June 13, 2024

REVISED - Miniseries Review: "The Last Post" (BBC - 2017)


I originally reviewed this excellent miniseries in 2018 soon after it was released. I watched it again because of what is happening in the region, including the Yemeni Houthi involvement in the Israel-Hamas conflict in Gaza and the West Bank, and I was in the mood for some good entertainment. You can read that initial review here. I was able to get much more out of it the second time – there is a lot there.

I highly recommend it on the same two counts as before. Not only is it solid entertainment – the performances across the board of the BBC production are excellent – but also addresses the British experience in Aden (‘Adan) in the mid-1960’s; It is somewhat applicable to the geopolitical situations in which the United States finds itself today in the region.

"The Last Post"* follows a unit of the Royal Military Police and their families in Aden in 1965. Newlyweds Captain Joe Martin and his wife Honor arrive into the mix and must adapt to their new environment and their new lives together. Throughout the community, relationships are tested as the women struggle against what is expected of them as British Army wives and their own preferences.  At work, the soldiers fight a growing local revolutionary insurgency and face constant threats from hand grenades and snipers.

That’s the theatrical story that carries the underlying theme – a declining empire dealing with local nationalism and confronting “liberation” movements. It also deals with military relationships between the officers (and their families), noncommissioned officers, and enlisted troops. It offers insight into the British Army, still one of the best military forces in the world. The series did not fully explain the command relationships between the various military units in Aden, but, this is entertainment, not a documentary. An added predictable touch is meddling from an American journalist (ably played by Australian actress Essie Davis).

On November 30, 1967, British forces withdrew from Aden and the independent People's Republic of South Yemen was proclaimed. It lasted until 1990 when South Yemen and North Yemen (Yemen Arab Republic) merged to form the Republic of Yemen.

We’ve seen how that has worked out. The port of Aden was the location of the October 12, 2000 terrorist attack on the US Navy Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS Cole (DDG-67) while the ship was conducting an ill-advised, politically-motivated refueling/“show the flag” stop in Yemen. Read my comments on that folly.

I want to give a shout out to the standout performances by Stephen Campbell Moore as Lieutenant Ed Laithwaite (I see some of me in his character), and Jessica Raine and Essie Davis for, well, first, being Jessica Raine and Essie Davis. Jessica Raine’s performance as Alison Laithwaite, a conflicted, alcoholic, unfaithful wife dealing with her marriage, is excellent, often to the haunting rendition by Ketty Lester of “Love Letters (Straight from Your Heart).”

I highly recommend the series. It moves quickly, and despite a few questionable military tactics, requires very little suspension of disbelief to watch.

Watch it on Amazon Prime.


* The "Last Post" is a British and Commonwealth bugle call used at end of day ceremonies, as well as military funerals, and ceremonies commemorating those who have died in war, similar to the US armed forces’ “Taps.” 

Listen to the “Last Post” by the Royal Marines at Prince Philip’s Funeral.

April 1, 2024

Israeli Airstrike on Iranian Consulate in Damascus Kills Senior Iranian IRGC Leader

Iranian Consulate - Damascus, Syria

An Israeli airstrike in the early evening hours of April 1 on the Iranian consulate in Damascus, Syria, killed the apparent target of the operation, Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Brigadier General Mohammad Reza Zahedi.

According to Iranian television, Zahedi was the commander of Qods Force units in Syria and Lebanon. The Qods Force is a capable special operations organization charged with much of Iranian activities in the region and around the world. A previous commander of the Qods Force, Qassem Soleimani, was killed in an American airstrike in Baghdad in January 2020.

According to the semi-official IRGC-affiliated Tasnim News Agency, five other IRGC commanders and two advisers were killed in the consulate along with Zahedi. They include Zahedi's deputy and chief or staff. The Islamic Republic News Agency reported that the consulate building was completely destroyed. Syrian television added that everyone in the building was killed.

Mohammad Reza Zahedi

Zahedi is one the IRGC's top commanders with a wealth of operational and command experience. A combat veteran of the Irani-Iraq War, he previously served as the commander of the IRGC Air Force, then commander of the IRGC Ground Force, before taking command of all Qods Forces deployed to Lebanon and Syria - one of the key commands in the IRGC. 

The loss of Zahedi and virtually his entire senior staff is a severe blow to Iranian foreign policy in the region - this was a bad day for the Iranians.

I am impressed with the execution of the Israeli operation. 

I lived in Damascus not far from these Iranian diplomatic facilities - embassy, consulate, and ambassador's residence. These are located in crowded areas with civilian residential compounds and buildings. The Iranian diplomatic staff in Damascus reported that neither the ambassador nor any other personnel were injured in the attack - this shows the accuracy of the Israeli strike.

It also highlights the ability of the Israeli intelligence services to determine that at least eight IRGC commanders and advisers would be in the consulate building at the same time, and determine it in time to take action to eliminate the targets.


March 30, 2024

Taliban to revive policy of stoning and flogging women


Mullah Hibatullah Akhundzada

Taliban Leader Mullah Hibatullah Akhundzada announces a return to the policy of stoning women: 

"We will soon implement the punishment for adultery. We will flog women in public. We will stone them to death in public. We will bring shari'ah to this land.”

How enlightened - stoning and flogging. 

Stoning as a form of capital punishment goes back to ancient times. Stoning appears to have been the standard method of capital punishment in ancient Israel. The Torah and Talmud prescribe stoning as punishment for a number of offenses, however, Rabbinic Judaism developed a number of procedural constraints which made these laws practically unenforceable. 

Although stoning is not mentioned in the Quran, classical Islamic jurisprudence imposed stoning as a shari'ah punishment for adultery based on hadith (sayings attributed to Muhammad). 

Only a few isolated instances of legal stoning are recorded in pre-modern history of the Islamic world. In recent times, stoning has been a legal or customary punishment in Iran, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Mauritania, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Yemen, parts of Nigeria, Afghanistan, Brunei, and tribal parts of Pakistan. That said, it is rarely practiced - it appears that is about to change in Afghanistan. 

If you want to see just how barbaric Islamic stoning is, I recommend the excellent movie The Stoning of Soraya M, a 2008 movie about the stoning of a young woman in Iran.

Scene from "The Stoning of Soraya M"

The movie stars the talented Shohreh Aghdashloo, Mozhan Navabi, and Jim Caviezel, and is available for free on YouTube.

I will caution that the stoning scenes are graphic and intense. The requirements for stoning are quite precise, as shown here (click here for a larger view):

Welcome to the 7th Century.