The United States may be finished dropping bombs on Iraq, but Iraqi bodies will be dealing with the consequences for generations to come in the form of birth defects…
Besides serving as the Mexican equivalent to St. Patrick’s Day (at least in the US), Cinco de Mayo commemorates Mexico’s resounding victory against the French in the Battle of Puebla, which took place on May 5th, 1862.
France invaded and occupied Mexico because it refused to pay interest to its foreign debt, and because Napoleon III had imperial ambitions (much like his more famous uncle). France was one of the most powerful countries at the time, while Mexico was weakened by instability and poverty. Mexico’s forces had been under-equipped and outnumbered (about 4,000 versus 8,000), but managed to hold their own and win through tactical superiority and greater morale. The nonetheless unlikely victory is why the battle remains celebrated to this day.
Well, sort of: Cinco De Mayo is actually not a major holiday in Mexico itself (except in the Puebla region where the battle was fought). It’s far more popular in the US, where it is often mistaken as Mexico’s independence day (which is actually on September 16). Apparently, the holiday began in California to protest the French occupation of Mexico. Afterward, it clearly caught on and evolved into a celebration of Mexican heritage and culture (any excuse to get sloshed right? :P)
In any case, I hope you all have a happy – AND SAFE! – Cinco De Mayo.
[Note that despite losing the battle, the French did actually go on to win the war, occupying Mexico until around 1867, when Maximilian I, who had been installed by the French as a monarch, was overthrown and executed by Mexican revolutionaries. So despite losing the bigger battle, Mexico remained proud that it was able to hold it’s own and eventually win it’s freedom.]
In a recent report for International Studies Quarterly, political scientists Paul Midford and Indra de Soysa looked at U.S. and Chinese arms transfers to Africa from 1989 to 2006, using data collected by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. They found no statistical correlation between China and the types of regimes it supplied with weapons, while U.S. arms shipments were slightly negatively correlated with democracy. In plain English, China actually turned out to be less likely to sell weapons to dictators than America was.
“It isn’t that China is there to do good; they’re pursuing their national interest,” Midford says. “But we didn’t find any evidence that they’re trying to spread a ‘Beijing consensus’ or promote regimes that are specifically autocratic.”
The report focuses on Africa, but similar human rights concerns have been raised about U.S. weapons transfers to Persian Gulf autocracies such as Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates, which collectively helped drive a more than 300 percent jump in U.S. arms sales in 2011 amid rising tensions with Iran.
Midford emphasizes that the report is not meant to suggest the United States prefers to sell weapons to dictators. “The U.S. is choosing to support autocrats based on a geopolitical rationale,” Midford says, “as is China.”
According to documents, this is an Ottoman official teasing starving Armenian children by showing them bread during the Armenian genocide, 1915.
One has to imagine what sort of person is capable of tormenting dying children. Of course this genocide, like all others, involved more than just a single individual.
The CIA’s drone campaign in Pakistan has killed dozens of civilians who had gone to help rescue victims or were attending funerals, an investigation by the Bureau for the Sunday Times has revealed.
The findings are published just days after President Obama claimed that the drone campaign in Pakistan was a “targeted, focused effort” that “has not caused a huge number of civilian casualties”… .
A three month investigation including eye witness reports has found evidence that at least 50 civilians were killed in follow-up strikes when they had gone to help victims. More than 20 civilians have also been attacked in deliberate strikes on funerals and mourners. The tactics have been condemned by leading legal experts.
Although the drone attacks were started under the Bush administration in 2004, they have been stepped up enormously under Obama.
There have been 260 attacks by unmanned Predators or Reapers in Pakistan by Obama’s administration – averaging one every four days.
As I indicated, there have been scattered, mostly buried indications in the American media that drones have been targeting and killing rescuers. As the Bureau put it: “Between May 2009 and June 2011, at least fifteen attacks on rescuers were reported by credible news media, including the New York Times, CNN, Associated Press, ABC News and Al Jazeera.” Killing civilians attending the funerals of drone victims is also well-documented by the Bureau’s new report:
This image has been making the rounds on social media. Personally, I don’t think this trivializes the horror of the Boston bombings. Rather, it recognizes the fact that this heinous and tragic event, which has gripped the country for the past week, is part of daily existence for many people in the world. Imagine the carnage and terror of the marathon bombings being amplified and replicated regularly? What would our society be like?
The photographers and videographers employed by the U.S. armed forces are often some pretty talented artists. Stationed around the globe, they’re tasked with producing images of all aspects of service — from training to combat to the struggles that troops sometimes face upon returning home. The images here are some of the best of the best — a selection of winners and honorable mentions in the 2012 Military Photographer of the Year competition, recently judged at the Defense Information School at Ft. George G. Meade, Maryland. These photos adhere to the same standards as photojournalism (meaning no posed or electronically manipulated images) and have been chosen from thousands of entries. You can see some of last year’s winners here.
The people of England have been led in Mesopotamia into a trap into which it will be hard to escape with dignity and honor…things have been far worse than we have been told, our administration more bloody and inefficient than the public knows. It’s a disgrace to our imperial record and may soon be too inflamed for any ordinary cure. We are today not far from a disaster.
T.E Lawrence, describing British involvement in Iraq in the 1920s.
Whether either is ever held to account for it, global opinion against the Iraq war is long settled – including in Britain, the US and Iraq. The invasion was a flagrant act of aggression against a broken-backed state, regarded as illegal by the overwhelming weight of international legal opinion.
The onslaught triggered a death toll which certainly runs into hundreds, rather than tens, of thousands: estimates range from the Iraq Body Count’s minimum of 173,271 up to 2012 (acknowledged to be an underestimate) through the Iraqi government and World Health Organisation’s 223,000 and Lancet survey’s 654,965 “excess deaths” in the first three years, to the ORB polling organisation’s estimate of more than a million.
In many ways, a soldier feels more of a bond with the enemy they’re fighting than with the countrymen back home. The enemy they’re fighting is equally risking death.
Steven Pressfield, “The Warrior Ethos”
Today is the 10th anniversary of the launching of the Iraq War. It’s remarkable how far removed most of us are from that conflict, even a decade later. Of course, the same cannot be said of hundreds of thousands of American soldiers and millions of Iraqis. The social, economic, and political consequences will likely remain for generations. But I’ll keep my own musings brief — what are you reactions, thoughts, and opinions?
These non-stateactors increasingly hold the tools of international power in their hands. Historically, technological revolutions — from farming to manufacturing, and industry to information — have catalyzed tensions over authority, as new communities seize opportunities for control. It is now happening again, allowing alternative authorities to flourish — and in some places, even directly challenge state sovereignty.
And yet mainstream international relations thinking continues to overemphasize military might and other traditional tools of state power. The prevailing literature on the evolution of governance, for instance, assumes a state-centric order and widely neglects the role of technology. Francis Fukuyama’s most recent volume, Origins of Political Order, is emblematic of these oversights: As it sweeps across the centuries, it presumes a constant quest for statehood even into the 21st century, ignoring the potential for novel forms of transnational communities. But now, as the current Information Revolution spreads around the world, aspirant communities are building economic and social capital, acquiring varying degrees of autonomy, and accruing authority in ways we have only begun to formally analyze.
All the traditional tools of state power — the monopoly over arms and violence, dominance over tools of communication, and external recognition of exclusive legitimacy — are eroding rapidly. As Tufts University’s Itamara Lochard has documented, the number of autonomous armed militias in the world vastly exceeds the number of sovereign nation-states by a factor of at least 10, the Internet is used more to challenge governments than reinforce their power, and transnational networks funnel resources and confer credibility on