Armistice Day in the UK

As an American, there are things about other countries that you can read about, then there are things you can only truly understand while in those countries.

When was the last time a large war with a foreign State (not including the Confederate States of America) was fought on American soil for a prolonged period of time? I’d say the War of 1812. It’s been a while. Not many Americans can honestly understand what Europe and so many other parts of the world have gone through in the last 100 years.

I’ve been aware of this dynamic before today, but this moment… today… it really humbles me.

While I’m, absolutely, going to continue my journey by listening to locals and getting to know them and hearing their thoughts, I really hope that I never stop being thankful for the life that awaits me back home in NH, and its peaceful history for over 200 years.

I Always Got Along With Cuba

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According to news reports, we, as Americans, are finally going to start getting along with Cuba. Apparently, I’m now on speaking terms with the denizens of the island nation off the coast of Florida. This is news to me: I don’t ever remember ceasing communications to begin with.

I apologize in advance if this comes across like an ideological rant, but I feel it’s important to step back and realize exactly what’s going on here. The politicians, pundits, and news media outlets would have us believe that this is a great coming together of peoples, setting aside their differences at long last. Don’t be fooled. All this means is that the U.S. and Cuban governments are considering ending their criminalization of honest friendship and trade.

Make no mistake: there was never any great rift between the Cuban and American peoples. That was a lie perpetrated by the governments of each respective nation in order to justify their conflict. There is no voluntary citizen embargo. There never was a unanimous people’s decision not to travel between the countries. There were only government mandates, people’s will be damned. A select few deciding personal and business relationships between hundreds of millions of people, based on their own petty disagreements. [Read more…]

Mideast Conflict: A Blanket of Hatred

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Xenophobia has always been regarded as an internal problem for states, and while many governments have taken some kind of measure towards educating people against it, often it seems to end up on the back-burner. However, the long term consequences of persisting xenophobia are beginning to show.

Media attention has recently been given to ISIS as the world is beginning to wake up to the threat they pose. Meanwhile, hundreds of Muslim and activist teens have run away to join the ranks of Jihadist fighters. How did this come to happen, and who must be held responsible?

A brief summary of the past two decades:

– 1990: Iraq annexes Kuwait. The official reason quoted is that Kuwait had been accused of stealing oil from Iraq by slant drilling, opinions on the true reasons are divided.

– 1991: The US, Saudi Arabia, the UK and France and later Kuwait form a coalition to fight off Iraq’s occupation. Iraqi forces are bombarded by air and sea, and a ground assault follows. A ceasefire is declared 100 hours after the ground campaign is launched. Vast numbers of chemical weapons are apparently found and destroyed. President Saddam Hussein is allowed to remain in power.

– 2001: UK and US carry out bombing raids on Iraq in an attempt to disable its air defense network. This is part of an effort to disarm Iraq on the part of the UN by request of the US on the grounds that the Iraqi government refuses to allow the US to inspect for unconventional weaponry.
Military commander of the Afghan Northern Alliance Ahmad Shah Massoud is killed by a suicide bomber.
9/11 terrorist attacks on the US trigger a global uproar, war is waged in Afghanistan by the US with international support.

– 2003: US invasion of Iraq with international support begins. US forces take Baghdad. Former President Saddam Hussein is captured, tried, and executed by the new Iraqi Government. Iraqi militant group Tanzim Qaidat Al-Jihad Fi Bilad Al-Rafidayn (an Al Qaeda offshoot) joins forces with insurgent Sunni groups to form the Mujahideen Shura Council, they declare the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL) shortly after.

– 2011: Civil war breaks out in Syria. President Bashar El Assad’s government fights groups of civilian rebel fighters. Casualties are in the tens to hundreds of thousands. US refrains from intervening at first, but decides to support and arm the rebels when Russia lends its support to the Syrian government.

– 2013: ISIL joins the civil war on the side of the rebels, and the name is changed into the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). The conflict is still ongoing.

– 2014: Al Qaeda disowns ISIS, the official reason quoted being their brutality. They have been accused of war crimes, religious persecution, mistreatment of civilians, sexual violence, and slavery. [Read more…]

Gaza Casualties Speak Volumes

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It’s that tragic time of year again when the Gaza Strip erupts into flames once more, and the usual suspects are quick to paint the tragic and complex issue with the black-and-white brush of their own agenda. And of all those metaphorical brushstrokes, the numbering of casualties on each side is the most revealing. In more ways than intended.

This year the popular propagandistic narrative is that of an evil, genocidal juggernaut of an Israel against a poor, downtrodden Palestinian people, like cattle before the slaughter. According to this fable there are only two sides, two groups, in the conflict. Every act of destruction falls on the conscience of every last person in Israel’s territory, and every dead body on the other end of the border is an innocent child.

Back to reality. There are, in fact, four main groups at play here: the people of Israel, the people of Palestine, the Israeli Defense Forces, and Hamas. The first two groups are simply trying to mind their own lives, and scurry for cover whenever the bombs start to fly. The other two are military groups, ostensibly charged with the safety of their corresponding civilian population. In reality, as in all wars, all this amounts to more death and destruction than protection. [Read more…]

Is U.S.-Russian Rivalry Only for Show?

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The United States and Russia put on a good display of being at each other’s throats. But what if that rivalry is nothing more than a show?

As I covered in my last article on the relationship between the Russian and U.S. Intelligence Services, it’s according to Intelligence that governments plan their negotiations and decide whether or not to put forth a plan for military deployment. This is a perfectly normal and sensible approach to foreign policy. However, the line is crossed at the point where Intelligence Services are used to create situations where deployment would seem viable, e.g. by manipulating intelligence and cooking up statistics.

Russian and U.S. foreign policy has been both very intimately and very discretely linked in the past few decades: wherever the U.S. deploys its troops, they find themselves faced with enemies armed with Russian weaponry and gear; and whenever Russia cracks down on former Soviet allies for insubordination, they very often find themselves facing rebels armed with supposedly stolen or smuggled U.S. weapons. At the same time, Russia often sends the U.S. warnings when it is about to launch an attack in the Middle East, and threatens to stay out of the conflict and leave the U.S. to their own devices (for example the deployments in Syria and Iraq), while the U.S. calls Russia on what it calls infringements of human rights and impingements on the sovereignty of its neighbors. And yet, neither ever actually personally intervenes in the other’s affairs! [Read more…]

Did the Cold War ever really end?

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The Cold War, the epic global military standoff between the United States of America and the Soviet Union, ended decades ago. Everyone knows that.

Well, what if I were to tell you that, beneath the surface, the Cold War is in fact still in full effect?

The Cold War of espionage and intelligence gathering that followed the end of the 2nd World War and the 3rd Reich was a grim time for international relations, a time where governments were at each other’s throats and where spies lurked behind every dark corner. As the story goes, the Cold War ended with the fall of Stalin’s Soviet regime and the tearing down of the Berlin wall. But what if the Cold War had in fact gone even further underground, only to resurface at a time where it could be once more legitimately justified?

Russia resumed its infamous intelligence activities since Putin’s rise to power at the end of the 90’s. But while it’s true that Russian intelligence thrived under Putin, the KGB never truly stopped its activities in the intermittent time; it all simply became increasingly obscure and discrete. [Read more…]