Pepe

Tony Blair to George W. Bush: ‘I will be with you, whatever’

gc2smFrom the keyboard of Pepe Escobar
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bush_blair_war crimes

 

Originally published in Russia Insider on July 7, 2016

"The report paints what can only be characterized as The Three Stooges school of intelligence."


It’s all here; 12 volumes, 2.6 million words (almost four-and-a-half times as long as War and Peace), seven years in the making, including analyses of 150,000 British government documents.

Chaired by Sir John Chilcot, former Whitehall insider, and officially known as “the Iraq Inquiry”, this Proustian investigation allegedly explores every nook and cranny in the UK’s run-up to the invasion and occupation of Iraq as well as its aftermath.

Let’s cut to the chase. This is not a whitewash by the British establishment; it’s actually much stronger than many analysts expected. Advance leaks had hinted blame would be apportioned to quite a few figures in the UK’s politico/military/intel apparatus – and that’s indeed the case.

The key questions are known to all. Did Tony Blair lie about the need to go to war? Was the war legal? Did the war – as Blair vociferously promised – make Britain “safer”? What did Blair promise George Bush? Did he lie about those non-existent weapons of mass destruction (WMDs)? Was MI6 intelligence compromised? Did the British military fail to stand up to Blair?

It will take days to get through the whole report. But based on Chilcot’s own initial statement, some conclusions are absolutely stark. There was “no need” to go to war in March 2003. All decisions were made “on the basis of flawed intelligence and assessments”.

The British cabinet did not discuss the many possible military options – or their implications. The British government – what Alice in Wonderland dreamworld did they live in? – believed the post-invasion administration would be led by the UN, and not controlled by the Cheney regime neocons.

And then this startling statement; Tony Blair “overestimated his ability”to influence US decisions on Iraq. And yet the now famous Blair memo to Bush on July 2002, transcribed by the report, had made it clear: “I will be with you, whatever”. Blair was a mere follower, not a driver.

The report paints what can only be characterized as The Three Stooges school of intelligence. Especially responsible for the debacle are Sir John Scarlett, chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee, which relied basically on MI6; and then MI6 chief Sir Richard Dearlove. Not only their intel was faulty; we, as independent journalists, already knew by the Summer of 2002 (I spent one month all over Iraq in the Spring of 2002) that there were no WMDs anywhere to be found. UN inspectors not remote-controlled by the US also knew it.

Make no mistake it was #TonyBlair and George Bush that made the world we live in today. #Chilcot

— Harry Leslie Smith (@Harryslaststand) July 6, 2016

bushnblairSo Blair not only totally bought fake MI6 intel, but exhibited it to the British Parliament with absolute “certainty”. The report blames the entire British intel apparatus for not trying to contain Blair.

And it gets worse. According to the report, the UK government “blamed France for the ‘impasse’ in the UN and claimed that the UK government was acting on behalf of the international community to ‘uphold the authority of the Security Council’. In the absence of a majority in support of military action, we consider that the UK was, in fact, undermining the Security Council’s authority.”

Don’t expect a plot like this to show up in the next installment of the James Bond franchise.

Pledge to kill a million people

None of this is new. All of us who throughout 2002 and early 2003 were following the run-up towards the inevitable war on Iraq knew that Blair was the strategic, special relationship poodle necessary to confer a veneer of legitimacy to the Cheney regime neocons. As for Blair, the Chilcot report now makes it clear he couldn’t care less about his cabinet, the British Parliament or even international law. His only pledge of allegiance (“I will be with you, whatever”) was to George W. Bush.

The result, as we also know, is beyond appalling. The Lancet, in 2006, published its own extensive sample research – based on doctors conducting house-to-house surveys in Iraq – estimating that a staggering 655,000 Iraqis died because of the war.

Even more devastating was the work of the US-based Physicians for Social Responsibility, who in 2105 came to a figure of 1 million (5 percent of the total population), not including deaths among 3 million refugees.

Chilcot was careful to go pre-emptive, stating “we are not a court”, reflecting the fact that he had no lawyers working and drafting the report. But as much as the report does not declare the war illegal, flat out, it does open a few avenues for huge legal problems the Tony Blair way.

By now is more than clear that the internal, attempted Labour coup against Jeremy Corbyn is directly linked to the Chilcot report. Corbyn – an anti-war activist with impeccable CV – said last year that Blair could face trial in The Hague if the Chilcot report found he was guilty of launching an illegal war. As Labour leader, Corbyn would be able to expose Blair with parliamentary immunity, without risking action by Blair’s army of lawyers.

.@LauriLoveX Good question given the #Chilcot report will take someone about 9 days to read. pic.twitter.com/CUutlregp7

— Anonymous (@AnonyOps) July 6, 2016

 

The internal Labour coup – orchestrated by the Blairites – was supposed to climax immediately after Brexit here is how Blair threw Corbyn under the bus. Removed from the leadership, Corbyn would only be able to go after Blair as a backbencher. That’s not strong enough.

Yet by now the window of opportunity to stop Corbyn has passed. And crucially, in his dignified comments in Parliament about the report, Corbyn did suggest that the House of Commons should take action against Blair for misleading it in the run-up towards the war. This means Blair could be impeached.

Whatever Blair says in the aftermath of the report – the Sunni-Shi’ite split in Iraq, one of key drivers of non-stop carnage, was already there before the invasion (false, as I saw for myself in 2002); Iran and al-Qaeda created insecurity in Iraq after the invasion (false on Iran; and al-Qaeda was actually brought to Iraq by the Cheney regime) – these will all be, well, lies.

As it stands, Tony Blair will probably evade a one-way ticket to The Hague to undergo a trial for his war crimes. But countless people all across the world can always dream of ironic/poetic justice; Blair the Brit warmonger tried in an EU court just after Brexit, as the UK’s role of sideshow occupier in Iraq directly connects to scores of people fleeing from jihadis and configuring a refugee crisis in Europe.


PepePepe Escobar  is an independent geopolitical analyst. He writes for RT, Sputnik and TomDispatch, and is a frequent contributor to websites and radio and TV shows ranging from the US to East Asia. He is the former roving correspondent for Asia Times Online. Born in Brazil, he's been a foreign correspondent since 1985, and has lived in London, Paris, Milan, Los Angeles, Washington, Bangkok and Hong Kong. Even before 9/11 he specialized in covering the arc from the Middle East to Central and East Asia, with an emphasis on Big Power geopolitics and energy wars. He is the author of "Globalistan" (2007), "Red Zone Blues" (2007), "Obama does Globalistan" (2009) "Empire of Chaos" (2014),and "2030" (2015), all published by Nimble Books. 

Pepe Escobar in eastern Ukraine: Howling in Donetsk

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THE ROVING EYE

Nulandistan

Originally published in Asia Times on March 30, 2015

Asia Times’ roving correspondent Pepe Escobar just returned from a reporting trip to the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR), the pro-Russian enclave in the Donetsk Oblast province of eastern Ukraine. The area’s been the scene of heavy fighting between pro-Russian rebels and the Ukrainian military. Escobar traveled to Donetsk at the invitation of  Europa Objektiv, a German-based non-governmental media project. He traveled at his own expense.

 


I’ve just been to the struggling Donetsk People’s Republic. Now I’m back in the splendid arrogance and insolence of NATOstan.

Quite a few people – in Donbass, in Moscow, and now in Europe – have asked me what struck me most about this visit.

I could start by paraphrasing Allen Ginsberg in Howl – “I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness.”

But these were the Cold War mid-1950s. Now we’re in early 21st century Cold War 2.0 .

Thus what I saw were the ghastly side effects of the worst minds of my – and a subsequent – generation corroded by (war) madness.

I saw refugees on the Russian side of the border, mostly your average middle-class European family whose kids, when they first came to the shelter,  would duck under tables when they heard a plane in the sky.

I saw the Dylan of Donetsk holed up in his lonely room in a veterans’ home turned refugee shelter fighting the blues and the hopelessness by singing songs of love and heroism.

The Dylan of Donetsk

I saw whole families holed up in fully decorated Soviet-era bomb shelters too afraid to go out even by daylight, traumatized by the bombings orchestrated by Kiev’s “anti-terrorist operations”.

Soviet-era bomb shelter

I saw a modern, hard-working industrial city at least half-empty and partially destroyed but not bent, able to survive by their guts and guile with a little help from Russian humanitarian convoys.

I saw beautiful girls hangin’ out by Lenin’s statue in a central square lamenting their only shot at fun was family parties in each other’s houses because nightlife was dead and “we’re at war”.

Donetsk girls by Lenin's statue

I saw virtually the whole neighborhood of Oktyabrski near the airport bombed out like Grozny and practically deserted except for a few lonely babushkas with nowhere to go and too proud to relinquish their family photos of World War II heroes.

Bombed out Oktyabrski neighborhood

I saw checkpoints like I was back in Baghdad during the Petraeus surge.

I saw the main trauma doctor at the key Donetsk hospital confirm there has been no Red Cross and no international humanitarian help to the people of Donetsk.

Oktyabrski neighborhood, bombed hospital

Oktyabrski neighborhood, bombed hospital

I saw Stanislava, one of DPR’s finest and an expert sniper, in charge of our security, cry when she laid a flower on the ground of a fierce battle in which her squad was under heavy fire, with twenty seriously wounded and one dead, and she was hit by shrapnel and survived.

I saw orthodox churches fully destroyed by Kiev’s bombing.

I saw the Russian flag still on top of the anti-Maidan building which is now the House of Government of the DPR.

I saw the gleaming Donbass arena, the home of Shaktar Donetsk and a UFO in a war-torn city, deserted and without a single soul in the fan area.

I saw Donetsk’s railway station bombed by Kiev’s goons.

I saw a homeless man screaming “Robert Plant!” and “Jimmy Page!” as I found out he was still in love with Led Zeppelin and kept his vinyl copies.

I saw a row of books which never surrendered behind the cracked windows of bombed out Oktyabrski.

I saw the fresh graves where the DPR buries their resistance heroes.

I saw the top of the hill at Saur-mogila which the DPR resistance lost and then reconquered, with a lone red-white-blue flag now waving in the wind.

Top of the hill at Saur-moglia

Top of the hill at Saur-moglia

 

I saw the Superman rising from the destruction at Saur-mogila – the fallen statue in a monument to World War II heroes, which seventy years ago was fighting fascism and now has been hit, but not destroyed, by fascists.

 

The superman statue rising from the destruction at Saur-mogila

I saw the Debaltsevo cauldron in the distance and then I could fully appreciate, geographically, how DPR tactics surrounded and squeezed the demoralized Kiev fighters.

I saw the DPR’s military practicing their drills by the roadside from Donetsk to Lugansk.

I saw the DPR’s Foreign Minister hopeful there would be a political solution instead of war while admitting personally he dreams of a DPR as an independent nation.

I saw two badass Cossack commanders tell me in a horse-breeding farm in holy Cossack land that the real war has not even started.

I did not see the totally destroyed Donetsk airport because the DPR’s military were too concerned about our safety and would not grant us a permit while the airport was being hit – in defiance of Minsk 2; but I saw the destruction and the pile of Ukrainian army bodies on the mobile phone of a Serbian DPR resistance fighter.

I did not see, as Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe international observers also didn’t, the rows and rows of Russian tanks and soldiers that the current Dr. Strangelove in charge of NATO, General Breedhate, sees everyday in his exalted dreams invading Ukraine over and over again.

And I did not see the arrogance, the ignorance, the shamelessness and the lies distorting those manicured faces in Kiev, Washington and Brussels while they insist, over and over again, that the entire population of Donbass, traumatized babushkas and children of all ages included, are nothing but “terra-rists”.

After all, they are Western “civilization”-enabled cowards who would never dare to show their manicured faces to the people of Donbass.

So this is my gift to them.

Just a howl of anger and unbounded contempt.

 


Pepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007), Red Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge (Nimble Books, 2007), and Obama does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009).

Turkey – the ultimate crossroads

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THE ROVING EYE

Istanbul

Originally published in Asia Times on February 2, 2015
Discuss this article here in the Diner Forum.

Seen from Asia, the ghastly crisis in Europe looks and feels like a galaxy away. So as I was back from the Middle Kingdom to the austerity-ravaged, stagnated collection of dysfunctions also known as NATOstan, I decided to stop midway, in the City of Cities, for a moment of reflection.

ISTANBUL, December 31 (Sputnik) — I had no agenda other than to connect the future (the Eurasian Century) with the past (the crumbling European Union dream) via God’s favorite abode, the City of Cities; Constantinople, the New Rome. Just a Eurasia pilgrim on the move, absorbing those flows coming from the Balkans and ancient glorious Thrace; from the Black Sea and the Sea of Marmara through the Bosphorus; and from chaotic, teeming peripheries where gleaming towers coexist with miserable huts.Morning was a question of being immersed, between myth and history, in the thundering silence of centuries of stony sleep. Istanbul should be read as a scroll – beyond methodological cunning and stylistic ornaments. Jean Cocteau wrote that Constantinople was a city born in purple, a city of blood, sunsets and fires. Casanova wrote that as Constantine arrived by the sea, seduced by the sight of Byzantium, he instantly proclaimed, “This is the seat of the empire of the world.” So, in style, he left the seat of the old empire, Rome, for good.

Take it to the bridge

Turkey under the AKP party has been busy positioning itself as the ultimate crossroads between East and West. So as I set on my pilgrimage I could not forget how, at the height of the Belle Époque, Germans and Russians were planning a railway from Berlin to Moscow, and that would end on both the Siberian coast of the Pacific and in Beijing. Now Beijing is bound to realize the dream as part of the vast New Silk Road project — an extended Trans-Siberian on high-speed rails running in parallel to a cross-Central Asian high-speed railway whose key hub will be Istanbul.

As I eventually crossed the bridge over the Bosphorus I had seen plenty of Kemalists in crisis, and perhaps a few dissimulated jihadis. The Ottoman empire for over six centuries crystallized the unity of the Sunni Mediterranean and Middle Eastern umma, confronting the Persian Shi’ite empire, inheriting and metabolizing the Byzantine institutional tradition, and keeping a wise balance between faith and ethnicity using the institutions of the community – millet – and respecting the prerogatives of its non-Muslim subjects – dhimmi.

The fragmentation of this plurinational, multicultural empire led to a process of modernization and laicization that fatally engendered a fundamentalist reaction; that’s the basis of the somehow irreversible instability and violence that today characterizes the whole region; something that the Pentagon, with a measure of wishful thinking, characterized as the “arc of instability”.

Everything from the Palestinian tragedy to Iraq, from Persian Gulf Wahhabi plutocrats to the fake Caliphate known as ISIS/ISIL/Daesh, manifests itself as debris of World War I, of the obsession by Western powers to extinguish at any cost the Ottoman experience of imperial, supra-national governance. It’s the “West” that created the “arc of instability” – no less than a century ago.

The glory of Neo-Ottomanism

This time I did not cross to Asia. Instead, Asia came to me on the European shore, as I met my friend Can Emritan, who lives on the Asian side, at midday in Eminonu. And then he turned into my Virgil, leading me from the best, centenary joint to savor Black Sea fish to the best baklava at Karakoy Gulluoglu; from the best European Istanbul view to passages that evoke Paris; from the Great London Hotel, which Turks call Buyuk Londra, and who sheltered foreign correspondent Ernest Hemingway covering the Greek-Turk war in 1922 to an absolute jewel – a lavish Armenian church hidden in a fish market.

We evoked shades of White Russians in the early 1920s and we retraced the steps of Gurdjieff, the esoteric mystic extraordinaire who was an adept of the dervish fraternity Naqshbandi in Bukhara. No encounters with whirling dervishes though; in 1924 Kemal Ataturk, as part of his secular reforms, hit them hard and they survived only as a “Museum of divan literature,” as in classic Ottoman poetry.

Naturally our key conversation point had to be President Erdogan, whom Emritan calls The Sultan of Kitsch. So many overtones, from Islamo-traditional to Islamo-Ottoman, all drenched in nostalgia for the imperial Golden Age. And ruling above all the AKP party as a monster real estate speculation racket; after all “urbanization drive”, as in China, but Turkish style, means urbanization of the lower middle classes issued from the Anatolian countryside – the political basis of conservative Islam.

 

Erdogan, a fierce critic of the Islamophobia now rampant in the West, is warning of a “clash of civilizations” after the Charlie Hebdo killings in Paris. He has a point, as the notion itself was penned by an ethnocentric, xenophobic and racist former US National Security Council member, Samuel Huntington – and given multiple free rides after 9/11; when in doubt, blame Islam.My pilgrimage started in Hagia Sophia before sunrise, and ended at night in Taksim square – now an unfriendly cement square, adverse to any possible replay of an Occupy Istanbul. In 1934, Kemal wanted Hagia Sophia turned into a museum to honor the glorious Byzantine and Ottoman traditions. Hagia Sophia will revert to being a mosque, as soon as the Studion monastery, which was itself a mosque from 1453 to 1920, is restored.

This could be yet another manifestation of the neo-Islamic wave; or a graphic case of what Zygmunt Bauman called “religionization of politics” – secular politics reshaped by religious certitude.

Whatever the case, the Sultan should prevail, and get his wish. He already turned NATO upside down – spurning an alliance created to fight the USSR, and kept running against Russia, by clinching the vast Turk Stream pipeline deal with Moscow. And now Sberbank is willing to finance it – alongside Istanbul’s third airport and a nuclear power plant in Akkuyu.

Turk Stream has graphically demonstrated how Turkey is well on its way to become the ultimate crossroads between Eurasia and NATOstan — on its own terms. And the City of Cities is bound to remain — what else — the jewel in the neo-Ottoman crown.

Read more: http://sputniknews.com/columnists/20150128/1017458169.html#ixzz3QfhRZDjB

 

Pepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007), Red Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge (Nimble Books, 2007), and Obama does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009).

The Kobani Riddle

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THE ROVING EYE

kobani

Originally published in Asia Times on October 24, 2014
Discuss this article here in the Diner Forum.

 

The brave women of Kobani – where Syrian Kurds are desperately fighting ISIS/ISIL/Daesh – are about to be betrayed by the “international community”. These women warriors, apart from Caliph Ibrahim’s goons, are also fighting treacherous agendas by the US, Turkey and the administration of Iraqi Kurdistan. So what’s the real deal in Kobani?

Let’s start by talking about Rojava. The full meaning of Rojava – the three mostly Kurdish provinces of northern Syria – is conveyed in this editorial (in Turkish) published by jailed activist Kenan Kirkaya. He argues that Rojava is the home of a “revolutionary model” that no less than challenges “the hegemony of the capitalist, nation-state system” – way beyond its regional “meaning for Kurds, or for Syrians or Kurdistan.”
Kobani – an agricultural region – happens to be at the epicenter of this non-violent experiment in democracy, made possible by an arrangement early on during the Syrian tragedy between Damascus and Rojava (you don’t go for regime change against us, we leave you alone). Here, for instance, it’s argued that “even if only a single aspect of true socialism were able to survive there, millions of discontented people would be drawn to Kobani.”

In Rojava, decision-making is via popular assemblies – multicultural and multi-religious. The top three officers in each municipality are a Kurd, an Arab and an Assyrian or Armenian Christian; and at least one of these three must be a woman. Non-Kurd minorities have their own institutions and speak their own languages.

Among a myriad of women’s and youth councils, there is also an increasingly famous feminist army, the YJA Star militia (“Union of Free Women”, with the “star” symbolizing Mesopotamian goddess Ishtar).

The symbolism could not be more graphic; think of the forces of Ishtar (Mesopotamia) fighting the forces of ISIS (originally an Egyptian goddess), now transmogrified into an intolerant Caliphate. In the young 21st century, it’s the female barricades of Kobani that are in the forefront fighting fascism.

Inevitably there should be quite a few points of intersection between the International Brigades fighting fascism in Spain in 1936 and what is happening in Rojava, as stressed by one of the very few articles about it published in Western mainstream media.

If these components were not enough to drive crazy deeply intolerant Wahhabis and Takfiris (and their powerful Gulf petrodollar backers) then there’s the overall political set up.

The fight in Rojava is essentially led by the PYD, which is the Syrian branch of the Turkish PKK, the Marxist guerrillas at war against Ankara since the 1970s. Washington, Brussels and NATO – under relentless Turkish pressure – have always officially ranked both PYD and PKK as “terrorists”.

Careful examination of PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan’s must-read book Democratic Confederalism reveals this terrorist/Stalinist equation as bogus (Ocalan has been confined to the island-prison of Imrali since 1999.)

What the PKK – and the PYD – are striving for is “libertarian municipalism”. In fact that’s exactly what Rojava has been attempting; self-governing communities applying direct democracy, using as pillars councils, popular assemblies, cooperatives managed by workers – and defended by popular militias. Thus the positioning of Rojava in the vanguard of a worldwide cooperative economics/democracy movement whose ultimate target would be to bypass the concept of a nation-state.

Not only this experiment is taking place politically across northern Syria; in military terms, it was the PKK and the PYD who actually managed to rescue those tens of thousands of Yazidis corralled by ISIS/ISIL/Daesh in Mount Sinjar, and not American bombs, as the spin went. And now, as PYD co-president Asya Abdullahdetails, what’s needed is a “corridor” to break the encirclement of Kobani by Caliph Ibrahim’s goons.

Sultan Erdogan’s power play
Ankara, meanwhile, seems intent to prolong a policy of “lots of problems with our neighbors.”

For Turkish Defense Minister Ismet Yilmaz, “the main cause of ISIS is the Syrian regime”. And Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu – who invented the now defunct “zero problems with our neighbors” doctrine in the first place – has repeatedly stressed Ankara will only intervene with boots on the ground in Kobani to defend the Kurds if Washington presents a “post-Assad plan”.

And then there’s that larger than life character; Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, aka Sultan Erdogan.

Sultan Erdogan’s edicts are well known. Syrian Kurds should fight against Damascus under the command of that lousy fiction, the reconstituted (and to be trained, of all places, in Saudi Arabia) Free Syrian Army; they should forget about any sort of autonomy; they should meekly accept Turkey’s request for Washington to create a no-fly zone over Syria and also a “secured” border on Syrian territory. No wonder both the PYD and Washington have rejected these demands.

Sultan Erdogan has his eyes set on rebooting the peace process with the PKK; and he wants to lead it in a position of force. So far his only concession has been to allow Iraqi Kurd peshmergas to enter northern Syria to counter-balance the PYD-PKK militias, and thus prevent the strengthening of an anti-Turkish Kurdish axis.

At the same time Sultan Erdogan knows ISIS/ISIL/Daesh has already recruited up to 1,000 Turkish passport holders – and counting. His supplemental nightmare is that the toxic brew laying waste to “Syraq” will sooner rather than later mightily overspill inside Turkish borders.

Watch those barbarians at the gates
Caliph Ibrahim’s goons have already telegraphed their intention to massacre and/or enslave the entire civilian population of Kobani. And yet Kobani, per se, has no strategic value for ISIS/ISIL/Daesh (that’s what US Secretary of State John Kerry himself said last week; but then, predictably, he reversed himself). This very persuasive PYD commander though is very much aware of the ISIS/ISIL/Daesh threat.

Kobani is not essential compared to Deir ez-Zor (which has an airport supplying the Syrian Arab Army) or Hasakah (which has oil fields controlled by Kurds helped by the Syrian Arab Army). Kobani boasts no airport and no oil fields.

On the other hand, the fall of Kobani would generate immensely positive extra PR for the already very slick Caliph enterprise – widening the perception of a winning army especially among new, potential, EU passport holder recruits, as well as establishing a solid base very close to the Turkish border.

Essentially, what Sultan Erdogan is doing is to fight both Damascus (long-term) and the Kurds (medium term) while actually giving a free pass (short-term) to ISIS/ISIL/Daesh. And yet, further on down the road, Turkish journalist Fehim Tastekin is right; training non-existent “moderate” Syrian rebels in oh-so-democratic Saudi Arabia will only lead to the Pakistanization of Turkey. A remix – once again – of the scenario played out during the 1980s Afghan jihad.

As if this was not muddled enough, in a game changer – and reversing its “terrorist” dogma – Washington is now maintaining anentente cordiale with the PYD. And that poses an extra headache for Sultan Erdogan.

This give-and-take between Washington and the PYD is still up for grabs. Yet some facts on the ground spell it all out; more US bombing, more US air drops (including major fail air drops, wherethe freshly weaponized end up being The Caliph’s goons).

A key fact should not be overlooked. As soon as the PYD was more or less “recognized” by Washington, PYD head Saleh Muslim went to meet the wily Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) leader Masoud Barzani. That’s when the PYD promised a “power sharing” with Barzani’s peshmergas on running Rojava.

Syrian Kurds who were forced to abandon Kobani and exile themselves in Turkey, and who support the PYD, cannot return to Syria; but Iraqi Kurds can go back and forth. This dodgy deal was brokered by the KRG’s intel chief, Lahur Talabani. The KRG, crucially, gets along very well with Ankara.

That sheds further light on Erdogan’s game; he wants the peshmerga – who are fierce enemies of the PKK – to become the vanguard against ISIS/ISIL/Daesh and thus undermine the PYD/PKK alliance. Once again, Turkey is pitting Kurds against Kurds.

Washington for its part is manipulating Kobani to completely legitimize – on a “humanitarian”, R2P vein – its crusade against ISIS/ISIL/Daesh. It’s never enough to remember this whole thing started with a barrage of Washington spin about the bogus, ghostly Khorasan group preparing a new 9-11. Khorasan, predictably, entirely vanished from the news cycle.

In the long run, the American power play is a serious threat to the direct democracy experiment in Rojava, which Washington cannot but interpret as – God forbid! – a return of communism.

So Kobani is now a crucial pawn in a pitiless game manipulated by Washington, Ankara and Irbil. None of these actors want the direct democracy experiment in Kobani and Rojava to bloom, expand and start to be noticed all across the Global South. The women of Kobani are in mortal danger of being, if not enslaved, bitterly betrayed.

And it gets even more ominous when the ISIS/ISIL/Daesh play on Kobani is seen essentially for what it is; a diversionary tactic, a trap for the Obama administration. What The Caliph’s goons are really aiming at is Anbar province in Iraq – which they already largely control – and the crucial Baghdad belt. The barbarians are at the gates – not only Kobani’s but also Baghdad’s.

 

 

Pepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007), Red Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge (Nimble Books, 2007), and Obama does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009).

Do the Trans-Siberian shuffle

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THE ROVING EYE

inline2

Originally published in Asia Times on October 23, 2014
Discuss this article here in the Diner Forum.

A specter haunts the elites of the Empire of Chaos; the new Russia-China strategic partnership. It’s manifesting itself in myriad ways – energy deals, investment deals, a closer political alliance inside the G-20, the BRICS and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, a concerted effort to progressively bypass the petrodollar. I have described this long process as essential to the birth of the Eurasian century.

From a Washington/Wall Street point of view, it was so much easier in those long gone, unipolar, “end of history” days. China was still tiptoeing on the banks of the river of capital accumulation, and Russia was down if not out.

So allow me a flashback to the early 1990s. I had been on the road in Asia for months, from all points Southeast Asia to India, Nepal, the Himalayas and the eastern Chinese seaboard. Then I finally hit Beijing – waiting in the bitter winter of early 1992 to take the Trans-Siberian to Moscow. I was barely aware of the collapse of the Soviet Union – not exactly a news item in the Himalayas. I was also fortunate enough to be in southern China just a few days after Deng Xiaoping made his famous tour – whose key consequence was to catapult the dragon to dizzying development heights. A look back to those heady times may have the merit of illuminating our present.

All aboard the night train
It’s 8:32 pm in Beijing Railway Station, and the Trans-Manchurian Train 19 to Moscow is about to depart. It’s minus 9 degrees Celsius. A bunch of Romanian crazies are trying to load more than 20 huge, vaguely green bundles stuffed with Made-in-China gear into one of the carriages. The Russian comptroller spouts out a “Nyet”. Romanian chicks immerse in Transylvanic hysteria. Then a stash of George Washingtons changes hands at the final whistle, just in time for PLA soldiers and lady sweepers sporting the ubiquitous red armband with the words “Serve The People” to impassibly observe the happy ending.

A cacophony of Russians, Poles, Romanians, Czechs and Mongols has deployed dozens of bags, bundles and sacks to totally overload the train corridors. 300 kg of shoes. 500 kg of jackets. 200 kg of T-shirts. Thousands of beauty cream pots that will be all the rage from Bucharest to Cracow. A “bed” on the train is a concavity over one of the bundles. That will be story for six days, across over 9,000 snowy kilometers in the former USSR, now Russia, from East to West.

At the comptroller’s compartment, more bags – whose content will be sold in the streets of Moscow. With so many George Washingtons in sight, the success of her bazaar is guaranteed – what with multiple stops on the way and an unregulated “free” market in every platform. The whole of Eastern Europe is loaded with stuff and dying to make a quick buck.

In the Chinese stretch of the journey, nothing happens, unlike the 1930s, when Japan occupied Manchuria, installed puppet Pu Yi on the throne and was ready to take over Asia. The Terminator action starts in Zabaikalsk, at the Russian-China border – after we cross a huge Arc of Triumph in cement, complete with Leninist motto and not-yet-destroyed hammer and sickle. Customs – on both sides – is absolutely deserted.

The train changes configuration to adapt to the new tracks. Yet all sights are set on the new dining car; exit Chinese, which only offered a miserable pork with soya sauce; enter Russian, crammed with goulash, soup, salami, frozen fish, black caviar, champagne from Crimea, coffee, eggs, even cheese – everything on the black market paid with US dollars.

With the border behind us, it’s go-go bazaar time. Everyone freaks out, because we instantly move from Beijing time to Moscow time. Sunrise is at 1 in the morning. The black market is running at $1 = 110 roubles, the rouble in free fall as we cut through the sublime snowy infinite desert of the Siberian tundra, where each spectacular sunrise under a slight Arctic fog is an epiphany celebrated with more Crimea champagne.

Occasionally we spot reindeers or even huskies. The taiga – coveted by Japan, Korea and the US – is enveloped in snow. Beyond lay the ghosts of the 20 million corpses in Stalin’s gulags, the hunters of the rare Amu tiger (fewer than 200 left) and the sinister Norilsk complex; 2 million tons a year of sulphuric acid and other heavy metals dumped in the atmosphere – the reason for that Arctic fog.

The train stops stretch for 15 and even 20 minutes, reaching a nadir in Novosibirsk and Perm, which previously housed a notorious gulag. At every stop, hordes of Russians in Genghis Khan mode attack the train with little plastic bags. The best deal in the Trans-Siberian is anoraks and leather jackets. Jao, from Beijing, sells 50 in three days, at up to US$50 each; she paid $20 each in the Beijing hutongs. The Russians buy everything in sight and sell roubles – now plunging to 160 to the US dollar – as well as vodka, beer, salami, champagne and local $1 Pepsi bottles.

The whole of Eastern Europe has taken over Train 19. Post-Ceausescu Romanians are the most exuberant – from former boxers to hookers to a seedy gangster in a tracksuit boasting about his two hours with a Russian doll for $10 (the going rate is $20). There’s an Albanian contingent, young Polish students, shirtless Mongol nomads feverishly counting their profits, babushkas bored to death and even a loquacious Chinese dandy.

The Russian carriages, once elegant, are a mess: foul air, dense cigarette smoke, drenched in sweat, toilets crammed with sacks, and “Kapitan”, the only waiter, trying to make a quick buck selling Soviet paraphernalia. I find it the ideal setting to devour almost 1,000 pages of Norman Mailer’s Harlot’s Ghost, a history of the CIA.

Blame it on glasnost
Train 19 is not only a bazaar but also a multinational Agora. Young Russians elaborate how the almost genius perversity of the Soviet system led it to boost to the limit all the problems of modern industrial societies – offering nearly none of its benefits. Eastern Europeans volunteer that it was not the Cold War that finished off “real socialism”; it was the invasion of the capitalist economy combined with the inefficiency and “stupidity” (copyright by a Polish undergraduate) of the socialist economy.

Russians say that glasnost finished off authority and perestroika finished off the economy – and there was nothing to replace either. End result: physics graduates selling caviar tins in a moving train for survival. Everyone praises Gorbachev but essentially condemn him to a short historical footnote. In the train, I heard arguments that would be reproduced years later in countless US academic studies.

All the Trans-Siberian navigators exhibit a solidarity not to be found at the United Nations; they exchange currencies, swap addresses, lend money and the indispensable calculators, help to load and unload the loot, accept bundles in their compartment, offer their places for half an hour for those who only have the corridor to sleep, and crack jokes about the small Bank of China yuan bills. They are all ardent defenders of this unheard of form of direct democracy that is synonym with the end of the Cold War.

Amid the casino lurks the most improbable character: Lulu, a diminutive Bangladeshi, always attached to a Samsonite, dabbling in Allah-only-knows mysterious activities, passport filled with dodgy visas, Saudi Arabian included. Chinese and Russians treat him like an allergic Pekingese. Train chow is predictably unbearable for this strict Muslim, who wakes us all up everyday at 5 am with his prayers – Rashid Muhammad spends six days literally on bread and water.

Skolka? That’s the Trans-Manchurian bazaar motto, a preview of Moscow. Pink Floyd launched the legendary Dark Side of the Moon at the height of the Brejnev era; Moscow suburbs look like the ghostly, dark side of the moon. Stalin’s lunatic legacy is alleviated only by a solitary kiosk selling flowers, fruit or sweet Georgia brandy.

We arrive as zombies – and only a few hours late – at Yaroslavlsky Vakzal, one of nine Moscow train stations, where a deluge of Volga taxis fight for the precious Chinese cargo. Those moving on to Eastern Europe without a reservation are doomed: seats for Warsaw and Berlin are only available in 40 days.

In Shenzhen, Guangzhou, Shanghai and Beijing, I had witnessed the spectacular success of post-Tiananmen Chinese “market socialism”, where the economy was the locomotive and politics was dispatched to the bottom end of the train. Nothing more astonishing than the contrast with Moscow, where politics was the locomotive.

I’m housed by Dmitri, an odontology student, three metro stops from the Kremlin, paying $6 a day, a small fortune; he and his girlfriend precariously subdivide the two-bedroom, one-bathroom apartment with a whole family, dog included, besides the occasional Western visitors, who sleep in the master bedroom. This is considered an upper middle-class lifestyle.

At the beautiful metro stations, it’s the return of the Trans-Siberian bazaar; on sale are political or porno samizdats, second-hand clothes, bottles of every possible liquid. Only when I reach Red Square do I see the light; at the Himalayas and China, my time-zone was still on Gorbachev. What’s now at the top of the Kremlin is a Russian flag – as well as in the center of Dzerzhinsky square, in front of the KGB. As a perfect idiot, I aim for the statue of Felix Dzerzhinsky, the former head of the Soviet secret police, only to be warned by a student that it had been torn down weeks ago. Gorbachev is now a vodka brand. And I can’t get inside the KGB building.

The whole city is converted into a giant Turkish bazaar. After Boris Yeltsin liberated the sidewalks, everyone wants to exercise this privatizatsiya thing. Until 1990, nobody knew what a checkbook or a credit card was, and $1 was equivalent to 1 rouble. There are absolutely astonishing street markets on Prospekt Marka and Gorki street, everyone silently in line exhibiting their wares; a broken doll, a solitary shoe, dusty champagne bottles, perfume, instant coffee, sardine tins, an empty beer bottle.

The streets are filled with all the stuff brought by the Trans-Siberian navigators, but the supermarkets are empty. There’s very little milk or meat, but lots of canned fish and interminable lines to buy nothing – with potential consumers resigned to play chess.

The biggest hit in town is the new McDonald’s on Pushkin square – one of the busiest in the world, selling full meals for 50 cents by cashiers sporting an Eva Herzigova smile. In front of the MacD, a paper Gorbie poses for tourists, and a crowd sells caviar tins for $5 and champagne for $3. At the GUM department store, there is not much except a few Sony and Honda showrooms and a new Dior window.

The recent past does not let go; it’s impossible to call Europe. It’s impossible to send a fax from the Post Office. It’s impossible to make a train reservation. It’s impossible to make a plane reservation – at least on the Aeroflot shop in Lubyanka; only at the cavernous Intourist Hotel.

At the lugubrious ground floor of the Mockba Hotel, deaf and dumb characters straight out of an Ionesco play crowd the corridors while a beer black-market does brisk business in front of the hotel bar. A glass of champagne goes for 50 cents. At the hall of the legendary Metropol – the 1899 Grand Dame favored by Trotsky – a dry martini is a steep $7,70. The Metropol is the new Wall Street; Danes, Italians, Americans and Chinese discuss all deals this side of a Brave New World downing Heinekens at $5 a pop.

On Armed Forces Day, a Sunday, there’s a communist demonstration, repressed with tact, boasting large numbers of old ladies carrying flowers and flags. For their part, Moscow punks with anarchist flags protest against the Armed Forces. A pre-historic Volga takes me to Sheremetyevo as if I was running from a 1950s Cold War B-movie set. The Volga gurgles, stops, cools off, runs, gurgles, stops again, cools off; a metaphor of the new Russia, and I almost miss Aeroflot SU 576 back to Paris.

Nothing will ever be the (unipolar) same
Those were the days. That McDonald’s – symbol of unipolar, “end of history”, Pax Americana – has been recently shut down. It’s harder and harder for the Empire of Chaos to rule the world alone while McDonald’s serves burgers. Across Pushkin square, the fashionable Cafe Pouchkine now serves the best of Russian haute cuisine.

And still, both Russia and China are seen as pariahs by the unipolar, imperial elite. It’s as if we were still frozen in those early 1990s days. Russia and China may have changed almost beyond recognition – but for the Empire of Chaos the priorities are to tear Russia apart, starting with Ukraine, and “pivot to Asia” via an anti-China military/economic axis in the Western Pacific.

Meanwhile, the Trans-Siberian will soon be linked with the Chinese-driven New Silk Roads. And then one day in the early 2020s this will all be a high-speed rail network, linking Eurasia in a flash. And nothing will ever be the (unipolar) same. Except for the back-to-Russia Crimean champagne.

 

Pepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007), Red Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge (Nimble Books, 2007), and Obama does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009).

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