route-security

8

A Garden in Palestine

There is a peculiar garden of flowers near the State of Palestine’s de facto capital Ramallah where dozens of tiny vivid flowers grow from spent tear gas grenades. This unusual garden and silent peace demonstration was created by a Palestinian woman who gathered the spent grenades from clashes between Israeli soldiers and Palestinians.

The garden was created on land that the Palestinians were able to reclaim after a court battle two years ago that re-routed Israel’s controversial security wall. This wall will stretch 430 miles around the entire West Bank region.

While the conflict and violence between the Israeli and Palestinians seems far from ending, it’s beautiful to see strong, spirited and creative people in the middle of this conflict create peaceful demonstrations like this. This goes, of course, for people on both sides of the long-standing and painful conflict, like the Israeli artist who creates metal rose sculptures made from the remains of rockets launched by Palestinian extremists.

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HERE’S A THING THAT HAPPENED TO MY UNIT. I WAS THERE.

BASICALLY, WE WERE CRUISING DOWN A HYPERLANE, SECURING TRADE ROUTES FOR THE CONFEDERACY. THEN THIS VENATOR-CLASS REPUBLIC STAR DESTROYER COMES OUT OF NOWHERE AND DROPS INTO REALSPACE, AND A BUNCH OF V-19 TORRENT STARFIGHTERS WITH “DOWN WITH CIS” CLONES IN THEM CAME OUT OF THE HANGAR AND STARTED SHOOTING US. THE BRIDGE GOT SHOT UP A BIT BUT I WAS OPERATING THE TURBOLASERS, SO I MANAGED TO AVOID BEING SCRAPPED BY SHOOTING OUT THEIR STARFIGHTER COMMAND TOWER. AFTER FIGURING OUT WHAT WAS HAPPENING, THE CAPTAIN ORDERED US TO FIRE CONCUSSION MISSILES, TARGETING THE CRUISER’S HYPERMATTER ANNIHILATION REACTOR, GIVING US A CHANCE TO JUMP OUT. THE SHIP WAS QUITE DAMAGED BUT WE GOT IT TO A FLEET YARD AND IT WAS REPAIRED EVENTUALLY. I WAS FINE, WITH ONLY A FAULTY SERVO MOTOR THAT THEY REPLACED.

Deleted scenes from The Avengers script #116
  • World Security Council Member #1:Director Fury, the council has made a decision.
  • Fury:I recognise the council has made a decision, but given that it's a stupid-ass decision, I've elected to ignore it!
  • World Security Council Member #2:I'm telling you, you need to go through 42nd Street!
  • World Security Council Member #1:Exactly!
  • World Security Council Member #3:I'm hungry. When will there be pizza?
  • World Security Council Member #1:As soon as Director Fury takes our route.
  • World Security Council Member #4:Your route is ass.
  • World Security Council Member #1:*Your* route is ass!
  • World Security Council Member #4:*You're* the one with the shitty decisions on pizza topping. Dried apricots and ham? Seriously?
  • Fury:All right, now everybody, shut the fuck up or I WILL turn this motherfucking car around!

There was nothing of the conventional or the predictable about Edie. She never chose the safe, secure route. She lived the sort of wild, untamed life that few of us dare to embrace. And she came to stand for something more than just herself - she embodied an era. She was, as filmmaker Joel Schumacher put it, ‘the total essence of the fragmentation, the explosion, the uncertainty and the madness that we all lived through in the 1960s’. It could - and should - have all been so different. 

Displaced by fighting, thousands of people are living in caves in the Marra Mountains of Sudan’s Darfur region. Adriane Ohanesian, a Reportage Emerging Talent photographer, talked with the website Nuba Reports about her visit to Darfur last year:

It is nearly impossible to access Darfur. It took over two years of speaking with people and trying to make the right connections. At the end of the day, the most important aspect of planning the expedition was to make sure that it was safe and that we had a secure route into and back out of the rebel-controlled areas in the mountains …. I think that what we did last year would be impossible now. In the last month or so the fighting between the government and the rebels has intensified, and the bombing has been overwhelming. From what I understand, beginning in January, the mountains are now surrounded by government forces, so accessing the mountains again would be extremely difficult and dangerous.

Read more of the interview at Nuba Reports.

Another image in this series, of a boy burned in a government bomb attack, received the 2nd-place prize in the World Press Photo Contemporary Issues category this year.

The admiral had had a plan to drag the two of them into the history books. She would be a martyr, and his figurative fall would become literal, and his hands locked around her wrists like seaweed as the rocking storm voiced its disapproval. Lightning licked the great grey Wrenhaven; the gaping maw gnashing with thick black teeth. Rocks. Rocks to smash skulls.

[Part 2 now up, read on here or start here]

Unfinished business: an unspoken legacy of chemical arms.

U.S. Army 1st Lt. Ty Lin, platoon leader, and Sgt. 1st Class Nicholas Maney, platoon sergeant, 3rd Platoon, Company A, 1st Battalion, 27th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Advise and Assist Brigade, explain the route and security precautions for the day’s mission in support of the Tikrit Provincial Reconstruction Team during a mission brief at Contingency Operating Base Speicher, Iraq.

(Photo by Specialist Andrew Ingram, 28 FEB 2011. Part 8 of article by C.J. Chivers,  NYTimes, 14 OCT 2014. Part 1. Part 2. Part 3Part 4Part 5Part 6. Part 7. Also watch the Times Documentary video with soldier interviews.)

At American prodding, Iraq entered the Convention on Chemical Weapons in early 2009. From that moment, its fledgling government assumed primary responsibility for securing and destroying any chemical munitions remaining from Mr. Hussein’s time.

The difficulties this posed for Iraq’s troops became clear in April 2010 when an Iraqi police patrol found about a dozen M110 mustard shells near the Tigris River.

One of the police officers involved, Farhan Hachel, said he and others were ordered to gather the shells and take them to Awenat, a village south of Tikrit.

Officer Hachel picked up one the shells and carried it across his chest. He woke the next morning with “small bubbles” on his upper body, blisters, he said that “were growing really fast.”

The next day, he said, “I received a phone call from my colleagues asking me if I was doing O.K., as two others were suffering the same thing.”

His friends told him then that they had carried leaking chemical shells.

In all, seven Iraqi police officers were burned, Officer Hachel and officials said. The American military secretly destroyed the shells, and photographed and briefly treated the burned police officers. The care was cursory.

“They gave us some creams and sent us home,” Officer Hachel said.

And still more mustard shells were found.

The last large discovery of chemical rounds widely known among ordnance techs occurred at a surprising place — a security compound known as Spider, beside a highway south of Tikrit.

During the occupation, both American and Iraqi units had worked from the compound. The presence of mustard shells there, soldiers said, appeared a result of negligence.

The discovery, described by different sources as in 2010 or early 2011, was made when an Iraqi security officer visited Contingency Operating Base Speicher, and told the ordnance disposal troops there that Iraqi troops had opened a shipping container and found it packed with chemical shells.

The report led to Operation Guardian, when an American soldier from a technical escort unit, wearing a protective suit and mask and carrying a detector, reopened the shipping container.

A detector’s alarm immediately rang, warning of mustard agent, said Staff Sgt. Paul Yungandreas, one of the American techs assigned to recover the shells.

Inside were stacks of M110-style shells. “We carried out the rounds, one by one, and put them on plastic tarps,” he said.

The operation’s planners had expected 150 to 200 shells. The disposal technicians found nearly 400.

Many of the shells were empty. Others still contained mustard agent. Most showed signs of age and decay.

Many had been wrapped in plastic — a powerful indicator, several techs said, that they had been collected elsewhere by an American or an Iraqi unit, which then failed to secure them properly.

Like most incidents in which American troops encountered chemical weapons in Iraq, Operation Guardian was not publicly disclosed.

By then adherence to the international convention, and the security of the stock, was not much longer a Pentagon concern.

The United States had invaded Iraq to reduce the risk of the weapons of mass destruction that it presumed Mr. Hussein still possessed. And after years of encountering and handling Iraq’s old chemical arms, it had retroactively informed the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons in 2009 that it had recovered more than 4,500 chemical weapons.

But it had not shared this data publicly. And as it prepared to withdraw, old stocks set loose after the invasion were still circulating. Al Muthanna had still not been cleaned up.

Finding, safeguarding and destroying these weapons was to be the responsibility of Iraq’s government.

Iraq took initial steps to fulfill its obligations. It drafted a plan to entomb the contaminated bunkers on Al Muthanna, which still held remnant chemical stocks, in concrete.

When three journalists from The Times visited Al Muthanna in 2013, a knot of Iraqi police officers and soldiers guarded the entrance. Two contaminated bunkers — one containing cyanide precursors and old sarin rockets — loomed behind. The area where Marines had found mustard shells in 2008 was out of sight, shielded by scrub and shimmering heat.

The Iraqi troops who stood at that entrance are no longer there. The compound, never entombed, is now controlled by the Islamic State.

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