What Richard Armitage and Vijay Prashad Have in Common

In 2006, ABC News repeated China’s big lie about the Uyghurs that are identical to Vijay Prashad’s latest article that has been slithering around the left like a poison snake.

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Do you remember Richard Armitage? He is best known for telling Robert Novak that Valerie Plame was a CIA agent. This was part of his overall effort to hobble opposition to Bush’s invasion of Iraq. Plame’s husband was Joseph Wilson, a diplomat who insisted that Saddam Hussein was not trying to import uranium from Niger to make a WMD.

Armitage was always looking for ways to build support for the “war on terror”, even from countries with no apparent interest in Bush’s war. China was one of those countries. As a keen deal-maker who might be described as a bargain basement version of Henry Kissinger, Armitage calculated that China might give its benediction to Bush’s filthy war even if it drew the line at sending troops. There was a perfect bargaining chip. The USA would henceforth endorse the forced assimilation of Uyghurs on the basis that they were allied with al-Qaeda in exchange for China’s backhanded support for the destruction of Iraq. Did it matter that this accusation of Uyghur as jihadists was as about as big a lie as ever heard in the war on terror? One can understand Armitage dishing out this shit but not somebody like Prashad writing for Counterpunch, the number one debunker of the war on terror.

If you read reports from this period, you’ll see how China and the USA’s propaganda machine dovetailed perfectly. It didn’t matter that Al-Qaeda was not in cahoots with Saddam Hussein, nor that the Uyghurs were a key part of Osama bin-Laden’s terrorist network. You can even see how the bourgeois press repeated the Chinese and American bogus claims. In 2006, ABC News repeated China’s big lie about the Uyghurs that are identical to Vijay Prashad’s latest article that has been slithering around the left like a poison snake. From the ABC story:

China alleges that Uighur independence movements have been deeply financed by Osama bin Laden and have direct connections to the al Qaeda network.

In a report released in January 2002 titled East Turkestan Terrorist Forces Cannot Get Away with Impunity, the Chinese government said “Bin Laden has schemed with the heads of the Central and West Asian terrorist organizations many times to help the ‘East Turkestan’ terrorist forces in Xinjiang launch a ‘holy war.’”

According to the report, bin Laden met with the leader of the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) in early 1999, and asked him to coordinate with the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) and Taliban while promising financial aid.

Armitage lined up “Communist” China’s backing when opposition to the war in Iraq was beginning to show signs of exhaustion. If Saddam Hussein was persona non grata, who in their right mind would question ABC’s Islamophobic treatment of the Uyghurs? I guess the people who believed this crap in 2006 are not much different from Grayzone, Prashad and all the other propagandists trying to shore up China’s “socialist” credentials.

For an alternative to this Islamophobic rot, I recommend David Brophy’s take on the supposed “terrorism” of ETIM as well as Uyghur identification with a jihadist group far removed from their secular and nationalistic leanings:

Because the PRC’s discourse is so enmeshed with that of the West, foreign commentary on the Chinese state’s relationship to Islam often finds itself in something of a bind. While striving to be critical of China’s policies, it tends to reproduce certain assumptions that drive these policies. In its most crude form, this commentary simply buys into major elements of the Chinese narrative. Although the high tide of post-9/11 counterterrorism collaboration between China and the West has receded, it has left behind a residue of low-quality punditry that more or less endorses China’s claim to be fighting a serious domestic terrorist enemy. An article published by the Hoover Institute in 2018, for example, while critical of Chinese repression, describes the ‘East Turkmenistan [sic] Islamic Movement’ (ETIM) as ‘the largest domestic extremist group in China’, and parrots China’s evidence-free accusations that this organisation has carried out more than 200 attacks (Auslin 2018). The author’s view of ‘irreconcilable tensions’ here predicts a long-running fight to the end between China and organised Uyghur terrorists.

Most writers these days are more sceptical of such claims, and critical of the Bush administration’s acquiescence in deeming the nebulous ETIM as a terrorist organisation. The instinct of these commentators is to be sharply critical of China’s efforts to play up the scale of the terrorist threat in Xinjiang. But at the same time, the terms of China’s counterextremist discourse are so familiar, so similar to the West’s own way of framing its domestic Muslim populations, that they are difficult to entirely escape. The most well-meaning critiques can easily lapse into them.

One can understand why Prashad would like to see the Uyghurs suppressed. With China’s Belt and Road project on the front burner, anybody getting in the way is clearly a counter-revolutionary. This includes both the US State Department as well as any Uyghur family angry about a son and daughter dragooned into factory work under harsh conditions in virtual concentration camps.

Prashad is a long-time member of the CPI(M) in India that saw “economic growth” as key to India’s future just as the Chinese Communist Party does with the Belt and Road initiative. Not to speak of its role in producing meat that is second to none in environmental despoliation. China has the largest hog herd in the world and accounts for more than a half of the global pig population.

Some of us still remember the role of the CPI(M) led Left Front government in West Bengal in 2008. One can certainly understand why Prashad would support his party against the riffraff who threatened “economic growth” in Nandigram as reported by Snehal Shingavi in the International Socialist Review. What difference was there between some useless farmer in Nandigram and the Uyghurs, who would prefer to be growing food for themselves in a Muslim-tolerant region rather than press ganged into a Han-controlled concentration camp?

Late last year, the Left Front government manhandled the peasants of Singur, a fertile agricultural village in Hooghly District in West Bengal, in pursuit of its industrialization policy. Land was forcibly taken from the peasant population in order to set up a 1,000-acre campus for Tata Motors, India’s largest auto manufacturer. When peasants resisted the enclosures on their land, CPI(M) cadres and police attacked the village ruthlessly.

Even more damning has been the CPI(M)’s handling of the events in Nandigram, a village in East Midnapur District in West Bengal, where peasants and civil society organizations fought off the state’s attempts to take their land for more than eleven months. In 2005, India passed a law legalizing the formation of Special Economic Zones (SEZs), which allow foreign industries access to land cheaply and allow them to produce free of taxes and duties that would otherwise apply. Several states in India have pursued multinational corporations, making land available for such companies as Nokia, Motorola, and Dell.

The CPI(M) had decided to turn over 25,000 acres to Indonesian Salem Group, a front for the family of General Suharto, who came to power by massacring Indonesian communists. When the local party failed to give any concrete information about how peasants would be affected by the deal, villagers—all of them CPI(M) supporters—fortified Block 1 of Nandigram by building barricades, destroying bridges, and digging up roads to keep the police and the CPI(M)’s local party members out, to preserve their land and their lives. After villagers resisted the forcible seizure of their land under a nineteenth century law enacted under British colonial rule, the CPI(M) sent in its cadres, the state police, and other thugs to regain control over the land. The opposition was led by villagers and the Committee Opposed to Land Seizures (the Bhumi Uchhed Pratirodh Committee), the Socialist Unity Center of India, and members of the Trinamool Congress.

[Editor’s note — Ken Silverstein: This story originally appeared at Louis Proyect’s Unrepentant Marxist. It is reprinted with permission. In addition to Prashad, the loathsome Max Blumenthal wrote a predictably moronic piece of Chinese propaganda recently. In it he trashes the Worker Rights Consortium, an excellent group that actually puts money in the pockets of Third World apparel workers, unlike Blumenthal, who puts money in his own pockets — who knows from where — by polishing the boots of any regime as long as it is anti-American. WRC advocates on behalf of workers in numerous countries allied with the United States, from Latin America to Asia. Vladimir Lenin didn’t live to see Blumenthal, lucky man, but if he had he would have had to write an entire second volume of “Left-Wing” Communism: an Infantile Disorder. Note that I have no idea of Proyect’s views on the WRC, I am speaking entirely for myself here.]

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Louis Proyect is an elderly though not avuncular Marxist with deep aversion to dictatorships, particularly those representing themselves as socialist. Follow him on Twitter at @LouisProyect1.