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?

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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

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

Opinion: who fights who in Iraq and Syria and who doesn’t

On the ground in Syria, we see various rebellion groups fighting against Assad and among themselves. Besides the notorious ISIL/ISIS (IS), there are different groups which are aligned with the just as notorious Free Syrian Army (FSA) or Al Qaida (AQ) or both and in all cases there are also at least indications of alliance with IS in the battles against Syrian Armed Forces (SAF) in Syria. Assad gets support from Iran and Iran-backed Hezbollah in Lebanon and various volunteers in the same manner as other combatant groups do. In the middle of this turmoil, Kurdish Armed Forces (KAF) have carved out an area of Syria in which they basically engage in battles against all but mainly against IS and SAF.

In Iraq, the KAF have long before the conflict in Syria started already carved out the Northern area which was at time even protected by a no-fly-zone and seriously contested by Iraqi Armed Forces (IAF) between the 2 Iraqi wars. In the middle of the vacuum created by those Iraqi wars and the withdrawal of the Western International Coalition (IC), IS was able to conquer large parts of Iraq and defeat IAF rapidly before their campaign was finally brought to an halt. Iraq becomes direct support from Iran in its struggle against IS and indirect support from remaining small units from IC.

In the air, the picture is entirely different. In Syria and Iraq, the International Coalition conducts daily missions and the local Air Forces only play a minor role in the combat operations. IC mainly operates from bases in Jordan and Iraq with support from naval vessels in the Mediterranean Sea. Besides ongoing negotiations with NAVO-partner Turkey to use its bases for operations in Syria and Iraq, Turkey itself has engaged in sorties in Northern Iraq which appear to focus mainly against Kurdish forces and/or PKK.

And since a few days, Russia has entered the equation in Syria and continuous to expand its operations Syria and is obviously preparing to do the same in Iraq. In Syria, Russia has opted for direct air support from bases in Syria and added naval launched cruise missiles from the Caspian Sea earlier this week. A similar or even wider combination can be expected for Iraq in case Russia would join the campaign there. With this new development and further expansions to be expected in the near future, it is interesting to take a closer look at the constellations so far in Syria and Iraq. Continue reading

A message from Donetsk – From joining with hope to fleeing the violence

Q: Please introduce yourself and explain why you want to have this interview published.

I called you for this interview and ask you to publish it because I want my side of the story to be told without interference. You may call me Sergei, we both know it is not my real name but given the situation I want to stay anonymous and not risk my friends and family (*). These are dangerous times, I give you this interview under the condition that my identity will not be revealed.

I am from Donetsk, I am Russian born in Ukraine when it was still part the Soviet Union. When the Soviet Union fell apart I became Ukrainian because my family has lived in Donbas for generations, my father has built a blooming family business here and didn’t want to leave. My father said he was born as Russian in Ukraine and will die as Russian in Ukraine. Back then, I was in Russia in de Soviet Army and followed my father’s decision so I was transferred to Ukraine as Ukrainian (*). Becoming more and more disappointed in the Kiev government, I resigned and joined our family business in Donetsk.

My passport says I am Ukrainian but I feel Russian, I am Russian, always have been Russian and always will be Russian. We know each other for many years, you know this has always been my point of view. Please don’t get me wrong, this is my personal sentiment about being Russian, not the sentiment of all people in Donbas, especially not in Donetsk. Even my younger brother doesn’t agree with me and he still proudly serves as Ukrainian Officer. My sister on the other hand lives in Crimea and cried from happiness when she received her Russian passport, she feels liberated from Ukrainian occupation. My father is and will always be a Ukrainian-Russian, until his last breath. This shows you how divided we are and I believe you will find the same all over Donbas and other parts of Ukraine.

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