Archive for the ‘Wicked World’ Category

Jesus was so large of heart, so large of spirit, so endless in consciousness. Like, you don’t even need to think he is the son of God. Just think of him, first, as a man. He was such a man of beauty. Impatient with hate, dismissive of judgement, large of heart. Jesus was a beautiful man. Giving, forgiving, listening, understanding, relating, empathising. He was what some call, a son of mercy. How did his followers get so angry, and faithful and full of the fury of condemnation, and … xenophobia.

It’s all this ‘heretical’ teachings that take symbols and words and twist and bed them to fit whatever prejudice is in vogue in that age. Every generation has had its interpretation of the book of Revelations for 2000+ years. To fit its social context, and in this generation, our apocalyptic influencers insist the job of Christians is to delay the anti-Christ. *Shudders* And delaying the anti christ often means, in their telling, fighting ‘sin’, attacking the ‘sinful’, fighting cultural wars. To do this, they often descend on the book of Revelations and stretch and pull every word and symbol until it fits that assignment.

I have no doubt that they truly, truly believe in what they say, and their hearts may be in the right place. But it’s oh so dangerous. When Christians leave the simple, clear words and teachings of Jesus and the example of his life and witness, to pursue… evil.

Like sometimes I understand why the world is so cynical, so suspicious of Christians and Christian motive. Why they disconnect from our culture, and attack beautiful experiences like worship, or tongues, or prayer. They don’t see what I see when I am in many gatherings and I see the family of God’s children in worship, in fellowship, Connected, broken, emptied of self and ego and ambition, and fear and hate. Ah, worship, it’s a blessing to watch people in worship.

Then, those same people get into the world after service and then they become this judgemental, angry set of people. It really confuses me. Really confounds me. Like, how did you lose that pure state, that Jesus-state, so soon? How did you let it go? How did you let love go? How did you let compassion go?

Jesus was a disruptor. He was a spiritual disruptor. And that disruption was to the Judaism, Zoroastrianism, and all of that of the times the eye-for-an-eye, God-of-wrath stranglehold. His disruption was love. If it wasn’t love, then there was no point of His coming. The religions of the time already had judgement, condemnation down to a part. If that’s what he came here for, then it was unnecessary. But he came because his message was radical and revolutionary.

The way I see it. God was tired of the disruption of his true image for millions of years. He sent Jesus to make it right. To reveal his true nature that prophets and priests had struggled with for years. Jesus came to earth to model God’s true nature. That’s why it’s so difficult to justify a gospel of hate with his life. You can’t use Jesus’s words to justify this self-righteousness. You often have to turn to flawed apostles, or visioners. I’ll stick with Jesus. I’ll always cast my lot with Jesus. Stop “fighting for God”. He doesn’t need your help. What he asked you do is work on your life and bring others to him through that life. 

Listen, Jesus didn’t send the church to fight the devil for him. Nope. Jesus already won that battle on the cross. It is finished.

Anytime the Bible teaches about the Devil, it’s in relation to a Christian’s personal life. Resist the devil and he will flee “FROM YOU”. It’s not for you to carry weapons and go claiming you are fighting the devil. God doesn’t need your help to fight the devil. God needs you help to fight for your salvation and to draw others to him. And his weapon for that is love. The more you spend time fighting the world, the less time you have living a better life as a Christian. 

Matthew 7:5

Hypocrite! First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye. (NLT) 

When Christians stop persuading and start coercing, we have moved so far from what Jesus thought, we’ve practically turned our backs on Him.  Here’s what Walter Brueggemann has to say about “Sinners in the Hands of a Loving God.” 

I so desperately want people to meet Jesus. To meet this beautiful, incredible guy. All this hate from Christians makes it so hard. 

Important reading: “The Problem with, Hate the Sin Love the Sinner” 

“Using “hate the sin” as a license for cruelty defeats the purpose of proclaiming truth.”

  • Phylicia Masonheimer

The Problem with "Hate the Sin, Love the Sinner"Social media has brought out a dark side of Christianity. Torrents of hate spill into Facebook comments. Names are called. Insults are hurled. And somehow, we’re expected to win people to Christ through all of this. It’s this dark side of faith that the world reacts against so violently; their scapegoat for subjective morality. If Christian love looks like this – who would want it?

Hate the sin but love the sinner.

We use the phrase liberally, but are we liberal with the love?

There are plenty of Christian leaders who see this hatred and say, “No more!” But with the same breath that claims the love of Christ they write off the law that made Him necessary. Blurring the created lines of right and wrong, they “love the sinner” – and lie about the sin. Thus we end up right where we began: Striving for the ever-evasive balance of love and truth.

Our faith is like walking a tightrope. With each step, we are in danger of a wild swing into legalism or compromise. We walk the thin line – this narrow path – only by keeping our eyes fixed on the perfect balance of love and justice: God Himself. For if God did not define these things for us, we would have no measure of right versus wrong. We would be unable to give grace because there would be no reason to give it – without sin, there is no cause for mercy.

I’m the first person to call us to a higher standard of holiness. But as we navigate this sharply divided world, both online and in real life, we need to ask ourselves the following questions:

DO WE ACTUALLY HATE SIN, OR DO WE SIMPLY LOVE JUDGMENT?

Using “hate the sin” as a license for cruelty defeats the purpose of proclaiming truth. The gospel needs no help causing division; it is foolishness to those who reject it (1 Cor. 1:22-24). Because the gospel will divide based on its exclusive nature, our job is not to further that division but to simply love the Lord our God with all our hearts (emotions), souls (being), minds (thoughts), and strength (effort). Our second directive is to love our neighbor as much as we love ourselves.  (Matt. 22:37-40)

God hates sin because He is holy. Sin is contrary to His nature and prevents humanity from approaching Him. But because God is also loving, He desires a relationship with humanity. Jesus was the solution to the problem of sin, atoning for our unholiness and making possible what would otherwise be an impossible relationship with God.

Thus, God doesn’t hate sin arbitrarily. He doesn’t take joy in condemnation (2 Pet. 3:9). He judges because He is holy and sin must be judged. Yet it is by God’s mercy that any of us are able to claim the name of Jesus today. We are called to discern right from wrong in the world, but we are not called make judgment our hobby. To hate sin doesn’t mean we point it out at every opportunity, finding satisfaction in the failures of others. Our hatred for sin should be a direct result of our love for gospel hope. We only hate sin because it prevents a relationship with God. God is the judge; we are just the messengers, and we would do well to remember that.

SEE ALSO: 5 Ways to Protect Your Marriage on Social Media

DO WE HATE SIN IN THE LIFE OF OUR NEIGHBOR BUT IGNORE IT IN OUR OWN LIVES?

This question convicts my heart whenever I scroll through social media. Rife with animosity, Christians go to battle against even more malicious commenters in a never-ending debate about homosexuality, abortion, alcohol, and politics.

Yes, we should stand for what is true. But if we really hate sin, we will hate all sin, starting with the sin in our very own lives.

It’s really easy to point fingers at people who live a lifestyle devoid of God. It’s not so easy to see the sin in ourselves. Modern Christians, we are a speck-picking bunch. In the name of “truth” we seek out sin and we point at it like an over-eager hunting dog, waiting for God to pat us on the back. We are not called to seek out sin but to seek out those who need the gospel (Matt. 28:20). In the process of presenting the gospel, sin must be addressed. But hating sin is not our Christian day job.

The best way to understand, recognize, and address sin is to hate it in our own lives first. That means knowing the Word of God – really knowing it. Really studying it, not just proof-texting passages for Facebook debates, yanking phrases out of context to prove a point. We hate sin best when we love God most, because only His hatred for it is a direct result of His love for mankind.

SEE ALSO: How Sin Kills the Pro-Life Mission

DO WE ARGUE OVER THE DEMISE OF SOCIAL MORALITY WHILE IGNORING OUR OWN LACK OF HOLY LIVING?

Lifestyles of sin are celebrated in cultures worldwide. It seems to be all the rage. Morals are relative. Everyone does what is right in his own eyes. Society is indeed descending into moral chaos. But before lamenting the rapid descent, we should check our own moral thermometer. Are we ignoring the same heart attitudes that have been our culture’s demise?

Pride. Selfishness. Anger. Materialism. Envy. Lust: “…after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.” (James 1:15) Our world is dying because of the idolatry of desire. Where self replaces God, there is no room for abundant life. The eternal is replaced with the material, and separation from God is the inevitable result.

We bewail politicians and feminism and Common Core but the harsh reality is that this society is the way it is because of human hearts just like ours. We cannot expect a transformed culture when we have not transformed our very own minds. We cannot expect society’s sins to be conquered when we refuse to acknowledge our own transgressions.

So before arguing about abortion online, shut off the sexually promiscuous TV show.

Before bewailing the demise of the family, respect your husband. Love your wife.

And before burning sinners on a verbal stake in the name of “hating sin”, ask yourself: Does this action reflect the holiness of God? Am I really presenting the truth in love, or have I lost my love in zeal for truth?

I’m preaching to myself here. Instead of repeating, “Hate the sin, love the sinner”, I’m telling myself something else:

“Hate my own sin, love the way God does.”

Mercy is what draws us to repentance; it is the hope of our gospel. It’s the most lasting, loving way to truly hate sin.

This article originally appeared on phyliciadelta.com. Used with permission. 

Phylicia Masonheimer blogs at Phylicia Delta, where she teaches women how to preach the gospel with their lives: proclaiming Jesus in work, love and home. Her eBook Christian Cosmo launches March 1st, 2017

Let me just start straight up, exactly how I see it. ​In some sense I don’t think the colonial project really ended in Nigeria. We just shifted the tyranny and extractive ethos to a local elite.

What difference is it to a Teacher in Takum, A Farmer in Otukpo or a Fisherman in Ekim,  if his faraway oppressor is in Abuja or in London, or indeed, in Jalingo, Makurdi or Uyo his state capital?

When people talk about a country growing from poor to rich, that gets lost in the jargon of income per capita and other metrics.

In fact, what that looks like is a fisherman in Ekim in 1923 has grand kids who have vastly better incomes, education, health, opportunity. It means that a fisherman’s grandchild has the opportunity to compete to be a bank manager or even CEO today. That’s progress. 

It’s about people, en masse, moving from a life where they have low productivity to vastly higher productivity. But what I think has happened since 1923 is that children of fishermen mostly became fishermen themselves, with no change in productivity. Or they moved to cities to work in other low productivity jobs. Comparing his grandfather’s life to his, it hasn’t changed much (or has grown worse).

This is the challenge. How does a society develop to ensure that each successive generation lives better and has a better shot: progress.

So many problems just vanish when people are well fed, life is not bitterly difficult, the kids are looked after, etc. People keep looking to the various governments. We expect that an omnipotent Federal Government has the resources to fix all problems: It can’t. 
Looking at the 2017 budget across Africa, it is clear that the Federal Government of Nigeria is broke. We plan to spend roughly $120/Nigerian. The Kenyan Government is spending $560/Kenyan. South Africa: $2180/SAn. That is a big difference. 

But that doesn’t tell the full tale really, because as the saying goes: ‘Every Nigerian is a Local Government’. We are paying for that budget. We are paying in hardship, in the high cost of living, the lack of opportunity, one of the lowest life expectancy rates on earth and so on.
Of course, in the middle of all this, we supposedly have one of the biggest economies in Africa. I always find that one hilarious. If we had the productivity of the average South African worker, our economy would be two or three times its current size (our labour pool is 3 times larger than theirs). Also, SA’s government is spending about 33% of GDP. We, with our unsigned budget, are spending 7%. Again, pointer that Government isn’t that big.

The Government has to start working to empower Nigerians. It cannot be this colonialist mafia that just extracts from the population. They sit in Abuja with the best roads in the country, but a man in Nnewi or Aba cannot ship his produce through Calabar or Port Harcourt. Buhari is ‘recuperating’ in London claiming to be taking made in Nigeria drugs, while doctors are being tassed in LUTH over salaries that they are actually owed. This is colonialism!

I think it is so bad that we do not EXPECT things to get better in the next 25 years, so we optimise towards the proximate next best. 

Always interesting to read about America after the war (and California in the 70s). Phrase ‘alive with possibility’ always seems to come up. What phrases come up in your everyday experience? Of course we hear ‘there is money in this country,’ but it rings hollow for most people. What tends to ring true are things like: ‘This country is finished’; referring to other countries ‘these are serious countries’ and so on. You face a self-fulfilling prophecy situation — you think the country is finished, so you behave like a person living in a finished country. You don’t inflate the contract by 20% and fix the road well, you under-engineer the road and inflate the contract by 200%. 10 people do well, 1,000,000 suffer. The same road is re-tendered in a different budget cycle and the sham is repeated. 

2019 is coming. There will be an incredible amount of energy poured into it from that 7 trillion naira budget (and other budgets to come). To what end? The person is inheriting a mess. (And the funniest part is that we are going to hear the same vacuous, platitudinous slogans!). Actor, Andy Roid in Game of Thrones described it as “focusing on the politics of the Red Keep while White Walkers, Dothraki Hordes and Dragons are coming for you”. We aren’t talking about our real problems. 

The country is broke; y’all are marrying and having babies far too much; the government is choking off progress. We need to think about how govt can become more accountable, become less colonialist, to actually work for the people. Maybe that is confederalism or true federalism, I don’t know. I’ll leave thoughts on how to change the status quo for another time. I drop my pen here. We all need to start thinking right and start acting.

THE WEDDING PARTY MASSACRE

ON THE AFTERNOON of March 6, 2002, Lt. Cmdr. Vic Hyder and more than two dozen operators from SEAL Team 6 boarded two Chinook helicopters en route to eastern Afghanistan hoping that within hours, they would kill or capture Osama bin Laden.

Earlier that evening, general officers from the Joint Special Operations Command had scrambled the SEALs after watching a Predator drone video feed of a man they suspected was bin Laden set off in a convoy of three or four vehicles in the Shah-i-Kot Valley, where al Qaeda forces had fortified themselves. Although the video had revealed no weapons, and the generals had only tenuous intelligence that the convoy was al Qaeda — just suspicions based on the color of the man’s flowing white garb and the deference others showed him — they were nervous that bin Laden might get away again, as he had a few months earlier after the bombing of the Tora Bora mountains in December 2001. This was a crucial moment: Kill bin Laden now and the war could be over after only six months. The vehicles were headed east toward the Pakistani border, as if they were trying to escape. The mission was code-named Objective Bull.

Afghanistan’s Paktia province is about the size of New Hampshire, with 10,000-foot ridgelines and arid valleys with dried riverbeds below, nestled along the border with Pakistan’s tribal areas. The prominent mountain range often served as the last geographic refuge for retreating forces entering Pakistan. As the special operations helicopters approached the convoy from the north and west, Air Force jets dropped two bombs, halting the vehicles and killing several people instantly.

That was not how the SEALs wanted the mission to develop. Inside the helicopters, some of the operators had pushed to hold off any air attack, arguing that they had plenty of time to intercept the convoy before it reached the Pakistani border. “The reason SEAL Team 6 exists is to avoid bombs and collateral damage,” said a retired SEAL Team 6 member who was on the mission. “We said, ‘Let us set down and take a look at the convoy to determine if it’s al Qaeda.’ Instead, they dropped several bombs.”

The bombing stopped the convoy along a dry wadi, or ravine, with two of the trucks approximately a kilometer apart. Survivors began to flee the wreckage, and over the radio, Hyder and his team heard the order that the convoy was now in a “free fire zone,” allowing the Chinooks’ gunners to fire at anyone deemed a threat, regardless of whether they were armed. The SEALs had no authority over the helicopter gunners.

The two Chinooks landed separately, one near each end of the convoy. Both teams exited the helicopters to find a grim scene. The SEALs with Hyder came out and separated into two groups. One, led by an enlisted operator, took in the damage to one of the vehicles. Men, women, and a small girl, motionless and in the fetal position, appeared dead. Inside the vehicle were one or two rifles, as is customary in Afghanistan, but none of the men wore military clothing or had any extra ammunition. “These were family weapons,” said the retired SEAL.

The SEALs from the other helicopter immediately headed up a steep hill after landing to locate an armed man who had been shot from the helicopter. When they reached the hilltop, the operators looked down in disbelief at women and children, along with the man — all were dead or mortally wounded from the spray of gunfire from the Chinook’s gunners, who had unloaded after the free fire zone had been declared. They realized the man had been trying to protect the women and children.

Other SEALs on the ground proceeded as though the survivors were combatants. Hyder and an enlisted operator named Monty Heath had gone in a different direction and saw a survivor flee the bombed vehicle toward a nearby berm. Heath fired once, hitting the man, sending him tumbling down the back side of the small rise.

At that point, Hyder began assessing the damage and surveying the dead. “I was going around to the different KIAs with my camera to take photos,” Hyder told me in an interview, using the military term for enemies killed in action. “It was a mess.”

Hyder said that he and a few other SEALs began to bury the casualties near a ravine by piling rocks over them. As he did so, he approached the man Heath had shot. “He was partially alive, faced down, his back to me, and he rolled over. I shot him, finished him. He was dying, but he rolled over and I didn’t know whether he was armed or not. That was the end of that.” Hyder said that his single shot had blasted open the man’s head.

According to Hyder, the encounter ended there. But the retired SEAL who was on the mission tells a different story. According to this source, after shooting the man, who turned out to be unarmed, Hyder proceeded to mutilate his body by stomping in his already damaged skull. When Heath, who witnessed Hyder’s actions, reported them to his team leader in the presence of other members of the team, “several of the guys turned and walked away,” said the retired SEAL. “They were disgusted.” He quoted Heath as saying, “I’m morally flexible but I can’t handle that.” Heath refused to comment for this article.

The retired SEAL, who spent the better part of two decades at the command, said he never asked Hyder why he mutilated the corpse. It wasn’t necessary. He assumed it was a twisted act of misplaced revenge over the previous days’ events — specifically, the gruesome death of Hyder’s teammate Neil Roberts.

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Top: Photo of helicopter on Takur Ghar. Bottom left: Screengrab from drone feed during the battle of Roberts Ridge. Bottom right: Candid photo of U.S. Navy SEAL Neil Roberts.

 

Photos: U.S. Department of Defense; Screengrab from video by U.S. Department of Defense; U.S. Navy by the Roberts family

LESS THAN 48 HOURS before Objective Bull commenced, a small reconnaissance group from SEAL Team 6’s Red Team had tried to establish an observation post on the 10,000-foot peak of Takur Ghar, overlooking the Shah-i-Kot valley, where forces from the Army’s 10th Mountain Division intended to strike the last redoubt of al Qaeda forces massed in Afghanistan. Neil “Fifi” Roberts, a member of the SEAL recon team, fell 10 feet from the back of a Chinook and was stranded as the helicopter took fire from foreign al Qaeda fighters who were already on the snow-covered mountaintop. Two hours passed before the SEALs in the damaged helicopter were able to return. They didn’t know it, but Roberts was already dead, shot at close range in the head shortly after his helicopter departed the mountaintop. A Predator drone video feed filmed an enemy fighter standing over Roberts’s body for two minutes, trying to behead the dead American with a knife.

Eventually, two other elements of a quick reaction force — one of which included Hyder — landed at the top of Takur Ghar. In the ensuing 17-hour battle with the al Qaeda fighters, six more Americans were killed, and several were wounded. After the bodies were recovered, Hyder and the other members of Red Team were forced to reckon with the mutilation and near beheading of their fellow SEAL. Hyder was new to SEAL Team 6, but as the ranking officer on the ground during that operation, he was technically in charge. He took Roberts’s death hard.

Neil Roberts was the first member of SEAL Team 6 to die in the Afghan war, and among the first elite operators who died after 9/11. Beyond the dehumanizing manner in which the al Qaeda fighters had treated his corpse, Roberts’s death pierced the SEALs’ self-perception of invincibility.

The battle of Roberts Ridge, as it came to be known, has been frequently described in books and press accounts. But what happened during Objective Bull, the assault on the convoy in the Shah-i-Kot Valley, has never been previously reported.

Roberts’s death, and the subsequent operations in eastern Afghanistan during the winter 2002 deployment, left an indelible impression on SEAL Team 6, especially on Red Team. According to multiple SEAL Team 6 sources, the events of that day set off a cascade of extraordinary violence. As the legend of SEAL Team 6 grew, a rogue culture arose that operated outside of the Navy’s established mechanisms for command and investigation. Parts of SEAL Team 6 began acting with an air of impunity that disturbed observers within the command. Senior members of SEAL Team 6 felt the pattern of brutality was not only illegal but rose to the level of war crimes.

“To understand the violence, you have to begin at Roberts Ridge,” said one former member of SEAL Team 6 who deployed several times to Afghanistan. “When you see your friend killed, recover his body, and find that the enemy mutilated him? It’s a schoolyard mentality. ‘You guys want to play with those rules?’ ‘OK.’” Although this former SEAL acknowledged that war crimes are wrong, he understood how they happen. “You ask me to go living with the pigs, but I can’t go live with pigs and then not get dirty.”

SEAL Team 6 patches. Clockwise from top left: Blue Squadron, known as the Pirates; Gold Squadron, known as the Crusaders or Knights; Red Squadron, known as the Redmen; and Silver Squadron.

NO SINGLE MILITARY unit has come to represent American military success or heroism more than SEAL Team 6, officially designated as the Naval Special Warfare Development Group and known in military vernacular as DevGru, Team 6, the Command, and Task Force Blue. Its operators are part of an elite, clandestine cadre. The men who make it through the grueling training represent roughly the top 10 percent of all SEALs. They are taught to live and if necessary die for one another. The extreme risks they take forge extreme bonds.

Made up of no more than 200 SEAL operators when the Afghan war began, SEAL Team 6 was the lesser known of the U.S. military’s elite “special mission” units. Created in 1980 and based at the Dam Neck Annex of Naval Air Station Oceana near Virginia Beach, the command prided itself on its culture of nonconformity with the larger military. The unit’s name itself is part of an attempt to obscure U.S. capabilities. When it was commissioned, the Navy had only two SEAL (Sea, Air, and Land) assault teams, but founding officer Cmdr. Richard Marcinko hoped that the number six would lead the Soviet military to inflate its assessment of the Navy’s SEALs.

When SEAL Team 6 first deployed to Afghanistan in January 2002, the command had three assault teams, Red, Blue, and Gold, each with a mascot. Red Team, known as the Redmen, employed a Native American warrior as a mascot; Blue Team, known as the Pirates, wore the Jolly Roger; and Gold Team, known as the Crusaders or Knights, wore a lion or a crusader’s cross.

The prevailing narrative about SEAL Team 6 in news coverage, bestselling books, and Hollywood movies is unambiguously heroic; it centers on the killing of Osama bin Laden and high-profile rescue missions. With few exceptions, a darker, more troubling story has been suppressed and ignored — a story replete with tactical brilliance on battlefields around the world coupled with a pattern of silence and deceit when “downrange” actions lead to episodes of criminal brutality. The unit’s elite stature has insulated its members from the scrutiny and military justice that lesser units would have faced for the same actions.

This account of the crimes of SEAL Team 6 results from a two-year investigation drawing on interviews with 18 current and former members of the unit, including four former senior leaders of the command. Other military and intelligence officials who have served with or investigated the unit were also interviewed. Most would speak about the unit only on background or without attribution, because nearly every facet of SEAL Team 6 is classified. Some sources asked for anonymity citing the probability of professional retaliation for speaking out against their peers and teammates. According to these sources, whether judged by its own private code or the international laws of war, the command has proven to be incapable and unwilling to hold itself accountable for war crimes.

Most SEALs did not commit atrocities, the sources said, but the problem was persistent and recurrent, like a stubborn virus. Senior leaders at the command knew about the misconduct and did little to eradicate it. The official SEAL creed reads, in part: “Uncompromising integrity is my standard. My character and honor are steadfast. My word is my bond.” But after 9/11, another code emerged that made lying — especially to protect a teammate or the command from accountability — the more honorable course of action.

“You can’t win an investigation on us,” one former SEAL Team 6 leader told me. “You don’t whistleblow on the teams … and when you win on the battlefield, you don’t lose investigations.”

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BY THE TIME the two dozen Red Team operators departed for Objective Bull, tension had built up between Hyder, a commissioned officer, and the enlisted operators technically under his command. The situation was not particularly unusual. Historically, SEAL Team 6 is known as a unit where officers “rent their lockers,” because they typically serve about three years before rotating out, whereas the enlisted operators remain for much of their careers, often for a decade or more. Simply put, the unit is an enlisted mafia, where tactics are driven by the expertise developed by the unit’s enlisted assaulters, whose abilities and experience at making rapid threat decisions make up the command’s core resource. Officers like Hyder, who did not pass through the brutal SEAL Team 6 internal training program, known as Green Team, are often viewed with suspicion and occasionally contempt by the enlisted SEAL operators.

Even before the attack on the convoy and the alleged mutilation of the dead Afghan, Hyder had committed at least one killing with questionable justification. Several weeks earlier, in January 2002, Hyder killed an unarmed Afghan man north of Kandahar during the unit’s first ground assault of the war. In that operation, Hyder led a team of Red operators on a nighttime mission to capture suspected al Qaeda militants in a compound. After securing several detainees and cordoning the area, Hyder and his men waited for their helicopters to arrive and extract them. During the mission, the SEALs reported receiving small arms fire from exterior positions, though no one was hit. After 90 minutes, as the helicopters were nearing the rendezvous point, one of the SEALs alerted Hyder that an old man who had been lying in a ditch nearby was walking toward the SEALs’ position.

In an interview, Hyder said the man had approached his position with his arms tucked into his armpits and did not heed warnings from other SEALs to stop. Hyder acknowledged that the man likely did not understand English and probably couldn’t see very well. Unlike the SEALs, the man was not wearing night-vision goggles. “He continued to move towards us,” Hyder said. “I assessed he was nearing a distance where he was within an area where he could do damage with a grenade.” Hyder said that a week earlier, a militant had detonated a concealed grenade after approaching some American CIA officers, seriously injuring them. “He kept moving toward us, so at 15 meters I put one round in him and he dropped. Unfortunately, it turned out he had an audiocassette in his hand. By the rules of engagement he became a legitimate target and it was supported. It’s a question, why was he a threat? After all that activity, he’d been hiding in a ditch for 90 minutes, he gets up, he’s spoken to, yelled at in the dark … it’s disturbing. I’m disappointed he didn’t take a knee.”

Hyder, who was the ground force commander for the Kandahar operation, was cleared in an after-action review of the shooting. The rules of engagement allowed the ground force commander to shoot anyone he viewed as a threat, regardless of whether they were armed at the time of the shooting. But in the eyes of the enlisted SEALs of Red Team, Hyder had killed a man who didn’t have to die. Two of the operators with Hyder reportedafterward that the man was not a threat. One of those operators was Neil Roberts.

“The SEALs believe that they can handle the discipline themselves, that’s equal to or greater than what the criminal justice system would give to the person.”

The morning after Objective Bull, Red Team gathered at Bagram Air Base. Most of the operators held a meeting to discuss what had happened on the mission. No officers were present, and the enlisted SEALs used the meeting to address Hyder’s alleged mutilation of the dead Afghan the previous day. The discussion covered battlefield ethics. Inside a heated tent, as many as 40 SEAL Team 6 operators asked themselves how they wanted to treat their fallen enemies. Should they seek revenge for Roberts? Was it acceptable, as Hyder had done with the wounded man whom he executed, to desecrate the dead?

“We talked about it … and 35 guys nodded their heads saying this is not who we are. We shoot ’em. No issues with that. And then we move on,” said a former SEAL who was present at the meeting. “There’s honor involved and Vic Hyder obviously traipsed all over that,” he said. “Mutilation isn’t part of the game.”

Nonetheless, Red Team did not report Hyder’s alleged battlefield mutilation, a war crime. In what would become part of a pattern of secrecy and silence, the SEAL operators dealt with the issue on their own and kept the incident from their chain of command.

“The SEALs believe that they can handle the discipline themselves, that’s equal to or greater than what the criminal justice system would give to the person,” said Susan Raser, a retired Naval Criminal Investigative Service agent who led the agency’s criminal division but did not investigate this mission. “They have an internal process that they think is sufficient and they are not inclined to cooperate unless they absolutely have to.” Raser, who conducted investigations into both regular SEAL units and SEAL Team 6, said that in her experience, SEALs simply didn’t report wrongdoing by their teammates.

Senior leaders at the command knew the grisly circumstances of Roberts’s death had unsettled Red Team. “Fifi was mutilated,” said a retired noncommissioned SEAL leader who was involved in internal discussions about how to prevent SEAL Team 6 from seeking revenge. “And then we had to address a very important question, how do you get the guys’ heads straight to mitigate any retaliation for Fifi? Otherwise we knew it’s going to get out of control. A third of the guys literally think they’re Apache warriors, then you had the Muslim way of removing a head. I understand the desire, I don’t condone it, but there was definite retaliation.”

Hyder told me that he did not desecrate the body. “I deny it,” he said, adding that he didn’t understand why Heath would have claimed to have witnessed it. “Even if it was true, I don’t know why he would say that.” Hyder said he was not aware of the Bagram meeting held by the enlisted operators about him or the accusations. “Why would I do that?” he asked. “Somebody else is making this up. Memories get distorted over 14 years. They’re telling you how they remember it. There was a lot of chaos. I’m telling you the absolute truth.”

After the deployment, SEAL Team 6’s leadership examined Hyder’s actions during Objective Bull. For some of them, what was most troubling was not that Hyder might have taken gratuitous revenge for Roberts’s death on an unrelated civilian, but that on more than one occasion, as ground force commander, he had fired his own weapon to neutralize perceived threats. “If you have multiple incidents where the ground force commander pulls the trigger on a deployment, you have a total breakdown of operational tactics,” said one retired SEAL leader. “It’s not their responsibility — that is why we have DevGru operators.”

Beyond the story of the alleged mutilation, the sight of the dead civilians killed during the opening airstrikes of Objective Bull, especially the women and children, left members of Red Team with deep psychological scars. “It ruined some of these guys,” said the former SEAL operator on the mission.

Six days after Objective Bull, the Pentagon announced at a press conference that an airstrike had killed 14 people, who a spokesperson said were “somehow affiliated” with al Qaeda. Sources at SEAL Team 6 who were present during the operation estimated the number of dead was between 17 and 20. Inside the command, the incident became known as the Wedding Party bombing after it was learned that the convoy was driving to a wedding.

Hyder finished his tour at SEAL Team 6 shortly after returning from the Afghanistan deployment and was later promoted to the rank of commander, the Navy equivalent of a lieutenant colonel. He was awarded the Silver Star for his efforts at Takur Ghar to save Roberts and the rest of the Red Team recon element. A few years later, after Hyder’s name was mentioned for another rotation in Red Team, some of Hyder’s former operators informed SEAL Team 6 leadership that he was not welcome back in the unit.

Neil Roberts’s bent rifle was placed on the wall of Red Team’s room at the SEALs’ base near Virginia Beach, a visible reminder of their teammate, their first deployment, and the troubles that would follow.

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ONE CLEAR SIGN that all was not right with the command was the way sadism crept into the SEALs’ practices, with no apparent consequences. A few months after Objective Bull, for example, one of Hyder’s operators began taunting dying insurgents on videos he shot as part of his post-operation responsibilities. These “bleed out” videos were replayed on multiple occasions at Bagram Air Base. The operator who made them, a former SEAL leader said, would gather other members of Red Squadron to watch the last few seconds of an enemy fighter’s life. “It was war porn,” said the former SEAL, who viewed one of the videos. “No one would do anything about them.” The operator who made the bleed-out videos was forced out of SEAL Team 6 the following year after a drunken episode at Bagram in which he pistol-whipped another SEAL.

The SEALs’ successes throughout 2002 resulted in the Joint Special Operations Command choosing the unit to lead the hunt for al Qaeda, as well as the invasion of Baghdad in March 2003. The rise of JSOC as the sharp tip of America’s military effort led to a similar increase in size and responsibility for SEAL Team 6 in the early years of America’s two post-9/11 wars. By 2006, the command rapidly expanded, growing from 200 to 300 operators. What were originally known as assault teams now formally became squadrons, and by 2008, the expansion led to the creation of Silver, a fourth assault squadron. One result of the growth was that back in Virginia, the captain in command of the entire 300-SEAL force had far less oversight over tactical battlefield decisions. It was at this point that some critics in the military complained that SEAL Team 6 — with their full beards and arms, legs, and torsos covered in tattoos — looked like members of a biker gang. Questions about battlefield atrocities persisted, though some excused these actions in the name of psychological warfare against the enemy.

Against this backdrop, in 2006, Hugh Wyman Howard III, a descendant of an admiral and himself a Naval Academy graduate, took command of Red Squadron and its roughly 50 operators. Howard, who has since risen through the ranks and is currently a rear admiral, was twice rejected by his superiors for advanced SEAL Team 6 training. But in 1998, after intervention by a senior officer at Dam Neck, Howard was given a slot on Green Team. Because of Howard’s pedigree, SEAL Team 6 leaders running the training program felt pressure to pass him. After being shepherded through the nine-month training, he entered Red Squadron. Howard took the unit’s identity seriously, and after 9/11, despite the questionable circumstances that led to his ascent, his influence steadily grew.

In keeping with Red Squadron’s appropriation of Native American culture, Howard came up with the idea to bestow 14-inch hatchets on each SEAL who had a year of service in the squadron. The hatchets, paid for by private donations Howard solicited, were custom-made by Daniel Winkler, a highly regarded knife maker in North Carolina who designed several of the period tomahawks and knives used in the movie “The Last of the Mohicans.” Winkler sells similar hatchets for $600 each. The hatchets Howard obtained were stamped with a Native American warrior in a headdress and crossed tomahawks.

At first the hatchets appeared to be merely symbolic, because such heavy, awkward weapons had no place in the gear of a special operator. “There’s no military purpose for it,” a former Red Squadron operator told me. “But they are a great way of being part of a team. It was given as an honor, one more step to strive for, another sign that you’re doing a good job.”

For some of Howard’s men, however, the hatchets soon became more than symbolic as they were used at times to hack dead fighters in Iraq and Afghanistan. Others used them to break doorknobs on raids or kill militants in hand-to-hand combat.

During the first deployments in both Iraq and Afghanistan, it was common practice to take fingers, scalp, or skin from slain enemy combatants for identification purposes. One former SEAL Team 6 leader told me that he feared the practice would lead to members of the unit using the DNA samples as an excuse to mutilate and desecrate the dead. By 2007, when Howard and Red Squadron showed up with their hatchets in Iraq, internal reports of operators using the weapons to hack dead and dying militants were provided to both the commanding officer of SEAL Team 6 at that time, Capt. Scott Moore, and his deputy, Capt. Tim Szymanski.

Howard, who declined to answer questions from The Intercept, rallied his SEALs and others before missions and deployments by telling them to “bloody the hatchet.” One SEAL I spoke with said that Howard’s words were meant to be inspirational, like those of a coach, and were not an order to use the hatchets to commit war crimes. Others were much more critical. Howard was often heard asking his operators whether they’d gotten “blood on your hatchet” when they returned from a deployment. Howard’s distribution of the hatchets worried several senior SEAL Team 6 members and some CIA paramilitary officers who worked with his squadron.

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Top left: Red Squadron tattoo. Top right: A bearded Red Squadron SEAL in Afghanistan. Bottom left: A Winkler hatchet similar to those issued to Red Squadron. Bottom right: Undated photo of Adm. Wyman Howard.

 

Photos: Facebook; airsoft-army.com; http://www.lightfigher.net; Facebook

BEGINNING IN 2005 and continuing through 2008, as U.S. Special Operations forces became more central to the American military strategy, the number and frequency of operations in both Iraq and Afghanistan increased dramatically.

One former SEAL Team 6 senior leader said that he and others at the command were concerned that the scale and intensity of the violence in Iraq was so great that U.S. operators might be tempted to engage in retaliatory mutilations, a tactic al Qaeda and the Iraqi insurgency sometimes employed. “Iraq was a different kind of war — nothing we’d ever seen,” said the now-retired Team 6 leader. “So many dead bodies, so many, everywhere, and so the potential opportunities for mutilations were great.”

The operational tempo was very high. “On my 2005 deployment in Afghanistan, we only went on a handful of ops,” said a retired SEAL who served under Howard. “By the time we moved over to Iraq, we were doing missions as much as five nights a week. Iraq was a target rich environment, and Wyman allowed us to be more aggressive.” According to several former SEAL Team 6 leaders, it was JSOC commander Gen. Stanley McChrystal who ordered the increased operational tempo and pushed SEAL Team 6, including Howard, to conduct more frequent raids to help wipe out the insurgency in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Howard, according to two of his former operators, was more willing than previous officers to greenlight operations based on “weak” intelligence, leading to more raids and strikes. As a result, Howard became popular among the enlisted SEALs under his command, several of whom defended and praised him.

Howard’s critics argue that the hatchets were emblems of the rogue, at times criminal, conduct on the battlefield the commander was encouraging. “Every one of us is issued and carries a suppressed weapon,” said one former senior SEAL, referring to the Heckler & Koch assault rifles, equipped with silencers, issued to the operators. “There just isn’t a need to carry a two-pound hatchet on the battlefield.” For those who favored them, this former SEAL said, the hatchets could be justified as being no more than knives. “It’s a great way to explain it away, but they have the hatchets to flaunt the law. Our job is to ensure that we conduct ourselves in a way befitting the American people and the American flag. The hatchet says, ‘We don’t care about the Geneva Conventions’ and that ‘we are above the law and can do whatever we want.’”

Critics inside the command were troubled by the combination of battlefield aggression and Howard’s lack of military discipline. A retired noncommissioned officer said Howard’s encouragement and provision of Winkler hatchets was simply adding fuel to the fire. The power of the Native American mascot, he said, was not to be dismissed. Since the 1980s, when Red Team was first created, there were many operators in the unit who had experienced a “metamorphosis of identity and persona” into Native American warriors. “Guys are going out every night killing everything. The hatchet was too intimate, too closely aligned with a tomahawk, to have been a good idea.” The former SEAL, who himself had served in Red during his career, said that by giving operators the weapon of their battlefield persona, Howard sent an unmistakable message to his men: Use it. “That’s when you take away a hatchet,” the retired SEAL said. “Not provide them.”

During one Iraq deployment, Howard returned from a raid to an operations center with blood on his hatchet and his uniform. Back at the base, he gave a speech to a group of analysts and nonoperational officers in which he told them that his bloody appearance was a demonstration of how a battlefield commander should lead. One operator, who confirmed Howard’s remarks, added his own: “That’s the business we’re in.”

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3HEAD ON A PLATTER

THE DEATH AND attempted decapitation of Neil Roberts on Takur Ghar affected no one so profoundly as Britt Slabinski, the operator who led the rescue team back up the mountain only to find that Roberts was already dead. One former teammate who served with Slabinski described his effort that day — outnumbered and with inferior fire support, taking incoming fire from the moment the helicopter landed — as “one of the most heroic things I’ve ever seen.” On the day when SEAL Team 6 lost its first operator in the post-9/11 era, Slabinski became a unit legend.

By all accounts, Slabinski, a second-generation SEAL who joined Team 6 in 1993, was an excellent sniper and reconnaissance operator. Thin and lanky, he was less physically imposing than many SEALs but was charismatic and dedicated. After Roberts’s death, Slabinksi wanted revenge. In audio of an unpublished interview with the late Malcolm MacPherson, author of a 2005 book about Roberts Ridge, Slabinski describes in great detail an operation that took place about a week after Objective Bull. In that mission, known as Objective Wolverine, Slabinski and his fellow SEALs were sent in Chinook helicopters to follow a convoy they believed was filled with al Qaeda fighters escaping to Pakistan. A drone flying above the convoy showed the occupants of three vehicles were heavily armed.

After the Chinook miniguns strafed the vehicles and stopped them, Slabinski and his team of snipers landed and moved to a rise several hundred yards away from one of the trucks and began firing sniper rounds at the militants. In that brief firefight, the SEALs killed nearly 20 foreign al Qaeda fighters, some of whom carried U.S. military equipment taken from Takur Ghar. Slabinski told MacPherson that Wolverine had been “really good payback.”

“Just a phenomenal, phenomenal day. We just slaughtered those dudes.” After describing one particular fighter who from a distance had resembled Osama bin Laden, Slabinksi continued: “To this day, we’ve never had anything as good as that. Oh my gosh. We needed that … there was not a better group of people to go and do that. The guys needed that to get back in the saddle because everyone was gun shy.”

“I mean, talk about the funny stuff we do. After I shot this dude in the head, there was a guy who had his feet, just his feet, sticking out of some little rut or something over here. I mean, he was dead, but people have got nerves. I shot him about 20 times in the legs, and every time you’d kick him, er, shoot him, he would kick up, you could see his body twitching and all that. It was like a game. Like, ‘hey look at this dude,’ and the guy would just twitch again. It was just good therapy. It was really good therapy for everybody who was there.”

Audio from an unpublished interview with Britt Slabinksi conducted by Malcolm MacPherson, author of a 2005 book on the battle of Roberts Ridge.

Shortly after that operation, Slabinski returned to the SEAL Team 6 base at Dam Neck. He was awarded a Navy Cross, the second highest battlefield award for heroism. For several years afterward, the leaders at the command limited Slabinski’s battlefield exposure — assigning him to Green Team as an instructor, for example — hoping the psychological wounds from Roberts Ridge would heal.

By late 2007, Slabinski was deployed to Afghanistan as the senior noncommissioned officer in Blue Squadron. The war was entering its seventh year and had become intractable, with no clear path to victory. Early in the war, the SEALs’ mission was to hunt down al Qaeda’s senior leaders, who had largely vanished into Pakistan, but now Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the leader of JSOC, extended the mission to target the Taliban, who along with al Qaeda were moving back and forth across the Pakistani border with impunity. The SEALs were now going after low-level Taliban financiers and shadow governors.

Blue Squadron was led at that time by Cmdr. Peter Vasely, a Naval Academy graduate who had not gone through the advanced assault training of Green Team that the other members of SEAL Team 6 had endured. He was an outsider, despite having been at the command for many years. Like Vic Hyder, he struggled to command the respect of his men. Slabinski — experienced, charismatic, and by now legendary — bridged the gap.

According to two senior SEAL Team 6 sources, however, the leadership dynamic in Blue Squadron was a failure. By 2007, the command’s leadership was aware that some Blue Squadron operators were using specialized knives to conduct “skinnings.” Using the excuse of collecting DNA, which required a small piece of skin containing hair follicles, operators were taking large strips of skin from dead enemy fighters. The two leading officers at the command, Moore and Szymanski, were informed that small groups in each of the three squadrons were mutilating and desecrating combatants in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

Slabinkski and others in the squadron had fallen under the influence of an obscure war novel, “Devil’s Guard,” published in 1971 by George Robert Elford. The book purported to be a true account of an S.S. officer who with dozens of other soldiers escaped Germany after World War II, joined the French Foreign Legion, and spent years in Vietnam brutalizing the insurgency. The novel, which glorifies Nazi military practices, describes counterinsurgency tactics such as mass slaughter and desecration and other forms of wanton violence as a means of waging psychological warfare against the “savage” Vietnamese.

“These fucking morons read the book ‘The Devil’s Guard’ and believed it,” said one of the former SEAL Team 6 leaders who investigated Slabinski and Blue Squadron. “It’s a work of fiction billed as the Bible, as the truth. In reality, it’s bullshit. But we all see what we want to see.” Slabinski and the Blue Squadron SEALs deployed to Afghanistan were “frustrated, and that book gave them the answers they wanted to see: Terrorize the Taliban and they’d surrender. The truth is that such stuff only galvanizes the enemy.”

One telling illustration of what had gone wrong with Blue Squadron occurred on December 17, 2007, during a raid in Helmand province. Slabinski had told his operators that he wanted “a head on a platter.” Although some of the more seasoned SEALs took the statement metaphorically, at least one operator took Slabinski at his word, interpreting it as an order.

Later that night, after Blue Squadron’s assaulters had successfully carried out the raid, killing three or four armed men and recovering weapons and explosives, Vasely and Slabinski conducted a walk-through of the compound. Vasely, who was wearing night-vision goggles, looked through a window and saw one of his operators, his back turned, squatting over the body of a dead militant. Vasely later told investigators he saw the operator moving his hand back and forth over the militant’s neck in a sawing motion. Alarmed at seeing what he believed was a decapitation, he told Slabinski to go inside and see what the young operator was doing. By the time Slabinski entered the room where the dead militant lay, according to three former SEAL Team 6 leaders, the operator had severed much of the dead man’s neck.

Slabinski did not report the decapitation, however. He told Vasely that the operator had been trying to remove the dead fighter’s chest rack, a small vest that can hold ammunition and clips. Slabinski told Vasely, and later, Navy investigators, that there had been “no foul play.”

After leaving the compound and returning to their base in Kandahar province, Vasely reported to Moore, his superior officer, that he believed he had witnessed a war crime, a mutilation. Vasely told Moore he wanted an investigation into the incident. Moore, sitting in his office in Virginia Beach, pressed Vasely: What had he actually seen? Was there another explanation?

Moore told his deputy, Szymanski, who was in Afghanistan, to sort things out. Ten days later, the internal JSOC investigation was closed. The Naval Criminal Investigative Service then opened an investigation but was forced to rely on photographs and witness statements because active hostilities made the alleged crime scene inaccessible. When investigators approached the operator accused of mutilating the dead fighter, he exercised his right to remain silent and his right to counsel. A few days after the attempted interview, investigators obtained photos purporting to be of the dead fighter. No cuts were visible in the photos, according to a military official who has reviewed the file. Three weeks after the incident, NCIS closed its investigation, concluding that there was no evidence the SEAL had violated the laws of armed conflict. But according to multiple SEAL sources, the incident did in fact occur.

Szymanski, according to these sources, was directed by Moore to make the episode disappear. “Tim took a dive,” said a former noncommissioned SEAL officer, and it was “at Moore’s direction.” Szymanski had known Slabinski for at least 15 years. They had bonded over Roberts’s death.

Although Blue Squadron had avoided criminal charges, their battlefield conduct continued to set off alarms within the command. Some SEAL Team 6 leaders were appalled by how easily Vasely and Szymanski had folded under Moore’s pressure.

Within two weeks of the apparent beheading, Moore deployed to Afghanistan. While he was there, he confronted the Blue Squadron troop and the operator who’d tried to behead the Taliban fighter. A former SEAL Team 6 leader who has knowledge of the episode told me Moore shamed Slabinski and the squadron for their conduct. That was the only punishment. (The Intercept is withholding the name of the operator, who believed he was following an order. He remains on active duty and has not responded to requests for comment.)

One of the former SEAL Team 6 leaders, who investigated several Blue Squadron incidents, including the mutilation of bodies, said he repeatedly asked the operators why they felt the need to commit such acts. “Often we’d hear, well, they’re savages,” the former leader said. “They don’t play by the rules, so why should we?”

The Intercept submitted three pages of questions to both Adm. Szymanksi, who as head of Naval Special Warfare now commands all SEALs in the Navy, and Capt. Vasely, who currently runs the operations divisions of JSOC. Both declined to comment. Moore did not respond to requests for comment. A spokesperson at Naval Special Warfare, which oversees SEAL Team 6, declined repeated requests for interviews and refused to answer a detailed list of questions, writing in a statement, “We do not entertain or support public discussion of classified information because it puts our forces, their families and our future operations at great risk.” The SEAL command asserted that “all members of Naval Special Warfare are required to comply with the Laws of Armed Conflict in the conduct of military operations.”

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Top: Capt. Peter Vasely with members of Blue Squadron in Afghanistan. Bottom: Britt Slabinski, left, and Capt. Timothy Szymanski, commanding officer of the Naval Special Warfare Group, after Slabinski was blackballed by SEAL Team 6 in Norfolk, Va., March 25, 2011.

 

Photos: http://www.navyseals.hu; Robert J. Fluegel/U.S. Navy

IN 2010, WHEN Slabinski was up for a promotion at the command, SEAL Team 6 leaders conducted two internal inquiries before making a decision. Almost immediately, the issue that received the most scrutiny was the December 2007 attempted beheading. According to two former SEALs, Slabinski told his teammates and superiors that his remark about wanting a head was figurative and not a literal order. By then, there was no question about whether the attempted beheading had occurred; the question was why.

“We didn’t debate whether Slab had told his guys he wanted a head on a platter — he copped to that. The only issue was, was his order real, or just talk?” said one of the retired SEALs involved. “It didn’t make a difference. He said it and one of his operators did it because he believed he was following an order.”

Ten officers and master chiefs voted unanimously against allowing Slabinski to return to the command. At that point, the second inquiry was commissioned by the SEAL Team 6 commanding officer, Pete Van Hooser. Evidence was presented that Slabinski gave an order to shoot all the men they encountered during another raid, whether or not they were armed. According to the New York Times, Afghans accused Blue Squadron of killing civilians during that operation, but a subsequent military investigation determined that all those killed had been armed and hostile. When Slabinski was confronted by the command’s senior enlisted leader about whether he had instructed Blue Squadron operators to kill all males during the operation, code-named Pantera, Slabinski acknowledged that he had done so. The second inquiry also uncovered the “head on a platter” remark as the instigation for the beheading in December 2007, but the command’s senior enlisted leader told Slabinski he would not get the promotion or be allowed to serve at the command again because of the Pantera order. Overall, it had become clear that Slabinski’s run as a leader on the battlefield caused Blue Squadron to come “off the rails,” according to a former SEAL Team 6 leader.

Slabinski has not responded to multiple queries and requests for comment, though he did deny to the New York Times in 2015 that he gave the illegal pre-mission guidance to kill all males. In his interview with the Times, Slabinski asserted that it was he who had witnessed the operator slashing at the dead fighter’s throat, saying, “It appeared he was mutilating a body.” Slabinski portrayed himself as trying to police his men and said that he gave them “a very stern speech.” He claimed to the Times that he told his men, “If any of you feel a need to do any retribution, you should call me.” Slabinski says nothing in the Times story about Vasely ordering him to investigate the scene or the remark about a head on a platter.

“To this day, he thinks the guys turned on him,” said one of the former SEAL Team 6 leaders. “Well, they did. What we didn’t do was turn him in. You will step over the line and you start dehumanizing people. You really do. And it takes the team, it takes individuals to pull you back. And part of that was getting rid of Britt Slabinski.”

Two other SEAL Team 6 leaders with a combined 35 years at the command said the removal of Slabinski and the failure to pursue official punishment was an indictment of the senior officers — they had failed one of their most basic duties, to hold themselves and others accountable for wrongdoing.

When Szymanski, who was then commanding officer of all regular East Coast-based SEAL teams, heard that Slabinski had been rejected by Team 6, he requested him as his senior enlisted adviser. The request was approved and Slabinski was promoted.

“If a guy cuts off another guy’s head and nothing happens, that becomes the standard,” said one of the former SEAL Team 6 leaders. “You’re moving the bar and buying into an emotional justification, ‘War is hell.’ If you’re not disciplining your force, you’re saying it’s OK.”

Slabinski retired from the military in 2014 after 25 years in the Navy. The operator accused of the attempted beheading has experienced difficulties as a result of his service. Last year, the command became concerned about his psychological condition, determining that he was medically unfit to deploy again. His superiors believed he had become “unglued” over the 2007 deployment. He was quietly removed from Team 6 and returned to a regular SEAL unit. He has told at least one former SEAL Team 6 teammate that he hopes to never deploy again.

“He’s just beginning to suffer for what he did,” said another SEAL Team 6 leader.

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Nigerian-Senate-LogoThe cost of Governance in Nigeria is a huge unjust strain on the nations economy. if nothing is done by the present Buhari administration, then there will be no room for meaningful development in the country. Do you know that a Nigerian senator earns more in Salary than US President and David Cameron of the UK. I’ll leave you to tell how much Nigerian President goes home with at the end of each month.

In the United States, while the minimum wage is $1,257 (N191, 667), a US lawmaker earns $15,080 (N2.3m) per month. In the United Kingdom, a lawmaker earns $8,686 (N1.3m) monthly while the gross national minimum wage is $1,883 (N283, 333) per month. Also, Nigerian lawmakers earn higher than their counterparts in Sweden. With a monthly pay of $7,707 (N1.2m), a lawmaker in Sweden will need to work for over 12 years to equal what a Nigerian senator earn per annum. An Indian lawmaker must work for at least 49 years to earn the annual salary of a Nigerian senator.

The president of the United States takes home an annual salary of $400,000 (N64.156,0m), including a $50,000 expense allowance making the president the highest paid public servant in the US. The $400,000 includes everything and $350,000 out of it is taxable.

The details of the remuneration of an average Nigerian Senator is detailed below; (and there are some allowances that will make you wonder if this people have a conscience or not).

  • Basic Salary (B.S) – N2,484,245.50
  • Hardship Allowance (50% of B.S) – N1,242,122.70
  • Constituency Allowance (200% of B.S) – N4,968,509.00
  • Newspapers Allowance (50% of B.S) – N1,242,122.70
  • Wardrobe Allowance (25% of B.S) – N621,061.37
  • Recess Allowance (10% of B.S) – N248,424.55
  • Accommodation (200% of B.S) – N4,968,509.00
  • Utilities (30% of B.S) – N828,081.83
  • Domestic Staff (70% of B.S) – N1,863,184.12
  • Entertainment (30% of B.S) – N828,081.83
  • Personal Assistants (25% of B.S) – N621,061.12
  • Vehicle Maintenance Allowance (75% of B.S) – N1,863,184.12
  • Leave Allowance (10% of B.S) – N248,424.55
  • Severance Gratuity (300% of B.S) – N7,452,736.50
  • Car Allowance (400% of B.S) – N9,936,982.00
  • TOTAL MONTHLY SALARY = N29,479,749.00 ($181,974.00)
  • TOTAL YEARLY SALARY = N29,479,749.00 x 12 = N353,756,988.00 ($2,183,685.00)

* EXCHANGE RATE: $1 = N162 (Hopefully the Naira will get back to where it was as at December 2014 when this analysis began)

LEGISLATORS PAY WORLDWIDE PER ANNUM

  • * Britain – $105,400.00
    * United States – $174,000.00
    * France – $85,900.00
    * South Africa – $104,000.00
    * Kenya – $74,500.00
    * Saudi Arabia – $64,000.00
    * Brazil – $157,600.00
    * Ghana – $46,500.00
    * Indonesia – $65,800.00
    * Thailand – $43,800.00
    * India – $11,200.00
    * Italy – $182,000.00
    * Bangladesh – $4,000.00
    * Israel – $114,800.00
    * Hong Kong – $130,700.00
    * Japan – $149,700.00
    * Singapore – $154,000.00
    * Canada – $154 000.00
    * New Zealand – $112,500.00
    * Germany – $119,500.00
    * Ireland – $120,400.00
    * Pakistan – $3,500.00
    * Malaysia – $25,300.00
    * Sweden – $99 300.00
    * Sri Lanka – $5,100.00
    * Spain – $43,900.00
    * Norway – $138,000.00

The funny thing is that the standard of living and the Gross Domestic ratios of most of the above countries are well high than that of Nigeria.

In terms of lawmakers’ salaries as a ratio of GDP per capita, the gap is even much wider. While the salary of a Nigerian lawmaker is 116 times the country’s GDP per person, that of a British member of parliament is just 2.7 times.

The average salary of Nigerian worker based on the national minimum wage is N18,000.00, So, the yearly salary is N18,000.00 x 12 = N216,000.00 ($1,333.00)
Remember, Yearly Salary of Nigerian Senator = $2,183,685.00.

Proportion: $2,183,685.00/$1,333.00 = 1,638

It will take an average Nigerian worker 1,638 years to earn the yearly salary of a Nigerian Senator. Thinking on this will just give one an intense heart ache. President Muhammadu Buhari better does something about it or all his proposed effort to redeem the country’s dwindling economy will be a waste. May God help Nigeria.

Some days back, The Nigerian Legislative arm of Government approved the Legal sex age for the country. That in itself is a good thing, but the unbelievable and heartbreaking part of it all was that, of all the Ages of adulthood, they couldn’t find any suitable Legal age for sexual activities and shamelessly delved so low to the realms of Paedophilia. They finally without hesitation agreed to the pressure from the horny Paedophiles in them to aporove age 11 as the official legal age for one to indulge in Sexual activities. (Yes 11, that age after 10, that is not yet a Teenager).

After giving a hard thought to why the Nigerian Senate will legalize sex from 11years of age, I couldn’t think of any possible reason rather than, they (the Legislators) being sorry excuses for humans. I was so pained, I prayed for it to be a dream but the stench from thier paedophilia motivated action smacks the day dream out of my face. I can’t seem to imagine a Senator with kids at home screaming “Aye” to that vote. I can imagine Senate President David Mark asking the house, “Do you want to come home one day and realize your 11years old Daughter hasn’t done her homework and you ask ‘why?’ and she boldly replies you, ‘I was having Sex’.?” and the whole house screams “YES”.

Makes me wonder if this is the first of many more Gomorrahaic bills to be pass. Are there no morally right people in the Senate, Are there no Parents in the Legislative arm of our Government or were they deceived as some claimed in 2013 or were they hypnotized into thinking 11years was same as 22? These are the questions that have occupied my mind since I heard the evil News.

The same Legislators that Passed the Life Imprisonment penalty for Rape, has just armed their paedophiles friends with a Lawful defence for their animalistic behavior.

We sincerely have to Pray, that one day our innocent children won’t be told that it was legal to start Whoring.

This Pain is more than I can bear, May God save our Nation.

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Brig. Gen. A.C. Olukolade – Defence Spokesman

The Nigerian Defence Headquarters has released a statement in reaction to the Amnesty International’s report earlier on Wednesday which indicted Senior Military officers of committing war crimes. The world humanitarian body mentioned names and called for a full investigation of the officers who they allege participated, sanctioned and failed to prevent the deaths of over 7,000 Nigerians since activities of Boko Haram started in Nigeria. in response to that, the Defense Headquarters reacted thus..

The Defence Headquarters has noted with dismay the gruesome allegations made by the Amnesty International against some senior military officers serving and retired of the Nigerian Armed Forces. It is unfortunate that all effort made in the allegation was geared towards continuation of blackmail against the military hierarchy in which the organisation had embarked upon as far back as the inception of military’s action against terrorist in the North East. The officers mentioned in the report have no reason, whatsoever, to indulge in the allegation made against them. It is unfortunate that the organisation just went out to gather names of specified senior officers, in a calculated attempt to rubbish their reputation as well as the image of the military. The action, no doubt, depicts more of a premeditated indictment aimed at discrediting the country for whatever purpose. Each of the previous allegations had been thoroughly responded to and cleared in the public and officially. The title down to the body of the allegation smacks of the extreme bias, which is disturbing coming from an otherwise reputable organisation that is expected to be Just and fair to all. Unfortunately in this case, has taken a premeditated position, which is far from noble.

It is curious that a body that has never been able to seriously condemn terror in Nigeria now claims to have done an extensive research with the aim of discrediting the nation’s effort at curtailing terror.
It is clear that Amnesty International (AI) becomes more active in presenting distractive allegations whenever the terrorists are losing ground in the battle. It is very unfortunate that Amnesty International has used this report to further confirm its questionable interest in the counter-terrorism effort in Nigeria.
It will be recalled that the Joint Investigation Team was set up by the Defence Headquarters as part and parcel of efforts to ensure that no detainee suffer unjustly. The detention facilities were thrown open for visits and inspections by independent bodies such as International Committee of the Red Cross and other reputable international organisations and personalities.
Amnesty International is advised to stop playing the role of an irritant coming up loudly only when the terrorists are losing out and remaining silent or complacent whenever the terrorist heightens its atrocities. It is unfair to persist in effort to discredit Nigerian military by seeking all avenues to stigmatise individual officers of the nation’s military purely to satisfy an agenda against the security agencies and image of Nigeria before the international community.

(more…)

osama Bin Laden Library

The Obama administration on Wednesday declassified nearly 80 documents and other materials, including books and press clippings, seized from Bin Laden’s compound during the raid by Navy Seal members in May 2011 which resulted in the death of the world no 1 most wanted.

The materials showed that Bin Laden spent a lot of time reading. The books showed that Osama read a wide range of books from sober works of history and current affairs to wild conspiracy theories spun by anti-Semites.

He also studied his enemy the United States by reading the “9/11 Commission Report” as well as other reports on Al Qaeda by the Congressional Research Service.

The list of English-language books – which were all digital copies rather than printed editions – reads like a university reading list, largely made up of serious texts on international relations, politics and law.

So if you are looking for a reading list this summer, here is help.

The full list of English language books:

  • The 2030 Spike by Colin Mason
  • A Brief Guide to Understanding Islam by IA Ibrahim
  • America’s Strategic Blunders by Willard Matthias
  • America’s “War on Terrorism” by Michel Chossudovsky
  • Al-Qaeda’s Online Media Strategies: From Abu Reuter to Irhabi 007 by Hanna Rogan
  • The Best Democracy Money Can Buy by Greg Palast
  • The Best Enemy Money Can Buy by Anthony Sutton
  • Black Box Voting, Ballot Tampering in the 21st Century by Bev Harris
  • Bloodlines of the Illuminati by Fritz Springmeier
  • Bounding the Global War on Terror by Jeffrey Record
  • Checking Iran’s Nuclear Ambitions by Henry Sokolski and Patrick Clawson
  • Christianity and Islam in Spain 756-1031 A.D. by CR Haines
  • Civil Democratic Islam: Partners, Resources, and Strategies by Cheryl Benard
  • Confessions of an Economic Hit Man by John Perkins
  • Conspirators’ Hierarchy: The Committee of 300 by John Coleman
  • Crossing the Rubicon by Michael Ruppert
  • Fortifying Pakistan: The Role of U.S. Internal Security Assistance (only the book’s introduction) by C Christine Fair and Peter Chalk
  • Guerrilla Air Defense: Antiaircraft Weapons and Techniques for Guerrilla Forces by James Crabtree
  • Handbook of International Law by Anthony Aust
  • Hegemony or Survival: America’s Quest for Global Dominance by Noam Chomsky
  • Imperial Hubris by Michael Scheuer
  • In Pursuit of Allah’s Pleasure by Asim Abdul Maajid, Esaam Ud-Deen and Naahah Ibrahim
  • Killing Hope: U.S. Military and CIA Interventions since World War II by William Blum
  • Military Intelligence Blunders by John Hughes-Wilson
  • Project MKULTRA, the CIA’s program of research in behavioral modification. Joint hearing before the Select Committee on Intelligence and the Subcommittee on Health and Scientific Research of the Committee on Human Resources, United States Senate, Ninety-fifth Congress, first session, August 3, 1977. United States. Congress. Senate. Select Committee on Intelligence.
  • Necessary Illusions: Thought Control in Democratic Societies by Noam Chomsky
  • New Pearl Harbor: Disturbing Questions about the Bush Administration and 9/11 by David Ray Griffin
  • New Political Religions, or Analysis of Modern Terrorism by Barry Cooper
  • Obama’s Wars by Bob Woodward
  • Oxford History of Modern War by Charles Townsend
  • The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers by Paul Kennedy
  • Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower by William Blum
  • The Secret Teachings of All Ages by Manly Hall (1928)
  • Secrets of the Federal Reserve by Eustace Mullins
  • The Taking of America 1-2-3 by Richard Sprague
  • Unfinished Business, U.S. Overseas Military Presence in the 21st Century by Michael O’Hanlon
  • The U.S. and Vietnam 1787-1941 by Robert Hopkins Miller
  • Website Claims Steve Jackson Games Foretold 9/11, article posted on ICV2.com (this file contained only a single saved web page)

The documents ‘probably used by other compound residents’ includes

  • Art Education: The Journal of National Art Education Association, “Islamic Art as an Educational Tool about the Teaching of Islam” by Fayeq S Oweiss (March 2002)
  • Arabic Calligraphy Workshop by Fayeq S Oweiss
  • Published Work Sample from Fayeq S Oweiss (2004)
  • Resume for Fayeq S. Oweiss, PhD (2006)
  • Delta Force Extreme 2 Videogame Guide
  • Game Spot Videogame Guide
  • Grappler’s Guide to Sports Nutrition by John Berardi and Michael Fry
  • Guinness Book of World Records Children’s Edition 2008 (scans of several pages from)
  • Is It the Heart You Are Asking? by Dr. Islam Sobhi al-Mazeny (suicide prevention guide)
  • Silkscreening Instructions

As reported on today

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The Fallen Hero

A symbolic but tragic reminder of the enormous sacrifices the Nigerian military has been making in defence of the nation in the ongoing war against terror was brought to the fore yesterday by the painful news of the death of a  Lieutenant who was killed in the line of duty barely a month to his wedding.

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His wedding invitation card

Lt. Kyom Leo, who had planned to wed his fiancee, Miss Angela Gaiya, on August 30, in Kaduna was killed in an ambush while on a mission to search for the Chibok schoolgirls. With his death, he joined the long list of fallen heroes as the military intensifies the counter insurgency campaign against the Boko Haram sect.

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The late Lt. Kyom as a 3rd year cadet in NDA

The sad news was announced yesterday by the Defence Headquarters (DHQ) through their twitter account @DefenceInfoNG and later on their website http://www.defenceinfo.mil.ng.

The message which was confirmed by the Director of Defence Information (DDI), Maj-Gen. Chris Olukolade, stated:  “This is his WEDDING IV but killed by #BokoHaram in an attempt to #BringBackOurGirls. A #HERO is gone”#RIP Lt. Leo”

The statement reads: “2nd Lieutenant Leo of the Nigerian Army was one of the three gallant soldiers killed in operation as insurgents ambushed our troops during a patrol to dislodge insurgents around Delwa, Borno State.
“His emotional story told on various social media channels, continues to draw myriads of sympathies, tributes and encomiums from friends and family and other well-meaning people all over the country.

“One Miss Nkechi Afamu, a friend to the late soldier wrote ‘RIP LEO, my childhood friend. We all parted ways after Kaduna crisis in 2000. I can’t believe you are gone, what happens to Tida and Wyari your lovely sisters. I can’t question God but it’s hard to say goodbye. Rest On KY. We will all miss you’.”

The statement added that Leo was a deeply religious and courageous soldier whose steadfast belief in the country for which he paid the ultimate price would “continue to inspire the Nigerian Military to protect our territorial integrity and rid Nigeria of all forms of insurgency and aggression.

My Name Is Abdullahi, I’m an Orphan – by James Ogunjimi

My name is Abdullahi, an SSS2 student. At least that was my status until last week. Now I’m just a cattle-rearer, and I’m in charge of my late father’s 70 heads of cattle. I have to take the cows around and sleep wherever night meets me. But first let me tell you how it all started.

I wasn’t always all alone. I had a father, a mother, two elder brothers and two beautiful younger sisters. We didn’t have much, but we had each other. My father was a devout Muslim man who brought us all up to love and appreciate others around us. At a very tender age, my father hired one of the brothers at the mosque who had completed his senior secondary examinations to teach me arithmetic and English language. I was a bright kid, in no time at all; I was reciting the first 100 numbers and could recite the complete alphabets. My father being a devoted Muslim sent me to the Arabic home with boys of my age group and our Arabic lessons began. At the same time, my father got a big break with his cattle and he used the money to put myself and my two sisters in school. Although I was too old for my class, I went anyway and performed well. I completed my Arabic school and my father killed one of his cows to celebrate my graduation from Arabic school.

I was one of the recipients of the free education programme designed to encourage children to go to school, my father only had to buy my school uniform and notebooks.

It was in my junior secondary school year that I began to sense something was wrong. I was told some people said it was wrong to go to school. I was told they are fellow Muslims, but our Imam said they are not and that they are messengers of Satan who will have no place in paradise. Those people said the Koran forbids school attendance and that Allah has commanded that those who attend school should be destroyed. They also said that if we are to enter paradise, we must kill anybody who is not a Muslim.

That night I was confused. Could they be right? I picked up my Quran in the midnight and turned up the light of our local lantern, I tried to think back to my days at the Arabic class; Alfa Razaq never mentioned anything like that. Could he have forgotten? I thought back to the days when my father would sit us down and tell us about how good it is to co-exist peacefully with others regardless of tribe or religion. Could he be wrong? I remembered that the boy that my father hired to lead his cattle around was a boy from the Catholic Church down the street. If it was wrong to associate with anybody who didn’t practice the same religion as ours, why then did my father do so? I was genuinely confused.

The next day at school, I couldn’t concentrate; I kept on thinking of what to do. For the first time, I looked at Akpan, the Igbo boy who had the seat next to mine with new eyes. He noticed and asked what was wrong; I merely shook my head and told him I was fine. Immediately after school, I didn’t wait for my two friends, Adamu and Sunmonu, I dashed off to my old Arabic teacher’s house. I met Alfa Razaq just concluding his prayers and waited quietly for him to finish. I looked at him; he was now frail and was closer to the grave than he was to us. He smiled at me and simply said, “Abdullahi, you have grown.” I smiled back and told him thank you. He noticed that I was in no mood for small talk and asked me what brought me there.

I thanked him and joined him on the mat. I asked him if during the course of my lessons with him, there was anything he left out. He coughed, gave me a knowing smile and replied, “Abdullahi, you have always been an inquisitive child. It’s one of the reasons why you were my favourite pupil. But don’t talk to me in parables; tell me what’s on your mind.” I told him everything; how I’ve heard that some people said it was wrong to go to school, that it was wrong to associate with people from other religions and how we needed to destroy anybody who wouldn’t accept our religion as our pass into paradise.

When I started my narration, Alfa Razaq merely listened with his face betraying no emotions, but as I neared the end of my narration, I noticed he was clutching tighter at the prayer beads in his hands while his other hand was clenched tightly into a fist; his teeth was grinding together frantically. He was sweating. After I finished talking, we were both silent for some minutes as Alfa sat with his eyes closed. I initially thought he had dozed off, but then his toes twitched, so I sat still waiting for him to talk.

Eventually, he sighed and opened his eyes. He looked at me for a few minutes and asked, “Abdullahi, have I ever lied to you?” I shook my head. “Has your father ever led you astray?” He asked again. I shook my head again. He continued, “See, the world we live in is full of people who act first and then look for justifications for their actions. This Quran you see, if you want to live right, you have your backing. If you also want to do otherwise, you can find your excuse here.” He went on and on telling me that I should not allow myself to be deceived and that there was no honour in killing people because we differ in beliefs. After much talking, I thanked him and left.

Those people who said going to school is forbidden started threatening everybody. They called them Boko Haram. Initially they would meet children coming from school and merely warn them to stop or beat them and tell them not to go again, but they eventually grew tired of just warning and started using some as scapegoats. There was a day we heard a scream in papa Adamu’s house, we were told Adamu and his little sister went to the farm to pick firewood when they were attacked by members of Boko Haram, Adamu was held by two of them and forced to watch while others took turns raping his little sister. Eventually, her frail body couldn’t take it again and she slumped. The attackers tied Adamu to a tree and after giving him a severe beating, they left him staring at the lifeless body of his sister as she bled out. It was then the reality struck me that it was no longer small talk, it was real and they meant business.

After similar attacks like that, families were reluctant to let their children out alone. The government sent some soldiers to protect everybody, and calm returned. But it was only for a while. One day as we were returning from school, I had just greeted the military men parading and was eating kulikuliwith garri when I heard a very loud bang. The bang shook the whole house and the pictures on the wall all fell down. The black and white television that my father put in the sitting room as decoration fell to the ground and cracked. I wondered, could this be the earthquake that our teacher talks so much about, that they said happens in the white man’s land and swallows houses? Will our house be swallowed? As I was still wondering, we saw a huge smoke arise into the sky. The smoke was so thick that I hadn’t seen anything like it before in my life. I tried to step outside, but my father pulled me back and gave me a deafening slap. He asked what I was going to do outside. He dragged me inside, and we all hid under my parents’ wooden bed.

After about fifteen minutes, we started hearing voices. The voices were screams. I heard Mama Kafayat screaming that she couldn’t find her daughter. We came out, and my father stepped out first even though my mother was still begging him not to. Eventually, we all went outside. The first smell that hit me was that of roasted meat. I then started seeing strange sights. I looked down and there at my feet was a hand; a human hand. I choked, and nearly vomited. It was like a scene out of those movies that we occasionally sneaked off to watch at Papa Akpan’s house. I saw the truck belonging to the military men; it was up in flames, while another car was burning beside it. They said it was a bomb and that it was carried in that car to attack the military men. I saw the shoe cobbler that lives in the deserted house behind our mosque; his two legs had been blown off and he was screaming for help. My father herded us back in and locked the door. My two sisters were crying and one was even vomiting.

That night, I couldn’t sleep. I kept on replaying the scene in my head. What if my father was on the road at that time? What if mother was returning from the market then? The next morning, the state governor came, when he got to the scene of the bombing, he shed a few tears; they looked real. He promised to fish out the perpetrators of the act and bring them to book. He also promised that the state would foot the hospital bill of the victims and be responsible for the upkeep of the children who lost their parents. We all clapped for him and sang his praises. He told us that our security was his primary concern and that he felt our pains. He promised to do his best to make the state habitable. He sang a song saying the state is ours and we must protect it since we have nowhere else to go. We all thanked him again and sang his praises. It was later that night that I learnt that the governor doesn’t even live in the state for fear of these people. That night, I knew we were on our own.

The government sent in new military men, this time, they sent six truckloads of military men. These ones were unlike the previous ones who joked and played with us. If you moved too close to these ones, they would whip you with their koboko. They looked at us as if we were their enemies. If you greet them, they wouldn’t even answer and would keep their guns pointed at us staring at our hands frantically until we passed. They started entering houses and searching them. They said some of us kept the Boko Haram members in our house. I wondered why anyone would do that.

Some of our friends who were Christians started avoiding us. The last time I sneaked to Papa Akapn’s house to watch movies as usual, they refused to open the door and acted like no one was inside, but I knew they were inside because I heard the sound of the television, but they quickly switched it off when they heard me knocking. At school, Akpan moved his chair to another place and doesn’t even talk to me again. I became even more confused.

The next week, we heard that the Catholic boy who was in charge of our cattle had stopped coming. He said his parents didn’t want him working for us again. Father decided that he would henceforth start leading his cows around instead of hiring someone else. The day he started, mama cried and begged him. He refused. He went away and sometimes returned home just once in two weeks. I became used to being alone. My two sisters were by now in boarding school at a girls’ school. I was in senior secondary school one.

It was on a cold Saturday morning, at about 6:30 am when someone was banging our door, she was wailing at the same time. When mama opened the door, the person told me to go inside. I went inside but stayed around the corner trying to eavesdrop. Suddenly mama screamed and was shouting my father’s name. I rushed out, but she just sat on the ground shaking vigorously and screaming. I learnt that while papa was leading his cows around, he was attacked by some Fulani herdsmen and was killed. They stole some of his cows and left others scattered in different directions. The youths in our area were infuriated and mobilised with machetes and sticks to try and catch the attackers, but they couldn’t find them. They came back and according to Islamic rites, my father was buried that evening. Mother sent the information to my brothers; one lives in outskirts of Abuja, while the other lives in Yobe. She also sent message to my two sisters in school. Although my brothers couldn’t come home, my sisters came and stayed a while before going back to school for their exams.

The week after that, my brother in Yobe sent a message to us to deliver to Alfa Razaq saying he craved our prayers. He said over there, the military men were feared more than the Boko Haram people themselves. He said they had made themselves judge and jury and that they killed at will. Two weeks after that, I was about leaving for school on a Thursday morning when a military truck stopped in front of our house and about 6 fierce looking military men barged into our house. I greeted them but they merely brushed me aside and asked mother if she was shettima’s mother. Shettima is my brother’s name. Mother answered in the affirmative. The next thing I heard was a thunderous slap. They slapped her around and said her son was a terrorist. After beating her to their heart’s content, they told her to be in the barracks by 5pm to collect her son’s body. She simply lay there; speechless. The pain that was coursing through her was more than the physical pain; it was a pain that defied words. I dropped my school pack and sat on the floor with her, not saying a word; I wouldn’t know what to say anyway. Later that morning, my father’s elder brother and two of our relatives came and simply sat without saying a word. They went with my mother in the evening to collect shettima’s body. They didn’t allow mother to see his body; they simply took him to the bush and buried him there.

After that, mother rarely smiled again. I got used to staying a whole day without talking. I began to think. I also began to read everything I could lay my hands on. Books became my companions. I wondered why anyone would say it’s wrong to read. I tried so hard to understand how they reasoned, but each time I came short.

My sisters were sleeping in their hostel rooms when they were attacked by the Boko Haram people. They took some of the girls with them and set fire on their hostel. Suliat died in the fire while Rashidat was kidnapped along with other girls. They said girls like that became wives of the Boko Haram people. Mother couldn’t take it; she wept every day. Me? I withdrew more into myself; I hardly went out again. I read more and more. I learnt that these people killing everybody are all over the world. Somewhere, some of them are called Al-Quada, in another country, some are called Al Shabbab. They all claim to be Muslims, they all claim to be doing God’s will, and they all claim they are going to paradise. But why should they kill to achieve all these? I devoted myself to reading more books, hoping to find the answers to my questions.

Mother aged very quickly. She had seen too many evils and she could bear no more. She didn’t go out again. She always sat inside singing softly of her little girls. My father’s relatives told me that I had to start taking care of my father’s cows or find someone who would. I told them I was still in school, they told me I must not let my father’s labour just perish like that. I told them I would think about it.

The next morning, I heard there was another bombing in Abuja. Abuja? How did that happen? Our capital? I was told it happened in Nyanya. Ok, that was outskirt of Abuja. Wait!…My brother lives in the outskirt of Abuja. I dashed inside and asked mother for the piece of paper where she writes telephone numbers. I read through and saw my brother’s phone number. I rushed across the street to the call centre where a girl makes phone calls. I gave her the number and she dialled it and gave me when it started ringing. The voice I heard was strange, so I asked, “Boda Ibrahim, Is that you?” But the voice simply said, “I’m sorry sir. My name is Mr Frank. Are you related to the owner of the phone?” I replied impatiently, “Yes, what are you doing with my brother’s phone?” “I’m sorry,” he said, “Your brother was killed in this morning’s bombing.”

I was shocked. I clenched the phone tightly. The man on the phone kept on saying some things but I wasn’t listening again. I gave the phone to the girl and just stood rooted to the ground. The girl told me my money is sixty naira, but I gave her the last two hundred naira with me and didn’t wait for my change. I walked home like a ghost, just quiet, unfeeling. When I got home, a look at my face was all mother needed to know; she broke out laughing. She laughed hysterically and rolled on the ground. She laughed until tears started coming from my eyes. Those outside heard her and rushed inside. I didn’t think anything was wrong until she started plucking at her hair and loosening her wrapper. The neighbours tried to hold her, but she overpowered them. She went into the streets singing and laughing. By the time my father’s relatives came, she couldn’t be found. She had gone far. The next day, after combing the nooks and cranny of our town, we found her. She was there by a river; naked, sleeping peacefully; forever.

She was dead.

As my father’s relatives took her body to be buried. I made up my mind that I wasn’t going back to school. I had had enough of the town, the state and its ills. I would take the remaining 70 cows that my father had and lead them around. If I successfully make it out of this area alive, praise be to the creator. If I don’t, well, I have told my story. So, my books are packed, my radio is packed with my extra batteries. And now, my story is told.

NB: In honour of those who have had it all bad in this country of ours, who have had their homes destroyed and their happiness shattered. To those whose dreams have been turned into nightmares, words cannot convey my sympathy. We will continue to hope that our leaders will awake to their responsibilities and realize the urgency of now. But in the meantime, we will not relent, our voice will not stop talking, our pen will not stop moving, and we will not stop acting and preparing for a system change.