Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Gorilla Radio with Chris Cook, Andre Vltchek, David Swanson, Janine Bandcroft April 1st, 2015

This Week on GR

by C. L. Cook - Gorilla-Radio.com

 

We here in the West, that first among worlds, like to believe ourselves, if not the perfection of creation, then the next thing to it. We are, in our rosy self-imaginings, the smartest, strongest, bravest, and most morally advanced people of not only our time, but of all times. Pity it's all delusion; and worse, a pack of lies designed to "protect" us from the awful truth of our colonial provenance.

The unspoken fact is; we are not a benevolent, progressive, democratic force for good in the World, but are instead, my first guest argues, an avaricious empire, practicing a ruthless form of capitalist fundamentalism that is both battering the poorest of humanity, while destroying the planet's ecology.

Andre Vltchek is a philosopher, novelist, filmmaker and investigative journalist who has covered wars and conflicts in dozens of countries, and lived amongst the humblest people, bearing witness to their daily struggles.

In addition to his countless articles and essays, Some of Andre's book titles include: 'Oceania: Neocolonialism, Nukes, and Bones,' 'Indonesia: Archipelago of Fear,' 'On Western Terrorism: From Hiroshima to Drone Warfare,' 'Fighting Against Western Imperialism,' and his latest 'Exposing Lies of the Empire.'

Andre Vltchek in the first half.

And; Canada's prime minister announced an intensification of the country's warmaking Monday to include bombing inside Syria and unspecified "elsewheres" to be named later. When questioned about the legality of this course of action in the parliament, the bellicose Mr. Harper said he wasn't worried about "lawyers from ISIL taking the government of Canada to court and winning." While the prime minister's little joke brought his side of the House down, it also betrayed a breath-taking ignorance, an astounding callousness and lack of imagination as to what war means for the people in those distant lands where Canada's bombs are scheduled now to fall.

David Swanson is an activist, blogger, labor activist, and former press secretary for Dennis Kucinich's 2003-2004 Presidential campaign. He's also founder of numerous websites, including WarIsACrime.org, and has spearheaded many campaigns against war and warmaking. He also hosts Talk Nation Radio, airing on several Pacifica radio stations and their affiliates, and is the author of several books, including: 'War is a Lie,' 'The Military Industrial Complex at 50,' 'Iraq War Among World's Worst Events,' 'War No More: The Case for Abolition,' and his latest, 'Killing Is Not a Way of Life.'

David Swanson and ending war in the second half.

And; Victoria Street Newz publisher emeritus and CFUV Radio broadcaster, Janine Bandcroft will join us at the bottom of the hour to bring us up to speed with some of what's good to do in and around our town, and beyond there too in the coming week. But first, Andre Vltchek and seeing ourselves in the face of the beast.
Chris Cook hosts Gorilla Radio, airing live every Wednesday, 1-2pm Pacific Time. In Victoria at 101.9FM, and on the internet at: http://cfuv.uvic.ca. And now heard at Simon Fraser University's http://www.cjsf.ca . He also serves as a contributing editor to the web news site, http://www.pacificfreepress.com. Check out the GR blog at: http://gorillaradioblog.blogspot.ca/

G-Radio is dedicated to social justice, the environment, community, and providing a forum for people and issues not covered in the corporate media.

Yemen and the "War of the Two Blocs"

Will Yemen Kick-Off the 'War of the Two Blocs'?

by Sharmine Narwani - RT

There is media confusion about what is going on in Yemen and the broader Middle East. Pundits are pointing out that the US is looking schizophrenic with policies that back opposite sides of the fight against al-Qaeda-style extremism in Iraq and in Yemen.

But it isn’t that hard to understand the divergent policies once you comprehend the underlying drivers of the fight brewing in the region.

No, it isn’t a battle between Shia and Sunni, Iranian and Arab or the much-ballyhooed Iran-Saudi stand-off. Yes, these narratives have played a part in defining ‘sides,’ but often only in the most simplistic fashion, to rally constituencies behind a policy objective. And they do often reflect some truth.

But the ‘sides’ demarcated for our consumption do not explain, for instance, why Oman or Algeria refuse to participate, why Turkey is where it is, why Russia, China and the BRICS are participants, why the US is so conflicted in its direction – and why, in a number of regional conflicts, Sunni, Shia, Islamist, secularist, liberal, conservative, Christian, Muslim, Arab and Iranian sometimes find themselves on the same side.

This is not just a regional fight – it is a global one with ramifications that go well beyond the Middle East. The region is quite simply the theatre where it is coming to a head. And Yemen, Syria and Iraq are merely the tinderboxes that may or may not set off the conflagration.

"The battle, at its very essence, in its lowest common denominator, is a war between a colonial past and a post-colonial future."

For the sake of clarity, let’s call these two axes the Neo-Colonial Axis and the Post-Colonial Axis. The former seeks to maintain the status quo of the past century; the latter strives to shrug off old orders and carve out new, independent directions.

If you look at the regional chessboard, the Middle East is plump with governments and monarchies backed to the hilt by the United States, Britain and France. These are the West’s “proxies” and they have not advanced their countries in the least – neither in self-sufficiencies nor in genuine democratic or developmental milestones. Indebted to ‘Empire’s’ patronage, these states form the regional arm of the Neo-Colonial Axis.

On the other side of the Mideast’s geopolitical fault line, Iran has set the standard for the Post-Colonial Axis – often referred to as the 'Resistance Axis.' Based on the inherent anti-imperialist worldview of the 1979 Islamic revolution, and also as a result of US/UK-driven isolating sanctions and global politics, Tehran has bucked the system by creating an indigenous system of governance, advancing its developmental ambitions and crafting alliances that challenge the status quo.

Iran’s staunchest allies have typically included Syria, Hezbollah and a handful of Palestinian resistance groups. But today, in the aftermath of the Arab Spring counter-revolutions – and the sheer havoc these have created - other independent players have discovered commonalities with the Resistance Axis. In the region, these include Iraq, Algeria and Oman. While outside the Mideast, we have seen Russia, China and other non-aligned nations step in to challenge the Neo-Colonial order.

Neo-Colonial Axis hits an Arab Spring wall


Today, the Neo-Colonials simply can’t win. They lack two essential components to maintain their hegemony: economy and common objectives.

Nowhere is that more clear than in the Middle East, where numerous initiatives and coalitions have floundered shortly after inception.

Once Muammar Gaddafi was overthrown in Libya, all parties went their own way and the country fractured. In Egypt, a power struggle pitted Sunni against Sunni, highlighting the growing schism between two Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) patrons Saudi Arabia and Qatar. In Syria, a heavyweight line-up of Turkey, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, France, the US and UK could not pull together a coherent regime-change plan or back the same horse.

In the vacuum created by these competing agendas, highly-organized al-Qaeda-style extremists stepped in to create further divergence among old allies.

Western hegemons – the original colonials and imperialists – grew fatigued, alarmed, and sought a way out of the increasingly dangerous quagmire. To do so, they needed to strike a compromise with the one regional state that enjoyed the necessary stability and military prowess to lead the fight against extremism from within the region. That would be their old adversary, Iran.

But the West is geographically distant from the Mideast, and can take these losses to a certain extent. For regional hegemons, however, the retreat of their Western patrons was anathema. As we can see, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar have recently rushed to resolve their differences so they can continue to design the region’s direction in this Western vacuum.

These counter-revolutionary states, however, share grandiose visions of their own regional influence - each ultimately only keen to achieve their own primacy. And the continued ascendance of Iran has really grated: the Islamic Republic seems to have moved from strength to strength during this ‘Arab Spring,’ picking up new allies – regional and global – and consolidating its gains.

For Saudi Arabia, in particular, Iran’s incremental victories go beyond the pale. Riyadh has, after all, staked its regional leadership role on a sectarian and ethnic divide, representing Arab and Sunni stakeholders against “Iranian” and “Shiite” ones. Now suddenly, not only are the Americans, British and French dallying with the Iranians, but the GCC itself has been split down the center over the issue of ‘engagement vs. confrontation’ with the Islamic Republic.

Worse yet, the Saudi efforts to participate in the overthrow of Gaddafi, squash uprisings in Bahrain, control political outcomes in Yemen, destabilize Syria, divide Iraq and conquer Egypt seem to have come to naught.

In all instances, they have yet to see cemented, meaningful gains – and each quagmire threatens to unravel further and deplete ever more Saudi funds

Today, the Saudis find themselves surrounded by the sickly fruits of their various regional interventions. They have endured recent attacks by violent extremists on their Iraqi and Jordanian borders – many of these recipients of past Saudi funding – and now find themselves challenged on a third border, in Yemen, by a determined constituency that seeks to halt Saudi interventions.

Beyond that, Syria and Lebanon have slipped out of Riyadh’s grip, little Qatar seeks to usurp the traditional Saudi role in the Persian Gulf, Egypt dallies with Russia and China, and Pakistan and Turkey continue a meaningful engagement with Iran.

Meanwhile, the Iranians don’t have to do much of anything to raise the Saudi ire. Iran has stepped up its regional role largely because of the Saudi-led counter-revolution, and has cautiously thwarted Riyadh’s onslaughts where it could. It has buoyed allies – much like NATO or the GCC would in similar circumstances – but with considerably less aggression and while cleaving to the letter of international law.

The Saudis see Iranian hands everywhere in the region, but this is a fantasy at best. Iran has simply stepped into an opportunity when it arises, meet the threats coming its way, and utilize all its available channels to blunt the Saudi advances in various military and political theaters.

Even the US intelligence community’s annual security assessment – a report card that regularly highlights the “Iranian threat” - concludes in 2015 that the Islamic Republic of Iran has "intentions to dampen sectarianism, build responsive partners, and deescalate tensions with Saudi Arabia.”

Yet all we hear these days blaring from Western and Arab media headlines is "Shia sectarianism, Iranian expansionism and Persian Empire."

Tellingly, the American intelligence assessment launches its section on “terrorism” with the following: “Sunni violent extremists are gaining momentum and the number of Sunni violent extremist groups, members, and safe havens is greater than at any other point in history.”

And US officials admit: many of these Sunni extremists have been assisted and financed by no other than Washington allies Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar.

The Yemeni theater – a final battleground?


A senior official within a Resistance Axis state tells me: “The biggest mistake the Saudis made is to attack Yemen. I didn’t think they were that stupid.”

In the past week, the Saudis have cobbled together yet another Neo-Colonial ‘coalition’ – this time to punish Yemenis for ousting their made-in-Riyadh transitional government and pushing into the southern city of Aden.

The main Saudi adversaries are the Houthis, a group of northern, rural highlanders who have amassed a popular base throughout the north and other parts of Yemen over the course of ten years and six wars.

The Saudis (and the US) identify the Houthis as ‘Shiites’ and ‘Iranian-backed’ in order to galvanize their own bases in the region. But Iran has had little to do with the Houthis since their emergence as a political force in Yemen. And WikiLeaks showed us that US officials know this too. A 2009 cable from the US Embassy in Riyadh notes that Yemen’s former Saudi-backed President Ali Abdullah Saleh provided “false or exaggerated information on Iranian assistance to the Houthis in order to enlist direct Saudi involvement and regionalize the conflict.”

And allegations that Iran arms the Houthis also fall flat. Another secret cable makes clear: “Contrary to ROYG (Republic of Yemen Government) claims that Iran is arming the Houthis, most local political analysts report that the Houthis obtain their weapons from the Yemeni black market and even from the ROYG military itself.”

Saleh was deposed in 2011 as a result of Arab Spring pressures, and in a twist worthy of the complicated Middle East, the wily former president now appears to be backing his former adversaries, the Houthis, against his old patrons, the Saudis.

The Houthis are adherents of the Muslim Zaydi sect – which falls somewhere between Sunnism and Shiism, and is followed by around 40 percent of Yemenis. Saleh, who fought the Houthis in half a dozen wars, is also a Zaydi – evidence that Yemen’s internal strife is anything but sectarian.

In fact, it could be argued that the Houthi – or Ansarallah movement – are a central constituency of Yemen’s ‘Arab Spring.' Their demands since 2003 have, after all, largely been about ending disenfranchisement, gaining economic, political and religious rights, eliminating corruption, railing against the twin evils of America and Israel (a popular Post-Colonial Arab sentiment), and becoming stakeholders in the state.

To ensure the balance continued in their favor during the Arab Spring, the Neo-Colonial Axis installed a puppet transitional leader upon Saleh’s departure – an unelected president whose term ran out a year ago.

Then a few months ago, the Houthis – allegedly with the support of Saleh and his tens of thousands of followers – ousted their rivals in the puppet regime and took over the Yemeni capital, Sana’a. When the Saudis threatened retaliation, the Houthis pushed further southward…which brings us to the war front amassing against Yemen today.

This is not a battle the Saudis and their Neo-Colonial Axis can win. Airstrikes alone cannot turn this war, and it is unlikely that Riyadh and its coalition partners can expect troops on the ground to be any more successful - if they are even deployed.

The Houthis have learned over the past decade to fight both conventional and guerilla wars. This relatively small band of highlanders managed in 2009 to push 30 kilometers into Saudi territory and take over several dozen Saudi towns. When coalition-partner Egypt last fought a war with ground troops in Yemen, it became Gamal Abdel Nasser's 'Vietnam' and nearly bankrupted the state.

Even majority-Sunni Pakistan, a traditional pipeline for staffing GCC armies, seems wary about this conflict. It too is fighting elsewhere on the same side as the Houthis, Iranians, Syrians, Iraqis – against violent Sunni extremists inside its borders and from their bases in neighboring Afghanistan. No amount of Saudi money will quench the anger of militant-weary Pakistanis if their government commits to this Yemeni fight – against the very groups (Houthis) that are battling al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).

And, yes, it is ironic that the United States is now providing assistance and intelligence for the Saudi-led coalition - against the Houthis, who are fighting al-Qaeda.

But as mentioned earlier, this is not Washington’s neighborhood, and it does not approach this fight with the same goals of its close ally, Saudi Arabia.

The Resistance Axis official explains:

“The Americans see all outcomes as good: If the Houthis win, they will help get rid of al-Qaeda in Yemen. If the Saudis win, well, these are still the US’s allies. And if both sides enter a protracted war, that is “not a problem either,” referring to the ever-present US interest of selling weapons in conflict zones.

Despite a global ban, the United States has sold the Saudis $640 million worth of cluster bombs over the past two years, some of which have been used to carpet bomb parts of Yemen in the past few days. The cluster munitions were part of an overall $67 billion worth of arm deals with Saudi Arabia since the Arab uprisings kicked off in 2011.

The Iranians, meanwhile, are not doing much of anything, except insisting – like the Russians and others – that the bombardment of Yemen is criminal and that Yemenis need to solve their own problems via an internal dialogue.

And why should they make any moves? The Saudis are digging their own graves right now – and hastening the demise of the entire Neo-Colonial project in the Middle East, to boot.

“Tehran realizes that the fact that Riyadh had to bring together a major coalition to fight a group that is only on the outskirts of Iranian influence is a victory in itself,” says the US-based, conservative risk-analysis group, Stratfor.

Riyadh’s move to attack Yemen has just dragged the not-so-financially-flush Kingdom into yet another military quagmire, and this time directly, bypassing proxies altogether. Every airstrike in Yemen – and it is clear in the first few days that dozens of civilians, including children, have been killed – threatens to draw more adherents to the Houthi cause.

And every day that the Houthis are tied up in this battle, AQAP gets an opportunity to cement its hold elsewhere in the country. The net winner in this conflict is unlikely to be Saudi Arabia, but it may just be al-Qaeda – which is guaranteed to draw the Post-Colonial Axis into the strategically vital waterways surrounding Yemen.

The Arab League, under Saudi Arabia’s arm-twisting, just upped the ante by demanding that only a complete Houthi surrender (laying down weapons and withdrawing) would end the airstrikes. This ultimatum leaves very little room to jumpstart dialogue, and shows shocking disregard for the normal goals of military engagement, which try to leave ‘negotiation windows’ open.

It may be that the Saudis, who have rapidly lost influence and control in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Oman, and other states in the past few years, have decided to go to the wall in Yemen.

Or it may just be some posturing to create momentum and bolster bruised egos.

But conflict has a way of balancing itself out – as in Syria and Iraq – by drawing other, unforeseen elements into the fray. With all the conflicts raging in the Middle East and encroaching on their borders, the Post-Colonial Axis has been forced to take a stand. And they bring to the field something their adversaries lack: common objectives and efficiency.

This is possibly the first time in the modern Mideast we have seen this kind of efficiency from within. And I speak specifically of Iran and its allies, both regional and external. They cannot ignore the threats that emanate from conflict, any more than the west can ignore the jihadi genie that threatens from thousands of miles away. So this Post-Colonial Axis moves further into the region to protect itself, bringing with it lessons learned and laser-focused common goals.

The Neo-Colonials will hit a wall in Yemen, just as they have in Syria, Iraq and elsewhere. Their disparate objectives will ensure that. The main concern as we enter yet another storm in Yemen is whether a flailing Empire will turn ugly at the eleventh hour and launch a direct war against its actual adversary, the Post-Colonial Axis. The Saudis are a real wild card - as are the Israelis - and may try to light that fuse. When the threat is existential, anything goes.

Yes, a regional war is as much a possibility over Yemen as it was over Syria. But this battle lies on a direct border of Saudi Arabia - ground zero for both violent extremism and the most virulently sectarian and ethnocentric elements of the anti-Resistance crowd - and so promises to deliver yet another decisive geopolitical shift in the Mideast. From Yemen, as from any confrontation between the two global blocs, a new regional reality is likely to emerge: what the Americans might call "the birth pangs of a new Middle East."

And Yemen may yet become the next Arab state to enter a Post-Colonial order.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Prague Spring for Tanks: Collaboration in Czech Republic

The Czech Republic and the Fine Art of Collaboration

by Andre Vltchek - CounterPunch

 

The US military convoy will soon be passing through the Czech territory, from the Baltics and Poland, to its permanent base in Bavaria, Germany.

That is bad enough. The Czechs should not have allowed the convoy to pass. Provoking Russia and moving closer and closer to the fascist Empire is a shameless and cowardly act.

But they would not be Czechs, if they would not go that extra mile; if they would not take their collaboration with the present masters to an absolutely bizarre, ridiculous, and Kafkaesque extreme:

Several Czech groups are now using social media to organize in advance what is called ‘a grand welcome’ for the Americans. Plans include beer stands with cold Pilsner beer accompanied with loud cheers, as well as ‘expressions of solidarity’ with the GI’s and member states of NATO.

There are several planned initiatives, with the most vocal called “Welcoming of the American Army” (Vitani americke armady).

“Freedom Forum”, organized by a journalist named, Pavel Safr, claims:

“At the points through which the American convoy will be passing, and where there is a danger of shameful actions of pro-Russian extremists, posts will be erected. We call them “czechpoints” and they will be similar to the military checkpoints. There, Czech supporters of the US army will be gathering, supporting our allies.”

Pro-American and pro-NATO elements are sending warnings that those who dare to protest against the US military presence on Czech territory could face consequences, including physical attacks.

***

Is this some sick, pathetic ass kissing? Of course, but it did not fall from the sky.

Czechs have long history of grotesque collaboration. They are also known for outbursts of “delayed wrath” towards those whom they fatefully and excessively served in the past.

In modern history, the Czechs were the trusted and determined allies of Nazi Germany. Soldiers of the “3rd Reich” were enthusiastically welcomed by the Czech masses, waving Swastikas, in Prague and elsewhere. Czech workers, some of the most skilled in Europe, began producing weapons for German army right from the first days of the occupation. The Germans, in turn, left the Czech population alone, and even forced local banks to write off their housing loans.

There was virtually no resistance against Nazis during the WWII, and the assassination of Reichsprotektor Reinhard Heydrich, by Czech paratroopers in 1942 had to be planned and organized from London.

While the Germans were rounding up Czech Jews and deporting them to concentration camps, the Czech people were busy liquidating their Roma (Gypsy) citizens, with full German blessing, but little help. The Germans did not bother getting involved. They knew that the Czechs were racist and loyal to any master, and they trusted them with running their own Roma concentration/extermination camps, particularly that at the village of Lety.

Just a few days before the end of the war, when the victory of the Allies became imminent, the Czechs launched their ‘uprising’ and the Soviet army had to accelerate its push towards Prague. 150,000 Soviet lives were lost liberating the country.

After the war, the Czechs deported, literally kicked out, millions of minority Germans from the border region. Countless women were raped, houses were looted, people killed. The more shamelessly the Czechs collaborated with the Nazis, the more vindictive they were after the war!

Those eerie villages and towns, left empty after the German families were deported, were eventually ‘repopulated’ by Roma/Gypsies, who were forcefully brought from Eastern and Southern Europe (as there were not enough ‘Czech gypsies’ left after the war).

What a history! But even those unfortunate and tortured Gypsies, who managed to survive the WWII, or those who were later brought to the Czech lands and forced to settle down right on the Cold War frontier, were soon discriminated against brutally, humiliated, and forced to ‘assimilate’. The discrimination, in fact Czech-style apartheid, is practiced until now, all over the country.

At one point, there were even walls built around Czech Gypsy settlements – not unlike those now separating Jewish and Israeli settlements (the state of Israel and its racist policies are full heartedly supported and greatly admired in the Czech Republic). Most of the Gypsy kids are forced to attend ‘special schools’ for retarded children.

But back to those post-WWII days! After the war, the Communist Party came to power and things somehow improved. Many Czechs and Slovaks joined the new system enthusiastically, and Czechoslovakia, historically one of Europe’s powerhouses of industry and knowledge, embarked on an extremely exciting journey. It began supporting deprived nations all over the world, educating people, and demanding the end of colonialism. It gave scholarships to tens of thousands of students from Asia, Africa and the Middle East. It built steel mills and sugar mills. For the first time in its history, Czechs abandoned their selfish essence and stood on the side of the oppressed.

The Czechoslovak Socialist Republic! It had a proud sound to it. It was suddenly respected and admired all over the world!

But was it all done ‘voluntarily’?


Before, and during 1968, during the so-called ‘Prague Spring’, or ‘socialism with human face’, the direction towards which the country marched began to be internally criticized.

The Soviet Union panicked, convinced that Czechoslovakia could leave its orbit in the foreseeable future. The Soviets, backed by other East European countries, invaded.

It was, arguably, the most bloodless occupation in human history, with only few casualties, mostly caused by accidents. But, it is argued; the enthusiasm of Czech and Slovak people was broken as the country felt humiliated, derailed and suddenly full of Soviet troops.

What is of course not mentioned in the Western propaganda (and in the present-days Czech propaganda) is that 1968 did not happen outside of a historical and political context. The Allies – the US, France, Soviet Union and the UK, decided that Czechoslovakia would belong to the Soviet orbit, at the end of the WWII. It was definitely not the Soviet Union alone, which made the decision.

The UK and US committed incomparably more brutal crimes to keep many countries in their own ‘sphere of influence’.

To prevent West Germany, France, Italy, Greece and other countries from electing the Communist Parties (and from leaving the Western orbit) after the WWII, the US and British intelligence agencies ‘employed’ countless Nazi cadres, who then began intimidating, murdering and torturing Left wing politicians and activists.

Those Nazi criminals were later allowed to leave, some with great booty of gold from Jewish victims in their bags. They were expedited to South America, particularly to Paraguay, Argentina and Chile, but also elsewhere. I spoke to several of them, two decades ago, in Asuncion. They were proud and open about what they had done.

If the US and UK failed to break the spine of the West European Left, the Communist parties would win the elections. Such a scenario would be unacceptable for both Washington and London. To prevent it, a bloodbath was administered. And then, of course, the most horrific oppression was saved for Greece and Turkey.

The terror used by the Western block countries against the Left was incomparably more horrific than the actions taken by the Soviet Union in Hungary and Czechoslovakia.

At some point, it was Czechoslovakia, which provided political asylum to many West European dissidents, particularly those fleeing Greece.

But Western and now Czech propaganda have a very selective memory!

***

After 1968, many Czechs departed for the West. Several months after the invasion, the borders remained open, another ‘courtesy’ of the Soviet Union.

In occupied Czechoslovakia, there was absolutely none of the savagery that takes place regularly after the West occupies some territory or orchestrates a coup: death squads murdering opposition, mass rapes, beastly torture, disappearances…

But the Western propaganda went to work, almost immediately. 1968 became a symbol, a rallying cry, and an anti-Communist dogma.

Czech and Slovak population was bombarded, day and night, by elaborate and powerful brainwashing, coming from several dedicated radio stations like Radio Free Europe, Voice of America, and the BBC (Czech and Slovak desks). Propaganda flowed in German from the television stations broadcasting from Austria and West Germany.

“The more propaganda the West spread, the more they accused the Czech and Slovak state media of actually being the ones spreading lies”, explained, Milan Kohout, during my recent visit to Prague.
A renowned performer and a professor at the Faculty of Philosophy at the West Bohemian University in Pilsen, Mr. Kohout was a signatory of the ‘Charter 77’, the major dissident movement during the 70’s and 80’s, but he later turned around and attacked Western neoliberalism and imperialism.

“Actually, looking back, the Czech Communist media was very correct, in all that it wrote about Western imperialism, colonialism, and capitalism.”

Even after the 1968 occupations, Moscow allowed the standard of living in Czechoslovakia to remain substantially higher than that in the Soviet Union, something unthinkable in the countries colonized or occupied by the West.

Still, Czechs were angry. They dreamed about joining the West. Building an egalitarian, just world was simply not something that they fantasized about. Internationalism was an extremely foreign concept for Europeans, and Czechs were no exception.

As my uncle, a true Communist and engineer who worked on construction of heavy industry facilities in several ‘developing countries’ like Syria, Lebanon, and Iraq, once told me: “We had some people in our teams, some Czechs who believed in social justice and internationalism, but most of them were there only for the money. Remember that in essence, Czechs are very racist and unpredictable individuals. In the Middle East, which I always loved so much, they were building industry, while they actually hated Arabs. Simultaneously, while hating them, they were pimping their own wives to the locals.”

Many Czechs not only hate the concept of the Soviet Union but they also hate the Russian people. A few years ago, I heard hate speeches against Russians even from one of the editors of “A2”, a progressive intellectual magazine.

Located in Asia and Europe, multicultural and constantly battered by the West, Russia is definitely not the ideal ‘colonizer’ for the nation obsessed with the superiority of the white race and the greatness of ‘European culture’.

Russians are seen as a ‘lower’, Asian nation, unfit to rule over a Western, European and therefore ‘civilized’ country, the notion so frankly expressed in the novel by Josef Skvorecky “The Cowards”.

***

After 1968, Russians soldiers did not mingle with the locals; they mainly stayed in the barracks. They did not harass or rape Czech women (unlike Czechs during the WWI, when their brutal ‘legions’ occupied huge part of the Trans-Siberian Railway, plundering, murdering and raping in the villages and towns all alone the railroad).

But despite their hatred, Czechs were still ready to do what they always do best: to collaborate.

Except for those few signatories of the above-mentioned ‘Charter-77’, there was hardly any opposition worth mentioning. And both Czechs and Slovaks kept flocking into all sorts of collaborative clubs, including the ‘Club of Czechoslovak – Soviet Friendship’.

Hundreds of thousands became snitches, denouncing each other to the STB – the secret police. They were spying on each other, as they were doing during the Austro-Hungarian Empire and German occupation; and now.

“Why do they actually hate Russians so muchI asked Milan.
?”
“Because they were kissing their asses so intensively”, he replied.

“It is embarrassing how Czechs were behaving, when Soviets were in charge. Nobody asked them to go to such extremes. And since they are unable to hate and ridicule themselves, they now blame everything on the Russians and Communism.”

***

As I was strolling towards the Visehrad Castle, an Iranian man approached two young women pushing their baby carriages. He was well dressed, he was smiling, holding tourist map in his hands. “Could you please help me to find Visehrad?” he asked in passable English, very politely.

Both women waved him away, as if he would be a fly or an annoying mosquito.

They left him standing there, in the middle of the road, terribly hurt, tears in his eyes.

I ran towards him. I showed him how to get to the castle. He thanked me, then asked: “Why did they treat me like that?”

“Do you want pre-edited answer, or do you want to know the truth?”

“The truth”, he insisted.

“Because they are damned racists”, I replied. “Because they think that you are a Muslim, which in this society is something absolutely terrible. Because they think that you are Arab, and they see no distinction between Arabs and Iranians and Pakistanis. They despise everyone who has dark skin.”

“Are you Czech?” he asked.

“No”, I replied. “My mother is half Chinese, half Russian. But I had very bad luck spending a few years here, during my childhood. When I was a little boy, they used to beat me like a dog, after each class. For having ‘Asian mother’, for having ‘Asian ears’, for being born in Russia. As if I could choose where to be born.”

No doubt, my short biography made him feel better. We shook hands. I gave him a hug and suggested he sticks to well-lit streets, especially after dark. I ran back to my hotel, where I met a publisher of ‘Broken Books’, which recently translated and published my discussion with Noam Chomsky: “Western Terrorism: From Hiroshima to Drone Warfare”.

Peter, the publisher, had much to add to the topic: “In Olomouc, the city where I live and teach, there is not one single Muslim there, but everyone is anti-Islamic. In this country, people know very little about the world, but they all have strong opinions. Students are brainwashed by Western propaganda, but at least they know something. But if you go to the countryside, it is total disaster. Like in my family… They never saw a Muslim, but they hate them, and they hate Islam.”

***

The Czechs waited to start their ‘Velvet Revolution’ until the very end. They made sure that there would be no risks. That is how it always is here. Then they flooded the streets of all major cities, ringing keys, demanding ‘freedom’. By then, everything was already over in the Soviet Union and in almost all countries of the Eastern block.



Washington and NATO fooled Gorbachev, and the imperfect and complex group of socialist countries collapsed, from the pressure, weight and deception coming from the West. Thanks to this group, fascism was defeated and colonialism smashed.

Western Europe and North America – the gang of countries that plundered the world for centuries, murdering hundreds of millions of innocent people on all continents – was shouting: “Victory of freedom and democracy. The Berlin Wall Fell!”

For the West, there was plenty to celebrate. The Eastern block – the last serious adversary, the deterrence to their total, dictatorial and monstrous control over the planet, was collapsing, destroyed by Western propaganda, by the dissident movements financed from Washington and London, and by Western-trained Mujahedeen in Afghanistan.

From now on, it was going to be one uninterrupted bloodbath, true fun for neo-colonialists, a party with no restrains and no opposition: in Iraq and Afghanistan, Pakistan, Palestine, Kashmir, Papua, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Syria, Somalia, Sudan, Mali, Ukraine; wherever the Empire was ready to plunder and to experiment on human beings.

In the following years, as a result of the collapse of the ‘Eastern block’, tens of millions died, victims of the unopposed Western terror.

The Czechs grabbed the opportunity! With each ring of their keys, the message was getting clearer and clearer: “To hell with the world and with that ridiculous aim for justice! We are back! We are Europeans! We want to be part of the Empire, right hands of the oppressors! Get us away from those lunatics who are dreaming about better world. We want even bigger houses and better cars, no matter who will pay for them. We want to embrace new masters, true masters of the world – the Empire!”

Soon after, tens of thousands of Western liberals flooded Prague. Sex was easily available, and beer was cheap. That was all that mattered. Prague became synonymous with countless one-night stands and with late night puking on the streets, after innumerable pints of beer.

***



After Velvet Revolution, the Czechs bent more than they ever did in the past, even more than during the rule of the Nazis. They began collaborating with full force with the Empire.

Czech politicians began attacking and ridiculing Cuba and China; they supported attacks on Iraq and Afghanistan. They joined NATO and sent troops wherever the Empire decided to spread terror. They moved extremely close to Israel.

Czechoslovakia disintegrated. The industrial powerhouse that used to provide much of the developing world with the knowhow, while building factories and power plants, disappeared not long after so-called ‘Velvet Revolution’ in the shameful ‘Velvet Divorce’. Two states emerged – The Czech and Slovak Republics. The people were never consulted; it was all done behind their backs and done very quickly – an unconstitutional, undemocratic surgical strike of nationalist politicians.

And Vaclav Havel, the Czech President, the beloved symbol of the Western liberals, was too busy getting standing ovations in Washington, riding pushbikes with the religious bigot and former CIA agent, the Dalai Lama, glorifying ‘Western values’ and supporting US invasions and acts of terrorism. Originally from one of the richest families in Prague, Havel gained back in ‘restitutions’ his family’s countless estates and properties, literally forcing hundreds of people onto the street.

Oh those restitutions: Czech aristocrats and the Church stealing houses and flats from the poor, all over the country. Families of Czech businessmen and the bourgeoisie returning back and grabbing all they could: a plunder and yes, a true counter-revolution!

Then came ‘lustration laws’, stating that those who collaborated during the Soviet era cannot hold government jobs. This, in the height of Czech collaboration with the Empire; with the fascist West! What a shame, Czech Republic – what an embarrassment!

While purging Communists, the new masters of the land began selling Czech industry, which was once one of the mightiest on Earth. Western companies began buying everything – from nuclear reactor factories, to electric locomotive plants – in order to destroy it, to get rid of the competition. Siemens degraded locomotive production to the building of carriages. LET stopped making civil aircraft, and Volkswagen bought the huge Skoda car factory. The country’s industry was soon reduced to a maquilladora level.

The huge privatization campaign was quick and lacking any transparency, murky. The goal was clear – to create a new bourgeoisie, as quickly as possible, at the expense of Czech people, and to redistribute wealth – from socialist ownership to the ownership of private individuals.

Imagine this: the whole nation was told, for decades, that it is building a socialist fatherland, which belongs to all. Then, in just a few months, the factories, farms, other companies, fell to the hands of new capitalists (who became rich over night, and who did nothing to gain extra privileges), and then were often sold to foreigners.

***

Prague was sold and ravished too. Once one of the most beautiful and cultural cities on Earth, Prague now resembles some tourist resorts like Pattaya, of course in a glorious architectural gothic and baroque setting.

Prague’s streets are lined with horribly kitschy crystal stores, with pathetic souvenir stalls, with several ‘museums of torture’ (oh, Europeans love to watch torture!). The oldest opera house in the city, the one that premiered Mozart’s Don Giovanni, is now showing a British pop play. World famous Laterna Magica lost all artistic aspirations and converted itself into a tourist trap. And the Museum of Jan Saudek, who was one of the greatest European photographers, closed down, and where it stood, a new shiny Thai massage parlor has opened.

Almost no one lives in the old city, now. Restitutions kicked out most of the families and individuals. Those few who stayed cannot afford astronomic prices.

I stopped an old lady, near the Old City Square.

“Yes, I still live here”, she explained. “But it is a miracle. I was allowed to stay in my old apartment. It is sort of charity. But I have no rights and the new owner can kick me out any moment. Almost nobody lives here, anymore. There are no supermarkets here, no basic services. It is all geared to tourists and companies. I travel by metro to get to a food store.”

What used to be a pride of socialist Prague – its metro, the Palace of Culture, the museums, theatres, art cinemas – is all deteriorating, covered by graffiti, abandoned, even closed down.

To speak Czech means to get terrible service. I tried in my hotel but was ignored, even humiliated. I switched to English and got room upgrade and loving smiles. The same happens in fascist Indonesia, a client state of the West. I speak the language, but if I want to be treated with respect, I have to use English.

Over all this, Vaclav Havel presides. His huge poster/portrait is hanging from the facade of the National Museum. It reads “Havel Forever”. After his death, the arch Czech collaborator was elevated to sainthood.

***

Monika Horeni, editor of the Left Wing Czech daily Haló noviny, summarized interaction of the Czechs with the Empire:

“During the so-called Velvet Revolution, ex-President Václav Havel, darling of the American politicians, was promising that both military alliances – Warsaw Pact and NATO – will cease to exist.

He was promising the world without arm races and wars – absolute utopian dream. Our citizens believed him. Of course, after he and his people grabbed power, his promises diminished – suddenly it was enough to destroy Warsaw Pact. NATO stayed, and Czech Republic actually joined it, in March 1999, and politicians did not even bother to consult its citizens.”

Vaclav Havel and others laid foundations for collaboration of Czech Republic with the US. Few days after entering NATO, CR participated in deplorable bombing of fellow Slavic country – Yugoslavia. It allowed NATO planes to use its airspace. I feel shame that my country belongs to the pact led by the United States – country that is responsible for increase of tensions in the world, for provoking other nations, for invasions, for spreading death all over the world, and now for creating the Islamic State/ISIS. Only the Communist Party openly declared that it demands that Czech Republic leaves NATO.

I see it this way: those who are defending Czech membership and activities in NATO are co-responsible for spreading the conflicts in the world. Present expression of collaboration is that the entire Czech government – all ministers from the right-wing and from the Social Democratic Party – agreed with the provocative passing of the US military column through Czech Republic, which will take place between 29 March and 1 April.

Unfortunately, part of Czech public collaborates as well.

Nobody with his or her sane mind can understand why is column not moving through the railways – why is it going to provoke by its presence in our cities. It is simply a show of force – exactly as the US representatives described it.

For me it is essential how many foreign bases have the US outside its territory – several hundreds. And Russians: only 2 or 3. It is therefore clear who is the global aggressor!”

***

 


Walking through Prague, I felt deeply depressed. I saw beggars kneeling in front of Czech police.

I heard stories about homeless people being deported to the outskirts of the city.

I felt a generally bad mood, a resignation, an acute lack of optimism, wherever I went.

The country was robbed, but people were lining up to applaud the thieves.

“This must be the only country on earth where students are demanding introduction of tuition fees”; my publisher explained to me.

Why has this place been so messed up? Where did such cynicism, such lack of pride come? I never understood.

Many years ago, during the Yugoslav War, I returned to Czech Republic, just for a few months. Then, once again, the country mentally destroyed me.

I ended up drinking, night after night, with the then Argentinian Ambassador to the Czech Republic, the great novelist and thinker, Abel Pose. We hit hard on the embassy’s wine reserves, often lying down on a thick carpet, discussing Kafka, Hasek and Western imperialism and colonialism.

Abel was some 30 years older than I, and in terrible pain: he had just lost his beloved son. I lost a lot, too.

Then, he told me the story he was then writing – a story, which was eventually published as a book – Los Cuadernos de Praga:

As Argentinian Ambassador, he succeeded in convincing the Czech secret service to open files on his great compatriot – Ernesto “Che” Guevara. Between his failed campaign in Congo and the final and fatal fight in Bolivia, “Che” spent several months in Czechoslovakia. Sick, his body full of parasites, he was treated by Czech doctors, in those years, some of the best on Earth. But the Czech security services could not figure out how to perceive this great revolutionary. They were ‘protecting’ him and spying on him at the same time. Was he a friend or a foe? They considered him to be both.

I was shocked. Pose was shocked, too.

Czechs collaborated, pretended to be the greatest revolutionaries and supporters of the liberation struggles worldwide. But deep inside, they felt no attachments; they had no allegiances.

“I felt betrayed”, said Pose. “’Che’ came here. He trusted them, with all his big heart. But they can never be trusted.”

***

I asked Milan Kohout, great performer, former friend of Vaclav Havel, and his fellow dissident, to stage a short protest play at the outrageous “Memorial to the victims of Communism” in Prague. Before we went, I renamed the place to “The Monument to Czech Collaboration with Western Imperialism”.

The monument is located only two minutes walk from the Palace of Justice. There are some stones in front of the palace. “This used to be a Monument to Soviet soldiers who died, liberating Prague from the Nazis, in 1945”, explained Milan. “There used to be old Soviet tank. After the Velvet Revolution, the monument was desecrated – the tank was repainted to pink color. It was done officially. Then, few years later, the tank was taken away. Now, as you can see, there is nothing. ‘Only’ 150.000 Soviet people died, liberating Prague. Not worth mentioning, right?”

We move to the “Memorial to the Victims of Communism”. It is quite a bizarre place, and piece of very bad art: a decomposing naked man, with semi-erect penis. And right behind the monument, there is a wall consisting of barbed wire. It is not there for any symbolic reason, just to protect some public property.

Even according to this propaganda venue, a grand total of 248 people were killed during the entire long period of Czech Communism. To compare it to some Western onslaughts that got away with no monuments at all (in the West): 2-3 million killed during the anti-Communist coup in Indonesia, 8 million in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and some 8 million in Indochina.




Milan began performing, by first stuffing the place with several symbols of the Western consumerism – empty cigarette boxes, coffee cartons and other junk.

We managed to provoke both shouts from supporters and from protesters.

Afterwards we felt better, just marginally better.

But still, the US convoy was just about to enter Czech Republic.

And the country was hanging in a vacuum, aimlessly, with no goal and no purpose, spreading toxic propaganda and lies.

And I felt suddenly terribly sad, because it was not only bitterness that I felt towards this land, not only bitterness and disgust… I felt many other things… But this country and I suddenly stood facing each other, at two sides of the barricade, ready for an inevitable showdown.







Andre Vltchek is a philosopher, novelist, filmmaker and investigative journalist. He covered wars and conflicts in dozens of countries. His latest books are: “Exposing Lies Of The Empire” and “Fighting Against Western Imperialism”. Discussion with Noam Chomsky: On Western Terrorism. Point of No Return is his critically acclaimed political novel. Oceania – a book on Western imperialism in the South Pacific. His provocative book about Indonesia: “Indonesia – The Archipelago of Fear”. Andre is making films for teleSUR and Press TV. After living for many years in Latin America and Oceania, Vltchek presently resides and works in East Asia and the Middle East. He can be reached through his website or his Twitter.

Canadian Government Supported Gold Company Undermining Greek Environment and Economy

Canadian Mining Company Eldorado Gold Devastates Greek Communities but Avoids Paying Taxes

by MiningWatch Canada


March 30, 2015

Ottawa/Amsterdam - Canadian mining company Eldorado Gold is undermining Greek economic recovery by large-scale tax avoidance according to a new report by the Dutch Centre for Research on Multinational Corporations (SOMO).

Eldorado is also supported by Export Development Canada.

Fool’s Gold reveals that tax avoidance by Canadian mining company Eldorado Gold, using “mailbox” (shell) companies in the Netherlands, has led to tax losses of at least CDN $2.3 million for Greece in the past two years. There are also serious environmental and human right concerns related to the company’s operations.

Eldorado Gold avoids tax in Greece


Fool’s Gold shows that Eldorado Gold finances its Greek operations using internal loans, shifting interest payments from Greek subsidiary, Hellas Gold SA, via Dutch mailbox companies to its Barbados subsidiary – where this income remains untaxed. Eldorado has no material operations in the Netherlands or in Barbados. Under this financing structure, future profits from Eldorado’s Greek operations and related income tax can be substantially reduced – especially when combined with transfer mispricing and other tax avoidance techniques widely used by extractive sector firms.

“The European Union and the Netherlands have double standards. On the one hand they impose harsh austerity measures which have devastating social and economic impacts in Greece; on the other hand, they actively facilitate tax avoidance which costs the Greek state millions of euros,” says SOMO researcher Katrin McGauran.

Canadian government supports tax avoidance and irresponsible investment


Canada supports tax avoidance through lax disclosure requirements and tax treaties with tax havens, allowing companies to channel their international investments through tax havens and minimize tax paid anywhere, including Canada and the country they are operating in.

“Canada has been very timid in pursuing tax avoidance by Canadian companies operating internationally, including profit-shifting using tax havens,” Dennis Howlett, Executive Director of Canadians for Tax Fairness, says.

“We are calling on the federal government to step up enforcement, but also to review all of its bilateral tax treaties to eliminate this theft of money rightfully owed – and especially in the case of Greece, desperately needed.”

The Canadian government also supports Canadian mining investment politically – as seen in a Youtube video of Canadian Ambassador to Greece, Robert Peck, hectoring Alexandroupolis Mayor Vagelis Lampakis over his community’s opposition to Eldorado Gold’s operations in Thrace. In addition, and despite widely reported human rights and environmental concerns, both the Canada Pension Plan and Export Development Canada have significant interests in Eldorado Gold.

The Canadian government promotes mining investment as good for both Canada and the host country, but according to MiningWatch Canada’s Communications Coordinator, Jamie Kneen, this is deceptive and needs to be dropped.

“In reality, there’s no evidence this investment benefits more than a few very wealthy people – not most Greeks, or even Canadians.”

Tax avoidance, a structural problem


The case of Eldorado Gold is not an isolated one. The Netherlands and Luxembourg are widely used tax conduit countries for foreign companies investing in Greece. The report shows that 80 per cent of direct investments from the Netherlands to Greece are routed through mailbox companies – an underreported issue in discussions on the causes of Greece’s budget deficit.

Livelihoods threatened


Mining is set to destroy local ancient forests in Halkidiki, and the local community fears pollution from the mine will endanger them and destroy local jobs that depend on tourism, small-scale farming, forestry and fishing. Protests by the local community against the mine have been brutally repressed by police and criminalised by the Greek state. While the former government supported the company’s mining plans, the new government has stopped Eldorado’s expansion while it reviews the company’s permits and contracts.

About MiningWatch Canada


MiningWatch Canada is a pan-Canadian initiative supported by environmental, social justice, Aboriginal and labour organisations from across the country. It addresses the urgent need for a co-ordinated public interest response to the threats to public health, water and air quality, fish and wildlife habitat and community interests posed by irresponsible mineral policies and practices in Canada and around the world. www.miningwatch.ca

About Canadians for Tax Fairness


Canadians for Tax Fairness is a not-for-profit, non-partisan organization advocating for fair and progressive tax policies aimed at building a strong and sustainable economy, reducing inequalities and funding quality public services. It is a member of the Global Alliance for Tax Justice. www.taxfairness.ca

About SOMO


SOMO is an independent not-for-profit research and network organisation. SOMO works on sustainable development, in social, environmental and economic terms. Since 1973 SOMO has been researching multinational enterprises and the consequences of their activities for people and environment around the world. www.somo.nl
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Sunday, March 29, 2015

Heiltsuk Serve Canadian Federal Fisheries Territorial Eviction Notice

Heiltsuk Nation Occupies DFO Office in Face of Expected Herring Roe Fishery

by Damien Gillis - Common Sense Canadian

Tensions continue to escalate on the waters of the Great Bear Rainforest over a highly controversial herring fishery, as members of the Heiltsuk Nation are now occupying the local DFO office in opposition to a planned gillnet opening.

A group of Heiltsuk youth, elders and chiefs paddled and boated this afternoon from Bella Bella to the coast guard station on nearby Denny Island – headquarters of DFO’s central coast operations – to deliver an eviction notice reminding local representatives that Area 7 is a no-go zone for a commercial herring fishery this year.

The delegation stripped DFO of a ceremonial paddle which had been given to local officers before in good faith. “You cannot have that,” youth leader Saul Brown told DFO representatives, “because you’re not here in a good way anymore.”

“You’re not conducting yourselves in a way that is sustainable for our future generations, so this is our children and youth saying, ‘We’re going to take that paddle back.'”

Following the demonstration, a conference call between Tribal Council leaders and DFO Regional Director General Sue Farlinger failed to yield a diplomatic solution to the ongoing conflict.
DFO inciting physical confrontation: Brown

“DFO has forced us into a collision course with industry,” Chair of the Heiltsuk Economic Development Corporation Frank Brown explained over the phone from the occupied DFO office.

If they allow gillnets into Area 7, they’re basically condoning a physical confrontation.


Heiltsuk youth leader Saul Brown takes back a 
ceremonial paddle from DFO officers (Colin Jones/facebook)



Today’s conflict follows a week of high tensions between the First Nation and DFO over the controversial herring fishery. Last Sunday, DFO angered the Heiltsuk by opening a seine fishery amid depleted herring stocks in Area 7 without informing them.

A Thursday press release from the nation vowed to stop a gillnet fishery “by any means necessary” after DFO refused to close the door to a subsequent gillnet fishery during talks with Heiltsuk leaders in Vancouver Wednesday.

The Heiltsuk have declared Area 7 a no-go zone to a commercial herring fishery due to concerns over the health of local stocks and allegations of flawed science by veteran scientists – including retired DFO herring specialist Dr. Ron Tanasichuk, who notes:


The forecasting methodology that DFO uses now for central coast herring is actually quite flawed…DFO’s forecasts are likely twice as much as they should be.

With DFO digging in its heels, a gillnet opening could come within the next day, in which case, “We will escalate from occupying the station to being out on the herring grounds,” said Frank Brown.

“We’ve done everything we can. We have to hold strong.”


Damien Gillis is a Vancouver-based documentary filmmaker with a focus on environmental and social justice issues - especially relating to water, energy, and saving Canada's wild salmon - working with many environmental organizations in BC and around the world. He is the co-founder, along with Rafe Mair, of The Common Sense Canadian, and a board member of both the BC Environmental Network and the Haig-Brown Institute.

More articles by Damien Gillis

Women Who Refused to Be Consigned to Oblivion


A World of Violence: On Women Who Refused to Live in Silence and Be Consigned to Oblivion

by Eduardo Galeano  - TomDispatch

 

His book Open Veins of Latin America: Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent came out in 1971 and proved to be the first vampire thriller of our American imperial age. Its blood-sucker of a plot was too outrageous not to be mesmerizing: a country called the United States declares a “good neighbor” policy for those living in its hemisphere because they just look so tasty, and then proceeds to suck the economic blood out of country after country.

Hollywood never topped it. “True Blood” and “The Vampire Diaries” couldn’t hold an incisor to it; Buffy was a punk by comparison.

In 1995, when his book Soccer in Sun and Shadow came out, he won the World Cup of sports writing. No one was ever quicker on the page; every sentence, a goal. Next to him, Pelé and Diego Maradona were second stringers.

The Pentagon invented the Internet for its own ends (and the NSA has used it just that way), but compared to him they were latecomers to techno-wizardry. After all, in writing his Memory of Fire trilogy about the Americas, he rediscovered the long-lost time machine of H.G. Wells, brought it up to date, and used it -- talk about interconnectivity -- to weave the most vibrant lives in North and South America over thousands of years into an unforgettable tapestry of humanity. Thirty years later, he dusted that machine off again, souped it up, stepped in and, like Odysseus on his voyages or Orpheus entering Hades, ventured into the human experience from ancient Ur to late last night. The result: his monumental history of everything and everyone: Mirrors.

Back in 2000, in his book Upside Down, he proved a wizard of prediction. Years ahead of the climate change movement and before the full-scale rise of the BRICS countries, which meant a vast new middle class married to the car and a North American version of the good life, he reminded his readers that, for the South to live like the North, humanity would need not one fading planet but many.

If you haven’t figured it out yet, I’m talking, of course, about the Uruguayan writer Eduardo Galeano. He was, early in his professional life, a cartoonist and never lost the lightness of spirit that went with that role. Still, the world he observed and experienced in prison, in exile, year after year, decade after decade, especially through the eyes of the poor and those denied their voice, was anything but light. Yet he approached the underworld of history with an empathy and understanding which is almost indescribable. His friends died in struggles across Latin America and yet, in an act of wizardry, he was capable of bringing them back to life on the page. He heard voices no one else could hear and similarly brought them to life and so to our attention.

He has only to appear -- I’ve witnessed this personally -- and people he’s never met have the sudden urge to tell him stories they would tell no one else. And he was and remains, among so many other things, a man who always had an eye for the particular trials (and terrors and losses and triumphs) of women in a world that generally preferred to ignore whatever they did or dreamed of doing. He has nothing of the “mansplainer” in him. And so, today, thanks to the editors of Nation Books, here are passages on women from his most recent work, just out in paperback, Children of the Days: A Calendar of Human History. Think of it as a secular prayer book for any year. Tom 
Tomgram: Eduardo Galeano, Sacrilegious Women
[The following passages are excerpted from Eduardo Galeano’s book Children of the Days: A Calendar of Human History, just out in paperback (Nation Books). Note for TomDispatch Readers: There are few pleasures greater for me at TomDispatch than posting the writings of Eduardo Galeano, whom I worked with for years in my other life as a book editor, and consider one of the greats of planet Earth. Today, thanks to the kindness of the editors of Nation Books and in my official absence -- I’m on vacation -- here are selections from his latest book, just out in paperback, Children of the Days: A Calendar of Human History. If you’ve never tried Galeano, then believe me, your life is missing a piece. Tom]

A World of Violence: On Women Who Refused to Live in Silence and Be Consigned to Oblivion

by Eduardo Galeano

 

The Shoe

(January 15)

In 1919 Rosa Luxemburg, the revolutionary, was murdered in Berlin.

Her killers bludgeoned her with rifle blows and tossed her into the waters of a canal.

Along the way, she lost a shoe.

Some hand picked it up, that shoe dropped in the mud.

Rosa longed for a world where justice would not be sacrificed in the name of freedom, nor freedom sacrificed in the name of justice.

Every day, some hand picks up that banner.

Dropped in the mud, like the shoe.


The Celebration That Was Not

(February 17)

The peons on the farms of Argentina’s Patagonia went out on strike against stunted wages and overgrown workdays, and the army took charge of restoring order.

Executions are grueling. On this night in 1922, soldiers exhausted from so much killing went to the bordello at the port of San Julián for their well-deserved reward.

But the five women who worked there closed the door in their faces and chased them away, screaming, “You murderers! Murderers, get out of here!”

Osvaldo Bayer recorded their names. They were Consuelo García, Ángela Fortunato, Amalia Rodríguez, María Juliache, and Maud Foster.

The whores. The virtuous.

Sacrilegious Women

(June 9)

In the year 1901, Elisa Sánchez and Marcela Gracia got married in the church of Saint George in the Galician city of A Coruña.

Elisa and Marcela had loved in secret. To make things proper, complete with ceremony, priest, license and photograph, they had to invent a husband. Elisa became Mario: she cut her hair, dressed in men’s clothing, and faked a deep voice.

When the story came out, newspapers all over Spain screamed to high heaven -- “this disgusting scandal, this shameless immorality” -- and made use of the lamentable occasion to sell papers hand over fist, while the Church, its trust deceived, denounced the sacrilege to the police.

And the chase began.

Elisa and Marcela fled to Portugal.

In Oporto they were caught and imprisoned.

But they escaped. They changed their names and took to the sea.

In the city of Buenos Aires the trail of the fugitives went cold.

The Right to Bravery

(August 13)

In 1816 the government in Buenos Aires bestowed the rank of lieutenant colonel on Juana Azurduy “in virtue of her manly efforts.”

She led the guerrillas who took Cerro Potosí from the Spaniards in the war of independence.

War was men’s business and women were not allowed to horn in, yet male officers could not help but admire “the virile courage of this woman.”

After many miles on horseback, when the war had already killed her husband and five of her six children, Juana also lost her life. She died in poverty, poor even among the poor, and was buried in a common grave.

Nearly two centuries later, the Argentine government, now led by a woman, promoted her to the rank of general, “in homage to her womanly bravery.”

Mexico’s Women Liberators

(September 17)

The centenary celebrations were over and all that glowing garbage was swept away.

And the revolution began.

History remembers the revolutionary leaders Zapata, Villa, and other he-men. The women, who lived in silence, went on to oblivion.

A few women warriors refused to be erased:

Juana Ramona, “la Tigresa,” who took several cities by assault;

Carmen Vélez, “la Generala,” who commanded three hundred men;

Ángela Jiménez, master dynamiter, who called herself Angel Jiménez;

Encarnación Mares, who cut her braids and reached the rank of second lieutenant hiding under the brim of her big sombrero, “so they won’t see my woman’s eyes”;

Amelia Robles, who had to become Amelio and who reached the rank of colonel;

Petra Ruiz, who became Pedro and did more shooting than anyone else to force open the gates of Mexico City;

Rosa Bobadilla, a woman who refused to be a man and in her own name fought more than a hundred battles;

and María Quinteras, who made a pact with the Devil and lost not a single battle. Men obeyed her orders. Among them, her husband.

The Mother of Female Journalists

(November 14)

On this morning in 1889, Nellie Bly set off.

Jules Verne did not believe that this pretty little woman could circle the globe by herself in less than eighty days.

But Nellie put her arms around the world in seventy-two, all the while publishing article after article about what she heard and observed.

This was not the young reporter’s first exploit, nor would it be the last.

To write about Mexico, she became so Mexican that the startled government of Mexico deported her.

To write about factories, she worked the assembly line.

To write about prisons, she got herself arrested for robbery.

To write about mental asylums, she feigned insanity so well that the doctors declared her certifiable. Then she went on to denounce the psychiatric treatments she endured, as reason enough for anyone to go crazy.

In Pittsburgh when Nellie was twenty, journalism was a man’s thing.

That was when she committed the insolence of publishing her first articles.

Thirty years later, she published her last, dodging bullets on the front lines of World War I.

International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women

(November 25)

In the jungle of the Upper Paraná, the prettiest butterflies survive by exhibiting themselves. They display their black wings enlivened by red or yellow spots, and they flit from flower to flower without the least worry. After thousands upon thousands of years, their enemies have learned that these butterflies are poisonous. Spiders, wasps, lizards, flies, and bats admire them from a prudent distance.

On this day in 1960 three activists against the Trujillo dictatorship in the Dominican Republic were beaten and thrown off a cliff. They were the Mirabal sisters. They were the prettiest, and they were called Las Mariposas, “The Butterflies.”

In memory of them, in memory of their inedible beauty, today is International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. In other words, for the elimination of violence by the little Trujillos that rule in so many homes.

The Art of Living

(December 9)

In 1986 the Nobel Prize for medicine went to Rita Levi-Montalcini.

In troubled times, during the dictatorship of Mussolini, Rita had secretly studied nerve fibers in a makeshift lab hidden in her home.

Years later, after a great deal of work, this tenacious detective of the mysteries of life discovered the protein that multiplies human cells, which won her the Nobel.

She was about eighty by then and she said, “My body is getting wrinkled, but not my brain. When I can no longer think, all I’ll want is help to die with dignity.”

Eduardo Galeano is one of Latin America’s most distinguished writers. He is the author of Open Veins of Latin America, the Memory of Fire Trilogy, Mirrors, and many other works. His newest book, Children of the Days: A Calendar of Human History (Nation Books), is just out in paperback and is excerpted in this piece. He is the recipient of many international prizes, including the first Lannan Prize for Cultural Freedom, the American Book Award, and the Casa de las Américas Prize.

Mark Fried is the translator of seven books by Eduardo Galeano including Children of the Days. He is also the translator, among other works, of Firefly by Severo Sarduy. He lives in Ottawa, Canada.

Copyright 2015 Eduardo Galeano

America's Post 9/11 Al Qaeda Alliance

July 17, 2012: The Day America Exited the 9/11 Era…By Entering an Alliance with Al Qaeda


by Peter Lee - China Matters

I note with interest that Thomas Friedman, the premier moral imbecile of American journalism, is spitballing the idea of using ISIS to roll back Iran.

Friedman is still an outlier. The moderate voice in hawkish Middle East policy today, on the other hand, belongs to analysts calling for supporting al Qaeda as the preferred US asset against Iran and, for that matter, ISIS.

This marks a sea change in American Middle East public punditry and a sign that the United States has moved beyond the 9/11 era, in which our national policy and indeed our national identity was largely defined by getting those AQ bad guys who had knocked down the World Trade Center, blown a hole in the Pentagon, and killed over 3000 Americans on a single day in 2001.

Now, the oppose-Iran obsession has resumed center stage, at least for the Beltway-friendly commentariat, and al Qaeda is seen as a suitable and acceptable partner, especially since the current Sunni extremist champion, ISIS, is enduring an ass-kicking at the hands and boots of the Iraq government, Shi’ite militias, and Iranian Revolutionary Guard units.

It is sobering to consider that the United States has done less to un-f*ck-up the Middle East in 14 years than Iran has been able to accomplish in a few months of campaigning in eastern Iraq. Another sign, if anybody is paying attention, that Iran is the least dysfunctional polity and partial democracy in the Middle East, while Uncle Sam is trapped driving in circles in a clown car fighting for the wheel with Saudi Arabian autocrats and Israeli apartheidists.

No wonder President Obama wants rapprochement with Iran and a quick pivot outta here to the peaceful and prosperous precincts of Asia. Good luck with that!

As to the odious al Qaeda alliance, the bad news is that it is more than the fever dream of frustrated Beltway analysts.

The de facto US-AQ alliance has been going on in Syria for almost three years.

In fact, I think I can put a date on its formal unveiling: July 17, 2012, the day the US, Europe, Turkey, and the GCC optimistically thought they could wrap up the Syria crisis in a few weeks with a well-timed campaign of terror and insurrection starting in Damascus.

Recently, a Beirut based newspaper, As-Safir, published a report on the July 2012 bombing (not aerial bombing, a C4 boobytrap) that wiped out Bashar al-Assad’s “security cell” a.k.a. his national security team during their daily strategy session in Damascus.

As translated by an outfit called Mideastwire, As-Safir claims the bombing was a decapitation strike as part of an elaborately choreographed scheme by the U.S. to collapse the Syrian government and military and smooth the way for a drive on Damascus by the Free Syrian Army and the elevation of defecting general Manaf Tlass (who possessed limited capacities beyond a firm jaw well suited to Churchillian cigar-clenching but was adored by the French, perhaps because his socialite sister had allegedly been the mistress of a French foreign minister) to the presidency.

Why should we care? With the cataract of blood and rubble and anguish that has hurtled into the Syrian abyss since then, why should we care that three of Assad’s henchman got blown up in July 2012?

Because a) the aftermath of the attack revealed the essential robustness of the Syrian regime and command structure and apparently convinced President Obama that strategies predicated on quick regime collapse either by covert action or indignant rhetoric were unlikely to remove Assad from his perch; b) Assad’s view of Western/GCC negotiating sincerity was probably tempered by the awareness that they had tried to murder him ; and c) the helter-skelter scheme revealed for the first time the presence of armed extremists under the Al Qaeda banner as US auxiliaries.

I am inclined to believe As-Safir, apparently a lefty, Syria-friendly outfit with a large circulation, because shortly after the bombing I drew the same conclusion, immortalized in my July 28, 2012 piece for Asia Times Online:

[A] funny thing happened last week. The Assad regime didn't collapse, despite an orchestrated, nation-wide assault (coordinated, we can assume, by the crack strategists of the international anti-Assad coalition): a decapitating terrorist bombing in the national security directorate, near-simultaneous armed uprisings in the main regime strongholds of Damascus and Aleppo, and the seizure of many of Syria's official border crossings with Iraq and Turkey.

Points 1 and 2 are covered in the As-Safir article, which apparently draws on tittle-tattle from a French diplomat. As to the third point, seizure of the border crossings, in July 2012 I wrote (refer to my ATOl article for the links):

Juan Cole of the University of Michigan laid out the big picture strategic thinking behind some of the border seizures on his blog, Informed Comment:

If the FSA can take the third crossing from Iraq, at Walid, they can control truck traffic into Syria from Iraq, starving the regime. The border is long and porous, but big trucks need metalled roads, which are few and go through the checkpoints. Some 70% of goods coming into Syria were coming from Iraq, because Europe cut off trade with the Baath regime of Bashar al-Assad. The rebels are increasingly in a position to block that trade or direct it to their strongholds.
According to an Iraqi deputy minister of the interior, the units that seized the border were perhaps not the goodwill ambassadors that the Syrian opposition or Dr Cole might have hoped for:


The top official said Iraqi border guards had witnessed the Free Syrian Army take control of a border outpost, detain a Syrian army lieutenant colonel, and then cut off his arms and legs.

"Then they executed 22 Syrian soldiers in front of the eyes of Iraqi soldiers."

They reportedly also raised the al-Qaeda flag.

The forces participating in the operation at the Turkish border crossings were also an interesting bunch - and certainly not all local Syrian insurgents, as AFP reported:

By Saturday evening, a group of some 150 foreign fighters describing themselves as Islamists had taken control of the post.

These fighters were not at the site on Friday, when rebel fighters captured the post.

Some of the fighters said they belonged to Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), while others claimed allegiance to the Shura Taliban. They were armed with Kalashnikov assault rifles, rocket launchers and improvised mines.

The fighters identified themselves as coming from a number of countries: Algeria, France, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia and the United Arab Emirates - and the Russian republic of Chechnya…

Nice to remember that Juan Cole, who embarrassed himself mightily by cheerleading the Libyan debacle, also applied his mad analytic and tactical skillz to the Syrian fiasco.

Anyway, the appearance of armed Islamist extremists as part of a meticulously if not particularly intelligently planned regime change gambit in 2012: that’s what matters today.

Because even after the decapitation & collapse strategy failed, the extremists stayed, presumably as executors of an open-ended “success is not an option” “bleed Syria (and Iran)” strategy funded by Gulf interests, supported by Turkish infrastructure, and condoned by the United States.

And bleed Syria did.

The result is a butcher’s bill of nearly one quarter of a million dead and 3.5 million refugees, over 90% incurred after the domestic insurrection failed in February 2012 and the combined genius of the Western, Arab, and Turkish worlds was turned to engineering regime change via external means.

As the sage said, success has a thousand fathers and failure is an orphan. So it is reprehensible but not too surprising that the Syrian horror is now described in the ultimate hands-off passive voice fashion as “a tragedy” and not “the knowing murder of hundreds of thousands and the immiserating of millions by the funding, supply, facilitation, and diplomatic support of thousands of paramilitaries by the United States, European states, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and now Israel (which is now providing medical facilities to wounded AQ fighters at the Syrian border)”.

It is also darkly amusing that the worse IS does, the more pre-emptive squealing one hears from the West about the as yet unmaterialized threat of massive human rights violations against Sunnis by Shi’a forces in areas recovered from IS.

And, to cap it, you get chin-stroking in the press about common cause with AQ and/or ISIS to stop the Iranian menace.

Which reminds me of the final indispensable element in regime-change choreography: credulous, vociferous, enabling media.

According to as-Safir, it was clear at the early July 2012 Friends of Syria conference in Paris that something was afoot:

When a French diplomat stopped two journalists, a French and an Arab, in early July 2012, near a café adjacent to the French foreign ministry, the lights of the Friends of Syria conference had grown dim at the conference center following two exhausting days of debate that provided the impression to the meeting participants that the toppling of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is now a fait accompli.

…[T]he diplomat revealed what he had in mind and advised the journalists to slow down with their packing because a major event was going to take place in July. The bets to topple Al-Assad in Paris and between the “Friends of Syria” had turned into a mere matter of time.

I will be charitable and say, despite these manifest signs (and, for that matter, the fact that an externally choreographed regime change jamboree was under way was apparent even to an outside observer like me), it was not clear to the legion of Western journos covering Syria that they were getting played as part of some PR charade whose primary purpose was to stampede Russian into abandoning Assad and supporting a UNSC resolution condemning him, preferably with an Article 7 stinger approving the use of force, thereby enabling transition to the West/GCC-backed opposition.

At the New York Times, Neil McFarquar (with considerable assistance: “Reporting was contributed by Dalal Mawad and Hwaida Saad from Beirut, Rick Gladstone from New York, Ellen Barry from Moscow, Isabel Kershner from Jerusalem, Elisabeth Bumiller and Eric Schmitt from Washington, and an employee of The New York Times from Damascus, Syria.”) asked if the death knell was being sounded for Assad’s regime:

The impact of the day’s events reverberated on multiple levels, piercing the psychological advantage that Mr. Assad’s superior military strength has provided in preserving the loyalty of his forces and frightening much of the public into staying home. With the opposition energized and the government demoralized, analysts wondered if other military units and trusted lieutenants would be more inclined to switch sides — and if the government would retaliate with an escalation of violence.

The idea that a poorly organized, lightly armed opposition force could somehow get so close to the seat of power raised questions about the viability of a once unassailable police state.

In its final form, the title of the piece is “Syrian Rebels Land Deadly Blow to Assad’s Inner Circle”. I suspect the original, more optimistic drift of the piece is embodied in the URL:

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/19/world/middleeast/suicide-attack-reported-in-damascus-as-more-generals-flee.html

Despite the telephoned and optimistically spun blandishments of President Obama, Putin didn’t bite (I expect he was still feeling the “Libya no-fly-zone burn”), and the anti-Assad coalition had, in addition to botching the putsch, failed to strip the Assad regime of Russian support. In fact, the Russian Federation doubled down on its support of Assad instead. Which, I imagine, feeds the “Bad Vlad” resentment that permeates Western capitals and editorial offices…

…exacerbated, certainly, by Putin’s sabotaging of another brilliant Western scheme, this time in Ukraine…

…which, come to think of it, explains my extremely jaundiced opinion of the reportorial and analytic capacities of the pro-Kyiv journos, who exhibit a similar paired obliviousness to incompetent, catastrophic, and morally bankrupt Western strategic gambits with credulous retailing of anti-Russian novelties as their outlets and colleagues previously displayed in the matter of Syria.