Sunday, 27 December 2015

Okinawa resistance to U.S. Military in Pacific Islands

Okinawa's place in the world. Okinawa borders Taiwan to its West, Phillipines to its south, Japan its to its North and hundreds of thousands of islands, atolls and isolated regions are surrounding it. Okinawa like many Pacific islands has a long history of being independent, with its own local language, cuisine and culture that mainlanders are still getting to know.

When people think of Okinawa the first thing that comes to mind is the world's oldest people living a beautiful island life in tranquility thanks to a healthy great cuisine. The people of Okinawa have been on nearly daily protest for the past 25+ years against the United States Military base on the small island. By extension many Okinawans have condemned U.S. militarism on their island and in the wider Pacific island regions. The U.S. maintains hundreds of military bases most unnecessary on thousands of islands around the Pacific region. The Okinawan base is the most strategic in Japan. From the tiny nation of Diego Garcia, whose indigenous Chiagosian people were forcibly removed in the 1940s and have been banned from returning to their own homeland on military grounds. Diego Garcia, Bikini Atolls and other Pacific islands were were turned into nuclear testing grounds (first the hydrogen bombs and other military WMDs) and Western military bases of operations to this day. Diego Garcia like Guam, American Samoa, Micronesia and other smaller overshadowed islands have become colonial territories (referred to as commonwealth or territories) of the United States, Britain and France. The U.S. insists that the Pacific Islanders from geographically strategic and resource rich nations need protection from their large neighbor Uncle Sam either from Chinese military expansion or the threat of terrorism. Even if the island nations and local people have no need for a military, oppose wars and conflicts in all its forms or have good relations with China, Russia, Japan and both Koreas, the U.S. government makes its case even louder for why the American presence is needed. Japan which for the last 70 years has had a pacifist constitution is also reestablishing its military and seeking to expand its defense policy outside the country to neighboring islands. Japan too has been criticized by Okinawans for allowing the base expansion and its growing nationalist militarism. Japanese citizens have also protested the government's defense policies and current bicketing with China over the resource rich Sekoku islands in the South China Sea.

Over 20 years ago, a local Okinawan girl was raped and beaten by U.S. personnel off base. The soldiers were only slightly punished for their brutal crime.  It enraged, disgusted and sparked the continuation of the long lasting anti-U.S. military and militarism protests by concerned and peace activist Okinawan parents, families and residents. Weekly and now daily protest have placed the reoccurring rapes of local women and militarism at the forefront of Okinawan/Japanese politics. Protesters make Japanese government officials nervous and military personnel uneasy. The U.S. military has a history of protecting its soldiers from being charged with serious crimes and from facing prosecution by local courts in hundreds of countries around the world. This too angers many local people who even work at the U.S. military bases and residents who are not fond of foreign military and governments dictating local politics and foreign policy. Okinawa has felt this weight for decades.

The Eisa dance, a famous folk dance performed in Naha, Okinawa. The Eisa dance is part of a larger 10,000 cultural parade that occurs every year on the island. Photo by Golden Jipangu

Although it is part of Japan, Okinawa known as Ryukyu islands has always felt strongly about independence. Okinawans have their own local culture, music and language that's entirely different from mainland Japan. Okinawa was an independent nation the Ryukyu Kingdom for much of its history until 1607 when it was conquered by Japan and made into a vassal state of the mainland land. In 1879, Okinawa officially became a Japanese prefecture. It ceased to exist as a sovereign nation. Like the Native Hawaiian or Taiwan independentists, Okinawans have reiterated that their island's heritage and culture are unique and their self determination was interrupted by Japanese occupation and colonialism. The U.S. began militarizing Okinawa and other Pacific islands after World War II. While some older Okinawans might've brushed off the military presence as a welcome from imperial Japan at the time, many younger Okinawans are abhorred by the presence and the cultural insensitivity of some military personnel show to Okinawan society. Today many Okinawans speak Japanese but still cling onto the local Ryukyu languages. There are bilingual and sometimes trilingual signs on the island. Okinawan cuisine has long been influenced by Chinese and South Asia and its recognized for its unique taste across Japan. diverse over the years like many island nations who have people from around the world coming to its shores. 

Thursday, 10 December 2015

Cameroon, Tunisia and Egypt terror attacks

Cameroon: The horror of Boko Haram

Cameroon is another calm and stable African country being dragged into the path of Boko Haram's gruesome terror attacks. A suicide bomber murdered 10 innoncent people in Nigue, a Cameroonian suburb in the border town of Fotokol in Northern Cameroon. Nigue's residents had been going about their day and business as many border towns do on a daily basis. Suicide bombings and terrorism is nearly unheard of in Cameroon or other Western African countries outside of Nigeria. Boko Haram like ISIS makes no distingution between armies and civilians in their violent strategy to win territory or new recurits. Boko Haram uses coercion and pyscology terror to kidnap and attack its victims from students at school to women and children in marketplaces. The Cameroonian army has been searching town to town and house to house.

Shaped like a rooster and named for shrimps, Cameroon has been aiding Nigeria in its fight against the takfiri and wahhabist Boko Haram in Northern Nigeria particulary in Maidiguru, along the Cameroon-Nigerian border towns and even Lake Chad region. Cameroon has been political stable for a few decades now. It is a former French colony that was once split into two countries along superimposed colonial lingustic lines, a French and English speaking Cameroon parts.

Tunisia: Killing shepards

From Cameroon to Tunisia, takfiri terrorists are attacking people in rural areas who have no connections to politics or the events happening in the cities. In the Tunisian province of Sidi Bouzid, a 15 year old shepard Mabruk Soltani was brutally beheaded after warning his neighbors about a suspicious ISIS member in their town. Mabruk was first kidnapped along with another 14 year old shepard. Already traumatized by the beheading, the 14 year old was ordered under duress to carry Mabruk's head to his family wrapped in a plastic bag. The murder/beheading has horrified and disgusted Tunisia as a whole. Even Tunisians who are religious have condemned the young teen's murder as a vile crime. The murder was claimed by ISIS' Tunisian affliate Jund al Khalifa. Jund is also based in Algeria. ISIS has attacked Tunisia before in June during a shooting at a hotel in Sousse, the resort town on Tunisia's east coast. The attack left 36 people dead both tourists and Tunisians dead. The Tunisian government has vowed to not rest until every ISIS and takfiri militant and terrorists in Tunisia and neighboring Libya are dead. While karma may take awhile to catch up to ISIS and Jund al Khalifa, the Tunisian army has been doing its utmost to halt future terrorist attacks in Tunisia. It has also been fighting takfiri militants and insurgents in Libya who have crossed into Tunisia. Libya's current instability (caused by NATO war) as Gaddhafi warned, has given the worst kind of takfiris a green light to caused damage and chaos in Tunisia and further south in Mali, Nigeria and Cameroon too.

Egypt: Sinai culture overshadowed by forgotten insurgency

In the Sinai Peninsula on Egypt's triangle shaped piece that connects the African country to Asia, Egyptian police are dealing with an ongoing low intensity insurgency. The Sinai insurgency is local and began originally after the 2011 Egyptian Revolution. The Sinai is known more for the resort towns along the Red Sea particularly Sharm El Sheik. Also included on the usual visitor's list to the region is the St. Katherine Monastery located on Mt. Sinai. It is also the entry and exit point for Egyptian and foreign ships on the trade routes between the Red and Mediterranean seas. The Israelis occupied the Sinai Peninsula with illegal settlements and colonialists from 1967-1973 following the Yom Kippur War. Historically, the Sinai has been known for its Badawi or Bedouin people, culture and history. The Sinai Bedouins have existed for centuries but are on the fringe of Egyptian society according to geography. Many Bedouins are being generalized and associated with local ISIS and Al Qaeda affiliated groups who have been attempting to overthrow local government and cause chaos in the Peninsula. Like Yemen, Sinai civilians have been on the receiving end of heavy handed counter terrorism measures by Egyptian police and government. On the other hand, local Egyptian police who have been praised for fighting against the takfiri terrorists and groups are also being killed just the same. Sinai's local culture and image as a tourist destination has been transformed by the recent downing of a Russian airline and ISIS threats. Similiar threats are being repeated by Boko Haram in Cameroon and Nigeria. 

Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Saudi Arabia could go broke in 5 years

The article below was originally published on African Globe, an independent news site focusing on Africa, economics, culture and African created development. For those who study the petroleum markets, the fear of an economic collapse caused by peak oil was a long time coming. The Persian Gulf countries have long been advised to diversify their economies instead of solely relying on petroleum to enjoy its high standard of living, continual economic growth and social development. Despite Saudi Arabia having a reputation as the wealthiest of the Gulf monarchies or Arabian Peninsula and being a generous aid donor around the world, poverty still exists among ordinary Saudis across the country. Poorer Saudis are ignored by the public face of the Saudi monarchary and the Saudi media rarely reports on poverty. Not everyone in The Kingdom has connections to the royal families or are grossily rich, oozing petrodollars. Poverty is not unique to Saudi Arabia. The United Arab Emirates and Qatar also have poor districts and citizens. Again, the poverty is hidden under and behind the glittering skyscrapers, flashy malls, designer purses and bling-bling cars. Petroleum has been a lifeline for the Saudi government and society for over 70 years. Since 1940s. when Roosevelt met with Ibn Saud the head of the al Saud family to offer protection for the royal family, collaborate on the construction and extraction of oil, the Kingdom has been transformed from a peripheral, quiet peninsula into a major regional and world power with the final say on how the world's petro economy will function. Companies such as Saudi Aramaco, Chevron and other gas companies have profited 20 times over from Saudi petroleum. While gas prices are fantastic for car owners in the non OPEC countries, for Saudi Arabia it can lead to financial problems and social choas. Eastern Saudi Arabia has been protesting against the corruption and monarchy's crushing rule since the 2011 revolution that swept through the region. The East is home to a large number of Saudi Shias who also share space with Sunnis. The Shias have rightfully bemoaned marginalization and being repressed by local police and the government. On top of the petrol prices leading to a wider crisis is the Saudi government's continual and shameless support for takfiri and wahhabist groups within The Kingdom and around the world particularly its not so quiet support for ISIS, Al Qaeda and local takfiri affiliates in Yemen, Lebanon and Iraq. At the same time, Saudi is also pushing to regain its regional influence and power in by playing on religious solidarity with its co religious both far and wide. The Saudis may be playing devil's advocate here. The law of Karma has caught up with Saudi Arabia. Once again, the petroleum price drop is nothing new. The older generation can look back at the Oil embargo/petro criss in the 1970s as a casestudy in how politics and economics intersect. Enjoy the read below. 
Saudi Arabia or The Kingdom (KSA) position in the world. Long connected to Africa and Asia, the Kingdom shares cultural connections, food and language between both continents. Western media has often seen Saudi Arabia as mysterious and incomprehensible.

Believe It Or Not, Saudi Arabia Could Go BROKE In 5 Years!

AFRICANGLOBE – Cheap oil is great for American consumers and Hummer owners of all nationalities. It’s not so good for some oil-rich countries whose economies live and die by barrels of light, sweet crude. Case in point: Saudi Arabia. The OPEC leader could be out of money in five years if oil stays at or below $50 a barrel, according to a new report from the International Monetary Fund.
As of this writing, the OPEC Basket — an average price per barrel of 12 OPEC producing countries — was less than $40. That’s terrible news for a country that earns a great majority of its income, something like 90 percent, from the export of oil.

Saudi Arabia is the world’s largest oil producer and a major sponsor of terrorism

And the Saudis aren’t alone. The Sultanate of Oman and the Kingdom of Bahrain could see their economies crumble as a result of cheap oil. According to the IMF, the region is set to lose some $360 billion this year alone.
To balance its growing budget, Saudi Arabia needs oil to sell at around $106 per barrel. In one year, the Middle Eastern kingdom saw its budget deficit balloon from less than 2 percent last year — the lowest in the world — to an estimated 20 percent this year. It could go as high as 50 percent by 2020. The country still has $700 billion in cash reserves, but it’s blowing through its stash quickly. Government spending cuts are inevitable.
Bahrain also has about five years of life left at this price, but it’s in even more trouble after years of spending and borrowing. Iran and Iraq are in a little bit better position, and could survive for another decade at $50 a barrel, but destabilization in the region (namely ISIS) is also taking its toll.

Riyad the Saudi capital. Saudi Arabia is one of the world’s richest countries. (Ps: Still has poverty that goes unreported)

The only countries in decent shape in the region are Kuwait, which has a break-even cost of $49 per barrel, and Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, which have both been stashing cash for years. These three countries can survive 25 to 30 years with prices this low.
It’s been a bad year for the Saudis, who started 2015 with the death of Saudi King Abdullah. The huge Saudi royal family owns all of the six oil fields located in their kingdom, and the depressed prices are sure to hit the family’s pocketbooks. At the beginning of the year, the 15,000 members of the Saudi royal family were estimated to be worth a staggering collective $1.4 trillion. That number is sure to drop as the oil depression wears on.
In short: cheap oil could further destabilize a region in the throes of strife and warfare. The Saudis and UAE have been a key exception, with economic growth, political stability, and leadership closely allied with the United States. So this fact is likely a bitter pill to swallow: One reason the price of oil is so low is because of the USA’s own oil-drilling boom, which has cut OPEC imports into the country by half. Hummer drivers rejoice.
By: Mark Kurlyandchik