Today, Iraq is plagued by violence and extreme poverty. But this wasn’t always the case.
The country in the Fertile Crescent has a long and rich agricultural history that has been decimated since the 2003 U.S. invasion. Once the country’s invaluable seed bank was destroyed and its institutions turned to dust, it set the stage for foreign agribusiness giants to swoop in and forever change the face of Iraqi agriculture.
Join Mnar Muhawesh for this segment of ‘Behind the Headline’ as she speaks to Iraqi agriculture expert Dr. Nakd Altameemi. They explore the devastating tolls that war, sanctions and Western corporations have had on Iraq’s once-bustling agriculture sector.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of Oceania Saker.
While walking through the city of Damascus at around 11.36 today a missile went over my head , passed a school yard with close to 200 children from ages 6-10 and exploded down the street ,luckily none of the children were hurt ,but to witness 200 children in shock and terror is not a pleasant sight ,children shaking some crying, running in all directions some just frozen to the spot , now I know you have only been in office for a meagre 100 days ,and have been ineffective in both domestic and foreign policy , the only action you have done is to bomb Syria in support of your so called moderate rebels , well these so called moderate rebels ,target populated areas at the time when children are playing , or during rush hour for maximum damage , listen to children scream in fear is not a good thing , I wonder what your reaction would have been if the missile had hit the school playground ?
But then you would not know as MSM would not report it ,please do what you said during your election campaign and put America first, and stop supporting terrorism, build a better America and never bomb a sovereign state ,to improve your popularity among the American public ,or listen to lies from advisors ,you should change the advisors you have, as sooner or later they will make you look more foolish than you are at this moment.
One very angry English man.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of Oceania Saker.
The average western mainstream ‘good citizen’ is in a state of satanic trance. In between the yoga classes and eco friendly living they still feel a thirst.
This thirst is shared by their fellow red necks too. The common man in the west has absorbed the propaganda dished out by their governments and media from cradle to school to adulthood and will keep drinking the koolaid to their graves.
But this thirst requires a ritual sacrifice in far away lands of brown and black people ruled by ‘brutal dictators’ as their media constantly trumpets. The lure is too strong, the thirst too deep…they need a feed.
And so they – like a cult – want more war, more blood and gore ! Then they will go in a few years and cast a ballot to cleanse their conscience by participating in ‘democracy’ as they ‘elect’ another bloodhound.
*“…the White Helmets are handling the corpses of people without sufficient safety gear, most particularly with the masks mostly used , as well as no gloves. Although this may seem insignificant, understanding the nature of sarin gas that the opposition claim was used, only opens questions. Within seconds of exposure to sarin, the affects of the gas begins to target the muscle and nervous system. There is an almost immediate release of the bowels and the bladder, and vomiting is induced. When sarin is used in a concentrated area, it has the likelihood of killing thousands of people. Yet, such a dangerous gas, and the White Helmets are treating bodies with little concern to their exposed skin. This has to raise questions.” (from: “Jumping to conclusions; something is not adding up in Idlib chemical weapons attack“)
This morning, under the orders of President Trump, the US military fired a reported 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles at an airbase in Syria, killing at least 6, according to early reports. The false pretext for this is the tired old refrain that “Assad used chemical weapons”, a ‘red line crossed claim’ made–and disproven–in 2013 in Ghouta, and in allegations prior and since. Any actual instances were the western-backed ‘rebels’. All others were fabrications of the NATO aligned media and faux human rights groups.
I’ll keep my own commentary short other than to emphasize that I do not believe for one second that the Syrian government used toxic gases on Idlib last week. My reasons are logical and many, but I will list just a few here and continue with suggested reading/listening:
–The Syrian army had no need to do so, are making advances on the ground in various areas of Syria with conventional means of fighting terrorism. Using a chemical weapon is precisely the ‘red line’ act America and NATO/Gulf/Zionist allies would leap upon to wage their war of ‘regime change’ fully on Syria, as per Libya and Iraq before. Meanwhile, western-backed ‘rebels’ have a history of using toxic gas in Syria (even the UN’s Carla del Ponte admitted this).
-Recently, apparently relations with America, via Trump, had improved. At the time of the alleged gas attacks, relations were looking positive. (That said, today, sadly, Trump has launched an illegal attack on Syria, using at least 59 cruise missiles on a military site and causing unknown deaths. This is an unprovoked act of war. Trump/America have zero evidence that the Syrian government authorized and used toxic gas, something even the United Nations admittedeven the United Nations admitted.)
For the sake of time, because this is an urgent issue that needs clear thinking and a firm stance against American (and Zionist/NATO/Turkish/Gulf) attacks on Syria, I am posting excerpts from a number of good analyses already online. Please share.
“Ex-UK Ambassador: Assad wasn’t behind the chemical attack“, Apr 5, 2017
“Former British Ambassador to Syria Peter Ford says he believes it is “highly unlikely” that Russia or the Assad regime was behind the attack in Idlib.”
How dreadfully depressing life has become in almost all of the Western cities! How awful and sad.
It is not that these cities are not rich; they are. Of course things are deteriorating there, the infrastructure is crumbling and there are signs of social inequality, even misery, at every corner. But if compared to almost all other parts of the world, the wealth of the Western cities still appears to be shocking, almost grotesque.
The affluence does not guarantee contentment, happiness or optimism. Spend an entire day strolling through London or Paris, and pay close attention to people. You will repeatedly stumble over passive aggressive behavior, over frustration and desperate downcast glances, over omnipresent sadness.
In all those once great [imperialist] cities, what is missing is life. Euphoria, warmth, poetry and yes – love – are all in extremely short supply there.
Wherever you walk, all around, the buildings are monumental, and boutiques are overflowing with elegant merchandize. At night, bright lights shine brilliantly. Yet the faces of people are gray. Even when forming couples, even when in groups, human beings appear to be thoroughly atomized, like the sculptures of Giacometti.
Talk to people, and you’ll most likely encounter confusion, depression, and uncertainty. ‘Refined’ sarcasm, and sometimes a bogus urban politeness are like thin bandages that are trying to conceal the most horrifying anxieties and thoroughly unbearable loneliness of those ‘lost’ human souls.
Purposelessness is intertwined with passivity. In the West, it is increasingly hard to find someone that is truly committed: politically, intellectually or even emotionally. Big feelings are now seen as frightening; both men and women reject them. Grand gestures are increasingly looked down upon, or even ridiculed. Dreams are becoming tiny, shy and always ‘down to earth’, and even those are lately extremely well concealed. Even to daydream is seen as something ‘irrational’ and outdated.
To a stranger who comes from afar, it appears to be a sad, unnatural, brutally restrained and to a great extent, a pitiful world.
Tens of millions of adult men and women, some well educated, ‘do not know what to do with their lives’. They take courses or go ‘back to school’ in order to fill the void, and to ‘discover what they want to do’ with their lives. It is all self-serving, as there appear to be no greater aspirations. Most of the efforts begin and end with each particular individual.
Nobody sacrifices himself or herself for others, for society, for humanity, for the cause, or even for the ‘other half’, anymore. In fact, even the concept of the ‘other half’ is disappearing. Relationships are increasingly ‘distant’, each person searching for his or her ‘space’, demanding independence even in togetherness. There are no ‘two halves’; instead there are ‘two fully independent individuals’, co-existing in a relative proximity, sometimes physically touching, sometimes not, but mostly on their own.
It is now winter in Kabul, end of February 2017. At night the temperature gets near zero. The mountains surrounding the city are covered by snow.
It feels much chillier than it really is.
Soon it will be 16 years since the US/UK invasion of the country, and 16 years since the Bonn Conference, during which Hamid Karzai was “selected” to head the Afghan Interim Administration.
Almost everyone I spoke to in Afghanistan agrees that things are rapidly moving from bad to rock bottom.
Afghans, at home and abroad, are deeply pessimistic. With hefty allowances and privileges, at least some foreigners based in Kabul are much more upbeat, but ‘positive thinking’ is what they are paid to demonstrate.
Historically one of the greatest cultures on Earth, Afghanistan is now nearing breaking point, with the lowest Human Development Index (2015, HDI, compiled by the UNDP) of all Asian nations, and the 18th lowest in the entire world (all 17 countries below it are located in Sub-Saharan Africa). Afghanistan has also the lowest life expectancy in Asia (WHO, 2015).
While officially, the literacy rate stands at around 60%, I was told by two prominent educationalists in Kabul that in reality it is well below 50%, while it is stubbornly stuck under 20% for women and girls.
Statistics are awful, but what is behind the numbers? What has been done to this ancient and distinct civilization, once standing proudly at the crossroad of major trade routes, influencing culturally a great chunk of Asia, connecting East and West, North and South?
How deep, how permanent is the damage?
During my visit, I was offered but I refused to travel in an armored, bulletproof vehicle. My ageing “horse” became a beat-up Corolla, my driver and translator a brave, decent family man in possession of a wonderful sense of humor. Although we became good friends, I never asked him to what ethnic group he belonged. He never told me. I simply didn’t want to know, and he didn’t find it important to address the topic. Everyone knows that Afghanistan is deeply divided ‘along its ethnic lines’. As an internationalist, I refuse to pay attention to anything related to ‘blood’, finding all such divisions, anywhere in the world, unnatural and thoroughly unfortunate. Call it my little stubbornness; both my driver and me were stubbornly refusing to acknowledge ethnic divisions in Afghanistan, at least inside the car, while driving through this marvelous but scarred, stunning but endlessly sad land.
One day you and your driver, who is by then your dear friend, are driving slowly over the bridge. Your car stops. You get out in the middle of the bridge, and begin photographing the clogged river below, with garbage floating and covering its banks. Children are begging, and you soon notice that they are operating in a compact pack, almost resembling some small military unit. In Kabul, as in so many places on earth, there is a rigid structure to begging.
After a while, you continue driving on, towards the Softa Bridge, which is located in District 6.
Where you are appears to be all messed up, endlessly fucked up.
You were told to come to this neighborhood, to witness a warzone inside the city, to see ‘what the West has done to the country’. There are no bullets flying here, and no loud explosions. In fact, you hear almost nothing. You actually don’t see any war near the Softa Bridge; you only see Death, her horrid gangrenous face, her scythe cutting all that is still standing around her, cutting and cutting, working in extremely slow motion.
Again, as so many times before, you are scared. You were scared like this several times before: in Haiti, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kashmir, Sri Lanka, Timor Leste, Iraq, and Peru, to name just a few countries. In those places, as well as here in Kabul, you are not frightened because you could easily lose your life any moment, or because your safety might be in danger. What dismays you, what you really cannot stomach, are the images of despair, those of ‘no way out’, of absolute hopelessness. Lack of hope is killing you, it horrifies you; everything else can always be dealt with.
People you see all around can hardly stand on their feet. Many cannot stand at all. Most of them are stoned, laying around in rags, sitting in embryonic positions, or moving aimlessly back and forth, staring emptily into the distance. Some are urinating publicly. Syringes are everywhere.
There are holes, deep and wide, filled with motionless human bodies.
First you drive around, photographing through the cracked glass, then you roll down the window, and at the end, you get out and begin working, totally exposed. You have no idea what may happen in the next few seconds. Someone begins shouting at you, others are throwing stones, but they are too weak and the stones just hit your shoulder and legs, softly, without causing any harm.
Then a bomb goes off, not far from where you are. There is an explosion in the 6th District, right in front of a police station. You cannot see it, but you can clearly hear the blast. It is a muffled yet powerful bang. You look at your phone.
It is March 1st, 2017, Kabul. Later you learn that several people died just a few hundred meters from where you were working, while several others perished in the 12th District, another few kilometers away.
The smoke begins rising towards the sky. Sirens are howling and several ambulances are rushing towards the site. Then countless military Humvees begin shooting one after another in the same direction, followed by heavier and much clumsier armored vehicles. You are taking all this in, slowly; photographing the scene, and then snapping from some distance a monumental but still semi-destroyed Darul Aman Palace.
Interview by Italian magazine Antidiplomatico with the author, Andre Vltchek
Q: Please tell us about your recently published book, “Aurora”.
A: Aurora is my latest novel. It is short, but emotionally charged and ‘outrageous’. It breaks many taboos, especially those regarding Western, particularly European culture. You know, so many people have this fetish about European culture being refined and superior to other cultures of the world. I actually don’t think it is, after living in Asia and Latin America for many years… But anyway, in my “Aurora” I also show how this – Western – culture can indoctrinate, brainwash, and destroy.
Q: Only the culture itself, or also the European cultural institutions?
A: Precisely, both! The two main protagonists of “Aurora” are: the German-speaking head of a huge European cultural institution, which is based in an unidentified Southeast Asian country (although many would guess that it is Indonesia), and his antagonist: a lady, a great local artist who literally escaped from her country to Venezuela and there married a revolutionary painter and a muralist. Her name is Aurora.
Hans G is not only the head of a cultural institute; he is also an intelligence officer, as well as a propagandist who uses ‘art’ and the funding of local artists for clear political motives: to depoliticize the country where he is based, to keep it obedient, ignorant, and passive.
Q: Aurora confronts him. How?
A: She does. She sees clearly what Hans G. (and his ‘culture’) is doing to her country. She challenges him. She humiliates him publicly… I don’t want to reveal the entire plot of my novel here… But for Aurora, the main reason for returning to her country is to find out the truth about her sister, who used to be another prominent progressive artist, but who was kidnapped, raped, tortured and murdered, mainly by those who were there to ‘promote’ that great European culture!
Q: There are Mozart, Brecht and others appearing throughout your book…
A: In the past, but also during these days, some of the greatest European musicians, writers and painters were actually thoroughly destroyed and prostituted by the elites and by the Church. They were forced to produce technically brilliant but content-wise pathetic and toothless kitsch. Mozart and Brecht, sitting in a bar in an ancient Chilean city of Valparaiso, are discussing the past, the art, although they are mainly remembering that important encounter of Hans G with Aurora, which Mozart actually witnessed, as a ghost. In a way, both Mozart and Brecht are co-narrating “Aurora”.
Frankly, “Aurora” is easy to read, but structurally it is a multi-layered novel, short but conceptually complex.
Q: It is also full of dark humor. How difficult is it to address such serious topics while still making your readers laugh?
A: For me, humor is always essential. I use it in all my writing, in fiction, non-fiction and in the theatre plays. People don’t only want to be ‘educated’ and reminded about the pitiful state of the world: when they read a book, especially a novel, they want to feel, to laugh, to cry, to be alive.
I think that any good fiction can really revolutionize the world; it can also show the reality, much more so than fact-based non-fiction works. That’s why the Western regime makes sure to neutralize, to depoliticize literature, poetry and cinema – because that’s where the inspiration, rebellion, and courage really have their homes. The regime doesn’t bother to censure most of the non-fiction work: because most of the dry and fact-based work would never truly manage to move a critical mass of people, it wouldn’t send millions to the barricades. Only true art can: novels, poetry, and great music. Western art is now hibernating. We have to wake it up, and do it very quickly!
Q: Do you have any plans to publish Aurora in Italy or in other languages besides English?
A: No concrete plans as yet, Aurora was only very recently published in English. But of course I’d love to have it in various languages. If publishers out there would really dare to touch such dynamite, then really why not?!
Andre Vltchek is a philosopher, novelist, filmmaker and investigative journalist. He has covered wars and conflicts in dozens of countries. Three of his latest books are revolutionary novel “Aurora” and two bestselling works of political non-fiction: “Exposing Lies Of The Empire” and “Fighting Against Western Imperialism”. View his other books here. Andre is making films for teleSUR and Al-Mayadeen. Watch Rwanda Gambit, his groundbreaking documentary about Rwanda and DRCongo. After having lived in Latin America, Africa and Oceania, Vltchek presently resides in East Asia and the Middle East, and continues to work around the world. He can be reached through his website and his Twitter.
Every once in a (long) while a book comes out that rips the zeitgeist, shining on like a crazy diamond. Age of Anger, by Pankaj Mishra, author of the also-seminal From the Ruins of Empire, might as well be the latest avatar.
Think of this book as the ultimate (conceptual) lethal weapon in the hearts and minds of a rootless cosmopolitan Teenage Wasteland striving to find its true call as we slouch through the longest – the Pentagon would say infinite – of world wars; a global civil war (which in my 2007 book Globalistan I called “Liquid War”).
Mishra, a sterling product of East-meets-West, essentially argues it’s impossible to understand the present if we don’t acknowledge the subterranean homesick blues contradicting the ideal of cosmopolitan liberalism — the “universal commercial society of self-interested rational individuals” first conceptualized by the Enlightenment via Montesquieu, Adam Smith, Voltaire and Kant.
History’s winner ended up being a sanitized narrative of benevolent Enlightenment. The tradition of rationalism, humanism, universalism and liberal democracy was supposed to have always been the norm. It was “clearly too disconcerting,” Mishra writes, “to acknowledge that totalitarian politics crystallized the ideological currents (scientific racism, jingoistic rationalism, imperalism, technicism, aestheticized politics, utopianism, social engineering)” already convulsing Europe in the late 19th century.
So, evoking T.S. Eliot, to frame “the backward half-look, over the shoulder, towards the primitive terror” that eventually led to The West versus The Rest, we’ve got to look at the precursors.
Smash the Crystal Palace
Enter Pushkin’s Eugene Onegin – “the first of many ‘superflous man’ in Russian fiction,” with his Bolivar hat, clutching a statue of Napoleon and a portrait of Byron, as Russia, trying to catch up with the West, “mass-produced spiritually unmoored youth with a quasi-Byronic conception of freedom, further inflated by German Romanticism.” The best Enlightenment critics had to be Germans and Russians, latecomers to politico-economic modernity.
Two years before publishing the astonishing Notes from the Underground, Dostoyevsky, in his tour of Western Europe, was already seeing a society dominated by the war of all against all in which most were condemned to be losers.
In London, in 1862, at the International Exhibition at the Crystal Palace, Dostoyevsky had an illumination (“You become aware of a colossal idea … that here there is victory and triumph. You even begin vaguely to fear something.”) Amid the stupor, Dostoyevsky was also cunning enough to observe how materialist civilization was enhanced as much by its glamor as by military and maritime domination.