It often appears that “true Afghanistan” is not here in Kabul and not in Jalalabad or Heart either; not in the ancient villages, which anxiously cling to the steep mountainsides.
Many foreigners and even Afghans are now convinced that the “true” Afghanistan is only what is being shown on the television screens, depicted in magazines, or what is buried deep in the archives and libraries somewhere in London, New York or Paris.
It is tempting to think that the country could be only understood from a comfortable distance, from the safety of one’s living room or from those books and publications decorating dusty bookshelves and coffee tables all over the world.
“Afghanistan is dangerous,” they say. “It is too risky to travel there. One needs to be protected, escorted, equipped and insured in order to function in that wild and lawless country even for one single day, or just a few hours.”
When it comes to Afghanistan, conditioned Western ‘rational brains’ of tenure or emeritus professors (or call them the ‘regime’s intellectual gatekeepers’) often get engaged, even intertwined with those pathologically imaginative minds of the upper class ‘refugees’, the ‘elites’, and of course their offspring. After all, crème de la crème ‘refugees’ speak perfect English; they know the rules and nuances of the game. The results of such ‘productive interaction’ are then imprinted into countless books and reports.
Books of that kind become, in turn, what could be easily defined as the ‘official references’, a ‘certified way’ to how our world perceives a country like Afghanistan. Their content is being quoted and recycled.
How often I heard, from the old veteran opinion makers (even those from the ‘left’) – people that I actually used to respect in the past:
“The Soviet era in Afghanistan was of course terrible, but at least many girls there had access to the education…”
It is no secret that ‘many girls had access to education’ in those distant days, but was it really “terrible”, that era? Was it “of course, terrible?” Baseless clichés like this are actually shaping ‘public opinion’, and can be much more destructive than the hardcore propaganda.
President Xi Jinping invokes Ming dynasty heroes, geopolitical development strategies and wild Asian geese analogies to portray China’s New Silk Roads initiative as the flagship of a trade-focussed new world order.
President Xi Jinping used the two-day New Silk Road international forum in Beijing to establish China as the flagship of a new, benign trade-focussed world order. This was, said Xi, a “new model of win-win and cooperation” that will prevail over gunboat diplomacy.
At the start of the conference, China’s state broadcaster Xinhua made clear that the initiative — officially first called One Belt, One Road (OBOR) and now Belt and Road (BRI) — was not “neocolonialism by stealth.”
“China needs no puppet states,” said Xinhua, while essentially repeating what Xi delivered in his keynote delivery.
“China is willing to share its development experience with the rest of the world” said Xi, “but we will not intervene in other nations’ internal affairs, export our social system and development model, nor force others to accept them.”
The Forum communiqué – a summary of the main points developed in Xi’s keynote speech – reported that the nations represented in Beijing had pledged to promote “practical cooperation on roads, railways, ports, maritime and inland water transport, aviation, energy pipeline, electricity and telecommunications”.
Big business too was represented and, reportedly, is enthusiastic.
Alibaba’s Jack Ma, so committed to advancing an electronic World Trade Platform, spoke to Chinese media at the Forum and hailed BRI’s “inclusion of young people, women, smaller enterprises and developing countries.”
On the final day of the forum, Beijing even engineered a sort of New Silk Road United Nations, in the form of a Leaders Roundtable, with the microphones open equally to all. The event was a nifty illustration of how Xi wants the world to see this initiative.
“The primary intention and the highest goal of the ‘Belt and Road Initiative’ is to allow each member to jointly address global economic challenges, find new growth opportunities and drivers, achieve a win-win situation and keep moving toward a community with joint destiny,” said Xi.
Xi went onto offer exhortations for Ming dynasty navigation master Admiral Zheng He – as a “friendly emissary” – before delivering a metaphor for the new world trade order that he had just outlined.
“Wild swan geese,” he said of the large, rare and wild bird found in Asia but not in Europe, “are able to fly far and safely through winds and storms because they move in flocks and help each other as a team.”
Ms. Yayoi Segi is based in Beirut, Lebanon, and she has worked in Syria for almost 3 years. She is extremely passionate about the country, which she admires and tries to support in her position as an accomplished specialist in national education development.
She agreed to share her collection of personal photos from Damascus, Homs and Aleppo.
I asked about her impressions regarding Syria and its people, and she replied, frankly:
“Syria is not what the mainstream media wants us to believe it is. One has to see it, to understand. Seeing is believing! It is an extraordinarily exceptional country. All that we have been told about Syria and its people is a lie.”
And what is the war doing to the country?
“The war… it is devastating the country. Life is of course tough now, but it never stopped; it definitely goes on. Electricity is cut often and water supplies are limited, but still life goes on. People endure; they even socialize. Syrians are very humble, very caring, warm and gentle people. They like to joke. They believe in their nation, in themselves; they are truly remarkable.”
Yayoi has been literally dedicating her life to the Syrian nation. She is ‘building schools’ there, and she is defending the nation whenever she goes. She is drawn to the Syrian people and she admits that she is philosophically close to them. She says:
“It is extremely important, what goes on in Syria, especially on the ideological front in highly politicized field of education, because ideology shapes education, and vice versa.”
“Even in the time of crises that was implanted from outside, the Syrian people still maintain tremendous sense of solidarity towards those whose lives have been shattered for decades, mainly Palestinians.”
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.”
hen Vladimir Putin was asked about his job, two years after becoming master of the Kremlin on New Year’s Eve, 1999, he said something about being a hired manager elected by the Russian people for a term of office. When he is asked about his job now, he calls it “fate”. Yesterday saw thousands joined the biggest since anti-government demonstrations in many years to protest against Putin and his prime minister/protégé Dmitry Medvedev.
Even so the Russian people, Putin is above all a symbol of stability after a decade and a half of turmoil that included the misguided and botched reform of the Soviet communist system; its abrupt end and the sudden advent of freedom that often looked like a free-for-all; the painful dissolution of the Soviet Union; market reforms, often dubbed “shock without therapy”; virtually instant crass inequality; the end of ideology and the collapse of morals.
Putin was appointed by Boris Yeltsin, Russia’s first president, to be his successor, but he earned his stripes by taming the oligarchs, bringing to an end the seemingly endless war in Chechnya, breaking the backbone of the once powerful Communist party and marginalising liberals. He recreated the traditional Russian system of hierarchical government. The state that had been privatised by the high and mighty could now strike back, reasserting its awesome power.
In much of what he was doing, Putin responded to the paternalistic demand of the bulk of the Russian people who had not particularly succeeded in the post-Communist era. Not only did he genuinely win elections, which under his rule became a means of confirming people in power not replacing them. He also cracked the code of staying in power in a country that had rejected both his predecessors, the once widely popular Mikhail Gorbachev and Boris Yeltsin. When faced with the choice, early on, to go with the elites – including the intelligentsia – or with the ordinary people, he chose the latter.
Putin understood that to rule Russia he had to stay genuinely popular with “the masses” and from time to time crack his whip at the elites: a “good tsar” reining in the greedy “boyars”. Popularity ratings are important: to rule effectively, one needs at least 60% support; to rule comfortably, 70%. Approaching 50%, however, which is totally fine in the west, is fraught with the dangers of civil strife in Russia. Thus by his own personality, his public actions and attitudes, Putin managed to confer legitimacy on the Russian state in the eyes of the vast majority of the population.
Putin has restored Russia’s status of a great power, lost with the Soviet Union. He first tried to fit Russia into an enlarged west, as a senior ally of the US in Nato and a close partner of the EU within a “greater Europe”. When his efforts failed, he steered Russia away from the western orbit, rebuilt the country’s military power and used it to protect Russian security interests in Ukraine – as he saw them – as well as to project force outside the former empire, to send the message to the world that Russia was back in play. Publicly and resolutely, he stood up to US global dominance.
Seen as disruptive in the west, Putin has struck a conservative tone at home. He allowed economic reforms in his first term, and later tolerated talk of modernisation, but his method of governance is essentially bureaucratic. Putin is both a capitalist and a statist. He understands the power of the market but is also wary of it, keeping the state always at the ready to step in and reassert control. He has reduced former oligarchs to obedient servants ever so keen to oblige him. He has seen his old friends rise to riches knowing that he can rely on their unquestioning loyalty – the one quality Putin appears to value particularly highly. The question about Putin’s own wealth misses the point – above a certain threshold, money turns into raw power, and in these terms the Russian president has few, if any peers.
An autocrat with the consent of the governed, Putin has preserved the essential personal freedoms that the Russian people first earned with the demise of the Communist system. People can worship and travel freely; Facebook and Twitter are essentially unrestricted; there are even a few tolerated media outlets overtly in opposition to the Kremlin. Political freedoms, however, are more tightly circumscribed, so as to leave no chance to potential “colour revolutionaries” or politically ambitious exiled oligarchs. For the bulk of the population, this matters little; the relatively few activists have a choice of taking it – or leaving.
Putin once described himself as Russia’s top nationalist. He has also proclaimed patriotism to be Russia’s national idea. On his list of values, the Russian state features at the very top. Since day one as president, he has been following Yeltsin’s parting request: “Take care of Russia.” The Soviet Union was one of Russia’s historical names, and so it’s little wonder that, to Putin, its downfall was a great catastrophe. His basic frame of reference is Russia’s rich history. Once Putin quipped that there was no one in the world worth talking to after the death of Mahatma Gandhi. Indeed, he talks with many, but he truly keeps company with Russia’s past rulers: tsars, emperors and party leaders. He is just the latest in a long line.
Having no peers in the land and very few abroad is a heavy psychological burden. One needs to look to a much higher authority. To Putin, however, religion is more than a personal matter. Christian Orthodoxy, in his view, is a spiritual and moral guide, the essence of Russia’s unique civilisation, and without it the country’s history and its classical literature and the arts cannot be fully understood. To Putin, the “Byzantine symphony”, an alliance of the state and the established religious organisations, first among them the Russian Orthodox church, is the core of national unity.
Next year, Russia is due to hold its presidential elections. Virtually everyone expects Putin to run, and no one has any doubt about his victory. The only question is how many people will come to the polling stations, and how many of them will vote for Putin. The Kremlin is now shooting for 70% in both cases. This fourth term in the Kremlin – fifth, if one counts Putin’s regency during Dmitry Medvedev’s stint – may be Putin’s last, not so much because he will turn 72 after the next six-year term expires, but rather because he was loth to change the constitution previously.
It is unlikely, however, that Putin will leave the stage even in 2024, after nearly a quarter of a century in power: his job is in fact a mission that will not be done as long as he is active. His challenge in the long term is to pass on leadership to a new generation of Russia’s leaders, and make sure that this works. Right now he is busy identifying people, most of them in their 40s and even 30s, who might form that group. Some have already been appointed to senior positions as ministers, governors, or other high officials. All will be tried and tested and given tasks to fulfil. Putin himself, a father figure to his proteges, would then become a pater patriae, or, to use a Singaporean formula, a president mentor.
It is much too early to pass final judgment on Putin. He has kept the country in one piece and restored its global status. He continues to be a formidable figure, and is always ready to surprise. He has made a deep impact on his country. It is Putin’s Russia – largely because he is Russia’s Putin.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of Oceania Saker.