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Modern times are upside down – an invasion is not news; licence to lie takes you to the movies

It is as if Africa’s proud history of liberation has been consigned to oblivion by a new master’s black colonial elite.

A full-scale invasion of Africa is under way. The United States is deploying troops in 35 African countries, beginning with Libya, Sudan, Algeria and Niger.

The invasion has almost nothing to do with “Islamism” and almost everything to do with the acquisition of resources, notably minerals, and an accelerating rivalry with China. Unlike China, the US and its allies are prepared to use a degree of violence, as demonstrated in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and Palestine. As in the cold war, a division of labour requires that western journalism and popular culture provide the cover of a holy war against a “menacing arc” of Islamic extremism, which is no different from the bogus “red menace” of a worldwide communist conspiracy.

Reminiscent of the Scramble for Africa in the late 19th century, the US Africa Command (Africom) has built a network of supplicants among collaborative African regimes eager for US bribes and armaments. In 2011, Africom staged Operation African Endeavour, with the armed forces of 34 African nations taking part, commanded by the US military. Africom’s “soldier-to-soldier” doctrine embeds US officers at every level of command from general to warrant officer. Only the pith helmets are missing.

It is as if Africa’s proud history of liberation, from Patrice Lumumba to Nelson Mandela, has been consigned to oblivion by a new master’s black colonial elite, whose “historic mission”, Frantz Fanon warned half a century ago, is the promotion of “a capitalism rampant though camouflaged”.

A striking example is the eastern Congo, a treasure trove of strategic minerals, controlled by an atrocious rebel group known as the M23, which in turn is run by Uganda and Rwanda, the proxies of Washington.

Long planned as a “mission” for Nato (not to mention the ever-zealous French, whose colonial lost causes remain on permanent standby), the war on Africa became urgent in 2011 when the Arab world appeared to be liberating itself from the Mubaraks and other clients of Washington and Europe. The hysteria this caused in imperial capitals cannot be exaggerated. Nato bombers were des patched not to Tunis or Cairo but to Libya, where Muammar al-Gaddafi ruled over Africa’s largest oil reserves. With the Libyan city of Sirte reduced to rubble, the British SAS directed the “rebel” militias in what has since been exposed as a racist bloodbath.

The indigenous people of the Sahara, the Tuaregs, whose Berber fighters Gaddafi had protected, fled home across Algeria to Mali, where the Tuaregs have been claiming a separate state since the 1960s. As the ever watchful Patrick Cockburn points out, it is this local dispute, not al-Qaeda, that the west fears most in north-west Africa. He writes, “poor though the Tuareg may be, they are often living on top of great reserves of oil, gas, uranium and [other] valuable minerals”.

Almost certainly the consequence of the joint French/US attack on Mali on 13 January, a siege at a gas complex in Algeria ended bloodily, inspiring a 9/11 moment from David Cameron. The former Carlton TV PR man raged about a “global threat” requiring “de - cades” of western violence. He meant the implementation of the west’s business plan for Africa, together with the rape of multi-ethnic Syria and the conquest of independent Iran.

Cameron has now ordered troops to Mali, and an RAF drone, while his verbose military chief, General Sir David Richards, has addressed “a very clear message to jihadists worldwide: don’t dangle and tangle with us. We will deal with it very robustly” – exactly what jihadists want to hear. The trail of blood left by British army terror victims, all Muslims, their “systemic” torture cases now heading to court, adds necessary irony to the general’s words. I once experienced Sir David’s “robust” ways when I asked him if he had read the courageous Afghan feminist Malalai Joya’s description of the barbaric behaviour of westerners and their clients in her country. “You are an apologist for the Taliban,” was his reply. (He later apologised.)

These bleak comedians are straight out of Evelyn Waugh and allow us to feel the bracing breeze of history and hypocrisy. The “Islamic terrorism” that is their excuse for the enduring theft of Africa’s riches was all but invented by them. There is no longer any excuse to swallow the BBC/CNN line and not know the truth. Read Mark Curtis’s Secret Affairs: Britain’s Collusion with Radical Islam (Serpent’s Tail) or John Cooley’s Unholy Wars: Afghanistan, America and International Terrorism (Pluto Press) or The Grand Chessboard by Zbigniew Brzezinski (HarperCollins), who was midwife at the birth of modern fundamentalist terror. In effect, the mujahedin of al-Qaeda and the Taliban were created by the CIA, its Pakistani equivalent, Inter-Services Intelligence, and Britain’s MI6.

Brzezinski, President Jimmy Carter’s national security adviser, describes a secret presidential directive in 1979 that began what became “the war on terror”. For 17 years, the US deliberately cultivated, bankrolled, armed and brainwashed jihadi extremists who “steeped a generation in violence”. Code-named Operation Cyclone, this was the “great game” to bring down the Soviet Union but it brought down the Twin Towers.

Since then, the news that intelligent, educated people both dispense and ingest has become a kind of Disney journalism, fortified, as ever, by Hollywood’s licence to lie, and lie. There is the coming DreamWorks movie on WikiLeaks, a fabrication inspired by a book of perfidious title-tattle by two enriched Guardian journalists; and there is Zero Dark Thirty, which promotes torture and murder and is directed by the Oscar-winning Kathryn Bigelow, the Leni Riefenstahl of our time, promoting her master’s voice as did the Führer’s pet film-maker. Such is the one-way mirror through which we barely glimpse what power does in our name.

John Pilger, renowned investigative journalist and documentary film-maker, is one of only two to have twice won British journalism's top award; his documentaries have won academy awards in both the UK and the US. In a New Statesman survey of the 50 heroes of our time, Pilger came fourth behind Aung San Suu Kyi and Nelson Mandela. "John Pilger," wrote Harold Pinter, "unearths, with steely attention facts, the filthy truth. I salute him."

This article first appeared in the 04 February 2013 issue of the New Statesman, The Intervention Trap

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In Russia, Stalin is back

New statues and memorabilia are appearing, as Russians overlook the terror to hark back to a perceived era of order and national safety.

It was during the Victory Day march to commemorate those who fought in the World War Two, the Great Patriotic War (as it is known in Russia) that I saw the face of Stalin. A young woman carried a crimson flag with the image of the Leader which appeared amidst the black and white photographs of grandparents remembered on the seventieth anniversary of the victory over the Nazi Germany. Just a few months later I was back in Moscow to face the fact that the fleeting image of Stalin, like a seed dropped into rich soil, has sprouted everywhere. At the busy Moscow Domodedovo airport you can now buy souvenir mugs and badges featuring a man with a moustache, coiffed hair and unsmiling eyes; men wearing Stalin T-shirts walk the streets of Moscow and just in time for the festive season 2016 calendars with the twelve photos of the ”Red Tsar” are spread across the counters of the book shops. Most shockingly, new statues of Stalin have appeared in Lipetsk, Penza and Shelanger, a village in a Russian republic Mari El. The monuments were commissioned and erected by the Russia’s Communist Party. Its leader, Gennadiy Zyuganov, promised new statues to be built in Irkutsk in Siberia and in Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine. Charles de Gaulle, the former French president was right: “Stalin didn't walk away into the past, he dissolved into the future.”

According to a January 2015 survey by an independent, non-profit organisation, founded by a Russian sociologist Yuri Levada, 52 per cent of Russians think that Stalin played a “definitely positive” or ”mostly positive” role in Russia’s history. Stalin’s positive image today is cultivated mostly through his association with the Great Patriotic War. Throughout 2015 the Russian media have been obsessively commemorating the 70th anniversary of the victory over the Nazis, with Stalin, the generalissimo, at its helm. Political psychologist Elena Shestopal, quoted by the Levada Centre, explains that the positive opinion of Stalin is a reflection of the society’s demand for order and national safety. In her view, Russians associate Stalin with the role of the father: strict, demanding and powerful.

Stalin’s resurrection is astounding not least because his role in history and his “personality cult” have been consistently condemned in Russia since 1956. Three years after Stalin’s death, the then General Secretary Khrushchev denounced it at the Communist Party conference. Stalin’s body was removed from the Red Square mausoleum; the monuments commemorating him were taken down and destroyed. During glasnost, the openness period initiated by Gorbachev, some state archives revealing the extent of Stalin’s purges and mass repressions were made public. My own grandfather, Aleksandr Bakunin, who devoted his entire life to the history of the Russia’s Communist Party and its accomplishments, set to work in his seventies to research the newly available materials and write a trilogy about the history of Soviet totalitarianism. In popular literature, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn made stunning revelations about mass repressions and his personal experiences as a prisoner in a labour camp in his novel The Gulag Archipelago, first openly published in a Russian literary magazine in 1989. In Gorbachev’s days Nikolai Svanidze, a popular Russian TV host, historian and journalist – related to Stalin through his first wife, Ekaterina (Cato) Svanidze – declared that Stalin and Hitler were cut from the same cloth on national television. I do not believe that such a statement would be made by the Russian media today. 

An example of a “Red Tsar” calendar

With knowledge about collectivisation and famine of the 1930s, mass arrests and forced labour, the culture of terror and the totalitarian governance, it is difficult to understand the current sentiment in Russia which makes it acceptable to print Stalin’s image onto T-shirts and mugs. Russians, who approve of Stalin, credit him with turning around the backward agrarian economy with its mostly rural population into an economic and scientific powerhouse, responsible for sending the first man into space. It was allegedly Churchill who said that “Stalin inherited Russia with a wooden plough and left it in possession of atomic weapons”. These sympathisers hail rapid industrialisation and economic progress, forgetting its costs. Mayakovskiy put it well in his poem about the construction of Kuznetsk: “The lips are turning blue from the cold, but the lips recite in unison: ‘In four years this will be a garden city!’”

Stalinists are especially vocal in giving their hero credit for winning the war. By the end of 1930s, the Soviet Union had become the largest economy in Europe and in the 1940s it was the defence industry that carried the Soviet campaign against Hitler. Stalin united people and inspired them to fight the enemy both on the front line and in the factories, according to those who believe in Stalin as “the Leader”. “The European nations are being ungrateful”, they say. “Stalin saved them from the Nazis.” It is inconvenient to remember that it was Stalin who had signed a non-aggression pact with Hitler in August 1939 and had been falsely assured that Germany would not invade the Soviet Union. Stalin disregarded several reports from his own intelligence agents and defected German spies about the advancing of Hitler’s army in 1941. Millions of lives were lost as a result in the first months of the war. As for the gratitude, the Baltic and the eastern European nations are quite right to dispute the post-war reorganisation of Europe, implemented after the Yalta conference, when Stalin, Roosevelt and Churchill agreed to divide their spheres of influence.

After the war, the USSR became the second most powerful nation in the world and a force to be reckoned with in geopolitics, economics and technology. Previously illiterate peasants, Soviet citizens enrolled in universities, became engineers and doctors, went to the theatre and cinema, read and became part of the Soviet miracle. There is a great deal of nostalgia among the older generation in Russia, who mourn the ”golden decades” of the Soviet Union and wish for Russia’s international status to climb again. “We lived better with Stalin than with anyone else who came to power after him. He looked after us. Today only oligarchs live well,” said a Russian woman in her late seventies. One Russian blogger writes that mass repressions were necessary to align the Soviet consciousness to the new ideology, to replace individualism with collective responsibility. He believes that the terror was necessary to maintain order. There is also rising support among the younger generation who see parallels between Putin and Stalin, the two rulers who favour autocracy and ubiquitous state control.

Already in his seventies, my grandfather wrote two books about the genesis and the evolution of the totalitarianism in the Soviet Union. His third book was meant to be about the fall of Stalinism. Despite several heart attacks and a stroke, he continued working. He died from the fatal heart attack, his book unfinished. Perhaps, it was meant to be. Section 86 of the German Criminal Code makes it illegal to display Nazi images and to hail Hitler in Germany. In Russia, Stalin has never been similarly condemned. The Russian government ostensibly does not object to the new statues of Stalin being erected just 60 years after they had been taken down. The nation that has forgotten its own history is terrifying.