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Archive for the ‘NYC’ tag

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

Niger, Mali, and the Confluence of Salafisms in North and West Africa

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The Nigerién mission to the UN on East 50th Street in Manhattan.

The Nigérien mission to the UN on East 50th Street in Manhattan. ©2013 Derek Henry Flood

New York- With the immediacy of the tactical success of the French military campaign in northern Mali beginning in mid-January combined with the aggressive Nigerian offensive in that country’s northeastern Borno State that began in mid-May, the Republic of Niger is wedged between two presently expanding salafi-jihadi conflicts. Niger with its vast uranium reserves, chronic food insecurity and immense poverty has emerged as the newest locale to suffer salafi martyrdom operations a.k.k.a. suicide bombings. I published a report in late June for Jane’s Islamic Affairs Analyst looking at the extension of kinetic militancy into Niger. While Niger is accustomed-like its neighbor Mali-to intermittent Tuareg rebellions and a minor degree of homegrown Islamism while having had several high profile kidnapping incidents in the last several years, neither Niamey or Bamako was adequately prepared for the ramping up of ideologically-driven insurgencies as compared to the veteran (in relative terms) security apparatuses helmed in Algiers and Abuja.

Screen shot 2013-07-03 at 10.24.02 AMWhile most of the conflict in Mali in 2012 consisted of a series of rebel advances and government retreats followed by a drawn out stalemate period, it seemed certain that once some form of military intervention was inevitably launched, the jihadis would surely begin a more asymmetric campaign that would feature suicide bombings and fidayeen-style raids on the forces of state actors be they indigenous, regional, or Western.

Less than a month after Operation Serval began, Mali experienced its first suicide bombing in Gao Region when on February 8 militants attacked a Malian Army checkpoint on the Gao-Bourem road. The attack was immediately claimed by MUJAO’s spokesman Abou Walid Sahraoui. As if the first explosive message was insufficient, it was immediately followed up by a second attack on the same checkpoint the following day.

Then on February 10,MUJAO  jihadis launched a rather reckless raid on Gao’s centre ville. Despite MUJAO’s aggressive asymmetry, most of its operations resulted in tactical failures in terms of what were presumably hoped for mass casualty events. The strategy-at least in terms of branded messaging-was, however, somewhat successful. The two nodes of salafi-jihadism in North and West Africa i.e. Algeria to the north and northern Nigeria to the south, were being bridged with the gradual expansion of militancy in the broader Sahel region.

The Sahel has traditionally served as a natural geographic and cultural buffer zone which is being eroded by rapid advances in mobile technology and social media which have the means to both disseminate radical thought among susceptible populations that are woefully underserved  by feeble central governments as well as connect militant groups with traditionally localized or divergent agendas to one another.  For several years analysts have speculated whether there were or could be links to AQIM in Algeria-Mali and Boko Haram in Nigeria.Even the head of AFRICOM stated: “linkages between AQIM and Boko Haram are probably the most worrisome.”

These claims were oft criticized by what were believed to be the very different aims of AQIM and Boko Haram. AQIM which is firmly rooted in the GIA and GSPC of Algeria’s 1990s civil war was an Algerian movement (albeit a quite fissiparous one indicated by the GIA-GSPC split) seeking mostly to create an Islamic state within Algeria’s borders-although undoubtedly some of these salafis were adherents of a borderless ummah ideology. But when the GSPC renamed itself AQIM in 2007, in the form of AQIM as a matter of strategic survival it broadened both its operational geography–which the GSPC had already begun in its final phase–in places like Mali and Niger while making inroads amongst those populations who harbored their own long-held grievances against their respective central governing institutions.

Meanwhile in the Hausa-dominated states of northern Nigeria, Boko Haram–Ahl al-Sunna li al-Da`wa wa al-Jihad for those in the know–maintained as its primary goal the formal introduction of sharia law throughout Nigeria. But when Ansar Eddine, AQIM, and MUJAO gained power in northern Mali in 2012, locals who had fled Gao described to TWD the presence of Hausa speaking, Anglophone militants operating alongside MUJAO in Gao ville and its immediate environs. For Boko Haram to be present in Gao it would likely have had to pass through southwestern Niger, skirting around its capital Niamey. But several Malian intellectuals who spoke candidly with TWD in 2012 stated that they firmly believed Boko Haram already had a presence in southern Niger including with Niamey itself and therefore the movement of Nigerian militants into Mali was not as improbable as some Westerners might assume just by looking from afar at perceived vast distances on a flat map.

As nation-states occupying transition zones connecting the dry Sahara to the more verdant sub-Sahara, Mali and now Niger have manifested clearly as conduits between these what are often thought of as disparate  regions of Africa. When movements like AQIM, MUJAO and Boko Haram graft themselves onto deeply held provincial tribulations beyond their traditional realms, the threat to the respective wobbly regimes squeezed in the middle is heightened more so.  Thus we may see suicide bombing spread even farther to poorly protected targets in N’djamena and Nouakchott, perhaps even Dakar. None of these movements appears to pose a specific threat to the West itself–at least for the time being–but they threaten Western interests and allies which may pull Paris and Washington in only deeper into a widening crisis.

Though the jihadis were forcefully ejected from Mali’s northern and central cities mostly by French air strikes followed by ground columns and Abuja is touting that it has reached a truce of sorts with Boko Haram, the troubles for Niger and Mali, and possibly Mauritania, Chad and other regional states may be far from over.

The Nigérien tricolor wilts in a New York Heat wave. ©2013 Derek Henry Flood

With all the grim talk of relgio-political or inter-communal violence and such mentioned above, I thought it would be good to balance out this post with something a bit more relaxed. I attended a fantastic concert on June 21 where Bombino, a mezmerizing Tuareg guitarist from Niger’s uranium rich, politically troubled Agadez Region. Bombino sings in Tamasheq, the language of the Sahara-Sahel area’s indigenous Tuareg people who refer to themselves as the Kel Tamasheq.

I have no clue if there was any intention of this by the concert’s organizers but it was great to hear Saharan Tuareg rock in the same venue as the venerated Amadou and Mariam who sing in Bambara, the predominant language of southern Mali and in the areas surrounding its capital Bamako, but it seemed symbolically poignant if it the result was unintentional. One of the more simplistic perceptions of Mali’s internal war-which has since affected Niger as the salafi-jihadi militants sought safe ground from French air strikes-is that it had an implied north-south dynamic in which impoverished or resentful northern ethno-linguistic groups felt underserved by and underrepresented amongst the southern-dominated political circles in Bamako. Some of the same can be said for Niger where northerners feel Niamey is a far off kleptocracy that undermines their own economic and political interests.

Bombino

Amadou and Mariam

Written by derekhenryflood

July 9th, 2013 at 5:25 pm

From Unreasoned Righteousness to Reason

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Leo Villareal’s BUCKYBALL installation in Madison Square Park. Seems like an obnoxious display of power when thousands in the city are still without electricity (although its LED tube lighting may use relatively little wattage it looks abrupt when considering those on the city’s forsaken periphery).  ©2012 Derek Henry Flood

New York- So weird. A week ago today I was getting thrown around Long Island City by 90 mph gales as Hurricane Sandy thrashed Queen’s over gentrified littoral while NYPD barked on loudspeakers through sheets of rain not to get near the piers while shooting photos. In the interim, houses were smashed and burned, whole boardwalk areas ravaged and now tens of thousands of people are not homeless from one day to the next. But most of the lasting damage was hyper localized to where people in midtown and uptown areas of Manhattan had their lives interrupted only when the subways were demobilized all over the city as a precaution. I trekked around in an effort to do what I could to document the crisis–with an image from this blog getting selected for New York Magazine’s Sandy portfolio “What We Saw When the Lights Went Out.”

Many, many improvements have been quickly made, particularly in the areas of Manhattan that were politically and economically prioritized. But in the outskirts of the so-called outer-boroughs, people may likely freeze tonight, out of sight, out of mind from the rest of this city. People will shiver in the cold shadow of tomorrow’s mega ego election where a wobbly incumbent  who’s carried out highly dubious extra-judicial assassinations of American citizens in Yemen, faces off against a “weird Mormon billionaire” as an old friend of mine put it (though he’s only worth a paltry reported $250 million).

As largely toothless idioms like “the new normal” and neologisms like “superstorm” were thrown around all week by politicians and media figures, significant change will not occur until long outdated thought paradigms are cast aside forever, a highly unlikely proposition. Americans have been brainwashed for the last decade that Sunni terrorism of the Salafi-jihadi strain is the biggest threat to their survival (or messianic Shia Twelver state warfare from Iran if one is a Likudnik).

This narrative is only remotely believable if one narrowly views the struggle for and within humanity as amongst various interpretations of monotheisms. Rubbish. The fundamental threat to human survival is a catastrophic misreading of the environment, human and animal evolution, and the development of the solar system we inhabit. The media and politicos are extremely unhelpful in this regard describing the violent characteristics of a terrifying natural occurrence like Sandy using terms like “deluge” and “biblical proportions.”

Not to say these forces in the world are not genuine threats but they are a mere blip during the long evolutionary march of history. The terror wars have spawned a vast and mostly unregulated and hence unaccountable security industry that is now here to stay. Fear Inc. has been very profitable for some but has provided little palpable public benefit beyond those personally enriched by constantly over stating imminent threats on the horizon. In this period, the global  environmental crisis has carried on untended to as the proverbial ‘elephant in the room.’ Developing a smarter, faster drone air force to chase finite  “bad guys” in the world’s ungoverned geography is far less challenging than confronting large scale glacial meltdown and rising sea levels.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo encapsulated my point perfectly the other day with this quote: “[Utility companies] They’re regulated by the public service commission. The utilities were not created in the Bible. They’re not in the Old Testament. They’re not in the New Testament. God never said, ‘New York shall have these utilities forever, and Con Ed is the utility, and there’s nothing you can do about it. It’s really not in the Bible.” Here is a case of a frustrated, angry political leader–perhaps without giving such a statement much rational forethought–injecting and legitimating Abrahamic themes into the public discourse thereby doing a great disservice to his millions of constituents by obfuscating the real history and nature of…nature.

Figures like Cuomo are not wont to offhandedly riff on the Jurassic Period or the Mesozoic Era during such a public tirade but perhaps they should. Referencing Noah in an era of bitter and confused climate change debate certainly isn’t helpful. Western observers scoff at Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for hailing the sought after return on the Mahdi–the promised return of the Twelfth Imam who has been in a state of occultation since he ‘disappeared’ during the year 874 A.D.  But are American leaders pandering to the masses really all that different in this respect?

We need more reasoned, empirical science and far less politicized seance if people are to grasp the environmental threats that lay before them and realize the inherent grand context of such events. It shall be no easy task. The “March of Unreason” continues.

Rather than a nonsensical “deluge,” Hurricane Sandy was part of a continuum of punctuated natural violence that has formed continents and oceans, and played a key role in human evolution and its great migrations. ©2012 Derek Henry Flood

Written by derekhenryflood

November 5th, 2012 at 4:58 pm

Frankenstorm

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New York-Went out to my beloved Long Island City in the borough of Queens to shoot some photos and get a feeling for Hurricane Sandy as it made landfall while high tide was approaching. Was getting shouted at by NYPD over loudspeakers trying to shoot. Winds felt like they were about 90mph, nearly fell down just getting out of the taxi. Here are a few photos.

A man lurks on the Pulaski Bridge looking over the Newtown Creek separating the boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens as water surges approaching high tide. ©2012 Derek Henry Flood

The tollbooths at the entrance of the Queens-Midtown tunnel appear deserted as New York CIty officials announced as host of bridge and tunnel closings effectively isolating Long Island. After 8:30 pm the tunnel was shut after it began taking on flood water. ©2012 Derek Henry Flood

The New York Police Department attempted to seal off Gantry State Park in Long Island CIty as the East River approached a full moon high tide. The United Nations, center, was shut along with all other public facilities in Manhattan. ©2012 Derek Henry Flood

An idiot attempts to fly a kite in the middle of Hurricane Sandy. A terse police sergeant put an end to that and said yuppies fled back inside on police order. ©2012 Derek Henry Flood

Welcome to Brooklyn, Frankenstorm! Hardly any vehicles were on the roads but a few must have felt they could justify their travels. ©2012 Derek Henry Flood

The Empire State Building, left, and the Chrysler Building, right, are shrouded in the hurricane as the worst of it is about to hit the city. ©2012 Derek Henry Flood

Out for a smoke. Two things people wouldn’t stop doing no matter what: taking their dogs for a walk and lighting up. Man puffing a grit on Vernon Avenue. ©2012 Derek Henry Flood

I found a New York taxi completely enveloped by a fallen tree. Probably the scariest thing about walking around was that something could just crush you or lash you in tenths of a second. ©2012 Derek Henry Flood.

Written by derekhenryflood

October 29th, 2012 at 8:49 pm