The War Diaries

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Archive for the ‘2011’ tag

Libya- Looking Back on Revolution 2011

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As soon as I reached Benghazi on March 1, 2011, I walked around at dusk scrambling for photos to capture the mood of the revolution. ©2011 Derek Henry Flood

As soon as I reached Benghazi on March 1, 2011, I walked around at dusk scrambling for photos to capture the mood of the revolution. I sat at the ouster of Mubarak in Cairo because there were already to many expat journos (and apparently a number of AUC grads lingering around) and I tend to prefer to cover to more logistically difficult stories where there are fewer Westerners. But the situation in Cairo fed into that in Benghazi. By the time I arrived in Tobruk on February 28, Cyrenaica was crawling with veteran correspondents I’d seen since Afghanistan and ambitious, yet totally inexperienced “millennials” alike. ©2011 Derek Henry Flood

New York- Three years ago today a bloody revolution kicked off in earnest in Benghazi, Libya which ended the rule of Muammar Qaddafi, longest dictatorial regime in post-colonial Africa surpassing even that of Omar Bongo in Gabon who ruled that country for 41.5 years. The locals referred to the happening as the “February 17th revolution.” I’ll never forget the fortitude of the Libyan people in the face of immense, violent repression.

Here are a few selected images from that time.

One of the near daily demonstrations outside the courthouse on the corniche in Benghazi. What interested was that much of the anger had not so much to do with the then ongoing civil war but was rooted in the 1996 Abu Slim prison massacre where families allege Qaddafi's goons killed some 1200 inmates. ©2011 Derek Henry Flood

One of the near daily demonstrations outside the courthouse on the corniche in Benghazi. What interested was that much of the anger had not so much to do with the then ongoing civil war but was rooted in the 1996 Abu Salim prison massacre where families allege Qaddafi’s goons killed some 1200 inmates. ©2011 Derek Henry Flood

The Libyan revolution's key symbol was the tricolor flag of King Idris as-Senussi, himself from a Cyrenaican order. ©2011 Derek Henry Flood

The Libyan revolution’s key symbol was the tricolor flag of King Idris as-Senussi, himself from a Cyrenaican order.  It was much more visually interesting than Qaddafi’s monochromatic green banner. ©2011 Derek Henry Flood

Faisal, my driver for two weeks of coverage. us outsiders couldn't do what we do without guys like him. ©2011 Derek Henry Flood

Faisal, my driver for two weeks of coverage. Us outsiders couldn’t do what we do without guys like him. He took me to the souq to get one of these awesome Tunisian hood jackets. ©2011 Derek Henry Flood

The other hallmark of the Libyan conflict was the "technical," often a Toyota pickup truck mounted with a Soviet or other Eastern Bloc-origin heavy machine gun mounted in the flatbed. Here a fighter prays in the sand before veering off toward the front. ©2011 Derek Henry Flood

The other hallmark of the Libyan conflict was the “technical,” often a Toyota pickup truck mounted with a Soviet or other Eastern Bloc-origin heavy machine gun mounted in the flatbed. Here a fighter prays in the sand before veering off toward the front. Use of the Toyota HiLux as a tactical fighting vehicle was pioneered in the Libyan-Chadian war during the 1980s, much to Chad’s advantage. ©2011 Derek Henry Flood

Conspiracies abounded over this 81mm mortar shell that it was a piece of Israeli ordinance being supplied to Qaddafi's forces. ©2011 Derek Henry Flood

Conspiracies abounded over this 81mm mortar shell that it was a piece of (incongruous?) Israeli ordinance being supplied to Qaddafi’s forces. War zones are often rife with unfounded conspiracy theories, particularly when a closed society has just broken open. ©2011 Derek Henry Flood

An NTC fighter rushed into the hospital in Ajdabiya as Qaddafi's armor moved closer to Benghazi while internationalists were still hammering out the details of a military intervention from above. Tim Hetherington was next to me when I took this photo. He would be killed in Misrata five weeks later. ©2011 Derek Henry Flood

An NTC fighter rushed into the hospital in Ajdabiya as Qaddafi’s armor moved closer to Benghazi while internationalists were still hammering out the details of a military intervention from above. Tim Hetherington was next to me when I took this photo. He would be killed in Misrata five weeks later. When I tried to get to the front that day, a rebel warned me in English that they didn’t want journos there anymore at all and access was denied. Behind him, a cleric was yelling on a megaphone in Arabic that some journos were spies aiding the regime and not to trust them any longer. ©2011 Derek Henry Flood

After the eerie vibe in Ajdabiya the day before, I decided to bail on Libya for a while and headed back to Alexandria. When I got to Salloum, there were Chadian men making the maghrib salat. ©2011 Derek Henry Flood

After the eerie vibe in Ajdabiya the day before, I decided to bail on Libya for a while and headed back to Alexandria. When I got to Salloum, there were Chadian men making the salat al-maghrib. Egypt, in the view of its own tumult didn’t want to let the fleeing sub-Saharan migrant workers in. They were living outdoors at the border in total limbo. When I crossed into Libya two weeks before, the border was swarmed with Bangladeshi migrants who terrible, irresponsible government said it was too broke to bring them home to South Asia ©2011 Derek Henry Flood

Written by derekhenryflood

February 17th, 2014 at 2:36 pm

Posted in Egypt,Libya

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May Auld Acquaintance Be Forgot

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Mu'ammar al-Qaddafi got his backside kicked by Spinal Tap on The Simpsons two decades ago. Funny how his Matt Groening rendering looks a lot like Libyan revolutionary street art.

New York- Watching my old Simpsons DVDs the other day, I caught this quick gag where a tout tries to sell Bart a Spinal Tap t-shirt where the band is kicking Mu’ammar al-Qaddafi’s backside. This art presaged that of the Libyan revolutionaries by a good nearly 20 years. The Qaddafi shirt appears in The Otto Show which was broadcast in April 1992 at the end of the show’s third season.

2011 was one crazy roller coaster of a year. I want to thank some of the people that made the year both possible and memorable: Faisal my driver in eastern Libya who took me as far as Ras Lanuf and invited this strange Westerner who didn’t eat meat into his home for lunch, watching the circus that was Libyan state TV, and letting play with his Kalashnikov which he procured in case things got really bad. My old San Diego friend Brad, a reformed Orange County punker turned family man/junior diplomat at U.S. Embassy Bahrain and Nabeel Rajab for giving me his thoughts on the grim human rights situation in his besieged country. In Addis Ababa I want to thank my friend Carlo who introduced me to the last Italians in Ethiopia at the Buffet de le Gare near the defunct railroad station. Sorry we never did the trip to the Somali border mio amico! Next time… Khalid and the very hospitable Amazight (Berber) rebels in Nalut in Libya’s Jebel Nafusa. I hope the war really is over for you. Kenny in Barcelona who rescued me on the way back from North Africa when there was no place to stay in the city on a hot summer night. And Kostas and Veronika at Caveland on Santorini, I hope to come again! I miss those pups. Caroline and all the staff at the American Embassy in Paris closed out my year very nicely and for that I am grateful.

No one could have ever predicted all of the things that took place this last year. The world began to reorder itself in a messy and violent way. The status quo became unbearable to the point of both peaceful and armed revolt. The drone war escalated, the neocons are trying to stage an awkward comeback and a host of other negative trends mean we are in no way out of the proverbial woods. But people were and are willing to fight and die for their freedom which came at a terrible cost in Libya (and continues unabated in Syria). Plenty of dictators-yes I’m talking about you Central Asia-and monarchs-GCC, Jordan, Morocco-still stand around the world. The clock is ticking for Bashar al-Assad. Plenty of issues seek to be ironed out in 2012 in the European Union to say the least. God only knows where the next crisis will arise in the coming year and anyone who says they do is likely a fool.

Happy New Year from TWD!!!

Written by derekhenryflood

December 31st, 2011 at 6:02 pm

The People Dare to Challenge Bloomberg-ocracy

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A key message of the Occupy Wall Street movement is bolstering healthcare and social services and cutting back on what many believe is limitless defense spending bolstered by corporate greed. ©2011 Derek Henry Flood

In celebration of “National Freelancers Day,” I present to thee an article that never saw the light of day or the Internet.

New York- On the cold damp morning of November 17, hundreds of protestors marked the two-month anniversary of the birth of the Occupy Wall Street movement. By the day’s end, tens of thousands streamed into Foley Square, an otherwise non descript plaza at the nexus of the city, state, and federal government bodies. Shortly after dawn marchers began their “Day of Action” by attempting to blockade the New York Stock Exchange.

Here a Wall Street portfolio manager seeks not to overturn the American financial system but to curb its worst excesses which many believe led to the current economic crisis gripping the globe. ©2011 Derek Henry Flood

The area surrounding the stock exchange was heavily secured ten years ago following 9/11 when America’s financial institutions were viewed as particularly vulnerable to another terror attack by al-Qaeda. Defiant protestors were summarily hauled away and detained on one of the most security conscious blocks in the United States while a vast maze of aluminum barricades manned by countless members of local police sought to ensure business go on as unhindered as possible. Protestors then reconvened at the now infamous Zuccotti Park, a half acre granite plaza opposite the site of the former and soon to be new World Trade Center. In the very early hours of November 15, police staged a planned raid to forcibly evict protestors who set up camp on the plaza’s pink stone ground. The official line from the city administration and the park’s owner Brookfield Properties, whose chairman John E. Zuccotti is the space’s current namesake, was that the area had to be cleared for its poor sanitary conditions and numerous safety concerns.

A tremendous amount of anger was hurled at the city’s police department who Occupy members view as a containment force determined to defend corporate interests rather serve the people they were sworn to protect. ©2011 Derek Henry Flood

The eviction appeared only to galvanize the larger movement by painting the city’s plutocrat Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg as a defender of the rights of corporations over freedom of expression and assembly guaranteed by the American constitution. The day went from small scale fits of violence between protestors and police to a festive atmosphere by nightfall as the Occupy movement was reenergized by what local police estimates estimated to be 32,000 demonstrators.

The New York Police Department insists it is operating in such large numbers in lower Manhattan in order to “protect” protestors. Here an Occupy member, mindful of the atrocities of the Arab Spring, displays his cynicism toward such purported rationales despite the rain and bitter cold. ©2011 Derek Henry Flood

Of the many criticisms of the amorphous Occupy movement, that most oft repeated is that it is a fissiparous shouting match whose only common thread is a shared, incoherent seeming rage. To be sure, the messages being hurled by the Occupy movement are many but that merely reflects the diversity of voices in a growing class of disenfranchised Americans affected by an economic crisis that has either denied them opportunity or sucked the oxygen out of their middle class standing. Though an element at Zuccotti Park clearly seeks to simply taunt the city’s police, themselves a hulking blue collar work force, the massive marches which culminated in a rally at the steps of Manhattan’s court complex displayed the Occupy movement’s overarching, more articulate strains.

Mounted police help to create a fortress-like atmosphere to protect the city’s stock exchange from noisome protestors. ©2011 Derek Henry Flood

Several of the country’s most powerful labor unions delivered thousands of demonstrators in support of Occupy Wall Street. City authorities did not have the liberty of describing such a large display of solidarity as a small group of troublemakers in soiled tents. Demonstrators took cues from more successful global people power movements in the European Union and the Arab World with placards in several languages. The viewed themselves not as citizens of a veritable island nation safeguarded by two oceans but as victims of a sort of globalized economic pillaging that integrated American with the rest of the world’s oppressed peoples. Messages ranged from the traditional union sentiments of wage and class preservation to more radical anti-capitalist memes that seek to graft some form of democratic socialism onto American society. Much of the anger was directed at Mayor Bloomberg personally.

Demonstrators emerge from New York’s City Hall subway station to converge on Foley Square for a mass rally mobilized largely by dissatisfied American labor unions. ©2011 Derek Henry Flood

The Occupy movement has helped to resurrect the concept of ‘people power’ popularized in late 1960s back to the fore of American politics. Though the Occupy Wall Street movement is generally anti-war as one component of its outlook, the anti-war sentiment is most often framed in terms of economics rather than resistance to foreign military adventures solely due to ethical concerns. ©2011 Derek Henry Flood

For those rallying in the streets of New York, Bloomberg is the embodiment of everything they are attempting to overturn. The world’s 30th richest man used his immense wealth to become the city’s three term mayor while sitting atop a media and business technology empire that continues to accrue him further wealth at what appears to be a Malthusian growth rate. Bloomberg often could barely mask his disdain for the Occupy movement blighting the otherwise tourist friendly financial district, struggling to be polite at press conferences explaining his decision making process aimed at handicapping the Occupiers. In another earlier era devoid of nuisances like social media and smart phones, a disproportionately powerful big city mayor would have had an easier go of simply crushing a protest movement with brute force without batting an eye.

A protestor marches in Foley Square with an Arabic language placard stating: “we are the 99%.” The tenaciousness of protestors in Tunis, Cairo and Sana’a has helped to embolden their Western counterparts as a sense of mass dissatisfaction among the world’s youth population genuinely goes global. ©2011 Derek Henry Flood

The protestors in New York, around the United States, and several European Union capitals seek to end the confluence of corporate citizenry and big money politics that Bloomberg and those he has a naked interest in protecting epitomize. Calling for limits on wealth, the biggest anathema in a no limits, free market capitalist system that traditionally rewards race-to-the-bottom economics, is a demand made by protestors of every imaginable demographic. Such a call only a few years ago would have been instantaneously dismissed as a fringe notion. It has taken on real traction among a generation that feels they have been deprived of an economically sustainable future in a legalized Ponzi scheme writ large.

One of the principal drivers of the Occupy movement in the United States is the economic evisceration of its greatly weakened middle class at the expense of a small, fabulously wealthy minority whom the protestors mock as the “1%.” ©2011 Derek Henry Flood

Mayor Bloomberg’s aggressive eviction of the encampment at Zuccotti Park has only hardened views on either side and provided OWS a new slogan with which to rally around: “You can’t evict an idea whose time has come.” Employing New York’s public servants as proletarian enforcers of corporate power will unlikely have the all-powerful mayor’s desired effect of simply claiming to be maintaining democratic law and order. The Occupiers had been an unsightly blemish on the belated post-9/11 rejuvenation of lower Manhattan’s Financial District in the view of the real estate barons who seek to transform the area into yet one more playground for the extremely wealthy in New York City. For a time the tent squatters even became a tourist attraction due to the camp’s proximity to the new World Trade Center site. Bloomberg no doubt viewed the swift night raid to destroy the protest camp as one more of his pragmatic gestures designed to uphold the city’s stiffening health and safety codes his administration have held as a priority. But the rubbishing of Zuccotti Park will have to opposite effect in light of its profound symbolism. In the twilight of his 12 years in office, Michael Bloomberg’s city-state will not collapse overnight like a fractious southern European coalition government, but it may fade into history with its legacy more muddled and tarnished in the billionaire mayor’s final act.

Much of the rage vented on Occupy Wall Street’s November 17 “Day of Action” was personally directed at the city’s mayor who is worth an estimated $19.5 billion USD. Bloomberg stated that the ultimate decision to aggressively evict protestors from Zuccotti Park on November 15 “was mine and mine alone.” ©2011 Derek Henry Flood

Written by derekhenryflood

November 23rd, 2011 at 2:01 pm