Fractured Lands: How the Arab World Came Apart "The geography of this catastrophe is broad and its causes are many, but its consequences — war and uncertainty throughout the world — are familiar to us all. Scott Anderson’s story gives the reader a visceral sense of how it all unfolded, through the eyes of six characters in Egypt, Libya, Syria, Iraq and Iraqi Kurdistan. Accompanying Anderson’s text are 10 portfolios by the photographer Paolo Pellegrin, drawn from his extensive travels across the region over the last 14 years, as well as a landmark virtual-reality experience that embeds the viewer with the Iraqi fighting forces during the battle to retake Falluja."
The Company That Bribed The World - It was the company with jet-set style and dirty hands. From the tiny principality of Monaco, Unaoil reached across the globe to pay multi-million dollar bribes in oil rich states. The beneficiaries? Some of the biggest companies in England, Europe, America and Australia.
Hundreds Feared Dead After Boat Filled With Migrants Capsizes in Mediterranean [New York Times]
"For the past several years, Europe has been confronted with hundreds of thousands of migrants arriving illegally from Africa and the Middle East, many of them fleeing war and poverty. Italy has been in the vanguard of rescue efforts, with its Navy and Coast Guard ships rescuing more than 130,000 people last year in a widely praised program known as Mare Nostrum."[more inside]
A grim and forbidding land, devoid of human habitation, intolerant of the inexperienced, and merciless when it judges the foolhardy. On May 4, 1942, twelve men of the South African Air Force boarded three Bristol Blenheim Mark IVs and took off from the oasis of Kufra in the Libyan Desert. Only one made it back alive. [more inside]
Stories of Change: - Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Morocco and Tunisia.
An inside perspective from local visual storytellers on everyday life in North Africa.
An inside perspective from local visual storytellers on everyday life in North Africa.
“When international organizations declare a crisis over and refugee camps are closed, what happens to those who remain?” Close to one million people fled Libya as the violent fights of the Arab Spring began and a civil war ensued in 2011. Choucha, a refugee camp close to the Libyan border in Tunisia, housed many of them and was officially closed in June 2013. Roughly 400 refugees still live among the remains of the UN-camp. A short glimpse into their lives. [Vimeo. Partly German, English starts at 1:18] [more inside]
Forty maps that explain the Middle East. Includes sections on Middle East history, the region today, Israel-Palestine, Syria, Iran, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia and oil, Iraq and Libya, and "points of light." [more inside]
In 1989, Libyan terrorists blew up UTA 772, killing 170. 18 years later, Les Familles de l’Attentat du DC-10 d’UTA created the memorial, visible via Google Earth, with the help of local inhabitants. As these photos and their captions reveal, it's a touching story and a fitting memorial. Google Maps image is here. Information about the crash of UTA Flight 772 from Wikipedia is here.
When the car exploded, the same two words occurred to him, and to the ticket taker, and to every other person who saw or heard the blast, which could be heard on the other side of Kano, Nigeria’s second largest city: Boko Haram. That neither they, nor practically anyone else in Nigeria, knew what Boko Haram was exactly or why it would want to bomb a bus station was beside the point. Officially, according to the Nigerian government, Boko Haram is a terrorist group. It began life as a separatist movement led by a northern Nigerian Muslim preacher, Mohammed Yusuf, who decried the country’s misrule. “Boko Haram” is a combination of the Hausa language and Arabic, understood to mean that Western, or un-Islamic, learning is forbidden. In 2009, after Yusuf was killed [BBC, The Guardian]—executed, it’s all but certain, by Nigerian police—his followers vowed revenge.[more inside]
Shooting The Messengers
So, what guides a journalist's decisions in these unlovely places? The frequently repeated maxim that "no story is worth dying for" rings a little hollow. The awkward truth is that, in this field, personal bravery is simultaneously discouraged and rewarded.[more inside]
Last month, HBO Documentaires released "Which Way Is The Front Line From Here? The Life And Times Of Tim Hetherington." It is a "posthumous recounting of one of the most impressive photojournalism careers to date." "'Restrepo' director has sorrowful Sundance return. [more inside]
Syria Options Go From Bad To Worse
As reports have surfaced of possible use of sarin gas in the Syrian civil war, calls by long-time proponents of U.S. intervention on behalf of the anti-Assad rebels have grown to a fever pitch. These same voices, both at home and abroad, have evoked the administration’s previously stated “red line” on use of chemical weapons. But even assuming that reports of WMD usage in Syria turn out to be true, the Obama Administration’s position may be far more nuanced than previously thought.[more inside]
Murder of an Idealist. "For six hours on September 11, the American compounds in Benghazi, Libya, stood siege. When the attack was over, J. Christopher Stevens's body was pulled from the wreckage—the first U.S. ambassador killed by militants in over thirty years. Since then, his death has been politicized and the details of the attack distorted. Sean Flynn straightens out the story of Stevens's last days in Libya—and reveals the true believer we lost that day."
NATO Research Topic: Examining the Propaganda Tactics of Operation Unified Protector: 'the full set of 20 propaganda leaflets that were being dropped over cities in Libya during the aforementioned operations.' [more inside]
Our leaders -- of both parties -- have systematically infantilized Americans to believe that perfect security is attainable. This is one reason the White House reacts so defensively to any intimation that its conduct of the war on al-Qaeda is less than perfect. It’s one reason Republicans cynically argue that the administration is incompetent in its prosecution of the war, and in its mission to keep U.S. personnel alive. So long as both parties react so small-mindedly and opportunistically to the terrorist threat, we won’t be able to have a rational, adult conversation about the best ways to wage this war. - Jeffrey Goldberg, Benghazi Attack Brings Infantilizing Response
It's midnight in Libya, and the math major from UCLA is standing on an overturned pickup truck screaming, "Libya is great!" He has just survived an amateur "drifting" accident – the pickup he was in tipped over on its side, skidding across Benghazi's Keish Square at 40 miles an hour – and he is jubilant. With his carefully tousled hair and goofy T-shirt (featuring a cartoon bomb that's crying while it explodes), he looks like a stoner undergrad on spring break, which, remarkably, he is.
"Fierce fighting broke out on Friday night after crowds trying to storm the Benghazi base of a militia blamed for the death of US ambassador Chris Stevens came under fire", reports Chris Stephen in The Guardian. [more inside]
Ninety years ago today, the all-time weather temperature record (58° C, 136.4° F) was recorded at Al Azizia, Libya. Today, that record has been officially thrown out following research by extreme weather specialist, Christopher Burt. The video of how it all un-happened. [more inside]
U.S. Ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens Killed in Consulate Attack in Benghazi: "Stevens, 52, was killed on Tuesday as 20 gun-wielding attackers stormed the U.S. consulate, angry about an American made film that depicts Prophet Mohammad as a fraud and womanizer." [more inside]
On Dec. 21, 1988, Pan Am Flight 103, a Boeing 747 jumbo jet carrying 243 passengers and 16 crew members, took off from Heathrow Airport in Britain, bound for New York.
Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi, Convicted in 1988 Lockerbie Bombing, Dies at 60. [NYTimes.com] Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi, the only person convicted in the 1988 bombing of an American jetliner over Lockerbie, Scotland, has died in Libya, family members told news agencies on Sunday, nearly three years after Scotland released him on humanitarian grounds, citing evidence that he was near death with metastatic prostate cancer. He was 60.
Lockerbie: Case Closed is a badly-titled* documentary following former police detective George Thompson and legal investigator John Ashton as they investigate and uncover new evidence in the Lockerbie bombing. Thompson was hired by Abdelbasset al-Magrahi's legal team to investigate the case. Another film "Pan Am: The Lockerbie bomber"covers similar ground, but uncovers some other issues. Both have been aired on Al-Jazeera. This evidence is the same evidence re-examined by the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission. Five years ago the SCCRC produced a still unreleased report saying there were 6 grounds for Magrahi to appeal his conviction, which he was planning to do before he was released on compassionate grounds. The report is so secret that even the Scottish Justice secretary has not been allowed to see the it. [more inside]
"A staggering 49 per cent of Pakistanis said that it did not matter to them whether the government was democratic or not. Even more surprisingly, 21 per cent of Indian respondents also said that it did not matter to people such as themselves whether the government was democratic or dictatorial. Added to the fact that a third of respondents offered no response at all, many people in countries with substantial experience of democracy or with significant experience of both democracy and dictatorship appear to share the Libyans’ ambivalence about democracy as the preferred form of governance."
Libyan Desert Glass is strewn over an area of hundreds of square kilometers in the Great Sand Sea, a region desolate even by the high standards of the Sahara. As one account of a recent trip to acquire Libyan Desert Glass puts it: "Out there, death sits on your shoulder like a vulture." While some would have you believe that Libyan Desert Glass is evidence of ancient atomic warfare, it is probably evidence of a massive meteorite or comet explosion nearly thirty million years ago, similar to Tunguska, but much bigger. The stone age Aterian peoples made tools from it, but the remoteness and inhospitality of the Great Sand Sea has ensured that until recent times it has mostly been undisturbed. However, a breast ornament buried in Tutankhamen's tomb has a scarab made from Libyan Desert Glass, the only piece made of the material to have been found by Egyptologists, and how Tutankhamen's jewelers acquired it has remained a mystery. Until now. [Previously]
We got through the basics—how I’d arrived in Libya, why I was there—in civil tones. Then the Inspector asked, “If you were a professor at Harvard, why did you quit your job to come risk your life in Libya?” I explained as best I could that I had not been a professor but a graduate student, and part of my training was teaching undergraduates. The academic job market was tough and demoralizing, and the rigidity of the academic lifestyle had never appealed to me that much anyway. I had suspected for a few years that I’d be temperamentally better suited to working as a reporter. “Why you work journalist? You don’t study journalism, you study history!”—What I Lost in Libya by Clare Morgana Gillis, a journalist who was captured by Gadhafi forces.
The death of Ghaddafi may also herald the end of the battle for the Aouzou Strip." You could call this 44,000 square-mile piece of desert the world’s largest sandbox. Its most remarkable feature is that it was deemed worthy to be fought over at all." (NYT)
Libya's National Transitional Council has gotten used to uncovering Moumar Gadhafi's perplexing objects and bygone lifestyle-detritus (previously), though rarely have these objects been sentient and requiring immediate care. When the NTC arrived in Gadhafi's hometown of Sirte, they encountered his abandoned menagerie of rare-breed animals. Accordingly, the reserve has been taken over by fighters loyal to the NTC, together with volunteers stirred by the animals' plight. One such volunteer, [w]ith a doctorate in international relations, Mohamad Al Majdoub makes an unlikely curator for Gaddafi's animals, but he feels that caring for the menagerie is all a part of forging a free Libya. "We have to protect it," said Majdoub. "They are part of Libya's patrimony. They are part of our future."
Last night, British ITV broadcasted "Exposure: Gaddafi and the IRA", a documentary which included this 1988 Provisional IRA footage the filmmakers found on YouTube. Unfortunately, the footage is actually and blatently from videogame ArmA 2. ITV has stopped streaming the documentary.
[...]There was still talk of snipers, of a counterattack by Qaddafi’s men, of a fifth column of “sleeper cells” lurking inside the capital. Victory had come too easily. Only weeks earlier, the rebels seemed in disarray, and Qaddafi’s forces, having withstood more than four months of NATO air strikes, seemed poised to hold out for many more. Then, on Aug. 20, a planned uprising broke out in Tripoli, as the ragged rebel army converged on the city from various directions. The final battle, expected to last weeks, was over in two days. Qaddafi and his top lieutenants fled almost immediately. Now it was hard to know who was a killer and who a mere dupe.[...]
The Surreal Ruins of Quaddafi's Never-Never Land, Robert F. Worth (Note: nytimes. Via longform.com)
The Surreal Ruins of Quaddafi's Never-Never Land, Robert F. Worth (Note: nytimes. Via longform.com)
Stackoverflow grapples with the many spellings of "Gaddafi." Thank God programmers are on the case, because everyone else is confused by the 112 possibilities (even with this chart)! Even Dr. Demento weighed in.
Following Libyian rebels taking Tripoli and Gadhafi's family fleeing the area, pictures of Gadhafi's family compound are surfacing. "The value of these images isn't in their artistry or aesthetic, but in their storytelling information as we seek to uncover more behind the scenes of the Khadafi regime that spanned forty-two years." Also found: an album filled with photos of [Gadhafi's] 'darling' Condoleezza Rice. [more inside]
The Crimes of Col. Qaddafi An original essay by Christopher Hitchens, that starts: In George Orwell's 1939 novel, Coming Up for Air, his narrator, George Bowling, broods on the special horrors of the new totalitarianism and notices "the colored shirts, the barbed wire, the rubber truncheons," but also, less obviously perhaps, "the processions and the posters with enormous faces, and the crowds of a million people all cheering for the Leader till they deafen themselves into thinking that they really worship him, and all the time, underneath, they hate him so that they want to puke."
The Battle For Tripoli Begins: In the last few hours, news outlets and Twitter have been abuzz with reports of fighting around Tripoli. The Libyan rebel council is claiming that “zero hour” has started and a major offensive to take the city is beginning. [more inside]
In pictures: the life of a war photographer (There are some graphic images in here; not for the squeamish, though for most would be SFW for most workplaces).
In a 32 page report to Congress [pdf] President Obama concludes:
...the current U.S. military operations in Libya are consistent with the War Powers Resolution and do not under that law require further congressional authorization, because U.S. military operations are distinct from the kind of “hostilities” contemplated by the Resolution’s 60 day termination provision.Now, the New York Times reports that this legal opinion was reached by rejecting the views of top lawyers at the Pentagon and the Justice Department. It is instructive to compare President Obama's actions with those of his predecessor, George W. Bush. [more inside]
From Vice Magazine (NSFW photos in sidebar): The New Libyans: Knee-deep in the Shit with Benghazi's New Rebels, by Trevor Snapp. (warning: gory photo) More photos of the New Libyans from Trevor Snapp. Also from Vice, on Libya: Big Muammar's House. Also on Vice, on Libya: Notes from a Libyan Lurker, part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5, part 6, part 7, part 8, part 9, part 10, part 11.
Before Qaddafi, the closest thing to a national icon that Libya had was Omar Mukhtar, the Lion of the Desert. Mussolini thought of Libya as the Fourth Shore of Italy; the natives were not pleased with this idea, and under the leadership of Mukhtar, a school teacher, successfully resisted the Italians for twenty years with almost no resources. Italian rule in Libya was harsh: Libyans were rounded up into concentration camps, tanks and aerial bombardment were used against civilians, and half of the population of Cyrenaica - the eastern part of Libya - died. To stop Mukhtar from receiving supplies from Egypt, the Italians built a 168-mile long barbed-wire fence essentially dividing the country in two. Mukhtar was finally captured and hung on September of 1931; he remains a symbol of Libyan independence. [more inside]
How Britain's largest corporations helped engineer the release of Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi, the Lockerbie bomber.
British photojournalist and filmmaker Tim Hetherington was killed by artillery fire in Libya today. He was 41 years old. [more inside]
At least nine foreign and six Libyan jouranlists are missing in Libya. Three of the Western journalists were spotted in a detention camp in Tripoli.Two others are still missing and unaccounted for, South African Anton Lazarus Hammerl and American freelancer Matthew VanDyke. The Committee to Protect Journalists has documented over 80 attacks on the press in the last month. With Qaddafi forces firing cluster bombs in civilian areas, one wonders how we can expect these journalists to be returned safely home. Perhaps Turkey can intercede? There is a facebook campaign for at least one of the journalists. Of course, this problem is worldwide.
Shortly after the unrest in Libya started, the country was cut off from the internet, cell phone infrastructure was limited and used to send SMS messages calling on subscribers to attack foreigners, and satellite phones were jammed. In response, engineers have recently re-routed some of the national cellphone network to make a new system, Free Libya. [more inside]
Didn’t you notice the palpable difference between what is happening in Libya and what is happening elsewhere?
"[T]he real target of Western bombers and soldiers is in no way the wretched Gaddafi...For the target of the bombers is definitely the popular uprising in Egypt and the revolution in Tunisia, it is their unexpected and intolerable character, their political autonomy, in a word: their independence." Philosopher Alain Badiou attacks the left's support for the NATO intervention in Libya. Background: Europe's economic entanglements with Gaddafi's Libya in the Irish Left Review.
Revolutionology is the blog of a sociologist in Libya.
"The United Nations-authorized intervention in Libya has pitched ethical issues of the highest importance, and has split progressives in unfortunate ways. I hope we can have a calm and civilized discussion of the rights and wrongs here." Professor Juan Cole of the University of Michigan writes An Open Letter to the Left on Libya.
Gary Brecher-ne-Dolan, better known as The War Nerd, has switched from bimonthly articles to a daily blog. First stop? Why Lybia! Where else? [more inside]
Libya: Six injured as US team botches rescue of downed airmen. 'US forces sent into Libya to rescue two downed American airmen botched the mission by shooting and wounding friendly villagers who had come to help, witnesses have said. Libyans who went to investigate the US warplane's crash site said that a US helicopter had come in with guns firing, creating panic and wounding onlookers, some of whom had to be taken to hospital; one 20-year-old man is expected to have his leg amputated.' [more inside]
The Great Sand Sea in Libya preserves some remarkeable meteoritea. Amazing though these are, none as enigmatic as the Libyan desert glass. [more inside]
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