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Friday, January 25, 2013

Mali: A Defeat Waiting to Happen...

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French soldiers prepare for a patrol in Mali (AP/Reuters)
The joke goes that if you Google “French Victories,” the search engine will snarkily ask you if you meant to search for “French Losses.” While this sort of comment rankles many French patriots (I'm part French myself), the truth is that ever since the 17th century, France’s track record of winning wars has been extremely poor. And once again, it appears that France has involved itself in a war that it simply cannot win, this time in the North African nation of Mali.

Into Mali
On Wednesday, January 16, French soldiers launched an extensive air and ground campaign against Islamist rebels in Mali. The Guardian reported on the 16th that France launched air strikes against Islamist camps and mobile forces in Mali, its former colony, to stop a rebel offensive and "safeguard" Mali's existence. Troops from Nigeria and other regional powers will join about 1,700 French troops involved in the operation, part of a contingent expected to reach 2,500 soldiers. President Fran├žois Hollande said France intended to "destroy" the Islamists or take them captive if possible.

These Islamists are al-Qaeda linked fighters that took control of the northern deserts of Mali early last year. The militants are well armed and well trained: Reuters notes that many are coming directly from the US conflicts in the Middle East. Determined to hold onto their gains in the country, the Islamists have warned that French troops will become bogged down for years.
The people of Mali are welcoming the French soldiers with open arms: the Islamists have imposed harsh Sharia law upon the region, cutting off hands and feet for minor crimes in addition to desecrating the sacred religious shrines in the fabled city of Timbuktu (yes, it does actually exist). The citizens have feared for their lives, worried of the potential damage the volatile terror groups might wreak. Mahamadou Abdoulaye, 35, a truck driver who fled from the northern Gao region of Mali into Niger, said the Islamists new recruits were both armed and inexperienced: a dangerous combination.
"We were all afraid. Many young fighters have enrolled with them recently. They are newly arrived, they cannot manage their weapons properly. There's fear on everybody's face," he said.

Nuclear Concerns
Unfortunately, there is more at stake here than meets the eye. Although Mali was originally a French colony, this invasion is not merely a “mother nation looking out for her children.”  As Mark Tran of The Guardian notes, the West and Mali's neighbours fear that the Islamists, who took over northern Mali, an area the size of France of desert and rugged mountains, will use the country to destabilise the rest of west Africa, including neighbouring Niger, France's main source of uranium for its nuclear industry.If the Islamists gain complete control of Mali, turning the nation into a stronghold, the potential that terror groups such as al-Qaeda In the Maghreb (AQIM) will use the area as a base for launching international attacks is huge. The potential that AQIM will use the area as a foundation for a takeover of Niger’s vast supplies of uranium is even greater. As J.G. Gilmour explains, the AQIM has direct ties to the Nigerian terror group, Boko Haram. Both groups have sworn to “expel all westerners in the Sahel and establish an Islamic theocracy with poor countries which have limited resources and weak military forces to react to their insurgency operations.”  The AQIM is hoping that terrorism activities will destabilize such countries by recruiting extremists to their networks and cells. Ultimately, this destabilization puts France’s almost unending supply of uranium at risk. This uranium, as activist Adam Cooper reports, is much of the reason for initiating this offensive in Mali.

Without an End
If France has not learned from the US example in nations like Afghanistan or Iraq, then they will learn soon enough that fighting terror groups is utterly different from fighting a conventional war. As the US realized in Iraq, enemy soldiers may be anywhere, and they have no qualms about hiding among the civilian population.

French Army chief Edouard Guillaud said France's air strikes, involving Rafale and Mirage jet fighters, were being hampered because militants were using the civilian population as a shield.
"We categorically refuse to make the civilian population take a risk. If in doubt, we will not shoot," he said.
This honor of the division between militant and civilian is the great weakness of Western nations attempting to eradicate a terror group from a region. Nations such as the US, Britain, and France come to the conflict with rules of war and the terrorists capitalize upon those restrictions. Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian acknowledges the difficulties facing France. "It's tough. We were aware from the beginning it would be a very difficult operation.”


Any five year old will tell you that it is almost impossible to play with someone who refuses to respect the rules of the game. If the experiences of the US in Iraq and Afghanistan are any indication, this holds true not only for Candyland as it does for war. France may maintain the moral high ground in this conflict, but will receive a defeat in return.



Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Grace...

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Physics tonight. And a poem.

Grace

The drops spatter at the windowpane
Nose to glass, I watch the rain.
Water mixed with Autumn mold
A world for me that's bitter and cold.

A robin flits by, shaking its beak,
Escaping the frost that has left it weak.
A thought escapes as I dry my eyes,
An added cloud in my misery gray skies.

A wounded heart sits silently here.
No answer to this soul's shouted prayer.
Please; a way to run, to hide.
I can't handle this grief, I tried.

A bit of red in the now falling snow,
This broken heart bleeds out below.
A bit of coal amongst all the white,
Mars the beauty in the fading light.

The snow has stopped, and so have my tears.
The cold remains, and so do my fears.
Anger; tell me why did this happen?
The argument circle I'm still trapped in.

Tell me I'll be alright, that I'll be ok.
No, leave me alone--keep your cliches.
I can't do this myself--please let me be strong.
Something make my life right, its now so wrong.

The orange lines of sun split through the clouds
Warm on my face, the sunset glow astounds.
A ray pierces my heart, through the painful dark hue,
And I hear a whisper, "I painted this all for you."

[when I wiped the tears from your face / I called it all, Grace]


Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Divorce Notice...

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A friend sent this to me. Its snarky, but sometimes I think a bit of humor is needed in politics. A good idea? I'll leave that to you to decide.
(note: this is not my own work)
_________________________

DIVORCE AGREEMENT


Dear American liberals, leftists, social progressives, socialists, Marxists and Obama supporters,et al:

We have stuck together since the late 1950's for the sake of the kids, but the whole of this latest election process has made me realize that I want a divorce. I know we tolerated each other for many years for the sake of future generations, but sadly, this relationship has clearly run its course.

Our two ideological sides of America cannot and will not ever agree on what is right for us all, so let's just end it on friendly terms. We can smile and chalk it up to irreconcilable differences and go our own way.

Here is a our separation agreement:

--Our two groups can equitably divide up the country by landmass each taking a similar portion. That will be the difficult part, but I am sure our two sides can come to a friendly agreement. After that, it should be relatively easy! Our respective representatives can effortlessly divide other assets since both sides have such distinct and disparate tastes.

--We don't like redistributive taxes so you can keep them.
--You are welcome to the liberal judges and the ACLU.
--Since you hate guns and war, we'll take our firearms, the cops, the NRA and the military.
--We'll take the nasty, smelly oil industry and the coal mines, and you can go with wind, solar and biodiesel.
--You can keep Oprah, Michael Moore and Rosie O'Donnell. You are, however, responsible for finding a bio-diesel vehicle big enough to move all three of them.
--We'll keep capitalism, greedy corporations, pharmaceutical companies, Wal-Mart and Wall Street.
--You can have your beloved lifelong welfare dwellers, food stamps, homeless, homeboys, hippies, druggies and illegal aliens.
--We'll keep the Alaskan hockey moms, greedy CEO's and rednecks.
--We'll keep Bill O'Reilly, and Bibles and give you NBC and Hollywood .
--You can make nice with Iran and Palestine and we'll retain the right to invade and hammer places that threaten us.
--You can have the peaceniks and war protesters. When our allies or our way of life are under assault, we'll help provide them security.
--We'll keep the SUV's, pickup trucks and oversized luxury cars. You can take every Volt and Leaf you can find.
--You can give everyone healthcare if you can find any practicing doctors.
--We'll continue to believe healthcare is a luxury and not a right.
--We'll keep "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" and "The National Anthem."
--I'm sure you'll be happy to substitute "Imagine", "I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing", "Kumbaya" or "We Are the World".
--We'll practice trickle-down economics and you can continue to give trickle up poverty your best shot.
--Since it often so offends you, we'll keep our history, our name and our flag.

Sincerely,

John J. Wall
Law Student and an American

P.S. Also, please take Ted Turner, Sean Penn, Martin & Charlie Sheen, Barbara Streisand, & ( Hanoi ) Jane Fonda with you.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Rasa, Rasa...

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Physics tonight. And a poem.

Rasa, Rasa

My heart beats,
As a man, as a drum.
Hear the lifeline of this earth
Dominion and destruction

Return to this paradise
Respite of the fallen
Roll the dice, pass the cup
Revel in this pleasure den.

If you fly higher
You shall fall all the more
Ten graves deeper down
Looking only to travel lower.

Fall away, call away
What are you looking for?
Famed in the darkness
But starbright at the core.

Raise up, rise up.
Rasa, rasa, tabula rasa.
Rewrite your story,
Reclaim those you lost.

A man once paid ransom for you,
Heaven met Earth for your soul.
Death brought life: Ni kumaliza
Let your debt be paid in full.

See your deeds, failures, your scars
He sees them, knows where you've been
Where you've lived up, down, tried to let go
But calls you Saint, no more condemned.

Child, child, child
Why do you weep?
When Hope seems gone,
Joy destroyed,
Love has left,
Life at dead end.
Remember: you're the one I chose to keep.

[never stop living]