On Thursday June 23 people will gather outside Rep Barbara Lee’s office in Oakland at 11:30 am to protest her recent vote for $40 billion for the war in Ukraine. The demonstration is called in conjunction with the International Day of Action for Peace in Ukraine called by the Peace in Ukraine Coalition. There will be a companion demonstration on the same day in at the Northampton, MA, office of Rep. Jimmy McGovern who also voted for the murderous $40 billion, and accompanied Pelosi in her recent visit to Ukraine.
This massive funding package represents a clear escalation of the war in Ukraine by the government of the United States using the Ukrainian people as cannon fodder in a proxy war with Russia. The funding pours fuel on the flames of that war. It will prolong the war, resulting in thousands more Ukrainian and Russian deaths, at the very least.
And this funding is one more step in escalating and widening the scope of the war – up to and including nuclear war.
WHAT: Protest of Barbara Lee’s vote for $40 Billion for the War in Ukraine. This protest is in conjunction with a global day of action against the war, preceding the NATO summit in Madrid, called by the Peace in Ukraine Coalition.
WHERE: 1 Kaiser Plaza, Oakland, California. (Barbara Lee’s Oakland Office)
WHEN: Thursday, June 23rd at 11:30 am.
WHO: Community and AntiWar activists and organizations including Code Pink, Democratic Socialists of American (DSA), East Bay Vets for Peace, Peace in Ukraine Coalition, United Against War & Militarism.
Despite promising just two months ago to “work relentlessly toward de-escalation” of the war in Ukraine, California Congresswoman Barbara Lee voted in lockstep with every Democrat in Congress behind President Biden’s war policy. This includes not only Barbara Lee but all the other self-styled progressives in Congress, including Bernie Sanders, AOC and the rest of the “Squad.”
Barbara Lee because of her lone vote in opposing the two decade war in Afghanistan, is held up as an icon proving that there are progressive Democratic politicians who will vote for peace. The promise held out by Lee and her Democratic colleagues that they could be a force for peace now lies in ruins.
Why U.S. involvement in the war in Ukraine must be opposed.
One can look at the war in several ways.
If it is a war between Russia and Ukraine, then it is no business of the United States.
If one believes that it is a war by an idealistic to US to defend sovereignty and national borders, ask the people of Iraq if the US respects sovereignty – or the people of Afghanistan or Libya or Vietnam or Venezuela … the list goes on and on.
If one believes that this is a war to defend democracy, then ask the Palestinians suffering under Apartheid imposed by Israel which is supported by the US government or the people of Saudi Arabia or the many other dictatorships around the world that the US has supported.
No, this is a proxy war of the US against Russia being waged to the last Ukrainian. If that has not been evident since the role of the US in backing the violent coup in 2014 against a duly elected Ukrainian President, then it is beyond doubt now with the declaration of Defense Secretary Austin that the goal of the US is to “weaken” Russia, the declaration of Joe Biden that Putin must not be allowed to govern and the declaration of Nancy Pelosi that the US must have total “victory” over Russia. The Biden administration has chosen to confront another major nuclear weapons power, Russia – and that confrontation constitutes an existential threat to all of humanity.
Ukraine now wages war only to improve its bargaining power at the inevitable negotiations which will end the conflict admitted David Arakhamia, who leads Ukraine’s negotiations with Russia and is one of Volodymyr Zelensky’s closest advisers. 200-500 Ukrainian soldiers dying each day with a total of 1000 dead or wounded daily, the latest numbers given by Ukraine, simply to improve a negotiating position is a highly immoral exercise. Ukraine has now become essentially a puppet state at the mercy of the US for arms and aid. It is naïve beyond belief to believe that Ukraine proceeds in this immoral fashion without approval of the US – or even perhaps coercion by the US to fight on so as to save face for its patron Biden.
The Biden administration can stop the proxy war. And we have the power to influence the Biden administration and the pols who support it. It is our right and responsibility to exercise that power and stop this war.
Who benefits from the war and who is damaged?
Cui bono? Billions in funding for the war serves the interests of weapons manufacturers, military contractors, who pocket untold profits from the war in Ukraine. Some of these dollars go to funding the endless proliferation of hawkish think tanks whose well paid employees show up as talking heads or op-ed writers in the mainstream media doing all in their power to convince us that “the other” is evil and that war is the answer. These are media manikins and are ideologues driven by a desire for US world domination and therefore very dangerous
At the same time funding cannot be found for the many problems we face in the US – homelessness, inadequately funded schools, crumbling infrastructure, failure to deal adequately with climate change and now even shortages of baby formula! Inflation in the U.S. was already running at over 7% before the conflict began due to the tragically inadequate response to Covid-19 and out of control “quantitative easing”; i.e., printing money with abandon. But the war and sanctions have worsened the inflation which is now running at over 8%. The average American sees this daily at the gas station and supermarket where soaring prices are now the rule.
Beyond that we must look to the entire world and especially the Global South both of which are suffering beyond belief from inflation and food shortages due to the US sanctions and the continuation of the war. Led by India, China and nations representing the overwhelming majority of humanity, the world has refused to respect the illegal sanctions. That leaves only the US and its European allies, former colonial powers, in supporting the US proxy war. It is not Russia but the US that is isolated.
The local authority election results earlier this month in the UK were as bleak as expected for Boris Johnson’s government, with the electorate ready to punish the ruling party both for its glaring corruption and rocketing high-street prices.
A few weeks earlier, the police fined Johnson – the first of several such penalties he is expected to receive – for attending a series of parties that broke the very lockdown rules his own government set. And the election took place as news broke that the UK would soon face recession and the highest inflation rate for decades.
In the circumstances, one might have assumed the opposition Labour Party under Keir Starmer would romp home, riding a wave of popular anger. But in reality, Starmer’s party fared little better than Johnson’s. Outside London, Labour was described as “treading water” across much of England.
Starmer is now two years into his leadership and has yet to make a significant mark politically. Labour staff are cheered that in opinion polls the party is finally ahead – if marginally – of Johnson’s Tories. Nonetheless, the public remains adamant that Starmer does not look like a prime minister in waiting.
That may be in large part because he rarely tries to land a blow against a government publicly floundering in its own corruption.
When Johnson came close to being brought down at the start of the year, as the so-called “partygate scandal” erupted with full force, it was not through Labour’s efforts. It was because of relentless leaks presumed to be from Dominic Cummings, Johnson’s former adviser turned nemesis.
In part, that is because his ambitions are so low. He has been crafting policies to look more like a Tory-lite party that focuses on “the flag, veterans [and] dressing smartly”, as an internal Labour review recommended last year.
But equally significantly, he has made it obvious he sees his first duty not to battle for control of the national political terrain against Johnson’s government, but to expend his energies on waging what is becoming a permanent internal war on sections of his own party.
That has required gutting Labour of large parts of the membership that were attracted by his predecessor, Jeremy Corbyn, a democratic socialist who spent his career emphasising the politics of anti-racism and anti-imperialism.
To distance himself from Corbyn, Starmer has insisted on the polar opposites. He has been allying ever more closely with Israel, just as a new consensus has emerged in the human rights community that Israel is a racist, apartheid state.
And he has demanded unquestioning loyalty to Nato, just as the western military alliance pours weapons into Ukraine, in what looks to be rapidly becoming a cynical proxy war, dissuading both sides from seeking a peace agreement and contributing to a surge in the stock price of the West’s military industries.
Starmer’s direction of travel flies in the face of promises he made during the 2020 leadership election that he would heal the internal divisions that beset his predecessor’s tenure.
Corbyn, who was the choice of the party’s largely left-wing members in 2015, immediately found himself in a head-on collision with the dominant faction of right-wing MPs in the Labour parliamentary caucus as well as the permanent staff at head office.
Once leader, Starmer lost no time in stripping Corbyn of his position as a Labour MP. He cited as justification Corbyn’s refusal to accept evidence-free allegations of antisemitism against the party under his leadership that had been loudly amplified by an openly hostile media.
Corbyn had suffered from a years-long campaign, led by pro-Israel lobby groups and the media, suggesting his criticisms of Israel for oppressing the Palestinian people were tantamount to hatred of Jews. A new definition of antisemitism focusing on Israel was imposed on the party to breathe life into such allegations.
But the damage was caused not just by Labour’s enemies. Corbyn was actively undermined from within. A leaked internal report highlighted emails demonstrating that party staff had constantly plotted against him and even worked to throw the 2017 election, when Corbyn was just a few thousand votes short of winning.
With Brexit thrown into the mix at the 2019 election – stoking a strong nativist mood in the UK – Corbyn suffered a decisive defeat at Johnson’s hands.
But as leader, Starmer did not use the leaked report as an opportunity to reinforce party democracy, as many members expected. In fact, he reinstated some of the central protagonists exposed in the report, even apparently contemplating one of them for the position of Labour general secretary.
Instead, Starmer went after the left-wing membership, finding any pretext – and any means, however draconian – to finish the job begun by the saboteurs.
He has rarely taken a break from hounding the left-wing membership, even if a permanent turf war has detracted from the more pressing need to concentrate on the Tory government’s obvious failings.
Flooded with arms
Starmer’s flame-war against the left has become so extreme that, as some critics have pointed out, both Pope Francis and Amnesty International would face expulsion from Starmer’s Labour Party were they members.
The pope is among a growing number of observers expressing doubts about the ever-more explicit intervention by the US and its Nato allies in Ukraine that seems designed to drag out the war, and raise the death toll, rather than advance peace talks.
In fact, recent views expressed by officials in Washington risk giving credence to the original claims made by Russian President Vladimir Putin justifying his illegal invasion of Ukraine in late February.
Before that invasion, Moscow officials had characterised Nato’s aggressive expansion across Eastern Europe following the fall of the Soviet Union, and its cosying up to Ukraine, as an “existential threat”. Russia even warned that it might use nuclear weapons if they were seen as necessary for its defence.
The Kremlin’s reasons for concern cannot be entirely discounted. Two Minsk peace accords intended to defuse a bloody eight-year civil war between Ukrainian ultra-nationalists and ethnic Russian communities in eastern Ukraine, on Russia’s border, have gone nowhere.
Instead, Ukraine’s government pushed for closer integration into Nato to the point where Putin warned of retaliation if Nato stationed missiles, potentially armed with nuclear warheads, on Russia’s doorstep. They would be able to strike Moscow in minutes, undermining the premise of mutually assured destruction that long served as the basis of a Cold War detente.
In response to Russia’s invasion, Nato has flooded Ukraine with weapons while the US has been moving to transfer a whopping $40bn in military aid to Kyiv – all while deprioritising pressure on Moscow and Kyiv to revisit the Minsk accords.
Nato weapons were initially supplied on the basis that they would help Ukraine defend itself from Russia. But that principle appears to have been quickly jettisoned by Washington.
US officials now barely conceal the fact that they view Ukraine as a proxy war – one that sounds increasingly like the scenario Putin laid out when justifying his invasion as pre-emptive: that Washington intends to sap Russia of its military strength, push Nato’s weapons and potentially its troops right up against Russia’s borders, and batter Moscow economically through sanctions and an insistence that Europe forgo Russian gas.
The existential threat Putin feared has become explicit US policy, it seems.
Fealty to Nato
These are the reasons the pope speculated last week that, while Russia’s actions could not be justified, the “barking of Nato at the door of Russia” might, in practice, have “facilitated” the invasion. He also questioned the supply of weapons to Ukraine in the context of profiteering from the war: “Wars are fought for this: to test the arms we have made.”
Pope Francis, bound by formal Vatican rules of political neutrality, has to be cautious in what he says. And yet Starmer has deemed similar observations made by activists in the Labour party as grounds for expulsion.
The Labour leader has clashed head-on with the Stop the War Coalition, which Corbyn helped found in the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. The group played a central role in mobilising opposition to Britain’s participation, under Blair, in the 2003 illegal invasion of Iraq.
Stop the War, which is seen as close to the Labour left, has long been sceptical of Nato, a creature of the Cold War that proved impervious to the collapse of the Soviet Union and has gradually taken on the appearance of a permanent lobby for the West’s military industries.
Stop the War has spoken out against both Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine and the decades-long expansion by Nato across Eastern Europe that Moscow cites as justification for its war of aggression. Starmer, however, has scorned that position as what he calls “false equivalence”.
In a commentary published in the Guardian newspaper, he denied that Stop the War were “benign voices for peace” or “progressive”. He termed Nato “a defensive alliance that has never provoked conflict”, foreclosing the very debate anti-war activists – and Pope Francis – seek to begin.
Starmer also threatened 11 Labour MPs with losing the whip – like Corbyn – if they did not immediately remove their names from a Stop the War statement that called for stepping up moves towards a diplomatic solution. More recently, he has warned MPs that they will face unspecified action from the party if they do not voice “unshakeable support for Nato”.
Starmer has demanded “a post 9/11” style surge in arms expenditure in response to the war in Ukraine, insisting that Nato must be “strengthened”.
In late March he proscribed three small leftist groups – Labour Left Alliance, Socialist Labour Network, and the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty – adding them to four other left-wing groups that he banned last year. Stop the War could soon be next.
Starmer’s relentless attacks on anti-war activism in Labour fly in the face of his 10 pledges, the platform that helped him to get elected. They included a commitment – reminiscent of Pope Francis – to “put human rights at the heart of foreign policy. Review all UK arms sales and make us a force for international peace and justice”.
But once elected, Starmer has effectively erased any space for an anti-war movement in mainstream British politics, one that wishes to question whether Nato is still a genuinely defensive alliance or closer to a lobby serving western arms industries that prosper from permanent war.
In effect, Starmer has demanded that the left out-compete the Tory government for fealty to Nato’s militarism. The war in Ukraine has become the pretext to force underground not only anti-imperialist politics but even Vatican-style calls for diplomacy.
But Starmer is imposing on Labour members an even more specific loyalty test rooted in Britain’s imperial role: support for Israel as a state that oppresses Palestinians.
Starmer’s decision to distance himself and Labour as far as possible from Corbyn’s support for Palestinian rights initially seemed to be tactical, premised on a desire to avoid the antisemitism smears that plagued his predecessor.
But that view has become progressively harder to sustain.
Starmer has turned a deaf ear to a motion passed last year by Labour delegates calling for UK sanctions against Israel as an apartheid state. References to it have even been erased from the party’s YouTube channel. Similarly, he refused last month to countenance Israel’s recent designation as an apartheid state by Amnesty and a raft of other human rights groups.
Senior officials from the Israeli party joined him and his deputy, Angela Rayner, in what was described as a “charm offensive”, as they pounded London streets campaigning for the local elections. It was hard not to interpret this as a slap in the face to swaths of the Labour membership.
The Israeli Labor party founded Israel by engineering a mass ethnic cleansing campaign, as documents unearthed by Israeli historians have confirmed, that saw hundreds of thousands of Palestinians expelled from their homeland.
Israel’s Labor party has continued to play a key role both in entrenching illegal Jewish settlements in the occupied territories to displace Palestinians, and in formulating legal distinctions between Jewish and Palestinian citizenship that have cemented the new consensus among groups such as Amnesty International that Israel qualifies as an apartheid state.
The Israeli Labor party is part of the current settler-led government that secured court approval last week to evict many hundreds of Palestinians from eight historic Palestinian villages near Hebron – while allowing settlers to remain close by – on the pretext that the land is needed for a firing zone.
Israel’s Haaretz newspaper concluded of the ruling: “Occupation is temporary by definition; apartheid is liable to persist forever. The High Court approved it.”
Labour’s ugly face
The ugly new face of Labour politics under Starmer is becoming ever harder to conceal. Under cover of rooting out the remnants of Corbynism, Starmer is not only proving himself an outright authoritarian, intent on crushing the last vestiges of democratic socialism in Labour.
He is also reviving the worst legacies of a Labour tradition that cheerleads western imperialism and cosies up to racist states – as long as they are allies of Washington and ready to buy British arms.
Starmer’s war on the Labour left is not – as widely assumed – a pragmatic response to the Corbyn years, designed to distance the party from policies that exposed it to the relentless campaign of antisemitism smears that undermined Corbyn.
Rather, Starmer is continuing and widening that very campaign of smears. He has picked up the baton on behalf of those Labour officials who, the leaked internal report showed, preferred to sabotage the Labour Party if it meant stopping the left from gaining power.
His task is not just to ensnare those who wish to show solidarity with the Palestinians after decades of oppression supported by the West. It is to crush all activism against western imperialism and the state of permanent war it has helped to engineer.
Britain now has no visible political home for the kind of anti-war movements that once brought millions out onto Britain’s streets in an effort to halt the war on Iraq. And for that, the British establishment and their war industries have Sir Keir Starmer to thank.
While the so-called liberal and conservative corporate mainstream media – all stenographers for the intelligence agencies – pour forth the most blatant propaganda about Russia and Ukraine that is so conspicuous that it is comedic if it weren’t so dangerous, the self-depicted cognoscenti also ingest subtler messages, often from the alternative media.
A woman I know, and who knows my sociological analyses of propaganda, contacted me to tell me there was an excellent article about the war in Ukraine at The Intercept, an on-line publication funded by billionaire Pierre Omidyar I have long considered a leading example of much deceptive reporting wherein truth is mixed with falsehoods to convey a “liberal” narrative that fundamentally supports the ruling elites while seeming to oppose them. This, of course, is nothing new since it’s been the modus operandi of all corporate media in their own ideological and disingenuous ways, such as The New York Times, CBS, the Washington Post, the New York Daily News, Fox News, CNN, NBC, etc. for a very long time.
Nevertheless, out of respect for her judgment and knowing how deeply she feels for all suffering people, I read the article. Written by Alice Speri, its title sounded ambiguous – “The Left in Europe Confronts NATO’s Resurgence After Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine” – until I saw the subtitle that begins with these words: “Russia’s brutal invasion complicates…” But I read on. By the fourth paragraph, it became clear where this article was going. Speri writes that “In Ukraine, by contrast [with Iraq], it was Russia that had staged an illegal, unprovoked invasion, and U.S.-led support to Ukraine was understood by many as crucial to stave off even worse atrocities than those the Russian military had already committed.” [my emphasis]
While ostensibly about European anti-war and anti-NATO activists caught on the horns of a dilemma, the piece goes on to assert that although US/NATO was guilty of wrongful expansion over many years, Russia has been an aggressor in Ukraine and Georgia and is guilty of terrible war crimes, etc.
There is not a word about the U.S. engineered coup in 2014, the CIA and Pentagon backed mercenaries in Ukraine, or its support for the neo-Nazi Azov Battalion and Ukraine’s years of attacks on the Donbass where many thousands have been killed. It is assumed these actions are not criminal or provocative. And there is this:
The uncertain response of Europe’s peace activists is both a reflection of a brutal, unprovoked invasion that stunned the world and of an anti-war movement that has grown smaller and more marginalized over the years. The left in both Europe and the U.S. have struggled to respond to a wave of support for Ukraine that is at cross purposes with a decades long effort to untangle Europe from a U.S.-led military alliance. [my emphasis]
In other words, the article, couched in anti-war rhetoric, was anti-Russia propaganda. When I told my friend my analysis, she refused to discuss it and got angry with me, as if I therefore were a proponent of war I have found this is a common response.
This got me thinking again about why people so often miss the untruths lying within articles that are in many parts truthful and accurate. I notice this constantly. They are like little seeds slipped in as if no one will notice; they work their magic nearly unconsciously. Few do notice them, for they are often imperceptible. But they have their effects and are cumulative and are far more powerful over time than blatant statements that will turn people off, especially those who think propaganda doesn’t work on them. This is the power of successful propaganda, whether purposeful or not. It particularly works well on “intellectual” and highly schooled people.
For example, in a recent printed interview, Noam Chomsky, after being introduced as a modern day Galileo, Newton, and Descartes rolled into one, talks about propaganda, its history, Edward Bernays, Walter Lippman, etc. What he says is historically accurate and informative for anyone not knowing this history. He speaks wisely of U.S. media propaganda concerning its unprovoked war against Iraq and he accurately calls the war in Ukraine “provoked.” And then, concerning the war in Ukraine, he drops this startling statement:
I don’t think there are ‘significant lies’ in war reporting. The U.S. media are generally doing a highly creditable job in reporting Russian crimes in Ukraine. That’s valuable, just as it’s valuable that international investigations are underway in preparation for possible war crimes trials.
In the blink of an eye, Chomsky says something so incredibly untrue that unless one thinks of him as a modern day Galileo, which many do, it may pass as true and you will smoothly move on to the next paragraph. Yet it is a statement so false as to be laughable. The media propaganda concerning events in Ukraine has been so blatantly false and ridiculous that a careful reader will stop suddenly and think: Did he just say that?
So now Chomsky views the media, such as The New York Times and its ilk, that he has correctly castigated for propagandizing for the U.S. in Iraq and East Timor, to use two examples, is doing “a highly creditable job in reporting Russian crimes in Ukraine,” as if suddenly they were no longer spokespeople for the CIA and U.S. disinformation. And he says this when we are in the midst of the greatest propaganda blitz since WW I, with its censorship, Disinformation Governance Board, de-platforming of dissidents, etc., that border on a parody of Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four.
Even slicker is his casual assertion that the media are doing a good job reporting Russia’s war crimes after he earlier has said this about propaganda:
So it continues. Particularly in the more free societies, where means of state violence have been constrained by popular activism, it is of great importance to devise methods of manufacturing consent, and to ensure that they are internalized, becoming as invisible as the air we breathe, particularly in articulate educated circles. Imposing war-myths is a regular feature of these enterprises.
This is simply masterful. Explain what propaganda is at its best and how you oppose it and then drop a soupçon of it into your analysis. And while he is at it, Chomsky makes sure to praise Chris Hedges, one of his followers, who has himself recently wrote an article – The Age of Self-Delusion – that also contains valid points appealing to those sick of wars, but which also contains the following words:
Putin’s revanchism is matched by our own.
The disorganization, ineptitude, and low morale of the Russian army conscripts, along with the repeated intelligence failures by the Russian high command, apparently convinced Russia would roll over Ukraine in a few days, exposes the lie that Russia is a global menace.
‘The Russian bear has effectively defanged itself,’ historian Andrew Bacevich writes.
But this is not a truth the war makers impart to the public. Russia must be inflated to become a global menace, despite nine weeks of humiliating military failures. [my emphasis]
Russia’s revanchism? Where? Revanchism? What lost territory has the U.S. ever waged war to recover? Iraq, Syria, Cuba, Vietnam, Yugoslavia, etc.? The U.S.’s history is a history not of revanchism but of imperial conquest, of seizing or controlling territory, while Russia’s war in Ukraine is clearly an act of self-defense after years of U.S./NATO/Ukraine provocations and threats, which Hedges recognizes. “Nine weeks of humiliating military failures”? – when they control a large section of eastern and southern Ukraine, including the Donbass. But his false message is subtly woven, like Chomsky’s, into sentences that are true.
“But this is not a truth the war makers impart to the public.” No, it is exactly what the media spokespeople for the war makers – i.e. The New York Times (Hedges former employer, which he never fails to mention and for whom he covered the Clinton administration’s savage destruction of Yugoslavia), CNN, Fox News, The Washington Post, the New York Post, etc. impart to the public every day for their masters. Headlines that read how Russia, while allegedly committing daily war crimes, is failing in its war aims and that the mythic hero Zelensky is leading Ukrainians to victory. Words to the effect that “The Russian bear has effectively defanged itself” presented as fact.
Yes, they do inflate the Russian monster myth, only to then puncture it with the myth of David defeating Goliath.
But being in the business of mind games (too much consistency leads to clarity and gives the game away), one can expect them to scramble their messages on an ongoing basis to serve the U.S. agenda in Ukraine and further NATO expansion in the undeclared war with Russia, for which the Ukrainian people will be sacrificed.
Orwell called it “doublethink”:
Doublethink lies at the very heart of Ingsoc, since the essential act of the Party is to use conscious deception while retaining the firmness of purpose that goes with complete honesty.To tell deliberate lies while genuinely believing in them, to forget any fact that has become inconvenient, and then, when it becomes necessary again, to draw it back from oblivion for just so long as it is needed, to deny the existence of objective reality and all the while to take account of the reality one denies – all this is indispensably necessary….with the lie always one step ahead of the truth.
Revealing while concealing and interjecting inoculating shots of untruths that will only get cursory attention from their readers, the writers mentioned here and others have great appeal for the left intelligentsia. For people who basically worship those they have imbued with infallibility and genius, it is very hard to read all sentences carefully and smell a skunk. The subterfuge is often very adroit and appeals to readers’ sense of outrage at what happened in the past – e.g. the George W. Bush administration’s lies about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.
Chomsky, of course, is the leader of the pack, and his followers are legion, including Hedges. For decades they have been either avoiding or supporting the official versions of the assassinations of JFK and RFK, the attacks of September 11, 2001 that led directly to the war on terror and so many wars of aggression,and the recent Covid-19 propaganda with its devastating lockdowns and crackdowns on civil liberties. They are far from historical amnesiacs, of course, but obviously consider these foundational events of no importance, for otherwise they would have addressed them. If you expect them to explain, you will be waiting a long time.
Almost the entire left intelligentsia has remained psychically stuck in March 2020. Its members have applauded the new biosecurity repression and calumniated as liars, grifters, and fascists any and all who dissented. Typically, they did so without even engaging evidence and while shirking public debate. Among the most visible in this has been Noam Chomsky, the self-described anarcho-syndicalist who called for the unvaccinated to “remove themselves from society,” and suggested that they should be allowed to go hungry if they refuse to submit.
Parenti’s critique of the left’s response (not just Chomsky’s and Hedges’) to Covid also applies to those foundational events mentioned above, which raises deeper questions about the CIA’s and NSA’s penetration of the media in general, a subject beyond the scope of this analysis.
For those, like the liberal woman who referred me to The Intercept article, who would no doubt say of what I have written here: Why are you picking on leftists? my reply is quite simple.
The right-wing and the neocons are obvious in their pernicious agendas; nothing is really hidden; therefore they can and should be opposed. But many leftists serve two masters and are far subtler. Ostensibly on the side of regular people and opposed to imperialism and the predations of the elites at home and abroad, they are often tricksters of beguiling rhetoric that their followers miss. Rhetoric that indirectly fuels the wars they say they oppose.
Smelling skunks is not as obvious as it might seem. Being nocturnal, they come forth when most are sleeping.
Massachusetts Peace Action, a venerable part of the US Peace Movement, has been around since the 1980s and its predecessors date back to the 1950s. Its voice is heeded and it represents most of the shared opinions of the liberal and progressive US peace movement.
A recent piece by its Assistant Director, Brian Garvey, provides an astute analysis of the ideological differences in the progressive part of the US peace movement and properly criticizes its inability to unite around a common program. He asks the two crucial questions:
“What do we do now? and
“How do we make a difference?”
“Making a difference” to end the war is crucial. We in the US peace effort want to be effective. If what we do makes no difference, then we might as well watch TV, go for a walk in the woods or just stay in bed for the day. In asking what is to be done, we must ask what is effective. And below I consider the matter in terms of effectiveness.
To get to an answer to his two questions, Garvey divides the movement into three ideological groups. His categorization is revealing:
“First, is the group that places all blame on Russia for the war in Ukraine..”
“Second, is a group that refuses to denounce Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.”
“The third group is a blend of the first two. It condemns Russia’s invasion… but it admits that NATO expansion set the stage.”
To Be Effective the US Peace Movement Must Focus on the US
Tellingly, it is all about Russia! Does it make sense for the US peace movement to be so concerned about what Russia does or fails to do? Remember, as Garvey points out quite correctly – that the goal of the peace movement is to “make a difference.” Do we imagine that what we say or do will “make a difference” in the inner circles of the Russian administration or Duma (parliament)? Or have an effect on Russian elections?
On the other hand, the politicians in the US are very, very concerned about what we may think – our words do have an effect, albeit limited one. That is the reason the US has no draft. So to “make a difference,” we ought to focus on what the United States can do now to end the war. It seems evident that we should call on Biden to stop sending arms, materiel and “advisors” to Ukraine. Today, now – first and foremost. That should be at the top of our list of goals.
Some would say that the Ukraine is a proxy in a fight between the US and Russia, with the US calling on Ukrainians to fight Russia to the last Ukrainian. In my view (full disclosure) that is absolutely correct, the goal being to set Europe against Russia to the benefit of the US. But it does not matter whether one agrees with that view or not. If above all else we want to stop the death and destruction of Ukrainians and Russians, if we want to be effective at ending the bloodshed ASAP, then we should work to stop the US from fueling the fire and prolonging the war with arms and advisors.
In short, stop sending US arms, materiel and advisors to Ukraine and its neighbors – NOW.
The same can be said of the US sanctions which fall most heavily on the Global South, threatening not only its energy supply but also food with expected widespread starvation to follow. Since these sanctions have the greatest impact on the people of color in the world, it is not a stretch to say they are racist.
In short, stop the racist US sanctions -NOW.
Stop the Russia Bashing
Moreover, keeping the focus on Russia takes the focus off the US and allows it to escape whatever responsibility it has for the war – and it is a rare bird in the peace community that feels the US bears no responsibility. The focus on Russia, including the McCarthyite insistence that everyone denounce Russia, beefs up the narrative that makes the war possible. This focus is in and of itself a great victory for the propagandists of war!
That leads us to the question of “condemning” Russia for the war. Wherever one might fall in the debate, what effect does this Russia bashing have? In terms of “making a difference” and mindful again of the fact that it is only the US not the Russians that hears us, what sort of a difference does the condemnation of Russia have? Clearly it feeds the pro-war narrative and builds more support for the war. We do not have to take the Russian side to call for an end to the Russia bashing, and such a call should be acceptable to all those who favor peace.
In short, stop the Russia Bashing – NOW.
Forget about Russia and a basis for unity emerges – anti-interventionism
The calls above are not only calls for effective action. They are calls everyone who wishes for peace can agree on -including those who fall outside the liberal/progressive camp like the Ron Paul Republicans or the Pat Buchanan traditional conservatives or paleo-conservatives.
Among these calls there is no call for diplomacy, negotiations or cease fires although I agree with those suggestions. Everyone agrees on that– with the possible exception of the Biden administration and the hawks in Congress. The Zelensky government and the Russian government are, in fact, negotiating.
And what those two governments come up with is their business not ours. For us to make suggestions to those two governments betrays a bit of hubris, even exceptionalism, that those of us living in the heart of the US Empire must watch out for. It permeates everything here. We are not gods pulling levers to run the world.
Once upon a time anti-interventionism, especially important for peace advocates living in the heart of the hegemonic US Empire, was a point of principle for all those who consider themselves progressives in the US. Sadly, that is no longer the case. Let’s hope that the war in Ukraine will arouse a passion for it once again.
The European Union (EU) and China are planning to hold a virtual summit on 1 April 2022, in an attempt to diffuse growing tensions between the two. This was the assessment given to the media by European Commission Vice-President and EU trade chief Valdis Dombrovskis.
The meeting will be attended by both Chinese President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang and European Union representatives Charles Michel and Ursula von der Leyen, presidents of the European Council and European Commission, respectively, as reported by POLITICO, a political journalism company based in the US.
The summit comes in the wake of the Ukraine-Russian war, that was largely provoked – though not justified – by the west, led by the United States and NATO. The Russian invasion of Ukraine was immediately followed with a barrage of western sanctions against Russia – sanctions which, when properly analyzed, hurt the west, mainly Europe, much more than they hurt Russia.
On 3 March 2022, in a historic Emergency UN General Assembly vote, 141 nations of the 193 UN member countries, reprimanded Russia over its invasion of Ukraine, demanding withdrawal of forces.
China, India and South Africa were among the 35 countries that abstained, while just five – Eritrea, North Korea, Syria, Belarus and, of course, Russia – voted against it.
China’s abstention, a close ally of Russia, is not only an anti-war vote, but it was also a for-peace signal to the world. Likewise, China has excellent relations with Ukraine. Since 2008, the two countries have built strong trade ties. China has become Ukraine’s largest trading partner, with a trade turnover in 2020 of 15.4 billion US dollar equivalent.
China would be well-poised to play a mediating role in the conflict, precisely what China’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Wang Yi, had suggested to Ukraine and Russia, presuming that the EU has an intrinsic interest in Peace in Europe.
Given the halting peace negotiations between Russia and Ukraine, currently ongoing in Istanbul, Turkey, the upcoming EU-China summit would be an excellent opportunity for Europe to bring fresh wind into the negotiations, by inviting China as mediator. Considering Russia’s and Ukraine’s friendly relations with China, such a move may bring positive results.
In addition to renewing and easing their currently tense relations with China, the EU might, for example, entering into trade talks with China, that may lead to new trade agreements.
Such treaties might be particularly welcome for Europe, as the current war and the preceding covid pandemic have caused interrupted supply chains, food shortages – potential famine even in Europe. China could be an excellent partner to repair supply chains – and fulfill food and other essential requirements – technological goods – while western countries suffer themselves under the weight of their sanctions imposed on Russia and to some extent also on China.
The summit might be an opportunity to rethinking “sanctions”- as sanctions have never resolved any political differences. To the contrary. They increase the level of hostilities. Not only are they unethical, but they are also in the purest sense of the word, illegal. Under international law, economic “sanctions”, punishment by forestalling economic progress of a sovereign nation by external financial, trading and economic pressure, is illegal.
Lifting of “sanctions” would be by themselves a move towards peace and peaceful relations between Europe and China.
The upcoming summit is also an opportunity for Europe to look eastwards – to renew a history-old geopolitical and trade relation with Eurasia, and especially with China and beyond. The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), created in 2001 and headed by China, is a strategic block of some nine countries, including China, Russia, India, Pakistan and Iran, as well as another nine observer and dialogue partners.
The SCO comprises close to 50% of the world population and more than 30% of the globe’s GDP – a potentially highly attractive partnership for the EU. It would allow Europe to regain her hundreds of year-old autonomy. Europe may become free again to trade with east and west, according to comparative advantages. Since economic relationships forge political relations – comparative-advantage trading means win-win trading – leading to peaceful cohabitation.
In general, Eurasia is a logical market for Europe, a contiguous landmass of 55 million km2, comprising some 70% of the world’s population and accounting for about two thirds of the world’s GDP. Historically, Europe has been an integral part of Eurasia. A vivid example is the 2,100-year-old original Silk Road, a trading route, of which Europe was an essential link.
Finally, Europe may be interested in joining the New Silk Road, President Xi Jinping’s Belt and Road Initiative which was launched in 2013. BRI is a transcontinental long-term policy and investment program which aims at infrastructure development and accelerating the economic integration of countries, while preserving each country’s sovereignty. The Belt and Road is patterned along the principles of the historic Silk Road.
More generally, the BRI aims at promoting the connectivity of Asian, European and African continents and their adjacent seas, and eventually reaching to the Americas. It strives to establish and strengthen partnerships among the countries along the Belt and Road, set up all-dimensional, multi-tiered and composite connectivity networks, and realize diversified, independent, balanced and sustainable development in these countries.
A few EU countries, like Greece, Italy, France and Germany, have already links to BRI. A large-scale connection with BRI would offer Europe another series of unique opportunities for trade, as well as cooperation in the fields of technology and research – a true potential economic relief in times of shortages due to supply chain interruptions.
The April 1, 2022 summit will offer Europe and China a myriad of opportunities to reconnecting in a friendly and mutually fruitful, new win-win relation.
• This paper was first published by the “Chongyang Institute” in China’s Global Times in Chinese on 31 March 2022.
Self-righteous spinal hatred, the inner Russophobic swine dog as well as lawlessness in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine will harm the Western world itself and hasten its decline and fall
The term “inner swine dog” means, according to the English dictionary, “Malicious, hateful drive, which hides behind a person’s apparently friendly and tolerant exterior”.
This dog, which can belong to both elites and the masses, has been let loose in recent weeks among both high and low along the political spectrum. There no longer seems to be any limit to what can be said about Russians and Russia – even without a comparative perspective – and what can be done to isolate the country and its people economically, culturally, socially, financially and in the media. All with reference to Russia’s – foolishly over-reacting – invasion of Ukraine. The word ‘Putin’ explains everything as if by magic.
The contempt and hatred must have been latent deep in the collective unconscious for a very long time. It is probably largely a consequence of the so-called free media’s systematic, one-sided “threat assessments” over decades – again without comparative analysis with NATO’s behaviour and military overspending – and the omission of any perspective on what is Russia’s history, security needs or its perception of us.
To explain something has been distorted – by whom? – to be identical with defending. The conversation is dumbing down. The case – the ball – disappears and all that remains is the persona, categorization and positioning: “Putin Versteher,” “pro-Russian,” “anti-NATO,” “Putinist,” or “paid by the Kremlin.”
The role of the media in the hateful reaction
The media have played a very important part in setting the tone for the boundless hatred that is now spreading from the lowest instincts to concrete actions and reactive measures at the highest level of political decision-making.
Western mainstream media have simply announced – as a fact that did require documentation – that Russia was the enemy, a threat, and they’ve concealed the military-economic imbalance, downplayed or left completely untold the reprehensibility of US and other NATO countries’ wars, occupations, mass deaths, refugee creation, regime change – and failed attempts at it as in Syria – a collaboration with terrorists, the terrible human consequences of these wars and, for example, the ‘war on terror.’ The same goes for the suffocating sanctions against Iran’s innocent population of 85 million. And Israel’s bombings and nuclear weapons have long since ceased to be reported.
I, who follow these issues daily through a wide range of media, have been horrified every day for at least the past 20 years by the obvious way in which it is all being organised in the clear favour of the US and NATO countries. Western sources and news agencies have been used exclusively, experts paid by NATO governments have been brought in by state research institutes, and hardly any material has been published to shed light on Russia’s interests, ways of thinking or perceptions of what we in the NATO circle were doing.
A media glare has run for decades. Today, ordinary people react so violently and have little idea how much they have been seduced by constant, factually ignorant good/bad world images. By FOSI – Fake + Omission + Source Ignorance.
The unbearable folly of irreversible, hasty decisions
Thus, government, politicians, scientists and the media – with the classic reservation of a few exceptions – are today completely at the mercy of emotion. Laws can be broken, special laws imposed, money taken from the world’s poor for Ukrainian refugees; the business world has suddenly become PR-politically correct with Ukraine flags and blue/yellow lights and immediate cessation of all activities in Russia.
The EU overnight has no resource problems with 2-3 million refugees from Ukraine, while in 2015 it could not cope with 1.5 million – mostly Muslims, and this is important – from the war zones the US and other NATO countries have ravaged for decades and many times worse than Russia has done at least until today in Ukraine. Germany decides – again without analysis – to immediately rearm up to US$ 112 billion per year. Russia’s is US$ 66 billion!
Countries and their political parties are throwing overboard their basic positions on militarism, bases, nuclear weapons and NATO.
In the frenzy of the dog pack, no one will risk appearing cautious, moderate or understanding when it comes to the underlying Russia-NATO conflicts. They denounce the violence – Russia’s but not that of others to nearly the same extent – and completely overlook the underlying conflicts, which are Russia and NATO and certainly not Russia and Ukraine. Ukraine is only the unfortunate war theatre of war.
More weapons and more rearmament – whatever the cost to our society in the slightly longer term, which no one is analysing – is the only answer needed. It has to be that fast. And we must stand together now – and we are standing together.
Perhaps not so well if what we can finally stand together on – in an otherwise thoroughly divided Western world without clear-eyed leadership – turns out the day after tomorrow to be a fundamentally wrong and self-destructive attitude.
God knows how such an intellectually low-brow move as raising military spending to 2% of GDP can be adopted by people we would like to think of as responsible politicians.
It is intellectual nonsense that military spending should increase if a country’s economy is doing well and decrease if it is not. A country’s military spending level should be decided in the light of a serious threat analysis – what possible threats have such a low probability and impact that we do not need to prepare for them? Which threats are so great that we cannot afford or are unable to guard against them? And which threats remain that we can both address and afford to build adequate defences against? And then you look in the treasury and prioritise between all the expenditures of a state.
The gods must therefore be the only ones who know how, for instance, the Danish government has calculated that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine should be met on 2% of GDP and not on 1.8% or 4.4%. In fact, this sort of thing is nothing more than extremely expensive signalling politics of the lowest order, paid for by the taxpayers, who never protest against the madness because they are objects of ”fearology:” Putin, the bastard, will come and take you if you don’t pay up.
What such reasoning will cost societies on a 10-20 year horizon is guaranteed to not have been analysed before the decision was adopted.
Cultural events involving Russians are shut down in a row – exhibitions and concerts. The grotesque thing is that these measures also affect Russian artists who have explicitly denounced Russia’s invasion. In other words, they are being punished because they are Russian.
Ministers are urging scientists to stop ongoing research collaborations and certainly not to start new ones. Russian goods are removed from shops. Peace and other demonstrations go only to the Russian embassy, not to those of the NATO countries, which – extremely provocatively – have just expanded NATO and let all the wise warnings go to waste. And, as mentioned, waged wars on a scale that dwarfs Russia in comparison.
Facebook sees fit to allow hate speech against Russians – and only them, of course – as long as it’s within the context of the war in Ukraine.
I wonder how far Russians and the rest of us will be forced to suffer under this modern-day parallel to anti-Semitism: Russophobia?
I wonder where this collective psychosis, this mass hysteria with a single focus, will land us all in generations from now?
And I wonder if anyone in the Christian West will one day think of Luke: “Why do you see the speck in your brother’s eye but do not notice the beam in your own eye? Hypocrite, first take the beam out of your own eye; then you will see clearly enough to take out the mote that is in your brother’s eye.” (Luke 6:41-42).
The slippery slope of lawlessness
There now seems to be an orgiastic heat of self-righteousness. The entire response – every single action in response to Russia’s war on Ukraine – has been decided in such a short time that there has been no time for any kind of impact assessment even 6 months ahead, let alone on a 6 year or 30-year horizon. Not within a national, European or global framework.
The G7 countries are freezing Russia’s US$ 400 billion debt. It’s pure theft. They are closing airspaces so that, for example, the Russian foreign minister cannot fly to meetings at the UN in Geneva. The EU/NATO world cuts off oil and gas imports from Russia and imposes countless sanctions on anything and anyone that can move in Russia: “We are coming to get you!” – President Biden said in his State of the Union address.
That’s not how you behave if you feel inferior or fearful of your opponent – the way you argue when you need to raise military spending.
And that’s documented very well by the former NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen who says this about the prospect of war in Europe to Danish TV2 that – “Putin will be beaten to a pulp by NATO. Once NATO moves, it will be with enormous force. You have to remember that the investments we make in defence are ten times as big as Putin’s.”
And now the heavily over-armed must over-arm even more?
Thousands of Western companies operating in Russia are now facing possible nationalisation. Will Western governments and/or insurance companies compensate them after they have left? Just think of the cost to German business of this on a 10-20 year horizon – that is, at best, the time it will take until we can hope for a rapprochement with Russia after this.
The boomerangs will come back to us. Be sure of that. And when it happens so badly, the only response from any decision-maker will be: Well, it was and is all Putin’s fault!
But that doesn’t hold water by the West’s own standards.
NATO has provoked Russia with its expansion for 30 years and ignored dozens of warnings about where it was going. When solid, highly experienced American statesmen and intellectuals of a very different calibre than those in the West today – like George F. Kennan, Henry Kissinger, John Mearsheimer, Jack Matlock and William Perry – warned against NATO expansion and attempts to bring Ukraine into NATO, they were simply ignored.
It has broken the promises not to expand NATO an inch, made to Gorbachev in 1989-90. It has set up The Ballistic Missile Defence that deliberately undermines Russia’s ability to respond to a nuclear attack. It has waged war in Yugoslavia, treating both Russia and the UN and international law as almost inferior.
I am not the only one who predicted years ago that there would be a reaction. Nobody listened. Now Russia has reacted – over-reacted. I agree it is an overreaction and I have argued that Putin had other options than this invasion.
Proportionality, collective punishment and violation of freedom of expression
Here we are faced with a classic dilemma and responsibility: It is possible that A provokes B, but it is still B who chooses his way of reacting and must be held responsible for it.
It is precisely this reasoning about the responsibility of the provoked side for its reaction that must also apply to the reaction of the NATO/EU countries to Russia’s invasion.
And here there are two principles which normally apply in proper politics: a) the reaction must be proportionate to the attack or provocation, and: b) there must be no collective punishment of a people for an offence for which only one or a few are de facto and de jure responsible. This is an integral element in the Geneva Conventions. About collective punishment here.
It is undeniable that the suffering we see the innocent civilian population of Ukraine undergoing right now arouses great compassion and a desire to help. The question remains, however: Why have we not seen similar reactions of similar intense depth and breadth in some of the many and far worse wars since Vietnam? Why have we not seen any, even remotely, similar condemnation, similar sanctions, similar isolation of those who violate international law, including everything in the UN Declaration?
At the time of writing, the reaction against Russia for its invasion of Ukraine is particular, disproportionate and open-ended. A criminal is put in prison and serves a time commensurate with the crime. What has now been adopted in response to the invasion is open-ended.
If Russia were to agree to a ceasefire tomorrow and pull out of Ukraine, none of the many measures would be lifted.
Because this is not Realpolitik or proportionate logical sanctions policy: when you have done X, Y and Z, then we shall lift all our measures. They are disproportionate but also non-conditioned measures.
Now to the second illegality.
Doctors Without Borders defines collective punishment thus: ‘International law posits that no person may be punished for acts that he or she did not commit. It ensures that the collective punishment of a group of persons for a crime committed by an individual is forbidden…This is one of the fundamental guarantees established by the Geneva Conventions and their protocols. This guarantee is applicable not only to protected persons but to all individuals, no matter what their status, or to what category of persons they belong…”
A group/people may never, whatever the circumstances, be punished for an act committed by one or a few. Morally, collective punishment is absolutely abhorrent and unacceptable.
It is all the more so when those who carry it out believe that they are facing a dictator. In a democracy, it might be argued that the people share responsibility for the actions of leaders because they have become leaders through free elections. The situation is quite different in what the same people call dictatorships, where the people cannot be held jointly responsible (I am not saying that Russia is a dictatorship; I am challenging the reasoning of those who think it is).
And then there’s the third illegality.
The shutdown of Russian media outlets like RT and Sputnik, social media accounts and whichever ones will now be affected in the future.
Everyone shall have the right to hold opinions without interference.
Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice.”
It must be clear that excluding Russian media and other information from expression in the media spaces accessible from the West violates paragraph 1. The same is true when you actively seek to prevent people in the West from freely seeking information about how Russian media treat Ukraine and other world issues.
Further, Article 20 of the Treaty states that:
Any propaganda for war shall be prohibited by law.
Any advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence shall be prohibited by law.
Although it is difficult to judge when such things actually happen and should be condemned, the whole public discussion tends to violate at least the spirit of these international law provisions. And it cannot and should not be swept off the table by reference to Russia or others doing the same. We are responsible for our actions.
The West itself tramples on international human rights 24/7 at the moment.
Such fairly obvious ethical-legal dimensions are, of course, completely sidelined.
The inner swine dog froth at its mouth and in all its lying self-righteousness can’t get enough. Regardless of decency, the spirit and the letter of international law.
The boomerangs of hate – the self-destruction of the West
We, our children and grandchildren will pay dearly for this – the self-isolation and accelerated decline and final fall of the West. And perhaps nuclear war – deliberate or by technical and/or human error.
And it is, they want us to remember forever, all one person’s fault, Vladimir Putin. And him “we” need neither understand nor take into account. The amateur psychologists and editors are now queuing up in our media to have him diagnosed as insane. He suddenly went insane on 23 February 2022.
That way this hellishly complex conflict over decades with at least 50 parties can be reduced to issues of one person’s mental health. And it also follows that “we” bear no responsibility whatsoever for the fact that the world is now in the most existentially threatening situation since 1945. We are up against a Russian Hitler – ”Putler” – and now no trick is too small, no lie too big.
So where could this re-action to Russia’s invasion take us? Here a few heuristically chosen possible scenarios, which Western decision-makers have hardly given a thought:
• The longer the war lasts in Ukraine – and it lasts longer than it otherwise would because huge amounts of arms and ammunition being pumped in from the West – the greater the humanitarian disaster and then the reconstruction of a country that was already the poorest in Europe and heavily marked by corruption. Internal hatred in Ukraine is also likely to be many times more intense than before the invasion.
• The probably extensive infiltration of neo-Nazism into Ukraine’s politics and military security sector – arguably the largest anywhere – will not diminish once the war is over. These circles will demand a special status in future Ukraine because of their efforts in the resistance struggle. What role might they seek to play internationally – in, say, US-like movements and in European countries with, so far, less far-right extremism? Over the years, Nazism could spread precisely because its supporters are seen as heroes in the fight against Russia.
• Russia’s people, in the long run, will suffer so much because of our sanctions that the world may face a gigantic humanitarian disaster that it cannot bear on top of all the other problems of poverty, refugees and climate change, etc.. And someone will begin to realize and say: These poor, innocent people are victims of Western sanctions that were imposed without a time limit.
• While many are talking about which countries Putin will now try to conquer, I think this is a reasonably likely scenario. In the US view, there is now an excellent chance to tie Russia to the war in Ukraine and make it as long as possible by pumping weapons and everything else into Ukraine – but not participating in it directly. At the same time, the focus is now 100% on strangling the Russian economy and effectively collapsing the country like the old Soviet Union. I know too little about the Russian economy to say whether this is a possibility – but in Washington’s perspective, this is where the stakes are: drain Russia’s military strength in Ukraine and undermine its economic base at home. By contrast, I’m pretty sure China and others won’t let that happen. Regardless, the US can then calculate that millions of Russians will have to flee – including to Europe. And there the Atlantic consensus will end: the EU will blame the US for demanding that the EU impose these suffocating sanctions whose human consequences will only affect Europe, not the US.
• Far more nationalistic and militaristic people in the Kremlin depose Putin and re-arm, like Germany, to the double and bomb the NATO installations NATO will not discuss as provocative. In that case, there is a far greater than 50% risk of a nuclear war in Central Europe.
• This conflict will legitimise any increase in the US presence with heavy equipment as close to Russia’s border as possible. This is already being planned in US military circles. In practice, the US will impose itself militarily and politically on Europe to a perhaps unprecedented extent. Until that day, the United States will have militarised itself to death by seeking to wage two cold wars simultaneously – against Russia and China – with major elements of rearmament and militaristic policy. It is called over-extension and the economy, as in the old Soviet Union, will collapse under this burden. Why are the Americans betting so much on Europe? Because NATO’s main purpose – when you peel back all the rhetoric – is to ensure that a war with Russia is fought on European soil, not US soil.
• With the weapons and ammunition that NATO and EU countries are now pumping into and around Ukraine, there is already a de facto war between NATO/EU and Russia. Moreover, with the borders open to all manner of mercenaries and adventurers from around the world, one can safely expect more suffering than would otherwise be necessary. Terrorist groups of various kinds will also no doubt feel drawn; I imagine that the terrorist groups that Russia has helped to defeat in Syria will see Ukraine as a golden territory for revenge against Russians.
• Another scenario might be that Russia does reasonably well economically with a prolonged military presence in Ukraine, converts to a kind of war economy and expands cooperation with Iran, China and perhaps India. Others outside the West will see the same writing on the wall: it is futile to try to have a reasonably trusting relationship with the US, NATO and the EU after this. If they can do that to the Russians, what can they do to us? The US-led system with allies who have lost the ability to think and act independently of the US/NATO will become a periphery of the future world order as the years go by.
The Western world’s response to Russia’s invasion has shown that the only thing that can unite it is confrontation and hate – it has not been able to unite around the financial crisis, NATO’s future and burden-sharing, the 2015 refugees or the Corona, all of which could have brought us closer together and working together for our own good and the good of humanity. More hatred brings satisfaction, inward solidarity and strengthen the sense of shared values. And so who will be the next object of hate?
• Very simply: China – even more so than hitherto. We have just seen the beginning of the US-led and -funded Cold War against China so far. The West will accuse China of not siding closely enough with the West against Russia (and China won’t, though it is certainly very unhappy with Russia over the invasion). So the future ice-cold war in the world could be between the declining Occident and the rising Orient, to simplify. The West’s gigantic rearmament in “response” to Russia’s invasion will of course drain its civilian economy – all militarisation is harmful to everyone but the arms industries – and cause the West’s economic strength to be eroded over time even more and faster by the rearmament’s mad waste of resources.
• Humanity, as we know, desperately needs constructive cooperation if we shall succeed in solving the problems of inequality, climate and the environment here in the 11th hour, create technological progress and new infrastructure for the good of all, create a new green global economy, reduce militarism and abolish nuclear weapons…etc. All this – all this – will be made impossible by the West’s destructive energy, cold war philosophy, conversion to a kind of war economy, and total lack of positive Realpolitik vision in even a 20-year horizon.
The intellectual laziness, the contempt for ‘the others’ as a kind of Untermenschen, the spine-hatred and the cocktail of self-righteousness are bound to harm the Russian people. But the longer this ‘policy’ is pursued, the more damaging it will become for the West itself. China and the others need not lift a finger, one by one the fruits of history will fall into its basket and the US system will crumble.
But I know that such reasoning has not one chance in a thousand of being heard in these – fateful – hours and days. Unbearable as it is, I have felt that it should be said as I have done here.
So what does President Joe Biden want the sanctions imposed on Russia to do? Think back to the 1990s and what the US-NATO imposed no-fly zone and sanctions did to the people of Iraq? The results were almost 1 million Iraqis dead, according to the website GlobalIssues.org.
Over at truthout.org, Jake Batinga reported that President Joe Biden strongly supported those sanctions as a US Senator and recently has turned a blind eye to the humanitarian crisis unfolding in Afghanistan:
Senator Biden strongly supported the sanctions and advocated for even more aggressive policies toward Iraq. Biden was not then, and is not now, known for his humanitarian impulses or dovish foreign policy stances.
Batinga also notes that:
More Afghans are poised to die from US sanctions over the next few months alone than have died at the hands of the Taliban and US military forces over the last 20 years combined — by a significant margin. Yet, as journalist Murtaza Hussain recently wrote, US establishment politicians and intellectuals who decried the humanitarian crisis during the fall of Kabul are seemingly unbothered by imminent mass starvation, imposed by us.
The Biden administration — which routinely laments human rights violations perpetrated by China, Iran, Russia, and other adversaries — is ignoring desperate pleas from humanitarian organizations and UN human rights bodies, choosing instead to maintain policies virtually guaranteed to cause mass starvation and death of civilians, especially children. Yet it is important to note, and remember, that as a matter of policy, this is not particularly new; the US has often imposed harsh economic sanctions, causing mass civilian death. A previous imposition of sanctions resulted in one of the worst humanitarian catastrophes, one largely forgotten in mainstream historical memory.
In 1990, the US imposed sanctions on Iraq through the UN following the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. These sanctions continued for more than a decade after Iraq withdrew from Kuwait, and had horrific humanitarian consequences eerily similar to the imminent mass starvation of Afghan civilians. The sanctions regime against Iraq — which began under President George H.W. Bush but was primarily administered by President Bill Clinton’s administration — froze Iraq’s foreign assets, virtually banned trade, and sharply limited imports. These sanctions crashed the Iraqi economy and blocked the import of humanitarian supplies, medicine, food, and other basic necessities, killing scores of civilians.
BRIC’s Made of Straw
The BRIC nations, Brazil, Russia, India and China have been in the news lately and for good reason. There is talk, and talk is cheap, of course, of China and Russia creating an alternative payment system to the US dollar dominated international payments system SWIFT.
Already Russia has joined China’s Cross Border Interbank Payment System as an alternative to SWIFT, along with joining China’s UnionPay credit card system which serves as an alternative to Visa and Master Card who, along with dozens of other Western country businesses (Europe, USA plus Japan and South Korea), bolted Russia’s marketplace after its military operation got started in Ukraine in late February.
India apparently is trading with Russia in a rupee, ruble swap but that seems ad hoc, at best. And there is news of Saudi Arabia cutting a deal with China to use the yuan as an exchange currency. Brazil has enough internal problems to deal with: crime, disease, Amazon deforestation.
Chinese leaders must realize that if Russia falters in Ukraine which means it is unable to liberate the Republics of Luhansk and Donetsk, gain international recognition of Crimea—and maintain territorial gains made on the coast of the Black and Azov Seas—and/or President Putin is removed from office and Russia destabilizes, the United States will chop up Russia into separate republics, steal its resources and cancel the billions in deals signed with China for oil, gas, and grains
The United States will bring the NATO military alliance to China’s doorstep and likely put on show trials in the International Criminal Court arguing that Putin and his general staff are war criminals, which would be utter nonsense given US policies and actions in Iraq, Afghanistan and Yemen.
China is trying to placate the US because it still fears US economic and military power. Its party officials probably figure that they can keep building up the People’s Liberation Army, Navy, Air Force and Strategic nuclear capability and when there is enough firepower, will be able to challenge US dominance in the Pacific. But how?
The PLA forces have no modern combat experience to speak of and their plan seems to be; well, no plan at all. They are faced with the combined forces of the USA that are building new aircraft carriers, submarines and long distance B-21 bombers, along with upgrading all three legs of its nuclear TRIAD.
Which brings us back to Russia and the economic support it needs so that Biden’s sanctions don’t end up killing a million Russians. Because that is what Biden intends and his track record on supporting sanctions is disturbingly clear. When China looks at what the USA-NATO have done to the Russian economy, they are looking at their own future.
Joe Scalice at the World Socialist Website notes the hypocrisy of the USA-NATO and the compliant MSM Western media:
The wars of aggression of Clinton, Bush, Obama and Trump contained the accumulated evil of the torture in Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo, the drone bombing of children at play, villages leveled by precision missiles and refugees drowned in the Mediterranean. Baghdad crumbled beneath the shock and awe of unstinting US bombing; Fallujah burned with white phosphorus.
The American mass media is complicit in these crimes. They never challenged the government’s assertions, but trumpeted its pretexts. They whipped up a war-frenzy in the public. Pundits who now denounce Putin were ferocious in demanding that the United States bomb civilians.
Thomas Friedman wrote in the New York Times in 1999 of the bombing of Serbia under Clinton, “It should be lights out in Belgrade: every power grid, water pipe, bridge, road and war-related factory has to be targeted… [W]e will set your country back by pulverizing you. You want 1950? We can do 1950. You want 1389? We can do 1389 too.” [Biden supported bombing Belgrade]
Biden labels Putin a war criminal in the midst of a new media hysteria. Never referring to the actions of the United States, never pausing for breath, the media pumps out the fuel for an ever-expanding war. Hubris and hypocrisy stamp every statement from Washington with an audacity perhaps unique in world history. Its hands bathed in blood up to the elbows, US empire gestures at its enemies and cries war crimes.
Indeed, the media has capitulated to the war propaganda narrative of the Biden Administration. The US MSM relies almost exclusively on Ukrainian sources for its error filled reporting. If you are reading the New York Times or the Washington Post, you aren’t getting the full story. Pro-Russia sites like Southfront, Newsfront, War Gonzo and others tell a different story. For example, the Retroville Mall destruction on March 21 was reported in the West as a wanton and random attack on a shopping place. In fact, the below-building parking lot was home to Ukrainian military vehicles clearly shown by a set of photos that appeared on Newsfront. Residential buildings are clearly being used by the Ukrainian forces to hide their weapons or launch anti-tank attacks from apartment building roofs or top floor apartments. That’s a tactic that makes sense. The Russians know that.
You’ve got to look at all the news sources, even the ones you don’t want to view, in order to be informed about this conflict.
On Monday, 14 March, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned of a “hurricane of hunger and a meltdown of the global food system” in the wake of the crisis in Ukraine.
Food, fuel and fertilizer prices are skyrocketing. Supply chains are being disrupted. And the costs and delays of transportation of imported goods – when available – are at record levels.
He added that this is hitting the poorest the hardest and planting the seeds for political instability and unrest around the globe.
Poorer countries had already been struggling to recover from the lockdowns and the closing down of much of the global economy. There is now rising inflation and interest rates and increased debt burdens.
Ukraine is the world’s largest exporter of sunflower oil, the fourth largest exporter of corn and the fifth largest exporter of wheat. Together, Russia and Ukraine produce more than half of the world’s supply of sunflower oil and 30% of the world’s wheat. Some 45 African and least-developed countries import at least a third of their wheat from Ukraine or Russia with 18 of them importing at least 50%.
Prior to the current crisis, prices for fuel and fertilizer had been rising. It was clear before COVID and the war in Ukraine that long global supply chains and dependency on (imported) inputs and fossil fuels made the prevailing food system vulnerable to regional and global shocks.
The coronavirus lockdowns disrupted transport and production activities, exposing the weaknesses of the system. Now, due to a combination of supply disruption, sanctions and Russia restricting exports of inorganic fertilisers, the global food regime is again facing potential turmoil, resulting in food price increases and possible shortages.
Aside from it being a major producer and exporter of natural gas (required for manufacturing certain fertilizers), Russia is the world’s third-largest oil producer and the world’s largest exporter of crude.
The fragility of an oil-dependent globalised food system is acutely apparent at this particular time, when Russian fossil-fuel energy supplies are threatened.
Vast amounts of oil and gas are used as raw materials and energy in the manufacture of fertilisers and pesticides and as cheap and readily available energy at all stages of food production: from planting, irrigation, feeding and harvesting, through to processing, distribution and packaging. In addition, fossil fuels are essential in the construction and the repair of equipment and infrastructure needed to facilitate this industry, including farm machinery, processing facilities, storage, ships, trucks and roads.
The Russia-Ukraine conflict has also affected global fertilizer supply chains, with both countries moving to suspend their fertilizer exports. The major markets for Russian fertilizers include Brazil and the EU and US. In 2021, Russia was the largest exporter of urea, NPKs, ammonia, urea/ammonium nitrate solution and ammonium nitrate and the third-largest potash exporter. Fertilizer prices for farmers have spiked and could lead to an increase in food costs.
It all indicates that regional and local community-owned food systems based on short(er) food supply chains that can cope with future shocks are required. How we cultivate food also needs to change.
A recent article on the Agricultural and Rural Convention website (ACR2020) states:
What we urgently need now to invest in is a new local and territorial infrastructure for food production and processing which transforms the agro-industrial food system into a resilient decentralized food supply system. The war in Ukraine reveals the extreme vulnerability of food supply, far from the food security of actual food sovereignty.
The agri-food and global trade system is heavily reliant on synthetic fertilizers and fossil fuels. However, agroecological and regionally resilient approaches would result in less dependency on such commodities.
The 2017 report Towards a Food Revolution: Food Hubs and Cooperatives in the US and Italy offers some pointers for creating sustainable support systems for small food producers and food distribution. These systems would be based on short supply chains and community-supported agriculture. This involves a policy paradigm shift that prioritises the local over the global: small farms, local markets, renewable on-farm resources, diverse agroecological cropping and food sovereignty.
An approach based on local and regional food self-sufficiency rather than dependency on costly far away imported supplies and off-farm (proprietary) inputs.
The question is how can this be achieved, especially when influential agribusiness and retail conglomerates regard such an approach as a threat to their business models.
The 2021 report A Long Food Movement: Transforming Food Systems by 2045 offers useful insights. Authored by ETC Group and the International Panel of Experts on Sustainable Food Systems (IPES), the document says grassroots organisations, international NGOs, farmers’ and fishers’ groups, cooperatives and unions need to collaborate more closely to transform financial flows, governance structures and food systems from the ground up.
During times of war, sanctions or environmental disaster, systems of production and consumption often undergo radical transformation. If the past two years have told us anything, it is that transforming food systems is required now more than ever.
Colin Todhunter’s new e-book Food, Dependency and Dispossession: Resisting the New World Order can be read for free here
Mr President, I wholeheartedly welcome the EU’s unprecedented provision of immediate protection for Ukrainian refugees fleeing this devastating war. This rightfully respects our mandate to protect the fundamental rights of those entering our territories and it’s heartening to see the outpouring of support and solidarity from every point of the EU.
But how do we explain that solidarity with, for example, in Poland, less than three months ago, the fact that 19 people perished from cold on our borders, met with barbed wire and water cannon? How do we explain that solidarity with the fact that there are Afghan refugees in Greek jails charged with people smuggling, or there are people beaten back from the borders of Croatia in appalling circumstances, sodomised and robbed?
How can this be the same European Union? It’s because our society, our media and our politicians portray some refugees as more human than others, based on their origin and their race. We have to ensure a consistent, non-discriminatory application of international asylum law. Everybody has the right to the highest international standards. I hope this is a turning point.
Working with Russian academics and institutions. The attack upon Ukraine by Russia. These are two features playing out heavily in university discussions. As typifies such chitchat, nuance features rather less than cant and sanctimony. As writer and lecturer Paolo Nori of Milano-Bicocca University stated after discovering that his course on Fyodor Dostoevsky would be cancelled in response to the war, “Not only is it a fault to be a living Russian in Italy today, but also to be a dead Russian.” (Dostoevsky has since been reprieved; the course will now run.)
Throughout history, academic cooperation between universities and academic institutions, despite the political differences of states, has taken place. Even at the height of the Cold War, exchanges across several intellectual fields were regular occurrences. The cynic could see these as culture wars in the service of propaganda, but work was still done, projects started and completed.
The times have tilted, and now universities, notably in Western states, find themselves rushing with virtuous glee to divesting and banning contacts and links with the Russian academy. Russian President Vladimir Putin is deemed a monster of unsurpassed dimension; the Russian attack on Ukraine emptied of historical rationale or basis. There is simply no room for academic debate, in of itself a risible irony.
In Freedom’s Land, some US institutions have snipped and severed cooperation. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology has ended its long-standing association with the Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology, Skoltech. The reasoning strikes an odd note: we will exclude you and ostracise you out of respect for your achievements. “We take it with deep regret,” MIT explained in a statement, “because of our great respect for the Russian people and our profound appreciation for the contributions of the many extraordinary Russian colleagues we have worked with.”
The university also makes it clear that the “step is a rejection of the actions of the Russian government in Ukraine.” It’s all well and good to reject those actions, but how logical is it to then make those profoundly respected Russian colleagues suffer exclusion?
Behind every virtuous condemnation is the encumbrance of self-interest. MIT may have severed ties with Skoltech, but that did not mean that MIT principal investigators, or students, would be affected. “The Institute is in close communication with the PIs to offer guidance and to make sure that the students involved can complete their research and academic work without interruption.”
Russian students have also been singled out for special mistreatment, notably by Californian Democrat Rep. Eric Swalwell. “I think closing [the Russian] embassy in the United States, kicking every Russian student out of the United States, those should all be on the table, and Putin needs to know that every day that he is in Ukraine, there are more severe options that could come.”
To his credit, President Samuel Stanley, Michigan State University’s president, has sought to distinguish between individual and political decisions made by governments. The distinction is trite, but the Ukraine War has made it exceptional. “In times of crises and conflict,” he writes in a public letter, “it is important that we decouple individuals from adverse actions of their home countries and governments.” Emphasis should instead be placed on unity in “supporting one another with dignity, empathy and mutual respect.”
In Australia, a country with few ties to Russian or Ukrainian institutions, universities have been issuing statements of condemnation against, not merely the Russian state but Russian institutions and figures. The last thing on the minds of these academic bureaucrats is adopting something along Stanley’s lines.
The Australian National University has gone one step further, having officially announced the suspension of all ties and activities with Russian institutions on March 3. “We identify with those brave Russian academics and students who oppose President Putin’s unprovoked aggression.” Curiously enough, the decision was made as the Russian attack “threatens the peace, freedom and democracy on which freedom of inquiry and academic collaboration is based.”
Proceeding to show no inclination to follow those cherished principles of free inquiry, the authors of the statement explicitly note that only those Russian academics and students who opposed Putin’s “unprovoked aggression” would be taken seriously. For Ukraine, the support was unqualified, whatever its actions. “We stand in solidarity with the Ukrainian people in their defence of sovereignty and freedom and offer our support for the universities of Ukraine.”
The ANU statement has little time for ethnic Russians, preferring to acknowledge “that this is a very difficult time for our Ukrainian staff and students and for those who have family members, friends and colleagues in Ukraine.”
The statement from La Trobe University is not much more nuanced either, though it openly promotes the work of one academic, Robert Horvath, given the task of demystifying Russian aggression and chewing over Putin’s numbered days. (Horvath’s referenced opinion, it should be said, distinguishes between Putin the ruler and Russia itself, something his university is less inclined to do.)
Having been approached by “a number of staff” as to whether La Trobe had “any active connections with Russian institutions”, management expressed a deep sigh of relief. “We can confirm that La Trobe does not have any formal education partnerships or partnerships with Russian research institutions.”
The university’s investment portfolio was also fairly liberated of Russian investment, a mere $20,000 in value. “We are liaising with our Investment Fund about divestment options for this exposure.”
Singling out Russia has a note of self-indulgence to it. In the case of Australian universities in particular, outrage expressed against Russia seems at odds with, say, the relationships with Chinese institutions. The reasons, in the end, are financial rather than principled: excoriating the Russian Bear only harms intellectual merit, not the budget. The same cannot be said about students and academics from the Middle Kingdom.
To that end Vice Chancellors and members of academic boards have been less forthright in their condemnation of Chinese foreign policy and the country’s human rights record. Money often wins out in the moral dilemma, a point that activist Drew Pavlou found to his cost at the University of Queensland. Suspended on disciplinary grounds, Pavlou was adamant about the reason. “It’s a calculated move to silence me. It’s because the University of Queensland wants to do everything possible to avoid offending its Chinese allies.”
In discriminating on the political and ideological standing of academics and students, a slippery slope presents itself. Putting all your institution’s eggs into one basket and cause is never a good thing, however meretriciously popular and virtuous it might be at the time. But the Academy, and the modern university, work in contradictory, self-defeating ways. Wars do not merely make truth a casualty but kill off intellectual inquiry.