Sunday, 30 January 2011

Egypt in Revolt

My my things do happen fast, no sooner had I posted yesterdays errr post then the Real News released a series of updates on the state of affairs here they are from top to bottom.

The role of the army

Like Tunisia it appears that the Army is doing its best to distance itself from the excesses of Mubarak's security thugs. While it is of course good to see or rather not the see two national armies gunning down there own population there are a few more Machiavellian reasons why the Army would take this "neutral like" position. Since the Army top brass naturally have links to the NDP regime this could be part of an attempt to deflect criticism from any crimes or morally suspect actions they have committed as an institution or individuals, they could simply think that Mubarak's chances for survival even if they successfully suppress the revolts to be nil and don't wish to tie there bloody hands to a lame duck Autocrat. Then of course there is the Iranian example to be considered. When the Shah's regime was crumbling away in 1979 he did deploy his army against his people and for a brief period was able to restore some order to the streets,unfortunately for the Beacon of the Aryans his large army was made up of ordinary Iranians who shared many of the protesters grievances and it wasn't long before his proud army disintegrated leaving him and his supporters without any leverage of the situation forcing a prompt and humiliating dash to the airports for the Iranian aristocracy. In short the Egyptian generals are smart enough to realise its not worth forcing the issue and are doing there best to achieve a compromise by evoking the national allegiance.

Of course Revolutions are nothing if not constantly in motion. By tomorrow or an hour after I hit the post it button the Egyptian could decide that a compromise isn't good enough, or that they can get external support from say Saudi Arabia wich definitely does not want the spread of people power in the middle east or the EU or Egypt and its armies best friend the United States. After all Egypt is the lynch pin of their middle east strategy and is a key supporter of the Israeli Apartheid program especially its collective punishment blockade of Gaza and Hamas.

The Roots of the Egyptian Revolt

This interview is important and deserves a bigger audience as it dispels the myth cultivated by much of the lazy "mainstream" media that Egypts discontent was a strange spontaneous copy cat of Tunisia. The deposing of Ben Ali was important not because it was a Revolution in the Arab but because it was a Revolution in the Arab world that worked. Egyptian angered at the brutality and corruption of Hosni Mubarak and the National Democratic Party has been simmering away since the latter took power in 1981 and continued and expanded the Draconian Emergency Law to crush opposition and plunder national assets to benefit his supporters. Nearly every day since then there have been strikes, protests both peaceful and violent, sit ins, petitions, rallies and flash mobs against Mubarak but the only UK outlet to regularly report any of that was the Morning Star.

Interview discusses the International (USA) considerations of the Revolts.

This interview does a good job of outlining the International context of the Revolts and raises some interesting thoughts on what the US response is likely to be. It also puts to rest the notion that the Muslim Brotherhood has masterminded a successful fundamentalist overthrow of a modern Westernised regime something we'll no doubt hear parroted from the right wing press in the coming days. After all if we can't count on the Daily Mail, Fox News et all to reminds us daily that Arabs are Muslims (the large denominational and Christian minorities present in virtually every state are never mentioned) and that Muslims have only one political agenda the Koran then what can we count on them for?

Saturday, 29 January 2011

The Revolution Spreads

Fortunately the Revolt in Tunisia is not fizzling out as protesters continue to demand the removal and expulsion of all the higher ups of Ben Ali's regime, and seems even segments of the police and security forces are defecting no doubt in an attempt to focus the people's anger at their bosses, and the army appears to be slowly coming to the side of the population and giving up there neutrality. Overall its looking more promising that this revolt will successfully rid the country of its corrupt ruling class.

And we have even better as the Revolution is spreading throughout the Arab world. Egypt looks to be next as its previously demoralised and suppressed anti Mubarak and NDP movement appears to have been reinvigorated and is taking on the security apparatus despite the Egyptian governments massive numbers of police officers and 40 year attempt to siphon off discontent with a series of fraudulent elections, the last elections were more fraudulent then ever and only received 20% participation as can be seen in this report. Despite the repression it is quite clear to anyone with eyes that the people of Egypt want Mubarak and the NDP gone and an end to the 40 year emergency security law that has strangled Egyptisn freedoms ever since the death of Anwar El-Sadat at the hands of radical Islamist'sincidentally current Autarch Hosni Mubarak was wounded during the assassination. And an end to Eqypt's close ties to Washington and Tel-Aviv especially its collaboration with the strangling of Gaza.

Once again the strength of the peoples anger seems to be surprising the pundits. For those who wish to stay on top of the developments in Tunisia and Egypt then I can recommend these blogs Frontlines of Revolutionary Struggle
and Egypt protests
Photo Source here and here.

Friday, 21 January 2011

Crocodile tears at the inquiry

bLIAR's (couldn't resist) return performance, as that is what the Chilcott Inquiry ultimately is a platform for Blair and co to stem criticism by repeating there talking points for a while and appearing suitably chastised and besieged, seems to have been no more than a damage control exercise after realising that saying he regretted nothing while his face was plastered with that famous cheeky little grin might of come off as a bit bloody and socio-pathic.

So this time we were treated to that rarity of nature a reptile crying, unfortunately since the scaly ones are used to showing genuine emotion that routine came across as particularly sloppy and cringing " I shouldn't have said that I don't have any regrets, as you know that sounded like I didn't care about the deaths, which was..wasn't my intention I y'know deeply deeply regret the deaths of are soldiers, are allies, the civilians "helping" us in Iraq and the Iraqi's who died" which may or may not be better then child like pride at death and destruction but it's still pretty horrible, though it was amusing to clearly hear the audience murmur "too late".

We also learned that the legal case to go topple a regime just becasue you don't like them might not have been air tight,what with you know national sovereignty being the fundamental Tenant of international relations ever since a little called the Treaty of Westphalia was signed to the end the thirty years war, where otver half the population of Europe was slaughtered by mercenary forces using axes and knives becasue nearly every kingdom "republic" and Duchy collectively said to hell with everyone else's claims I want more power and influence in the world hmm.... Why does that sound so familiar?

* picture source

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Tunisia North Africa's 21st century Algeria?

Apologies for the lack of updates but my final term of uni will start up soon and I've been busy writing up my Dissertation. Its about the Soviet Afghan War for those interested.

Anyway to make up for it I offer up this quite enlightening interview by the Real News Network discussing the developments of the Tunisian Revolution and the environment in which developed and grew.

Unsurprisingly it seems the revolt was sparked after decades of corruption and false democracy supported to the hilt by the liberal democratic west (of course), including the USA, whose war on terror band wagon Tunisia like most oppressive regimes with an Islamic population jump aboard head first as it was the perfect cover for increased oppression at home without fear of any messy human rights violations inspired diplomatic incidents mucking up the waters, and with a good chance of getting discounts on weapon systems and increased financial aid.

Though of course the main accomplices to the Dictatorial regime in Tunis is France and the EU, the former has regarded North Africa like its own back garden and treated much like the US government treats Latin America with a lot of "de-weeding" and preferential use of miracle grow. With latter not batting an eye at a system it claims to find anathema so long as thousands of sun starved Euro plebs can shrug off their troubles and let off some steam by the beach on a package holiday.

Still things do look promising right now, of course given the rapid pace of Revolutionary moments that doesn't mean much. The army not defending the regime of the unlamented ex president Ben Ali is a mixed blessing. Its good that the military is refusing to attack its own citizens and become a blunt tool of the ruling clique, but on the other hand they haven't fully come over to the people's side (as an institution)as yet which does leave open the possibility that they will back another less radical "leader" against the Tunisian peoples wishes and then start to crack down on all this spontaneous organising, all in the name of stability. Still time will tell.

You know I've noticed a very disturbing trend, a hell of a lot of these tropical paradises and other holiday hotspots that seem like paradise to us Northern hemisphere folks are in actuality despotic nightmares for the people who live there. Tunisia, Egypt, Thailand, Spain first became a tourist hotspot in the 1970's during the dying days of Franco's regime, and Greece for much of the 20th century was run jointly by the military and Monarchy.

My family and I went on holiday to Egypt about 6 years ago, it was lovely, everything was sparkling and ordered..... inside the hotel once you got out into the streets amongst the beggars and security thugs (Tourist Police) and breathed in the real none plastic Egypt it wasn't long before my mood soured, I think it was when I saw six Tourist Police with Ak's strike a one legged beggar and then chuck him into the back of a van with his young child. Fortunately a few days later I saw the one legged man and his son again a few days later with only some bruising, I and my mother and father gave him all the Egyptian currency we had on us to assuage are guilt and then enjoyed the rest of are stay. But for me it was my last holiday abroad I just can't get rid of the bad feelings that I was in some small way oiling the wheels of tyranny*.

Oh, for those wondering the title alludes to a similarly turbulent chapter in the history of Tunisia's neighbour. Algeria and its struggle for independence from the yoke of French Colonial domination. Particularly the urban Guerilla movement and the street battles of the capitol Algiers, if you want a quick summary of the conflict then I strongly recommend watching The Battle of Algiers as a film it is stunning and is the most grown up and intelligent depiction of a insurgency war I've either seen it is a lot better then those Revisionist Vietnam war films the yanks came out with.

*I'm fairly certain I read that somewhere.

Wednesday, 12 January 2011


Hello all I thought it would be nice to ease into the new year with a look at one of my Christmas presents (a gift from Mike, to Mike). The English subtitled DVD of Assembly. Chinese language aside I think the main problem to this becoming a hit in the Anglo-sphere is the title, I've watched it and enjoyed it yet I still have a mental image of filing into the school hall on a wet and cold September morning to listen to a boring story that had the moral changed to be more kid friendly.

But I digress, despite being very interested in films about the Revolutionary period in China I only heard about Assembly a month ago whilst browsing the friends of China blog. And I can honestly say it is the best film about the Chinese civil war and its aftermath that I have ever seen.

It tells the tale of Captain Gu Zidi and starts in the winter of 1948 with him leading his much reduced -due to constantly fighting off enemy offensives- company in the Chinese Peoples Liberation Army and there last mission which is to hold a mine and hill by the Wen RIver which has frozen enabling the enemy to begin crossing, in a rear guard action against a KMT or nationalist army offensive allowing the rest of the Army to strategically withdraw, Captain Gu and his 46 men are only to withdraw when they hear the Assembly bugle call signalling that the rest of the army is clear, unfortunately during the battle Gu and his political officer the only surviving and combat capable officers left suffer severe damage to there hearing whilst knocking out American made tanks the KMT deployed after there infantry failed to take the positions the previous night. This means that neither heard the assembly call and despite the few survivors claiming they did Captain Gu has no choice put to obey his orders and fight on.

That night the KMT launch there final offensive, and Gu and his man mine there positions and launch what looks to be a suicide charge. We then cut to Gu in an army hospital sometime later, one very significant problem with the film is that establishing text comes out in very big Mandarin characters but has the English translation directly below it in tiny font making it very hard to keep track of where the film moves too. Anyway Captain Gu survives but is the only one and it seems his commanding officers also perished not to long after the battle and his old army was broken down and reassigned leaving the Captain the only witness to the battle on the Wen River and with no way to prove that he was actually a member of the PLA, he is however able to get reassigned to an artillery regiment just in time for the Korean war.

After his that "adventure" Gu returns to China and tries to rectify the records about his old unit, there hard fought battle is not listed, and the deceased either don't exist according the PLA records or were listed as MIA meaning there relatives were entitled to only 200 pounds of rice in compensation rather then the 700 given out to the family of martyrs. For a number of years his quest is a total failure, he can't even find the actual battle site any more since the mine they sheltered in has been reopened with the old entrances being demolished sealing in his soldiers corpses and development has changed the surrounding landscape.

He does find the wife of his political officer, but that doesn't help much since he was transferred on Captain Gu's request from the punishment details for cowardice, meaning that there'll be no official evidence linking the officer to his old unit. After fruitless searching and deteriorating eyesight from an injury he acquired in Korea when a landmine exploded in his face whilst he was saving the soldier who had stood on it, decides to go to an old friend from the artillery regiment who is now a Colonel for help accessing the official archives. He also successful marries off the widow to the Colonel and takes a job at the base.

Overall though his stay with the Colonel is mixed, he is able to access the records and prove that he was the Captain of the 9th company which vindicates him personally, and he locates the memorial for his old army and even meets one of its few survivors the Bugler who due to injuries wasn't reassigned and stayed as a grounds-keeper to the memorial, he also learns that the guilt he felt for keeping his men in combat after the Assembly was called due to his poor hearing was unfounded, the Assembly was never called as Colonel Li the commanding officer decided to sacrifice the 9th company has it was tying up a lot more KMT troops then they thought allowing the rest of the army to withdraw. While this does enrage the Captain he does see the tactical sense, less then half a company for the rest of the army, but what he can't accept is that Li never got round to making sure high command knew about there last action, and just let them slip through the cracks.

In desperation Gu moves into the Wen river mine and begins digging up the hill side looking for some evidence that his unit was there. The local miners while supremely annoyed by this mad soldier getting in there way tolerate him and let him live in a shack and share there rations with him. Eventually after a month of this they find one of the bodies and the Military decide to confirm Captain Gu's story of the events and award his deceased unit full honours, years later when an irrigation project discovers the rest of the bodies a memorial is constructed giving Gu and the 9th company full vindication.

Action was the early battle scenes where very good, quite reminiscent of Saving Private Ryan or Enemy at the gates, the crew behind Assembly clearly know how to set up complex shots, and the sets from dugouts to 1960's PLA academies have a very authentic feel, the ruined towns of the 1940's look and feel miserable and shattered while the villages and towns in the spring of the 50's and 60's are bright and vibrant. Chinese cinema has come a long way from Hong Kong made Bruce Lee knock off's, I hope the sequel (in name only) gets released here soon as well as Founding of a Republic. Though some out there will probably have an issue with the films theme's which other then the PRC is great, though to be fair much of the plot is driven by a number of flaws within the system during the 50's and 60's,the film like does have a clear obeying authority is a positive vibe to it with Captain Gu's little "rebellions" against his bureaucratic obstacles coming off as slightly unhinged and tolerated because of his war sacrifices.

Sunday, 9 January 2011

Happy Birthday

Hello all, hows the new year treating you? Things have been a bit anti climatic for me, Anyhow Long time readers ( a good twelve of you) may remember that this blog was started by me back in the 4th of January last year which makes this a bit late but I was a good 50K from the nearest computer until yesterday. Anyway I thought I'd carry on a tradition I had in the early days by copying another of Phil's features the annual blog birthday and recap.

So here we go, I started this little blog for what I think are pretty common reasons for setting up politically orientated blogs and sites, attempting to get rid of the feelings of alienation and powerlessness, as well practice my argumentative abilities and get back into the habit of writing again. Under no illusions I've aimed small where growth is concerned, My aim was about a 100+ hits a month, And I'm pleased to say the very low bar has been passed by a good margin. I even have a Twitter now to help the curious stay up to date.

My top three most popular posts according to the new google stats is:

1) The Ballad of Ho Chi Minh, thats not too surprising given that the song itself is rather memorable was you've heard it and Ewan Maccoll the singer was quite an important member of British musical protest movement. unfortunately though despite this Ewan and the Ballad haven't transferred to the web very well and have become somewhat obscure which would explain why my blog with lyrics and an actual video made by (Workergirls)being a very popular destination for his fans.

2) Is Fatah vs Hamas, This used to be number one before the Father of the Viet people knocked down, I find this one quite strange as while its good that the plight of Palestine is getting attention all the other posts relating to Palestine are extremely low down the rankings.

3) Nuclear Proliferation and 21st Century Real Politik , I should point out that the gap between this one and the other two is quite large, I think this one got a boost because the story was quite contentious and was part of an already quite divisive and scrutinised issue, Iran and nuclear weapons.

So there we go, the only thing that could make this past year better (for my blog anyway) is the news that the grain harvest has exceeded targets by 200%. Try and have a good year everyone.

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