This is my last post for 2009 I thought I would write about Afghanistan but on second thought I will, no doubt, be doing that quite a lot during 2010. Thanks to the Obama Administration’s surge strategy Afghanistan will, from a blogging viewpoint, be the gift that keeps on giving.
So, as we contemplate whether 2010 will be better or worse let’s take a moment to consider 2009. In the spirit of Dave Barry’s classic annual year in review column let’s acknowledge, albeit with some poetic license commentary by moi, a few of the significant events that made, however briefly, the headlines.
Although it started on Dec. 28 2008 the month of January saw massive Israeli air strikes and a ground force invasion of the Gaza Strip. Heavy ﬁghting took place in Gaza City between the Israeli forces and Hamas. At least 1300 Palestinians were killed. On Jan. 17 Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert announced a unilateral ceaseﬁre in the Gaza Strip, declaring that Israel has achieved the goals it set when launching the military operation. On Jan. 21 Israel completes its troop withdrawal from the Gaza Strip.
Also that month President Barack Obama signed executive orders closing the US detention camp at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, within a year; closing the CIA’s secret prisons; requiring a review of military trials for terror suspects; and requiring all interrogations to follow the non-coercive methods speciﬁed in the Army Field Manual.
Of course, nobody knew back then that the camp would end up in Illinois. One can only hope that the inmates are not too acclimated to the Caribbean climate to adjust to a midwest winter.
On Jan 27 Hama declared that it previously was just kidding and broke the ceaseﬁre by attacking an Israeli frontier patrol. Israel immediately responded that it lacks a sense of humor and renewed its air strikes on the Gaza Strip border with Egypt.
On Feb. 3 Iran launched its ﬁrst domestically built satellite into orbit. Iran stated that the satellite is meant for research and telecommunications purposes, but Western states express concern that the technology could be used in the development of ballistic missiles. The U.S. intelligence community, estimating that Iran will show the same swift progress with its missiles that it did with its nuclear program, predicted the next flight will be in 2040.
On Feb. 6, renewing their classic rivalry, a British and a French nuclear submarine collided in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. Political leaders from both countries sighed in relief that it was merely submarines and not their respective football fans that collided.
On Feb. 17 President Barack Obama authorized the deployment of an additional 17,000 military personnel to Afghanistan. The troops will be deployed to ‘meet urgent security needs’ in southern Afghanistan. Later in the year President Obama deploys 30,000 more troops to meet “super duper double urgent” security needs in Afghanistan.
On March 15 two US female journalists, together with their Chinese guide, are detained by North Korean soldiers at the China–North Korea border when reporting on North Korean refugees in northeastern China. In June the two women are sentenced to 12 years of hard labor. On 4 August the two are pardoned and released following mediation by former US President Bill Clinton, who stood in for the Rev. Jesse Jackson. Rev. Jackson subsequently mediated between Bill and Hillary Clinton.
On March 19 China and Viet Nam agree to set up a hotline between their foreign ministries, and to focus on negotiations to solve the outstanding maritime issues in order to maintain peace and stability in the South China Sea. Britain and France send representatives from their submarine branches to offer their expertise.
On March 24 French Defence Minister Hervé Morin announces that France will compensate those suffering health problems linked to radiation and resulting from the more than 200 nuclear weapon tests that France carried out from 1960 to 1996 in Algeria and Polynesia. Whether any radiation was the result of a French-British submarine collision remains unknown.
On March 27 US President Barack Obama presents the new US strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan. Ambassador Richard Holbrooke is appointed the Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan. Citizens of both countries, remembering Amb. Holbrooke’s splendid efforts in the Balkan wars of the 1990s, riot in the streets.
On April 1 the new Israeli Foreign Minister, Avigdor Lieberman, states that the Israeli Government is not bound by the commitments made by its predecessors, such as the 2007 Annapolis Agreement for a two-state solution of the Israeli–Palestinian conﬂict. Lieberman subsequently says April Fools.
On May 25 North Korea carries out an underground nuclear weapon test in Kilju, Hamgyong province. The U.S. National Rifle Association condemns the test as an attempt by godless communists to violate American’s god given second amendment rights.
Following the presidential election in Iran on 12 June, in which President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is reelected, hundreds of thousands of people take to the streets to protest against what they perceive as a fraudulent election. At least eight people are killed and several wounded by security forces in the largest demonstrations since the 1979 Iranian revolution. Senator Lieberman, saying you can’t make democracy without breaking a few eggs, says this shows why the U.S. needs to bomb Iranian nuclear facilities.
On June 14 Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announces that Israel is ready to endorse the creation of a Palestinian state as long as it is demilitarized and the Palestinians accept Israel as a Jewish state with Jerusalem as the capital. Foreign Minister Lieberman reminds people that this is not an April Fools joke.
On June 30 the withdrawal of US combat troops from cities and villages in Iraq is completed and the security duties are handed over to the new Iraqi forces. Approximately 131,000 US troops remain in Iraq. The remaining quarter million private military and security contractors working for the U.S., partying in the Green Zone, start crying in their beer.
On July 2 the US Army launches a major offensive against Taliban militants in southwestern Afghanistan, involving 4000 US soldiers and 650 Afghan troops. It is the ﬁrst such operation under US President Barack Obama and differs from previous operations as the US forces will remain in the secured areas and build bases to provide security for the local population. Halliburton offers to help build the bases. Blackwater offer to help provide security. The residents of Helmand province start fleeing the country.
On July 16 British Prime Minister Gordon Brown issues a statement on nuclear non-proliferation together with the new British strategy, Road to 2010, outlining how the UK will play a leading role in tackling nuclear issues. Manchester United offers to tackle a British nuclear submarine to help promote nuclear disarmament.
On Sep. 25 US President Barack Obama, French President Nicholas Sarkozy and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown accuse Iran of building a secret underground uranium enrichment facility. President Ahmadinejad denounces the accusation as a lie, saying he was spending all his free time cracking down on democracy protesters.
On September 28 the 2006 Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Convention on Small Arms, Light Weapons, Their Ammunition and Other Related Materials enters into force following Benin’s deposit of the ninth instrument of ratiﬁcation. The NRA denounces convention as an attempt to take god-fearing American’s guns away.
On Oct. 16 the UN Human Rights Council endorses the recommendations made in Richard Goldstone’s report on the Israeli offensive in the Gaza Strip. The report accuses both Israel and Palestinian militants of war crimes and demands that the parties investigate the allegations, or the cases will be referred to the International Criminal Court (ICC). Sen. Lieberman calls for the bombing of the United Nations.
On Oct. 17 the Pakistani Army launches a massive air and ground offensive against al-Qaeda and Taliban rebels in South Waziristan. At least 20,000 people ﬂee the region. Amb. Holbrooke announces that this is proof President Obama’s strategy for the region is working.
On October 30 the UN First Committee agrees to set a timetable for the negotiation of an arms trade treaty. A UN conference on an arms trade treaty will be held in 2012 to elaborate a legally binding instrument for the transfer of conventional arms. Lockheed Martin, Smith & Wesson, Colt Industries, and Glock file a complaint with the Human Right Commission, claiming that liberal pinkos are imperiling their economic livelihood. Bob Geldorf announces the will organize a concert for laid off weapons brokers and promises a special guest appearance by Viktor Bout, currently enjoying the hospitality of the Thai government.