Beach Football World Cup Qualifiers

2013-01-22 09-25-37-063I went to the WC beach football qualifiers here last week. Beach football is usually garbage but being sat with 200 Afghans as they trashed Qatar 7-3 with their goalkeeper making a string of fantastic saves and then scoring on the counterattack was brilliant. The Afghans who do the poorest jobs were great fun. They were smiling, had drums and danced and cheered. Plus if you know anything about Afghanistan, you’ll know how diverse they are ethnically and that really showed in the crowd.

The previous game brought out the local Thais and Japanese as their nations dueled to a 4-1 Japanese win. The Japanese are good at this, twice winners in the past but this time their hopes seems to rest on the 6-4 African guy who played at the back! The Qataris themselves were embarrassing in their lack of support for their team.

IMG_20130126_215410_0I went back with friends here for the finals. The UAE controversially beat Australia (who scored an equaliser a  second after the final whistle). The UAE spent a significant amount of their time rolling around on the sand too. The final brought together Japan and Iran and its fairly raucous fans. Iran used their size advantage to bully the Japanese but simply couldn’t get past the best player in the tournament, a lanky, black ‘Japanese’ guy called Ozu. Japan led throughout until the last few minutes when Iran scored 3 quick goals to equal it up. It went to penalties and Iran kept their nerve. The best team beat the best player who tired after leading the whole team and never being subbed.

The top 3 team went through to the World Cup beach football tournament in……Taihiti. I am in the wrong business. Great nights of football and cultural experiences.

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Let’s have some real Help for Heroes

Bit of a rant this: Here is my problem with the Help the Heroes idea. Why the fuck don’t they get all the help anyway? These boys knew, unlike a lot of more idealistic American troops that they were involved in a large politico-economic game for control. They knew whose bidding they were doing, putting their limbs and faculties on the line for a political cause so why isn’t their medical care and attention a ‘given’ from this war.

A Eurofighter costs 90 million euros to build (125m if you include development and production costs. Build one less. Put the money into medical, social, psychological and economic care for the injured. 90 million euros will go far. That’s over 50,000 euros for each injured solider (figures from the MOD). That figure relate to all military personnel from all services injured. 256 of the 1,792 injured personnel were categorized as very severe. It is these guys we need to focus on with that 90m. That equates to over 300,000 euros each.

That’s not enough for a lifetime I understand but isn’t it better for the nation to spend that money on helping our soldier rather than another Eurofighter which surprise, surprise we barely use. We have 62 already out of an order of 160. As General Dannatt stated in 2010, we haven’t used more than 20 aircraft on any active operation since World War 2. Yet we have over 100 aircraft to defend British airspace from…. ummm?

I understand why people run marathon and raise money for Help the Heroes and it is a worthy cause. It gives us a sense of commonality, a feeling of doing your bit etc and is admirable. I happily give money to them. But on greater reflection, I have to wonder why these men and women injured in the line of duty in either a war we all questioned (Iraq) or in an endless attempt to quell the unquellable (using war anyway) are then left to charity to serve. I am sure they appreciate it. But I know they shouldn’t have to rely on it. It says more about the real sense of responsibility our politicians feel for our military. Its a tool to callously abuse rather than cleverly use to enhance our standing.

(Don’t even start me on the electronic signature Rumsfeld used for the fallen letters in the US)

Afghanistan: Lost the battle. Lost the War.

There is a great section in the book Catch-22 involving a US soldier talking to an old Italian man in Rome. The US soldier is both congratulating himself and commiserating the Italian man on the recent events. The soldier retells how Italy lost but now liberated. The Italian’s reply that Italy never lost confuses the American so the old man explains; ‘this is Italy. Before you were here it was Italy. During the war it was Italy and when you leave this will be Italy.’

The US military just announced the Taliban who shot down the Chinook helicopter containing 38 US and Afghani personnel were killed by a missile attack. The helicopter was carrying US Special Forces returning from a mission. But that is fairly irrelevant for not only did the Taliban win that battle, they have also won the war.

However its important for the US military to get that news out for morale reasons. Men killed have to be avenged. Its a good story to sell at home and may be help bereaved relatives. But its a small victory and this isn’t a personal war against the Taliban. Afghanistan was about one man; Osama Bin Laden. Now that he is dead, the war against the Taliban will be lost.

The main reason is domestic support and the momentum domestic support generates. For the only avenging requested was the death (not even capture) of Osama Bin Laden. Support was waning before his death but as soon as Bin Laden was eliminated as some symbol of resistance, Afghanistan was going to be left to fend for itself.

Karzai must be quaking in his boots. Not only will foreign investment tail off rapidly, he knows the Afghani army and police are no match for the battle-ready Taliban. And more importantly the Taliban know it too. The terrain and people of Afghanistan have defeated the British, the Soviets and now the Americans. They have won through courage and determination but mostly because they know what they are fighting for. I don’t like their methods and abhor their politics but their knowledge and resolve will win most political endgames.

German General Quits Over Airstrike

Interesting story this. The head of the German Army General Wolfgang Schneiderhan resigned along with the then-Minister of Defence Franz Josef Jung after a cover-up over the bombing in North Afghanistan of two stolen tankers killing up to 142 civilians. The tankers were stolen by the Taliban and then got stuck in the sand. Civilians came along to siphon off the oil while the Germans marked the target and an F-15 arrived to bomb the site. The resignations only happened after Bild, the German daily released of the video showing the bombing this week. 

Seems to make sense doesn’t it? But then you ask how that video was leaked. The US military is hardly known for losing incriminating evidence about itself. The Germans spent 6 months denying the story and mumbling the truth. So you can guess the US military finally leaked the video to rightly implicate the German Army and the two resignations followed soon after. All part of the usual European politics. 

The European states are having huge problems in Afghanistan committed themselves to the mission. The Italians have been revealed to be famously paying off the Taliban to not shoot at them so they go home in a blaze of glory, the German troops have rarely left Kabul and/or are too stoned too and the rest are tucked away in the nicer parts of the country biding their time until home time. The Brits, Danes, Estonians, Americans and Canadians are meanwhile fighting into the wind like Sisyphus. Add the muddled consensus over the European President and High Representative of Foreign Affairs, two jobs that will involve more negotiating to a muddled decision and you can see the mess the EU has when it tries to act as a union.