June 20, 2005

The War Nerd Defends Putin's African Cannibalism "Gaffe"

In "Putin's Congo Roast," Gary Brecher explains the theory and practice of cannibalism as a military strategy during the current war in the Congo. Not appropriate reading if you have a queasy stomach.

Vladimir Putin has jumped into the middle of the Dark Continent's darkest secrets. It happened at a photo op in Moscow, after Blair and the Russians had hammered out a deal to forgive more African debt...

Putin found a way to wipe the grin off Blair's face. He was getting noise about Russia's "human rights record" in the Q&A photo op, and he's not the kind of guy to put up with too much hassle from the press. That's not the kind of thing they teach you in the KGB. He popped up with what the Brits are calling "an astonishing outburst": "We all know that African countries used to have a tradition of eating their own adversaries. We don't have such a tradition or process or culture and I believe the comparison between Africa and Russia is not quite just."

Whoo-hoo! You Russians have guts! Nobody west of the Volga would ever say anything like that. Not in public, anyway. I wish I could see the footage of the seconds after the "outburst," just to watch Blair's face. There he is, Mister Smile, Mister Cool Britannia, now trying to be Mister Bob Geldof Bleeding Heart, standing next to this crazy Russian who just called Africans cannibals. Blair must've been tempted to do the old pulled-over-with-open-container routine: "Hey, officer, I'm just hitching! I don't even KNOW this Russian dude!"

The press invoked all the usual PC lies for their responses. It was interesting, because nobody actually said Putin was wrong. Just "insensitive." Somebody named Trevor-I mean, "Trevor"!-had a hissy fit and lisped, "What a preposterous thing to say. Putin is at best insensitive and at worst a downright racist."

Well, here's a news flash: Putin told the truth. Cannibalism is very common in African war zones. Trevor should read the news from places like Congo more carefully, like this story carried in the Economist a few weeks ago:

I'm going to skip over what happened to this poor Congolese woman who was grabbed by an opposing militia and get to Brecher's explanation of why cannibalism works as a tactic:

Cannibalism always increases in wartime. And though hardly anybody knows it, Congo is the site of the biggest war since 1945. Last time I reported on it the official death toll was 2.5 million. Since then another half million Congoans have died.

And a few of those have been eaten. The Congo war is pure primitive warfare: no battles, next to no combat, just massacres. Primitive warfare is one long civilian hunt. Most people try to deal with that by vanishing into the jungle. That's where they die-of malaria, or starvation, or an infected scratch, snakebite-anything but combat. The current estimate is that less than 2% of the deaths in this huge war have been from combat.

In wartime cannibalism is a weapon in itself, one of the most powerful of all. Because primitive war is about terrorizing people. How do you drive those enemy-tribe civvies into the jungle to die? You scare'em. So, what's the scariest thing you could think of? Killing people? Nah. Most Central Africans live hard, short lives. They're not scared of death, at least not as terrified as first-worlders.

What they fear more than anything is being eaten. Being eaten is the biggest, oldest fear in the world. Goes back to the days when it was us vs. the hyenas, and the hyenas usually won. Why do you think Jaws made so much money? You're in a million times more danger driving to Safeway than swimming in the ocean, but you're not scared driving, and you are scared swimming. It's not because Spielberg's such a genius, it's because that fear of being eaten is in our chimp brains. [More]

Spielberg came back and made even more money with "Jurassic Park," which isn't about much of anything besides getting eaten.

For the same reason, Matt Drudge gives enormous play to headlines about animals munching on people.

Putin's gaffe reminds of how back in the 1970s, Conrad's book Heart of Darkness was a huge collegiate fad, culminating in the fearlessly sophomoric "Apocalypse Now," but academics couldn't bring themselves to explain what Kurtz was doing that was so horrifying.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer


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