Afghanistan, the Graveyard of Empires – Really?

AfghanistanIt is sometimes claimed that Afghanistan is the ‘graveyard of empires’ and as a justification of why this is so, one usually hears that this was because no occupying power had ever ‘won’ in Afghanistan, or something similiar. The examples that are normally given to make that case are the Soviet Union and the British Empire. So let’s takle them first.

I realise that is not a scientific work, but nevertheless is quite conclusive as to whether the above claim holds any water. In short, it does not.

a) The Soviet Union (1917-1991)

In an 2009 article on the BBC website named “Reform, Coup and Collapse: The End of the Soviet State”, Professor Archie Brown writes (emphasis mine):

The Soviet Union on the eve of Gorbachev’s perestroika (reconstruction) had serious political and economic problems. Technologically, it was falling behind not only Western countries but also the newly industrialised countries of Asia. Its foreign policy evinced a declining capacity to win friends and influence people. Yet there was no political instability within the country, no unrest, and no crisis. This was not a case of economic and political crisis producing liberalisation and democratisation. Rather, it was liberalisation and democratisation that brought the regime to crisis point. There were five interconnected transformations in the last years of the Soviet Union which are too often conflated into one ‘collapse’ or ‘implosion’. It is especially important to distinguish between the dismantling of the communist system and the disintegration of the Soviet state, for the former preceded the latter by between two and three years.

This view is shared by others. From Wikipedia (emphasis mine):

East-West tensions increased during the first term of U.S. President Ronald Reagan (1981–1985), reaching levels not seen since the 1962 Cuban missile crisis as Reagan increased US military spending to 7% of the GDP.[citation needed] To match the USA’s military buildup, the Soviet Union increased its own military spending to 27% of its GDP and froze production of civilian goods at 1980 levels, causing a sharp economic decline in the already failing Soviet economy. However, it is not clear where the number 27% of the GDP came from. This thesis is not confirmed by the extensive study on the causes of the collapse of the Soviet Union by two prominent economists from the World Bank- William Easterly and Stanley Fisher from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “… the study concludes that the increased Soviet defense spending provoked by Mr. Reagan’s policies was not the straw that broke the back of the Evil Empire. The Afghan war and the Soviet response to Mr. Reagan’s Star Wars program caused only a relatively small rise in defense costs. And the defense effort throughout the period from 1960 to 1987 contributed only marginally to economic decline.[2]

In my view, it’s thus safe to conclude that the Afghanistan War (1979- 1989) was not the cause of the demise of the Soviet Union. It was a combination of factors other than the war that brought the Soviet Union down.

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Osama bin Laden is Dead – According to Turkish Intelligence Services

From Takvim:

The al-Qaeda leader had died on December 13, 2007,  from kidney failure.  However, the CIA director Panetta said the previous day, that thew were unable to get news from bin Laden for the last  10 years Laden.

Leon Panetta, director of the world’s largest intelligence agency CIA made a comment the previous day that “for 10 years we have not heard news from Osama bin Laden”.

CIA Chief Panetta, said a few weeks ago that al-Qaeda’s number-three man was killed, saying that “bin Laden is on the Pakistani border. Under pressure it will become clear [? not sure here]. However,  in Afghanistan, according to information Turkish intelligence units have taken, the al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden,  died in the mountains of Tora Bora in December 13, 2007. Years ago, the left kidney from the al-Qaeda leader was causing problems, in 2004 right kidney was also having problems. “U.S. shivers” Laden, in the primitive conditions at Tora Bora bin Laden managed to survive for three years with one kidney. Bin Laden died in the morning of December 13, 2007. News of the death of the al-Qaeda leader came as a shock, especially to the CIA.
However, even in the US presidential elections bin Laden’s death was influential,  “the world is not ready”, they said without giving reasons.[?] For the sake of America’s long-term plans the fact remained hidden. If not kept secret and hidden, it would be difficult to maintain the occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan.
Although bin Laden was dead, from 2007 onwards, Washington, with fake audio messages or video images bin Laden “was kept alive”, and his name was used.

[…]

Note: My Turkish is not that good, so don’t rely on my translation for details, but the gist is very clear: Bin Laden died in 2007 and nobody in the US wants to admit it because it would be difficult to continue the war on terror once this fact became widely know.

Source: Takvim

Referendum in Kyrgyzstan Held Without Serious Problems

Some good news from Kyrgyzstan. The referendum on the new constitution has passed without serious issues. From Ria Novosti:

Bishkek, June 28 – RIA News. No serious violations during the referendum on a new constitution in Kyrgyzstan were found,  the CEC head Vladimir Churov said to journalists on Monday.

“All the international observer mission of serious violations during the elections did not notice” – said Churov.

He noted that the level of organisation of the referendum in Kyrgyzstan on the new constitution was higher than anticipated, especially in the light of developments in the country the past two months.

“The organization of the referendum has risen to the occasion”, said Churov.

However, according to him, the young members of electoral committees may have allowed some inaccuracies and errors.

In his opinion this can not significantly affect the results of the vote since the observers had voter turnout in areas different from the official numbers by only a few pecent.

“In my opinion, the majority of citizens voted in Kyrgyzstan rather intuitively, rather than trying to read the law the new constitution, as they expect it to stabilise the country”, said the head of CEC.

In his view, the issue of forming a government after the referendum is still on the surface.

“In the meeting today with (President of the Transitional Period) Rosa Otunbayeva, we talked about this subject. It is planned that in the fall or when they decide,  parliamentary elections will be held, and we agreed that the CEC will provide methodological support, including on security arrangements for elections”, he said.

In turn, a member of the Central Election Commission of Russia, Vasily Volkov, part of the mission of international observers reported that they had visited the 62 election district in most areas of Kyrgyzstan.

“In our mission we had 36 people, of which 23 were from public organizations, and we seen that even a small number would suffice, but they must be professionals who can quickly and accurately observe the elections”, Volkov said.

Good news indeed! It was the first referendum in Kyrgyzstan’s history and it was held peacefully and orderly despite efforts of some people to disrupt it. More than 90% of citizens voted for the new constitution, which establishes a parliamentary democracy and does away with many powers the president held. The voter turnout was high at 65%.

Obama invites Medvedev to his favorite fast-food restaurant

Burger time for Medvedev:

What I found intriguing is the blatant product placement:

Medvedev Obama Burger

Medvedev and Obama have Burger

Normally, I wouldn’t have paid too much attention to that if it weren’t for the post I wrote just before seeing this. Read it here.  Excerpt from the post:

The famous producer of soft drinks Coca-Cola will sell  kvass under the trademark “Krushka & Bochka” (Mug & Barrel) , which is produced in Russian factories, in the  U.S. , according Bigness.ru.

The start of sales of the famous Russian drink is timed to the visit of Dmitry Medvedev to the country . Kvass will be sold in plastic bottles  of 0,5 liters. The new product can be purchased later this month in stores Whole Foods Market in New York. A bottle of the drink will cost about 2.5 dollars. Coca-Cola began production of kvass in Russia in 2008.

Today, Coca-Cola produces 500 brands of carbonated and still beverages, including Diet Coke, Fanta, Sprite, Coca-Cola Zero, Vitaminwater, Powerade, Minute Maid and Georgia Coffee.

Or from the Coca-Cola company themselves, it sounds like this:

NEW YORK, June 24, 2010 –  Kvass has been a Russian staple of refreshment for centuries, enjoyed by generations of Russians across the country. Russian poet and novelist Alexander Pushkin describes how Russians believed they needed Kvass like the air for living. This unique taste lands on the shores of America this month when Coca-Cola North America launches Krushka & Bochka Kvass in the New York City area.

Opening a bottle of Kvass releases a fragrant bouquet reminiscent of freshly baked bread cooling on a windowsill. Malty with a sweet finish and light sparkle, Kvass is truly a thirst quencher like no other. Based on a traditional Russian recipe, Coca-Cola created and launched Krushka & Bochka Kvass in Russia in 2008. Since that time, Krushka & Bochka Kvass has become one of Russia’s best-selling brands in the fast-moving non-alcoholic fermented beverage category.

Amazing coincidence, isn’t it?

But wait, how did Nestea, the iced tea beverage from Nestlé, get there? Somebody in marketing didn’t pay attention, ey? Unlikely, the answer is: Beverage Partners Worldwide (BPW) which Wikipedia describes:

Beverage Partners Worldwide (BPW) is the name of the joint venture partnership between The Coca-Cola Company and Nestlé, created in 2001 as the successor to Coca-Cola and Nestle Refreshments (CCNR) founded in 1991. Coca-Cola and Nestlé hold equal parts in the joint venture.[1]

In late 2006, the two companies announced that their joint venture is focussed on producing and selling drinks based on black tea and green tea like Nestea and Enviga.[1]

The iced tea brand, Nestea, while owned by Nestle, is controlled in most global markets by BPW. BPW operates in more than 40 countries, marketing Nestea as well as other ready-to-drink chilled teas. Nestea currently trails well behind competitors, notably Lipton and Snapple, in most developed markets. In 2007 BPW lost the right to managed RTD flavoured milks and chilled coffees, including several Nescafe spin-offs. Coca-Cola subsequently agreed a separate joint venture with Illy Coffee to market RTD coffees

Is it safe? Sure, it’s safe!

Pravda: Americans to Become Used to Drinking Russian Kvass

Bottled Kvas in Russia

Bottled Kvas in Russia

From Pravda.ru:

The famous producer of soft drinks Coca-Cola will sell  kvass under the trademark “Krushka & Bochka” (Mug & Barrel) , which is produced in Russian factories, in the  U.S. , according Bigness.ru.

The start of sales of the famous Russian drink is timed to the visit of Dmitry Medvedev to the country . Kvass will be sold in plastic bottles  of 0,5 liters. The new product can be purchased later this month in stores Whole Foods Market in New York. A bottle of the drink will cost about 2.5 dollars. Coca-Cola began production of kvass in Russia in 2008.

Today, Coca-Cola produces 500 brands of carbonated and still beverages, including Diet Coke, Fanta, Sprite, Coca-Cola Zero, Vitaminwater, Powerade, Minute Maid and Georgia Coffee.

That’s nice to know, but what is kvass anyway? From Wikipedia:

Kvass or kvas (borrowed from Russian квас (kvas) or from Polish kwas (meaning acid) in the 16th century), sometimes called in English a bread drink, is a fermented beverage made from black rye or rye bread  (which contributes to its light or dark colour). By the content of alcohol resulted from fermentation, it is classified as non-alcoholic: up to 1.2% of alcohol, according to the standard of Russia.

It’s still – or again – very popular in Russia, again from Wikipedia:

Although western soft drinks such as Coca-Cola  and Pepsi  previously smothered the commercial sale of kvass in Russia, currently kvass is being marketed as a patriotic alternative to cola, sparking a recent “kvass revival.” For example, the Russian company Nikola (whose name sounds like “not cola” in Russian) has promoted its brand of kvass with an advertising campaign emphasizing “anti cola-nisation.” Moscow-based Business Analytica reported in 2008 that bottled kvass sales had tripled since 2005 and estimated that per-capita  consumption of kvass in Russia would reach three liters in 2008.

The news release from Coca Cola can be found here.

Press TV: ‘Mossad hit men targeted Erdogan’

Tayyip Erdogan

Image Source: Press TV

This one would be a major development if true. From Press TV:

The Israeli intelligence agency Mossad has failed in an attempt to assassinate Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a Jordanian weekly says.

Informed sources in Turkey say that the Mossad plot has been foiled by the country’s security forces, al-Manar quoted a report in the most recent edition of the Al-Majd weekly as saying.

There are also reports that Israel has been trying to incite violence inside Turkey by lending support to the militants of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

Earlier in June, Sedat Laciner, the head of the International Strategic Research Organization — a Turkish think tank — said Mossad agents and Israeli military retirees had been sighted providing training to PKK militants in Iraqi Kurdistan.

Laciner said Tel Aviv does not have a positive perception of Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party, which is led by Erdogan.

After an Israeli attack on a Gaza-bound flotilla that left nine Turkish citizens dead on May 31, Ankara drew up a roadmap to “completely” cut its ties with Israel.

Turkish President Abdullah Gul had earlier announced that a roadmap would be prepared on the issue of sanctions against Israel.

“The roadmap details a process through which Turkey will completely cut its ties with Israel” in several stages, Turkish daily Today’s Zaman reported on June 17.

According to the roadmap, the first step would be that Turkey’s ambassador to Tel Aviv, who had previously been recalled, would not be sent back unless Israel sends a member to a UN investigatory commission that aims to look into the Israeli attack on the Gaza-bound Freedom Flotilla.

The roadmap would also require all military training and cooperation with Israel to be halted and states that an internal Israeli inquiry into the attack would in no way be recognized by Turkey.

If that is true, I wonder if that doesn’t amount to a declaration of war of Israel to Turkey.

Indeed, there is mounting suspicion in Turkey that none other than Israel and Washington are stoking unrest in Kurdistan by supporting  the PKK. Especially, Turkey is investigating a recent attack of PKK forces on the Turkish Navy: Continue reading