China must avoid a role in destruction of Amazon

July 23, 2019

by Pepe Escobar : Posted with permission

China must avoid a role in destruction of Amazon

China is South America’s top trading partner. Together, China’s policy banks – the China Development Bank and Export-Import Bank of China – are the top source of development finance for the whole of Latin America. 

Over the past few decades, the Brazilian government, leading national companies and multinational corporations have configured what Fernando Mires, already in 1990, defined as the “Amazon mode of production”: a terribly predatory, technological-intensive mode of production and destruction, including subjugation of indigenous populations in slave-based working conditions, with everything geared for export to global markets.

The Amazon is spread out over 6.5 million square kilometers covering two-fifths of Latin America – half of Peru, a third of Colombia, a great deal of Bolivia, Venezuela, Guyana, French Guyana and Suriname, and most of all, 3.5 million square kilometers in Brazil.

The original population diversity was staggering. Before the arrival of the Europeans in Brazil in 1500, there were no less than 1,400 tribes, 60% of them in the Amazon. Ethnologists marveled that nowhere else in the world compared to the linguistic diversity in tropical South America.

The Tupi-guarani tribe even constituted a sort of “empire”, occupying a huge territory from the Andes to the Pampas in southern Brazil. A sort of “proto-state” traded with the Andes and the Caribbean. This all laid to rest the Western-peddled myth of a “savage”, un-civilized Amazon.

Now let’s fast-forward to the current Western outcry over the Jair Bolsonaro government’s destruction of the Amazon.

Brazil, still under the second presidential term of Dilma Rousseff – later impeached under spurious charges – was a signatory of the 2015 Paris agreement on climate change. Article 5 of the agreement rules that parties “should take action” to preserve endangered forests. Brasilia pledged to protect the Amazon by restoring 12 million hectares of forests by 2030.   

And yet under Bolsonaro, “should take action” metastasized into “reverse previous action.” The new mantra is “Amazon development.” In fact, a turbo-charged and even more predatory 2.0 version of the “Amazon mode of production,” much to the horror of Western environmentalists, who fear an imminent transformation of the Amazon into a dry savanna, with dire consequences for the whole planet.

Staggering natural wealth

The Brazilian Army is fond of noting that the Amazon’s natural wealth has been evaluated at a staggering $23 trillion. This is a 2017 figure announced by General Eduardo Villas Boas, who added: “Brazil is a highly endowed individual imprisoned in the body of a teenager. The Amazon is practically abandoned, there’s no national project and density of thinking.”

In fact, there is a national (military) project to “develop” the Amazon at breakneck pace, while preventing, by all means, the “Balkanization of the Amazon” and the action of Western NGOs.

In April this year, one of Bolsonaro’s sons posted a video of Dad engaged in a “surprising” conversation with four indigenous people in Brasilia.

A deforested area in the middle of the Amazon jungle found in Para state, Brazil in 2014. Greenpeace said trucks carried illegally felled trees to sawmills at night, which were later exported. Photo: AFP / Raphael Alves

Top anthropologist Piero Leirner – a specialist on the Brazilian military and their activities in the Amazon – explains the context. The Bolsonaro government carefully picked four natives involved in the business of soybeans and mining. They spoke for themselves. Immediately after, an official indigenous people association released a letter disowning them. “That was classic Divide and Conquer,” Leirner argued. “Nobody paid attention to the letter. For most of Brazil, the case was closed in terms of ‘social communication’ – solidifying the government’s narrative of NGOs fighting for the internationalization of the Amazon.”

Mining giants in Brazil would rather have indigenous peoples as spokespersons instead of the military. In fact, it’s a maze of interlocking interests – as in captains and colonels in business with mining entrepreneurs acting in protected indigenous areas.

What happened during these past few years is that most indigenous peoples ended up figuring out they cannot win – whatever the scenario. As Leirner explained: “Belo Monte [the world’s third-largest dam] unveiled the real game: in the end, the dam practically works to the benefit of mining companies, and opened space for Belo Sun, which will excavate the whole of Xingu in search of gold.”

So that’s the perverse project inbuilt in the “development of the Amazon” – to turn indigenous peoples into a sub-proletarian workforce in mining operations.

And then there’s the crucial – for the industrialized West – niobium angle (a metal known for its hardness). Roughly 78% of Brazilian niobium reserves are located in the southeast, not in the Amazon, which accounts at best for 18%. The abundance of niobium in Brazil will last all the way to 2200 – even taking into consideration non-stop, exponential Chinese GDP growth. But the Amazon is not about niobium. It’s about gold – to be duly shipped to the West.

Rolling down the river

Bolsonaro is keen to bring roads, bridges and hydroelectric plants to the most remote areas of the Amazon. Under the “sovereignty” mantra, he has promised to impose the hand of the state in the strategic Triple-A area – Amazon, Andes, Atlantic Ocean – thus countering the alleged intent of Western NGOs of creating an independent strip for environmental preservation.

So, how does China fit into the Amazon puzzle? A recent report addresses some of the hard questions. 

Since last year, Beijing officially started to consider the whole of Latin America as a “natural extension” of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), as well as an “indispensable partner.” That was spelled out by Foreign Minister Wang Yi at the 2018 China-Community of Latin American and Caribbean States Ministerial Forum.

All of BRI’s guidelines now apply – and that includes the Amazon: policy cooperation, infrastructure development, investment and trade facilitation, financial integration, and cultural and social exchange.

China’s internal green drive – restricting coal production, supporting solar panel factories, remaking Hainan island into an eco-development zone – will have to be translated into its projects in the Amazon. That means Chinese companies will need to pay extremely close attention to local communities, especially indigenous people. And that also means that the Chinese will be under intense scrutiny by Western NGOs.

Brazil may have ratified the International Labor Organization’s Convention 169 on Indigenous and Tribal Peoples, known as ILO 169, which enshrines the rights of indigenous communities to be consulted by the state on decisions that directly affect them.

Yet with less than seven months of Bolsonaro in power, all that is in effect null and void.

Indigenous people call for demarcation of lands in Sao Paulo in January 2019. People around the world have voiced concern over the policies of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro. Photo: AFP / Cris Faga / NurPhoto

There’s slim hope that an exhaustive set of guidelines for large projects in the Amazon established by the Center of Sustainability Studies at the Getulio Vargas Foundation in Sao Paulo, linked to the World Bank, may be respected by the government. But no one is holding their breath.

Key projects with Chinese involvement include the Amazon waterway in Peru, which featured prior consultations with over 400 indigenous villages, according to the government in Lima.

But most of all there’s the $2.8 billion, under construction 2,500 km-long Belo Monte Transmission Line, with an installed capacity of 11.2 gigawatts. China’s State Grid is part of the consortium, with financing coming from the Brazilian National Development Bank. The first and second transmission lines directly affect the Amazon ecosystem and run near 10 conservation areas and an array of ethnic groups.

The “China in the Amazon” report correctly notes that “Chinese companies are not well attuned to the importance of direct engagement with local non-governmental stakeholders, and have faced repeated costs, work stoppages, and delays as a result. Chinese deference to host-country policies should extend to the commitments by host countries to international treaties and law, such as ILO 169 and its standard of free, prior, and informed consent for indigenous peoples. Indigenous organizations and civil society organizations in the Amazon region have a long and strong trajectory of actively participating in government decisions relating to the use of indigenous territories and natural resources.”

The report suggests establishing a “multidisciplinary working group comprised of NGOs, local indigenous groups, academics, and scientists to review existing principles and standards” for sustainable infrastructure projects.

The chances of this being adopted by the Bolsonaro administration and endorsed by the Brazilian military are less than zero. The Big Picture in Brazil under Bolsonaro spells out neocolonial dependence, over-exploitation of workers, not to mention indigenous peoples, and the complete expropriation of Brazilian natural wealth.

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro delivers a speech at Davos in January. His policies are seen as a major threat to forests in the Amazon. Photo: Fabrice Coffrini / AFP

Only a pawn in their game

China may be Brazil’s top trade partner. But Beijing must tread carefully – and strictly enforce BRI guidelines when it comes to projects especially involving the Amazon.

There’s no way the UN Security Council, with climate change in mind, would ever sanction Brazil for the destruction of the Amazon. France and Britain would be for it. But Russia and China – both BRICS members – would certainly abstain, and the US under Trump would vote against it.

Brazil is now a privileged pawn in the most important geopolitical game of the 21st century: the clash between the US and the Russia-China strategic partnership.

The last thing Beijing needs in terms of global public relations is to be branded as an accomplice in the destruction of the Amazon.

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The Other Ukraine

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by arras for The Saker blogThe Other Ukraine

Ukraine is a country in the Eastern Europe, which doesn’t require introduction to most readers as it was and still is filling pages of the newspapers and screens of a TVs. Courtesy of ongoing geopolitical conflict between the United States and the Russian Federation there. Some say, this is a conflict between East and West and thus suggesting that it is not just a place of competition between the world great powers, but between cultures and civilizations.

This conflict isn’t new to Ukraine. Ukraine is one of those places, where history never falls asleep it merely takes short naps. After the last nap, which we call the Cold War, history is back in Ukraine, writing new pages full of dramatic lines.

However, Ukraine has a sister. It was on the front pages of the newspapers as well not long time ago and it is also rich with dramatic history. The fate and history of both, including the most recent history, bears remarkable similarity and many parallels. Parallels that I intend to show you.

The name of the “other” Ukraine is Krajina and a reader might remember it as a place in the Balkans, which was one of the frontlines of the civil war in Yugoslavia. Krajina is a part of Croatia, but historically it was inhabited by the Serbs. The name of Ukraine in the native Slavic languages is “Ukrajina” and thus the difference in the name is just a prefix “U”. That’s not by a coincidence. Ukrajina and Krajina are the virtually same word, just pronounced slightly different in different Slavic languages. In English, it means “edge”, “margin”, “frontier” or “borderland” and that’s exactly what Ukraine and Krajina were. They were one of those places where realms, cultures, civilizations and empires converged and clashed. Seems they still are, and because of that, Ukraine and Krajina were not just ordinary frontiers, they were military frontiers. Romans used to call such places as “limes” and in the Western Medieval Europe, they were called as “march” or “mark” – ruled by “marquis” and of the same etymological origin as the word “margin”.

Ukraine was a borderland between Russia, Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and Crimean Khanate which itself was a remnant of the mighty Mongol Empire and at that time, it was a protectorate of the Ottoman Empire. Today Poland and Lithuania might seem like small countries compared to Russia while Crimean Khanate doesn’t even exist, but back in medieval and early modern era these were powerful realms vying for control over the whole region of the Eastern Europe. Krajina together with the similar region called Vojvodina on the other hand was a borderland between the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the Ottoman Empire. These places, were such powerful states, even religions and civilizations met weren’t the most peaceful ones and not very well suited for long prosperous life. They were in the state of almost perpetual conflict and war, because even if realms were in formal peace, irregular forces and local chieftains and feudal lords carried raids across the border seeking plunder or revenge, often with the silent consent of their sovereigns. Today we call it a hybrid war and plausible deniability. For that reason, such military frontiers had special status and were organized according to the military rather than civilian principles. Their purpose was to serve as a buffer zone, which was supposed to shield deeper inland territories from enemy attacks and raids and as a staging place for own attacks and raids against the enemy. Traditionally military settlers who had special status populated such territories. These settlers were typically freemen, as opposed to serfs in more secure territories and were exempt of taxes. Instead, they were obliged to carry military service on the border. Being half soldiers, half farmers, these men weren’t the best trained, equipped and disciplined comparing to the regular troops, but they were always available on the spot and required little or no pay as they supported themselves from their land which they supplemented with plunder from lands of the enemy.

These military settlers were often recruited from refugees. In the case of Ukraine, these were the peasants fleeing wars between Russia and Mongol Golden Horde in the east on the one hand and on the other advancing feudalization of Russia itself, which saw farmers being forced in to serfdom in the increasing numbers. Refugees were fleeing to the areas away from the main conflict and out of the reach of the central authorities. Here they begun to organize in to small communities and as soon as the situation in the central parts of Russia was consolidated and Russia has emerged victorious from the wars with Golden Horde and its successor khanates, these communities came in to attention of the Russian authorities who begun to utilize them as military settlers, giving them lands and tax exemption in return for the military service. Thus famous Cossacks were born. The word Kazak, which is Russian for Cossack, is of Turkic, not Slavic origin, and it is assumed to be originally describing nomadic mercenaries hired by the Russian princes to fight in their wars. Later it was used to describe men for hire, both in civilian and military roles and that is likely how it was originally applied to the people we now know as Cossacks.

It should be noted however that modern Ukraine is not identical to historical Ukraine. Historical Ukraine was much smaller compared to modern Ukraine and it never was official name of some administrative region with definitive borders. Not until the creation of the modern Ukraine at the end of the First World War. This term was vaguely applied to the lands that were bordering Russia, Poland-Lithuania and Crimean Khanate, border that kept changing with the fortunes in wars. Moreover, Russia did not had just one Ukraine, there were several ukraines and “little” ukraines (ukrajinka) all along Russia’s sensitive borders. There were ukraines in the west, on the territory of contemporary Belarus, there were ukraines in the south near Caucasus Mountains and there were ukrainas in the Eastern Siberia. Only in the north where Russia shared a border with polar bears, Russia did not have ukraine. However, as Russia kept growing in power, securing its borders or expanding them further, most of the other historical ukraines disappeared and the one that was left longest became The Ukraine. Consequently, Cossacks did not exist only in Ukraine, there were and in some cases still are other Cossacks. Cossacks on the rivers Volga and Don, Siberian Cossacks and Terek Cossacks in the Caucasus to name the most notable ones. Russians were not the only ones who recognized usefulness of Cossacks either, Poles and Tatars were actively using them as well. Cossacks themselves were keen on exploiting conflicts between those powers to extract political and economic advantages for themselves.

Delineatio Generalis Camporum Desertorum vulgo Ukraina cum adjacentibus Provinciis-General Draving of the Deserted Fields, vulgarly known as Ukraine together with its neighbouring Provinces by French cartographer Guillaume Le Vasseur de Beauplan (1600-1673), note that North is down and South is up): source: Wikipedia

Military settlers in Krajina on the other hand were recruited mostly from Serbs, Vlachs (Romanians) and Croats fleeing Ottoman Turks who conquered Constantinople, capital of the East Roman Empire (also known as Byzantium) and defeated the kingdom of Serbia and the fragments of Bulgarian empire in the Balkans and were aggressively pushing north towards the Central Europe engaging with Hungarians and Austrians. That’s how Krajina got its Serbian population. Just like in Russia, historical Krajina does not necessarily copy the borders of what is considered Krajina in Croatia today. And just like in Russia, there are other krajinas elsewhere in Balkans. Bosanska Krajina near Banja Luka, Timocka Krajina between Serbia and Bulgaria, to name a few. In 1881, with the danger of Ottoman incursions all but disappearing, Austrian Emperors dissolved Krajina as an administrative region and incorporated it in to the kingdom of Croatia.

Map of the Krajina (in red) cca 1800:source: Wikipedia

While Cossacks are widely known as famous horsemen, a few people know that Krajina, and neighboring regions of Balkans are where the other most famous light cavalry of Europe comes from. Not less famous Hussars. Hussars were originally irregular cavalry from Balkans. Hungarian kings and Austrian emperors who employed them in their armies introduced them to the Western Europe, where they were quickly copied and adopted by the other armies for their effectiveness. With the advent of firearms, European knights in their shining expensive armors, riding heavy warhorses were gradually withdrawn from the battlefields as European armies begun to appreciate less heavily armed cavalry in their place, which substituted speed and agility for direct protection and ambushes and flanking for charges in to the enemy front lines. And that’s where experience of combating Turks and Tatars of Asia who always preferred lighter cavalry came in handy. Through centuries of constant fighting, Cossacks and Hussars adapted themselves to the fighting methods of their opponents and adopted many elements of their equipment and tactics. Not everybody though served in the cavalry and contrary to popular belief, most Cossacks served as infantrymen. Horse, especially saddle horse back in those days was something that only the wealthiest Cossacks could afford.

Hungarian hussar in the 16th century. Woodcut by Jost Amman:source: Wikipedia

When Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian empires collapsed in the flames of the Balkan Wars and the First World War, which had aroused from the conflict over the Bosnia, Croatia and Serbia joined Yugoslavia, a new state that supposed to unite all the Slavic people of the Balkans. Krajina ceased to be a province on the edge and it seemed that history there would slow down. Nevertheless, history just took a nap. On April 1941, German army invaded Yugoslavia under Adolf Hitler’s orders and Yugoslavia quickly fell apart. In Croatia, with the support of the Germans, puppet state with the pro-German fascist political party of Ustashe in power was established. Ethnic cleansing campaign and persecution of Serbs and other minorities followed, and lasted until the defeat of Nazi Germany in the WWII. The exact number of Serbs who perished in those repressions is unknown, estimates vary between 300,000 and 500,000. About 50,000 alone died in one of the concentration camps in Jasenovac.

With the National Socialist Germany and their allies defeated, Yugoslavia was reinstated under the leadership of the Communist party and a war hero Josip Bros Tito. Whereas survived Nazi collaborators found a shelter under the wings of the US and British secret services in the West Germany, Canada, USA and Australia. Unlike Nazi scientists, they did not possess any great knowledge or technical skills, but experience of political repression and anti-guerrilla warfare were of the value for the CIA in the upcoming Cold War. The end justifies the means. Interestingly enough, Ustashe from Balkans found themselves thriving at the same centers and under generous tutelage of the same secret services of the same governments as Nazi collaborators from Ukraine – the infamous UPA (Ukrainian Insurgent Army) and its political leaders like Stephan Bandera. In some instances, political and cultural institutions of the Ustashe and UPA were located on the same streets, sometimes even inside the same buildings of Western cities like Munich. Just like Ustashe, the WWII records of UPA are full of the ethnic cleansings, mass murders and war crimes against civilian population that did not fit UPA’s racial and ethnic standards. Now they were to be sustained like bacteria of a biological weapon on a Petri dish in CIA laboratories, waiting for their time.

Ironically, their time did not come during the Cold War, even when there were some failed attempts to utilize them. Their time came with the end of the Cold War and fall of the Communist rule in the Eastern Europe and the collapse of the Soviet Union. The easiest way to destroy multinational country is to start ethnic conflicts between the peoples of a country itself and let them destroy it themselves. Under Tito, who himself was from mixed Croat-Slovenian family, stability was maintained between the various ethnic groups dwelling in Yugoslavia, but that balance was fragile and rested to a large extend on the authority of Tito himself. With his death, the institutions of the state and the way Yugoslavia was constructed came for a test.

Yugoslavia was constructed as a federation in such a way, as to prevent any one of the constituent nations from dominating the state. Serbs were always the most numerous and therefore strongest nationality in Yugoslavia and other nationalities, particularly Croats and Slovenians feared that Serbs would dominate the state. Not without a good reason either as interwar Yugoslavia indeed ended up being dominated by the Serbs and their elite. To prevent that, in post war Yugoslavia, Serbia was divided in to four parts: republics of Serbia and Montenegro and autonomous regions of Kosovo and Vojvodina. Later three had significant non-Serbian ethnic minorities. That accomplished the goal of creating a balance between the powers of national republics inside Yugoslavia, but it inevitably created feeling of injustice among the Serbs. It was only Serbia which was divided and weakened in such a way, neither Croatia, nor Bosnia or Macedonia were divided even if they too had regions with ethnic minorities present. Serbs in Krajina were an example and Bosnia was heterogeneous to such extent, that it was sometimes nicknamed as Little Yugoslavia.

After period of unsuccessful Communist experimenting with creating single Yugoslav supranational identity, which would replace individual nationalities, Tito and his Communists went the other way and in the new constitution of 1974 tried to placate nationalist sentiments by bestowing more power on to the republics and strengthening autonomy of the regions. In Voivodina, Montenegro and Kosovo that led to an increasing cultural, economic and political pressure against Serbs who became convinced that system inside Yugoslavia works at their expense and they are loosing. In Kosovo where Albanian population was steadily increasing due to immigration from Albania and higher birth rates, issue was especially sensitive because Serbs consider Kosovo to be historical cradle of their civilization.

But any attempts to change the situation by the Serbs, inevitably led to the reaction in the other republics creating endless spiral of increasing suspicion and tensions between the republics. With the economy and central institutions weakened by the gradual decline in the power of the Communists and change of the political and economic situation in the whole of Eastern Europe, it required only a gentle push from the outside to spark ethnic conflict. That’s were Ustashe and other similar groups been held in the reserve during the Cold War in the West were finally put to a good use. Under disguise of democracy and freedom of speech, they were re-imported back in to their countries of origin along with the literature and propaganda created around their ideologies in the Cold War exile thanks to the generous US and German sponsorship. Money from Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries played similar role in the Muslim communities of Yugoslavia.

Eventually it brought yields. Spinning in spasms, in 1990 Yugoslavia has arrived at the cliff when constitutional crisis completely paralyzed federal institutions, including Communist party itself. Republics were fighting each other. The only significant federal institution left willing to defend Yugoslavia was its army. However, army required an order from politicians to start acting, and there was no one to issue it. Yugoslavia was going to dissolve. The only question was how and when.

Anybody remotely familiar with Yugoslavia, knew, that if it would be done in unilateral uncontrolled manner, it would lead to a war. Only in Slovenia, the administrative borders were identical to the ethnic borders. The rest of Yugoslavia had ethnic minorities living all over the place. This was also well known in Washington and Berlin. Despite, or may be because of it, Washington and Berlin chose exactly this option even against the warnings from other European capitals. Berlin was the first to recognize independent Slovenian and Croatian states and hence British diplomats unofficially named the war that begun immediately in Croatia as “Gensher’s war“, after German foreign minister at that time Hans-Dietrich Gensher.

Single picture that explains civil war in Yugoslavia:source: Wikipedia

When Croatian government declared independence from Yugoslavia in 1991, Serbs of Krajina in response declared their own independence from Croatia. All peoples have equal rights for independence. Right? Wrong. “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others” to paraphrase George Orwell and his famous book. Everybody likes to be independent himself, but not when others want to be independence at his expense. Croats are no different and independence of Republic of Serbian Krajina, which is how Serbs named their new country, was met with more than a strong disapproval in Zagreb, the capital of Croatia. A conflict flared almost immediately and it set off bloody civil war that engulfed other parts of Yugoslavia, eventually ending its existence.

When declaring independence, the most important thing isn’t who has the right for independence and who does not, the most important thing is who supports it. And here Serbs of Krajina were placed at a disadvantage because they were supported only by small Serbia, which itself was having plenty of problems inside, while Croats were supported by several world’s most powerful countries – USA, Germany and the entire NATO alliance. Serbs held for several years, but at the end fight was just too uneven. It ended when Croatian forces supported by the USA and Germany overrun Serbian lines manned mostly by local militiamen on August 1995 and proceeded to ethnically cleanse Krajina of its Serbian inhabitants for good. Up to 1500 of them lost their lives, 2/3 of that number were civilians and up to 200,000 had to flee to Serbia and Bosnia. It was one of the two places in former Yugoslavia, where an entire historical region was ethnically cleansed of its population during the civil war. The other region being ethnically cleansed of Serbs was Kosovo, also with the support of the USA and it’s allies. The irony that is still carefully hidden from the public by the politicians and journalists in Washington, London and Berlin who worked tirelessly to convince people in their countries that those are Serbs who perpetrate crime of ethnic cleansing and had to be stopped by noble and smart bombs, enriched with uranium. Everyone else were portrayed as victims. It was a deliberate lie. Even supposed plan of ethnic cleansing of Albanians in Kosovo by the Serbs, named “Operation Horseshoe” which served as a pretext for bombing of Serbia itself by the NATO forces, was after the war exposed as entirely fabricated by the German secret service BND with the help of Bulgarian government. To be sure, there were plenty of cases of local ethnic cleansing, perpetrated by all sides of the civil war, Serbian one including, but not on the scale of the entire historical regions like Krajina or Kosovo. Nevertheless, ethnic cleansing wasn’t the real reason for the intervention, the real reason was that USA, Germany and EU wanted Yugoslavia to be gone and Serbs in Krajina and Kosovo stood in their way. Yugoslavia was too large to be incorporated in to the EU and NATO, one has to join the EU and NATO as weak as possible and under the conditions favoring those who are in charge of the EU and NATO. Conditions that demand political, economic and cultural subordination and transfer of the control over national resources and markets to the global corporations. Corporations of the global Empire. Therefore, Serbs of Krajina and Kosovo had to go. All of them. Yugoslavia had to be broken in to small pieces and pieces then digested by the Empire one by one until the whole Balkans had “proper” democracy, endorsed “proper” values and values were “protected” by the US military base or two. Divide et impera, Romans used to say.

The conflict in Ukraine is driven by exactly the same motives and reasons and using the same old methods and the same propaganda tricks. Timed bombs in the form of the arbitrary changes of the administrative borders made by the ruling Communist elite blew up during break up of the USSR too, as well as their policies of creating new Soviet people. Former Nazi collaborationist were also used to instigate ethnic hatred. Place Soviet Union instead of the Yugoslavia, Russians instead of Serbs, Ukraine instead of Croatia, Donbas and Crimea instead of Krajina and Kosovo and the story is almost identical. Ukraine and Krajina share similar history once again. Almost. With the exception that the Soviet Union was much larger than Yugoslavia, Russia is much larger than Serbia, and Russia has powerful allies in the world of its own. A victim turned out to be too big and vital and the Empire appears to suffer major digestive problems as a result. Will Ukraine end up sharing the fate of its sister after all?

Or will Ukraine turn out to be one mouthful too many? One thing is certain, history did not stop. History has no end. Prophets of the Empire has been proven wrong.

arras‘s mini-bio: HIC SVNT LEONES

Dr. Saïd Bouamama: “Bouteflika Symbolizes the Freezing of Several Trends and It Does Not Make It Possible To Build Anything”

“Why was there so much support for the creation of Israel as a state and then? It is simply because this state serves as a bridgehead for all interventions, all strategies of interference, and so on. And so, we should not consider the fight as being only between Palestinians and Israelis. In fact, in confronting Israel, the Palestinians – and that is why it is a central cause in the anti-colonial and anti-imperialist struggle – clash with the entire imperialist camp.”

Said-Bouamama_4c0a6.jpgSaïd Bouamama is a sociologist, activist and political Algerian residing in France. A doctor in socio-economics, he has written mainly on topics related to immigration, such as discrimination and racism.

Mohsen Abdelmoumen: What is your reading of the geopolitical situation that prevails in Syria at the moment?

Dr. Saïd Bouamama: The situation in Syria is at first a situation of failure of imperialism. In fact, what is happening in Syria has been an attempt to destabilize the Syrian state by supporting jihadist groups. We think what we want from Bashar al-Assad, but he has made a great service to mankind by stopping this destabilization and this attempt to balkanize Syria. Because in reality, it is a balkanization. If we look at all the last wars, what I call the new colonial wars, what is left? Iraq is cut in pieces, Afghanistan is a complete chaos, in Somalia, it is the slaughter, and Sudan is cut in two. In reality, there is such competition today between great powers that, in order to continue to make profits, it is necessary to destabilize states that may be states of resistance or states that do not accept the rules imposed by a number of large countries. This is what happened in Syria whose stake was first of all the control of the region and the access to the regional geostrategy, that is to say, the control of the oil resources of the region.

How do you explain that the Trump Administration threatens to strike at the positions of the Syrian Army, Iran, and Russia even though in reality, those who are encircled in Idlib are for the most part terrorists of Al Nosra and Daesh? Saving Idlib, isn’t that saving al-Nosra and Daech? Does the US want to save the imperialist soldiers al-Nusra and Daesh?

I think we need to become lucid and stop being naive. There is no consistent fight against terrorism on the part of the United States. In reality, they fight it when it suits them and they support it when it suits them. And it’s not new. It must be remembered that the first great advances of the so-called jihadist groups were in Afghanistan, and the pretext for supporting them was to oppose the Soviet Union. We must not forget that whenever the interest of the United States requires destabilization, they let these groups do. They are only fought when the interest of the United States is in question, and therefore there is not a consistent fight of the United States against them. There is a fight at a time, in pieces, and a support at other times. It’s important to keep in mind that the United States does not have a coherent policy, they know only the politics of their economic interest, even in destroying countries and provoking the massacre of the populations, and if it is necessary for that by supporting terrorist groups, well, they do it. Unfortunately, it was done before Syria and if we are not able to immunize, it will be done again elsewhere.

I interviewed Noam Chomsky a few years ago and he told me verbatim that Syria was going to be divided into several areas. There is currently a US redeployment in northern Syria. Do not you think there is a risk of total confrontation, especially between the United States and Russia?

In fact, the US project, at this stage, is part of a long process of destabilizing all states with an economic size, a geographical area, and oil and gas wealth or strategic minerals to balkanize them, to cut them into several pieces, because it’s easier to maintain domination in chaos. And so, we had a number of wars before. With Syria, it is the same project today, but there are other countries and, in particular, there is the will to balkanize Iran. Let us not forget that the United States has not given up on destabilizing Iran. But Iran, in terms of the balance of power, is another matter and the United States is extremely cautious. Russia has understood this very well and has made agreements. Russia is not naïve and understood if it continued to let this balkanization, it could be balkanized itself, this is the big project of the United States – and so Russia has understood very well that its interest was to stop this process.

Before the Chechen sector enters the game?

Exactly, and that is why we have such strong support from Russia to Syria and that agreements with Iran exist.

The Russians regard Syria and Iran as strategic depths.

Exactly. It’s like it’s an inside front. And the Russians are right. Every decline before the balkanization offensive is, in the long term, the danger of war with Russia which is increasing. And whenever there is a failure of this project of balkanization, it is the danger of war that recedes. And today, the good news is that they did not succeed in Syria. And so, it makes them a bit more cautious, but of course, they do not give up.

Do not you think that Algeria is another target of imperialism, especially US and Israeli?

Of course, it is a target and we can even say that if Syria had been defeated, Algeria would be the next target country. There is Iran and then Algeria. There are not thousands of other countries that have this geographical area and this economic depth, so Algeria is on the line of fire. Besides, there is a man to listen to, even if he is an idiot, it is Bernard-Henri Lévy. He often comes to unveil the strategies of imperialism because he wants to strut. This man has nevertheless declared publicly that Algeria actually means three countries and that it was necessary to separate South, North, and Kabylia, in three countries. We can see that behind this, there are spaces, places called think tanks in which they think about different types of divisions, and in Algeria, there is actually a cutting plan. If Algerians stop being patriots and to defend the integrity of the territory, excuses will be found to intervene.

According to you, are our revolutions, Algerians, and Africans, completed? Do not you think that we need a second wind to our revolutions to complete the struggle of our ancestors?

It is absolutely necessary. First, we must not feel guilty. We’ve come from so far. We must not underestimate what was the colonization of Algeria and what was slavery for the countries of sub-Saharan Africa. That is to say that the work is immense to recover from such a trauma. We must not say “we are zero”, etc. On the other hand, it is clear that the emancipatory project that led to independence was a project that required going much further than what we have done today. Issues as important as the issues of economic development, the distribution of wealth, the involvement of people in decisions, are still tasks ahead and so, yes, there is a need for a second wind. We also know that independence has given birth to a whole series of parasites, people who take advantage of the state apparatus to divert income, etc. and so there is indeed a need to refocus the process on those who have actually done it, those who have an interest in leading Algeria to real independence.

That is to say, if I understand you correctly, the sincere Algerian patriots who can find themselves among the young, within the population and the healthy vital forces of the nation?

Absolutely. And the matter of youth is, of course, an essential issue. When a part of the youth turns to the jihadists, we can not pretend that it is not important. This means that we have failed on a number of things and we must resume the fight. You know, young people just want to build their future. It is when the future becomes unthinkable when they can no longer imagine it, that they turn to the past and that charlatans can come to divert their legitimate anger. And so, yes, there is a need to take this breath and there is a need to recover the dynamics of the first two decades of independence. Remember the atmosphere when young people graduated from university in the years 1974-1975. It was full of hope for the future, it was the idea of building the country, it was the idea of agrarian reform and going to see the farmers, etc. We have to find that breath that has been lost notably because of parasites who have hijacked the process.

Do not you think that there is a real danger due to the various separatist movements in Algeria? Should the political and economic elite not be self-critical and remain alert to the geopolitical challenges that lie in wait for us? Can Algeria, according to you, go towards a gradual positive change well controlled without being afraid? Second question: has the red and black decade not vaccinated us against Islamist terrorists?

On the first question, yes, there are real dangers with the separatist movements, which nevertheless remain extremely minor, including in Kabylia.

And in Ghardaia.

Yes. In fact, one of the reasons for the development of these movements is that we have been shy about the issue of identity. Today, things are catching up, the Amazigh language is recognized, etc. but it took too long for it and when a right claim is not taken into account, charlatans can come to pick up the frustration. Algeria is pluricultural and multilingual and it is a wealth. There is no reason to consider this as a weakness, therefore, it must be accepted and pull the rug from under the feet to all who would like to exploit this issue.

On the side of the elites, there is no secret, all those who are attached, whatever their political and economic opinions, to the territorial integrity of Algeria and to true independence, must have in mind that this can only be done if there is a minimum of economic redistribution. That is to say that if there is no economic redistribution, if poverty sets in if people are in misery, charlatans can come again instrumentalize. That’s why our youth, even the one who listened to charlatans, is first and foremost a victim because in reality, if it had could think about her future, it would never have listened to these thugs.

You talk about the 1990s. Today, when we talk about the presence of Algerians at Daesh, they are very minor in comparison with the other peoples of the Maghreb.

Absolutely.

How do you analyze this? Have not we been vaccinated by the red decade?

Unfortunately, you are never totally vaccinated. But this has developed real resistance mechanisms and you must know that people who, at first, were able to listen to charlatans, turned away when they saw what this project of society was. There have been entire regions where huge votes have gone in favor of charlatans and which today do not want to hear about these people. So, we can see that it was a popular experience and, yes, there are antibodies in Algeria, stronger than in other countries, because there was this tragedy. We paid a high price for it. But be careful, as long as the causes are untreated, the disease can always come back and we return to the previous question about the distribution of economic wealth.

The fifth term of President Bouteflika is evoked. Do not you think that the time has come to accompany a process of renewal of the entire political class in Algeria, even at the level of “the opposition”, because, for me, the crisis is not only at the level of power, but also at the level of “the opposition”? Should the fifth term not be abandoned to inject new blood into Algeria and vaccinate the country against various risks, both internal and external? Should we not abandon this alternative of an additional term of the current president and go towards a change piloted – why not – by the army which remains the most structured force in Algeria? What is your opinion on this subject?

In any case, I am completely opposed to the idea of a fifth term. Today, Bouteflika symbolizes the freezing of several trends and it does not make it possible to build anything. I also think that there is a gap between the entire political class and the civil part of the nation. We must succeed in bringing to the political class all these young union activists, these doctors, all this generation that was born after. We must pass the baton on the basis, always, of territorial integrity and economic independence. It is time for a new generation to emerge.

President Bouteflika is very sick, very tired and he should give way to someone else.It’s common sense. What is your opinion about that?

Absolutely. It is an absolute necessity and we must also question the image we give to our own people and other peoples by keeping a sick president at all costs.

To say that we are against a fifth term is not to be unpatriotic or anti-national, on the contrary, we serve our country. Do not you think that those who are against a fifth term are the real patriots?

Absolutely. I think being a patriot today means being against the fifth term. Of course.

There is a country whose people are legally killed, it is Palestine. Do not you think that Israel, in addition to being a rogue state, is reaping all the benefits of the problems associated with the various US strategies to balkanize the Arab-Muslim region?

Of course. Why was there so much support for the creation of Israel as a state and then? It is simply because this state serves as a bridgehead for all interventions, all strategies of interference, and so on. And so, we should not consider the fight as being only between Palestinians and Israelis. In fact, in confronting Israel, the Palestinians – and that is why it is a central cause in the anti-colonial and anti-imperialist struggle – clash with the entire imperialist camp. And Israel is not isolated, because precisely, there is this support. In reality, let’s imagine that tomorrow there is a democratic and secular Palestinian state, where Muslims, Christians, atheists live together, the end of Israel would mean that the whole imperialist strategy has failed. Israel is a tool of the great powers and of course benefits from imperialist strategies.

What’s left of Frantz Fanon’s message?

Unfortunately, Fanon’s message has been largely forgotten. Fanon said: “pay attention to the emergence of business managers of the West in the newly independent countries”, that is to say, people who will do the work the West did before with its army. It tends to be forgotten. The message of hope is that, on Frantz Fanon, in particular, we see his name come back while he had completely disappeared. A new generation rediscovers Fanon, unfortunately after several decades of forgetfulness, and we see more and more Fanon quoted and more and more young people take back his image. There is a return to Fanon and this is good news.

What prompted you to write your book “Manuel stratégique de l’Afrique“?

What prompted me to write this book was the tiredness of the wars that followed each other. And in “wars”, I put the black decade in Algeria until the French intervention in Mali. The question was “what is happening on this continent?” and the need to answer all the theories that were given to us, which were culturalist theories, that is to say we were told the war in Algeria as an opposition between Muslims and military, elsewhere we were told that it was tribes that were fighting each other. All of this seemed completely wrong to me in relation to the realities. So I went to look at what was common in all these wars. Of course, I had intuitions and I actually came across the confirmation of my intuitions. All these wars have one thing in common: the economic challenge. Whether in Algeria, we must have in mind the interests of the major powers for Algerian oil and gas, whether it is in the Congo with these wars that do not end and the wealth of the Congo. In fact, the African continent is the richest continent and the continent where we still make discoveries of ores and oil in the sea offshore, and it is, therefore, an enormous challenge for the great powers and there are wars to control the spaces of raw materials. In addition, the great fear of Western countries was the emergence of new countries like China, India or Brazil that trade with African countries and trade with more egalitarian rules and with less domination. And, indeed, it is the direct interest of the great imperialist powers that is at stake. When Algeria makes a contract with China for the construction of roads, etc., you imagine that those who used to consider Algeria as their market are not happy. When it is the Congo that has a contract, Belgium cannot be happy. And so, there are these two factors that combine and explain the African drama, because it’s a real drama. From Algiers to the Congo, there have been dozens of wars since independence, and I have only spoken of wars since independence, I did not talk about wars of independence. I just reported the ones from 1960 until today. All these wars are the same.

Why did you choose the Investing’action editions of our friend Michel Collon? Have other publishers refused to publish your book? Is your book disturbing? Have you been censored?

No, I have not been censored. I did not even think of presenting this book to other publishers for the simple reason that I know very well where we are today in many publishing houses on anti-imperialist issues. This project was born following a number of articles that I wrote on the news and where, while talking with Michel, he told me: “But Saïd, you do not realize, you told us about Algeria, you told us about Congo, you told us about this and that, when do you make us an overall book?” This is how this book was made. Quite frankly, I do not see major publishers taking it back today. It is unimaginable in the French-speaking world. It is different in other countries, for example in England.

Or in the United States.

Yes, in the United States, it would be different, but in the French-speaking world, it is clear that publishing houses today are closed on these issues.

What the committed, anti-imperialist, intellectual that you are, can say to the anti-imperialist and anti-Zionist resistance fighters?

That we must never despair of peoples. There are times when we believe that things are over, there are times when we despair of seeing failures, but in reality, as long as oppression exists, resistance exists, and we are sometimes surprised that two years after our despair, well, there is an offensive in a country we did not think at all. I think we came out of the recoil period. We must not underestimate what happened in Syria, which is the end of this process of decline; we must not underestimate the resistance in Latin America, Venezuela, Nicaragua, etc.

In Cuba.

In Cuba, yes. All this points to one thing: since the collapse of the Soviet Union, we were going from recoil to recoil, people were losing, losing, losing. And there, there is a stop. Of course, we have retreated so much that we have trouble to learn the facts. But if we combine all this, if we look at the struggles in all countries, we see a youth that mobilizes, etc. So, yes, in the short term, at a year or two, there is no immediate change, but we see that people are beginning to learn from this period of twenty-five years of decline. And today, we have breakpoints. For example, they eliminated Gbagbo, but look at the number of protesters demanding that Gbagbo come back. It was unimaginable a few years ago. And so, we can see that something is moving in anti-imperialism and I think we are entering a new mobilization sequence. That’s for the southern countries. For here, it’s to us to be up to it, to live up to the challenge and to make known the struggles that will develop.

Do not you think that we need a global anti-imperialist and anti-Zionist front that will be decisive in the struggles ahead?

My previous book, just before the last one, is a book called “La Tricontinentale : les peuples du Tiers-Monde à l’assaut du ciel “. Why did I write this book? Because the tri-continental conference in Cuba in 1965-1966 was the moment in which there was a unity of Africa, Asia, and Latin America, and that at the same time, all the progressive movements in Europe were in support of the Tricontinental. It was the moment when we were furthest, I think, in this movement. If I wrote this book, it’s because I think it’s time to find that kind of dynamic.

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