By Andre Vltchek
I stood on metal beams—remains of a highway bridge that used to connect two shores of the Khazer River. I was told that the river was just a few miles from the city of Mosul. I could hear not-too-distant explosions.
“ISIS are firing from there,” uttered a Kurdish battalion commander of the Zeravani militarized police force (part of the Peshmerga armed forces), Colonel Shaukat. Then he pointed his hand toward the misty mountainous range.
The bridge was blown up by ISIS I was told. At least two villages along the river were consequently bombed to the ground by the U.S. forces. I was taken to the villages and allowed to photograph what was left of them. Mosul was cut off from the world, or at least from the rest of Iraq.
“How many civilians died during the bombing?” I asked.
“Not one civilian died here, I swear,” replied Shaukat.
“Nonsense!” I thought. And I wondered whether the attacks came from jetfighters or drones.
It occurred to me that all elements of the recent conflict in this part of Iraq linked to the West—to the Empire: ISIS fighters were born, armed and trained in the NATO-controlled “refugee camps” officially built for the “Syrian opposition,” in both Turkey and Jordan. Bombing of the area was done directly by the U.S. forces. And Shaukat, with his impeccable English accent, was trained, according to his own testimony, in the United Kingdom and the United States.
The West manufactured both ISIS and several Kurdish armed forces. Its own planes are regularly pounding the entire area. Were these real battles, wars or just some choreographed bellicose exchanges? Whatever it has been, one thing is undeniable: Villages are ruined and so are bridges and roads.
Civilians had to flee; some were killed. An entire area got divided, eventually collapsing. All actors of this brutal conflict may be serving the same master, but the real victims are, undeniably, poor civilians caught in the crossfire.
Despite this “war,” at least between the cities of Erbil and Mosul, oil is being pumped, refined and exported, without any interruption. This entire part of the world is literally awash with desperate refugees and internally displaced people.
One evening, in Erbil, I am having a cup of tea with an old nuclear physicist, Ishmael Khalil, originally from Tikrit University, now a refugee. He says that
All that I had was destroyed…Americans are the main reason for this insanity—for the total ruin of Iraq. We all used to belong to a great and proud nation. Now everything is fragmented, and bust. We have nothing—all of us have become beggars and refugees in our own land.
We are sitting in Machko Chai Khana, which is an old, traditional tearoom carved into the walls of the ancient Citadel of Erbil, a magnificent world heritage site. This is where many local thinkers and writers gather, where they sip tea and play cards.
Now the intellectuals of this city, one of the oldest continuously inhabited places on earth, are rubbing shoulders with refugees arriving from all over Iraq, and from as far away as Syria.
“I used to teach and to create,” continued Khalil. “I used to contribute to the building of my country. Then Iraq was invaded and destroyed. I can do nothing, now…I have nothing… Now I only sleep and eat. And that is exactly what the West wants—they want to destroy our minds, all over the Middle East!”
Refugees are everywhere, millions of them: Iraqi refugees, Syrian refugees, Palestinian refugees and now Yemeni ones. Not far from Erbil and its oilfields, I manage to enter a refugee camp for “Syrian refugees.”
I want to know whether all the new arrivals get interrogated. They do. Are they asked questions about whether they are for or against the President Bashar al-Assad? Yes, they are. Everybody is asked these questions, and more along these lines. If a person—a truly desperate, needy and hungry person—answers that he supports the government of Bashar al- Assad and came here because his country was being destroyed by the West, then what would happen? His family would never be allowed to stay in Iraqi Kurdistan, I am told.
Now there are more than 2 million Syrian refugees in Lebanon. Those who have money are staying in Beirut and other cities, renting apartments and houses. Most of the people pouring from across the border are broke and live predominantly in the Bekaa Valley in makeshift shacks made of plywood and plastic.
With almost no public sector left, living mainly from dirty business, remittances and handouts, Lebanon hardly qualifies as a compassionate place. Many locals hate Palestinian refugees, as well as Bedouins. Syrians are generally “tolerated” but kept with no rights. Many refugees are turned away when they try to register. Without registration, children cannot attend schools, families cannot receive medical care and food cards cannot be issued. I am told that without registration, refugees are not even allowed to beg. Some died during the last, particularly cold winter.
All this is happening in front of thousands of cold and calculating eyes of Westerners who are working in Lebanon for the United Nations and several international NGOs. Both Europe and North America have been fully and consciously destabilizing Syria, but feeding those who had to run for their lives is not something that the West sees as its moral responsibility. Libya is a perfect example, Yemen is the newest.
Several humanitarian disasters have erupted, a result of direct or indirect attacks conducted by the West against the “unruly,” socially oriented, or Shi’a, nations of the Middle East: Libya, Yemen, Syria and Iraq, to name just a few.
Millions of people have died in this part of the world during the past two decades.
The Middle East is kept in perpetual conflict. This way, tens of billions of dollars are made by weapon manufacturers. New weapons are also being tested on those people that British Prime Minister Lloyd George used to call “those niggers.” Not much changed in 100 years, it appears. The Empire does not seem to like peace, especially based on social justice and international law.
People are not supposed to be fed, housed, cured and educated by their rulers. Otherwise, the fate of Iraq, Syria, Libya or Yemen is awaiting them. In the Middle East, North Africa and the Gulf, the West upholds the most corrupt and brutal regimes: from the grotesque Saudi dictatorship to the Egyptian military junta. Discrimination against powerless people is not bothering the Empire, especially when it occurs in Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Egypt.
If a government or a group, like Hezbollah in Lebanon, begins to push for social justice, and/or confronts Israel or Saudi Arabia, it gets inscribed on the list of “terrorist organizations” by the U.S. State Department. And it helps little that it is engaged in a mortal fight against such real terrorist bands as ISIS. Or more precisely, it makes Hezbollah even more “guilty,” as ISIS is an assassin group that was manufactured, trained and armed by the West and its allies in Turkey and Jordan.
There is hardly anything left of the Middle East. Its former glory, its enormous culture, its humanism—all destroyed, corrupted, perverted. Great malls and towers for the elites, next to the slums, even in some of the richest countries on earth, like Bahrain and Saudi Arabia. And, of course, full devastation where colonialist boot, once again, descended. Ferraris passing-by oppressed Shi’a minority dwellings, the latest U.S.-built jetfighters bombing mud huts. Millions of refugees everywhere: in the desert, on the high seas, hugging the mountains.
There are only two parts of the world where the West managed to perform absolute cultural and moral genocide: Africa and the Middle East.
Andre Vltchek is an internationally known philosopher, novelist, filmmaker and investigative journalist. He will speak in Fresno on Sunday, June 14. See ad on page 21 for more details.