Monday, November 30, 2009

70 Years Ago Today 30/11/39

Finland. The Soviet Union invaded Finland on this day 70 years ago. After months of negotiations between the two over a territory exchange in the bizarre new post Nazi Soviet pact world, negotiations between the two finally broke down. On this day Soviet ships bombarded Finnish ports, the Soviet Air Force launched a heavy raid on Helsinki and the Red Army launched an all out attack on the fortified Mannerheim Line. The Soviets have vastly superior numbers. However the result of this war, within world war two is far from certain. Soviet propaganda informed the Red Army that the Finnish proletariat would rise up and welcome Soviet troops as liberators from their capitalist oppressors. The war was less than an hour old when it became clear that this would not happen. The Finns were prepared to defend their homeland fiercely. In addition this is the first major combat that the Soviets have been involved in since the outbreak of the second World War and since Stalin's purges of the Red Army leadership in the late 1930's. They are leaderless and vulnerable and it is already showing.

The Red Army invaded Finland along the above fronts.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Ebadi Medal confiscated

Shirin Ebadi has had her Nobel Peace Prize confiscated by the Iranian authorities. The 2003 winner has not been back to Iran since the disputed election last June due to fears for her safety. I have read several of Ebadi's books and admire the lawyer and former judge greatly. I heard her speaking in Trinity College Dublin last year. She is not just a Human Rights activist. She is a passionate pro democracy campaigner who has lobbied aggressively for the core characteristics of a democratic state which extend far beyond election. She is the leading campaigner in Iran for a free press and most importantly an independent judiciary. She naturally took exception to the decision of the regime to remove her from the bench because of her gender. What a ridiculous stunt this is by the mullahs in Tehran. As if nicking her medal is going to de-legitimize her in the eyes of her followers in Iran and around the world. I can tell you from reading her biography, she is tougher than that.

Shirin Ebadi receiving her Nobel Peace Prize in 2003

70 Years Ago Today 27/11/39

Moscow: The Kremlim claims that Finland has fired artillery shells into Soviet territory. Stalin demands a withdrawal of Finnish troops Karelian isthmus, near Lenningrad.

Helsinki: The Finnish government has denied the soviet claims saying the artillery fire has come from the Russian side of the border. The Soviet Union and Finland are effectively at war with each other.

Germany: Anti Semetic regulations were stepped up on this day. All "Aryan" Germans were warned to divorce their Jewish spouses or face the consequences.

Oslo: The Nobel Laureate Committee have understandably announced that there will be no peace prize this year. This is poignant considering todays news that the 2003 winner, Iranian Human Rights activist Shirin Ebadi who has not returned to the country since the post election turmoil in June, has had her offices raided and her medal confiscated by the Iranian authorities. Pretty low I would say.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Ivory Coast V Republic of Ireland

Ok, I have been getting a lot of abuse on facebook and elsewhere because of my inability in Paris to distinguish the Irish flag from that of the west African country of Ivory Coast.

Below is the Irish flag

Below is the flag of the Ivory Coast

Note my unforgivable blunder in Paris

I would like to offer an unconditional apology to the Irish nation for disrespecting her sacred flag. In my defence though I was jarred at the time and the mirror was telling me that the colours were the right way around.

Some photos from Paris.
Myself and some of the boys at the pre match party under the Eiffel Tower

The magnificent Stad De France

The Magnificent Green Army

Myself and Colin looking a bit glum afterward.

Monday, November 23, 2009

70 Years Ago Today 23/11/39

Krakow: The Nazi Governor General of Poland Dr Hans Frank orders all Jews over the age of ten to wear arm bands with the mark of the star of David.

Berlin: Adolf Hitler summons his generals to the Reich Chancellery in order to criticise them for their opposition to war on the western front. It is believed that he fiercely argued with his senior generals over their lack of faith in his ability to wage war.

North Atlantic: Just North of the Faroe Islands the armed merchant cruiser HMS Rawalpindi engages two vastly superior German battle cruisers,the Scharnhorst and the Gneisenau as they were attempting to break through into the North Atlantic. In a battle that has gone down in British Naval folklore the Rawalpindi fought bravely against two of Germany's most powerful vessels for forty minutes before she was sunk. The Rawalpindi was however able to contact the admiralty and inform them of the location of the German ships forcing them to retreat. 275 of her 312 crew were lost. The German ships retrieved the 37 survivors.

The HMS Rawalpindi (above) was sunk by the German battleships Gneisenau and the Scharnhorst (below)

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Sarah Palin on Jewish Settlements

Sarah Palin is asked about Jewish settlements in the West Bank.

I have a problem with what Sarah Palin is saying here for obvious reasons. But the sheer bizarreness of her advocating the continued expansion of Jewish settlements in the west bank in a blatant attempt to deny the Palestinians a viable homeland is not the main thought I first had on hearing this interview with Barbara Walters. It was quite obvious to me that this was a ridiculous attempt to impress the Christian Zionists and other pro Israeli elements in America by taking up a stance on the conflict that could never be sustained once in a position of power. Jewish settlements in the West Bank are hugely controversial. The reason being that there are many hard line Zionists whose agenda is not the security of the Israeli state. Their goal is to fulfil a biblical prophecy by creating a greater Israel in the holy land by expanding the Jewish state at the expense of the Palestinians. In order for this to happen the Palestinians must be denied a state. Otherwise the greater Israel can never happen. Most Israelis however and all normal thinking people the world over recognise that this should not happen and that the most viable solution to the Israeli Palestinian conflict is for a secure Israel and a workable Palestinian state to exist side by side. By advocating the expansion of Jewish settlements Sarah Palin is committing the cardinal sin of being more Israeli that the Israelis themselves. It always hurts the peace process when people not directly connected to the conflict like European leftists or American conservatives take a more hard line stance than those they support. In any case her support for the Jewish settlers is completely unsustainable. If she ever does become President she would have to drop it immediately. I don't think the 22 Arab nations out there, many of whom are American allies would take too kindly to the US abandoning one of the primary conditions required for a permanent settlement. I find it so nauseating to listen to such blatant pandering to constituents, particularly when it could never be followed through with.

Oh it does feels good to be blogging about the Middle East again. I am still a bitter man after our Parisian nightmare but the best way to get over things is to just get back to normal. I'm not sure what it says about me that the conflict in the Middle East makes me feel better.

Friday, November 20, 2009

France Part 2

The above picture is the only point about the game I want to make.

I am disgusted. I am bitter. I am broken. Watch this space for anti French sentiment because you will see lots of it. I was already pissed off at the French before Thierry Henry conned the referee and robbed us all of a dream summer in South Africa by acting like he was a Harlem Globe Trotter. On Wednesday morning myself and the boys Qued for an hour to go up the Eiffel Tower only to be refused entry at the last minute. As we were quite aggressively man handled out of there we requested an explanation. The reason ? One of my mates had an Irish flag with him which is apparently against the rules as they don't want any foreign flag raised above the tower. Funny, they pretty much welcomed the Nazis into Paris and allowed them raise the swastika over the Eiffel Tower for five years. I should also mention the disgraceful behaviour of security staff at the Stad de France who I witnessed assaulting several Irish fans as they were clearing the stadium. As if we hadn't been insulted enough by the French nation. Anyway I'm ranting and I'm wrecked. I am very tired and emotional. I'm back home now and I'm off to bed. I will get back to posting about the Middle East and war and all that soon but I also intend on having a serious go at the French whenever I can. De-legitimising their history will be comforting I hope. God knows I need some comforting.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Gubu World is going to France

Things get a bit heated at the end of Saturday's game. In my opinion Richard Dunne should have head butted him.

I'm off to Paris tomorrow for France part 2. I'm flying to London and getting the Euro Star to Paris. Its all or nothing now. Its as simple as that. I still believe we can do it because frankly I think the French are a pathetic people. Not like me I know to get so personal but fuck it. This is the World Cup we are talking about so emotions are a bit high especially since that scum bag Diarra apparently insulted the Irish nation at the end of the game. I have never wanted Ireland to beat a team more. Not just to win but because I can't stand the arrogance of the French. And it would mean so much more to a recession hit Ireland than it ever could to France. They don't even care about their national team, mostly because so many are black. There I said it, hardly surprising really from a nation where 25 Per cent of the electorate voted for a fascist in the Presidential election before last. France, nation of 65 million people could only send 5000 people over to Dublin for a crucial world cup qualifier where as Ireland, a nation of 4 million are sending 20,000 over to Paris. Where is the patriotism Mon Ami ? No wonder they have never been able to stand up for anything in their dismal history except that is for slaughtering Algerians and Vietnamese in a pathetic attempt to hold onto their empire like and ageing rock star trying to be cool and hip. Anyway, I think I need to calm down a bit. I'll get over it if we beat them on Wednesday. I will try to do a post from Paris but if not you can follow my adventures on twitter.

Monday, November 16, 2009

70 Years Ago Today 16/11/39

Romania: King Carol's offer of mediation between Germany and the western powers is rejected.

Helsinki: War between Finland and the Soviet Union is inevitable after the breakdown of negotiations between the two. The Finns have rejected Soviet demands for an exchange of territory that will ultimately place the Scandinavian country at the mercy of Joseph Stalin.

London: Spy fever has gripped Britain. More than 6000 people have been arrested since the outbreak of the war on suspicion of being Nazi sympathisers or possibly spies. Huge amounts of mail that leaves Britain, even for neutral countries is being examined and censored.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

France Part 1

Tonight Ireland play France in the first of a two leg playoff for a place at next summers World Cup in South Africa. Its winner takes all. This is a big as it gets. We have no injuries, we have a seriously hyped up nation and we have a French team who, while they do have all the big stars also have a reputation of not being that up for it when it comes to international football. Anyway I'm Off to Croke Park shortly as I am to Paris next week. May Jesus, Allah Buddha and anybody else whose listening bring nothing but good fortune to the Irish and help the French live up to their tradition of being a nation of surrender monkeys. Cmon Ireland !

And just to get in the mood watch a few clips of:

Ireland doing the Dutch

And getting one over on the Italians

And the Germans

Some memories from 1990


Wednesday, November 11, 2009

70 Years Ago Today 11/11/39

Berlin: The German foreign office assures the Belgian and Dutch governments that their neutrality will be respected.

Europe: The allies exchange friendship messages to mark Armistice Day.

London: Queen Elizabeth makes an Armistice Day address to the women of the nation urging them to do their part for the war effort.

The Queen Mother, seen here with female members of the Mechanised Transport Corps (Mobile Ambulance Unit) at Buckingham Palace tries to motivate the women of Britain.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Berlin 20 Years On

Twenty years ago today the Berlin Wall came down. Germany was reunited soon after and the following year the communist governments of Eastern Europe were consigned to history. By December 1991 the USSR would cease to exist and 14 counties would gain their independence from Moscow. Today Europe is entirely democratic with the possible exception of the former Soviet republic of Belarus. The reason that Europe is a free continent today is that the US led NATO alliance was willing to stand up to the Soviet Union and ultimately wrestled it to the ground. This is a fact that many left wingers have trouble accepting but it is an indisputable fact of history. And thanks to those who stood up for democracy the average Eastern European citizen can visit a relative in Germany, go on holidays to Spain or move to Ireland for work. A far cry from the Eastern Europe of old with its barbed wire and high walls. Below are some photographs I took in Berlin in 2006 of various cold war relics.

A section of the Berlin Wall remains in place as a symbol of the city's dark past.

On closer inspection

More of the wall

The famous Check Point Charlie where US and East German troops faced each other for over 25 years. The check point with the mock troops remains as a tourist attraction.

This image of the US soldier is a well known Berlin land mark

A view of Check Point Charlie from the museum above the site of the former East West flash point. The souvenir sellers are a constant presence at this location.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

70 Years Ago today 8/11/39

Westminster: 1st Lord of the admiralty Winston Churchill gives a rousing speech in parliament predicting victory in the war at sea.

Munich: Hitler survives an assassination attempt. On this day Hitler gave a speech at the Burgerbraukeller beer cellar to commemorate the anniversary of his 1923 putsch. Shortly after leaving for his train back to Berlin a bomb exploded on the podium where he had been speaking. Eight people were killed and over 60 were wounded. This would be the first of many war time assassination attempts on the Fuhrer

The Beer Cellar was serverly damaged by the explosion but Hitler was unharmed

Saturday, November 7, 2009

70 Years Ago Today 7/11/39

London: An allied double agent named Paul Thummel passes details of the planned German invasion of Western Europe to the Czech government in exile.

Germany: The invasion of the west, planned for November 12th is postponed due to bad weather.

Poland: It is estimated that 5000 Jews have already been killed in random attacks during the month long old German occupation of Poland. On the 4th of November the Jews of Warsaw were ordered into a section of the city which would soon become the Warsaw Ghetto.

The Jews of Warsaw are forced into a Ghetto. Most will die of disease, starvation and murder over the next 5 years.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Hostage Crisis Anniversary

I took this picture of the old US embassy in Tehran during a trip in 2004. The US seal on the front gate is the only US marking that indicates this was once their embassy.

On the 4th of November 1979 Iranian students who were followers of Ayatollah Khomeini stormed the US embassy in Tehran. They were angered at US President Jimmy Carter's decision to allow the ousted Shah of Iran into America on medical grounds. They would occupy the embassy and hold its 52 staff hostage for 444 days. Yesterday was the 30th anniversary of this event. Every year Iranian hard liners commemorate the event by organising a "Death to America" rally. This year however the demonstration was hijacked by students of a different political persuasion who were chanting "Death to the Dictator" instead. This time the chants were directed not at the Shah or the White House but at Ayatollah Khameini and President Ahmadinejad. The reformers, those not imprisoned after Ahmadinejad's fraudulent election last June used the occasion to rekindle anti government demonstrations that were crushed in the weeks following the election. Below is a short clip form yesterdays anti regime demonstrations which were once again met with brutal force.

I walked all the way around the massive former US embassy. There are anti American murals on all the walls. This one above mocks the attempted rescue of the hostages by US marines. President Carter ordered the rescue but it eneded in disaster when two helicopters collided on route killing eight marines.

Plain and simple, Down with the USA

This mural depicts Iraqi bombers attacking Iran with missiles supplied by the USA

The above mural mocks the Arab world for being stooges of the US.

The caption reads, "We will make America suffer a very severe defeat"

I think this one is accusing America of being a gun of the Jews

I just had to put this one up. Nearby the former American embassy is the current British embassy located on, believe it or not, Bobby Sands Street.

This massive mural was not near the embassy but I had to put it up regardless. Amazing !

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

70 Years Ago Today 3/11/39

Britain: After complaints from employers and Trade Unions the duration of the black out is reduced by an hour. It now runs from half an hour after sun set to half an hour before sun rise. Clearly a phony war headline.

Moscow: Talks continue between the Soviet Union and Finland. The Finns are refusing to give in to Soviet demands for more territory. War between the two appears inevitable.

South Africa: Prime Minister General Smuts promises the British that he will defend their African colonies if they are attacked. The one time Boer commander is now a staunch British ally.

General Smuts who fought the British during the Boer War is now an allied leader. He is pictured here with Churchill (who was taken prisoner by the Boers in that war) and other common wealth leaders. They are Left to right: standing - General Smuts, Peter Fraser (New Zealand); seated – Mackenzie King ( Canada), Winston Churchill (Great Britain) and John Curtin ( Australia)

Father Ted Innocent

Father Ted has claimed at his war crimes trial in Den Hague today that the money was just resting in his account. Bock the Robber reports on Sinn Fein's Gerry Kelly carrying on with a MILF. Also, its good to see the Irish defence forces up on twitter.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Counter Insurgency or Counter Terrorism

Later this week President Obama will definitively respond to General McChrystal's request for 40,000 additional troops to fight the war in Afghanistan. The Presidents answer is not simply about whether the General will get the troops he wants. His answer will signal whether Obama intends on pursuing a Counter Insurgency (CI) or a Counter Terrorism (CT) strategy in the war against Al Quaeda and the Taliban. So, whats the difference ?

Counter terrorism in Afghanistan
If President Obama opts for this strategy then there will be no need for any additional troops. In fact he could afford to gradually decrease troops levels as under this method there will be little of no conventional engagements on the battle field between the Taliban and the US Army or Marines. The CT approach relies heavily on deploying special forces teams and Predator UAV (unmanned areal vehicles) to hunt down Taliban commanders and assassinate Al Quaeda leaders. The main benefit of this approach is that there will be few casualties among NATO forces. In May President Obama replaced General McKiernan with General McChrystal as commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan. General McChrystal had famously used the UAV to great effect in Iraq when in June 2006 it was used to kill Abu Musab Al Zarqarwi, probably the most murderous man in the Middle East. It is believed that Zarqarwi caused a rift within Al Quaeda such was the level of violence he unleashed in Iraq. When you're too violent for Bin Laden you really have some anger management issues. The UAV approach which McChrystal used so successfully in Iraq relies entirely on Signals Intelligence (SIGINT) and CIA networks to locate targets. Mchrystal was brought into Afghanistan to do to Taliban leaders what he had done to Zarqarwi in Iraq.

However since he began his new post in May he seems to have come to the conclusion that CT, special forces and UAV's are not sufficient to defeat the enemy. I can think of two main reasons why this is. Firstly the enemy can adapt to SIGINT by deploying its own counter intelligence. By operating in cells, leaking false claims on locations and rooting out informers the Taliban and Al Queada leadership have become quite successful at avoiding drone strikes in recent months. Secondly, when the UAV strikes go wrong they go very wrong. There have been several high profile instances where scores of civilians have been killed. General McChrystal seems to believe that the damage these strikes are doing to NATO's image in the country is doing more harm to the overall effort than good. For this reason General McChrystal has requested 40,000 more troops to implement a Counter Insurgency Strategy.

Counterinsurgency in Afghanistan
The CI strategies core principle is to protect the civilian population from insurgents by military and political means. This will require more troops to occupy large population centers in order to avoid the common situation where NATO forces oust the Taliban from a town only to leave and have the Taliban re establish their influence afterward. This has resulted in many tribal leaders being reluctance to cooperate with NATO forces out of fear of Taliban retaliation. The CI approach is a political statement as much as anything else to say to the Afghans we are ready to commit and we are prepared to take risks to protect you. Some would call this nation building, a concept that many conservatives in the US are hostile to. This is a highly ambitious strategy but there seems to be a confidence in the US military at present that believes the successes in Iraq post surge can be replicated in Afghanistan. There is a political corollary to this approach which was illustrated recently when Obama sent Senator John Kerry over to Kabul to make it clear to the Karzai government that the US is not going to go to all this effort just to keep him in power. He promptly responded by agreeing to a re run of the recently disputed presidential election.

General McChrystal and President Obama met last month on board Air Force One to discuss the new strategy for Afghanistan.

The debate over CI and CT is interesting because it falls outside the predictable political discourse that we normally see between conservative republicans and liberal democrats where the former accuse the latter of being weak on national security. On this issue we are seeing hawks and doves, Democrats and Republicans, conservatives and liberals be in favour of both CI and CT with no obvious political pattern emerging. There are those on the right that fear Americas long term ability to stay ahead of China and India economically could be seriously jeopardise by a ten year Counter Insurgency campaign in Afghanistan. They fear that such a campaign in a country that probably has the worlds most inhospitable terrain could bleed the US to such an extent that it might never fully recover. Many like minded people also feel that putting more boots on the ground is fighting the war on the enemies terms. More troops means more targets for the Taliban and it certainly means more casualties. This is why some hawks are arguing that they should stick to fighting the Taliban by eliminating its leadership with special forces and UAV drones. But don't worry, the usual band of republican cheer leaders are filling the right wing talk radio and Fox News calling Obama a weakling who doesn't have the stomach for a war. They have reached this conclusion simply because he hasn't made a decision yet. They conveniently ignore that less than a month into his presidency he sent a further 17,000 troops to Afghanistan, a larger troop increase than anything seen during the Bush years. Apparently making a decision quickly is more important than making it correctly. However there are some more respectable figures on the right arguing for a CI escalation. These people are reasonably arguing that a commander in Chief should always listen to his generals (didn't General MacArthur want to nuke Korea?)and if McChrystal wants more troops then he should have them. Fair point but the danger as I see it is if CI goes wrong, it will go spectacularly wrong.

The Liberals also appear all over the place on this issue. There are clearly plenty of Obama lovers who will support him no matter what he does. The anti war crowd want all US troops out of Afghanistan but if pushed on the issue they would prefer to see CT adopted as CI will inevitably be an escalation of the war. Moderate Democrats appear split. This became most evident when Vice President Biden publicly criticised the McChrystal plan fearing that America will get bogged down in an un-winnable war. His stance on this led to praise from all sides which indicates how this issue has fractured the political status quo. Other Democrats are in favour of CI out of a sense of optimisms, a belief that Afghanistan can be rebuilt like the Balkans. Maybe they are getting a bit too carried away with the "Yes we can" rhetoric if they think that Obama can turn Afghanistan into a western style democracy.

I think that this is not only the toughest decision Obama has been confronted with so far as President but will ultimately turn out to be the most difficult one of his entire Presidency, whether it lasts another 3 or 7 years. The one comfort I think he has is that he is taking it from a politically sound position. If Obama goes against McChrystal and opts for a CT strategy, are the republicans really going to accused him of not being committed to Afghanistan. Hardly a wise thing to do since George Bush first invaded back in November 2001 and kept less than 30,000 troops in the whole country for most of the following seven years. Having said that, I cant help thinking of the movie "Thirteen Days" about the Cuban Missile Crisis which I watched recently. In one scene President Kennedy says to his advisor Kenny O'Donnell, played by Kevin Kostner "I woke up this morning and for a minute, I wished somebody else was President". No doubt Obama has had a similar moment over the last few weeks. In any event, Gubu World will report on Obamas decision.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

70 Years Ago Today 1/11/39

Europe: Germany formally annexes Western Poland including Danzig and the Polish corridor, the dispute over which triggered the second World War.

Netherlands: The government proclaims a state of siege in frontier areas and flood zones.

Switzerland: Contingency plans are laid out in case of an invasion.