Georgie Anne Geyer

WASHINGTON -- What does the unspeakable performance of the Boko Haram leader known as Shekau, who "enjoys selling women ... who sells humans ..." remind you of?

When a video of him was played on television recently, he actually slobbered as he spoke in a voice so surreal it could only have been from a Hollywood horror movie. But, resemble an al-Qaida terrorist?

No, because from what we know of it so far, there is no situation in which al-Qaida captured or sold women. Rather, they are anti-imperialist, anti-American, anti-authority in general.

No, too, to any resemblance to the "liberation" fighters all over the Middle East, particularly in Syria -- because, although women in the Arab world are kept under wraps like creatures who dare not see the light of day, they also are taking part in some of those conflicts. The idea of "selling" them would horrify most Arab men, and there is certainly no part of the Quran and Islam that would allow such outrages.

In the old guerrilla movements across Central America and Latin America, which Moscow and Havana directly sponsored in the 1960s and '70s, the idea of excluding women from the conflict would have been anti-ideological or un-communist. Comrades, don't you know!

But there are earlier examples of such hellish sins. When the Mongols swept across Central Asia in the 12th century, these primitive horsemen destroyed all of the budding cultures of the time -- Russian Muscovy, Christian Kiev, the advanced Chinese empires, the Moguls and many more. History tells us how they carried off the women of the defeated for their own uses.

This was done throughout ancient times, as one tribe or sect rose in power and soon vanquished its neighbors, killing the men and carrying off the women as bounty for victory on the battlefield -- until the next tribe arose and repeated the entire thing.

So what we have today in northern Nigeria is something profoundly barbarian, a reminder of the past and its horrors, and a warning that much of the world, far from moving forward, is in truth going backward.

One has only to think of those poor 14- and 15-year-old girls, huddling in the forests where Nigeria meets Chad, Niger and Cameroon, under the power of the madman Shekau, fearing they will never see their parents again, probably being raped repeatedly, forced to cook and perhaps marry some poor demented follower, guns everywhere to use, not only for killing, but for beatings. If we want to talk of "hell on Earth ..."

We should say something here that many people do not want to hear. Slavery was an abomination in the new United States, and nearly destroyed it. But it would do us great good as a country if we recognized that slavery is an international abomination!

The African slaves sent to America were rounded up by black Africans and Arabs, and the slave trade to the New World was stopped by the British Navy -- white men. Today, though, many slaves are held by these same types of men -- madmen like the supposedly Islamist Shekau and also the Ugandan "Kony," who has operated for three decades much like Shekau, stealing dozens of Ugandan and Congolese children and making them slaves, in this case for a demented Christianity.

It is always worse to think that a specific evil is limited to one group than to realize that it is a quality that curses all mankind. Knowing this, one fights the evil before the evildoer and does not dwell forever on personal revenge.

If American special forces and others are now to go to Nigeria, as seems to have been confirmed, that would be an excellent use of our military. All of us can sympathize with these Nigerian families. Getting the girls out and destroying the "separate state" Boko Haram thinks it is building would thrill the entire world.

(One pauses, though, because the notorious Kony from Uganda still has not been found -- yet Boko Haram operates in a much smaller area. One would think that our satellites, which can "spot a breadbasket" from the skies, could find 300-plus girls and a small army walking through the bush.)

Study the French! When Mali was about to fall and the magnificent ancient heritage of Timbuktu was about to be destroyed, the French went in with foot soldiers and plenty of aircraft, and the whole thing was over within days. It's time for America to do the same.

(Georgie Anne Geyer has been a foreign correspondent and commentator on international affairs for more than 40 years. She can be reached at gigi_geyer(at)

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