The Making of an African Military Dictator

African Military

African Military —  In the early days of the coup that brought General Haroun Al Mahmud to power in the Mountain Capital the Press of the World camped on State House lawns day and night, day after day. Their gear hung from every tree. Their goings-on created a stir. It was a carnival such as the city and the country had not seen.
The Strongman reveled in the media blitz. He paused for photos, granted interviews, he signed autographs.

Overnight he had become a household name across the breadth and length of the World. He gave press conferences and now and then lavish luncheons and banquets at State House. In his eyes everything he did confirmed his was a great man.

One fine evening he ordered a barbecue and invited the Press of the World to eat, drink, dance and be merry. He said to them I want you to eat completely the whole barbecue. The wily journalists knew exactly what they wanted and they knew their man. They encouraged the Great Man’s every fancy and idiosyncrasy, and busily made footage. A media hungry world waited.

In Lagos Nigeria a mother returning home after a punishing day at the city market, hearing sounds of BBC and CNN broadcasts, doubles up despite her fatigue. What has Al Haroun done again today? Has he killed another Archbishop? Folks like her were insatiable and they were legion. There was blood and there was fun.

At the court of General Haroun Al Mahmud at the Grand Imperial, that was the official name of the Presidential Palace, there was never a dull moment. A marriage bid today for the hand of the gorgeous daughter of one of Europe’s ruling family. The next day battle plans in all earnest against one of the neighboring states; to teach them a lesson they will never forget and procure a corridor to the sea for his landlocked nation.

Now and then a mocking cable to Washington to the most powerful man in the World, timed to cause the President maximum discomfort. One fresh morning, there was a gift of a virgin, a young woman kidnapped the other day by State Security, along some village path. Now the General handed her over to his friend and companion the young Scottish doctor, who saved his life from the syphilis bug the General feared had silenced the manhood in him for good.

African Military

Now in the cool of the evening, barbecue sizzles, oriental and African aroma, mingle and add color to the night. Wine and conversation flow. The press of the world is in hot pursuit. Now they know their hour has come. They reach for their little packs.

Trinkets, perfumes, handguns, electronics; gifts for the General from the labs and workshops of Europe, nothing has changed in Africa. A couple of centuries ago in the days of King Jaja Opobo, the Portuguese bought hundreds of slaves on the West African coast with a handful of cheep beads.

General Haroun Al Mahmud was a natural. Protocol abandoned, legs akimbo the General sprawls on the lawn, bantering and hollering. Soon wine and whisky take their toll. The moment arrives and the past returns. The General found himself back where he once belonged. As though in a dream, he heard a voice.

You and I must make a pack. We must bring salvation back. Where there is love I will be there. I’ll reach out my hand to you; I will have faith in all you do. Just call my name and I will be there

It was the King of Pop, but in Michael’s amplified voice the General heard instead the voice of his own mother. It brought hot tears streaming down his face. It brought him back to the river’s mouth to the warmth and comfort of the old colonial barracks.

Away from power and pomp and intrigues, away from the slaughter of innocent men and women his men carried on a daily basis on his behalf, away from the haunting cries of the dying and the dead that haunt African men of power even today. The music made of General a free man again, truly saved by the music. Years ago his own dear mother writhed in agony on the dirt floor of their simple hut and bestowed upon him that silent night that precious gift only mothers could give.

After all these years, now here he was where it all began. Here where as a young man he and his buddies marched happily to the drill of the Scotsman’s hoarse voice, Commander Neil Graham. Now in his mind’s eyes the Union Jack flutters again, triumphant again in the cool African breeze as he and his buddies march proudly in tune with the crazed hollering of the Scotsman. He loved that voice and he longed to be crowned King of the Scots, just like Mary Queen of Scots, the woman he knew they murdered out of jealousy.

Eyes right! Halt! As one body with a thousand pairs of boots the men come to a thunderous stop and for a moment nothing moves, till the Scotsman’s hoarse voice range out again. Present your arms! And so rifles click! As one body a thousand shinny rifles thrust forward.

The band strikes God Save the Queen. With a jerk the General returned to the world where mortals live. Suddenly he was fully awake; back in the Country whose President he had just shot. To his amazement he found himself surrounded by the Press of the World fighting for a shot at his silly moon face.

Dr. King once stated, “A nation that continues year after year spending more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual doom” In a time of recession when public workers and programs are being cut left and right, the military spending is still increasing. The United States spends 41.5% of all military spending in the world.

In fact, the spending is more than the next 15 countries combined. This list includes the largest and most powerful nations in the world: China, United Kingdom, France, Russia, Germany, Japan, India, etc. Many are afraid to cut this spending, because it will make them look weak to the public. However, it is a necessity for a type of spending that has grown to be insane.

Obviously, much of the military spending grew after World War II in the wake of the Cold War. However, while the cold war ended, our military “cold war” spending did not. This type of spending is simply not sustainable. Do we really still need military bases in Spain, Germany, Italy, and Japan? The military spending is also having a major toll on the U.S. society in other ways.

The U.S. is essentially the only industrialized nation not to have universal health coverage, college education is becoming more and more unaffordable (even at public universities-my large college debt could attest to this), jobs are harder and hard to find, and public sector spending is having to be decreased. All the while, the military spending is still increasing.

Fortunately, there have been some congressman from both the right and left who have realized the danger in this military spending and expansion and are trying to reign it in. Obviously, a nation the size of the United States needs a military to keep itself safe, but nothing near the levels we currently have. If we are not careful, we could build up the largest military, only to realize that our society has fallen because of our wrong set of priorities.
To read more about the latest efforts to reduce military spending go to:

Military retirement pay is a very honorable compensation to be rewarded after 20+ of proudly serving your country. You have put in a lot of hours, given up holidays with your family and friends, traveled the world, stayed in tents, ate some really bad food at times and maybe even got shot at now and then! If you are like me, you would do it all over again without any question! So let me ask you something? “Is your retirement pay going to be enough?” Keep reading and find out.

Retirement pay is usually only 1/2 of your Base Pay at the end of your career. If you worked hard enough to make E-7, in any branch of the service, your base pay would be $4,143 per month. That does not include the $700- $1500 a month housing, the $300 year clothing and $250 per month food allowances, and free medical you were getting while on active duty.

Now, all this and more are going to come out of your pocket! Can you survive on ONLY half of what your base pay was? Don’t get me wrong, it sure does help! You can either use it to pay for medical insurance or a small house payment. There are ways to substitute this small compensation for giving up 20 years of your life…

– You can get a job – Fill out resumes and applications, get all dressed up and talk to someone who doesn’t understand your language because they have never served a day in their life, only to get a job that you don’t want anyway.

– You could live with your in-laws – I am not really sure how good this will be for your family life, but if you are willing to try I wish you all the luck in the world. Or…

– You could start your own business – We both know that you are used to working hard and putting your training to use to get positive results. Don’t you think it is time to reward yourself for all your hard work?

In summary, your military retirement is definitely not going to be enough to survive on, and now, you need to start planning what you’re going to do. Robbing a bank is out of the question unless you enjoy looking at your loved ones through Plexiglas.

Getting a good paying job, within the location of your choice, is a lot harder than people usually give credit, although there are ways to make it easier, and starting a business of your own not only has more rewards, but is surprisingly easier than most people think it is. The clock is ticking. Are you ready to set your new future in motion?

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