Françafrique II: the françafriquening

by Sam Kriss

1. Facing mounting pressure (mostly from Peter Gabriel) to intervene, President Hollande vows to make ‘a world safe for world music fans.’ In northern Mali, an elite GIGN team secures the perimeter of the Festival in the Desert campsite. French jets on bombing runs have hippie slogans painted on their missiles. La guerre est finie, si vous le voulez, says one rocket slamming into a Tuareg encampment, killing thirty.

2. British liberals, after a brief moral crisis, finally conclude that imperialism in Africa, like misogyny, is not only OK but actually kinda sexy when the French do it.

3. Kathryn Bigelow travels by C-17 transport plane to Bamako, hoping to carry out research for a sequel to Zero Dark Thirty. In the upcoming film, Édouard Guillard personally tortures the entire population of Azawad. Also, he’s an American called Hank. Meanwhile, some American conservatives are so conflicted by French military action against jihadists that they start bleeding internally, often in the middle of a cautious one-liner about how many gears a French tank has.

4. France is intervening in Mali to guard against the potential of a terrorist state on its doorstep. Within days oil workers are kidnapped in Sudan and terror alerts ring out across the metropole. Many of the Islamist fighters that displaced the secular Tuareg groups are veterans of Nato’s adventure in Libya, most of their supply lines snake their way through the Libyan desert. Haven’t we learned anything? After the last few decades, it’s getting hard to believe that people can still cling so tightly to the idiot logic of interventionism. Someone wants all this to happen.

5. Britain sells weapons to the Qataris, who send them on to fighters in Syria, who lend a few to insurgents in Mali, who use them to shoot down French helicopters. The Hundred Years War never ended. We’re getting good at it now.

6. Of course, French assistance was requested by the Malian government. But who requested the Malian government? Nobody except the officers who carried out a military coup in March last year. Sanogo and his co-conspirators thought the government wasn’t dealing with the northern insurrection efficiently enough, so they moved their troops south to the capital. Eight days later the rebels took Kidal, Gao, and Timbuktu. A blind god rules our world.

7. Freud writes that to understand a supernatural horror story, you first have to remove the supernatural element from the equation; then its true libidinal meaning will become apparent. To understand a Western intervention against radical Islam, you first have to remove the element of radical Islam. Geopolitics is just macrolibidinality, coiling the spirals of desire over mountains and pastures.

8. The Islamists are the last real heirs to the grand tradition of Modernism. Look at what the Wahhabis are doing in Saudi Arabia: ancient shrines and holy places are being paved over with concrete; a six hundred metre tower complex dwarfs the Kaaba in Mecca, its cyclopean clock-face leering ambiguously at the holiest place on the planet. The Abraj al Bait is the second tallest building in the world; it has two helipads and a twenty-storey shopping centre. Smash the old world, bring in the new! Museums, cemeteries! What’s the value of the Jannat al-Mu’alla next to the transcendent Oneness of God? Who cares how old a mosque is when God creates the world anew every instant? It’s the same with the Djingareyber in Timbuktu. Only the Islamists still want to build a new world, only the Islamists still see the aesthetic in war. Here, in Mali, is Baudelaire’s union of the transient, fleeting, and contingent with the eternal and the immutable. If the depiction of the human form is a sin, all art comes ready-subverted, it’s already anti-art; prevented from hobbling on the crutch of representation, it has to properly question its relationship with life and the world. No romantic twangings from guitars or koras, only the stark musique concrète of a ringless hand-drum. Duchamp was a Salafist. Rodchenko was a Mujahid. They might not know it, but the fighters of Al-Qa’eda in the Islamic Maghreb have Ezra Pound and F.T. Marinetti riding in their pick-ups.