All posts by Jeremy Kuzmarov

The War in Eastern Ukraine May be Coming to an End but Do Any Americans Care?

On Saturday September 7, Russia and Ukraine agreed to a prisoner swap which has brought hope of improved relations between the two countries and an end to the 5-year long conflict in Eastern Ukraine.

A peace accord is being planned for later this month in Normandy involving Ukraine, Russia, France and Germany.

Ukraine’s newly elected comedian president Volodymyr Zelensky called the prisoner exchange a “first step” in ending the war in Eastern Ukraine, which has killed an estimated 13,000 civilians.

The Ukraine War remains largely unknown to the American public even though the United States has had a great stake in it.

The war started after a coup d’états in Ukraine in February 2014, which overthrew the democratically elected pro-Russian government of Viktor Yanukovych.

In a subsequent referendum, 89% in Donetsk and 96% in Luhansk in Eastern Ukraine voted for independence, which the new government of Petro Poroshenko government did not accept.

The United States was a heavy backer of the coup and dirty war that unfolded in the East.

Victoria Nuland, the head of the State Department’s European desk, traveled to Ukraine three times during the protests that triggered the coup, handing out cookies to demonstrators.

She told U.S. Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt in a telephone conversation that was tapped and later leaked that Arseniy Yatsenyuk, neoliberal head of the “Fatherland” Party, should be Prime Minister as he was thought to have the “economic” and “governing experience.”

Nuland further revealed that the U.S. had invested over $5 billion in “democracy promotion” in Ukraine since 1991 through the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), which was carrying on the kind of work previously undertaken by the CIA during the Cold War.

Ukraine has long been considered an important bridge between Eastern and Western Europe and holds lucrative oil and gas deposits.

NED president Carl Gershman called Ukraine “the biggest prize” and an important interim step towards toppling [Russian President Vladimir] Putin who “may find himself on the losing end not just in the near abroad but within Russia itself.”

To help achieve this end, the Obama administration pledged $1 billion in loan guarantees to the post-coup government in Ukraine, which Putin considered as the “ideological heirs of [Stephen] Bandera, Hitler’s accomplice in World War II.”

Swayed by a slick lobbying campaign backed by supporters of the Afghan mujahidin in the 1980s looking for a new cause and by the Senate’s Ukraine Caucus, the Obama administration further provided nearly $600 million in security assistance to the Ukrainian military.

It was supplied with counter-artillery radars, anti-tank systems, armored vehicles and drones in a policy expanded upon by Trump.

Before and after the Ukrainian military’s campaign began, Secretary of State John Kerry, CIA Director John Brennan, and Vice President Joe Biden visited Kiev, followed by a flow of senior Pentagon officials.

A back-door arms pipeline was set up through the United Arab Emirates and Blackwater mercenaries were allegedly deployed.

American military advisers embedded in the Ukrainian Defense Ministry provided rocket propelled grenades, carried out training exercises and planned military operations including with members of the fascist Azov battalion, which had Nazi-inspired Wolfsangel patches emblazoned on their sleeves.

Obama’s National Security adviser, Samantha Power, claimed that the [Ukrainian] governments “response [to alleged provocations by eastern rebels] [was] reasonable, it is proportional, and frankly it is what any of our countries would have done.”

The Ukrainian military and allied warlord and neo-Nazi militias were not acting reasonably or proportionally, however, when they carried out artillery and air attacks on cities and struck residential buildings, shopping malls, parks, schools, hospitals and orphanages in Eastern Ukraine, and tortured and executed POWs in what amounted to clear war crimes.

NYU Professor Stephen Cohen notes that even the New York Times, which mainly deleted atrocities from its coverage, described survivors in Slovyansk living “as if in the Middle Ages.”

That the American public knows nothing of these events is a sad reflection of the superficiality of our media and decline in the quality of international news coverage.

It is also a testament to the failing of the political left, which has embraced the cause of immigrant and Palestinian rights and fighting climate change, legitimately, but has neglected the plight of the Eastern Ukrainian people.

Mueller Testimony Points to New Cold War as a Farce

The Eighteenth Brumière of Louis Napoleon (1852), the great philosopher Karl Marx famously stated the history repeated itself, first as tragedy, second as farce.

This prophecy is evident today with Russia Gate and the New Cold War.

The first cold war was a genuine tragedy which resulted in the deaths of millions of civilians in proxy wars and waste in human resources in the waging of a nuclear arms race between the United States and Soviet Union. There was at least some semblance of legitimacy in that the Soviet Union lived up to its moniker as an evil empire in some aspects, as with the Gulag system and political repression.

The second Cold War, however, has no moral purpose at all, and was triggered by American leaders’ breaking a promise with Russia not to expand the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) towards Russia’s borders.

The farcical aspect of the new Cold War was firmly on display on Wednesday July 24, when Special Counsel Robert Mueller testified before the House Intelligence and Judiciary Committee.

In April, Mueller released a 448 page report purporting to detail alleged Russian interference in the 2016 election, though which failed to find any evidence that the Trump administration had colluded with Russia to win the election.

For weeks, the media had been hyping up Mueller’s testimony, raising anticipation that he might reveal new smoking gun evidence.

Many on the left had displayed great reverence for him, believing that he would help cleanse the country of President Donald J. Trump.

However, the actual testimony, like with the report, was a great letdown. Mueller revealed no new information and was evasive, declining to answer 198 questions, according to a count by NBC News.

Muller at times showed a lack of knowledge of what was in his report and revealed that he had not even been present to interview many of the witnesses.

Appearing to be feigning, or actually suffering early signs of senility, Mueller was alert enough though to make a few politicized points, such a condemnation of Wikileaks for allegedly illegally obtaining emails.

The central allegation of the Mueller Report that Russia interfered in the 2016 election on behalf Trump has ever actually been proven, though most media outlets would lead us to believe that it has.

A study by the Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS) determined, based on the speed of communications that the alleged hack of Democratic Party National Committee emails, which damaged the Hillary Clinton campaign, were actually a leak that was sent through a thumb drive from the east Coast of the United States.

The VIPs report was never engaged with by Mueller and his team, which also failed to examine the DNC’s computer servers.

Despite spending over $30 million in taxpayer dollars, Mueller’s team also never bothered to interview Julian Assange, the Wikileaks founder who has denied that he received the stolen emails from Russia.

The supposed social media disinformation campaign that helped sway American voters was carried out by a private company based in St. Petersburg, Internet Research Agency (IRA), whose connection to the Russian government has never been established and probably never will.

Half of the IRA ads on Facebook were enacted after the 2016 election, and many were non-political while others actually supported Trump. One theory is that they were part of a bait and click commercial operation designed to advertise various products.

The Russia Gate affair has been damaging to American public discourse, highly divisive and a waste of taxpayer money.

If the first Cold War was indeed a tragedy, the second is playing out as a farce with no rational basis.

The Case for a New Third Party in America

In the late 1850s, the United States experienced a political realignment when the Whig Party disbanded and many of its members including Abraham Lincoln joined the nascent Republican Party because of the betrayal of the Whig leadership over the issue of slavery and its extension.

American politics may be poised for a similar realignment today as popular disaffection with the two major parties and their domination by corporate money and interests increases. Polls show that 57 percent of Americans want a major new party, including 71 percent of millennials.

The reason for these figures are not hard to discern: from climate change, to rising cost of education, to a lack of a universal health care system to a policy of endless war, the Washington ruling elite has failed its citizenry.

A Princeton and Northwestern University study found that there is no correlation between public preferences, expressed in opinion polls, and the decisions made in Congress let alone by the Executive Branch. The study concluded that the “preferences of the average American appear to have only a minuscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy.”

The Movement for a People’s Party (MPP) was founded in 2017 and has begun to attract a considerable following in an attempt to reverse the trend towards oligarchy.

Party founder Nick Brana, who in 2016 served as national outreach director for Bernie Sanders, stated in an interview that “we are now at a historic moment just like in 1852 when the Whig elites went against their base when they adopted a pro-slavery position that led to the formation of the Republican Party. Similarly today, the Democratic Party has abandoned its working class base, creating a fissure between the party and the people, that necessitates the foundation of a new party.”

Brana points to the rapid formation of new political parties in Mexico and Europe in the midst of wide-scale disaffection with neoliberal policies as a model for the United States.

He sees the Green Party as equivalent to the Free-Soilers and other 19th century parties which set the groundwork for more successful parties like the Socialists and Populists at the turn of the 20th century.

These latter parties amassed large followings not only in urban centers like New York but also in the Southwest among farmers by promoting the regulation or break up of Wall Street banks that had plunged them into debt by selling them usurious loans.

According to Brana, the Green Party today is too wedded to an electoral strategy and runs candidates who do not have a strong local connection to the communities in which they are running.

The MPPs strategy is different in that it is focused on grass-roots organizing.

Its members have rallied for climate justice with Zero Hour, demonstrated for peace at the women’s march on the Pentagon, boycotted Driscoll’s batteries on behalf of exploited farmworkers, picketed with striking teachers and hotel employees, promoted the public banking movement, participated in civil disobedience with the poor people’s campaign, and helped institute ranked choice voting in Maine.

MPP political director Carol Ehrle, a former journalist and media relations specialist, stated that the MPP was focused on establishing coalitions with progressive and non-profit organizations and labor unions like the AFL-CIO whose executive council endorsed MPP. In 2017, the AFL-CIO passed a resolution stating that “whether candidates are elected from the Republican or Democratic Party, the interests of Wall Street [over working people and labor] have been protected” and that “the time has passed when we can passively settle for the lesser of two evils politics.”

In his 2016 book Bernie and the Sandernistas, Jeffrey St. Clair, editor of Counterpunch website, criticized Bernie Sanders, the left-wing Democratic Party stalwart, for being a fake revolutionary who failed to speak out enough against U.S. foreign policy and directed his followers into the counter-revolutionary fold of the Democratic Party.

According to St. Clair, during the 2016 presidential campaign Sanders should have done precisely with the MPP is now doing – mobilize his followers to support civil disobedience and direct-action protests and link up with those directly challenging corporate power.

The MPP on its website is calling for a new economic bill of rights that would guarantee employment, food, clothing, leisure, a living wage, housing, healthcare, social security, education and freedom from monopolies and unfair competition to every American.

Based on the model of FDR’s New Deal, it wants to set up a massive public works program that will help generate full employment and revitalize America’s infrastructure.

Other planks call for free Medicaire for all, free public college and quality education, the abolishment of free-trade agreements that benefit large corporations, a fair tax code that increases inheritance taxes and tax on the wealthy, banning offshore oil drilling and fracking, improvement of public transportation, sustainable agriculture and strong legislation that supports labor unions and workplace democracy, including through encouragement of workers cooperatives.

A skeptic would suggest that these latter measures are unfeasible in the American system and that some of the measures are being advanced by the Democratic Party.

Public opinion polls show, however, that most of these measures are widely supported by the electorate, while the Democratic Party leadership remains wedded to large corporations.

The frontrunner in the 2020 Party primary, Joe Biden stated that the “rich and powerful” are not a problem and has a long record of supporting corporate friendly legislation. Many of the other contenders also have dubious backgrounds, including Kamala Harris who upheld the death penalty in the state of California as a District Attorney and covered up for prosecutorial misconduct.

If a third party should emerge anywhere, Oklahoma, the state where I live, is a prime target. Over a decade of austerity policies have decimated public and higher education and cut basic services there to third world levels. A Guardian article in 2017 described a dire situation where a teacher was seen panhandling to buy supplies for her classroom, county jails were dangerously overcrowded and riddled with abuse, and families had to wait ten years just to get on a wait list to obtain state support for caring for a disabled child – all while nearly one in four children struggled with hunger.

The state legislature in the face of this crisis remained fixated on sustaining low tax rates for the oil corporations which fund its representatives. Fracking pioneer Harold Hamm, the 43rd wealthiest man on the planet, is a prime donor of the state’s Republican Party, while the Democrats receive substantial funding from oil industry billionaire, George Kaiser, a self-professed “red state robber baron” who helped turn the state into his own private tax haven.

Historian Richard Hofstadter compares third parties in American history to bees who sting and then die. Their sting is nevertheless sharply felt, even if for a fleeting moment, along with their buzz.

The MPP is a promising new organization which could yield a major impact. The time is indeed ripe for a new third party to blossom and there is no time to lose.