Monday, July 27, 2015

Eye-witness account from my friend in Aleppo, Syria -- this horror is what our tax money is buying as our "leaders" continue to fund and support ISIS

Writes my friend:

    The following are three articles that I have written from Aleppo. I hope you enjoy them.  Sorry for my typos and grammar mistakes.

Traveling to the other part of the city:

     It wasn't me, but a friendly taxi driver we know, who wanted to visit his house in the other side, where the terrorists and the so-called "rebels" control.  He heard that the Syrian jets attacked the quarter and bombed a close place to his.  He went in the Eid vacation (17-19th of July) with his wife, for two days.

      A trip that used to take 20-30 min from one part of the city to another, took something like 7 hours, because they had to go around 25 miles away from the city to make a U-turn and come back from other area, passing many villages, and to go into the areas under the terrorists control, till they reach the eastern part of Aleppo city, and finally to reach their house.

     They went in a bus, and he didn't take his taxi car as terrorists might take it from him by force. He told me that the trip costs them $70-$100 within 2 days (transportations, eating ...etc), he was complaining because it's a lot of money for him (it's equal to 100-150 paid trips he made with his taxi, he might need a week of hard working to compensate that money).  They took most of their cloths that was still there, thanks to their only 2 neighbors who are still living in the building who protected their apartment.  The rest apartments and houses in the quarter had been rubbed and stolen or damaged because they turned into nesting places for the terrorists.

     Some numbers and details might not be that accurate, because of my poor memory, however I thought you might be interested in knowing it. Many good people are still going from one part to the other. Many people didn't deserve to be kicked out from their homes, and wasn't their choice to stay over there or became refugees over here or somewhere else. Visiting each side is still possible for people, but it's dangerous, and I won't do it no matter what.

The Citadel

     As I understood, on the 13th/14th of July, the Syrian army -- who are occupying the very strategic acropolis hill of the ancient citadel of Aleppo at the middle of the ancient walled city, which is under the terrorists' control -- knew about a new tunnel that the terrorists were digging and filling it up with explosives, very close to the citadel's borders, so they made a counter attack and forced the terrorists to leave that tunnel in rush, however they set fire in these explosives before they left, and that explosion was enough to destroy part of the ramparts of the citadel.

     I'm wondering if the army didn't know about that tunnel, and if terrorists drilled a longer and deeper tunnel, and armed it with 10 times more explosives, may be the whole citadel was going to fall apart.

     I saw some new and clear digital images from the citadel to the old city via a friend of my friend, however the date of these pictures belong to a couple of days ago, prior to the above mentioned attack.  The few buildings around the citadel, had been damaged totally or partially. Khosrawiyya/Chusruviyya mosque, the first and oldest Ottoman mosque in Aleppo (built in 1544) had disappeared.  Same for Carlton Hotel which occupied a century old building as an investment in millions of dollars.  The building of the municipality or where the Mayor used to work (~75 years old?, 12 stories?) had been 80% destroyed.

     A Memluk or Ayyoubid period small mosque and religious school (~700-1,000 years old) had disappeared except of its gate and its little minaret above the gate.  The Traditional/Turkish Bath of Yalbogha al-Nasseri (~700-800 years old) is still there, but some of its big domes had collapsed. Another century-old building - that I remember sitting in for 3-4 hours 15 years ago, copying manually some information to use in my graduation project - had been damaged so badly, specially its beautiful double mirrored spiral stairs at the entrance, they became history with no trace.

     Those buildings had been destroyed by the same technique of the terrorists, within the last 4 years of war in the city: digging tunnels, or depending on ancient existed net of tunnels under the whole old city of Aleppo, filling them up with explosives, to bomb everything above them.  Meanwhile such huge explosion took place, terrorist troops will attack another goal, mostly the citadel where the Syrian army is.  They failed so far to control it, but they damaged the citadel a lot till now.

     Although what I mentioned above is horrible, and I know about other famous areas (markets, bazaars, mosques and churches) that had been sabotaged or destroyed; I was pleased that way more area and buildings of the old city are still there, as I know them, and may be even better after they had been renovated and preserved in the last decade before the crisis.  May be they are not that famous or master pieces, but they are still there untouched or scratched.

     The war targeted the symbols of Aleppo (and the same strategy in all Syria, of course).  The bazaar of Aleppo, which was there since the 4th century AD, since the Hellenistic era, is a symbol, and it had been burned totally (it took a week of continuous burning, and the burning's smell reached every corner in the city).

     The Great / Umayyad Mosque is a symbol, its almost 1000-year-old minaret had been terminated by dynamites, and its preaching stage had been dismantled (mostly to Turkey), several walls and sides of it had been completely destroyed, and they turned the mosque into its original and oldest land use: an Agora (Plaza) in the Hellenistic era, and so on for the rest lost places.

     The last symbol left of Aleppo, is the most famous one: the Citadel.  I can see part of it from our balcony, but I can see it more clearly from the roof of the building. It's still there, resisting the "zombies" and their funding states. It had been injured a lot, but it's still there dominating the scene of the city.  It's where they found the Storm God's Temple (~2nd millennium BC) few years ago.  It faced many invaders, including the Mongols and Crusades.  It had been damaged severely several times through history, but it had been rebuilt up over and over again, as an immortal symbol to the inhabitants of one of the oldest continuous cities in history.  I just wish not to witness its total destruction, as the same of what happened to its neighbor buildings mentioned above.


     Aleppo city had shrank to a fifth its size, and became so crowded with refugees that fled their areas after they fell in the hands of terrorists.

      I walk everyday in the city. I see children and girls without limbs because of a mortar over here or shrapnel over there that hit them randomly and caused them a terrible accident and horrible memory to stay with them forever.  The girl who lost one leg is standing on the other and selling bread, while the little boy who lost one arm is selling chewing gums.  Those are the "injured" people who come in the news, attached to their numbers in one line, after each attack from the terrorists. "injured" doesn't mean scratched or having a bleeding finger; it means someone lost his eyes or her limbs.

      At night, some areas in Ramadan were still playing live music while audiences smoke their sheesha and have cold beverages.  I admired that the spirit of musicians is still over there, resisting all the harsh situation of the crisis.

     On the other side, and because of the war and lack of income, many females are selling themselves for money.  Prostitution became so normal in Aleppo, and with different ranks for each social level.

      The daily talking of every youth is immigrating and leaving the city. Everyone wants to leave to Europe, mostly to Sweden, which accepted a lot of Syrian refugees so far.  The usual trip starts from Syria to Turkey, then they go in boats to Greece, and that is a very dangerous trip because many lost their lives and sink in the sea.  Once they reach to Greece, they go into a long process, and end either in Germany or Sweden.

     There is a new "market" for smuggling people to Europe in such illegal ways. Everyone is living on gossips that once they reach Sweden, the government will give them free houses and 500 Euros per person.  I keep telling them that this amount of money might be a fortune in Syria, but it's not over there, and life is not that cheap.  However, they just wanna leave and work whatever over there, because they are worried about their children's future and safety.

     What happened in Syria in general, and Aleppo in particular, is something like a great "shock," which people still unable to believe.

     Between 2006 and 2011; Turkey, Qatar, Saudi and mostly all Europe and the U.S. opened all their relations with Syria and funded many international investments in the country.  History will say its final word if that act was a trap or a bribe or a bad luck, to shower the people in unprecedented wealth, and then take it all back within few years, and replacing that shower with mortars and shelling.

      All of a sudden, malls started to built up in big cities like mushrooms.  Brand new cars and vehicles were so ordinary to see in the streets, including Porsche, Lamborghini, and Ferrari.  In my neighborhood and other areas, many new buildings had replaced old ones.  Many friends I know told me that they were distributing $20,000 or $25,000 as salaries for workers in factories and contractor firms per week!  Work was amazing, everyone was happy, a lot of money, a plenty of wealth, and marriages and having new kids became more than normal.

     I remember when my mother and brother told me to leave America and come back to Syria in 2010 because it was booming over here.

     My friend who is an architect living in Germany, came back by then to work on an architectural project for a Dutch firm in Damascus.  It's like reaching the whole country and people up to the peak of wealth, and then watching it collapsing as if there was an earthquake destroyed everything in its way.  Unbelievable tragedy.

      My brother saw his once-rich and wealthy friend selling little stuff (plastics, gums, etc) on the street in front of a mosque, and he didn't believe it.  He told my brother that he lost everything, and he has a family to feed and to put food on the table.  His factory had been stolen and dismantled to Turkey, his land had been burned, his properties had been either damaged or stolen, and he became bankrupted in no time.

     Each day, there is new story, real tragedies, that reach my ears and heart.  All of a sudden, everything ended.

      Factories that cost $8 million and more had been stolen to Turkey, and one owner had a stroke and died because of such loss.

      The worker who used to receive his salary from an architect or an investor, became a leader of a "rebellion" battalion, and now he can rape unlimited ladies, and have millions of US dollars, and came back with his militia to destroy the work of this architect or that investor, out of God knows what...  Rage?  Seeking lust and more wealth in shorter way?  Revenge?

     Another person who I met yesterday, told me that he had been kidnapped and they asked for a huge ransom, that made him bankrupted after being so wealthy.  He lost his factories as well, and trade, and now he is suffering from diabetes and blood pressure and heart troubles.

      You'll see it in each person's eyes: a type of sparkle with a light smile, while remembering how they were so rich and wealthy, traveling to Europe 3 times a year for pleasure and tourism, having the best life ever over here in Syria, and having great dreams for their children and potential promises for building the country and modernize their cities....  Then, all of a sudden, everything disappeared.

       One old friend told me that his youngest 2 girls, who are 4 and 6 years old, didn't know what a sea and mountain looks like till couple of months ago when he managed to take his family to a trip to the coast and mountains.  They didn't leave their house for 4-5 years, and they only saw mountains and sea through cartoons or illustrated tales.

       Neighbors' girl (who is from my generation) came back to live with her parents with her 3 teenage girls after the terrorists occupied her house in other "infected" area in the city.  They looted whatever they could, and didn't leave before sabotaging and covering the whole rooms and furniture with ....... shit!

       Sabotaging could be in burning or breaking furniture, but when someone sees all his rooms and beloved furniture and family pictures stained with human shit, that is so disgusting and humiliating.  I actually heard such stories when I was still in America, but I thought it was an individual act, not a common strategic way in that sector of the city, to humiliate people and push them to leave their areas.  So, their daughter sold her apartment and didn't want to see it again, and went back to her parents'.  Others became refugees.  Others sold their daughters to the prostitution market... stories and stories, that break my heart, and wonder how all that happened, and who planned for it.

      I'll leave it the stories here.  Have a great weekend.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Greece: "You're the one that I want!"

    Olivia Newton-John pretty much got it right back in 1978 when she sang her heart out to John Travolta, "It's raining on Prom night".

     And here and now, in 2015, it's still pretty much raining on prom night too -- but in a different movie, one called "Greece".  And there are also worse things that Germany's sleazy bankers could do to Greece (but I can't imagine what).

     Back 1946, when Germany was in big economic trouble after the Allies let loose their "greased lightning" on the Nazis, America bailed out that country with the Marshall Plan.  But now that Greece, the country, is in big trouble from German banks and the roles are reversed, German banksters are showing absolutely no mercy.  As far as Greece is concerned, those banksters are now singing "We go together" at the top of their lungs -- but not in a good way.

     So what's my point?  That Greece is in trouble, of course.  And that Greece is about to become another beauty-school drop-out.

     "But what can we possibly do to help?" you might ask.  I've got a great idea.  Let's all go to Greece and become tourists.  To paraphrase Rizzo again, "There are worse things you could do."  If a million American tourists suddenly become "hopelessly devoted to you" and descend on the Acropolis, the Parthenon and the Greek Isles, this would provide a much bigger infusion of euros, drachmas or whatever than German bankers could ever wring out of Greece with their stupid austerity programs.  Plus it will be fun too!

     As Danny Zuko was fond of saying back in the day, "Summer dreams, ripped at the seams.  Bu-ut oh, those summer nights!"  Let's all go visit Greece.

PS:  It is really, really hard being a teenager these days -- so much harder than it was in 1978, when the movie "Grease" first came out.

     "Just how much harder can it be?" you might ask.  I just said.  Really, really hard.

     For instance, let's look at two recently-released coming-of-age movies about the lives of post-millennial teens.  Their tribulations make Sandra Dee's tribulations look almost silly.

     "I believe in Unicorns" is a haunting tale of a very starry-eyed young girl who runs off with some cute soul-eyed bad-boy from down at the skate park -- and with disastrous results, but with magical animation an FX scenes that will have you believing in unicorns too.

     If you are a teenage girl these days, forget about "Grease".  This cautionary tale is for you.

     The next coming-of-age-in-2015 movie to see is "The Wolfpack," a strange documentary about six boys and a girl raised in an apartment in New York City -- literally.

     Afraid to expose his kids to the mean streets of the big city, their father barely lets them out.  "Sometimes we got out once a year.  One year we never got out at all."  Except that one day the oldest boy finally escapes.  How's that for an interesting way to come of age?

PPS:  And then there is the coming-of-age footage we see every night on the TV news:  Coming of age in Ferguson.  Coming of age in Gaza.  Yes, there really are worse things teens could do.  Coming of age in Libya, Baltimore, Yemen, Syria, Afghanistan, Nigeria, Congo, Honduras, Detroit -- all the places where America's military are making a living hell out of taking your date out on prom night.

       And children coming of age in 2050 will most likely to be starving to death or dead if we don't drop fossil fuels right this instant.  Talk about your really, really hot summer nights!

Note:  The photo above is of me and my mean-girl older sister, coming of age back in the 1950s.  Don't let her friendly smile fool you.  It's all a facade -- as was everything else in the 1950s.  Thank goodness for the internet.  Now we really know what is going on in places like Syria and Ukraine, unlike what McCarthy used to tell us was going on in Hollywood back in the day.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Dinner at Chez Panisse, an introspective life

      Without fail, every single year I get yet another year older.  Nothing I can do about that.  But it is a whole lot easier to face yet another birthday when there is a really big reason to look forward to it.  So every year I save up my money and go off to Chez Panisse for my birthday and then I can always look forward to that.  Except that this year I got my OpenTable reservations all screwed up and we had to eat in the cafe upstairs instead in the more glamorous downstairs seating.

     The other five people I went with had absolutely perfect dinners upstairs and the more casual atmosphere up there suited my family just fine.  Plus we met Leah Meyerhoff, the director of "I Believe in Unicorns," which opened at the Roxie in San Francisco last week.

     But my own pasta dish tasted practically just one step above Chef Boyardee and I was heart-broken not to have the open-fire-roasted rack of lamb that the nobs downstairs got to eat.

     Then, it being my birthday, I went home afterwards and reflected on my life so far.  And I was not a happy camper about what I saw.  "You seem to be pretty much wasting your life right now," I said to myself.  And, sadly, my self nodded back in agreement.

     At dinner my son had observed, "There are two kinds of people -- those who happily live their lives on the surface and those who are willing to go deeper into who they are and what they can do to make their lives more meaningful and worthwhile."

     Good grief, sometimes I wish that I was just happily shallow.  Then I wouldn't freaking care so much about the recent tragic deaths in Charleston and the on-going tragic deaths in the Middle East. 

      And it wouldn't even matter to me that America is being sucked into a financial Black Hole. 

     But all this does matter to me.  Greatly.

    Too bad it doesn't seem to matter to anyone else. 

     But next year I plan to get my Chez Panisse reservations all carefully straightened out early so that I can eat roast lamb instead of Chef Boyardee.

     If there is a next year, that is.

     We could have spent seven trillion dollars on making this earth into another Eden -- and instead Wall Street and War Street have spent seven trillion dollars on turning our planet into Hell.

PS:  I just opened up a new online T-shirt shop at Cafe Press!  Be the first on your block to proudly own and wear a T-shirt proclaiming "Stop Wall Street & War Street from destroying our world".  Or else get a bumper sticker or baby shirt or mug that says it.  Somebody has to say this.  Might as well be us.

PPS:  And speaking of getting older, way back in 2004 I wrote a really funny satire on the annual Bohemian Grove bacchanal that rich people hold each July.  But re-reading my article again in 2015, I realized just how naive I had been back in 2004 -- obviously thinking that bankster skullduggery and Endless War was just some passing phase and something I could easily joke about.

     But over a million American-made corpses later, I don't think that way any more.  Endless War and bankster skullduggery are obviously here to stay and it's really hard to be cheery in the face of that fact -- especially when one realizes that bankster skullduggery is now a done deal and that Endless War is now the world norm and could come to my home town now just as easily as it had once come to Baghdad. 

     Who would ever have dreamed that so many sovereign countries would go down in flames and that so many millions of people would be either dead or homeless within just one short decade more.  "Mission Accomplished," Wall Street and War Street.

Saturday, July 04, 2015

Syria: Where America drops barrel bombs filled with lies

     One of the main reasons I hate Wall Street and War Street is that they are usually lying through their teeth to us.  Fortunately, however, there are usually actual eye-witnesses to what really happens as well, and these actual eye-witnesses are always calling Wall Street and War Street out for their lies -- but none of that even seems to matter.  Remember all the lies we were told about Vietnam?  Iraq?  Afghanistan?  Libya?  Palestine?  Bosnia?  Ukraine?  Panama?  Guatemala?  Granada?  And how we were always warned about these lies?  And yet those "wars" went on anyway.

     And here is just one more example of the kind of pretty lies that we are constantly being told -- this time about Syria.  An internet friend of mine who I met after visiting Damascus last year is now living in Aleppo and he sent me the following eye-witness 411 about what is really going on in his town.

    So you read this.  And you have been told.  By an actual eye-witness.  But does that mean that the unjust and mendacious "war" on the Syrian people will now stop, now that you actually know the actual truth?  Obviously not.

    "We didn't sleep at all last night," my friend Waheed (not his real name) wrote me today from his home in Aleppo.  "Attacks by the so-called 'moderate rebels' started in the afternoon yesterday and continued constantly up until this morning.  The news here said that three or four civilians died and that 87 civilians were injured.  But the ambulance sirens didn't stop all night long."

     Hey, Waheed, are you okay?  Apparently yes, but just barely.

      "I'm sure that you have heard time and again in the American media," said Waheed, "that Syrians support the so-called 'moderate rebels'.  But every single one of the people I know over here do not -- and aren't they the real Syrians?  And after all these years and after all these attacks on them and after they have lost their income sources and family members, they are still asking the Syrian army to fight on their behalf, to terminate these vicious attackers and their nests, which have become like cancer in our body."

     But what about the barrel bombs we hear so much about? I asked.

      "At this point in time," said Waheed, "the Syrian people no longer even care if the termination of these terrorists who are invading our homes is by chemical weapons, bombs or whatever.  All we want is for the killing of Syrians to stop.  Yet, around the world and in the mainstream media, they still dare to demonize the so-called 'barrel bombs' of the Syrian army and they talk about the loss of lives of ISIS terrorists as if it was the loss of lives of some mythological Syrian peaceful moderate opposition who had been killed by a dictator!" 

      Waheed is totally pissed off that all these lies are being spread around.  Barrel bombs?  Really?  When the terrorists' ISIS version of Freddie Kruger is being armed, trained and paid for by US, Saudi, Israeli and Turkish neo-colonialists who are only after capturing Syria's land and oil?  Barrel bombs are the bad guys here?  I think not.

     "I don't swear, and I'm fasting this month," Waheed said next, "but this injustice is unlimited and it makes me and many others here feel like we are going to explode with cursing and swearing against all that nonsense of people lecturing in some conference in Britain this week or people at the UN who are telling nothing but lies and hypocrisy."

     Part of Waheed's family spent last night huddled in the bathroom of their house because it was the safest room.  "Everyone there was crying and terrified by the 'moderate peaceful opposition' as their house is located close to one of the conflicts lines.  But the Syrian army can't bomb these ISIS and foreign-fighter terrorists because then the 'international community' will accuse the Syrian army of using this unprecedented super-ultra-modern weapon that is way stronger than a nuclear bomb:  Barrel bombs!"  

     Yeah, right.  And next the Syrian army will probably be accused of illegally using fire crackers or cap guns to protect themselves.

      "The terrorists are using mortars, explosive bullets, cooking-gas-cylinder bombs and bombs made out of water-heater cylinders; filled up with explosives and shrapnel and nails, and fired by what they call "Hell Canons".   Just Google these weapons or see their YouTube clips."  Yes, they still do have Google in Aleppo -- but not for long if Obama and Bibi and Turkish hard-liners and the House of Saud have their way. 

      To quote certain Israeli generals who are finally coming to their senses, "According to General Azer Tsfrir, for example, allowing the Assad regime to fall would mean turning Syria into a 'black hole' in which the border areas could become launch pads for operations against Israel.  Writing in Haaretz, the former military intelligence officer suggested that the fall of Assad would subject Syria to the hegemony of extremist Muslim groups which have declared their desire to destroy the Zionist state.  They would, he claimed, become a first degree strategic threat."

     But we all know that Bibi is pretty much crazy to support ISIS -- so let's get back to Waheed.

     "The cooking-gas cylinder is made of steel, and it weighs around 25 kg.   Imagine it thrown by a canon to hit civilians?  And imagine knowing that it is full with explosives?  And yet, the mainstream media in America is all busy with the legendary weapon of 'barrel bombs'!   And also filled up with how these terrorist ISIS 'moderate rebels' came to spread 'freedom' among Syrians!  How dare they say that Syrian army shouldn't fight them back?"

     And meanwhile the fighting just keeps getting closer to Waheed's house.  "For the first time last night, we smelled gunpowder.  The shelling was so extreme and so close as to leave the smell gunpowder in the air."  Yet no one at the UN complains about the American-backed terrorists.

      "The results of last night's shelling was nothing but more new innocent civilian victims," said Waheed.  At this point I'm almost ready to cry.

     "I mean, the terrorists failed in gaining new land or occupying new buildings or quarters.  They lost many of their foreign-fighter cannon-fodder 'zombies' here of course but their zombies don't count because they are being paid to fight and have no families or friends here to weep over their mangled bodies like is the case with our civilians."

      Waheed then apologizes for being so upset -- as if he didn't have a legitimate reason.  I know if it was my family and neighbors who were being blown up by terrorist death machines, I'd be too hysterical to even put words on a page!

     "Mostly I'm not so much upset by the attackers and whoever is supporting them in Turkey over here (and Israel and Jordan in the south); but mainly from the liars in that conference in Britain or at the UN, who keep lying and lying, telling piles and tons of lies, about 'freedom' and 'barrel bombs' -- and they live in their perfumed and ironed suits and ties, happy with their Ph.D degrees in stupidity and fooling the world, having no problem in obtaining clean water, electricity, hot food and the rest of the services that we are suffering over here to obtain, even a part of them.

     "Those people travel in 1st class airlines and live in 5-star hotels, and are ready to come on TV to weep over the fate of the 'Syrian people' and blame the 'regime' -- while giving a blind eye upon all the terrorists they are funding and supporting.  I wish these people, whether they are Arabs or Western, Muslims or Christians, Syrians or others...  I wish them Hell!  And to taste and suffer the same pain they are causing to the innocent Syrian people."  Me too! 

      These pond-scum should be evicted from their 5-star hotels and forced to go live out the reality that they now happily force millions of others to endure.

      "The Syrian army has defended our city, and all the lies on the media claiming terrorists' victories are nothing but rumors and gossip.  But that's all for today.  Take care."  You too, Waheed.