Thursday, June 30, 2011

Irish Rover Gaza Controversy

Not this again, didn't the Egyptians open the Rafa border crossing ? Is the siege not already at an end?

Robert Avrech over at the excellent blog Seraphic Secret posted the following piece about Ireland's role in the upcoming Gaza Flotilla, a post he provocatively named Irish Ship of fools. Below is an extract.

An excellent article by Ruth Dudley Edwards, an Irish historian, novelist, journalist and broadcaster, on the Gaza-bound flotilla of fools. She correctly notes that this movement is motivated not by humanitarian concerns but a pathological hatred of Jews.

It was the Fifties and I was about seven when I pointed to the photograph of Hitler in my republican granny’s lair and said: “What about the Jews, grandmother?” “British propaganda,” she replied.

Grandmother Edwards was not stupid, but she was adept at filtering out information that didn’t fit her world view. As far as she was concerned, the Nazis had been allies of the IRA and enemies of the Brits so they were the good guys.

I retired to discuss the matter further with my mother, at whose knee I had learned about the Holocaust and who was an admirer of Jewish creativity and culture. I will be forever grateful to her for inoculating me against the knee-jerk anti-Semitism of Roman Catholicism and for making me ashamed of my country’s meanness of spirit in slamming the door against Jewish refugees.

Let us be clear. Whether they know it or not, that gaggle of posturing, ignorant Irish clowns who are setting sail towards Gaza on the MV Saoirse are driven by anti-Semitism. Otherwise they would be protesting against — for instance — the Islamist killings and bombings that are forcing tens of thousands of Christians to flee the Middle East, the ethnic cleansing in the Sudan, the ill-treatment of servants and women in Saudi Arabia, the hanging of gays from cranes in Iran, the massacres of protesters in Libya and Syria, the torture of Irish-trained doctors in Bahrain for tending to injured demonstrators and the vicious anti-Jewish propaganda that teaches Arab children to hate.

Hey, I have a fab-u-lous idea for the creatures who are so anxious to bring, ahem, humanitarian relief to suffering Arabs. Try pointing your flotilla towards Sudan where hundreds of thousands are being slaughtered, or Syria where children are being shot down in the streets by Assad’s thugs, or gee, hey about helping out the hapless NATO forces—Obama says he’s leading from behind, which is, I suppose, much like leading with your tuchus—in Libya where the lunatic Kaddafi and his mad-dog sons employ Muslim mercenaries to slaughter, what a shock, Muslims.

A commenter at Seraphic Secret made the following remark.

The Irish have a lot to answer for, and for not the first time, I wish I had a different surname. When asked about my background, I tend to say that my people came from the north of England and Scotland. Some of my Irish-Canadian friends joke that the famine forced all the really smart, energetic, industrious people out of Ireland, leaving the folks who killed each other in a civil war after gaining independence, helped Nazi subs refuel and provision, and support cretinous causes like the Gaza flotilla.

I being the cantankerous sort that I am took exception to aspects of this post and left the following comment.

The first part of Ruth Dudley Edwards' article is lazy and inaccurate for the following reasons. The story about her messed up old granny is a deliberate attempt to associate Irish Republicanism with being pro fascist and anti semetic. There is little or no evidence of this. In truth, her motivation is likely that of an emigrant whose experience in parochial Ireland was an unhappy one. This is probably more for personal reasons than anything else.

Now for some facts. The IRA of 1938-41 which was a splinter of a splinter of a splinter of a splinter of the IRA that achieved independence in 1922 sent 3 men to Germany in 1938. After realising their capability was light, they were refused any help by Berlin. The Nazis wanted people who could invade Northern Ireland or commit large scale sabotage in Belfast which the IRA were unable to do. The IRA instead initiated a bombing campaign of mainland Britain which petered out by 1940 after causing minimal damage and 6 fatalities. If any of you want to take from this that the Irish who won their freedom during 1916-1921 hated Jews and loved the Nazis then go right ahead, but I for one think that like those who constantly bash Israel, you probably have a bigoted (perhaps anti Catholic) motive.

I am glad Eamon referred to the Irish Republican constitution of 1938 which specifically mentions the Jews as having protection under the constitution. When the rest of Europe was enacting laws persecuting the Jews, the Irish were passing laws protecting them. This is one of the reasons there is a forest in northern Israel named after Eamon De Valera. I don't expect there is any other nation other than Israel whose constitutions mentions the Jewish people.

Across the Irish Civil War divide there was a positive view of Irish Jews. Richard Mulcahy is a figure who has been written out of Republican history because he took the moderate pro Treaty side in the Civil War, this despite the fact that he was IRA Chief of Staff during the 1919-21 war against the British. His son recently published his fathers papers in which he mentions several times how Dublins Jewish community contributed to the struggle by storing ammunition and harbouring IRA members on the run.

On the other side De Valera's close associate Robert Briscoe was a devout Jew and Zionist who fought against the British, and against the first independent government which he believed had sold out. His actions were very similar to those in the Irgun who were willing to fight the IDF in 1948. I don't think the late Mr Briscoe, or his son Ben (a former Lord Mayor of Dublin) would take too kindlly to Mrs Dudly Edwards article.

Furthermore, her statement that she was ashamed of "my country’s meanness of spirit in slamming the door against Jewish refugees" makes little sense. World War Two created many times more non Jewish refugees than Jewish ones. The Irish government didn't take them in either. The government of the time was protectionist and introvert and did not, shamefully accept many refugees. Like every nation on earth, Ireland at the time had anti semites but crucially, we kept ours away from power. When it comes to European nations' war time treatment of the Jews, Ireland is one of the last nations that should be criticised. Could they have done more , of course, what nation couldn't.

Mr McGinnis
I'm not sure what you think the Irish have to answer for.

I too wish you had a different second name. And as for your friends who joke that the 1.5 million Irish who perished in the 19th century famine (thousands of whom are buried in a mass grave about 1 mile from where I live) were useless and that their decedents are losers, please tell them that I said I think they are repulsive scumbags. And by the way, the post independence Civil War in Ireland lasted 11 months and cost 2,000 lives. It resulted in a stable democracy that has lasted the test of time. As civil wars go, it was must less costly than most, including your own American.


The" Irish chattering classes" are no different than the American chattering classes. There is also an American ship travelling to Gaza. I resent the title and the tone of this post.


Thoughts ? Would Gubu World readers care to add anything to this fascinating discussion.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Irish Army in Lebanon

Over the weekend the final 200 soldiers of the 104th Infantry Battalion were deployed to southern Lebanon to fulfil their role in the UNIFIL mission. This is a very important mission given the events of the second Lebanon war in the summer of 2006 when Hezbollah and Israel fought a brutal month long war over the southern Lebanese border with Israel. It is also very dangerous mission as was seen earlier this months when two Italian soldiers were killed by an IED. Gubu World wishes all Irish soldiers in Lebanon a safe and successful mission. Below is a short video released by the Defence Forces of the troops preparing for deployment over the weekend.

Photo of the Day

Hill 16, Croke Park, yesterday for Leinster Semi Final between Dublin and Kidare.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Gilad Shalit - 5 years On

I took this picture yesterday of a rare pro Israeli demonstration in Dublin.

This weekend marks the fifth anniversary since Israeli soldier Gilad shalit was kidnapped by Hamas in a raid on an IDF post in southern Gaza in which two of his comrades were killed. To mark the occasion demonstrations were held all over the world to bring attention to the plight of the 25 year old who has spent five years in captivity without access to the Red Cross. I am glad to say that such a demonstration was held in Dublin outside the Department of Foreign Affairs in St Stephens Green. It is heartening to see that in Ireland there are people willing to overtly challenge the pro Palestine lobby who completely dominate the Israel/Palestine debate in this country. Ireland will never be a pro Israeli country, but as a nation that has overcome a conflict that most thought would never be solved, Ireland should contribute to the Holy Land discussion in a much more positive way than it does. We need less unrestricted Israel bashing and more rational dialogue that articulates both sides point of view. Perhaps this small demonstration is a small positive step in that direction.

Friday, June 24, 2011

70 Years Ago Today 24/6/41

Adolf Hitler has torn up the 1939 Nazi Soviet non aggression pact. Operation Barbarossa has begun.

USSR: It is two days since the world was stunned by the massive and spectacular invasion by Nazi Germany of the Soviet Union. Three million German soldiers invaded along a 1800 mile front stretching from the Baltic to the Back sea. It is already clear that it is a war like no other. It is an apocalyptic war of destruction by the fanatic Nazis, who believing that they have dealt sufficiently with the west, are now turning Eastward to eradicate their most hated enemy, which is communism, Bolshevism, the Slavic people and Judaism.

London: Addressing the British people Churchill announces that Britain will give all possible help to the USSR. Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden announces a formal Anglo Soviet mutual aid agreement.

Occupied Europe. The Nazis have appealed to anti communists throughout Europe to join with them in their fight against Stalin.

Helsinki: On this day 70 years ago Soviet planes bomb the Finnish capital. Finland announces its intention to restart the war with the Soviets that began in the winter of 1939 and ended with their defeat in the Spring of 1940. This time however, they will be fighting with the Germans.

Moscow; Joseph Stalin has been taken completely by surprise. Despite warnings from Churchill and his own spies in Germany, the Red Army were completely unprepared for the Nazi invasion. Stalin would move quickly to execute his military leaders in the west, skilfully deflecting attention away from his own inadequacies as a military leader.

The duel between Hitler and Stalin, would last four years and cost around 25 million lives.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Medieval Neanderthals Riot

But as the deluge subsides and the waters fall short, we see the dreary steeples of Fermanagh and Tyrone emerging once again. The integrity of their quarrel is one of the few institutions that has been unaltered in the cataclysm which has swept the world. Winston Churchill - 1919.

Oh deary me ! On Monday and Tuesday night Belfast saw its worst rioting in years. Thankfully it was calmer last night. The above quote by Churchill illustrates articulately as only Churchill could how some people in Northern Ireland never seem to be able to move on. Of course Churchill was talking about how at the end of the First World War Britain was soon forced again into dealing with Ireland just as it had been in 1914. The 16 million war dead of Europe had not caused the Irish to put their own problems in prospective. This is how Churchill viewed it then. It is how I view it now. The violence this week was centered around the Short Strand, the Catholic enclave in Largely protestant East Belfast. The violence was mainly orchestrated by the Ulster Volunteer Force, a terrorist organisation that is supposed to be on ceasefire. Dissident Republicans were clearly in the mood to respond and they did so with bullets. And the truth is, provoking a loyalist reaction is what they have been trying to do for years. The objective of the dissident campaign is to worsen the security situation, in order to get British soldiers back on the streets. In short, they want to restart the Northern Ireland troubles and all the sectarian slaughter that comes with it. And that is the key word, sectarianism. Those still on the fringes, those who want to fight on have only one real motive, sectarian hatred. A great example of this is the Real IRA. The RIRA is an organisation that expressed its opposition to the Good Friday Agreement by slaughtering 31 people in Omagh. It is an obscene movement populated by directionless youths and conflict junkies who miss the good ol days when their lives had some meaning. They dislike being able to walk from the Falls Road into the City Center and back in safety. They miss the danger. They have plenty of cousins across the Peace Line who feel the same and who would have responded by now if they were more organised. And that is what is so worrying, the latest reports suggest that the riots were led by a new younger breed within the UVF leadership that has been critical of the groups inaction in the face of the resurgent Republican violence. It seems the dissident republicans may be getting their wish. They may be successfully provoking a reaction from the Shankill Road. The only thing that will stop it, is strong leadership from former paramilitaries in Sinn fein and the UDA that support the Peace Process.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Interesting Random Piece of History 8 - Oswald Interview

On August 17th 1963 Lee Harvey Oswald, representing the organisation Fair Play for Cuba gave an interview to William Stuckley of the New Orleans branch of NBC radio for the programme Latin Listening Post in which he laid out the position of his organisation on the issues of Cuba, Fidel Castro and international communism. Three months later Oswald would be charged with the assassination of President Kennedy. One day later he himself would be shot dead. This interview is absolutely fascinating. Of course according to those who believe Oswald was not the killer, or if he was he was working for the CIA or Mafia, this interview was a sham designed to identify him in the public as a communist. It sounds absurd but his known associations with several anti Castro right wingers with CIA connections makes this more plausible than one might think. Enjoy !

Monday, June 20, 2011

Rush Limbaugh on Family Guy

It's good to see the icons of the far left and far right occasionally getting along just for the fun of it. When I heard Rush Limbaugh was playing himself in an episode of Family Guy I was enthralled. I though why oh why would the ultimate symbol of right wing America agree to go on a show run by Seth Macfarlane. Conservatives generally detest Family Guy which is strange considering the right are always complaining about political correctness yet dislike politically incorrect humour. Limbaugh answers that question pretty well himself in the clip below. Over the years I have become much more conservative than in my younger radical days but one area where I have remained as left wing as you can get is in the area of comedy. That is because there are no funny conservative comedians, not one. While I generally disagree with their serious message, I just can't get enough of Bill Hicks, Bill Maher, George Carlin, Rory Bremer, Chris Rock, Jon Stewart, Family Guy, The Simpsons and anyone else who loves to poke fun at the political establishment. Enjoy the clip.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Photo of the Day

The Statue of Charles Stewart Parnell on O'Connell street has several bullet holes from the 1916 Rising in it. This one is on Parnells' foot.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Photo of the Day, Israeli boycotts and Rachel Corrie

I took this picture last weekend at a stall on Shop Street in Galway City center.

I oppose boycotts of Israel for several reasons. Firstly, Israels treatment of the Palestinians while at times unjust, pales in comparison to the treatment of scores of other regimes of their own minorities who never have to worry about boycotts. The Iraqi, Iranian, Syrian and Turkish treatment of the Kurds comes to mind straight away but there are countless other examples. Secondly, boycotts will only hurt Israeli workers and the workers of the boycotting nation. Israel has many international backers whose financial clout and ability to counter the boycotts renders any attempt at damaging the Israeli economy useless. But most importantly I simply think that boycotting Israel is wrong. Israel is a democratic state, with a non sectarian constitution, free media and an independent judiciary. It is in an exceptionally difficult situation with enemies on all fronts that are fanatically committed to its destruction. It has been in a virtual state of war since 1948. Despite this it has always stuck to its democratic principles and its civilian government has always exercised complete control over its military. Israel should be greatly admired for these reasons. A misguided belief exists among many people with good intentions that if Israel were confronted by the western world and forced to make peace with the Palestinians then militant Islam would be satisfied and hatred of the west would disappear along with the occupation. This is fundamentally flawed because militant Islam has consistently demonstrated that it will only be satisfied when every land where Muslims are a majority is transformed into a Sharia compliant land. This leaves no room whatsoever for Israel in the holy Land.

Rachel Corrie
Rachel Corrie was an American peace activist who was killed in 2003 by an Israeli bulldozer in Gaza while acting as a human shield for a Palestinian home that was about to be destroyed. The 24 year old suffered a horrible death. The Rachel Corrie case has disturbed me for a long time. I have nothing against people who support the Palestinians because there is a legitimate Palestinian cause. What I object to is demonising or de-legitimising Israel. What I especially object to is western liberals acting more Palestinian than the Palestinians by calling for a one state solution to the conflict or through similar hard line rhetoric. But people of good will are in my opinion entitled to take peaceful action to highlight the agenda of some Israeli hawks, which is to undermine the future viability of a Palestinian state by making it smaller. Such people deserve the protection of the international community.

The President's Speech

Watch the movie trailer for Americas answer to The Kings Speech

Thursday, June 16, 2011

70 Years Ago Today 16/6/41

Vietnam: On this day 70 years ago in Saigon the Viet Minh was formed by Ho Chi Minh as a national army of liberation. Its objective was to fight the Japanese until Vietnamese independence was achieved. The Viet Minh, under Ho Chi Minh's leadership would go on to fight the Japanese, French and American forces until the eventual fall of Saigon in 1975.

Washington: President Roosevelt orders the closure of all 24 German consulates in the USA.

England: In Aldershot military base, captured German deputy leader Rudolf Hess attempts to commit suicide by jumping of a balcony. He only breaks a leg.

Syria: The battle for control of the colonies between Free French and and pro German Vichy troops continues. In Syria it is particularly violent appearing more like a French civil war. Two weeks previously allied and Free French troops invaded Syria to take it form Vichy control. On this day 70 years ago the RAF based in Cyprus attacked and sunk the Vichy French destroyer Chevallier Paul 20 miles out from Beirut.

Libya: General Wavell informs Churchill in Cairo, that Operation Battleaxe has failed. The attempt at relieving the siege of Torbruk resulted in 91 British tanks being lost when allied forces attempted to encircle German forces that were enforcing the siege.

70 years ago today German tanks inflicted severe losses on British forces in Eastern Libya.

Photo of the Day

Swans and ducks in Galway

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Naval Exercise off Cork

I downloaded this excellent picture from the Defence Forces Twitter page of the Irish naval fleet conducting maneuvers off the coast of Cork yesterday. Last year the Irish Navy confiscated 1.6 billion Euro worth of drugs that were destined for Irish shores.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

World War Two veterans we all know

I read recently that World War Two veterans are dying at an astonishing rate of 800 a day in the US and 300 a day in Britain. I also read a fine post from Paul over at A Modern Libertarian about the passing of Major Dick Winters, the man who lead Easy Company across Europe during World War Two which was immortalised in the TV series Band of Brothers. It got me thinking of just how poignant it is that World War Two veterans are becoming fewer and fewer. As of 2011, knowing a World war Two veteran or having one in your village, town or even your family is not unusual. But soon it will be. In ten years time only those that live to extreme old age will be around to tell their tales, and they will be telling their stories in TV documentaries, not in our living rooms. The war will become for many at that stage a historical event rather than something personal. A a small tribute I thought I would bring to the attention of Gubu World readers some well known World War Two veterans that are still living. Perhaps this will illustrate that the war is still very real for many people. Some you will know as vertrans but others will surprise you.

Jack Harte. The former Labour Party Senator served in the British Army throughout the war most notably in Malta.

James Molyneux. The former head of the Ulster Unionist Party served in the British Army during the war, He was among the British troops that liberated Bergen Belsen concentration camp.

Cathal O'Shannon. This one surprised me. The RTE presenter served in the RAF during the closing stages of the war.


Christopher Lee. The actor and Bond baddy spent time, believe it or not in Finland where he had volunteered to help the Finns in their war against the Soviets. He later joined the RAF and saw action in North Africa, Sicily and Italy.

Tony Benn. The former Labour Party cabinet Minister served in the RAF during the closing stages of the war.

Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh served in the Royal navy throughout the entire war. He participated in many famous battles including Crete, Sicily as well as many in the pacific. He was a witness to the Japanese surrender in Tokyo Bay in September 1945.

Frank Thornton. Remember this guy, Captain Peacock from Are you being served? Frank Thornton served in the RAF during the war.

Richard Attenborough. Despite playing a cowardly sailor in the 1942 film In Which We Serve Attenborough did in fact serve in the RAF during the latter years of the war.

George HW Bush. The 41st President served as a naval pilot in the Pacific. He flew on 58 missions. On one occasion in June 1944 his plane was shot down over the south Japanese islands. His two fellow crewmen were killed but Bush managed to bail out. He spent several hours at sea before he was picked up by a US Submarine. This picture was taken moments after he was rescued.

Bob Dole. The former Senator and 1996 Republican candidate for President served as an infantry man during the war. Weeks before the Nazi surrender in April 1945 he was riddle with German machine gun fire during a battle in northern Italy. His wounds took many years to heal but he eventually made a full recovery.

Charles Durning. The actor (Dog Day Afternoon) landed on Omaha beach on D-Day on would be involved in some of the fiercest fighting across France over the following six months. During the battle of the bulge he was shot in the chest.

Henry Kissenger. A German Jew who fled Nazi Germany in 1938, the future US Secretary of State and National Security Advisor would return to Europe as a military intelligence officer with the 84th Infantry Division. He saw combat at the Battle of the Bulge.

Kirk Douglas. Kirk Douglas served in the Navy from 1941-1944.

Eli Wallach. The actor, most famous for playing the bad guy in The good, the bad and the ugly served as a medical office in North Africa and France. Remember him as the bad Don in The Godfather part 3.

Jimmy Carter. The 39th president served in the Navy during the final years of the war. To my knowledge he did not see any combat. Does this make him a veteran ?

Ernest Borginne. This guy has been in so many movies and TV shows I wouldn't know where to begin. Borginne had already spent six years in the Navy 1935-41 when World War Two broke out. He actually left the Navy in 1941 but reenlisted after the attack on Pearl Harbour. For the rest of the war he served in the Pacific seeing action on several occasions.

Tony Bennett. Although only involved in Europe from January 1945 on, Tony Bennett was involved in some very heavy fighting as the US Army pushed on into Germany. He has claimed that he had several near death experiences and was very lucky to survive the war, a time which he has described as a front row seat in hell.

I'm sure there are many I have not thought of. I could even have put Pope Benedict up there but decided against it. If any of you are aware of any more please let us know.

Photo of the Day

Another photo from Eyres Square Galway. This monument was erected after JFK visited Galway in 1963, a mere three months before his assassination in Dallas. Also while in Galway I had the pleasure of bumping into Yusuf, from the Galway Ahmadiyya Muslim Community. Yusuf is an occasional commenter on Gubu World and the creator of the fine blog EireIslam which I would recommend people pay a visit to.

Monday, June 13, 2011

RIP Brian Lenihan

I want to write something briefly about the recent passing of my local TD and former Minister for Finance Brian Lenihan. The 52 year old lost his fight against cancer last Friday. I'm not generally one for eulogizing but I did meet him on several occasions and found him to be an exceptionally likable man. I had one particular encounter with him that I think Gubu World readers will enjoy. Just prior to the US invasion of Iraq in March 2003, a debate was scheduled for Dail Eireann on whether or not the US military should have access to Shannon Airport in order to refule their aircraft on route to the Middle East. I contacted Brian Lenihan's office and asked if I could observe the debate from the Dail gallery. His office arranged for me to meet him in Buswell's hotel on Kildare Street, just outside Dail Eireann. I thought this was a bit strange but it soon became clear why our meeting was arranged outside of parliament buildings. I was being vetted, in case I was the type that would disrupt such a sensitive discussion surrounding Irish neutrality. I think he also may have mixed me up with my eldest brother, an anti capitalist activist who the department of Foreign Affairs had to make inquiries about his safety after the violence at the G8 summit in Genoa in 2001. He was very friendly and chatty either way and once he realised I did not share my brothers views, we walked across the street to Leinster House where upon he led me to the gallery and arranged a meeting place for the two of us afterward. When the debate in parliament was over, Mr Lenihan took me to dinner in the Dail Restaurant where the two of us discussed the debate and many other international issues for over an hour. I was impressed by his knowledge of international affairs and enjoyed his company very much. I was astonished at his graciousness and the generosity of his time. He was a true gentlemen. It was an encounter I will always remember. His time in the Department of finance (2007-10) was exceptionally challenging. He did not always make the right decisions but I admire people who put themselves out there and attempt to grapple with the big ones. Commenting from behind a lap top or from your bar stool is a much safer game than that faced by the actual decision makers. Brian Lenihan never tried to avoid his very difficult responsibilities and for that he should always be admired. He will be missed by his family, friends and colleagues but also by the political anoraks like me. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam.

Photo of the Day

I spent the weekend in Galway where I took several photos of interest. I will post one daily this week. There are two statues in Eyers Square at the heart of Galway City Center. One is of President John F. Kennedy who visited the square in 1963, the other (above) is of Irish patriot Liam Mellows. Liam Mellows was one of the few leading members of the Irish Volunteers who mobilised outside Dublin during Easter Week 1916. He led several skirmishes against crown forces in Galway. He was elected as a TD in the First underground Dail in 1919 representing Galway East and was a member of IRA GHQ during the 1919-21 War of Independence serving as Director of Supplies. He was staunchly opposed to the 1921 Anglo Irish Treaty and he led the Anti Treaty IRA into the Four Courts in April 1922. When the new Free State Army eventually shelled and captured the Four Courts, Mellows was captured. On the 7th of December, 1922, Pro Treaty Sinn Fein TD Sean Hales was shot dead by Anti treaty IRA outside the Dail. As a reprisal, and to make sure more pro Treaty TD's would not be targeted, four leading figures in the anti Treaty IRA were executed in what was clearly an illegal execution by any standards. Liam Mellows was on of the four. Certainly one of the darkest episodes since Irish Independence.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Syria Anarchy

Instability in Syria is spreading rapidly. Over the weekend 120 members of the security forces were killed by we know not whom. Damascus is saying that rebels attacked the troops but there are wide spread claims that they were murdered by the regime for refusing to fire on civilian demonstrators. Could it have been some sort of attempted coup against the Assad regime ? I don't know what happened, but I do know that Syria is losing the propaganda war badly.

Watch this graphic report from Al Jazeera on the incident.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

IDF Kill 20

Syrian protesters attempt to cross the border into the Golan Heights

While I was away recently enjoying my brief four day tour of the Balkans world events continued to unfold at a rapid pace. The Arab Spring appears to have claimed its third dictator in Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh. Although he has not yet officially stepped down as President it is unlikely he will ever return to Yemen. Meanwhile in the Golan Heights Israeli forces killed 20 Syrians trying to cross the border into the disputed territory during "Naksa" (defeat) commemorations. While it was clearly another stunt orchestrated by Damascus it nevertheless appears that live ammunition was used on unarmed men. I am surprised that Israel, a nation which so much experience at crowd control would let this happen. It is now more important than ever to show the rising masses in the Arab World that in a democracy where accountability is everything, these things are done differently. The Arab dictators are daily massacring people in order to further one simple objective which is to cling to power. Israel killed people in the Golan Heights as a matter of national defence which should be distinguished. Nevertheless using live ammo on unarmed demonstrators is very rarely justifiable. This latest incident was not such a case.

Israeli soldiers prepare to fire live ammunition at Syrian demonstrators.

Another one bites the dust !

Of the four dictators in the front row of this picture, two, Ben Ali (Tunisia) and Mubarak (Egypt) have been overthrown this year. Colonel Gadaffi (no need to indicate where he is in the picture) has not long left. His only hope was to ride it out but it is clear that NATO are not going to stop the bombardment until he his gone. And as of last weekend Ali Abdullah Saleh who has ruled Yemen for 33 years was forced to leave for Saudi Arabia after he was injured in an attack on the Presidential Palace in Yemen. It is unlikely that he will ever return. Who is next ? Basher Al Assad of Syria has to be the favourite.

Afghan Combat Footage

I recommend you watch this footage from Afghanistan. It involves an incident in which two land mines explode injuring three US soldiers. It is strange footage in that it is simple and even calm, not what you would imagine to be a typical casualty scenario in Afghanistan. Comments eagerly requested on this one.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Balkan Oddesy

I am back and rested from my brilliant Balkan adventure. As promised here are some photos from my journey in a mini van with seven of my friends from Dubrovnik to Skopje and back.

On Friday morning we arrived in Dubrovnik, picked up our van and began our journey. After 20 minutes on the road we crossed into Montenegro where I observed one of the most beautiful coastlines I have ever seen.

A ferry ride shortened the journey up the coast line which zig zaggs for much of the way. At 2am on the following Monday morning I would enjoy a lovely swim in that same Montenegrin bay as we were awaiting the return ferry journey.

A monument to Montenegro's war dead.

We followed this spectacular gorge for over an hour as we drove through Montenegro.

We left the Montenegrin coast and headed inland. Montenegro has a spectacular mountain range. Driving through it was the longest part of the journey. If you look closely at this picture you can see a bridge higher up the mountain.

While driving through these mountains I couldn't help think of Titos partisans who took to these mountains and fought so ferociously against the Nazis. I'm sure the Luftwaffe often flew through this particular mountain range in search of the resistance. Driving through this part of the former Yugoslavia also made me think of all those World War Two movies set in the Balkans like "Force Ten from Navarone" and how brutal the war must have been in such a rugged country.

As we finally broke through to a higher point with a more open view we came to the conclusion that as it was getting dark it would be safer to take the longer but better road though Serbia before entering Kosovo. The drive through Serbia and Kosovo on Friday night was uneventful. We reached Skopje around midnight, enough time to head out for a wild one.

Skopje, the Capital of Macedonia was a strange city that didn't appear to know what era it was in. Great nightlife though and a great match day atmosphere. Saturday in Skopje was a great day. Here me and some of the boys are chilling out. I'm the tall one.

We began our return journey at 10am on Sunday morning. The drive through Kosovo was much more enjoyable as we got to see it in daylight. As we got closer to the Serbian border the images I saw increasingly reminded me of the 1999 conflict and not just because of the many memorials to those Killed in the conflict. My sister who is a nurse worked with goal on the Albanian Kosovo border in 1999 and I have seen her pictures many times. The open green fields with patches of red tiled roofed houses dominates the landscapes.

Pristine, the capital of Kosovo. This picture is of, get this "Bill Clinton Avenue". The Americans who bombed the Serbs out of Kosovo in 1999 are adored in Kosovo. The former President's portrait can be seen on the top right of the picture. The street also has a Clinton statue.

A Mosque in the Kosovon country side. We sometimes forget that there are three countries in Europe with a Muslim majority, Bosnia, Albania and Kosovo. They are new but firm democracies, a fact that should encourage the Arab Spring.

In Kosovo the flag that dominates is not the kosovon, but the Albanian. This town is clearly marking itself as an ethnic Albanian town.

As we got closer to the Serbian border it became clear why the Serbs are so bitter at losing Kosovo. The newly independent nation obviously has a large Serbian minority as the entry road into this town illustrates.

French troops serving in the NATO mission guard the Kosovo Serbia border.

The Kosovo side of the border with Serbia is guarded by NATO and controlled by EU police. We were cleared to enter Serbia but upon arriving at the Serb controlled line of entry a cantankerous border guard turned us away because of the Kosovo stamp on our passports. It appears that whether or not a foreigner can enter Serbia from Kosovo depends on how nationalist the border guard is on that particular day. What should have been a ten hour journey became a 16 hour journey because of our detour.

We were supposed to arrive back into Dubrovnik at 10 pm on Sunday night where we hoped to enjoy a last bash. But thanks to Johnny Serb we didn't arrive until 4am. On seeing the beautiful location of our hotel the following morning I became particularly angry at what we had missed out on. Here's hoping that one day all the nations of the former Yugoslavia will be in the borderless EU. The EU has proved highly successful at eroding nationalism. After all, If you take away the borders, you take away the nationalism. The Serbs living in Kosovo are angry because they are separated from their Kin in Serbia proper. If both countries were to one day enter into a borderless free trade block with each other then nobody would care what side of the border they lived on. It has worked everywhere else in Europe, I don't see why it can't one day work in the Balkans.