Tag Archives: War

Cities and terror: an indivisible and brutal relationship

Almost 140 years ago, a wave of bombs exploded in London. Though they killed a relatively small number of people, they attracted a lot of attention.

The work of Irish extremists hoping to shift public opinion and political thinking about the future of their nation lasted several years. In October 1883, one of their bloodiest attacks injured 40 people on a tube train pulling out of Paddington station. Other targets included the offices of the The Times newspaper, Nelson’s Column, the Tower of London and Scotland Yard.

Throughout the decade, there were other bombings elsewhere in Europe perpetrated by various extremist groups and hitting theatres, opera houses, the French parliament and streetside cafes. In 1920, Wall Street itself was bombed. The wave of attacks prompted concern about new technologies, such as timers and dynamite, which was said to be “cheap as soap and common as sugar”, and drew debate as to how to protect cities and mass transit systems from violence.

Nearly 150 years later, a spate of recent attacks in major European cities have led to similar warnings. Experts tell us how easy it is to construct a viable explosive device with instructions from the internet, and warn of how we can, or can’t, protect our public spaces from the new tactic of using vehicles as murderous rams. After a truck was driven into a crowd at a Christmas market in Berlin last year, the police chief, Klaus Kandt, pointed out that with so many potential targets – 2,500 such markets in Germany and 60 in the city alone – it was impossible to reduce the risk to zero.

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Posted by on February 1, 2018 in Reportages


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Why are doctors in the Middle East cosying up to foreign armies?

Foreign doctors in war zones have to talk to the bad guys. Always. NGOs need protection, they have to negotiate checkpoints, they sometimes have to bribe gunmen with food – think Darfour. Sometimes – remember Afghanistan and the ICRC – they are murdered. But the sieges of cities and towns in the Middle East these past two years have produced a new and more profoundly disturbing challenge: medical aid groups who embed themselves in armies and militias and thus align themselves with one side in the conflict.

Jonathan Whittall of Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) first raised the alarm during and after the siege of Mosul when doctors and medical personnel sometimes allowed local security forces to check the identity of patients entering their hospitals or aid centres. “Sometimes they gave the names of patients to the local secret services,” Whittall told The Independent. “Horrific compromises were made to work hand-in-hand with the international military coalition. The wounded were often not treated as patients but as suspects. This fundamentally compromises the trust patients have in medics. And this makes our work less effective”.

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Posted by on January 16, 2018 in Middle East


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Playing to the audience: The televised suicide of Slobodan Praljak

The court rooms of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in The Hague have seen many a drama in the last twenty-four years, however nothing compared to the televised suicide of a defendant. And yet, this is what happened on 29 November 2017, at the end of the trial of six Bosnian Croats for crimes committed in Bosnia between 1992 and 1994. The judge, Carmel Agius, had just finished reading his verdict to the former general Slobodan Praljak, sentencing him to twenty years in prison, when the tall and imposing Praljak stood up, shouted at the judges and drank something from a small vial. One could see the other two defendants sitting next to him looking up in surprise, and the judge glancing over his reading glasses. At first, everyone took it as a typical case of the defendant causing a brief commotion before sitting back down or being accompanied out of the court room – like what happened recently with the Serbian war criminal Ratko Mladić. But soon a curtain was drawn and the court proceedings were interrupted. Live television transmission was suspended and Praljak was taken to hospital.

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Posted by on December 31, 2017 in Europe, European Union


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There’s no such thing as precise air strikes in modern warfare – just look at the civilian casualties in Iraq and Syria

The final elimination of Isis in Iraq and Syria is close, but welcome though the defeat of these monstrous movements may be, it has only been achieved at the cost of great destruction and loss of life. This is the new face of war which governments try to conceal: a limited number of combat troops on the ground call in devastating air strikes from planes, missiles and drones, be they American or Russian, to clear the way for their advance.

Governments pretend that air wars today are very different from Vietnam half a century ago when towns were notoriously “destroyed in order to save them”. These days air forces – be it the Americans in Iraq, the Russians in Syria or the Saudis in Yemen – say that this mass destruction no longer happens thanks to the greater accuracy of their weapons: using a single sniper, a room in a house can supposedly be hit without harming a family crouching in terror in the room next door.

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Posted by on December 2, 2017 in Middle East


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Flawed Justice for the Butcher of Bosnia

I met Ratko Mladic only once. He was the general commanding the war machine destroying Bosnia and overseeing the medieval siege of Sarajevo, the capital, where I was living and reporting. I spent my days going to the morgue to count the dead and to sit in hospitals with children who had been blinded by shrapnel.

On a freezing cold day in 1993, as Sarajevo was getting pummeled with shells, I had driven to Mount Igman, a strategic mountain to the southeast, through Bosnian Serb front lines. In a pine forest, on a mud road, I found General Mladic sitting placidly in his jeep. Tentatively, I approached his window to ask him a question about the humanitarian operation in Sarajevo. Food had not been delivered in some time, I said, and people were starving to death. Would he let the trucks carrying food pass?

The Butcher of Bosnia, a nickname I thought let him off lightly, stared at me coldly and muttered something to his aide-de-camp. The aide told me, “The general says, ‘Tell the girl journalist if she comes any closer, I’ll run her down.’ ” Then he added, in English, “And he will do it.”

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Posted by on November 28, 2017 in Europe


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Il fantasma di Ratko Mladić nell’Europa di oggi

Aprile 1992. Colline intorno a Sarajevo, Bosnia Erzegovina. Registrazione radio-telefono:

“Qui generale Mladić”.
“Non avere paura. Come ti chiami?”.
“Vukasinović, ascoltami. Bombarda la presidenza e il parlamento. Spara a intervalli lenti fino a che non ti dirò di smettere”.
“Colpisci i quartieri musulmani, lì non vivono molti serbi”.
“Va bene”.
“Non devono dormire. Bombardali fino a farli impazzire”.

Sono i primi giorni della guerra in Bosnia e Ratko Mladić, comandante militare dei serbo-bosniaci, ordina al colonnello Vukasinović di sparare a tappeto su una capitale europea, Sarajevo. È l’inizio dell’assedio più lungo nella storia contemporanea: finirà solo nel febbraio del 1996, dopo 44 mesi. Almeno undicimila persone moriranno, più della metà civili. I feriti saranno più di cinquantamila.

Il 22 novembre 2017 il Tribunale penale internazionale per la ex Jugoslavia ha condannato il generale Ratko Mladić, all’ergastolo. Dopo un processo durato cinque anni, lo ha riconosciuto colpevole di dieci capi di imputazione su undici, tra cui di crimini di guerra, crimini contro l’umanità e genocidio. Per capire l’importanza di questa sentenza bisogna ricostruire il progetto nazionalista ideato dal presidente serbo Slobodan Milošević e trasformato in una guerra di sterminio nel cuore dell’Europa dal serbo-bosniaco Mladić.

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Posted by on November 24, 2017 in Europe


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Ratko Mladić will die in jail. But go to Bosnia: you’ll see that he won

General Ratko Mladić, the most bloodthirsty warlord to strut European soil since the Third Reich, will die in jail. Any other outcome after today’s verdict in The Hague would have been preposterous.

The mothers of the more than 8,000 men and boys mass-murdered in Srebrenica, over five days in the summer of 1995, have every reason to welcome the sentence of life imprisonment, and Mladić’s conviction for genocide: the only judicial standard by which that crime can be rightly measured.

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Posted by on November 24, 2017 in Europe, European Union


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Fools, Cowards, or Criminals?

The main Nuremberg war crimes trials began in November 1945 and continued until October 1946. Rebecca West, who reported on the painfully slow proceedings for The New Yorker, described the courtroom as a “citadel of boredom.” But there were moments of drama: Hermann Göring under cross-examination running rings around the chief US prosecutor Robert H. Jackson, for example. Jackson’s opening statement, however, provided the trial’s most famous words: We must never forget that the record on which we judge these defendants today is the record on which history will judge us tomorrow. To pass these defendants a poisoned chalice is to put it to our own lips as well. We must summon such detachment and intellectual integrity to our task that this Trial will commend itself to posterity as fulfilling humanity’s aspirations to do justice. How well humanity lived up to these words, after a good number of bloody conflicts involving some of the same powers that sat in judgment on the Nazi leaders, is the subject of The Memory of Justice, the four-and-a-half-hour documentary that has rarely been seen since 1976 but is considered by its director, Marcel Ophuls, to be his best—even better, perhaps, than his more famous The Sorrow and the Pity (1969), about the Nazi occupation of France, the Vichy government, and the French Resistance.

Source: Fools, Cowards, or Criminals? | by Ian Buruma | The New York Review of Books

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Posted by on August 11, 2017 in Uncategorized


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A Planet’s Future Threatened by the Fate of Its Children

“This is a war against normal life.” So said CNN correspondent Clarissa Ward, describing the situation at this moment in Syria, as well as in other parts of the Middle East. It was one of those remarks that should wake you up to the fact that the regions the United States has, since September 2001, played such a role in destabilizing are indeed in crisis, and that this process isn’t just taking place at the level of failing states and bombed-out cities, but in the most personal way imaginable. It’s devastating for countless individuals — mothers, fathers, wives, husbands, brothers, sisters, friends, lovers — and above all for children.

Ward’s words caught a reality that grows harsher by the week, and not just in Syria, but in parts of Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Somalia, and Libya, among other places in the Greater Middle East and Africa. Death and destruction stalk whole populations in Syria and other crumbling countries and failed or failing states across the region.  In one of those statistics that should stagger the imagination, devastated Syria alone accounts for more than five million of the estimated 21 million refugees worldwide. And sadly, these numbers do not reflect an even harsher reality: you only become a “refugee” by crossing a border.  According to the U.N. Refugee Agency (UNHCR), in 2015 there were another 44 million people uprooted from their homes who were, in essence, exiles in their own lands.  Add those numbers together and you have one out of every 113 people on the planet — and those figures, the worst since World War II, may only be growing.

Source: Tomgram: Karen Greenberg, A Planet’s Future Threatened by the Fate of Its Children | TomDispatch

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Posted by on June 19, 2017 in Middle East


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Even when wars end in the Middle East, superbugs and aggressive cancers caused by conflict attack

The details were horrific. Outside the besieged city of Mosul, 13,000 wounded civilians are today waiting for reconstructive surgery – from just this one seven-month battle. Another 5,000 Iraqi police militiamen are waiting for the same surgery from recent military offensives, in their case to be cared for by the Iraqi ministry of interior. But the health infrastructure that exists in the whole of Iraq cannot look after these wounded. As a result, some are turning up in Damascus – amid the frightfulness of the Syrian war – for the surgery they cannot obtain at home. A new graft in Damascus costs $200.In the balmy early summer of Beirut this week came these detailed new horrors of Middle East war. For beside the state-of-the-art American University Medical Centre in the city, doctors from across the region, from Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Palestine – along with the International Red Cross and Medecins Sans Frontieres – came to discuss their fears for the wounded and the sick and their conviction that drug-resistant bacteria are growing in hospitals in the Middle East. Just how to deal with this may be within the knowledge of the military medical authorities – but not within the hands of civilian doctors.

Source: Even when wars end in the Middle East, superbugs and aggressive cancers caused by conflict attack | The Independent

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Posted by on May 16, 2017 in Middle East


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