Osama bin Laden

THANKSGIVING THINK WEEK: This is the second in a series of stand-alone essays to be published this week that will offer hard-hitting, thought-provoking words to chew on during this holiday season.

The following is the true story of an African native who escaped the brutal massacre of his tribe.

 

It was Friday the 13th of August, 2004, around 10 p.m. It had been a really long day, and I laid awake alongside friends on cots crammed into a large hangar, just happy to be off my feet.

Then I heard it. Distant sounds – gunfire, shouting, screams.

The smell of smoke came next.

No, I thought. No, no!

Fear, anger and anxiety gripped me as I reached the camp, one of the first to arrive. I coughed as the stench of burnt flesh filled my nostrils. I didn’t want to look, but I had to.

The massacred bodies of 166 people were strewn about the UN-run refugee camp in Gatumba, Burundi, Africa. Some had been shot in the head; others burned. A few poor souls were just hacked up with a blade.

Another 116 others laid about, wounded, crippled – some crying in anguish, others too injured to make much of a noise at all.

But these weren’t just any people. They were my people. My tribe.

Men. Women. Children. Yes, children. A few you could even call toddlers.

My brain tried to process the scene before me as I helped transport the wounded to hospitals in Bujumbura, the capital city of Burundi. I kept thinking how, just two hours earlier, we had talked and laughed together; my people, my tribe. I only escaped the nightmare because I was in an encampment some half-mile away.

And now, before me, so many of my people laid slaughtered like animals.

And for what?

I continue to ask myself that question today, a decade later. Yet I am no longer in my home country of Africa. I find myself in San Diego, California. A 31-year-old college student. An aspiring writer. One who hopes to tell the world of the injustices to my tribe.

My people do not have writers like those found in Europe and America. We are verbal story tellers, a long and proud tradition. But I must master the art of writing so that I can make a difference for those who remain in Africa and face something far worse than what’s called “discrimination” in America.

They face extinction.

Please, before I get into all that, allow me to tell you how I got from there to here.

I was born in the African village of Bijombo, in the Democratic Republic of Congo. It was a typical poor African village. No medicine, no running water. We lived in huts with floors made out of grass and dirt. A treat for me consisted of boiled cornmeal hardened into the consistency of a rock, with a glass of milk to wash it down.

But we were generally happy. We had our families, we had our village.

Yet the region was filled with strife, and Civil War found us. The entire Central African region was engulfed in a massive civil war throughout much of the 1990s.

As for me and my people, to make a very complicated situation as simple as possible, my tribe is referred to as the Congolese Tutsi of the Banyamulenge tribe.

Generations ago, our ancestors migrated from the neighboring countries of Rwanda, Burundi and Tanzania to a high plateau in what is now known as the Democratic Republic of Congo. But since the 1990s, the Congolese Tutsi have been a pawn in a power struggle between the Democratic Republic of Congo and neighboring countries.

My tribe is Congolese, but the Democratic Republic of Congo government and our fellow citizens ignore our citizenship-by-birth status. They consider us refugees. They want us out. We faced harsh discrimination, we were forced from our homes.Fidele

As for Rwanda and Burundi, they have been mostly good to us, taking us in when need be. But there has been civil war, bloodshed, death. All sides are guilty of crimes against humanity. Ugly crimes.

The reason my people were in that UN-run refugee camp in Burundi on that fateful Friday the 13th night of 2004 was because we had fled to escape fierce fighting that had erupted between two Congolese army officers in Bukavu, the capital city of my province, South Kivu. The two officers were Colonel Jules Mutebutsi of my tribe (now in exile in Rwanda) and his boss, Brigadier General Mbuza Mabe.

After the massacre, survivors – including me and my family – were sent to live in another camp, hundreds of miles from where our loved ones were slaughtered and torched. At the end of 2006, the United Nations introduced the process of relocating us to Western countries. In 2007, families relocated to United States, Canada, Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark, and other countries.

On April 18, 2007, I flew from Bujumbura to San Diego. I joined my dad and mom, who came one month before me. One month later my sister arrived. My brother’s family joined us in 2008.

Like other survivors, I did not apply for a visa nor choose to come to San Diego. I found myself in a strange country with an unfamiliar culture. Adjusting to the American system and the English language was a challenge – I still struggle.

In 2008, I started college with the help of a government grant. But it was not always easy. The memory of my parents struggling to pay a $2 monthly school fee will not depart from my mind. In 2011, I graduated from San Diego Mesa College with an associate degree in chemistry.

In October of last year, I was hired at Point Loma Nazarene University as a groundskeeper. More recently I began my junior year here, majoring in writing. It is my pleasure to develop my talent. My ambition is to become the voice of my people.

Burundian rebel leaders, Agathon Rwasa and Pasteur Habimana, who claimed responsibility for the 2004 attack against my people, remain in power today in Burundi. Pasteur Habimana works for the Burundian government while his boss at that time, Agathon Rwasa, is still in the opposition and resides in Bujumbura, Burundi. They were leaders of National Forces of Liberation-Party for the Liberation of the Hutu People.

They have never been brought to justice, unlike Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden.

Sometimes when I see how Americans get so upset at trivial things, such as waiting an extra minute at a lengthy stoplight or when their favorite football team loses a game, to be honest – I think Americans are ignorant.

Don’t get me wrong. America helped save me and my family. For that, I will be forever grateful.

But America should consider the war-torn, disease-ravaged continent of Africa as it continues its mighty military quests. The Middle East may not need American intervention – but Africa does. America is powerful. America could help.

Maybe one day, God willing, it will.

Fix contributor Fidele Sebahizi is a student at Point Loma Nazarene University. Associate editor Jennifer Kabbany contributed to this report. Sebahizi may be reached via email at: [email protected].

CLICK HERE to Like The College Fix on Facebook / TWITTER: @CollegeFix

{ 1 comment }

A picture of four Washington University in St. Louis college students dressed up for Halloween in what appears to be costumes resembling SEAL Team 6 members holding water guns toward a fifth student dressed like Osama bin Laden with the American flag draped in the background has prompted outrage and controversy.

The photo, titled “Halloween ’13 Amurrica!!” allegedly detailed some fraternity Halloween festivities, and after it was posted on Facebook on Oct. 30 it was reposted by student Mahroh Jahangiri on Wednesday, who decried it as discriminatory and unacceptable.fbscreenshot

“This photo and its ‘Amurrica’ caption imply that ‘Amurrica’ is white (male) Americans; people with beards, or of darker color, or implicitly Muslims, are not,” states Jahangiri in her post, which went viral. “This photo implies that not only are Muslims not American, their lives are expendable. They can (and should) be brought to their knees with guns pointed at their damned faces. This photo makes a costume of the lives of the thousands of civilian Muslim men who have been murdered during our ‘War on Terror’ and the countless others who have been mutilated, robbed, and stabbed to death in hate crimes across the United States – very much because of the vehemently racist discourse such photos represent.”

In response to the photo, the college’s Muslim Students Association on Thursday night hosted a “Solidarity Forum,” during which one campus official apologized for not responding sooner to the photo, which was sent to her on Halloween, the Student Life campus newspaper reports.

Student Life reports that campus officials as a whole also commented on the controversy in an email to students, saying: “As a community, one of our highest priorities is to maintain an inclusive environment where everyone feels welcome. Images like the one that was posted on a social media site by students on Halloween and the impact it has had reminds us that we all must be united in this effort and it must be on-going. Whatever the intention, the image has offended and hurt members of our community. … We are deeply disappointed and saddened that this has occurred. We must expect better of ourselves and of each other.”

IMAGE: Facebook screenshot

Click here to Like The College Fix on Facebook. / TWITTER: @CollegeFix

{ 165 comments }

A science professor at Columbia University on Monday began a quantum mechanics lecture by stripping into his boxers and eating a banana while rap music played in the background.

Then it got weird.

The professor, Emlyn Hughes, proceeded to redress himself in black, complete with sunglasses, and hug himself on stage at the front of the classroom, a large theater.

As Hughes sat in the fetal position, two “actors” dressed in ninja costumes walked onstage and placed white stuffed animals – lambs – on stools before the audience, according to a student-recorded video of the incident posted on Vimeo.com by “Bwog,” a campus news website run by Columbia students.

The ninjas blindfolded the lambs, then a ninja impaled one of the stuffed animals with a long sword and banged it against the stool – right as an image of a plane hitting one of the Twin Towers on 9/11 started rolling on a large screen behind the performance.

Students in the video could initially be heard laughing and giggling and questioning the performance when it started, even squealing in shock with Hughes had first undressed.

“I am so confused,” one female student said on the video. “What is happening.”

After the lamb’s grisly “death” and the images of 9/11, the footage turned into a montage that included clips of Osama bin Laden, Saddam Hussein and Hitler – as well as numerous shots of war images – tanks rolling, bombs exploding, people hanging upside-down, troops marching, and the like.

As the footage continued, a rap song called “Drop It Like It’s Hot” played in the background.

Students’ reaction turned from laughter and amused surprised to concern, according to comments heard on the video.

“What the f**k is happening,” one female student asked. “Is this real life? … How does this relate to anything?”

Eventually, the film ended and the professor began his lecture. But when he first grabbed his microphone, at least one student mistook it for a gun, saying with concern: “He has a gun, he has a gun.”

The bizarre episode lasted less than ten minutes. The Vimeo clip included the very first part of Hughes’ lecture, in which he told students that “in order to learn quantum mechanics, you have to strip to your raw, erase all the garbage from your brain and start over again. … Everything you do in your everyday life is totally opposite of what you are going to learn in quantum mechanics.”

The Columbia Daily Spectator, the student campus newspaper that reported the news Monday of the professor’s performance, quoted several students who said they were troubled and confused by what unfolded.

Student Maura Barry-Garland told The Spectator that “the incident was all the more disconcerting because Hughes did not provide an explanation for using those images.

“It was very disturbing, and I don’t think anyone in the audience got what he was doing. He didn’t explain it or provide a context, and that’s why it was offensive to me and to other people,” she told the student newspaper.

The Spectator also reported Hughes’ performance Monday was not his first “stunt,” noting in a 2011 lecture “he showed students nude photos of Woodstock attendees.”

According to his bio page on the university’s website, Hughes stated that “via my background in nuclear physics activities, I have a deep interest in issues relevant to nuclear proliferation.”

WARNING: Video contains some profanity. (NSFW)

FroSci Gone Wild from Bwog on Vimeo.

Click here to read the Columbia Daily Spectator article on the incident.

CLICK HERE to Like The College Fix on Facebook.

IMAGE: Bwog/Vimeo.com

{ 18 comments }

A University of San Diego professor argues that modern-day coercive interrogation techniques used on terrorists are as morally wrong as pre-Civil War slavery, and he even goes so far as to link purported U.S. support of torture with leading to the 9/11 terrorist attacks and war in Iraq.

Thomas Reifer, an associate professor of sociology and ethnic studies at the University of San Diego, a private, Catholic institution, made the comments in a guest column published today in the UT San Diego. The column aimed to condemn the movie “Zero Dark Thirty,” nominated for five Academy Awards.

Reifer did not use the phrase “coercive interrogation techniques” in his column. He used the word “torture.” But they are essentially referring to the same thing: water boarding, physical abuse and sleep deprivation. The movie “Zero Dark Thirty” offers an exaggerated version of these techniques to illustrate an aspect of a larger effort in the decade-long hunt for Osama Bin Laden.

As for Reifer, he starts his column by quoting Abraham Lincoln’s words that “if slavery is not wrong, nothing is wrong.” Ultimately, Reifer argues the same, noting: “If torture is not wrong, nothing is wrong.”

His column states:

In the Civil War, the U.S. was forced to recognize … the war’s ultimate cause: the great evil and moral catastrophe that was slavery. Similar questions confront Americans today, namely whether we will recognize the great evil and moral catastrophe of the U.S. embrace of torture, especially after 9/11.

… The costs of U.S. support of torture, for this country, the world, and for the victims and survivors of U.S. programs of torture and cooperation with torturers, have been immense. U.S. support for torture in Mubarak’s Egypt arguably played a major role in forming the Egyptian contingent in al-Qaeda, arguably helping lead to 9/11. U.S. programs of torture thereafter led to false confessions linking Iraq, al-Qaeda, and weapons of mass destruction that helped the Bush administration convince the U.S. Congress and American people to invade and occupy Iraq in 2003 at a cost of anywhere from over 100,000 to over 1 million Iraqi lives; not to mention the shedding of blood of U.S. soldiers and trillions of dollars from the U.S. Treasury.

… If the film “Zero Dark Thirty’s” mainstreaming of torture is uncontested; if it wins an Academy Award for best picture, this will represent the final triumph of a liberal culture of torture in the U.S. And if that happens, no Americans will be able to look in the mirror, without recognizing, in the words of Mark Danner, that now, more than ever before, ‘We are all torturers now.’

Click here to read the entire guest column.

Click here to Like The College Fix on Facebook.

IMAGE: DLiberty3/Flickr

{ 0 comments }

Osama bin Laden was all about image. With his body decomposing somewhere on the bottom of the Arabian Sea, the remaining question is what image of him will be the lasting one. In life he tried to mythologize his own image, and in death, the forces that killed him are trying to tear that myth down as well.

Whenever we think of major historical figures, our memories are profoundly shaped by how they made their exit. The public last remembers Marilyn Monroe in her prime as a world-famous sex symbol.  Her untimely death seared that image of her into our shared consciousness. Elizabeth Taylor, on the other hand, was fully Monroe’s equal in her own time. Taylor died just this year, though, and now we cannot help thinking of her old and faded, making rare public appearances in a wheelchair. In the same way, we lionize John F. Kennedy as the hero of Camelot, while his brother Ted lived many more decades exposed as all too human. Even Martin Luther King, Jr. probably had more cultural power as a martyr than as a flesh and blood man.

Read more

{ 0 comments }

Last night, hundreds of GW and Georgetown students rushed to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue after hearing of the death of 9/11 mastermind Osama bin Laden. Here are some pictures of the boisterous crowd (and the elusive Geraldo Rivera who was humorously chased around by hundreds of college students).

Read more

{ 0 comments }