31 July 2006
Major regional war now a possibility
|The main reason why a ceasefire is so urgent needed along the Lebanese-Israeli border is the fear that if one doesn't come soon then the war could spread. There are signs that this is what is starting to happen. The Israeli's bombed a border crossing into Syria that led to the closure of that border point. Luckily for all concerned the bombs fell about half a mile inside Lebanon, but sooner or later the Israeli bombs could land the same distance inside Syria.|
If that happens then the Syrians could decide to take the hit and try to keep their heads down. On the other hand they might find that Iran is only too willing to keep to its treaty obligations with Syria, and the Iranian armed forces go into action against the Israelis. Or they could lunge into Iraq and attack the Americans.
Either way the wars in Iraq and Lebanon would merge into one big regional conflict, with an end result that cannot be predicted.
27 July 2006
Press is now wondering if Israel might lose Lebanon adventure
Yesterday the Exile argued that Israel might just be on course to lose its little adventure into Southern Lebanon. Less than 24 hours later much of the mainstream press has started wondering the same thing. From Robert Fisk in London to America's MSNBS, via Germany's Der Spiegel, the word is the same: Israel went into the town of Bint Jbail and her soldiers got a serious kicking from Hezbollah.
Of course the Battle of Bint Jbail is not the reason why Israel could lose this conflict; neither should anyone expect the Israeli army to be forced to send an officer out between the lines with a white flag and orders to negotiate a surrender. Hezbollah will win if on the day of the ceasefire it is still able to lob missiles into Israel and if its soldiers are still able to fight.
Some in Israel may be aware of this, which is why the bodies of dead Hezbollah soldiers are being collected and transported back to Israel. They can be used as gruesome bargaining chips for the return of dead Israelis in a month's time opr so when the ceasefire is finally imposed on Israel.
26 July 2006
Hezbollah looks a good bet for victory against Israel
The accepted version of the events that led to the Lebano-Israeli conflict is that Hezbolah had some kind of collective seizure and mounted a raid across the border. However, another version of events has it that it started with an Israeli commando raid into Southern Lebanon that went horribly wrong.
Either way, Israel has taken the opportunity to pound Lebanon into the dust, probably intending to finish Hezbollah off as a going concern. If the Lebanese state ends up looking like Iraq after the American invasion, that is just too bad; at least that seems to be the Israeli unspoken line. The question is, have the fuckers bitten off more than they can chew?
Back in 1983 this writer found himself eating dinner with an American army officer in the city of Tulsa, Oklahoma. The conversation centred around the Zimbabwean war, which had only ended three years earlier, and broadened to guerrilla war in general. The officer argued that Israel looked so good as a colonial force because its enemies were so bad. He made the rather neat comment that Israel had a third-rate army that fought fifth-rate enemies.
That may still be true of the conventional Arab armies, but it looks less and less accurate as a description of Hezbollah. The force may have as many as 3,000 regular troops in Southern Lebanon, plus a further 20,000 militiamen. It is these brave men who have held off Israel for two weeks now.
The Zimbabweans were never able to do this, and neither were any of the local armies that belonged to the countries that bordered Rhodesia. Basically the rule always was that Creole states such as Rhodesia or Israel could always rely on their better educated populations to field a modern army. However, Hizbollah has proved that modern armies have their weak spots.
The Israeli weak spot is its reliance on heavy armour and high technology. The former is pretty restricted: it basically relies on the roads. The latter only serves to create more rubble in which the Hezbollah fighters can hide.
Hezbollah can hold off the Israeli incursions because they have done something that no other Third World force, with the exception of the Vietnamese, has ever been able to do: they have trained their fighters to western standards. They do not seem to go in for sophisticated tactics, but the simple tactics that they do use have been drummed into their fighters' heads by many long hours of drill. The result is that a steady stream of exhausted Israelis are trickling back across the border having known that they have been in a fight.
Secondly, Hebollah has launched an average of a 100 rockets a day into Israel since this conflict began. No other Arab force has ever been able to match this sustained level of counter attack against the western, Creole state. Of course it does not match the level of ferocity that Israel has used against Lebanon, but that is not the point. What matters is that the people of Arabia see that Hezbollah is not only holding its own, but is also hitting back. The effect on Arab morale from this cannot be calculated, but must be immense.
Conversely, two factors are at work that should undermine morale in Israel. The first is the constant, nagging fear that the next rocket might be the one that kills you. To a basically European population that has somewhere else to live, anyway, the thought that while Europe may not be so great, being dead in Palestine is even worse, should start to take its toll.
Secondly, the ferocity of Israel's attacks on Lebanon will soon start to have an effect diplomatically. Will one of the European states sever diplomatic relations with the shitty little country? The fear must always be there and once one does it the rest could quickly follow suit. Will the demands for a boycott of Israel eventually start to enter the popular consciousness? That is what happened in the case of South Africa.
Viewed from this perspective, the only possible winners from this conflict are the Hezbollah fighters. Just by remaining in place, still lobbing the odd missile at Israel, when the conflict is finally brought to an end by foreign pressure should see to that. This is a point about guerrilla warfare that the warmongers always fail to realise: our side wins by not losing - the conventional, western, capitalist side loses by not winning.
24 July 2006
Iraq may be divided into three parts
Lebanon dominates the news at the moment; thus providing the British Government with a perfect opportunity to let slip the government's view that Iraq is finished as a going concern. The wheeeze is to sit back and watch as the Shia, Sunni and Kurds divide the place up between them, with Baghdad being split between Sunni and Shia.
Whether it will all turn out as neat and clean as these government officials imagine is debatable. A more liklely scenario is that Sunni and Shia will tear each other to bits in an oil field grab. Alternatively, the mainly Sunni guerrillas may decide to go for broke and attempt to restore their control over the whole country.
Either way, the British have finally accepted that the Blairite dream of a secular, united Iraq that recognised Israel and allowed its economy to be raped by western capital is finally over.
Those of us who opopsed this war from the start can start getting ready to say we told you so.
22 July 2006
Habana Babilonia: Cuban Samizdat
Staying on the Cuban theme for a moment, the country does not have much of a tradition of samizdat publishing. This may be because many of the anti-socialist elements have been forced into exile, or it could be because in spite of the popular myth, the country tends not to censor all that much.
A good example of this is Habana Babilonia, by Amir Valle, which was circulating in Havana, either in manuscript form, or on 3.5" disks, last year. The man who told me about it insisted on sending me my copy through via e-mail, since he said that it might be risky to take a paper copy out of the country.
Checking the internet when I got back to Mexico, I could find no trace of this work, and e-mails to various people turned up no further information. Now the manuscript has been published in Argentina under the title Jineteras. Furthermore, it is available as a .pdf download from this site.
The work deals with prostitution in Havana during the Special Period that followed the collapse of the USSR. Like most works in Spanish, it never fails to use ten words when one will do instead, but it is a good read for all that.
If anybody wants a copy of the original samizdat version that circulated in Cuba last year, all they have to do is drop me a line.
Visiting Cuba? Here's what to take.
For some reason when people visit Cuba they tend to take silly things with them to give away. Pens seem to be the popular choice because popular myth has it that Cuba has a serious shortage of biros. Actually, Cuba has plenty of pens, what Cubans are desparate for is clothing.
The country used to have a good textile industry that produced enough clothing for everyone. Alas they used cotton from the USSR and when that country went pear-shaped, the Cuban cotton mills went the same way. Today Cuba imports second hand clothing from Europe, but there is never enough to go around and most of it is, frankly, aimed at older people who just want to dress themselves regardless of how they look.
As with most people on this planet, Cubans like T-shirts: so why not take all the T-shirts that you don't want to wear again, use them once in Cuba and then give them away? It saves you the job of doing your own laundry. Of course you can also offload all your unwanted clothing in this way, but the advantage that a T-shirt has is that it can be worn by both sexes.
If you really want to impress a younger Cuban, then remember that as with all of Latin America, the basic rule is bright colours and lots of English writing on the T-shirt. What the writing says is not important; it's that little bit of exoticism that counts.
Toiletries are also in short supply, so hand soap and toothpaste make decent gifts. So does laundry soap come to that as most clothes are washed in Cuba by hand. Finally, a stock of those small perfumes that are given away free in magazines and stores in the UK, is a sure fire way to win the heart of that lovely miniskirt who has attached herself to you.
Looking over these words, the writer realises that there is not much of a difference between Cuba and Mexico. The Mexicans have enough cheap toiletries to go round, but clothing is something that people often ask for.
Other than that it really is a case of get on the aircraft and prepare to enjoy yourself. Cuba is a damn sight better than most countries in the region - you won't see folk sleeping on the streets - so helping out a couple of her citizens with some of the things that they need is a good way to express your admiration for that brave little country.
20 July 2006
Political storm clouds over Mexico
|This blog has not commented much on the recent Mexican elections. Largely this is due to the writer's recent operation, and his inablitly to get out on the street and actually talk to people.|
First things first, it looks as if Felipe Calderon of the Northern based, Catholic National Action Party (PAN) won the presidency by about 250,000 votes. The leftist Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD) under Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador is contesting the results and demanding a recount.
So far, so normal, but the problem is that things are going on under the surface that barely make it into the local press, let alone the international. Put simply, the PRD seems to be laying the groundwork for a campaign that will take opposition to the new president onto the streets; that is if the poor sod even manages to get sworn-in come the 1st December.
Flyposters are being put up that state: ¡Haz patria: mata a Felipe! This roughly translates as, For your country: kill Felipe!
Slowly but surely the country is starting to divide as life-long friendships are coming unstuck. An uncle of this writer's wife plays Sunday football for a local team as part of an over 50s league. The geriatrics who form the team decided to go along to the city centre next weekend to support the PRD campaign - all except Uncle Manuel. For this he has been forced to resign from the team.
Parts of Mexico City that rarely see a demonstration are seeing thousands of people mobilised against the PAN victory. The boroughs that are most affected are either the most marginalised, or the most rural.
It could all blow over, especially if Lopez Obrador cuts some deal with the new government, but failing that the situatiuon looks interesting to say the least.
19 July 2006
America gives Israel another week to bomb Lebanon
It is being reported that the USA has given Israel another week to blast Hezbollah in Lebanon; then the Americans will join the chorus demanding a ceasefire.
The problem with this is that there is little eveidence to suggest that Hezbollah is actually getting hit by the air strikes that are ravaging Lebanon. It is a guerrilla force, as such its people are sitting quietly, waiting for the storm to pass over them. Once it has they pop up and have another crack at the enemy.
So, wretched Lebanon gets bombed for a few more days and then a ceasefire will be imposed by the Americans? What actually gets solved in the interim? Why not a ceasefire now?
18 July 2006
Some thoughts on Israel's war aims.
Time has an account of the fighting in Lebanon that contains this revealing paragraph:
In the case of Hizballah, especially, the Israelis are going well beyond retribution, taking an opportunity to degrade the organization's capabilities and, perhaps, cripple the group permanently. Said Defense Minister Amir Peretz: "The goal is for this to end with Hizballah so badly beaten that not a man in it does not regret having launched this incident."
Put another way, if Israel does not leave Hizballah thus weakened they will have lost this round. Given that rockets are still blasting into Israeli cities, such an outcome seems far from certain.
17 July 2006
Israel & Lebanon
|While the Exile was laid up all Hell proceeded to break loose in the Middle East. This is not the place for an analysis of why Hezbollah decided to restart the war against Israel, largely because the writer was laid up when it all began and doesn't give that much of a shit, anyway. What matters is not that the Israelis went charging off to Lebanon, but that their tanks stopped at the border. The war that Israel is waging against Lebanon is one of pounding the country from the air: could the Israelis be afraid that Hezbollah has something nasty up its sleeve to welcome an invading army?|
Hezbollah has already managed to destroy one Israeli warship by flying a pilotless aircraft into it. They have also managed to hit Israeli cities such as Haifa with their surface to surface missiles: weapons that have a far longer range than most people thought before the conflict began.
Faced with this uncertainty the Israelis seem to have adopted a strategy of bombing Lebanon's infrastructure back into the stone-age. That's fine, except that most of those bridges and power stations were built with European money and the European powers are not going to take kindly to these actions. Not that they can do anything to stop the fighting, but it could mean that European moves to disinvest from Israel suddenly seem more appealing to governments as well as ordinary people.
All in all what interesting times we live in. For the first time ever the Israelis seem to have been deterred from an invasion by fears of what may lie in wait across the border. Furthermore, what few freinds they have left in Europe are likely to get even fewer as the casualty figures mount.
12 July 2006
Getting back in harness
The Exile is out of hospital, but blogging is going to be light for the next week or so. The great gut is stitched up and held in place by an enormous bandage. A drainage tube takes away the reddish gunk that oozes from the now repaired belly.
Life goes on.
05 July 2006
The operation is scheduled for today, so assuming that there are no more cock-ups, this blog will be back next week.
04 July 2006
Calderon claims victory
The conservative candidate, Felipe Calderon, has claimed victory in the Mexican Presidential race. The Electoral Commission could not predict a result last night based on a quick sampling of the results in 7,636 polling stations, but now all those ballots have been counted, Calderon is ahead by just one percent over his main rival, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador. However, the full count will not take place until Wednesday, and the AMLO camp has already begun to shout foul.
03 July 2006
Mexican Presidential Election: too close to call.
The result of the Mexican Presidential Election is too close to call. The Federal Election Institute made a quick count of 7,636 polling stations, chosen to represent the country at large. The margin of error is within 0.3% and the result is within that figure. Hence no preliminary result will be announced. The country will have to wait until the full count has been completed - and that does not even begin until Wednesday.
At Congressional level, the TV exit polls show that the right-wing PAN has about 35% of the vote for the Chamber of Deputies. The PRD came second with about 32% and the PRI trailed behind on 22%.
Even assuming that the streets do not erupt into violence, the country is not going to be governed very easily for the next six years. No party will control the Congress and the deadlock that has bedeviled Pres. Vicente Fox will continue.
Well, it got ballsed up - what else can I say? I arrived at the hospital, was made to cool my heels for over an hour, and then shown to a bed. In the fullness of time my tum was shaved and an IV drip was inserted into my wrist. I was then wheeled to the operating theatre and left alone on the operating table for about five minutes.
Then the surgeon arrived and told me that the bloke who had been send to the surgical supplier's to buy the mesh that will hold my tum in place had returned with the wrong type. . .
So we shall try again on Tuesday. What can I say? Third world: third rate.
01 July 2006
This is just to let readers know that I will be in hospital from today, Saturday, until Monday morning for the hernia operation. God knows when I will be well enough to post regularly - probably in about a week.
The blog will be suspended indefinitely from about the middle of August as I am returning, hopefully for good, to the UK. More infromation on that when I have it.
If anyone is interested in having this site for their very own I would ask them to drop me a line.