Archive for the 'living with war' Category

The Poor Palestinian People

On the 24th of June, 1948, the Soviet Union, then the occupying power of what would become known as East Germany began a full blockade of the three sectors of Berlin soon to become known as West Berlin. The Soviets were sure the Western Powers would soon give up and they’d have hold of all Berlin in no time.

But that’s not what happened.  Flying over 200,000 flights for a period of nearly a year the RAF and the USAF brought vital supplies to the 2.5 million civilians of West Berlin.

The dwellers of Gaza have no such guardian angels. Of course, the Berliners weren’t firing rockets at anyone.  But I don’t think you can necessarily blame the average Gazan for that.  True, they voted the terrorists into government but to me that’s just a sign of a truly lousy education system.

You won’t hear it in the news but Egypt, that’s the Arab Republic of Egypt has also kept a blockade of the Gaza Strip since 2007, seemingly with the full blessing of the Arab League.  This is the same Arab League that kicked Egypt out in 1979 for merely acknowledging Israel.

You see, the Arab world hates Hamas even more than the West does: they’re deathly afraid the religious crazies in their own countries will take power.

Hamas themselves have become the new Tamil Tigers in that their hunger for power has displaced any ideology they once might have had.

The West doesn’t care because there is no money to be made in Palestine.

The Third World has their own shit to deal with.

And finally the international activists are more interested in getting attention and ridiculing Israel which is why they never take Egypt or Syria or Hamas to task.

So when you break it all down nobody cares.  Those poor Palestinian people.  God help them… because no one else will.

The fun side of diplomacy

The following is an unproven hypothesis that I nevertheless consider to be very likely.  Either that or it was serendipity.

Georgia’s entry to Eurovision 2009 was the most genius diplomatic manœuvre I have ever seen.  Faced with a militarily humiliating (but diplomatically empowering) defeat at Russian hands, Georgia was not too keen to be attending any contests hosted by Russia.  Adding to that is the possibility that should Georgia perform especially poorly on Russian soil would be to add insult to injury.

But at the same time, Georgia wants to take the high road and not look like they’re chickening out.  Enter “We Don’t Wanna Put In”: a song whose political connotations (i.e. “We don’t want a Putin”) are obvious enough to ensure disqualification, but yet subtle enough for Georgia to claim Russian interference.

As for the song itself, it’s not bad but it sounds a lot like “Disco Inferno” by The Trammps.

* * *

Speaking of the Eurovision Song Contest, this year was quite a disappointment.  I found the overall quality of the songs to be much lower.  But I did enjoy the winner, Lena:

Lena Meyer-Landrut

I mean, isn’t she just ridiculously adorable?  Especially with that fucked up faux?English accent that mysteriously disappears whenever she’s speaking German.

But most importantly, thanks to Lena’s victory, her grandfather, a former West German diplomat, now has his own Wikipedia page.

VE Day, the military, gratefulness, intervention, neutrality

Date: May 8, 1945 (Victory in Europe Day)

Scene: VE Day celebrations, Ireland
“Yay! The Nazis surrendered!”
“And no thanks to us!”

Scene: VE Day celebrations, Sweden and Switzerland
“Yay! The Nazis surrendered!”
“In spite of us!”
“And I hope no one noticed how we aided them while maintaining the façade of neutrality!”

The Canadian military has a history of being uniquely selfless.  During both world wars there were periodic U?boat attacks along the Atlantic shoreline (many of which were directed at Newfoundland so technically not even Canada).  Apart from these, the last international conflict fought on Canadian soil was the War of 1812.  Time after time, our loyalty to the Empire and other allies has seen our young men and women being sent to all corners of the globe.  And that “women” part is key, too, as we possess one of the unfortunately few completely integrated militaries in the world.

Observing recent ceremonies in the Netherlands it was heartwarming to see how much respect our military can still command in light of the ungratefulness exhibited by more recently liberated peoples.  I guess some people just aren’t big on democracy.  Not that the liberation of Europe was seamless: there were plenty of people upset with the post?war status quo both legitimately (Forest Brothers, cursed soldiers) and not so much (Red Brigades, EOKA). But nobody as persistent or as popular as the Taliban.  Those guys reeeealy like their theocracy.

In the future I propose we only intervene in countries that have been democratic within the last 20 years and/or have significant cultural ties with us.  First stop: Fiji!

P.S. Oh, to add to that bit at the beginning.  I reserve a special kind of loathing for neutral states.  To be neutral is to say there is no right or wrong.

Learning the Holocaust

Today is the 67th anniversary of the beginning of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. It’s also Holocaust Remembrance Day in Poland. It’s not the international Holocaust memorial day (which is on January 27) nor is it the Israeli one (27th of Nisan) but for reasons I won’t get into, I prefer this date.

Now, at the risk of sounding blasphemous, I’m going to be a little critical of Holocaust education.  One can argue that, because there are many people who don’t know about the Holocaust or, even worse, know of it but reject its existence, we should focus on just getting out the message period, quality being secondary.  I see that point but I disagree.

When I first learned of the Holocaust and for many years after the impression I got was that it occured in a vacuum.  That is, the European Jewry were happily living their lives, not a care in the world, and then the Nazis came along and pulled the rug out from underneath them.  This of course is so very not true.  The Holocaust, while undoubtedly the most heinous instance of antisemitism ever, was “merely” the culmination of over two thousand years of Jewish-targeted persecution.  I don’t seek to try and use Holocaust Remembrance Day to remember every victim of antisemitism ever nor am I trying to diminish the uniquely horrible nature of the Holocaust but rather I think it is advantageous for us to observe the bigger picture.

The story of the Holocaust is therefore incomplete I think without the mention at least four things from history: the Jewish–Roman wars and their aftermath, the Inquisition, the Protocols of the Elders of Zion and, probably the most relevant, Luther’s writings on the Jews and culture of antisemitism they helped spawn in Germany.  And that’s just the minimum.

I think it is very important that we learn the exact context that the Holocaust occured in.  Not so that it can be somehow justified or written off as inevitable but so we can precisely understand why it happened and make certain that it never happens again.

Never Again

Victory Over Communism Day 2009: Sing a Song of Suomi

Imagine some Canadian soldiers were transferred from Ottawa to New Brunswick and as a result of these actions Finland declares war on Canada.  Sounds pretty ridiculous, right?  Well, this scenario actually happened, albeit with the two parties swapped…

I’m too tired to finish this thing tonight.  I’ll do it tomorrow.

The Tiger Is Dead

I wrote most of this several days ago but the “Moving Forward” and the “The Diaspora” sections were incomplete and I felt they are very necessary so that it doesn’t just look like I’m merely celebrating a military victory.

After the BJP’s humiliating defeat and with Aung Sun Suu Kyi on trial, it’s a relief to finally hear some good news coming out of South Asia: the Liberation Tigers Of Tamil Eelam*, the LTTE, have been officially pwned. Velupillai Prabhakaran, its power-hungry leader for just over 33 years is no more.

Not as flashy as al Qaeda or as deceptive as Hamas, the LTTE were FUCKING BRUTAL in their own special way. Now just to be sure, I am in no way condoning the heavy handedness of the Sri Lankan Army but we must realize that the enemy of my enemy is quite often also my enemy. Stalin kicked some serious Nazi ass but that doesn’t mean I’ll be inviting him to my next birthday party (he died a long time ago anyway). But despite his rhetoric, Prabhakaran cared not about the Tamil people, only power. There may be a fine line between terrorist and freedom fighter but the LTTE were nowhere near it. One little bit of trivia: the LTTE are (one of) the only terrorist organization(s) to ever have an air force.

Beaten but not Forgotten

One of the most enduring legacies of the LTTE will undoubtedly be its brilliant invention. It’s easy to forget that less than two decades ago all suicide bombings were carried out with the aid of some sort of vehicle. But the LTTE changed all that. The explosive belt is a device so simple it’s a wonder somebody else didn’t think of it sooner. But it was the Tigers who unveiled their ingenious invention in 1991 with the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi (no doubt also helping “Gandhi” set the record for most assassinations per surname). From there on the floodgates opened up. Women, children, anybody could be a suicide bomber. All you need are charismatic leaders who don’t have you best interests in mind and a whole lotta ka-blam!

Moving Forward

The ball is in Sri Lanka’s court. With the LTTE out of the way they must quickly reconcile with their Tamil minority. No doubt some just must be served to those guilty of crimes against humanity but a witchhunt is in nobody’s best interest. The government needs to implement devolution to the Northern Province as promised in the Indo-Sri Lanka Accord. At the same time, This needs to be coupled with firm maintainance by the central government that separatism will not be tolerated. Amending the constitution in order to make Sri Lanka a federation would be the best course of action. That way, if in the future an extreme Sinhala nationalist party comes into power they can’t just revoke the devolved authority.

The Diaspora

Now Canada, Toronto especially, has the largest population of Tamils outside of Asia and the largest population of Sri Lankan Tamils outside of Sri Lanka itself. It was only recently that I became aware of the fact that there is a clear distinction between Sri Lankan Tamils and the inhabitants of Tamil Nadu. While the cultures are closely related they have nonetheless been separate societies for many centuries now.

Members of the Sri Lankan diaspora have a duty to lobby foreign governments in the interests of the homeland but I believe they’re doing it all wrong. Mass gatherings with the waving of what appear to be terrorist colours is no way to garner support. In fact, forget about support for the time being and focus on sympathy. Ideally people would just care for the situation of all oppressed people around the world. But this isn’t the case: we have busy lives and only so much love to give. So that’s why you must promote a sort of “Tamilophilia.” For example, during the Greek War of Independence many Europeans were of the mindset of “Fuck yeah! Greeks rule! Plato and Alexander the Great and shit! Awesome!” Looking to a more modern time, the Israeli War of Independence: “Alright man, I LOVE the Jews, they wrote the bible and we’ve been shitting on them for two thousand years!” But if someone is to mention the plight of the Kurds the response is more along the lines of “dude, I love cheese curds.”

Much like Greek, the Tamil language is one of the oldest languages in the world still in use. The Tamils have a rich and prosperous history: people need to be informed about this.

*It’s their proper name, and “Tamil Tigers” sounds more like a baseball team than an international terrorist organization.

Elections for the 18th Knesset

(Cross posted at Facebook and LiveJournal.)

So it seems fairly certain that there’s going to be a Likud victory. Now, if we’re lucky they will be able form a rainbow coalition with their traditional opponents, Kadima and Labor. Otherwise, Yisrael Beitanu will be the main coalition partner, which means Israeli politics will swing way to the right. Yisrael Beitanu, also known (mainly by me) as the “Fucking Crazy Party”, has been compared to the Nazis on occasion but I think that’s just journalists getting off on the irony of comparing a Jewish organization to a notoriously antisemitic one. However, Yisrael Beitanu is ultra-nationalistic and racist, which is bad news for any Arabs living in Israel or (especially) the Palestinian territories.

The funny thing is that it is Hamas and, by negligence, the rest of the Arab world, that has driven the Israeli public to such hawkishness. By their constant barrage of rockets, Hamas has brought this on. Now, I can see two possible explanations for this:

  1. Hamas just loves war. They love getting their jihad on and no peace process is going to stop them. Notably when the UN Security Council came up with a ceasefire proposal Hamas rejected it alongside Israel.

  2. The concept of a liberal democracy where people vote for the party that best represents their views instead of the party which they view as being least corrupt; this concept is so utterly foreign to Hamas that they are unaware of the influence they have on Israeli politics.

Now the Israeli blockade of Gaza is stupid, ineffective and wickedly damaging to Israeli credibility. Just take a look at Cuba and you’ll see how effective blockades are for inducing regime change. However, the term “Israeli blockade” is misleading because Egypt has been maintaining a blockade as well. You see, everyone hates Hamas. Especially the Arab countries. Egypt is willing to blockade Gaza in order to protect its citizens but is unwilling to take any further action. The governments of the Arab world avoid criticizing Hamas too much because they fear it might provoke an international Islamist uprising (cf. Mugabe and the African Union). So they choose to butt heads with Israel instead of Hamas. Better the devil you know.

A Proclaimation of a New Holiday

(Cross posted at Facebook and LiveJournal.)

I hereby proclaim, for now and for evermore, today, December 12 shall be celebrated as Victory over Communism (V-C) Day.

Now I realize that this may seem premature because after all there are still five communist states out there and several more where communist parties form governments. Nonetheless, the collapse of the Soviet Union at the end of 1991 represented a swift kick in the nuts of the world revolution. The USSR broke apart over the entire month of December 1991, beginning with the Ukrainian independence referendum on the 1st and ending with the complete and utter cessation/transfer of all functions on the 31st.

So why the 12th? Well since it’s hard to pin down exactly popular dates include the 21st when the CIS was formed or 26th when the Supreme Soviet voted to dissolve the union. However, since both of these are too close to Christmas, I decided on the 12th which is when Russia left the union, a point that there was definitely no turning back from. Just as if England were to secede from the UK, Russia’s departure effectively rendered the superpower defunct.

I want to take this time to recognize some important warriors in the struggle against communism:

Pope John Paul the Great
Everybody knows him, he was the head of the largest church in the world, a figurehead for over a billion people. Nevertheless I believe too many people regard him “simply” as a religious figure and don’t appreciate the political influence he had.

The Roman Catholic Church’s no-holds-barred opposition to communism was one of several factors that led European communists to break from Moscow and develop “eurocommunism,” a version of communism which, among other things, lacked the atheist ambitions of straight up Marxism.

However, I believe one quotation says it better than anything else. In 1992, devout atheist Mikhail Gorbachev made the follow comment: “What has happened in Eastern Europe in recent years would not have been possible without the presence of this Pope, without the great role even political that he has played on the world scene.”

Chiang Kai-shek
Much has been said about Chiang’s authoritarian rule and human rights violations. While there are many things he did I certainly don’t endorse, he was stuck between a rock and a hard place: with the Japanese breaking down his front door and the communists coming in the back he did what he had to. In fighting Japan he lost China and he decided that some freedoms would have to be sacrificed to prevent infiltration. One thing is for sure: in 1949 there were two China’s and today one of them is a liberal democracy with a robust economy and the other is an exploitative police state. Chiang’s China is the former.

The Partisans
Last, but not least I want to give a shout out to all those who fought against unbelievable odds. After everyone else had given up they refused to put down their arms. While Russian White Army and the Chinese National Revolutionary Army must be given their due, the people for whom I have limitless respect are those who continued to fight to the bitter end, moving from town to town or even living in the wilderness to avoid capture. These people mainly lived in Eastern Europe and the Baltic states. Who knows what drove them on to fight a battle they could never hope to win? Perhaps at first they were preparing for Western intervention. But after the brutal crushing of the Hungarian Revolution many still fought on.

I’m really glad I wasn’t alive in 1956 because I would have been so fucking pissed off at the uselessness of the West to come to the aid of Hungary. We just sat on our hands and said, “Oh wow, you must be very brave. We’re so proud of you, and although we’re not going to stop the Soviets from brutally crushing you, Time Magazine has agreed to make you Man of the Year as a consolation prize.” 12 years later like déjà vu, the same damn thing happened to Czechoslovakia.

But still they fought on. Poland’s “cursed soldiers,” the Forest Brothers of the Baltic nations and various groups in Romania. I hope one day I am able to find a cause for which I have a fraction of the passion they had.

In the beginning…

(Cross posted at LiveJournal and Facebook)

This is my first entry. In the future, when I become the next Kissinger-Sadat-Cromwell-Wilson-Sun-Romero*, we will all be able to look back here and say, “this is where it all began.” Forgive the hubris but I have high hopes for myself.

Eventually I’ll get married. To someone very interesting, perhaps an Irish Catholic socialist with matrilinial Jewish heritage, red hair and an alto voice who is a scholar on liberation theology. We’ll get along despite our differences.† We’ll settle down somewhere, and after gaining my citizenship I’ll take the position as Ambassador to the United Nations (unless of course I decide to be a missionary in Taiwan). We’ll live in a house built from imported Lebanese Cedar, the same wood the Phoenicians used to build their great navies and King Solomon used for the construction of the temple in Jerusalem. I’d like to summer on Bouvet Island if Norway agrees to cede it to me. As I said, high hopes.

This picture appeared in The Globe & Mail about a month ago (AFP/Getty Images). It apparently depicts “opposition gunmen” whatever that means. Lebanon is not unlike Northern Ireland where you have militias on both sides fighting each other. So I guess that makes pretty much everyone a terrorist.

Now what I want to know is why these boys are so well dressed. Their hair is done up all nice and the guy on the right has a very well-sculpted beard. The guy beside him in the maroon has a semi-greaser look going on but that’s neither hear nor there. Did a group of friends meet together and say, “Yo man, let’s gel our hair and then go get our terrorist on.” Or were they just in the middle of a day out on the town when the fighting broke out? If that’s the case did they have to run home to get their AK-47s or do they always carry assault rifles around with them?

And what’s with the bandanna over the face? Is he pulling off a bank heist in the wild west? It’s got a bunch of colours on it and at least two American flags and I’m thinking that’s not standard hijab wear. He’s holding some sort of stick. It looks like it has electric tape on it. Maybe it’s a hockey stick? Was he in the middle of hockey practice? Sorry folks, that is unlikely because Lebanese hockey is dead and there was only one player to begin with.

And that’s all I’m going to say. I’m off to the land of the vikings.

* When I first wrote this almost a year ago I was a political realist so I’m not quite sure how Wilson made it onto the list. Over the past months however, I’ve transitioned into a strongly idealist position thus making the inclusion of Kissinger an anomaly. I’ve kept the wording unchanged for historical purposes.

I think it would work surprisingly well considering that I’m a Fine Gael supporter which would effectively make our marriage a miniature version of a Fine Gael-Labour coalition.