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 was probably worn out by Blair's smile. Blair may be a brilliant politician but that grin of his gives me the creeps. Looks too much like the Joker. He's got that fox-snout with a big cartoon grin wider than the face, like he swallowed a coat hanger.
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:
"Zainabo Alfani:was stopped by men in uniform on a road in Ituri [in NE Congo] last year. She and 13 other women were ordered to strip, to see if they had long vaginal lips, which the gunmen believed would have magical properties. The 13 others did not, and were killed on the spot. Zainabo did. The gunmen cut them off and then gang-raped her. Then they cooked and ate her two daughters in front of her. They also ate chunks of Zainabo's flesh. She escaped, but had contracted HIV. She told her story to the UN in February, and died in March."
You see a lot of typical features of African wartime cannibalism in this story. First there's the magical element. In Central Africa, most people still believe in magic. And we're talking some very weird, lethal magic here. Not like the "white magic" this poor ditz goth girl in my high school used to claim she could do. Nice girl actually, kind of fat (which is why girls go goth anyway, that basic black slimming effect). She always tried to give people-guys she had a crush on, mostly-magic treatment for headaches. It was so embarrassing, this chunky talkative girl in black brushing her hand down some jock's face, that guys would say it worked just to be able to run away. "I'm cured! Thanks Natalie! Bye!"
African magic is a lot more serious. That's one of the things I like about Africans, the way they take things seriously. African magic, and this applies to hundreds of tribes all across Central Africa, is blood magic. As in human sacrifice. The African gods and spirits don't want you to spend more time with the kids or be a better person. They want you to go get a live human and kill him. Or her. Or them, because if you've got a big request they're going to want people. Plural people.
The spirits especially like kids' bodies. In the old days when a chief died everybody kept the kiddies home for months, because the big man's servants would be scouting the neighborhood looking for unsupervised youngsters to kill and bury with the chief. It was just a way of showing respect.
Same thing if you were building a big palace: it just went without saying you'd want to bury a child or two under the load-bearing posts. For that extra bit of supernatural sturdiness. I can just imagine the Congo version of Bob Vila doing home repair: "Now before you put up the dining-room post, you'll want to kill a toddler and bury it under the beam. Your hardware dealer can recommend a good child-kidnapper."
To do serious magic, Africans need body parts. If you read that eXile column Mandela Porn, which I wouldn't miss for anything-can't believe a girl that cute comes up with stories that gross! -you know about "muti" which is the South African version. To make muti, you need somebody's liver, or heart, or toes or whatever-depends on what you want. I'm not a specialist.
Generally you eat the body part in question. As usual, kids' livers and such are most in demand-lower mileage, more potency. In some parts of Eastern Congo, like I reported in an earlier column ("Congo: War without Battles" eXile #161), pygmy meat is considered magical. Supposedly it'll get you higher than you've ever been in your life. Literally-these people think that if you eat a pygmy, you'll be able to fly. Of course other locals eat pygmies just because they like the taste. It's sort of the gourmets vs. the mystics. The only thing they can agree on is that nothing beats a little-man BBQ.
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.
Back when coffles of Africans were being shipped as slaves to the Western Hemisphere, it was almost impossible to get the slaves on the ships because they thought they were being taken aboard as meat, to be sold and eaten. Often they'd jump overboard and drown themselves rather than be eaten. Once they knew they were only going to a lifetime of horrible slavery, they calmed down, for a long ride that left a quarter of them dead.
The next worst thing you can do to an African is destroy his or her family line. Rape is one way. We saw that in the Balkans, which also featured pure primitive warfare. Those rape camps weren't "atrocities," they were standard practice in tribal war. I haven't heard about cannibalism in the Balkans, but I wouldn't be surprised. The only thing that stopped those crazy South Slavs is that human bodies only have trace amounts of alcohol. If you could drink a body instead of eating it, those slivovitz-heads would've outdid every vampire movie in history.
You only have to eat a few people, just a nibble here and there, to get that cannibal rep. And once you've got it, it's golden. Your tribal enemies flee at the rumor you're in the district. So with that in mind, maybe what happened to that lady on the road in Ituri makes more sense to you. I know it's hard, but try to look at that massacre story coldbloodedly. And remember, Northeast Congo where this happened is a war zone. The militia didn't just wake up on the wrong side of the hammock, they were doing primitive warfare.
So the first thing they do is kill 13 out of the 14 women they caught. Killing women of the enemy tribe, or better yet adolescent girls, is the most effective move in primitive warfare. It wipes out the enemy's future, its childbearing ability.
So why didn't they kill all the women? Simple: somebody had to carry the story to the enemy. The woman they let live is like a virus they were transmitting to their enemies. She goes back with the story, it spreads, and the whole tribe is terrorized, easy prey.
So you pick the woman who has those magical long vaginal lips. You cut off her magical vaginal lips and eat them-so you've taken her magic. Then you take her descendants, her daughters-the most important thing (assuming her sons are already dead) she's got. You make her watch as you eat them. At this point the militia commander is like a movie director. He's doing it shot by shot, deciding what story he's going to make this woman carry home.
Now you're almost ready to let the surviving woman go. But not quite. Just cutting off her vaginal lips is too easy. So you carefully filet some pieces off her-you have to be careful the cuts aren't fatal, though, or you've wasted your energy. You eat these pieces of her. And then you send her stumbling home.
You've just completed a very effective, totally typical primitive war military operation. That woman is going to stagger back to her clan and start telling what happened to her. The story will spread faster than a Malibu brushfire, and everybody who hears it will run. So by killing some unarmed women, at a cost of zero casualties for your militia, you've cleared maybe a whole province.
So Putin told the truth. Africans do eat each other.
The only part of Putin's "outburst" that's bullshit is the claim that Russia has no history of cannibalism. Um, Vlad baby, ever hear of the Siege of Leningrad? I hear one of the popular dishes of the time was BBQ Thigh of ex-Neighbor. Or how about the Famine in the 30s? I've seen photos of peasants in Southern Russia and Ukraine selling human meat.
It's just a matter of taste: white meat or dark.