Category Archives: Czech Republic

Czechoslovakia to Chile, Back to Oregon Coast

We’re being accused of being eco-terrorists. But the way the laws are right now, the corporations have priority over the citizens’ right to defend their own health and safety. That’s terrorism.

— Newport resident Maria Sause

We meet at Oceana Natural Foods Co-op. Maria Kraus will turn 77 December. 9. Her face reflects five or six iterations of her life’s journey.

Just four days 80 years ago could have changed this interview – she might not have been conceived and born. Maria’s father Franta (Francisco)  left Czechoslovakia a scant 96 hours after Nazi Germany took over her parents’ homeland.

The Czech family line goes way back: “I just got in touch with a second cousin two years ago who has completed the family tree. The Kraus family goes back to the late 1700s in Czechoslovakia.”

I’m with Maria on a warm Sunday, ready to feature her life — amazing intellectual and creative journeys she’s taken having being born in Chile in 1942 and her own family’s powerful narrative of survival.

I am also scrambling to get some ink down concerning the Lincoln County Community Rights’ “loss” in state court after being successful with a countywide aerial herbicide ban on forestland, AKA, clear-cuts. The short-lived ban was the first in the country won by popular vote.

On September 23rd Judge Sheryl Bachart issued her ruling that Measure 21-177 is invalid based on state law regulating pesticide use. That Measure (for the ban) was voted on by citizens in 2017 okaying the prohibition of aerial spraying of all pesticides.

The fight for our legal, constitutional, and fundamental right of local self-government marches on, and it is going to take the political will of the people to make it a reality if we ever want to stop living under the thumb of corporate government.

—  Rio Davidson, President of Lincoln County Community Rights.

LCCR is now in overdrive, setting up townhall meetings to strategize to fight the judge’s reversal. For people like Maria, this is a huge blow to her community and to her concept of democracy.

Pre-emption laws are made whenever government and industry see the people are rising up against their projects. A government that protects industry at a higher level than it protects the safety of the people is unconstitutional.

— Maria Sause

This concept of having a fundamental right enshrined by the constitution that allows people to decide locally on issue of health, safety and the environment, is held dearly by Sause.

She has witnessed the devastation of total forest removal in her own neck of the woods where she lives in small above-garage apartment on acreage along Fruitvale Road. The stumps are emblematic of her own fight and LCCR’s fight against clear-cutting.

With the ban reversed, who knows when the timber company will begin spraying glyphosate, Atrazine and 2,4-D (an ingredient in Agent Orange made infamous in Vietnam) near where she lives.

“Right where I live, they clear cut an enormous parcel of the forest.” Interestingly, her life-long avocation of painting now reflects thick forest, sky and clear-cut landscape.

Holocaust, History, Chile

Maria is an avowed anti-imperialist, anti-capitalist. Her early days in Santiago, Chile, with her industrialist father (he was a licensed medical doctor from Czechoslovakia whose credentials were not recognized in Chile) was one of struggle since he was a highly intelligent but dictatorial man.

Her father was prescient enough to have sent his wife, Lisabet Erica Hirsch (maiden name), to England in 1938 before things got ugly in Europe.

Maria and I talk about history, about the saga of her Jewish heritage and roots. Her Kraus family line was virtually extinguished — 54 members on her father’s side (and an unknown number on her mother’s side) were exterminated in places like Auschwitz. Nazis processed professional Jews through the town of Theresienstadt, a hybrid concentration camp and ghetto established by the SS during World War.

My father in his youth belonged to several left movements. Maybe it was the shock and trauma of losing parents and the entire family that turned him into a right wing conservative.

Maria and her sister were sent to private schools outside of Santiago in the 1940s and ’50s. Her parents, in fact, split when she was one-and-a-half years old and the legal battle for the children put them into a children’s home.

That was a German couple who ran a summer camp that took them in, until Maria was more than six years old when her father took them to live with him and his new wife and new son.

Ironically, the New World formerly conquered by Spain — much of South America, including Chile — is where the Kraus Family ended up. During so-called biblical times world Jewry’s most concentrated homeland was located in what is now Spain. Maria says her paternal grandmother comes from the Sephardic Jewish population, which according to history books had established themselves in Spain almost 1,700 years ago.

Her own diaspora as a secular, non-practicing Jew is what she herself precipitated once she hit age 19 and her father approved of Maria coming to the US to study at the San Francisco State College. She stayed with an aunt and uncle there. That residence lasted six months before Maria was out on her own, working, going to school, and eventually marrying a man and having a son together, Christopher.

Summer of Love, and Ms. Sause’s Radical Education

Maria talks about her vibrant circle of friends and compatriots now in Lincoln County. At 76, Maria has good friends in Lincoln County, and the Lincoln County Community Rights organization is also a life force for her. She has three grandchildren from a single offspring, Christopher, who has spent time in Portland, Tempe, San Francisco and Chile.

Maria’s gone to school to learn English literature as an avocation to becoming a public-school teacher, which she tried her hand at as a single mother raising Christopher, who graduated from Newport High a long time ago.

That lesson, after having gained a master’s in education in a one-year intensive program at Portland’s Reed College, was tough. Getting to Lincoln County/Toledo was a journey unto itself.

She says working as an English-Art-Journalism teacher at Siletz High School was a hard lesson. “The kids just ate me up. I wasn’t prepared for all the behavioral issues. I gave the principal my resignation after two years.”

The Politicization of a Chilean

Maria Sause is busily writing press releases for the Lincoln County Community Rights. Town hall meetings were being set as we spoke at Oceana. The framing to the talks is foundational:

  • Ask your questions
  • Have your say!
  • Find out what’s next
  • What can I do?
  • How can I donate?

Meetings in Newport (October 15) and Yachats (October 16) will have already occurred by the publication of the hard copy of Oregon Coast Today. Lincoln City, however, has one set from 2 to 4 pm, October 20 at the Cultural Center.

The odds against the 21-177 measure were huge more than two years ago — the opponents were funded by big industry groups, to the tune of $475,000; on the other hand, the LCCR citizens group who wrote the initiative received support of $21,600 in cash and in-kind contributions, most of them small gifts from individuals. That was a drop in the bucket for LCCR, according to Sause, to lobby against the national and multinational stakeholders who fought to continue chemical sprays.

She has faced bigger struggles, but the Community Rights movement is her cause celebre, now.

Love and Death in a time of Chile

She returned back to Chile to take care of a dying mother (1990), after she had already taken care of her dying sister in Israel (1987 for five weeks). Both died of cancer. Maria’s is a crisscross journey from Chile to Portland to Newport to San Francisco.

This last time she returned to Southern Chile (1990) for the purpose of taking care of her mother: she met a man, fell in love, started a business and took care of an ailing father for one and a half years before his death. Maria stayed in Chile 18 years.

Cesar Retamal had lived in many places, including studying in East Germany as a machine builder. He had been imprisoned in Chile by the junta. He was an activist, a communist and blacklisted in Chile. He had been arrested by the goons deployed by the country’s American-backed dictator, General Augusto Pinochet.

Cesar, like thousands of students, professionals, union activists, was “disappeared” and tortured in one of the hundreds of torture houses Pinochet’s secret police had set up throughout Chile.

Cesar escaped because he knew one of the guards.

This is a period of time when I had an enormous education.

The couple was afforded their own home next to Maria’s father’s. He purchased it so Maria and Cesar could be close as they took care of him after the once robust man (he had been hiking in the Andes up to age 83) was paralyzed after cervical surgery.

After her father’s death (her mother had died years earlier) they ended up with inheritances (both Maria and Cesar got separate amounts) they ended up looking for land in the South of Chile: near Temuco, about 675 kilometers from Santiago. They ended up living in the foothills of the Andes.

“We built a house which I designed and made a scaled down exact model of it. Four months later the cabin-like home was built by locals. Great gatherings of friends and acquaintances were common there. Politics were central to the parties.

Socialist Owners and Conservative Workers

Maria laughs when she tells me of the construction business she and Cesar embarked upon. “We made sure everyone got the same wages. Cesar and I were working without pay. We did not have any business background.”

The administrators/owners were leftists and the laborers right wing. She laughs hard at that dichotomy.

The business went bust and the creditors were on their backs; eventually, the relationship ended. After that, Maria and Cesar stayed there for two years, in the house they had built. She painted, gardened, and worked as a translator, where she made a decent living conducting legal and technical cross translation (Spanish to English, English to Spanish).

Those years in Chile were vital to where Maria is now in Newport. She witnessed her father turn softer in his old age, becoming friends of Cesar, the avowed communist. The Pinochet regime murdered tens of thousands of innocent people of Chile. Her father was disgusted with that history of right wing politics.

The country is still collectively traumatized by the ugly years of Pinochet: 1973-1990.

Pinochet was arrested in London October 16, 1998. He was 82, recovering from back surgery. The charge was crimes against humanity on the basis of an international warrant issued by Spanish judge Baltasar Garzón.

He not only was hit with allegations of human rights abuses committed against Spanish citizens in Chile during the military regime, but also the murder, torture, hostage-taking and genocide of Chileans and other nationals.

Pinochet died one year before Maria returned to Oregon to visit her son and grandchildren. That was 2007.

Setting Down Roots

I have a love-hate relationship with Oregon,” she tells me. “It’s got a reputation for having an environmentally minded government. Yet it’s clear industry runs the state.

She recalls John Kitzhaber, when he was governor, saying he couldn’t do anything about the clear-cutting and aerial spraying in Oregon because “my arms are tied by the timber industry.”

So this final iteration of her vagabond life started in Lincoln County when she ended up sharing a house with her former San Francisco State College (now University) Shakespeare professor — Edward van Aelstyn.

That was 2007, and Maria lived with him on Nye Beach, from 2007-2016. He passed away May 23, 2018 at age 82.

Interestingly, van Aelstyn became an Associate Professor of English at San Francisco State College in 1967 mostly teaching Shakespeare. His involvement with the cultural life of San Francisco, and his participation in a union-led faculty strike supporting students were part of the “Education of Ms. Sause.”

“I was very naïve about the United States, about the world and politics. I was taking care of my son, going to school, working odd jobs — a lawyer’s office, for a record distributor and in offices.” She remembers striking faculty at SFSC in solidarity with students, and remembers how those striking faculty were fired.

That’s what began to stoke fire in her belly. van Aelstyn founded the Newport-based Teatro Mundo, which Sause thinks fondly of.

“I like what I am doing now – drawing and painting, sort of getting back into it. I am still finding my way,” she says while describing her life in a studio apartment above a garage as pretty ideal.

“I am almost 77 (December 9) and I am very fortunate to spend my time here on the coast. I am not interested in being a tourist,” she laughs, saying that she couldn’t afford to be a globe trotter even if she wanted to.

She tells me that the fight for a community bill of rights, reversing these state pre-emption laws and having communities determine their health, safety and sustainability takes time.

Maria Sause is no fly on the wall, no Polly Anna, and certainly has certain gravitas in the community. She’s up on the issues why the Liquid Natural Gas proposed port in Coos Bay, Jordan Cove, is wrong for that community and the state.

She alludes to the youth around the world, and in Newport, protesting for climate action. She applauds them.

In the end, her goal with LCCR is “to provoke structural change in government. In that sense, education is key to “give people the  opportunity to see government is not really there to protect their safety.”

“This is why I am here in Newport. I have good friends. I can do my painting. Work on community rights. People have to rise up for their most fundamental rights.”

In an Activist’s Own Words

Paul:  In a few sentences, explain what your philosophy is in terms of your life and your idea of what we as a species have to do on earth.

Maria:  My “philosophy” in terms of my life, if I have one, has to do with learning how to love better and better throughout life, to always live in such a way that I am actively learning something, and with doing things that are meaningful.  I don’t make a big distinction between work and entertainment.  I can have as much fun working as doing something conventionally called entertainment. Work can be, and should be, entertaining, and entertainment, for me, can be something that requires effort and is difficult to do.

What we as a species have to do on earth is a big question which I don’t know anyone knows how to answer.   There are a lot of things we, as a species, shouldn’t do.  We unfortunately learn about them as we witness ourselves doing them and causing harm to other species and our own.  So, what I think we as a species have to do on earth today is retrace our steps in many ways, and start living in a way that allows other species to live and flourish, even if that means relinquishing many comforts we take for granted today.

Paul:  If you could do some things over in your life, what would they be, and why?

Maria:  There are many things I would do differently and hopefully better.  But that happens to all of us.  We learn our lessons precisely because we cannot do those things again.  Don’t we?

Paul:  The value of art and the arts. Can you give us your take on that?

Maria:  Art is a translation of experience into something we can feelingly see, hear, or touch.   So, in a sense, it is experiencing life in another language or in a medium separate from ourselves.  It gives us a deeper connection with life, allowing us to renew our focus on it.  How it does that is a mystery, and mystery is a gift all by itself.

Paul:  If you could meet one person, alive or in history, who would that be, and what would you ask her or him?

Maria:  Maybe it would be a person who lived in pre-historic times.  I have always had a yearning to know what life was like then, and how people saw their lives, and what they thought about life.

Paul:  Homo sapiens is, unfortunately, through the lens of capitalism, an invasive species, with the concept of might makes right, the victors write the history, and those with power and money have always ruled. How do you reframe this for some of the young people you and I now see on the street, valiantly striking for climate change mitigation or awareness or change?

Maria:  I don’t have the answer to this question.  The harm to our beautiful planet home is being done at an alarming rate every day that passes.  What we can and desperately need to do is change that lens – capitalism – through which we see the world and make our choices in life.  We have to regroup, rethink ourselves as the caretakers of Mother Earth, who is growing old.  We have received from her for millennia and now it is time to give back, to ask for forgiveness.  Our social and government structures have to mirror that attitude.  Only that can allow Mother Earth to heal.  Only that way can we as a species have a future.

Paul:  If you were to have a tombstone, what would that say once you pass on? Write it!

Maria:  “We don’t know why we pass through. Let no step we take while here be wasted.”

Europe in Irreversible Decay

Europe, an “old” colonialist continent, is decaying, and in some places even collapsing. It senses how bad things are going. But it never thinks that it is its own fault.

North America is decaying as well, but there, people are not even used to comparing. They only “feel that things are not going well”. If everything else fails, they simply try to get some second or third job, and just survive, somehow.

On both sides of the Atlantic, the establishment is in panic. Their world is in crises, and the ‘crises’ arrived mainly because several great countries, including China, Russia, Iran, but also South Africa, Turkey, Venezuela, DPRK and the Philippines, are openly refusing to play in accordance with the script drawn in Washington, London and Paris. In these nations, there is suddenly no appetite for sacrificing their own people on the altar of well-being of Western citizens. Several countries, including Venezuela and Syria, are even willing to fight for their independence.

Despite insane and sadistic embargos and sanctions imposed on them by the West; China, Russia and Iran are now flourishing, in many fields doing much better than Europe and North America.

If they are really pushed any further, China, Russia and their allies combined, could easily collapse the economy of the United States; an economy which is built on clay and unserviceable debt. It is also becoming clear that militarily, the Pentagon could never defeat Beijing, Moscow, even Teheran.

After terrorizing the world for ages, the West is now almost finished: morally, economically, socially, and even militarily. It still plunders, but it has no plan to improve the state of the world. It cannot even think in such terms.

It hates China, and every other country that does have progressive, internationalist plans. It smears President Xi Jinping and his brainchild, the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), but there is nothing new and exciting that the West is able to offer to the world. Yes, of course, those regime changes, coups, military interventions and theft of natural resources, but anything else? No, silence!

*****

During my two weeks long working visit to Europe, in the Czech Republic (now renamed to Czechia), a country that enjoys a higher HDI (Human Development Index defined by UNDP) than Italy or Spain, I saw several young, decently dressed men, picking through garbage bins, right in front of my hotel, looking for food.

In Pilsen, Czechia, people raiding garbage in order to eat

I saw young Europeans kneeling and begging in Stuttgart, the second richest city in Germany (where both Mercedes and Porsche cars are produced).

This used to be proud Communist factory Skoda in Pilsen

What I observed in all seven countries of the EU that I visited, was confusion, but also indifference, extreme selfishness and almost grotesque idleness. In great contrast to Asia, everybody in Europe was obsessed with their ‘rights’ and privileges, while no one gave a slightest damn about responsibilities.

When my plane from Copenhagen landed in Stuttgart, it began to rain. It was not heavy rain; just rain. The Canadair jet operated by SAS is a small aircraft, and it did not get a gate. It parked a few meters from the terminal and the captain announced that ground staff refused to bring a bus, due to lightning and the downpour. And so, we stayed inside the plane, for 10 minutes, 20 minutes, half an hour. The lightning ended. The drizzle continued. 40 minutes, no bus. One hour later, a bus appeared. A man from the ground staff emerged leisurely, totally wrapped in plastic, protected hermetically from rain. Passengers, on the other hand, were not even offered umbrellas.

“I love myself”, I later read graffiti in the center of the city.

The graffiti was not far from the central train station, which is being refurbished at the cost of several billion euros, and against the will of the citizens. The monstrous project is marching on at an insanely lazy pace, with only 5-6 construction workers detectable at a time, down in the tremendous excavations.

Stuttgart is unbelievably filthy. Escalators often do not work, drunkards are all over, and so are beggars. It is as if for decades, no one did any face-lift to the city. Once free museums are charging hefty entrance fees, and most of the public benches have disappeared from parks and avenues.

The decay is omnipresent. The German rail system (DB) has virtually collapsed. Almost all trains are late, from the ‘regional’; to the once glorified ICE (these German ‘bullet trains’ are actually moving slower, on average, even in comparison to some Indonesian inter-city expresses).

The services provided everywhere in Europe, from Finland to Italy, are grotesquely bad. Convenience stores, cafes, hotels – all are understaffed, badly run and mostly arrogant. Humans are often replaced by dysfunctional machines. Tension is everywhere, the bad mood omnipresent. Demanding anything is unthinkable; one risks being snapped at, insulted, sent to hell.

I still remember how Western propaganda used to glorify services in the capitalist countries, when we were growing up in the Communist East: “The customer is always treated like a god”. Yes, right! How laughable.

For centuries, “European workers” were ‘subsidized’ by colonialist and neo-colonialist plunder, perpetrated in all non-white corners of the world. They ended up being spoiled, showered with benefits, and unproductive. That was fine for the elites: as long as the masses kept voting for the imperialist regime of the West.

“The Proletariat” eventually became right-wing, imperialist, even hedonistic.

Old German lady beggar and a pigeon

I saw a lot this time, and soon I will write much more about it.

What I did not witness, was hope, or enthusiasm. There was no optimism. No healthy and productive exchange of ideas, or profound debate; something I am so used to in China, Russia or Venezuela, just confusion, apathy and decay everywhere.

And hate for those countries that are better, more human, more advanced, and full of socialist enthusiasm.

*****

At Sapienza University in Rom

Italy felt slightly different. Again, I met great left-wing thinkers there; philosophers, professors, filmmakers, journalists. I spoke at Sapienza University, the biggest university in Europe. I lectured about Venezuela and Western imperialism. I worked with the Venezuelan embassy in Rome. All of that was fantastic and enlightening, but was this really Italy?

Author with great Marxist Italian professor Luciano Vasapollo

A day after I left Rome for Beirut, Italians went to the polls. And they withdrew their supports from my friends of the 5-Star-Movement, leaving them with just over 17%, while doubling the backing for the extreme right-wing Northern League.

This virtually happened all over Europe. UK Labor lost, while right-wing Brexit forces gained significantly. Extreme right-wing, even near-fascist parties, reached unexpected heights.

It was all “me, me, me” politics. An orgy of “political selfies”. Me had enough of immigrants. Me wants better benefits. Me wants better medical care, shorter working hours. And so on.

Who pays for it, no one in Europe seems to care. Not once did I hear any European politicians lamenting about the plundering of West Papua or Borneo, about Amazonia or the Middle East, let alone Africa.

Rome at night

And immigration? Did we hear anything about that nuisance of European refugees, millions of them, many illegal, that have descended in the last decades on Southeast Asia, East Africa, Latin America, and even Sub Continent? They are escaping, in hordes, from meaninglessness, depressions, existential emptiness. In the process, they are stripping the locals of land, real estate, beaches, everything.

“Immigrants out”? Fine; then European immigrants out from the rest of the world, too! Enough of the one-sidedness!

The recent EU elections clearly showed that Europe has not evolved. For countless dark centuries, it used to live only for its pleasure, murdering millions in order to support its high life.

Right now, it is trying to reshuffle its political and administrative system, so it can continue doing the same. More efficiently!

On top of it, absurdly, the world is expected to pity that overpaid and badly performing, mainly right-wing and lethargic European proletariat, and sacrifice further tens of millions of people, just in order to further increase its standard of living.

All this should not be allowed to happen. Never again! It has to be stopped.

What Europe has achieved so far, at the expense of billions of lives of “the others”, is definitely not worthy of dying for.

Beware of Europe and its people! Study its history. Study imperialism, colonialism and the genocides it has been spreading all over the world.

Let them vote in their fascists. But keep them away. Prevent them from spreading their poison all over the world.

They want to put the interests of their countries first? Wonderful! Let us do exactly the same: The people of Russia first, too! China first! And, Asia, Africa, Latin America first!

• First published by NEO – New Eastern Outlook

• All photos by Andre Vltchek

Israel wages a New War of Attrition in Jerusalem

Czech president Milos Zeman offered Benjamin Netanyahu’s ultra-nationalist government a fillip during his visit to Israel last week. He inaugurated a cultural and trade centre, Czech House, just outside Jerusalem’s Old City walls.

At the opening, he expressed hope it would serve as a precursor to his country relocating its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. If so, the Czech Republic would become the first European state to follow US President Donald Trump’s lead in moving the US embassy in May.

It is this kind of endorsement that, of late, has emboldened Mr Netanyahu’s government, the Israeli courts, Jerusalem officials and settler organisations to step up their combined assault on Palestinians in the Old City and its surrounding neighbourhoods.

Israel has never hidden its ambition to seize control of East Jerusalem, Palestinian territory it occupied in 1967 and then annexed, as a way of preventing a viable Palestinian state from emerging.

Israel immediately began building an arc of Jewish settlements on Jerusalem’s eastern flank to seal off its Palestinian residents from their political hinterland, the West Bank.

More than a decade ago, it consolidated its domination with a mammoth concrete wall that cut through East Jerusalem. The aim was to seal off densely populated Palestinian neighbourhoods on the far side, ensuring the most prized and vulnerable areas – the Old City and its environs – could be more easily colonised, or “Judaised”, as Israel terms it.

This area, the heart of Jerusalem, is where magnificent holy places such as the Al Aqsa mosque and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre are to be found.

Under cover of the 1967 war, Israel ethnically cleansed many hundreds of Palestinians living near the Western Wall, a retaining wall of the elevated Al Aqsa compound that is venerated in Judaism. Since then, Israeli leaders have grown ever hungrier for control of the compound itself, which they believe is built over two long-lost Jewish temples.

Israel has forced the compound’s Muslim authorities to allow Jews to visit in record numbers, even though most wish to see the mosque replaced with a third Jewish temple. Meanwhile, Israel has severely limited the numbers of Palestinians who can reach the holy site.

Until now, Israel had mostly moved with stealth, making changes gradually so they rarely risked inflaming the Arab world or provoking western reaction. But after Mr Trump’s embassy move, a new Israeli confidence is tangible.

On four fronts, Israel has demonstrated its assertive new mood. First, with the help of ever-more compliant Israeli courts, it has intensified efforts to evict Palestinians from their homes in the Old City and just outside its historic walls.

Last month, the supreme court handed down a ruling that sanctions the eviction of 700 Palestinians from Silwan, a dense neighbourhood on a hillside below Al Aqsa. Ateret Cohanim, a settler organisation backed by government-subsidised armed guards, is now poised to take over the centre of Silwan.

It will mean more Israeli security and police protecting the settler population and more city officials enforcing prejudicial planning rules against Palestinians. The inevitable protests will justify more arrests of Palestinians, including children. This is how bureacratic ethnic cleansing works.

The supreme court also rejected an appeal against a Palestinian family’s eviction from Sheikh Jarrah, another key neighbourhood near the Old City. The decision opens the way to expelling dozens more families.

B’Tselem, an Israeli rights group, characterised these rulings as “sanctioning the broadest move to dispossess Palestinians since 1967”.

At the same time, Israel’s parliament approved a law to accelerate the settler takeover.

Over many years, Israel created a series of national parks around the Old City on the pretext of preserving “green areas”. Some hem in Palestinian neighbourhoods to stop their expansion while others were declared on the land of existing Palestinian homes to justify expelling the occupants.

Now the parliament has reversed course. The new law, drafted by another settler group, Elad, will allow house-building in national parks, but only for Jews.

Elad’s immediate aim is to bolster the settler presence in Silwan, where it has overseen a national park next to Al Aqsa. Archaeology has been co-opted to supposedly prove the area was once ruled by King David while thousands of years of subsequent history, most especially the current Palestinian presence, are erased.

Elad’s activities include excavating under Palestinian homes, weakening their foundations.

A massive new Jewish history-themed visitor centre will dominate Silwan’s entrance. Completing the project is a $55 million cable car, designed to carry thousands of tourists an hour over Silwan and other neighbourhoods, rendering the Palestinian inhabitants invisible as visitors are delivered effortlessly to the Western Wall without ever having to encounter them.

The settlers have their own underhand methods. With the authorities’ connivance, they have forged documents to seize Palestinian homes closest to Al Aqsa. In other cases, the settlers have recruited Arab collaborators to dupe other Palestinians into selling their homes.

Once they gain a foothold, the settlers typically turn the appropriated home into an armed compound. Noise blares out into the early hours, Palestinian neighbours are subjected to regular police raids and excrement is left in their doorways.

After the recent sale to settlers of a home strategically located in the Old City’s Muslim quarter, the Palestinian Authority set up a commission of inquiry to investigate. But the PA is near-powerless to stop this looting after Israel passed a law in 1995 denying it any role in Jerusalem.

The same measure is now being vigorously enforced against the few residents trying to stop the settler banditry.

Adnan Ghaith, Jerusalem’s governor and a Silwan resident, was arrested last week for a second time and banned from entering the West Bank and meeting PA officials. Adnan Husseini, the Palestinian minister for Jerusalem, is under a six-month travel ban by Israel.

Last week dozens of Palestinians were arrested in Jerusalem, accused of working for the PA to stop house sales to the settlers.

It is a quiet campaign of attrition, designed to wear down Jerusalem’s Palestinian residents. The hope is that they will eventually despair and relocate to the city’s distant suburbs outside the wall or into the West Bank.

What Palestinians in Jerusalem urgently need is a reason for hope – and a clear signal that other countries will not join the US in abandoning them.

• First published in the National

Modern Memories: The Invasion of Czechoslovakia 1968

It was a year of manic tumult.  Students revolted in Paris and other global capitals; the Tet Offensive permanently impaired the US war effort in Vietnam, at least on the home front; Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy were both felled by assassins’ bullets in the United States.  “What is hard to convey,” reflected Todd Gitlin, “is the texture of shock and panic that seized the world a half-century ago.  What is even harder to grasp is that the chief political victory of 1968 was the counter-revolution.”

Such is the impulse of the revolutionary impulse: in its aftermath come the countering forces that either absorb the reform or repulse it with fanaticism.  In response to the student revolt of May came the triumph of General De Gaulle’s rightist party.  In Latin America, the spirit of Che Guevara was repulsed by authoritarian military regimes with Washington’s backing.  In Prague, socialism with a human face, as it came to be termed by the Slovak Alexander Dubček, bore witness to the monstrosity of Soviet tanks supposedly sent to put down counter-revolutionary tendencies.  The converse was true.

Again, Czechoslovakia found itself at the mercy of real estate holders that did not own them, but felt free to dispose of them.  Neville Chamberlain’s ghost, grasping the worthless paper that was the Munich Agreement of 1938, seemed to be riding again.  In a terrifying historical redux, the territory so vital to various currents in European history found itself engulfed in another intervention, an experiment of power and punishment.

What railroaded the Czechoslovak experiment with socialism was its misstep to the tune of other states bound by the Leonid Brezhnev’s law on how the ideology would develop.  The Prague Spring became the pretext for a most ominous adumbration to other members of the Warsaw Pact, the alliance established to counter NATO forces to the west: “When forces that are hostile to socialism try to turn the development of some socialist country towards capitalism, it becomes not only a problem of the country concerned, but a common problem and concern to all socialist countries.”

Subsequent scholarship on the motivations for the invasion has not shifted much.  Big picture politics can be given a retrospective fit of grand sophistication and foresight.  Often, short sighted fear remains the great motivator.  The decision to invade, surmised Kieran Williams in a review of emerging Russian literature in 2012, “was a civilian, political decision driven by concern for the survival of the Communist Party in Czechoslovakia and for that country’s attachment to the Soviet bloc, lest it involve into yet another maverick such as Yugoslavia, Albania and Romania.”  A nagging interpretation – that the Soviet Union wanted to militarise a state it had formally withdrawn its forces from in 1945 as part of a geopolitical ploy, persists but remains speculative.

Then came a period of forgetting, or at least the regime-controlled amnesia of normalisation.  New layers of checks and audits were imposed at the workplace; employees were harassed and laid-off; controls on the press and free speech re-tightened.  But the memories started re-awakening in the sparks of Charter 77, the tunes of The Plastic People of the Universe, and the thaw that would end the Cold War, the Velvet Revolution being the natural successor to the Prague Spring.

Five decades on from the invasion finds the Czech Republic troubled.  Democratic stubbornness finds itself in an uneasy tease with ethnonationalism.  The tensions posed by anti-EU sentiment across several central and eastern European states, dressed up as the muscular assertions of independence, afflict the continent.  A fear of Russia eats away, as do concerns about irregular arrivals.  But even within the Czech Republic, all is not uniform.  The Czech Republic’s President Miloš Zeman finds more comfort glancing east to broody Moscow and rising Beijing than west to the working firm of Brussels.

Zeman’s conspicuous lack of interest in speaking at any commemorative event on August 21 was noted with dedicated agitation.  A former advisor to the late President Vaclav Havel, Jiří Pehe, explained to RFE/RL that speaking about such commemorations was nigh mandatory for the President.  “Although this is not embedded in the constitution, the president has a job prescription… to speak on such an important anniversary.”

Some opponents hung red boxer shorts from their windows as modest measures of protest.  (This pants-driven revolt has been an ongoing drama of Zeman’s tenure culminating in a burning event on June 14 when he set aflame a pair of enormous underpants at a press conference.  The guerrilla artist collective Ztohoven, it should be said, inspired this unhinged display when it attached a large pair of red boxer shorts to the presidential standard’s flagpole in 2015.)

As ever in the tangle that is central European politics, Zeman’s reticence also had another sting.  The Slovak leader Andrej Kiska, for one, did not let the opportunity to speak on 1968 pass, a fact that raised fraternal eyebrows of envy across the border.  His themes were tried and familiar: supposedly friendly states mounting an unjustified invasion, all having the appearance of “an inconceivable terrible film”.  Then came the imperative message: “It is the duty of contemporary democratic politicians to defend our freedom and our right to make decisions about our future without concerns that the said decisions will be trampled by brutal force.”

Robert Malecký of the E15 daily was beside himself at this fact, suggesting that Zeman’s snub was tantamount to handing the podium to the Slovaks to speak on behalf of both nations.  Fifty years on, the potency and poignancy of the event remain, though it faces a new struggle against forgetting.  The blood has long dried; a good number of the current generation see little contemporary relevance in the heroism of those who perished before the tanks of the Warsaw Pact.  The political classes disagree: be wary of external forces, goes this message.  Be ever warier of betrayal.

Common Enemy: Why Israel is Embracing Fascism in Europe

Hungarian Prime Minister, Viktor Orban, visited Israel on July 19, where he met Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, and other officials. Orban’s visit would have not required much pause except that the Hungarian leader has been repeatedly branded for his often racist, anti-Semitic remarks.

So why is Orban wining and dining with the leaders of the so-called ‘Jewish State’?

The answer does not pertain only to Orban and Hungary, but to Israel’s attitude towards the rapidly growing far-right movements in Europe, as a whole. Netanyahu and Zionist leaders everywhere, are not just aware of this massive political shift in European politics but are, in fact, working diligently to utilize it in Israel’s favor.

On his visit to Israel, Orban asserted that Hungarian Jewish citizens should feel safe in his country, an odd statement considering that it was Orban and his party that deprived many Jews and other members of minority groups of any feeling of safety.

Still, Netanyahu has welcomed Orban as a “true friend of Israel” and Orban called on his European counterparts to show more support for Israel. Mission accomplished.

Netanyahu had visited Budapest in July 2017, but that supposedly ‘historic’ visit did nothing to change Hungary’s official discourse, dotted with racism and anti-Semitism. In fact, in March 2018, Orban derided Jews, focusing his criticism mostly on Jewish financiers such as George Soros.

At an election rally campaign, Orban said, “We are fighting an enemy that is different from us. Not open but hiding; not straightforward but crafty; not honest but base; not national but international; does not believe in working but speculates with money; does not have its own homeland but feels it owns the whole world.”

It is well-known that Israel and Zionist leaders are quite selective in manipulating the definition of ‘anti-Semitism’ to serve their political agendas, but Israel’s attitude towards the racist far-right movements in Europe takes this truth to a whole new level.

Indeed, the ‘special relationship’ between Netanyahu and Orban is only the tip of the iceberg. For years, Netanyahu’s Israel has been ‘flirting’ with radical right movements in Europe.

The unmistakable Israeli strategy, of course, has its own logic. Israeli leaders feel that Europe’s move to the far-right is irrevocable and are keen to benefit from the anti-Muslim sentiment that accompanies this shift as much as possible.

Moreover, the EU’s resolve to label illegal settlement products and refusal to heed calls for moving their embassies from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem is pushing Netanyahu to explore these new routes.

During his previous visit to Hungary, Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, met with leaders from the so-called Visegrad-4, which includes Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia.

On that visit, Netanyahu hoped to find new channels of support within the EU, through exerting pressure by using his new-found allies in these countries. In an audio-recording obtained by Reuters, Netanyahu chastised Europe for daring to criticize Israel’s dismal human rights record, illegal settlement policies and military occupation.

“I think Europe has to decide whether it wants to live and thrive or it wants to shrivel and disappear,” he said.

Netanyahu’s arrogance is unbridled, especially as the censure is emanating from a leader who represents an ethno-nationalist state, which has just recently canceled any reference to ‘democracy’ in its newly-issued Jewish Nation-state Law.

The new ‘basic law’ defines Israel by an ethnic identity, not any democratic values. Netanyahu is now closer to Europe’s far-right racist groups than to any liberal democratic model, thus the ongoing flirting between Israel and these groups.

In fact, the term ‘flirting’ is itself an understatement considering that Israel’s ties with various far-right, neo-Nazi and fascist parties in Europe involve high-level political coordination and, in the case of the Ukraine in particular, the actual supplying of weapons.

Human rights groups recently petitioned the Israeli High Court to stop Israel’s export of weapons to neo-Nazi groups.

The Israeli-far-right embrace almost touches every single European country, including Italy and Germany, whose history of Nazism and Fascism has wrought death and misery to millions.

In Italy, the connection between Italian far-right parties and Israel goes back to the early 2000s, when post-Fascist leader, Gianfranco Fini, labored to rebrand his movement.

Initially, Fini was the leader of the Movimento Sociale Italiano (Italian Social Movement), which saw itself as the “heir to the Fascist Party”.

The rebranding of the party required a trip by Fini to Israel in 2003, after changing the name of his movement to the ‘National Alliance.’ Interestingly, in his highly-touted visit, Fini was accompanied by Amos Luzzatto, the head of the Italian Jewish community.

Unsurprisingly, far-right leader, Matteo Salvini, Italy’s current Interior Minister, went through the same political baptism by Zionist Israel – as Orban and Fini also did – by paying a visit to Tel Aviv in March 2016 to launch his political career and declaring his undying love for the Jewish State.

The same scenario is being repeated in Germany where the far-right party – Alternative for Germany (AfD) – has risen in ranks to the point that it nearly toppled a government coalition led by Chancellor Angela Merkel.

AfD has more in common with Israel than the common anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant views. The party which is “derided for anti-Semitic, xenophobic views redolent of the Nazis is also staunchly supportive of Israel,” reported the Times of Israel.

Last April, the anti-Muslim, anti-Semitic German party, enthusiastically began a campaign pushing for the recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, despite Merkel’s views to the contrary.

The story, however, does not end there. What began as Israeli flirting with far-right racist movements is now Israel’s official policy towards Europe. The same story, with different actors and names can be found in Austria’s Freedom Party (FPOe), Belgium’s Vlaams Belang (Flemish Interest) and virtually everywhere else.

It remains to be seen how Israel’s embrace of fascist Europe will bode, both for Israel and the European Union. Will the EU “shrivel and disappear”, or will Israel be finally exposed for what it truly is, an ethno-nationalist state with no interest in true democracy in the first place?

Father of Our Country

Hey, ol’ pal. Yeah, it’s me. We’re alone here. Nobody reads anything here. Google and Facebook bury it so nobody sees it but unpersons like me and a couple paranoiac deviants like you. This is the next best thing to high-latency messaging over the invisible internet. Virtually tête-à-tête.

You remember me. And as for you, oh, we remember you, all right. Not that you’re well known, but you’re best known for exulting over 9/11. The 3,000 deaths, the flailing victims falling for long seconds, the tens of thousands wasting, riddled with cancer, the torture, the crimes of aggression, put all that in a Big Bucket and you’re the Colonel Sanders of it, grinning on the label. We know what you meant: Oh boy, money for the beltway bandits, arms and legs and carte blanche for the spooks! You’re still teed up as the poster boy for ghoulish depravity, symbol of a criminal regime. A monster, hostis humani generis, headline perp of Nuremberg II.

Who better than you to take over when the USA collapses?

Now keep an open mind here. Did I ever shit you in those punchy late-night sessions of hurry-up-and-wait? Locked in those places, converted monasteries or robber-baron lairs or barrel vaults or founding-slaver homesteads, you say what you think, right? Let’s talk turkey now. Sure, your old bosses at NSA will suck this up into their server farms… and they will lose it. They’ll never find it till you’ve done your dirty work. Then it will be too late.

Your bosses see you as a steady hand, the kind of slavering psycho who will stop at nothing, who’ll depopulate the world for attaboys or shits and grins. You’re just the kind of guy they trust. That’s important, because some of the things you will do will destroy all your past employers, including, but not limited to, the US government. Wouldn’t it be a hoot to get credit for that? It’s the ultimate stab in the back. One last career-crowning betrayal. Turn on a dime and ruin everything you did all your life, to universal acclaim. From Lavrenti Beria to Nelson Mandela in a month.

I’m telling you this not because you are a great man, fit to take the reins of history at a crucial juncture. I am not even calling you a good or decent man. You’re a crazy beady-eyed prick. That’s the beauty part. You’ll do.

After all, who knows better than us how to demolish a country? Knock it over, rip it apart, wreck its defense industrial base? Did we not pile on and help do it to the Soviet Union, the biggest country of them all? For us to do it to the rickety laughingstock USA is child’s play. Hell, even I could do it, and I’m rusty. It’ll be like old times. A tweak of the finger at just the right time, and rumble rumble crash, it’s gone.

The NATO bloc is going the way of the Warsaw Pact, rotting from the outside in. Just as with the Warsaw Pact and COMECON, gormless coercion by the hegemon provokes increasing tension between hard-line and soft-line satellites. The UK has cut itself adrift from Europe and the runt of the P-5 litter will disappear further up the USA’s asshole. Germany’s voracious trade surplus immiserizes Southern Europe and revives Ostpolitik in pursuit of scarce productive investment. No one wants your useless weapons or your tank parades, except for a few of your bribed crooks in each satellite state. Your European satrapy is crazed with deepening cracks. It’s déjà vu all over again: Tsipras is NATO’s Dubchek. May is NATO’s Honecker, Corbin NATO’s Mielke. Orban is NATO’s Grósz. They’re pulling away and pulling apart, and the cracks will propagate across the Atlantic in a familiar process.

The US lost its last friend long ago, and it’s eking out its dwindling influence with threats and bribes and blackmail. But there’s worse to come. You’ve lost your last enemy. China and Russia have brought the US government to heel with the only thing you beltway vermin understand: the threat of hypersonic nonballistic missiles jinking unstoppably at you from all directions. They can decapitate the US government, free its subject population. They know exactly where to poke to make your C3 systems fail. They won the war before it even started. The Russians call it coercion to peace.

Peace is lethal to regimes like the US. We both know what triggered the implosion of the Soviet bloc: it lost its enemies. With the triumph of their nuclear disarmament pact, everyone was avid to get out and see the world. Their restlessness ended their patience with their parasitic states. Even in the hard-line satellite states, the police state collapsed under public loathing. East Germany’s Stasi had a meticulously-detailed Schild plan to intern thousands of dissidents, down to the gnat’s-ass detail of duplicate keys for home locks and access/egress routes for midnight home invasions. But the Stasi never got around to executing Schild. They were too busy shredding the records of their crimes. The government fell too fast for them.

For all the jingling of keys in Wenceslaus Square, for all the public happiness overflowing Dresden and Leipzig and breaching the wall, it was insiders who euthanized their own regimes. Mielke put his own head in the oven, saying, “Ich liebe doch alle, alle Menschen” to riotous laughter. The Czechoslovak Politburo quit and the successor state dismembered itself without a peep. Ceausescu’s festive liquidation was a consummate inside job.

Now it’s your turn. You’re going to pull the plug. Don’t be nervous; like I said, this pitch might as well be sitting in Aldritch Ames’ PIPE dead drop. Don’t give me this But-but-but-Why? You know why. There Is No Alternative. If you don’t do it, someone else will.

Your rogue state is already caught; you’ll just stop resisting. Having ratified three of the core human rights instruments, US foreign affairs have turned into a treadmill of concerted world demands for more and more directed reforms. Compliance weakens your grip at home. Failure to comply erodes your soft power abroad, and your military power is increasingly useless, kept within strict bounds by Russia and China. As a commissar in a floundering successor state of the USA, the hated parasitic city-state of Washington, DC, you know your piece of the disintegrating regime will need recognition as a sovereign state. The alternative is gradual ruin in a failed pariah state, beggared by autarky, crippled by countermeasures to decades of breached obligations. Recognition requires three agreements: the UN Charter, the International Bill of Human Rights, and the Rome Statute.

You remember, this is how it happens. In the pancaking rubble of the USSR, the Russians had no time to dick around with institutions. Forget old-time liberty bell constitutional-convention nonsense. COMECON technocrats grabbed in panic for the first support in reach. And what was that? The Helsinki Final Act. Like all its other regional and international counterparts, the Helsinki Final Act was designed with fiendish ingenuity like one of those sticky mouse traps – get a foot stuck, push off and get another foot stuck, get your face stuck, fall down, squirm around till you’re all wrapped up, there’s no way out. One commitment leads to another and another and another until your police state is trapped like a rat, never to escape. Just chuck it out and let it starve and dry-rot.

That is what you will do too — step into the trap.

Like any ordinary UN pissant, a sort of North Togo or New Nauru, any hope of influence or standing will depend on your country’s accession to the Rome Statute and the International Bill of Human Rights.

The Rome Statute will cripple the criminal enterprise at the heart of the US regime, the CIA. The International Criminal Court itself is just another forum. The guts of the agreement is a binding commitment to extradite or prosecute your criminals. If you don’t hold up your end, any country can step in and round them up for you. No more springing Robert Lady out of jail when he kidnaps innocents for torture. No more giving torturer Gina Haspel the DCI’s get-out-of-jail-free-card, or putting judge robes on torturers to queer the law to save themselves. The Rome Statute dispels what remains of your kleptocracy, the criminals of CIA.

But why would CIA give up their impunity and relinquish dictatorial control over this state? Because that’s their only hope of bygones being bygones. The Committee Against Torture has sicced the world on the CIA high command. The Human Rights Committee has initiated follow-on procedures for urgent issues arising from CIA crimes. UN special procedures and charter bodies have characterized CIA torture as serious, systematic and widespread, crossing the threshold for crimes against humanity and giving UN member nations erga omnes responsibility to stop and punish CIA’s grave crimes. The prosecutions will not stop with torture. CIA tortured to fabricate war propaganda in a common plan and conspiracy for war, Nuremberg Count 1, in pursuit of which CIA attacked civilian populations at home and abroad. The subsequent wars complete the inchoate crimes against peace. Aggression just became a crime under ICC jurisdiction but for this, the gravest of crimes, that doesn’t matter. The legal precedent sets out the rule: you should have known, this is Nuremberg Count 2. You can watch the pit stains spreading in the DDO’s shop.

The squeeze on CIA is now a crisis: at the summit of July 2018, Russia publicly invoked a mutual legal assistance treaty1 to investigate US intelligence officials and their dotted-line reports in law enforcement. This is Russia, an independent great power, not some bought-and-paid-for US satellite. They have sources and methods of their own. The exceptionally competent Russian security services are not bound by the bureaucratic red tape that puts CIA crimes out of reach of any US court. Insider human rights defenders will have someone to turn to. Under treaty provisions including questioning, search, seizure, and transfer, Russia can dig up the fabricated secret evidence behind CIA war propaganda, the same war propaganda that CIA uses to attack the US president. Russia and the elected US head of state know CIA threatens them both. In the International Court of Justice Russia can demand reparation, restitution, compensation, or satisfaction for CIA’s internationally wrongful acts: war propaganda, for instance, in breach of ICCPR Article 20; or great-Power confrontation and human rights distortion breaching the peremptory norms of A/Res/36/103. Judicially-imposed satisfaction may end CIA impunity. Russia could designate individuals for prosecution. Russia could even insist on the command responsibility demanded by the Human Rights Committee, the Convention Against Torture, and other treaty bodies, charter bodies, and UN special procedures, and put Brennan, Clapper, Gates, and Haspel in the dock.

You see the reaction now. We’ve never seen anything like this choreographed mass hysteria over routine diplomacy. CIA pulled out all the stops and Wisner’s mighty Wurlitzer is blaring treason and high crimes. CIA is demanding, and getting, public professions of abject faith in their honor and integrity. They put their politicians and party apparatchiks through loyalty tests, making them recite anti-Russian war propaganda as an unquestionable creed. And you know what’s behind it: Duly-constituted governments including our own are acting collectively to curb CIA’s transnational organized crime. We haven’t seen that since CIA shot Kennedy for trying it with Khrushchev.

Back then CIA forced the Warren Commission to deny their blatant coup with the threat of nuclear war against Russia. We’re at that point again. They can’t stop at coup d’état. They have to risk a war to keep their crimes bottled up safe from international criminal law. That war will be CIA’s last war, because they will not win it.

Look at Brennan. Think he’ll go down fighting? Think he’s going to shoot Kathy and eat a gun in his Hitler bunker? Of course not. He’s a pantywaist. He’ll go quietly.

CIA’s ancien régime established 1949 has got to go. The International Bill of Human Rights will put your government under independent oversight. What your bribed and blackmailed Congressional asskissers cannot do, human rights review processes can. The Human Rights Committee has been raking the US over the coals ever since it joined. The US ran from ECOSOC, so they never had a chance to corrupt it. Your government quit the Human Rights Council in a huff because it was out of your control but now, with no share in its authority, you must still submit to Universal Periodic Review. Your citizens will go over the government’s heads to the world if you try to wriggle out of state commitments.

All right, then. Ready to get it over with? Good. How do you take the leap? Like so. Remember how you force-fed Congress with the PATRIOT Act? Do it again, this time with something short and sweet. If any of your legislators drag their feet, call in some favors and break a little of that anthrax out of the vault. CIA has lots of new illegal germs these days. It probably won’t even come to that. Congress is gelded, you gelded them. The guys you worked with at NSA have the records of them taking bribes and orders from Israeli spies. Your old coworkers at CIA have videos of them raping trafficked children at Little Saint James or Musha Cay, or roughhousing on the Ohio State wrestling mat with youngsters, or whatnot – there’s always something, some sturdy ring in their nose, or they wouldn’t be in Congress.

Drop this bill on their desks, or not, and sit them down to vote on it. They’ll know what to do. They remember what CIA did to Daschle and Leahy.

§ 1. The Sovereignty Act

The purpose of this act is to meet state obligations and commitments requisite to the sovereignty of the United States of America or its successor states (the States).

  1. This section executes the United Nations Charter without reservations and extends an open invitation to all thematic special procedures of the Human Rights Council to undertake country visits. As UN member nations the States will invoke the rights of Article 27(3) solely in voting on measures taken under UN Charter Chapter 7.
  2. This section executes the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and withdraws all reservations, accepting the competence of the Committee under Article 41, and ratifies and executes the Optional Protocol ICCPR-OP1 of 16 December 1966 without reservations.
  3. This section ratifies and executes the International Covenant of Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights without reservations, and ratifies and executes the Optional Protocol ICESCR-OP of 10 December 2008 without reservations.
  4. This section executes the Convention Against Torture (CAT), withdrawing all reservations and recognizing the competence of the Committee Against Torture in accordance with CAT Articles 21 and 22, and ratifies and executes the optional protocol OP-CAT of 18 December 2002 without reservations.
  5. This section executes the Convention to End Racial Discrimination (CERD), withdrawing all reservations, and recognizes the competence of the Committee in accordance with CERD Article 14.
  6. This section ratifies and executes the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.
  7. This section directs courts at all levels to interpret or void existing public law and statutes to bring domestic law at all levels into conformity with the instruments referenced in sections 1 through 6 inclusive, and with the common-law rights of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other universal human rights instruments. Courts shall interpret the referenced instruments in good faith in compliance with the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, and with the general comments and conclusions and recommendations of cognizant treaty or charter bodies. In case of conflict or inconsistency between domestic law and the referenced instruments or other universal human rights instruments, universal human rights instruments shall govern without exception.
  8. This section invokes US Constitution Article 5 to reconstruct institutions and powers at all levels of government with the sole purpose of respecting, protecting, and fulfilling the obligations and commitments undertaken in this statute in accordance with the Limburg Principles (UN doc. E/CN.4/1987/17, Annex) and the Paris Principles (A/RES/48/134). Congress will issue a proposal not later than 14 days after passage of this act. US state legislatures or conventions declining to ratify the Congressional proposal shall be released from obligations of the constitution as amended.

End §.2

See? You forked the US Constitution. You’re leaving, with anyone who wants to tag along, and if Texas doesn’t like it, you’ve got the nukes (You’re going to give them up, of course, like your underdeveloped peers the Ukies and the Kazakhs did before you.) As for the new constitution, you’ll stuff that down Congress’ throat too, two weeks later. Don’t overthink it, it’s not that important. Maybe just copy the Russian constitution, it’s a big step up.

Article 17 of the Russian Constitution says “in the Russian Federation rights and freedoms of person and citizen are recognized and guaranteed pursuant to the generally recognized principles and norms of international law and in accordance with this Constitution.” Article 18 states that rights and freedoms of the person and citizen are directly applicable. That prohibits the kind of bad-faith tricks the USA pulls, like declaring “non-self executing” treaties, or making legally void reservations, declarations, understandings, and provisos to screw you out of your rights. Article 46(3) guarantees citizens a constitutional right to appeal to inter-State bodies for the protection of human rights and freedoms if internal legal redress has been exhausted. Ratified international treaties supersede any domestic legislation stipulating otherwise. You’ll have to get used to having all your human rights, not just the niggardly hind-tit worthless US Bill of Rights.

Whatever you do, you’re going to end up ratifying all the core human rights conventions. You could put them all into your Sovereignty Act, but why not keep it short and sweet? There’s enough treaty law in there now to get your new nation firmly on the hook. You’re going to pledge allegiance to all the peremptory norms, the non-intervention principle, friendly relations, pacta sunt servanda. Don’t whine about it, this is nothing. Look what hapless Eastern European pismires have to swallow to join the EU: the 170,000-page acquis communautaire. Get with a few short treaties and declarations, and you can join the civilized world.

But then you’re just another UN member nation. The UN won’t be the passive presidential backdrop you’re used to. If they ever do let you onto the Security Council, no one’s going to give you a veto. The world has learned their lesson. No one from this land mass will ever get their hands on Article 27(3) again. You mention the veto in your Sovereignty Act only to make it clear you know the UN is there to stop wars, not start them. That’s the only way they’re going to let you in. With no US veto to stop them, the world will undertake a long-needed rewrite of the Charter to tighten it up and close all the crooked loopholes US delegates put in. Individual Americans can take part, but as independent international civil servants, not as government apparatchiks.

The Supreme Court might not like it. If not, it’s like Cheney said to Leahy, Go fuck yourself. They’re the global laughingstock of apex courts. You string up nine crooked party hacks, Who cares? That’s lost in history’s white noise. The most destructive nation in history is submitting to the rule of law, effecting the world’s universal human right to peace. Russia fought a discreet civil war of a few thousand casualties to go straight, and no one blames them. You’re going to supplant that marble cesspool anyway with a National Human Rights Institution in accordance with the Paris Principles. The Human Rights Council will make you — Want a seat on the Council, on ECOSOC, on the bench of the World Court? You’ll do what it takes. You can put them out to pasture at Cibolo Creek Ranch alla Scalia.

Next comes the transitional justice. You’ll like this part. Put on your Mister Rogers slippers and hang ‘em high. Everyone will understand. They know what you’re up against: a totalitarian state culture indoctrinated to exalt violence of every sort. Extirpating that is going to take more than peace and love and kumbaya. Just think of it as focusing mass loathing on the juiciest, most repugnant sacrificial victims to keep the kleptocrats and secret police cowed. Your culprits will be different: not traditional American blacks or addicts or lonely schizoids but bankers, killer cops, CIA torturers and spies, FBI secret police, war propagandists, government student-loan usurers, or industry moles abusing government powers. Pour encourager les autres you may want to hold off ratifying ICCPR-OP2. If there’s any grumbling from the old guard, the Siracusa Principles can wait. I know this is your favorite part but don’t overdo it. Remember, this is a transition. Hands off the touchy-feely parts like reconciliation. You know that sort of thing is not your strong suit.

Die Abwicklung of the CIA police state will go out of your control, and that’s OK. The outside world takes over and opens up your closed society. People change their minds. You’re out of the woods, you can relax. You’ve averted CIA’s holocidal nuclear war. Go ahead and treat yourself with fireworks – take a stack of those nuclear bombs the Russians neutralized, and shoot them off in near-earth orbit. Blow up Mount Rushmore with one, the crowds will go wild. They’ll be storming CIA and NSA and the Hoover Building to look at their surveillance files, defiling flags, toppling or decorating statues; CONUS will be one big block party.

And presiding over it, beaming benignantly with gentle saintly spreading forth of hands, is you. Ride it off into the sunset of elder-statesman glory. If you can keep a straight face it will be the best in-joke in history.

  1. Signed at Moscow June 17, 1999.
  2. Get cracking, here are the General Comments and The Limburg Principles explaining core universal human rights instruments.

Pirating into the Czech Elections

The Pirate Party are buccaneering their way into European politics, having found a foothold in the testy soil of Central Europe after colonising, in small measure, various hamlets in Sweden, Germany and Iceland.  The Czech Pirates (PPCZ), a term certainly exotic by current political pedigrees, managed to obtain over 10 percent of the vote, a result that gave them a rich harvest of 22 members in the parliamentary elections.

It took nine efforts, but the Czech Pirates had been edging their way onto conspicuous terrain in various local elections, including netting 5.3 percent of the total vote in Prague in 2015.  The city of Mariánské Lázně also found itself having a Pirate Mayor after garnering 21 percent of the vote.

Retaining their oppositional colours, the Czech Pirates are insisting on avoiding the muddying nature of coalition talks with the overall winners.  (The dangers of compromising collaboration!)  Their agenda is one that has become fairly known across its other incarnations: the abolition of internet censorship, the favouring of institutional transparency, and the revision of, amongst other things, punitive copyright laws. But other agenda items form their twenty point program, including improving the lot of teacher salaries and tax reform.

The latter point is particularly appropriate, given the party’s experimentation with testing EU laws on the subject of pirate sites through its “Linking is not a Crime” stance. This was sparked, in large part, by attempts by the Czech Anti-Piracy Union to target a 16-year-old for that great terror of the regulator: linking to content designated as infringing of copyright law.

Launching several of their own contrarian sites, including Tipnafilm.cz and Piratskefilmy.cz, the latter carrying some 20,000 links to 5,800 movies, the Czech Pirate Party was overjoyed by the prospect of prosecution. “Our goal is to change the copyright monopoly law so that people are not fined millions for sharing culture with their friends.”

As Czech Pirate Party chairman Lukáš Černohorský said at the time, belligerent and defiant, “Instead of teenagers, copyright industry lobbyists are now dealing with a political party which didn’t run the website for money but because of our conviction that linking is not and should not be a crime.”

The gains of the party showed a certain mood at work and, as has been the case in much of Europe, proved boisterously, and at stages angrily, anti-establishment.  Across the political spectrum, the Czechs were again showing that they can add fuel to any political fire, setting matters to rights on the continent while tearing down assumptions.  As with any fire, however, the consequences can be searing.

While the Pirates did well, the Freedom and Direct Democracy party (SPD), a strident right wing outfit, nabbed similar numbers from the other side of the spectrum, sporting its own anti-EU, anti-immigrant brand. As its leader, Tomio Okamura, insists, “We want to leave just like Britain and we want a referendum on EU membership.”

Billionaire fertilizer tycoon Andrej Babiš, the sort of oligarchic figure who should always trouble democratic sensibilities, weighed in the elections with some 30 percent of the vote with his ANO party.  His version of politics, another confection of anti-politics dressed for disgruntled consumption, reprises that of the businessman turned party leader. The claim made here is common: that the machinery of governance is somehow analogous to running a business.

Traditional parties, foremost amongst them the long performing Social Democrats, with whom Babiš had been in coalition with after gains made in 2013, found themselves pegged back to sixth position in the tally.

The swill stick of politics did not tar Babiš all that much, a figure who has managed to develop a certain Teflon coating in a manner similar to other billionaire leaders (think Silvio Berlusconi and a certain Donald Trump in the White House).  He had become the focus of suspected tax crimes, and lost his job as finance minister.  European subsidies, it was claimed, had found their mysterious way into his pocket.

Such suggestions merely touched the tip of a considerable iceberg, one which also consists of allegations of previous employment with the Czechoslovak secret state security service Stb. According to Slovakia’s Institute of National Memory, his code name for collaboration during his espionage stint was Bureš.

The billionaire seemed distinctly unperturbed, and his party’s showing suggested that some water will slide off a duck’s back.  “I am happy that Czech citizens did not believe the disinformation campaign against us and expressed their trust in us.”  He roundly insisted that his was “a democratic movement” positively pro-European and pro-NATO “and I do not understand why somebody labels us as a threat to democracy.”

These elections, however, will be savoured by a party that promises a fresh airing of a stale political scene, and one not nursing those prejudices that provide all too attractive gristle. Legislation, should it be implemented, may well remove the cobwebbed fears long associated with the Internet. But facing these newly elected figures will be ANO and an invigorated, indignant right-wing of politics, a far from easy proposition.

Afghanistan is Right Here!

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.

Soviet water pipe in the village, Nangarhar Province

*****

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 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.

Soviet tanks cemetery

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.

Author driving through Afghanistan

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.

Right before Taliban moved in

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 a 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.

Mujahedeen?

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.

Poppy growing next to US airforce base in Bagram

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.

• All photos by Andre Vltchek

“A Liberated Area in the Middle East”?: Western Imperialism in Rojava

Over 17.1 million live in a socially democratic, secular state, the Syrian Arab Republic, ravaged by overt and covert imperialist machinations supported by Turkey, the Gulf autocracies, and the Western capitalist states. Their government is led by the National Progressive Front (NPF), with its most foremost party the Arab Socialist Ba’ath Party which is joined by numerous radical and socially progressive parties. The NPF’s majority in the Syrian’s People’s Council, the Syrian parliament, was reaffirmed in the April 2016 elections by the Syrian people, elections which were predictably boycotted by the Western-backed opposition and predictably declared “unfree” by Western capitalists. President Donald Trump dealt the rationally-minded Syrians a blow that goes beyond his ill-fated show of strength manifested in the cruise missile attacks last month: direct US support of the Syrian Kurds who consist and are related to Rojava, officially called the “Democratic Federal System of Northern Syria” (NSR), “Syrian Kurdistan” or “Western Kurdistan,” to give a few names.

It is part and parcel of those in the Western and even international “left” to declare that the Rojava Kurds are “revolutionary” or somehow “liberated.” Here is a sampling from their arguments in favor of such a group when challenged on a radical left-leaning subreddit: (1) the Kurds are “very prudent” to get support from the West, (2) they aren’t against the Syrian government, they have “liberated people under ISIS control,” (3) the national borders were drawn by imperialists so “Kurdistan should have been a country in the first place,” and (4) Rojava have stated that they believe “a federal system is ideal form of governance for Syria.”1 This article aims to prove that such pro-Rojava perspectives are an unfounded and dangerous form of international solidarity.

US imperialist support for the Kurdish cause

Only a few days ago, Trump approved a Pentagon plan which would “directly arm Kurdish forces fighting in Syria,” specifically the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) comprised of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) and Syrian Arab Coalition (SAC), all of which are elements of Rojava.2 The US plans to use these groups to “mount an assault on Raqqa,” the de facto capital of Daesh, called ISIS in the West, which sits in the heart of Syria. The arming of such forces is a reversal of Obama-era policy but only to an extent. The armed support, according to one account, would consist of “small arms, machine guns, ammunition, armored vehicles, trucks and engineering equipment.” Another account added that these fighters would receive “U.S.-manufactured night-vision goggles, rifles and advanced optics,” all of which are used by US special operations forces. As a result, YPG fighters would begin to “bear strong similarities to other American-trained foreign special forces.”This support may relate to possibly imminent “massive invasion of Syria” by US and Jordanian forces in an effort to support their Free Syrian Army (FSA) proxies and enter areas adjacent to those controlled by the Syrian Arab Army (SAA).

The US claimed it had been in “constant contact” with the Turks to assure them the Kurdish troops would not have “any role in stabilizing or ruling Raqqa after the operation,” with “local Arabs” (undoubtedly those chosen by the US and the West) governing the city afterwards. The Turks, who want the Western-backed FSA to lead the offensive, have been engaging in military strikes on PKK (Kurdish Worker’s Party) and YPG fighters within Iraq and Syria, which affects US special ops forces directly helping theses groups. The Deputy Prime Minister of Turkey, which has a complicated but still imperial inter-relationship with the US, Nurettin Canikli, showed his anger on May 10 when he said that “the supply of arms to the YPG is unacceptable. Such a policy will benefit nobody.” This position isn’t a surprise since the Turks see the YPG as a branch of the PKK and are undoubtedly strongly anti-Kurd. Predictably the announcement of direct armament was received well by the Rojava forces. A SDF spokesman said that “the US decision to arm the YPG… is important and will hasten the defeat of terrorism” and Saleh Muslim, co-chair of the Democratic Union Party (PYD), another Rojava element, declared that “the Raqqah campaign is running in parallel with the international coalition against terrorism. It’s natural that they would provide weapons” to such Kurdish forces. Keep in mind this is the same person who called for the US to expand its military strikes on the Syrian government to other groups with purported chemical weapons, saying that Trump’s cruise missile attack will “yield positive results.”

Anyone with sense knows he is wrong. Arming of these Kurds will be cheered by the editorial boards of the bourgeois Chicago Tribune and Bloomberg News, former imperial diplomat Antony “Tony” John Blinken, and the president of the Kurdistan National Assembly of Syria (KNAS), Sherkoh Abbas, among many others.3

The same day that the organs of US imperialism announced that these Kurds would get arms directly from the war machine, Trump declared a “national emergency” in regard to Syria.4 He called the country’s government an “unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security, foreign policy, and economy of the United States” saying that it supported terrorism, undermined US and international efforts to “stabilize” Iraq, brutalized the Syrian people, generated “instability throughout the region,” and called for regime change, saying that there should be a “political transition in Syria” that will benefit the US capitalist class. This declaration in particular, released the same day as similar reauthorizations of other Obama era “national emergency” orders for the Central African Republic and Yemen, buttressed a 2012 executive order which delineated sanctions on the state of Syria! All in all, the Western imperialists know that Syria does not constitute this “threat” but they choose to portray it that way in order to justify continued massive war spending, which comprises at least half of the US federal budget.

Beyond these declarations, the US support for the “good” Kurds (“Good” by Western standards) is nothing new, mainly since 2014. The bourgeois media has reported, especially since January, about the “U.S.-Kurdish alliance” consisting of the US support of the SDF and YPG as effective front forces to “fight ISIS,” angering the Turks who consider such forces to be utterly hostile since they see it as an extension of the PKK, but the US imperialists care little about this gripe.5 The US is supporting these forces with 500 US special ops forces (half of the 1000 US troops stationed in the country), armored vehicles, and warplanes as “air support” for their offensives, along with some arms, even prior to the recent announcement. Some call these forces, which have been attacked by Turkey in the past and “accidentally” by US bombs, as “the vanguard of U.S. proxy forces on the ground” in Syria, undoubtedly dismaying two deluded Marxists who thought they were fighting for an “egalitarian utopia.”6

Such individuals should not be surprised. After all, a top US commander has defended YPG actions, claiming that they did not attack into Turkey, almost serving as a de facto spokesperson of the group. Lest us forget a press conference just last month where US Colonel John Dorrian, spokesperson for the US-led coalition bombings in Iraq and Afghanistan, slyly admits that the YPG, Peshmerga, PKK, and SDF/SAC are partners in their “anti-Daesh” bombing efforts. Additionally, such Kurdish forces have gained other avenues of support from settler-colonist Canada (also see here) and from the Russian Federation, which has given them, according to reports, money, equipment, and a seat at the negotiating table. Russian support is interesting since they are also supporting the Syrian government in its fight against terrorism, making one possibly wonder if their support for these Kurds is for some unspoken reason.

It gets worse. “Good” Kurdish leaders have said behind the scenes that they are willing to cooperate with Israel, the apartheid and murderous Zionist state which has given limited military support to Iraqi Kurds and bought millions of barrels of their oil, in line with Mr. Netanyahu’s declaration that “we should … support the Kurdish aspiration for independence…[the Kurds are] a nation of fighters [who] have proved political commitment and are worthy of independence” and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked who also called for an independent Kurdistan. These feelings add to their cooperation with the NATO criminals. It is evident that with the “help of US airpower” the YPG, along with SDF, has been able to take “control of an estimated 26,000 sq km (10,000 sq miles) of Syria,” including a 250 mile “stretch of territory along the Turkish border,” all of which constitutes Rojava.7 It is even more suspicious that US soldiers are advising and assisting SDF and YPG soldiers. They are, according to one report, assisting them in “targeting ISIS positions with mortars and laser guided air strikes,” with the YPG’s media office even telling local journalists, initially, to “not take video footage of the U.S. Special Forces” so people won’t know they are backed by ruthless imperialist foot soldiers.8

Even so, local fighters of the YPG are reportedly “pleased with the American presence.” In 2016, the State Department openly admitted such cooperation. Mark Toner declared that “coordination continues” with the YPG and SDF against the “common enemy” of Daesh. Spokesperson John Kirby said that the US had “provided a measure of support, mostly through the air” for such groups, “and that support will continue,” adding that “we have said that these Kurdish fighters are successful against Daesh…and we’re going to continue to provide that support” and spoke of a “partnership with Kurdish fighters.” More than these blanket statements, Talal Silo, a former SAA colonel and official spokesperson of the SDF, said the following, which shows that they are deeply tied to US imperial objectives:

It’s forbidden to negotiate with the Russians because we seek for an alliance with the United States. It’s impossible to communicate with any other party and to not lose the credibility of the international coalition. Of course, we are free, but we can not attack if there is not signal from the Americans. We will not unite with the Syrian army against ISIS because our forces operate only with the forces of the international coalition led by the United States. We are partners of the United States and the coalition. They make decisions. There can’t be a coordination between the Russians and us. Because first of all we have a strategic partnership with the international coalition led by the United States.

That’s not all. The US has also provided support to the Peshmerga, militia of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, part of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), and escorted a PKK senior leader, Ferhad Şahin or Şahin Cilo, with over a 1 million bounty on his head by the Turkish government, through a crowd.9 The support for the Peshmerga also increased dramatically in recent days. The US State Department approved the Pentagon sending $295.6 million “worth of weapons, vehicles and other equipment” which includes but is not limited to “4,400 rifles, 113 Humvees and 36 howitzers.”10 These armaments, which only need simple congressional approval, assured in this political climate, would be used to arm two brigades of Peshmerga light infantry and two artillery battalions to assist such units. While few governments are on the record as publicly supporting independent or autonomous states in Syria or Iraq, apart from hawkish John McCain, the Peshmerga have been armed by Western European countries such as France and Germany, along with the Turks, while British special forces reportedly lurk within Syria in an effort to achieve imperial objectives.11

Earlier this month, there was another development in this realm: a plan to link Rojava with the Mediterranean Sea. This action, for which they will ask the US to support them politically (and implied militarily), the SDF forces would “push west to liberate the city of Idlib” which Hediya Yousef, a high-ranking official in Rojava said is part of their “legal right” to have access to the Mediterranean, from which he claimed “everyone will benefit.”12 Such an action would possibly empower such “good” Kurds even more, even as it would outrage Turkey, and would require agreement with the Syrian government along with the Russian Federation, which is unlikely. If Rojava achieved access to the sea, they would be an even more “effective” imperial proxy group since Western capitalist states could bring their military supplies to the coastline, rolling in heavy machinery, tanks, and maybe even set up a base of some type. It would be chaos and disaster for Syria of the highest proportions, helping in the disintegration of the region into a divided mess that could be easily manipulated by Western imperialists.

Is Rojava revolutionary?

Many have claimed that Rojava is “revolutionary.” One article by Wes Enzinna, an editor at the White hipster/”dudebro”/trash website, Vice Media, is an example of this. He writes that neither the UN, NATO, or the Syrian government recognize the “autonomous status” of the area, but says that this area, with over 4.6 million people by his count, enacts “radical direct democracy” on the streets, in his perception.13  He goes on to say that the territory is a “utopia” that is governed by an affiliate of the PKK, which includes, but is not limited to, six political parties, including the PYD and Kurdistan Democratic Party of Syria (KDPS). Additionally, apart from the Syrian Democratic Council (SDC), the Self-Defense Forces (HXP), YPG and all-female protection units, YPJ, protect the region from threats, with the latter two organizations, along with the PYD, major allies for the US in the region. Most interesting is the presence of Abdullah Öcalan, one of the PKK’s founding leaders, with his philosophy used throughout Rojava where he, as Mr. Enzinna claims, “looms as a Wizard-of-Oz-like presence.” It is worth pointing out that Mr. Öcalan, who has been hounded by the Turkish government since 1998, “repudiated the armed struggle and…the independence of Kurdistan,” with the PKK dropping its demand for an independent Kurdistan when he went into jail. He also asked Kurds to lay down their arms and went even further by declaring that there should be a “democratic union between Turks and Kurds.”14 According to reports, he clearly favors anarchist and anti-Marxist Murray Bookchin, Michel Foucault, French historian Fernand Braudel, and US sociologist Immanuel Wallerstein (the only one of the four with credibility), among a litany of other authors he read in prison, which is troublesome. Hence, he called for “democratic confederalism” in 2005, a model used in Rojava.

Mr. Enzinna isn’t the only one who makes such claims. Reuters‘s Benedetta Argentieri declared that the region values “gender equality,” especially in its military forces and has its “ideological foundations…laid by Abdullah Öcalan,” while others have declared there was an “ecological society” in place.15 Many examples of such perspectives, showing that the perception of  Rojava is “radical” and “liberatory” is widespread. Articles favoring this approach are in publications such as the Financial Times, the New York Times, The GuardianOpen Democracy, Slate, Dissent, Roar MagazineDeutsche WelleAFP, CeaseFire magazine, Telesur English, and Quartz.16 Writers have gone on to dub the region “a thriving experiment in direct democracy,” “a precious experiment in direct democracy,” “a remarkable democratic experiment,” “a revolution in consciousness,” and “a Kurdish region…ruled by militant feminist anarchists.” Others echo the same sentiment, calling it “a liberated area in the Middle East” (which is used in the title of this article), “political and cultural revolution,” “a social and political revolution,” “a participatory alternative to the tyrannical states of the region,” “the safest place in Syria,” and “a new radical society.”

Beyond this, AK Press’s A Small Key Can Open A Large Door: The Rojava Revolution, if it is to be believed at all, argues that the PYD launched a plan for the economy of the region which levies no taxes on the populace and abolished “traditional” private property such as “buildings, land, and infrastructure” but this did not extend to commodities such as automobiles, machines, electronics, and furniture. Even this book admits that only about a third of the worker councils have been set up in the region and that there is vagueness on how this region will relate to “other economies inside and outside of Syria.” After all,  much of the economic activity in the region comes from, as the book argues, “black market oil…sold outside the region” and as a result there are looming questions about the mechanics “trading relationships between other governments” if the embargo levied on them by the Turks is lifted.

By saying all of this about Rojava, some supporters may be cheering, saying that they were right all along. In fact, they can’t be more wrong. For one, European Parliamentarians are chummy with the PYD, who says that Turkey still supports Daesh, even as they claim that their meeting with legislators of Western capitalist states is not a form of propaganda. This political party, the PYD, was even left out of Syrian peace talks originally, but later was allowed in, with the Russians, in their illegal and unconscionable draft for the Syrian constitution, decentralized powers, which could be seen as “a potential concession aimed to gain the favor of the de-facto autonomous Kurdish cantons of northern Syria.”17

This is only the tip of the iceberg. The co-chair of the PYD, Mr. Saleh Muslim, has spoken at the British Parliament and has met with the Catalan parliament, where he declared that they are mainly at “war” with Daesh, not dismissing hostile actions toward the Syrian government. He further declared that they do not want to continue “under the old model of nation-state,” which he claims exists in Iraq and Syria, and said “we want to be part of Syria, but part of a democratic Syria.” If this doesn’t sound in line with imperialist goals, then I don’t know what is. It is also worth pointing out that the PYD attended a conference in Western Europe, in Belgium, eight Rojava legislators had a six-day visit to Japan, high-ranking YPJ and PYD officials talked to the Italian parliament and met senior Italian officials. Additionally, Rojava representatives attended a “conference in Athens…to mark the 17th anniversary of the capture of Abdullah Ocalan” and met with French representatives (along with the YPJ). The latter is important to note since the French have supported these “good” Kurds on the battlefield, just like Albania, and even want to open a cultural center in Rihava.

Then there’s the undeniable fact that Rojava has representative offices in numerous Western capitalist countries: Sweden, the Netherlands, Germany, and France. Other news notes that the PYD has an office in Russia and has received support from Finland, which has begun “financing projects with development funds allocated to non-governmental organizations to strengthen Syrian Kurdish Region governance.” The only country that has rescinded diplomatic ties with Rojava is the Czech Republic, where a representative office opened in April but was shut down by December even as a story the previous month said that other than Albania, “the Czech Republic is one of the main sources of weapons flowing to the YPG via the US-led coalition against IS.” The representative office, as a story reported, was shut down because “it failed to win the recognition of Czech politicians” and the office seems to have faced problems related to security threats and diplomacy. Also, the “Turkish embassy in Prague [tried]…to undermine the activities of the office” even as Czech politicians see support of Rojava as a way to support an independent, autonomous Kurdistan, undermining the status of this office within the country.

The relationship between the “good” Kurds and Turkey is complicated. In 2013 and 2014, Turkey favorably received the PYD. However, as it currently stands, Turkey has an economic blockade on Rojava, as they attempt to diplomatically isolate them, opposes US support of the YPG, and supports anti-Rojava terrorists including Daesh.18 Turkey has gone even farther than just these measures. They’ve reportedly shelled Rojava, such as the settlements of Zur Maghar and Afrin, which has led to numerous civilians being killed, as Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) expand their military operations within Syria.19 In response, their actions were condemned not only by Germany but by Russia and neocon McCain. If Turkey engaged in such actions, they likely have public support. While Selahattin Demirtas, an imprisoned Kurdish leader of the “Kurdish-dominated People’s Democratic Party” or HDP, who has met with the President of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz, and the Russian and US governments, has argued for countries to recognize Rojava, the Turkish public may think differently.20 Conspiracy theories purportedly dominate the Turkish political discourse and the Kurds, more often than not, are seen as part of a plot against the Turkish nation, leading to support for never-ending war against the PKK and seeming stagnation of political discourse.

  1. Other arguments ranged from claims that (1) Rojava wants some “degree of autonomy” while not fighting the Syrian government, (2) an independent Kurdistan could be anti-imperialist, (3) Rojava aren’t “disintegrating the region” but are rather “liberating people” from Daesh and will “unify with the Syrian government in the future,” that (4) such people are fighting “a battle for a better life way of living” while using available resources at their disposal, that (5) they have no choice but to ally with the West, (6) claims that Russia is imperialist, (7) that accepting weapons from the West forms “a positive relationship, in the hope for protection from Turkey,” and (8) that “Syria is by no means anti-imperialist.” The claims of Russia being imperialist is clearly incorrect by any reasonable measure, while saying that Syria is not anti-imperialist is a sentiment that hurts international solidarity. The one argument that accepting weapons from the West forms a “positive relationship” says it all.
  2. Missy Ryan, Thomas Gibbons-Neff and Karen DeYoung, “In blow to U.S.-Turkey ties, Trump administration approves plan to arm Syrian Kurds against Islamic State,” Washington Post, May 9, 2017.
  3. Editorial Board, “Fixing Syria, Step 1: Arm the Kurds,” Chicago Tribune, September 23, 2016; The Editors, “Arm the Kurds,” Bloomberg View, August 5, 2014; Antony J. Blinken, “To Defeat ISIS, Arm the Syrian Kurds,” New York Times op-ed, January 31, 2017; Ariel Ben Solomon, “Are Syrian Kurds the missing ingredient in the West’s recipe to defeat Islamic State?,” Jewish News Service (JNS), March 23, 2017. Also, the New Republic (“One Group Has Proven It Can Beat ISIS. So Why Isn’t the U.S. Doing More to Help Them?”), Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, Ed Royce, The Telegraph (“Water is not enough, we must arm the Kurds”), New York Post (“It’s time to really arm the Kurds”), The Guardian (“Arming the Kurds may help break up Iraq – but the alternatives are worse”), National Review (“Recognize Kurdistan and Arm It, against ISIS in Northern Iraq”), among others, support arming the Kurds, specifically those who support US objectives, of course.
  4. Declaring a national emergency gives the President power to deal with “any unusual and extraordinary threat…to the national security, foreign policy, or economy of the United States.” Furthermore, such a declaration gives the President the power to “…investigate, regulate, or prohibit…any transactions…transfers of credit or payments…the importing or exporting of currency,” invalidate acquisitions by certain foreigners and even “confiscate any property” of foreigners coming from a country the US is at war with and are accused of planning, aiding, engaging, or authorizing hostilities against the United States.
  5. Louisa Loveluck and Karen DeYoung, “A Russian-backed deal on ‘safe zones’ for Syria leaves U.S. wary,” Washington Post, May 4, 2017; Associated Press, “Tensions rise after Turkish attack on Syrian Kurds,” Washington Post, April 26, 2017; Philip Issa, “Turkey threatens further strikes on US-allied Syrian Kurds,” Associated Press, April 30, 2017; Matthew Lee, “US criticizes Turkey for striking Kurds in Iraq, Syria,” Associated Press, April 25, 2017; Karen DeYoung and Dan Lamothe, “U.S.: Kurds will participate in some form in attack on Raqqa,” Washington Post, March 1, 2017; Matthew Lee, “US criticizes Turkey for striking Kurds in Iraq, Syria,” Associated Press, April 25, 2017; Karen DeYoung and Dan Lamothe, “U.S.: Kurds will participate in some form in attack on Raqqa,” Washington Post, March 1, 2017; Kareem Fahim and Adam Entous, “No decision yet on arming Kurds to fight Islamic State, Trump tells Turkish leader,” Washington Post, February 8, 2017.; Ishaan Tharoor, “The Russia-Turkey-U.S. tussle to save Syria will still get very messy,” Washington Post, May 4, 2017; Ishaan Tharoor, “What you need to know about Turkey and the Trump administration,” Washington Post, March 30, 2017;  Liz Sly, “Turkey’s Erdogan wants to establish a safe zone in the ISIS capital Raqqa,” Washington Post, February 13, 2017; Sarah El Deeb, “Turkey, Kurds, Russia, U.S. forces make up a confusing, violent pageant in Syria,” Chicago Tribune, March 11, 2017; Agence France-Presse, “Pentagon chief praises Kurdish fighters in Syria,” March 18, 2016.
  6. Liz Sly, “How two U.S. Marxists wound up on the front lines against ISIS,” Washington Post, April 1, 2017; Karen DeYoung and Kareem Fahim, “Turkey deports foreigners working with Syrian refugees,” Washington Post, April 26, 2017; Loveday Morris and Kareem Fahim, “Turkey expands strikes against Kurdish militants in Syria and Iraq,” Washington Post, April 25, 2017; Thomas Gibbons-Neff and Missy Ryan, “U.S.-led coalition accidentally bombs Syrian allies, killing 18,” Washington Post, April 13, 2017; Liz Sly, “With a show of Stars and Stripes, U.S. forces in Syria try to keep warring allies apart,” Washington Post, March 8, 2017; Karen DeYoung and Kareem Fahim, “As a new relationship is tested, Turkey keeps high hopes for Trump,” Washington Post, March 9, 2017; Orhan Coskun, Tulay Karadeniz and Tom Perry, “Turkey’s Syria plans face setbacks as Kurds see more U.S. support,” Reuters, March 9, 2017.
  7. BBC News, “Syria conflict: Kurds declare federal system,” March 17, 2016; Liz Sly and Karen DeYoung, “Ignoring Turkey, U.S. backs Kurds in drive against ISIS in Syria,” Washington Post, June 1, 2016.
  8. Nancy A. Youssef and Wladimir van Wilgenburg, “U.S. Troops 18 Miles From ISIS Capital,” The Daily Beast, May 26, 2016; Jiyar Gol, “Syria conflict: On the frontline in battle for IS-held Manbij,” BBC News, June 15, 2016.
  9. Suzan Fraser, “Turkey strikes Kurds in Iraq, Syria, drawing condemnation,” Associated Press, April 25, 2017; Martin Chulov and Fazel Hawramy, “Ever-closer ties between US and Kurds stoke Turkish border tensions,” The Guardian, May 1, 2017; Mahmoud Mourad and Ulf Laessing, “Iraq’s Shi’ite ruling coalition opposes Kurds’ independence referendum,” Reuters, April 20, 2017; Loveday Morris and Kareem Fahim, “Turkey expands strikes against Kurdish militants in Syria and Iraq,” Washington Post, April 25, 2017.
  10. Eric Walsh, “U.S. approves $295.6 million military equipment sale to Iraq: Pentagon,” Reuters, April 19, 2017; UPI, “US State Department approves arms sale for Peshmerga forces,” April 20, 2017; Tom O’Connor, “U.S. Military Set to Make $300 Million Deal to Arm Kurds Fighting ISIS in Iraq,” Newsweek, April 20, 2017.
  11. Karen Leigh, Noam Raydan, Asa Fitch, Margaret Coker, “Who Are The Kurds?,” Wall Street Journal, August 31, 2016; BBC News, “Germany to supply arms to Kurds fighting IS in Iraq,” September 1, 2014; Agence France-Presse, “Pentagon chief praises Kurdish fighters in Syria,” March 18, 2016.
  12. Mark Townsend, “Syria’s Kurds march on to Raqqa and the sea,” The Guardian, May 6, 2017.
  13. Wes Enzinna, “A Dream of Secular Utopia in ISIS’ Backyard,” New York Times Magazine, November 24, 2015.
  14. BBC News, “Kurdish rebel boss in truce plea,” September 28, 2006.
  15. Anna Lau, Erdelan Baran, and Melanie Sirinathsingh, “A Kurdish response to climate change,” OpenDemocracy, November 18, 2016; Benedetta Argentieri, “One group battling Islamic State has a secret weapon – female fighters,” Reuters blogs, February 3, 2015.
  16. Carrie Ross, “Power to the people: a Syrian experiment in democracy,” Financial Times, October 23, 2015; Carne Ross, “The Kurds’ Democratic Experiment,” The New York Times opinion, September 30, 2015. Ross is “a former British diplomat and the author of “The Leaderless Revolution: How Ordinary People Will Take Power and Change Politics in the 21st Century,” is working on a forthcoming documentary film, “The Accidental Anarchist.””; David Graeber, “Why is the world ignoring the revolutionary Kurds in Syria?,” The Guardian, October 8, 2014; Jo Magpie, “Regaining hope in Rojava,” Open Democracy, June 6, 2016; Michelle Goldberg, “American Leftists Need to Pay More Attention to Rojava,” Slate, November 25, 2015; Meredith Tax, “The Revolution in Rojava,” Dissent magazine, April 22, 2015; Evangelos Aretaios, “The Rojava revolution,” Open Democracy, March 15, 2015; New Compass, “Statement from the Academic Delegation to Rojava,” January 15, 2015; Jeff Miley and Johanna Riha, “Rojava: only chance for a just peace in the Middle East?,” Roar Magazine, March 3, 2015; Felix Gaedtke, “A Kurdish Spring in Syria,” Deutsche Welle, May 22, 2013; AFP, “Syrian Kurds give women equal rights, snubbing jihadists,” November 9, 2014; Margaret Owen, “Gender and justice in an emerging nation: My impressions of Rojava, Syrian Kurdistan,” CeaseFire magazine, February 11, 2014; Benedetta Argentieri, “These female Kurdish soldiers wear their femininity with pride,” Quartz, July 30, 2015; Marcel Cartier, “‘The Kurds’: Internationalists or Narrow Nationalists?,” Telesur English, April 20, 2017.
  17. John Irish, “Syrian Kurds point finger at Western-backed opposition,” Reuters, May 23, 2016.
  18. Meredith Tax, “The Rojava Model,” Foreign Affairs, Oct. 14, 2016; Graham A. Fuller, “How Can Turkey Overcome Its Foreign Policy Mess?,” LobeLog, February 19, 2016; David L. Phillips, “Research Paper: ISIS-Turkey Links,” Huffington Post, September 8, 2016; Natasha Bertrand, “Senior Western official: Links between Turkey and ISIS are now ‘undeniable’,” Business Insider, July 28, 2015.
  19. AFP, “Turkey accused of shelling Kurdish-held village in Syria,” The Guardian, July 27, 2015; Christopher Phillips, “Turkey’s Syria Intervention: A Sign of Weakness Not Strength,” Newsweek, September 22, 2016.
  20. Ishaan Tharoor, “The U.S. should accept a Syrian Kurdish region, says Turkish opposition leader,” Washington Post, May 2, 2016.