The Destruction of Aleppo

The Battle of Aleppo was a major military confrontation in Aleppo, the largest city in Syria, between the Syrian opposition (including the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and other largely-Sunni groups, such as the Levant Front and the al-Qaeda-affiliated al-Nusra Front) against the Syrian government, supported by Hezbollah, Shia militias and Russia, and against the Kurdish-led People’s Protection Units (YPG). The battle began on 19 July 2012 and was part of the ongoing Syrian Civil War. A stalemate that had been in place for four years finally ended in July 2016, when Syrian government troops closed the rebels’ last supply line into Aleppo with the support of Russian airstrikes. In response, rebel forces launched unsuccessful counteroffensives in September and October that failed to break the siege; in November, government forces embarked on a decisive campaign that resulted in the recapture of all of Aleppo by December 2016. The Syrian government victory was widely seen as a potential turning point in Syria’s civil war.

The large-scale devastation of the battle and its importance led combatants to name it the “mother of battles” or “Syria’s Stalingrad”. The battle was marked by widespread violence against civilians, alleged repeated targeting of hospitals and schools (mostly by pro-government Air Forces and to a lesser extent by the rebels), and indiscriminate aerial strikes and shelling against civilian areas. It was also marked by the inability of the international community to resolve the conflict peacefully. The UN special envoy to Syria proposed to end the battle by giving East Aleppo autonomy, but the idea was rejected by the Syrian government. Hundreds of thousands of residents were displaced by the fighting and efforts to provide aid to civilians or facilitate evacuation were routinely disrupted by continued combat and mistrust between the opposing sides.

Before and after photos

 

aleppo

aleppo1

 

In late September 2016, Russia and Syria began performing nightly air raids on rebel-held parts of the city. Russian and Syrian forces were also accused of conducting “double tap” airstrikes which purposefully targeted rescue workers and first responders at hospitals and other civilian structures that they had already bombed, however this is disputed by government and Russian sources. To prevent civilian casualties, Syrian and Russian forces opened up humanitarian corridors to allow the civilian population of Aleppo to evacuate, away from the fighting. During evacuation, several East Aleppo residents reported that evacuating civilians were shelled by rebels. During the 2016 Syrian government offensive, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights warned that “crimes of historic proportions” were being committed in Aleppo.

 

aleppo2

aleppo3

 

The battle caused catastrophic destruction to the Old City of Aleppo, a UNESCO World Heritage site. With over four years of fighting, it represents one of the longest sieges in modern warfare and one of the bloodiest battles of the Syrian Civil War, which left an estimated 31,000 people dead, almost a tenth of the overall war casualties.

 

aleppo4

aleppo5

aleppo6

aleppo7

aleppo8

aleppo9

 

aleppo10

aleppo11

 

aleppo14

aleppo15

 

aleppo18

aleppo19

 

1983 Soviet nuclear false alarm incident

A very close call indeed.

On 26 September 1983, the nuclear early-warning system of the Soviet Union reported the launch of multiple intercontinental ballistic missiles from bases in the United States. These missile attack warnings were felt to be false alarms by Stanislav Petrov, an officer of the Soviet Air Defence Forces. This decision is seen as having prevented a retaliatory nuclear attack against the United States and its NATO allies, which would have resulted in an immediate and irrevocable escalation to a full-scale nuclear war. Investigation of the satellite warning system later determined that the system had indeed malfunctioned.

Background
The incident occurred at a time of severely strained relations between the United States and the Soviet Union. Responding to the Soviet Union’s deployment of fourteen SS-20/RSD-10 theatre nuclear missiles, the NATO Double-Track Decision was taken in December 1979 by the military commander of NATO to deploy 108 Pershing II nuclear missiles in Western Europe with the ability to hit targets in eastern Ukraine, Belarus or Lithuania within 10 minutes and the longer range, but slower BGM-109G Ground Launched Cruise Missile (GLCM) to strike potential targets farther to the east. In mid-February 1981, and continuing until 1983, psychological operations by the United States began. These were designed to test Soviet radar vulnerability and to demonstrate US nuclear capabilities. They included clandestine naval operations, in the Barents, Norwegian, Black, and Baltic seas and near the Greenland-Iceland-United Kingdom (GIUK) gap, as well as flights by American bombers, occasionally several times per week, directly toward Soviet airspace that turned away only at the last moment.

“It really got to them,” recalls Dr. William Schneider, [former] undersecretary of state for military assistance and technology, who saw classified “after-action reports” that indicated U.S. flight activity. “They didn’t know what it all meant. A squadron would fly straight at Soviet airspace, and other radars would light up and units would go on alert. Then at the last minute the squadron would peel off and return home.”

From the accounts of CIA and senior KGB officers, by May 1981, obsessed with historical parallels with 1941 and Reaganite rhetoric, and with no defensive capability against the Pershing IIs, Soviet leaders believed the United States was preparing a secret nuclear attack on the USSR and initiated Operation RYaN. Under this, agents abroad monitored service and technical personnel who would implement a nuclear attack so as to be able either to preempt it or have mutually assured destruction.

On 1 September 1983, the Soviet military shot down a South Korean passenger jet, Korean Air Lines Flight 007, that had strayed into Soviet airspace. All 269 people aboard the aircraft were killed, including U.S. Congressman Larry McDonald and many other Americans. The first Pershing II missiles were reportedly deployed in late November 1983.

Bruce Blair, an expert on Cold War nuclear strategies and former president of the World Security Institute in Washington, D.C., says the American–Soviet relationship at that time

had deteriorated to the point where the Soviet Union as a system—not just the Kremlin, not just Soviet leader Yuri Andropov, not just the KGB—but as a system, was geared to expect an attack and to retaliate very quickly to it. It was on hair-trigger alert. It was very nervous and prone to mistakes and accidents. The false alarm that happened on Petrov’s watch could not have come at a more dangerous, intense phase in U.S.–Soviet relations.

In an interview aired on American television, Blair said, “The Russians (Soviets) saw a U.S. government preparing for a first strike, headed by a President Ronald Reagan capable of ordering a first strike.” Regarding the incident involving Petrov, he said, “I think that this is the closest our country has come to accidental nuclear war.”

 

Incident
On 26 September 1983, Stanislav Petrov, a lieutenant colonel in the Soviet Air Defense Forces, was the officer on duty at the Serpukhov-15 bunker near Moscow which housed the command center of the Soviet early warning satellites, code-named Oko. Petrov’s responsibilities included observing the satellite early warning network and notifying his superiors of any impending nuclear missile attack against the Soviet Union. If notification was received from the early warning systems that inbound missiles had been detected, the Soviet Union’s strategy was an immediate and compulsory nuclear counter-attack against the United States (launch on warning), specified in the doctrine of mutual assured destruction.

Shortly after midnight, the bunker’s computers reported that one intercontinental ballistic missile was heading toward the Soviet Union from the United States. Petrov considered the detection a computer error, since a first-strike nuclear attack by the United States was likely to involve hundreds of simultaneous missile launches in order to disable any Soviet means of a counterattack. Furthermore, the satellite system’s reliability had been questioned in the past. Petrov dismissed the warning as a false alarm, though accounts of the event differ as to whether he notified his superiors or not after he concluded that the computer detections were false and that no missile had been launched. Petrov’s suspicion that the warning system was malfunctioning was confirmed when no missile in fact arrived. Later, the computers identified four additional missiles in the air, all directed towards the Soviet Union. Petrov suspected that the computer system was malfunctioning again, despite having no direct means to confirm this. The Soviet Union’s land radar was incapable of detecting missiles beyond the horizon.

It was subsequently determined that the false alarms were caused by a rare alignment of sunlight on high-altitude clouds and the satellites’ Molniya orbits, an error later corrected by cross-referencing a geostationary satellite.

In explaining the factors leading to his decision, Petrov cited his belief and training that any U.S. first strike would be massive, so five missiles seemed an illogical start. In addition, the launch detection system was new and in his view not yet wholly trustworthy, while ground radar had failed to pick up corroborative evidence even after several minutes of the false alarm.

Petrov underwent intense questioning by his superiors about his actions. Initially, he was praised for his decision. General Yury Votintsev, then commander of the Soviet Air Defense’s Missile Defense Units, who was the first to hear Petrov’s report of the incident (and the first to reveal it to the public in 1998), stated that Petrov’s “correct actions” were “duly noted.” Petrov himself stated he was initially praised by Votintsev and was promised a reward, but recalled that he was also reprimanded for improper filing of paperwork with the pretext that he had not described the incident in the military diary.

He received no reward. According to Petrov, this was because the incident and other bugs found in the missile detection system embarrassed his superiors and the influential scientists who were responsible for it, so that if he had been officially rewarded, they would have had to be punished. He was reassigned to a less sensitive post, took early retirement (although he emphasized that he was not “forced out” of the army, as is sometimes claimed by Western sources), and suffered a nervous breakdown.

Oleg Kalugin, a former KGB chief of foreign counter-intelligence who knew Soviet chairman Andropov well, says that Andropov’s distrust of American leaders was profound. It is conceivable that if Petrov had declared the satellite warnings valid, such an erroneous report could have provoked the Soviet leadership into becoming bellicose. Kalugin said, “The danger was in the Soviet leadership thinking, ‘The Americans may attack, so we better attack first.'”

Rare World War II Photos

 

pics A group of American soldiers inspect heavily damaged and abandoned German armor, Italy, May 1944.

U.S. soldiers inspecting destroyed German tank Italy 1944

 

pics Adolf Hitler and entourage in 1940 tour Paris.

Hitler touring conquered Paris 1940

 

pics The atomic bomb mushroom cloud over Nagasaki on August 9, 1945.

Atomic Bomb mushroom cloud over Nagasaki 1945

 

pics Adolf Hitler declaring war on America, December 11, 1941.

Hitler declaring war on the United States after Pearl Harbor attack

 

pics Dresden in ruins after Allied bombings, February 1945.

Ruins of Dresden, Germany after Allied carpet bombing

 

Ninth Air Force A-20s return to the Pointe du Hoe coastal battery on 22 May 1944.  This installation was one of the first objectives captured during the D-Day invasion.   (71-D91 Vandenberg)

Ninth Air Force A-20s return to the Pointe du Hoe coastal battery on 22 May 1944. This installation was one of the first objectives captured during the D-Day invasion.

 

pics normandy ger pris

Captured German soldiers after D-Day invasion

 

pics nuremberg

Nuremberg Rally

 

pics nuremberg1

 

pics russians

Russian soldiers smoking in the trenches

 

pics uss lexington pac 1944

Aircraft Carrier USS Lexington in the Pacific Theatre 1944

Trump under fire for threat to Iranian cultural sites

US President Donald Trump has faced growing criticism over his threats to attack Iran’s cultural sites.

Mr Trump made the threats amid fallout from the US assassination of Iranian commander Qasem Soleimani.

The president said cultural sites were among 52 identified Iranian targets that could be attacked if Iranians “torture, maim and blow up our people”.

But the UN’s cultural organisation and UK foreign secretary were among those to note that such sites were protected.

The US and Iran have signed conventions to protect cultural heritage, including during conflict. Military attacks targeting cultural sites are considered war crimes under international law.

Qasem Soleimani was killed in a US drone strike in Baghdad on Friday on the orders of Mr Trump. The killing has sharply increased regional tensions, with Iran threatening “severe revenge”.

What were the president’s threats?

The first came in a series of tweets on Saturday.

Mr Trump said the US had identified 52 Iranian sites, some “at a very high level and important to Iran and the Iranian culture”, and warned they would be “hit very fast and hard” if Tehran carried out revenge attacks on US interests or personnel.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo appeared to try to soften the threat by saying the US would act within international law.

But the president later repeated his threat, saying: “They’re allowed to kill our people, they’re allowed to torture and maim our people, they’re allowed to use roadside bombs and blow up our people – and we’re not allowed to touch their cultural site? It doesn’t work that way.”

On Monday, White House adviser Kellyanne Conway defended the president, saying he had not said he was targeting cultural sites, only “asking the question”.

She also said: “Iran has many strategic military sites that you may cite are also cultural sites”, before later clarifying her remark to say she was not suggesting Iran had camouflaged military targets as cultural sites.

Defence Secretary Mark Esper was later asked if the US would target cultural sites, and said: “We will follow the laws of armed conflict.”

When asked if that meant no, “because targeting a cultural site is a war crime?”, he responded: “That’s the laws of armed conflict.”

What criticism did his comments draw?

The director general of the UN’s cultural organisation, Unesco, Audrey Azoulay, said both Iran and the US had signed a 1972 convention to protect the world’s natural and cultural heritage.

They have also both signed a 1954 convention protecting cultural property in the event of armed conflict. Mr Trump withdrew the US from Unesco in 2018, citing alleged anti-Israeli bias.

US Democratic senators Elizabeth Warren and Chris Murphy said Mr Trump was “threatening to commit war crimes”, echoing similar statements by Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.

On Monday, UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said cultural sites were protected by international law, and Britain expected that to be respected.

The guy is a raving lunatic. You don’t attack cultural sites.

Churchtanks: Sculptures of Churches Turned Into Tanks

Religion and war have always been mixing and closely related throughout history. Missouri-born artist Kris Kuksi took notice of this connection, repeating itself throughout history, and decided to unveil it in his Churchtanks sculpture series. By creating the juxtaposition between the classical world and the modern war gear, Kuksi transforms churches into tanks, blending the two structures smoothly and seamlessly.

 

churchtank22

 

As explained in his statement, creation of the sculptures is a “process that requires countless hours to assemble, collect, manipulate, cut, and re-shape thousands of individual parts, finally uniting them into an orchestral-like seamless cohesion that defines the historical rise and fall of civilization and envisions the possible future(s) of humanity.” Churchtanks thus represent the ability of art to fascinate and at the same time to raise awareness.

 

churchtank1

 

churchtanks

 

churchtanks1

 

churchtanks-facebook

Division between church and state.

 

churchtanks-kris-kuksi-5

 

churchtankss

 

Bank tank.

 

church-bank_tank_1email0

A Man Who Survived Both the Hiroshima and Nagasaki Atomic Bombs

Tsutomu Yamaguchi (March 16, 1916 – January 4, 2010) was a survivor of both the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombings during World War II. Although at least 70 people are known to have been affected by both bombings, he is the only person to have been officially recognized by the government of Japan as surviving both explosions.

Yamaguchi, a resident of Nagasaki, was in Hiroshima on business for his employer Mitsubishi Heavy Industries when the city was bombed at 8:15 am, on August 6, 1945. He returned to Nagasaki the following day, and despite his wounds, he returned to work on August 9, the day of the second atomic bombing. That morning, whilst being berated by his supervisor as “crazy” after describing how one bomb had destroyed the city, the Nagasaki bomb detonated. In 1957, he was recognized as a hibakusha (explosion-affected person) of the Nagasaki bombing, but it was not until March 24, 2009, that the government of Japan officially recognized his presence in Hiroshima three days earlier. He died of stomach cancer on January 4, 2010, at the age of 93.

aaaaTsutomu-Yamaguchi-Japanes-001

Early life
Yamaguchi was born on March 16, 1916. He joined Mitsubishi Heavy Industries in the 1930s and worked as a draftsman designing oil tankers.

Second World War
Yamaguchi “never thought Japan should start a war”. He continued his work with Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, but soon Japanese industry began to suffer heavily as resources became scarce and tankers were sunk. As the war ground on, he was so despondent over the state of the country that he considered killing his family with an overdose of sleeping pills in the event that Japan lost.

Hiroshima bombing

hiroshima

Yamaguchi lived and worked in Nagasaki, but in the summer of 1945, he was in Hiroshima for a three-month-long business trip. On August 6, he was preparing to leave the city with two colleagues, Akira Iwanaga and Kuniyoshi Sato, and was on his way to the station when he realised he had forgotten his hanko (a stamp allowing him to travel), and returned to his workplace to get it. At 8:15 am, he was walking towards the docks when the American bomber Enola Gay dropped the Little Boy atomic bomb near the centre of the city, only 3 km away. Yamaguchi recalls seeing the bomber and two small parachutes, before there was “a great flash in the sky, and I was blown over”. The explosion ruptured his eardrums, blinded him temporarily, and left him with serious burns over the left side of the top half of his body. After recovering, he crawled to a shelter, and having rested, he set out to find his colleagues. They had also survived and together they spent the night in an air-raid shelter before returning to Nagasaki the following day. In Nagasaki, he received treatment for his wounds, and despite being heavily bandaged, he reported for work on August 9.

Nagasaki bombing

hiroshima1

At 11 am on August 9, Yamaguchi was describing the blast in Hiroshima to his supervisor, when the American bomber Bockscar dropped the Fat Man atomic bomb over the city. His workplace again put him 3 km from ground zero, but this time he was unhurt by the explosion. However, he was unable to replace his now ruined bandages, and he suffered from a high fever for over a week.

Later life
During the Allied occupation of Japan, Yamaguchi worked as a translator for the occupation forces. In the early 1950s, he and his wife, who was also a survivor of the Nagasaki atomic bombing, had two daughters. He later returned to work for Mitsubishi designing oil tankers. When the Japanese government officially recognized atomic bombing survivors as hibakusha in 1957, Yamaguchi’s identification stated only that he had been present at Nagasaki. He was content with this, satisfied that he was relatively healthy, and put the experiences behind him.

As he grew older, his opinions about the use of atomic weapons began to change. In his eighties, he wrote a book about his experiences (Ikasareteiru inochi) as well as a book of poetry and was invited to take part in a 2006 documentary about 165 double A-bomb survivors (known as nijū hibakusha in Japan) called Twice Survived: The Doubly Atomic Bombed of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which was screened at the United Nations. At the screening, he pleaded for the abolition of atomic weapons.

Yamaguchi became a vocal proponent of nuclear disarmament. He told an interviewer “The reason that I hate the atomic bomb is because of what it does to the dignity of human beings.” Speaking through his daughter during a telephone interview, he said, “I can’t understand why the world cannot understand the agony of the nuclear bombs. How can they keep developing these weapons?”

On December 22, 2009, Canadian movie director James Cameron and author Charles Pellegrino met Yamaguchi while he was in a hospital in Nagasaki, and discussed the idea of making a film about nuclear weapons. “I think it’s Cameron’s and Pellegrino’s destiny to make a film about nuclear weapons,” Yamaguchi said.

Recognition by government
At first, Yamaguchi did not feel the need to draw attention to his double survivor status. However, in later life he began to consider his survival as destiny, so in January 2009, he applied for double recognition. This was accepted by the Japanese government in March 2009, making Yamaguchi the only person officially recognised as a survivor of both bombings. Speaking of the recognition, he said, “My double radiation exposure is now an official government record. It can tell the younger generation the horrifying history of the atomic bombings even after I die.”

Health
Yamaguchi lost hearing in his left ear as a result of the Hiroshima explosion. He also went bald temporarily and his daughter recalls that he was constantly swathed in bandages until she reached the age of 12. Despite this, Yamaguchi went on to lead a healthy life. Late in his life, he began to suffer from radiation-related ailments, including cataracts and acute leukemia.

His wife also suffered radiation poisoning from black rain after the Nagasaki explosion and died in 2010 (age 93) of kidney and liver cancer. All three of their children reported suffering from health problems they blamed on their parents’ exposures, but studies suggest that in general the children of atomic bomb survivors do not have a higher incidence of disease.

New Level of Insanity Emerges in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

Palestinians Now Sending Waves Of Incendiary Kites Across Gaza Border

Clash With Israeli Forces Near The Border Fence

As part of the latest flare-up (literally) in the never-ending Palestinian-Israel conflict, kites carrying incendiary payloads are being sent from the Gaza Strip into Israeli territory, setting off a scourge of highly destructive fires. One blaze in the Be’eri Forest has been particularly devastating. Agricultural lands have also been set on fire by the wind-carried improvised weapons in recent days. Launches of burning kites have coincided with a rash of violent protests near the border fences that separate Gaza from greater Israel. Referred to collectively as the “Great March Of Return,’ these demonstrations have turned deadly, with some reports stating that 7,000 Gazans have been injured and 45 killed as a result of skirmishes with Israeli forces.

The incendiary kites are especially problematic because they are incredibly easy to produce and rely on simple materials that are nearly impossible to embargo and/or interdict. What’s most concerning is that these improvised weapons are near impossible to shoot down, and even if they could be successfully engaged, their burning payloads will still land somewhere in Israeli territory.

Palestinians protest near border with Israel

Incendiary kites adorned with swastikas fly across the Gaza border

Now it seems Israel Defense Forces are going to attempt to deter the launch of these kites in a similar fashion to how they deal with rocket barrages, by destroying the location of their origin. Earlier today, IAF aircraft struck a Hamas position near the border fence where incendiary kites were launched hours earlier. Israel is well equipped to identify and geolocate infrared events in the Gaza Strip as they have dealt with rocket launches from the territory for years. It is likely these same capabilities will now be adapted to finding and fixing targets where the flaming kites originate from.

Far from a new invention or general asymmetric warfare concept, incendiary kites can be as simple as a plastic and balsa wood kite-like device with a tin can filled with burning fuel attached to it via a long cord. Similar devices have been sent across the border sporadically over the years but they have become a much more persistent and organized threat in recent weeks. The fact that Israel is entering into another drought, with very dry conditions becoming a harsh reality, has made the kites a far more effective, albeit indiscriminate source of destruction than in the past.

With no signs of the violence along the border receding and bolstered by the effectiveness of the tactic, the use incendiary kites is only likely to increase. Whether or not punitive air strikes will actually curtail their employment remains to be seen.

Source: http://www.thedrive.com/the-war-zone