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Pressure relief mechanisms are found on the humble pressure cooker (the sort our mothers or grandmothers used) as well as the formerly-ubiquitous tea kettle which was a feature of every British kitchen, or until electric kettles sent most of them packing off to some charity shop benefiting the self-proclaimed worthies of the world (viz: Oxfam, World Wildlife Fund, etc.)

Brewing up on a much larger political-geographical burner is tiny Bahrain, itself a pressure-relief valve for its mammoth neighbor to the West, Saudi Arabia.


Need proof? Have a look sometime at the causeway which connects Saudia Arabia to tiny Bahrain, but especially the east-bound traffic at the weekends.

It is at that time that both Saudi couples and expats come roaring across the causeway for a weekend’s breath of comparative “fresh air”, away from the “religious police” which patrol Saudi Malls and public places to ensure local women are fully-covered, head-and-face-to-toe, and not offending some always-changing definition of “public morals”.

All that said, some Saudi males never relent, even amongst Bahrain’s near free-swinging (well…..) atmosphere.

Remember “Chicago”, the old Frank Sinatra tune and the lyric “I met a man who danced with his wife”? That may be over-the-top for a Saudi couple in Manama, Bahrain’s capitol, but perhaps it happens.

Need a reminder or never heard of it?  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NoKn7vkSMBc

One “swinging” Saudi twosome I recall were clearest evidence of a man whose iron grip on his lady wife never let up. Across a lovely dining room high atop a five-star Western-run hotel, I recall almost losing my appetite.

Ensuring that his wife sat with her right side next to a wall, well away from the great view, there he sat, stuffing himself while enjoying a reasonable bottle of wine. Madam, however, was veiled in black, head-and-face-to-toe. She’d cut her food, lift her fork in her right hand and with her left hand, ease back her veil just slightly to ensure the food met her lips as intended.

Only the wall could have seen her perhaps lovely face. Having seen people with horrific burns or other injuries try to eat, I’ve always come away thinking “There but for the Grace of God go I.” Somehow, as she saw the other charming ladies around her, one had to wonder what small prayer she may have let slip across her mind.

When I saw the stark disparity between this husband and wife on their “night out”,  I realized that 7th Century mores do indeed “travel”, over 14 centuries later on.

Sadly, since that “high point”, Bahrain has slipped rearwards along that same timeline. Age-old Sunni-Shiite tensions nowadays threaten to make this pocket-sized nation (a mere 755 sq. km. or 292 sq. miles) into yet another one-party, overly-autocratic Middle East workshop for oppression.

To Americans and those who shelter under American military power, this is a matter of very specific concern. In what amounts to a geographical goof of gargantuan importance, the U.S.Navy’s 5th Fleet Headquarters is in Bahrain.

Why are you so severe in  your judgment, you may ask. Have a look at this:


Across the Gulf lies The Islamic Republic of Iran, famous no longer for her delicious pistachio nuts but, rather, for two-legged nuts such as Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Ayatollah Khameini, et.al. Note also that the 5th American Fleet HQ is inside the narrow Strait of Hormuz, which Iran can easily close to traffic.

Modern Bahrain also came to mind recently when I saw this shrewd bit of deep-pocket diplomacy:

[QUOTE:] Mons, Belgium, was the site of the first major engagement of the British Expeditionary Force in World War I.


Mons Hall, at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, outside London, was named in honor of the 1,600 British soldiers who fell in battle. As if to dishonor them so close to the centenary of their ultimate sacrifice in the late summer of 1914, Sandhurst is now stripping from the stately Mons Hall the name of the place where they fought for their King and Country, and substituting the name of King Hamad in honor of Bahrain’s head of state and the £3.0 million [say, $4.5 million, or €3,5 million] he donated for the building’s refurbishment. In deciding to disassociate itself from those to whom Britain can never fully repay its debt, Sandhurst compounds the offense by embracing a state with a reputation for human-rights abuses that violate the ideal of civility that Britain is seen as representing throughout much of the world. Donors do often demand naming rights, but in this case decency demanded of King Hamad that he forgo them and of Sandhurst that it refuse to grant them. [END QUOTE]

To give the man his full title, King Sheikh Hamad ibn al-Khalifa is but the latest Khalifa family member to run Bahrain since 1783. At the time the British and other Empire soldiers fought and died at Mons and elsewhere, Bahrain was but a tiny speck on the map of the Empire.

Like lovely ladies hiding behind their veils, Royal gratitude seems as well hidden as yet another self-indulgent despot dishonors the Fallen.

Will the poppies of Flanders’ Fields survive being doused in Arab oil? Whatever would John McCrae say about this?

In Flanders Fields
By: Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, MD (1872-1918)
Canadian Army

In Flanders Fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.


Hat-tips to National Review www.nationalreview.com