The Bahrain Predicament

This piece was originally written right after a car bomb explosion on July 18 in Riffa south of the capital Manama. The result of resisting the majority’s demands, the author brings into question whether there is any prudence in endorsing their aspirations.

By Massaab Al-Aloosy, 2nd October 2013

Yesterday a car exploded near the Sheikh Khalifah mosque in Manama, Bahrain.  The incident was immediately condemned as a terrorist attack by the government which warned of attempts to tear the social fabric. Although there were no casualties, the explosion is a reminder of how intricate the situation is in Bahrain. For a long time now, the opposition has been calling for democratization of the political system to no avail.

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‘Do We Get to Win This Time?’: Hollywood Rewrites ‘Nam

Who won the Vietnam War?  Who lost it?  These questions are barely touched up in films about the conflict.  Instead we see a very different picture: troops rallying together against adversity of poor leadership, difficult terrain and uncharacterised enemies.  Does this tell the real story of Vietnam?  Were class, race and gender equality the realities of 60s and 70s America?  No.

Popular culture played a key part in reconstructing the narratives of the Vietnam War for the United States of America.  It constitutes a unique form of memorial in which the reality is secondary to the story.  Stories frequently circulate stating that x per cent of children don’t know who Winston Churchill or Neil Armstrong were but what of the rewriting of history?  In these films South East Asia becomes a setting for a collection of films not so much about the history of the war as the re-assertion of American masculinity.

These manifestations carry greater cultural significance now as they reach mass audiences of younger generations who may have little prior knowledge of the war.  For instance, at the Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial visitors frequently flock to take rubbings of one name in particular: John Rambo[i].  At the end of Rambo, the eponymous character asks his commander, ‘do we get to win this time?’  The commander responds, ‘this time, it’s up to you’.

by InPEC Contributor, 7th June, 2012

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A Pocket Guide – The 1942 US Army Booklet on Northern Ireland – Part 2

This is the second in a series of articles compiling the US Army guide to Northern Ireland during World War Two. Following the bombing of Pearl Harbor the US agreed to take over the defence of the region to free up British troops to fight in North Africa and the Middle East. It also gave the US the time to complete invaluable military training before entering the war in Europe. This was the manual given to the first officers to arrive in Belfast on 23 January, 1942.

The first article outlined the differences between the North and South of Ireland as well as the two key rules for any visitor:

(1) Don’t argue religion
(2) Don’t argue politics

This excerpt describes the country: the geography, climate and feel of living in Northern Ireland.


The Country

A valley farm in County Down. Hay stacks are neatly thatched. Fields are bordered with hawthorn hedgerows or with rock fences like those in New England

NORTHERN Ireland – usually called Ulster – is a small country, only slightly larger than the State of Connecticut. It is made up of the six counties in the northeastern corner of the island: Antrim, Armagh, Down, Londonderry, Fermanagh, and Tyrone. Some 1,300,000 people – not quite so many as Los Angeles – live there.

First off you may not like the Irish climate. It is damp, chilly, rainy. If you are from the Southwest or from California you may find yourself homesick for sunshine. The sun is only an occasional visitor in Ireland; there are about 200 rainy days a year. The rains, however, come usually as gentle drizzles, not as thundershowers.

It may be news to you that Ireland is farther north than the United States. For this reason the day is very short in winter and long in summer. In late June and July there is little darkness and you will be able to read a newspaper at 9 o’clock at night. In late December daylight lasts less than 7 hours, and darkness closes by midafternoon.

You won't see any tenements in Belfast. Instead, you will find rows upon rows of factory workers' homes like these, usually kept very neat and tidy

Despite Ireland’s northliness – it lies about exactly opposite Labrador – extremes of heat and cold are rare. In the summer a temperature of 80 degrees is the peak of a heat wave, and in winter freezing weather is the exception rather than the rule. It is the always-present dampness which make the cool summers and mild winters seem colder than they are.

Many people in Ireland will wear thick, woollen clothing the year round. You will be wise to keep yourself warm and dry; pneumonia and bronchitis are common.

Dampness chills the bones of visitors, but it makes Ireland green and beautiful. Ulster is a saucer circles by rolling hills. There is the Antrim plateau in the north-east, the Sperrin Mountains in the northwest, the Mourne Mountains in the southeast. If you come from North Carolina, or Colorado, or Idaho, these may not seem much like mountains to you – they rise 3,000 feet at their highest – but their beauty has drawn tourists to Ulster for many years.

On furlough you may want to visit the mountains, or to see Lough Neagh, the largest lake in the British Isles. (Lough, pronounced ‘Lokh’, is the Irish word for lake.) Another strange and famous landmark is the Giant’s Causeway – 40,000 columns of basalt rock which rise from a bay at the northern tip of the island. This is celebrated in legend and story.

The shipbuilding yards of Belfast are among the very largest in the world. Before the war, when this picture was taken, giant liners, including the ill-fated Titanic, were launched here. Now the yards are busy day and night building ships of war

Most of Ulster’s 1,300,000 people live northeast of Lough Neagh, in the lowlands. There are a good many large estates owned by the wealthy or the once-wealthy, and you will find ancient turreted castles scattered among the hills and the glens, but most of the Irish farmers manage to make their livings on plots of land which Americans, used to tractors and far horizons, would think hardly larger than ample vegetable gardens.

This scale of farming will seem almost absurdly small to you who come from the Middle West or the Far West. There are 90,000 farms in Ulster with tiny fields and small, whitewashed, thatched-roof cottages. A 5-acre place is really substantial and anyone who owns more than 40 acres is considered to be engaged in large-scale farming. Fine cattle graze on the pasture land, and hay, potatoes, turnips, and wheat are grown.

Belfast is the most important industrial center in Ireland, and one of the key points of the British war effort. It has a population of 438,000 – one-third of the people in all Ulster live there – and is slightly larger than Kansas City, Missouri. Belfast was badly bombed by the Germans in 1940. Londonderry (called Derry by the Irish), the second city of Ulster, is located on the North Coast, and had a population of 43,000 before the war.

Belfast today resembles many American cities where the weapons of war are being forged as fast as industrial wheels will turn. The production of linen in peacetime is a great industry; Irish linens are known all over the world. Today much of the linen industry has been converted to the manufacture of cotton goods – cloth for British Army uniforms.

A Pocket Guide – The 1942 US Army Booklet on Northern Ireland

This is the first in a series of articles compiling the US Army guide to Northern Ireland during World War Two.  Following the bombing of Pearl Harbor the US agreed to take over the defence of the region to free up British troops to fight in North Africa and the Middle East.  It also gave the US the time to complete invaluable military training before entering the war in Europe.  This was the manual given to the first officers to arrive in Belfast on 23 January, 1942.

This guide was prepared by the Special Service Division, War and Navy Departments, Washington DC


By Jack Hamilton, 7 Feb, 2012

There are Two Irelands

"John Dunlop, the printer of our Declaration of Independence, was born in that little town of Strabane"

YOU are going away from home on an important mission – to meet Hitler and beat him on his own ground. For the time being you will be the guest of Northern Ireland. The purpose of this guide is to get you acquainted with the Irish, their country, and their ways.

You will start out with very good prospects. The Irish like Americans. Virtually every Irishman has friends or relatives in the United States; he is predisposed in your favour and anxious to hear what you have to say. This, however, puts you under a definite obligation: you will be expected to live up to the Irishman’s high opinion of Americans. That is a real responsibility.

The people of Northern Ireland are not only friends, but Allies. They are fighting by the side of England, the United States, the rest of the United Nations. Thousands of Irishmen are hefting steel in the hot spots of the war, doing their share and more. It is common decency to treat your friends well; it is military necessity to treat your allies well.

Every American thinks that he knows something about Ireland. But which Ireland? There are two Irelands. The shamrock, St. Patrick’s Day, the wearing of green – these belong to South Ireland, now called Eire (Air-a). Eire is neutral in the war. Northern Ireland treasures its governmental union with England above all things. These are historic reasons for these attitudes.

"An old-fashioned fireplace in a County Antrim farmhouse"

Ireland has sent many gifted and valuable citizens to the United States. Irishmen from North and South, Protestant and Catholic, began to emigrate to America in early colonial days. Nine generals in the American Revolution were of Irish birth. Four signers of the Declaration of Independence were born in Ireland and four were of Irish descent. Fourteen Presidents of the United States have carried the blood of Ireland in their veins.

There are so many of you soldiers who are of Irish descent. Some of you, Protestants or Catholics, may know at first hand or second hand about the religious and political differences between Northern and Southern Ireland. Perhaps they seem foolish to you. We Americans don’t worry about which side our grandfathers fought in the Civil War, because it doesn’t matter now. But these things still matter in Ireland and it is only sensible to be forewarned.

There are two excellent rules for conduct for the American abroad. They are good rules anywhere but they are particularly important in Ireland:

(1) Don’t argue religion
(2) Don’t argue politics