Bahrain gets behind Space Shuttle! Image uploaded by Mike Knight, original file name is ISD_highres_STS101_STS101-718-27_2 taken from
Bahrain gets behind Space Shuttle!

That itty bitty thing that is almost completely obscured by the Shuttle’s rudder is the archipelago of Bahrain. Not only one of the smallest kingdoms in the world, but also one of the smallest countries therein. Period.

But ask any Bahraini about his country and you will be forgiven for thinking that they hail from one of the largest, most powerful, most vibrant countries on God’s Earth. Maybe the Universe even!

Small or big doesn’t matter much, though, when you try to understand the political upheaval that we continuously go through. From one scandal to the next. From one demonstration to the next. From one threat to the next. From one disaster to the next. Quite tiring of course, but it seems to have become our stock in trade. We’re getting used to it.

The latest fracas was signalled by the controversial MP Jassim Al-Saidi who issued one of his infamous outputs – never self thought or instigated, some contend – by demanding that Bahrain should turn the military loose on “the agitators who harbour ill for this country and its blessed leadership and are absolutely instructed to wreak chaos by outside forces” – or words to that effect. The press and the opposition reacted as expected to this “test balloon”. But the signal was loud and clear. Someone high and mighty was getting pissed off, and the suggestion was supposedly made to “do something” about the situation.

I guess the usual riot police convoys of twos upgraded to six (at least) for the past few weeks was not enough, or someone rightly decided that they were still ineffective and cannot control the various skirmishes in some Bahraini villages. So, the common and tried and trusted solution must have been to the lines of “let’s throw more power at the problem and hope that those kids and villagers will be controlled.”

It didn’t.

More power was needed – common wisdom demanded.

Malkiya – a village on the western shores of Bahrain, the mother island, had some beef with officials. Someone was burying the sea and cutting them off from enjoying it or going out in their boats to make a living. They decided to protest.

We can’t have that. They were given the wall, and now they think that their station has been elevated, and that any time they go on a demo the government or officials or the community or those in power would acquiesce and give them what they want. What rubbish. We can’t have that. So off on a demo they went. They got “dealt with” this time and I think a 13 year-old boy even saw the inside of a prison cell for a while. The community in Bahrain went ape-s*it and those nefarious human rights activists and pseudo-politicians demanded his release. He was eventually. Unharmed I think. But others are still languishing in cells awaiting their just desert.

While all of that was happening, the 8 Bahraini teachers who were accused of being “foreign spies” by the Saudi authorities and imprisoned – without charges – were rescued as their release was secured by His Majesty on a recent visit to Saudi where he personally intervened, the next day they were home safe and sound and restored to their jobs with back-pay. Complimentary pictures and whatnot were taken with high officials and His Majesty of course to offer thanks and unstinting loyalty by the eight for their release.

But was it just a day or two before, or after – I dinna ken – about 5 who demonstrated and allegedly stole a weapon and burnt a police car in December last year were handed their sentences ranging from 1 to 7 years for their troubles, while 4 were acquitted. It was their villages’ turn to go out and demonstrate; one, we are told, had a collection of 117 Molotov cocktails, a few tyres and various other paraphernalia stashed in a deserted house presumably awaiting to be used on the day the court decisions are handed down against the December rioters. Needless to say, the efficiency of the police prevailed once again, and the four will soon be joining their compatriots for breakfast, lunch and dinner of luscious and healthy dal and khobbiz.

His Majesty the King, may Allah bless him, has had enough of this tit-for-tat; thus, he invited the editors-in-chiefs of all the papers and vociferously and verbosely harangued those agitators who sullied the name of Bahrain in the international community and specifically advised them not to bother with such machinations. He reminded those who choose to knock on the doors of foreign powers asking for help in their nefarious causes to destabilise the kingdom of the fact that those very powers were the instigators of Abu Ghraib, and that they don’t care much for the causes they champion. He suggested that if indeed they do have a qualm about the situation in Bahrain, then they are better served attempting to resolve it here, in Bahrain, using the available constitutional and citizen rights means. He also warned against harsh and personal criticism against people, respected Bahraini families and other personages. I’m not sure what was happening there, but I suspect that it might have emanated from one of the infamous forums because I daren’t think that any newspaper would publish such insults.

Barely a day after that meeting, the prime minister issued a (verbal?) edict to stop any development work in any village or location used by demonstrators to damage the infrastructure, burn tyres and carry on with their illegal activities. The Civil Service Bureau – not to be out-done – unilaterally decided to fire any of its employees who joins unlawful and unauthorised demonstrations.

Suddenly, the king’s points raised with the journalists were taken to the inside pages, and the new new crises took their rightful space on the front pages. With pictures. And the discussion in the inside political pages – and those were many in every paper – were dedicated to reactions against what is now termed as the collective punishment visited against errant villages and domiciles; while the king’s very valid points were left for the columnists to talk about, taking less than 1/16th of the space – or less actually – than the other new new things.

So we get to today. Karadzic’s apprehension news is given a couple of centimetres on the front pages, and those are occupied by his hippy-like hairdo and Noel-esque beard, Albasheer’s head is sought by the ICC but the effervescent and wholly useful Arab League and the similarly described African Union won’t have that – and we know why don’t we? Any one of their members could be earmarked next! In Bahrain – that thing behind the Shuttle’s rear – a few poor souls who demonstrated against their company arbitrarily deducing from their wages and had the misfortune of having their mugs appear in the paper got fired by their erstwhile firm, the nurses want to go out and demonstrate for better wages and conditions are being corralled and called traitors for even considering such a thing.

Ah well, it’s only proper then that’s word of the day sums up the whole situations described rather succinctly; vituperation.

I think I’ll just go home now, switch off, and watch Monty Python. That, my friends, is more real than this reality!

Picture credit: NASA Johnson Space Center –
this is image: ISD_highres_STS101_STS101-718-27_2
thanks to Mike Knight for the heads up.


  1. Ibn

    Kick ass picture!

    Although I was under the impression the Shuttle’s orbit went westish-to-eastish. In this picture, its trajectory looks polar… hmmm


  2. Salman

    Where does this long bearded chimpanzee’s anus live? I want to personally shave his beard, video it and put it on youtube and post a link on every forum and website in Bahrain!

  3. Mike

    Must check my spelling before I post! Drat!! “excellent” is the errant spello 🙂

  4. Steve the American


    Once it achieves orbit, the Shuttle, or any spacecraft, does not need to point towards its flight path like an airplane in the atmosphere. It can be oriented in any direction and still travel in the same orbit, west to east. The old rule of thumb of aviation, “Pointy end first,” does not apply in space. This photo looks like the Shuttle is yawed ninety degrees right of its flight path and pitched up.

    It’s easy to get into orbit launching east because the rotation of the Earth gives you a giant push. It’s enormously difficult to orbit the Earth from pole to pole because you gain no advantage from the Earth’s rotation when launching north or south. That’s why moons orbit roughly along the equatorial plane of their parent planets.

  5. Starkville


    Random question – have you spent some time in Aberdeen, Scotland?

    I only ask because of your use of ‘dinna ken’, which tickled me!

  6. Sam

    Wow! Things that happen right here at home seem so petty when viewed from space 😥

    Beautiful photograph.

    Steve, what I’ve always found really fascinating is how broadcast satellites that are over 117 million feet above the earth’s surface remain in constant geosynchronous orbit with our planet.

  7. Post

    Starkville, I spend four lovely years in Perth. And I came back with an even lovelier wife a couple of years afterwards!

  8. Aliandra

    I have notified NASA. Obstructing rudder will be cut off immediately. 🙂

    I have seen photographs of the shuttle launch taken from the International Space Station. You could only see the bright flare of the rocket because the earth below was so vast.


    As I recall, there is some importance to launching from the FL latitude. Orbital entry angle needing to be shallow or somesuch.

  9. Steve the American

    The Shuttle launches from Florida because it’s one of the southernmost points in the US. The best place to launch is on the equator because it has the greatest velocity with which to throw the spacecraft. The father south you launch, the greater the boost in velocity you get. That’s why the French launch their satellites down in French Guiana.

    I saw a Shuttle launch way back in 1984 when my squadron deployed a detachment to Patrick AFB, ten miles south of Cape Canaveral, to support the FAC school. The airborne forward air controllers practiced marking targets for us to bomb out in the Everglades. We all went out after a flight briefing to watch that Shuttle go directly up in an impressive display of brute power. The next day we did a low approach to the Shuttle runway on the way home which was pretty cool to do. The astronauts parked their NASA T-38s on the tarmac next to us, which was cool, too.

    They have a Space Shuttle at the Udvar-Hazy Center of the National Air & Space Museum at Dulles airport here in Washington, DC. It’s a test ship that never flew in orbit, only on the back of the transport B747, but it’s still impressive. I imagine once they retire the Shuttle, flying ships will make their way to museums all over the States.

    I recall the day in a science class at the Air Force Academy when they brought in one of the Shuttle’s thermal tiles. The instructor placed it in a kiln with tongs, heated it up until it was glowing orange, and pulled it out. By the time he laid it down on the ceramic plate on the table, the corners of the tile had already lost their glow. He whipped off his asbestos glove and picked up the glowing tile with his bare hand, which startled the class. The material of which the tile is made is such a good insulator that it conducts very little heat within it. The surface cools off immediately

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