Friday, July 21, 2006


Belgium is a weird country.

Actually Belgian Independence Day should be October 4th, since on October 4th, 1830, Independence was formally declared by the provisional government (known as Voorlopig Bewind in Flemish and Gouvernment Provisoire in French).

However, since Europe at the time was still trying to find out if a monarchy wasn't such a bad state form after all - Europes first experiment with a republic, France, had caused quite some headaches - these provisional rulers opted for a Constitutional Monarchy. Only problem: they couldn't find a King yet. Only one year later, on July 21, 1831, Leopold of Saxe-Cobourg, shipped over from England, would be crowned King of the Belgians in Brussels. And thus, even though at his accession to the throne his country was already 10 months old, the day he assumed control as Leopold I would become Belgian National Holiday.

I wish I could provide some more info on these early days and the events that led to Belgian Independence. Unfortunately, I'm rather short on time. So I'll try to keep it brief and to the point.

In 1815 Napoleon was beaten at Waterloo. At the Congress of Vienna the then European superpowers had already decided (before the actual battle) to amalgamate the Low Countries - what is now known as Holland, Belgium and Luxembourg - in the Dutch Kingdom under Willem I of Oranje (the Dutch Royals are from the House of Oranje/Nassau, wherein Orange is a place in France where they were once exiled and Nassau is a place in Germany where the very first Willem, known in Anglosaxon countries as William the Silent, was from).

Belgian Revolution 1830

For 15 years, from 1815 to 1830, a Dutch King was thus ruling over Flemings and Walloons (as well as over the Luxembourgers). And here's the thing. Willem was some kind of Enlightened Despot, but the fact that he never gave the "Belgians" equal rights, granted no press freedom, and introduced a couple of nasty, authoritarian measures made that he never "ticked" in the southern part of his Kingdom. Add to that the general animosity among the Walloons, who at the time possessed way more industrial backbone than the Dutch themselves, plus the fact that they had to accept Dutch as official language - the horror - and you have the ingredients of an uprising. It came on August 25, 1830, after riots broke out in Brussels at the end of a popular Royal Theater play called "La muette de Portici". Although the Orange-true Civil Guard managed briefly to restore some order, word got out, and riots ensued, in other places such as Liège, Verviers, Huy, Namur, Mons and Leuven. To try to cool down the situation, King Willem sent one son, Crown Prince Willem, to Brussels to negotiate. However, he also sent a second son, Frederik, Commander of the Royal Army, with a force of 6,000 to Vilvoorde, a place 10 kloms north of Brussels. The latter act was generally seen as a provocation by the protesters. As the tensions grew, the soon-to-be Belgians got reinforcements from Liège and free corps were raised.

By the 23rd of September King Willem had had enough and he ordered Frederik with his army, in the meantime 12,000 strong, into Brussels to show who was boss. The free corps were able to canalize the anger of the masses - who suffered from high unemployment - towards the royal troops, and a genuine battle unfolded in the heart of Brussels, the Warande Park. If you ever visit Brussels, that's the park right between the Royal Palace and Parliament (and if you ever fly over the center of Brussels, you will notice there's a gigantic freemason compass in the park, a legacy of the Austrian architect Bartholomeus Zinner). Anyway, for four days the battle raged in and around the park. The "Dutch" had cannons, but the "Belgians" threw anything they could lay their hands on from the rooftops. Musket fire was everywhere, and soon there were hundreds of dead and wounded on both sides. The beautiful painting by Gustaaf Wappers, see above, is a romanticized depiction of the death of a "Belgian" and the general uproar during those hectic days (it is a painting much in line with the Delacroix painting of the French Revolution. You know what I'm talking about - the painting with the stout woman with the gun and the bare knockers). In the night of September 26 to 27, the Royal Army had had enough and it left Brussels, marching back to Vilvoorde. During the fight, a provisonal government had formed - the Voorlopig Bewind/Gouvernement Provisoire - comprising a.o. strong characters such as Louis de Potter, from Brugge, and Charles Rogier, from Liège. Belgium's "Founding Fathers" are on the drawing below, a popular period litho. On October 4th, this Provisional Government declared Belgian Independence. Quite remarkable, already on November 10 elections were held, resulting in a National Congress, which formalized the independence of the new little state from the North Sea to the Ardennes. The search for a King could begin.

Belgian Revolution 1830


Monday, July 17, 2006


Before you all think MFBB has become a sissy, no, nee, non, nein and njet! I'm all for blasting Hizballah to kingdom come and reducing that fuckface Nasrallah to a smoldering heap of fat and bones. And if that's not clear enough, I AM in favor of disproportionate response. They kill an IDF soldier, kill 100 of 'em lousybeard good-for-nothing dumb-as-a-backdoor fanatical Quran-thumping A-holes. But not in this way. Close to 200 dead in Lebanon, and the (overwhelming) majority of them simple Lebanese citizens? NOT good, imho. I can't fail but notice the difference between the USAF going out of their way to avoid civilian casualties when conducting bombing operations in Iraq and/or Afghanistan, and apologizing at length and offering "blood-money" after the (sadly, inevitable) collateral damage does occur, and the IAF blasting half Beirut to smithereens without (from my POV at last) critically hurting Hizballah.

Lebanon - MODIS photo ca. July 14, 2006Consider the satellite photo of Lebanon to the left, taken this weekend by NASA's MODIS Rapid Response System. For the geeks, unlike Google Earth, MODIS provides real-time satellite pics via two birds, Aqua and Terra, which orbit in such a way that every location on the planet can be photographed at least once a day during daytime. On the downside (when comparing the images with GE high-res ones) is the low resolution, every pixel being a square of 250 x 250 m. Credit for this photo goes to fellow Belgian/Flemish blogger Luc Van Braekel, thanks Luc! Now, what you see is a big black cloud of smoke over Beirut, presumably coming from destroyed oil tanks of the al-Jieh electricity plant, and a smaller one more south - I assume that one's over Tyre. Yes, I know, burning oil tanks look much more dramatic than a destroyed missile site, which we couldn't see anyway on a photo like this one, but I can't help to think that a lot of ordnance is being released where it shouldn't. I am still taking into account that from my safe vantage point my estimation may just be that of an armchair general. OK. But what to think then of Michael Totten's post of July 15? For those who don't know Totten yet, he's a self-proclaimed "Liberal Hawk", is travelling the Middle East extensively (I have no idea how he manages to finance his exploits) and he considers Lebanon his second home. I've been following this guy for some 2 1/2 years now, and I think he knows damn well what he's talking about. This is how he reacted to the IAF air raids:

I sympathize one hundred percent with what Israel is trying to do here. But they aren't going about it the right way, and they're punishing far too many of the wrong people. Lord knows I could be wrong, and the situation is rapidly changing, but at this particular moment it looks bad for Israel, bad for Lebanon, bad for the United States, good for Syria, and good for Iran.


What should the Israelis have done instead? They should have treated Hezbollahland as a country, which it basically is, and attacked it. They should have treated Lebanon as a separate country, which it basically is, and left it alone. Mainstream Lebanese have no problem when Israel hammers Hezbollah in its little enclave. Somebody has to do it, and it cannot be them. If you want to embolden Lebanese to work with Israelis against Hezbollah, or at least move in to Hezbollah's bombed out positions, don't attack all of Lebanon.

Israel should not have bombed Central Beirut, which was almost monolithically anti-Hezbollah. They should not have bombed my old neighborhood, which was almost monolithically anti-Hezbollah. They should not have bombed the Maronite city of Jounieh, which was not merely anti-Hezbollah but also somewhat pro-Israel.

To underscore Totten's point, here's a small BBC item about a raid on the port of Abdeh, in the extreme north of Lebanon just 6 kloms south of the border with Syria. Yeah, I know, it's from the British Bullshit Company. Still...

Israel has extended its air campaign to northernmost Lebanon, killing at least 14 people, including nine soldiers, in the port of Abdeh near Tripoli.... The Israeli military said it had been targeting radar stations in Abdeh because they were used by Hezbollah to hit an Israeli ship on Friday, the Associated Press news agency reported.

Targeting Hizballah radar stations (do these mongoloid fuckers know how to operate radars?????) sounds like a good sport to me, but killing nine soldiers of a military the Israelis EXPECT to disarm Hizballah does not. Not content with Totten and the Beeb yet, I decided to peek at some Lebanese sites. Here's a snippet from Lebanese Political Journal, which proclaims it's the top-notch blog for Lebanese politics. At first glance, it didn't strike me as suffering from BDS or whatever other symptom of leftwing diseases:

A school in Tyre filled with refugees was bombed. The number of casualities is not specified.... The plastic factory in Tyre, the paper factory in Ouzai, and a soap factory have all be destroyed.

Finally, while wandering 'round the net I came across an explanation from Op-For, some kind of strategy page, which seems to offer a valid explanation for Israels strategy:

What we are witnessing in southern Lebanon is concurrent with actions designed to prep a battlefield for the insertion of ground forces. So far, Israel has relied on its dominance in sea and air forces to isolate Hezbollah, rather than focusing their brunt of their superior forces on actual enemy positions. By blockading the coast, neutralizing Beruit's airport, and damaging roads and bridges into and out of Lebanon, the IDF has cut off Hezbollah's supply routes by land, sea, and air, and blocked all lines of escape.


The end result is a battlespace that traps the now ill-equipped enemy force, the deal environment for Israel to crush Hezbollah forces. I think that in the coming days, we will see a sizable Israeli ground incursion into southern Lebanon, a campaign designed to exploit the favorable conditions that Israel has created for itself. I have the feeling that once that invasion comes, Hezbollah's ability to launch rocket attacks into Israel proper will be severly reduced, if not eliminated.

Hm, that's one explanation indeed. However, I for one am reluctant to accept the idea of the IDF once again rolling into southern Lebanon. I rather tend to think that the inexperienced Olmert and Peretz (Israeli Defense Minister) felt that after the collapse of their Gaza strategy (Olmert was one of the architects of the 2005 Gaza pullout), be it due to Paleostinian Dumbness, they should show they're not the wussies their enemies seem to think they are. The very near future will tell if the IAF has just been softening up Lebanon for a ground offensive. However: whether poised to roll in, as Op-For claims, or lashing out wildly without knowing how best to respond, like I tend to think, still doesn't justify indiscreminate bombing.

USS Liberty wreckAgain, before accusing me of talking like a softy, don't forget it wouldn't be the first time Israel acts like a trigger-happy Rambo on steroids. In the 1967 Six-Day War the American Naval Monitoring ship USS Liberty was attacked first by Israeli jets, then by Israeli motor torpedo boats. The final tally was 34 US sailors dead and 174 wounded. Later on the Israeli military said it thought the Liberty was the Egyptian Navy vessel El-Quseir. To this day there's an awful controversy going on about the whole case, with on one side the Israelis sticking to their version - a tragic mistake - and on the other side the survivors of the attack, who claim it was deliberately done. The combined air and sea assault left the USS Liberty a smoldering wreck pocked with 800 rocket and torpedo holes, see pic, taken from the USS Liberty website. Personally, I hope and pray it was a mistake. I couldn't bear the thought it was not, and I fail to see what advantage it could have gotten the Israelis. But if it was a mistake, the case of the USS Liberty shows that in the Israeli Armed Forces it's sometimes shoot first, ask questions later.

I'm just a dumb Belgian taxpayer who had better done some more biz paperwork this evening, but if I'm permitted to give the IAF some advice it would be that in the broad area between carpet bombing and surgical strikes they should try to move more towards the latter.


P.S.: CDR Salamander, if you're out there - you are a naval guy. I'd be interested to hear your take on the Liberty affair.