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In 2019, I have written a long analysis about “the Uygur issue”; analysis which will be soon published as a book.

For some time, I have been warning the world that the West, and the United States in particular, are helping to radicalize the Uyghurs in Xinjiang Province and outside.

And not only that: I clearly mapped movement of the Uyghur radicals through some countries like Indonesia, towards Turkey, from where they are then injected into brutal war zones like Idlib in Syria. I worked in Idlib area, with the Syrian commanders, and I spoke at length with the Syrian internally displaced people; victims of the Uyghur genocidal attacks.

The majority of Uyghur people are Muslims. They have their own, ancient, specific culture and most of them are, of course, very decent human beings. Northwest China is their home.

The “problem” is that Urumqi, Xinjiang, are located on the main branch of BRI (The Belt and Road Initiative) – an extremely optimistic, internationalist project which is ready to connect billions of people on all continents. The BRI is infrastructural as well as cultural project, which will soon pull hundreds of millions of people out of poverty and under-development.

Washington is horrified that China is taking a lead in building a much brighter future for humanity. It is because, if China succeeds, it could be the end of Western imperialism and neo-colonialism, leading to real freedom and independence for dozens of until now suffering nations.

Therefore, Washington has decided to act, in order to preserve the status quo and its dominance over the world.

Step one: to antagonize, provoke and to smear China by all means, be it over Hong Kong, Taiwan, South China Sea or, above mentioned “Uygur Issue”.

Step two: to try to turn a part of China’s constitutionally-recognized national minority – Uyghurs – into “rebels”, or more precisely, terrorists.

Turkey, a member of NATO, offered the U.S. a helping hand. Uyghurs were flown with their families to Istanbul, with Turkish passports, through hubs in Southeast Asia. Then, their passports were confiscated in Istanbul. Many Uyghurs were recruited, trained, and then transported into war-torn Syria. Smaller group stayed in places like Indonesia, joining jihadi cadres there. When terrorist groups in Syria were almost thoroughly defeated, some Uyghurs were moved to Afghanistan, where I also used to work, and investigated.

Needless to say, Afghanistan has a short but important border with China.

Why all this complex operation? The answer is simple: NATO/Washington/West hope that the hardened, well-trained Uyghur jihadi fighters will eventually return home to Xinjiang. There, they would start to fight for “independence”, and while doing that, they would sabotage the BRI.

This way, China would be injured, and its most powerful global project (BRI) would be disrupted.

The Chinese government is, naturally, alarmed. It is clear that the West has prepared brilliant trap: 1) If China does nothing, it will have to face extremely dangerous terrorist threat on its own territory (remember Soviet Union being dragged into Afghanistan, and mortally injured by Western trained, financed and supported Mujahedeen? West has long history of using Islam for its Machiavellian designs). 2) If China does something to protect itself, it will get attacked by the Western media and politicians. Precisely this is what is happening now.

Everything is ready, prepared.

On 12 September 2019 , South China Morning Post, reported :

US Senate passes Uygur Human Rights Policy Act calling for sanctions on Chinese officials over Xinjiang camps

  • Bill also urges Trump administration to prohibit export of goods and services to state agents in Chinese region where upwards of 1 million Uygurs are being held
  • Beijing describes move as a ‘gross interference in China’s internal affairs’”

Naturally, the so-called rights act to interfere in Xinjiang’s affairs is one great exercise in hypocrisy and intimidation.

Let us not forget that the United States is treating Muslim people with absolute spite. It even bans them from entering the country, if they happened to live in certain nations. It arbitrarily bombs them in Pakistan, Afghanistan and elsewhere, worrying nothing about the loss of civilian lives. It tortures Muslims, and it humiliates them at home and even in their own countries.

And frankly: by trying to trigger the Uyghur insurgency in China, Washington is clearly doing a great harm to the Uyghurs themselves, and actually to all people of Northwest China. It is not just wrong; the United States is committing crime against humanity.

 

China is a multi-national, multi-cultural country. The Muslim culture is part of PRC’s identity. I suggest anyone who doubts that, to travel to Xi’an, one of three ancient capital cities of China.

Xi’an is where the old great Silk Road originated (ancient BRI, one could argue). Until now it is proud of its tremendous Muslim monuments, as well as of wonderful Muslim food and music. Every year, tens of millions of Chinese visitors travel to Xi’an, to understand its legacy, and enjoy its culture. The city is loved and appreciated, mainly because of its vibrant Muslim identity.

It is thorough nonsense that China is ‘anti-Muslim’. Both China (and Russia) are much more tolerant towards Islam than the West. Historically, and currently.

The same nonsense is to claim that China is building “concentration camps” in Xinjiang.

China’s position is clear: what the West describes as camps, are “vocational training centers” where “trainees” can learn Chinese and gain job skills to stop them becoming victims of “terrorism and religious extremism”. A group of Muslim Indonesian leaders, which gained access to these so-called ‘camps’ in Xinjiang, recently told my colleague, that people who spend some time in these institutions can actually sleep at home, at night.

Hardly a Guantanamo Bay, frankly speaking.

The self-proclaimed “judge”- the United States – has hundreds of high-security prisons, scattered all over the country. It is well known fact that throwing often innocent people to jail is big (privatized) business there, already for long decades. Millions of people are locked in for nothing. How can a country with one of the greatest number of prisoners on earth (on per capita bases) dare to preach anyone about justice? It is actually a great mystery.

 

What is the true purpose of such acts?

The answer is easy to define: It is that the determined unwillingness of the U.S. to share influence on the world, with other, much more humanistic countries, such as China; it is its unwillingness to compete, on the basis of great ideas and goodwill.

The more nihilist the U.S. foreign policy becomes, the more it accuses others of ‘murder’.

The way things function is simple: Washington creates some terrible conflict, somewhere. When the victim-country tries to resolve the conflict, and so-to speak ‘extinguish fire’, it is accused of ‘violating rights’ and gets slammed by sanctions.

All this has to stop, at some point, soon. This policy of Washington turns millions of human lives into agony.

 

[First, in shorter version, published by the China Daily]

 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: American Media, China, Muslims, Uyghurs 
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Good bye, Lebanon, metaphorically and truly.

Good bye to a country which, many believe, actually has already ceased to exist.

For five long years I have been commuting between the Asia Pacific and the Middle East. And Beirut, for all that time, was one of my homes.

I arrived in Beirut when the situation in the region was beginning to be unbearable; when destabilized, tortured Syria commenced losing its children in large numbers. They were forced to leave their homeland, heading for Beirut and Beqaa Valley, and in fact, to all parts of the world. I arrived when Syrian refugees were freezing to death, exploited and brutalized in ancient, godforsaken villages lost in the deep, lawless Lebanese valleys.

I was not supposed to write about it, but I did. I was not supposed to see what I saw. It was the UN’s shame, a well-hidden and well covered one, obscured by technical jargon. Refugees were not called refugees, and camps were not really officially registered as camps. What you had clearly seen with your own eyes, you were told, was actually totally something else. But it wasn’t. Eyes hardly lie.

Lebanon’s mirages, sandcastles and myths. If you live here, they surround you, suffocate you, choke you, all the time.

I arrived when the Palestinians began rebelling inside the horrific camps; hopeless, monstrous places where tens of thousands of human beings have been forced to live, for decades, without help, with hardly any rights.

And I left when the country collapsed. When the gap between the haves and have nots reached such enormous proportions, that it often began to appear that there were actually two different countries, even universes, on the same tiny geographical territory that is called Lebanon.

 

But before I left, there was an uprising.

Of course, periodically, there are rebellions here, which are misleadingly called “revolutions”. The “revolution” of 2005, of 2015, and now again, in 2019.

I worked in the center of Beirut, in the squares packed with the protesters. I tried to understand, to analyze, to find context.

And what did I witness? Huge clenched fists, those of the Serbian “Otpor”, a CIA-Serbian (extreme right-wing) ‘organization’, which forced the government of Slobodan Milosevic out of power, and which later infiltrated and destroyed genuine revolts all over the Middle East; revolts cynically called by the Western mass media – “Arab Spring”.

I actually saw many signs of Otpor, a sister group of Canvas, and when I asked protesters in Beirut whether they knew what these organizations represented, they replied that “no”, they didn’t but “they’d definitely ask their designers”.

There was a lot of waving of flags, plenty of singing, and even dancing. Rebellion Lebanese-style. One big party. Smiles, laughter, even when things get desperate.

Protesters have many grievances, and they are willing to discuss them, openly: corruption, hardship, almost non-existent social services, and hardly any future.

But do not look for any signs of ideology here, in 2019: this is not a communist, or even a socialist, rebellion, although historically, Lebanon has vibrant socialist and communist movements, both of them.

One thing is certain: protesters “do not like ‘elites’”, but you will search in vain for slogans denouncing capitalism; something that is so common in Chile and of course, in Bolivia (but not in Hong Kong, where the riots are clearly backed by the West and by some local ‘elites’).

Protesters do not like electricity blackouts, water shortages, filth accumulated everywhere because of the failed garbage collection and recycling. The protesters hate the high prices, and traffic jams.

But what do they want, really?

 

They want a “better Lebanon”. But what is that?

A Lebanon free of racism, for instance? No, I never saw any signs denouncing racism.

When I first began living here, I was horrified by the bigotry of the locals.

A driver working for one of the UN agencies, did not even try to hide his ‘beliefs’:

“The Turkish nation has improved. In the past, they only screwed Asian women, and as a result, they all looked like dogs. After they conquered the Balkans, and began screwing European women, their stock got better.”

Arriving at Rafik Hariri International Airport, I often saw humiliated Philippine, Ethiopian, or Kenyan women, locked in crowded rooms, guarded by Lebanese security forces. They looked like slaves, treated like meat. Unhurriedly, their “owners” would come to fetch them, signing release papers, leading them away.

The abuse of domestic workers in Lebanon is horrific; torture, rape and death are common. Foreign workers are regularly committing suicide. While there is hardly any legal protection for them.

Is this going to change? Are protesters demanding a “better Lebanon” which would once and for all finish with this sort of discrimination? Again, I have never heard about such demands.

And what has been sustaining Lebanon, financially, for decades?

All over West Africa, unscrupulous, racist and brutal Lebanese businesspeople have been exploiting local folks, while plundering natural resources. The things that I heard in Ivory Coast, would shock even the most hardened readers. But are there any slogans in Beirut demanding the plunder of West Africa stop?

Another fabled source of income are the narcotics, grown and processed in the Beqaa Valley. If it were to be marijuana, who cares? But Lebanon is producing heroin and cocaine, but above all, so-called “combat drugs”, including Captagon, which is used on the battlefields of Syria and Yemen. Captagon is regularly smuggled out of the country by the Saudis, and used in jihadi operations, as I have reported.

Is this going to end? Are Lebanese protesters demanding a “better Lebanon” without drugs that are helping to kill and torture tens of thousands of innocent people, all over the region?

What are the other sources of income here? Banking, of course. Banks that operate all over the Middle East, and the Gulf.

And, of course, “foreign aid”. Aid which is supposed to “help the immigrants”, as well as the poor Lebanese who are “suffering from the waves of refugees”, arriving from countries destabilized by the West. These funds regularly disappear, fully or partially”, into the deep pockets of the Lebanese elites, who make sure to generate profits no matter what: when the refugees keep arriving, and even when they leave.

Before I departed, I spent one week wandering all around Beirut, day and night, searching for answers, looking for signs that the protesters were really determined to change the country. Not just for themselves, but for everyone in Lebanon, and for the entire Arab world.

I encountered too many abstract slogans, most of them of Western origin. Not even a trace of Syrian Pan-Arabism. Nothing that would even remotely resemble internationalism. This was clearly a “European-style” rebellion.

 

As always, the Lebanese security forces were intimidating me and many others.

Coming to Martyr’s Square, at night, I only pointed the lens of my camera in the direction of a group of lazy, cynical looking soldiers, and it propelled them immediately into action. They tried to force me to delete the images, to apologize. I did not budge. I had no problem photographing police in Hong Kong, or in Paris, Chile or other places. And I have had enough, after 5 years here, of these inept and arrogant brutes.

 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Lebanon, Shias and Sunnis 
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After my work in the Middle East had finished, at least for the time being, I was waiting for my flight to Santiago de Chile. In Paris. I could count on a few ‘free’ days, processing what I had heard and witnessed in Beirut. Day after day, for long hours, I sat in a lounge, typing and typing; reflecting and typing.

As I was working, above me, France 24 television news channel was on, beaming from a flat screen.

The people around me were coming and going: West African elites on their wild shopping sprees, shouting unceremoniously into their mobile phones. Koreans and Japanese doing Paris. Rude German and North American beefy types, discussing business, laughing vulgarly, disregarding ‘lower beings’, in fact everyone in their immediate radius.

No matter what was happening in my hotel, France 24 was on, and on, and on. Yes, precisely; for 24 hours, recycling for days and nights the same stories, once in a while updating news, with a slightly arrogant air of superiority. Here, France was judging the world; teaching Asia, the Middle East, Africa and Latin America, about themselves.

In front of my eyes, above me, on that screen, the world was changing. For many months I had been covering the nightmarish riots of the treasonous violent ninjas in Hong Kong. I was all over the Middle East, particularly Lebanon, and now I was on my way to my second home, Latin America, where socialism has kept winning elections, but was getting beaten, even terrorized, by the corrupt and crooked Western empire.

All that France 24 kept showing, I have been habitually witnessing with my own eyes. And more, much more, from many different angles. I have filmed it, written about it, and analyzed it.

In many countries, all over the world, people have been sharing their stories with me. I have seen barricades, photographed and filmed injured bodies, as well as tremendous revolutionary enthusiasm and excitement. I have also witnessed betrayals, treasons, cowardice.

But in the lounge, in front of the television set, everything appeared pretty groovy, very classy, and comforting. The blood looked like a well-mixed color, the barricades like a stage of the latest Broadway musical.

People were dying beautifully, their shouts muted, theatrical. The elegant anchor in a designer dress was beaming benevolently, whenever people on the screen dared to show some powerful emotions, or were grimacing in pain. She was in charge, and she was above all of this. In Paris, London and New York, powerful emotions, political commitments and grand ideological gestures, were made outdated, already a long time ago.

During just the few days that I spent in Paris, many things have changed, on all the continents.

The Hong Kong rioters were evolving; beginning to set on fire their compatriots simply because they dared to pledge their allegiance to Beijing. Women were unceremoniously beaten, with metal bars, until their faces were covered in blood.

In Lebanon, the big clenched fists of the pro-Western regime-change Otpor were suddenly at the center of the anti-government demonstrations. The economy of the country was collapsing. But the Lebanese ‘elites’ were burning money, all around me, all around Paris and all around the world. Poor Lebanese Misérables, as well as the impoverished middle class, were demanding social justice. But the rich of Lebanon were mocking them, showing. They had it all figured out: they have robbed their own country, then left it behind, and now were having a great ball here, in the “City of Lights”.

But to criticize them in the West has been taboo; forbidden. Political correctness, the mighty Western weapon used to uphold the status quo, has made them untouchable. Because they are Lebanese; from the Middle East. A good arrangement, isn’t it? They are robbing their fellow Middle Easterners, on behalf of their foreign masters in Paris and Washington, but in Paris or London, it is taboo to expose their ‘culture’ of debauchery.

In Iraq, the anti-Shi’a and therefore anti-Iranian sentiments have been dispersed, powerfully and clearly, from abroad. The second big episode of the so-called Arab Spring.

Chileans have been fighting and dying, trying to depose a neo-liberal system, forced down their throats ever since 1973 by the Los Chicago Boys.

The Bolivian socialist government, successful, democratic and racially inclusive, has been overthrown, by Washington and Bolivian treasonous cadres. People have been dying there, too, on the streets of El Alto, La Paz, and Cochabamba.

Israel was at it again, in Gaza. Full force.

Damascus was bombed.

I went to film the Algerians, Lebanese and Bolivians; people who were pushing for their agendas at the Place de la Republique.

I anticipated the horrors that were waiting for me, soon; in Chile, Bolivia and Hong Kong.

I was writing, feverishly.

While the television set was humming.

People were entering and leaving the lounge, meeting and separating, laughing, shouting, crying and making up.

Nothing to do with the world.

The outbursts of indecent laughter erupted periodically, even as the bombs were exploding on the screen, even as the people were charging against the police and the military.

 

Then, one day, I realized that nobody really gives a damn. Like that; so simple.

You witness what happens, all over the world; you document it. You are risking your life. You are getting engaged. You get injured. Sometimes you come close, extremely close, to death.

You do not watch TV. Never, or almost never. You appear on the television, yes; you supply stories and images. But you never watch the results; what emotions your work, your words and images, truly evoke. Or do they evoke any emotions at all? You only work for the anti-imperialist media outlets, never for the mainstream. But for whomever you work for, you have no clue what the facial expressions your reports from the war zones are arousing. Or what emotions any war zone reports stir.

And then, you are in Paris, and you have some time to watch your readers, and suddenly you understand.

You get it: why so few are writing to you, support your struggle, or even fight for the countries being destroyed, decimated by the empire.

When you look around, observing people who are sitting in a hotel lounge, you clearly realize: they feel nothing. They want to see nothing. They understand nothing. France 24 is on, but it is not a news channel, which it was intended to be, many years ago. It is entertainment stuff, which is supposed to produce sophisticated background noise. And it does. Precisely that.

Same as the BBC, CNN, Fox and Deutsche Welle.

 

As the legitimately elected socialist President of Bolivia was being forced into exile, tears in his eyes, I got hold of the remote control, and switched channel to some bizarre and primitive cartoon network.

Nothing changed. The expressions on the faces of some twenty people around me did not change.

If a nuclear bomb would have exploded on the screen, somewhere in the Sub-Continent, no one would pay any attention.

Some people were taking selfies. While I was describing the collapse of the Western culture on my MacBook. All of us were busy, in our own way.

Kashmir, West Papua, Iraq, Lebanon, Hong Kong, Palestine, Bolivia and Chile were on fire.

So, what?

Ten meters away from me, an American businessman was shouting into his phone:

Are you going to invite me back to Paris in December? Yes? We have to discuss details. How much am I getting per day?”

Coups, uprisings, riots, all over the world.

And that plastic, professional smile of the lady, the news announcer, in her blue and white retro designer dress; so confident, so French, and so endlessly fake.

 

 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: American Media, France, Neoliberalism 
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They pledged to do it, and they did – Bolivian feudal lords, mass media magnates and other treasonous “elites” – they overthrew the government, broke hope and interrupted an extremely successful socialist process in what was once one of the poorest countries in South America.

One day, they will be cursed by their own nation. One day they will stand trial for sedition. One day, they will have to reveal who trained them, who employed them, who turned them into spineless beasts. One day! Hopefully soon.

But now, Evo Morales, legitimate President of Bolivia, elected again and again by his people, is leaving his beloved country. He is crossing the Andes, flying far, to fraternal Mexico, which extended her beautiful hand, and offered him political asylum.

This is now. The striking streets of La Paz are covered by smoke, full of soldiers, stained with blood. People are disappearing. They are being detained, beaten, and tortured. Photos of indigenous men and women, kneeling, facing walls, hands tied behind their backs, are beginning to circulate on social media.

El Alto, until recently a place of hope, with its playgrounds for children and elegant cable cars connecting the once dirt-poor communities, is now beginning to lose its native sons and daughters. Battles are raging. People are charging against the oppressors, carrying flags, dying.

A civil war, or more precisely, a war for the survival of socialism, a war against imperialism, for social justice, for indigenous people. A war against racism. A war for Bolivia, for its tremendous pre-colonial culture, for life; life as it is being perceived in the Andes, or deep in the South American rainforest, not as it is seen in Paris, Washington or Madrid.

 

The legacy of Evo Morales is tangible, and simple to understand.

During almost 14 years in power, all the social indicators of Bolivia went sky-high. Millions were pulled out of poverty. Millions have been benefiting from free medical care, free education, subsidized housing, improved infrastructure, a relatively high minimum wage, but also, from pride that was given back to the indigenous population, which forms the majority in this historically feudal country governed by corrupt, ruthless ‘elites’ – descendants of Spanish conquistadors and European ‘gold-diggers’.

Evo Morales made the Aymara and Quechua languages official, on par with Spanish. He made people who communicate in these languages, equal to those who use the tongue of the conquerors. He elevated the great indigenous culture high, to where it belongs – making it the symbol of Bolivia, and of the entire region.

Gone was the Christian cross-kissing (look at the crosses reappearing again, all around the oh so European-looking Jeanine Añez who has grabbed power, ‘temporarily’ but still thoroughly illegally). Instead, Evo used to travel, at least once a year, to Tiwanaku, “the capital of the powerful pre-Hispanic empire that dominated a large area of the southern Andes and beyond, reached its apogee between 500 and 900 AD”, according to UNESCO. That is where he used to search for spiritual peace. That is where his identity came from.

Gone was the veneration of the Western colonialist and imperialist culture, of savage capitalism.

This was a new world, with ancient, deep roots. This is where South America has been regrouping. Here, and in Correa’s Ecuador, before Correa and his beliefs were purged and ousted by the treacherous Moreno.

And what is more: before the coup, Bolivia was not suffering from economic downfall; it was doing well, extremely well. It was growing, stable, reliable, confident.

Even the owners of big Bolivian companies, if they were to care one bit for Bolivia and its people, had countless reasons to rejoice.

 

But the Bolivian business community, as in so many other Latin American countries, is obsessed with the one and only ‘indicator’: “how much higher, how much above the average citizens it can get”. This is the old mentality of the colonialists; a feudal, fascist mentality.

Years ago, I was invited, in La Paz, for dinner by an old family of senators and mass media owners. With no shame, no fear, openly, they spoke, despite knowing who I was:

We will get rid of this Indigenous bastard. Who does he think he is? If we lose millions of dollars in the process, as we did in 1973 Chile and now in Venezuela, we will still do it. Restoring our order is the priority.”

There is absolutely no way to reason with these people. They cannot be appeased, only crushed; defeated. In Venezuela, Brazil, Chile, Ecuador or in Bolivia. They are like rats, like disease, proverbial symbols of fascism as in the novel The Plague, written by Albert Camus. They can hide, but they never fully disappear. They are always ready to invade, with zero notice, some happy city.

They are always ready to join forces with the West, because their roots are in the West. They think precisely like the European conquerors, like North American imperialists. They have double nationalities and homes scattered all over the world. Latin America for them is just a place to live, and to plunder natural resources, exploit labor. They rob here, and spend money elsewhere; educate their children elsewhere, get their surgeries done (plastic and real) elsewhere. They go to opera houses in Paris but never mingle with indigenous people at home. Even if, by some miracle, they join the Left, it is the Western, anarcho-syndicalist Left of North America and Europe, never the real, anti-imperialist, revolutionary Left of non-European countries.

They don’t need the success of the nation. They don’t want a great, prosperous Bolivia; Bolivia for all of its citizens.

They only want prosperous corporations. They want money, profit; for themselves, for their families and clans, for their bandit group of people. They want to be revered, considered ‘exceptional’, superior. They cannot live without that gap – the great gap between them and those ‘dirty Indians’, as they call the indigenous people, when no one hears them!

 

And that is why, Bolivia should fight, defend itself, as it is beginning to do so right now.

If this, what is happening to Evo and his government, is “the end”, then Bolivia will be set back by decades. Entire generations will again rot alive, in desperation, in rural shacks made of clay, without water and electricity, and without hope.

The ‘elites’ are now talking about ‘peace’, peace for whom? For them! Peace, as it was before Evo; ‘peace’ so the rich can play golf and fly for shopping to their beloved Miami and Madrid, while 90% of the population was getting kicked, humiliated, insulted. I remember that ‘peace’. The Bolivian people remember it even better.

I covered the civil war in neighboring Peru, for several years, in the 90’s, and I often crossed over into Bolivia. I wrote an entire novel about it – “Point of No Return”. It was an absolute horror. I could not even take my local photographers to a concert or for a cup of coffee in a decent place, because they were cholos, indigenous. Nobodies in their own countries. It was apartheid. And if socialism does not return, it will be apartheid once again.

Last time I went to Bolivia, few months ago, it was totally different country. Free, confident. Stunning.

Remembering what I saw in Bolivia and Peru, quarter of a century ago, I declare, clearly and decisively: “To hell with such ‘peace’, proposed by elites’”!

 

 
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It is wrong, totally wrong to abandon Jakarta and try to build some Potemkin village in the middle of Borneo, an island known in Indonesia as Kalimantan.

There are many reasons why, and we will be addressing at least some of them here.

But before we begin, let us state the obvious: the cowardly and spineless Indonesian city planners, architects and recent graduates of thoroughly useless schools, are accepting this, so far, the most ridiculous and vile idea of President Jokowi’s regime. And not only that: they are competing for a piece of the pie, advancing their ‘ideas’, justifying their collaboration with statements like: “Well, the government already decided to do it, so at least we should try to create the best design possible”.

Needless to say, that the Indonesian city planners have already created some of the most monstrous, unlivable cities on earth. These individuals generally fall into two categories: either they work for private, thuggish companies, or for the government, which had already, a long time ago, abandoned the entire urban design to the “market”. It is a vicious circle. In fact, the Indonesian government serves private business and military interests, and so do, by extension, the Indonesian government officials, including ‘academics’ and mass media.

The results are clear: those nihilist and corrupt Indonesian elites and their monstrous cities, where nothing is public, where there are almost no green areas, but plenty of worshipped slums (artificially glorified shantytowns – kampungs), and millions of repulsive buildings and houses designed by talentless architects, a desperate lack of an urban. Cities which are desperately lacking culture and beauty; cities with almost no public transportation, with open sewers, and privatized utilities.

 

Jakarta is dying. It is collapsing, sinking.

For decades, these facts used to be denied, hidden, covered up. Often it felt that I was the only writer ready to expose the horrors of Indonesian cities. Now, suddenly, even the Western media, always so supportive of the Indonesian fundamentalist capitalism, cannot hide the truth, anymore. Recently, article after article are being published, exposing the nightmare.

From the left, Socialist Worker, wrote:

“Jakarta is a capital city that is literally sinking. Under the weight of pollution and rising sea levels, Indonesia’s government has decided to simply pack up and move elsewhere.

They, along with 1.5 million government workers, will soon be headed for the island of Borneo.

The rest of Jakarta’s 30 million residents will be abandoned to live in a hugely polluted, impoverished and sinking city.

It’s a horrifying illustration of how our rulers want to preserve “business as usual” while they leave ordinary people to suffer the reality of climate crisis.

Jakarta is sinking—in some areas by up to 20 centimeters a year—because not enough people have access to clean drinking water.”

But even the super mainstream newspaper, The Sun, exposed the reality:

“Jakarta is SINKING as scientists warn climate catastrophe could plunge half of city underwater by 2030 – and the entire capital may have to be abandoned…”

“Unfortunately for Jakarta, there is no time or room for error as experts are predicting that the continued sea level rise will see the north of the city underwater by 2030.

This area includes the international airport.”

That doesn’t seem to worry too many Indonesian officials, planners, and rulers. The cynicism of the Indonesian so-called elites and their pawns, seems to have no boundaries.

In Indonesia, experts are known to overlook the urban horrors, for a fee, refusing to admit the total collapse, cynically concentrating on tiny technical details. Masters degrees and doctorates are made by blurring reality, refusing to say and write in simply language, that hundreds of millions of people have been condemned to live, all over the archipelago, in tremendous destitution.

What is obvious, is rebuked. Say “clear disaster”, even horror, and you will be told, arrogantly, to your face: “give us data. Show us the results of academic research”. But almost no real data is produced. Research is conducted in a way that it hides the truth. I worked with leading UN statisticians, and was told how in Indonesia, data gets massaged and concealed.

Point at some monstrous slum, or at a river clogged with garbage, and you will be reprimanded: “No. It is not what you think it is. Show us the studies!”

But it is; it is precisely what you see. And the country, together with its monstrous capital city, it falling, irreversibly, into pieces.

 

Now, moving the Indonesian capital city to Borneo is totally immoral. The move clearly exposes the essence of the corrupt Indonesian regime.

In summary: the government is prepared to use billions of dollars from public assets, while it is also trying to attract private “investment” (the impoverished public will have to eventually pay for it, as always in the modern history of the country). Those tens of billions will, as always, disappear in corruption. Original plans will be ‘modified’, getting rid of public spaces and public transportation, in order to maximize the profits of construction companies, politicians and obedient ‘public employees’. Already devastated, the thoroughly ruined Island of Borneo, will deteriorate even further. With the new capital in place, the last hopes for independence, of the native Dayak people, will vanish forever.

In the meantime, 30 million of the people living in greater Jakarta, will be left unprotected, defenseless, ruined and facing the most horrible demise.

But fascist Indonesia does not care about 30 million of its, mostly poor, citizens. As it does not care about the fate of the inhabitants of Borneo; people who are dying slow deaths, from mercury poisoned rivers (result of gold mining), monstrous chemicals that are accompanying vast palm oil plantations as well as coal (and other) mining.

And, as always in Indonesia, nobody really fights against this approaching nightmare.

It is because the population is uninformed, or more precisely, thoroughly brainwashed. The mass media is repeating the lies of the government and its ‘experts’. Academia is bought and repeats all that it is ordered to utter by the government. A few uncomfortable activists get killed, without much coverage. Soon, new legislation is expected to make the president and the government untouchable, beyond criticism; a law similar to that of lesse majeste.

President Jokowi, a megalomaniac from the provincial city of Solo (Central Java) is at war with anything socialist. He is fully determined to sell his country to the West. He is getting rid of almost all remaining labor protection laws, and he is inviting Western companies to “invest” in Indonesia, giving them tax holidays and many other incentives. Recently he met President Donald Trump, behaving embarrassingly, like a boy scout, begging him to visit Indonesia, and to invest.

While people all over the world are fighting and dying, trying to defeat outrageous turbo-capitalism, Jokowi is falling head over heels in love with long time discredited Thatcherite and Reaganite dogmas.

The price is horrendous. The country is reaching, socially, educationally and health-wise, the hard, sub-Saharan African bottom.

People are being robbed of everything, including their land, their environment, as well as public spaces, beaches, rainforests, cities, villages and rivers. And even economy is collapsing (hushed fact), because Indonesia is hardly capable of producing anything.

 
• Category: Economics, Foreign Policy • Tags: Indonesia 
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There seems to be no limit to Qataris tossing around their wealth. This tiny kingdom with 2.6 million inhabitants is full of ridiculously lavish gold-plated palaces, most of them built with terrible taste. It is overflowing with Lamborghini racing cars and Rolls Royce limousines, and now, even with ludicrously wasteful air-conditioned sidewalks (cold air blows from below, into the 35C heat).

Ruled by the House of Thani, the State of Qatar is truly a strange place: according to the latest count conducted in early 2017, its total population was 2.6 million, of which 313,000 were Qatari citizens and 2.3 million ‘expatriates’, both the low-wage migrant workers, and the lavishly remunerated Western professionals.

Foreigners are doing everything; sweeping the floors, cleaning garbage, cooking, taking care of babies, flying Qatar Airways planes, performing medical surgeries and building office towers. Manual laborers are discriminated against; beaten, cheated, humiliated. Many migrant workers have been dying under “mysterious circumstances”. But they are still coming, mainly because Qatar, with its GDP per capita of $128,702, is the richest country on earth, and because there is huge demand for hundreds of different professions. Never mind that the perks are for the ‘natives’ only, while the minimum wage for foreigners is only around $200 per month.

Locked in a bitter dispute with its neighbors, including Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, Qatar is moving closer and closer to its best allies – the United States and United Kingdom. The Al Udeid Air Base hosts over 100 aircraft of the United States Air Force, Royal Air Force, and other Gulf War Coalition partners. It accommodates the forward headquarters of United States Central Command, No. 83 Expeditionary Air Group RAF, and the 379th Air Expeditionary Wing of the USAF. Presently, at least 11,000 U.S. servicemen are permanently located here. Al Udeid Air Base is considered the most important military airport in the region, used for operations in countries such as Syria and Afghanistan.

Qatar has been playing an extremely important role in destabilizing Syria, and other countries in the Middle East. It has been spreading fundamentalist religious dogmas, as well as extreme capitalist creeds.

 

Qatar has plenty of money, and it uses some of its funds for various ‘educational programs’, which are closely linked to the Western, particularly US and British but also Wahhabi propaganda apparatus. International experts hired from the West have been promoting such extreme concepts as the privatization of schools, keeping the governments away from developing curricula, and spreading pro-Western and pro-market doctrines throughout the region and beyond.

Under the cover of ‘saving children’, Qatari foundations and programs are promoting Muslim fundamentalism, as well as the commercialization of education. And that is not just in Qatar itself, but also as far away as Somalia, South Sudan and Kenya.

While at Qatar University, I noticed that even the libraries are segregated (predictably, I was told by a UN staff member based in Qatar, that the so-called “Men’s Library” is incomparably better supplied than women’s), Qatar wants to present itself as a regional leader in higher education, by spreading around regressive philosophy and mindsets.

Naturally, the main goal is to maintain the status quo in the region.

In terms of quality education, things don’t work in Qatar itself, either. With all those huge budgets burnt, or more precisely wasted, Qatar has very little to be proud of. According to the OECD:

In 2012, Qatar was ranked third from the bottom of the 65 OECD countries participating in the PISA test of math, reading and skills for 15- and 16-year-olds, comparable to Colombia or Albania, despite having the highest per capita income in the world.”

Since then, things have not improved much, although statistics on the subject are suddenly not too widely available.

 

At the end of October 2019, I found myself attending a conference, organized by the Center for Conflict and Humanitarian Studies, hosted by the Doha Institute for Graduate Studies.

Except one highly qualified UN expert (who had been working, for years, on the ground, in Syria and other places destroyed by the West and its Gulf allies), the panel of speakers consisted of individuals based in and pampered by Qatar.

The line that was tugged here was predictable:

Professor Frank Hardman basically explained how the states in the region “became weak”, and how the private sector should be taking and pushing for the education reforms.

But the most astonishing discourse came from Prof. Maleiha Malik, Executive Director, of the Protection of Education in Insecurity and Conflict (PEIC), Education Above All Foundation. She spoke about the importance of protecting vulnerable schools as well as children, in conflict zones, and about the international legal mechanisms “which are now in place”, designed to bring those who are destroying schools and pupils to justice.

In brief, a typical mainstream “development” and NGO talk.

Qatar is far from being a place where one could be free to speak up his or her mind.

But I had no patience left. I have worked in countless war and conflict zones, all over the world. And what I was witnessing at the Doha Institute for Graduate Studies was nothing short of an indoctrination process of both the participants of the conference, as well as the students.

I demanded they let me speak. When the microphone was passed on to me, I said that I needed an exact answer:

Professor Malik, I have a question for you. I have been covering dozens, perhaps hundreds of conflicts and wars, all over the world. I saw hundreds of schools burning. I saw hundreds of children dead. Most of these atrocities were triggered by the United States, by Europe, or both. It all began long before I was born, of course, it is going on until now”.

I saw the horror on the faces of the organizers. They were devouring me with their eyes, they were begging me to stop. Most likely, this has never happened here, before. Everything was being filmed, recorded. But I was not ready to stop.

The students in aula did not react. They were clearly conditioned not to get excited by speeches delivered by ‘elements’ hostile to the regime.

I continued:

Professor Malik, I am asking you, I demand to know, whether there was one single case when the United States, United Kingdom, France, Australia or any other Western country, was put on trial and condemned, by those international mechanisms that you mentioned earlier… Condemned for murdering millions of children, or for carpet-bombing thousands of schools in such places like Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, and later in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria? For, right now, trying to starve children in Venezuela? For keeping people, including children, from having access to medicine…”

Then I turned to Frank Hardman:

Professor Hardman, aren’t those states that you mention and defined as ‘weak’, in such a situation, because they are being antagonized, attacked and terrorized by the West; by historically imperialist countries?”

Total silence.

Then, I concluded:

Wouldn’t it be the most effective way to protect schools and children, if we’d make sure that the West and its allies, would finally stop destroying dozens of countries all over the world?”

The Chair of the conference, Prof. Sultan Barakat, went to work, immediately, trying to contain the damage:

Professor Malik, obviously, the question is about what is happening in Palestine…”

 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: American Media, Qatar 
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Tires are burning, smoke is rising towards the sky. It is October, the 18th day of the month, the capital city of Lebanon, in the past known as the “Paris of the East”, is covered in smoke.

For years I was warning that the country governed by corrupt, indifferent elites, could not hold together, indefinitely.

For all those five years when I was calling Beirut home, things were going down the drain. Nothing was improving: almost no public transportation, electricity shortages, contaminated and erratic water supply. Periodically, garbage has been piling up along the streets and suburban roads. Once an airplane lands and the doors open, the terrible stench of garbage welcomes us, residents of Beirut, back home.

Almost everyone knew that all this could not continue like this, forever.

The city was suffering from 4th World diseases, while simultaneously being flooded with Land Rover SUVs, Maserati and Porsche sports cars, and Armani suits.

Beirut has almost collapsed to Jakarta levels, although, one has to admit, with extremely smart, highly educated and sophisticated elites, capable of conversing simultaneously in three world languages: French, Arabic and English. Also, with first rate art galleries, art cinemas, posh bars and nightclubs. With lavish marinas and the best bookstores in the entire Middle East.

Some say that Beirut has always been in possession of brain and guts, but something happened to its heart.

Now nothing really works here. But if you have millions of dollars, it does not really matter; you can buy anything here. If you are poor, destitute – abandon all hope. And the majority of the people here are now miserably poor. And no one even knows precisely how many are destitute, as a census is forbidden, in order ‘not to disturb religious balance’ (it was, for years, somehow agreed on, that it is better not to know how many Christians or Muslims are residing in the country).

It is certain that most of people are not rich. And now, outraged by their rulers, corrupt politicians and so-called elites, they are shouting, loudly and clearly: “Enough!”, Halas, down with the regime!”

 

The government decided to impose a tax on WhatsApp calls. Not a big deal, some would say. But it was; it is, it suddenly became a big deal. “The last drop”, perhaps.

The city exploded. Barricades were erected. Tires were set on fire. Everywhere: in the poorest as well as in the richest neighborhoods.

“Revolution!” people began shouting.

Lebanon has a history of left-wing, even Communist insurgencies. It also has its fair share of religious, right-wing fanaticism. Which one will win? Which one will be decisive, during this national rebellion?

The Communist Party is now behind several marches. But Hezbollah, until now the most solid social force in the country, is not yet convinced that the government of Saad al Hariri, should simply resign.

According to Reuters:

“Lebanon’s Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said… that the group was not demanding the government’s resignation amid widespread national protests.

Nasrallah said in a televised speech that he supported the government, but called for a new agenda and “new spirit,” adding that ongoing protests showed the way forward was not new taxes.”

Any tax imposed on the poor would push him to call supporters to go take to the streets, Nasrallah added.”

So far, the rebellion has left countless people injured, while two Syrian immigrants lost their lives. Some local analysts say that this is the most serious uprising since the one in 2015 (which included the “You Stink!” campaign, reacting to the appalling garbage crises in Beirut and to the worsening social disaster), but others, including this author, are convinced that this is actually the most serious political catastrophe Lebanon has been facing since the 1980’s.

One hears anger, on every corner of the capital, in cafes and local stores:

Trust is broken!”

Even those who used to be far from any political activities, are now supporting protesters.

Ms. Jehan, a local staff member at a UN office in Beirut, is one of those who found herself on the side of the rebellion:

“What is happening to Beirut and all over in Lebanon is good. It is about time we stood up. I will go too. This has nothing to do with religions. It is about our shattered lives.”

 

Reading Western mainstream media, one could begin to believe that Lebanon’s main problems are issues like foreign debt (Lebanon is, on a per capita basis, the third most indebted country on earth. The debt stands at 150% of its GDP), miniscule real reserves (US$ 10 billion), and the way the country interacts with the donors and lenders. IMF and its “advice” are constantly mentioned.

But even news agencies like Reuters have to admit that the entire mess is far from just about structural problems:

“As dollars have dried up, banks have effectively stopped lending and can no longer make basic foreign-exchange transactions for clients, one banker said.”

““The whole role of banks is to pour money into the central bank to finance the government and protect the currency,” he said. “Nothing is being done on the fiscal deficit because doing something will disrupt the systems of corruption.””

And here is the key word: “Corruption!”

Lebanon’s elites are shamelessly corrupt. Only such countries like Indonesia are able to compete with the Lebanese troglodyte clans, when it comes to stripping the entire nation of its riches.

Almost nothing is clean, or pure in Lebanon, and that is also why there aren’t any statistics available.

Money comes from the monstrous and ruthless exploitation of natural resources in West Africa. Everybody knows it, but it is never addressed, publicly. I worked in West Africa, and I know what the racist Lebanese ‘business people’ are doing there. But money stolen from the Africans does not enrich Lebanon and its people. It ends up in the Lebanese banks, and spent on lavish yachts, tacky and overpriced European sports cars, and inside bizarre private clubs in and around the capital. While many Lebanese people are near starvation, airplanes flying to Nice, Venice or Greek Islands are constantly packed with la dolce vita seekers.

Lebanon makes billions of dollars from narcotics, particularly those cultivated and refined in the Beqaa Valley. They get exported mainly to Saudi Arabia, for the consumption of the rich, or injected into the battlefields in Yemen and Syria, so-called combat drugs. Again, everyone knows it, but nothing is done to stop it. Hundreds of families, from farmers to politicians, got filthy rich on that trade. This adds a few more super-yachts at the proverbial Beirut marinas.

Then, there is ‘foreign aid’, ‘European investment into infrastructure’, Saudi and Qatari money. Most of it goes, directly, into the pockets of corrupt officials, to the so-called ‘government’, and to its buddies, contractors. Almost nothing is built, but the money is gone. Lebanon has railroad employees who are getting their monthly paychecks, but no railways, anymore. Train station had been converted into vodka bar. Lebanon begs for money so it can host refugees from all over the region, but much of the money ends up in a few deep pockets. Very little goes to the refugees themselves, or to the poor Lebanese people who have to compete for low-paying jobs with the desperate Syrians or Palestinians.

 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Corruption, Lebanon, Neoliberalism, Poverty 
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Almost all of the prominent U.S. neocons have been madly snapping at everything and everybody who opposes the Western right-wing dogmas, be they Chinese or Russian leaders, local opposition figures, or, lately, even the Pope.

Individuals like Steve Bannon, often greatly influence leaders like President Donald Trump. Then they fall out of grace, sometimes because of some personal quarrels, and “get fired”. But, regularly, at least some of them, bounce back.

And, even if they do not return to the White House, do they disappear into thin air? Hardly. Their destructive legacy marches on.

Mr. Bannon cannot stand the Pontiff of the Catholic Church. Same as he hates the leadership of the People’s Republic of China, or the Worker’s Party (PT) in Brazil.

It is clear that behind his emotions is a disease so common to all neocons: loathing for the poor, and admiration for wealth and brutal power.

Pope Francis is as far from the former darling of the Western right-wing establishment, the Polish Cold-War warrior Pope John Paul the Second, as one can get. An Argentinian, a former bouncer of a nightclub, and an outspoken defender of the “have nots”, Pope Francis is truly eccentric and human. As such he is continuously criticized, even insulted by Mr. Trump’s entourage, as well as by the President himself.

“Disgraceful,” fumed Mr. Trump, as early as 2016, when Pope Francis travelled to Mexico and declared that building walls between countries was not Christian.

The Pope’s statements about social justice and the evilness of capitalism turned both Mr. Bannon and Mr. Trump, into his sworn enemies.

In 2019, it was reported by The Telegraph that Steve Bannon advised the far-right Italian leader, Matteo Salvini, Italy’s interior minister, to attack the Pope on immigration issues.

Mr. Bannon was forced to leave the White House in August 2017 (where he served as President Trump’s strategist), but he never abandoned the struggle against progressive governments, movements and individuals, worldwide.

Now he is based outside Rome, in the Trisulti Monastery, working with the far-right Dignitatis Humanae Institute.

He was accused of aiding Ms. Le Pen in France, and various other right-wing leaders in Europe. On May 20, 2019 , The Telegraph published a chilling analysis:

“Mr. Bannon has made no bones about wanting to unify European nationalist parties via his group, The Movement, and is known to be close to Miss Le Pen and Italian populist leader Matteo Salvini.

‘If sovereignist, populist and nationalist movements do well in European elections, it will help these movements around the world and that will also be useful for Trump in America’, he told RMC.”

One wonders whether Mr. Bannon, as well as Mr. Bolton, and others, truly left the White House, or whether they were reassigned to some concealed but more effective positions at home and abroad.

In July 2018, Bannon declared:

“We are at war with China. We’re winning.”

Just a few days earlier, he spoke to CNBC and put it really bluntly:

“Trump knows he needs to unite the West against the rise of a totalitarian China… How it ends is in victory. Victory is when they give all full access to their markets.”

The usual Western dogma: full surrender, unconditional obedience, falling to the knees. Religious submission to capitalism, and to “Western values”. And all that hypocritical chatter about “totalitarianism”, “freedom” and “rights”.

China said “no”, by words and deeds. No surrender, no slavery.

What followed was predictable: direct, relentless propaganda attacks against Beijing, the triggering of a Western-sponsored ‘rebellion’ in Hong Kong, the further arming and radicalization of the Uyghurs, provocations in the South China Sea, and an assault on one of the flagships of China’s high-tech industry: Huawei.

Steve Bannon’s statements and actions had been monitored and analyzed by several media outlets, including RT, which reported on 22 May, 2019:

“Donald Trump’s former chief strategist Steve Bannon gave an impassioned account of what is driving the US war on Chinese tech firm Huawei… and trade has little to do with it. The US wants to destroy its competitor, for good.

Bannon, often credited with putting Trump in the White House, said that driving Huawei out of the US and Europe is far more critical than any trade deal with Beijing, the South China Morning Post reported on Wednesday.”

The report then concluded:

“Bannon’s threats went beyond Huawei. He called for Chinese companies to be restricted from accessing capital markets “until [they agree to] fundamental reform.” While his outlook of fundamentally clashing civilizations is often viewed as extreme, his comments are actually in keeping with Brendan Carr of the Federal Communications Commission, who said that companies that want access to US markets need to first prove they “share Western values.”

Yes, ‘Western Values”. Read clearly between the lines: No other ‘values’ than Western ones should be allowed to govern the world. In fact, “there are no values but Western values”. Sounds familiar? Fundamentalism? Yes, precisely. And for years and decades, I have been warning my readers, that this is exactly what the West, its leaders and its propaganda, have been emitting.

In Zero Hedge, Tyler Durden correctly analyzed true position of Steve Bannon:

“Despite Bannon has been cast away from the close circle of Trump advisors – at least for public consumption – Bannon is still the main puppet master in the White House.”

That is clearly evident.

And so, Bannon could be defined as a chief [shadow] U.S. emissary to the world.

He is openly trying to unite extreme-right-wing forces in Europe, meddling in the internal affairs of, at least on paper independent countries of the “old continent”. He is so ruthless, that he is even proving to be ‘too much’, too aggressive, for some right-wing governments, like that of Austria.

He is insatiable; essentially operating everywhere, where dark, fascist forces are at work, or could be encouraged to re-emerge.

He helped to put an extreme right-winger, Jair Bolsonaro, onto the throne in Brazil. Mr. Bolsonaro is so outrageous, so brutal, that his success in Brazil appeared to be, at first, unimaginable. But Steve Bannon made sure that impossible dream of the right-wing would come true.

In August, 2018, Telesur wrote:

“Political strategist Steve Bannon, a founding member of the far right-wing news website Breitbart News and former chief advisor to United States President Donald Trump, will be an advisor to Brazilian Presidential candidate Jair Bolsonaro for the upcoming elections in October.”

“Bannon said that Bolsonaro’s mission in Brazil” will be more “arduous” than Trump’s presidential campaign, said Eduardo Bolsonaro[Jair Bolsonaro’s son].”

“According to Bannon, his exit from the White House was pre-meditated. “I’d always planned on spending one year… I want to get back to Breitbart,” he said to the Weekly Standard.”

“Now I’m free. I’ve got my hands back on my weapons… I am definitely going to crush the opposition. There’s no doubt. I built a fucking machine at Breitbart. And now I’m about to go back, knowing what I know, and we’re about to rev that machine up. And rev it up we will do.”

He is smearing Pope Francis who has been departing from the conservative position of previous Popes, and openly criticizing capitalism and Western foreign policy.

 
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Student protests, West Papua independence struggle, monstrous forest fires, an assassination attempt against Coordinating Minister, sinking capital city, earthquakes and a collapsing economy – the increasingly religiously fundamentalist Indonesia is suddenly facing too many disasters. It cannot cope with any of them.

Nothing seems to be going well for Indonesia, these days. People in West Papua are rebelling; an earthquake has devastated several communities in Ambon. The economy is slowing down, and is expected to grow only below 5%, while the population is skyrocketing, out of control.

Students are rebelling, protesting against a proposed law that could make sex outside marriage illegal and punishable by prison terms. Another piece of legislation could turn the recently re-elected President Joko Widodo (known by his nickname – Jokowi) into a demi-god (same as Thai monarchs), making it illegal to criticize him. People are also rebelling against the changes which Jokowi announced –curbing labor rights and “opening up” the economy for, virtually, unbridled foreign “investment”.

Some people have already lost their lives, in Papua, in Sulawesi, and elsewhere.

Man-made forest fires, the most vicious in the world, are now continuously ruining millions of lives, sending toxic smoke all over the entire Southeast Asia, as far as Thailand. Flames are also quickly finishing up all that is left of the Indonesian native forests. Entire species of fauna and flora are disappearing, while islands are becoming uninhabitable.

 

Things were not supposed to be so bad for the Indonesian President Jokowi.

Just recently, he bragged that he was not afraid of anything, and has nothing to lose, as he cannot run for a third term. He proclaimed that he will do precisely what he always wanted to do: to lift restrictions on foreign investment, to give multi-nationals ‘tax holidays’, and to reform labor laws.

Basically, Jokowi, once a furniture maker in a provincial city of Solo (in Central Java) has decided to implement brutal Thatcherite-style capitalism. Of course, Indonesia has already suffered from turbo-capitalism since the US-sponsored military coup in 1965, but for decades, the regime consisted of a sort of medley of extreme capitalism, cronyism and cheap, aggressive nationalism. It was not structured, or precisely defined.

When Jokowi met with the US President Donald Trump, pouring embarrassing and servile compliments at him, asking him “on behalf of millions of the Indonesia people” to come and visit his country, it became official where does Indonesian regime really stands.

Donald Trump promised to “do business with Indonesia”.

What kind of business would it be, everyone can imagine. One can only recall his “investment:” in Bali, a golf course resort in Tanah Lot, which ruined thousands of local lives. United States, as well as Europe and Australia, as well as their companies, have been ruining Indonesia since the 1965 military coup.

But Jokowi and the Indonesian elites are ruling with an iron fist, and with absolute control over the mass media. Indonesian public is blind to the reality. No left-wing dissent is allowed. Bizarre, pathetic statues of the yuppies, “entrepreneurs” are scarring Jakarta. Everywhere else on earth, people would be dying from laughter, spotting sculptures of businesspeople with attaché cases marching and flying forward; but not in Indonesia. Here capitalism is beloved and admired; taken damn seriously.

Before the latest elections, the former military general Prabowo was once again unleashed as an opposition candidate. Prabowo, backed by the Islamist hard-liners, was nothing else other than a bogeyman. His presence fooled many poor and the middle class into voting for Jokowi, who appeared to at least be a little bit more reasonable. This way, Indonesians put their own neck into a loop. From the moment Jokowi got elected, the regime could proclaim, cynically: “You see, you voted for this President yourself, twice”.

Jokowi’s cabinets have been consisting of various religious bigots, as well as mass murderers, including General Wiranto, who got recently attacked by a jihadi cadre. In the past, Wiranto, known as butcher of East Timor, had been involved in several brutal operations, including extermination campaign in the former Indonesian colony.

 

After the elections, things began moving extremely fast.

Jokowi ‘decided’ to move the nation’s capital, from Jakarta to the devastated island of Borneo (known in Indonesia as Kalimantan).

That was, just in case that the island brutally plundered by the elites and foreign companies, would one day dare to dream about gaining its independence. According to one of my contacts in Kalimantan (a local celebrated writer J. J. Kusni), the president and his entourage already have big investments on the island.

Abandoning Jakarta, a megapolis with an urban area of around 30 million people, is a tremendously cynical move. The over-populated city is sinking. It is hell on earth consisting of brutal slums (where the majority of people live), dotted with skyscrapers, luxury hotels and malls. The city is governed by a corrupt clique, with hardly any green areas left, and basically nothing public. Its air quality is the worst in the world.

According to the experts, by 2030, some 30% of Jakarta will be submerged, and the entire city will become uninhabitable.

Instead of defending the capital, and instead of improving the lives of the people, the government is planning to grab billions of dollars, flee and build some utopian paradise in the middle of the far-away jungle.

Of course, the paradises have never materialized in Indonesia. Money will disappear into private pockets, and what will be constructed in Borneo will be, like everywhere, an ensemble of sub-standard buildings.

The people in Jakarta do not understand. The propaganda is too colorful and convincing. People living in Kalimantan (Borneo Island) are too debilitated, while some have been out rightly bought. There is hardly anything left of their island. No one there is ready to fight for anything.

 

And Kalimantan, like Sumatra, is burning.

As written by Maria C. Lo Bue, from the United Nations University:

“Indonesia is currently in the throes of an environmental emergency. Thousands of hectares of forest are burning across the vast country, causing toxic smoke to be released into the atmosphere. This has led to eerie apocalyptic scenes of deep red skies, deserted streets and people with their faces covered with masks…”

“Carbon-rich peatland forests on the island of Sumatra and Kalimantan have been extensively cleared to create new plantations, often to produce palm oil…”

“So far, more than 35.000 fires have been detected in 2019…”

However, what follows is a litany, as all that is written in the report is an under-statement.

The Air Quality Index (AQI) has reached not just ‘hazardous’, but disastrous levels; up to 2,000 in Central Kalimantan (just for comparison, over 100 is already considered “unhealthy”.

When I was filming in Central Kalimantan, recently, the government did close to nothing to combat the fires. It was actually promoting palm oil, even threatening countries that were criticizing plantations, with retaliatory sanctions.

Ms. Nurhalimah, 31 years old, a farmer, who lives in Kubu Raya, West Kalimantan, explained her condition:

“I cannot work at the farm all day long as usual. The haze caused terrible headache. Even when we stay inside the house, I and my children still feel sick. We often have respiratory problem, headache, cough and flu. My children cannot go to school for weeks, since schools were ordered to close down due to haze”.

 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Indonesia 
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At J. Nehru University, most students know about China and Russia only from the BBC, Reuters and other Western media outlets. Even those individuals who claim they belong to the left are not immune; influenced mainly by the British propaganda.

It has been like this for years: usual confusion, all around India: tough nationalistic, even chauvinistic rhetoric, mixed with almost religious economic submission to the West, and often, to Western geo-political interests.

During the last few years, nationalism, as well as Hindu religious dogmatism have been gaining ground, while capitalism, often in its most vulgar and grotesque form, has been turned into a worshipped and bulletproof demagogy.

Gone are the days of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi. Now, there is no flirtation with socialism, anymore, and no attempt to create a country that would serve all of its citizens.

Like in Thailand, which is now the country with the most unequally distributed income on earth, Indian elites are thriving on their exceptionalism, on being separated from the poor majority by entire galaxies.

Here, Bentley and Jaguar showrooms rub shoulders with terrible, impenetrable slums. Expensive private hospitals are shamelessly seducing foreigners into “cheap” medical tourism, while the local poor are dying in pain and misery, often with no help at all.

 

For many years, I have been writing about this country, from Kerala and Tamil Nadu to the oppressed Northeast and Kashmir. I have encountered, and worked with, many local thinkers, opposition figures and artists.

Then, four years ago, after covering Kashmir, Assam and the deprived villages north of Delhi, something broke inside me, and I couldn’t stand what I saw here, anymore. I could not deal with the gang rapes, with people being tortured and forced to eat their own flesh. And I refused to be subjected to the most grotesque “security”measurements and bullying on earth.

“Democracy!”, people laughed at me, when I mentioned the word. “Yes, democracy, for them, for the rich. We the poor only stick pieces of paper into a box, take small bribes and alcohol from various political parties, before elections. We get beaten up if we do something the rulers and the rich consider wrong.”

I have had enough of the farce: in India, Indonesia, Thailand – wherever the brutal, nihilist regimes which have been reducing the majority of the population into beggars, have been clinging, almost unopposed, to power.

 

Then two months ago, the Student Association at Jawaharlal Nehru University, wrote me a letter, inviting me back to speak, this time about China and the conflict between the PRC and the United States.

The email exchange with the Students Union Leaders included a piece of information which I was actually aware of:

The International Relations field is being completely taken over by pro US / pro NATO people here…”

Everybody here is occupied with JNU student union elections next week. It is one of the most important places of ideological resistance to the current Fascist government in India. “

Modi… Yes. They hate Modi at JNU. Many do. But then later, in Delhi, after accepting the invitation, in an Uber from my hotel to the university, I was told, bluntly:

Your friends, including Arundhati Roy and a Kashmiri documentary film director Sanjay Kak, used to speak at this university, often. Now they cannot even show their faces here, or there would be a riot organized by the RSS.”

At that moment I knew that I am on my own. Ready to face the students at the school which could be still considered the best public university in India, but which was hostile to even the most luminous intellectuals this nation has recently produced.

I recalled how, four years ago, in a café in New Delhi, sitting at a table with Arundhati Roy and Sanjay Kak, I committed an indiscretion, exclaiming:

But India has such great opposition figures!”

Arundhati looked at me, sarcastically, and uttered:

Yes, and most of us are sitting, right now here, at this table.”

 

My encounter with the JNU students and researchers was colorful; from the beginning to the end. They wanted me to speak about the “Global South”, and about the conflict between the West and both China and Russia.

I did. But I also wanted to “take the pulse”, to understand, from their questions and statements, what they actually know, and what they would like to learn from exchanges like this.

For two full hours we faced each other, and these were not always pleasant moments.

I spoke about China and Russia as I knew them, experienced, and wrote about. They were shooting many questions at me, questions that were often shaped by the Western propaganda language, and by mass media jargon.

“Human rights”, “democracy”, “why does China do this?”, “why does Russia do that?”

I stood my ground.

“Why did China do nothing to help Cuba?”

I patiently explained that China saved Cuba, after the Soviet Union decomposed under Gorbachev and Yeltsin. Sarcastic sounds followed.

“Fidel Castro quoted me, and wrote that I was correct,” I uttered. This restored order. There was not much to add.

There were questions about Hong Kong. Confrontational questions. Definitely not questions that are asked among comrades. I did not lose my temper. Patiently, I explained what I recently witnessed in Hong Kong: the confusion of the rioters backed by European and North American countries. Violence and hate; destruction.

At the end, one young man asked me, with a smile: “And what about Iranian imperialism?”

“Iranian imperialism?” I couldn’t understand. I still did not fully comprehend that this was different India that I knew in quite a recent past.

“Yes. Iranian imperialism… You know: supporting Yemeni rebels, and brutal Assad’s dictatorship…”

I recalled how I was approached: [JNU] is one of the most important places of ideological resistance to the current Fascist government in India.

One of the left-activists and research scholars at JNU who asked not to be identified, and who was present during my presentation, later wrote for this essay:

On the extreme right-wing violence kind of things like lynching, riots, hate speech, Hindutva interpretation of history etc. – there is some resistance from a section of liberal elites. Or resistance on caste issues from people who care about these issues.

But on long term policies of Indian state – pro-US foreign policy, neoliberal economic policies, etc – there is hardly any understanding or resistance.

I even heard one ex-WTO guy in a seminar here – who was surprised to see the consensus among students on the ‘rule-based international trading system’ in contrast to fierce disagreements when he came a few years back.

There are few teachers who are exceptions – but in general a far-right shift (in economic and foreign policy) is unfortunately true.”

That is obviously and unfortunately what is happening. I witnessed it at JNU, I was told this by my friends, and I felt it on the street.

 

Binu Mathew, the legendary Editor of “Countercurrents” magazine, based in Kerala, explained:

 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: American Media, India, Neoliberalism