By: Melinda Taub

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Explainer: Wars You’ve Never Heard Of

Every week Funny Or Die News brings you a new Explainer, an in-depth full-on slide-tackle overview of an important issue, throwing so many words at your face it will make you want to gouge your eyes out.

Hey, well informed news consumers. You’ve heard of all the big wars out there right now: Syria, Iraq, Ukraine, Christmas. But did you know there are lots of huge, terrible wars that never make the mainstream media? Come on! Let’s learn all about ’em!

Central African Republic WarDeaths: 6000+Atrocities: Lynching, cannibalism, rape, child soldiers, various machete-related crimes

Rebels march in northern Central African Republic. That one soldier looks tiny but I don’t think he is. (image via Wikipedia)

Please compare this war to a band.

If this war were a band, it’d be Blitzen Trapper. If it were a comedian, it’d be Louis CK. In other words, it’s a real war aficionado’s war: Nobody’s heard of it but it’s got chops. Machete chops. Sorry.

Am I fighting in this war?

Unless you are a nomadic Muslim herder or a Christian farmer who is tired of getting macheted, you are probably not. The war in the Central African Republic is between two main groups – the S ‘l ‘ka militia, a group of armed rebel groups from the Muslim minority that overthrew the government in 2013, and the anti-balaka, which means ‘anti-machete,” a Christian militia that formed in response to S ‘l ‘ka aggression against Christians.

Christians, who make up 50% of the population, are largely sedentary farmers, while the 15% Muslim minority is mostly migratory cattle herders.

This sounds like that scene in ‘Oklahoma” where the farmers and the cowboys keep getting in fistfights.

I know, right?

Anti-Machete sounds like a position I agree with. Are those the good guys?

Not exactly. Since the S ‘l ‘ka coup, fighting and atrocities on both sides have spiraled out of control. In addition to opposing the Second Amendment right to bear machetes, the anti-balakas have also killed countless civilians themselves.

What’s being done to fix this?

S ‘l ‘ka President Michel Djotodia resigned this year after failing to curb the violence, and he’s been replaced with an interim President named Catherine Samba Panza. She seems nice, but hasn’t been able to completely curb it either.

International troops from France, the United Nations, and the African Union have been deployed to keep the peace, but it’s not really working. A lot of the ‘peacekeepers” are from over the border in Chad, and many of them were apparently members of the Seleka in the first place. Now they are in charge of protecting the people they were recently atrocity-ing.

That sounds bad.

Yeah. It’s like if you called 911 after your house got robbed and the cops who came were still carrying your flatscreen TV.

Will it get better?

Nothing gets better.

Tell me a fun fact about this war.

The government recently banned text messaging.

South Sudan WarDeaths: 10,000+Displaced Persons: 1,000,000+Atrocities: All the big ones

What makes this war, in particular, a bummer?

Come on now: All wars, everywhere, are bummers. But yes, the South Sudan Civil War is an extra big bummer because South Sudan only recently became a country at all. South Sudan voted to secede from Sudan (henceforth known as Big Sudan) (not really) in 2011. The secession took place relatively peacefully – there’s still some wrangling over borders and oil rights and such, but all in all, South Sudan’s outlook as the world’s newest country was not too bad.

Then all hell broke loose.

Uh oh. What happened?

South Sudan’s President, Salva Kiir, reportedly began to suspect a conspiracy against him. This turned out to be a self-fulfilling prophecy, because in response, Kiir reorganized his leading party, the SPLM, to remove a number of rivals from power and consolidate his own position.

Vice President Riek Machar denounced Kiir’s moves and said he would run for the Presidency himself in the next election. In response, in December 2013, President Kiir fired him. In response to that response, Machar decided, Screw this ‘next election’ business, I’ma be President right now.

Machar grabbed the sizable chunk of the army that was loyal to him and started attackin’ stuff.

So who’s fighting who?


So whom’s fighting whom?

Rebels loyal to Machar – most of whom are members of the Nuer ethnic group, like him – are fighting the President Kiir’s forces (which are largely from the Dinka ethnic group), mostly in Unity State, a district that contains much of South Sudan’s oil fields (and thus much of their revenue).

Peace talks have started and stopped between Kiir and Machar, but so far they haven’t made much progress. A ceasefire was implemented on May 9th, then disintegrated within hours. The next round of peace talks were boycotted by both sides, which must have been very embarrassing for the hosts.

Meanwhile, both sides have been massacring each other, as well as civilians and members of other ethnic groups.

This sounds really bad. Should we start a hashtag for it?


Why not?

This war is a really sad and complicated mess of corruption, mistrust between ethnic groups, oil, and politicians who gained political power by being generals and want to get more power by being generals again. There’s no simple, social-media-friendly solution to impose.

I want to start a hashtag though.

Do what you want. Let’s get on to the next war.

Wait! You’re really bumming me out with all these war crimes and dead civilians. Can we just look at cute animals for a while?



Yeah. Here you go.

Oh my God, so precious.

OMG I knooow. How about this one? Don’t you just wanna hug them?

That’s great.

Yeah. Anyway.

Mexican Drug WarDeaths: 100,000+Atrocities: Human trafficking, torture, beheading, kidnapping, extortion

Come on, man. Can’t we just go back to the animals?

No. You have to learn about the world.

This one shouldn’t count, anyway. The War on Drugs isn’t a real war.

It’s got militias, displaced persons, and thousands of casualties – pretty warlike to me.

How does a war on drugs have that many casualties?

They have a very aggressive DARE program.


No. They have crazy drug lords who basically run their regions, funded by a steady stream of drug money from above the border.

‘Om nom nom, drugs.” – America

Mexico is a relatively poor country with weak institutions and law enforcement, snuggled just below a rich, drug-hungry maw of a nation. (That’s us!) As far back as Prohibition, the Mexican border has been a prime source for smuggling things Americans wanted and weren’t allowed to have. Back then it was alcohol; now it’s pot, heroin, and, especially, cocaine. Next year it’ll probably be large sodas if Obummer has his way.

Police officers in Mexico don’t make much money, so they have a big incentive to look the other way on the drug trade. This has led to the cartels flourishing, with law enforcement doing little to check them.

In 2006, then-President Felipe Calderon tried to change that by launching a major military offensive against the cartels (with help from the good ol’ USA). The Mexican army aided or supplanted the efforts of local police to enforce drug laws.

This did not go amazing.


Imagine you have a bee’s nest in your attic. Now imagine that you try to get rid of it by shooting it with a gun. You might destroy the nest itself, maybe even the queen, but most of the bees will survive, and they’ll form new hives.

That’s not how bees work.

What are you, a bee expert? Save it for your bee explainer.

The point is that while Calderon’s militarization of the drug war did result in some high profile arrests of cartel leaders, it also increased the violence, and did little to curb the cartels’ activity. Instead, they just fractured into smaller cartels, which now fight each other viciously for territory and influence – and not just each other: Over 40 mayors have been killed, as well as numerous local officials. The cartels have also diversified into kidnapping and extortion (up next: tech stocks), and tens of thousands of civilians have disappeared.

This is probably another war where we can’t do anything to help, huh.

LOL this one we probably can, since we’re funding both sides of it! We could consider decriminalizing drug offenses. Or maybe we could stop selling deadly weapons so much, since an estimated 70% of the guns the cartels use were purchased north of the border in the US, where we’ll sell guns to pretty much anyone. Or we could stop shoving stuff up our noses.

That sounds hard. I’m just gonna start another hashtag.

I hate you.

What is the best Mexican drug lord name?

There is one blonde drug kingpin who is nicknamed ‘La Barbie.”

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