Olympic Flag Guide - Sochi 2014

Olympic Flag Guide - Sochi 2014

Flags have been a lifelong obsession of mine, and I thought it would be fitting to again write on the very event that sparked my love of flags: the Olympic Parade of Nations.Before the last Olympics I wrote an article outlining the various changes to national colors that had occurred since the last Olympiad so that everyone might be better prepared for identifying the flags in the Parade of Nations. Here I shall chronicle the momentous vexillological changes that have taken place in recent years. 

Current Flag of Belarus
Don't worry! I too was taken aback by the stark changes that Belarus has made to its colors. It is virtually unrecognizable from the previous flag, and is clearly reflective of the sweeping changes and political reforms that characterize the Belarusian nation. This flag debuted at the London Olympics after the official change in February 2012, though most people were probably so entirely confused by the new design that they failed to recognize the flag as that of Belarus. 
1995-2012 Flag
For those of you who are entirely less detail oriented, note that Belarus extended the red part of their pattern design on the left rather than the former's white margin on the edge of the pattern. There shall be no more margins in Belarus. Print all the way to the edge of the page. Margins are contrary to the collective good. 
The pattern was designed in 1917 and is supposed to be evocative of traditional woven cloth patterns used in Belarus, which are in turn derived from local flowers and plants. 

Independent Olympic Athletes

     The distinction of Independent Olympic Athletes has allowed men and women to compete in the Olympic games in the face of various circumstances that would prevent them from participating under their chosen flag. Whether it be the failings or nonexistance of their national olympic committee, or other political circumstances, qualifying athletes have throughout Olympic history been afforded the opportunity to compete. Famously athletes from the Netherlands Antilles compete under this title to differentiate themselves from Dutch monarchial tyranny since their islands lost autonomy earlier the year prior and lost status in the Olympics. South Sudan's athletes were allowed to compete as Independent Athletes at the 2012 games because their country had not yet formed it's olympic committee. 

       For Sochi 2014 watch out for four Indian skiers who will compete as Independent Olympic athletes, whom march under the standard Olympic flag in the Parade of Nations. The Indian Olympic Association's status was revoked by the International Olympic Committee in December 2012 due to some discrepancy in their election process, though these four skiers had already qualified to compete at Sochi. India insists on trying to hold elections before the games to allow their athletes to compete under the Tiranga, but the OIC set elections to be held two days after the Sochi games, and the Indian athletes will compete under the Olympic rings instead. 
 Skier  and Luger Shiva Keshavan from Himachal Pradesh, India  

      So note these Independent Athletes as they compete under the Olympic rings in the true spirit of international harmony at the Olympic games. Independent Athletes have only ever medaled at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona, by three shooters from Former Yugoslavia.

The Taiwan Question

Chinese Taipei - Taiwan, or the Republic of China, officially competed at the Olympics from 1932-1976 under her own name and colors. In 1979, it was decided that the contestable nature of the name "Republic of China" violated the Olympic Charter and, seemingly under the pressure of the People's Republic of China, Taiwan was prevented from competing in the Olympics with their official name. Today, Taiwan competes under this white flag bearing the blue sky and white sun of the ROC flag and is referred to during the Olympics as Chinese Taipei, a politically ambiguous name that both the PRC and ROC agreed upon in 1980. 


There were recent flag changes to Myanmar, Malawi, and Libya but these nations will not send athletes to compete at Sochi.

Banners Above the Sand

The Free Syria Flag
The first installment of a series on the fluttering colors of the Arab Spring

The convulsions of the Arab Spring, and the persistent atmosphere of woe and chaos, continue without abatement across the Middle East. It has brought with it copious attention from the media and the cavalcade of analysts that are trotted out to bring their interpretation of events to the public at large. Despite this attention, it seems as though the earnest desire for complexity and nuance has obscured some simple but profound avenues of investigation. Much has been made of the words and deeds of the rebels and the states they strive against, and rightly so. But little attention has been paid to the symbols they use. It is a profound mistake, as the banners of the revolutions can tell as much about the revolutionary narrative as anything else.

            Throughout the Arab Spring we have seen a tumult of protestors in the streets, in the Middle East and in the West. The flags that these arbiters of political change have flown have varied greatly both in design and in symbolism.  Rebel movements throughout history have crafted their own banners. To many causes, such fluttering colors have done their part to represent themselves to the world and to inspire their movement onward. It has been a common trend among the rebels and protestors not to adopt new colors but to revert to a previous flag used in their country, as is the case in Syria. Instead of crafting a new banner whereby these revolutionaries might rally under new symbols evoking their cause, the Free Syria movement has instead reverted to the flag of the Republic of Syria from 1932. The green, white and black horizontal striped flag bears three red stars, representing the three districts that originally composed the newly formed republic, Aleppo, Damascus and Dei res Zor. As the first flag of an independent Syria, this flag first saw partial autonomy under the French and then full independence following the Second World War. This banner represents a truly indeprendent Syria under a republican government, which in itself speaks volumes to what these people desire.

Flag of the Syrian Republic
            In 1958, this flag was abandoned when Syria joined the United Arab Republic in favor of the red, white, and black stripes with the two green stars representing the two states of the United Arab Republic. Being the design of the flag that Egypt declared independence under in 1952, it has become known as the Arab Liberation flag, and thus has major political significance in the Arab World. This flag would fly for only three years when the collapse of this hasty union resulted in a split of Egypt and Syria. Syria returned briefly to it's republican colors, though with the Ba'athist coup in 1963, various versions of the Arab Liberation flag were reused. For the next twenty years Syria would go through a myriad of sweeping political changes, moving from one union to the next, and being torn apart by internal strife and political disunity. 
Flag of the UAR 1958-1961 and later the Syrian Arab Republic 1980-Present
With the downfall of the United Arab Republic, the only people to take up this fallen banner were the Ba’athists. As the bold representation of pan-Arab strength, the colors and symbols of this banner were used in many variants over the years, and continue to be flown today by the Syrian Government. Although the United Arab Republic collapsed, its flag was officially readopted as the flag of Syria in 1980.

             Instead of evoking pride and a common national identity with her flag, Syria’s colors today only harken to the distant echoes of a failed state and grasp at a quixotic quest for a pan-Arab union.  Indeed it is important for Syria to display the quintessential pan-Arab colors, but this flag brings with it connotations of failures and atrocities. Thus after thirty years of flying this flag, to the people of Syria this flag embodies Ba’athist control over their country and the last bastion of Ba’athist doctrine, the Assad regime.  Syria’s current flag is thus stained with the record of the recent past.

The old flag that is now being flown by the Syrian National Council and the Free Syrian Army is to them the true Syrian flag, untarnished by recent history.By standing by the flag of the Syrian Republic, the Free Syria movement stands for a Syria run by the original foundations under which it was first established. Indeed the Syrian Republic of 1930-1958 was not perfect. It was equally wrought by coups, conflict and strife, but in recognizing the flag of the old republic they reject the symbols of the Ba'athists in favor of what they might feel was the last legitimate flag in Syria.  In using this flag they speak volumes as to what they wish to do and what a Free Syrian government in power might portend. Though it is a far cry from actually predicting future policy, their choice of flag paints a vivid portrait of their distant goals. This movement wants to get back to the vision of Syria from which the current government has strayed so very far. In rejecting the alienating and stained colors in favor of the republican flag, the Free Syria movement has chosen a flag that fittingly represents the people and land of Syria, their heritage and truly distances themselves from the regime they wish to end.  It is a proper flag under which Syria may reunite. 

The War of the Quadruple Alliance

Strategic Distaster:
The War of the Quadruple Alliance
Battle of Cape Passaro, between Great Britain and Spain off the coast of Sicily, August 1718. 

Whilst playing our strategy games, David remains ever adaptable whereas my tactics border on stubborn and ridiculous. Should we seem defeated, he will instantly alter his strategy to counter new threats and somehow ends up pulling us out of a hole. I have a tendency to stick to my guns and continue whatever tactics that have seen me thus far, stubbornness to a fault. Though we overcome nonetheless, particularly in Ruse, though almost no one plays the game anymore.  It is with this thought that I wanted to highlight one of the greatest examples of stubborn strategists in history from a country that simply wouldn't realize that it was defeated: Spain in the War of the Quadruple Alliance. 

There are many wars with ridiculous names such as this, and indeed the European military history of both the 17th and 18th centuries is rather tedious and lackluster to some. Though these wars are the foundation to the modern balance of power, and are very important in understanding European political affairs. Without this seemingly trivial war, Europe's borders might be drastically different, and Spain's power in global affairs may not have been so permanently curbed. 
Although we relate little to, and rarely discuss wars like the war of the Spanish Succession and the War of the Quadruple Alliance, they are greatly important in understanding the foundations of modern European Affairs, particularly for Spain, Britain, and Italy. Whether it be because they are rarely portrayed on screen or even in literature, or because their history is rather tedious to cover, the wars of 17th and 18th century Europe seem largely forgotten. They remain overshadowed by wars more recently engrained in our memories. These wars however are just as important as any in order to understand European affairs, and are greatly important in understanding both the borders and balance of power in Europe and the fate of her colonies abroad. 

"The unrelatable heroes of these wars are adorned with bright feathers and fashionable silks, a far cry from the war hardened soldiers that we admire today."

We may also feel distant from these conflicts due to our inability to relate, as one needs to have an extraordinarily bold ego to say one relates to the ambitions of colorful stocking wearing, whig toting, pampered monarchs such as Louis XIV and Philip V. Absolute monarchs have always seemed alienating to most modern cultures, and their frivolous wars even more so. Paintings of these wars glorify the aristocracy in typical Baroque fashion, and portray war as colorful, and full of pomp. The unrelatable heroes of these wars are adorned with bright feathers and fashionable silks, a far cry from the war hardened soldiers that we admire today. 
French Marshal Villars at Denain in the War of the Spanish Succession

"Nations will unite in order to prevent the creation of a superpower..."

The War of the Quadruple Alliance is largely a follow up to the War of the Spanish Succession, a tumultuous thirteen year war in which allied European powers fought to prevent the union of France and Spain under a single Bourbon monarch. Nations will unite in order to prevent the creation of a superpower, as is the case with both of these wars. When the War of the Spanish Succession concluded with the Peace of Utrecht, Philip V remained King of Spain lost his claim to the French throne, which was soon to be vacant with Louis XIV ailing. Philip lost all Spanish possessions in the Netherlands and Italy, the latter of which he would try to reclaim just four years later. 
The Pretentious, the relentless, Philip V of Spain

"The War of the Quadruple Alliance is the final nail in the coffin that the War of the Spanish Succession built..."

The War of the Quadruple Alliance is the final nail in the coffin that the War of the Spanish Succession built, it ensured the downfall of Spanish power in Europe, though they tried to hold on to indirect influence in Italy. Though Spain was already beginning to be a pawn of other rising nations n the early 18th century. The War of the Spanish Succession removed Spain from the Netherlands, ceding lands won my Habsburg Spaniards to the Habsburg Austrians. Spain officially lost territories throughout the Italian Peninsula, Sicily and Sardinia, but maintained token claims to many Italian lines of succession.  This war is the reason Britain currently own Gibraltar and Minorca, key points in the Mediterranean that have been pivotal to British military strategy for now well over three hundred years. 
Philip V wished to reclaim many of these lost territories, which sparked the ensuing War of the Quadruple Alliance, leading to many of the divisions and influences that made Italy what it is today. The state of affairs that resulted from this war led to a permanent French and Austrian influence in the North, whilst city states still maintained mild autonomy. Contrastingly, Southern Italy, not progressive and largely agrarian to begin with, would be weighed down by the continuance of a direct link to the Spanish Crown.  Sicily would be similarly anchored to the Spanish and Southern Italy under the rule of yet another Bourbon crown. It is interesting to note that there is far more information on this war in Spanish and Italian, of course due to the fact that the history applies to Spain and Italy far more than it does for the English speaking world. Though one must still note that wars such as these are indeed important, even if they are blunders, they are blunders that cemented the foundations of modern Europe. 
We needn't charge up any hills to grasp the importance of The War of the Quadruple Alliance. Philip V sent a foolhardy invasion force to Sardinia and Sicily which was swiftly defeated by the four nations, along with Savoy, that united to ensure the demise of Spain and the restoration of the balance of power established by the Treaty of Utrecht. Though the allies took well over 18,000 more casualties, the war was a victory against Spain, whereby the Treaty of the Hague forced Philip to return his recaptured holdings, in return France returned many of its conquered territory in Norther Spain and returned Pensacola in modern day Florida. 

Spain: Permanently loses its holdings in Italy, Florida returned but under threat, House of Bourbon maintains claim to Parma, Naples, and Sicily. Spain is greatly destabilized by this defeat, whereby the Spanish military both on land and sea will take decades to recover. As a political player, Spain is effectively a non-issue with no hope of rising again for the next few centuries, and is seen largely only as a pawn in the greater scheme of European affairs. 
Britain: Demonstrates naval dominance in the Mediterranean; utilizes and maintains its recently won strongholds in Gibraltar and Minorca. The British are able to quell another Spanish supported Jacobite rebellion and lessen Catholic influence in the British Isles.
France: Solidifies its status as the rising power in Continental Europe by ensuring the destruction of Spain but later allying with Spain in the Bourbon Pact. 
Austria: Gains naval dominance in the Eastern Mediterranean and strengthens its foothold in Northern Italy. Though Habsburg power is waning, they will still remain a major player until Napoleon. 
SavoyUnbenonced to the world at the time, this war would plant the seeds of Italian unification. Though the Duke of Savoy was stripped of his titles in Sicily and moved to the less prestigious Sardinia, the House of Savoy would rise to power in the 19th century and finally in 1860 Savoyard King Vittorio Emannuelle II would fight to bring Italy under one unified crown. 

Thus, admit defeat and adapt. Spain repeatedly tried to reclaim her Empire when she was clearly defeated and incapable. Spain remained a relentlessly stubborn power in the early modern period, ensuring not only her imperial demise, but an assuredly lessened role in global affairs for the next three hundred years. In trying to fight on when Spain should have accepted defeat, Philip weakened Spain's and her dominions' capabilities, and hurt already weak Catholic control in Western Europe. Learn that should one be defeated, it is not a particularly good idea to try to reclaim everything at once. Should your empire collapse, you cannot easily expand to your original borders. Know when you are defeated. 

51 Stars

51 Stars?
Puerto Rican Admission to the Union
Photo by Brennan Linsley / AP

There are always exciting happenings in the world of vexillology, today we will be covering the possible change in the United States flag as a result of Puerto Rico's application to join the Union. We are getting ever closer to having to change our flags. 

Every time we have a possible change in flags, people bring out the most ridiculous designs. Many Puerto Ricans in fact support this circular design, as it was adopted by the Puerto Rico Statehood Movement in years past. Alas, should we add a 51st star to our flag we will most likely follow the same formula for spacing. Using some sort of heraldic mathematical wizardry, Skip Garabaldi, created this program to showcase the possibility of future admissions to the Union. 
So place your orders to be prepared, but should this flag change happen in the near future, it's going to be a logistical nightmare when it comes to the update. In fact, the change may seem so minimal, we might be a bit lazy about going about it, as I highlighted with our friends in Iraq... The Iraqi Flag: Seeds of Disunity

Democracy in the Eyes of Fascism

Democracy in the Eyes of Fascism: 
Observations from Carl Schmitt during the Weimar Era
by David Kerner

            Out of all the myriad of political ideologies, few are so universally reviled as that of Fascism. To most Americans the mere mention of this despicable word is enough to conjure images of jackbooted Nazi's committing horrific atrocities. While that may in fact be a warranted fear, we unfairly dismiss the often valid critiques of western Democracy by Fascism's supporters. 
      One of these particularly brilliant and probably evil individuals was the political theorist Carl Schmitt (1888-1985). Schmitt published a number of influential papers after the First World War during the years of the Weimar Republic. As a noted intellectual, Schmitt became an important figure in the Nazi party. It was his support for Nazism, even after the fall of the Reich, that would ultimately stain his record and exclude him from mainstream academic discourse. Despite this clear stain on his personal character, attempt to read the following points from his Weimar era treatise “The Crisis of Parliamentary Democracy” without the feeling they were written about modern times.

“It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried.”

            To quote our dapper friend Winston Churchill,  “It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried.” This is a motto I  have heard everywhere from academic debates to public schooling about why parliamentarianism (which for the purpose of this article includes American Federalism) is the best form of government. Schmitt feels that this very attitude represents a primary failing of parliamentarianism. Why should so shallow a justification be accepted?

"political thought stays intellectually sound and vital only so far as its central myth is beleived."

             Schmitt argues that every epoch of political thought stays intellectually sound and vital only so far as its central “myth” is believed. An example of this would be the rise and fall of European absolute monarchies. Originally, the “myth” these monarchies were built upon was the divine right of each ruler. God imbued the king with justice and wisdom, meaning loyalty to the king was loyalty to god himself. Once kings started pandering to the bourgeoisie as being fit to rule based on supposed positive economic reasons, the central myth of the system was broken. While absolute monarchies still existed for a time after this shift, they were merely placeholders. Schmitt believes that the central myths of parliamentarianism have lost their intellectual sacredness leading us into a twilight period of waiting for the next big myth to appear.
            A representative government is based on people investing their own political influence and will into elected officials, the logical conclusion is the investment of all power into one best official who would embody the gestalt will of the people. The myth that fascism creates is one of passion instead of reason, and the passions of man have always proven to triumph over reason. How fascism fits in to this critique is Schmitt's assertion that it is one of two alternative options left, with the other being Marxist Socialism. His interpretation of the current incarnation of Marxist Socialism as being based on scientific reasoning causes him to think of it as a “dictatorship of reason.” However, he posits that this supposed reason is but an unfounded myth that actually leads to horrific consequences for those under its thrall. The counterpoint to this “dictatorship of reason” is its polar opposite, a dictatorship of irrationality. Schmitt argues that the benefits of this nationalistic fervor are superior to those of Marxism even in the Soviet Union itself.

            Parliamentarism espouses many ideals that Schmitt portrays as being bankrupt. Foremost of these are openness in government, free speech, and representativeness of officials. Schmitt explains that while the intended result of openness is to facilitate progress through public discussion thereby finding the optimal policies, most people understand this to be complete fantasy. All major discussions are made behind closed doors in specialized committees which are only getting more secretive and more beholden to special interests. Similarly, Schmitt points out that freedom of speech is now held to be just as insincere. People realize that every representative government has placed limits on free speech which could damage it. Schmitt argues that the since the very institution of parliament has recognized deficiencies in dealing with crisis, the inclusion of an executive branch that actually enforces the will of the parliamentary body casts questions on the ladders necessity.
            I would say that these points are more relevant now than ever about the United States. It is common knowledge that all the speeches and gesticulations on the floor of the House and Senate are purely for sound bite purposes. In many cases the articulate and passionate speeches are literally given to empty chambers. No one thinks that public discourse among our elected representatives actually leads to compromise between the parties. Everything from the debt ceiling debate to funding 9-11 first responders health care is hashed out behind closed doors, with most leaks reaching the media for political gain.

            On the matter of secrecy the Obama administration while promising to be the most transparent administration ever has been one its most secretive, and has even built a vast system to facilitate executive executions of suspected terrorists entirely cloaked from legal scrutiny. This unprecedented expansion of executive power has, like the Bush administrations baby steps before been entirely rubber stamped by the legislative branch.  What we must take away from Schmitt is that we must reflect on the grounds upon which the “myth” of our government is grounded. Perhaps when if we realize where power truly lies, we can expect to see real and sweeping reforms. 

Making New Friends Like A Psychotic Vexillologist

Making Friends Like A Psychotic Vexillologist:
Sicily and Sardinia

     It was a foggy night when I first heard the chattering of a group of Italians at the jacuzzi in my complex, they loudly carried on in their poetic lingua without a care in the world. It was after ten minutes or so that I finally said to the man closest to me, "Di dove sei in Italia?" Rather taken aback that I had any semblance of understanding of Italian, he answered "Sicilia." We continued talking about Italy and why I know a little Italian, when I mentioned that I saw someone in the neighborhood flies a Sardinian flag with the four Moors on it. He excitedly told me that the flag belonged to his wife, and that was his house just a few doors down from me. The Sardinian flag bears St. George's Cross with the heads of captured Moorish prisoners of war in each quarter, in memory of their victories over Saracen invaders in the 10th and 11th centuries.

     We talked of the flag, and where in Sardinia his wife was from, and then we got to the subject of his vexillological quandary. As he said before, he was from Sicily, while his wife was from Sardinia, two rival islands off the coast of the Italian Peninsula. He said to me, "one day I hope to put up the Sicilian flag, but I don't know if she will like that very much." So like any sensible herald, I went and ordered a Sicilian flag, and a number of weeks later, in the middle of the night, I walked over, took the Four Moors down, placed it by their front door, and put up the Triseklion of Sicily... I left no note, I just let the flags speak for themselves...
     My Italian neighbors apparently went crazy whilst trying to figure out who performed this flag midnight flag change, posting things to Facebook, and calling all their friends and family. He finally recalled our conversation from weeks past and thought it was probably me, so he went and posted a sign thanking me.

     Since then we have been as close as family, all due to the crazy actions of their neighborhood vexillologist. Flags welcome people and not only represent our heritage and nationality, but can be the arbiters of diplomacy, from official state visits to the smallest dinner.

   My grandfather was a naval engineer who travelled frequently to Scandinavia for business meetings. He spoke often of one of his favorite restaurants in Sweden that always put your country's flag on the table, paired with the Swedish cross. That custom resonated with me, and I continue it today. So I say to you, go make friends with flags, and if that isn't up your alley, make an effort to represent your guests in some manner should they be coming from afar to your table. They will likely appreciate your effort and knowledge. 

It's Too Late: Brilliant Historical Music Videos

Brilliant Historical Music Videos


Just in case anyone has yet to see these videos, Soomo Publishing produced these videos to educate kids about history with the flash and appeal of modern music. Unlike others I've seen on YouTube, these are spectacular and are worth watching. 

This one features Thomas Jefferson singing It's Too Late to Apologize

This second video features Suffragette Alice Paul singing Gaga's Bad Romance

Aleppo: The Cost of War

Featured on 361 Security

Aleppo: The Cost of War

Consistently in modern conflicts, the great monuments of antiquity become collateral damage once shots are fired. In losing historic sites we lose our link to the past and the most direct records of our heritage. History has always been one of the first victims of the collateral damage that war brings. In the Napoleonic Wars, the old city of Moscow burned almost in its entirety, engulfing the centuries old Muscovite city and all its history. Over a century later the world witnessed the grim truth that war can quickly erase our most treasured sites, from the Blitz in London to the destruction of Hiroshima. War has damaged historic sites since the dawn of war, but it wasn’t until the modern era that the destruction became so total, and so easily achieved.
In the past months Aleppo has become the focal point for both sides, each hoping to turn the tide in this once grand city, now ravaged by civil war. It is of strategic importance to both sides, and should either side gain the upper hand and force the other out, it will be counted as a victory of utmost significance. As a movement of the people, controlling the most populous city in Syria is vital for the Free Syrian Army and indeed Aleppo is represented on their flag by one of the red stars, each representing a major part of Syria.
 One of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, with estimates dating from between the third and sixth millennium BC, Aleppo encompasses the history of the Middle East in its entirety. From the first Neolithic settlements, to medieval mosques, walls and souks, Aleppo tells the story of the people of the Middle East from the beginning until now. Though as the Syrian Civil War rages on, rebels launched an attack into the Old City, attacking the area in hopes of tactical gains at the cost of the soul of Syria’s past.

The 14th century medieval souk damaged in the fighting has become the center of attention during the battle of Aleppo as this priceless UNESCO World Heritage site burns away, destroying the wooden structures and leaving the great stone rooms vulnerable and weak.  In a telephone call to the Associated Press, UNESCO director Kishore Rao said,  “It’s a big loss and a tragedy that the old city has now been affected,” later going on to comment on the fact that many other sites, all over Syria, are believed to be damaged by the fighting against the Assad regime.

There may be hope of preservation of some of the souk, but there remains little doubt that this once bustling destination will be just a shadow of what it once was.  As the smoke rises and the ash settles we must reflect upon what we have lost in this site, as an open air market, the souk touts little significance in the political spectrum, but is of great significance to the very lifeblood of the Middle East: trade. Souks represent what Syria was for many centuries, the gateway to the East and the bustling center of business, culture, and thought. The souk carried on much as it did in the 1300’s, displaying fine silks and spices, and gathering great minds for talk and exchange. Even though the structure may be damaged, the culture will carry on the tradition and the traditional markets of the Levant will resume just as they have for millennia.
Some of the most destructive losses of Syria’s historic treasures are the result of looting, which has been a major issue whenever conflict breaks out in the Middle East and priceless artifacts are left unguarded. In Egypt, Iraq, Afghanistan and now Syria, history has been destroyed not only by tank shells and fire, but by the bare hands of thieves. As the war rages on we must appreciate what we have, and treasure what remains when the smoke has cleared, preserving the story for ourselves and for future generations, that we might remember who we once were and what was most important to us. 

US Embassy Attacks: Raising the Black Flag

Raising the Black Flag:
Not all Muslims are terrorists, and not all black flags are terrorist flags

Featured on 361Security.com

"Not all Muslims are terrorists" has become a common adage in Western society today. As hordes of angry Muslims protest in great numbers throughout the Middle East and North Africa, we see hundreds of different flags and symbols being used to display their purpose and allegiance. Analysts and writers frequently jump to the conclusion that these flags are "jihadist" or terrorist flags, evidencing their similarity to the banners used by extremist groups across the world.  
As a vexillologist, a new adage I would purport to the Western world is that, "not all black flags are terrorist flags." Instead it must be said that these flags are being flown not for their alignment with extremist but for their direct connection with the Prophet Muhammad.  In the West, a black flag has meant everything from anarchy to piracy, but it holds deep and ancient symbolism in the Muslim World. It is important to note why this flag is being flown during these protests and why it means so much to Muslims around the world. Muslims around the Middle East are taking up these banners for their historical and religious significance.  
Indeed there have been Al-Quaeda flags flown during these attacks, and the flag used by Al-Shabaab was one of the flags hoisted over the US Embassy in Cairo. Yet we must note that there are numerous flags being flown that are not terrorist in nature, though they are all largely derived from the same banner, Al Uqab, or the Eagle, the personal standard of Muhammad.  Over thirteen hundred years later, the Eagle inspired the later flags designed and adopted by various extremist groups like Al-Shabaab and Al Quaeda in order to associate themselves with the original, fundamental, roots of Islam. 

Muhammad is said to have crafted this flag from his wife Aisha's headscarf, and was at times accompanied by a smaller white flag known as the Young Eagle, which has made numerous appearances alongside the black flag in the tumult. It being based on the banners previously used by his tribe, the Quresh, the flag became a revered represenation of Muhammad, his family, his history, and his message. The black flag is an integral part of Islamic symbolism and remains one of the only permissible symbols evoking the Prophet Muhammad and the early days of Islam. The flag continued to be flown by the Abbasid Caliphate after Muhammad's death, and now for more than a millenium the black flag has represented Islam, without any writing or symbols necessary.  
On the other hand, a number of terrorist cells adopted Al Uqab, as the basis for their own colors. Beginning in the 1980's many organizations made distinct versions of their own adding various inscriptions and symbols. They frequently used a flag used later in Islamic history known as al raya or "the banner" which adds the inscription of the  ShahadaBearing the likeness of this holy and ancient banner, groups such as Al Qaeda and Al Shabaab  hope the show themselves to be aligned with the roots and history of Islam.  These terrorist flags are based upon the black standard, but like the organizations behind them, they have strayed far from their origins.

 The violent attacks that have occurred against our embassies abroad are abhorrent, but we cannot rush to give credit to Al Qaeda or any single terrorist group. The flags mean far more than we might take at face value were they associated with terrorism. The black flag represents the roots of Islam. Those who fly it today literally take up the same banner the Prophet Muhammad did in the 7th century. It speaks to their reverence for the important figures of their faith but also for their common history.    Symbols and flags are just as poignant and important today as they were so many years ago when Islam began spreading across the sands of Arabia. 

Editor's Pick: A War Like No Other

A War Like No Other: A Review
How the Athenians and the Spartans fought the Peloponnesian War
featuring David Kerner

A War Like No Other - A great book about a lowpoint in human history, recounting glory and stupidity, distaster and destruction.

        One of the most interesting books I have read in a long time, Victor Hansen's A War Like No Other painstakingly delves into the brutal Peloponnesian Wars, outlining their events and linking much of them to current events. Hansen compares the famous wars between Sparta and Athens, likening them to global superpowers in some cases, and two parts of a divided nation in others. This book points out some of the more important lessons to take away from this two and a half thousand year old conflict and truly is a riveting tale.
       A War Like No Other is quite a memorable read, recounting the horrors of war in vivid detail, as if they happened yesterday, not 2400 years ago. It delves deep into the conflict itself rather than recounting the facts and events in a dry summary as so many history books do. Indeed many histories lose sight of the fact that real men and women died in this tumultuous time in human history. It paints a fascinating picture of the effects of total war, a raw and unforgiving form of conflict to which our society is completely alien.

       Most students learn to idolize the Athenians as the forerunners to current Western philosophical traditions and the fathers of the many of our most important political institutions. Though what is omitted today is that these same Athenians frequently abandoned such ideals as war and hardship eroded their moral highground. He draws significant parallells between the modern United States and the Athenian state in regards to out own empire building abroad.  It is a poignant commentary on the modern world alongside a comprehensive story of a terrible and fruitless war. 

The Iraqi Flag: Seeds of Disunity

The Iraqi Flag: Seeds of Disunity
Vexillological Observations from the Iraqi Embassy

Amidst the internal strife that continues to build once again in Iraq, I would like to bring to light one of the many issues sowing the seeds of disunity in Iraq. 

When I attended university in Washington, DC, I worked for a number of months at the Cultural Attache of the Embassy of Iraq in Northwest DC. I served as an assistant and advisor to the attache, Dr. Hadi Al-Khalili, working on student outreach, office organization, and events. As a vexillologist, some of the first things I noticed when I entered Dr. Al-Khalili's office were the two flags on the mantle behind him. They bore the three stars and handwritten script of the Saddam era Iraqi flag, six years after a new flag had been adopted. We had a rather long discussion about the flags, a subject upon which he was well versed, because a print hung in his office detailing the long history of the Iraqi flag. He noted, among other things that since the change was rather minimal, it was not a very high priority. It seemed as if the change of design in the flag was trivial, and that the people of Iraq saw little difference and thus little need to go out of their way to adopt the new standard.
Even in recent months the office I worked at in the Iraqi Embassy continues to use the Saddam-era flag in meetings and events. They're also using an outdated Georgian flag so obviously I was unable to impart my affinity for flag protocol on the office. 

It was baffling to me that government workers had not made the effort to change the flags, even years after the new implementation. It was not a matter of budgeting, because new computers and televisions were not in short supply. It brings into question the connotations of the new Iraqi flag and what the recent change means to her people. 
There are many questions that this flag calls to mind for me: Does the flag that Saddam flew have the same meaning to Iraqi's today? Do flags and symbols of nationhood perhaps mean less for the peoples of the Middle East than they do in the West? Is the old flag stained with the shadow of the past? Does the new flag give a new identity to the people of Iraq?  I would like to make a few key observations that show how Iraq’s flag is quite reflective of its current state of affairs and how that may not bode well for her people. The modern Iraqi flag does not substantially represent the Iraq, nor does it differentiate itself from it's Ba'athist history. In doing so this flag alienates the people from the government's national symbols and sends a message to the international community that the shadow of Saddam and Pan-Arabism has not left the country.
Kingdom of Iraq (1921-1959)
Iraq’s first modern flag was first flown in 1921 with the founding of the Kingdom of Iraq. This flag was composed of black, white and green horizontal stripes with a red trapezoid. These were the colors of the Arab Revolt that had recently aided in the formation of Iraq and her neighboring states. The colors derived from the famous banners of their history: Mohammad’s black standard and the subsequent colors of the Abassid Dynasty, green from the Fatamid Caliphate, and red from the Khawarij. The flag of the Kingdom of Iraq also bore two seven pointed stars representing the two Hashemite Kingdoms of Iraq and Jordan. This flag is frequently flown by pro-Hashemite monarchists in Iraq today, and Jordan continues to use a variant of this flag where the Hashemite Dynasty continues to rule. For Iraq the legacy of this flag is in the choice of colors, as Middle Eastern states will almost exclusively use these colors which are associated with the Arab revolt.

Republic of Iraq (1959-1963)
Following the Qassim Revolution of 1958 and the formation of the Republic of Iraq, the flag underwent a total redesign and changed to three vertical black, white and green stripes with an eight-pointed red star with a yellow circle at its centre. This eight-pointed red star represented the star of Ishtar, the Assyrian and Babylonian goddess of fertility, war and love. This was the first, and sadly only attempt to represent the country’s millennia of history. The yellow circle represents the Kurds with the sun, symbolizing their ancient Yazdani religious heritage. Today, this flag is legally flown in the Kurdish regions of Iraq whom resent the connotations of Iraq’s current flag. Although there is already a Kurdish flag this flag may come to serve as an important rallying flag for Iraqi Kurdistan. 
The modern Iraqi flag next to the flag of Kurdistan
Since 1963 the flag of the Republic of Iraq has borne the colors of the Arab revolt in a mimic of the flag of the Arab Republic. When the United Arab Republic was formed in 1958 and until its demise in 1961, its flag bore the red, white and black stripes of the Arab nationalist movement along with two green stars representing the states of Egypt and Syria. When Iraq underwent a Ba’athist coup in 1963, Ba’ath party officials supported a reformation of a pan-Arab union with Iraq as a third member. This was demonstrated in the flag by mimicking the UAR flag and adding a third star representing Iraq. As a menial power in the Middle East with grandiose ambitions Iraq’s Ba’athist flag embodied Iraq’s  ambition, its ruthlessness and its alignment solely with the Arab people.
Republic of Iraq (1963-1991)
            Under Saddam Hussein the flag of Iraq underwent a number of changes both visually and symbolically. Representative of the country’s direction, in 1986, Saddam decreed that the three stars would officially represent the three tenets of the Ba’ath party, Unity, Freedom and Socialism. In 1991, Saddam went on to make a change that would remain on the flag until today, the adding of the takbir. Allegedly in his own handwriting, Saddam had the words, “God is great,” added between the stars in Arabic script. This was viewed as an attempt to garner support for his regime in a time a crisis when his government was seen as largely secular.     
Republic of Iraq (1991-2004)
Following the 2003 US invasion of Iraq and the toppling of Saddam’s regime, the Arabic script on the flag of Iraq was changed from Saddam’s “handwriting” to traditional Kufic script. The Kufic takbir is a poignant symbol to represent Iraq’s religious heritage and that religion is a paramount, albeit divisive, force in modern Iraq. Hailing from the 7th century Mesopotamian town of Kufa, Kufic script is one of Arabic’s oldest, and it is the script in which the Qu’ran was written. The choice of Kufic is an interesting one, as it is quintessentially Iraqi but it also harkens to the beginnings of Islam. Although they seem like modern block letters, the use of Kufic would be similar in the western world to using BlackletterKufic is an excellent choice when one considers replacing the former script because it embodies the cultural heritage of modern day Iraq, but one must consider whether keeping the tabkir is truly something with which Iraq wants to represent itself.
Republic of Iraq (2007-Present)
            In the past decade there have been many proposals for a new Iraqi flag. Some of which augmented the previous flag, one of which included the star of Ishtar and the Kurdish sun from the Republican flag of 1958. The proposal that initially gained a great deal of support but was met with a strong backlash was the proposed design by Iraqi artist Rifat Chadirji. The crescent, representing Islam, was drawn in light blue to represent Iraq’s Turkomen population and a yellow stripe was included to represent the Kurdish population, harkening to their Yazdani sun. The addition I find quite profound is the two horizontal dark blue stripes embodying the Tigris and the Euphrates. These stripes are the first attempt to represent the geography of the country with which almost everyone can relate. Although attempting to be inclusive this “blue flag” was seen as abandoning the Arab identity and embracing Western and Judeo-Christian influences. The colors were seen as far too close to the Israeli flag and amid many protests the design was scrapped in favor of the current flag we see today. 
Coalition Provisional Authority Design Proposal (2004) 
A nation’s flag represents what the nation is and who her people are to other countries around the globe. From embassies, to the Olympics, to government stationery, a flag is an outward representation that can speak volumes not only to identity but to foreign policy. This flag sends a message that the nation has not learned from its misfortunes nor does it embrace its diversity, history or ideals. It has merely continued its old practices in a different fashion. The Iraqi flag should truly represent the people of Iraq and their story. The current Iraqi flag merely makes a statement that the basis of their identity is with their Ba’athist heritage rather with the country itself, its people or its culture. Iraq need not cling to dated Ba’athist aspirations. The flag makes no effort to unite the nation with their common history, nor does it seek to represent its many peoples individually. Cannot the Iraqi government make an effort to represent Iraq’s own identity? Let Iraq now tell her own story.

 Iraq is steeped in history. It is an ancient land with a proud and resilient people. Why then must her flag be so myopic? Sadly one can point to recent events and come to the conclusion that Iraq as a whole is in the same identity crisis as her colors. Although the current flag seeks to be simple and concise without making drastic changes, the simplicity reflects not wisdom but a lack of a developed identity. When this newly formed Republic of Iraq truly understands who she is, her flag may better represent her people and her heritage. 
It has been the growing trend of rebel movements in the Arab Spring to re-adopt flags previously used in their country. By adopting an old flag, they revert to what they consider to the the last legitimate rule in their country, ridding themselves of the shadow of a tumultuous part of their past. Perhaps the Iraqi people could take a lesson from their brethren in Syria, who have reverted to their republican flag to leave behind the scourge of Ba'athism. In the wake of the Arab Spring it may indeed be the time for new (or old) flags as new ideas and hopes spread across the sands of the Middle East.

A Letter to Disneyland: Mr. Lincoln's Wild Ride

One of my favorite parts of Disneyland in Southern California is Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln, a 20 min show with a short film about the Civil War culminating with a speech from an audio-animatronic Abraham Lincoln. In the anteroom prior to entering the theatre there is a large model of the Capitol surrounded by paintings of the Civil War and Lincoln as President.

There is also a short film about how Walt Disney imagineered many of his early animatronic attractions and how the animatronic Lincoln was built, and how his body was sculpted based on some masks Lincoln had taken during his lifetime. Indeed from the skin and features, to the clothing and voice, Disney meticulously created this lifelike attraction that truly gave people an opportunity to experience some Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln.

When the show begins you view a moving film about Abraham Lincoln's life and Civil War along with the story of two brothers in the war, told through the song below, and then Lincoln continues to reflect on the conflict.
The curtain is then parted to reveal President Lincoln speaking on the edge of a colonnade, resembling the White House, which has been furnished with historically correct pieces... or so they think.
With all of the work spent on research and presentation for Lincoln's body, clothing and voice, why has the setting been so flagrantly neglected. The main issue I have with Great Moments, inevitably, is their choice of flags. Lincoln did not use flags in his office, which was a notorious mess during the Civil War. Even if he did, the flags on either side of him are a modern fifty star American flag and Illinois state flag. You can always tell a fifty star design by the staggered positions of the stars, whereby older designs normally feature upright and lined up columns of stars. It's not a matter of budgeting but a matter of effort to have the proper number of stars on the flag. The flag should have between 32 and 34 stars depending on what year they are portraying. I want to go up on the stage and rip out 16 stars or so.

The Illinois flag shouldn't be there in the first place because they are portraying President Lincoln not Representative Lincoln thus the state flag is unnecessary. Even if it were necessary the Illinois state flag did not come into being until the early 20th century! It is very sad that this Disneyland attraction has such a half-hearted setting, when it has such an intricate central character. 
First Illinois Flag - 1915

The next logical step to replacing the state flag would be to use the Presidential flag, but someone actually did their homework on this one. The Presidential flag did not go into use until 1945, and even if they did use it in Disneyland, they would need to obtain special permission from the White House to use it! 

We end with the smallest abomination, the globe. When Lincoln stands to make his speech, compiled for the attraction in the 1960's, he occasionally motions to the globe, turned with the Eastern hemisphere facing the audience. The globe clearly shows modern borders, including Mongolia (which didn't come into modern existence until 1917) and the modern border divisions of Southeast Asia and the Indian Subcontinent. If attention to detail is a hallmark of this attraction, this is yet another point to be fixed.

Thus, Disneyland - fix this attraction. To everyone - this is yet another reason many large organizations require a resident vexillologist/herald, because you never know when youre putting out the wrong flag or emblem. It is a dead science, perhaps it has a place in this modern world where less and less attention is paid to symbols and the history behind them.

Berlusconi L'Imperatore

Aside from bunga bunga, the next thing former Italian President Silvio Berlusconi is going after in the near future is the office of the President of Italy. Taking that into consideration I have gone further down the vexillological rabbit hole, delving deeper into the world of hidden meaning behind flag choices. I have envisioned an alarming message in the flag of the office Berlusconi is eyeing.

For three terms, Berlusconi served as Prime Minister of Italy under this blue flag, which in turn is surprisingly similar to the flag of the Prime Minister that Mussolini used during his reign. The first flag below is that of the Italian Prime Minister, Benito Mussolini, the second is the current flag of the office of the Italian Prime Minister, much the same, but emblazoned with the new emblem of the Repubblica Italiana. I'm not immediately saying Berlusconi fashions himself Il Duce, because when it comes to flags in Italy, most of the post-WWII changes were minimal. Fascism is just a charming joke in Italian politics for the most part, and that is a story for another day.

What I do think that Berlusconi fashions himself as, based on the flag of the office he aspires to, is Il Imperatore, Napoleon Bonaparte. Observe the similarities of Napoleon's Kingdom of Italy flag and the current president of Italy's standard below it. 

From 1805 until 1814, Napoleon I served as the King of Italy, controlling most of Northern Italy under the Regno d'Italia or Kingdom of Italy. Seemingly in memory of the order and nationalism he imparted upon the Italy, the Office of the President bears a similar design to that of the flag of the Kingdom of Italy. Though it is a leap in logic, it can be asserted that in Berlusconi's aspiration to expand the office of the Presidency, and get himself elected to such a new and important role, we see a man who wishes to have all the privileges and powers of an Emperor whilst flying the banner of L'Imperatore himself. 

Darrell Rivers is a member of the North American Vexillological Association and has an unhealthy and illogical obsession with Italian history. 

Upside Down Flags

Upside Down Flags
I get overly excited when flags have exciting special features, its like a hidden easter egg in a movie for me. I read about, collect, and occasionally fly various flags from all over the world, and when a flag has a hidden meaning, it becomes so much more than a symbol, it becomes a tool to teach, and a twofold representation.  So thusly I had to write a snippet about these two flags. Although flying a flag upside down is considered an international sign of distress there are two flags which are designed to be flown upside down.
The Philippines: The first is the flag of the Philippines. Having one red and one blue stripe, the colors evoke the country's association with the United States, but each stripe holds a designated meaning for those flags in government service. 
Normally the blue stripe is flown on the upper half of the flag, but when the country is in a state of war, the red stripe is flow up. This not happened very frequently, but this was seen recently when the flag was displayed incorrectly during this faux paus involving the Obama Administration during a summit in New York. 
Thats why all government staffs should have a resident vexillologist

The Rainbow Flag: The flag that you can fly any direction you wish is the Gay Pride flag, designed by Gilbert Baker in the 1970's. Although most people fly this flag with the red stripe on top, Baker designed this flag with the intention people being able to fly it on either orientation because orientation dosn't matter - and thus was created an exceptional vexillological double entendre. 
Although the Pride flags with other symbols such as the lamba are not intended to be flown upside down, lest other devices on the flag be shown upside down, the standard seven stripe flag can be flown with the red or purple stripes on top. The Rainbow flag is unique in its use on either orientation, and it speaks volumes to the freedom the Gay Pride movement seeks including the the freedom of orientation
Just a side note - the Inca/Quechua Flag is quite similar to the Gay Pride flag, and it has a number of variants from six to eight stripes. Just in case you trek through Peru and become rather confused when you see rainbow flags all over the place. 

Olympic Debuts

Olympic Flag Debuts
Flags have been a lifelong obsession, and I thought it would be fitting to write something about the very inspiration for my love of flags, the Olympic Parade of Nations. First adoring the many flags passing by on the television during the 94' and 96' Olympics, my grandfather then thought I might as well commit them to memory, along with their capitals and other factoids... and the rest is history. Here is a quick piece to prep you for the Olympic Opening Ceremonies in London.
The Olympics have always been a recurring ode to national pride. A time when countries send forth their greatest athletes under their chosen flags and banners. At this thirtieth Olympiad we will see a number of flags making their international debut, with many fleeting governments having changed their colors since the Beijing Olympics in 2008. As you watch the Parade of Nations this year, here are a few new flags of which to take note:

New Flags:
  • Libya - When you see this flag in the parade, you will not be seeing a new flag but a very old flag being reused. With the fall of Gadaffi we see a turn from the minimalist green flag based on historic flag of the Islamic Fatamid Caliphate and also representing his Green Book. In what has been a growing trend that I have written about in my previous piece on the Free Syrian Flag, Libya reverted to the original flag of the Kingdom of Libya. The movement chose to adopt the flag of the first independent Libyan government and the last symbol of legitimate rule in Libya.  This is not nostalgia for the old monarchy but is instead a return to the first true Libyan Flag. So when you see Libya marching you will see the symbols of a country lifted from under the shadow of tyranny and hopefully from the turmoil of their recent past.

  • Myanmar - Myanmar also recycled an old flag design as of 2010. With the symbols of the old Socialist government having certain connotations, the old flag design was scrapped when the country adopted a new constitution and formed a new government. They went so far to rid themselves of the evil banners that there was a nation-wide order to burn all the old flags. Like the many countries who don't have any graphic designers, they chose the old flag of the independent State of Burma, formed in resistance to the Japanese occupation in 1942. This flag originally feature the royal peacock, but now features a large white star, which was the symbol used by the Burmese resistance combatting the Japanese Army. When you see Burma marching it will be yet another example of a country starting anew, but rekindling the symbols of their honored past. 

Minor Changes
  • In 2010 the Serbian flag was redesigned with the arms emblazoned on the flag, trivial changes but we will see a slightly different flag nonetheless. Spot the difference.
  • Malawi's national colors had a slight redesign from 2010-2012 with the addition of a white sun, but this year's newly elected government decided to revert to their original independence flag from 1964. Sadly the new flag will never see representation at an Olympiad. 

Noteworthy other flags you'll see but aren't necessarily new to the games
  • Independent Olympic Athletes - This distinction has been given to athletes lost in the turmoil of shifting borders and governments. This year, athletes from the new nation of South Sudan will march under the Olympic flag with the name of the Independent Olympic Athletes. Being such a young nation South Sudan has not yet formed an Olympic committee but will still send athletes to compete. This group will also feature athletes from the Netherlands Antilles. This country was officially dissolved into the Kingdom of the Netherlands, but wishing to continue competing on their own, the Dutch Antillean Olympic Committee continued to function until their status was revoked in 2011, though their qualifying athletes were allowed to compete under as Independent Olympic Athletes. All athletes competing individually compete under a standard Olympic flag, representing their status as non-aligned global athletes and true representations of the Olympic spirit. 

  • Chinese Taipei - Taiwan, or the Republic of China, officially competed at the Olympics from 1932-1976 under her own name and colors. In 1979, it was decided that the contestable nature of the name "Republic of China" violated the Olympic Charter and, seemingly under the pressure of the People's Republic of China, Taiwan was prevented from competing in the Olympics with their official name. Today, Taiwan competes under this white flag bearing the blue sky and white sun of the ROC flag and is referred to during the Olympics as Chinese Taipei, a politically ambiguous name that both the PRC and ROC agreed upon in 1980. 

Now you're prepared for the Parade of Nations at the XXX Olympiad!

Swastikas in the Skies

Swastikas in the Skies

With Chris being obsessed with everything Finland we pieced together an article on just one of the many eccentricities of the enigmatic frozen expanse of the far north, their air force's swastika emblem. We then delve into the other uses of the swastika in Finland and how this symbol of hate has a completely different significance for the Finns.
Independence Day Parade in Helsinki - Ilmavoimat Color Guard

Finland, the eternal outlier: With the fall of the Third Reich in the Second World War, came a purge of all the symbols and emblems associated with Adolf Hitler and Nazism. Swastikas were stripped from buildings, coins, equipment and flags with hope of expelling the shadow that Nazism had cast over Europe. Although de-Nazification was enforced throughout Scandanavia, it was taken rather lightly in Finland, where the symbol had become an integral symbol for their Air Forces. 
Different than the Nazi hakenkreuz,  it is still of note to recognize the continued use of the Finnish vääräpää, even though it has sparked so much hatred over the course of a century. Here we will explore why Finland stands by its swastika, and how the Finn's emblem developed independently of the Nazi swastika, and of its eastern counterpart. 
Soviet Propaganda: We don't want war but we will defend the Soviets!
Following the onset of the Russian Revolution, Finland, being part of the Russian Empire up until that point, declared independence. With the Russian Empire collapsing around them, the Finns made a dash to claim any Russian aircraft they could. Though the country then promptly devolved into a bloody civil war, with the Reds being supported by their Russian neighbors and the Whites being aided by the German Empire and civilians coming across the border from Sweden. 
Skiing to victory!
With the Finnish Air Force being smaller than the Swiss Navy, a number of Swedes began flying over aircraft to aid their Norse brethren against the red tide. One of the first planes to be sent to Finland was donated by Swedish Count Eric Von Rosen, who left his personal crest painted on the wings. This plane being one of the first and most important planes in the Finnish arsenal, the Finns adopted their patron's emblem. 
Von Rosen's Thulin Type D
The advent of the Von Rosen's swastika is innocent enough. He claimed to have seen the symbol on a viking rune in Gotland, an island off the Swedish coast. It is supposed to evoke Odin's cross or the sunwheel, whereby a cross is surrounded by a circle. This fylfot version was common in many Norse runes and became synonymous with good luck, independently of the Hindu swastika. Von Rosen liked the symbol so much that he made it his personal crest and emblazoned all his possessions with the ancient rune.
Finnish Air Force Roundel 1918-1945
 In the early 20th century, the swastika became a trendy good luck charm with people adopting swastika designs from Hindu culture, native american drawings and Nordic runes. The Swastika became a popular good luck symbol for people, companies and even military units.  This sweeping fad caused everyone including Coca-Cola to want a swastika plastered all over their packaging.   Von Rosen seemed to be no exception for the swastika craze, regardless its origin. 
1925 Ad Campaign - CocaCola lucky fob

Count Von Rosen's swastika was used on flags, patches, medals and aircraft roundels from his first plane in 1918 until 1945. First having to hold back the Russian invasion in the Winter War, then fighting alongside Germans against the Soviets in the Continuation War and finally having to fight German soldiers to get them to finally leave Finland, the Finns fought three bloody and tumultuous wars to defend their country but were still ultimately labeled a belligerent and fascist power. Having fought on the Axis side, the swastika was removed from their emblems in order to distance themselves from the Nazis, and a series of restrictions were placed upon them through the Paris Peace Treaty of 1945. 
A German supplied Messerschmitt Bf 109 with the Finnish Roundel
Following World War II the Finnish Air Force adopted a roundel based on their national flag. Von Rosen's emblem was used minimally following the end of the war and officially were reintroduced in 1958, though the swastika was never returned to use as the official roundel. 
Finnish Air Force Roundel 1945-Present

Today the swastika continues to be used by the Air Force and some Finnish Army regiments on flags, patches and medals in memory of their great Swedish patron, Count Von Rosen. The current Air Force emblem also bears a set of six wings arranged in a wheel, similarly evoking a swastika. 
The swastika also sees use throughout Finland for different reasons. As part of the sunwheel tursaansydän, the Nordic swastika has remained a timeless symbol of protection and luck. Symbols like this have been found throughout Scandanavia, and are recognized as a prominent and ancient symbol in Finland. 

Today in Finland the President's flag displays a swastika representing the sun's rays in a fylfot cross. This symbol is taken from the Order of the Cross of Liberty, one of Finland's highest honors. Designed in 1918 this badge similarly came from an era when the swastika was in resurgence. It remains an integral part of Finnish arms and emblems and represents their Nordic heritage, and the promise of hope and protection.

Flag of the President of Finland
The swastika is an important symbol for the Finns, but as is the case with swastikas, it has been a difficult road for them. Finnish scouts have been heckled and called Nazis, and groups frequently site the Finnish government and military for still using the symbol on medals and decorations. The swastika will always have the terrible connotations that the Nazis imparted upon it, but perhaps if people like yourselves make note of the context of the Finnish swastika, Finland may proudly use her symbols of history and heritage without being falsely accused of supporting hate and atrocity.