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Issue #1751      October 5, 2016

Culture & Life

Russia in Syria, China in Sudan

When my eldest son and his partner toured Europe not long ago, he sent me some postcards from Paris and I thought I might share with you the sentiments inscribed on the back of them. The first, naturally announced their arrival in the French capital. “We’ve left gay Holland and beautiful Belgium behind us, and now we’re in Paris.”

Basilica of the Sacred Heart: “It is built in the style of an Islamic Mosque. Inside is a Catholic church”.

Paris, however, failed to impress. “This really is the domain of the rich and criminal classes. From the heights of Mont Martre one can just discern the proletariat huddled on the dim horizon ...”

The next day he sent a card with a view of the rather splendid-looking Basilica of the Sacred Heart with the comment: “It is built in the style of an Islamic Mosque. Inside is a Catholic church. It would inspire more awe if it wasn’t jammed full of nuns selling candles for $10 a pop, gift shops where the side-chapels should be and, I kid you not, actual vending machines selling pardons if you put in enough coins!

“Whatever would that angry young Nazarene have said if he’d found vending machines in the Temple?” Probably much the same as Martin Luther if he’d found pardons being peddled from a slot machine!

The next day was no better, as the narrow-minded shop-keeper mentality of the Parisian petit-bourgeoisie continued to leave them unimpressed: “Everyone keeps telling us we’re English and spitting on our shoes. When we protest that we’re Australian their anger vanishes, and they say ‘you’re great blokes, G’day mate, Kangaroo!’ But they don’t apologise for having spat on our shoes.”

Two days later the temper of the cards radically changed. “Vive la France! Long may she vive! Finally met the French working class today when we wandered into a decidedly poor quarter. Strangers smile at one-another, men greet you with a kiss on each cheek. Women ask determined questions about the status of socialism in Australia.

“The Africans are similarly chatty and political, and insist on sharing their Moroccan cakes with you – a ploy to keep you talking because they really are interested in that far side of the world, Australia.”

Now for a complete change of pace: There has been a lot of media coverage lately given over to the shedding of crocodile tears about the plight of the inhabitants of Aleppo. Formerly Syria’s biggest city and economic capital, Aleppo was under government control until 2012. In that year, however, rebel forces armed, funded and clandestinely organised by the US launched their great offensive, with a typically gung-ho American name “Operation Damascus Volcano”, to attack the country‘s two biggest cities – Aleppo and Damascus – and to overthrow the Assad government.

The attack on Damascus was repulsed successfully, but the well-armed rebels managed to capture about half of Aleppo. In the course of 2015, rebel offensives in the area around Aleppo almost succeeded in cutting off the government-controlled part of the city from the rest of the country. In early January 2016, the rebels in Aleppo were reinforced in anticipation of a government offensive.

The Syrian Army, backed by the Russian air force, has now been able to reverse the situation in the city. First, the Army reopened the roads into the city and then surrounded and cut off the rebels. Faced with this impending disaster, the US suddenly became very interested in the idea of a ceasefire and agreed to help negotiate one with the Kremlin’s assistance. They had invested considerable resources in weapons, training, funds and personnel in the “rebel forces” now trapped in the non-government part of Aleppo.

The attack by US and Australian aircraft that killed at least 62 Syrian soldiers at the Syrian Army’s Deir al-Zor air-base was clearly intended to take pressure off the rebels and to make the Syrian Army hesitate, thereby giving the US the opportunity to extricate its puppet army.

That didn’t happen but the adverse media coverage that the attack generated signalled that another line was needed – and quickly! Within a few days, an aid convoy entering Aleppo was pulverised and a media blitz assured everyone that there was proof that “The Russians did it”. Only a cynic would surmise that the US had a hand in it. Right?

Meanwhile, the CIA is waging a dirty war (or should we say, yet another dirty war?) in South Sudan. Why? Because the oil fields in southern Sudan are the only Chinese-owned and operated ones in Africa. And for the US government, denying China access to African energy resources is in “America’s national interest”.

The CIA’s chosen instrument is a mercenary warlord named Reik Machar, who has a long history of ethnic massacres and mass murder to his credit. Machar has been scheming to overthrow the internationally recognised government of President Salva Kiir in South Sudan since 2006. After a coup he attempted in 2014 failed, he has resorted to sending death squads from his refuges in Addis Ababa and Khartoum to rape and pillage in an attempt to destabilise the country and shut down the Chinese oil wells.

The plan was working until China sent over 1,000 armed “peacekeepers” to protect their oil fields after which they were able to restore production. The US has not given up, however, and accompanied by the usual mass media disinformation campaign, they are trying to get a resolution through the UN to permit the invasion and occupation of South Sudan in the name of having a “Responsibility to Protect”.

That was pretty much the rationale they used to cover their war against Libya. The US is the prime backer of UN sanctions against the Kiir government, the aim here as elsewhere being “regime change” to a government that will toe the American line, especially with regard to China and energy resources.

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