When terror gets close, too close!

My first memory of terror is hearing on the radio news that terrorists had hijacked a train in The Netherlands and executed the train driver and crew. A few minutes later, the broadcast was interrupted again to announce that the terrorists had also occupied a school and had taken the staff and children hostage. Terrorists from Maluku, now part of Indonesia. Actually, the terrorists were Dutch citizens, second generation immigrants from Maluku. In their eyes they were freedom fighters who wanted to achieve the independence from Indonesia for Maluku that was promised their parents and ancestors by the Dutch Government. But for us, they were terrorists, cowards who killed and terrorized innocent civilians.

I remember looking at my shocked mother when we heard the news and the first thing she said was “call Milly and ask if she is ok”. Milly was my school time girlfriend and my mama liked her a lot. Milly was proud Maluku, just like her parents and grandparents. I called Milly’s home but there was no answer. I called again, no answer. When dialing again, my mother told me to stop wasting time and just go to her house. My mother really liked Milly and was obviously worried about her. So was I! So I jumped on my bike and drove over as fast as I could. The curtains were closed, very odd for the middle of the day. I rang the doorbell, nobody responded. I rang again, still nobody. I opened the mail opening in the door and shouted through “It is me, open the door please”. “Go to the backdoor” was the whispered response from her mother. Through the backdoor I went into a dark house and got more and more worried with every step into the darkness. I started to wonder what was going on, was her brother involved in this? Maybe her uncle? What was going on here, why sit in the dark in the middle of the day? “We are afraid people will attack us for what is happening…” and the look on her mother’s face was even more impressing me than her words. The whole family was there. Her brother, her uncle and aunt, her grandparents. In the dark, the curtains closed, silent.

I stayed with Milly and her family until late that evening, but first I called home to tell my mother that Milly and her family were ok. I explained my mother what was going on and I could hear how concerned she was. My mama didn’t have to say a word, we both knew that “they will come for us” was something my mama still feared every single day as a Holocaust survivor. Normally, hearing my mother’s voice would always calm me down but this time her voice made me feel even more concerned and I started to feel restless and started to understand why Milly didn’t want to go to school the next day. But I changed her mind and promised to protect her, no matter what. Silly me, how could I forget my friends. They all showed up in front of Milly’s house the next morning and we went to school as a group. Let no one say a word or even look funny… and no one did, to be honest.

Our Marines ended the hijacking, life wend on and all returned to normal. Almost normal, not for the hostages, not for the next of kin of the executed victims. And especially not for the unfortunate casualty during the liberation of the train by our Marines. Somehow normal that is because since those days, Milly and her family were checked by the police a lot. I can’t remember that she was ever checked by the police before this happened and now it happened many times.

Since those days, many years ago, it feels like terror attacks are somehow always there and it has become worse and worse since then. Maybe, I have the feeling that it is much worse now than it was back then because there is more news available from all over the world, maybe there is really more terror in the world. Nowadays, terror is there, always there. Suicide bombers seem to strike every day and everywhere and the news about it never seem to stop. Sometimes, the terror is in places I have never heard of before but I realize there are people involved. Innocent victims of cowards. Other times, the attacks are in places I have been. Zaventem Airport in Belgium for example, I have been there so many times that I know the airport with my eyes closed. Munich, I was in shock while hearing all the names of places and streets on the radio during the terror shooting rampage. Istanbul, I have been there a lot and have many friends there.

Today Izmir. Beautiful Izmir where I have spent a lot time working with fantastic colleagues, enjoying dinners at night and taking pictures of sunsets over the harbor. I can draw a map of the boulevard and point out which restaurant is where, where they have the best food or the best prices or both. Last year was my last business trip to Izmir and I miss that place, I have many friends there. Today, a terror attack in Izmir as Turkey is suffering from so much lately. Again, too close and personal. Again fearing for the safety of my friends. Again feeling relieved when the last one wrote “No worries, I’m ok” and again feeling deep dark anger inside me over all this.

I am tired of praying for the ones who I feel honored to call my friends. I am tired of fearing for their lives. I am tired of trying to understand how their lives must be, living under constant threat of terror. I am tired of incompetent politicians driving this world from one violent conflict to the next. I am tired of mourning for the friends I have lost in terror, in wars, in violence over power. I am tired of suppressing my anger. I am tired of all this.

A day to remember the Holocaust – NIE WIEDER!

This is my grandfather, he didn’t survive the Holocaust and this is the only picture I have of all the family members who were murdered during the Holocaust. My mother was the only survivor of her family, my father lost all family from his father’s side. Generations of families, wiped out completely
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After high school, my father started to search for his папа and family, hoping that there might by any survivors. During his research and efforts to find his own family, he decided to start helping others and specialized in searching for survivors in the Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact countries. That is how he met my mother who was also trying to find out if there were any survivors under the family members who were deported to Sobibór and beyond.

Both found only the sad confirmation that their entire families have been exterminated. My mother’s family in the concentration and extermination camps, my father’s family at the hands butchers who raided the villages they lived in. People they have considered their brothers turned into monsters.

After the war, the World said “nie wieder”, never again. This would never happen again, the World promised that! The World lied… There is a slow Holocaust ongoing for many years, in the form of the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Libya, Palestine and Yemen. The death toll is millions, many millions more are displaced, refugees. Extremism at all sides abuse the fate of the innocent. Should these wars ever end, the survivors will have to cope with completely destroyed countries. What was once called Holocaust is now called collateral damage but the result is the same.

There was a sweet innocent little girl. Her name was Darina. She died on Flight 7K9268 while returning from vacation with her parents. There was a sweet innocent little boy. His name was Aylan. He died while trying to escape from the war in Syria with his parents. These innocent children and all the innocent victims of this new slow Holocaust they represent, should be remembered as well on this day. “Nie wieder” was an empty promise and unless we all assume our responsibility towards Darina and Aylan and all the others to finally end these wars, this new slow Holocaust will continue and might end up to be even worse than the Holocaust of World War II!

Only 2 members of my family died fighting during World War II and the Holocaust. My mother’s oldest nephew died in Rotterdam, fighting the invading Nazi Germans as a proud young Corporal in the Royal Dutch Marines. My прадед died while defending his family with a kitchen knife, taking 2 scumbags with him before he was executed by the rest of the Nazi death squad.

My days in uniform are over now and my body has started to tell me that I am too old for doing what I was once capable of. But I will defend my beloved ones until my last breath against whomever might intend to harm them. No matter where, no matter when, come what may. Nunc aut Nunquam!

The Syria Equation

With the rise of the so called “Arab Spring”, of which many including myself are still not sure if this was as spontaneous as we are to believe, Syrian opponents of the ruling Presidency and its system launched an armed rebellion against the Government. Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Western countries jumped to the opportunity of overthrowing an opposed regime without getting their own hands dirty. Weapons supplies and financial means were made available to whomever opposed the ruling party and President, using the open borders of Turkey and Iraq. Within weeks, the rebel forces were supplied with TOW and Stinger systems and anyone with some common sense understands that such systems are worthless without training.

Rebel forces launched assault after assault and were able to severely weaken the Syrian Arab Army, conquer territory and confiscate further supplies from the overthrown SAA units and abandoned positions. Various rebel forces appeared on the battle field and within months some not only battle with the government forces but also amongst themselves. Reports suggest that rebel fractions armed and trained by the same countries to overthrow the Syrian Government even started to fight each other in their frenzy for power and control over the territory gained.

In this power vacuum in Syria, Daesh/ISIS was able to build an impressive fighting force and “out of the blue” conquer significant parts of Syria and Iraq. With their crusade through Iraq, Daesh swept through Iraqi Armed Forces positions and stock piles, gaining access to the latest-greatest which was provided by the USA after its occupation of Iraq. The question to be asked is where did Daesh get its fighting force and weaponry from prior to its rapid crusade through Iraq?

Continue reading

Syria: Moderate rebels and surgical precision bombing

Modern wars are no longer only determined by what happens on the ground, on the seas and in the air. There is a fourth dimension of warfare and that is the media. Depending on the side a media outlet chooses to be on and the narrative it is following, not only the opponents will be sketched as evil but also the effectiveness and righteousness of the supported campaign will be stressed. Illegally armed forces with foreign mercenaries and financial support become moderate rebels when they fight against the allegedly bad side. Merciless bombing of infrastructure and facilities will be sketched as surgical precision bombing when executed by the side which is supported. When however the side which is opposed executes the same bombing of infrastructure and facilities, the civilian casualties will be overexposed by the same media which is hailing the accuracy and rightfulness of the side it is supporting.

The conflict in Syria shows yet another dimension where Russia and the International Coalition are both claiming to do the same but with different political objectives. And these political objectives influence the reporting in the media significantly more than what is actually happening in Syria. The International Coalition set as objective to topple the Syrian Government and in the process fight the terrorist organization under the names IS/ISIS/ISIL/DAESH in both Syria and Iraq. Russia on the other hand, set out to support the Syrian Government in its fight against all opposing armed fractions in Syria and in the process strikes Daesh so hard that Russia itself has become one of their targets.

And in the middle of this all, Turkey plays a dubious role by actively supporting armed fractions in Syria to topple the Syrian Government and is openly accused of supporting the Daesh terrorists with supplies and financing though oil sales. Even if that would only take place on an uncontrolled black market, Turkey still carries responsibility in its refusal to close the borders with Daesh and rebel held territories. At the same moment, Turkey strikes hard against Kurdish forces which seem to be the only native forces that actively and effectively fight the Daesh terrorists. The downing of the Russian SU-24 fighter jet raised even more questions about Turkish true objectives in the Syrian Conflict. Continue reading

Open letter on Syrian Refugees to Mr. Tsipras

Dear Mr. Tsipras,

With fast internet and global coverage of every thinkable event, we become overwhelmed with instant information from various sources about anything and everything as it happens. Opinions and facts are mixed so fast that we have no opportunity to understand what is true and what isn’t.

It is therefor that I respectfully request you to answer the following questions related to the refugee crisis Greece is dealing with daily:

  1. How many refugees have arrived in Greece during 2015?
  2. How many of those refugees are Syrian citizens?
  3. Are you able to establish how many Syrian refugees have arrived in Greece through Turkey directly?
  4. Are you able to establish how many Syrian refugees have arrived in Greece through other countries but have passed through Turkey during their journey?
  5. How many of the refugees who arrived in Greece have been transferred to other EU members?
  6. Which financial aid has Greece received from other EU members?
  7. Which material aid has Greece received from other EU members?
  8. Which organizational support has Greece received from other EU members?
  9. Which recommendations do you have for the other EU members in dealing with the refugee crisis?

With kind regards,

JD

SU-24 attack by Turkey – all guts and no glory!

Until this week, the exchanges between Turkey and Russia were verbal. Rhetoric back and forth, accusations to the other and emphases on the own goals and results. In the view of Turkey, an opponent of the Syrian Government and supporter of rebel forces, Russia was actively attacking the rebel forces which Turkey supports and not attacking ISIS at all. Russia, a strong support of the Syrian Government, accused Turkey of supporting the rebel forces and allowing supplies and financing of ISIS through Turkey.

The majority of these rhetoric cannonades seemed to be focused more on the own local audience than on shirtfronting the other side in a serious manner. Turkey upped the exchange of verbal attacks when it claimed that Russian fighter jets were penetrating its airspace  and summoned the Russian Aide over these incidents. Not surprisingly at all, Russian denounced these claims except for one instance in which Russia stated this occurred by mistake. Russia took the verbal battles to the next level by stating that the ISIS oil production and trade it started to attack was mainly distributed through Turkey, which Turkey of course denied in all thinkable ways.

All rhetorical statements for political purposes between 2 parties that obviously support other sides in the same armed conflict. Nothing out of the ordinary, popcorn moments at most. Until Turkey decided to attack a Russian SU-24… Continue reading

Mass surveillance, encryption or just being afraid of the dark

Something horrible happened and you’re now afraid of the dark, everyone has to understand that. You can’t just switch on the light in the dark because the light would blind you. So you start to place lights wherever you can so it won’t get dark anymore. But you just can’t place lights everywhere, no matter what you try. There will be darkness, too much darkness and you fear the dark. Night vision gear is the answer to that so that is what you do because you will never be in the dark again, no human being can expect you to remain in the dark after the horrible things that happened to you.

Although you still can’t see everywhere and there is still darkness in many places, at least you can see where you have placed lights and where you can use your night vision gear. But you don’t know where to look, there is so much to see. Too much to see so you bring in more people to have more eyes so you can see, you have to see it all after the horrible things that happened to you. And more light and more night vision gear, because you have to see so those horrible things can never happen again. You need to see more but people still create darkness. So you start to drill holes in their walls because you have to see everything and everywhere. You must see, it is for your own protection and for their own protection. Only those who have something to hide will object to it because those who have nothing to hide have nothing to fear from you watching them. Everywhere, all the time, no matter what they do, you have to watch them.

You see more and more, there is too much to see and you just don’t have enough eyes and minds to understand everything you see as it happens. So you start to record everything you see so you can look at it later. But it still isn’t enough, horrible things still happen and you can only prevent it by seeing everything. You must see more! You want to use everything that has a camera and be able to see whatever is seen through those camera’s. You force some manufacturers to give you access to the devices they build and with others you just hack your way in. Because you have to see, you have to see everything and only those who want to harm you have something to hide so nobody has the right to object to it. It doesn’t matter if this is legal or not because you do it for the protection of everyone, it is for their own safety. More, you must see more, you must see everything. Bad things have happened so you have to. More, more, more, more, more, until you see everything!

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CHARLIE HEBDO: Insulting humanity under the cover of political Satire…

Political Satire is a way of expressing discontent with the political environment by using sarcasm and what can be best described as “dark humor”. Most of the time, Political Satire is used to expose issues by ridiculing them. And that almost always includes ridiculing the responsible politicians. Let’s see this as occupational hazard for everyone who pursues a public career as politician. Political Satire isn’t everyone’s cup of tea and “funny” can also be very confronting and at times even politically dangerous. But hey, it’s Satire, you don’t have to like it.

Freedom of Speech and Political Satire have a love-hate relationship. The stronger the limitations on Freedom of Speech are, the louder Political Satirists will call upon the right to express their opinion. The less the limitations on Freedom of Speech are, the more Political Satire seems to be exploiting the same rights to express what, in most cases, has nothing to do satire or even politics. In fact, that is actually rather logical since there is no real need for political satire when anyone can express whatever is on their minds without having to hide behind satire as instrument.

Satire can also be seen as a side-effect of democracy and an instrument when democracy is less of a given. Satire can be seen as a way of expressing what many think but don’t say because it isn’t “politically correct” and for what it is worth, no one has to like it or agree with it. That’s also part of the game called democracy and freedom of speech.

And then there is Charlie Hedbo… Continue reading

The recommendation that the DSB missed – responsibility and accountability for information

First and foremost, I want to express my sympathies to the family members, loved ones and friends of the victims of Flight 7K9268 in the same manner as I continue to express my sympathies to the family members, loved ones and friends of the victims of Flight MH17. In both horrible incidents, innocent lives were lost and those who are left behind will have to learn to live with memories of the victims instead of the victims being part of their lives. Never again a new memory will be made by the victims, their lives have ended abruptly and the ones who are left behind will have to go through a long and difficult path of healing and mourning.

There is a picture on the internet, showing a 10 month old baby gazing at airplanes before her departure from St. Petersburg. A beautiful young life, impressed by all new impressions like all babies in her age are. Never again will she be impressed by what she sees, never again will she learn and grow. She died on Flight 7K9268 and all we can do is hope that she didn’t suffer during her final moments.

Everyone with the slightest grain of humanity will be moved to tears by this picture of this beautiful child and the realization that her life was lost on that flight, just like the lives of all other victims. This picture of this wonderful beautiful amazed gazing baby has become symbolic for the lives lost, for the pain of their loved ones, for the emptiness caused by the lives which were taken so abruptly.

There was picture of the crash site of Flight MH17, showing a child’s shirt with the print I <3 Amsterdam as it was found spread on the fields immediately after the crash. This picture expressed best what was lost on Flight MH17. Innocent lives, abruptly ended. Leaving their loved ones with nothing but memories and pain.

flight-7K9268Both pictures symbolize the impact of these horrible incidents, symbolize the pain of the next of kin, and as such, they are an appeal to everyone who thinks to have the right to report on these incidents in one way or the other. An appeal to understand and accept that under certain circumstances, the desire flight-mh17for attention or to sell copies should or even must be preceded by the respect for the pain and grieve of the loved ones and friends of the victims. The understanding that these pictures make clear how deep the pain is over the lost lives and that each piece of unqualified or unsubstantiated information only extends this pain. Unfortunately, this appeal is unheard by most! Continue reading

A farewell to Majdi, my Syrian friend

In the summer of 1988, a young passionate football fan and technology addict from Syria was overwhelmed by the fantastic football of Oranje, the Dutch National Team. Not only the way they played and won the European Championship but also the constellation of the team. Gullit, Rijkaard, van Basten, a beautiful colorful team with sensational football. Majdi was impressed by it all and that summer he decided that he wanted to study in The Netherlands, that small country in Europe where football was an art and integration was normal, and universities offered esteemed programs in Information Technology which was Majdi’s wish since he was in high school. Getting a permit to study in The Netherlands turned out to be more difficult and complicated than Majdi had imagined but that didn’t stop this young man. Majdi had a goal and he did everything to achieve that.

So late 1989, I received a long letter from that young motivated Syrian in which he requested me to support his wish to study Information Technology in The Netherlands and all the wonderful details why studying in The Netherlands was so important to him. I was moved that someone felt so passionate about our beautiful country. Many calls were made, paperwork was done, obstacles were taken, making this happen was something personal because of how this guy reached out and how his motivation touched everyone who was involved, including myself. Majdi arrived in The Netherlands in the summer of 1990, accepted to start his studies at his preferred University and he impressed everyone how much Dutch he had already learned through an online course. That was the beginning of a long and beautiful friendship, in which my friend Majdi never stopped to amaze me with his personality and passion.

Majdi concluded his studies with fantastic grades and I demanded he would accept the job I offered him, Majdi did and became a valued member of our team. Majdi had friends everywhere, was highly involved in our society and did volunteer work as translator. Majdi was a free-thinker, an open minded person and a bridge builder. Passionate about his country and his culture, passionate about history and always looking for opportunities to learn. Majdi strongly believed that dialogue is the only way to develop understanding, and understanding is the only way to achieve acceptance and acceptance being the only path towards peace. With that mindset, Majdi had many friends in all areas of our society, amongst Arabs, Jews and Christians alike, and among supporters and opponents of the Syrian Presidency. In so many ways, Majdi reminded me of my mother. Continue reading