Lately there has been a lot of confusing stuff in the news about “Mali,” and also “France having a war.” What is going on? Didn’t France lose the war in North Africa, maybe in the 1950s? Also, Vietnam, remember that whole deleted scene from Apocalypse Now, the way the French colonials ate their food, while Vietnamese were getting killed by Robert Duvall? Is he French? And where is this Mali, anyway?
We don’t want you to have to go around feeling like an idiot all the time, so here’s the information you need to deal with any offhand references to “the French war in Mali,” in case you know somebody who works on the copy desk of the New York Times or something: Mali is a landlocked country in West Africa. There have been many coups there. (Coup is even a French word, so you could say, “They had it coming!”) The ancient city of Timbuktu is in Mali, and it was once ruled by the Tuareg, which is now a brand of Volkswagen SUV. Mali is arid in the north and less so in the south. In conclusion, Mali is a land of contrasts.