Saturday, August 30, 2008

Wind Down With Some Convention Comedy

Its been a crazy week for political bloggers. The madness of Denver meant late nights and frenzied posting due to the rapid development of events. Now I think we should wind down with some classic convention comedy, most of which is at old man McCain's expense. But its just so easy. He turned 72 today. If elected he will be three years older than Reagan was when he got elected. If he serves two terms he will be 80 on completion of his second. That's old in any man's language. So lets begin with a famous clip from family guy known as the "John McCain experience".

Below is a selection of quotes (compiled by Daily Kos) from well known comedians commenting on events of the last few days.

"Michelle Obama said she's been in love with Barack ever since he took her on their first date and bought her ice cream. Isn't that sweet? Meanwhile, John McCain's wife Cindy says she's been in love with McCain ever since he hit her over the head with a club and dragged her back to his cave."
---Conan O'Brien
"And now comes proof that McCain has learned to use a computer, because evidently, he has plagiarized from the internets. Congressional Quarterly reported this week that John McCain may have copied some facts in a recent speech on the Georgian crisis from Wikipedia. I think it should have been obvious when he referred to the country's leader as 'President 404 Error: File Not Found.'"
---Stephen Colbert
Obama chose Joe Biden as his running mate. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi praised Biden, calling him the "full package." Now he’s getting phone calls from Senator Larry Craig.
---Jay Leno
"[Michelle Obama] must prove she loves America. As opposed to Republicans, who everyone knows love America...they just hate half the people living in it."
---Jon Stewart
"McCain and Obama are, as you probably know, ideologically speaking, they are completely different nominees. For example, one offers you hope, and the other offers you a dish of hard candy."
---David Letterman
"The night’s big event was Obama’s speech, in front of 75,000 enthusiastic supporters and eight confused Broncos season ticket holders."
---Jimmy Kimmel

Gubu-World would like to wish John McCain a very happy 72nd birthday. This video is for him.

Earlier today Daily Kos posted the line below and invited suggestions

Barack Obama is to John McCain as _____ is to ________.

Here are some of the best

Barack Obama is to John McCain as...

as Lando Calrissian is to Emperor
as Jay-Z is to Vanilla Ice.
as a roller coaster is to a nap.
as Superman is to Grumpy Old Men.
as Today is to Yesterday.
as new hotness is to old and busted.
as Surprise birthday party is to a funeral.
as a Wii is to shuffleboard.
as expanding prosperity is to expanding prostate.
as the glass is half full to the glass is half empty.
as the Terminator is the to the Terminex guy.
as the Wire is to JAG.
as a PhD is to a GED.
as indoor plumbing is to a chamber pot.
as Michael Phelps is to Mike Wallace.
as superman is to Mr. Magoo.
as the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces is to Commander-in-Chief of the Arm Chair.

Barack Obama is to John McCain...

as a CAT scan is to bloodletting.
as the iPhone is to a tin can and string.
as Alec Baldwin is to Daniel Baldwin.
as Robin Hood is to a robber baron.
as orange juice is to metamucil.
as Groundhog Day is to Osmosis Jones.
as Sears is to Reobucks.
as Electric Mail ("e-mail") is to the pony express.
as Jet Blue is to the old union carbide.
as John F. Kennedy is to Richard M. Nixon.
as G.O.A.T. cheese is to musty, rotten old cheese.
as the next President is to the next runner up.
as Ronald Reagan in 1980 is to Ronald Reagan in 1988.
as Prozac is to Ambien.
as my new bicycle is to my jalopy.
as my favorite cousin is to my crazy uncle.
as "yes we can" is to "get off my lawn!"
as arugula is to cabbage.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Sarah Who ?

Republican Vice-Presidential candidate Sarah Palin

Where did this come from ? The US election has just taken another twist with the announcement by John McCain of Sarah Palin as his presidential running mate. I must admit I thought I knew most of the players in US politics but I have never heard of this lady. But on closer inspection the decision to pick Sarah Palin makes sense. She is the Governor of Alaska. She is a 44 year old mother of five. A religious conservative, a member of the NRA, an anti abortion activist and a former beauty queen. She is exactly what John McCain is not, a sexy republican. However the truth is she has been picked for one reason. To take some of those eighteen million Hillary Clinton voters away from the democratic party. What a way to take away the momentum from the democrats after their convention high. All those middle aged white women, excited at the prospect of a woman in the white house will now find it very tempting to vote McCain/Palin. All the work of the Clinton's and others over the past week to unite the democratic party may have just been undone by a masterstroke by those evil geniuses in the Republican party.

Obama speaks

In the wee hours of this morning Barack Obama gave his long awaited speech at the final night of the Democratic Convention in Denver. Apparently in order to open up the convention to the working people that support him the venue for the final night was moved to the 84,000 seater stadium where the Denver Broncos play. It was a packed house and the crowd went nuts as he walked on to the special podium, designed to look like the white house lawn. Watch this clip below.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Clintons bring down the house

In separate speeches at the DNC in Denver both Bill and Hillary Clinton have for the first time aggressively and enthusiastically thrown their weight behind Barack Obama. This convention just got interesting. The speeches by the Clinton's have eclipsed all others including impressive efforts by John Kerry and even Joe Biden. Late on Tuesday night Hillary went first. At first it appeared standard enough as she spoke about how she would support Obama. But then she drove it home about how it would be a mistake for her supporters to go over to McCain. She listed a litany of McCain errors that were in direct contrast to her efforts to achieve social justice and women's rights and praised Obama for his successes in this area.Watch this clip where she urges those who voted for her in the primary to get behind Obama.

Last night it was big bad Bill's turn. In my opinion Bill Clinton is the most skillful politician of modern times. However during the long fought democratic primary he appeared out of sorts and sometimes uncharacteristically clumsy. I suppose this is understandable given his bizarre position as a popular two term former president and therefor democratic trump card but also a husband of a primary candidate. Some said he was a liability for Hillary. Would he now be the same for Obama. After last the nights speech the answer is clear. Bill Clinton remains an ace card for the democrats. If they get him out there and he makes more speeches like last nights it will prove a major boost for Obama. Perhaps with the constraints of being the spouse of a candidate now lifted, we will see him do his thing. Watch a clip below from back to his best Bill Clinton as he slates the Republicans.

And now watch as he praises Obama and his vision.

Tonight its Obama's turn. It will be fascinating. Its gonna be difficult to follow Kennedy, Carter, his wife, Kerry, Biden and the Clintons. I am hoping for something new. Something really substantial and not just more about "change" because to tell the truth in recent weeks I have been beginning to doubt if there is real substance behind the charisma. I eagerly await his speech at 3 am tonight. I predict vodka red bull may be needed.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Democratic Convention gets underway

Ted Kennedy addressing the DNC last night

The Democratic National convention got underway in Denver Colorado last night. I am going to put aside for a moment the fact that I found it disturbingly crass and staged and discuss it as if I found it to be dignified. Late last night we heard speeches from democratic big shots Ted Kennedy and Jimmy Carter. However they represent the party of old so its not surprising they got them out of the way first. Obama's vice Presidential candidate Joe Biden did not speak yet but he was present for all the speeches and the TV cameras couldn't take their eyes off him. We saw Caroline Kennedy and perhaps the highlight, Michelle Obama. Earlier on in the campaign I found her to be fascinating. She spoke in such an ordinary yet powerful way. She truly seemed to be from a different mold than the vain political celebrities that look more like they belong in Hollywood. She spoke so normally and honestly that it soon became clear she was a liability in the world of choreographed politics. Some innocent remarks that would not have been noticed if she were the wife of an Irish politician proved explosive in the states, most notably when she said that for "the first time in her life she was really proud of her country". This game of gotchya scared her back into line and since then her speeches have been boring. Therefor she last night resorted to the standard speech of highlighting her and her husband's unconventional background. The one point of note was her significant praise for Hillary Clinton.

Vice Presidential candidate Joe Biden at the convention yesterday

Today we will hear from Hillary Clinton in what some say will be the most pivotal moment of the convention. It is the biggest worry of the democratic party. Will Hillary Clinton's supporters vote for Obama or will they change party allegiances due to the bitterness of the primary campaign. We will see tonight how passionately Hillary embraces the Obama/Biden ticket and how aggressively see is willing to campaign for them. I will blog about this as it happens.

We have seen some drama of another kind outside the convention. The best of which was the humorous sight of a fox news reporter getting chased by a group radical anti war protesters who were clearly attempting to recreate the atmosphere of the infamous 68 democratic convention in Chicago. Watch this funny clip of the incident from fox news, enjoy.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Prague Spring, 40 years on

August 68, Czech protesters confront Soviet tanks during Prague Spring

This week marks the 40th anniversary of the crushing by Soviet forces of the Prague spring movement in Czechoslovakia. This takes on added significance given the events of the last two weeks in Georgia. In January 1968 Alexander Dubček became First Secretary of Czechoslovakia. He initiated a series of economic, social and political reforms that were unprecedented behind the Iron Curtain. Dubček believed that the communist/Marxist system did not have to be dictatorial. The movement manifested itself in street demonstrations where open political debates and dialogue were encouraged. Independent media outlets sprang up, particularly radio stations where young DJ's expressed their admiration for the west as they blasted out rolling stones songs. 1968 is known as the year of protest. In America they rallied for civil rights and to codemn "Johnson's War" in Vietnam. They marched too for equality in Northern Ireland and in Paris massive student demonstrations against the status quo brought down the De Gaulle government and almost resulted in revolution. Prague Spring is considered the Eastern Block's equivalent of these events. However this period of optimism in Prague was not long being ripped away by Moscow.

Prague Spring caused a rift in the Warsaw pact. Some countries supported Dubček, others feared it would gradually lead to instability and uprisings throughout Eastern Europe. In any case the master of central and Eastern Europe Leonoid Breznev decided enough was enough. Rather than allow a pro western country emerge behind the iron curtain he ordered the Red Army into Czechoslovakia. There were few people killed in the invasion as Dubček ordered his people and the army not to resist the 200,000 Soviet troops. There were however many lasting images from the thousands of demonstrators that confronted and taunted the Soviet tanks. Back in these dark days it was common for the Russians to tell its neighbours what they could and could not do with themselves. But who could have imaged it, in 2008 the kremiln has ordered its troops into a neighbouring country because it was becoming too pro western.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Georgia, The Kosovo Connection

Since the conflict broke out in the Caucasus on August 7th many commentators have mentioned Kosovo and how it all began there. But Kosovo is located in the Balkans, as one commenter recently pointed out on Gubu-World, so whats the connection? Serbia or the former Yugoslavia has always been a pro Russian country. Moscow was always against further splintering in the Balkans and in particular they always backed Belgrade's claim that Kosovo is part of Serbia and that its claims of independence should not be recognised by the international community. So in the ongoing battle between Moscow and Washington for influence in Georgia, Russian support for South Ossettia is seen as a way of countering western support of Kosovo. Furthermore if you look at the basic events of what happened in the last two weeks, Russia invaded Georgia because Tbilisi was using brutal force to crush a separatist movement in a breakaway region. Is this not precisely what Nato did in 1999 when the Serbs stormed into Kosovo. Double standards in international affairs, no way!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Georgia Versus Russia, the Verdict

It now appears that the war between Russia and Georgia is over for now as Russian troops are withdrawing from Georgia in line with the ceasefire agreement. As the dust begins to settle following the astonishing events in the Caucasus I want to post coldly and mechanically using the gift of hindsight to determine how this mess happened, who started it, who escalated it and what are the long term consequences for the region and western relations with Moscow.

A Russian tank withdrawing from Gori earlier today

On the 1st of August South Ossettian separatists placed a roadside bomb just inside Georgian territory. Six police officers were injured in the attack. As a result the Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili deployed the army in a way that suggested he was going to do what he had always promised to do, take back the rebel province of South Ossetia that had been granted partial self government in 1993. In response the Russian army reinforced its troops along the Georgian border by redeploying troops from the border with Chechnya. Then on the evening of the 7th, possibly timed to coincide with the opening of the Olympics, the Georgian army struck. They launched an all out attack to take back South Ossetia. Many Civillians were killed as they bombarded Tskhinvali, the capital of South Ossetia with artillery. It will soon be confirmed if that number is as high as 2000 which the Russians claim. Also killed in the assault were several Russian peacekeepers stationed in South Ossetia as part of the 1993 settlement. The following day Russia invaded South Ossetia to drive out the Georgians and "protect ethnic Russians".

Saakashilli clearly overplayed his hand. Maybe he didn't expect the Russians to respond so decisively. Even the Americans struggled to defend their Georgian protege as their actions were in clear violation of the status quo. However what happened next shocked everyone. The Russians did not stop once Georgian troops were expelled from South Ossetia, they began a wider war against Georgia itself. Russian forces advanced into Gori, 30 miles south of South Ossettia and a mere fifty miles from the Georgian capital Tbilisi. It didn't stop there. Russian troops entered Georgia's western separatist region of Abkhazia and from there advanced as far into Georgia as the Black Sea town of Poti. Georgia was cut in half as the Russian air force bombed sites on the outskirts of Tbilisi and the Navy attacked Georgian ships in the Black Sea. The two nations were at war.

On the 13th of August under a massive international pressure the two sides agreed to a ceasefire brokered by the French. After the ceasefire the international community frantically worked to arrange a more permanent agreement which was achieved two days ago. Crucially this agreement insists that Russian troops withdraw from Georgia (not including the separatist provinces) except for a small buffer zone just outside South Ossettia and Abkhazia. Worryingly though, in this period between the ceasefire and the agreement reports have emerged of atrocities being carried out by south Ossettian militia against Georgian civilians inside South Ossettia. This is leading to fears that Balkan style ethnic cleansing is a real possibility.

My Take
It is almost impossible to know who really started this. We will probably never know who provoked who or whether it was a set up by the Kremlin as many are claiming. What we do know is that Georgia's efforts to become a modern Democratic European country and an economic success have taken a blow. President Saakashvili unquestionably miscalculated and he has made EU and NATO membership for his country more difficult. He made a mistake attacking South Ossettia and even the Americans know this as they did not rush to his defence until the Russians began their wider war.

However as we all know this what not just about South Ossettia. It was about Russian power and its desire to dominate the Caucasus. The policy makers in Moscow have decided that such a blatantly pro western country on its strategic southern border is too much of a security risk. They therefor want to undermine the Saakashvilli government. Also, in the last week in Washington we have seen the mad Neo-Conservatives and the right wing media revitalised. Long since silenced because of the Iraq fiasco the neocons have been ranting and raving about deceitful Russians, cowardly Europeans and heroic Americans, the only ones willing to stand up to the bullies. John McCain has been in his element the last few days. As I have said before on this blog John McCain is a cold war warrior who has a 20th century mentality. I heard him speaking in Trinity two years ago and all he spoke about was Russian aggression. Unfortunately many will now say that he has been proved right. In 2008 Russia has invaded a weaker neighbour. It is hard to see how NATO and EU relations with Russia will recover. We are entering a new era. On the 40th anniversary of the Soviet crushing of the Prague Spring movement, Moscow is saying, we are back ! The world has just got a bit more interesting, and dangerous.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Omagh, ten years on.

I am 27 years old. I do not remember the worst of the Northern Ireland troubles. However I clearly remember the last and worst in a long litany of outrages. Ten years ago yesterday, the Omagh bomb killed 29 people including unborn twins. One of the reasons I remember it so well is because I have a set of Cousins from Omagh so that Saturday morning my family were frantically attempting to contact them to make sure they were all safe. Thankfully they were. The slaughter in Omagh affected how I now view the troubles. That day dissident republicans planted a bomb in the center of Omagh. Their motivation was that they believed the Good Friday Agreement, endorsed by the overwhelming majority of the people on this island, was a sell out of republican principles. In order to make this point they decided to murder Mary Grimes 66, her 30 year old daughter Avril who was eight months pregnant with twins and her 18 month old daughter Maura along with 26 other people. It is ingrained in my mind that this act of madness was carried out not by British soldiers, the UVF LVF, UFF or UDA. It was not jack the ripper. It was in fact carried out by Irish, Catholic Republicans (of which I am). Whenever I hear lazy minded republican rhetoric I remind myself of this. It was the Omagh bomb that thought me to hate republican violence and to deteste sectarianism.

The aftermath of the Omagh bomb that killed 31 people

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Dangers of War Reporting

It may seem like an obvious point to make. Of course reporting on war is dangerous. The unpredictability of warfare means that anything, a mine, a car bomb, a piece of shrapnel, a ricochet or a trigger happy fighter can all cut a journalist's career short. But I can't help noting how war journalist are being killed at an ever increasing rate. In fact, there were 64 journalists killed worldwide in 2007. Most of these killings were targeted attacks as opposed to random battlefield accidents or crossfire. Watch the tragic video below that shows the chaotic aftermath of a Russian air strike on the Georgian town of Gori in which Dutch Cameraman Stan Storimans is killed along with four innocent civilians.

Other recent cases of note include the legendary war Correspondent Kurt Schork, gunned down by a Child Soldier in Sierra Leone in 2000. ITN's Terry Loyd, Killed in a firefight between US forces and the Iraqi Army on the outskirts of Basra in 2003. And Simon Cumbers, the BBC Cameraman from Navan, murdered by Al Qaeda while filming in a suburb of Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

Irishman Simon Cumbers was murdered by Al Qaeda in 2004

It appears that rebel forces these days often see journalists as the enemy as opposed to a potential ally whom they can try and win over. Regarding the alarming amount of journalists killed by conventional armies I can't help thinking that in modern warfare the rules of engagement are understood in a way that makes it clear how to kill a journalist and get away with it.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Long list of Russian aggression

Forget communism, forget the cold war and the war on terror. Russia has always tried to dominate its smaller neighbours and at times they have been prepared to use exceptional brutality to achieve this aim. Here is a short list from recent times.

The result of the Russian bombing of the Georgian town of Gori, just another in a long list of Russian effort to dominate its neighbours

1. In 1953 the Red Army was deployed on the streets of East Berlin to quell an uprising by German citizens.

2. In 1956 the Red Army launched an all out invasion of Hungary after an uprising in Budapest by Hungarian nationalists. Tens of thousands of Hungarians were murdered in the streets.

3. In 1968 Soviet forces invaded Czechoslovakia after the communist government in Prague decided to allow free an fair elections. Fearful of a democratic government emerging in Eastern Europe the Kremlin ordered the movement known as "Prague Spring" to be crushed.

4. In 1978 the Red Army invaded Afghanistan to prop up a communist government that was in danger of collapsing. The effort led to a brutal ten year guerrilla war which the Soviets eventually lost.

5. In 1990 Russian troops were deployed throughout the Baltic states to curb nationalist stirrings in Latvia Lithuania and Estonia. Scores were killed.

6. In 2008 Russian troops invade South Ossetia, a province of Georgia in order to "protect" ethnic Russians.

I accept this is an exceptionally complicated issue. I will post about it less passionately in the near future where I will try to get down to the finer points to find out what this tragedy is really about.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Curse of the Irish soccer fan

In 1999 Ireland's Euro 2000 qualifier against Yugoslavia was cancelled due to Slobadan Milosevic's exploits in Kosovo. In November 2001 when post 9/11 tension was at its highest Ireland's soccer team were drawn in a world cup play off against Iran. In March 2005 the green army traveled to Tel Aviv for a World Cup qualifier against Israel despite a suicide bomb at a beachfront Nightclub a mere two weeks before the game. And now Giovanni Trappatoni's first competitive game in charge of the Irish is under definite threat due to yesterdays invasion by Russian troops of Georgia's northern province of South Ossetia. Above, Georgian troops fighting in South Ossetia yesterday

An Irish soccer fan being interviewed at the wailing wall in Jerusalem. We do not know if this game, scheduled for September 6th, will go ahead. The Football Association of Ireland are leaving it up to the Department of Foreign Affairs to decide whether or not it is safe to travel. However I know my Irish fans and if the game goes ahead they will travel in large number just as they did to Tehran and Tel Aviv. Whether or not the game goes ahead is obviously a trivial issue. The real issue is Russia's aggression toward its tiny southern neighbour. I will post about this latest event and the background to the conflict in detail over the next couple of days.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Charlie Haughey and the Falklands

In March 1982 the Argentinian Army invaded the Falkland Islands. What many Irish people have probably forgotten by now is that Ireland at the time happened to be serving on the United Nations Security Council for only our second time. Here was a chance for Taoiseach Charlie Haughey to stick it to Brits. And by stick it, I mean just throw a spanner in the British works for old times sake.

Charlie Haughey gives Maggie Thatcher the fingers

It is of course important to remember that the crisis in the South Atlantic arrived only a few short months after the last of the IRA hunger strikes had come to an end. Haughey had come under pressure during the strikes from his own base for not doing more to at least highlight the Thatcher governments unwillingness to compromise. Haughey had always been masterful in the way he played to the republican feelings of the country in order to rally support around himself and his party. The escalating conflict in the Falklands provided a perfect opportunity to do this at a time when anti British feeling was running rampant throughout the country.

At the UN
Initially Haughey was cautious and he didn't want Ireland to break too radically away from our European partners. He instructed the Irish mission at the UN to vote in favor of UN resolution 502 which called for a diplomatic solution to the crisis. This occurred just after the Argentinian invasion but before the British task force arrived at the Falklands. He also went along reluctantly with the EEC embargo of Argentina. This changed however with the sinking of the Argentinian cruiser the General Belgrano.

The General Belgrano going down after being torpedoed by a British Submarine, 323 Argentinian sailors did not survive

On May 2nd 1982 Captain Chris Wreford-Brown of the Nuclear Submarine HMS Conqueror contacted The Prime Minister at Downing Street and informed her that the General Belgrano, although operating outside the British exclusion zone was behaving in a menacing way (how British). She gave the order to attack. After the incident and the many Argentinian deaths world opinion began to turn against the British. Haughey pounced.

The Irish Government announced it would be calling on the UN Security Council to bring about an immediate end to hostilities and would also be seeking the withdrawal of the EEC economic sanctions against Argentina on the grounds that they were no longer appropriate. Neither attempt came to much. But the British intensely resented the Irish effort at the UN that had it been successful would have allowed the Argentinians to remain in the possession of the Falklands while a diplomatic resolution was being sought.

Haughey and Thatcher at at EEC meeting in Brussels in 1989

I see this as vintage Haughey. It was an opportunity to engage in a bit of Brit bashing because he knew many at home would love him for it. He should have been worried about the national interest and not his popularity. Anglo Irish relations suffered a serious setback as a result and in the following years Thatcher refused to meet with Haughey at a bilateral level and only came face to face with him at EEC meetings. I'm gonna call it as a selfish mistake by Haughey. His principal motivation was his domestic popularity, not the good of the nation. Poor relations between Britain and Ireland was one of the reasons it took 25 years to find a resolution to the Northern Ireland conflict. Charlie Haughey contributed to that.

Paris Hilton Ad

Paris Hilton gets political

Last week John McCain launched an ad where he mocked Barack Obama and his popularity comparing him to a celebrity like Brittney Spears and Paris Hilton. This fits in with a consistent pattern of McCain's where he regularly portrays Obama as a fashionable and eloquent candidate but one who lacks the ability to lead. Watch the original McCain ad below.

Surprisingly though, Paris did not take it lying down if you pardon the pun. Instead she launched her own ad slagging off john McCain for using her in his ad. Watch the ad below.

In my opinion this election campaign is in danger of taking a crass turn. I was hoping for a new and exciting campaign where both candidates really get to grips with some of the worlds most controversial issues. I want to see the American left and right go at each other over Americas role in the world. What I have seen so far is both sides trying to win a popularity contest. McCain the guy you could have a beer with versus Obama the swanky smooth talker. Where are the great debates. Its beginning to bore me. I sincerely hope it improves.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Iraqi Progress Update

As promised below is a piece about the developments in Iraq that have led to a decrease in violence levels throughout the country.

The Sunni Awakening
The Sunni Awakening or Anbar Awakening refers to a series of events that have happened in the Sunni areas of western Iraq known as Anbar province. Anbar province, right in the middle of the infamous Sunni triangle had been the most dangerous place for US troops in the whole of Iraq. Back in 2004/05 US troops took daily casualties in the area accounting for over a thousand deaths. This area dominated by the Sunni Sheiks had been Sadam's stronghold and after the occupation it became the scene of an unconventional alliance between former Sadam loyalists, bitter at the rise of the Shia, and foreign Al Quaeda fighters hell bent on causing carnage. However in the last two years or so, this relationship has soured to the current point where the Sunni Sheiks has launched an all out war on the foreign Jihadists. As a result the daily car bombings that killed scores in Baghdad have been reduced to a minimum.

Iraq's western province of Al Anbar has seen a dramatic decrease in attacks on coalition forces, even in Fallujah, marked above

Perhaps the yanks realising that if they tried to fight everyone they would lose, approached several Sunni militant groups and enticed them with incentives to turn on Al Quaeda. Or perhaps Al Zarqarwi and his gang simply got too violent for the Sheiks. Whatever the reason this Sunni u turn dramatically affected the security situation and as the democrats are trying to stress, it is this and not the surge that has caused the violence levels to drop.

Shia ceasefire
In addition to the above The Shia dominated Iraqi government in Baghdad have under immense US and regional pressure finally begun to crack down on militant shia groups that had previously been tolerated by the Al Maliki government. In May the Iraqi army without US support entered the Shia slum, Sadr City in an effort to stamp government authority on the city. Also in the wake of the British withdrawal from Basra the Iraqi army entered the city in order to flush out the militants that had begun to control the city after the vacuum. All information available to me claims that both these efforts were successful. Like the Sunni deal above the improvements in Shia areas have been brought about largely by under the radar deals. A ceasefire was agreed between coalition forces and Moqtada Al Sadr's Al Mahdi army back in August 2007. This has by and large been held. In the middle of all this you have the Surge, 30,000 extra troops in Baghdad. It is this show of force that the republicans emphasise as the cause of increasing stability making every effort to highlight that John McCain was in favor of it and Barack Obama against.

The ceasefire called by Moqtada Al Sadr in August 07 has held

Is this progress ? In my opinion yes. Everybody, even the fiercest critic of the war should be happy that violence is down. If you're not, then there is something wrong with you. Don't worry, these latest developments do not cancel out all the earlier blunders that makes the entire Iraq episode Americas worst foreign policy blunder of all time. But any development that eases the horror the Iraqi people have had to go through is a good thing. That being said we are still looking at a precarious situation. At any time the Shia ceasefire could collapse. Also, the Sunni Sheiks that have turned on Al Qaeda remain very suspicious of the Shia government in Baghdad. And there is serious tension because of the fact the the Sheiks are chasing down Al Quaeda themselves using forces known as the "Awakening Movement". These forces have no loyalty to Baghdad and it is feared by many that they may one day turn on the Iraqi government. Then there is the Iranian wild horse. In the event of an Israeli air strike on Iran the Iranians would be in a position to undo all this progress just like that. Frankly, I think it is likely that the violence has just burned itself out for a while and that it will probably return as bad as ever at any time. That's why I agree with Obama and anybody else who says, GET OUT WHILE YOU CAN !

Monday, August 4, 2008

The Surge or the Awakening

There is a debate currently raging in the United States, the outcome of which will have a definite impact on the presidential election in November. As we all know violence levels in Iraq have decreased dramatically over the last year to the current point where they are at the lowest of the entire war. But what has caused this ? Was it Bush's decision in June 2007 to send an extra 30,000 troops to tackle sectarian violence, known as the surge or was it a series of political events such as the Anbar or Sunni Awakening and the compromise reached between the Iraqi government and the Shiite militias. John McCain says A, Barack Obama says B.
John McCain, touring Baghdad with General Petreus, credits the "surge" with improving security in the capital

I posted last week about "Obama's Iraq problem". Let me clarify here. Obama was one of the few politicians in the US opposed to the war from the beginning. Even prominent Democrats that became anti war like John Kerry and Hillary Clinton voted in favour of military action back in March 03. This negatively affected both of their presidential campaigns as they were both vulnerable to accusations of flip flopping. Obama never had this problem, until recently. Because of the continuing improvements in Baghdad Obama has to reevaluate his position on Iraq. One way of doing this is by emphasising the significance of the political developments in Iraq and by lessening the relevance of the surge. He has to do this without appearing to make light of the efforts the troops have made. McCain ads are popping up everywhere accusing Obama of belittling the achievements of the troops. Watch this McCain add below that accuses Obama of being all over the place on Iraq.

So we have concluded that Obama needs to stress the political progress in Iraq in order to appear consistent. Tomorrow I will post on the specific nature of these developments.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Gubu tries something new

I am a relative new comer to the blogosphere. I am learning as I go. One thing I have realised is that keeping the blog fresh with daily posts is a challenge. I have averaged at 18 posts per month since Gubu World was born back in May. I want to increase this average to about thirty. In order to do this I am expanding the topics of my posts to include 20th century history and politics. Most of my posts will still be about Middle Eastern politics, the US election and Ireland in International affairs. However from now on whenever I'm short of news and opinion I will do a piece on World War Two perhaps, or maybe something on the cold war. In all cases you will see the connection between my GUBU way of looking at world politics and the historical or political event I decide to blog about. We'll see how it goes.