Last December, a woman from the Syrian community in Toronto reached out to me for help after a Syrian opposition Facebook page, for which she was an administrator, was expunged from the internet. She told me that Facebook had deleted the page, called Likes for Syria, in mid December, by which time it had garnered more than 80,000 “likes.” Several Syrian Canadians had organized the page shortly after the revolution in Syria began, back in 2011, and used it as a tool for posting news stories about the crisis, spreading messages of hope, and creating awareness in the Western world—something that many feel is desperately needed.
“We feel like our freedom of speech has been totally taken away,” said Faris Alshawaf, another administrator for Likes for Syria. “We have a right to talk about what is happening.” Facebook had removed the page once before but quickly republished it after administrators made an appeal. Just days later, Facebook deleted the page a second time.
We Asked a Military Expert How to Invade and Conquer Russia
In the past, when I’ve asked military experts from IHS Jane’s what it would take to conquer, say,America, or the UK, the idea of it actually happening in the near future was relatively far fetched. But recent events in Crimea have raised the very real possibility of conflict, so when I asked IHS Jane’s Konrad Muzyka what it would take to conquer Russia, it all suddenly felt very real.
No one wants to see Putin riding into battle on the back of a nuclear warhead, but that said, I’d like to make it clear that I, for one, welcome our new Russian overlords and would like to remind them that I could be helpful in rounding up others to toil in their underground vodka caves.
VICE: I’m going to begin with a classic cliche. Over the centuries, plenty of power-hungry leaders have tried to take on Russia, convinced that they would be the first to overcome the brutal Russian winter. How could a modern army deal with this ancient problem? Konrad Muzyka: I agree that from a historical perspective this has been a problem many countries have succumbed to. But the advent of precision guided munitions and, more importantly, nuclear weapons have completely nullified the issue. Any potential conflict with the West would most likely be fought in the air, space, and sea. Any use of land forces would be limited to capturing strategically important facilities—bridges, airfields, and the like. Given the size of Russian territory, I don’t think anyone would be interested in moving their troops to Russia and holding them there.
So how quickly might any invading force find itself plunged into a nuclear winter? Russia reserves the right to use nuclear weapons even in a regional conflict scenario. As such, any country taking on Russia needs to be aware of a dramatic and quick escalation that could take place. But this is a sign of weakness rather than strength.
In the days of the Red Army, it felt as though there was an endless supply of men ready to die in the name of Mother Russia. Is this still true? What’s their manpower like? That’s true, but many of those sent into battle during the Second World War fought at gunpoint. Not only that of the Nazi Wehrmacht, but also that of their fellow Russian “comrades.” Retreat was usually forbidden, even in a tactical sense—those who were caught falling back were either shot on the spot or court-martialed… and then usually shot.
Russian Roulette: The Invasion of Ukraine (Dispatch One)
Russia has invaded the Crimean peninsula of Ukraine and taken over its civilian and military infrastructure. Not a shot has been fired so far, but Russia is using its superior force to intimidate Ukrainian troops in an attempt to get them to surrender.
Russia claims it wants to stabilize the situation on the peninsula, which has a large Russian population, but Ukraine’s new government regards the move as an occupation of its sovereign territory.
This story is from VICE News, our new news website. See more and sign up now at vicenews.com.
The US and South Korean (ROK) militaries have begun their annual military exercises, dubbed Key Resolve and Foal Eagle. Among the largest and most important military exercises in the world, they have become a yearly spring ritual. Kind of like prom.
After all, Key Resolve and Foal Eagle are costly annual spectacles that, each year, have a slightly different theme. What the events mean to you, how you prepare for them, and how badly you lose your shit over them says a lot about who you are and where you fit into the hierarchy of your peers. There’s even probably some taffeta involved.
But what makes the exercises so interesting is the wildly different strategic maneuvering they put on display—on both sides of the DMZ. The Korean War ended more than 60 years ago with a ceasefire agreement, but no peace treaty. That means the war, which resulted in more than 6.6 million military and civilian casualties—including 128,650 amongst US military personnel—never technically ended. And the large-scale military exercises regularly held on both sides of the border (they’ve been going on for decades) are incremental steps in the evolution of this conflict.
In Afghanistan, springtime starts with a bang as it marks the start of the “fighting season” between the Taliban and Afghan security forces. For the first time in 12 years, the Afghan National Army (ANA) has to operate without their American allies as US troops withdraw. VICE News’ Golareh Kiazand travels to Kandahar to see how the ANA, the police, and ordinary Afghans are dealing with this turning point in a very long war.
Eva O’Leary and Harry Griffin on Photographing the 150th Anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg
Eva O’Leary and Harry Griffin are photographers who work together. Last year they funded a project called Devil’s Den using Kickstarter. For it, they photographed reenactors and spectators at the 150th-anniversary commemoration of the battle of Gettysburg. Juxtapositions within their images lay bare the differences between then and now. The project is featured in Mossless Issue 3, which is also currently on Kickstarter. We spoke with Eva and Harry about preconceptions drawn from history books, crowdfunding as a strategy for self-publishing, and the nature of collaboration.
Mossless: What made you want to shoot the Gettysburg reenactment?
Eva and Harry: The idea evolved from a shared interest. We had talked about collaborating before, but were waiting for the right idea. Some family had participated in the reenactment before, and they were talking about going again.
Gettysburg is a town of 7,645 residents. Once a year, in the last week of July, approximately 50,000 people travel from all over the world to bask in the glory, fascination, and nostalgia of a war fought in 1863. This year was the 150th anniversary and was particularly huge.
What surprised you most about it all?
The first time we went to Walmart and saw a rebel sharpshooter buying toilet paper.
Moises Saman’s Stunning Photos of Humanity in Conflict Zones
Peruvian photographer Moises Saman has spent the past few years living and working in Cairo and documenting the effects of the Egyptian revolution on the city’s residents—though he might argue that “documenting” is the wrong word. His work willfully avoids a chronological, ordered, historical view of the uprising, instead focusing on capturing humanity and the emotions of the participants. We spoke to him about how he maintains faith in humanity after working in war zones for years and the irrelevance of “objectivity” in relation to his work.
VICE: I heard that it was images of the Balkan conflict that initially made you interested in photography. Is that right? Moises Saman: Yeah, that was the first time I had any interest in photojournalism. Seeing that work in the mid- and late 1990s was an inspiration.
That seems odd, even by the standards of war reportage—the Balkans conflict always seemed to me a brutal and especially grim war. What was it that hooked you? I don’t know if it was necessarily anything particular about the photos, though amazing work was done there. I think it was more to do with that specific period in my life. It was a time when everything clicked in my head—when I started paying attention to the news and the world. Covering that war day in, day out was the moment that I “dialed in,” if you know what I mean. I became interested in the world beyond my personal bubble.
Cairo, Egypt. May 2, 2012. Anti-military protesters beat a man they allege was a pro-military thug during clashes near Abbaseya Square in central Cairo.
You went to the Balkans at the end of the conflict there—how did that trip effect your newfound awareness of the world? I went in 1999, in the summer. I was totally unprepared and it was a badly thought-out trip. My good friend who was meant to be with me pulled out, so I went alone. I maxed out my credit card and didn’t sell one picture from the trip. I had tried to read up on the situation, but once I was actually there, I realized I didn’t know what I was doing at all.
I needed to do it, though. I think good things came of it, and my experiences there matured me a bit. I went there, and I made mistakes, but thank God I came home in one piece. If anything, it reassured me that I wanted to continue exploring photojournalism.
A lot of your work tends to be done in war zones. How do you feel about the tag of “war photographer”—is it a label you resent? I don’t know if “resent” is the right word. But I don’t like it. I think it’s full of connotations that don’t really represent what I’m about as a photographer. It’s true that I tend to work in a lot of conflict zones. Somehow I hope my work is not just seen as something that is only related to conflict—people killing people and so on. Within the context of violence and repression, I try to find some moments that transcend that.
Sometimes it doesn’t work, of course, but it’s what I aim for. I look for moments that we can all relate to. It’s not just about showing events and images that eventually we all will become numb to—pictures of dead people or violence. So “war photographer” is a term I shy away from.
Russia Probably Won’t Promote the Genocide That Took Place in Sochi
The Sochi Olympics have some problems. There are the merely irritating ones: unfinished hotel rooms, undrinkable tap water, wonky bathrooms, an alarming shortage of pillows. There are competitive concerns, like a slopestyle course that’s allegedly causing injuries to snowboarders. And there are the globally alarming issues, like the destruction of the environment, oppressive government policies, and the very real threat of a terrorist attack.
But often left off the list of problems with Sochi is the oldest one: the role the city played 150 years ago in what many call Europe’s first-ever genocide. In the middle of the 19th century, conquering Russian armies in the North Caucusus systematically massacred and then drove the region’s ethnic Circassians toward the coast, where they were finally defeated—at Sochi. The Russians then forced Circassians to either board ships bound for Turkey or be exiled to Siberia. In the process, countless people died of starvation and disease.
Today, there are about 8 million Circassians in the world, most of whom live in the Middle East. And they’re not very happy about the Sochi Olympics.
“We want people to know who Circassians are, what happened to us, and to tell people that we will not be erased from history,” said Tamara Barsik, founder and director of No Sochi, a Circassian umbrella group that has staged protests and attempted to raise public awareness of the massacre since the Olympics were awarded to Sochi in 2007.
With the rule of law no longer in effect in Tripoli, Lebanon, warlords like Sunni commander Ziad Allouki are now the city’s real rulers. VICE News hung out with him and his fighters for a week to discover why they’re fighting, and if the country really is on the brink of civil war.