Saturday, August 05, 2017

Ghosts of Carnage: Raqqa's "Collaterals"

‘One Man’s Collateral Damage is Another Man’s Wife and Children’

by 21st Century Wire

August 5, 2017

Last month, UN war crimes investigators described the situation in Raqqa, Syria resulting from US airstrikes as a “staggering loss of civilian life.” This from the US-led Coalition’s Operation Inherent Resolve – which the US has been trying to ‘resolve’ (rather unsuccessfully) since 2014. US officials now claim they have killed around 600 civilians during ‘anti-ISIS’ operations in Iraq and Syria, but that does not square with data collected by independent groups who cite totals to around 4,354 civilians (conservatively) killed as a result of US-led coalition bombing campaigns since June 2014.

21WIRE editor Patrick Henningsen spoke to RT International last night about this discrepancy and about the hypocrisy of US officials when conducting their public relations damage control after any said ‘intervention,’ including the use of cynically concocted, militarized politically correct terms like ‘collateral damage.’

He points out in this report, “What Americans don’t understand, because they haven’t had to face it on their own territory – is that one man’s collateral is another man’s wife and children – and that’s a reality in Syria.”

First Nations Women File Charges in Mount Polley Mining Spill

Indigenous Advocate Seeks Justice - Files charges against Imperial Metals Over Biggest Mining Spill in Canada

by Bev Sellars and Jacinda Mack - First Nation Women Advocating For Responsible Mining

August 4 2017

Vancouver - As today marks the third anniversary of the Mt Polley Mine disaster and the time limit to file charges under BC laws, Indigenous advocate Bev Sellars announces that she filed private charges against Mount Polley Mining Corporation (Imperial Metals) at the Provincial Court of British Columbia this afternoon in Vancouver. Sellars was acting Chief of Xat’sull First Nation when the disaster struck near her community on August 4, 2014.

This legal action comes after the newly elected Horgan government announced earlier this week it would not file charges before the August 4 deadline, stating that “an investigation was still ongoing,” and passing the buck to the Trudeau government to enforce the federal Fisheries Act in the matter.

“We just couldn’t let it go. In my culture, we have a sacred responsibility not only to care for the land, waters, animals, and people living today, but also for the next seven generations to come.
I could not bear to witness BC simply stepping aside and giving-up on its own responsibility to protect our shared environment and waters,” states Bev Sellars.

Sellars filed charges under 15 counts: 10 under the BC Environmental Management Act and 5 under the BC Mines Act. Most charges relate to the dumping of contaminated mining waste into the environment and surrounding waterways, and to poor and unsafe operational practices, allegedly in violations of multiple permit conditions and general provisions of both Acts and associated regulations.

She believes her action could be a test for BC laws:

“If BC laws cannot be enforced when such a massive mining spill occurs, then we have a serious problem in BC and we must act to fix these laws.”

The grandmother of 3 also hopes her action can act as a ‘door stopper,’ buying some more time for everyone involved, including the Province to complete its investigation and potentially carry over Sellars’ charges beyond today’s deadline. Sellars says,

“While we are ready to go to full trial if necessary, we also believe it is ultimately the Province’s job to enforce its own laws when they are violated.”

This legal action is supported by MiningWatch Canada, West Coast Environmental Law’s Environmental Dispute Resolution Fund, the Wilderness Committee, and the First Nation Women Advocating For Responsible Mining.



For information:
Bev Sellars, Community member and former Chief, Xat’sull First Nation
Jacinda Mack, First Nation Women Advocating For Responsible Mining

Nuclear Sunset: Return to On the Beach

On the Beach 2017

by John Pilger - CounterPunch

August 4, 2017

The US submarine captain says, “We’ve all got to die one day, some sooner and some later. The trouble always has been that you’re never ready, because you don’t know when it’s coming. Well, now we do know and there’s nothing to be done about it.”

He says he will be dead by September. It will take about a week to die, though no one can be sure. Animals live the longest.

The war was over in a month. The United States, Russia and China were the protagonists. It is not clear if it was started by accident or mistake. There was no victor. The northern hemisphere is contaminated and lifeless now.

A curtain of radioactivity is moving south towards Australia and New Zealand, southern Africa and South America. By September, the last cities, towns and villages will succumb. As in the north, most buildings will remain untouched, some illuminated by the last flickers of electric light.

This is the way the world ends

Not with a bang but a whimper

These lines from T.S. Eliot’s poem The Hollow Men appear at the beginning of Nevil Shute’s novel On the Beach, which left me close to tears. The endorsements on the cover said the same.

Published in 1957 at the height of the Cold War when too many writers were silent or cowed, it is a masterpiece. At first the language suggests a genteel relic; yet nothing I have read on nuclear war is as unyielding in its warning. No book is more urgent.

Some readers will remember the black and white Hollywood film starring Gregory Peck as the US Navy commander who takes his submarine to Australia to await the silent, formless spectre descending on the last of the living world.

I read On the Beach for the first time the other day, finishing it as the US Congress passed a law to wage economic war on Russia, the world’s second most lethal nuclear power. There was no justification for this insane vote, except the promise of plunder.

The “sanctions” are aimed at Europe, too, mainly Germany, which depends on Russian natural gas and on European companies that do legitimate business with Russia. In what passed for debate on Capitol Hill, the more garrulous senators left no doubt that the embargo was designed to force Europe to import expensive American gas.

Their main aim seems to be war – real war. No provocation as extreme can suggest anything else. They seem to crave it, even though Americans have little idea what war is. The Civil War of 1861-5 was the last on their mainland. War is what the United States does to others.

The only nation to have used nuclear weapons against human beings, they have since destroyed scores of governments, many of them democracies, and laid to waste whole societies – the million deaths in Iraq were a fraction of the carnage in Indo-China, which President Reagan called “a noble cause” and President Obama revised as the tragedy of an “exceptional people”He was not referring to the Vietnamese.

Filming last year at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, I overheard a National Parks Service guide lecturing a school party of young teenagers. “Listen up,” he said. “We lost 58,000 young soldiers in Vietnam, and they died defending your freedom.”

At a stroke, the truth was inverted. No freedom was defended. Freedom was destroyed. A peasant country was invaded and millions of its people were killed, maimed, dispossessed, poisoned; 60,000 of the invaders took their own lives. Listen up, indeed.

A lobotomy is performed on each generation. Facts are removed. History is excised and replaced by what Time magazine calls “an eternal present”.

Harold Pinter described this as “manipulation of power worldwide, while masquerading as a force for universal good, a brilliant, even witty, highly successful act of hypnosis [which meant] that it never happened. Nothing ever happened. Even while it was happening it wasn’t happening. It didn’t matter. It was of no interest.”

Those who call themselves liberals or tendentiously “the left” are eager participants in this manipulation, and its brainwashing, which today revert to one name: Trump.

Trump is mad, a fascist, a dupe of Russia. He is also a gift for “liberal brains pickled in the formaldehyde of identity politics”, wrote Luciana Bohne memorably. The obsession with Trump the man — not Trump as a symptom and caricature of an enduring system – beckons great danger for all of us.

While they pursue their fossilised anti-Russia agendas, narcissistic media such as the Washington Post, the BBC and the Guardiansuppress the essence of the most important political story of our time as they warmonger on a scale I cannot remember in my lifetime.

On 3 August, in contrast to the acreage the Guardian has given to drivel that the Russians conspired with Trump (reminiscent of the far-right smearing of John Kennedy as a “Soviet agent”), the paper buried, on page 16, news that the President of the United States was forced to sign a Congressional bill declaring economic war on Russia.

Unlike every other Trump signing, this was conducted in virtual secrecy and attached with a caveat from Trump himself that it was “clearly unconstitutional”.

A coup against the man in the White House is under way. This is not because he is an odious human being, but because he has consistently made clear he does not want war with Russia.

This glimpse of sanity, or simple pragmatism, is anathema to the “national security” managers who guard a system based on war, surveillance, armaments, threats and extreme capitalism. Martin Luther King called them “the greatest purveyors of violence in the world today”.

They have encircled Russia and China with missiles and a nuclear arsenal. They have used neo-Nazis to instal an unstable, aggressive regime on Russia’s “borderland” – the way through which Hitler invaded, causing the deaths of 27 million people. Their goal is to dismember the modern Russian Federation.

In response, “partnership” is a word used incessantly by Vladimir Putin — anything, it seems, that might halt an evangelical drive to war in the United States. Incredulity in Russia may have now turned to fear and perhaps a certain resolution. The Russians almost certainly have war-gamed nuclear counter strikes. Air-raid drills are not uncommon. Their history tells them to get ready.

The threat is simultaneous. Russia is first, China is next. The US has just completed a huge military exercise with Australia known as Talisman Sabre. They rehearsed a blockade of the Malacca Straits and the South China Sea, through which pass China’s economic lifelines.

The admiral commanding the US Pacific fleet said that, “if required”, he would nuke China. That he would say such a thing publicly in the current perfidious atmosphere begins to make fact of Nevil Shute’s fiction.

None of this is considered news. No connection is made as the bloodfest of Passchendaele a century ago is remembered. Honest reporting is no longer welcome in much of the media. Windbags, known as pundits, dominate: editors are infotainment or party line managers. Where there was once sub-editing, there is the liberation of axe-grinding clichés. Those journalists who do not comply are defenestrated.

The urgency has plenty of precedents. In my film, The Coming War on China, John Bordne, a member of a US Air Force missile combat crew based in Okinawa, Japan, describes how in 1962 – during the Cuban missile crisis – he and his colleagues were “told to launch all the missiles” from their silos.

Nuclear armed, the missiles were aimed at both China and Russia. A junior officer questioned this, and the order was eventually rescinded – but only after they were issued with service revolvers and ordered to shoot at others in a missile crew if they did not “stand down”.

At the height of the Cold War, the anti-communist hysteria in the United States was such that US officials who were on official business in China were accused of treason and sacked. In 1957 – the year Shute wrote On the Beach – no official in the State Department could speak the language of the world’s most populous nation. Mandarin speakers were purged under strictures now echoed in the Congressional bill that has just passed, aimed at Russia.

The bill was bipartisan. There is no fundamental difference between Democrats and Republicans. The terms “left” and “right” are meaningless. Most of America’s modern wars were started not by conservatives, but by liberal Democrats.

When Obama left office, he presided over a record seven wars, including America’s longest war and an unprecedented campaign of extrajudicial killings – murder – by drones.

In his last year, according to a Council on Foreign Relations study, Obama, the “reluctant liberal warrior”, dropped 26,171 bombs – three bombs every hour, 24 hours a day. Having pledged to help “rid the world” of nuclear weapons, the Nobel Peace Laureate built more nuclear warheads than any president since the Cold War.

Trump is a wimp by comparison. It was Obama – with his secretary of state Hillary Clinton at his side – who destroyed Libya as a modern state and launched the human stampede to Europe. At home, immigration groups knew him as the “deporter-in-chief”.

One of Obama’s last acts as president was to sign a bill that handed a record $618billion to the Pentagon, reflecting the soaring ascendancy of fascist militarism in the governance of the United States. Trump has endorsed this.

Buried in the detail was the establishment of a “Center for Information Analysis and Response”. This is a ministry of truth. It is tasked with providing an “official narrative of facts” that will prepare us for the real possibility of nuclear war – if we allow it.

John Pilger can be reached through his website:
More articles by:John Pilger

Friday, August 04, 2017

A War of Absolutes: CIA Vs "Principle Villains"

In internal memos, CIA Inspector General portrayed the media as Agency’s “principal villains”

by Muck Rock

Written by Emma Best
Edited by JPat Brown

August 1, 2017

“Absolute power corrupts absolutely, and the power of the media to publish in this country is nearly absolute.”

A series of 1984 memos from the CIA Inspector General’s (IG) office reveals some alarming views on the press and how to deal with them. mong other things, the memo shows that 33 years before the Agency declared WikiLeaks a hostile non-state intelligence service, they were viewing the general press in the same terms.

Several weeks prior, CIA Director Casey had asked the IG to weigh in on officer Eloise Page’s paper on unauthorized disclosure.

The IG passed the task onto someone on his staff, who produced a four page SECRET memo for IG James Taylor, who passed it onto Director Casey. The IG specifically endorsed the proposal for a program where the Agency would intervene with journalism schools, which is discussed further below.

The SECRET memo began by endorsing the proposals that Page had laid out in her paper. Specifically praised among her proposed initiative was new legislation, a special FBI unit, and a special prosecutor. While it was obviously hoped that this would help enforce the law, the member of the IG staff also hoped that they would create a chilling effect. The sole criticism for Page’s paper was that it lacked a strategy for dealing with the media, who were the “principal villains” in all of this.

To the Inspector General’s office, the reason that the press were the “principal villains” was simple: “absolute power corrupts absolutely” and “the power of the media to publish in this country is nearly absolute.” As a result of the media’s “absolute power”, argued the Agency that had been involved in mind control attempts, illegal surveillance, tampering in foreign elections and dozens of assassinations, assassination attempts and coups, they had been corrupted absolutely. The member of the IG’s staff then suggested that they compare the media to the “opposition,” a reference to hostile intelligence services. This could be backed up by citing “precise parallels in methods and results, if not in motivations, between the media’s attempts to penetrate us and the opposition’s attempts to do the same.”

The IG’s office argued that the Agency’s response to the media had been largely passive and inadequate. Proposing that it was “time for an offense as well as a defense”, they offered a list of potential Do’s and Don’ts for the Agency.

First and foremost, they argued that the Agency shouldn’t “frontally attack” concepts such as the First Amendment and freedom of the press. Nor should any program to curb media excesses be announced. While they had praised Page’s suggestion of new legislation, they also argued that the Agency shouldn’t expect anything to materialize. Nor should they expect help from Congress on covert action - it was simply “too easy to argue there’s a public interest in debating actions that could lead to war.” Instead, the Agency should remember that journalists don’t operate in a vacuum and their support/publishing structure can be prevailed upon as a method of tempering a journalist’s activities - especially since the press had “their own reasons for wanting to improve [their] image.”

The list of Do’s was significantly longer, beginning with several self-explanatory suggestions and a call for releasing “a sanitized list of foolish media disclosure that have cost the country or individuals substantially.” The second half of that suggestion remains redacted, marked as exempt from disclosure lest it reveal some of the Agency’s sources or methods.

The list of Do’s also included using the Agency’s official contacts “in leadership posts” for academia and the media. There were “undoubtedly” similar unofficial contacts that could also be prevailed upon.

A later suggestion similarly pointed out that “the media have owners, Boards of Directors, managing editors et al” and that the Agency “had some success for a while in staving off” something, the details of which remain redacting allegedly to protect the Agency’s sources and methods.

The penultimate suggestion put forward by the IG’s office was that the Agency should figure out just what media ethics reviews and processes existed, and “try to get such people to address the issues that concern us.” That finding out and using proper channels needed to be suggested as a new strategy to pursue is mildly alarming.

The final suggestion, which was specifically praised by the IG when presenting the memo to the CIA Director, was using Agency contacts with college and university presidents at schools of journalism to change their curriculums. The hope was that this might challenge or put an end “to the practice of publishing indiscriminately whatever an investigative reporter can come up with.” The IG seemed taken with the idea that “given some curriculum changes, the next generation of reporters might show some elevation of ethics.”

The CIA Director passed the memo to Clair George, the Agency official responsible for liaising with Congress who would later be convicted of lying to Congress.

You can read the exchange of memos here.

Demon in the Details: India's Demonetisation Deemed Massive Blunder

Demonetisation cat is out of the bag

by MY Siddiqui - Tehelka

August 3, 2017

A Parliamentary Committee on Demonetisation has submitted its report, which will be tabled during the Monsoon Session of Parliament.

Accordingly, the report calls demonetisation a blunder. Not a single objective has been met, it reportedly says.

Findings of the Committee reveal no major black money was found. It says Finance Ministry accepts that only details of 4,172 crores of suspicious money which could be black. (Prime Minister Modi had predicted 5-7 lakh crores would have been black).

According to the Committee’s findings, demonetisation had no effect on terror funding. Neither cashless nor was less cash society formed as Finance Ministry was projecting. People have shifted back to pre-November 8, 2016, level cash transactions.

In a further revelation, the report says demonetisation killed small scale industries and major unorganised sector. Bhartiya Mazdoor Sangh, a trade union affiliate of BJP, has reported a loss of four crore jobs and shut down of over three lakh industrial units. Report has questioned decision making authority and termed all decisions were taken without planning, like size of currencies not planned according to ATMs, 2000 rupees note was brought in without any smaller denomination note to exchange, no considerable amount of currency printed for supply which led to huge rush to banks and ATMs, rules changed on daily basis proved flawed planning. Till date, ATMs remained dry in rural areas.

In a startling revelation, the report says failed demonetisation planning has led to now cut in expenditures of Government on health, education and other vital sectors. Education sector remains most affected as funds have been stopped, fees hiked, and seats decreased for research. Taxes have been increased, interest rates on PPF and other savings scheme reduced.

In view of the foregoing, who will be held responsible for all this Organised Blunder? Who will account for 30,000 plus crores incurred on distribution and all other expenses like advertisements, transportation, extra pay to manpower etc? The question arises who will be held responsible for 180 plus deaths during the whole process?

Will PM Modi account himself before the bar of the people or will Indian democracy continue to be throttled with arbitrary exercise of power by one man government, shorn of collective responsibility? Will Modi go down in the history of India as the first disrupter of its economy by getting away with the aggressive hyper nationalism and any one questioning him as anti-national?

Media euphemistically called “presstitutes” by one of the NDA Government’s Minister, have been warned not to bring the report to light.

Rightly, the former PM Dr Manmohan Singh termed it as “Organised Loot”. One may recall how Dr. Manmohan Singh in answer to a question from media in his last Press Meet as the Prime Minister on January 3, 2014 had said that Modi as Prime Minister will be a “disaster”, which has been proved now with jobless growth, negligible investments from domestic business houses, fudged data on GDP and ever rising social tensions, straining the very idea of India as postulated by its Constitution and the rule of law based democratic system of governance!

Thursday, August 03, 2017

Enduring Myths, Lies and Legends in Afghanistan

Afghanistan’s Lies, Myths and Legends

by Andre Vltchek - CounterPunch

August 3, 2017

It often appears that “true Afghanistan” is not here in Kabul and not in Jalalabad or Heart either; not in the ancient villages, which anxiously cling to the steep mountainsides. Many foreigners and even Afghans are now convinced that the “true” Afghanistan is only what is being shown on the television screens, depicted in magazines, or what is buried deep in the archives and libraries somewhere in London, New York or Paris.

It is tempting to think that the country could be only understood from a comfortable distance, from the safety of one’s living room or from those books and publications decorating dusty bookshelves and coffee tables all over the world.

“Afghanistan is dangerous,” they say. “It is too risky to travel there. One needs to be protected, escorted, equipped and insured in order to function in that wild and lawless country even for one single day, or just a few hours.”

When it comes to Afghanistan, conditioned Western ‘rational brains’ of tenure or emeritus professors (or call them the ‘regime’s intellectual gatekeepers’) often get engaged, even intertwined with those pathologically imaginative minds of the upper class ‘refugees’, the ‘elites’, and of course their offspring. After all, crème de la crème ‘refugees’ speak perfect English; they know the rules and nuances of the game. The results of such ‘productive interaction’ are then imprinted into countless books and reports.

Books of that kind become, in turn, what could be easily defined as the ‘official references’, a ‘certified way’ to how our world perceives a country like Afghanistan. Their content is being quoted and recycled.

How often I heard, from the old veteran opinion makers (even those from the ‘left’) – people that I actually used to respect in the past:

“The Soviet era in Afghanistan was of course terrible, but at least many girls there had access to the education…”

It is no secret that ‘many girls had access to education’ in those distant days, but was it really “terrible”, that era? Was it “of course, terrible?” Baseless clichés like this are actually shaping ‘public opinion’, and can be much more destructive than the hardcore propaganda.

Most of those old gurus never set foot in Afghanistan, during the Soviet era or before, let alone after. All their ‘experience’ is second or third-hand, constructed mainly on sponging up bitterness from those who betrayed their own country and have been collaborating with the West, or at least on the confusion and mental breakdowns of their children.

Based on such recycled unconfirmed ‘facts’, bizarre theories are born. According to them, Afghanistan is ‘officially’ wrecked; it is hopelessly corrupt; it is beyond salvation and repair. It is ‘so divided, ethnically and otherwise’, that it can never function again as one entity.

Then come liberals, and the children of corrupt Afghan diplomats and exiled ‘elites’, who commonly justify their passivity by blaming the entire world for the destruction of their nation: “every country in the world just wants to harm Afghanistan, take shamelessly advantage of it.”

Naturally, if everybody is responsible, than nobody truly is. Therefore, as expected, ‘the grand conclusion’ is – “There is absolutely no hope.” Everyone who can is trying to leave; who in his or her right mind would want to dwell in such mayhem?”

Let’s just write the entire place off! Chapter closed. One of the greatest cultures on Earth is finished. Nothing can be done about it. Goodbye, Afghanistan! Ciao, bella!

For some, especially for those who left the country and slammed the door, it is a tempting and ‘reassuring’ way of looking at the state of things. It justifies their earlier decision. If one accepts such views, than nothing has to be done, because no matter what, things would never improve, anyway. For many, especially for those who are benefiting (even making careers) from doing absolutely nothing to save Afghanistan, such an approach and such theories are actually perfect. Very little of it matters to them, that almost all of this is total rubbish!


I never saw any of those professors from the MIT or Cornell University anywhere near the dusty roads cutting through Samar Khel or Charikar. I never saw any reporters from the Western mass media outlets here, in the deepest villages that keep changing hands between Taliban and the government forces, either. If they were here, I’d definitely spot them, as they tend to travel ‘in style’, like some buffoons from bygone eras: wearing ridiculous helmets, bulletproof vests, and PRESS insignias on all imaginable and unimaginable parts of their bodies, while being driven around in armored vehicles, often even with a full military escort.

It would be quite difficult to talk to Afghan people looking like that. There is not much one could actually even see from such an angle and perspective, but that’s the only one they are choosing to have, that is if they come here at all.


Let me back-track a bit: in case my readers in the West or elsewhere have never heard about Samar Khel. Well, it is a dusty town not far from Jalalabad, a former ‘grave’ for the Soviet forces and the National Afghan Army. During the “Soviet era”, the US and the Saudi-backed Mujahedeen used to fire between 500 and 1,000 missiles from here, all directly towards the city of Jalalabad, day after day.

It is very hard to imagine what went on and what went wrong in Afghanistan during the 1980’s, without feeling that 430C heat of the desert, without chewing dust, without facing those bare, hostile mountains, and without speaking to people who used to live here during ‘those days’, as well as people who have been existing, barely surviving here now.

It is also absolutely impossible to understand the Soviet Union and its ‘involvement’ in Afghanistan, without driving through the countryside and all of a sudden spotting in some ancient and god-forsaken village, a mighty and durable water duct built by Soviet engineers several decades ago, with electricity towers and high voltage wires still proudly spanning above.


By now I know that I don’t want to write another academic book. I wrote two of them, one about Indonesia and one about that enormous sprawl of water dotted with fantastic but devastated islands and atolls of the South Pacific – “Oceania”. To write academic books is time consuming and it is, in many ways, ‘selfish’. The true story gets buried under an avalanche of tedious facts and numbers, under footnotes and recycled quotes. Once such a book is read and returned to its place on a shelf, no one is really inspired or outraged, no one is terrified and no one is ready to build barricades and fight.

But most academic books and are never even read from cover to cover.

I see no point in writing books that wouldn’t inspire people to raise flags, to fight for their country and humanity.

I don’t work in Afghanistan in order to compile indexes and footnotes. I am there because the country itself is a victim of the most brutal and ongoing imperialist destruction in modern history. As an internationalist, I’m not here only to document; I’m here to accuse and to confront the venomous Western colonialist narrative frontally.

Afghanistan is bleeding, assaulted and terribly injured. Therefore it deserves to be fought for and not just to be analyzed and described. No cold and detached historic accounts, no texts written from a safe distance, can help this beautiful country to stand on its own feet, to regain its pride and hope, and to fly as it used to in the not so distant past.

It doesn’t need more and more nihilism. On the contrary, it is thirsting for optimism, for new friends, for hope.

Not all countries are the same. Even now, Afghanistan has friends, true friends, no matter how much this fact is being obscured by the Western propagandists, no matter how much pro-Western Afghan elites are trying to prove otherwise.


This is not what you are supposed to be reading. All remembrances of the “Soviet Era” in Afghanistan have been boxed and then labeled as “negative”, even “toxic”. No discussion on the topic is allowed in ‘polite circles’, at least in the West and in Afghanistan itself.

Afghanistan is where the Soviet Union was tricked into, and Afghanistan is where the Communist superpower received its final blow. ‘The victory of capitalism over communism’, the official Western narrative shouted. A ‘temporary destruction of all progressive alternatives for our humanity’, replied others, but mostly under their breath.

After the horrific, brutal and humiliating period of Gorbachev/Yeltsin, Russia shrunk both geographically and demographically, while going through indescribable agony. It hemorrhaged; it was bathing in its own excrement, while the West celebrated its temporary victory, dancing in front of the world map, envisioning the re-conquest of its former colonies.

But in the end Russia survived, regained its bearings and dignity, and once again became one of the most important countries on Earth, directly antagonistic to the global Western imperialist designs.

Afghanistan has never recovered. After the last Soviet combat troops left the country in 1989, it bled terribly for years, consumed by a brutal civil war. Its progressive government had to face the monstrous terror of the Western and Saudi-backed Mujahedeen, with individuals like Osama bin Laden in command of the jihadi genocide.

Socialists, Communists, secularists as well as almost all of those who were educated in the former Soviet Union or Eastern Block countries, were killed, exiled, or muzzled for decades.

Most of those who settled in the West simply betrayed; went along with the official Western narrative and dogma.

Even those individuals who still claimed to be part of the left, repeated like parrots, their pre-approved fib:

“Perhaps the Soviet Union was not as bad as the Mujahedeen, Taliban, or even the West, but it was really bad enough.”

I heard these lines in London and elsewhere, coming from several mouths of the corrupt Afghan ‘elites’ and their children. From the beginning I was doubtful. And then my work, my journeys to and through Afghanistan began. I spoke to dozens of people all over the country, doing exactly what I was discouraged to do: driving everywhere without an escort or protection, stopping in the middle of god-forsaken villages, entering fatal city slums infested with narcotics, approaching prominent intellectuals in Kabul, Jalalabad and elsewhere.

“Where are you from?” I was asked on many occasions.

“Russia,” I’d reply. It was a gross simplification. I was born in Leningrad, now St Petersburg, but an incredible mixture of Chinese, Russian, Czech and Austrian blood circles through my veins. Still, the name “Russia” came naturally to me, in the middle of Afghan deserts and deep gorges, especially in those places where I knew that my life was hanging on a thin thread. If I were to be allowed to utter one last word in this life, “Russia” was what I wanted it to be.

But after my declaration, the faces of the Afghan people would soften, unexpectedly and suddenly. “Welcome!” I’d hear again and again. An invitation to enter humble homes would follow: an offer to rest, to eat, or to just drink a glass of water.

‘Why?’ I often wondered. “Why?” I finally asked my driver and interpreter, Mr. Arif, who became my dear friend.

“It’s because in this country, Afghans love Russian people,” he replied simply and without any hesitation.

“Afghans love Russians?” I wondered. “Do you?”

“Yes,” he replied, smiling. “I do. Most of our people here do.”


Two days later I was sitting inside an armored UNESCO Land Cruiser, talking to a former Soviet-trained engineer, now a simple driver, Mr. Wahed Tooryalai. He allowed me to use his name; he had no fear, just accumulated anger, which he obviously wanted to get out of his system:

“When I sleep, I still sometimes see the former Soviet Union in my dreams. After that, I wake up and feel happy for one entire month. I remember everything I saw there, until now…”

I wanted to know what really made him so happy ‘there’?

Mr. Wahed did not hesitate:

“People! They are so kind. They are welcoming… Russians, Ukrainians… I felt so much at home there. Their culture is exactly like ours. Those who say that Russians ‘occupied’ Afghanistan have simply sold out. The Russians did so much for Afghanistan: they built entire housing communities like ‘Makroyan’, they built factories, even bakeries. In places such as Kandahar, people are still eating Russian bread…”

I recalled the Soviet-era water pipes that I photographed all over most of the humble Afghan countryside, as well as the elaborate water canals in and around cities like Jalalabad.

“There is so much propaganda against the Soviet Union,” I said.

“Only the Mujahedeen and the West hate Russians,” Mr. Wahed explained. “And those who are serving them.”

Then he continued:

“Almost all poor Afghan people would never say anything bad about Russians. But the government people are with the West, as well as those Afghan elites who are now living abroad: those who are buying real estate in London and Dubai, while selling their own country…those who are paid to ‘create public opinion.’”

His words flowed effortlessly; he knew precisely what he wanted to say, and they were bitter, but it was clearly what he felt:

“Before and during the Soviet era, there were Soviet doctors here, and also Soviet teachers. Now show me one doctor or teacher from the USA or UK based in the Afghan countryside! Russians were everywhere, and I still even remember some names: Lyudmila Nikolayevna… Show me one Western doctor or nurse based here now. Before, Russian doctors and nurses were working all over the country, and their salaries were so low… They spent half on their own living expenses, and the other half they distributed amongst our poor… Now look what the Americans and Europeans are doing: they all came here to make money!”

I recall my recent encounter with a Georgian combatant, serving under the US command at the Bagram base. Desperate, he recalled his experience to me:

“Before Bagram I served at the Leatherneck US Base, in Helmand Province. When the Americans were leaving, they even used to pull out concrete from the ground. They joked: “When we came here, there was nothing, and there will be nothing after we leave…” They prohibited us from giving food to local children. What we couldn’t consume, we had to destroy, but never give to local people. I still don’t understand, why? Those who come from the US or Western Europe are showing so much spite for the Afghan people!”

What a contrast!

Mr. Wahed recalled how the Soviet legacy was abruptly uprooted:

“After the Taliban era, we were all poor. There was hunger; we had nothing. Then the West came and began throwing money all around the place. Karzai and the elites kept grabbing all that they could, while repeating like parrots: “The US is good!” Diplomats serving Karzai’s government, the elites, they were building their houses in the US and UK, while people educated in the Soviet Union couldn’t get any decent jobs. We were all blacklisted. All education had to be dictated by the West. If you were educated in the USSR, Czechoslovakia, East Germany or Bulgaria, they’d just tell you straight to your face: Out with you, Communist! At least now we are allowed to at least get some jobs… We are still pure, clean, never corrupt!”

“Do people still remember?” I wonder.

“Of course they do! Go to the streets, or to a village market. Just tell them: “How are you my dear?” in Russian. They’d immediately invite you to their homes, feed you, embrace you…”

I tried a few days later, in the middle of the market… and it worked. I tried in a provincial town, and it worked again. I finally tried in a Taliban-infiltrated village some 60 kilometers from Kabul, and there it didn’t. But I still managed to get away.


I met Mr. Shakar Karimi in Pole Charkhi Village. A local patriarch, he used to be a district chief in Nangarhar Province.

I asked him, what the best system ever implemented in modern Afghanistan was?

First he spoke about the Khan dynasty, but then referred to a left-wing Afghan leader, who was brutally tortured and murdered by Taliban after they entered Kabul in 1996:

“If they’d let Dr. Najib govern in peace, that would have been the best for Afghanistan!”

I asked him about the Soviet invasion in 1979.

“They came because they were given wrong information. The first mistake was to enter Afghanistan. The second, fatal mistake was to leave.”

“What was the main difference between the Russians and Westerners during their engagement in Afghanistan?”

“The Russian people came predominately to serve, to help Afghanistan. The relationship between Russians and Afghans was always great. There was real friendship and people were interacting, even having parties together, visiting each other.”

I didn’t push him further; didn’t ask what was happening now. It was just too obvious. “Enormous walls and high voltage wires,” would be the answer. Drone zeppelins, weapons everywhere and an absolute lack of trust… and the shameless division between the few super rich and the great majority of the desperately poor… the most depressed country on the Asian continent.


Later I asked my comrade Arif, whether all this was really true?

“Of course!” He shouted, passionately. “100% true. The Russians built roads, they built homes for our people, and they treated Afghans so well, like their brothers. The Americans never did anything for Afghanistan, almost nothing. They only care about their own benefits.”

“If there would be a referendum right now, on a simple question: ‘do you want Afghanistan to be with Russia or with the United States, the great majority would vote for Russia, never for the US or Europe. And you know why? I’m Afghan: when my country is good, then I’m happy. If my country is doing bad, then I suffer! Most people here, unless they are brainwashed or corrupted by the Westerners, know perfectly well what Russia did for this country. And they know how the West injured our land.”


Of course this is not what every single Afghan person thinks, but most of them definitely do. Just go and drive to each and every corner of the country, and ask. You are not supposed to, of course. You are told to be scared to come here, to roam through this “lawless” land. And you are not supposed to go directly to the people. Instead you are expected to recycle the writings of toothless, cowardly academics, as well as servile mass media reports. If you are liberal, you are at least expected to say: “there is no hope, no solution, no future.”

At Goga Manda village, the fighting between the Taliban and government troops is still raging. All around the area, the remnants of rusty Soviet military hardware can be found, as well as old destroyed houses from the “Soviet era” battles.

The Taliban is positioned right behind the hills. Its fighters attack the armed forces of Afghanistan at least once a month.

Almost 16 years after the NATO invasion and consequent occupation of the country, this village, as thousands of other villages in Afghanistan, has no access to electricity, and to drinking water. There is no school within walking distance, and even a small and badly equipped medical post is far from here, some 5 kilometers away. Here, an average family of 6 has to survive on US$130 dollars per month, and that’s only if some members are actually working in the city.

I ask Mr. Rahmat Gul, who used to be a teacher in a nearby town, whether the “Russian times” were better.

He hesitated for almost one minute, and then replied vaguely:

“When the Russians were here, there was lots of shooting… It was real war… People used to die. During the jihad period, the Mujahedeen were positioned over there… they were shooting from those hills, while Soviet tanks were stationed near the river. Many civilians were caught in the crossfire.”

As I got ready to ask him more questions, my interpreter began to panic:

“Let’s go! Taliban is coming.”

He’s always calm. When he gets nervous, I know it is really time to run. We ran; just stepping on the accelerator and driving at breakneck speed towards the main road.


Before we parted, Mr. Wahed Tooryalai grabbed my hand. I knew he wanted to say something essential. I waited for him to formulate it. Then it came, in rusty but still excellent Russian:

“Sometimes I feel so hurt, so angry. Why did Gorbachev abandon us? Why? We were doing just fine. Why did he leave us? If he hadn’t betrayed us, life in Afghanistan would be great. I wouldn’t have to be a UN driver… I used to be the deputy director of an enormous bread factory, with 300 people working there: we were building our beloved country, feeding it. I hope Putin will not leave us.”

Then he looked at me, straight into my eyes, and suddenly I got goose bumps as he spoke, and my glasses got foggy:

“Please tell Mr. Putin: do hold our hand, as I’m now holding yours. Tell him what you saw in my country; tell him that we Afghans, or at least many of us, are still straight, strong and honest people. All this will end, and we will send the Americans and Europeans packing. It will happen very soon. Then please come and stand by us, by true Afghan patriots! We are here, ready and waiting. Come back, please.”


A son of the super elite Afghan ‘exiles’ living in London, once ‘shouted’ at me, via Whatsapp, after I dared to criticize one of the officially-recognized gurus of the Western anti-communist left, who happened to be his religiously admired deity:

“I’m completely amazed that you’d do such a thing. Then again, you’re Russian… And Russians held a strange superiority complex about dominating the whole Asian & African continents – even when nobody invited or asked them to. Historical examples are plenty… Don’t go to a country to report about what’s actually going on when you can’t even speak the language!”

This was his tough verdict on Russia and on my work; a verdict of ‘Afghan man in London’, who never even touched work in his entire life, being fully sustained by his morally corrupted family. He never travelled much, except when his father took him on one of the official diplomatic visits. He has been drinking, taking drugs and hating everything that fights, that defies the Empire. From President Duterte in the Philippines, to Maduro in Venezuela, and Assad in Syria. After he was taken out of Afghanistan at an extremely early age, he never set foot on its soil.

All of his knowledge was accumulated ‘second-hand’, but he is quick to pass endless moral judgments, and he is actually taken seriously by one of the most influential and famous ‘opposition’ figures in the West. It is because he is an Afghan, after all, and because he has a perfect English accent, and his ‘conclusions’ are ‘reasonable’, at least to some extent acceptable by the regime, and therefore trustworthy. He and others like him know perfectly well when to administer the required dose of anti-Soviet and anti-Russian sentiments, or when to choose well-tolerated anarcho-syndicalism over true revolutionary fervor.

Again in London, a lady from an Afghan diplomatic circle, who still takes pride in being somehow left-leaning (despite her recent history of serving the West), recalled with nostalgia and boasting pride:

“Once when I got sick, I travelled with my husband from Kabul to Prague, for medical treatment. It was in 80’s, and we took with us 5,000 dollars. You know, in those days in Czechoslovakia this was so much money! Our friends there never saw so much cash in their lives. We really had great time there.”

I listened politely and thought: ‘Damn, in those days, my two Czech uncles were building sugar mills, steel factories and turbines for developing countries like Syria, Egypt, Lebanon. I’m not sure whether they also worked in Afghanistan, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they did. It was their internationalist duty and they were hardly making US$500 per month. The salary of my father, a leading nuclear scientist, who was in charge of the safety of VVR power plant reactors, was at that time (and at the real exchange) well under US$200 a month. These were very honest, hard-working people, doing their duty towards humanity. And then someone came from Kabul, from the capital of one of the poorest countries in Asia, recipient of aid and internationalist help from basically all Soviet Block countries, and blows 5.000 bob in just a few days!’

In those days, socialist Czechoslovakia was helping intensively, various revolutionary and anti-colonialist movements, all over the world. Even Ernesto Che Guevara was treated there, between his campaign in Congo, and his final engagement in Bolivia.

But the lady did not finish, yet:

“Once we crossed the border and travelled to the Soviet Union by land. You cannot imagine the misery we encountered in the villages, across the border! Life was much tougher there than on our side. Of course Moscow was different: Moscow was the capital, full of lights, truly impressive…”

Was that really so? Or was this official narrative that has been injected through the treasonous elites into the psyche of both Afghans and foreigners?

I listened, politely. I like stories, no matter from which direction they are coming. I took mental notes.

Then, back in Afghanistan, I asked Mr. Shakar Karimi point blank:

“You were travelling back and forth, between Afghanistan and the former Soviet Union. Was life in the Afghan countryside better than in Uzbekistan and Tajikistan?”

He stared at me, shocked. When my question finally fully sank into his brain, he began laughing:

“Soviet villages were so much richer, there could not be any comparison. They had all necessary facilities there, from electricity to water, schools and medical posts, even public transportation: either train or at least a bus. No one could deny this, unless they’d be totally blind or someone would pay them not to see! Of course Tashkent, capital of Uzbekistan, was totally different story: it was a huge and very important Soviet city, with theaters, museums, parks, hospitals and universities. But even the villages were, for us, shockingly wealthy. Culture at both sides of the border was, however, similar. And while the Soviets were engaged here in Afghanistan, things began developing at our side of the border, too.”

But who would listen to Mr. Shakar Karimi from Pole Charkhi Village, on the outskirts of Kabul. He hardly spoke English, and he had no idea how to be diplomatic and ‘acceptable’ to Londoners or New Yorkers. And what he was saying was not what was expected from the Afghans to say.

During my previous trip to Afghanistan, over the phone from Kabul, I suggested to my friend, another ‘elite’ Afghan exile, that the next time she should come with me, at least for a few days, in order to reconnect, to breath the air of the city that she has been claiming she missed so desperately, for so many years. Reply was curt, but somehow predictable:

“Me, coming back like this; incognito? You don’t understand, my family is so important! When I finally go back, it will be a big, big deal!”

It is very strange, but Afghans that I know from Afghanistan are totally different from those I meet in Europe and North America. So are Afghans who are going back, regularly, to their beloved country, and who are ‘connected’, even engaged.

In Rome, I met Afghan Princess Soraya. I was invited to Italy by several left-wing MP’s representing 5 Stelli (‘5 Star Movement’) and during our lunch together, when learning about my engagement in Afghanistan, they exclaimed: “You have to meet ‘our’ Afghan Princess!”

They called her on a mobile phone. She was in her 60s, but immediately she jumped on her bicycle and pedaled to the Parliament area in order to meet me. She was shockingly unpretentious, and endlessly kind. With her, nothing was a ‘big deal’. “Come meet me in the evening in the old Jewish Ghetto,” she suggested. “There will be an opening of a very interesting art exhibition there, in one of the galleries.”

We met again, in the evening. She was very critical of the occupation of her country by the NATO forces. She had no fear, nothing to hide. She had no need to play political games.

“I’m going back to Kandahar, in couple of weeks. Please let me know when you are going back to my country. I’ll arrange things for you. We’ll show you around Kandahar.”


In the meantime, I got used to Afghanistan; to its terrain, its stunning beauty, to its bitter cold in the winter and stifling heat of the summers, to its curtness, its exaggerated politeness and even to its hardly bearable roughness, which always surfaces at least once in a while. But I never got used to all of those upper-class ‘refugees’, people who have left Afghanistan permanently; to those who later betrayed, and then betrayed again, spreading false information about their country, serving Western media/propaganda outlets or as diplomats of the puppet state abroad, making a lucrative living out of their treason and out of the misery of their own people. I don’t think that I will ever get used to them. In a way, they are even worse than NATO, or at least equally as bad, and more deadly and venomous than the Taliban.

There are many ways how one can betray his or her country. There are also countless reasons and justifications for treason. Historically, Western colonialists developed entire networks of local, “native” collaborators, all over the world. These people have been ready and willing to run down their devastated countries, on behalf of the European and later, US imperialists, in exchange for prominent positions, titles and ‘respect’. Unfortunately, Afghanistan is not an exception.

On 21 January 2010, even Kabul Press had apparently enough, and it published damning article “Afghan UN Ambassador’s $4.2 million Manhattan apartment”

(, referring to the super-luxury residence of then Afghan UN Ambassador, Zahir Tanin:

“Among the billions of dollars being spent propping up the Karzai government are some choice bits of New York City real estate. Number 1 is a 2,400 sq. ft. 3-bedroom corner apartment in the Trump World Tower, one of the world’s most expensive addresses. It was chosen by Zahir Tanin, Afghanistan’s Ambassador to the United Nations, who lives there with his wife.”

“According to Kabul press sources, eight other diplomats working in the Mission’s offices live about one hour away. The average rent for them is over $20,000 per month—extremely pricey even for Manhattan real estate. The previous Ambassador, Mr. Farhadi paid only $7,000 per month for all rent and expenses.”

“Other ambassadors, like Taib Jawad (Afghan Abmassador to the U.S.) are living in luxury residences, why not me?” our source quotes Tanin as saying.”


So many Afghans have left, many betrayed, but others are refusing to bend, remaining proud and honest.

During my previous visit to the country, I worked along the road separating the districts 3 and 5 in Kabul, photographing literally decomposing bodies of drug-users.

In June 2017 I returned, but this time I dared to film the people living under the bridges, and in deep infested hovels. Later I walked on the riverbank, trying to gain some perspective and to film from various angles.

Someone was making threatening gestures from the distance; someone else aimed a gun at me. I ducked for cover.

“Not very welcoming place, is it?” I heard loud laughter behind my back. Someone spoke perfect English.

I turned back. A well-dressed man approached me. We exchanged a few words. I explained what I was doing here and he understood immediately.

“Here is my card,” he said. Muhammad Maroof (Sarwan), Vice-President of the Duniya Construction Company,” it read. He continued:

“I came to this warehouse here to deliver my products, and I saw you filming. You’re lucky you were not hit by a bullet.”

“I want to talk,” he said, pointing his hand at the bridge. “Don’t film me, just take notes. You can quote me, even use my name.”

He explained that he used to work for the US military, as an interpreter.

Then he began speaking, clearly and coherently:

“The biggest mafias here are directly linked to both UK and US. The West lies that they want to stop trade with drugs in Afghanistan; they never will allow it to stop.”

“My brother is a writer and he has images of the U.S. army giving water pumps, studs and other basic stuff, for the growth of poppies. The biggest supporter of drugs production in Afghanistan, and the export, is the UK government. They are dealing directly with the locals, even giving them money… The UK is also the major market for the export. Helmand, Kandahar, you name it, from there, directly, transport planes are taking off and going straight towards Europe, even the US. The Westerners are people who physically put drugs into the airplane at our airports.”

“My relative was an interpreter for the British… He was killed by them, after he had been witnessing and interpreting at a meeting between the UK officials, and the local drug mafias.”

I was wondering whether he was certain he wanted to speak on the record. My interpreter was standing by, apparently impressed by what he was witnessing. Mr. Maroof did not hesitate:

“I have nothing to hide. They are destroying my country right in front of my eyes. What could be more horrifying than that? The Western occupation is ruining Afghanistan. I want the world to be aware of it, and I don’t care what could happen to me!”


Not all the opposition to the present regime in Kabul is fighting for true independence and progressive ideals. Some have close links with the West, or /and with the Mujahedeen.

In Kabul, in June 2017, inside a makeshift camp built near the site of a devastating explosion which in May killed at least 90 people, injuring 400, I met with Ramish Noori, the spokesperson of Haji Zahir Qadir’s “Uprising for Change”. The powerful “Uprising” counts on at least a 1,000-men strong militia, one which is locked in brutal combat with ISIS (Daesh), and which has already beheaded several terrorist fighters in ‘retaliatory’ actions.

Mr. Noory clearly indicated that the goal of his group is to force the present government to resign, even if that would have to happen with the help of foreign countries:

“We were shot at in Kabul and 6 protesters were killed, 21 injured. Professional Special Forces of Ashraf Ghani shot those who were killed point blank, in the face. Instead of killing terrorists, this government is killing innocent protesters; people who came to demand security after that barbaric terrorist attack which took lives of 90 people. We actually believe that many government officials are responsible for the killings. We also think that the government is helping to coordinate attacks of the terrorists.”

Mr. Samir, one of the protesters, began shouting in anger:

“The government is killing its own people, and so we want both Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah to resign. We want an entire reset of the Afghan system. Look what is happening all around the country: killings, bomb blasts and unbridled corruption!”

But when I press them hard, I feel that behind their words there is no sound ideology, just geographically swappable ‘civil society talk’. And perhaps some power struggle as well.

I don’t know who is supporting them, who is behind them, but I feel that someone definitely is. What they say is right, but it is how they say it that worries me.

I ask Ramish Noori about the NATO occupation of Afghanistan, and suddenly there is a long pause. Then a brief answer in a slightly uncomfortable tone of voice:

“We are ready to work with any country that is supporting our position.”

“Can I stop by later today?” I ask.

“Of course. Anytime. We’ll be here till the morning. We are expecting the Mujahedeen to join us in the early hours.”


Next time I will investigate further.


I visited the British Cemetery in Kabul. Not out of some perverse curiosity, but because, during my last visit, I was given this tip by a Russian cultural attaché:

“See how patient, how tolerant Afghan people are… After all that has been done to them…”

I’m glad that I went. The cemetery puts the events of the last 2 centuries into clear perspective. To a clear British perspective…

Full of patriotic sentimentality, The Telegraph once described this place as: “Afghanistan: The corner of Kabul that is forever England.”

There was no repentance, no soul-searching, no questions asked, like: What was England doing here, thousands of miles away from its shores, again and again… and again?”

Above the names of fallen English soldiers, there was a sober but unrepentant dedication:

“This memorial is dedicated to all those British officers and soldiers who gave their lives in the Afghan wars of the 19th and 20th Century. Renovated by the officers and soldiers of the British Contingent of the International Security Assistance Force in Kabul. February 2002. “We Shall Remember Them””

The cemetery is well kept. There is no vandalism and no graffiti. In Afghanistan, the death of Englishmen, Spaniards and other foreigners is respected.

Unfortunately, the death of Afghan people is not even worth commemorating, anymore.

How many Afghans did those British troops massacre, in two long centuries? Shouldn’t there be a monument, somewhere in Kabul, to those thousands of victims of British imperialism? Perhaps there will be… one day, but not anytime soon.

Again I drove to Bagram, filming the monstrous 
 walls of the US military and air force base.

Again I saw children with toy guns, running and imitating landing combat helicopters.

Again I saw misery, right next to the gates of the base; poor women covered by burkas, babies in their arms, sitting in stifling heat on speed bumps, begging.

I saw amputees, empty stares of poor local people.

All this destitution, just a few steps away from tens of billions of dollars wasted on high-tech military equipment, which has succeeded in breaking the spirit of millions of Afghan people, but never in ‘liberating the country from terrorism’, or poverty.

I drove to the village of Dashtak, in Panjshir Valley, to hear more stories about those jihadi cadres who were based here during the war with the Soviet Union.

I was stopped, detained, interrogated, on several occasions, sometimes ten times per day: On the Afghan-Pakistani border which has recently experienced fighting between two countries, in Kabul, Jalalabad, Bargam. I lost track of who was who: police, army, security forces, local security forces, or militias?

In front of Jalalabad Airport I tried to film an enormous US blimp drone, on its final approach before landing. I asked my driver to make a U-turn, my drift HD camera ready. One minute later, the military stopped the car, aiming its guns at us. I had to get out, put my hands on a wall, and surrender my mobile phones. After our identity was verified from Kabul, one of the soldiers explained:

“Yesterday, exactly the same Toyota Corolla drove by, made the same U-turn and then blew itself up, next to this wall…”

In Jalalabad, I spoke to a police officer wounded at the national Radio Television Afghanistan (RTA) station, during a terrorist attack.

It all felt surreal. The entire country seems to be dissolving; yet it is refusing to fall, to collapse. It is still standing. And despite rubble, fighting and the insane cynicism of the elites, there is still hope, and even some optimism left.

I’m trying to understand.

“Afghans living abroad keep spreading false rumors that we are finished, that everybody wants to leave,” explains Arif, my driver and interpreter. “But it’s not true. More and more people want to stay home, to improve things, to rebuild our motherland. She is beautiful, isn’t she?”

We are passing through a winding road, enormous mountains on both sides, and a river with crystal-clear water just a few meters away.

“She is,” I say. “Of course she is.”


We stopped near a small mosque, almost clinging to a cliff. It was the month of Ramadan. Arif was diligent; he went to pray. I also left the car and went to look into a deep and stunning ravine. Another car arrived; an off-roader, most likely an armored vehicle. The driver killed the engine. Three heavily armed men descended. They left their machine guns near the entrance to the mosque, washed their feet, and then went inside to pray.

Before they entered, we all nodded at each other, politely.

Surprisingly, I did not feel threatened. I never did, in Afghanistan.

The scenery reminded me of South America, most likely of Chile – tremendous peaks, a deep valley, serpentines and powerful river down below.

I felt strong and alive in Afghanistan. Many things have gone wrong in this country, but almost everything was clear, hardly any bullshit. Mountains were mountains, rivers were rivers, misery was misery and fighters were fighters, good or bad. I liked that. I liked that very much.

“Arif,” I asked, sipping Argentinian jerba mate from my elaborate metal straw, as we were gradually approaching Kabul. It was Malta Cruz, a common, harsh mate, but a decent one.

“Do you think I can get Afghan citizenship if we kick out Yanks and Europeans, defeat Taliban and Daesh, and rebuild socialist paradise here?”

I was joking, just joking, after a long and exhausting day of work around Jalalabad.

However, Arif looked suddenly very serious. He slowed the car down.

“You like? You like Afghanistan that much?”

“Hmmm,” I nodded.

“I think, if we win, they’ll make sure to give you Afghan nationality,” he finally concluded.

We were still very far from winning. After returning me to my hotel, he categorically refused to take money for his work. I insisted, but he kept refusing.

It all felt somehow familiar and good. Back in my hotel room, exhausted, I collapsed onto the bed, fully dressed. I fell asleep immediately.

Then, late at night, there were two loud explosions right under the hill.

Afghanistan is here. You love it or hate it, or anything in between. But you cannot cheat: you are here and if you know how to see and feel, then you slowly begin to know. Or you are not here, and you cannot understand or judge it at all. No book can describe Afghanistan, and I’m wondering whether even films can. Maybe poetry can, maybe a theatre play or a novel can, but I’m not sure, yet.

All I know is that it is alive, far from being finished. Its heart is pulsating; its body is warm. If someone tells you that it is finished, don’t trust him. Come and see for yourself; just watch and listen.
Andre Vltchek is a philosopher, novelist, filmmaker and investigative journalist. He has covered wars and conflicts in dozens of countries. Three of his latest books are revolutionary novel “Aurora” and two bestselling works of political non-fiction: “Exposing Lies Of The Empire” and “Fighting Against Western Imperialism”. View his other books here. Andre is making films for teleSUR and Al-Mayadeen. Watch Rwanda Gambit, his groundbreaking documentary about Rwanda and DRCongo. After having lived in Latin America, Africa and Oceania, Vltchek presently resides in East Asia and the Middle East, and continues to work around the world. He can be reached through his website and his Twitter.
More articles by:Andre Vltchek

Chavez and Venezuelan Democracy

Of Venezuela and Hypocrisy

by Craig Murray

3 Aug, 2017

Hugo Chavez’ revolutionary politics were founded on two very simple tenets:

1) People ought not to be starving in dreadful slums in the world’s most oil rich state

2) The CIA ought not to control Venezuela

Over the years, Chavez racked up real achievements in improving living standards for the poor and in providing health and education facilities. He was widely popular and both he and his successor, Nicolas Maduro, also racked up very genuine election victories. Maduro remains the democratically elected President.

But the dream went sour. In particular it fell foul of the tendency of centrally planned economies to fail to get the commodities people want onto shop shelves, and to the corruption that goes with centralisation. The latter was certainly not worse than the right wing corruption it replaced, but that does not diminish its existence.

Every revolution will always displace an existing elite who are by definition the best educated and most articulate section of the population, with most access to resources including media – and to CIA secret backing, which has continued throughout at an increasing rate. Chavez did not solve this problem in the way Robespierre, Stalin, Trotsky or Mao would have done. He embraced democracy, let them be – and largely left their private offshore billions, and thus their power, untouched.

Inevitably the day came when economic and administrative failings cracked the solidity of support from the poor for the revolution. The right then stepped up their opposition with a campaign led by corrupt billionaires, which the western media has failed to acknowledge has been throughout murderously violent.

The problem with revolutionary millenarianism is that its failure to achieve utopia is viewed as disaster by its proponents. Maduro ought to have accepted that it is the nature of life that political tides ebb and flow, ceded power to the opposition gains in parliament, maintained the principles of democracy, and waited for the tide to turn back his way – taking the risk that the CIA might not give him the chance. Instead he has resorted to a constitutional fix which dilutes democracy, a precedent which will delight the right who in the long term have most to fear from the populace.

Given the extreme violence of the opposition, I am less inclined to view arrests as unquestionably a straightforward human rights matter, than are some pro-western alleged human rights groups. But that Maduro has stepped off the democratic path I fear is true. He has, bluntly, gone wrong, however difficult the circumstances. I condemn both the departures from human rights best practice and the attempt to use a part indirectly elected body to subvert the elected parliament.

But, even today, Venezuela is still vastly more of a democracy than Saudi Arabia, and a far greater respecter of human rights than Israel in its dreadful repression of the Palestinians. Yet support for Israel and for Saudi Arabia are keystones of the foreign policy of those who today are incessant in their demands that we on the “left” condemn Venezuela. The BBC has given massively more news coverage to human rights abuse in Venezuela this last month than in a score of much worse countries I could name – than a score put together.

Human rights abuse should be condemned everywhere. But it only hits the headlines when practised by a country which is on the wrong side of the neo-con agenda.

Wednesday, August 02, 2017

Profit: What War Has Become Good For

How war became a lucrative, global industry

by Jonathan Cook

Aug. 2, 2017

I cannot recommend the new documentary Shadow World highly enough. It packs an enormous punch in 90 mins, providing a devastating account of the arms industry and its success in capturing the US and UK political systems.

The military-industrial complex has created a global war machine that needs endless feeding. Wars are no longer there to be won, but to be drawn out indefinitely, enriching a tiny elite with gargantuan and ever-expanding profits.

Shadow World starts by examining the rise half a century ago of a new-breed of free-market politician, of the likes of Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan, who actively conspired with big business to privatise war – making it the world’s most lucrative market alongside hydro-carbons. In many places, like Iraq, the two business opportunities overlapped.

This new politician-cum-war profiteer was personified in figures like Dick Cheney (Halliburton) and Tony Blair (BAe). War is now such lucrative business that politicians no longer care that their side wins. Endless, profitable death and destruction is the goal. Terrorists, militants, civilians – the war machine is indifferent to their fate.

One arms dealer calmly points out, with terrifying logic, that weapons have sell-by dates just like supermarket food. They are either used or wasted. Most often they are used. Either way, the larder must be replenished with new weapons.

The documentary explores the over-arching aims of the war industry, joining the dots between Iraq, Iran, Syria, Gaza and elsewhere.

And in deeply poetic moments, the film challenges head-on the free-market evangelists’ claims that the arms industry is simply an expression of our conflictual natures as selfish, greedy, distrustful beings. Shadow World offers powerful reminders that ordinary people, including soldiers, prefer love over war.

It is the Blairs and Cheneys, ciphers of the war machine, who are the perversions of humanity.

Back in the (Crazy) USA

Whoa! It's Really Crazy Here in America! Thoughts on returning from a short, eventful trip to the UK

by Dave Lindorff - This Can't Be Happening

August 2, 2017

 US media claims that Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn is a British 'Bernie Sanders' 
are misleading. Corbyn's a real leftist with a program and plan to win power

Back in Philadelphia, USA - Just got back from an event-filled two-plus weeks in the UK and I thought I should share a few thoughts and impressions.

We visited briefly in Edinburgh, Scotland, London, Exeter and Oxford, the ancient university town where our daughter Ariel was graduating with a DPhil in Education — the primary purpose of our visit.

The first thing that struck me coming strait from the States was the scarcity of clearly overweight people. Sure you see a few, but not the huge number of really dangerously overweight people one sees everyday in the US, where bad food products are shamelessly pushed like addictive drugs. Perusing the supermarkets in Britain, it’s clear why this is so: the shelves aren’t bulging with oversized boxes of sugared cereal, potato chips, corn ships and other amalgams of starch, sugars and fats of all types, or aisles full of sweets.

Restaurant meals also offer normal sized portions, not huge quantities of foot that beckon guests to eat until they can’t stand up easily as in all too many US establishments.

The second thing I noticed — even outside of London — was a wide array of newspapers, ranging from junk like the Sun and the Daily Mail to serious journals of the center right like the Financial Times and the Times to left-leaning papers like the Guardian and the Independent. And people actually read the things.

Back in Philadelphia, the two options are the Inquirer and the Daily News, both desiccated shadows of their former selves and owned by the same publisher. If you’re lucky, and are near Center City, you might also find on newsstands a few copies of the NY Times and maybe even a Wall Street Journal, but don’t count on it.

The political scene, meanwhile, bears some small, superficial resemblance to the US at the moment, with a dysfunctional conservative government in power, and a leftist “resistance” in the wings, but that’s where all similarity ends.

In the US, the “resistance” is largely an illusion--really a kind of Democratic Party "rebranding" project. On the one hand you have the Democratic Party establishment, led these days by New York Sen. Chuck Schumer, a bought-and-paid lackey of the Wall Street banking industry, whose claim to fame is so far keeping his Senate colleagues in line voting as a bloc against every attempt by Senate Republicans to undo Obamacare. On the other hand, there’s Sen. Bernie Sanders, the independent from Vermont who had the Democratic nomination stolen from him by the unprincipled machinations of that Democratic Party establishment during last year’s primary campaign.

Sanders, recall, as many had predicted, folded up his battle tent at the end of that manipulated primary contest and meekly endorsed the corrupt winner, Hillary Clinton. Since then he has been talking up his “political revolution,” but has yet to even lay out an alternative “single-payer” Medicare-for-All plan to counter Republicans and Trump and their schemes to steal what little health coverage poorer Americans have now, much less demand that Congressional Democrats stop fudging and commit to health care as a right, and to enacting a Canadian-style system that covers everyone.

Over in Britain, there’s Jeremy Corbyn, an unapologetic left-wing Labour member of parliament often wrongly portrayed in the US media as a British Bernie Sanders clone. They may both have gray hair and share a youthful history of civil rights and anti-war activism, but the similarities stop there. For one thing, Corbyn never stopped being an anti-war activist.

Even during the heat of a bitterly fought parliamentary election campaign in June he never pandered to fear— even in the wake of a terrorist bombing of a huge youth concert in Manchester — or stopped calling for a halt to British military adventurism and blind support for US military actions, and for an end to military sales to tyrannical regimes like Saudi Arabia. (Sanders was calling for the US to work with Saudi Arabia and other dictatorial Arab regimes to challenge both Assad and ISIS).

Also different from Sanders is Corbyn’s and his movement’s strategy after losing to the Conservatives on June 8 (while stunningly denying the Conservatives a working parliamentary majority). Since then Corbyn has been visiting and campaigning in each closely contested parliamentary district across the UK, in preparation for what is likely to be a new election before year’s end.

Not surprisingly, Corbyn, who as recently as last April was being mocked and derided, much like Sanders, in the establishment media, as an out of touch throwback to the ‘60s and ‘70s era, is viewed more favorably than PM Theresa May or any of her likely Conservative Party successors. His party, now rebranded as socialist again, not the so-called “New Labour” neoliberal party it was under war criminal Tony Blair, is being touted as likely to win in any coming national election contest.

The focus of Corbyn’s and the Labour Party’s campaigning at this point is not simply attacking May and the Conservatives, but rather involves laying out a new vision for a future Labour government — one that will re-fund the hugely popular but financially starved National Health Service, end college tuition and perhaps reduce the debt burden of already graduated students, restore funding for local police, resist and undo civil liberties-threatening legislation, improve funding for local education, renationalize the rail system, and end Britain’s slavish acquiescence in backing US militarist foreign policy.

Contrast that with the obsessively negative anti-Trump, anti-Republican focus of the so-called “resistance” movement and of Sanders’ so-called “political revolution” in the US.

There are plenty of Corbyn critics in the UK, including among disgruntled neoliberal Labourites who feel their party has been stolen away from them, but no one in the UK can have any doubt about what the revitalized Labour Party and its standard-bearer, “Prime-Minister-in-Waiting” Jeremy Corbyn, stand for.

Can anyone in the US honestly say that about the Democratic Party, or even, for that matter, about its still most popular would-be presidential contender, Bernie Sanders? I know I can’t. The latest Democratic Party statement about its goals, called “A Better Deal for Workers,” sounds as bland as milquetoast and could have been written by Hillary Clinton. I mean seriously, it’s just a call for higher pay for workers, lower costs by negotiating, finally, for lower drug prices, a revived anti-trust effort and tax credits to business for retraining laid-off workers. Not even a mention of restoring the decimated the right of workers to form unions and to negotiate contracts without endless delays and unpunished labor law violations by management.

Meanwhile Sanders hasn’t even come out against the Democrats’ continual obsession with the baseless claim that Russians hacked the DNC and helped elect Trump. And I can’t tell you what his position is on NATO expansion up to Russia’s borders, or Trump’s brinksmanship in the South China Sea, because Sanders has said nothing. Nor has Sanders said a word about ending US militarism abroad or cutting military spending significantly —only about “cutting waste” — something any Republican could say too.

Finally a word about health care differences

While in the UK, I began to feel short of breath on exertion — a scary and unfamiliar condition that worsened markedly over the week. Eventually I went to a doctor who arranged for me to go to an ambulatory ward at the local National Health Service facility, John Radcliffe Hospital. There, with no financial biopsy required before admission, I was seen by a string of excellent, caring and patient doctors, including pulmonary and cardiac specialists, given a battery of blood tests, an X-Ray, CT-Scan and echocardiogram, and diagnosed with congestive heart failure.

I was also successfully treated for a low blood oxygen level that I was told prevented me from safely flying home, and five days later was able to do so, in order to be treated in the US by doctors covered by my Blue Cross insurance plan.

No one at the NHS made me pay a penny before I left the hospital. I may eventually get a bill, as I was advised that Blue Cross “probably won’t” reimburse the facility for all they did because “we don’t have codes for procedures or for doctors.” (The NHS just has a per day charge, which for Blue Cross in the US, which is used to hospitals charging for every aspirin, simply doesn’t compute.) But I’m told my bill will “not be that much” since, as a tourist suffering an emergency, I will be charged as would a British resident on the NHS.

I’ll say this about my experience with the NHS: my American doctors, both excellent, say my treatment in the UK was stellar, something you cannot always say about care in the US — especially if you’re poor or, god forbid, uninsured. But according to 2016 OECD statistics, Britain pays $3900 per person for that level health care, which everyone has access to for free, while we in the US spends $9000 per person, and tens of millions of us can’t even get access to it.

And now our government is trying mightily to take medical coverage away from 20-30 million more of us…and still there’s no real revolution so far.

(Note: I am being assured that my condition is treatable, that my basic health is good, and that I should be back in good shape after a program of recovery is set up.)