The national arms have been covered with glory

Cinco de Mayo is celebrated more in the US than in Mexico. While some complain that it is just another ‘commercial’ holiday used to sell Corona, I think it is fitting that the US should celebrate the Mexican Victory at the Battle of Puebla, because the outcome of the American Civil War may have been different if the Mexicans had been defeated, and if the French had decided to intervene on the side of the Confederacy.

Napoleon III had dreams of a Second French Empire, conquering Mexico and Central America, and building a Canal across Nicaraugua. The French, along with the Spanish and English, invaded Mexico in 1861 / 1862. They occupied the port of Veracruz on the pretext of collecting debts repudiated by President Benito Juarez (the Customs House in Veracruz was the main source of revenue for the Mexican Government). The Europeans gambled that the US, embroiled in the American Civil War, would not be able to enforce the Monroe Doctrine. When Spain and Great Britain realized that Napoleon intended to take Mexico, they abandoned the venture.

Cinco de Mayo celebrates the Mexican victory over the French at the Battle of Puebla, May 5, 1862. About 4,500 Mexican soldiers, artillery, and cavalry commanded by Ignacio Zaragoza defended a pair of hilltop forts North of Puebla. The overconfident French, commanded by Charles de Lorencez, attacked the forts with about 6,000 soldiers and artillery. The French assaults were repulsed, and Zaragoza counterattacked, flanking the French and forcing their retreat. Zaragoza’s one-line message to Juarez read, ”The national arms have been covered with glory”.

As a result of Zaragoza’s victory, Napoleon sent about 29,000 soldiers to reinforce the French Intervention. Napoleon installed Maximilian, an Austrian Archduke, as the Emperor of Mexico in 1864. The Mexican Republican Liberals under Juarez (with American arms and aid) tied up the French forces until the end of the American Civil War. In 1865, the USA sent warnings to the French that the Monroe Doctrine would now be enforced (in accordance with President Abraham Lincoln’s “one war at a time” policy), sent troops to the US / Mexican border, and established a naval blockade to prevent French reinforcement. Note that ‘liberal’ meant something else back then…

The French agreed to withdraw in 1866, Mexican Republican forces defeated Imperial forces, and Maximilian was executed in 1867.

Viva Mexico! Viva Juarez! Viva el Cinco de Mayo!

Repost from 2008.

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Maximilian did leave a legacy of brewing beer in Mexico - he introduced the Austrian lager – today represented by beers such as Dos Equis or Yazoo Dos Perros…

Socialist regime of Egypt in trouble

Endemic poverty, oppression, censorship, corruption, and illiteracy (especially among women) are the hallmarks of decades of socialist rule in Egypt.  The National Democratic Party chaired by 82-year old Soviet-educated dictator Hosni Mubarak is a nationalist, socialist, defacto one-party regime and also a member party of the Socialist International.   There are three reasons why the fall of the Mubarak dictatorship might trouble me: 1) Mubarak has been an ally (albeit well-paid) of the US;  2) Mubarak has been if not friendly at least not hostile to Israel; and 3) it could be worse.

Here’s Michael Ledeen’s take:

Egypt’s destiny will be determined by a fight among Egyptian people, some of whom wish to be free and others who wish to install a tyranny worse than Mubarak’s.  That’s the opposite of freedom.  Think about the free elections in Gaza that brought the Hamas killers to power.

Here’s Richard Fernandez’ take:

“The Obama administration is ramping up pressure on President Hosni Mubarak to address the grievances of the Egyptian people and said the government’s response to protests may affect U.S. aid.”

But there were also signs that the Obama administration was looking past Mubarak — to the Muslim Brotherhood, “a hard-line, but nonviolent, Islamic” group. Not only was the president taking both sides of the argument, he was looking to buy insurance for the future.

Here’s the Wall Street Journal:

Arabs perceive Mr. Obama as de-emphasizing democracy promotion after George W. Bush tried to make it a centerpiece of his second term, Mr. Hamid said.

Expressions of “concern” should be condemnation and outrage, Mr. Hamid said. “We are watching history, and Obama is on the wrong side of it.”

 Here’s GOP Rep. Thaddeus McCotter’s statement on the crisis:

The Egyptian demonstrations are not the equivalent of Iran’s 2009 Green Revolution.  The Egyptian demonstrations are the reprise of Iran’s 1979 radical revolution.Thus, America must stand with her ally Egypt to preserve an imperfect government capable of reform; and prevent a tyrranical government capable of harm.

For if Egypt is radicalized, all of the reforms sought by the Egyptian people and supported by the United States with them – including consensual and constitutional government; free elections; open and unbridled media; and Egyptian control of their natural resources – will be lost.  Nascent democratic movements in the region will be co-opted and radicalized. The world’s free and open access to the Suez Canal’s vital commercial shipping lanes will be choked.  And the Sinai Accord between Egypt and Israel – which must be protected as the foundation and principal example for Mideast peace – will be shredded.

…Inexcusably, this crisis has been hastened and exacerbated by the U.S. Administration’s refusal to whole-heartedly embrace Iran’s truly democratic 2009 Green Revolution.  Make no mistake: strategically and cynically, freedom’s radicalized enemy  is exploiting a real religion to undermine liberty and true reform just as Soviet communism posed as a secular creed to obtain the same illegitimate ends.

 

Hillary Clinton was right about one thing:  President Obama is not ready for a 3 AM phone call.

My name is Rachel Corrie

Rachel Corrie.

That name will be in the news a lot over the next few days.  The Free Gaza Movement named a ship after Rachel Corrie, and it was intercepted today by the Israeli Navy:

“Israel is prepared to receive the ship and to offload its contents. After an inspection to ensure that no weapons and war materials are on board, we are prepared to deliver all of the goods to Gaza,” Gal said.

“Representative of the people on board and relevant NGOs are welcome to accompany the goods to the crossings,” he said.

Here’s more with some background on the Free Gaza Movement and last week’s encounter with ‘peace activists’:

Greta Berlin, a co-founder of the Free Gaza movement, said those on board the ship had no intention of ceding to Israel’s request… “Our mission is to break the blockade of Gaza,” she told The Jerusalem Post

Israeli claims that went it intercepted Monday’s flotilla of ships activists on one of them, the Marmara, ambushed the soldiers after they descended onto the board from helicopters. The military and Turkish TV have released videotape that backs up that claim. Returning activists admitted fighting with the Israeli commandos but insisted their actions were in self-defense because the ships were being boarded in international waters by a military force.

The Marmara, which was carrying hundreds of activists sponsored by an Islamic aid group from Turkey, the Foundation for Human Rights and Freedom and Humanitarian Relief. Israel outlawed the group, known by its Turkish acronym IHH, in 2008 because of alleged ties to Hamas.

The Rachel Corrie is owned by the Free Gaza Movement. It set sail from Ireland. It is flying a Cambodian flag and is funded by money raised by a former prime minister of Malaysia. Among the passengers are two well known Irish citizens, Nobel Peace Laureate Mairead Maguire and Denis Halliday, a former UN assistant secretary-general.

Let’s be clear on who and what Rachel Corrie was.  Corrie was a radical leftist member of the International Solidarity Movement and was killed in 2003 acting as a human shield for Palestinian terrorists.  Here is a picture of her (burning a makeshift American flag) that defines her legacy – teaching children how to hate.

corrie01

Helen Thomas tells Jews to get the hell out of Palestine

Revered tolerant leftist Helen Thomas, the Dean of the White House Press Corps, attended the White House Jewish Heritage Celebration.  Thomas was asked for a comment on Israel and she said “Tell them to get the hell out of Palestine”

The interviewer then asked if  Thomas “had any better comments on Israel”.  Helen Thomas said “Remember, these people are occupied, and it’s their land.  It’s not German and it’s not Polish.”

The interviewer asked: “So where should they go?”  Helen Thomas said “They can go home.”

The interviewer asked: “Where’s home?”  Helen Thomas said: “Poland. Germany. And America. And everywhere else.”

As the late, great Tony Snow once said to Thomas: “Thank you for the Hezbollah view”.

Focus on Haiti

Here’s some background on Haiti, mostly from the CIA World Factbook, with many other sources used to round out the post.

Haiti comprises an area of 27,750 square kilometers, roughly 1/5 the size of Alabama.  It is located on the western third of the island of Hispaniola, which it shares with the much more prosperous Dominican Republic.  The population is about 9 million (half of whom are under 20 years old – people die before they’re 60).  Alabama’s population is about 4.6 million people.  The terrain is mountainous and almost half of the population lives in urban areas.  

There are “inadequate supplies of potable water”, even though Haiti receives 54 inches average annual rainfall (Huntsville receives about 58 inches of rain annually).  Haiti suffers from “extensive deforestation” of about 98% of the arable land (and “much of the remaining forested land is being cleared for agriculture and used as fuel”).  The deforestation and poor agricultural practices contribute to soil erosion and desertification (imagine mountainous terrain like eastern Madison County devoid of trees and overflowing with sprawling cities of hungry people).

The risk of major infectious diseases is “high”:  “bacterial and protozoal diarrhea, hepatitis A and E, and typhoid fever”, “dengue fever and malaria”, and “leptospirosis”.

Haiti’s GDP is about $7 billion; less than half of Huntsville’s GDP of about $16 billion.  Natural resources include:  “bauxite, copper, calcium carbonate, gold, marble, hydropower”.   The US is Haiti’s largest trading partner (we buy 71% of their exports, they buy 34% of their imports from US).  Haiti has 3.2 million cellphones.  Haiti has 14 airports – 4 of them with paved runways.    The only working Air Traffic Control tower in the country was destroyed by the earthquake.  Haiti has 600 miles of paved roads and about 2,000 miles of unpaved roads.

“Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere with 80% of the population living under the poverty line and 54% in abject poverty. Two-thirds of all Haitians depend on the agricultural sector, mainly small-scale subsistence farming, and remain vulnerable to damage from frequent natural disasters, exacerbated by the country’s widespread deforestation”.  To say there is widespread unemployment is an understatement: “more than two-thirds of the labor force do not have formal jobs”.

IMO the Government of Haiti is as deadly as the recent earthquake - the country has a history of dictatorship and socialist rule.

Haiti has a President, a Prime Minister (who selects the Cabinet), and a bicameral National Assembly.  The leading political parties are the L’ESPWA (Front for Hope – an alliance composed of parties like ”Effort and Solidarity to Create an Alternative for the People”), FUSION (“Merging of Haitian Social Democratic Parties”), and OPL (“Struggling People’s Organization”).  There are at least a dozen parties holding seats in the legislature (splitters).

Haiti’s national budget: “revenues: $967.5 million” and “expenditures: $1.162 billion”.  Compare that to the City of Huntsville’s 2008 budget of about $285 million in revenue and $326 million in expenditures (it was a bad year for the City budget).

Haiti has “no regular military forces”, except for violent gangs usually associated with political groups.  There are about 8,000 UN peacekeepers from the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) who “maintain civil order in Haiti” (they’ve been accused of killing gang members along with the occasional civilian).  Brazil contributes many of the MINUSTAH forces and the remainder are mostly troops from South American countries.  The leader of the UN Mission, Tunisian Hedi Annabi, was killed in the recent earthquake (along with his deputy and much of the UN leadership in Haiti).  There is “pervasive corruption” in the Government. 

Haiti is a dangerous place.

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The people of Haiti need help – give to the Red Cross or similar established charities.

But then, the people of Haiti needed help before this week’s earthquake.  The place is a mess, and Haiti may become our long-term mess (as it has been for several times in history).

The US has the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson on station, along with an Amphibious Ready Group (LHD, LPD, and LSD plus escorts) and the 22d Marine Expeditionary Unit.  These forces plan to be in Haiti for at least six months.

Le blog de Tanit

Information Dissemination linked to Le voyage de Tanit, the blog of the French yacht captured by Somali pirates and assaulted by the French Navy, resulting in the death of the yacht owner.

If someone out there reads French and would like to post translations, I would appreciate it.  From what I can understand, the French Navy ship Floreal contacted the Tanit to explain new travel routes and warn of the latest pirate attacks.

French Free Captured Yacht

The French Navy freed four hostages, but one hostage was killed in the assault.  At least two pirates were killed.

From the Press Association:

The French Navy has stormed a hijacked French boat off the Somali coast after pirates threatened to execute the hostages…
Defence Minister Herve Morin said French authorities had proposed a ransom but the pirates rejected the offer.

The Somali pirates holding American merchant Captain Richard Phillips have threatened to kill him unless they are paid $2,000,000 in ransom.  The Captain escaped earlier today, but he was recaptured.

The American captain held hostage by four Somali pirates made a desperate escape attempt Friday but was recaptured after they fired shots, and officials said other pirates sought to reinforce their colleagues by sailing hijacked ships with other captives aboard to the scene of the standoff…
The pirates’ strategy is to link up with their colleagues, who are holding Russian, German, Filipino and other hostages, and get Phillips to lawless Somalia, where they could hide the hostage and make it difficult to stage a rescue, the Somali said. That would give the pirates more leverage and a stronger negotiating position to discuss a ransom. Anchoring near shore also means they could get to land quickly if attacked.

Somali Pirates hold Captain

The crew of the Maersk Alabama have retaken the ship but the Pirates still hold the Captain (from the FT):

The USS Bainbridge arrived at the scene on Thursday morning to monitor events aboard the pirate-held lifeboat, containing four pirates and Richard Philips, captain of the Maersk Alabama, the first US-flagged ship to be seized by Somali pirates. The lifeboat ran out of fuel shortly after the pirates left the Maersk Alabama with it on Wednesday following a struggle with the vessel’s 20-strong crew of US citizens.

The crew had handed over a pirate they had held hostage in a deal that would have seen Mr Philips returned, but the pirates reneged on the deal and left in a lifeboat with him, only to run out of fuel only a short distance away…

“There does seem to be movement of other pirated ships towards the area in question,” the analyst said. “There are a myriad of different reasons why one would do that. There’s apparently some co-ordination going on.”

The USS Bainbridge (DDG 96) is on the scene, which is somewhat ironic since the ship’s namesake Captain William Bainbridge fought State-sponsored African pirates in the First and Second Barbary Wars (against Morocco, Algiers, Tunis, Tripoli).  Bainbridge also commanded the USS Constitution during the War of 1812.

BTW, the US Navy was created to fight pirates

“1794 – President George Washington signed “an act to provide a naval armament.” By authorizing the construction of six frigates (ed. – including the USS Constitution)  the Third Congress in effect creates the U.S. Navy. The immediate issue was the need to protect the large American merchant fleet from continuous and increasing attacks by the North African “Barbary pirate” states…”

Captain’s Journal has a good discussion of the problem and suggests a solution to piracy:

I had a chance to talk extensively with one Marine who had pirates in the sights of his Sasser .50 caliber rifle while on board a CH-53.  “Did you take the shot,” I asked him?  “No,” he answered.  “RoE.  Who wants to have lawyers put him in jail when he gets back to the States?”…

So we must consider which is the more humane and civilized way to deal with piracy: continuing to allow them free reign over the Gulf of Aden, or ending the problem quickly with hard actions.  In the end, this isn’t for purposes of shock and the counsel given above is serious.  We must decide, for there isn’t an easy alternative within the existing RoE to deal with piracy.

We may not want to deal with piracy this way, but this only shows that we want piracy more than we want the solution.  Piracy exists because we want it to.

Huntsville Rocks!

Huntsville Rocks – current events and geography edition.

You all know that Huntsville is a special place, and I love to prove it to outsiders and newcomers. 

This evening I got into a bar discussion with a young man (Obama supporter) who thought that the Iraq War was a bad idea but that going into Darfur would be a good idea – if only to stop the genocide.  Regular readers already know that Saddam Hussein killed more people in one year than have died in Darfur – so already I knew this Obama supporter was underinformed (my favorite expression today).

This newcomer to Huntsville also thought that no one in the bar even knew where or what Darfur was (like I said – Obama supporter).  I am proud to report the very unscientific finding that 75% of people polled knew the country in which the Darfur region is located (Sudan) – the people who didn’t know (and didn’t care) were Obama supporters. Survey methodology: he pointed out random people – I asked the questions.

We have some very bright and aware people in Huntsville.  You can’t underestimate the intelligence of anyone you meet in this town until you find out they supported Obama – then you can be assured they are underinformed (based on an unscientific survey, of course).