From the Orange to the Olive

Orange County to Palestine

Hoy Me Voy Pal’ Norte Sin Pasaporte

“Tu estas con inmigración, no voy a hablar contigo…”

I nearly lost my breath under the hot sun, I thought they would have some sort of baggage, they were covered in dirt with only the clothes on their backs.

Manny, age 23 from Honduras, left his family three months ago. His neighborhood is marked on his face in fading black ink. He arrived today from the south. South of everywhere it seems. He has been travelling for the past 30 days in Mexico, he and his friends are amongst around 40 immigrants headed towards the United States whom arrived earlier via train.

The next hour involved a similar process with the guerrilla in Colombia: proof, proof I was not with the immigration and not the enemy. Arturo, 34, arriving from El Salvador, informed me of the Mexican immigration police that killed his brother 20 days ago on the same trip after arriving in Chiapas.

They all left an hour ago, around 8:00 pm at night running, running to grab ahold of the side of the train to move towards the roof. Three of the twelve immigrants I talked to have already lost fingers and many more have not even made it to Guadalajara.

Three blocks away sits the street Chapultapec. There, hipsters, fresas, and the wealthy class of the city meet, and even amongst the poverty of this country, there seems to be a disregard for the other Latinos traveling north. Welcome to the first world, Mexico.

This coincides with reports that several U.S. border states are clamoring for more troops to cordon off Mexico’s unprecedented drug violence. Only the violence isn’t unprecedented. Nor is the deep American denial as to its origins. And through America, Mexico’s government submits.

"Ven con nosotros.." he said as they left Guadalajara for Nayarit and further Culiacán. And so I will.

Cerca de la fábrica de cerveza de Modelo en la calle niños héroes puede encontrarlos. diario.

You do not have to feel guilty, we just need to pay more attention.

Arrival via Pankisi Gorge: Memories of Khattab

The Chechen pony’s hooves sank into the first winter snow blanketing the strategic pass deep in the mountains of Shatoy, the remarkable mountain wall that blocks the anti-Chechen armies facing Grozny from their vital supply lines to Moscow.

Exhaling steamy breaths at an elevation of 15,000 feet, higher than Mt. Whitney, the tallest peak in the continental United States, the caravan of 50 Mujahadeen lead by Arab commander Khattab, passed the carcasses of bombed out farmhouses that had been abandoned since the Russian onslaught of the tiny republic.

There were the carcasses of trucks, too—the wrecks of military and humanitarian convoys that failed in the land of minerals, Ickheria’s harsh test, a merciless, high-altitude bottleneck that abruptly falls away into the Shirdi-mokhk Valley, the central redoubt of the southern-most rebels under charge of Ruslan Gelayev and home of Dokka Umarov.

The attack was perfectly planned, as the enclave was impassable. The explosion of an IED destroying the lead tank of 50 military vehicles holding 230 soldiers was followed by each individual rebel firing an RPG round at the following vehicles simultaneously. As the burned out tailing APC prevented escape, the Chechen separatists had a decisive victory.

Encountering Russia in war traverses a wild, medieval world of combat that has every Russian mother complaining, weeping to end the conscription process that leads to the pinnacle of woe that is the young soldier.

Photos of Khattab emerged walking triumphantly down a line of blackened Russian vehicles, which eventually led to calls for resignation of the Defense Minister of Russia, Pavel Grachev.

Chechnya today still struggles for its independence from Russia after a quarter of the population has been killed.

 

A trail hacked through dense undergrowth, punctuated by burnt huts, bullet casings, severed goat limbs and the scourge of Sudan: plastic wrappers. This was the road from Bor to Juba with James. Four destroyed wheels, two rebel checkpoints, families of crocodiles crossing the road and enough ivory merchants to wonder who was actually in control of the country as Independence was coming to pass.

A trail hacked through dense undergrowth, punctuated by burnt huts, bullet casings, severed goat limbs and the scourge of Sudan: plastic wrappers. This was the road from Bor to Juba with James. Four destroyed wheels, two rebel checkpoints, families of crocodiles crossing the road and enough ivory merchants to wonder who was actually in control of the country as Independence was coming to pass.

Mercedes, Chocó sits on Atrato with the majority of homes underwater, the church is accessible by canoe. Signs loom over it saying “venceremos” 34th Front. Here in a speedboat, four dark figures emerged from the jungle, women and men, the FARC. On the shores I spent the day with el comandante “Jimmy” of the Darién. On a humble wooden stage he explained he fights for the pueblo and equality just moments after a skirmish along the river.

Mercedes, Chocó sits on Atrato with the majority of homes underwater, the church is accessible by canoe. Signs loom over it saying “venceremos” 34th Front. Here in a speedboat, four dark figures emerged from the jungle, women and men, the FARC. On the shores I spent the day with el comandante “Jimmy” of the Darién. On a humble wooden stage he explained he fights for the pueblo and equality just moments after a skirmish along the river.

Columna Daniel Aldana de las FARC-EP

Part of a longer piece on my time with the FARC-EP

We woke up at the crack of dawn, how did I end up here?  I remember four small smiling faces at the foot of my bed where my feet hung off, Bozaño, the youngest at age four was sucking on an empty Poker bottle and curious at the American traveler whom had been taken to his jungle home. I had stayed in the oldest daughter’s bedroom, a house made of thin boards and a tin roof, it slept eleven with four beds and was filled with every species of spider and insect that the most biodiverse jungle in the world could offer.  I remember the room was decorated as though any teenage girl, pinks, pastels and then magazine shreds of women from Bogotá covering the wooden walls.  Dried flowers poked out from empty bottles of Antioqueño aguardiente while a single shelf was filled with candles, make-up and bullet shells.  Through cracks in the wall I could see the father and mother in botas del caucho already hard at work. “Campesino” by Lucas Iguaran played in the background on the radio as my door opened quickly.

At age twenty-three, wearing army fatigues, the guerrillera entered the small space and the children ran out, with an oar in her hands and a rifle on her shoulder, she merely smiled and with a plate of fried plantains and warm aguapanela she said we were going up river in ten minutes… “you are rowing.”

By roaming inquisitively through disciplines as varied as psychology, political theory, culinary arts, military affairs and the history of Simon Bolivar himself I spent my first morning with the FARC-EP.  It is an outsider’s delusion to think that they do not control large swaths of the country in a very organized way. Every outcrop and stilted village we passed was parsed by signs of the guerrilla with the government not to be found, only a single ghostly demarcation showed the government’s existence at the mouth of the Pacific: an abandoned gold mine.

Black Angel of Komsomolskoye.

Black Angel of Komsomolskoye.

Sahel, Sudan.

The ‘High-Landers’: The Fight for Freedom in the Caucasus

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The ‘High-Landers’[1]: The Fight for Freedom in the Caucasus

Global political transitions have marked the turn of the twenty-first century and the end of the Cold War.  As post-Cold War ethnic conflicts begin to make the transition towards peace, the parties involved search for a means to address civil and political society as well as the crimes committed during these transitional periods without setting the country back into intra-state war.  This is done by a means of juxtaposing peace, justice and compromise.  The parties concerned turn towards a transformational mosaic and multi-lateral means of reconciliation. As these political transitions head towards democratic liberalism from one or a combination of forms of colonialism, communism, military dictatorship or racism they begin to embrace, through a means of structural changes and transformative civil society, a cosmopolitan community.[2] Civil society, amongst ethnic, religious and socio-economic divides has begun to unite across these figurative borders by means of a cosmopolitan framework. 

This framework is redefining globalization itself from a neutral element in the international community towards one with a more positive effect.  This effect depends on the mutual benefits it may or may not be providing towards world actors as the level of interaction increases across borders and as former soviet republics struggle for independence and, furthermore, develop into functional states.  While this force of civil society begins to become more influential in enacting democratic liberalism and human rights, the political society since the end of the Cold War has also begun to reemerge, combining both indigenous and imported socio-political characteristics.  Furthermore, the aspects of political society (security, legislation and bureaucracy) have begun to couple with civil society and community constructivism.

While the two categories have begun to become synonymous with one another, both influencing, by consent, the social structure of the state, the transitional and incipient governments must address the former governments’ and ethnic groups’ inimitable ills that have left the various peoples of the country psychologically wounded and divided.  However, as the Kremlin artificially sustained the Soviet Union’s satellite countries, its former republics now need to find a means to sustain themselves, that is to say, once independence becomes achieved.  Unlike conflicts that characterized the Cold War as proxies for either the Soviet Union or the United States abroad, the countries on the border of the Soviet empire now face new challenges since the fall of the Eastern Curtain in terms of making the claim to sovereignty. 

The case of the Chechen resistance and freedom movement is a key, not only historically dating back thousands of years but for the sake of this paper, to the first Chechen war (1994-96) and second Chechen war (1999-to date) of modern day independence movements and the cycle of structural violence that has been created by the “war on terrorism” [3], the failure of a unilateral top-down approach to conflict resolution and the conception of nation-states themselves.  In this analysis, I will discuss the various approaches to mediation, reconciliation, and conflict resolution on an individual, state and systemic level.  Additionally, I will look at the forms of punitive, restorative, transitional and traditional justice and how they can function together to achieve a lasting peace after mediation.  I will look at the case example of Chechnya as I discuss the argument of what is more valuable to the future of a nation-state in transition, negative or positive peace, autonomy or full-fledged sovereignty as the Chechen separatist movements struggle for independence. 

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Edge of the World. Wadi Halfa, Northern Sudan.

Edge of the World. Wadi Halfa, Northern Sudan.

The town surrendered to the Mahdists, “the Kaffir shall go to Omdurman!”

For a few moments Feversham could see nothing. Then his eyes began to adapt themselves to the gloom, and he distinguished a tall, bearded man, who sat upon an angareb, the native bedstead of the Soudan, and two others, who squatted beside him on the ground. The man on the angareb was the Emir.

"I don’t think you can have any idea," said Willoughby, severely, "of what captivity in Omdurman implies. If you had, however much you disliked the captive, you would feel some pity."

Thoughts from Khartoum 2008: four beds in a small cement room on the top floor of a decrepit hotel near Omdurman, face stung from the wind and torn from days spent on the roof tops of various buses in the Nubian Sahara. The heat as unbelievably hot as to be expected, experienced in the Eastern Saharan capital of the Sahel itself.  A single sheet covering my body and packs of desert vermin enjoying the US Aid that spills out of a nap sack in the corner of the room.  The man next to me looks dead, he has not moved in over six hours and it is mid afternoon.  You wonder what his story is, he looks like he has traveled far, very far, it is not the look a general Sudanese business man has when visiting from the neighboring countries, the Saudi brokers dressed in white galabias, dark aviators and Red khafiyahs, Emiratis and their small fortunes and four wives, or Libyans from Qaddafi’s expanding ‘pan-African’ empire.  No man of material wealth has come to stay here in this hotel, no business man as we traditionally imagine in the West. My roommates have come from Asmara, Ogaden, Sana’a, Juba, the Nuba Mountains and N’Djamena, though they are here also on business, so to speak, as they try to sell cut up recycled magazines that have been made into ornaments, second hand cell-phones, fruit, zalabea, the twenty somali camels, which are tied up below, for meat at 200 dollars a beast, and the clothes off their back.

Now I sit beneath the blazing sun, trying to combine our worlds and I will be here for a while.  I am sharing a room here now and for an unknown amount of time, I feel alive and I feel lucky, I am amongst the strongest on Earth.  I have no contact with the outside world, I am supposedly on vacation from school but I am not on any kind of holiday, I experience hostility and the effects of one of the poorest countries on Earth, everyday, people look at Mexico, they need to look again, in sheer numbers of those suffering from famine and war and curable disease. More than 2 million have died throughout the longest running civil war in Africa and here I am amongst them as the current second peace agreement has come into effect.  There are signs of the conflict everywhere, under my own bed a rusted-out Kalashnikov is housed.  The only
khawaja, ‘tourist’, American nonetheless, seen for face value in the capital, save the occasional fully tinted, air conditioned and armored SUVs from the UN and various relief agencies traveling through to spend more money in a day than these people do in a year, with little to no actual development, the amount spent on all-wheel drive vehicles would be better spent on paving a road for the rest of the country.

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