Top of the Terrrrrrrrrr Pops

George W. Bush came in for a lot of criticism during his administration. Much of it is justified, but there’s a small part of the DLR that misses him. Not for his policies, but for his terrible communications skills. Nobody could say the word nuclear so often in the run-up to Iraq and still not be able to pronounce it (except perhaps Sarah Palin). It’s not nucular, George – there simply isn’t another syllable before the ‘l’.

Similarly, when discussing that ill-fated misnomer of a campaign, the war on terrrr, it was never possible to get the man to enunciate properly. Never mind the misuse of an abstract noun, just form an ‘o’ with your mouth, Bushman. Terrrrrism. Terrrr. Terrrrrible.

In honour (or is that honor?) of the two-administration president, we have never been able to pronounce the word properly since. Hence, the name of our new feature, Top of the Terrrr Pops.

The concept is simple: ranking the current hot-to-trot non-state armed groups in terms of their capability, ideology and rhetoric. Yes, we know that non-state armed groups are not synonymous with terrorist organisations, but let’s just let that go this once, shall we? For George.

Now, we’re still working on our methodology that will bring you the full top 10 (or maybe top 40), but over the weekend there was some definite movement in the as-yet-to-be-decided table.

For a start, the FARC took a kicking. The Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia have long been on the back foot after Alvaro Uribe’s security-focused administrations. The real turning point took place in 2008, when Raúl Reyes was killed and their highest-value hostage, Ingrid Betancourt, was rescued in a ballsy operation. In the same year, the FARC’s leader Manuel Marulanda Vélez died of a heart attack. Quel annus horribilis!

This weekend, the FARC lost their new leader, Alfonso Cano, when he was shot and killed by security forces. The FARC have said they’ll fight on, although in recent years they’ve been less a fighting force and more a drug-production-and-export business. They are definitely moving down the list.

The Grasso abrazo: Raul Reyes in happier times, with the head of the New York Stock Exchange in 1999. Yes, the head of the NYSE and one of the leaders of a major insurgent/cocaine export organisation. No, we're not too surprised to see financiers hugging wanted outlaws either.

Definitely going UP! the gruesome charts, though, is Boko Haram (meaning ‘Western civilisation is forbidden’). Attacks over the weekend on churches in northern Nigeria killed more than 100 people. Boko Haram are an Islamist group in religously divided Nigeria that has gone from zero to hero (or vice versa, depending on your point of view) in just a couple of years. The group launched Nigeria’s first suicide attack in June, also the first confirmed attack by the group in the capital city Abuja, and has conducted a string of assaults on security forces, politicians and Christian communities in the north of the country. Another attack in Abuja in September targeted the UN offices and killed 23 people. The frequency and growing ambition of the attacks are redolent of a rapidly growing insurgent movement with localised popular support and enough funding and expertise to carry out audacious operations. Boko Haram are definitely climbing the charts.

Boko Haram: the only people who don't look like wusses when wearing a gauze veil.

Stay tuned, terrr pop pickers, to learn more about our soon-to-be-contemplated, unique Top of the Terrr Pops chart.

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