Category Archives: Indonesia

New Year’s Message and Warning from a War Correspondent

Sometimes it is useful to take a break from news bulletins and newspapers, and even from ‘friendly’ Internet publications.

Occasionally it is good to realize that there are actually two parallel realities that are constantly competing for the ‘hearts and minds’ of people living all over the world. There is real life and ‘fake life’. There is reality and elaborately manufactured pseudo-reality, which is designed to appear more real than the reality itself. It is like that chemically produced green apple shampoo that smells more authentic than the fruit itself.

Periodically I disappear into some jungle or a war zone, in Afghanistan, Southern Philippines or in the middle of plundered Borneo Island. When I return to what some people would readily describe as the ‘normal world’, and a news bulletin unexpectedly confronts me at some airport lounge, everything suddenly appears to be bizarre, grotesque, totally surreal, at least for the few initial but excruciating moments.

It is because most of the mainstream news communiqués and analyses are produced in the plush comfort of an armchair, or at a mahogany writing table, thousands of miles from shrapnel, sweat, torn flesh, blood, burning forests, polluted waterways, and the other horrors which are, in fact, nothing other than the true reality for billions of human beings inhabiting our planet.

Remembering how things really feel, taste and smell I get desperate. I don’t recognize places described by the mass media. We are talking about two different universes; yes, about two absolutely opposite realities.

*****

If mainstream reporters go to the field, they are well equipped with bulletproof vests, helmets, with 4×4 vehicles (some of them also bulletproof), with excellent life and health insurances that include airlifts and other evacuation clauses, as well as with hefty salaries and other compensation schemes. On their chests and their backs, it says loudly and explicitly “PRESS”.

So what am I bitching about? Is it wrong to compensate people who are risking their lives, or to try to protect them?

No, it is not; of course, it is not wrong.

Author at Goma War Zone, DRC (2009)

Except, there is that one tiny ‘but’… You can never, ever get ‘too close’ to anything real, this way. You cannot turn yourself into a buffoon or a walking media Rambo, and expect to uncover something hidden, something important, and something thoroughly groundbreaking.

If you over-protect your life, over-insure your each and every step, you’d build a thick wall between yourself and the real life.

If you go into the field looking like this, you will be spotted and questioned, and you will need all sorts of permits and stamps. It is almost like declaring: “I’ll play by your rules, I’ll not rock the boat, and I’ll let you monitor each step that I take”. Imagine arriving while being decked out like that and attempting to cover genocide in Papua! Good luck, really. About official permits, if you are from a ‘friendly’ mainstream agency, you can get them almost immediately. Yes, of course, organizations such as the BBC or CNN could easily supply you with all the necessary credentials. You could even count on an official government armed ‘escort’, or you could count on an escort supplied by friendly (to the West) ‘rebel groups’. Not to speak of all those ‘all you can eat’ press briefings.

However, the chances that real people would talk to you would be slim. But would you care about hearing from real people if you work for an official mainstream newspaper or a television channel? I doubt it. Real people could, God forbid, say real things, instead of what you are ordered to ‘discover’ in such places as Bosnia, Rwanda, Syria or Afghanistan. In the end, you’ll hear what you came to hear and report, and your writing and clips would be mainly in accordance with the established stereotypes.

Then what, how? Who could do it; who could describe reality, and actually stay alive?

In a brilliant film directed by Oliver Stone, Salvador (1986), one of the main characters declared:

You got to get close to the truth. You get too close, you die.’

He died, but what he said – that is precisely it! There is this invisible, imaginary line, in the air or on the ground, somewhere. You never see it, but if you have worked in many war zones before, you sense it, and it is what actually saves your life. It saves it often, most of the times, but, of course, not always. Those who usually die are men and women who make crucial mistakes during their first attempts, before developing their instincts. What I’m talking about cannot be taught; it is not logical – it’s just ‘there’.

To get as close to the truth as possible, one has to work fast, decisively and with certain precision, avoiding obvious blunders.

People around you have to trust you, and you yourself have to know whom to trust and from whom to hide.

You are on your own, or at least most of the time you are.

All this guarantees nothing, but these are some of the basic preconditions, if you want to understand a conflict, a war.

Working in devastated places is very emotional, very deep, and sometimes you get overwhelmed, and sometimes your glasses get blurry. You make mistakes; hopefully not too many. Occasionally you go after a particular story, or you know generally what you want to find and a story bumps into you, or you stumble over it, or it just hits you frontally, brutally and at full strength.

If it is good, it is never just ‘reporting’. It is much more than journalism, or it is simply shit. There must be some poetry in what you are doing, there has to be also philosophy and humanism, as well as plenty of context and ideology and passion.

There can be no ‘objectivity’ in this work: objectivity is just an illusion, a fairytale dispersed by mainstream media. But you should never lie: you witness and say what you have to say, the way you believe it should be said, and while you do it, it is your obligation to inform your readers and viewers where precisely you stand.

As a human being, as an artist and thinker, you should always take sides. But your position – on which side of the ‘barricade’ you stand – has to be clear and honest. Otherwise you are a liar.

*****

The bitter but essential truth is: Even if you put your life on the line, even if you get badly injured or psychologically exhausted, do not expect much gratitude or support.

After US bombing near Mosul, Iraq

Many local victims – people whom you came to defend – will suppose and even tell you straight to your face that ‘you came to get rich using their suffering and misery’.

Your readers in wealthy countries will imagine that you are being generously funded. They were conditioned to believe that there are no altruistic individuals, governments and countries left on this earth.

The reality is quite different: if you work independently, if you refuse to repeat lies and take orders, to merge with the mainstream, if you go against the interest of the West and its allies and ‘clients’, the chances are that you will get zero financial support, no protection whatsoever and absolutely no perks.

You may get millions of readers, of course. And you can recycle your reports in your books and films, as I did in my more than 800-page long Exposing Lies Of The Empire and Fighting Against Western Imperialism. If your writing is good, your books will sell, somehow, even if they attack the establishment frontally. But don’t count on any support from ‘friendly governments’ or wealthy but ‘left leaning individuals’. There is no Engels around, these days. You are really on your own. Trust me, you are.

You and your determined work may save several villages, or if you are very good, you could make a difference on a global scale. Your writing or your films may help to stop a war. But never expect any official recognition, any practical backing or even mercy from your readers. In 2015, after making several films and writing books about several particularly horrid war zones, mostly in Africa, I totally collapsed. For several weeks, I was not able to move. I thought it was the end. There was no help at all coming from those millions of my readers living in all parts of the world. At that time I made my condition public. Still nothing. Few letters of ‘moral support’ arrived. Few: “Be strong, the world needs you!” In the end, it was my close family circle that literally pampered and rescued me and put me back to my feet and into fighting order.

This is not a reproach, just a warning to those who are getting ready to fight for the survival of humanity: “You will be totally on your own. You will most definitely collapse on several occasions.”

At a war zone

Still, I know no other way how to live meaningfully. I would never trade my life with the life of anyone else.

*****

There is another very important and revealing piece of information, which I’d like to share with you, my readers.

In 2017 I worked in several extremely dangerous parts of the world, including Afghanistan, the Pakistani-Afghan border during the exchange of fire between the two countries, on the Turkish-Syrian border in Euphrates area during the Turkish invasion, in the war-torn southern Philippines, in Lebanon and in the fully devastated (by logging and mining) Indonesian part of the Island of Borneo.

I drove all around Afghanistan, with no protection, no security and no one covering my back. My friend who doubled as my driver and interpreter was the only man I could count on. Sometimes I held the wheel myself. We even made it into the Taliban controlled territories and drug-infested slums of Kabul. All in a 20 year old, beat up Toyota Corona.

Afghanistan Soviet Tanks Cemetery

In all these places, I did not see one single Western mainstream reporter. Not one!

Where were they, all those media superstars?  I don’t know, but most likely they were holed up somewhere at the NATO headquarters, or at least in the only remaining plush hotel in Afghanistan – Serena. The same can be said about the southern Philippines, although there, to be ‘objective’, one Aussie colleague actually got hit by a sniper’s bullet, just a couple of days before I arrived.

Do never trust those who write about the suffering of others exclusively from the safety of their living room couches. It is fine to write from there, of course, but only after you have actually seen the people you are talking about; after you have seen them at least once, for a substantial amount of time, after you have listened to their stories, to their desperate cries, and after you have got very dirty and very scared yourself, and truly desperate.  In short: after you have got right there, near that invisible line which separates life from death, and after you have tasted the water of the proverbial river Lethe.

*****

But back to where I began.

Imagine: I leave the places where people are fighting for survival, or where they are fighting for true freedom, or against imperialism. I hardly have time to take a deep breath, to recover from food and air poisoning, to change into some presentable clothes, and it all hits me directly in my face: I see some news bulletin, I read articles published by mainstream media, and while doing it, I absolutely don’t recognize the world, which I have witnessed in all its rainbow of colors, with all its glory and its misery.

I feel ‘out of place’.

I know, some call it ‘Vietnam Syndrome’. There are many other definitions for these feelings, or for this outrage, or desperation, or whatever you want to call it.

You suddenly feel it, you know it: somewhere far away where you had been living and working just several hours ago, there is still what could be defined as the ‘real world’, inhabited by real people. And then, right now, there is this other world, which over imposes, almost fully covers (and even dwarfs) that real one, by using its mainstream clichés and false mass-produced certainties.

*****

This year – this ‘departing year’ 2017 – has definitely not been a good year for our planet.

A group of nations, which has been controlling the world for already several centuries brutally and shamelessly, is pushing us, our entire human race, closer and closer towards complete disaster, towards a showdown, towards a confrontation that may abruptly terminate millions of innocent human lives.

I’m concerned. I’m very concerned. I have already witnessed indescribable calamities in so many places. I know, I can perfectly well imagine, where all this could lead.

Colonialism is always wrong. Imperialism is always wrong. Cultural, religious or economic supremacy theories are wrong, with absolutely no exceptions.

If a group of nations from one relatively small continent has been continuously usurping the entire world, shaping it to its advantage and enslaving people of other colors, beliefs and values, it is all unmistakably wrong.

But the world is like that – brutal, unjust, and controlled by one aggressive, greedy, sly and arrogant minority. The world is still like that. Once again, it is increasingly like that.

And I cannot stand such an ‘arrangement’.

I don’t want it to be like that. I’m tired of covering grief, pain, horror and violence. I’m exhausted of filming or photographing perpetual destruction and downfalls.

That’s why I’m writing this, at the very end of the year 2017. Perhaps it is just one more futile attempt to stop something inhuman and unnecessary from happening.

Perhaps it is almost impossible to cut through the pseudo-reality manufactured by the mainstream media, academia and ‘culture’. Or maybe it’s not impossible. I actually believe that ‘it is never too late’, as I believe that nothing in life is truly ‘impossible’.

HAPPY NEW YEAR 2018!

Let me inform you that the world is totally different, actually much more beautiful and diverse than you have been told. Even most of those places that are now in flames are beautiful. And if left in peace, they’d thrive.

The world is worth fighting for. It is worth defending.

Gaza Intifada 3

Don’t ever trust the “news” and “information” which is being disseminated by those who are continuously trying to loot and enslave the world. Trust only what you see and hear, and what you feel. Trust people who are in love with this world, if you manage to identify them. Trust your own senses, your inner logic, and your emotions.

Do not vote for bombing or putting sanctions on any foreign country, anywhere on Earth, before you see it with your own eyes, before you are really convinced, before you talk to its people, and before you truly understand what they are saying. Do not make decisions or conclusions after staring at the television set only. Remember: pseudo-reality kills! And it wants you to participate in this murder.

Go!

Discover!

See for yourself. I hope to encounter you, at least some of you, in Syria, in North Korea, in Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Venezuela, Russia, China, South Africa, Cuba, and Eritrea – also in hundreds of other great places, which have been brutalized and smeared by those who are dreaming about making this entire world thoroughly banal, consisting only of a few super-wealthy nations served and fed by all those “others” that have been reduced to slavery.

After seeing the world with your own eyes, after understanding it, I’m almost certain that you will agree with me: right now there are two parallel realities on this planet. One consists of true human lives and human stories, the other one only of trivial but manipulative interpretations of the world. One (true) reality is longing for progress, kindness, optimism and harmony; the other (fake one) is constantly spreading uncertainty, nihilism, destruction and hopelessness.

It is not only what they call “fake news”, it is an entire ‘fake reality’ that has been manufactured by the establishment and upheld by men and women with helmets, bulletproof vests, 4WD’s and prominent PRESS insignia.

Once again, HAPPY NEW YEAR 2018!

Happy Discovery Of The World!

Happy Struggle For Survival Of Our Precious Planet!”

Year 2018 will be crucial. Let us all join forces in order for Humanism and that beautiful lady called ‘The True Reality’ survive, to prevail, and to triumph.

• Photos by Andre Vltchek

Capitalism Reduced Indonesian Cities to Infested Carcasses

From Jakarta, Surabaya, Bandung, Samarinda and Pontianak

*****

Several years ago, a prominent Indonesian businessman who now resides in Canada, insisted on meeting me in a back room of one of Jakarta’s posh restaurants. An avid reader of mine, he ‘had something urgent to tell me’, after finding out that our paths were going to be crossing in this destroyed and hopelessly polluted Indonesian capital.

What he had to say was actually straight to the point and definitely worth sitting two hours in an epic traffic jam:

No one will be allowed to build comprehensive public transportation in Jakarta or in any other Indonesian city. If a mayor or a governor tries and defies the wishes of the ruthless business community which is in fact controlling most of the Indonesian government, he or she will be dethroned, or even totally destroyed.

These ‘prophetic’ words are still ringing in my ears, several months after the complete destruction of the progressive Jakarta governor, known as Ahok (real name: Basuki Tjahaja Purnama), who tried very hard to improve the seemingly ungovernable and thoroughly destroyed city, constructing new mass transit lines (LRT), restoring old train stations, cleaning canals, attempting to build at least some basic net of sidewalks, as well as planting trees and creating parks.

After Ahok’s first and extremely successful term in office, the opposition consolidated its forces. It consisted mainly of the Islamists, big business tycoons, and the military as well as other revanchist cadres (almost exclusively pro-business and pro-Western individuals) that are still controlling Indonesia.

‘Ahok’, an outsider and an ethnic Chinese, patently lost.

Instead of coming to his rescue, several ‘prominent’ but corrupt city planners and architects, most of them enjoying funding from abroad, shamelessly joined the bandwagon of ‘Ahok bashing’.

But even defeating Ahok was not enough. He had to be punished and humiliated, in order to discourage others from trying to replicate his socially-oriented example. Already during the election campaign, charges were brought against him, alleging that he had ‘insulted Islam’ during one of his public appearances.  It was total nonsense, disputed by several leading Indonesian linguists, but in a thoroughly corrupt society (both legally and morally) it simply worked.

On May 9, 2017, ‘Ahok’ was sentenced to two years in prison, and unceremoniously thrown into the dungeon.

Since then, many of his projects have stopped totally, or at least were significantly slowed down. A disgusting filth has once again began covering Jakarta’s canals and rivers.

For those who still believed in miracles, all hopes died.

Those ‘city planners’ who still conveniently believe that one can ‘work with’ the present regime (they call it ‘government’) correctly assumed that it was once again ‘business as usual’.

As ‘Ahok’ was being thrown behind bars, huge sighs of relief were almost detectable all over this misfortunate archipelago! Everything has returned to ‘normal’, at least for those who have been benefiting from the collapse of Indonesia and its cities.

The clock of Indonesian history was turned back. It is now almost certain that at least for several upcoming decades, all Indonesian cities will remain what they are now – a living hell, the worst nightmare, and indisputably some of the most horrid urban areas found anywhere on Earth.

But readers abroad are not supposed to know all this. Indonesian people are not supposed to understand the situation. It is now all biasa – ‘just normal, just fine. Everything is fine. Read those ANU (Australian National University) papers and you will learn that ‘Indonesia is now a normal country, like Brazil or Mexico’. Nothing extraordinary is taking place.

*****

In reality, everything has collapsed. The cities have.

Not metaphorically, not hyperbolically, but concretely, practically.

A renowned Australian artist, George Burchett, who now resides in Hanoi, Vietnam, once visited Jakarta. For several weeks we travelled together all around the Indonesian archipelago. He was shocked and depressed. Before departing, he declared:

I saw many cities, all over the world. Cities are built for the people. For the first time in my life, in Indonesia, I saw the cities that are actually built not for the people, but against the people.

It is because Indonesian cities are fascist. They do not serve the needs of its citizens. On the contrary, they are designed to extract that little which is still left in the possession of the common Indonesian folks; extract and give it to the local rulers, as well as to the multi-national companies.

*****

Excerpts of the most common definitions of ‘failed states’ are stated in the Encyclopedia Britannica, and can perfectly apply to both Indonesia in general, and to its cities in particular:

The governing capacity of a failed state is attenuated such that it is unable to fulfill the administrative and organizational tasks required to control people and resources and can provide only minimal public services… A failed state suffers from crumbling infrastructures, faltering utility supplies and educational and health facilities, and deteriorating basic human-development indicators…

Governor ‘Ahok’ tried to change the situation. Crowds cheered. Millions watched, in all the major cities of Indonesia. Hope was born, at first fragile but soon blossoming.

Then suddenly: a tremendous blast, full stop, and collapse! The man who dared to inject several socialist elements into the sclerotic, brutal system, ended up behind bars.

And it is now all back to the old ‘failed state’ scenario. Life is once again thoroughly empty and predictable.

There is hardly any difference between the Indonesian cities. If you put a person in the center or a suburb of Jakarta, Surabaya, Bandung, Semarang, Medan, Makassar or Pontianak, he or she would have no idea, which one is which.

All major streets are choked with traffic jams. There are no sidewalks, and even if there are some pathetic and narrow ones, they are overtaken by aggressive and smoke belching scooters, as well as by unregulated and unhygienic street vendor stalls. Thugs are everywhere, controlling the streets. Almost all side streets have open sewage system. When it rains, entire neighborhoods get submerged under filthy water. Tiny carts, pulled by unclean and underpaid men, collect garbage. All the cities face the same problems, and all the cities look precisely the same.

Sanitation, water quality and garbage recycling facilities are at similar levels to those of the poorest sub-Saharan African countries.

With food and fuel prices up many Indonesian children are forced to work

Slums are omnipresent – huge and brutal. In fact, most of the neighborhoods of the Indonesian cities, called kampungs (‘villages’), could easily fit the international definitions of slums.

*****

A few years ago I was invited to speak at the University of Indonesia (UI). Various students asked me: “Why? Why is all this is happening in our country? And is there any solution?”

I replied that, of course, there is a solution: “socialism and central planning. But it would also have to be determined and real, and it would have to include a full-hearted anti-corruption battle, as well as a decisive ban on selling all natural resources and utilities to foreigners.” I added: “And tell your professors to stop salivating over-funding from the West, and flying to Europe in order to learn about ‘administration’, ‘good governance’ and city planning from those who have been robbing your country for several centuries.”

I believe that students liked the sound of what I was saying (not sure they were still capable of understanding the meaning of my words). However, predictably, I was never invited to the UI again.

*****

Indonesian cities are like open sores. Everything has been stolen from them and as a result, what makes life bearable is clearly missing. Only what the ‘elites’ do not want, is what has been left for the people.

Hungry and Homeless in Jakarta

There are hardly any public parks in Indonesia, at least no parks of any significance. Cities have no river or seafronts, in a striking contrast to South American, Middle Eastern and even African urban areas (not to speak of tremendous and beautiful public spaces, parks, promenades and exercise areas in China).

Dirty, clogged and polluted driveways are called ‘streets’ and ‘avenues’. There are no sidewalks, or if there are, they are just one meter wide, with broken tiles or deep potholes. Where sidewalks are not really needed, there may be actually some built – along one or two streets in the very center and in front of some government buildings, connecting basically nothing. This clearly shows that nothing is actually designed for the people.

It is important to understand that the government of Indonesia, on all levels, is not actually an institution that consists of men and women who are determined to improve the country and to serve its people. On the contrary!

In Indonesia, a great number of politicians belong to or are somehow affiliated to the military, which has ruled the country brutally since the 1965 Western-backed military coup. That coup destroyed everything socialist and Communist, banned Communist ideas, and murdered between 1 and 3 million people, including almost all the progressive intellectuals. On top of it, most of the politicians are businesspeople, tycoons and oligarchs, and the great majority of them of unsavory reputations. They have been robbing the nation and its people for more than half of a century, and there is absolutely no reason why they should stop doing it now, or anytime soon. For these individuals, to grab the top political positions is nothing more than about maximizing the profits.

‘Indonesian democracy’ which the West loves to glorify (no wonder, as Indonesia de-facto functions as an obedient colony, plundering its own citizens and resources on behalf of the West), consists of countless political parties, of which not one of them is from the left, or defends the interests of common people. Moreover, a great majority of the ‘civil society’, of the NGO’s, are subservient to Western economical and political interests. Many, if not all, of these organizations are directly funded from Washington, Berlin, London or Canberra. (I described the situation in my latest novel, Aurora.

Indonesian companies and its government are one single entity. And they are decisively and in unison plundering the entire archipelago of its natural resources. The 4th most populous country on Earth produces almost nothing. (Read my book Archipelago of Fear in English and in Bahasa Indonesia).

The ‘philosophy’ of this unbridled plunder is then applied to ‘urbanism’; to the way Indonesian cities are governed and basically abandoned to the markets. Not even in Africa where I lived and worked for several years, is there such absolute and shameless theft of urban land by the elites (of which members of government are part).

Once all this is determined, to understand the reality of Indonesia and its cities becomes much easier.

Once this is defined, Indonesian cities ‘begin to make sense’.

*****

In reality, there is not much that could be called ‘urban’ in the Indonesian cities. Be it a city like Pontianak with 600,000 inhabitants, or Jakarta with 12 million (28 million including the surrounding cities and suburbs).

Wherever one goes, profit over people is taken to the extreme.

Like those logged out, mined out and polluted islands of the archipelago, Indonesian cities are designed in a way that brings maximum income to the extremely small group of individuals and businesses. The price has to be paid by the impoverished, often ill, badly-educated, and literally choking majority.

The tremendously low level of media outlets, education, pop entertainment, as well as constant religious encroachment and feudal family structures, are purposefully spread and upheld, so the population does not think, does not doubt and does not rebel.

The results are shocking.

Indonesian cities are like palm oil plantations or open-pit mines, with some elements of military barrack colonies (of course, there are some special quarters for the overseers, with large and kitschy houses, like those that dot South Jakarta).

Here, nothing is constructed to make life great, colorful, ecstatic, meaningful and happy. There are no permanent concert halls, no theatres, and no grand public museums (one that recently opened is private, and serves to further politically indoctrinate people, this time targeting the ‘urban middle class’). There are no pedestrian neighborhoods, and no free and public seafronts.

Not one architecturally valuable structure has been constructed in any Indonesian city after the 1965/66 military/religious coup.

In Indonesia, a ‘public area’ is synonymous with a mall, in fact, with countless malls of various sizes and qualities. Inside the malls, there are chain eateries and chain shops, as well as cafes. There are also a few cinemas, showing mostly Hollywood junk or local horror films. On the weekends, there are bands playing old Western and Indonesian pop tunes, offering absolutely no variety. Some 50 songs are recycled again and again. The most favorite is, predictably: “I did it my way”.

There is nothing ‘extra’ in the Indonesian cities. Here everything is stripped to absolute basics: you somehow survive on your meager salary (with prices, at least for the food and consumer goods being as high or higher than in Tokyo or Paris), you somehow move to your workplace and back, sitting for hours every day in horrific traffic jams as there is no public transportation even in such cities with 2-3 million inhabitants, like Surabaya or Bandung. You cook and wash your dishes and clothes in terribly polluted water, and try to save on outrageously high electricity bills. There is absolutely nothing to do in your neighborhood. There is, of course, always a mosque nearby or sometimes a church, if that’s what you fancy. There are no parks, no playgrounds for children. There is no sidewalk to walk to a cafe, and so, if you want to actually go to a cafe or to a bookstore (all the bookstores in Indonesia are increasingly poorly stocked and heavily censored), you have to jump onto your scooter or into your car again, if you have any strength left.

The chances are – you have no time for anything, anyway. A 3-4 hours long daily commute, your exhausting work, and all you have time for is to collapse in front of the television set and get indoctrinated, neutralized and idiotized even further.

You learn to smile when you actually want to die, or at least to shout. You sense that nothing could ever change for better, and that your life is finished, perhaps at 25, or even earlier.

Eventually, some people do it sooner than others: you become religious, and you become traditional, conservative and ‘family-oriented’. There is nothing else, really. The cities of Indonesia will make sure that there is nothing else. They are the perfect machines, manufacturing obedience, extracting everything from human beings, and giving nothing in return.

*****

I often describe the coup of 1965 as a “Cultural Hiroshima”. While in Japan, the US openly experimented on the health of millions of human beings, in Indonesia the experiment was of a totally different nature. The area of interest to the Empire was:

What would happen with a progressive anti-imperialist nation that counts on a complex and diverse culture, if it is bathed in blood, if its theatres and film studios are shut down, 40% of teachers get murdered, women from left-wing organizations get their breasts amputated, writers are locked in Buru Island concentration camp, and urban planners are thought to design cities like Houston, Dallas or LA, but in a country with salaries that are 10% or less than those of the U.S.A.?

The answer is simple: “It would turn into Indonesia. It would become Jakarta, as it is now”. For the Western demagogues and the imperialist planners, “Indonesia” and “Jakarta” are not only the names of the country and the city: they are names of the concept, of a model.

This model, forced on the colonies, is perfect for the West and its interests.

Jakarta: One of better public sidewalks

It is also perfect for the Indonesian ‘elites’, who are often getting dirty at home, plundering all they can, but do relax and play and often evacuate their entire families to Singapore, California, Australia, Hong Kong and many other ‘safe and clean’ places.

It is the cheapest; the most efficient of concepts designed to plunder, and to royally fuck a nation. Not surprisingly, the West has tried to replicate this ‘successful Indonesian model’ in many parts of the world.

It even tried to inject it into Russia, after the USSR was first mortally wounded and then destroyed. It tried to force it on Chile… My much older friends in Santiago told me that before the 9-11-1973 coup perpetrated by General Pinochet on behalf of the West and its companies, several people around President Allende were threatened by the right-wingers: “Watch out, Jakarta is coming!”

*****

Jakarta came! It is here, all over Indonesia, in all of its cities, and to varying degrees in most of the countries that have fallen under the Western neo-colonialist boot.

But what does it really mean, ‘Jakarta’? Is it just a name or is it also a verb, an infinitive? “To Jakarta…”

It is ‘to take everything away from the people and to give nothing back’. ‘To Jakarta’ is to lie and to loot and to convince human beings, through long decades of indoctrination, that everything is just fine, and as should be. ‘To Jakartize’ the nation is to make almost the entire population irrelevant, to deliver the loot on the silver trays to both local and foreign rulers, leaving only dirty and polluted rivers and canals behind, as well as tremendous traffic jams, smog, bizarre overpasses with no escalators, and broken tiles along the driveways.

Even filthy beach in Jakarta is for a fee

The ‘Jakartized population’ is obedient, explosively violent, edgy, but not towards the regime, turbo-capitalism, corrupt elites and their Western masters, but towards each other, as well as towards the minorities.

Jakarta gets very little criticism from the official mainstream Western and local media, and almost no genuine analysis from academia. No surprise: to attack the reality of the Indonesian cities is like attacking the entire Western neo-colonialist system imposed on various parts of the world. To tell the truth would destroy any journalistic career, as it would torpedo almost any chance for a well-remunerated university tenure!

Very often, all that one could expect in terms of a realistic description of the situation in Indonesia, are random exclamations overheard on board departing airplanes, or some ‘anecdotal evidence’ from the pages of travel magazines and blogs. It appears that what normal people see with their own eyes is in direct contradiction with what the mainstream media and academia presents as ‘facts’.

On 17 September 2017, a Malaysian newspaper The Star wrote:

Based on a real-time air quality index uploaded to the Airvisual application at midday on Friday, Sept 15, Jakarta ranked third as the most polluted city in the world… In mid-August, the application showed that Jakarta was at the top of the list, followed by Ankara, Turkey and Lahore, Pakistan.

“Escape Here” magazine ranked Jakarta as the No1 city in its report “The 10 Worst Traffic Cities in the World”:

It happens to be the country’s capital and one of the most poorly designed cities in the World, a combination that makes getting around here a disaster. An ever-increasing number of car owners that come from the expansion of suburbia that surrounds this mega-city are to be blamed for the 400 hours a year that citizens spend in traffic. It is actually hailed as being the worst traffic in the world. It doesn’t seem like there is any solution for this mega-city as the infrastructure here falls into the hands of the local government and contracts are renegotiated annually; which means long-term projects are pretty much impossible. An average trip in this city takes about 2 hours…

On 2 September 2015, even the official propaganda English language newspaper of Indonesia, the Jakarta Post, re-published the survey ranking the horrendous Indonesian capital as the 9th ‘un-friendliest city on Earth’:

Jakarta, the Indonesian capital notorious for gridlocks and bad air pollution, ranks 9th among the world’s least friendly cities this year, a recent survey by an international travel magazine shows. Readers of the highly regarded luxury travel magazine Conde Nast Traveler included Jakarta for the first time on its ’10 unfriendliest cities in the world’ list this year. In the survey, one of the readers said Jakarta was ‘the scariest place I have ever been to ‘with its congestion and aggressive locals.

The ‘scariest place’: but, of course! What could one expect from the capital city of the country that in the last half a century has committed 3 monstrous genocides (against its own population in 1965/66, against the people of East Timor and an on going genocide against the people of Papua)?

What could one expect from cities that have been totally robbed of green spaces and, in fact, of everything that could be called ‘public’, where the arts have disappeared and where absolutely everything has become commercialized; where everything and everybody is now expected to be the same – behave the same way, look the same way, sound the same way, taste the same way.

Try to look different, and if you are a Papuan, Chinese, African, or white, just try to walk on those broken tiny sidewalks of Surabaya, Jakarta, Pontianak, or Medan. You will be shouted at; you will immediately become the target of naked racism. People will stop and point fingers, or worse.

A few days ago I filmed from a boat sailing on a polluted river passing through Pontianak city, on an island in Borneo. Two children on the shore immediately raised their middle fingers and began yelling: “Fuck you!” Just like that: with no warning and for no reason. And this is, of course, not the worst that could happen. If I was Chinese… were I an African… Everybody knows it. Nobody speaks about it, nobody writes…

According to Western ‘analysts’ and academics, Indonesia is a ‘democratic’ and ‘tolerant’ nation. The deeper it is sinking, the more oppressive and intolerant it becomes, the more devastated it gets, and the more it is glorified.

Lies are piled up on lies. “The Emperor has beautiful clothes’, everybody shouts, as in that old children’s tale. But, in fact, he is naked!

It is clearly “political correctness” at work. One is supposed to be ‘sensitive’ to the local ‘culture’, religion, and way of life. The only defect of this approach is that in countries such as Indonesia, the local culture, its way of life and even the extremely aggressive religions, are all the direct result of the fascist regime that was directly imposed onto this nation by the West after the 1965/66 slaughter.  Had the socialist pre-1965 course be allowed to naturally flow, Indonesia would now be a truly normal, socially-balanced, secular and tolerant nation, and its cities would serve the people, instead of the other way around.

Just a normal river in Jakarta

Here, the ‘political correctness’, is once again, protecting the crimes against humanity that have been committed by the West, by the local elites and the military, as well as by the religious leaders. The local ‘culture’ is not being protected at all, as it is actually dead, murdered.

The cities are dead as well. Their carcasses are stinking, horrifying, monstrous, stripped of all hope. People living in them are choking, humiliated, marginalized, unwell, and constantly robbed by the system.

Bizarrely, it takes an elitist magazine like Conde Nast to notice… It takes random travellers to speak out… One would never read such comments in the reports coming out of the Australian National University or on the pages of the New York Times.

*****

Just outside the city of Surabaya, the second largest city in Indonesia, on the Island of Madura, several enormous ships are being manually cut into pieces and sold for scrap by destitute local people. Periodically things explode, collapse, and people lose their faces or limbs. It is a horrible sight: truly haunted, disturbing. Just like in Bangladesh, although here, it goes almost unnoticed.

In many ways, I believe that the Indonesian cities resemble those ships, and those polluted coastal areas where the ships are broken into thousands of parts and then sold. Once proud, they are now humiliated, in pain, being torn to pieces while still alive.

Only real fascism can treat its citizens this way; only a regime that has lost its marbles, and gone thoroughly insane.

Indonesia cities… What do they really consist of? Well, they are made of those tiny and crammed homes, filthy canals, potholed driveways, of indescribable pollution, of mosques and churches. Then there are a few office towers in their centers, countless shopping malls and several luxury hotels where the elites can escape and take some rest from the daily nightmare, which is ‘normal life’ here. Golf courses everywhere, but no decent public parks, as even those few green areas have been already thoroughly privatized.

*****

Now the former governor of Jakarta, ‘Ahok’, is in jail for daring to change things; for building public transportation, cleaning the rivers and building a few tiny parks. He is in jail for relocating squatters to public housing, and for trying to serve the impoverished and humiliated majority.

His clearly socialist deeds were immediately smeared and discredited by the elites, by the Western-funded NGO’s and by corrupt city planners. Even when this could not stop his determination and zeal, religion was unleashed. Most of the religions are, after all, regressive, pro-business oriented, and ready to support any fascist regime.

*****

How much deeper can Indonesian cities sink? When are they going to become uninhabitable?

People are already dying; thousands are, unnecessarily – from cancer, from stress, from respiratory diseases.

Millions of human beings are wasting their lives. They are alive, but it is only a bare existence, not really life: they are moving mechanically, cutting through the filthy air on their scooters, eating junk food, constantly surrounded by decay and ugliness.

Why?

For how much longer?

The forests of Borneo, Sumatra and Papua are burning. All over this archipelago, everything is logged out, consumed by mines, ruined by monstrous pollution. The extraction and looting of natural resources is the only real economic ‘engine’ of today’s Indonesia.

The cities are not faring much better. They are actually not faring any better at all.

It is time to wake up, or it could get too late. But the nation appears to be in a total slumber. It does not notice, anymore, that it is really in freefall. It was conditioned not to notice. It was made to accept, even to celebrate its own collapse.

Those who forced Indonesia into all this will not tell. As long as there is at least something left, something that can be extracted, utilized, looted, they will be cheering this great Indonesia’s ‘success’ and ‘progress’.

I encourage all those people from all over the world who would want to see the true face of neo-colonialism, of savage capitalism and right wing disaster, to come to the Indonesian cities! Come and see with your own eyes. Come and take a walk; don’t hide in your comfortable cities full of leafy parks, concert halls, art cinemas, public transportation and theatres.

This is real. This is a warning to the world!

Come and see how cities look like in a country where Communism and socialism are banned, where a colony does not even realize that it being colonized, and where everything is served on huge silver plates straight into the gullet of that monster called fascism.

Ketapang, West Borneo, Indonesia

• All photos by Andre Vltchek

Genocidal U.S. Thanksgiving Celebrated Even in Cambodia

A table was set up for two, an advertisement table, a table with a photo of a giant turkey, two elegant plates, and a U.S. flag sticking out into the air.

“Thanksgiving at Angkor Royal Cafe”, a flier read. And: “23rd November… Join us for a traditional Thanksgiving Feast”.

This was at one of the international hotels in Siem Reap, a Cambodian city near the world architectural treasures of Angkor Wat and the ancient Khmer capital, Angkor Thom.

The same day I read an email sent to me from the United States, by my Native American friends, with a link to an essay published by MPN News, called “Thanksgiving Guide: How to Celebrate a Sordid History”. It began with a summary:

While millions of Americans prepare this week to get into the holiday spirit, beginning with Thanksgiving, how many are prepared to view the day through an accurate lens? While to many Americans the holiday serves as a reminder to give thanks, it is seen as a day of mourning by countless of others. The truth is: European migrants brutally murdered Native Americans, stole their land, and continue to do so today.

The day became an official day of festivities in 1637, to celebrate the massacre of over 700 people from the Pequot Tribe.

In a hotel, I approached a cheerful French food and beverage manager and asked him whether he was aware of what he was suggesting should be celebrated in one of his restaurants?

“Oh I know I know,” he replied, laughing. “It is a little bit controversial, isn’t it?”

“Bit controversial?” I wondered. “It appears more like you are inviting people to celebrate genocide, a holocaust, with free flowing wine and a giant turkey.”

“I am trying to see things positively,” he continued grinning at me. Then he summarized: “So I guess you won’t be joining us tonight? What a pity…”

“What a pity,” I thought, “what a pity.” I won’t get to eat that famous American pie tonight and turkey and who knows what else, just because I am not eager at all to celebrate the massacres and land grabs perpetrated by the Empire.

The manager couldn’t help asking: “Where are you from?”

I knew he would ask. No European would say what I was saying.

“I’m Russian,” I replied.

“Oh I see,” he gave me that ‘I should have guessed smile’.

“Russian-American,” I added.

*****

I’m convinced that the French manager has been sincerely oblivious about what I was stating. He is supposed to be oblivious. There are, after all, ‘our genocides’, and ‘the genocides of the others’. ‘Our genocides’, those that we triggered or committed, should never be discussed. Or more precisely, it is extremely impolite to discuss them. Most of the people don’t even know about them, including many of the victims. On the other hand, the genocides committed by the others, particularly by adversaries of the West, are widely discussed, publicized, analyzed, inflated and very often even fabricated (All this described in detail in my 840-page book Exposing Lies Of The Empire).

Cambodia is the textbook case of the latter. Here, several decades ago, the U.S. and its allies first supported the hopelessly corrupt and brutal government in Phnom Penh, while triggering a monstrous carpet-bombing campaign of the Cambodian countryside, mainly near the border with Vietnam. This was supposed to prevent the country from ‘going Communist’, or at least ‘Ho Chi Minh style Communist’. Hundreds of thousands of villagers were murdered by the bombing. Millions were forced to hit the road, leaving their dwellings, as the countryside was converted into a giant minefield, covered by unexploded ordnance. Further hundreds of thousands died from starvation and diseases. Furious, mad from suffering, the people of Cambodia rose against the collaborators with the West in Phnom Penh. Pol Pot and his Khmer Rouge took the capital virtually unopposed. Recently, deep in the jungle, I spoke to the former Pol Pot’s personal guards. I asked them point-blank whether they knew anything about Communism. “Nothing at all,” I was told. “The U.S. was murdering our families, for no reason. Corrupt elites were selling the country to the West. We were all outraged, and ready for revenge. We would follow anybody calling for revenge.” However, the West is passing the events, to this day, as a “Communist genocide”.

Rwanda is yet another ‘case’ of a twisted narrative. I made an entire full-length documentary film – Rwanda Gambit – on the subject. There, the West turned the history upside down, reducing the entire tragedy into a primitive and easy-to-digest narrative of bad Hutus killing good Tutsis. Yet even the former U.S. ambassador Robert Flatten told me that his country groomed, armed and supported the deadly RPF, mainly Tutsi army, which had been, before 1994, raiding the Rwandan countryside from neighboring Uganda, burning villages and killing civilians. A former Australian lawyer and U.N. investigator, Michael Hourigan, supplied me with information about the downing of the plane, which, in April 1994, killed both the Rwandan President Juvenal Habyarimana and Burundian President Cyprien Ntaryamira, while on the final approach to Kigali airport. The orders to shoot down the plane were given by the RPF leader Paul Kagame, who was in turn sponsored by the West. This event triggered the terrible bloodletting on 1994. The next year, in 1995, the Rwandan army entered the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and participated in the killing of at least 9 million people, mainly civilians, on behalf of Western governments and multi-national companies, making it the worst crime against humanity in recent history.

In fact, almost all the major genocides committed by the West or its allies in modern history, are ‘silent ones’, including those in Iraq, Syria, Iran, West Papua, East Timor, DRC, Indonesia, Afghanistan, Angola, and dozens of other unfortunate places all over the world.

The gruesome genocides committed by the West all over the world, during the last 2,000 but especially during the last 500 years, are never defined as such; never as ‘genocides’. Throughout history, European countries have been destroying, systematically, most of the cultures on all continents of the Planet, enslaving virtually all the non-white nations, plundering and looting its colonies (read: almost all the non-white nations of the world), while exterminating hundreds of millions of men, women and children. The death toll has been rising, accumulating, to near 1 billion, according to the testimony of one of my friends, a senior U.N. statistician.

*****

I will return to the ‘Cambodian story’ soon, on the pages of this magazine. And I will be returning, again and again, to the genocides committed by Europe and North America, virtually everywhere. Unless the history is understood and acknowledged, the world has no future, and there can be no solutions to the terrible problems that our humanity is facing.

But for now, let me conclude this brief essay by saying that I did not participate in the consumption of turkey and American pies on Thanksgiving holiday, in the Cambodian city of Seam Reap.

My thoughts went to those 700 people from the Pequot Tribe who rebelled, stood firm and died for freedom, almost 400 years ago. These were some of the first fighters against Western imperialism. These were the ‘Americans’ that I admire, this is America that had been terribly damaged but not yet completely destroyed. No overly sugary, sentimental and empty words could fully choke its essence, as no gluttony and food orgies could ever fully silence the screams of the pain of those who died in the hands of the European invaders, during and after the conquest of what has been so cynically christened as the ‘New World’.

• First published by New Eastern Outlook (NEO)

Borneo: Island Devastated, People Oblivious

She was just standing there, in the middle of burning land, surrounded by stumps of trees, fire everywhere, smoke rising towards a hopelessly gray sky. The expression on her face was mischievous, almost girlish. I had no idea how old she was: she could have been 28, just as she could easily have been 55.

This island, this village, this charred land: it all looked like hell to me, but obviously not to her: it actually made her laugh, burst with pride.

After all, it was her island, not mine; it was her land, her trees, and it was all getting royally fucked. She was personally participating in this carnage of nature – she, as well as her husband, her entire family, her neighbors.

Bu Elvi

Her name was Bu Elvi. ‘Bu’ means mom, or mam or Misses, in Bahasa Indonesia. Her scorched land spans near the village of Dusun Terusan, and Dusan Terusan is near Sintang, in the heart of Borneo, on the largest island in Asia, which is also the second largest island in the world, on what we habitually call ‘our Planet Earth’; although frankly, this moonscape of Indonesian Borneo/Kalimantan has very little to do with what used to be the ‘blue planet’.

“I follow stock exchange regularly”, Bu Elvi brags, boastfully.  “I know that prices of rubber went down at least three times, lately. Now we will burn all this down, since the government refuses to give us any substantial compensation… and then, we will plant some vegetables, at least for a while.”

“And then?” we ask. “What if the prices of rubber go up again?”

“Then, well…” she hesitates, but for just a few moments. Regaining her bearings, she declares, defiantly: “If that happens, we will burn the vegetables and reintroduce the rubber plantation.”

Now it is all black around her. It is desperate and depressing. But she doesn’t look suicidal, miserable, or even guilty. She does precisely what she was told to do under General Suharto’s military dictatorship, which was sponsored by the United States and the rest of the West. She does what she was taught to do right after the dictatorship collapsed (at least on paper) – in the present era of savage capitalism and unbridled thieving, which has also been clearly supported from abroad. She is making money. She is simply producing dough. She does not rely on anybody, she is well aware of the bottom line: nobody will give her anything. Even if she were starving to death, she would get nothing. And so she opts to be ‘independent’, as well as strong, aggressive, arrogant and, observed from some distance, mildly insane.

She is, of course, religious, as everyone in this country is forced to be from his or her childhood. Most likely, she doesn’t give a damn about this life, as there is, she believes, something much better, ‘somewhere else and big’, right after this suffering on Earth.

She is a tough woman, a ‘survival of the fittest’ kind of person, in short a ‘new Indonesian’.

Can one blame her? Perhaps yes. Perhaps no. She has to live, to survive in this inhuman, savage system, designed and injected from somewhere, from far away.

Still, the land is burning. Here and all around Sintang, all around Borneo, and in all corners of this entire Indonesian archipelago.

Would she opt for the independence of her island, if such an option were to be available?

She doesn’t need to think; she is suddenly absolutely certain. She clenches her right fist, grinning at us: “Merdeka! Independence!”

I am wondering whether it matters, whether it matters at all, who is ruling over this island. Fascism, savage capitalism, as well as the collaboration with foreign powers and institutions, has created a monoculture in this once great archipelago whose motto stated proudly: ‘Unity in Diversity’.

If there is merdeka, and if Bu Elvi rules, would the land stop burning?

*****

I spoke to a woman near the city of Samarinda, in Eastern Kalimantan. She was selling some fruits and crackers in a small store, predominantly serving workers from the immense plantations located literally behind her back. No primary forest was left anywhere in the vicinity. Everything in the area was black, or green, but if green it covered by sawit, the Indonesian word for palm oil.

Palm oil processing factory near Singkawang

Her business was so-so, she said, nothing spectacular. Frankly, she was hardly making ends meet, and she had no health insurance, no housing subsidies, and no financial support from the government. Despite all this, she appeared to be content. Or at least she said that she was:

We don’t have any fires around here, anymore. Before, when there was still some tropical forest left, there were constant fires. Now it is all quiet.

“Isn’t it because the palm oil companies and mining multi-nationals finally got what they always wanted?” I wondered. “Now they do what they desire. They cut down everything. Why would anyone burn things now? Forest is gone… Island is totally ruined. Palm oil, open mines and rubber plantations are covering almost entire surface of it…”

Poisoned land after gold mining in Borneo

She stares at me, blankly. She does not understand what am I talking about, what am I hinting at. She is confused. No one speaks like this, here. No one thinks this way. No one thinks, anymore, full stop…

*****

“I used to come here every weekend,” whispers Ms Mira Lubis, a professor at Tanjungpura University in Pontianak city:

“It used to be so serene, so beautiful. This beach… My beach… My father was a doctor. He worked very hard. When he got tired, he took us all here, an entire family. I used to play in the pristine sand, with my brothers… I used to swim here. Now just look around…”

She shows me her childhood photos. I can see ‘her beach’, as it used to be, decades ago. I can see it now. She has tears in her eyes.

I look around. And it is all ruined: someone poured concrete over the sand: terrible job, thoroughly amateurish. Ugly stalls are everywhere, like sores. The sand area was reduced to just a couple of meters. Some huts and ugly, crumbling structures double as a ‘seaside hotel’.

The beach appears to be totally abandoned and forgotten. The only thing that is never forgotten in Indonesia is an entrance fee; charging random visitors for entering anything, even this devastated place. In this country, nothing is public, nothing is free, and nothing is for the people. Even destruction is promoted as an attraction, as a ‘tourist destination’. You stop your car near the emergency room of a hospital: you have to pay… You enter a disaster area, a place ruined by a mining company somewhere in East Java: you are forced to pay. Scarred nature, ruined land quickly becomes a sightseeing attraction! You essentially pay for everything in Indonesia, especially if you are dirt poor.

Mira is walking slowly along ‘her beach’. She is deep in thoughts; she looks devastated. Her calm childhood memories are now confronted by reality, which appears to be simply monstrous. Her green island inhabited by ancient cultures and thousands of species of animals, birds and plants, now resembles a computer-generated image from a second-rate horror film.

She specializes in water communities, but the water is poisoned, mighty waterways polluted.

Far away, there is a brilliant, purple-red sunset covering the entire horizon. The sun is setting down behind a cluster of offshore islands. It is a brilliant, stunning sight. Borneo used to be one of the most beautiful places on Earth. But now, only contours are left; contours, memories and bitterness.

*****

Again, I work; we work – filming, photographing and talking to local people. I don’t need any data. There is no need for theories. This is all clear, raw, absolutely indisputable.

Everything can be ‘explained’ and ‘neutralized’ by complex and ‘scientific’ theories, by going round in circles, by blurring the reality. Indonesian ‘science’ and academia, after 1965, has produced nothing useful for the country and for humanity, but they do one thing well: ‘muddying the water’, confusing and complicating things, making sure that what is obvious from the first sight, is squarely disputed, denied. Hundreds, perhaps thousands of PhD’s are made this way and for this very purpose, annually.

Gold mining in Borneo

And the island is burning. Filthy chemical streams are everywhere. There is “illegal” gold mining on the land and in the middle of the mighty but horrendously polluted rivers of Borneo; mining is visible from the air and surface, but controlled by ‘influential individuals’, even by armed forces, and therefore untouchable.

Borneo is now synonymous with mining and logging, as well as with terrible plantations that have already cannibalized most of the land. Nothing is being produced, but everything has been extracted.

Borneo after mining

People are losing their land. They are losing health, even lives. The world is losing its ‘lungs’ – the tropical forests – or more precisely, it has already lost them all around this unfortunate archipelago.

Savage capitalism, moral and financial corruption, multi-national companies on the loose; this is a sad, even horrifying reality of the country, which totally lost its bearing.

Soon all will be gone

Borneo, it appears, is nearing the end. The entire Indonesia is nearing the endgame, but it is considered ‘politically incorrect’ to mention it in the West, particularly in the mainstream media. Indonesia is, after all, ruining itself, so the West can prosper. It was like that during colonialism, and it has been like that, again, ever since the US-sponsored military coup of 1965.

I work feverishly in Borneo: I film, I write and photograph. Others are standing by me, trying to help. Are we going to achieve anything? I hope we will; we have to, otherwise, soon, here and elsewhere, everything will be finished, privatized, commercialized and eventually destroyed.

I also work in Afghanistan, in the Middle East and in several fully ruined countries of Africa. Everything here, in Borneo, appears to be extremely familiar. Is it really peace that is reigning here? I’m highly doubtful. To me it looks like a war, like an extremely brutal war. It looks like the war of people against their own people, the war of people against nature, against all living beings and species; a war against the forests and river, and even against life itself.

It looks like a neo-colonialist nightmare. It once used to be the most beautiful place in Asia, now it is scarred, charred and in terrible pain. But it is still breathing; it is alive. And what is alive is always worth fighting for.

• Originally published by NEO (New Eastern Outlook)

• All photos by Andre Vltchek

The Greatest Indonesian Painter and “Praying to the Pig”

Yogyakarta and Karang Klethak Village — Djokopekik (who uses only one name, as is common in Java) could easily be described as the greatest living Indonesian painter. He is something of an anomaly in his country, where vulgar pop art, pop music and almost absolute submission to Western pro-market dogmas, religious rituals, and feudal family structures, are confining this vast archipelago into a tight straight jacket.

Djokopekik is a Communist, while Communism is banned in Indonesia. He is an atheist in a country where, according to some counts, around 99% of the population claims that ‘religions play an important role in their lives’. He is Cuban or more precisely, a Sukarno-style patriot, and simultaneously an internationalist. His main enemy is Western imperialism, and he makes sure to demonstrate it clearly, using his art.

When several years ago, my good friend George Burchett, an Australian artist who was born and now lives in Hanoi, Vietnam (his father, Wilfred Burchett, was perhaps the greatest English-speaking journalist of the 20th century, who at one point was declared “an enemy of the Australian people” by his government), had visited with Djokopekik’s house and studio with me outside the ancient Javanese city of Jogjakarta, he explained after seeing his work:

This man is simply brilliant! He is a true people’s artist! His style is his own, but he is also like some powerful fusion of Picasso and Diego Rivera!

Djokopekik felt flattered when I told him, but only for a few seconds. Soon he protested, half-jokingly:

I’m not like Picasso or Rivera. I’m Djokopekik!

*****

Djokopekik is always on the side of ‘small people’, but he is not at all sentimental or ‘unrealistic’ about them. He has no illusions about his countrymen, about their pragmatic and often cynical collaboration with the system, about their lack of higher aspiration and servility. “People here are thoroughly brainwashed and only obedient to evil things,” he said once when we were working together on my film about post-1965 Indonesia (“Terlena – Breaking of a Nation”). Then he laughed, cheekily: “They are like buffalos!”

On his tremendous canvases, poor victims are grinning, dancing and celebrating while capitalism, shameless elites and foreign interests are busy robbing them.

Djokopekik in front of his Papuan painting

The world of Djokopekik is often brutal; it is grotesque and hyperbolic, but even when the artist exposes the naked idiocy into which his nation has been submerged, there is always a great dose of compassion and humanism.

The people he paints often lack all human features. Some look like monkeys. Others, particularly the corrupt officials, appear like silkworms. The symbol of ‘Orde Baru’ (Suharto’s pro-Western ‘New Order’) is portrayed as a huge and repulsive swine. And Western imperialism: it is just an enormous crocodile that eats everything that stands in its way.

*****

In his latest work of art, Djokopekik uses two rhinos. The painting is called “Indonesian Circus”. “Why rhinos?” He replies without hesitation:

Because these big mighty animals are actually easy to manipulate. They can be forced to do just about anything.

His new canvas is cynical and brutal, but it is also somehow extremely realistic.

Author with Djokopekik

I walk through his studio and reconnect with his iconic paintings: there is a woman ‘given’ to an old man as a wife, a young girl being indoctrinated by her father; there are corrupt government officials eating everything around them, and there are the horrors of the US-sponsored 1965 military coup.

This time we met on the 52nd anniversary of the massacres. I flew to Yogyakarta directly from Jakarta, after witnessing huge anti-Communist demonstrations by hardcore Islamists, taking place in front of the Parliament.

I ask Djokopekik about his thoughts on what was happening in the capital.

Islamists are constantly spreading fear; fear of Communism, of already totally destroyed and banned Communist Party of Indonesia (PKI). They do it, so people forget, don’t think about any other issues. This way the Westerners could continue colonizing Indonesia. So everything could remain as before: capitalism, neo-colonialism… As during the Dutch era, or after the 1965 coup…

And people do not know, they do not understand, or do not want to understand:

Poor people, they just want to eat ‘tempe’ (local food made of soya), which used to be the cheapest dish in this part of Indonesia, at least in the past. Now it is expensive, because basic products are imported from the United States. But instead of protesting, people are told to fear PKI!

After the coup in 1965, Djokopekik was imprisoned. And after being released from prison, he remained on the watch list, and he is being monitored to this day. For decades, he was not allowed to travel abroad, to speak publicly or exhibiting.

His most explosive works of art were already bought by the ‘collectors’, and then disappeared from the eyes of the public.

He is disliked by the elites, by the military and by many religious cadres.

Religions in Indonesia are used to fuel conflicts. There is no religious tolerance in this country. During the Sukarno era, religions were actually not powerful at all; Indonesia was a secular state. In those years, it was absolutely acceptable if people did not believe in God. Now, those who do not believe are labeled as the PKI, and to be PKI is illegal!

Like the greatest Indonesian writer, Pramoedya Ananta Toer, Djokopekik supported ‘Bung Karno’ (nickname for President Sukarno). Those were the days of true independence, revolutionary optimism, internationalism and ‘nation and character building’.

Bung Karno had several pillars on which he was trying to construct the society. Political sovereignty. Standing on our own feet economically. Culturally, to have our own dignity and identity! And now? Now this country has absolutely nothing!

‘Djo’ is standing in front of his huge painting depicting a disgusting crocodile. The crocodile is literally devouring Papua. And the Papuan people are still somehow resisting, with spears… It is clearly a lost fight, but a fight it is, nevertheless.

The great artist is soon ‘jumping’ to another island. He speaks angrily about Kalimantan (the Indonesian part of Borneo):

All over the place, there is illegal mining and devastation of the land… People understand nothing… If they die, they die… If the companies put toxins into the water or earth, they don’t care. There is also coal there. Multi-national companies, but also common people, are logging everything out. Some are now very rich. They only take, and give nothing back to the island. If they become super rich, they just buy private airplanes… That’s all!

Once he painted a powerful canvas, depicting the terrible plight of Borneo. The symbol of destruction was a mighty and damaging tractor, which was ruining everything in sight.

I want to see that work. I want to film it for my documentary on Borneo. I ask. But Djokopekik explains:

I don’t have it anymore. Someone came and bought it… someone from Borneo itself… Now I don’t even know where it is.

Djokopekik is 80 years old, he is diabetic, often tired, but he never gives up. He fights, struggles, and pushes the boundaries with his art. When his sugar shoots over 600, he injects insulin, when it drops to 70, he eats raw sugar. He doesn’t care. He still drinks beer and wine, smokes his clove cigarettes, one after another, and he eats everything that he desires.

He is a Communist in a country where only capitalism and extreme consumerism are respected, and where Communism is out rightly banned. He is an atheist in a nation where almost everybody practices religions. He is a true patriot in Indonesia, which was totally sold out to the West by its generals, ‘intellectuals’ and business people.

His is a lonely but powerful voice of reason and hope. His is as powerful a voice as that of Pramoedya Ananta Toer.

*****

On October 1st, 2017, in a deep village of Karang Klethak, north of Yogyakarta, Djokopekik triggered a huge cultural event, a real ‘people’s event’, such that was common in Indonesia many decades ago. There were traditional Javanese actors and musicians performing on several stages.

Although it was not defined as such, the event was commemorating the 1965 coup. And Djokopekik wrote the story.

Village children watching Djokopekik’s play

Crowds consisting of predominantly village people came to watch, excited, dressed in their best.

There was a swine, a huge, repulsive swine, representing the habits of Suharto’s regime. There was a swine-keeper, making animalistic sounds. And there were ‘people’ who came to pray to the Swine.

“The idea is that people in this country always come to pray, to beg – they were taught to admire everything that is stronger than them, and to also admire what the Swine represents,” explained Djokopekik. “In Indonesia, the only way forward is to eradicate the swine’s characteristics from our own selves.”

The great artist of the intellectually devastated Southeast Asia is standing alone, as it often appears. He has faced with scorn and determination all those horrible past years, during which Western imperialism reduced his country to one of the most servile, devastated and indoctrinated parts of the world.

He is facing, defiantly, all those who sold the ideals of Indonesian independence and socialism to the colonizers and multi-national companies. Those who betrayed, committed treason are exposed and attacked by him. A great Czech poet František Halas, once called such treasonous individuals expressively “pigs of the markets” (Prasata kšeftů). Djokopekik calls them simply pigs: Small pigs that are serving one huge Swine, that of Suharto’s dictatorship and of its lackeys who are, to this day, controlling the country.

Djokopekik is now old and frail, but many in Jakarta are scared of him. It is because he is telling the truth, as no one does here, anymore. It is because he still knows how to create, how to love and to hate and how to ridicule the system, as well as those who are stealing from people and murdering hope. Many in Jakarta are scared, simply because he is alive!

• Photos by Andre Vltchek

• First published at NEO

52 Years after Fascist Genocide, Indonesians Scared of “Communist Ghosts”

From Jakarta and Yogyakarta — It was once again a hot, muggy day in Jakarta. The air was full of pollutants, epic traffic jams blocking entire center of the city. Biasa, as locals would say, or in a lax translation, ‘business as usual’.

It is September 29th, 2017, Friday, just one day before the most sinister anniversary in the entire Southeast Asia.

On September 30th, 1965, the Indonesian military, obeying orders from foreign powers (mainly the US and the UK), overthrew the progressive and anti-imperialist government of President Sukarno, murdering between 1 and 3 million men, women and children (including almost all members of the Communist Party of Indonesia – PKI). This was done with the direct help of almost all the major religious organizations (Muslim, Protestant, Catholic and Hindu). The bloodshed continued well into 1966, and the “Rivers were choked with corpses and ran red from blood,” as I was told by Pramoedya Ananta Toer, the greatest Indonesian novelist. All the hopes for a socialist, just and egalitarian motherland were wasted.

Before the coup, Indonesia used to be a true internationalist nation, and was one of the proud founders of the Non-Aligned Movement (the West Javanese city of Bandung hosted its establishing conference in 1955). President Sukarno and his progressive and patriotic government used to hold in their hands almost all the natural resources, trying to build a proud, artistic and productive nation. Sukarno once even humiliated the US Ambassador, in front of a huge crowd, at a packed stadium: “To hell with your aid!” He did not need any Western aid. He was presiding over potentially one of the richest nations on Earth.

The Communist Party of Indonesia (PKI), the third largest in the world after those of the Soviet Union and China, was going to win the elections, comfortably and democratically, in 1966, while being fully supported by President Sukarno. Their manifesto was clear: anti-imperialism, social justice and land reforms. But who were some of the largest landowners in Indonesia during that period? Religious leaders! And they, together with the military and corrupt elites, decided: “No!” This has to be stopped! No justice. No internationalism. No socialism.” They betrayed the nation and its people; they committed treason and on September 30, 1965, overthrew socialist democracy.

The results were horrifying. Perhaps the worst massacres of the 20th Century took place. Mass slaughter, mass rape, and cutting off of female breasts, torture, and shortly after the initial horrors, overflowing prisons and concentration camps. Around 40% of all the teachers of Java were slaughtered and the military was substituted into the school classrooms. Film studios and traditional theatres were shut down, and writers were sent to Buru concentration camp. Intellectualism was fully discouraged, while Communism, the Chinese language and culture, but also all progressive arts and creativity were either ridiculed, or out rightly banned. Promoted instead, were Western-style turbo-capitalism (that which was invented for the colonies, not that for the local consumption in Europe and North America), ‘religions’ (based on repetitive rituals, not on intellectual or spiritual search for God), ‘family values’ (read: patriarchal oppression), an empty pop culture, and selfishness, boosted by consumerism. All this combined gave birth to some of the worst corruption levels in the world.

Indonesia as it used to be before September 30, 1965, died. Unable to produce anything of substantial value, it began perpetrating the unbridled plunder of its own natural resources, predominantly on behalf of foreign conglomerates. The entire beautiful and naturally rich, enormous islands, like Borneo (the largest island in Asia and the second largest in the world), Sumatra and Papua, were converted into devastated, poisoned and fully privatized ecological and social nightmares.

*****

It seems that killing everything decent and hopeful has not been enough for this regime. Even memories have to be killed, even dreams. The great progressive past of Indonesia is being smeared and twisted, until there is nothing more left, only confusion and mechanical religious, family and commercial rituals.

Now, one of the mainstream Indonesian magazines Tempo put on its 25 September – 1 October 2017 cover: “SEKALI LAGI HANTU PKI”
(“Once Again, Ghost of PKI”).

Whenever it suits the corrupt elites, the military and the religious cadres (three main pillars of the Indonesia oppressive regime), the Communist ghost is evoked. It is depicted as a monstrous, nasty, and murderous creature. Indonesian children were taught that the Communist hammer was there to smash the heads of the people, while the sickle was – to cut their throats.

Islamic organizations, as well as the military and police are ‘guarding the nation’ from vicious atheist religious gangs and the security forces regularly dispersing countless meetings. Those who dare to address topics such as social inequality, the lack of decent medical care, affordable education, housing and other basic services, get physically attacked, or legally sanctioned.

MP’s and some government officials, who dare to talk about the necessity to redistribute the wealth of the country, favoring the poor, get attacked or at least openly smeared, including such individuals like the present President, Joko Widodo. Popular, extremely effective and left-leaning, the Governor of Jakarta, ‘Ahok’, was recently locked up in a prison for ‘insulting Islam’ – on thoroughly bogus charges. His biggest ‘sin’ appeared to be his determination to build a mass public transportation system (instead of forcing people to use private vehicles, as all previous pro-business administrations have been doing, submissively), creating green public areas, building drainage and cleaning clogged and polluted canals.

‘Ahok’ is of Chinese origin, a great ‘crime’ in the racially intolerant Indonesia. President Widodo is not. No matter what his ‘blood’ is, he is repeatedly accused of being a ‘Communist’, especially after his State of the Nation speech earlier this year. He has been addressing issues related to social justice, something thoroughly unacceptable in extremely pro-business and pro-Western Indonesia.

Putting the interests of his people above the interests of foreign corporations has gained him countless enemies, at home (from the elites servile to the West) and abroad. His arch-rival and enemy, General Prabowo (former commander of the notorious Kopassus Special Forces under Suharto) is taking full advantage of the situation.

Many Islamists are now calling President Widodo ‘a Communist’. In Indonesia, it is synonymous with a threat and it could also mean a death sentence.

*****

And so it is September 29th, 2017, Friday, in Jakarta, Indonesia. Thousands of protesters are gathering in front of the main gate of the Parliament. Today it is hot and humid, and the air is hopelessly polluted.

March of Anti-Communists

A river of human beings flows slowly. Today it consists predominantly of Muslim militants. Loudspeakers are blasting “Allahu Akbar!” and almost simultaneously:

Ganyang, ganyang, ganyang PKI
Ganyang PKI, sekarang juga!

(Destroy, destroy, destroy PKI
Crush PKI right now!)

These are mainly men, excited and determined. Some women are present, too. Most of them are fully covered. And there are also some children, clinging to their parents, several of them scared, but others clearly enjoying the loud yells and deafening noise.

Huge anti PKI demonstration

Numerous black banners, carrying Arabic insignia, can be spotted in the hands of demonstrators, some suspiciously resembling those of the ISIS. Other flags belong to such organizations as the outlawed but largely tolerated Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia, which is determined to establish a caliphate all over this vast archipelago.

Theoretically illegal but also tolerated Forum Pembela Islam (FPI) – Islamic Defender’s Front – is operating openly, and it is rubbing shoulders with the police and other security forces. No one would dare or even bothers to stop them from giving speeches or publicly displaying force.

It is obvious that the law is taken seriously only when it comes to the Communists (who are now practically non-existent in this country), or to any socially or people-oriented movements. Radical Islam is increasingly becoming untouchable, as it generally defends the status quo, as well as the political interests of several high-ranking extreme right-wing military officers, business elites, and Western imperialists.

I look around and I see not a single Western reporter. Surely they are busy sitting in their clubs, luxury hotels and condominiums, dutifully scribbling that Indonesia is a ‘vibrant democracy’, and ‘a country known for its predominantly tolerant brand of Islam’; an official Western dogma since 1965 coup.

At one point I’m approached by a group of young men with a small camera.

“What do you think about PKI?” I’m asked in English.

I pretend to be totally brain-dead. I smile. We shake hands.

“You killed PKI here, didn’t you?” I reply with a question.

“You think so?” they are grinning, talking to me as if I was a child. “You really think so? You are mistaken. PKI are like rats; they are hiding underground… they are everywhere. But don’t worry, we will get them all, soon!”

“Islam is a religion of peace. Indonesians are peaceful people,” his friend concludes. He sounds like the BBC.

*****

Then it is my turn to ask questions. I go from person to person. I want to know what do they really know about the PKI, about Communism? For years and decades, Indonesians have been bombarded by grotesque propaganda which was aiming at discrediting everything great and positive that ever took place in the Communist and socialist countries, from the Soviet Union and China, to Cuba, Venezuela, Vietnam, North Korea and dozens of other left-wing states all over the world.

After 1965, the perception of Indonesians about the world was never based on knowledge and well-informed analyses, but instead on the lowest grade of Western and local propaganda, on racist clichés, and on the gross censorship of everything that could challenge official dogmas.

Destroy PKI Totally, ‘Til Nothing is Left

I talk to a dozen “Communism-haters” and I realize that they know absolutely nothing about the subject they are loudly shouting about. Some are clearly paid to be here. Some have nothing better to do. Some are, perhaps, subconsciously scared about the emptiness of their lives in present-day Indonesia, and they need to cheer each other up, with hate speeches and feelings that they are not alone, that they are like hundreds of millions of others.

Mrs. Bode from Gerakan Ibu Negeri (Movement of the Country’s Mothers):

We are here protesting against resurgence of the PKI! PKI is here; it exists! Their members are all over the social media. They even held seminars, recently.

Some seminars were held recently. Not by the PKI, but by scholars and activists who were trying to address the history of Indonesia, particularly the coup of 1965. But the military interfered. Orders were given to break such encounters. A one-sided interpretation of history is the main and sacred pillar of the propaganda unleashed by the regime.

Mr. Wahnad from Majelis Taklim Nurul Ikhlas (Islamic studies assembly) from the city of Bekasi:

We are supporters of the HTI and we are against the government regulation which bans extremist mass organizations like ours. But PKI is real danger to our country. We want them to be banned. Now we even have them represented in the Parliament. Ribka Tjiptaning, an MPs from PDIP, proudly stated that she is a daughter of a former PKI member!

Poor Ms. Ribka Tjiptaning is the daughter of a former PKI member (and a Javanese aristocrat) who was hanged upside-down and tortured in front of her and her little brother (when they were children), before being sent to a prison. Consequently, each of her steps is being scrutinized as if under a microscope. She is clearly left wing, perhaps the most progressive Indonesian politician. And she wrote a book called I’m Proud To Be a Daughter of a PKI Member. But this lone socialist voice could hardly be mistaken for a great renaissance of the Communist thought in Indonesia.

A small, bearded man wearing white robes introduced himself only as Hamba Allah (Allah’s slave):

We are against the resurrection of PKI. They have distributed t-shirts, pictures, and other things, and there are even some children of the PKI members now pushing this ideology.

Mr. Wahnad from Majelis Taklim Nurul Ikhlas (Islamic studies assembly) from the city of Bekasi:

We are against the resurgence of the PKI. PKI was a party that did some sadistic things to Muslims in general and to Ulamas in particular.

“Sadistic things?” I wonder. The PKI was a relatively tame, constitutional and democratic political party. Even in 1965, many of its members were Muslims. Unless by ‘sadistic things’ she meant that it was pushing for land reforms, and had it won the elections in 1966 (it definitely would have done, if the West had not intervened), it would most definitely have broken the scandalous and feudal mass land ownership by the religious leaders.

“Yes, sadistic,” Ms. Khairunnisa raises her voice.

“How do you know?” I ask.

She replies without hesitation:

We know from G30S/PKI film and also from what the teachers told us. We haven’t read any history books on this issue; why should we? We know anyway…

By “G30S/PKI” she means an official state propaganda film, full of gore, with which all children of Indonesia were terrorized and shocked with on the anniversary of the coup. The film was directed by an arch ‘cultural’ collaborator with the ‘New Order” regime of General Suharto – Mr. Arifin C. Noer.

*****

At one point, I get fully covered by an enormous white flag with Arabic script. The flag covers several lanes of the roadway. Perhaps, as a foreigner, I’m being shown my place, taught a lesson, but I don’t care. I just sit down on the concrete road divider and rest for a couple of minutes. It is cooler under the flag, and all those aggressive, militant noises are now mercifully muted.

Flag under which I was later buried

‘Indonesia is a peaceful country’, I think, sarcastically. That’s what the West wants everybody to believe, convincing even Indonesians themselves that it is the case. ‘Indonesia committed three horrid genocides after 1965 – against its  people, against inhabitants of East Timor, and now against Papuans. Here, I have witnessed and covered all sorts of horrors, for decades: from the mass rapes of Chinese women in Jakarta and Solo, to religious violence in Ambon, Lombok and elsewhere. Even members of most of the non-Sunni Muslim groups (including Shia, Liberal Islam, Ahmadiyah) are frequently attacked, even physically liquidated.

The West praises Indonesia, as long as the country allows its companies to plunder the vast natural resources, in such places as Borneo (Kalimantan), Sumatra and Papua, as long as Indonesia remains anti-Communist, as long as its elites – business, military and religious – are willing to sacrifice hundreds of millions of its defenseless, desperately uninformed and mainly wretched citizens.

*****

“Protests in front of the Parliament were confusing. They brought the issue of PKI awakening. But they were led by the hardline Islamist group, HTI, which is itself banned,” explained Iman Soleh, a professor at the Faculty of Social and Political Science (University of Padjadjaran- UNPAD). He continued:

“In the meantime, it is suspected that the demonstrations were supported by anti Jokowi (President Joko Widodo’s nickname) parties, especially Gerindra and PKS… also Aksi 299 is allegedly funded by General Prabowo group, which always uses month of September to bring forward the issue of ‘PKI awakening’… of course it does it in order to weaken Jokowi’s government.”

In Indonesia, everything appears to be confusing, even what is and what isn’t truly Communist.

Several months ago I met a former Indonesian Mujahedeen fighter in Afghanistan, who barefacedly told me that the present-day Russia is actually Communist, and so is Assad’s government in Syria. According to him, even the governments of Karzai and Ghani in NATO-occupied Afghanistan continue to be essentially Communist.

In the minds of many local people, Communist ghosts appear to be crawling out from every corner, even from the tiniest cracks in the floor.

Indonesia is scared; it is clearly not at peace with itself.

It is not really scared of “Communism”, but of something else, although it finds very difficult to define what exactly is frightening it.

Between 1 and 3 millions of corpses could compile an unimaginably huge mountain of horrors. Most of the Indonesian families have both victims and killers in their ranks. And the killings in 1965/66 Indonesia were not perpetrated ‘long-distance’, by pressing some button. People were often slaughtered with bare hands. Victims looked into the eyes of their killers and tormenters, and they were begging, screaming, howling.

There were never any trials like those that took place in Chile, Argentina or South Africa. There was no serious reconciliation process. The military leaders are not rotting in jail; they are actually running the country.

In fact, the crimes have never been acknowledged. Even worse: the victims are still being officially blamed for the beginning of the 1965 ‘tragedy’.

A bad conscience is hanging over this entire enormous archipelago. Bad conscience because of at least three genocides committed in the last half a century, because of selling the entire country to foreign interests, because of the unimaginable plunder of this once, a long time ago, beautiful and abundant land.

Bad conscience is being silenced by loud senseless sounds of brainless pop music, by countless religious rituals, and by continuous attempts not to read anything serious, not to learn and not to understand.

Jihadi Selfies

Another anniversary of the terrible event has just passed. And thousands took to the streets to protest against the victims. They went to insult the memory of those who were mercilessly slaughtered on orders coming from the West. They went to demand that the days of true independence and the greatness of the Indonesian nation would never return.

•  Photos by Andre Vltchek

*  First published by New Eastern Outlook

The Rising of Britain’s “New Politics”

As the Tories plot to get rid of Prime Minister Theresa May, John Pilger analyses the alternative Labour Party, specifically its foreign policy, which may not be what it seems.

*****

Delegates to the recent Labour Party conference in the English seaside town of Brighton seemed not to notice a video playing in the main entrance.  The world’s third biggest arms manufacturer, BAe Systems, supplier to Saudi Arabia, was promoting its guns, bombs, missiles, naval ships and fighter aircraft.

It seemed a perfidious symbol of a party in which millions of Britons now invest their political hopes. Once the preserve of Tony Blair, it is led today by Jeremy Corbyn, whose career has been very different from Blair’s and is rare in British establishment politics.

Addressing the Labour conference, the campaigner Naomi Klein described the rise of Corbyn as “part of a global phenomenon. We saw it in Bernie Sanders’ historic campaign in the US primaries, powered by millennials who know that safe centrist politics offers them no kind of safe future.”

In fact, at the end of the US primary elections last year, Sanders led his followers into the arms of Hillary Clinton, a liberal warmonger from a long tradition in the Democratic Party.

As President Obama’s Secretary of State, Clinton presided over the invasion of Libya in 2011, which led to a stampede of refugees to Europe. She gloated notoriously at the gruesome murder of Libya’s president. Two years earlier, she signed off on a coup that overthrew the democratically elected president of Honduras. That she has been invited to Wales on 14 October to be given an honorary doctorate by the University of Swansea because she is “synonymous with human rights” is unfathomable.

Like Clinton, Sanders is a cold-warrior and an “anti-communist” obsessive with a proprietorial view of the world beyond the United States. He supported Bill Clinton’s and Tony Blair’s illegal assault on Yugoslavia in 1998 and the invasions of Afghanistan, Syria and Libya, as well as Barack Obama’s campaign of terrorism by drone. He backs the provocation of Russia and agrees that the whistleblower Edward Snowden should stand trial. He has called the late Hugo Chavez – a social democrat who won multiple elections – “a dead communist dictator”.

While Sanders is a familiar liberal politician, Corbyn may well be a phenomenon, with his indefatigable support for the victims of American and British imperial adventures and for popular resistance movements.

For example, in the 1960s and 70s, the Chagos islanders were expelled from their homeland, a British colony in the Indian Ocean, by a Labour government. An entire population was kidnapped. The aim was to make way for a US military base on the main island of Diego Garcia: a secret deal for which the British were “compensated” with a discount of $14 million off the price of a Polaris nuclear submarine.

I have had much to do with the Chagos islanders and have filmed them in exile in Mauritius and the Seychelles, where they suffered and grieved and some of them “died from sadness”, as I was told. They found a political champion in a Labour Member of Parliament, Jeremy Corbyn.

So did the Palestinians. So did Iraqis terrorised by a Labour prime minister’s invasion of their country in 2003. So did others struggling to break free from the designs of western power. Corbyn supported the likes of Hugo Chavez, who brought more than hope to societies subverted by the US behemoth.

And yet, now that Corbyn is closer to power than he might have ever imagined, his foreign policy remains a secret.

By secret, I mean there has been rhetoric and little else. “We must put our values at the heart of our foreign policy,” said Corbyn at the Labour conference.  But what are these “values”?

Since 1945, like the Tories, British Labour has been an imperial party, obsequious to Washington and with a record exemplified by the crime in the Chagos islands.

What has changed? Is Jeremy Corbyn saying Labour will uncouple itself from the US war machine, and the US spying apparatus and US economic blockades that scar humanity?

His shadow Foreign Secretary, Emily Thornberry, says a Corbyn government “will put human rights back at the heart of Britain’s foreign policy”. But human rights have never been at the heart of British foreign policy — only “interests”, as Lord Palmerston declared in the 19th century: the interests of those at the apex of British society.

Thornberry quoted the late Robin Cook who, as Tony Blair’s first Foreign Secretary in 1997, pledged an “ethical foreign policy” that would “make Britain once again a force for good in the world”.

History is not kind to imperial nostalgia. The recently commemorated division of India by a Labour government in 1947 – with a border hurriedly drawn up by a London barrister, Gordon Radcliffe, who had never been to India and never returned – led to blood-letting on a genocidal scale.

Shut up in a lonely mansion, with police night and day
Patrolling the gardens to keep the assassins away,
He got down to work, to the task of settling the fate
Of millions. The maps at his disposal were out of date
And the Census Returns almost certainly incorrect,
But there was no time to check them, no time to inspect
Contested areas. The weather was frightfully hot,
And a bout of dysentery kept him constantly on the trot,
But in seven weeks it was done, the frontiers decided,
A continent for better or worse divided.

— W.H. Auden, ‘Partition’.

It was the same Labour government (1945–51), led by Prime Minister Clement Attlee – “radical” by today’s standards — that dispatched General Douglas Gracey’s British imperial army to Saigon with orders to re-arm the defeated Japanese in order to prevent Vietnamese nationalists from liberating their own country. Thus, the longest war of the century was ignited.

It was a Labour Foreign Secretary, Ernest Bevin, whose policy of “mutuality” and “partnership” with some of the world’s most vicious despots, especially in the Middle East, forged relationships that endure today, often sidelining and crushing the human rights of whole communities and societies. The cause was British “interests” – oil, power, wealth.

In the “radical” 1960s, Labour’s Defence Secretary, Denis Healey, set up the Defence Sales Organisation (DSO) specifically to boost the arms trade and make money from selling lethal weapons to the world. Healey told Parliament, “While we attach the highest importance to making progress in the field of arms control and disarmament, we must also take what practical steps we can to ensure that this country does not fail to secure its rightful share of this valuable market.”

The double-think was quintessentially Labour.

When I later asked Healey about this “valuable market”, he claimed his decision made no difference to the volume of military exports. In fact, it led to an almost doubling of Britain’s share of the arms market. Today, Britain is the second biggest arms dealer on earth, selling arms and fighter planes, machine guns and “riot control” vehicles, to 22 of the 30 countries on the British Government’s own list of human rights violators.

Will this cease under a Corbyn government? The preferred model – Robin Cook’s “ethical foreign policy” – is revealing. Like Jeremy Corbyn, Cook made his name as a backbencher and critic of the arms trade. “Wherever weapons are sold,” wrote Cook, “there is a tacit conspiracy to conceal the reality of war” and “it is a truism that every war for the past two decades has been fought by poor countries with weapons supplied by rich countries”.

Cook singled out the sale of British Hawk fighters to Indonesia as “particularly disturbing”. Indonesia “is not only repressive but actually at war on two fronts: in East Timor, where perhaps a sixth of the population has been slaughtered … and in West Papua, where it confronts an indigenous liberation movement”.

As Foreign Secretary, Cook promised “a thorough review of arms sales”. The then Nobel Peace Laureate, Bishop Carlos Belo of East Timor, appealed directly to Cook: “Please, I beg you, do not sustain any longer a conflict which without these arms sales could never have been pursued in the first place and not for so very long.” He was referring to Indonesia’s bombing of East Timor with British Hawks and the slaughter of his people with British machine guns. He received no reply.

The following week Cook called journalists to the Foreign Office to announce his “mission statement” for “human rights in a new century”. This PR event included the usual private briefings for selected journalists, including the BBC, in which Foreign Office officials lied that there was “no evidence” that British Hawk aircraft were deployed in East Timor.

A few days later, the Foreign Office issued the results of Cook’s “thorough review” of arms sales policy. “It was not realistic or practical,” wrote Cook, “to revoke licences which were valid and in force at the time of Labour’s election victory”. Suharto’s Minister for Defence, Edi Sudradjat, said that talks were already under way with Britain for the purchase of 18 more Hawk fighters. “The political change in Britain will not affect our negotiations,” he said. He was right.

Today, replace Indonesia with Saudi Arabia and East Timor with Yemen. British military aircraft – sold with the approval of both Tory and Labour governments and built by the firm whose promotional video had pride of place at the Labour Party conference – are bombing the life out of Yemen, one of the most impoverished countries in the world, where half the children are malnourished and there is the greatest cholera epidemic in modern times.

Hospitals and schools, weddings and funerals have been attacked. In Ryadh, British military personnel are reported to be training the Saudis in selecting targets.

In Labour’s 2017 manifesto, Jeremy Corbyn and his party colleagues promised that “Labour will demand a comprehensive, independent, UN-led investigation into alleged violations … in Yemen, including air strikes on civilians by the Saudi-led coalition. We will immediately suspend any further arms sales for use in the conflict until that investigation is concluded.”

But the evidence of Saudi Arabia’s crimes in Yemen is already documented by Amnesty and others, notably by the courageous reporting of the British journalist Iona Craig. The dossier is voluminous.

Labour does not promise to stop arms exports to Saudi Arabia. It does not say Britain will withdraw its support for governments responsible for the export of Islamist jihadism. There is no commitment to dismantle the arms trade.

The manifesto describes a “special relationship [with the US] based on shared values … When the current Trump administration chooses to ignore them … we will not be afraid to disagree”.

As Jeremy Corbyn knows, dealing with the US is not about merely “disagreeing”. The US is a rapacious, rogue power that ought not to be regarded as a natural ally of any state championing human rights, irrespective of whether Trump or anyone else is President.

When Emily Thornberry linked Venezuela with the Philippines as “increasingly autocratic regimes” – slogans bereft of contextual truth and ignoring the subversive US role in Venezuela — she was consciously playing to the enemy: a tactic with which Jeremy Corbyn will be familiar.

A Corbyn government will allow the Chagos islanders the right of return. But Labour says nothing about renegotiating the 50-year renewal agreement that Britain has just signed with the US allowing it to use the base on Diego Garcia from which it has bombed Afghanistan and Iraq.

A Corbyn government will “immediately recognise the state of Palestine”. But it is silent on whether Britain will continue to arm Israel, continue to acquiesce in the illegal trade in Israel’s illegal “settlements” and continue to treat Israel merely as a warring party, rather than as an historic oppressor given immunity by Washington and London.

On Britain’s support for Nato’s current war preparations, Labour boasts that the “last Labour government spent above the benchmark of 2 per cent of GDP” on Nato. It says, “Conservative spending cuts have put Britain’s security at risk” and promises to boost Britain’s military “obligations”.

In fact, most of the £40 billion Britain currently spends on the military is not for territorial defence of the UK but for offensive purposes to enhance British “interests” as defined by those who have tried to smear Jeremy Corbyn as unpatriotic.

If the polls are reliable, most Britons are well ahead of their politicians, Tory and Labour. They would accept higher taxes to pay for public services; they want the National Health Service restored to full health. They want decent jobs and wages and housing and schools; they do not hate foreigners but resent exploitative labour. They have no fond memory of an empire on which the sun never set.

They oppose the invasion of other countries and regard Blair as a liar.  The rise of Donald Trump has reminded them what a menace the United States can be, especially with their own country in tow.

The Labour Party is the beneficiary of this mood, but many of its pledges – certainly in foreign policy – are qualified and compromised, suggesting, for many Britons, more of the same.

Jeremy Corbyn is widely and properly recognised for his integrity; he opposes the renewal of Trident nuclear weapons; the Labour Party supports it. But he has given shadow cabinet positions to pro-war MPs who support Blairism, and tried to get rid of him and abused him as “unelectable”.

“We are the political mainstream now,” says Corbyn.  Yes, but at what price?

Western Propaganda in Southeast Asia: A True “Success Story”

It is all done in a fully barefaced manner. Those who are not part of this world could never even dream about such a ‘perfect’ design.

You come to your club, in my case to The Foreign Correspondent Club of Thailand (FCCT), and immediately the long arm of indoctrination begins stretching towards you.

US filmmakers of Neighbour at FCCT Bangkok

You place yourself on a comfortable couch, and soon after get fully serviced. You get instructed, told what to think and how to formulate or modify your ideas.

You are periodically shown movies about “corruption and immorality” in China. You get encouraged to participate in some public discussions that are, among other things, trashing the anti-Western president of the Philippines.

Although lately also the Middle East, and particularly Syria, are brought into the spotlight.

Of course, almost all that is on offer in such places like FCCT is the Western view, or concretely a set of Western views raging from conservative to ‘liberal’. The club is located in Asia, in the heart of Southeast Asia, but very few Asians are invited to speak here, except the few Thais who are well versed in the Western way of thinking. Or Western agents like the Dalai Lama, of course – such individuals can come anytime they want! Forget about hearing from ‘the other side’ – you’d never stumble here over speakers such as Communist thinkers or writers from Mainland China, or pro-Duterte academics or activists from the Philippines.

Most of the Thais who get spotted at the FCCT are actually those who provide support services for the Western gurus of mainstream media: interpreters, fixers, waiters and as well as some administrative support staff.

This is not a place for Asians to lecture Westerners about Asia; this is where Westerners tell Asians how to think in general, and what to think about their own countries in particular.

On the same floor as the FCCT, right down the narrow carpeted corridor, there are the offices of the BBC, the NBC and several other mainstream Western media outlets. ‘The Penthouse’ of the Maneeya Center Building in Bangkok is actually a self-sufficient propaganda complex.

At FCCT in Bangkok it is mostly whites and their friends who can speak

And tonight it is offering a free screening (free for us, members) of a U.S. documentary film called Salam Neighbor, about Jordan’s huge Za’atari refugee camp, which hosts approximately 80,000 refugees just a few miles away from the Syrian border.

On the FCCT flier it says openly: “In partnership with the U.S. Embassy Bangkok and The American Film Showcase.“

A U.S. embassy official introduces the film. It is also being sponsored (openly) by the U.S. Department of State.

The FCCT is packed. Beer flows. People obediently clap to all the opening speeches. No one seems to be noticing the irony: The Empire’s foreign ministry hosting an event at the foreign correspondent’s club in the most important city of Southeast Asia. There are no jokes flying about, no sarcasm. Western media people are well disciplined. Forget about “Salvador” by Oliver Stone – these are quite different times.

It all feels mildly embarrassing. Here, one can never really witness a fiery ideological confrontation. People know their place. They are well aware of what they should say, and how to behave. But most importantly, they know what to write.

*****

The film is short, only some 75 minutes, and it is truly predictable. It is not out-rightly bad. Cinematography is fine, and there are very few factual errors, perhaps because there are only a few facts on offer. The filmmakers are ‘politically correct’: they periodically break down in tears, particularly when interacting with some refugee children.

It is full of clichés, such as: “….. inhabitants of the camp opened their hearts and homes to us”.

But there are also several clearly predictable scenes, appearing on the monitors in all corners of the FCCT, with chilling regularity. Here is one, for instance: kids are playing violent war video games. One child suddenly comments:

Yes, and this is Assad’s regime flag… They give me ammunition and weapons…

We are fed with soft, ‘well-intentioned’ and well-filmed propaganda. Not one word is uttered about the essential and monstrous role of the West in the Syrian war. There is nothing about the Za’atari Camp being one of the training camps for the most extreme pro-Western and pro-Gulf terrorist organizations.

After the films ends, I decide to participate in the Q/A session.

Somehow sarcastically, I congratulate the two filmmakers who were flown to Thailand at the US taxpayer’s expense. I mention that I have also made some films inside refugee camps, including the notorious and brutal Dadaab on the Kenyan-Somali border. Then I ask, point blank:

Did you know that Syrian refugees were allowed to tell you only one side of the story? I am well familiar with the Za’atari camp. There, as well as in the camps for Syrian refugees located in the Iraqi Kurdish region, Syrians are screened and unless they declare that they are against President Assad, they have no chance of getting processed and receiving assistance.

The annoyed faces of veteran Western propaganda-makers now stare at me, point blank. The US embassy apparatchiks maintain their composure. These people are professionals and they hardly ever lose their calm.

But media people are scandalized. I exaggerate my Russia accent and I mention South American Telesur as one of the channels for which I have been making films. How dare I? Don’t I know my place? A non-Westerner telling Western opinion-makers about the world!

I conclude:

Most of the Syrian refugees are not escaping from their government. They are fleeing from the horrors of war, triggered and upheld by the West and its allies in the Gulf and elsewhere.

The silence is now complete.

Then a girl, a local Thai miss, obviously coming from the upper middle class and groomed in the West, approaches the microphone and asks with a cute giggle:

I want to visit the Za’atari Camp early next year. I don’t know why, as I don’t know anything about the Middle East… but maybe I can do something for the refugees, no? And maybe I learn something?

“And maybe take some selfies,” I think.

Soon after I begin to feel sick, and literally flee the place.

*****

The entire Southeast Asia is imprisoned in the tight straightjacket of Western and Japanese pro-Western propaganda. However, the mainstream media and the way it disseminates Western propaganda is not the only example of how the straightjacket works.

Almost all serious and large bookstores, (at least those that are selling books in English), have already been ‘defeated’ by Kinokuniya, a Japanese mega seller. Kinokuniya is to bookselling in Southeast Asia, what Carrefour is to food vending. It operates in Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Singapore, and its shops look elegant and sleek. But unless you want to buy some mainstream stuff, you may be truly disappointed, even shocked, by what you find (or not find) on the shelves.

At Jakarta Kinokuniya Bookstore – Mein Kampf and anti-Communist propaganda

It goes without saying that in those stores, one would always be able to find hundreds of appalling anti-Soviet propaganda books, such as those of the Nobel Prize in Literature laureate, Svetlana Alexievich. But try to search for a great, iconic Mexican left-wing author like Elena Poniatowska, and you will get nothing! And forget about finding most of works there of such enormous (but Communist) thinkers like Jose Saramago, Dario Fo, and Harold Pinter (all three authors were also awarded with the Nobel prizes in literature, but are strongly hated by the regime). If you are lucky, you will find one or two books from each of them, but not more than that.

Perhaps you may also find one or two plays by Bertolt Brecht. I searched in Bangkok, and found only one – Galileo.

In Southeast Asian bookstores, you can have “all you can eat” anti-Chinese, anti-Communist propaganda, but except for Mo Yan, not one book of any truly great modern Chinese Communist novelist or a poet.

Of course, you should never even try to find some “offensive materials”; and by offensive I mean sarcastically critical of all that the West has been implanting and upholding in this part of the world – religion, neo-colonialism, monarchism, or even local feudalistic structures which often hide behind such terms as ‘cultures’…

In Indonesia, the situation is the most ridiculous. There, all decent bookstores that mushroomed after Suharto stepped down have literally disappeared. Thereafter, Kinokuniya ‘modified’ its operation in Jakarta, and is presently selling only pop fiction, some Penguin classics and similar mainstream stuff.

Mr. Ariff, a staff marketing person at Kinokuniya, Plaza Senayang in Jakarta, explained:

Arrangement of the shells has to be the same as in our Singapore store, but Indonesian management decides what to sell here.

And decide they do! As expected, many books about Adolf Hitler (very popular historic individual in Indonesia), including his ‘best selling’ (at least in Jakarta) Mein Kampf. Right next to it, there are few shelves filled with anti-Communist propaganda of the lowest grade.

Indonesia has been, since 1965, always a Southeast Asian leader in brainwashing of the population.

One could, of course, argue that there are also some local chains of bookstores, selling books exclusively in the languages of Southeast Asia. However, the offering there is very limited. Frankly, there is no culture of high-quality translations of books in this part of the world, and the number of titles published in local languages is relatively small. Even the most prominent Indonesian novelist, Pramoedya Ananta Toer, once confessed to me, that while translating Maxim Gorky’s “Mother” to Bahasa Indonesia (“Ibunda”), he used the Dutch translation for his work, as well as his ‘intuition’ while scrolling through the original Russian text (he did not really speak much Russian, as he admitted).

*****

After decades of great effort, the Western intellectual indoctrination of Southeast Asia is now almost complete.

It is partially being done through ‘education’, by disbursing scholarships for students and offering conditional funding for Indonesian, Thai, Malaysian and other ‘scholars’ and professors.

Anti-Communist propaganda in Indonesia

Western propaganda is also ‘successfully’ distributed through ‘culture’. Western ‘cultural centers’, which are often (bizarrely) the only places offering ‘high art’ in most of the local cities, are clearly advancing their European and North American imperialist agenda (as I colorfully described in my latest novel Aurora).

The elites here are almost fully subservient to foreign business and political interests. Patriotism is only a buzzword, with no substance behind it.

There is no other part of the world so disconnected from the ideological and physical opposition to Western imperialism, as Southeast Asia.

The consequences of total Western brainwashing are devastating: the entire colossus of Southeast Asia is unable to produce great thinkers, writers, filmmakers, or scientists. There are only a few small exceptions in Thailand (including an important novelist Chart Korbjitti) and in Indonesia (the political painter Djokopekik, a former political prisoner during Suharto’s fascist regime, described by my Australian friend, the artist George Burchett, as ‘an explosive local fusion of Diego Rivera and Picasso’).

Other poor, devastated or complex parts of the world are literally regurgitating entire armies of tremendous writers, filmmakers and intellectuals: from Nigeria to Lebanon, from Iran to Mexico.

*****

With the exception of Vietnam (and to some extent, Laos), the West has literally uprooted all Communist and socialist ways of thinking, as well as internationalism. It was done brutally, though orchestrating massacres and purges. Hundreds of thousands of leftists, perhaps millions, were killed in Indonesia alone, after the 1965 coup. 30% of the population was murdered by Suharto’s military in East Timor, after the left-wing FRETILIN movement won independence from Portugal and consequently took power in fair and clear elections. In Thailand, Communists were burned alive in oil barrels. The killing and disappearing of Communists took place in Malaysia, Singapore and the Philippines.

In several countries, including Indonesia, the entire ‘Communist ideology’ is still officially banned.

After internationalism, anti-imperialism, Communism and intellectualism were destroyed, Southeast Asia was injected from abroad with conservative forms of religion, with consumerism, ‘traditional family values’ and grotesquely extreme individualism.

Simultaneously and already for years and decades, this part of the world has become truly famous, even notorious, for sex tourism, and for armies of ‘expats’ who are searching for a cheap and easy lifestyle. In the process they are managing to shape local ‘cultures’, to de-intellectualize this part of the continent. While Beijing and Tokyo are attracting, like magnets, countless great foreign scholars, thinkers and creative people, Southeast Asia is generally besieged by, to put it mildly, a very different type of foreigners. Why are they so comfortable here? It is because of the ‘great respect’ they can enjoy in Southeast Asia for just being white, no matter what their age or life achievements. This respect comes from the clear indoctrination of locals, from the pronounced lie, repeated thousands of times (mostly indirectly), that Western culture is superior, and, in fact, the greatest in the world.

To make Europeans and North Americans even more comfortable here: in Southeast Asia, almost all basic doctrines disseminated by Western propaganda, as well as the most primitive grain of capitalist and right wing ideologies have been historically accepted, tolerated, and even dutifully replicated.

*****

For the local academia, it is only the Western (or Japanese) stamp of approval that matters. As a result Southeast Asia forgot what patriotic and independent thought truly consists of.

Most of the Southeast Asian newspapers have no ‘foreign correspondents’ in faraway places. Almost all of their international news reports come directly from Western mainstream agencies such as Reuters, AFP and AP. No loopholes through which at least some alternative opposition information could enter and influence the masses, seems to be available.

You ask on the streets of Bangkok, Jakarta or even Kuala Lumpur about ‘South-South’ co-operation, and you will be greeted with blank stares. You would be suspected of talking about some new mobile phone application, or a chain of fast food restaurants. And what is BRICS, masonry?

While bookstores are basically finished, commercial cinemas are offering extremely carefully selected (the emptier the better) Hollywood ‘blockbusters’ and local horror films.

Local art forms, including traditional political theatre in Indonesia (ketoprak) is lately ‘out of fashion’, read: sidelined, made fully irrelevant, silenced.

Scarce art film clubs, like the one in the River City in Bangkok, has stickers of US and European cultural institutions (“sponsors”) ‘decorating its entrance.

One naughty art seller, in one of the galleries near the River City film club, just recently dared to exhibit a painting depicting Obama, with two obnoxious missiles hanging in between his legs. But was apparently asked to remove provocative art work, right before the official film screening which was sponsored by the Turkish embassy and attended by several Western diplomats. “Come with me into the storage and I will show you,” he whispered to me, as if he was peddling some illegal pornographic material or narcotics.

*****

Perhaps the most telling example of “how things are done”, I encountered several years ago on the premises of the Goethe Institute in Jakarta. Its curators decided to exhibit some old photographs from the Polish ‘Solidarity’ days, when, during one protest in the city of Gdansk, security forces fired at protesters.

The exhibition was put together, barefacedly, in the capital city of Indonesia, where ‘Communism’ is patently banned, where millions were massacred during the US-sponsored coup of 1965, and where the entire huge archipelago has been irreversibly plundered and devastated by multi-national and local mining and logging cartels. The nightmarish, ultra-extreme capitalism has been ruling and ruining Indonesia for years and decades, but it was Gdansk that Germany decided to show to the Indonesian public!

A handful of people killed by the Communists, decades ago, in Poland, were commemorated and the act shown to Jakarta dwellers. Of course, the German cultural institute would never even dream about arranging an exhibition commemorating the mass slaughter of Communists by Indonesian pro-Western genocidal forces.

*****

Now Southeast Asia knows nearly nothing about Russia, and almost nothing about China (except what the Western demagogues want it to know). Africa, including South Africa, is located on another planet, and so is Latin America. Only local elites can afford to travel to far away places, and these people are loyal to their Western masters and official doctrines; they would never tell the truth, never rock the boat of disinformation.

The local population knows generally more about North American pop or European football, than about its neighboring countries. The Southeast Asian poor are kept totally ignorant about Latin American attempts to build just, egalitarian societies. They know close to zero about Cuba, Bolivia, Venezuela or Ecuador.

Of course, there is absolutely no way one could discuss, in Southeast Asia, the recent re-election of MPLA in Angola (an event of tremendous global significance, as Angola is one of the symbols of the Western colonialist crimes against humanity, as well as of neo-colonial plunder). There is no way of discussing Cuba and its internationalism here, or even the coalition of countries, which are now standing proudly and determinedly against Western imperialism.

And what about the Middle East? It is fully limited to the Palestinian issue, and even that is discussed only in predominantly Muslim Indonesia and Malaysia. Another Middle Eastern ‘link’ is the unnaturally injected hatred for President Assad, who is accused of being too ‘secular’ and too ‘socialist’ (of course, these are great ‘crimes’ here, definitely not praise).

*****

In Southeast Asia, the West is clearly victorious. It has successfully ‘neutralized’, ‘pacified’, indoctrinated and intellectually enslaved this large (and in the past diverse) part of the world.

Hopefully this situation will not last forever, and not even for too long a time.

The Philippines and Vietnam are rapidly coming back to their senses, increasingly determined not to take dictates from the West.

But Indonesia has suffered a major setback, after its traditional-style ‘legal coup’ against Jakarta’s progressive Governor ‘Ahok’, who was smeared and then imprisoned on thoroughly irrational and bizarre accusations that he ‘insulted Islam’ (charges so bizarre that even local linguists came to his defense, but the verdict was ‘political’ and had nothing to do with justice). His true ‘sin’: Ahok tried to implement at least some elements of socialism in this still hopelessly fascist country. He fell. Others may make a fresh attempt, soon.

In the meantime, both China and Russia are making great inroads in the region. Local ‘creams’ are watching, attentively. Most of Southeast Asian elites have always been for sale, for centuries, of course, with the exception of those in North Vietnam.

As the anti-imperialist coalition is getting stronger and wealthier, there could actually be some serious changes of heart in foreseeable future, at the top of several Southeast Asian countries. Even Communism could be finally legalized again, but only if it manages to disperse some funding, scholarships, and substantial grants.

If it would, than those uniform debates at the FCCT in Bangkok could finally become vibrant and diverse.

The West will, of course, work very hard to prevent all this from happening.

*****

• All photos by Andre Vltchek

• First published in New Eastern Outlook (NEO)

The World Remembers 64th Anniversary of the West-Sponsored Coup in Iran

After WWII, the West had one huge ‘problem’ on its hands: all three most populous Muslim countries on Earth – Egypt, Iran and Indonesia – were clearly moving in one similar direction, joining a group of patriotic, peaceful and tolerant nations. They were deeply concerned about the welfare of their citizens, and by no means were they willing to allow foreign colonialist powers to plunder their resources, or enslave their people.

In the 1950’s, the world was rapidly changing, and there was suddenly hope that the countries which were oppressed and pillaged for decades and centuries by first the European and then North American geopolitical and business interests, would finally break their shackles and stand proudly on their own feet.

Several Communist countries in Eastern Europe, but also newly liberated China, were actively helping with a rapid de-colonizing process in Africa, Asia, the Middle East and other parts of the world.

Those developments were exactly what the West in general and both the U.K. and the U.S. in particular, were not ready or willing to accept. ‘Ancient’ belief in some sort of ‘inherited right’ to colonize, to loot and to control entire the non-white world, was deeply engraved in the psyche of the rulers in both Europe and North America.

Peaceful, tolerant and socially oriented Islam was seen as a tremendous threat, at least in London, Washington, and Paris. It had to be stopped, even destroyed — resolutely and by all available means. Only the pre-approved Wahhabism, which was collaborative with the West and from the onset at least partially ‘co-produced’ by the British Empire, was singled-out and allowed to ‘bloom and succeed’.

*****

Iran fell first, in 1953.

Actually, it did not fall; it was brutally destroyed.

According to the logic of the Empire, Iran had to be derailed and ruined, in order to prevent a so-called ‘domino effect’.

As written by Irfan Ahmad, an Associate Professor of Political Anthropology at Australian Catholic University, Melbourne and author of “Islamism and Democracy in India”:

…Major theatre of de-democratization was Iran, whose elected government was overthrown, in 1953, by a US-UK alliance. Mohammad Mosaddeq was Iran’s elected prime minister. He enjoyed the approval of Iran’s parliament for his nationalization program. The US and UK organized a CIA-led coup to oust Mosaddeq – because Iran refused make oil concessions to the West. During World War II, the UK had taken control of Iran to prevent oil from being passed to its ally, the Soviet Union. Through the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company, the UK continued to control Iran’s oil after the war. The French-educated Mosaddeq was highly critical of Iran’s draining of resources to the West. Soon after getting elected as prime minister in March 1951, Mosaddeq and his National Front alliance had moved to nationalize Iranian oil and throw out foreign control of oil fields. One such was the Abadan refinery, then the largest in the world. The UK retaliated by imposing economic sanctions, backed by its heavy naval presence in the region. Mosaddeq, however, was undeterred; his popularity only increased among the Iranian people. Faced with Mosaddeq’s resistance, the UK-US alliance staged a coup to over throw Mosaddeq’s government.

*****

Egypt was next.  France, the U.K. and Israel attacked it in 1956 during the so-called “Suez Canal Crises”. Although the invasion eventually ended and the Canal stayed in the hands of Egypt, the country never fully recovered. There were further Israeli attacks and invasions, and after President Gamal Abdel Nasser passed away in 1970, gross meddling in Egypt’s internal affairs by the Western countries. Gradually, Egypt was turned into an impoverished client state.

In Indonesia, a progressive and religiously tolerant President Ahmed Sukarno was overthrown more than a decade after Mohammad Mosaddeq in Iran. The coup took place in 1965, with direct involvement of the United States. Between 1 and 3 million people were brutally slaughtered.

Sukarno’s main ‘sins’, at least in the eyes of the Western Empire, consisted of strong left wing, patriotic stands, which included nationalization of almost all natural resources. Sukarno was also one of the founding fathers of the non-aligned movement.

By the end of the 1960’s, socialism in the Muslim countries had been almost thoroughly demolished. A dark era of collaboration, particularly in the [Persian] Gulf region, arrived.

The 1953 coup in Iran was later replicated in various parts of the world, even as far as Latin America.

For years it is has been no secret that the U.S and the U.K. planned and executed this deadly event.

In its article, CIA admits role in 1953 Iranian coup, published on 19 August 2013, The Guardian reported:

The CIA has publicly admitted for the first time that it was behind the notorious 1953 coup against Iran’s democratically elected Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddeq, in documents that also show how the British government tried to block the release of information about its own involvement in his overthrow.

On the 60th anniversary of an event often invoked by Iranians as evidence of western meddling, the US national security archive at George Washington University published a series of declassified CIA documents.

The military coup that overthrew Mosaddeq and his National Front cabinet was carried out under CIA direction as an act of US foreign policy, conceived and approved at the highest levels of government,” reads a previously excised section of an internal CIA history titled The Battle for Iran.

Declassified, U.S Department of State “Top Secret” documents from 1952, also clearly demonstrated great appetite of the U.K. to perform the coup in Iran:

Subject: Proposal to Organize a Coup d’etat in Iran

Problem:

The British foreign Office has informed us that it would be disposed to attempt to bring about a coup d’état in Iran, replacing the Mosadeq Government by one which would be more “reliable”, if the American government agreed to cooperate…

Although the U.S. government was originally hesitant about supporting the U.K. in planning to overthrow Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddeq, it soon changed its mind and allowed the CIA to plot and execute the coup.

What followed was 26 years of perversely brutal rule of Shah Reza Pahlavi, as well as of the British-US control over almost all great natural resources of Iran.

In brief: the West performed an experiment on Iran and on its people: how would the country react to a bloodbath, to overthrowing its popular leader, to a theft of its resources?

*****

As it did for centuries, the U.K. ‘scored’: it correctly predicted that it would be able to ‘get away with murder’. It managed to convince its offspring, the United States, that huge international crimes pay, as long as they are committed barefaced.

And the US industrialized these crimes, as it earlier did production of automobiles or radio sets. Crimes got mass-produced. One ‘inappropriate’ government after another got overthrown, destroyed; all over the world: Congo, Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Chile, Brazil, Indonesia, Vietnam… Crimes were piling up, and still are.

1953 in Iran marked the beginning of a ‘new chapter’ in the world history – a terrible and brutal chapter.

Iranian people and Iranian leadership are well aware of it. The country that suffered so much, the country which lost hundreds of thousands of its sons and daughters to Western imperialism, geopolitical games as well as naked greed, is now standing tall and strong, unwilling to surrender or to even budge.

It wants to go forward, it is going forward, but in its own direction, at its own pace, for the benefit of its people.

Iran is not alone. There is now an entire powerful alliance in place, consisting of countries from all over the world: an alliance of those who are not afraid to confront deadly expansionism and consequent terror. From Bolivia to China, from South Africa to Russia, Syria, Venezuela and the Philippines, people are remembering Iran of 1953, determined to defend their countries and the world against the greatest evil, which is imperialism!

Borneo (Kalimantan): A Frontline for Survival of our Planet

Ricardo Vaz: You are preparing a new documentary film about a big island, Borneo, which is shared by three Asian countries. Which was the triggering factor for making this film now?

Andre Vltchek: The triggering factor was a simple shock. I’m not what you’d call an environmentalist. Of course, I care about our planet, about our wonderful creatures, plants, oceans, rivers and deserts. I don’t want them to suffer, to disappear. I wrote an entire book about the plight of South Pacific island nations, called Oceania, but that was all – I never made one single film about the environmental destruction.

Mount Kimabalu in Borneo, Malaysia

But after visiting Borneo earlier this year (2017), something changed inside me. The island used to be one of the most beautiful places on earth, covered by impenetrable tropical forests, high mountains, and mighty rivers. Its many kingdoms and cultures were self-sufficient and thoroughly unique. Thousands of animal species were coexisting in harmony, sharing the living space with other creatures like birds, butterflies and rare plants, trees and flowers. It was a magic, gentle and pure world…

And it was all not so long ago. Many things are even documented by stunning old photographs…

Then, Western colonialism changed, basically ruined everything; as it had ruined everything almost everything, all over the world.

Soon nothing left of Indonesia

Dutch and British invaders, showing no respect and no interest in local people and their habitat, began doing here what they have been doing everywhere for centuries: plundering, stealing, cutting down trees, extracting riches from under the earth, enslaving the locals.

Single-handedly ruining the mountain

Later on, after semi-independence, the West corrupted local elites and introduced savage capitalism onto basically the entire island of Borneo. In Indonesia, the situation has been the most brutal, since 1965, when the pro-Western treasonous military overthrew the progressive anti-imperialist President Sukarno, putting on the throne a beast, a nitwit and a shameless collaborator, General Suharto. His barefaced money-hungry clique, together with Saudi-type religious bigots, has been running the country until this very moment.

Everything that can be extracted is taken away

Result: there is almost nothing left of the native forest. Indonesia has the fastest rate of tropical deforestation of any other nation on Earth. Rivers are polluted, often toxic. Hundreds of species are gone forever. Unbridled coal mining is scarring the land. Horrid palm oil plantations are replacing everything. As more and more riches are being found underground, the greater is the destruction. Indonesia is one of the most corrupt nations in the world, partially because of the shameful culture of collaboration of its ‘elites’ with the West, and with extreme capitalism.

Logging what is left of Indonesian and Malaysian Borneo

What I saw in Borneo simply shocked me. From now on I’ll refuse to shut up. If Indonesians themselves are too scared or too programmed to address the situation, I’ll try to do it myself.

RV: It seems that amnesia about the massive suffering of enslaved people, provoked by foreign imperialist administrations, is not the main concern of the traditional colonial powers like France, Britain or the US. For 75 years Borneo was a British ‘protectorate’. After its political independence, did UK put into practice a neo-colonial approach, aiming at keeping control of the island’s resources? If yes, what means have been used?

AV: Yes, of course. Brits and Dutch, as well as others did it.

There were many well-established neo-colonial strategies implemented in Borneo.

First of all, the elites in all three countries (Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei) are almost totally under control of the West. What is often called ‘corruption’ here is, in fact, nothing else other than ‘collaboration’ with the foreign powers. Colonialism never died here – in fact, it is alive and well in Borneo, and almost everywhere in Southeast Asia. The local ‘elites’ are serving the interests of both European and North American powers. They are willing to rob, to impoverish their own people, so they can maintain their own profits and privileges, and fill their own coffers, as well as those of the neo-colonialists.

New landscape of Kalimantan

Education and ‘culture’ are also playing their terrible roles. Education in countries like Indonesia and Malaysia is almost fully controlled by the Western demagogues, and it is ‘sprinkled’ generously with the extreme and intolerant religious currents, predominantly imported from the Gulf and from the West. Those few writers, filmmakers and film producers who could still be found here, are producing mainly absolute rubbish, and not addressing anything rebellious, socialist or revolutionary here. Almost all of them are well remunerated from the West and expected to shut up. I described it in great details in my latest novel Aurora.

The situation in education is even worse: professors are chasing diplomas and PhD’s instead of fighting for their island. They are ‘pacified’, bought by the privileges and by pathetic ‘feel good’ rewards, like those fully paid trips to Europe or the United States. They are paid to travel to the lands of their former colonial masters like UK or Holland, and ‘learn’, instead of spitting into the faces of those who have been robbing them for long and horrendous centuries. After getting indoctrinated at home and abroad, teachers and professors return home and continue their destructive work, brainwashing and indoctrinating both children and youth.

The young generation is taught how to get well-paid professions, how to make money and how to serve Western imperialism and savage capitalism, instead of fighting for, or defending their country or their almost destroyed islands, like Borneo. It is thoroughly shameful! The people who are ruling Southeast Asia would be executed for treason in places like Cuba, China or Russia!

RV: Back in 2012, Barack Obama announced a “pivot to Asia”. Is Southeast Asia already turning into the next Middle East because of the US imperialist ambitions?

AV: Good question, but it came a little bit too late. Southeast Asia and the Middle East are not all that different, anymore.

Look, in both parts of the world, the West used the most extreme religious streams, in order to enslave, brainwash and ‘pacify’ the local population. And it is not only Islam that has been used and abused by Washington, London and Paris. Every imaginable and unimaginable fundamentalist religious torrent was injected into this part of the world.

Result: this enormous part of the world does not have one single great scientist, philosopher, writer or a film director! Not one, just imagine!

The more destroyed, damaged and brainwashed this part of the world becomes, the more it is hailed by the Western mass media as ‘successful’, ‘tolerant’ and ‘democratic’. It is all just one highway robbery, a terrible, cynical joke, but it is being accepted ‘at home and abroad’, as most of the lies that are being spread by the Western indoctrinators are tolerated and embraced, as they are always well paid for.

RV: How are you planning to produce your documentary film? Are you being funded by some organization?

AV: I have no idea… I’m not funded by anyone.

This is how I always work: I recycle what I make from my books and films into my new work, into my revolutionary struggle for survival of our planet. I often run myself into the ground; periodically I collapse. But then I collect myself, get up somehow, and try to continue my struggle, my journey.

This time I actually asked my readers for support. Borneo is a tremendous story and it may need two films: one short and one feature one. I used the fundraising system: GoGetFunding. I asked for US$20,000, which would hardly cover a half of basic expenses. So far I collected US$60. That would not pay even for a couple of memory cards. But I never give up.

As the great Chilean President Salvador Allende used to say: “Adelante Camaradas, venceremos nuevamente!”

As an internationalist, I feel that it is simply my duty to fight for Borneo, as it is my duty to fight for Afghanistan or for Venezuela.

If someone is ready to support my work and my struggle, I’ll be grateful. If no one will, I’ll do it on my own, somehow! Attempts to destroy our planet do not wait. Why should I?

• All photos by Andre Vltchek

• Andre Vltchek is a philosopher, novelist, filmmaker and investigative journalist. He has covered wars and conflicts in dozens of countries. Three of his latest books are the revolutionary novel Aurora and two bestselling works of political non-fiction: Exposing Lies Of The Empire and Fighting Against Western Imperialism. View his other books here. Watch his Rwanda Gambit, a documentary about Rwanda and DRCongo. He continues to work around the world and can be reached through his website and Twitter. Read other articles by Andre.