What to do with the August Rioters


I think the most pressing question concerning the recent riots that shocked Britain is what on earth did the Woolwich Wilkinsons or Wetherspoons do to the hoody clad thugs and looters? Burning the only places in which they can afford to shop and socialise on their dole cheque seems to be somewhat of a counterproductive measure; productivity however is clearly not a strongpoint of any partaker. Although it was suggested that the riots began because of the death of a drug dealer, many soon jumped on the destructive bandwagon over their lack of career options and rising levels of unemployment. I call it unemployability; smashing, destroying, burning and looting local businesses will not help them find a job and has done no favours to their already lacking CV.

So what to do with those found guilty? Now, I’m not suggesting Cameron should take the approach of Bashar al-Assad, although I did meet a man on a train from Manchester Airport who suggested shooting them all; a bit too ‘Arab Spring’ I reckon. Perhaps a Stalinist approach is on the cards; rioters disappearing from their beds at night only to be found years later working in the flailing manufacturing sector, all for looting a Krispy Kreme doughnut. In all honesty that would solve their employment woes. Some would argue that the best remedy for all involved would be to hand those convicted of rioting a dustpan and brush and telling them to sort out the mess they created. But they’d only do a half-arsed job; one thing I probably share with the rioters would be a less than enthusiastic approach to spring cleaning (perhaps it could yet be known as the British Spring).

Some rioters are receiving sentences that don’t appear to match their level of participation. But starting a Facebook page encouraging others to join them in smashing up their local town, even if it never happens, is quite simply a crime of stupidity. It’s like running through Heathrow airport recruiting people for your jihad.

The riots were an excuse for a bunch of hooligans to go nuts for a couple of days, maybe find themselves some new toys at a much discounted price. It brought the pyromaniacs and thieves of our society together in a big, uneducated and embarrassing mess. A tough stance seems to be being taken over the punishment of those involved, which will hopefully prevent any further trouble. The true consequences of these riots are yet to be seen however, so I shall keenly follow every update the news has to offer on my new flat screen TV. Just kidding.

X-Men: First Class


I have never before wished so hard that I could move metal with my mind. Forget about reading minds, walking through walls, shooting red lasers from my eyes (definitely forget that one) and even forget about having an adamantium skeleton fitted with blades that protrude from the flesh between my knuckles. With a starring role in the new X-Men film, Magneto takes full advantage of the exposure to cement himself as one of the most awesome Marvel, if not comic book in general, characters of all time. A film without Wolverine, I must admit, seemed a little dangerous due to his popularity and position as the fans favourite. However with a small yet hilarious cameo his absence from the film is by no means lamentable.

Although, not quite as familiar as his co-stars James McAvoy or Kevin Bacon, Michael Fassbender (who has starred in 300 and Inglourious Basterds) produces a remarkable performance as the troubled Erik, a.k.a Magneto, who cannot bring himself to trust the species that subjected him to a childhood in a concentration camp.

Magneto’s relentless and ruthless search for Shaw (Kevin Bacon) is an awe-inspiring demonstration of his powers with a strength to match his characterisation. Magneto manipulates no less than barbed wire, the metal frame of a bed, an anchor and a submarine to inflict damage on his enemies in his bid to find Shaw and prevent nuclear annihilation. Unfortunately for his enemies most guns are made of metal too.

Perhaps its the Cold War setting that gets me all excited over this film; it’s great to imagine the mutant world helping to diffuse the nuclear crisis with their supernatural methods. War Studies as a course focuses on the Cold War as a turning point in International Relations, so a great deal of emphasis is placed on the nuclear rivalry; the introduction of mutants would certainly make it more interesting at times. The fantasy element of X-Men: First Class is a somewhat refreshing method of understanding the most basic elements of the Cold War. In fact, the mutual paranoia and distrust between the Cold War sides, Russia and America is perfectly and quite brilliantly mirrored by the fictional struggle between humans and mutants; neither side able to trust the other (although some willing to try).

More excitingly for fans of the Comic-book genre, Marvel have at last made a film to rival DC’s The Dark Knight. Although the original X-Men series got progressively better, and was miles better than the Spiderman series, The Dark Knight made them look somewhat infantile. X-Men: First Class provides all the special effects, showcases all the super-powers, involves complex and brilliantly portrayed characters, all with an intelligent story-line. In case you haven’t worked out my opinion quite yet, it is quite simply a triumph for the genre and the franchise. Bravo.

Today is 44 years since the Six-Day War


On the 5th June 1967, Israel launched a preemptive air-strike attack on neighbouring Egypt, Syria and Jordan. In the process they acquired the Gaza Strip and Sinai Peninsula from Egypt, the volatile and much contested West Bank from Jordan and from Syria, Golan Heights. Israel, who to this day remain fearful of Arab encirclement and belligerence, acted in this manner due to fears for their security after increasing tension in the region characterized by military build-up and aggressive rhetoric. Egypt, in particular, had assembled a large military force in the Sinai Peninsular; due to the geographical locality to Israel this was to pose a significant security threat in the eyes of the Israelis.

The complexities of the Israeli-Arabic relations were intensified by the sponsorship of the Cold War nations, Russia and the United States. After President Nasser’s involvement in the Suez crisis in 1956 Egypt were viewed in Washington as supporters of the ‘communists’ in the USSR. Egypt, who supported Palestine, had also become aggrieved after various skirmishes between Israel and their ally Syria; their chief reason for military build up.

The acquisitions Israel made in Operation Focus (the name of the air-strike) appear quite extensive and the whole event is marred in controversy as to whether it constitutes a preemptive attack. It’s understandable that Israel felt insecure about Egyptian actions, but equally, vice versa due to Israel’s actions against Syria. Hence the security dilemma. Preemptive attacks are by nature, defensive, yet Israel took land from the enemy. That seems less like self-defense and more an act of assertive nationalism in claiming these areas of land.

This reminder is particularly relevant due to Barack Obama’s recent talks in the region stating that he believes a peace-settlement can be reached between Palestine and Israel, on the basis that Israel accept their pre-1967 borders in order to improve relations. Israeli president Benjamin Netanyahu however has refused to even consider conceding said borders, even though some of the worst violence in Arab-Israeli relations has been over acquired areas such as the West Bank. Even today in the Golan Heights area Israeli troops fired on and killed as many as 14 Palestinian protesters. These areas remain incredibly volatile and a continued source of tensions between the Israeli and Arabic world. Can anything be done however if the two sides remain as stubborn and aggressive and as unwilling to negotiate, concede and work towards peace?

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Bahrain, Too Soon…


This seasons Formula One Grand Prix in Bahrain was postponed earlier this year due to the uprisings against King  Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa. Bahrain’s uprising was particularly violent with troops firing quite relentlessly on the demonstrators, who are rising up against the autocratic and monarchical system within the country. With a wave of rebellion spreading across the Middle East, Bahrain too sought out some form of democratization through political and constitutional concession. In February, demonstrators gathered at the Pearl Roundabout, calling for the end of the monarchy. The response from King Hamad however, was to use the royal army to massacre the protesters.

King Hamad has yet to concede power and the issues are unresolved. Problems are still quite apparent in Bahrain and rioting still prevalent, yet Bernie Ecclestone, President of Formula One Management, has today declared that the Bahrain Grand Prix will go ahead in October. Bernie must be hoping his crystal ball is on top form as belligerence between the army and the demonstrators shows little sign of relenting. With the Middle East and parts of North Africa seeming rather volatile at present, it seems a strange decision to take the risk in holding a Grand Prix in a state that has openly slaughtered innocents. However the FIA and the Formula One teams, especially Ferrari, face losing revenue to the sum of millions if they were to cancel. Ecclestone has strongly rejected claims that this rescheduling is about money.

With the riotous situation in Bahrain it seems rather a risky venture for Formula One. Touring sport has faced problems before within troubled nations. Most notably, England’s cricket team have refused to play in Zimbabwe due to a fear for the teams safety in the failed state under the Mugabe regime. Unless the trouble in Bahrain is resolved before October, then the Grand Prix could potentially put the drivers, mechanics,  journalists, and fans at risk. It will be interesting to see how the teams respond to this news and whether they go ahead with the race.

Potentially, the Grand Prix could create a unifying event to soothe tensions in the nation. But the merciless approach of King Hamad provide ample enough reason to not go ahead with the race. However, this move by the FIA could also potentially be viewed as one that endorses the actions of Bahrain’s monarchy. Bahrain in it’s current state, is not suitable to host a Grand Prix. It must be hoped that the FIA consider the severity of the situation, re-assess closer to October and are not just pressured into the decision to reschedule out of a fear of losing money.

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Justice?


Figureheads of repression and murder should be tried and dealt justice regardless of their health

Saturating the news at present are tales of endemic revolution in the Middle East and neighboring North Africa. Originating in Tunisia and spreading to the likes of Yemen, Egypt, Libya,  Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Syria, this wildfire has spread at significant cost and caught the attention of the worlds media. Successful uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt have led to increased violence from leaders in nearby countries, out of fear, that they too, could succumb to the will of the citizens of the Arab world. Varying in severity, pro-governmental soldiers have employed any tactic necessary in order to deter protesters, leaving thousands dead. Yet in most cases, “the people” seem willing to risk bullets, truncheons and shrapnel, in their bid to free the Arab world from the bonds of repression, so many of these leaders have come to represent.

During the 2011 uprisings in Egypt that saw the end of Mubarak, over eight hundred people were killed. Upon his abdication, after significant external pressure, he went to stay in Sharm el-Sheikh. Mubarak, within days went from repressive autocrat to resident of the Red Sea Riviera (truly a deterring prospect for any Arab leader). Yet his health apparently deteriorated during his interrogation. If he is to be found guilty of authorizing violence towards anti-government protesters, he may face the death penalty. If Mubarak was healthy enough to authorize merciless slaughter of non-violent protesters then he should be trialled, regardless of his health. Preventing Mubarak from standing trial, which could result in execution, because of his poor health seems rather a kick-in-the-teeth for the families and friends of those he unashamedly murdered. Is this not just undermining the whole concept of justice?

Libya and Syria has seen some of the worst fighting and violence in response to these protests. Bashar al-Assad and Muammar Gaddafi have quite openly endorsed the murder of peaceful protesters; in Libya this has, of course, escalated to civil war and NATO intervention. Both leaders already have blood on their hands and are both quite open about supporting and sponsoring terrorism. To think that these men will not be brought to justice, for any reason (even health problems), must be quite sickening to any anti-government supporter. These leaders must be tried for their crimes, even on their death bed, to uphold any sense of justice.

Ratko Mladic, responsible for the Bosnian genocide, was captured last week and faces a trial at the Hague for war crimes. Yet, his lawyer is hoping to avoid such proceedings on account of Mladic’s declining health. At the time of writing, Mladic had been taken to the Hague, which is promising news. A man capable of such hatred and violence needs to be faced with what he has done and receive what he deserves. Saddam Hussein received a penalty befitting of the murder and persecution he had committed; even if it is not with his life, Mladic has to pay for what he has done.

Mubarak and Mladic still have supporters within their respective countries. Justice needs to be carried out, if for no-other reason than to demonstrate to these people their crimes and how they are viewed as punishable on the international stage in order to alter their opinion. Leaders who abuse power to serve their own ends and persecute their people should be tried, and suitably punished regardless of their medical status. Even if they are unable to stand or speak, their crimes still stand and are more than capable of doing the talking.

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Giggs issues new super-injunction preventing news of Champions League defeat being published


Ryan Giggs has now come to the realization that he is not James Bond. Bond never said, “I Do”.

Although this headline may not be true; like the Imogen Thomas affair, it seems ridiculous to prevent the public knowing about a note-worthy achievement any man (footballer) would be proud of. Like United, who were defenceless to stop the elegant, yet potent onslaught at the feet of the Catalan giants, Giggs could do nothing to stop the relentless onslaught of virtual chirping at the fingertips of over 75,000 Twitter users revealing the information a court-passed super-injunction had aimed to prevent from going public. Super-injunctions are an encroachment on the right to freedom of speech, according to journalists (with the exception of Andrew Marr who’s show should be renamed, “The Andrew Marr(ed reputation owing to his gagging order) Show”). Yet to adulterers, lotharios and all-round scoundrels they are an essential organ, an extension of their deceitful being, allowing them to continue their roguish lifestyle.

Giggs was quite adamant that he wanted the details of the 75,000 tweeters passed onto the authorities, so that they could be brought to justice for breaching a court-order. Giggs’ grasp on the judicial, legal and incarceration system appear to parallel his grasp on marriage vows and oaths… But is this not what we have come to expect from this generation of footballers? They all earn too much money and are constantly in the media for partaking in scandalous activities. But Ryan Giggs, really? Isn’t he the reliable, committed, yoga-loving United legend? He is the Elizabeth I of football; married and devoted to United as Elizabeth was to England. His commitment to his club is quite extraordinary… to his wife not so much. Although, it may be expecting too much of a footballer to concentrate his focus and efforts on two things at once.

From the dark horse at the ‘BBC Sports Personality of the Year Awards 2009’ where he shockingly beat Jenson Button, to the dark horse in the ‘Manchester United’s Most Heavily Publicized and Scandalous Extra-Marital Affair Award’ narrowly beating Wayne Rooney, who still managed to bag both the, ‘Most Likely To Swear Into A Camera And Set A Bad Example To Your Kids Award’ and ‘Scorer Of The Most Over-Hyped Over-Head Kick In History Award’.

All this proves, is that football is taken far too seriously; it’s not an ambassador to how people should act or behave. Footballer’s shouldn’t have to be role-models, they play football because they enjoy it (if their pay-check hasn’t yet reached an audacious sum). Yet at the same time, they shouldn’t moan when the over-sensitive British public take offence. Perhaps they should revert the sport back to the amateur level. It won’t be long until Giggs will be too old to cut it at Manchester United, then he could do a Lineker and travel to play in Asia; clubs in North Korea would jump at the chance to welcome an ex-Manchester United star and luckily for Giggs there are also plenty of jobs going in the censorship and the more general, ‘Prevention of Personal Freedom’  (especially Freedom of Speech) industry. Sorted.

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Wounds Still Healing


Remembering the Rwandan and Bosnian Genocides

Two of the major flashpoints in the history of UN sponsored humanitarian intervention, occurred within a year of each other. The Rwandan genocide which began in 1994, lasted 100 days and saw an estimated 500,000 – 1,000,000 people die, or approximately 20% of the population massacred mercilessly on an unprecedented scale. This was a targeted campaign against ethnic Tutsi’s and moderate Hutu’s, which involved the most abhorrent violence, sexual abuse, and torture.  The Bosnian genocide of 1995 saw Bosnian-Serbs undertake a campaign of ethnic cleansing, in the attempt to eradicate the Bosnian-Muslim population. Most famously was the massacre at Srebrenica; despite being declared a safe enclave by the UNPROFOR (United Nations Protection Force) the peace-keepers were unable to sufficiently protect the town, leading to the towns capture and then the targeted killings.

On the 26th May 2011, somewhat paralleling the closeness of the aforementioned events, two of the leaders responsible for these genocides were captured. Ratko Mladic, former leader of the Bosnian-Serb army and Bernard Munyagishari, a militia leader, accused of inciting and masterminding the massacre. The latter did not receive as much media attention as Mladic who has long been viewed as the most wanted man in Europe and will now potentially face a trial for war crimes at the Hague; providing his health does not deteriorate too badly. As far as closure, or comfort, is concerned the two leaders will hopefully be brought to justice 16 years after their crimes.

The wounds and scars left by the events of 1994/5 are certainly still in the process of healing. Many Serbs don’t consider Mladic a war criminal; the BBC (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-13564139)  make note of one Serbian resident who claimed, ‘”I feel sorry for Mladic, he was a real Serb.”‘ On the surface, the capture of Mladic anaethsetises the pain, but the underlying wound is still very much felt when people are unwilling to accept the man as a modern-day monster. The ethnic and racial tensions appear very much present in modern day Serbia, if that resident’s statement is anything to go by.

In terms of Rwanda, the BBC (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-13566368), again claims that one of the suspects equal, in terms of their involvement, to Munyagishari, is thought to be in Kenya, protected by their government. The effects of the 1994 massacre are huge; proliferation of HIV, children of the rape victims having to grow up in broken families, even other African nations have been affected by fleeing perpetrators, most noticably the Democratic Republic of Congo. The Economist presented a startling statistic for the DRC itself, that every minute, 48 women/girls are raped; hiding Rwandan war criminals do not help the vulnerable state, already plagued by its own problems. Even though Munyagishari has been captured many still havn’t been brought to justice, leaving Rwandan memories still somewhat vivid.

Is enough being done? One cannot be sure. If the operation to find these criminals and bring them to justice mirror the efficiency to which the UN dealt with the war crimes, then sadly no. The Bosnian and Rwandan genocide will always be remembered more for what the UN didn’t do, rather than what they did. They reduced numbers of peacekeepers in Rwanda days prior to the massacre despite the planning of it being almost common knowledge and were essentialy held at ransom by Russian and Chinese veto over what to in Bosnia; it was only after NATO acted independently that anything was done. It is both important and great news that these murderous criminals have been caught, but it does serve to provide a poignant reminder of past mistakes and oversights in the UN, and problems and tensions that are in many ways still present now within Serbia and Rwanda, as well as all the surrounding countries that have been affected.

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