Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Gooood Moooorrrninnngggg, Shandaloo!

*Deep Breath* Aahhh...The cold, wispy mild malador that is Huelva's air...Funny to find me writing a blog at this time of the day. It's slow out here in Spain. The day usually begins an hour later, and today's a holiday. Día de Reyes it´s called, "The Day of Kings", referring to the gift-bearing Magi's visit of the baby Jesus. Fact is, I just finished watching James Cameron's mesmerizing world of celluloid phantasmagoria Avatar. 'Darned blighter blew my socks off :). Just had to rise with the morning...

So yeah, I'm in Europe now. It's been 3 months and a few, mas o minus. The lingo's catchy, I've just been lazy. When I pick up enough vocab, I'll be blogging in Spanish. Unfortunately, language's not my only drawback- but on the bright side, the locales are lovely folks for the most part, my trips to some of Spain's most breathtaking rugged resorts in El Chorro and Ronda, my cosy flat with 3 genial roomies, my bike-riding escapades and my night-crawling shenanigans have been fascinating stock experientially. In other (less verbose) words, I'm having a blast:), and as for what I came here to do, I'm repositioning my perspective pronto.

It's a New Year, guys. Time to wake up and smell the coffee...

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

A Precis on Non-Violent Conflict in Nigeria

The term ‘‘non-violent struggle’,’ or “non-violent conflict,” as used herein is broadly defined as the exercise of proactive nonaggression in the pursuit of securing rights, seeking redress or agitating against injustice. A recurrent theme in Christian teachings, as well as those of several other world religions, the principle of non-violent struggle was made prominent in recent history through the practice of passive resistance by the venerable Mahatma Gandhi, whose heroic efforts almost unilaterally materialized the sovereign states of present-day India and Pakistan.

Perhaps the only successful non-violent conflict in Nigerian history occurred in the 1950s. Coincidentally, it was a fight for independence, and our founding fathers, while they struggled assiduously for this most golden of objectives, contrived just as sedulously to make certain freedom was not bought with needless bloodshed. Today, they are extolled and idolized, their images immortalized on our currency notes and coins, and nationwide our infrastructure is christened with names of these emancipation heroes. But their lessons on the successful conduct of non-violent struggle are long forgotten. Over 3 decades of the jack-booting military has stomped out this memory, or buried underfoot whatever vestige was left.

Those among us who have endeavored to unearth this invaluable precept have through the years met the unyielding wall of military might and persecution. Precious few stand out; Gani Fawehinmi, maverick attorney-at-law; Nosa Igiebor, TELL magazine editor; Wole Soyinka, Nobel laureate and inveterate activist; members of the pro-democracy NADECO conclave. All of these had been assaulted or thrown in jail at one time or the other by the prevailing gulag for voicing their protests at the cruel subjugation and civic injustice they witnessed being meted out by our rulers. Most opted for exile to escape being muzzled indefinitely; so heavy was the hand of the army.

One would have thought, then, that the advent of democracy would evidence the resurgence of the non-violent principle. This, too, has seemed to no avail. So ingrained is the trait of malevolence today, it clothes every facet of the Nigerian society with consummate ease. In contrast to the pacifists, proponents of militant activism abound in their numbers; OPC, MOSSOP, MASSOB or MEND for instance, not to mention the countless gangs of political thugs mobilized for electoral manipulations, coercions and assassinations.

Not every militant activist is a victim of blind bloodlust, however. Logicians like the late Ken Saro Wiwa reasoned that pacifism might as well lie down and die quietly in the face of opposition that thinks nothing of employing extreme armed prejudice. Others have argued that the methods employed by such non-violent activists like Fawehinmi and Igiebor, namely picketing, the power of the pen and the law, are too subdued, at best emasculated; as such, whatever cause is worthy of pursuit requires the more bellicose bark of a gun to be heard.

Their contentions are not entirely without merit: it took the summary execution of the Ogoni 9 for the world to wake up to the outrage that was Abacha’s regime, and the biting cuts in Nigeria’s oil export brought upon by militant vandalism has made the plights suffered by people of the Niger Delta more visible worldwide. The one inexcusable blight to this method is the casualty in scores of innocent lives caught in the crossfire - that, and the sobering fact that, for all the due diligence of these militants through the years, no lasting change has been achieved.

On the other hand, there are daily reports of political underhandedness being reversed in the law courts, and organized protests launched against improprieties by state officers via newspaper articles and other written means are gradually gaining the attention of the relevant authorities such as the EFCC and the Federal legislature. Falsely appointed representatives are unseated by the lorry-load, and newspaper headlines these days never get enough of corrupt officials being incarcerated, or of heated deliberations at the Upper and Lower Houses concerning controversially sponsored bills.

In closure, the nation’s progress to adopting the skills of non-violent struggle is uncharacteristically slow, particularly due to the deeply rooted culture of malevolence and a general ignorance of pacifist skills. It is certain that without greater awareness its efficacy will founder. But history, both past and present, repeatedly gives credence to the plausibility of success through non-violent struggle in comparison to militarism. No one needs a drawing to discern the better path or choose it. The question remains how many will.

Monday, October 08, 2007

47 Years Less from Uhuru

So Nigeria celebrated 47 years of independence on Oct 1st, 2007, there was fanfare, hosts of conglomerate chief execs felicitated with the federal and state governments, cellphone service providers bombarded subscribers with “Happy 47!” phone spam (the buggers never figured to ‘dash’ us free credit?), and in an odd twist, radio stations were agog with request programs mostly deluged by syrupy messages between lovers who took advantage of the season of goodwill to rekindle the spark of Valentine-type romance that might have been doused by the throes of hard-knock living through the past 9 months.

The euphoria was markedly palpable, and why not? Nigeria has been getting good rep lately in the international media, no less for an uncanny coincidence of noteworthy exploits by its nationals. First you’ve got the Super Eaglets carting away the FIFA Under-17 World Cup in impressive style, then Samuel Peters the ‘Nigerian Nightmare’ (or is it ‘Pride of Africa’?) snags a version of the World Boxing Heavyweight Championship belt from Oleg Maskaev in a walk-over and defends it admirably against McCline, albeit for the interim, then former Finance Minister Okonjo-Iweala is installed as one of only two Managing Directors at the World Bank. Even more significant is the heralding of Nigerian diplomats into the world arena with the statements and actions of UN representative to former Burma Ibrahim Gambari being updated to-the-minute by global networks in tandem with the harrowing civil rights crisis there, which he has been mandated to resolve. By all means, it felt quite in order to pop the champagne, belt the National Anthem and coo susurrations to loved ones in the dead of night, all in the name of patriotism.

It’s been 7 days since, though. The confetti’s been swept away and, most unfortunately, we’re back to business per usual, with our attendant hydra-head of problems not even showing signs of a half-decent haircut. The usual candidates of corruption, unemployment, ethnic conflict, ill-advised state policy and human rights violations are daily reflecting the unusually adaptive and resourceful mind of the unscrupulous Nigerian, assuming more cumbrous forms of late. In fact, these hot-zones of societal crisis have begun networking in true Web 2.0 style. To illustrate, statistics today indicate that 8 out of 10 varsity graduates that hit the employment market turn up empty-handed. In time this has only served to swell a teeming academy of literate criminals gagging to showcase their expertise in advanced free fraud, armed robbery and cyber crime, with reports of these felonies skyrocketing nationwide. These highly-trained idlers have also played into the hands of dodgy politicians, who employ them to rig elections, intimidate voters and erase opponents, leaving a laundry-list of unsolved assassinations in their bloodthirsty wake. But more recently, they’ve spawned the abduction lottery in the name of armed activism, extorting expatriates and other wealthy victims of millions, to the lurid delight of their greasy gaffers and the undisguised envy of late starters looking to cash in. The spate of clashes between rival gangs in the Niger Delta has been the macabre result, and because militarization of the region only appears to be biting barely, the state government is attempting an ungainly reclaim of its dropped trousers by announcing the planned demolition of riverside settlements, which they assert to be a “haven for criminals,” unwittingly victimizing a swarm of innocent and underprivileged creek-bed dwellers as a result. Meanwhile, a quartet of individuals (2 Germans, 1 American, 1 Nigerian) evidentially conducting a journalistic investigation into the matter are being unjustly detained under charges of espionage. Did I miss anything? Oh and there’s the reason the Eleme gas flares are the only lights visible in space from the heart of the Dark Continent - perennial and protracted power cuts.

If in spite of all these seemingly intractable problems, Nigerians were giving each other high-fives on the morning of October 1, I’m afraid we’re decades yet from Uhuru. Maybe by another 47 years…

Monday, September 10, 2007

Fed on Fire!

"Fed's on fire...!" That's how the official US Open website describes Roger's blistering performance at the Flushing Meadows finals, where a sizzling serial of salvos from the firebrand that is Federer in the end proved too hot for 20-year old upset-upstart Djokovic to handle. Roger ended up surprising records held by tennis greats, Bjorn Borg and Rod Laver, in Grand Slam totals and creating another one of his own - 4 Wimbledon and 4 US Open wins in a row, a feat unprecedented in tennis history. I found it curious that the top radio media, BBC in particular, were particularly mute today about the meet. After frenetic to-the-minute updating
throughout yesterday, the newstream just shrivelled up peremptorily for some reason. I guess a Djokovic win would've evinced a more animated response, eh
mrgreen? With all fairness to him, I think the Serb's challenge was pretty ferocious, and watching his rise lately seems like a re-run of Roger's earlier years. Call me presumptuous, but the man to beat after Fed's gone is Djokovic, not Nadal ('Heard it here first). A Federer triumph seems so pedestrian these days, people often forget what steely will and gritty resolve is required to achieve such consistent mastery (wait a minute. 'steely will and gritty resolve'? Did I just tautologizerazz?). In any case he's still got one record to beat: the Sampras 14. Let’s hope his drive keeps up.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

A Royal Flush at Flushing Meadows?

A pair of lissome gazelles grazes at the Flushing Meadows, scene of the 2007 US Open. They are Wimbledon winner Venus Williams and World No. 1, Roger Federer, two of the most graceful players in the world arena of tennis and my personal favourites. Now, I’m not the regular gawking, hair-pulling, eye-gouging hyper fan, but during the meet, I’ve followed every encounter this duo of tennis royals have been involved in quite keenly, experienced the nervous heart-leaps with every falter and luxuriated in the depthless euphoria of every triumph. And now they sail to the semis over rivals Jankovic and Roddick respectfully. Could a royal flush at the finals be in the offing for Flushing Meadows? Ssshhh, don’t jinx it, dammit evil

The Naira Revaluation Saga: Dateline

- August 14: CBN Governor, Charles Soludo unveils naira revaluation plan.

- August 15: Yar’Adua summons Soludo to FEC meeting to define his plans. FEC commissions Economic Management Team (EMT) to vet the strategy; Finance Minister, Dr. Shamsudeen Usman, reassures that autonomy of the CBN is not in question, citing EMT contributions as merely “advisory”.

- August 22: EMT suggests cursory amendments, including a review of implementation date (August 1, 2008) and voicing concerns over decision to gradual phase old currency, arguing that cost of implementation would be prohibitive.

- August 24: Attorney-General of the Federation, Mr. Michael Aondoakaa, announces that CBN Governor is in breach of the CBN Act 2007 by not obtaining written approval from the President before making the policy public, orders the suspension of further actions on the plan.

- August 27: Soludo capitulates to FEC pressure, acquiescing to Presidential transcendence on monetary decisions as constituted in Section 19 of the CBN Act 2007.

Like the proverbial flash in the pan, the naira redenomination spectacular was over in a fortnight. Personally, I feel sad for Soludo. The idea was ingenious, impressive. The President wasn’t impressed, though, and as I got to learn, if Soludo hadn’t been so politically inept, he might have seen it coming. The first sign was when his junior was appointed Federal Minister of Finance instead of him. Then he and EFCC boss Ribadu were unceremoniously dropped from the EMT, the think-tank I later discovered he’d himself conceived. The last straw was when subordinate officials were drawn from the CBN to enflesh the team. Clearly the writing blazed from the wall that Soludo had fallen out of favour, and as the vultures circled, it would’ve been more prudent to tread carefully. And trust me, there were vultures. A particularly hostile horde is an influential conclave of powerbrokers from the President’s region of extraction, the Northern Union (NU). With more northerners now clinching top positions in the present administration, the NU were more than a little miffed that a southerner still held fort at the apex bank and were gagging for Soludo to slip. Then with atrocious sense of timing, Soludo delivered on a silver platter August 14 and his political enemies rubbed their hands with glee. What’s worse, by supposedly misinterpreting the CBN Act 2007 as the source of autonomy in implementation of the revaluation policy, Soludo had implicitly challenged presidential authority and shot himself in the leg. No surprise then that when the gavel was whipped down calling him to order, it was heavy. The Attorney-General of the Federation, doubtlessly livid at not being consulted, had him for breakfast. Now, even after eating humble pie on August 28th, the certitude of Soludo’s tenure hangs over his head like a gleaming sword of Damocles. Whom the President appoints, he can disappoint.

But controversy surrounds the linchpin of this debate, namely Section19 of the CBN Act 2007. As the Nigerian Guardian bureau chief, Madu Onuorah ponders, “…if you are searching at the CBN website for the CBN Act, in order to read for yourself the contending Section 19 Sub-sections (1) and (2), you won't find it. You can get highlights of Sections 1 to 12. But Sections 13 to 19 are not available. And when inquiries were made from some top Nigerians on how to get a copy of the CBN Act, the question posed to a journalist was instructive: "is it the fake or the authentic copy?" This means there are two versions of the CBN Act in circulation. Then, who has the authentic copy? Who worked with the fake copy? Which one did Prof. Soludo or Mr. Aondoakaa work with?”

Well, there it is. Whereas elsewhere in the free world, the autonomy of central banks in executing monetary policy is fundamental, in Nigeria, down is up, like the realms of Davy Jones’ Locker in the Pirates of the Caribbean. I still support Soludo’s shimmering vision of a reinvigorated naira, and with a bit more patience and lobby-savvy, perhaps in the future he could susurrate the sound advice into Yar’Adua’s ears and softly sidle his way into his good graces instead of grandstanding in panic to sound off his relevance. He’ll be hard pressed to find the Pres. in an accommodative mood any time soon, though. Lord knows these days the man’s so busy setting up supervisory bodies over every strategically positioned sector of the economy faster than you can build shacks in a Maroko ghetto, often chairing the commissions himself. Now, he’s ruminating over the advantages of exercising emergency powers over the energy sector. Hm…is Yar’Adua a power-hungry megalomaniac, or just a dedicated control freak…question? Oh the heck with it. Deciphering that is early days yet. I’ll catch the US Open quarters instead.

Quotes of a Criminal Mind

They’ve got this knack for citing poignant quotes on the TV series Criminal Minds, and I’ve enjoyed mulling over them. This set’s from Season 1. Caution: The selection has been adulterated by a criminal mind - yours trulycool

-It’s nice to have friends. Nicer still is to go through the thicket of trial, then look back and see how many are left.

Dr Thomas Fuller
-With foxes, we must play the fox.

Joseph Conrad
-The belief in the supernatural source of evil is not necessary. Men alone are quite capable of every wickedness.

Harriet Beecham Stowe
-The bitterest tears shed over graves are for the words left unsaid and the deeds left undone.

-All is riddle and the key to the riddle, another riddle.

Samuel Beckett
-Try again, fail again, fail better.

-Try not. Do, or do not.

-You can’t dig your own grave and expect not to pay for the coffin.

Winston Churchill
-The further backward you can look, the farther forward you will see.

-When you look long into the abyss, the abyss looks into you.

James Reese
-There are certain clues at a crime scene which by their very nature do not lend themselves to be collected or examined.

-Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.

-Don’t bother to be better than your contemporaries or predecessors. Try to be better than yourself.

Samuel Johnson
-Almost all absurdity of conduct arises from the imitation of those we cannot resemble.

-The irrationality of a thing is not an argument against its existence, rather, a condition of it.

-Nothing is so common as the wish to be remarkable.

-Living is certain death.

Sherlock Holmes
-When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, is the truth.

Robert Bolton
-Belief is not just an idea the mind possesses; it’s an idea that possesses the mind.

Peter Ustinov
-Unfortunately, a superabundance of dreams is paid for by a growing potential for nightmares.

Eugene Inesco
-Ideologies separate us. Dreams and anguish bring us together.

Whatever a man deludes his mind to think he is, the same is he

Of Lawmakers and "Long-Throats"

In Nigeria, the term “long-throat” is employed when someone exhibits an irrepressible trait of avarice. The current blow-out of graft accusations aboard the country’s House of Representatives would suggest avarice there is not a mere trait; it’s a veritable disease, spreading virulently from the top down; more’s the shame ‘cos the top is occupied by a woman.

A lady of lowly Ikire beginnings, Mrs. Patricia Olubunmi Etteh was thrust into the public eye by that hard-churning engine of politics and fortuitously became the highest-placed female in public service as Speaker of what lawmakers themselves fondly refer to as the “Hallowed Chambers”. The profligate conduct of its occupants however relate a totally untoward tale, and since her instatement, the actions of Madame Speaker have only served to deepen the irony of such an appellation, from throwing a birthday bash in the States to taking gratuitous medical trips abroad. In a more recent turn of events I’d like to call the Renovation Rigmarole, Etteh and her deputy, Mr. Babangida Nguroje, were accused to have expended a whopping 628m ($ 5.0 million) to renovate their official residences (What’s that, a state’s budgetary allocation for the quarter?). These allegations came on the heels of yet another medical trip, which needless to say was cut short abruptly in the interest of political longevity, something she should’ve given more thought to earlier, considering that the whistleblowers were Assembly Reps who’d apparently been overlooked when juicy committee placements were shared out on resumption.

The up-shot of this falling-out is more revelations have been made to indicate these gluttonous activities were not perpetrated in isolation: Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu had also purportedly ‘upgraded’ his dwellings to the tune of 29m ($ 0.2 million). Speaking of the Upper House, the Senate President, rtd Major Gen. David Mark, is himself embroiled in electoral litigation. His opponent, a Mr. Usman Abubakar, who’s filed a court petition against Mark, insists he was the true winner at the ballot box and was robbed of victory by Mark who got in by the backdoor, supposedly aided by the electoral body INEC. While the bespectacled poster-child-for-alopecia Senator is keeping mum about the petition, he seems to be employing populist tactics to steer the contentious issue out of court. Last week Wednesday 150 women of his ethnicity from Idoma, Benue State (earth mothers all, God bless ‘em), rallied in a public street protest against the court petition, ferrying their grievances to the doorsteps of their village chieftains for them to initiate an ‘urgent intervention’. Meanwhile INEC repeatedly thwarts court directives to release the official vote count roster.

At the moment, Madam Speaker's engaged in a flurry of harum-scarum consultations with juggernauts of the Lower and Upper House for an emergency salvage from this slew of rip-roaring mud-slinging and possible impeachment. He he… Lawmaking politicking certainly just got greasier from all indications, and sadly, Patricia Etteh might just be the first head to roll. But this, as they say sometimes, is the land of cats with nine lives. That said, if she does go down, at least she won’t go down alone. Maybe she could become the “Deep Throat of Long-Throats”…

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Naira Redenomination: The FEC/CBN Face-Off

It did not sit very well with me when I heard earlier this week that the CBN Governor Charles Soludo (yeah, that’s him on the pic) was called before the Federal Executive Council (FEC) by President Yar’Adua to ‘explain’ his policy of naira redenomination. The Naira is Nigeria’s currency and only just shrugged off the inflationary pressures of a debt-ridden, flux-susceptible economy. At the moment the country is practically debt-free and remarkably solvent, with a dollar reserve of over US$40 billion, but the value of the Naira hardly reflects this. Meanwhile market transactions in Nigeria are still predominantly paper-based, entailing that the Central Bank is constantly burdened with the printing of fresh bills to sustain market liquidity, shrinking the monetary base as a result and making it harder to keep inflation at bay or revalue the nation’s currency. A possible solution would be to raise interest rates, effectively dampening loan requisitions, but this move would discourage investors, whom the Nigerian economy rely to supply the much-needed foreign direct investment (FDI). At any rate, a cessation of cash flow would be counterproductive, retarding economic growth and bringing back the lean years when Nigeria crawled, begging bowl in hand, to the Paris Club. But where the status quo to be maintained, the economy would’ve suffered the self-same outcome. Charles Soludo figured it was time for what a certain pastor I know would call “a paradigm shift”.

Last week Tuesday he unveiled his plan, which was essentially a fixed exchange rate policy. He announced that by January 1, 2009, two zeros would be knocked off the naira, placing it at ballpark parity with the dollar (N 1.25 per US$1.00, more precisely), a move that would simultaneously raise its currency value and effectively staunch the mint ‘bleed’, as it were. This is something the Chinese have already done (with resounding success, I might add), and I hear the Ghanaians executed the same play last month, but Soludo’s strategy implementation comes with a twist. He stated in addition that, effective from said date, federal and state government extra-budgetary allocations would be paid out by the CBN to respective parties in dollars. Now that even more drastically diminishes the need for minting vast sums of the naira, being that government is the country’s biggest spender, inducing scarcity of the local currency and fortifying its revaluation. One consequence is that as money is expended at the federal and state levels of government, it is the dollar that gets dissipated, not the naira; this reduces the economy’s monetary base, which has what economists call a ‘contractionary’ effect and lowers inflation, without having to raise interest rates or adversely affecting the spending habits of the capital market. Another positive impact is the attraction of foreign investors, who will reckon the added value of the local currency as a sign of growing market stability, encouraging them to ‘pitch their tents’ more permanently, if you will. Already, the robust fiscal structuring of Nigeria’s banks is well-known by now, a feat made possible by the forward-thinking CBN Governor.

Interestingly, there are other implications drawn from Soludo’s statements which may have stirred quite the hornet’s nest. One inference is that in order to avert the dangers of over-dollarisation of the money market, the CBN may be compelled to regulate both budgetary and extra-budgetary cash flow issued to the federal and state governments. This has raised a few eyebrows in these circles, and there are concerns that, while the government maintains that the autonomy of the CBN is not in question, calls by the economic advisers of the FEC to ‘fine-tune’ the plans might conceal concerted measures to reverse it. At any rate, implementation will require a delicate balancing act, and it is my hope that the need for clarification is the only reason the FEC summoned Soludo to its fortnightly session. But I strongly doubt that yesterday’s courtesy call by the IMF and World Bank emissaries on the CBN Governor were equally innocent. In their statement, they are also here for ‘clarification’, but “methinks more ominous business is afoot”. Here’s why. If my inferences from Soludo’s press statement are accurate, another goal of naira redenomination is to raise its value as a reserve currency in the West African sub-region and across the Sub-Sahara, entailing that countries in these areas will increasingly find it more convenient to compose their currency reserves in naira, alongside the US dollar and the euro. As momentum ramps up in this direction, the naira could fulfil AU visions of a single African currency, at least in contest with regions where the South African rand holds sway, and the hegemony of the dollar could be gravely at risk. Evidently, the IMF and World Bank, minions of the G7, have also been looking into their crystal balls like Soludo, and are here to see if they could not persuade our Nostradamus in other less …‘baleful’ directions, as it were. Hmm…I wonder if such hurried meetings were scheduled when Ghana toed the fixed rate line.

Now the FEC has been advised by its Economic Team, a state brain-trust, to review the date of implementation, i.e August 1 next year, and to reconsider the gradual phasing out the old currency, citing concerns of cost incurred in the process, which admittedly is sound logic but tantamount to a ploy of dilatory tactics. Naysayers like Comrade Abiodun Aremu of the UAD party (never mind what that means), are equating Soludo’s plan with the infamous Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP), forecasting doomsday if executed. My opinion? The FEC’d be better off not to meddle with the autonomous affairs of the CBN. And might I respectfully suggest that the Comrade shut his pie-hole? Much obliged.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Opportunity for Murderous Impunity - The Yazidi Massacre

The death toll of Iraqis, which in recent times has probably exceeded the length of a million Muslim prayer beads, just got a bit longer. 250 are feared dead, 350 wounded, as Al Qaeda bomb attacks in the Yazidi villages of Khataniya, al-Jazeera and Tal Uzair shattered the rustic tranquil of their abodes in another million clayey pieces. This is not news. What I find bone-chilling is how oh, so nearer this recent spate of bloodletting has brought home the reality that, following America’s evacuation, Iraq is destined to disintegrate in countless shards of tribal fiefdoms on the incarnadine foreground of a brutal civil war.

Until the current Sunni-led attack, Kurdish settlements were for the most part unaffected by Iraqi insurgencies. This observation gave the slightest of hopes to proponents of the American invasion for containment of the vitriolic Sunni-Shiite ethnic conflict within the greater Baghdad geography. That was until general outrage was sparked off by the public stoning of a Yazidi girl who had married a Muslim and converted to Islam. This barbaric ‘honour-killing’ especially incensed Muslims in Iraq, who view the Yazidi as devil-worshippers or devotees of Shaytan, the Qur’anic variant for Satan. For their part, the Yazidi refer to him as Melek Taus ((Tawûsê Melek in Kurdish), or the Peacock Angel, leader of a Heptad of angels who govern the earth. They adhere to a strict code of religious purity, evident in their caste system and intra-marriage customs, which meant that the girl’s apostasy could only be visited with summary ruthlessness. Consider the irony, then, that another faith noted, if infamously, for inviolate compliance with religious purity, Islam, should find this pious display of fundamentalism so palpably odious! In true fundamentalist style, the retaliation was equally unadulterated. In April, Al-Qaeda gunmen shot dead 23 Yazidi factory workers in Mosul. The 3-way bombing detailed above was an assuredly bloody follow-up, claiming more lifes in a single concerted attack than ever witnessed since 2003, according to The Guardian (You've gotta admire their sense of dedication, these extremists!).

And so, with this most recent of blitzes, the vicious arc of extremist violence turns full circle. In the meantime extremists continue their mass butchery gleefully, their bloodlust yet unsated. Bush may have been decried vehemently for opening the Pandora’s Box, but for the extremists, he is their Prometheus, bearing the benevolent gift of purging fire. And Iraq smoulders still within its unslaked flames.