Had Anyone Else Not Heard of This?


I’ll be honest, I grew up watching the History Channel, and continuing the honesty, I still do. I love it. I love learning about war, and I always have. Even though there has never been a good war, it’s through the darkest acts of humanity where humanity’s resilience, strength, and goodness shine the most clearly. But, from the French-Indo China War to international civil wars, and from the World Wars to the Crusades to the Boer War and down to exploits of ancient civilizations, if I didn’t know about it, chances are it at least rang some small synaptic bell somewhere in the dusty archives of my mind – at least, until the Rif War.


I’d never heard of it, and worse yet, it was so recent. Somehow, through all of the books and countless summertime days (and school days for that matter) spent watching shows documenting specific wars, battles, weapons, and war heroes, the Rif War never showed up. Not even a blip. Nothing so much as a small buzzer buried somewhere in my mind went off. I was completely in the dark.


I learned of yet another facet of imperialism and colonization that tarnished the façade of Western Europe. I learned of the horrific use of poison gas, the massacres on both sides, and of the sheer ignorance of the Spanish and French, and the steadfastness of the Moroccans, even against such great odds. I learned that there was a man who rose from this conflict to not only lead a rebellion, but also create an identity that would become engrained in the people of Morocco until the current time.


Although it is on the darkest side of trans-nationalism, the Rif War is a scar that should neither be hidden nor worn with pride. It marks a clash of ego and victimization that changed the world.  Through this horrific trans-national display, the pitfalls of the extreme arrogance of the West can be blatantly seen. However, through this travesty, Abd el Krim rose to become a symbol of hope and defiance for the people of Morocco, and an example to the world of just how superior something “uncivilized” can be.


Abd el Krim represented all that is good about conserving the Moroccan way of life. His quiet strength, intellect, determination, and organizational skills gave Rifians something to believe in, and something to which they still cling today. From the old, decrepit men to the young boys in the film about the Rif War (and the subsequent mistreatment of Moroccans for three generations), a sense of awe and admiration toward Abd el Krim was and is still felt by the broken nation of Morocco. Without him, it’s impossible to say where Moroccans would be today, or would have gone during the war. It’s bad enough that with him, Franco still managed to entrap Moroccans to fighting for his side of the Spanish Civil War and did little, if anything, to pay them for fighting his cause.



This is the Abd el Krim Impearialism Stare-Down

However, despite the scars and the horrific atrocities, Abd el Krim remains a symbol of defiance, strength, and honor to the Moroccan people.  He was a simple, almost generic men, who stared the narcissism of imperialism in the face and, for a few glorious years, made it think twice about how superior its legacy actually was, and although the war wasn’t his, the honor clearly was. 


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