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Archive for the ‘war crimes’ Category

Situated next to the Dutch town of The Hague well known for its international peace and justice institutions, close to the beach with the sea within hearing distance. Rooms with all comfort. Inquiries and bookings via our agency ICC-CPI.INT.

* HOTEL شيفينينغن الكتاب الآن قبل فوات الأوان! (المحكمة الجنائية الدولية المحكمة الجنائية الدولية / الضمان).

تقع بالقرب من مدينة لاهاي الهولندية من أجل السلام الدولية المعروفة ومؤسسات العدالة، وعلى مقربة من الشاطئ مع البحر ضمن مسافة السمع. غرف مع جميع وسائل الراحة. الاستفسارات والحجوزات عبر لدينا وكالة للمحكمة الجنائية الدولية CPI.INT.

Here are some pictures of our facilities / وهنا بعض الصور من مرافقنا:

Neo-classical style building dating back to the year 1883. النيو كلاسيكية بناء نمط يعود تاريخها إلى 1883 سنة

Our lobby. لدينا اللوبي.

One of our comfortable rooms. واحدة من الغرف المريحة.

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I have a hard time understanding the aerial combat over Israel and Gaza. What is the idea of the Palestinian brigades to fire their low tech rockets to penetrate the Iron Shield protected area of Israel? 90% of such rockets – it is said – are now destroyed in mid air by the the Israeli defence system, whereas the people in Gaza have no defence whatsoever against incoming retaliation bombardments from the endless military arsenal of Israel. The picture with the dog in the foreground and the smoke trail of the Israeli anti-rocket system intercepting a Gaza-strip fired rocket, was taken on Saturday the 9th of April 2011 in the field near Ashkelon in Israel with the following command: “Nicole was out walking her dogs when she heard the distant siren and the booms. In the fields there is nowhere to hide, so she just watched the Iron Dome shooting the rocket out of the sky, leaving a puff and white smoke trail.” (3)

I need two arms and two fingers to point at all those despicable missile launchers. The only ones gaining from this ‘iron brains game’ is the weapon industry that uses the territories of Israel and Gaza as a testing grounds for the most advanced military products as is summarised in these visuals from trade brochures…

More than one hundred rockets fired from Gaza at Israeli territory, 6 Israelis’s wounded, retaliation attacks on Gaza 21 dead (March 12, 2012). There must be an immense hatred for all those ‘iron brains’ launching their explosive devices, from whatever side, for whatever ideological or security claim. But, who can earnestly express such a view, either in Israel or Gaza?

click picture for link to information source as shown below: al-akhbar.com

<quote>Wounded Palestinian children are seen in a hospital in the northern Gaza Strip, after an Israeli airstrike 12 March 2012. (…) Israeli airstrikes killed an additional three people in the Gaza Strip overnight, including a teenage boy, bringing the total death toll to 21 after three days of attacks on the Hamas-controlled territory.</quote>

 <quote>”A drone strike hit a group of students who were walking by empty land on their way to school,” he told AFP, saying six others had been injured, two of whom were in critical condition. The latest killings came after another schoolboy, 12-year-old Ayoub Assaleya, was killed in an Israeli airstrike on a predominantly civilian neighborhood on Sunday in the Jabalya refugee camp, according to medics. His seven-year-old cousin was injured in the attack and taken to Kamal Adwan hospital in Jabalya, north Gaza.</quote>

 <quote>Earlier, the Israeli army said that it had targeted a “terrorist squad” preparing to fire rockets from northern Gaza. It also confirmed a direct hit on “two rocket launching sites, in the northern Gaza Strip, used by terror organizations.” Gaza militants have responded to Israeli airstrikes with more than 100 rockets since Friday, injuring six Israelis, one of them seriously. Islamic Jihad and the Popular Resistance Committees said it had fired rockets and mortars into Israel on Friday and Saturday.</quote>

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Notes, pictures with their original caption, click pictures to see original context of images:

(1) “Masked Palestinian militants from Islamic Jihad run with homemade rockets to put in place before later firing them into Israel on the outskirts of Gaza City, Saturday, Dec. 20, 2008. (AP Photo/Ashraf Amra)”

(2) “A battery of Iron Dome anti-aircraft missile launches from the town of Ashdod, Israel, Palestine to intercept a missile. / EFE”

(3) “Nicole’s dog Heidi and the Iron Dome defense system in action in the background.”

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新的一年大爆炸的奢侈品是傳統的中國火藥的發明 (luxury of new year big bangs is the legacy of the invention of Chinese gunpowder)

The Netherlands is part of what can be called ‘the European war-exempted-zone’. Firework is a popular craze here from 10 in the morning December 31 to 2 at night January 1, to drive out the old year. 60 to 70 million Euro value of explosives goes up in the air, 200 to 300 eye operation as a result, 20 to 30 blind, hardly any dead. Many youngsters do test their ammunition before hand, especially near my house next top a night outgoing district. Most of the Dutch have no direct war or terrorism connotation when they here a big bang nearby in these last days of the year, though the Party for the Animals and Green Left have called for a total ban on private/personal firework use.

Firework sales for New Years Eve in the Netherlands in 1959 as I remember it as a boy counting all the pocket money I have saved and scanning the window of the only shop or so in town for my acquisitions. My parents knew the sound of real big bangs and my mother told me how she stand on the balcony of her house in The Hague and patting my back to make me not afraid of the bangs and billowing smoke at the horizon: the big mistake of a RAF bombardment hitting a civilian quarter (Bezuiden Hout) of The Hague right opposite the home of my grand mother. I was just a baby so can not remember it. I did play in the ruins - left for a decade or so - as a kid when staying with my grand mother... she did not appreciate much my rejoicing of "the ban bangs"...

Enjoying explosives is a real LUXURY as can be learned from the United Nations bulletin ‘ExplosiveWeapons.info’ published by the United Nations Disarmament Research Institute in Geneva. The “End of Year Explosive Violence Review” is summing it up: “Sadly, in over 70 countries, explosive weapons have caused severe harm to individuals and communities and furthered suffering by damaging vital infrastructure. But recognition is growing that the use of explosive weapons in places where civilians live, work or gather constitutes a serious humanitarian problem that needs to be addressed.”

See http://explosiveweapons.info/2011/12/29/end-of-year-explosive-violence-review/

Not only in the Netherlands, there are initiatives to come to a ban on firework as a citizen’s demand,  in all parts of the world similar initiatives have been taken, Philippines, New Zealand, Great Britain, South Africa, Italy, the United States, which can be read about in detail on the web site of  stop-fireworks.org, Some initiatives propose alternative forms of New Year celebration like in the USA to bang drums instead of firing explosives…

Fireworks in the Binnen Bantammerstraat part of the then still tiny Chinese Quarter of Amsterdam in the winter of 1971-72, a photograph by Koen Wessing (1942-2011).

When living in Amsterdam in the early seventies next to the small Chinese quarter, still growing at that time around the Binnen Bantammerstraat, there was always a big display of Chinese fireworks by the restaurant holders in that street on Western calendar New Years Eve. The Chinese had these long rolls of big firecrackers, one after another, we called them ‘pakora’s’, sometimes hung from the top of the house fronts or all along the street, twelve and more meter long. There was also the swaying around of firework on ropes within a dense circle in a crowd of people, the first ranks shrieking back each time a mass of glowing and sputtering ‘saltpeter’ passed their faces. The next morning the whole Chinese area looked like covered with a deep soft red carpet, with eager youngsters rummaging around to fire the ones that failed to explode during midnight. We had a squatted neighbourhood action centre straight next to this scene and always did throw new year midnight parties there. The photographer of this picture Koen Wessing was one of the supporters of our action group and it was only today I discovered this photograph by him, while doing a little research for this article.

The first part of this year I lived and worked for half a year in Hong Kong and on the first day of Chinese New year I was waiting for a massive popular display of fire work in my neighbourhood close to the popular district of Shek Kip Mei in Kowloon. To my surprise nothing happened at all, the only fireworks visible were the ones on the television set. The city panorama below my apartment – situated on a rock with a wide view – remained completely empty. It was only later I learned that all firework in the then Crown Colony of Hong Kong of the Brits had been forbidden in 1967, a year that almost saw a Cultural Revolution Rising in Hong Kong by local Maoists. Gunpowder of firework had been used in that turbulent year to make street bombs that would be exploded to raise the level of unrest in the city. That firework ban has remained in force ever since, with only some exceptions for the inhabitants of Hong Kong’s New territories villages during their special traditional spring and summer festivals.

A labour dispute at a factory making artificial plastic flowers in San Po Kong, Kowloon was the event triggering the 1967 Hong Kong rising; production output levels being raised for the same wage; breakdown hours of machines as non paid work time and so on...The picture taken May 11 1967 shows police forces firing tear gas grenades and wooden bullets at demonstrators assembling in front of the high rise factory building. Objects had been dropped on some police men before from the rooftops. A young boy later was beaten up and died.

When studying more of the history of the conflict in 1967 (“Hong Kong’s watershed: the 1967 riots” by Gary Ka-wai Cheung; 2009) I learned that some of those street bombs had warning signs on them (like “compatriots do not come close”) when planted, but the message was written in Chinese characters only. Most of these bombs were primitive home-made contraptions on the basis of gunpowder taken from firework stock (others used gunpowder used by fishermen). Firework bombs were most often thrown directly at colonial targets, mostly police stations and of the ones planted in the street many were fake bomb, just to “fire” social unrest. During almost a year 8352 suspected bombs had been planted of which only 1420 proved to be “genuine”, 1167 targeted the colonial police force, 253 were detonated in an uncontrolled way. The bombs hailed by the underground Maoist Communist Party of Hong Kong as a form of “People’s Warfare” could not fail to also hit ‘the people’ themselves and when in August 1967 a street bomb killed an eight year girl and a two year old boy, the public reaction backfired at the anti-colonial insurgents. An existing relative sympathy under broad layers of the population for the cause of these left wing revolutionaries fighting the colonial power, was progressively lost. The disruption of the  daily life in the colony by the firework bombs -which were in a military sense minor weapons – had been significant. Hindering traffic and most of all having a psychological impact. At a certain moment during that year the British governor even worked secretly on a new emergency evacuation plan,  for the non Chinese population, just in case. In the end it proved that the local underground Communist Party had for a great deal acted on their own and failed to generated the needed support from party authorities in Bejing. Mainland China was – at that time –  too much in a political turmoil with lots of fractional infighting, to allow itself to take the small Colony of Hong Kong by force. Neo-colonial Hong Kong, “the goose with the golden eggs” was of more importance to the Mainland China than a banking, manufacturing and trading centre, which would certainly collapse after a forceful take-over.

Till this very day, the firework bombs remain a legacy associated with the Communist Party of Hong Kong, that, though not formally part of the restraint political landscape of Hong Kong (see “Underground front: the Chinese Communist Party in Hong Kong” by Christine Loh; 2010), is the central force of power in what is now The ‘Special Administrative Region of China Hong Kong’ (SAR Hong Kong). The highest governmental functions in SAR Hong Kong are reserved for (secret) Communist Party members only. As the history of this central core of Hong Kong power remains covered in secretive haze, debatable events in its history remain a subject which is mostly  avoided. Who –  for instance – visits the Hong Kong Historical Museum will find just one or two photographs of the 1967 struggle with a superficial caption. In popular memory though, the firework bombs and the effects of some indiscriminate targeting of the primitive firework bombs from 1967, lingers on.

A painted silk flag from the 10th century in China showing gunpowder used as a weapon on the end of a sort of spear gun.

Saltpeter  (potassium nitrate) is a substance that forms through the decomposition of organic materials, a whitish salt like material since long known for its quality of burning fiercely even in non favourite circumstances for  fire. We know that Taoist alchemists in China were experimenting with it already in the 8th century in their quest for life prolonging elixirs. While trying out all kind of combinations of substances and materials, they discovered the explosive properties of mixing  saltpeter with sulphur and charcoal. The mix we call now in English ‘gunpowder’ (‘buskruit’ in Dutch *). Aside from try-outs  to swallow small quantities as a medicine, the aesthetic and ceremonial qualities of the substance were discovered and all kind of ways to fire it for spectacular display were developed. Spring, Autumn and New Year festivals with their staged dances of mythical animals like dragons and lions, were amplified with display of fireworks. Bamboo tubes were used at first, which lead also to experiments to use the explosive mix for war purposes. First devices were spears with at the end bamboo tubes filled with gunpowder that were directed at an enemy during a battle. Soon more elaborate war use was found by finding out the propulsive qualities of certain mixes that could drive out one or more arrows from wooden containers. Closing up such bamboo containers would give yet another effect of bursting wood fibre and so also what we call now a grenade, has been invented over one thousand years ago.

Healing, celebration and warfare all used the same substance: gunpowder. Moments of celebration punctuated by explosions, but also new powerful bangs of explosions on the battlefield, which before was less loud with just clanging of lances, swords, shields and the shouts of warriors. Up to this very day the awe of a big bang may be just a carrier of celebration, but once someone has witnessed an explosion as a part of an act of terrorism or war, the aesthetic appreciation of a firework spectacle may be lost – for her or him – forever.

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* Etymology of the Dutch word for ‘gunpowder’:
buskruit zn. ‘explosief poeder’
Mnl. bussen cruyt ‘buskruit’ [1441; Van der Meulen 1942a], busskruit ‘id.’ [1481-83; MNW bussecloot], met daarnaast vormen als donderbuspoeder [ca. 1400-50; MNW stampen], donderbuscruut, dondercruut [MNHW].
Het eerste lid is mnl. busse ‘(kamer in een) vuurwapen, vuurroer’, zie → bus 1; het tweede lid is mnl. cruyt ‘(tover)kruid’, zie → kruid, → kruit.
Buskruit werd in Europa vanaf de 14e eeuw gebruikt.

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Summary Execution 2012 – 1968.. long distance versus close range killing on the spot without any trial… are we as shocked by the killing drones of today as back in time during the Vietnam War, with the Chief of the South Vietnam Police General Nguyen Ngoc Loan executing a handcuffed Vietcong prisoner, Nguyen Van Lem in the street in Saigon in front of an NBC camera man and an Associated Press photographer?

Is high tech killing of a whole area, building or car with “precise” rockets experienced as somewhat more acceptable than a close range shot in the head?

Tableau made after reading in The Guardian yet another story of the use of drones to kill adversaries without any form of trial: “William Hague questioned over British role in drone strikes” (Lawyers for Noor Khan, whose father died in Pakistan strike, want clarification of British intelligence’s role in CIA campaign).

There has been much debate in its time about the picture – I know –  Eddie Adams (the photographer in 1968) later wrote in Time:

“ The general killed the Viet Cong; I killed the general with my camera. Still photographs are the most powerful weapon in the world. People believe them, but photographs do lie, even without manipulation. They are only half-truths … What the photograph didn’t say was, ‘What would you do if you were the general at that time and place on that hot day, and you caught the so-called bad guy after he blew away one, two or three American soldiers?

… such discussions we still have today, think about the execution of Bin Laden without trial, or do we believe he felt in combat?

(See my article “NATO’s collateral tyrannicide” 7 May 2011 in OpenDemocracy.)

Human Right Watch has a recent report and statement on drones dated December 19th. 2011.

Members of the Abida tribe point to a drone aircraft flying over Wadi Abida, Yemen on October 13, 2010. (click on picture to go to Human Right Watch drone page)

 

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How anybody can protect civilians by throwing bombs from the air? When we find the sight of the mutilated body of Gaddafi on show in a freezer of a butcher store appalling, what about the multiplication of the principle – now in Libya – on the backstage of global news? Which accounts are settled in the shadow? Who gets hold of whom for what, in a situation without rule of law? What has been the example given by the Alliance forces dropping explosives from the air, not bringing members of the contested regime to justice, but to punish them on the spot by attempted annihilation?

When it is true that a fleeing or escaping convoy of Gaddafi has been attacked by NATO airplanes with their deadly load just outside of Sirte, why to muddle about the subsequent lynching that seems to have taken place? NATO tried to lynch from the air, long distance and  ‘high tech’, opposition forces finished the job by hand on the ground.

Who will hold out her or his phone camera to document the revenge between civilians triggered by such examples, raging now in Libya?

It is sufficient to have read the recent report of Amnesty International “LIBYA: THE BATTLE FOR LIBYA: KILLINGS, DISAPPEARANCES AND TORTURE” published on September 13. 2011, to know that the perpetration of violence was/is not only a monopoly of the Gaddafi regime in Libya, but has entered the veins and bloodstream of this society.

"Muammar Gaddafi's 'trophy' body on show in Misrata meat store Libyans queue to see dictator's body as wounds appear to confirm he was killed in cold blood" (The Guardian October 22, 2011)

These are the days of the ‘little axes’, in so many hands, falling down on so many heads… How dare heads of state – like Sarkozy – speak through broadcasts to the Libyan people, “Its time now for reconciliation” , whereas those that need to be reconciled have been left behind with a collapsed state and hardly any governmental or citizen’s networks to undertake such a huge task of building a civil society and reconcile?

Many millions have been wasted on advanced technological military exercises. Nobody wanted to invest in diplomatic and civil campaigns to bring about regime change.

The nazi regime lasted a mere twelve years and ‘de-nazification’ several decades. We Europeans have not been able to stop the wild enforced regime change by an outsider high technology military force. NATO has been send in, paid by our tax money. What has been sold to us by Aljazeera and the like as a ‘people’s revolution’ may in the end well have mutated into a ‘coup d’état’ where the top have been toppled, but the echelons just below it remain in control.

Who then will be responsible for the ‘de-gaddafization’ of Libya?

This is certainly not a task for generals and their milieu of the military industrial-complex, it is not something NATO is good at and still we Europeans lay the solving of humanitarian crisis in the hands of the military  allowing the derivation from ‘problem solving’ into  ‘problem making’. It is sad that in times where ‘development aid’ and ‘humanitarian aid’ is discredited by many politicians, and scratched off the budget in many EEC countries, that military investments in missions like the one in Libya are well supported by the same representatives, we all have voted into our parliaments. There are even – recently – several examples of military missions paid for by  budgets earmarked for development aid.

Don’t we need new institutions, or at least a radical reformatting of the tasks of big organisations like NATO to try out other methods of human protection and appeasement?

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Some side images of the killing of Gaddafi near Sirte, of the alleged bombing by NATO of a retreating/escaping convoy of Gaddafi (*), reminded me of the Highway Of Death in Kuwait in 1991, the bombarding of retreating Iraqi troops… a massacre not only of soldiers and their equipment but also of civilians related to the Iraqis that tried to make their way out of Kuwait City. Kicking your adversary in the ass… there is a ‘virtual black book of military history’ to which a page seems to have been added by NATO. Do you let your enemy escape or will you destroy him? What are the long lasting effects of such non glorious  military acts of revenge on an enemy that has lost or is about to loose. Is there art in ‘the bombing of retreating troops’?

The pictures I choose are not the most gruesome that exist. The Kuwait highway bombing photographs include charcoaled faces of  people burnt alive by the aerial strike, images that have burnt themselves in my memory as a reminder that ‘the art of surrender’ is a much more noble art that should be exercised by the troops of our European nations. We need a civilian campaign on how war is conducted.

There is not enough public scrutiny on NATO military strategies. The critical level of reporting in the news of war events remains often 19th century imperial, rejoicing in what is thought to be ‘a victory for the good of the human race’. The NATO involvement in this last phase of the Libyan war seems to be completely out of line with their mandate based on the UN resolution that asks to bring to court the Libyan head of state Gaddafi, not to kill him or have him killed without a trial.


Let me give one example of historical back firing: the massacre of the retreating Croatian troops of the fascist regime of Ante Pavelic in May 1945, near the town of Bleiburg at the Slovenian/Austrian border by partisan troops (40/50.000 killed). This negative event has remained a rallying point for Croatian nationalist ever since and played its nasty role in the much later enfolding new Balkan War at the end of the 20th century..

*) Mail on-line gruesome photographs, scroll down the page for the vehicles bombed out by NATO photograph

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