamakrest, Mali and the wider Maghrib region have produced an amazing array of fresh inventive music. It puts the crap one hears on the radio today to shame.
The thought of the region being reduced to another front in the War on Terra makes me weep.
A recent article in Foreign Policy (registartion required) points out
Pundits who bang on about the events in Mali on television today speculate glibly about the possible linkup of militant Islamic movements in places like Mauritania, Mali, Algeria, and northern Nigeria, potentially constituting a vast sea of Muslim radicalism and hostility to the West. They would do better to understand that such currents are inherent to the politics and culture of this region and are in no way a recent import. Rejection of borders and of the European drawn states is as old as the borders themselves, and Islam has always played a central role in this, as intellectual base, religious justification and rallying catalyst. These currents have been given added force and coherence by the age-old movement of peoples and ideas via pastoralism, overland pilgrimage to Mecca and the existence of large, sprawling and aggrieved transnational ethnic groups--like the Tuareg, Hausa, and Fulani, to name three--whose interests were never considered by the imperial mapmakers.
Our so-called free press are going to be falling all over themselves bloviating about the "terrorist" threat and how we are going to have to "defend our freedom" from these savage desert animals. You can be sure, however, they are not going to mention France's and England's role in carving out imperial playgrounds in the region in the 18th and 19th centuries nor the continual struggle of people like the Tuareg, the Hausa and the Fulani against foreign domination in the post-colonial era. No, it's going to be because "they hate us for our freedom." Count on it. It's as certain as a morning bulltrap on the Comex.