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Friday, 27 February 2015

An Alternate History Scenario for Every Country (Part Three)

Welcome to Part Three of the fortnightly series! (The links to Part 1 and Part 2  are here). This week I have some more scenarios and instead of putting a picture of the flag this week I'll put a picture of the event so please tell me which you prefer. Let's begin.

Ireland- The United Irishmen win Irish Independence
In the last decade of the 18th Century Europe had descended into war with Revolutionary France and counter-revolutionaries across Europe fighting. In 1791 a group of Irish Republicans inspired by the ideas of liberty, equality and brotherhood proclaimed by the French Revolution formed the Irish Brotherhood and in 1796 a group of French troops were going to invade to help this group achieve independence for Ireland. The invasion was aborted and two years later the United Irishmen rose up to try and win Ireland its independence but it was crushed by the British and it would take until 1922 and then only the south forming the Irish Republic. In this scenario the storms that deterred the French invasion in 1796 do not happen and the French invade. The United Irishmen rise up and join the invading French forces and Ireland is declared an independent republic the following year. The leader of the Irish rebellion and co-founder of the United Irishmen, Wolfe Tone, is made Ireland's first President and begins distributing land owned by the aristocracy and begins distributing it among the poor. Unlike the French he leaves the Church land alone knowing the major backlash he would get from the more pious peasantry. Ireland under Tone adopts a Constitution similar to that of the First French Republic or the US and quickly drifts into the protection of France. However conscription and rationing would be introduced and a militia formed as Britain blockades and tries to occasionally invade the new republic. This would continue when Napoleon comes to power and makes Ireland into a French puppet but France and Britain would turn the Irish sea and St George's Channel into a major naval warzone which would hinder Ireland further. When the Napleonic Wars ended Ireland would be recognized as an independent nation where they would rebuild relations with the British. When the Potato Famine hits in the 1840s it would still be devastating with the scope of how many crops were destroyed but with more people able to farm there would be a little more food available. Peace would last until the 20th Century when Irish Protestants wanting autonomy form their own version of the IRA which causes violence in Ireland all the way up to the 1990s when self-rule is given to the Protestant minority in Ulster.

South Africa- The Transvaal Republic and Orange Free State are not annexed by Britain
 After the Second Boer War, (1899-1902), the British Empire annexed the two Boer Republics of the Orange Free State and Transvaal, (also called the South African Republic), who were then made into colonies and were apart of the Union of South Africa. In this scenario Britain doesn't annex the two republics but instead makes them puppets which allows businesses looking for the gold in the republics to earn a bigger profit through lower taxes which lines the pockets of British MPs. If this had happened the Apartheid would not have come about. The British tried to increase the rights of the non-white peoples in the South African colonies, such as the Xhosa and Zulu, as liberalism became more popular after the 1850s. This in turn infuriated the Boer peoples and when Transvaal and the Orange State were added to this the Boer people became a large force in the Cape Colony. Quite a few hated the African populace as the African, and later Asian, people were competing farmers and laborers so when South African became independent in 1910 the British policies were largely curtailed and paved the way for in 1948 the National Party to introduce Apartheid. For this scenario the British only continue their policies in the Cape Colony, although liberals try and put pressure on the new Boer puppets to do the same, and race relations move along much more smoothly. The African National Congress, (ANC), is formed years later as an independence party instead of a party to remove racism. This would remain so until after the Second World War when decolonization happens and South Africa gains its independence as the Union of South Africa with relatively peaceful relations between the white and African people and the ANC would be the most popular party. The Orange State and Transvaal would have a history similar to post-colonial Zimbabwe with the African majority taking years to get into power whereas South Africa would have a more peaceful one. Nelson Mandela could even have been President years earlier.

Nicaragua- The US builds a canal in Nicaragua and not Panama
For many years the idea of building a canal was going to be built in Guatemala instead of Panama and in 1902 this almost came true until a volcano erupted in Martinique which put favor on Panama instead. In this scenario the volcano does not erupt and Congress allows the US to fund the building of a canal from Kukra Hill on the Caribbean to Lake Nicaragua and the Pacific. J.P.Morgan funds the expedition and earns millions but thousands of Nicaraguans die through construction and many US workers die through exposure to new diseases. Panama remains apart of Colombia as the US funded Panama's independence to get the canal built. By 1914 the canal is finally opened but the US aggressively defends the small country and sends troops to topple Nicaraguan governments who might nationalize the canal. This continues, (briefly abating in the 1930s and 1940s under Roosevelt's Good Neighbor Policy), and returns with a vengeance during the Cold War. During his Presidency Jimmy Carter proposes to return the canal to the Sandinista government but when Reagan comes to power he even more aggressively funds the Contras to topple the left-wing Sandinista government; even sending troops using the pretext that the Sandinista government is communist and would seize the canal. The Contras seize power thanks to this and causes a wave of repression against left-wing elements in Nicaragua, much to the criticism of the world's media. Eventually in the 1990s Clinton gives Nicaragua back the canal but years of warfare, exploitation and corruption still means that Nicaragua would be a poorer country.

Poland- The Third Partition of Poland never happens

  In 1795 the Third Partition of Poland took place which divided the nation once more between Austria, Prussia and Russia, wiping it from the map. In this scenario the three decide that Poland would serve better as a buffer state between the three to stop future wars, although Russia gets primary port rights in modern day Lithuania. This lasts until Napoleon invades and forms the Duchy of Warsaw returning former Polish lands to the Duchy although after Napoleon's defeat the three powers would reassert their power over Poland. Each side parries for influence over the government of the puppet nation with Prussian, Austrian and Russian troops occasionally crossing the border to put down revolts against nationalistic Polish fighters wanting a truly free Poland or revolutionaries who lean towards one of the other powers. By the late 19th Century, (after Germany unifies), the only controllers of Poland are the Russian and German Empires with Austria too distracted by internal strife. When the First World War breaks out Poland becomes a battle ground between the Kaiser's and Tsar's armies; each fighting for total control or even annexation of the buffer state. After the war Poland regains much of its old land but in 1939 two megalomaniacs aim to divide the nation once more...

India- The Mughal Empire deters foreign traders
Like with Poland this is an unlikely scenario because until European companies started wielding massive power the Mughals like foreign trade. In this scenario the Mughal Emperor Bahadur Shah in an attempt to fund his army to put down the revolts plaguing his empire installs taxes on Europeans. This would start with the small jizya, (a tax on non-Muslims which was adopted by the Ottoman Empire), before increasing to other, pricier taxes to put down the massive revolts. Soon the leaders of the revolts and already independent states, (few in India considering below the size of the Mughal Empire):
Eventual the traders deem India too expensive and the European governments preoccupied with imperialism in the Americas do not intervene in India which forces the traders further into South-East Asia and China. As a result the European states do not intervene in Indian affairs and the Mughals are left to try and restore their empire. Inevitably by the early-19th Century all that is left of the Mughal Empire collapses is reduced to a small area in Kashmir as ruling over an empire so large and divided through religion, ethnicity and feuding families makes it virtually impossible to rule. The Marathas and Hyderabad become the dominant powers in India with the East India Company never existing. As global temperatures drop suddenly in the 18th Century famines kill millions but still less than in our time with more fields devoted to wheat instead of cotton by the demand of the companies. Although often the fields are scoured and reansacked by the competing armies of the Marathas and Hyderabads. Trying to compete the two empires hire Europeans returning after the independence of the USA and hire them to build railroads. Following the Napoleonic Wars France and Britain compete and divides most of India between them which Germany later takes part in. Quickly more railroads and infrastructure would be built to accommodate the new imperial overlords. Although like imperialism in India in our timeline the three nations would rule India through princes. By the 20th Century a thriving middle class eager for independence is created and the French and British carve up German India following the First World War. Pan-Indianism becomes a popular idea in the country and after the Second World War India gains its independence but divided between the former French and British ruled land. In the 1980s the two Indias unite under Indira Gandhi creating a future economic powerhouse, (much like the India of today).

Liberia- Marcus Garvey leads African-Americans to settle in Liberia
From 1914 to his dramatic downfall in 1923 Marcus Garvey preached that African-Americans could never have full rights in the USA because the white government did not have their interests in mind and that they should emigrate to Africa in order to be equals, calling it the 'Back to Africa' scheme. Garvey's dream almost came to fruition with the Liberian President allowing Garvey supporters to move to Liberia and form farms but he pulled out and the plan failed. In this scenario the plan succeeds and Garvey alongside shareholders in Garvey's company the Black Star Line move to Liberia and buy farms. Soon more wealthy Garvey supporters follow in the initial band's footsteps and by 1922 the Black Star Line would have shipped thousands of African-Americans dissatisfied with the discrimination they faced in the United States becoming Liberian citizens. However most African-Americans would stay in the USA seeing the move to Liberia as being extreme, playing into the hands of white supremacists or just being too expensive. However tensions would boil over in Liberia with the wealthy Garvey supporters buying land that the Liberian government took from the native Liberians. Eventually an uprising would take place between the Liberian elite and land owners and the original Liberians and poor African-Americans who felt exploited in the same way as the Liberians. Only through intervention by foreign powers and calls of peace from Marcus Garvey does the civil war end although for years bitterness ensues. Inevitably the Liberian government would pass a law banning immigration from the USA, similar to the USA's Chinese Exclusion Act.

Ukraine- Khrushchev does not give Crimea to Ukraine

 In 1954 the First Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union gave Crimea to his homeland of Ukraine. In 1954 this was fine because Russia and Ukraine were united members in the USSR, (although the equivalent could be Lyndon Johnson giving half of Louisiana to Texas). In this scenario he doesn't give Crimea to Ukraine. Nothing major would happen excluding the fact that a million Russians would not move to Crimea so the Tatars would be a higher percentage of the population than in our timeline. Nothing however until 1991 with the collapse of the Soviet Union where instead of joining the newly independent Ukraine Crimea remains apart of Russia. Russia would pour millions into Crimea to keep the major naval base in Sevastopol functioning which would Crimea a very wealthy area with it being Russia's only major base in the Black Sea. When the anti-Russian protests erupt in 2013 Crimea would see immigration of ethnic Russians over the border and into Crimea but when a ban on the Russian language is passed as in our timeline in Ukraine Crimea does not secede from Ukraine because it was never apart of Ukraine. With the rebels in Donetsk and Lugansk being influenced by the Russians in Crimea they would not rise up as quickly so the current fighting in Ukraine could have otherwise been averted.

That's it for this week but for one week only next week will be Part 4! (Largely as the week after is Friday the 13th and I am a horror fan so you can guess what that post would be about). Please leave any suggestions and comments. Remember they don't have to be realistic they can be inventive or completely out there like Greek myths actually existing. If you want one sneak peak for next week one scenario would be if Juan Peron was never ousted from power in Argentina! Have a good day.

Friday, 20 February 2015

Comics Explained: Marvel Civil War

The Marvel cinematic universe has announced that Captain America 3 will focus on the Civil War storyline from 2006 but more importantly Spider-Man could be in it! Besides that the Civil War storyline was a major event in the Marvel universe with it being one of the major crossover events in the 2000s with World War Hulk, Secret War and the House of M. However people who are just getting into comics or have been introduced to comics thanks to the Marvel films may not know this story arc. This week we'll talk about the Marvel Civil War although as so many characters had their own spin-off from the story arc we'll talk about the main publication and some interesting tidbits from the others. Warning: this contains spoilers.

The origins of the Civil War
Unlike the Days of Future Past storyline Civil War kept in key with other Marvel crossovers starting a whole new publication with Civil War #1. The issue starts out with a group called the New Warriors, a superhero team comprising of young adults similar to the New Avengers, being followed by television crew in Stamford, Connecticut.

The New Warriors have a TV show based around them similar to cop shows but ratings for that series had been going down. The almost de facto leader of the New Warriors Speedball argues that since Nova left, (to go fight Annihlus in the Annihilation event), that they need to make the show exciting again and that leads us to this issue. The group find a group of supervillains hiding in Stamford but they are largely minor Marvel villains such as Cobalt Man and Coldheart but they are still powerful villains with one, Speedfreak, managing to take down the Hulk. Speedball convinces them to attack despite opposition from other members that the villains are too powerful. They attack and seem to get the upper hand against the villains until Namorita, (Namor the Sub-Mariner's cousin), pins a villain called Nitro against a school bus. Nitro tells Namorita that they are out of their depth and that they are playing 'with the big boys now'. Nitro has the power to turn into a living explosion which he then does.
It is later revealed that the New Warriors, (except Speedball), the three villains accompanying Nitro and 612 people including 60 children were killed in the blast. We then pick up with the X-Men and the Avengers who are helping look for survivors and generally clearing up the wreckage of the explosion but they are all debating whether the New Warriors should have contacted someone like the Avengers or the Fantastic Four as well as them saying that the public most likely would have lost support in superheros. Following the Hulk's rampage in Las Vegas just before the Planet Hulk storyline, Lucretia Von Bardas destroying a sizable region of Manhattan after Nick Fury tried to kill her and Scarlet Witch depowering 90% of Earth's mutants the public had become increasingly anti-superhero and Goliath even suggests that 'this was the straw that broke the camel's back'. When Tony Stark visits a funeral for the children killed in the explosion a mother of one of the dead spits at him and says that he is irresponsible with him funding heroes who then cause so much damage. People start talking about some reform to make heroes responsible of their actions as anti-hero violence starts with a gang smashing a bottle over the Human Torch's head before kicking him.

Sides form
The US President proposes a Congress Act called the Superhuman Registration Act which would get superheroes to register their secret identities with the government and effectively make them like police officers. Something like this has happened before in the Marvel universe but with Mutants with the Mutant Registration Act but in other comics as well most notably in Watchmen with the Keene Act. Just before the Civil War storyline there was a proposed act which Iron Man opposed even getting Titanium Man to attack him to prove that superheroes have to be independent but following the Stamford explosion he changed his mind. Tony Stark at the end of issue one goes to Washington to argue for the act while at the same time multiple heroes meet at the Baxter Building to discuss whether to register with divides emerging. The Fantastic Four, She-Hulk, Yellowjacket and Wasp are all in favor of the act while Luke Cage, Daredevil, the Young Avengers and Wolverine are against it with Spider-Man unsure. Meanwhile the head of SHIELD Maria Hill summons Captain America to the SHIELD Helicarrier to get him to be the poster child for the act and asks him who is planning to resist registration. He makes a good point that those who plan to resist stick to the streets plan to resist like Daredevil as well as people who had been let down by society such as Falcon. However a curious piece of character development happens when Hill asks Captain America to take down those who resist which Captain America refuses to do so. Hill calls him a traitor and tries to have him arrested but Cap uses his shield to block the SHIELD agents' tranquilizers before beating them up, jumping from the Helicarrier and getting a SHIELD pilot to land him safely, (masterfully adapted in Captain America 2).
What is curious about this is that it expands Captain America as a character. In the past he had just been a simple patriotic, USA all the way type of character but as he is resisting it paints a new image of him. That he may love the country but not the government and ironically fits into his original design. A character designed to resist Nazi tyranny and oppression but this time he is resisting a new form of oppression. Meanwhile at the Baxter Building meeting Uatu the Watcher appears which Dr Strange states is an ominous sign...

Fighting Begins
The following issue the act is passed.However to bolster each sides popularity they fight crime with anti-registration forces tying Vulture and Grim Reaper to a pole while pro-registration forces including Iron Man, Tigra and She-Hulk take down a giant robot in New York. As Iron Man says 'people are starting to believe in superheroes again' She-Hulk challenges him saying that will they still be heroes or just glorified SHIELD Agents while Tigra asks do people like Captain America and Falcon who have resisted registration still count as heroes. It raises a good debate and makes the audience challenge their view on what constitutes a hero as pro-registration heroes are accepting the law but are accepting a possibly unjust law while anti-registration heroes are still fighting for their morals but are breaking a law at the same time which was supposed to protect the public. We then cut to the Baxter Building where Reed Richards has become so distant in his work that he is neglecting to inform Susan Storm about a disk with 42 written on it and not joining her to visit Johnny Storm in hospital. Quite importantly though he says that the act is exciting him due to how revolutionary it is which puts him at odds with Susan Storm who makes a point that he is being excited about half their friends going to jail. In the Illuminati tie in Reed Richards joins with Tony Stark in accidentally disbanding the Illuminati with most members wanting to stay neutral.
Meanwhile we cut to the Young Avengers member the Patriot who is running across the New York skyline before being arrested by SHIELD Agents. It then shows that the entire group has been arrested but before they can go to prison, most likely Ryker's Island, an undercover Captain America and Luke Cage free them and get them to join the resistance. At the base we get a better scope of who has joined the resistance with Cloak, Dagger and Cable being there. Although attention is quickly diverted to the screen where people at the resistance base, pro-registration base, X-Mansion and the Daily Bugle watch the news. Spider-Man has become pro-registration and with Aunt May and Mary Jane in a safe house has decided to reveal his identity. When he takes of his mask and shows the world that he is Peter Parker J.Jonah Jameson quite comically faints.
Following this propaganda boost the pro-registration forces try to win more people over with Mr Fantastic going to Wakanda to convince Storm and the Black Panther to join him but T'Challa refuses but says 'One word of advice Reed. Call Susan' which is quite powerful as it shows that Mr Fantastic has been ignoring his family which would put future strain on the Fantastic Four. It is also revealed that Dr Strange has gone into stasis to decide whether the war is just as Tony Stark goes to the X-Mansion to convince Emma Frost to make the X-Men to join. However she rebuffs him saying that registration is too similar to the Mutant Registration Act and that where was the Avengers and Iron Man when mutants needed them most when Sentinels destroyed the mutant haven of Genosha and why should they support a government that put the remaining mutants in a virtual reservation being guarded by the machines built to destroy them.
Although I doubt this was intended this point really stands out as being allegorical to Native American civil rights with a major event, (disease for Native Americans and Decimation for mutants), wiping out most of the population with the remaining people forced onto reservations guarded by the very people who reduced their rights, (Indian Agents for Native Americans and Sentinels for mutants), as the government wonders why they are reluctant to help them. As Stark leaves he ominously says that he wants them 'neutralized' when the 50 State Initiate takes place but Bishop approaches him saying that he wants in; the X-Men were now being divided. The main four anti-registration members, (Daredevil,Captain America, Goliath and Hercules), adopt new secret identities, including my favorite part where Goliath complains that he is a community out-reach worker.

Others and Death
We find out that Speedball did survive the blast but full of remorse adopts a new persona, Penance. He creates a new suit to where to activate his powers 612 spikes dig into him with 60 digging deeper to remind him of the 612 people, including 60 children, who died in Stamford. Wolverine starts to track down Nitro but finds out that Atlantean sleeper agents have kidnapped him. He gets to Atlantis and after fighting back the sleeper agents he cuts of Nitro's arm. We also learn that Nitro had been taking the drug MGH, (Mutant Growth Hormone), which amplified his powers. Namor arrives and Wolverine argues with Namor as Wolverine wants to take him to the surface to stand trial. Namor argues in turn that Nitro has committed a massive crime against Atlantis for killing his beloved cousin Namorita and that the principle of 'an eye for an eye' must happen which Wolverine then accepts. Blade the vampire hunter registers but only to get at vampires in the government while Howard the Duck finds out that technically he doesn't exist so doesn't have to register. Spider Man starts to doubt as well his decision after Tony Stark gets him to use his powers to track heroes in the sewers and debates whether arresting heroes is right. The anti-registration forces then arrive at the Geffen-Meyer Chemical Plant where there was supposed to be an explosion trapping hundreds but Cable quickly deduced that it is owned by Stark Industries as pro-registration forces arrive. Iron Man asks for a ceasefire with Captain America but as they shake hands Cap places an EMP on the suit of armor which causes a new fight.
During the fight Thor arrives to the amazement of his friends but he doesn't recognize anyone and out of the blue kills Goliath. It is then revealed that Thor is actually a cyborg clone which enrages Susan Storm who knows that her husband is behind it. She allows the anti-registration forces to escape as new divides emerge in the war. Hank Pym devastated over his friends death starts taking anti-depressants and people start switching sides. Tearing their feelings apart Susan and Johnny Storm switch to anti-registration with Tigra while Giganta, Cable and a few others turn to pro-registration. The Thing feeling divided moves to join a group in Paris. The fight again changes when under request from SHIELD supervillains including Lady Deathstrike, Venom and the Green Goblin join the Thunderbolts.

The war starts to come to an end
In a change of heart Spider-Man joins the anti-registration force in Civil War #5 after a fight with Iron Man. He goes into the sewers to track down Captain America but is caught off guard by two minor villains, Trickster and Jack O'Lantern, working for the Thunderbolts. Before they could do any damage to him someone shoots them both in the head. We only learn the identity of Spider-Man's savior later on: the Punisher. For those who don't know the Punisher, (Frank Castle), is a vigilante who kills criminals and supervillains and ironically in his first appearance The Amazing Spider-Man #129 he tried to kill Spider-Man who was accused of murder. Castle takes an injured Spider-Man to Captain America's headquarters and joins his group with him angry that the government has employed villains like Venom and Taskmaster to fight for them.
This decision had become apparent in Punisher War Journal: Civil War #1 who killed Stilt-Man, (yes there was a Stilt-Man), despite the villain saying he was a member of the Thunderbolts. Even the Thunderbolts were against the new villains with them arguing that the new villains do not want redemption like the group set out to achieve but instead are only joining to get out of jail. The Punisher turns out to be a handy member helping anti-registration forces to escape Molten Man and sneak into the Baxter Building where we finally find out what 42 is. Plan 42 is a prison in the Negative Zone designed to hold superheroes. The anti-registration forces plan to free their forces from the Negative Zone but in #6 when two villains ask to join Captain American the Punisher kills them. In anger Captain America almost cripples Castle and forces him to leave. At the end of the issue the anti-registration forces with Storm and the Black Panther breaking neutrality and joining stage an assault on the prison. We then find out that Tigra had been a double agent but Captain America had his own with the shapeshifter Hulking taking Yellowjacket's appearance. In the final issue Cloak transports the heroes to New York where the fighting continues. Captain America however sees that paramedics, firefighters and police are actually against what he is doing and realizes that he is doing more damage than good. He surrenders and the Civil War ends.

Following the war two Avengers sprang up; the Mighty Avengers led by pro-registration heroes and the Secret Avengers led by anti-registration forces. However it spelled the end for Captain America who on his way up the court steps to await trial was assassinated by Crossbones. Norman Osborn, (a.k.a the Green Goblin), quickly became head of the Thunderbolts which would lead to trouble ahead...

Friday, 13 February 2015

An Alternate History Scenario for Every Country (Part 2)

The second part in the fortnightly series. Any suggestions for possible scenarios just leave them in the comments. They can vary from being completely out there to realistic. Enjoy!

Spain- The Republicans win the Civil War
In our timeline in 1939 the fascist Nationalist Spanish under Francisco Franco managed to defeat the leftist Republican Spanish government after almost three years of bitter fighting that claimed many lives. In this scenario after the death of the original leader of the Nationalists Jose Sanjurjo the Nationalists become disoriented and the UK and France, (who remained neutral in the war), send arms, technology and supplies which helps the Republicans triumph over the Nationalists, despite being armed by Nazi Germany and fascist Italy. The leaders of the Nationalists are arrested and are either executed for treason or are given life sentences. With the country ravaged by endless warfare Spain retreats into isolation as in our timeline so it can recover. However the Republicans continue their laws which limited the power of the Catholic Church had on Spain with some supporters of the Popular Front, (Spain's left wing coalition), assaulting priests and vandalizing churches in anger at the Church for not supporting the Republic. The government would ignore these acts and so would the world who would be distracted by Hitler. Spain would continue to remain in isolation when war broke out although it would openly allow the French Resistance and refugees to cross the border. Hitler would be less likely to turn to Spain for aid to capture Gibraltar but in 1943 the Wehrmacht cross the border and enter Spain. The Republican government flees to Cadiz and Hitler creates a puppet fascist government under Gonzalo Queipo de Llano in Madrid with support from disgruntled conservatives, Jesuits and Catholics who feel discriminated against. The British and Americans invade Spain and Italy simultaneously to stop the Wehrmacht from taking the whole of Spain. By 1944 Spain is liberated and a new constitution is made with a less fanatical government so the persecution of Christians stop. With a less nationalistic government in power Spain's decolonization goes more smoothly and tensions over Gibraltar are much lower.

Grenada- The US invasion starts a guerrilla war
  In 1983 the Deputy Prime Minister of Grenada Bernard Coard overthrew the Marxist-Leninist government of Maurice Bishop in order to build closer ties with Cuba while Bishop wanted to remain neutral. The US invaded claiming that the airport was going to be used to land military jets, (despite claims otherwise from the House of Representatives), and overthrew Coard. In this scenario guerrilla soldiers from the New Jewel Movement, (Bishop's original group before the coup), fight against the invading US soldiers. They would vilify Coard for his coup against Bishop while seeing Bishop as a martyr. Castro would send arms, money and soldiers to train further guerrilla soldiers with the USSR sending supplies as well although their war in Afghanistan would lessen the amount they send. President Reagan's massive anti-communism would make him send more troops into Grenada as well as sending heavy bombers to bomb communist held areas and napalm to burn the foliage. The US public sees the parallels between Grenada and Vietnam and want out bar the more right wing conservatives. As reports of human rights abuse begin to emerge all caught on camera for the US public to see popularity in Reagan declines. The Iran-Contra scandal leaks out and in accompaniment with Grenada Reagan is impeached. George Bush removes troops and the New Jewel Movement declares victory. However Grenada's economy and infrastructure is destroyed, including the airport, and for years later Commonwealth and Cuban aid has to be used to help the countries economy.

South Korea- North Korea annexes South Korea.
At the start of the Cold War North and South Korea went to war and the North almost annexed the South but the UN coalition led by the US pushed them back. In this scenario North Korea manages to completely conquer the South before the coalition can intervene. South Korean dictator Syngman Rhee flees to Taiwan but most of his cabinet is captured by the communist forces. Kim Il-sung reforms the southern communist party and merges it with the Northern Worker's Party of Korea. In the south all non-communist politicians, generals and intellectuals are rounded up and either summarily executed or are sent to reeducation camps. Northern propaganda spreads to the south with images of Kim Il-Sung being draped over important buildings, communist messages being broadcast over radio and any non-communist literature banned. The Korean army would then be made into one of the world's largest as they are trained to battle capitalist armies. The alternate Korea would actually be less repressive than our North Korea as most northern propaganda is aimed at anti-US and anti-South Korea with it becoming isolated to prevent southern influence so it is easy to imagine Korea being like China. Korea would go through an industrial boom with its neighbor China during the 1970s and although it would not be as rich as China it would be far wealthier than North Korea today. To this day in Korea Kim Il-sung would be as venerated as he is in North Korea in our timeline.

North Korea- South Korea annexes North Korea
Syngman Rhee was just as adamant to unify Korea as his communist counterpart and he too almost succeeded if China had not intervened and pushed back the UN coalition led by the US. In this scenario China decides that it still has not recovered fully from literally decades of civil war to help the Koreans, seeing another war as possibly ending the communist regime. Kim Il-Sung flees to Beijing and becomes largely forgotten by history. Syngman Rhee however was not democratic so would continue his anti-communist policies into the north. As Kim Il-sung had already banned most parties that left only the Worker's Party of Korea to ban. Rhee would then arrest leading generals in the former North Korean army as well as arresting communist politicians and intellectuals who hadn't already fled to China or the USSR. Kim Il-sung's propaganda machine would be dismantled and any left wing groups disbanded with their leaders secretly executed or arrested. What then happens in the north would be parallel to that in the south in our timeline with it remaining agrarian until the late 1970s and early 1980s. The Korean economy would boom with Pyongyang becoming a major technological and industrial center instead of the run down city it is today. When Korea becomes fully democratic different ideologies return to the north with the Communist Party making some gains near the Chinese border. This alternate Korea would resemble our South Korea.

Germany- Germany unifies in 1849 instead of 1871
Following the Revolutions of 1848 which swept across Europe a Parliament of the German states came together in what became known as the Frankfurt Parliament. They intended to create a unified, liberal Germany but with a monarch as Head of State in the form of the Prussian king Frederick William IV. He toyed with the notion but his romantic idea of reforming the Holy Roman Empire and stating that he did not want to touch a crown touched by 'the hussy smell of revolution'. Thus Germany had to wait until 1871 to be unified. In this scenario William Frederick IV decides that King of Germany sounded better than King of Prussia and in 1849 he is crowned King Frederick William I of Germany with one of the organizers of the Frankfurt Parliament, most likely Heinrich von Gagern, as his Chancellor. Instantly the ideas put forward by the Parliament is set in place including freedom of speech, a free press, full suffrage, abolishment of capital punishment and freedom of religion. In the first few years of Germany's unification the King and Parliament argue over issues with Frederick William believing in the Divine Right of Kings although with his successors this friction would dissipate. With Germany unifying before Louis Napoleon leads a coup no war happens between France and Germany so France keeps Alsace-Lorraine. However war does erupt between Germany and Austria which Germany easily wins and annexes Austria's land in Poland. The more liberal government allows the SPD, (the German equivalent of the Labour Party), becomes the dominant political party. The liberal government remains out of wars until the early 20th century where it sides with there 'brothers' in Austria as well as out of fear of France and Russia. Germany would still lose the First World War but the liberal government and less autocratic monarch would enable post-war Germany to remain a stable constitutional monarchy instead of a weak republic.

Uganda- Idi Amin remains in power
Idi Amin was the dictator of Uganda from 1971 to 1979 where his rule led to the Ugandan economy plummeting, the currency becoming worthless, between 100,000 to 500,000 people being executed, expelling over 60,000 Asians from Uganda and his personal feats being rather erratic. One such one included sending Queen Elizabeth II a letter saying that if she wanted a real man to come see him. He was overthrown after he declared war on Tanzania who then invaded Uganda and forced him into exile. In this scenario no war happens between Uganda and Tanzania so Amin remains in power. Amin continues his bloodthirsty regime with him expelling other ethnic minorities including whites and Lugbaras who flee to Britain and Kenya. Amin would most likely continue his aggression to Israel, (he had an Israeli plane hijacked), with him using the Ugandan secret service to hijack and hold to ransom Israeli planes. He would also start publicly executing political dissidents and homosexuals garnering international condemnation. He most likely would go ahead with his dream of building a giant statue of Hitler in the capital, (I'm not making this up he really wanted to do this). Meanwhile the Ugandan economy would continue to plummet through corruption in the government. In the later 1980s when on a state visit to Libya to meet with ally Muammar Gaddafi the military would lead a coup and his bloodthirsty regime would finally end.

Canada- The US annexes Canada
 During the War of 1812 there was some talk of the United States annexing Canada for a few reasons including to stop British supplied Native American warriors hoping over the border like Tecumseh, to get full control over Great Lakes trade and to push their enemy out of North America. This never happened as mainly the US did not manage to win enough land to annex Canada. In this scenario the British distracted by Napoleon send more troops to Europe so the United States army wins major battles in Canada. Britain cuts its losses and cedes Canada to the US with much anger from both the Canadians and Americans, (many Americans were against expansionism). The United Sates starts putting trade ports in Newfoundland and the Great Lakes. For years debates are made whether to make the Canadian provinces states with southern states hotly against it as they would be non-slave states. Meanwhile the army wages war against the Native American tribes, especially against the Iroquois, and only when Tecumseh is killed can they sign treaties with Native Americans giving the federal government land. In 1830 with Andrew Jackson signing the Indian Removal Act it is expanded to include the Canadian Native Americans who are forced into reservations but the poorer farm land in Canada means that they would have a very hard life compared to the Plains Native Americans. When the US goes to war against Mexico annexing Texas, California and other Mexican lands, (the vast American immigration would continue because of gold discovered there), the Canadian provinces would be made states while most of the Mexican land being made slave states. While a Union Pacific Railroad is made in the Plains another is made stretching from Quebec to Newfoundland although this would cut through Native American lands reducing them further. Slowly English Canadian and French Canadian culture would be lost to US culture, (on a side note Wolverine might not be Canadian as he was made Canadian as a thank you to Canadian Marvel fans).

Marshall Islands- The Marshall Islands declare independence in 1918
The Marshall Islands were once a German colony until they were made a Japanese mandate after the First World War with Japan invading them during the conflict. In this scenario the Marshall Islands are not invaded during the war so when Germany is failing in Europe in 1918 the Marshall Islands decides to become independent. They expel German governors and when the Treaty of Versailles is signed the new League of Nations acknowledges the Marshall Islands' independence. The Islands soon ally themselves with their nearby neighbors Australia and New Zealand who they rely on for protection having a small population. When World War Two breaks out Japan invades the islands in order to attack Australia and New Zealand later. The US then would expel the Japanese army when they enter the war. After the war the Islands build up relations with the US although they refuse to let atomic testing be done in their waters after seeing the destruction done to Japan. As a result the people living around where the bombs would have been tested live a healthier life with no radiation in the land. On a side note Spongebob Squarepants would have a different setting; Bikini Bottom is named after the Bikini Atoll where the nuclear weapons testing took place.

Australia- Humans do not cross the Sahul Shelf
 This is a complicated one as it is not entirely proven. Thousands of years ago there was a land straight called the Sahul Shelf which connected Australia to Papua New Guinea and it is one theory that humans crossed this straight and settled Australia. This scenario is based on the fact that this theory is correct, (it could be incorrect), and that the arid straight and the deserts of Northern Australia made the prehistoric humans believe that the land was inhospitable. When sea levels again rose covering the shelf during the Ice Age humans then became cut off from Australia. On Australia the exotic wildlife that were hunted to extinction by humans remain including a bull sized wombat called Diprotodon, a marsupial cat called Thylacoleo and a 7 meter long monitor lizard called Megalania. The wolf like marsupial Thylacine which was nicknamed the Tasmanian Tiger by Europeans because of their striped bodies and the fact that they lived on Tasmania would remain on the mainland with Tasmanian Devils as humans hunted them to extinction on the mainland before Europeans arrive. However all these creatures would quickly go extinct when the Dutch and British arrive introducing pigs, rats and deciding that these unusual animals would be good hunting trophies. However what is more important is that the Aboriginal people would not exist which could change the entire history of Australia as well as its culture. An entire ethnic group never existing could have a massive effect on world history that we might not be able to grasp. Many ideas about Australian stereotypes would not even exist without Aboriginal Australians such as boomerangs, (used by the Aboriginal Australians), and dingoes, (introduced by the Aboriginal Australians). We cannot even guess what Australia would be like without the people which shaped the country for centuries, (shaping it even more than white Australians).

Thanks for reading and please leave any suggestions. The next round will be up in a fortnight so the deadline for suggestions ends on February 26th!

Friday, 6 February 2015

Who are the Boko Haram?

Many of you would have heard about the Boko Haram; a terrorist group located in Northern Nigeria. However most of their actions for one reason or another has been overlooked by the rest of the world. However what exactly is this organisation? Information for this post comes from Al Jazeera, the BBC and CNN.

Who are the Boko Haram?- The name of the group isn't actually Boko Haram; this is the local name of the group but has been adopted by international organisations to refer to the group. Their official name is Jama'atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda'Awati Wal-Jihad, (translated as 'People Committed to the Prophet's Teachings for Propagation and Jihad), and their de facto name Boko Haram translating to 'Western Education is Forbidden'. Their name shows an obvious antagonism towards the Western style of teaching to favor instead a fundamentalist, Islam style of education. We can also learn more about them from their logo.
In the center there is an open Qur'an indicating that they are Muslim and possibly even proselytizers with a black standard with the shahada, (the Muslim declaration of faith), saying the shahada in Arabic: 'There is no God but Allah and Mohammed is the Messenger of Allah'. Used in this way the shahada is often associated with Wahhabism so this shows us more about their religious beliefs. Finally we have two crossed Kalashnikov rifles indicating their violent tendencies. From this we can gather that they wish to promote fundamentalist Islamic teachings as well as to oppose Western teaching styles.

The origin of the Boko Haram- The origin of the group lies in the turbulent past of Nigeria. Ethnic and religious violence had rocked the country in the past and the end of military rule helped some more violent groups emerged where previously they would have been suppressed. Through social inequalities academics from the northern states had gained influence with the youth being attracted to the more extremist clerics in the north who offered an alternate government system to the corrupt one in power. Thus in 2002 comes Mohammed Yusuf, pictured below.
Yusuf founded the group in the capital city of the Borno state, Maiduguri, where his extremist ideology attracted many young people who had become angry at the social inequality in Nigeria. The Nigerian government largely dismissed the growing power of the group despite Yusuf's growing militancy despite the fact he wanted to establish his own Sharia law in Nigeria. This ended in 2009 when clashes happened between the police and Boko Haram happened resulting in Yusuf being arrested and dying in custody. His deputy however managed to escape and he now currently leads Boko Haram. The group's current leader is Abubakar Shekau.
The group now- Shekau made the group militant and that brings us here today. Boko Haram started mass kidnappings, executions and bombings which caused a state of emergency to be declared in 2012. The group has claimed many innocent lives with in 2013 they killed up 200 civilians in the town of Baga before returning on the 3rd January, 2015 to mercilessly murder 2000 people, even using rocket-propelled grenades to do this. They have targeted civilians with a combination of psychopathy and sadism with in the January of 2015 alone they had razed 16 villages to the ground as well as bombing mosques, markets, football matches and elections in 2014 with each attack claiming as much as 40 innocent lives each. In 2013 alone they murdered 10,000 people which is more than all the casualties in the Ukrainian conflict. What shows their depravity even more though is their use of children and their targeting of schools. In the first half of 2014 they targeted 50 schools killing over 100 children and 70 teachers. In one attack they sewed a bomb into a teenagers rucksack and dressed the bomber into an assembly in school uniform claiming a minimum of 48 lives. Twice in January 2015 they used two innocent ten year old girls as suicide bombers, (where people believe they were not even aware of carrying bombs). Hundreds of human rights abuse have came through with non-Muslims and any Muslims who do not follow the groups view being subjected to decapitation and petty criminal having their hands cut off. Women suffer more with young girls either being used as bait for soldiers or are sold as sex slaves. We all remember in 2014 when the group kidnapped over 200 girls from a school and what is scary is that we have not found them all.

How influential are they?- The Boko Haram has managed to declare a caliphate. The group rules over 50,000 square kilometers, or 20,000 square miles, which to put into perspective ISIS currently controls 32,133 square kilometers or 12,407 square miles. No official group has recognized the Boko Haram's claim of forming a caliphate, (and non will), but it is still as terrifying thing. They are also expanding rapidly outside Nigeria with them attacking Cameroon and merely a few hours before this was posted they attacked a border town in Niger. They have caused up to 1.5 million people to flee because of their growing power. They are also well funded. Al-Qaeda and Al-Shabaab have been funding the group. Unfortunately this is not the only way they are getting funds. They often make millions by kidnapping foreigners and Nigerian officials with them at one point abducting the wife of Cameroon's Vice-President although she has been returned despite the Cameroon government saying that they never paid a ransom, (something highly doubtful considering the group's reputation). They also profit greatly from kidnapping innocent women and young girls to sell as sex slaves and with reports from some of the girls from the 200 who were kidnapped who managed to escape it is likely that they have sold the others in the slave trade. This both shows their depravity and that the slave trade has not died.
How did they get so powerful?- A major reason why the Boko Haram became so powerful was the ineptitude of the Nigerian government. The President of Nigeria Goodluck Jonathan has been known to deliberately downplay the numbers of people killed by Boko Haram to make the group seem less of a threat. When the 200 girls were kidnapped he spent 18 days covering it up by claiming it was made up to stop him from getting re-elected which delayed the search for them. There were also reports that in the October of 2014 the ceasefire he negotiated was with the wrong terrorists and some have said that he made the deal up to boost poll ratings for him. The group has even managed to infiltrate the Nigerian government with corrupt officials letting helicopters going through checkpoints and Jonathan himself stated in 2012:
Some of them are in the executive arm of government, some of them are in the parliamentary/legislative arm of government, while some are even in the judiciary, some are also in the armed forces, the police and other security agencies.
The military have also inflamed the situation with Amnesty International reporting frequent electrocuting, rape and torture during the fight. Summary executions, shooting protesters and corruption has made 90% of the population distrust the army and convince some to join the group. Finally the media also has given the group much less attention compared to ISIS with Al Jazeera and the Israeli paper Haaretz only reporting it's actions fully. When ISIS captured Mosul and fought in the streets of Kobane emergency meetings were held and air strikes started. When Boko Haram took Baga and solidified their new 'caliphate' it was ignored by most media. Although timing also helped as when the Baga massacre took place the Charlie Hebdo attacks happened. Also most of the world has been looking at or sending troops to Iraq since 2004 whereas Nigeria had relative peace so naturally the press would focus on this area of the world where the US and coalition forces have had such a major presence. Nevertheless the lack of press attention made the Catholic Archbishop of Jos criticize the media saying:
I can smell a lot more trouble. It's not going to be confined to this region. It's going to expand. It will go to Europe and elsewhere.
Recently the UK, France, Israel and Canada have pledged support with the UK sending trainers and aid to Nigeria while the French have sent 3,000 troops for counter-terrorism. China has also offered satellite data and military equipment, (in recent years China has been investing in African countries). Niger, Cameroon and Chad have also started to fight the group with Chad a few days ago routing Boko Haram forces near the border.

What will happen in the future with the group is uncertain. However the fanaticism of the group has made the world worried and its ever growing strength could mean that northern Nigeria could be the center of world terrorism instead of Iraq and Afghanistan.