The War Diaries

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Archive for the ‘America’ Category

Crossroads of a Global War

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Commander Heval (Comrade) Shiyar and his Manbij Military Council fighters at their position along the south bank of the Sajur River north of Manbij. These minimally armed men are at the centre of a global great game for control of Syria’s territory.©2018 Derek Henry Flood

Manbij- Along the Manbij Military Council’s mostly quiet frontline with the Turkish military and its Islamist Syrian Arab proxy militias, headlines have emanated from this mostly misunderstood crisis locus. One of the most crucial points which I personally found maddeningly frustrating was that Turkish president Erdoğan’s constantly parroted talking point that the Kurdish YPG militia must withdraw unconditionally west of the Euphrates River. This ultimatum is designed to meet Ankara’s narrow, localised geostrategic demands that what it deems the “terror corridor” of northern Syria must be cleared of “terrorists” on conditions dictated by the Turkish president and his obedient foreign minister.

This assertion was repeated by Western media outlets with global reach in such a blatantly unexamined manner. Some of that may have to do with outlets being risk averse when it comes to hiring freelancers in Syria specifically I would guess from the beheading episodes of 2014 though no one has ever actually told me this in writing, but it seems implied. One major US outlet told me they refused work from independent journalist working in Iraq and Syria in 2017 when I was covering the Raqqa offensive. At the time I presumed this because a freelancer they’d hired was kidnapped/captured though the editor I corresponded with then left me to make merely an educated guess. Thus an intensely complicated place like Manbij that requires immense nuance and time spent has not been aided by fleeting coverage in the mainstream media. This has helped advance the Turkish position on the matter–at least in terms of rhetoric-as-news-copy–coupled with the anti-intellectualism of a bumbling American leader repeatedly contradicting his own field commanders who partner with the Manbij Military Council. Thus I digress.

In an effort to examine battlefield nuance, I have an article in the April issue for Jane’s Intelligence Review (subscription required titled “Strategic Prize” as well as its companion online piece, “Diverse forces converge on Syria’s Manbij,” reporting from the frontlines of this incredibly complex threat environment.

Manbij and its rural hinterland are in fact defended by the Manbij Military Council, a mostly young Arab force helmed by veteran Kurdish commanders that in reality not simply a branch of the YPG. Like the YPG it is a constituent militia making up the SDF but it is a distinct force grouping with a high degree of operational autonomy.

The late Abu Amjad who led the MMC was in fact a Manbiji Arab. The MMC does not have female YPJ fighters along its frontline positions facing Ankara’s ‘Euphrates Shield’ forces or those areas where it is facing the Russian and Iranian-backed nizam (Syrian colloquial Arabic denoting the Assad regime). Manbij was a logistical resupply hub for Kurdish militias during the siege of Afrin to be sure but I never observed that they were responsible for this critical frontier city’s armed security.

Few independent journalists have actually visited Manbij and spent real time here but understandably so. Aside from a very brief dog-and-pony show with a not particularly articulate American general in early February, the coverage of this incredibly intricate battle space has been lacklustre at best. Though I also must emphasise just how difficult it has become to get not only into Syria but to get access to the core of the stories there. One must deal with the opaque decision making processes of not one but two internationally unrecognised governments whilst in a constant pursuit of freshly stamped permission papers with expiration dates. Having worked in Syria before in no way means working there the next time will be more easily facilitated either. Generally speaking, it doesn’t get easier.

The ethnic Arab frontline village of al-Dadat secured by the MMC, an area which the Turkish president claims is ruled by Kurdish “terrorists.” ©Derek Henry Flood

But then if things like this were easy and obvious I probably wouldn’t be pursuing them in the first place. In my entire career now spanning some 17 years I’ve yet to do an embed with a Western military and the possible self censorship such endeavours entail. I focus on the doings of indigenous non-state actors such as those of the Manbij Military Council pictured at the top of this post. People from the land they are striving to protect. To me that is and has always been the real engine of these stories. Occupation forces invade and inevitably withdraw in the Levant, even if that takes decades (think Syria and Israel in post-civil war Lebanon per example) but local fighters are fighting for and guarding their own territory which involves a completely different war fighting perspective.

Written by derekhenryflood

April 3rd, 2018 at 4:00 am

The Detritus of Pain: Iraq 15 Years On

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“All Donne [sic] Go Home” The feet still sit atop the plinth where the statue of Saddam Hussein was torn down on April 9 2003 in Firdows Square. ©2003 Derek Henry Flood

Erbil- Today marks fifteen years since the disastrous Anglo-American invasion of the Republic of Iraq. Eighteen months after the American intervention in the Afghan civil war became internationalised in response to 9/11, the next phase of what I refer to as the Terror Wars began as the Iraqi state was violently dismantled with  disproportionately expensive munitions.  This air campaign and concurrent ground war were quickly followed by a bumbling know-nothing former US ambassador to the Netherlands establishing an awkward neo-colonial ad administration in Baghdad that was more bent on disenfranchising Ba’athists that permanently repairing the power grid. The United States, along with its junior partner the United Kingdom did not have a clear vision of who their enemy was.

New York, Pennsylvania, and Virginia were attacked by al-Qaeda, a transnational salafi-jihadi organisation with a Saudi face but an Egyptian ideological backbone. The Taliban and al-Hizb ul-Ba’ath did not plot nor launch any such attack yet they morphed into the targets of the Terror Wars in terms of proportionality. That is not to say they were not despicable regimes, each were both deceptive and vile. The Taliban unrepentantly sheltered al-Qaeda leadership and allowed the travelers of its morose caravan safe passage. The minoritarian Ba’athists in Baghdad, who had worked to modernise the Iraqi state through repressive and often violent means, were secretive and paranoid regarding their Shia Iranian neighbours to the detriment of all other international relations.

But did either post a meaningful threat to America and the collective West more broadly?

The late Iraqi president, Saddam Hussein, referred to in the American media almost exclusively as simply ‘Saddam’ (imagine how it would sound if Vladimir Putin was always referred to as just ‘Vladimir?’) having fought an eight year trench war against millenarian Shia revolutionaries in Iran was still concerned about his country falling into the hands of what he perceived as his true enemies, the ‘Safavids’ (a derisive term for Iranians in the Iraqi context). Saddam Hussein feared Iranian power–the near enemy– more than the United States–the far enemy–who had stopped short of dislodging him in 1991.

Fifteen years on the United States military is still operating in Iraq (as well as Afghanistan) albeit on a much smaller human scale. Would those avidly viewing “shock and awe” on Fox or Sky news fifteen years ago today have supported attacking this country had they the foresight it would last this long? One can suppose almost certainly not.

Many of al-Qaeda’s core leaders from the late 1980s and mid-1990s have been killed in drone strikes or in the occasional successful special operations raid. But AQ ideology, a strain of replicating salafism that relies on coercion and mass casualty religio-politcal violence to spread its self-appointed righteous messaging has dimmed. This occurred not in the face of the Terror Wars wins on a military scorecard or effective counter-terror efforts but because a more polished peer competitor, the so-called ‘Islamic State,’ came along with a slick millenial social media portfolio to oust AQ from its perch atop Sunni radical primacy.

Saddam Hussein was hastily executed at the end of 2006 while in stark contrast Mullah Mohammed Omar died in secret to all but his closest confidants in 2013–though this was not revealed until 2015. These men were detestable despots each of their respective forms  but it can be argued fairly easily that neither posed a direct threat to the hard security of the American mainland. AQ on the other did and does though it is currently competing with its splinter-cum-rival IS within the salafi conflict realm on several fronts.

Here we are with war in Iraq still grinding on in what is simply a new phase. Yet there is no end in sight to Iraqi suffering as the fitna (internecine Muslim warfare) that was borne out of the laboratory of the occupation that began a decade and a half ago continues with macabre zeal in the present day. I doubt few Americans are aware of this anniversary and those that do may not care all that much.

Iraq 10 years after the invasion, soldiers chat at a remote checkpoint in Kirkuk governorate that would soon fall to IS months after I shot this image. ©2013 Derek Henry Flood

Iraq is a half a world away from the United States buffeted by the (now also war-torn) Levant, Mediterranean, and the vast, deep, frigid Atlantic Ocean. Baghdad is seven hours ahead of the East Coast where many if not most of those neoconservative charlatans and self-described well meaning liberal interventionists still live and work.

Why anyone who advocated for regime change here, be it in the op-ed pages of major American newspapers or in the halls of congress still finds gainful employment is far beyond me. Their words and shoddily founded opinions were and are responsible for the lives of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and some 4000 American servicemen. Before there was to be kinetic warfare there was a venomous lobbying war in Washington as well as London. Those talking heads who have issued a paltry few mea culpas in the last decade cannot truly atone for their intellectual sins. For they do not have to live in the hell they help foment.

The war in Iraq incubated the most loathsome of human behaviours that are now commonplace in this region. Beheadings and suicide bombings went from being the remote tactical exception to the norm, espeically in terms of militant propaganda. This society was traumatically brutalised by al-Hizb ul-Ba’ath for decades and that repressed legacy was allowed to come to the surface as globalist salafism spread in the context of the concomitant internet revolution. When I first arrived in Iraq in 2003, I had no way to check my email for weeks, only big money corporate journos who had imported satellite phones from Dubai or London had the ability to be online but even so social media was in its infancy.

Iraq today still burns with rage, as does now neighbouring Syria. Iraqi friends of spoken with from Kirkuk to Baghdad to Basra, assert that the legacy of ethno-sectarian politics entrenched since 2003 has left Iraq more dangerous and dilapidated in many places than it was under the collective punishment of 1990s era UN sanctions.

There is still no end in sight.

Written by derekhenryflood

March 20th, 2018 at 3:50 am

Presidents

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President Barack Obama First Lady Michelle Obama George W. Bush and Laura Bush attend the ceremony in Lower Manhattan to mark the 10th anniversary of 9/11. While the Obamas remained composed throughout the Bush's displayed visible signs of emotion as the events of 9/11 were recalled.

President Barack Obama First Lady Michelle Obama George W. Bush and Laura Bush attend the ceremony in Lower Manhattan to mark the 10th anniversary of 9/11. While the Obamas remained composed throughout the Bush’s displayed visible signs of emotion as the events of 9/11 were recalled. ©2011 Derek Henry Flood

New York- The American political system was dealt what many perceived as a devastating blow last night after years of fitful yet steady progress on a host of domestic and international policy issues. From normalization of relations with Cuba to the decriminalization of certain soft drugs on a state by state basis, many calcified issues held over from other eras have been de-stigmatized which has had the effect of getting US policy more in line with some of its more progressive Western counterparts. On major issues like guns or the death penalty this has not particularly been the case but while I was in the EU this past summer I felt a sense that the US, under years of Obama’s presidency, was more in line with European social norms than at any time in recent history.

The US was no longer viewed as the “hyperpuissance” (hyperpower) as it was derided at the apogee of neoconservative power in 2002-2003.  In short, things had chilled out on either side of the Atlantic. EU member states, with France most notably, had become much more active in exercising the use of military force since the so-called ‘Arab Spring’ took off in late 2010 but more properly early 2011. The amplification of already existing migration routes to the EU helped empower right and far right parties in states like Austria and Hungary that bore the brunt of the second phase of the migration routes from the greater Balkans to Central Europe.

The EU’s own fear of ‘the other’ complex has been both deepening and widening as masses of people storm the gates. To generalize–which carries its own inherent risk–peoples with starkly different views on gender relations, the cultural baggage of dietary restrictions, clothing restrictions for women, and religious traditions that are portrayed as incompatible with the increasingly secular voting populations of member states concerned who want to be seen as open societies within an increasingly borderless world. Those in the West who receive these individuals and families are ill equipped to determine who is a war refugee such as someone from Mosul, who is seeking political asylum such as a resident of Asmara, and those who are traditional economic migrants seeking to remit cash back to their countries of origin while getting a foothold in stable countries such as those from Bangladesh.

Despite the Russian Federation’s entirely illegal annexation of territory in Ukraine and Georgia, the notion of erecting walls and razor wire fences is an antipathy toward the post-war ideals that were fought so hard for and took decades of diligent diplomacy to implement. The ideas so poorly articulated by America’s next commander-in-chief are so far fetched as to be absurd. These next four years will be long, painfully embarrassing, and so chock full of political gaffs that comedians will have their hands full. They may also be marked by increasing radicalization within already marginalized immigrant communities whose communal identities are still reeling from the “with or against” blather that occurred during the onset of the terror wars. Integration is made more difficult when isolation is employed as a tactic in lieu of strategy. These proposed ‘policies’–which are not policies in any real form–cannot work.

Written by derekhenryflood

November 9th, 2016 at 4:41 pm

A Weathered #fabledcity

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A weather-beaten print I shot in Luxor, Egypt at the Temple of Karnak back in the spring of 2003 after getting out of Baghdad while the getting was good.

A weather-beaten print I shot in Luxor, Egypt at the Karnak temple complex back in the spring of 2003 after getting out of Baghdad while the getting was good. Click on image to be taken to my Instagram page. ©2016 Derek Henry Flood

New York- For close to two years now I’ve been putting up ink jet analog prints up around three of New York City’s five boroughs and in my favorite locales in EU Mediterranean states as part of my #fabledcity project about the glory of an antediluvian realm that in our time is the stuff of legend.

I plan to install more along the eastern seaboard in in the American Southwest as soon as I am able. The prints hail from before I purchased my first digital camera in January of 2005. I was way behind the curve in hyper competitive journalism terms. I simply couldn’t compete monetarily. While some journos acquired the first generation of DSLRs en route to northern Afghanistan in 2001, by February or March 2003, the big names/outlets had gone digital. I hadn’t.

When I departed San Diego from Iraq at the time, I faced a stark choice. I could either shoot the aftermath of the invasion or sit on the couch with a low quality DSLR at home. I chose the former. The #fabledcity project is about the arc of my analog photography before and thence after 9/11. Throughout the early years of the so-called ‘war on terror’ I remained enthralled by the allure of ancient sites. The politics of our time were a vehicle for me to experience the majesty of the ancients.

After decompressing in Amman, I quickly made my way down to Aqaba and on to the Sinai and the Nile Valley. Well I sunburned my back so badly snorkeling at the precarious Blue Hole outside Dahab I jumped on an overnight bus to Luxor. It was the essence of Mubarak-era Egypt. Checkpoints, mukharbarat, simmering palpable resentment among the native inhabitants of the Sinai. Upon reaching Luxor I had to run from shadow to shadow in the Great Hypostyle Hall because the sun hitting my t-shirt was unbearable. Finally I reached to Temple of Amun-Re where austere the god-kings stood surveying the stone. The nightmare in Iraq that was just getting underway was well behind me.

The original image of the pharaohs basking in the African sun. ©2003 Derek Henry Flood

The original image of the pharaohs basking in the African sun. ©2003 Derek Henry Flood

Nothing would stop me from seeing this world.

Written by derekhenryflood

February 14th, 2016 at 4:50 pm

Walk It Home

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A Lebanese woman looks at the ruins of her neighborhood in the Beirut suburb of Haret Hreik after the UN-mediated ceasefire between the belligerents made it possible to return home...or the rubble that was left of it. ©2006 Derek Henry Flood

A Lebanese woman looks at the ruins of her neighborhood in the Beirut suburb of Haret Hreik after the UN-brokered ceasefire between the belligerents made it possible to return home…or the rubble that was left of it. This image can be seen in the RedBull.tv film Walk It Home at 07:53. ©2006 Derek Henry Flood

Screen Shot 2015-11-11 at 6.51.55 PMNew York- A couple of photos of mine from the ‘Summer War’ in 2006-era Lebanon are featured in a new documentary film on The Wanton Bishops, a Lebanese blues band that subsequently tours the heartland of the blues in the southern United States.

The film, titled Walk It Home, also explores the Beirut music scene where to be a full time musician is neither easily done nor conceived of as normal is mainstream Lebanese society. Pursuing one’s rock dreams is difficult anywhere under the best of circumstances but to have accomplished such from the Beiruti milieu is a far greater task. I’m happy to have made a small contribution to this film.

A frame grab of an image I shot during the war between Israel and Lebanon in summer 2006. ©2006 Derek Henry Flood

A frame grab of an image I shot during the war between Israel and Lebanon in summer 2006 after a residential building was smashed in a massive Israeli bombardment of the Haret Hreik neighborhood. ©2006 Derek Henry Flood

Written by derekhenryflood

November 11th, 2015 at 5:16 pm

Ground Zero: My Photographs from 9/11/01 to 9/11/11

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Paros- Four years ago today I finished this decade-long documentary project about what was then called ground Zero in lower Manhattan. When 9/11 took place in my city, I told myself I would follow the story wherever I could for as long as I could. It took me to Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, Hamburg, the Republic of Georgia, Jordan, Iraq, Bangkok, Malaysia, and countless other locales as the “War on Terror” unfolded. I then kept returning to New York City, my home, for each subsequent anniversary.

Ground Zero is now the site of One World Trade Center, a hub for New York City’s tourism industry. The city has been rebuilt where it was thrashed by the largest suicide attack in history. Ground Zero buzzes with curious visitors posting the requisite photos to social media but the memory lays there, heaving with silent grief underneath flowing water and cool black stone.

9/11 unequivocally changed our world. We are living in a less safe, less just world today in my judgement. Freedoms have been curtailed as the United States has evolved into a low key surveillance state in response. Afghanistan is still in a state of war. Iraq has been broken likely irreparably. Then the ‘Arab Spring’ happened. It resulted not in a well spring of democratic growth as many initially hoped but inadvertently acted as an enabling factor for the spread of cancerous salafi-jihadi ideology to the point of holding territory by the most vile of non-state actors.

9/11 must be remembered with calm dignity, not be opportunistically exploited with jingoism or crass populism. A vigil of the spirit.

A ghastly toxic plume of smoke and ash rises above Ground Zero after the total collapse of the North and South Towers of New York's World Trade Center on 9/11. ©2001 Derek Henry Flood

A ghastly toxic plume of smoke and ash rises above Ground Zero after the total collapse of the North and South Towers of New York’s World Trade Center on 9/11. ©2001 Derek Henry Flood

A Blackhawk helicopter flys above the plume surveying the destruction of the World Trade Center on 9/11. This never before seen image was made adjacent the River Cafe on Brooklyn's DUMBO waterfront at approximately 8pm after the suicide attacks killed nearly 3000. ©2001 Derek Henry Flood

A Blackhawk helicopter flys above the plume surveying the destruction of the World Trade Center on 9/11. This never before seen image was made adjacent the River Cafe on Brooklyn’s DUMBO waterfront at approximately 8pm after the suicide attacks killed nearly 3000. ©2001 Derek Henry Flood

Ruins of twin towers smoking as seen from the Brooklyn Bridge on 9/12/2001. ©2001 Derek Henry Flood

Ruins of twin towers smoking as seen from the Brooklyn Bridge on 9/12/2001. ©2001 Derek Henry Flood

On the six month anniversary of 9/11 the New York Stock Exchange is draped in a massive American flag. ©2002 Derek Henry Flood

On the six month anniversary of 9/11 the New York Stock Exchange is draped in a massive American flag. ©2002 Derek Henry Flood

The New York City police department bagpipe troupe marches over the Brooklyn Bridge at dawn on the one year anniversary of 9/11. ©2002 Derek Henry Flood

The New York City police department bagpipe troupe marches over the Brooklyn Bridge at dawn on the one year anniversary of 9/11. ©2002 Derek Henry Flood

A candlelight vigil was held in Brooklyn's Prospect Park on the evening of September 11, 2002 to commemorate the one-year anniversary of the suicide attacks that shook New York City to its core the previous year. ©2002 Derek Henry Flood

A candlelight vigil was held in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park on the evening of September 11, 2002 to commemorate the one-year anniversary of the suicide attacks that shook New York City to its core the previous year. ©2002 Derek Henry Flood

The towers of light on 9/11/03. ©2003 Derek Henry Flood

The towers of light on 9/11/03. ©2003 Derek Henry Flood

Despite conspiracy theories to the contrary most of New York's diverse communities were affected by 9/11. Here a pair of Hasidic men attand the ceremony held for the second anniversary of 9/11. ©2003 Derek Henry Flood

Despite conspiracy theories to the contrary, most of New York’s ethnic and religious communities were affected by 9/11. Here a pair of Hasidic men attand the ceremony held for the second anniversary of 9/11. ©2003 Derek Henry Flood

New Yorkers gather outside the void that remains five years after the destruction of New York's World Trade Center. ©2006 Derek Henry Flood

New Yorkers gather outside the void that remains five years after the destruction of New York’s World Trade Center. ©2006 Derek Henry Flood

People gather in remembrance of the 5 year anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks at the former site of the World Trade Center in Manhattan.

People gather in remembrance of the 5 year anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks at the former site of the World Trade Center in Manhattan. ©2006 Derek Henry Flood

The Towers of Light as photographed from across the Hudson River in New Jersey on the 5th year anniversary of 9/11. ©2006 Derek Henry Flood

The Towers of Light as photographed from across the Hudson River in New Jersey on the 5th year anniversary of 9/11. ©2006 Derek Henry Flood

A group of New York City firefighters pass by a Ground Zero outside the annual memorial ceremony on the ninth anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks in lower Manhattan with the construction of a new tower finally begginning to arise from the void in the background. ©2010 Derek Henry Flood

A group of New York City firefighters pass by a Ground Zero outside the annual memorial ceremony on the ninth anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks in lower Manhattan with the construction of a new tower finally begginning to arise from the void in the background. ©2010 Derek Henry Flood

Following the killing of Osama bin Laden the partially built new World Trade Center tower is lit up in the colors of the American flag. The lighting was prepared in advance of President Barack Obama's visit to Ground Zero to lay a wreath the following morning in remembrance of the nearly 3000 killed on 9/11. ©2011 Derek henry Flood

Following the killing of Osama bin Laden the partially built new World Trade Center tower is lit up in the colors of the American flag. The lighting was prepared in advance of President Barack Obama’s visit to Ground Zero to lay a wreath the following morning in remembrance of the nearly 3000 killed on 9/11. ©2011 Derek henry Flood

President Barack Obama exits the stage after giving an impassioned speech for the families of victims at the ceremony in Lower Manhattan to mark the 10th anniversary of 9/11. A sorrowful George W. Bush stands on the overhead screen. While the Obamas remained composed throughout the ceremony the Bush's displayed visible signs of emotion as the events of 9/11 were collectively remembered. ©2011 Derek Henry Flood

President Barack Obama exits the stage after giving an impassioned speech for the families of victims at the ceremony in Lower Manhattan to mark the 10th anniversary of 9/11. A sorrowful George W. Bush stands on the overhead screen. While the Obamas remained composed throughout the ceremony the Bush’s displayed visible signs of emotion as the events of 9/11 were collectively remembered. ©2011 Derek Henry Flood

Families arrive en masse to the site of the former World Trade Center to grieve once more for the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The attacks claimed victims from across New York's incredibly diverse ethnic and religious communities. Here an Latino family grieves for a lost member. ©2011 Derek Henry Flood

Families arrive en masse to the site of the former World Trade Center to grieve once more for the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The attacks claimed victims from across New York’s incredibly diverse ethnic and religious communities. Here an Latino family grieves for a lost member. ©2011 Derek Henry Flood

Written by derekhenryflood

September 11th, 2015 at 3:20 am

Footprints

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A sampling of names at the 9/11 memorial. ©2015 Derek Henry Flood

A sampling of names that span the world at the 9/11 memorial. ©2015 Derek Henry Flood

New York- Milling around the the 9/11 memorial the other day, I looked at one random, small cluster of names engraved above on of the two massive cascading fountains where the roots of the twin towers once intertwined with the earth. Though 9/11 is described as an attack on the United States or an attack on the West as a whole. reading over this small list made it feel as if the mass casualty event in New York was an attack on globalization itself for lack of a better term.

In this sample of victims it jumped out at me that one of them–Ehtesham Raja–was Pakistani. Then scanning across, I read Karamo Baba Trerra which appeared to be a West African Muslim name. Indeed he was Gambian. Then there is Jie Yao Justin Zhao from Guangzhou, China. Then Joyce Rose Cummings. a Trinidadian. The sole American in the frame of my photo is Donald Joseph Tuzio who’d lost his job and was only in the WTC that day to take part in a job-hunting workshop that was a mandatory component of his buyout package.

The diversity in just these five names–two of whom were Muslim–demonstrates that 9/11 was a global event whose magnitude devastated families from the Caribbean to China, from West Africa to South Asia. When I would photograph the anniversaries over the years at what was then referred to as Ground Zero, I was always struck by the diversity of families who arrived to collectively grieve and remember. Al-Qaeda killed Muslims from the beginning. Many of the victims in the East Africa embassy attacks were adherents. Most of the victims of salafist terrorism today  are in fact Muslim.

While for me seeing the footprints of the towers evokes a somber feeling, the memorial is a place buzzing with life. Every visitor has a smartphone. People are smiling taking photos as tourists tend to do when on holiday. Then a policeman walks by and wipes the dewy spring moisture off of one particular name as if to honor it. I notice a rose on Mother’s Day wedged into the name of a victim who was carrying an unborn child. A place that once stood as global business incarnate with people from around the world is now host to every imaginable emotion in the spectrum.

Written by derekhenryflood

May 12th, 2015 at 10:19 pm

Posted in 9/11,America

Twenty Years

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The Oklahoma City National Memorial, photographed on a glorious spring day in May 2010. ©Derek Henry Flood

The Oklahoma City National Memorial, photographed on a glorious spring day in May 2010. ©Derek Henry Flood

New York- It’s such an obvious thing to say but it’s really hard to believe it’s been two solid decades since the Oklahoma City bombing on April 19, 1995. I viscerally remember sitting in the dormitory at San Diego State University when a friend had the news on. He was from Fontana but had Oklahoma roots and was deeply saddened. I remember that one crackpot analyst being so sure that it was Islamist (Salafist in today’s speak) in nature and how incredibly wrong he was.

That vast tragedy overshadowed the 1993 World Trade Center bombing in terms of both the number of casualties and the fact that it forced–for a time–a paradigm shift about how we think about terrorism. With the East Africa bombings in August 1998, the threat of domestic terrorism was once again diminished in the face of an external threat. Al-qaeda with its obscurantist worldview was seemingly more easily interpreted from a national security standpoint than those in league with Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols. Those whose duty it is to protect the land from attacks must be analytically agile and intellectually nimble in order to reevaluate the constantly shifting threat landscape.

The memorial is beautiful yet somber. It is a symbol of tragedy and renewal.

The reflecting pool mirrors a crisp Oklahoma sky, engendering self reflection about life, love, and loss. ©2010 Derek Henry Flood

The reflecting pool mirrors a crisp Oklahoma sky, engendering self reflection about life, love, and loss. ©2010 Derek Henry Flood

Written by derekhenryflood

April 20th, 2015 at 4:07 pm