Buenos Aires 065-22jan

Remembering Argentina’s Dirty War

I didn’t need the implications, widely reported over the past few days, that Pope Francis might have had a role in Argentina’s Dirty War to recall the horrors of that gruesome period. I’ve crossed paths with reminders everywhere since I arrived in the world’s seventh largest country nearly eight weeks ago: on sidewalks, in parks, in front of schools and on large murals in Buenos Aires; graffiti on dead end streets in Ushuaia; on the brickwork of a public square in Bariloche.

The memorials are to the point and dispassionately matter-of-fact, simply listing a person’s name and the date they were detained or disappeared by el terrorismo de estado, or state terrorism. This one, and several others like it below, sit in Plaza Almagro, the spot from where these disappeared were secuestrada, or kidnapped. Today it’s a busy and clean neighborhood park with live music, open air dance and theatre performances.

Buenos Aires 073

The Dirty War was indeed officially sanctioned state terrorism, a violent paranoid purge by the right-wing military dictatorship that claimed the lives of upwards of 30,000 people between 1976 to 1983. Among the targeted were ‘subversives’ real or imagined, trade unionists, students and left-wing organizers, who were routinely held for months at concentration camps and tortured before being killed. Especially insidious was the treatment of some pregnant woman who were among the kidnapped. The women were murdered after giving birth, their newborns given for adoption to military families.

The accusations hurled at Pope Francis stem from his time as the head of Jesuits in Argentina, a period that coincides with the Dirty War. A week after he dismissed two priests for being too progressive and out of line with Jesuit teachings, the pair was kidnapped, held and subsequently tortured. The charges aren’t new and have surfaced from time to time; a 2005 lawsuit based upon the allegations was dismissed. Further charges, that he was actively complicit in their kidnapping, lack any credible evidence.

It is generally agreed upon that the church in Argentina did little to oppose or stand up to the dictatorship during the Dirty War. Argentine bishops admitted as much as recently as October 2012. At the very least, they’re being forced to remember.

Important to remember too is that the U.S. was a key supplier of the dictatorship at the time, with U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger an unapologetic supporter.  Some details:

The U.S. was also a key provider of economic and military assistance to the Videla regime during the earliest and most intense phase of the repression. In early April 1976, the U.S. Congress approved a request by the Ford Administration, written and supported by Henry Kissinger, to grant $50,000,000 in security assistance to the junta. At the end of 1976, Congress granted an additional $30,000,000 in military aid, and recommendations by the Ford Administration to increase military aid to $63,500,000 the following year were also considered by congress. U.S. assistance, training and military sales to the Videla regime continued under the successive Carter Administration up until at least 30 September 1978 when military aid was officially called to a stop within section 502B of the Foreign Assistance Act.

In 1977 and 1978 the United States sold more than $120,000,000 in military spare parts to Argentina, and in 1977 the US Department of Defense was granted $700,000 to train 217 Argentinian military officers. By the time the International Military Education and Training (IMET) program was suspended to Argentina in 1978, total US training costs for Argentinian military personnel since 1976 totaled $1,115,000. After the onset of the US military cutoff, Israel became Argentina’s principle supplier of weapons.

This first set of photos, murals and sidewalk memorials, were all taken in Buenos Aires.

 

This second set is from the Civic Center Square in Bariloche, a memorial officially sanctioned by the municipal government.

 

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Dom Policije Vranjače, near Sarajevo

Poppies and Shrapnel (Pic de Jour)

Dom Policije Vranjače, near Sarajevo

This is was taken at what is left of Dom Policije Vranjače, a former Club/vacation home for police officers, in the hills south of Sarajevo. Not a day passes that I don’t think about my visit to the Bosnian capital last year. I’m also a sucker for poppies.

This spot was one stop on a day-long Sarajevo Siege Tour which I’d highly recommend to anyone who visits and has the time to spare. A two-and-a-half minute video I shot of that tour is below. And if you happen to have another 150 seconds to spare and can only follow one of the links included on this page, please check out my Sarajevo time lapses video. And remember, sharing is nice. Thanks. :)

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Previously from Sarajevo:

- Sarajevo Siege + 20
- Beggars
- Sarajevo Tunnel Museum (Sarajevo Notebook III)
- Things you’ll find in the basement of Sarajevo’s Academy of Fine Arts
- Michael Jackson meets Christopher Reeve?
- Sarajevo pics, Part deux
- Trebević Mountain Polka (Sarajevo notebook II)
- Sarajevo notebook I – time lapses
- more pics from Sarajevo on my flickr stream

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Higgins Boat Restoration (St. Vaast Notebook I)

Here’s a 25-second quickie I shot last month in St. Vaast, France, with D-Day buffs in mind, of a couple guys finishing up a restoration of a Higgins landing craft like those used in the Invasion of Normandy. Funding for the project was to end at the end of May, so I think they’ll manage – just in time.

St. Vaast is a picturesque little seaside town about 30 kilometers north of Utah Beach, the westernmost of the main D-Day beach invasions. From a small promontory near where these two guys were working lies an excellent if distant view south towards Utah Beach and the landing points stretching to the east. Trying to picture some 4,000 boats and landing craft in this stretch of the English Channel –along with a soundtrack produced by countless planes, rockets and gunfire buzzing overhead– was both dizzying and numbing.

A bit more on St. Vaast another time.

Note: This video notebook was shot on 13-Apr-2012.

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Sarajevo Siege + 20: Fifteen photos

Time flies. Today marks the 20th Anniversary of the beginning of the siege on Sarajevo. Not a day passes that I don’t think about my visit there last year.

Even then it was difficult to imagine that nearly two decades had passed since the longest siege in modern times had ended. Plenty of buildings were still sitting as shells of ruins or in disrepair. Everywhere you turned bullet holes still marked buildings like violent graffiti tags. After a few hours of walking around and snapping pictures, I asked myself that time-tested question: How many photos of aging shelling and sniper fire damage does one man really need?

Quite a few as it turned out: in keeping with this month’s A-Z blogging challenge, here are fifteen, which will take care of today’s entry which was assigned the letter F. Or, you can go with a less safe-for-work theme: F for fucked up. Either will work and both interpretations are fine with me.

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Despite the battle scars, there were plenty of signs of moving forward. Cosmetic ones mainly, the kind that arrive on the artificial coattails created by foreign capital-financed construction projects and pedestrian malls lined with boutiques where most of the locals can’t afford to shop. Just as striking were the remnants of a past not too distant, the Yugoslav days and daze where Sarajevo was the country’s cultural and creative capital that hosted the world for nearly two weeks in early 1984. The city’s main train station, where an old rusting sign built for those Winter Olympic Games still greets visitors near the taxi stand, hasn’t changed much in three decades.

Inside one of the station’s logistics offices, a portrait of Tito still hung on the wall. Inside a station cafe, four men, all retirees, sat chatting over their 9:30 am cocktails and grumbled about the lack of vacation options to fit their budgets.”Screw it,” one said, before losing his train of thought. The others burst out in laughter, cajoled him for his apparent senility, and ordered another round.

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11,541 red chairs, one for every person killed during the 44-month siege, were arranged in 825 rows today to commemorate the beginning of the siege. Check out my twitter feed at right or online (@pirancafe) for links to photos published and tweeted throughout the day.

Memorial for the children killed during the siege of Sarajevo

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__________________
Indeed.
F is for Fifteen
in the Blogging From A to Z Challenge 2012.
Check out more participants here.

My explanation for this is here.

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Piran Café will be inaugurating a free monthly newsletter in May. It’ll be loaded with travel tips and wine reviews, updates on CC licensed free-to-use photos, musings on my obsessions of the day, plus an exclusive FREE giveaway EACH month available to subscribers ONLY. Giveaway No. 1: Sign up now and you’ll be automatically entered to win a FREE major publishing house travel guide of your choice. Drawing is on 1 May, so do it now!

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Previously from Sarajevo (Jun/Jul 2011):

- Sarajevo Tunnel Museum (Sarajevo Notebook III)
- Things you’ll find in the basement of Sarajevo’s Academy of Fine Arts
- Michael Jackson meets Christopher Reeve?
- Sarajevo pics, Part deux
- Trebević Mountain Polka (Sarajevo notebook II)
- Sarajevo notebook I – time lapses
- more pics from Sarajevo on my flickr stream

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Sarajevo Tunnel Museum (Sarajevo Notebook III)

Here’s a quick stroll through the 25 meters or so that remains of the what locals dubbed Sarajevo’s Tunnel of Hope.

During the beginning of Sarajevo’s three-year siege, the city was entirely cut off by Serbian forces. Locals came up with the tunnel idea, dug beneath Sarajevo’s airport, linking the city’s Dobrinja neighborhood with the Bosnian-controlled Butmir neighborhood to the south. The tunnel, built over a period of just under seven months, was completed in late July 1993, allowing much-needed humanitarian aid to come into the city and helped people get out. It also provided beleaguered residents a way to bypass the international arms embargo. Eventually a pipe line was laid for delivery of oil.

In all, 2800 cubic meters of ground was excavated for the 800 meter long tunnel, according to the Tunnel Museum website. As you can see in the video, the average height was about 1.5 meters and averaged one meter in width. According to some estimates, as much as 20 million tons of food entered the city through the tunnel, and one million passed in and out including then Bosnia president Alija Izetbegovic. When the siege was over, the tunnel was filled to avoid damage to the runway above.

The museum website is here; an absolute must visit. I’d suggest you combine it with other interests and let Sarajevo Funky Tours be your guide. You won’t be disappointed.

A few more shots:

Tunnel Museum

Entrance of the Tunnel Museum

Across the stret from the museum, formerly a police station

Sarajevo Airport from the museum

And finally, the entrance to a second tunnel that was built later but never used when the siege was drawing to an end.

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Previously from my June 2011 visit to Sarajevo:

- Things you’ll find in the basement of Sarajevo’s Academy of Fine Arts
- Michael Jackson meets Christopher Reeve?
- Sarajevo pics, Part deux
- Trebević Mountain Polka (Sarajevo notebook II)
- Sarajevo notebook I – time lapses
- more pics from Sarajevo on my flickr stream

Felonious F-35 folly

Where’s the outrage indeed. From The F-35: A Weapon That Costs More Than Australia by Dominic Tierney in The Atlantic:

Washington intends to buy 2,443, at a price tag of $382 billion.

Add in the $650 billion that the Government Accountability Office estimates is needed to operate and maintain the aircraft, and the total cost reaches a staggering $1 trillion.

In other words, we’re spending more on this plane than Australia’s entire GDP ($924 billion).

NYT contract photographer on military censorship in Iraq

Via BagNews, an exclusive audio slideshow and interview with NY Times contract photographer Michael Kamber, who has worked in Iraq since 2003.

US military-imposed censorship in Iraq (and elsewhere) is hardly news: sanitizing the scenes and using the work of photographers in the field – who put themselves in the line of fire just as soldiers do – as part of the greater PR machine is priority No. 1.

Kamber discusses censorship imposed by the US military, and touches upon self-censorship and the ethical balancing act involved when deciding what to photograph in dangerous and emotionally charged moments.

In 2003 and 2004 we worked quite freely. .. And then slowly things just became off-limits. At first the car bombs were off-limits. And then we couldn’t photograph hospitals. And then the morgues became off-limits. And then we couldn’t photograph prisoners. And then we couldn’t photograph wounded soldiers. And then at a certain point we couldn’t photograph detainees.