Monthly Archives: October 2016

Internet access – a human right?

Alongside reasonable, affordable access to health care (whether through private or public means, we can leave it up to the politicians to debate) there’s an argument to be made that internet access should be a right. When the state controls access to information, the result is more often than not oppression:

Robert Mugabe Seizes on the Latest Political Threat to His Zimbabwe: WhatsApp

Zimbabwe has joined a growing list of African nations that have curbed social media in the last year. Fearing the power that social media gives to rivals, activists and ordinary citizens, governments in Gabon, the Republic of Congo, Chad, Uganda, Burundi and Ethiopia have switched off access to the internet for days or weeks, including during elections.


— Marcus

An interesting question…

“Some were fed watermelon to fill their bladders, they said, and then had their penises tied.”

Besides the Kingdom’s uncomfortable taste for torture, the article below reveals that some tolerance for diversity, however limited, also reflects the modern Saudi state. Such tolerance suggests that pluralistic political reform, while surely distant, may one day come to America’s long-standing gulf ally:

In Saudi Arabia: Can It Really Change?

Thirty-five years after Wahhabi forces saved the Saudi monarchy, foreign descriptions of Saudi Arabia remain for the most part remarkably bleak. The writers of the four books under review examine the domination of the al-Saud dynasty with the fascination with which a zoologist might regard a black widow snaring its prey.

— Marcus


“I would have followed Jake to hell.”

We’re lucky if we have known a few good Jakes from our time in service:

On surviving four combat jumps:

“I’m the biggest goof off that the army ever saw. The Lord only had two places they was putting people then: Heaven, or hell. He’s afraid to stick me in either one of them, afraid I’d goofed it up.”

— Sgt. Jake McNiece

A bulldog’s account of war

Over 100 years ago, British Army junior officer and aspiring journalist Winston Churchill penned an account of an expeditionary campaign in Central Asia, which he called The Story of The Malakand Field Force: An Episode of Frontier War. Churchill’s observations remain relevant, especially those concerning the habits of the Pashtun tribes of the Malakand hinterlands:

“Except at the times of sowing and of harvest, a continual state of feud and strife prevails throughout the land. Tribe wars with tribe. The people of one valley fight with those of the next. To the quarrels of communities are added the combats of individuals. Khan assails khan, each supported by his retainers. Every tribesman has a blood feud with his neighbor. Every man’s hand is against the other, and all against the stranger.”

A few lines from the preface about the price of intellectual integrity also bear repeating:

“Indeed, I fear that assailing none, I may have offended all. Neutrality may degenerate into an ignominious isolation. An honest and unprejudiced attempt to discern the truth is my sole defence, as the good opinion of the reader has been throughout my chief aspiration, and can be in the end my only support.”

Servicemembers charged with duty in the Middle East and abroad may benefit from a reading of Churchill’s selected works.


Malakand District – Wikipedia

The Swat River flows through the district down towards Charsadda District where it falls into the Kabul River. Malakand District is bounded in the north by Lower Dir District, in the east by Swat District, in the south east and south west by Mardan and Charsadda districts respectively and in the west by Mohmand and Bajaur agencies.

Siege of Malakand – Wikipedia

The Siege of Malakand was the 26 July – 2 August 1897 siege of the British garrison in the Malakand region of colonial British India’s North West Frontier Province.