A Deeper Look At Uprisings Around The World
Revolts are arising all around the world and it can be hard to keep track of them. We speak with Andre Vltchek, a photographer, writer and documentarian who travels all over to cover world events. He brings a deeper understanding of the conditions that have given rise to the protests, the historical context of those conditions and outside forces that may be influencing them. We discuss Lebanon, a very complex situation where basic social services have broken down but there are also western interests; Hong Kong, China, and the Uyghurs, which are completely propagandized in the United States; and Chile, where people are facing violent state repression and a deeply neoliberal government that has existed since the US-led coup by General Pinochet in 1973. Vltchek provides incredible insights and information.
Andre Vltchek is a philosopher, novelist, filmmaker, investigative journalist, poet, playwright, and photographer, Andre Vltchek is a revolutionary, internationalist and globetrotter who fights against Western Imperialism and the Western regime imposed on the world.
He covered dozens of war zones and conflicts from Iraq and Peru to Sri Lanka, Bosnia, Rwanda, Syria, DR Congo and Timor Leste.
His latest books are Revolutionary Optimism, Western Nihilism, The Great October Socialist Revolution, Exposing Lies of the Empire, Fighting Against Western Imperialism and On Western Terrorism: From Hiroshima to Drone Warfare with Noam Chomsky.
Aurora and Point of No Return are his major works of fiction, written in English. Nalezeny, is his novel written in Czech. Other works include a book of political non-fiction Western Terror: From Potosi to Baghdad and Indonesia: Archipelago of Fear, Exile (with Pramoedya Ananta Toer, and Rossie Indira), Oceania – Neocolonialism, Nukes & Bones, The World Order and Revolution! – Essays from the Resistance (co-written with Christopher Black and Peter Koenig), and Liberation Lit (edited with Tony Christini).
Plays: ‘Ghosts of Valparaiso’ and ‘Conversations with James’ is his book of plays/drama.
He is a member of Advisory Committee of the BRussells Tribunal.
Investigative work of Andre Vltchek appears in countless publications worldwide. Andre Vltchek has produced and directed several documentary films for left-wing South American television network teleSUR. They deal with diverse topics, from Turkey/Syria to Okinawa, Kenya, Egypt and Indonesia, but all of them are exposing effects of Western imperialism on the Planet. His feature documentary film ‘Rwanda Gambit’ is being broadcasted by Press TV, and it aims at reversing official narrative on 1994 genocide, exposing the Rwandan and Ugandan plunder of DR Congo on behalf of Western imperialism. He produced the feature length documentary film about the Indonesian massacres in 1965 ‘Terlena – Breaking of The Nation‘, as well as the film about the brutal camp for Somali refugees, Dadaab in Kenya: ‘One Flew Over Dadaab’. His Japanese crew filmed his lengthy discussion with Noam Chomsky on the state of the world, which is presently being made into a film. He frequently speaks at revolutionary meetings, as well as at the principal universities worldwide. He presently lives in Asia and the Middle East. His website is: http://andrevltchek.weebly.com/
Margaret Flowers (MF): You’re listening to Clearing the FOG, speaking truth to expose the forces of greed with Margaret Flowers and Kevin Zeese. Our guest today is Andre Vltchek.
Kevin Zeese (KZ): And we should speak to him more often because he does incredible work covering global activities. Right now, he’s in Beirut. And so we talked to him about Lebanon, which is a complicated situation and a very interesting one. I think you’ll really enjoy his interview. He’s a very smart guy,
MF: But before we get to that, let’s get to some news. Right now, we’re coming to you from the capital of Palestine, Jerusalem. Today, we visited Jaffa.
KZ: Jaffa and Tel Aviv, and we got to see some truths and understand some things I don’t think even most people in Israel know because Israel leads a false life when it comes to the history of Palestinians. They don’t really admit what they did to the Palestinian people. They don’t admit forcing them out of their homeland and the ethnic cleansing or the apartheid. This isn’t even taught in the schools. So the people of Israel don’t even know their own history.
MF: Well and this is something that we talked about, which is not uncommon with settler colonial projects, that there is this illusion put forward that there was actually nobody there and that the previous population, society is really just wiped, erased from memory.
KZ: Doesn’t that sound like the indigenous American natives? There were millions living in North America before the colonists discovered it, the westward move by the United States across the country, Manifest Destiny, was taking over wilderness when in fact, it was destroying really sophisticated cities and towns and communities of millions of people.
MF: So let’s get into some of the news. And we wanted to let our listeners know that War Resisters International has a new booklet out on counter recruitment. You can find that at WRI-IRG.org and this is an important booklet for people who want to do counter recruiting efforts because it talks about around the world lots of different tactics that are being used to reach out to youth and let them know there are other opportunities rather than joining the military.
KZ: Yeah. Well, you know counter recruitment has been a longtime tactic of people opposed to militarism and the military’s longtime tactic has since the draft ended to have a poverty draft where people because of the unfair economy, the low incomes the poor jobs, there’s a economic draft and the new economic draft is over student debt.
MF: Yeah, it’s interesting that they’re finding that trying to sell the ideas of you’re fighting for your country, you’re fighting for freedom isn’t really working anymore. And so they’ve, the recruiters in the United States, have changed their tactics to being oh, well, if you don’t want to have student debt hanging over your head, join the military.
KZ: One of the interesting conversations I had today with a Palestinian, he mentioned that in Israel, there’s people who are required to serve in the military. We talked about the US not having that rule, we talked about how the US had a draft but it had a backfire and the backfire was that when they drafted people into the military to do wars that were really unconscionable, inhumane and violating international law, they found people in the military saying no, the generals realized they couldn’t control those who were drafted. The draft is really what helped to end the Vietnam War. It was the activities of troops who were drafted in Vietnam saying no their generals or going further and really revolting against their generals and officers that helped to end the war in Vietnam. And so the US ended the draft and has replaced it with the economic draft to keep the military going as well as lowering their standards, making it easier to pick people who really are not appropriate for the military to be trained to kill, carry weapons and commit war crimes around the world.
MF: And now President Trump offered recently to send US troops to Mexico to help fight the drug war down there. This happened after some drug cartels murdered some Mexican-US citizens who were driving in SUV’s, including six children and three women and so Trump said, well, we’ll send our troops down there to help you. The Mexican president AMLO declined Trump’s offer.
KZ: He did it really beautifully. We have an article about this on PopularResistance.org. If you just go to “Mexico” and “Popular Resistance” you’ll see the article. AMLO has said some really smart things about how war is just the wrong approach and if you’re required to create policy based on killing, that’s the wrong way to go about doing it. In fact, politics is the replacement for war, politics meaning democracy and negotiation, diplomacy, coming up with policies that actually work and the drug war, you know, with this Trump is going to the 2020 election with his tough-on-crime rhetoric just as the War on Drugs was created by President Nixon when he ran for president. That’s where the phrase War on Drugs came from. Ronald Reagan carried that on. Both Bushes. Bill Clinton carried that on. It’s only really been recently that we started to see a turn away from the War on Drugs. Everyone seems to recognize it’s failed. The more money, the more power given to police, the more ability of police to violate people’s civil liberties, more mass incarceration. All it resulted in was more failure. It didn’t solve the drug problem. And the bottom line is drugs should be considered a health issue, not a law enforcement issue. We make it a law enforcement issue by making it illegal and we’re using the wrong tool to solve a health problem and there are solutions. We’ve seen around the world and in the United States, when we take a public health approach or a harm reduction approach or even a regulatory approach, that we have a better chance at limiting the damage of drugs and controlling their use.
MF: Let’s talk about some other countries in Latin America. We’ve been talking about this the past few weeks because there’s so much going on there. Bolivia, the Radio Education Network of Bolivia exposed 16 leaked audio tapes from the opposition talking about their support for a coup to overthrow President Evo Morales. They mentioned US Congress members names, Marco Rubio, Bob Menendez and Ted Cruz.
KZ: Yeah. This has been obviously a coup attempt. It was going on before the election and heightened after the election. What heightened it was that on election day before the final count was done, before all the results were in, Morales was winning by nine points rather than the required 10 points. Ten was required in order to prevent a second round. When all the votes came in, he had more than a ten point lead over his nearest opponent. The reason for the delay was because the votes from the Andean region, the mountainous region in Bolivia, the indigenous region where Morales has his greatest support came in late. When they came in, Morales won with more than 10 points. Now the big development, which I’m kind of surprised by, is Morales has called for a new election. The OAS, which is not a trustworthy organization, it’s pretty much a US tool, came out with a report that they didn’t trust the results. Morales described it as more of a political report rather than a technical report, technical as far as disputing problems in the election. But he agreed that in order to kind of keep the peace and it had been getting very violent. The opposition was doing lots of fires, lots of abusive things. A mayor was captured by the opposition and they cut her hair off in public, was just like really, sounded like a scene on Game of Thrones. I’m surprised Morales gave in to that, but he has decided to call for a new election. He’s urging the opposition to respect that call. We’ll see if that works. I’m, my concern is when you give a violent coup attempt supported by the United States an inch, they will take a yard or a mile. And so I expect that this will be seen as a sign of weakness by them and they will escalate. I hope I’m wrong. I hope that and I’m pretty sure that Evo Morales has a much better understanding of Bolivia than I do and I hope that the opposition comes to its senses and really pursues the approach of democracy rather than of a coup.
MF: Some good news out of Brazil this past week, the former president Lula was freed from jail. There were also mass protests in Brazil against the current president Jair Bolsonaro, and those occurred in three dozen cities and a big part of the impetus for those protests was the murder of a councilwoman Marielle Franco in March of 2018. Protesters believe that that murder is tied to the President, that his neighbor, who’s being held as a suspect in that murder, may have been driven to do it by his ties to Bolsonaro.
KZ: Bolsonaro certainly hated her. First, she was gay and he hates gays. Second, she was a leftist and he hates leftist and she’s black and so, you know, it’s like the trifecta of reasons why Bolsonaro wanted to get rid of her, but I have, we don’t see any proof yet. So that is still being investigated. As to Lulu, I think it’s important to understand that he was not released because he was acquitted. His conviction was not yet reversed. That still is on the agenda for the Supreme Court to consider. The reason he was released was because of another decision that affected many prisoners. The decision was like a six to five vote, so it was a very close vote. The Court ruled that they reversed the decision that when you lose your first appeal you immediately go to jail. The court said you stay out of jail pending appeal. And so that meant that Lula who still has an appeal pending was released because of that change in the rule. Now under this decision, that does not mean Lula can run for office. He would not be able to run for office until 2025 unless his conviction is reversed. But Lula is already talking about running for president in 2022. He’s ready to compete with Bolsonaro in the next election and he’s already talking about that. But for him to be able to do that, the Supreme Court has to reverse that conviction and there’s lots of good reasons to do that reversal because of new information that has come out thanks to the incredible work of The Intercept getting the conversations between prosecutors and the judge showing that they were conspiring to make sure Lula got convicted. I think that there’s a good chance that that conviction will be reversed and we will see Lula running for president in 2022 to if not sooner. There’s also talk about Bolsonaro being impeached. So a lot is up in the air in Brazil right now but a very positive change that Lula out of jail
MF: And Chile continues with three weeks of protests. We will go into this in more depth in our interview with Andre Vltchek but two pieces of news related to that: one is that the opposition, the people organizing the protests against the President Piñera are calling for a constituent referendum. They would like a new constitution. They’re also calling for the resignation of the government and new elections and they filed a lawsuit against the President for crimes against humanity. In these three weeks of protests, there have been 23 people who have been killed, many of them by police bullets, some of them in very brutal ways and put on displays as a message to their neighbors not to show their faces at the protest. There have been rapes and torture.
KZ: And is important to know the protesters have already won a great deal. The prime minister has fired his entire cabinet in order to try to save himself. He’s also reversed himself on the policies that started these protests, but that’s not stopping the protesters. They are calling for him to completely resign and for the renewal elections and a new constitutional assembly.
MF: Let’s talk about Cuba. There was another vote in the United Nations. It happens every November. This is the 28th year and it’s a vote on ending the US embargo against Cuba. This year a hundred and eighty seven nations voted in support of the US ending that embargo. Three nations voted against it, not surprising, the United States and Israel and Brazil and then two countries abstained, also not surprising Colombia and Ukraine.
KZ: The sad thing about this is really two things from my perspective. One, it shows the US continues to act as if it’s above the law of the world and violate international law, put these economic sanctions unilaterally on a country to try to force them to change their government and their policies. That’s illegal under international law. Over and over again, the vast majority of the world has told the US to end this practice. The US has ignored them. The second sad thing it shows is the toothlessness of international law and until we strengthen international law and that probably means getting rid of the Security Council, which vetoes what the world really wants. This small number of nations, especially the permanent Security Council, this small number of nations is able to stop the world from going in the positive direction it should be going and stop the global community from holding the US accountable. Until we change that the UN will be toothless, powerless in the face of us violations of law.
MF: And then quickly, just to let our listeners know that protests continue in Haiti, now in their eighth week calling for the resignation of President Jovenal Moise
KZ: And this is one more example of a US coup. Moise really was not elected until Hillary Clinton contacted Haiti and made sure he was elected. He has been a corrupt and divisive leader and the people are not taking anymore and where this leads, we have to see but it’s been two months of protests that are really aggressive at key times. And so they are demanding he resign and a new government be put in place through an election. So we’ll see how that plays out.
MF: And last week, we interviewed Frank Chapman. We want to remind our listeners that on the weekend of November 22nd to 24th is the relaunching of the National Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression. That’s going to be taking place in Chicago, but there’s been some interesting actions this past week. One of them was a vote in Rochester New York, a public referendum that won with 76 percent of the vote to create a police accountability board.
KZ: Yeah, and that’s a very positive step. It just shows that many cities around the country are struggling with police violence and police killings, especially of black and brown people. It really seems rampant throughout most urban areas in the United States. It’s great that Rochester made that major step but the city that’s most far ahead really is Chicago and that’s due to the work of Chapman and his allies. In the article about the Rochester change, we have a note in the beginning of that also describes what Chicago is proposing, which is an elected council that will provide for community control of the police including hiring the police superintendent or the police chief as many cities call that position being able to indict police officials, fire police officials, how police officers are trained, all sorts of different aspects of policing where the community gets control and it’s become pretty evident as we’ve looked at this issue that community control of police and in black communities, that means black community control of police, that this is the transformational change that’s needed if we’re going to make the police system work, we have to change the system. The police need to serve and protect the people. Community control of police lets the police know that’s their job to serve and protect the people, otherwise the people can change the police.
MF: So this police accountability board in Rochester is not elected but the social organizations that pushed for it actually get to choose the nine-member board, which will be a paid board. So we’ll see how that works out. They have 90 days to get that board up and running. In New York City, there was a massive turnout this past week around the increasing police violence on the subways particularly against black and brown youth. This was spurred by three incidents in one week. And there were mass protests in both Brooklyn and Queens where these events took place.
KZ: This is happening at the same time the police are about to add more police to the metro system in New York. People are calling for getting the police out of our metro system and the police are doing the opposite and adding hundreds of police to the metro system.
MF: Right and the protesters were saying that fares should be free or significantly reduced because the prices are very high for especially poor people and the money that they’re paying is not being put in to build up the infrastructure. They’re saying that there’s lots of problems with the infrastructure of the subway in New York City and they are very opposed to putting that money into hiring more police officers. Let’s talk about South Carolina. Prisoners down there filed a petition with the United Nations this past week over the conditions that they’re experiencing in the prisons, in the level three prisons. They’re requesting humanitarian intervention. They’re saying that they’re being held in their cells 22 to 24 hours a day. That they’re dark. They have metal plates over the openings and that the food is very low quality. The guards are abusive and that really these are terrible conditions and they’re asking for United Nations intervention.
KZ: Many countries around the world have criticized the United States for our treatment of prisoners. This is really a blot on our society and it is a nationwide problem. We have five percent of the world’s population and 25% of the world’s prisoners. We have more people in solitary confinement than most nations have total prisoners and we’ve seen over the last few years prison strikes where prisoners are making what look like very reasonable demands. Really the entire prison system deserves to be questioned. Many are calling for its abolition and putting in place alternatives to prison. I think that should be something we seriously discuss and debate because prisons are not working. They’re very expensive and they become a profit center for corporations and not just the private prison industry, but the telephone industry, the food industry, the clothing industry, prison slavery. There’s so many examples of how prisons have become a corporate profit center.
MF: That’s right. It’s interesting that you mention that these are a profit centers because activists in Boston and some other cities around the country have launched a divest from prisons campaign and they were out protesting this past week at investors. In Boston, they were particularly targeting Wyatt detention centers, a place where people are incarcerated while they’re seeking asylum. You can get more information about that using the hashtag free them all. It doesn’t make sense why people who are seeking asylum should be imprisoned and I think it’s important to recognize that there are models around the world for handling people when they commit crimes that are completely the opposite of what the United States does. In Finland, for example, they view that when somebody commits a crime, that the society has failed that person in some way and they have a responsibility to figure out what has happened in that person’s life and they take steps to remedy that.
KZ: Yeah, remedying it is much better than punishing people. The United States has taken the approach of the most expensive, least humane and least effective way to handle prisoners and when you combine that with the racism in the prison system, if you look at every step of a criminal process, whether it’s the police deciding whether to make an arrest or how to approach someone in the street or even how to police a street, whether it’s the prosecutors making decisions on what to charge somebody with, whether it’s the probation and pretrial officers and their recommendations or the judges’ decisions at sentencing, every step of the way, you see a racially unfair prison systems. On top of what we’ve already said about the problems in prisons, it also is very racist in the way it’s handled.
MF: Let’s turn to Julian Assange. Folks may know that he continues to be held in prison while he’s awaiting his extradition hearing. Hundreds of people came out last week on November 5th to protest at the United Kingdom home office and this included his father John Shipton, a number of celebrities and Assange’s health is really deteriorating. He’s now being held in solitary confinement and not being given access to his mail.
KZ: Every time we hear more about the treatment of Julian Assange, it is more disgraceful and disheartening. Julian Assange is an editor and publisher who did what every editor and publisher should have done, he revealed truthful information about US war crimes, about war crimes of other nations, about corporate control of the US state department, about corporate domination of trade agreements. These are issues that should be on the front page of every paper. In fact, some papers used Wikileaks information and then haven’t done much to defend Assange. There should be a massive response from all media in support of Assange. The fact that the US is threatening to use the Espionage Act against an editor and publisher is something that should be ringing alarm at every media outlet, any media source in the country and yet most of them are silent. We have a right to know when the US government violates the law. We have right to know when corporations dominate our foreign policy. This is information that should be available and because of the corporate control of our media by the US government, it’s not often available. Julian Assange broke through that and now he’s being punished for it in horrible ways.
MF: Let’s end with some good news. This past week the United Kingdom High Court found in favor of folks with Extinction Rebellion who were challenging a police blanket ban on protests in October. The court ruled that people had the right to protest and the 400 people who were arrested may be able to fight back against those arrests.
KZ: Yeah that kind of approach, of blocking all protests and making them illegal, certainly should be found by a court to be legal. It’s very interesting that in Venezuela, in Nicaragua and Bolivia and other countries under US attack for regime change where the US is working with protesters, none of those countries ban protests and yet our closest ally, the United Kingdom, is behaving this way. Another close ally, France, is handling the yellow vest protests with extreme violence. It’s so hypocritical the way the United States responds to various countries in the way, our allies respond to protest.
MF: Well, it’s pretty basic, I think that when there are protests that are in the United States’ security state interest, they are good. When there are protests and they can be used against the security state interest, those are bad.
KZ: Exactly, and the US doesn’t handle protests all that well either. We could learn a lot from countries that we see as our adversaries.
MF: You’re listening to Clearing the FOG speaking truth to expose the forces of greed with Margaret Flowers and Kevin Zeese. And now we’re joined by our guest Andre Vltchek. Andre is a philosopher, novelist, filmmaker, investigative journalist, poet, playwright, and photographer who is a revolutionary internationalist and globetrotter who fights against Western imperialism, and the Western regime imposed on the world. He is currently in Beirut, Lebanon. Thank you for taking time to join us Andre.
Andre Vltchek (AV): Thank you.
KZ: So Andre, we really appreciate you coming on. I’ve appreciated your writing for a long time and what I really like about it is that you are often in the place where the actions are occurring and you bring clarity. There’s such confusion about US actions around the world about a lot of these revolts that are happening around the world. Is the US involved? What’s the real issues? And Lebanon is one of those confusing areas and you’re in Beirut now, can you tell us what is happening in Beirut, what is happening in Lebanon? What is this uprising about? Describe what you’re seeing.
AV: Well, actually, Beirut is one of the most complex revolts or rebellions, however to describe it. As you know, government of Lebanon, the prime minister of Lebanon resigned several days ago. Hariri, the prime minister. He believed that after his resignation things will calm down here, but obviously protesters want everybody out from all the elites that are governing the nation for many years in the case. They want them all out and they want to start from the beginning. That’s actually not such a bad demand, because if you see what is happening in Lebanon, the country is run by the very greedy, very ruthless and very brutal elites. A lot of income that Lebanon gets is from drug trafficking from Bekaa Valley. It is also from plundering West Africa and so on and so on and from the banking sector also. Lebanon is providing banking services to the entire Gulf and to the entire Middle East. So poor people, which is most likely still the majority in the country, I say most likely because statistics don’t exist here really, poor people get almost nothing from the drug trade. They get nothing from West Africa. They get nothing from banking and people had enough. The services in Lebanon collapsed. So there is no garbage collection, periodically electricity is collapsing. They had to bring Turkish power plants platforms that are docked at the shore, next to the shore of Lebanon. Lebanon is getting electricity even from war-torn Syria. Water is contaminated, water supplies, education is in a horrible state and so is medical care. So logically people had enough of this and they periodically protest. They protested in 2015 during the campaign, which was called “You Stink” and it was supposed to actually illustrate that the government and the elites, who are not cleaning the garbage, are actually the reason for the situation and they stink, not only the garbage stinks. So on one hand you would say, well this is great, people are in the streets. They are demanding the change of regime. They want some sort of Socialism or social reforms except that nobody is talking about socialism. Protesters are demanding the resignation of all political parties. Official political parties but they are not talking about any socialist or social revolution. And yesterday I actually went to one of the main sites of protests in front of the Grand Mosque. And what did I see? I saw a big fist, this big clenched fist, which is clearly a symbol of Otpor and Otpor together with CANVAS are two organizations that were used for all sorts of regime changes by the West. Otpor was used for example to overthrow the government of President Milosevic in Serbia and CANVAS and Otpor were also used during so-called Arab Spring in Egypt, where I made the big documentary film actually about so-called Arab Spring and so on. So suddenly, we see this situation when we don’t know what actually, who is behind these protests and I went to protesters, I talked to them and they had no idea what Otpor is. I said, “What about the clenched fist?” and they talked to organizers and they said well, let me talk to the designer. I don’t really know what this means. So I actually I think this is correct. I think most of the people who are on the streets, they really have no idea who is behind all this. They are just frustrated. They’re very angry about the situation and they want the new start but can they get a new start? That’s really, I don’t think they can at this stage in which things are.
MF: Thank you for that analysis. The timing of this is interesting because it’s the same time that there’s an uprising in Iraq and some are suggesting that perhaps, you know, stoking chaos in Lebanon and in Iraq, two allies of Iran, are part of the United States’ strategy of maximum pressure on Iran since the other tactics the United States has used have not succeeded. So course we have some suspicions and questions about whether there’s CANVAS and other interests helping to form this. At the same time, we were part of organizing the Occupy Movement in the United States in 2011, which was partly inspired by the Arab Spring and we used a fist in our symbols not because we had anything to do with Otpor or CANVAS but because to us, it was a symbol of resistance
KZ: But the Otpor fist is very specific.
MF: Right, it is, but we also didn’t have demands. People, it was kind of a stage of people really just of rising up and saying we’ve had enough and then since then there’s been a lot of work done to organize, create some networks and start to talk about the solutions that we want to have. Do you see? One thing that we saw in kind of CANVAS-trained protesters is that they tend to be very disciplined and they tend to be well supplied. Are you seeing any signs of that?
AV: Well, yes, but also they take many years to actually materialize. You know, that’s very interesting because nothing happens for a year two or three and then suddenly people go to the streets and they get extremely well organized and it appears that it happens from the blue, but it’s not. It’s actually, it was being prepared for many years. It’s very difficult to actually, you know yesterday I sent clips to Italian magazine, which is called L’Antidiplomatico, which is a left wing, big left-wing magazine in Italy and they actually said oh this fist, this is Otpor and I wasn’t even thinking about it for the beginning and then I began investigating and there was a lot written about this in the past that there was actually the operation of CANVAS and Otpor began in 2005. In 2005, Lebanese, groups of Lebanese people insisted that Syrian Army, which was operating at the time in Lebanon leaves and then it was used in 2015 again, and so there is a very long history of these groups operating. You see, many Lebanese are, there is a huge actually division which is religious division in the country because of the Civil War in the past, but also because of the different political alliances, so certain groups are extremely closely connected to the West. You would hear Christians in Ashraf area neighborhood for example talking about the greatness of French occupation or French colonialism, and they want French back. Similar to what we hear now in Hong Kong. They want Brits back. And then you have Sunni fraction you have you know, Hariri was a prime minister, he was a Sunni prime minister and so on. Then you have Hezbollah involved and it’s not that bizarrely that Hezbollah would be necessarily antagonistic to Hariri who was not only Sunni, but he was also, is double citizenship, so Lebanese and Saudi, they formed the coalition. So it’s a very complex political arrangement in Lebanon. So it’s very difficult to really untangle it and there it’s obviously the Christian groups here have extreme right wing. They have extreme right-wing members and they don’t hide it. They are very close to Europe. They’re very close to the West. They hate Shia even if they have a coalition with them. They hate Muslims. It’s a complicated situation here. So these groups definitely have connections to Otpor, to CANVAS and to the West, either France or the United States. So there is nothing black and white. I mean, the country is suffering from corruption, horrible corruption. The country is suffering from collapse of services, financial institutions. I mean many analysts believe that by February 2020 the entire economy may and actually will collapse. So there are so many elements involved in the in the situation, which exists right now in Lebanon.
KZ: Wow, what a very complicated situation. So how does Lebanon fit into this? I remember Harari being basically kidnapped and seemed like in Saudi Arabia and resigning while he was under their control, the government’s control not too long ago.
AV: Yes, yes, he actually ended up in Riyadh and he just most likely took some instructions from the Saudi government. So there’s a lot of speculations here, a lot of dark humor connected to the entire situation. I mean, who is he really? Is he Lebanese? Is he Saudi? He has two passports.
KZ: Very interesting. So what is Lebanon’s position? So many global conflicts are intermingling in the Middle East and in Lebanon in particular. Did he have an antagonistic relationship with Saudi Arabia? Does he have an antagonistic relationship with Israel? And does he have a friendly relationship with Iran? I mean, so how does Lebanon fit into the mix of geopolitics? I know they have a lot of local issues.
AV: It’s tremendously complicated because yes, there are many players from abroad so that’s clear like in Iraq to right now, but I was covering three months ago, I went to Israeli border between Lebanon and Israel, and I was filming, then photographing there.T here was a big problem like the Drone attacks coming from Israel. And we actually thought that there would be a full-scale war between two countries. They finally came to senses and they stopped but Israel is constantly pushing, constantly intimidating Lebanon. Hezbollah has been playing extremely important role in Lebanon because Lebanon social policy collapsed. There is nothing basically. If you are poor, you will get nothing. You may have Maseratis and Ferraris driving all over the country, they’re driving next to slums. But if you are poor and you get sick, the only organization that will help you is Hezbollah and Hezbollah is very respected here. It’s not, it’s respected by everybody, even by people who hate them because they A, they are ready to fight Israeli invasions, but B, they are also providing Social Services to people of any religious groups and it’s a very important. I know Hezbollah, of course, is allied with Iran. So Iran is here indirectly as well. And Saudis are here and through Hariri and through the Sunni fractions in the government. So it is at the crossroads. The France, of course, the old colonialist power, you know, Lebanon is trilingual right. Arab language, French and English. So France is the only francophone kind of to some extent country in the Middle East. So France is involved, financially it’s supporting certain groups and elites here. The United States, it’s not unusual to see US Air Force Hercules Landing at Rafiq Hariri International Airport. I have images of that also. It’s a, there are other players from all over the world involved here and of course Syria is next door and Syrian War and the influx of refugees, about 1.5 million at the peak, play a great role in complicating the situation socially but it’s not only Syrians, there are also Palestinian refugees. There are camps that exist here for decades. It’s a horrible situation for the Palestinians. They cannot work. They have only few manual works that they are allowed to perform. They are like sardines packed into the camps. There is a lot of violence and a lot of poverty in these camps. There are even Iraqi refugees. So Lebanon is probably the most complicated country to analyze historically and in present terms and you know, of course this was supposed to be the only Christian country in the Middle East that was given to them by the French and the situation totally changed now. There is more Muslims than Christians and nobody really knows how many of them are living because the census is blocked. They’re so scared to say how many Muslims, are many Shia, how many Sunni, how many Alawites, how many Christians are living here because they’re afraid that that would actually reignite the Civil War again. So there is no, there is no census. There are no statistics here.
MF: So it sounds like we’re going to have to kind of keep an eye on the protests. It’s still fairly early, just a few weeks.
KZ: Well if there comes in a crash in February, that’ll be a whole other round as well.
MF: People are predicting, you know, other economies crashing around the world. It’s, we’re coming into an interesting period but let’s move to another area that you’ve been covering in person recently, which is Hong Kong. There has been a lot of confusion here in the United States about that, but it feels like things are a little bit more obvious in Hong Kong. Can you talk about what you’ve seen going on there?
AV: Oh, Hong Kong is very straightforward. Basically the group or very big group of very confused young people have been pledging allegiance to the old colonial master, which is United Kingdom, and to the United States and they went against their own country, which is China, and that rebellion is actually very ridiculous because China is doing so well economically and socially and China, mainland China is just across the line, that people in Hong Kong, young people began, to feel very frustrated with their old British capitalist system that cannot deliver with very high GDP and everything what communist China can deliver with much lower GDP. So basically Hong Kong is the most expensive city in the world or by all standards. I always joke, but it’s not a joke actually, the last time I was there, there was a parking lot next to me and they were charging 700 US dollars for a parking lot from Monday to Friday only for working hours to park your car and the incomes are not so high. I mean incomes, so ok, incomes are first world, but maybe in the US terms $2,500 a month. So a person cannot really afford to live in an apartment that costs like now between 800,000 and 1,200,000 for like just a studio in a Hong Kong city. So they all live with the parents. They are frustrated. They have to take students loans and it’s all this old British colonial system. So logically because Hong Kong is under this agreement between UK and People’s Republic, you know one country two systems. So logically these young people should actually demand more Beijing but they are so brainwashed and they are so narcissistic that they actually are protesting against People’s Republic and they are demanding more capitalism and they are demanding more Western influence and you know, it was interesting because all this began with this extradition bill that Hong Kong Administration was trying to introduce and the bill was still the jurisdiction, which is British, doesn’t allow any extradition of the very very corrupt elites from Hong Kong to Mainland China, but also to Taiwan or to Macau or even to Europe or to the United States. So there was a big attempt to pass this extradition bill and the students said or young people said no, we don’t want it because it means that the human rights will be violated and these people will be extradited to China to Mainland China and there will be no fair trial and all this. So basically instead of doing something productive something that could improve their standards of living and give some meaning to their life. They’re fighting against China which mainland China which is getting so much ahead. You know, you could cross the, 20 years ago 15 years ago, even 10 years ago, you would cross the borderline between Hong Kong to Shenzhen or to Guangzhou and it would be day and night. You know, I mean China was still getting to its feet and all that. Hong Kong was so much richer. Now people from mainland China, they don’t even go for shopping to Hong Kong because they get many more better stores. And of course, they have all kind of better public stuff like public transportation, public parks, theaters, museums and all that so actually Hong Kong people were now complaining to me that Mainland Chinese don’t go there anymore. They said they treat us bad and they have better things and we do so now they go to Paris or they go to Bangkok at least or somewhere else. But these young people in Hong Kong they are so brainwashed and they’re so narcissistic that they really don’t understand or they don’t want to understand what is going on and they are, they want to feel exceptional. They want to feel, they miss this these days when they actually felt that the whole world was coming there and Chinese people from Mainland were just sighing in excitement just seeing the skyline. I mean, it’s a better skyline in, you know, Xi’an or in Guangzhou. You don’t have to even go to Shanghai or to Beijing these days. So this is it and the big brainwashing and also ignorance.
KZ: You’ve used the word brainwash multiple times and when you talk about Lebanon, you talk about how what a long-term effort it had been by CANVAS and others to build the opposition there. I mean Hong Kong has been a long-term effort to the US started investing through the National Endowment for Democracy from before the British transition and they’ve been investing massively and I’m sure a lot of investment is to brainwash these young people to be anti-China. And I saw some videos of schools in Hong Kong where they were training the kids on how to fight in an uprising. It was bizarre in a school to see that and this all ties into the what I think is going to define the 21st century, which is what the US calls great power conflict between us and China. And the Uyghurs, Muslims in China are part of this. How do you see all this fitting together? You’ve also written about them which I’d love to hear more about.
AV: I will tell you about this in a minute or two, but let me just conclude this part on Hong Kong. You know, these young people they talk about democracy, they talk about freedom, but I so I filmed and I witnessed when people in a shopping mall or on the street would raise the flag of their country, which is flag of the People’s Republic of China, these students, these young kids would attack them. They would beat them up. There was a case of the, when I was filming, that there was a case of a student teacher who raised the Chinese flag and his son was next to him and they began beating him and the you know, they began beating the teacher and he was still holding the flag and singing the national anthem and his son was like crying. It was so horrific, and this happens all the time. These people refuse to you know, they beat you up if you say something against them. I was filming them destroying the metro station and you know, I’m partially Chinese and Russian and all this, but I I could pass for a Brit when they look at me so they thought I’m you know, one of their beloved Brits so they would leave me alone when I would be filming but if I would be filming and I would be looking as a, they just trashed Xinhua press agency from People’s Republic. So if I would look like Mainland Chinese, they would just beat me beat me up there. They would break my hands or something. So, this is their democracy. You know, this is their freedom as long as you agree with them, it’s fine but if you contradict them, forget it they would just, they would physically attack you and they claim, they actually criticized the Hong Kong police. My God, you know, what else I covered riots and I covered the uprisings and I covered Civil Wars all over the world, you know in places like Egypt or in places like Turkey or Peru or Paris. They use all kinds of stuff. You know, the tear gas they use against protesters is just totally vile and in many countries, they mix urine and excrement with the water that they use against the protesters. You know in Hong Kong they are using drinkable, potable water against them, you can drink that water. And the gas, it’s a joke. You don’t even have to cover the face. It’s so mild. I mean compared to any other place that I covered, this is just, this is nothing
MF: And how do you see this fit into the whole kind of US conflict with China? There’s a lot of racism against Chinese still here in the United States.
AV: A lot historically and presently it’s just unbelievable. You know, my best friend is a probably most famous Chinese concert pianist, Yuan Sheng. He’s teaching now at the Beijing Conservatory of Music. He used to teach at the Manhattan School of Music. He told me he used to cry every evening when he lived in the United States because of this absolutely incredible racism and attacks, totally unjust attacks against China. I really cannot believe it in the era of so-called political correctness would be right and how they describe China and they don’t let Chinese people really to explain their own country. You’re talking about the country with 6,000 years. It’s their country. I mean, they don’t even let them decide whether it is communist or not. It’s their choice to say what all, to define the relation. I mean how many times you if you go to China all Chinese television networks or newspapers they’re quoting westerners. They allow westerners to say, but if you go to book stores in China, it’s full of all kinds of books from the left to the right, to biographies of politicians or business people. You go in New York City or in LA, you go to the bookstore and all you can find are the books criticizing People’s Republic. You know, there is nothing that talks about this incredible model that they created and if you go to listen to talk shows in UK or US, you hardly hear Chinese people explaining their own country but its total arrogance and you mention Uyghurs before, you know, I just published eight thousand words huge essay about two months ago and I will convert it to a book, to a slim book. You know I did an investigation directly in Afghanistan in Syria around Idlib and of course in Turkey and Indonesia. So what I found out about these poor Uyghurs is they are being, you know described in the west, they are the most violent terrorists who in today’s Syrian conflict. They left China with the fake Turkish passports, or maybe not fake Turkish passport. They went through Jakarta. In Jakarta Turks confirmed their identity at the airport. They went to Istanbul. In Istanbul, they confiscated their passports and then they injected them to Syria and these people are basically now, as the conflict in Syria, as there is a possibility that it may end, they’re being shipped to Afghanistan and why again to be re-injected to both People’s Republic of China and also to the former Soviet republics and to Russia itself. And these people you know Afghanistan has a short border with People’s Republic and why they do it? Because BRI, Belt and Road initiative of President Xi the internationalist, big internationalist project. It’s actually going from the East Coast through Xi’an to Urumqi and it’s going to enter former stans, former Soviet republics and also Iran and Pakistan. Let’s see many many countries but it is all going through that area where the Uyghurs are coming from. So they are being trained they are being hardened to actually destroy this project and you know, I talked to commanders of Syrian Army at the border with Idlib and they were all horrified. I talked to victims, to people whom Uyghurs actually kicked out from their villages, you know, they said these people were on all kind of a combat drugs. They were absolutely out of their minds. They didn’t rape because they came with their women and children, but they were massacring people left and right. Torturing them and even the hardened Syrian commanders were absolutely terrified. They said we never saw anything like this in our life and you know, also the propaganda about how Chinese government is bad to them and all this. Two Ulama groups in Indonesia that I met. Two big Muslim organizations that are normally anti-Chinese. They actually were invited to come there and I talked to them and they both groups said look, no it’s not like that at all. They don’t ban Islam in China. They don’t do anything, they is, they have group, so they have these so-called camps for explaining to them what China is and you know, love your fatherland and your religion but love both. They go at night back home to sleep. So it’s again totally kidnapped narrative by the West.
MF: Right? So what I’m hearing is that there are Uyghurs living in China who are, China’s encouraging them to acclimate to China but there’s a subset of Uyghurs that are violent and are they being used by the West to promote Western interests?
AV: Yes, they’re used, not only used, they are being actually trained. They’re trained in Turkey. They are trained in Indonesia and they’re trained in Syria. So the reason they are in Syria right now in Idlib area is not to fight only but to harden themselves so they can be injected back to China to intervene with this one belt one road or the BRI initiative, Belt and Road Initiative.
KZ: So explain who’s training them.
AV: Terrorists who are in Idlib, Al-Nusra, Isis, you know smaller groups are trained by the terrorists in Sulawesi in Indonesia. So it’s basically the process from there, being hardened and so they can be used against both China and Russia. Let’s say the former Soviet republics.
KZ: Very dangerous. People need to read this essay. What’s your website and how people, how can people follow your work and read this essay?
AV: The problem is like the spelling of my name so you will have to probably put it on your site because they have to put my name Andre Vltchek dot weebly dot com. So that’s my big website. All the films and essays and books are, excerpts from my books, are there and the essay on the Uyghurs was published already long time ago, but it’s all over the world. You just put Uyghurs and you put my name and it’s going to pop up because usually I use the academy, Russian Academy of Sciences magazine, NEO, for launching my essays, and then it goes all over the world. Basically, it goes to Global Research and goes to 21st Century Wire even to some right-wing sites like Unz is publishing my stuff. so like 40, but the essay is called March of Uyghurs, like March of penguins. Do you remember this? So this is march of Uyghurs.
KZ: We will publish the links to your site on the report on this interview and we’ll look for that and probably publish it as a series since it is so long. We’ll probably put it as a series on Popular Resistance as well. There’s so much misinformation on the Uyghurs that…
AV: Please feel free to do it. The only thing I request that you put my bio, which is under each essay with functioning links because that leads to my books. That’s how I can give my work mostly for free. That’s the only condition but it was a lot of work. You know, I worked in Afghanistan a lot and I connected the dots and it will be a book probably two to three months.
MF: And so where are you headed next?
AV: I’m going to Paris tomorrow. I will be filming Yellow Vests only for a good measure and then I’m flying to Santiago. It’s my home, you know, I mean my second home. I used to live in Chile after the dictatorship collapsed. I was fighting against this horrible Nazi colonial dignidad where they used to torture people during the Pinochet regime and its, I’ll be shuttling between Asia and Latin America. Now I’m shuttling between Asia and the Middle East before it was Asia and Africa and now it will be between South America and Asia. I cannot live in the West. I used to live in New York for six years. I cannot live there anymore. I cannot live in Europe. It just gets so, it got so much, you know indoctrinated and somewhere else that where I would like it to be that I’m really moving now between Asia and Chile, but it will be between Asia and Latin America. So I’ll be reporting a lot from Venezuela, from Bolivia, from Argentina and from Chile of course,
KZ: There’s so much going on in Latin America that you could definitely write another book based on what’s going on there in Chile as well. So interesting, the uprising.
AV: Yes, it is very interesting. Chile’s actually totally different of all these uprisings. Chile is actually pure as far as I’m concerned. It’s a socialist uprising. It’s an attempt of people who finally woke up to bring the nation back where it was before 9/11 1973 when the US overthrew the democratically-elected socialist president Allende and imposed the fascist dictatorship of Pinochet. So in Chile, I strongly believe that we will be fighting for socialism, that in Chile we will try to bring the country back where it was supposed to be before one of the most horrible moments in the history of the 20th century, which was a coup of General Pinochet.
KZ: That was a violent and massacre uprising.
AV: You know, people don’t know but I’m Indonesianist and a lot of my work is actually connected to the 1965 coup of General Suharto. What people don’t know is in that coup about two to three million people were massacred, all the left-wing basically, and I call it intellectual Hiroshima. So in that coup actually gave birth to all these further coups that the West perpetrated, particularly in Chile in 1973. When Allende’s people before the coup were threatened by right wing, they said watch out the Jakarta is coming and they said to me, you know, we didn’t know what Jakarta is except that it was a capital of Indonesia, but it was actually the massacre that was replicated in Chile, the massacre that was performed in 1965 in Indonesia. And by the way for your listeners, I’m just finishing two hours enormous documentary film about Indonesia after 1965 until now and it’s called, The Downfall” and it’s probably the most powerful, I hope the most powerful, film made about Indonesia, which is the fourth most populous nation on Earth, but it’s totally underreported. So please I will be releasing it in about two months. So I hope your listeners will also be interested in that.
MF: I’m sure they will. Well Andre, thank you so much for taking time to speak with us. Thank you for the amazing work that you do. It’s so critical for us to have your eyes out there explaining to us what’s going on because we don’t get that information.
KZ: Your eyes, your photos, your videos, your writing articles and books. It’s a great…
AV: I will be, I will be happy to share with you. Let’s stay in touch and let’s talk more and we can forge some long-term cooperation. I like talking to you very much.
KZ: Same with us.
MF: Yes. Thank you.
AV: Thank you.