Category Archives: Conflict

Gavin does Georgia

Gavin is blogging from Georgia. At the moment he’s on the tourist trail in Tblisi, but he’s headed for the Caucusus in a few days. I would encourage you to check in with his blog as he does the travelling/photographing thing of the country, which bears very obvious signs of the recent conflict with Russia:

I guess getting the tourist thing out of the way first is a good thing. But even while doing the tourist things there are signs of the recent conflict. We passed a communications antenna damaged by Russian bombing (no good photos), and a few places where refugees from Ossetia (will be returning to some of those later) are temporarily residing. One school down the road is housing refugees, with the inevitable images of clothes drying on the school railings.

Save your math for the war*

An absolute gem unearthed by Frank Little of The Cedar Lounge Revolution:

Patricia Sullivan, a professor at the University of Georgia in the US, has devised a mathematical equation to predict the outcome of conflicts based on a detailed analysis of 122 military interventions involving the US, Britain, China, Russia and France since 1945.

She claims the equation is accurate in 78% of cases.

The equation is posted on Cedar Lounge, which notes Sullivan’s argument that “key determinant in many conflicts has been the attitude of the civilian population”. Winning hearts and minds is as vital in the aftermath of upheaval — a patten that can be found throughout history — as it is in domestic politics.

*If you get this reference I will be so utterly impressed you’ll get a blog post dedicated to you. Can’t say I’m not generous!

Links of the day

Seven tips for resolving conflicts quickly and peacefully. We all go up against at least one nutjob in our lives, here’s a remarkably common sense guide to dealing with them. (Pick The Brain)

US regrets if women and children killed in Baghdad raid. But they were going after some fellas using a mortar so it’s all right. Collateral damage and all that. (AFP)

Clever uses for dental floss: beyond teeth. I love finding new uses for ordinary things. (Gadling)

Backpacker turns Burma activist via Facebook. I’m a member of his group, to which people are flocking. (Reuters)

Yet more on CNN, Burma and Myanmar. The name you use reflects the stance you’re taking. (James Fallows)

Renovating the biblical psalms. They’re beautiful poems as well as having religious significance. (Slate)

Man, 24, weds 82-year-old bride. “I’ve always like mature ladies.” (BBC)

Movement in Myanmar

There have been numerous protests in Myanmar over fuel price hikes. These small and scattered demonstrations have been organised by pro-democracy groups and broken up by pro-military civilian organisations. The situation has also provoked reactions from Buddhist monks.

Now the junta is taking a different tack: it’s offering some concessions. In this case, it

released a political prisoner whose leg was broken when he was arrested in the recent outbreak of antigovernment protests. His case had gained international attention when fellow prisoners staged a hunger strike calling for his freedom.

This is major movement from a government that’s coming under severe scrutiny — and has been under pressure for years to step aside and allow a democractic system come into being. Whether or not the (slightly) softer approach it has taken with apologies and such is a reflection of the military’s long-gestating “road map to democracy” is unclear.

The junta has blamed pro-democracy activist Aung San Suu Kyi for instigating the protests and provoking the monks, so I’m not sure what it’s planning. I’d like to think the international criticism of its actions is having an impact.

I find the Buddhist angle very interesting.

On Thursday, a delegation of military officers was briefly held hostage by Buddhist monks at a temple outside the main city of Yangon [formerly Rangoon and the old capital of Myanmar]. The officers had reportedly gone there to apologize to the monks for treating them roughly during a demonstration the day before.

The monks have been up in arms and have taken prominent roles in major protests since British rule. The material is too good to rewrite, so I present quotes from the International Herald Tribune:

Angry monks were reported to have destroyed two buildings owned by officials involved in Wednesday’s crackdown in Pakokku, a center of Buddhist learning about 400 miles northwest of Yangon.

The New Light of Myanmar, a state-controlled newspaper, reported its version Friday of the violence and the hostage-taking, saying the officers handed over their cellphones to the monks after they had “supplicated to them” over the situation.

The rally the monks took part in was subsequently fired upon.

The Democratic Voice of Burma, a prodemocracy organization based in Norway with contacts inside the country, said “a few monks” visited the home last night [Friday] of a leader of the crackdown “to have a talk with him and teach him some Buddhist manners.”

“But he wasn’t at home,” it reported, “so they destroyed a few things from his house to teach him a lesson instead.”



(Pic: Associated Press)

So much for him being dead, huh?

The latest video — the first the al-Qaida boyo has released in three years — contains references to the subprime crisis, the Hiroshima bombing anniversary (August) and Nicolas Sarkozy (elected in May) so it seems Osama is still hanging on in there, wherever “there” is these days.

I love how much focus his beard is getting. Some US networks — which interrupted regular broadcasting to show a report on the footage — are making quite a big deal about how it’s black now as opposed to being grey in previous videos.

For instance, the ABC report you can find here contains the dialogue:

The FBI believe it is authentic… the one mystery is why is his beard black when in previous videos there was so much grey. That’s something that’s got people scratching their heads.

And when the reporter is asked how bin Laden looks, apart from the beard, he says:

His beard is completely black, his eyebrows are black… that’s the dominant feature you see, it’s hard to get any sense of his health it’s either a fake beard or a beard that has been dyed… That’s what stands out, the eyebrows and the beard.

Actually, he looks quite ashen faced. This could purely be down to the quality of the footage, which some analysts say could have been made on a mobile phone, or could indicate some sort of health problem. Quite why the ABC correspondent failed to pick up on this — or even mention it in passing — is beyond me

I also would have thought the “mystery” was his location, but there you go.

Content-wise it’s fairly humdrum. America bad, Islam good. ABC described it as a “broad, rambling” discourse against the US and the democratic system. He talks about ending the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan by either escalating attacks on foreign troops or Americans converting to Islam and abandoning democracy. He also takes a shot at capitalism and the role of corporations in elections.

From AP:

He also shows a grasp of current events, dropping mentions of global warming and saying Americans are “reeling under the burdens” of a mortgage crisis.

And he praises author Noam Chomsky, an early critic of the Iraq war, as well as Michael Scheuer, former head of the CIA’s bin Laden unit, who has said poor US leadership was losing the war against terrorist groups.

It was released to coincide with the sixth anniversary of the World Trade Center attack, and also serves as a useful PR tool to let the American public know he hasn’t gone away. I’m not sure they’d forgotten about him but he’s certainly back in their conscious minds now.
I await proper analysis of the footage, which should emerge in the next few days.