Friday, October 26, 2012

The Battle for Aleppo

A photo essay from an inconvenient war.

In mid-September, I left the Turkish border town of Kilis, had my passport stamped at a checkpoint operated by the Free Syrian Army (FSA), and walked into Syria. From there, with the help of the FSA, I made the three-hour drive to Aleppo, Syria’s largest city, which has become a major battleground in the ongoing civil war between President Bashar Al Assad’s forces and the FSA.

Close to 30,000 people have been killed since the war began 20 months ago, and some 100,000 more have flooded over the border into Turkey. What’s striking is not the destruction of the city itself—though it’s as devastating as anything I’ve seen—but the resolve of the people to stay and create some semblance of normal life in the face of chaos and grave uncertainty.

Aleppans do laundry and shop for dinner amidst shelling and firefights. It’s not uncommon to turn a corner and find a body on the street, deemed too dangerous to claim during the previous night’s battle. When I expressed surprise at this willingness to stay under such conditions, Ahmed, a middle-aged shopkeeper I met in the residential neighborhood of Saif Al Dawla, asked me where I suggested they go. “What do you want us to do—leave our homes and run to Turkey? I would rather live in my home than live in poor conditions as a refugee.” Much was made of the surprise rebel offensive that broke out in Aleppo in July. But for the FSA fighters whose photographs appear on these pages, who begin each day after morning prayers rationing machine gun rounds, it’s hard to imagine victory when you’re counting bullets.
--Sebastiano Tomada Piccolomini

In Aleppo, it’s not uncommon to turn a corner and find a body, unclaimed from the previous night’s battle.

Once an Assad stronghold, Aleppo has become a critical battleground since the Free Syrian Army (FSA) launched a surprise offensive in July. FSA fighters carry a wounded comrade out of a firefight. 

An FSA commander regroups after a surprise attack destroyed a key outpost.

A clash between FSA and government forces.

Rebel fighters break for a meal near the front line. 

Prayers at a mosque that doubles as a refuge for the resistance.

Chevron Donates $2.5 Million To GOP Super PAC In Single Largest Corporate Donation Post-Citizens United


Chevron Super Pac
Chevron gives big money to a super PAC dedicated to keeping House Speaker John Boehner (seen here on July 19, 2012) in charge. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

WASHINGTON -- Chevron is firmly behind the House Republican majority. The multibillion-dollar oil company's support is so strong that it has donated $2.5 million to a super PAC working to maintain that majority in the next Congress.

The donation comes after House Republicans voted 109 times this Congress to enrich oil companies. According to Public Campaign Action Fund’s Adam Smith:
Chevron's contribution to the Congressional Leadership Fund is the largest made by a publicly traded company this election cycle to a super PAC. Other major corporate givers to super PACs include Penske Corp. and Scotts Co.
The oil and gas industry has long been a Republican Party supporter, consistently sending GOP candidates more than 70 percent of the industry's campaign contributions. But that support has increased further in the 2012 cycle: Now 90 percent of the industry's contributions are going to Republican candidates, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

President Barack Obama and other Democrats have campaigned in recent years for repealing certain tax breaks to make oil companies "pay their fair share." Companies like Chevron are seeing record profits as gas prices have soared across the country. Congressional Republicans, however, have voted en masse to block any effort to repeal those tax breaks.

Adam Smith, communications director for the campaign finance watchdog Public Campaign, drew a link between Chevron's contribution and the Republican Party's voting record. He said, "$2.5 million to a party who has repeatedly voted to maintain their subsidies is a worthy investment for them."

House Republicans, in fact, have done more than block efforts to repeal tax breaks for the oil and gas industry. They have passed legislation to increase drilling both on and offshore, slash Environmental Protection Agency regulations, route civil suits against oil companies through the friendly U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit (which covers Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi), and blocked efforts to deal with speculation in oil markets.

Overall, oil and gas companies have spent $49 million on political contributions this election cycle, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

"Chevron exercises its right to participate in the political process through various contributions," Chevron said in a statement emailed to HuffPost. "All of our political contributions are fully disclosed. We support political initiatives and candidates committed to economic development, creating affordable energy, strengthening American businesses, and delivering good government."

This story has been updated with a comment from Chevron.