Photo story: The destruction of Eastern Aleppo

By Jan Oberg

This is one of several stories I just have to tell.
You can see the original in large format here.

The destruction of Eastern Aleppo, Syria by Jan Oberg on Exposure

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Here a little more as background to the coming series:

TFF Photo Story



Lund, Sweden, December 27, 2016

Of course you have seen media images of the destruction in Syria. But not these taken in mid-December when Eastern Aleppo was liberated.

We live in a time when images – real and fake – influence perceptions more than ever.

My photos are real. Documentary. They reflect my role as witness on the spot at a time when only a handful of Westerners were present.

At a time, too, when all the mainstream media were conspicuously absent – as were the dual-purpose White Helmets who have delivered quite a few of the theatrical images from this war.

As a conflict and peace researcher and photographer I take pride in using not only analytical texts but also the medium of photography.

I am anyhow unable to describe just in words what I have seen.

Thanks to modern technology the small, smart, independent and truthful of this world can compete, to some extent, with the multi-billion dollar marketing and propaganda machines.

This is the first of a series to appear in weeks to come that will give you an impression of both life in Damascus, Eastern Aleppo’s destruction, the destruction in Aleppo’s old town, the human victims of this horrific war on Syria, the celebrations at the liberation of Aleppo etc. 

I do not believe that pictures of wars and victims will, in and of themselves, lead people to think of peace. Hiroshima films have done little to eliminate nuclear weapons. 

But in this particular case I do believe it is necessary to document just how big, systematic and unjustified the destruction of Aleppo has been – not only for those who built it and lived there over 7000 years but also to humanity, to all of us.

With what right did all the parties contribute to this utterly heartless and meaningless destruction? 

How did it come to this surreal level of violence wrought upon a historic cultural and industrial city and its vast majority of innocent fellow human beings? 

Will we ever learn – not only that war is stupid but also that this type of destruction cannot conveniently for some be blamed on one single side? 

All parties who used violence have blood on their hands.

Aleppo’s blood.   

This is the first of a series of stories that I must tell as a witness to an event that more intelligent and civilised generations in the future will have nothing but contempt for.

And if you ask me which side I am on, the answer is simple:

I’m on No government’s. No military’s. No leader’s.

I’m on the side of the tens of thousands of innocent, suffering Syrian citizens. Nobody deserves this!

I am on the side of the underlying, perfectly legitimate conflicts and not on the side of anybody’s violence.

And I do admit to have a particular problem with those – many – who interfered violently in the internal affairs of Syria and did only harm and no good.

Syria’s future is for the Syrians – all of them – to decide.

A better world has less violence, less war

By Johan Galtung

The National Society of High School Scholars, Claes Nobel World Betterment Award

The Carter Center

3 Dec 2016

I am very grateful for the 2016 Claes Nobel World Betterment Award – Claes being the great grandnephew of Alfred – and to the NSHSS-National Society for High School Scholars, here at the Carter Center in Atlanta.

Let me start by praising you for your dedication to Education, focusing on the high school–in the middle, after K and grade school, before college and graduate school–on teachers and students, learning and doing research, treating them with respect, bestowing dignity.

Society has institutions, like Family, Work and Economy. Sports get too much attention, Education too little.

Politics is about leading and being led, Military is about killing not to be killed.

These two get you into trouble. I have heard this afternoon much about leading, leaders, led. Führer and Duce are German and Italian for leader, “duce” also from educare, educate. Hitler and Mussolini.

Be careful. This is vertical and hierarchical even without nazism and fascism. Today we want horizontal social landscapes, with people relating equitably and harmoniously, through shared memberships and networks, both horizontal and inclusive. For mutual inspiration.

As to killing: the USA killed more than 20 million in 37 countries only after 1945 WWII; and has intervened 248 times militarily in other countries since Thomas Jefferson started in Libya in 1801. 20 million killed means 200 million bereaved–family, friends, neighbors, colleagues. They do not take easily to this type of US leadership.

And less than a century earlier two groups of Americans practiced those very same skills and leadership on each other. The Civil War.

Such was history. How about solving the underlying conflicts?

Instead of the 1850 compromise of shame, “keep slavery but give up the confederacy”, how about “keep much autonomy, but give up slavery”; for a Community of American States, not U.S.A but C.A.S? And in 1924, how about dropping the Versailles Treaty, removing Hitler’s best card?Read More »

“Humanity Knows No Borders”

By Hans Graf Sponeck

Freiburg, 1 October 2016

1. The global sky is full of dark clouds. There is reason, there must be reason, for concern. Humanity has to take time out to reflect. To-day is a good occasion to do so, especially since we have among us Haifa al Mansour and Solmaz Panahi who, together with her mother, has joined us on behalf of Jafar Panahi, her father.

The Kant Foundation is honouring two artists from the Middle East, one from Saudi Arabia, the other from Iran. They have taken Immanuel Kant’s demand of yesteryear seriously and have shown the courage to use their minds with all the consequences that this has entailed. They have been swimming against the currents, they have built bridges and they have climbed mountains that try to separate people.

2. The community of nations has created an impressive body of law which is as densely woven as the most magnificent carpets one can find in the Middle East. Life in all its facets is well protected by such law – or so it seems! The UN Charter remains the supreme road map for human life with peace. It echoes what many thinkers and humanists throughout centuries have proclaimed. Can there be any disagreement that the usefulness of a map lies in its use?

3. Emotions? Feelings? – important as they are, must be in harmony with reason! The irrational rejection of Europe by Britain would not have happened if feelings and reason had been in balance! How much more evidence do we need to accept that humanity knows no borders?

4. Let me pause here for a moment and interject… Read More »

The Future of Europe: The capacity to integrate, for dialogue and to generate

By Maired Maguire

“War is illegal and immoral, it has to end and it can be ended.’

Speech at the international meeting “Thirst For Peace”, Assisi September 18-20, 2016. Promoted by Community of Sant Egidio and Diocese of Assisi and Franciso Families.

Dear Friends,

I am happy to be here at this International Meeting and I would like to thank our hosts, for their invitation to attend. I have always been inspired by the lives of St. Francis and St. Clare, whom I believe are Icons of Christian Gospel Peace and Nonviolence.

Francis the man of action, steeped in empathy and love for all, and Clare a woman of prayer, whose love of God led her into the depth of mysticism and peace.

Francis and Clare lived in a time of violence and war, yet they choose to live the nonkilling/nonviolence of Jesus. Francis as a youth fighting in his local military, knew well how to wield a sword, yet he choose to follow the command of Jesus to Peter, when he told him to put up his sword and healed the Soldier’s ear.

He left the military to live in poverty and service, and together with Clare, and his followers refused to take up arms. Francis and Clare, in the midst of much feudal violence, choose to follow the Christian nonviolence manifesto ‘the Sermon on the Mount’.

For many people in Europe and the world, challenged by growing violence and injustice, the lives of these two great 13th century Saints gives us hope and inspiration.

Pope Francis, following in the steps of St. Francis, gives us all hope as he challenges us to work for the abolition of the death penalty, ending poverty, the arms race, nuclear weapons, and environmental destruction, etc.,

However, I believe we need a clear renunciation of the ‘just war’ theory (a phoney piece of morality in the words of the late Fr. John L. McKenzie) and I add my voice to those appealing to Pope Francis for an Encyclical on Peace and Nonviolence, calling Christians to rejection militarism and war and to follow a Peace theology in keeping with the teachings of the Nonviolent Jesus.

This would give great Spiritual leadership not only to Europe but to Humanity.

I believe Europe todayRead More »

The Global Right and Left and Immanuel Wallerstein

By Johan Galtung

Immanuel Wallerstein is unique. Nobody else has presented such a coherent theory of what he calls the modern world-system, from “the long 16th century” up till today; essentially capitalist. There are ups and downs during those four centuries. He is very much at home in the economic Kondratiev cycles–A for up, B for down, but not that much down–and in the political-military hegemonic cycles of the would-be hegemons in the same period.

Read Immanuel Wallerstein and become wiser.

He warns against the Global Right “Lampedusa tactic” of “changing things so that they remain the same”. And insists on Liberty, Equality and Fraternity for the Global Left–but sees the French Revolution more as normalizing change than as people’s sovereignty. Like faith in the middle classes: they are actually helping the Global Right, when in minority they are enlarged by the majority working classes, when in majority they neglect the working class minority left behind.

Right now Wallerstein sees capitalism in crisis with no remedy – of which I am not so sure – and the US hegemony also in a crisis with no remedy – a view I share – as the fall of an empire with local elites killing for them; now they have to do most of the killing themselves.

The Global Right, in power for a long time, is now faltering. Time for the Global Left?

Or, does Zizek’s brilliant formula “the left never misses a chance to miss a chance” apply?

Wallerstein offers six Global Left proposals:Read More »

The global power imbalance

By Johan Galtung

Dear Reader: This editorial 444 – the number calls for attention – is dedicated to a global overview, the world “right now”, so unstable with imbalances everywhere that what we are living is fluxes and jumps.

Let us start with two major relations: Nature-human, the US-the Rest.

Look at the human-nature relations.

We are used to being on top, killing and taming animals, protected against many of nature’s hazards including micro-organisms. But nature comes up with ever smaller viri, and larger, or more, tsunamis and earthquakes, and an erratic climate.

We oscillate between blaming ourselves, including military scheming, and the anthropomorphic “Mother Nature is angry” (Evo Morales).

If nature is angry, she has good reasons for a good riddance of us. And we are slow at a deeper human-nature relations respecting and enhancing both.

Nature is on top and our natural sciences are simply not good enough, taken by surprise all the time. Meteorology is good at covering the whole Beaufort wind range from 0-12; others not.

Maybe we have desouled nature and besouled ourselves too much to establish our own Herrschaft (rule, dominance), at the expense of Partnerschaft (partnership).

Unless this changes, imbalance with nature on top, and surprises, will continue.

Maybe the opposite holds for the US-Rest imbalance; that US exceptionalism serves USA as badly as humans above nature serves us?Read More »

Are we heading toward global autocracy, ecological collapse and political malaise?

By Richard Falk

What follows are preliminary reactions to both the BREXIT vote and the world according to Trump, but also a commentary on the related alienation of large segments of the public that are being badly served by both the established elites and their demagogic adversaries.

The failures of neoliberalism, the successes of digitization, the scourge of random violence, and more broadly, the dilemmas posed by late modernity are among the root causes of this global crisis of legitimate governance, which is deepened while being mishandled by unprecedented ecological challenges, extremely irresponsible geopolitical leadership, and a variety of ultra-nationalist backlashes against the encroachments of economic globalization.

Imagining the World After the Cold War

After the end of the Cold War there were various projections that tried to anticipate the likely future of the world in broad interpretative strokes. Three of the most influential conjectures by three prominent American authors received attention in the public sphere: those of Francis Fukuyama, Samuel Huntington, and Robert Kaplan.

Fukuyama challenged conventional political imagination with his provocative claim that with the collapse of the Soviet version of state socialism and the triumph of capitalist liberalism the world had reached ‘the end of history.’ It was also somewhat dubious that Fukuyama validated his views by reference to the Hegelian contention that history is made by the march and interplay of ideas rather than through the agency of material forces.

In this respect history came to a supposedly glorious end because there was no grander possible political vision than that of market-based constitutionalism, epitomized by the American political system. Even the most casual observer of the global scene must have noticed the befogged Western optic through which Fukuyama saw the world.

Huntington, no less provocative or biased, although less comforting for the West, anticipated a ‘the clash of civilizations’ as the sequel to the Cold War, especially stressing the confrontation between the liberal West and the non-West or simply ‘the rest.’ His suggestive emphasis was on blood-soaked fault lines between states, civilizations, and peoples associated with Islam and the Western polities descending from the Enlightenment tradition as it unfolded in Europe, taking root in North America and elsewhere.

Kaplan, also punctured the Fukuyama triumphalist tone of geopolitical serenity, by writing Read More »

Russia and China right now

By Johan Galtung

The background is the two major communist parties in the world. Russia Communist Party-Bolshevik made the November 1917 revolution; from 1922 the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, CPSU(b). CPC, the Communist Party of China, now celebrating its 95th anniversary, made the 1 October 1949 revolution. World-shaking events; in the world’s biggest state in area and in the world’s biggest state in population.

The revolutions cut into the modernity contradictions in the State-Capital-People triangle by conquering State-military and police. Two lasting achievements of CPSU(b): State Planning of the economy – maybe five years at the time, pjatiletka – now found in most countries; and lifting some bottom up to meet basic needs, surprisingly quickly. But CPSU(b) exercised gross structural violence in the countryside. And CPC, imitating CPSU(b), made the same mistake to start with.

Then they became different. Russia got stuck with the Party on top of the State, for some people, but not by the people. CPC, like CPSU, did not – and still does not – permit FAFE, fair and free elections at the national level. But China gave People a voice in the 70,000 People’s Communes, helping them lift themselves up when in misery.

China did not see State and Capital as either-or; like Bolshevik Russia opting for State through expropriation, and neo-liberal USA for Capital through privatization, manipulating and spying on the People. China opened for the neither-nor local level, for the compromise of some welfare state, and for the both-and of their capi-communism.

This intellectual-political flexibility, rooted in daoist holism and an unending force-counter-force dialectic, not in Western faith in a final state, Endzustand, opened for two very different “communisms”.

How are they doing these days, those two communist parties?

The Russian party is out for the time being; and in came capitalism. But over and above that discourse looms the history of a huge Russian Orthodox empire attacked by Vikings, Mongols-Tatars, Turks, Napoleon and Hitler, Catholic Christianity, and Cold Wars with extremist US evangelism, now over Ukraine too.

Yeltsin – hated by Gorbachev (INYT, 3 Jun 2016) – gave the West what they wanted.

Popular Putin tries to build autonomous Russia without Western-capitalist imperialism, probably successful in the longer run. However, in Russia the long run is very long.Read More »

Udsigten fra månen…

Af Claus Kold

Fra Månen kan man ikke se Danmark, lige meget hvor godt man kigger. Det kan man ikke, fordi Danmark er en kulturlig konstruktion, som er inde i danskernes hoveder, og som derfor ikke kan ses. Man kan heller ikke se Rusland, USA eller Indien.

Disse stater er nemlig også kun inde i hovederne på de mennesker, der tilfældigvis er født og opvokset i det, de har valgt at kalde fx Israel. Danmark er m.a.o. en tilfældighed. Det kunne lige så godt ikke eksistere, eller ligge et andet sted eller danskerne kunne tale et andet sprog, som de godt nok ville kalde dansk, men som ikke lød dansk – for os, de rigtige danskere.

Stater og statssystemer har ikke altid eksisteret, og op gennem tiden har de, der eksisterede, haft meget forskellige form. De har været religiøse, familieeje, enemandsvælder, étpartistater – i dag er det dominerende ideal territorialt afgrænsede demokratiske stater, hvor befolkningerne helt principielt skal inddrages i beslutningsprocesserne. De forskellige demokratiske stater, der udgør hovedparten af det internationale samfund i dag er dog langt fra ens, og det kan derfor være svært for staterne at forstå hinandens motiver og handlinger.

Til det tilfældige system af tilfældige stater hører lige så tilfældigt menneskeskabte systemer som politik, territorie, økonomi, sikkerheds- og forsvarspolitik, konkurrence, etc. Systemer som kunne være anderledes, men som i dag er bundet til sine egne logikker, som de er blinde for og derfor ikke sætter sig ud over. Systemer kan typisk ikke se og tænke ud over sig selv. Blindheden er farlig, for der tegner sig i stigende grad et billede af at disse tilfældige menneskelige systemer står i kviksand og kæmper med hinanden, uden at opdage at de synker dybere og dybere i, ligesom det heller ikke opdages at konflikterne ikke er nødvendige men systemskabte, kulturlige. Der er nok af globaliserede udfordringer: global opvarming, udryddelse af plante- og dyrearter, krige, terror og flygtninge.

Det statslige system, vi lever med i dag, blev til under helt andre befolkningsstørrelser, livs- og forbrugsformer, økonomier og teknologier end dem, der dominerer i dag. Overfor de globale udfordringer er disse stater på samme tid for store til hverdagens små problemer og for små til de globale udfordringer. I deres forsøg på at forholde sig til globale udfordringer, betjener politikere sig således af forældede instrumenter, og forsøgene på at forholde sig til de globale problemer falder tilbage på politikerne, der fremstår som utroværdige, som musikerne på Titanics stadig mere hældende dæk. Read More »

China’s Silk geopolitics

By Johan Galtung

China is changing world geography, or at least trying to do so.

Not in the sense of land and water like the Netherlands, but in the sense of weaving new infrastructures on land, on water, in the air, and on the web. It is not surprising that a country with some Marxist orientation would focus politics on infrastructure–but as means of transportation-communication, not as means of production.

Nor is it surprising that a country with a Daoist worldview focuses politics on totalities, on holons and dialectics, forces and counter-forces, trying to tilt balances in China’s favor. How this will work depends on the background, and its implications.

Two recent books, Valerie Hansen, Silk Road: A New History (Oxford University Press, 2012) and Peter Frankopan, The Silk Roads: A New History of the World (Knopf, 2015) see them as arteries connecting the world, globalization, before that term became a la mode. Not that loads of goods moved all the way in both directions, parts of the way, maybe further. Europe had much less to offer in return; however:

“Viking traders from–Norway–coarse, suspicious men, by Arab account–were moving down the great rivers of Russia–trading honey, amber and slaves–as early as the ninth century–returning home to be buried with the silks of Byzantium and China beside them”. (Frankopan)

The Silk Roads – so named by the German geographer von Richthofen in 1877 – connected China and Europe (Istanbul) over land from -1200; more precisely from Xi’an to Samarkand by a northern and southern road (Hansen for maps). And the Silk Lanes connected East China and East Africa (Somalia) from +500 till +1500 when Portuguese-Spanish and English naval expansion started a Western takeover by colonization.

The modern Silk Road East-West, Yiwu/China to Madrid/Spain. Although the transit time for goods or people to transit the route is 21 days, this is 30 days faster than a ship and is 1/10 the cost of shipping freight. See www.bulwarkreview.com

For long periods run by Buddhists in the East and Muslims in the West; Islam using them to expand, from Casablanca to the Philippines. Frankopan sees the high points in the Han dynasty (-207-220, capital Xi’an for West Han), the Tang dynasty (618-902, capital mainly Xi’an) and under Mongolian, Yuan rule–for goods, ideas, faiths, inventions.

Xi’an, 3,000 years old, served as a starting point, both for Silk Roads and for the Silk Lanes, traveling the Yangzi River, or over land, to the East China Sea coast. Till the military uprising against the Tang emperor in 755 (Hansen, Ch. 5, “The Cosmopolitan Terminus on the Silk Road”); but Xi’an is destined always to play major roles.

China is now reviving the past, adding Silk Railroads from East China to Madrid via Kazakhstan-Russia-Belarus-Poland-Germany-France, to Thailand, from East to West Africa–from the Indian Ocean to the Atlantic–from North to South Africa. Silk Flights. And Silk Web.

A silky cocoon is being woven, by worms in China. Too much?

Two features stand out in this approach to geopolitics.Read More »