Category Archives: Afghanistan

Ukraine is a Pawn on the Grand Chessboard

Zbigniew Brzezinski’s book The Grand Chessboard was published 25 years ago. His assumptions and strategies for maintaining U.S. global dominance have been hugely influential in US foreign policy. As the conflict in Ukraine evolves, with the potential of escalating into world war, we can see where this policy leads and how crucial it is to re-evaluate.

The need to dominate Eurasia

The basic premise of The Grand Chessboard is outlined in the introduction:

  • with the collapse of the Soviet Union, the United States is the sole global power
  • Europe and Asia (Eurasia) together have the largest land area, population and economy
  • U.S. must control Eurasia and prevent another country from challenging US dominance

Brzezinski sums up the situation: “America is now the only global superpower, and Eurasia is the globe’s central arena.” He adds “It is imperative that no Eurasian challenger emerges, capable of dominating Eurasia and thus of challenging America.”

The book surveys the different nations in Eurasia, from Japan in the east to the UK in the west. The entire land mass of Europe and Asia is covered. This is the “grand chessboard” and Brzezinski analyzes how the US should “play” different pieces on the board to keep potential rivals down and the US in control.

Brzezinski’s Influence

Brzezinski was a very powerful National Security Advisor to President Carter. Before that, he founded the Trilateral Commission. Later he taught Madeline Albright and many other key figures in US foreign policy.

Brzezinski initiated the “Afghanistan Trap”. That was the secret 1979 US program to mobilize and support mujahedin foreign fighters to invade and destabilize Afghanistan. In this period, Afghanistan was undergoing dramatic positive changes. As described by Canadian academic John Ryan, “Afghanistan once had a progressive secular government, with broad popular support. It had enacted progressive reforms and gave equal rights to women.”

The Brzezinski plan was to utilize reactionary local forces and foreign fighters to create enough mayhem that the government would ask the neighboring Soviet Union to send military support. The overall goal was to “bog down the Soviet army” and “give them their own Vietnam”.

With enormous funding from the US and Saudi Arabia beginning in 1978, the plan resulted in chaos, starvation and bloodshed in Afghanistan which continues to today. Approximately 6 million Afghans became refugees fleeing the chaos and war.

Years later, when interviewed about this policy, Brzezinski was proud and explicit: “We didn’t push the Russians to intervene, but we knowingly increased the probability that they would.” When asked if he had regrets for the decades of mayhem in Afghanistan, he was clear: “Regret what? That secret operation was an excellent idea. It had the effect of drawing the Russians into the Afghan trap and you want me to regret it? …. Moscow had to carry on a war that was unsustainable for the regime, a conflict that brought about the demoralization and finally the breakup of the Soviet empire…. What is more important in world history? The Taliban or the collapse of the Soviet empire? Some agitated Muslims or the liberation of central Europe and the end of the Cold War?”

Afghanistan was a pawn in the US campaign against the Soviet Union. The amorality of US foreign policy is clear and consistent, from the destruction of Afghanistan beginning in 1978 continuing to the current starvation caused by US freezing of Afghan government reserves.

The blow-back is also clear. The foreign fighters trained by the US and Saudis became Al Qaeda and then ISIS. The 2016 Orlando nightclub massacre, where 49 died and 53 were wounded was perpetrated by the son of an Afghan refugee who never would have come to the US if his country had not been intentionally destabilized. Paul Fitzgerald eloquently describes the tragedy in his article Brzezinski’s vision to lure Soviets into Afghan Trap now Orlando’s nightmare.

US Supremacy and Exceptionalism

The Grand Chessboard assumes US supremacy and exceptionalism and adds the strategy for implementing and enforcing this “primacy” on the biggest and most important arena: Eurasia.

Brzezinski does not countenance a multi-polar world. “A world without US primacy will be a world with more violence and disorder and less democracy and economic growth ….” and “The only real alternative to American global leadership in the foreseeable future is international anarchy.”

These assertions continue today as the US foreign policy establishment repeatedly talks about the “rules based order” and “international community”, ignoring the fact that the West is a small fraction of humanity. Toward the end of his book, Brzezinski suggests the “upgrading” the United Nations and a “new distribution of responsibilities and privileges” that take into account the “changed realities of global power.”

The importance of NATO and Ukraine

With the dissolution of the Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact, many people in the West believed NATO was no longer needed. NATO claimed to be strictly a defensive alliance and its only rival had disbanded.

Brzezinski and other US hawks saw that NATO could be used to expand US hegemony and keep weapons purchases flowing. Thus he wrote that, “an enlarged NATO will serve well both the short-term and the longer-term goals of U.S. policy.”

Brzezinski was adamant that Russian concerns or fears should be dismissed. “Any accommodation with Russia on the issue of NATO enlargement should not entail an outcome that has the effect of making Russia a de facto decision making member of the alliance.” Brzezinski was skillful at presenting an aggressive and offensive policy in the best light.

Brzezinski presents Ukraine as the pivotal country for containing Russia. He says, “Ukraine is the critical state, insofar as Russia’s future evolution is concerned.” He says, “Without Ukraine, Russia ceases to be a Eurasian empire.” This is another example of his skillful wording because Ukraine as part of a hostile military alliance does not only prevent a Russian “empire”; it presents a potential threat. Kyiv is less than 500 miles from Moscow and Ukraine was a major route of the Nazi invasion.

Brzezinski was well aware of the controversial nature of Ukraine’s borders. On page 104 he gives a quote that shows many people of eastern Ukraine wanted out of Ukraine since the breakup of the Soviet Union. The 1996 quote from a Moscow newspaper reports, “In the foreseeable future events in eastern Ukraine confront Russia with a very difficult problem. Mass manifestations of discontent … will be accompanied by appeals to Russia, or even demands, to take over the region.”

Despite this reality, Brzezinski is dismissive of Russian rights and complaints. He bluntly says, “ Europe is America’s essential geopolitical bridgehead on the Eurasian continent.” and “Western Europe and increasingly Central Europe remain largely an American protectorate.” The unstated assumption is that the US has every right to dominate Eurasia from afar.

Brzezinski advises Russia to decentralize with the free market and a loose confederation of “European Russia, a Siberian Russia and a Far Eastern Republic”.

Afghanistan is the model

Brzezinski realizes that Russia presents a potential challenge to US domination of Eurasia, especially if it allies with China. In the “Grand Chessboard”, he writes, “If the middle space rebuffs the West, becomes an assertive single entity, and either gains control over the South or forms an alliance with the major Eastern actor, then America’s primacy in Eurasia shrinks dramatically.” Russia is the “middle space” and China is the “major Eastern actor”.

What was feared by the US strategist has happened: For the past 20 years, Russia and China have been building an alliance dedicated to ending US hegemony and beginning a new era in international relations.

This may be why the US aggressively provoked the crisis in Ukraine. The list of provocations is clear: moral and material support for Maidan protests, rejection of the EU agreement (“F*** the EU”), the sniper murders and violent 2014 coup, ignoring the Minsk Agreement approved by the UN Security Council, NATO advisors and training for ultra-nationalists, lethal weaponry to Ukraine, refusal to accept Ukrainian non-membership in NATO, threats to invade Donbass and Crimea.

Before Russia’s intervention in Ukraine, active duty soldier and former Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard said, “They actually want Russia to invade Ukraine. Why would they? Because it gives the Biden administration a clear excuse to levy draconian sanctions… against Russia and the Russian people and number two, it cements this cold war in place. The military industrial complex is the one who benefits from this. They clearly control the Biden administration. Warmongers on both sides in Washington who have been drumming up these tensions. If they get Russia to invade Ukraine it locks in this new cold war, the military industrial complex starts to make a ton more money …. Who pays the price? The American people … the Ukrainian people … the Russian people pay the price. It undermines our own national security but the military industrial complex which controls so many of our elected officials wins and they run to the bank.”

This is accurate but the reasons for the provocations go deeper. Hillary Clinton recently summed up the wishes and dreams of Washington hawks: “The Russians invaded Afghanistan back in 1980 … a lot of countries supplied arms, advice and even some advisors to those who were recruited to fight Russia….a well funded insurgency basically drove the Russians out of Afghanistan…. I think that is the model people are now looking toward.”

US foreign policy has been consistent from Brzezinski to Madeline Albright, Hillary Clinton and on to Victoria Nuland. The results are seen in Aghanistan, Iraq, Yugoslavia, Libya, Syria and now Ukraine.

As with Afghanistan, the US “didn’t push Russia to intervene” but “knowingly increased the probability that they would.” The purpose is the same in both cases: to use a pawn to undermine and potentially eliminate a rival. We expect the US will make every to prolong the bloodshed and war, to bog down the Russian army and prevent a peaceful settlement. The US goal is just what Joe Biden said: regime change in Moscow.

Like Afghanistan, Ukraine is just a pawn on the chessboard.

The post Ukraine is a Pawn on the Grand Chessboard first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Pakistan’s Pivot to Russia and Ouster of Imran Khan

Days before Imran Khan’s ouster on April 10 as prime minister in a no-trust motion in the parliament orchestrated by foreign powers, two impersonators were arrested in Washington for posing as US federal security officials and cultivating access to the Secret Service, which protects President Joe Biden, one of whom claimed ties to Pakistani intelligence.

Justice department assistant attorney Joshua Rothstein asked a judge not to release Arian Taherzadeh and Haider Ali, the men arrested on April 6 for posing as Department of Homeland Security investigators for two years before the arrest, the Guardian reported on April 8.

The men also stand accused of providing lucrative favors to members of the Secret Service, including one agent on the security detail of the first lady, Jill Biden. Prosecutors said in court filings they seized a cache of weapons from multiple DC apartments tied to the defendants.

Federal prosecutor Rothstein alleged one of the suspects, Haider Ali, “made claims to witnesses that he had connections to the ISI, Pakistan’s military intelligence service.” The Department of Justice (DoJ) is treating the case as a criminal matter and not a national security issue. But the Secret Service suspended four agents over their involvement with the suspects.

“All personnel involved in this matter are on administrative leave and are restricted from accessing Secret Service facilities, equipment, and systems,” the Secret Service said in a statement.

Clearly, planning and preparations were underway to declare Pakistan a rogue actor sponsoring acts of subversion against the United States. Soon after the US-led “regime change” in Pakistan and the formation of government by imperialist stooges, however, the tone of the judge and prosecutors changed. The defendants were released on bail and placed in home detention, though they will not be allowed to go to airports or foreign embassies or to talk to any of the federal agents they allegedly duped.

During his hour-long ruling, Magistrate Judge Michael Harvey lambasted the Justice Department’s claims that the men were dangerous, were trying to compromise agents and were tied to a foreign government, the CNN reported on April 13.

Before his ouster as prime minister in a no-trust motion in the parliament on April 10, Imran Khan claimed that Pakistan’s Ambassador to US, Asad Majeed, was warned by Assistant Secretary of State Donald Lu that Khan’s continuation in office would have repercussions for bilateral ties between the two nations.

Shireen Mazari, a Pakistani politician who served as the Federal Minister for Human Rights under the Imran Khan government, quoted Donald Lu as saying: “If Prime Minister Imran Khan remained in office, then Pakistan will be isolated from the United States and we will take the issue head on; but if the vote of no-confidence succeeds, all will be forgiven.”

During Imran Khan’s historic two-day official visit to Moscow on the eve of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24, besides signing several bilateral contracts in agricultural and energy sectors, President Putin reportedly offered Imran Khan the S-300 air defense system, Sukhoi aircraft as replacement for the Pakistan Air Force’s dependence on American F-16s and an array of advanced Russian military equipment on the condition that Pakistan abandons its traditional alliance with Washington and forge defense ties with Russia, according to two government officials who accompanied Imran Khan on the Moscow visit.

Alongside China, India and Iran, Pakistan under the leadership of Imran Khan was one of the few countries that adopted a non-aligned stance and refused to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, despite diplomatic pressure from Washington.

After the United States “nation-building project” failed in Afghanistan during its two-decade occupation of the embattled country from Oct. 2001 to August 2021, it accused regional powers of lending covert support to Afghan insurgents battling the occupation forces.

The occupation and Washington’s customary blame game accusing “malign regional forces” of insidiously destabilizing Afghanistan and undermining US-led “benevolent imperialism” instead of accepting responsibility for its botched invasion and occupation of Afghanistan brought Pakistan and Russia closer against a common adversary in their backyard, and the two countries even managed to forge defense ties, particularly during the four years of the Imran Khan government from July 2018 to April 2022.

Since the announcement of a peace deal with the Taliban by the Trump administration in Feb. 2020, regional powers, China and Russia in particular, hosted international conferences and invited the representatives of the US-backed Afghanistan government and the Taliban for peace negotiations.

After the departure of US forces from “the graveyard of the empires,” although Washington is trying to starve the hapless Afghan masses to death in retribution for inflicting a humiliating defeat on the global hegemon by imposing economic sanctions on the Taliban government and browbeating international community to desist from lending formal diplomatic recognition or having trade relations with Afghanistan, China and Russia have provided generous humanitarian and developmental assistance to Afghanistan.

Imran Khan fell from the grace of the Biden administration, whose record-breaking popularity ratings plummeted after the precipitous fall of US in Kabul last August, reminiscent of the Fall of US in Saigon in April 1975, with Chinook helicopters hovering over US embassy evacuating diplomatic staff to the airport, and Washington accused Pakistan for the debacle.

Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley squeamishly described the Kabul takeover in his historic Congressional testimony that several hundred Pashtun cowboys riding on motorbikes and brandishing Kalashnikovs overran Kabul without a shot being fired, and the world’s most lethal military force fled with tail neatly folded between legs, hastily evacuating diplomatic staff from sprawling 36-acre US embassy in Chinook helicopters to airport secured by the insurgents.

Apart from indiscriminate B-52 bombing raids mounted by Americans, Afghan security forces didn’t put up serious resistance anywhere in Afghanistan and simply surrendered territory to the Taliban. The fate of Afghanistan was sealed as soon as the US forces evacuated Bagram airbase in the dead of the night on July 1, six weeks before the inevitable fall of Kabul on August 15.

The sprawling Bagram airbase was the nerve center from where all the operations across Afghanistan were directed, specifically the vital air support to the US-backed Afghan security forces without which they were simply irregular militias waiting to be devoured by the wolves.

In southern Afghanistan, the traditional stronghold of the Pashtun ethnic group from which the Taliban draws most of its support, the Taliban military offensive was spearheaded by Mullah Yaqoob, the illustrious son of the Taliban’s late founder Mullah Omar and the newly appointed defense minister of the Taliban government, as district after district in southwest Afghanistan, including the birthplace of the Taliban movement Kandahar and Helmand, fell in quick succession.

What has stunned military strategists and longtime observers of the Afghan war, though, was the Taliban’s northern blitz, occupying almost the whole of northern Afghanistan in a matter of weeks, as northern Afghanistan was the bastion of the Northern Alliance comprising the Tajik and Uzbek ethnic groups. In recent years, however, the Taliban has made inroads into the heartland of the Northern Alliance, too.

The ignominious fall of Kabul clearly demonstrates the days of American hegemony over the world are numbered. If ragtag Taliban militants could liberate their homeland from imperialist clutches without a fight, imagine what would happen if the United States confronted equal military powers such as Russia and China. The much-touted myth of American military supremacy is clearly more psychological than real.

Imran Khan is an educated and charismatic leader. Being an Oxford graduate, he is much better informed than most Pakistani politicians. And he is a liberal at heart. Most readers might disagree with the assertion due to his fierce anti-imperialism and West-bashing demagoguery, but allow me to explain.

It’s not just Imran Khan’s celebrity lifestyle that makes him a progressive. He also derives his intellectual inspiration from the Western tradition. The ideal role model in his mind is the Scandinavian social democratic model which he has mentioned on numerous occasions, especially in his speech at Karachi before a massive rally of singing and cheering crowd in December 2012.

His relentless anti-imperialism as a political stance should be viewed in the backdrop of Western military interventions in the Islamic countries. The conflagration that neocolonial powers have caused in the Middle East evokes strong feelings of resentment among Muslims all over the world. Moreover, Imran Khan also uses anti-America rhetoric as an electoral strategy to attract conservative masses, particularly the impressionable youth.

It’s also noteworthy that Imran Khan’s political party draws most of its electoral support from women, youth voters and Pakistani expats residing in the Gulf and Western countries. All these segments of society, especially the women, are drawn more toward egalitarian liberalism than patriarchal conservatism, because liberalism promotes women’s rights and its biggest plus point is its emphasis on equality, emancipation and empowerment of women who constitute over half of population in every society.

Imran Khan’s ouster from power for daring to stand up to the United States harks back to the toppling and subsequent assassination of Pakistan’s first elected prime minister, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, in April 1979 by the martial law regime of Gen. Zia-ul-Haq.

The United States not only turned a blind eye but tacitly approved the elimination of Bhutto from Pakistan’s political scene because, being a socialist, Bhutto not only nurtured cordial ties with communist China but was also courting Washington’s arch-rival, the former Soviet Union.

The Soviet Union played the role of a mediator at the signing of the Tashkent Agreement for the cessation of hostilities following the 1965 India-Pakistan War over the disputed Kashmir region, in which Bhutto represented Pakistan as the foreign minister of the Gen. Ayub Khan-led government.

Like Imran Khan, the United States “deep state” regarded Bhutto as a political liability and an obstacle in the way of mounting the Operation Cyclone to provoke the Soviet Union into invading Afghanistan and the subsequent waging of a decade-long war of attrition, using Afghan jihadists as cannon fodder who were generously funded, trained and armed by the CIA and Pakistan’s security agencies in the Af-Pak border regions, in order to “bleed the Soviet forces” and destabilize and weaken the rival global power.

Karl Marx famously said: “History repeats itself, first as a tragedy and then as a farce.” In addition to a longstanding CIA program aimed at cultivating an anti-Russian insurgency in Ukraine by training, arming and international legitimizing neo-Nazi militias in Donbas, Canada’s Department of National Defense revealed on January 26, two days following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, that the Canadian Armed Forces had trained “nearly 33,000 Ukrainian military and security personnel in a range of tactical and advanced military skills.” While the United Kingdom, via Operation Orbital, had trained 22,000 Ukrainian fighters.

A “prophetic” RAND Corporation report titled “Overextending and Unbalancing Russia” published in 2019 declares the stated goal of American policymakers is “to undermine Russia just as the US subversively destabilized the former Soviet Union during the Cold War,” and predicts to the letter the crisis unfolding in Ukraine as a consequence of the eight-year proxy war mounted by NATO in Russian-majority Donbas region in east Ukraine on Russia’s vulnerable western flank since the 2014 Maidan coup, toppling Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych and consequent annexation of the Crimean Peninsula by Russia.

Nonetheless, regarding the objectives of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in December 1979, then American envoy to Kabul, Adolph “Spike” Dubs, was assassinated on the Valentine’s Day, on 14 Feb 1979, the same day that Iranian revolutionaries stormed the American embassy in Tehran.

The former Soviet Union was wary that its forty-million Muslims were susceptible to radicalism, because Islamic radicalism was infiltrating across the border into the Central Asian States from Afghanistan. Therefore, the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in December 1979 in support of the Afghan communists to forestall the likelihood of Islamist insurgencies spreading to the Central Asian States bordering Afghanistan.

According to documents declassified by the White House, CIA and State Department in January 2019, as reported by Tim Weiner for the Washington Post, the CIA was aiding Afghan jihadists before the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in 1979. President Jimmy Carter signed the CIA directive to arm the Afghan jihadists in July 1979, whereas the former Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in December the same year.

The revelation doesn’t come as a surprise, though, because more than two decades before the declassification of the State Department documents, in the 1998 interview to CounterPunch magazine, former National Security Advisor to President Jimmy Carter, Zbigniew Brzezinski, confessed that the president signed the directive to provide secret aid to the Afghan jihadists in July 1979, whereas the Soviet Army invaded Afghanistan six months later in December 1979.

Here is a poignant excerpt from the interview. The interviewer puts the question: “And neither do you regret having supported the Islamic jihadists, having given arms and advice to future terrorists?” Brzezinski replies: “What is most important to the history of the world? The Taliban or the collapse of the Soviet Empire? Some stirred-up Muslims or the liberation of Central Europe and the end of the Cold War?”

Despite the crass insensitivity, one must give credit to Zbigniew Brzezinski that at least he had the courage to speak the unembellished truth. It’s worth noting, however, that the aforementioned interview was recorded in 1998. After the 9/11 terror attack, no Western policymaker can now dare to be as blunt and forthright as Brzezinski.

Regardless, that the CIA was arming the Afghan jihadists six months before the Soviets invaded Afghanistan has been proven by the State Department’s declassified documents; fact of the matter, however, is that the nexus between the CIA, Pakistan’s security agencies and the Gulf states to train and arm the Afghan jihadists against the former Soviet Union was forged years before the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.

Pakistan joined the American-led, anticommunist SEATO and CENTO regional alliances in the 1950s and played the role of Washington’s client state since its inception in 1947. So much so that when a United States U-2 spy plane was shot down by the Soviet Air Defense Forces while performing photographic aerial reconnaissance deep into Soviet territory, Pakistan’s then President Ayub Khan openly acknowledged the reconnaissance aircraft flew from an American airbase in Peshawar, a city in northwest Pakistan.

Then during the 1970s, Pakistan’s then Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s government began aiding the Afghan Islamists against Sardar Daud’s government, who had toppled his first cousin King Zahir Shah in a palace coup in 1973 and had proclaimed himself the president of Afghanistan.

Sardar Daud was a Pashtun nationalist and laid claim to Pakistan’s northwestern Pashtun-majority province. Pakistan’s security agencies were alarmed by his irredentist claims and used Islamists to weaken his rule in Afghanistan. He was eventually assassinated in 1978 as a consequence of the Saur Revolution led by the Afghan communists.

It’s worth pointing out, however, that although the Bhutto government did provide political and diplomatic support on a limited scale to Islamists in their struggle for power against Pashtun nationalists in Afghanistan, being a secular and progressive politician, he would never have permitted opening the floodgates for flushing the Af-Pak region with weapons, petrodollars and radical jihadist ideology as his successor, Zia-ul-Haq, an Islamist military general, did by becoming a willing tool of religious extremism and militarism in the hands of neocolonial powers.

The post Pakistan’s Pivot to Russia and Ouster of Imran Khan first appeared on Dissident Voice.

What Does Standing up for Ukraine Signify When Sitting on One’s Derriere for Violence against Others?

The leaders of a bevy of NATO-aligned countries have appeared in a collage that reads “Stand up for Ukraine.” It comes across blatantly as propaganda cooked by a corporate PR firm as part of the information war being waged against Russia.

My question to these upstanding, er … these people standing up, is: When have you stood up for, in no particular order:

Palestine
Syria
Libya
Iraq
Afghanistan
Yemen
Iran
Democratic Republic of Congo
Somalia
Haiti
Serbia
Venezuela
Bolivia
Honduras
Nicaragua

This is, of course, an inexhaustive list. What follows is an analysis of what NATO types standing up for signifies for the first six listed countries above, along with two unlisted countries.

Palestine

According to the Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem, 10,165 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli security forces since the beginning of the second intifada in September 2000, and an additional 82 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli civilians. This disregard for the life of the non-Jew is ingrained in many Talmudic Jews, as Holocaust survivor and chemistry professor Israel Shahak detailed in his book Jewish History, Jewish Religion: The Weight Of Three Thousand Years. If anyone needs convincing of this Jewish discrimination and racism towards non-Jews, then peruse the statistics at the B’Tselem website on home demolitions, who can and cannot use roads in the West Bank, the water crisis, and settler crimes against Palestinians.

On 10 April, Ghadeer Sabatin, a 45-yr-old unarmed Palestinian widow and mother of six, was shot by Israeli soldiers near Bethlehem and left to bleed out and die. Will any of the politicians standing up for Ukraine also stand up for Palestine? Image Source

Many of these Stand up for Ukraine types have been been glued to their seats during the slow-motion genocide by Zionist Jews against Palestinians.

Are Palestinians a lesser people than Ukrainians?

Syria

These Stand up for Ukraine types in their spiffy business attire have also been seated while backing Islamist terrorists in Syria. Americans later invaded and still occupy the northeastern corner of Syria, stealing the oil and wheat crops.

The UN Human Rights chief Michelle Bachelet reported that more than 350,000 people have been killed in 10 years of warring in Syria, adding that this figure was an undercount.

Are Syrians a lesser people than Ukrainians?

Libya

In February 2020, Yacoub El Hillo, the UN humanitarian coordinator for Libya, called the impact of the NATO-led war on civilians “incalculable.”

Are Libyans a lesser people than Ukrainians?

Iraq

I have a vivid memory of a crowd of students gathered around a TV screen in the University of Victoria to cheer on the start of Shock and Awe in Iraq. The US-led war on Iraq was based on the pretext that Iraq had weapons-of-mass-destruction although the head UN weapons inspector Scott Ritter had found Iraq to be “fundamentally disarmed.”

Chemistry professor professor Gideon Polya was critical of how the western monopoly media “resolutely ignore the crucial epidemiological concept of non-violent avoidable deaths (excess deaths, avoidable mortality, excess mortality, deaths that should not have happened) associated with war-imposed deprivation.” Polya cites 2.7 million Iraqi deaths from violence (1.5 million) or from violently-imposed deprivation (1.2 million).

Abdul Haq al-Ani, PhD in international law, and Tarik al-Ani, a researcher of Arab/Islamic issues, wrote a legal tour de force, Genocide in Iraq: The Case against the UN Security Council and Member States, that makes the case for myriad US war crimes that amount to a genocide.

Nonetheless, US troops are still stationed in Iraq despite being told to leave by the Iraqi government.

Are Iraqis a lesser people than Ukrainians?

Afghanistan

The Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs at Brown University estimates 241,000 people have been killed in the Afghanistan and Pakistan war zone since 2001. The institute’s key findings are:

  • As of April 2021, more than 71,000 Afghan and Pakistani civilians are estimated to have died as a direct result of the war.
  • The United States military in 2017 relaxed its rules of engagement for airstrikes in Afghanistan, which resulted in a massive increase in civilian casualties.
  • The CIA has armed and funded Afghan militia groups who have been implicated in grave human rights abuses and killings of civilians.
  • Afghan land is contaminated with unexploded ordnance, which kills and injures tens of thousands of Afghans, especially children, as they travel and go about their daily chores.
  • The war has exacerbated the effects of poverty, malnutrition, poor sanitation, lack of access to health care, and environmental degradation on Afghans’ health.

Are Afghans a lesser people than Ukrainians?

Yemen

In November 2021, the UN Development Programme published “Assessing the Impact of War in Yemen: Pathways for Recovery” (available here) in which it was estimated that by the end of 2021, there would be 377,000 deaths in Yemen. Tragically, “In 2021, a Yemeni child under the age of five dies every nine minutes because of the conflict.” (p 12)

The Yemeni economy is being destroyed and has forced 15.6 million people into extreme immiseration along with 8.6 million people being malnourished. Worse is predicted to come: “If war in Yemen continues through 2030, we estimate that 1.3 million people will die as a result…” (p 12)

Countries such as Canada, the US, UK, France, Spain, South Africa, China, India, and Turkey that supply arms to Saudi Arabia and the UAE are complicit in the war on the Yemeni people.

Are Yemenis a lesser people than Ukrainians?

One could continue on through the above list of countries “invaded” and arrive at the same conclusions. The predominantly white faces of western heads-of-government in their suits and ties or matching jackets and skirts did not stand up for the brown-skinned people killed in the countries adumbrated. Most of these countries were, in fact, directly attacked by NATO countries or by countries that were supported by NATO. What does that imply for the Standing up for Ukraine bunch?

The Donbass Republics of Donetsk and Lugansk

And lastly, most telling, is just how many of these people stood up for Donbass when it was being shelled by Ukraine?

If France and Germany, guarantors for the Minsk Agreements that Ukraine signed, had not only guaranteed but also enforced Ukraine’s compliance, then, very arguably, no Russian recognition of the independence of the republics of Donetsk and Lugansk would have been forthcoming and there would have been no Russian military response. But France and Germany did not stand up for their roles as guarantors of the Minsk Agreements.

Consequently, for all these politicians to contradict their previous insouciance and suddenly get off their posteriors and pose as virtuous anti-war types standing up for Ukraine is nigh impossible to swallow. Given that the historical evidence belies the integrity of this Stand up for Ukraine bunch, they ought better to have striven for some consistency and remained seated.

The post What Does Standing up for Ukraine Signify When Sitting on One’s Derriere for Violence against Others? first appeared on Dissident Voice.

From Korea to Libya: On the Future of Ukraine and NATO’s Neverending Wars

Much has been said and written about media bias and double standards in the West’s response to the Russia-Ukraine war, when compared with other wars and military conflicts across the world, especially in the Middle East and the Global South. Less obvious is how such hypocrisy is a reflection of a much larger phenomenon which governs the West’s relationship to war and conflict zones.

On March 19, Iraq commemorated the 19th anniversary of the US invasion which killed, according to modest estimates, over a million Iraqis. The consequences of that war were equally devastating as it destabilized the entire Middle East region, leading to various civil and proxy wars. The Arab world is reeling under that horrific experience to this day.

Also, on March 19, the eleventh anniversary of the NATO war on Libya was commemorated and followed, five days later, by the 23rd anniversary of the NATO war on Yugoslavia. Like every NATO-led war since the inception of the alliance in 1949, these wars resulted in widespread devastation and tragic death tolls.

None of these wars, starting with the NATO intervention in the Korean Peninsula in 1950, have stabilized any of the warring regions. Iraq is still as vulnerable to terrorism and outside military interventions and, in many ways, remains an occupied country. Libya is divided among various warring camps, and a return to civil war remains a real possibility.

Yet, enthusiasm for war remains high, as if over seventy years of failed military interventions have not taught us any meaningful lessons. Daily, news headlines tell us that the US, the UK, Canada, Germany, Spain or some other western power have decided to ship a new kind of ‘lethal weapons’ to Ukraine. Billions of dollars have already been allocated by Western countries to contribute to the war in Ukraine.

In contrast, very little has been done to offer platforms for diplomatic, non-violent solutions. A handful of countries in the Middle East, Africa and Asia have offered mediation or insisted on a diplomatic solution to the war, arguing, as China’s foreign ministry reiterated on March 18, that “all sides need to jointly support Russia and Ukraine in having dialogue and negotiation that will produce results and lead to peace”.

Though the violation of the sovereignty of any country is illegal under international law, and is a stark violation of the United Nations Charter, this does not mean that the only solution to violence is counter-violence. This cannot be truer in the case of Russia and Ukraine, as a state of civil war has existed in Eastern Ukraine for eight years, harvesting thousands of lives and depriving whole communities from any sense of peace or security. NATO’s weapons cannot possibly address the root causes of this communal struggle. On the contrary, they can only fuel it further.

If more weapons were the answer, the conflict would have been resolved years ago. According to the BBC, the US has already allocated $2.7bn to Ukraine over the last eight years, long before the current war. This massive arsenal included “anti-tank and anti-armor weapons … US-made sniper (rifles), ammunition and accessories”.

The speed with which additional military aid has poured into Ukraine following the Russian military operations on February 24 is unprecedented in modern history. This raises not only political or legal questions, but moral questions as well – the eagerness to fund war and the lack of enthusiasm to help countries rebuild.

After 21 years of US war and invasion of Afghanistan, resulting in a humanitarian and refugee crisis, Kabul is now largely left on its own. Last September, the UN refugee agency warned that “a major humanitarian crisis is looming in Afghanistan”, yet nothing has been done to address this ‘looming’ crisis, which has greatly worsened since then.

Afghani refugees are rarely welcomed in Europe. The same is true for refugees coming from Iraq, Syria, Libya, Mali and other conflicts that directly or indirectly involved NATO. This hypocrisy is accentuated when we consider international initiatives that aim to support war refugees, or rebuild the economies of war-torn nations.

Compare the lack of enthusiasm in supporting war-torn nations with the West’s unparalleled euphoria in providing weapons to Ukraine. Sadly, it will not be long before the millions of Ukrainian refugees who have left their country in recent weeks become a burden on Europe, thus subjected to the same kind of mainstream criticism and far-right attacks.

While it is true that the West’s attitude towards Ukraine is different from its attitude towards victims of western interventions, one has to be careful before supposing that the ‘privileged’ Ukrainains will ultimately be better off than the victims of war throughout the Middle East. As the war drags on, Ukraine will continue to suffer, either the direct impact of the war or the collective trauma that will surely follow. The amassing of NATO weapons in Ukraine, as was the case of Libya, will likely backfire. In Libya, NATO’s weapons fueled the country’s  decade long civil war.

Ukraine needs peace and security, not perpetual war that is designed to serve the strategic interests of certain countries or military alliances. Though military invasions must be wholly rejected, whether in Iraq or Ukraine, turning Ukraine into another convenient zone of perpetual geopolitical struggle between NATO and Russia is not the answer.

The post From Korea to Libya: On the Future of Ukraine and NATO’s Neverending Wars first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Ukraine: War and the Challenge of Human Rights in the United States and Beyond

Images of burnt flesh from napalm bombs, wounded and dead soldiers, scenes of U.S. soldiers burning the simple huts of Vietnamese villages, eventually turned the public against the war in Vietnam and produced the dreaded affliction, from the ruling class point of view, known as the “Vietnam syndrome.” This collective Post Traumatic Stress Disorder made it impossible for the public to support any foreign military involvement for years.

It took the rulers almost three decades to finally cure the public of this affliction. But the rulers were careful.

The brutal reality of what the U.S. was doing in Afghanistan and Iraq was whitewashed. That is why the images now being brought to the public by the corporate media are so shocking. It has been more than two generations since the U.S. public was exposed to the horrific images of war.

In the 1960s the rulers inadvertently allowed themselves to be undermined by the new television technology that brought the awful reality of imperialist war into the homes of the public. Now, the ruling class operating through its corporate media propaganda arms has been effectively using Ukraine war propaganda, not to increase Anti-war sentiment but to stimulate support for more war!

Incredibly also, the propagandists are pushing a line that essentially says that in the name of “freedom” and supporting Ukraine, the U.S. public should shoulder the sacrifice of higher fuel and food prices. This is on top of the inflation that workers and consumers were already being subjected to coming out of the capitalist covid scandal that devastated millions of workers and the lower stratums of the petit bourgeoisie.

But the war, and now the unfair shouldering of all of the costs of the capitalist crisis of 2008 – 2009, and the impact of covid by the working classes in the U.S., amounts to a capitalist tax. It is levied by the oligarchy on workers to subsidize the defense of the interests of big capital and the conditions that have produced obscene profits, even in the midst of the covid crisis and now, the Ukraine war.

These policies are criminal. While the U.S. continues to pretend that it champions human rights around the world, the failure of the state to protect the fundamental human rights of the citizens and residents in the U.S. is obvious to all, but spoken about by the few, except the Chinese government.

For those who might think that the Chinese criticism of the U.S. is only being driven by politics, and it might be,  just a cursory, objective examination of the U.S. state policies over just the last few years reveals a shocking record of systematic human rights abuses that promise to become even more acute as a consequence of the manufactured U.S./NATO war in Ukraine.

The Ongoing Human Rights Crisis

The U.S. working class, and Black working class in particular, never recovered from the economic crisis of 2008 before it was once again ravaged in 2020 with the global capitalist crisis exacerbated by covid. On the heels of those two shocks, today millions of workers are experiencing a permanent state of precarity with evictions, the continued loss of medical coverage, unaffordable housing and food costs, and a capitalist-initiated inflation. The rulers are operating under the belief that with the daily bombardment of war images, U.S. workers and the poor will embrace rising costs of gas and even more increases in the cost of food.

Doesn’t the state have any responsibility to ensure that the economic human rights of the people are fulfilled? No, because liberal human rights practice separates fundamental human rights – such as the right to health, food, housing, education, a means to subsist at an acceptable level of material culture, leisure, and life-long social security – from democratic discourse on what constitutes the human rights responsibility of the state and the interests it must uphold in order to be legitimate.

The non-recognition of the indivisibility of human rights that values economic human rights to an equal level as civil and political rights, exposed the moral and political contradictions of the liberal human rights framework. The massive economic displacements with hunger, unemployment, and unnecessary deaths among the population in the United States, with a disproportionate rate of sickness and hospitalization among non-white workers and the poor in the U.S., were never condemned as violations of human rights.

War and Economic Deprivation the Systemic Contradictions of the Western colonial/capitalist Project

The war being waged against global humanity by the U.S./EU/NATO Axis of Domination is a hybrid war that utilizes all the tools it has at its disposal – sanctions, mass incarceration, coups, drugs, disinformation, culture, subversion, murder, and direct military engagement to further white power. The Eurocentrism and “White Lives Matters More Movement” represented by the coverage of the war in Ukraine stripped away any pretense to the supposed liberal commitment to global humanity. The white-washing of the danger of the ultra-right and neo-Nazi elements in the Ukrainian military and state and the white ethno-nationalism that the conflict generated across the Western world demonstrated, once again, how “racialism” and the commitment to the fiction of white supremacy continues to trump class and class struggle and the ability to build a multi-national, class based anti-capitalist, anti-imperialist opposition in the North.

It is primarily workers from Russia, the Donbas and Ukraine who are dying. But as in the run-up to the first imperialist war in Europe, known as World War One, workers with the encouragement of their national bourgeoisie, are lining up behind their rulers to support the capitalist redivision taking place, a redivision that can only be completed by war as long as capitalism and capitalist competition continues. Yet, instead of “progressives and radicals” joining forces to resist the mobilization to war, they are finding creative ways to align themselves with the interests of their ruling classes in support of the colonial/capitalist project.

In the meantime, the people of Afghanistan are starving, with thousands of babies now dying of malnutrition because the U.S. stole their nation’s assets. Estimates suggest that unless reversed, more people there will die from U.S./EU imposed sanctions than died during the twenty year long war. And the impact of the war in Ukraine with the loss of wheat exports from Ukraine and Russia resulting not only in rising food prices globally but in some places like East Africa, resulting in death from famine.

In the U.S. where we witness the most abysmal record of covid failure on the planet, the virus will continue to ravage the population, with a disproportionate number who get sick and die being the poorest and those furthest from whiteness.

The lackeys of capital playing the role of democratic representatives claim that there is no money to bring a modicum of relief to workers represented in the mildly reformist package known as Build Back Better. Yet, the Brown University Costs of War Project estimates that the wars waged by the United States in this century have cost $8 trillion and counting, with another $8 trillion that will be spent over the next ten years on the military budget if costs remain constant from the $778 billion just allocated.

No rational human being desires war and conflict. The horrors of war that the public are finally being exposed to because it was brought to Europe again, the most violent continent on the planet, should call into question all of the brutal and unjustified wars that the U.S. and its flunky allies waged throughout the global South over the last seventy years. Unfortunately, because of the hierarchy of the value of human beings, the images of war in Ukraine are not translating into a rejection of war, but instead a rejection of war in Europe and on white Europeans.

This means that the wars will continue and we must fight, often alone, because as Bob Marley said in his song “War”:

Until the philosophy which hold one race superior
And another
Inferior
Is finally
And permanently
Discredited
And abandoned
Everywhere is war
Me say war

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President Joe Biden seeks to Destroy Russia and Punish the Russian People

Who, really, is the War Criminal?

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.

Hypocrisy

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.

Tactics

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.

The post President Joe Biden seeks to Destroy Russia and Punish the Russian People first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Doubling Down On Double Standards: The Ukraine Propaganda Blitz

The American population was bombarded the way the Iraqi population was bombarded. It was a war against us, a war of lies and disinformation and omission of history. That kind of war, overwhelming and devastating, waged here in the US while the Gulf War was waged over there.’ ((Howard Zinn, ‘Power, History and Warfare’, Open Magazine Pamphlet Series, No. 8, 1991, p. 12.))

What a strange feeling it was to know that the cruise missile shown descending towards an airport and erupting in a ball of flame was not fired by US or British forces.

Millions of Westerners raised to admire the ultimate spectacle of high-tech, robotic power, must have quickly suppressed their awe at the shock – this was Russia’s war of aggression, not ‘ours’. This was not an approved orgy of destruction and emphatically not to be celebrated.

Rewind to April 2017: over video footage of Trump’s cruise missiles launching at targets in Syria in response to completely unproven claims that Syria had just used chemical weapons, MSNBC anchor Brian Williams felt a song coming on:

‘We see these beautiful pictures at night from the decks of these two US navy vessels in the eastern Mediterranean – I am tempted to quote the great Leonard Cohen: “I’m guided by the beauty of our weapons” – and they are beautiful pictures of fearsome armaments making what is, for them, a brief flight…’

TV and newspaper editors feel the same way. Every time US-UK-NATO launches a war of aggression on Iraq, Libya, Syria – whoever, wherever – our TV screens and front pages fill with ‘beautiful pictures’ of missiles blazing in pure white light from ships. This is ‘Shock And Awe’ – we even imagine our victims ‘awed’ by our power.

In 1991, the ‘white heat’ of our robotic weaponry was ‘beautiful’ because it meant that ‘we’ were so sophisticated, so civilised, so compassionate, that only Saddam’s palaces and government buildings were being ‘surgically’ removed, not human beings. This was keyhole killing. The BBC’s national treasure, David Dimbleby, basked in the glory on live TV:

‘Isn’t it in fact true that America, by dint of the very accuracy of the weapons we’ve seen, is the only potential world policeman?’1

Might makes right! This seemed real to Dimbleby, as it did to many people. In fact, it was fake news. Under the 88,500 tons of bombs that followed the launch of the air campaign on January 17, 1991, and the ground attack that followed, 150,000 Iraqi troops and 50,000 civilians were killed. Just 7 per cent of the ordnance consisted of so called ‘smart bombs’.

By contrast, the morning after Russia launched its war of aggression on Ukraine, front pages were covered, not in tech, but in the blood of wounded civilians and the rubble of wrecked civilian buildings. A BBC media review explained:

‘A number of front pages feature a picture of a Ukrainian woman – a teacher named Helena – with blood on her face and bandages around her head after a block of flats was hit in a Russian airstrike.

‘“Her blood on his hands” says the Daily Mirror; the Sun chooses the same headline.’

‘Our’ wars are not greeted by such headlines, nor by BBC headlines of this kind:

‘In pictures: Destruction and fear as war hits Ukraine’

The fear and destruction ‘we’ cause are not ‘our’ focus.

Former Guardian journalist Jonathan Cook noted:

‘Wow! Radical change of policy at BBC News at Ten. It excitedly reports young women – the resistance – making improvised bombs against Russia’s advance. Presumably Palestinians resisting Israel can now expect similar celebratory coverage from BBC reporters’

A BBC video report was titled:

‘Ukraine conflict: The women making Molotov cocktails to defend their city’

Hard to believe, but the text beneath read:

‘The BBC’s Sarah Rainsford spoke to a group of women who were making Molotov cocktails in the park.’

For the entire morning of March 2, the BBC home page featured a Ukrainian civilian throwing a lit Molotov cocktail. The adjacent headline:

‘Russian paratroopers and rockets attack Kharkiv – Ukraine’

In other words, civilians armed with homemade weapons were facing heavily-armed elite troops. Imagine the response if, in the first days of an invasion, the BBC had headlined a picture of a civilian in Baghdad or Kabul heroically resisting US-UK forces in the same way.

Another front-page BBC article asked:

‘Ukraine invasion: Are Russia’s attacks war crimes?’

The answer is ‘yes,’ of course – Russia’s attack is a textbook example of ‘the supreme crime’, the waging of a war of aggression. So, too, was the 2003 US-UK invasion and occupation of Iraq. But, of course, the idea that such an article might have appeared in the first week of that invasion is completely unthinkable.

Generating The Propaganda Schwerpunkt

On 27 February, the first 26 stories on the BBC’s home page were devoted to the Russian attack on Ukraine. The BBC website even typically features half a dozen stories on Ukraine at the top of its sports section.

On 28 February, the Guardian’s website led with the conflict, followed by 20 additional links to articles about the Ukraine crisis. A similar pattern is found in all ‘mainstream’ news media.

The inevitable result of this level of media bombardment on many people: Conflict in Ukraine is ‘our’ war – ‘I stand with Ukraine!’

Political analyst Ben Norton commented:

‘Russia’s intervention in Ukraine has gotten much more coverage, and condemnation, in just 24 hours than the US-Saudi war on Yemen has gotten since it started nearly 7 years ago… US-backed Saudi bombing now is the worst since 2018’

This is no small matter. Norton added:

‘An estimated 377,000 Yemenis have died in the US-Saudi war on their country, and roughly 70% of deaths were children under age 5’

Some 15.6 million Yemenis live in extreme poverty, and 8.6 million suffer from under-nutrition. A recent United Nations report warned:

‘If war in Yemen continues through 2030, we estimate that 1.3 million people will die as a result.’

Over half of Saudi Arabia’s combat aircraft used for the bombing raids on Yemen are UK-supplied. UK-made equipment includes Typhoon and Tornado aircraft, Paveway bombs, Brimstone and Stormshadow missiles, and cluster munitions. Campaign Against the Arms Trade reports:

‘Researchers on the grounds have discovered weapons fragments that demonstrate the use of UK-made weapons in attacks on civilian targets.’

Despite the immensity of the catastrophe and Britain’s clear legal and moral responsibility, in 2017, the Independent reported:

‘More than half of British people are unaware of the “forgotten war” underway in Yemen, despite the Government’s support for a military coalition accused of killing thousands of civilians.

‘A YouGov poll seen exclusively by The Independent showed 49 per cent of people knew of the country’s ongoing civil war, which has killed more than 10,000 people, displaced three million more and left 14 million facing starvation.

‘The figure was even lower for the 18 to 24 age group, where only 37 per cent were aware of the Yemen conflict as it enters its third year of bloodshed.’

The Independent added:

‘At least 75 people are estimated to be killed or injured every day in the conflict, which has pushed the country to the brink of famine as 14 million people lack a stable access to food.’

On Twitter, Dr Robert Allan made the point that matters:

‘We as tax paying citizens and as a nation are directly responsible for our actions. Not the actions of others. Of course we can and should highlight crimes of nations and act appropriately and benevolently (the UK record here is horrific). 1st – us, NATO, our motives and actions.’

We can be sure that Instagram, YouTube and Tik Tok will never be awash with the sentiment: ‘I stand with Yemen!’

As if the whole world belongs to ‘us’, our righteous rage on Ukraine is such that we apparently forget that we are not actually under attack, not being bombed; our soldiers and civilians are not being killed. Nevertheless, RT (formerly Russia Today), Going Underground and Sputnik have been shut down on YouTube and Google as though the US and UK were under direct attack, facing an existential threat.

Certainly, we at Media Lens welcome the idea that powerful state-corporate media should be prevented from promoting state violence. It is absurd that individuals are arrested and imprisoned for threatening or inciting violence, while journalists regularly call for massive, even genocidal, violence against whole countries with zero consequences (career advancement aside). But banning media promoting state violence means banning, not just Russian TV, but literally all US-UK broadcasters and newspapers.

Confirming the hypocrisy, The Intercept reported:

‘Facebook will temporarily allow its billions of users to praise the Azov Battalion, a Ukrainian neo-Nazi military unit previously banned from being freely discussed under the company’s Dangerous Individuals and Organizations policy, The Intercept has learned.’

In 2014, the Guardian’s central and eastern Europe correspondent, Shaun Walker, wrote:

‘The Azov, one of many volunteer brigades to fight alongside the Ukrainian army in the east of the country, has developed a reputation for fearlessness in battle.

‘But there is an increasing worry that while the Azov and other volunteer battalions might be Ukraine’s most potent and reliable force on the battlefield against the separatists, they also pose the most serious threat to the Ukrainian government, and perhaps even the state, when the conflict in the east is over. The Azov causes particular concern due to the far right, even neo-Nazi, leanings of many of its members.’

The report continued:

‘Many of its members have links with neo-Nazi groups, and even those who laughed off the idea that they are neo-Nazis did not give the most convincing denials.’

Perhaps the hundreds of journalists who attacked Jeremy Corbyn for questioning the removal of an allegedly anti-semitic mural – which depicted a mixture of famous historical and identifiable Jewish and non-Jewish bankers – with the single word, ‘Why?’, would care to comment?

According to our ProQuest search, the Guardian has made no mention of the neo-Nazi Azov Battalion in the last week – as it most certainly would have, if Ukraine were an Official Enemy of the West. ProQuest finds a grand total of three mentions of the Azov Battalion in the entire UK national press – two in passing, with a single substantial piece in the Daily Star – in the last seven days. ‘Impressive discipline’, as Noam Chomsky likes to say.

‘Russia Must Be Broken’

Britain and the US have been waging so much war, so ruthlessly, for so long, that Western journalists and commentators have lost all sense of proportion and restraint. Neil Mackay, former editor of the Sunday Herald (2015-2018), wrote in the Herald:

‘Russia must be broken, in the hope that by breaking the regime economically and rendering it a pariah state on the world’s stage, brave and decent Russian people will rise up and drag Putin from power.’

If nothing else, Mackay’s comment indicated just how little impact was made by the deaths of 500,000 children under five when the US and Britain saw to it that the Iraq economy was ‘broken’ by 13 years of genocidal sanctions.

For describing his comment as ‘obscene’, Mackay instantly blocked us on Twitter. His brutal demand reminded us of the comment made by columnist Thomas Friedman in the New York Times:

‘Like it or not, we are at war with the Serbian nation… and the stakes have to be very clear: Every week you ravage Kosovo is another decade we will set your country back by pulverising you. You want 1950? We can do 1950. You want 1389? We can do 1389 too.’

We can enjoy the ‘shock and awe’ of that comment, if we have no sense at all that Serbian people are real human beings capable of suffering, love, loss and death exactly as profound as our own.

On Britain’s Channel 5, BBC stalwart Jeremy Vine told a caller, Bill, from Manchester:

‘Bill, Bill, the brutal reality is, if you put on a uniform for Putin and you go and fight his war, you probably deserve to die, don’t you?’

Unlike his celebrated interviewer, Bill, clearly no fan of Putin, had retained his humanity:

Do you?! Do kids deserve to die, 18, 20 – called up, conscripted – who don’t understand it, who don’t grasp the issues?’

Vine’s sage reply:

‘That’s life! That’s the way it goes!’

We all know what would have happened to Vine if he had said anything remotely comparable of the US-UK forces that illegally invaded Iraq.

MSNBC commentator Clint Watts observed:

‘Strangest thing – entire world watching a massive Russian armor formation plow towards Kyiv, we cheer on Ukraine, but we’re holding ourselves back. NATO Air Force could end this in 48 hrs. Understand handwringing about what Putin would do, but we can see what’s coming’

The strangest thing is media commentators reflexively imagining that US-UK-NATO can lay any moral or legal claim to act as an ultra-violent World Police.

Professor Michael McFaul of Stanford University, also serving with the media’s 101st Chairborne Division, appeared to be experiencing multiple wargasms when he tweeted:

‘More Stingers to Ukraine! More javelins! More drones!’

Two hours later:

‘More NLAWs [anti-tank missiles], Stingers (the best ones), and Javelins for Ukraine! Now!’

Echoing Mackay, McFaul raved (and later deleted):

‘There are no more “innocent” “neutral” Russians anymore. Everyone has to make a choice— support or oppose this war. The only way to end this war is if 100,000s, not thousands, protest against this senseless war. Putin can’t arrest you all!’

Courageous words indeed from his Ivy League office. Disturbing to note that McFaul was ambassador to Russia under Barack Obama, widely considered to be a saint.

‘Shockingly Arrogant Meddling’ – The Missing History

So how did we get here? State-corporate news coverage has some glaring omissions.

In February 2014, after three months of violent, US-aided protests, much of it involving neo-Nazi anti-government militias, the president of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych, fled Kiev for Russia. Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) provide some context:

‘On February 6, 2014, as the anti-government protests were intensifying, an anonymous party (assumed by many to be Russia) leaked a call between Assistant Secretary of State [Victoria] Nuland and US ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt. The two officials discussed which opposition officials would staff a prospective new government, agreeing that Arseniy Yatsenyuk — Nuland referred to him by the nickname “Yats” — should be in charge. It was also agreed that someone “high profile” be brought in to push things along. That someone was Joe Biden.’

The BBC reported Nuland picking the new Ukrainian leader:

‘I think “Yats” is the guy who’s got the economic experience, the governing experience.’

FAIR continues:

‘Weeks later, on February 22, after a massacre by suspicious snipers brought tensions to a head, the Ukrainian parliament quickly removed Yanukovych from office in a constitutionally questionable maneuver. Yanukovych then fled the country, calling the overthrow a coup. On February 27, Yatsenyuk became prime minister.’

We can read between the lines when Nuland described how the US had invested ‘over $5 billion’ to ‘ensure a secure and prosperous and democratic Ukraine’.

In a rare example of dissent in the Guardian, Ted Galen Carpenter, senior fellow for defence and foreign policy studies at the Cato Institute, wrote this week:

‘The Obama administration’s shockingly arrogant meddling in Ukraine’s internal political affairs in 2013 and 2014 to help demonstrators overthrow Ukraine’s elected, pro‐​Russia president was the single most brazen provocation, and it caused tensions to spike. Moscow immediately responded by seizing and annexing Crimea, and a new cold war was underway with a vengeance…’

Carpenter concluded:

‘Washington’s attempt to make Ukraine a Nato political and military pawn (even absent the country’s formal membership in the alliance) may end up costing the Ukrainian people dearly.

‘History will show that Washington’s treatment of Russia in the decades following the demise of the Soviet Union was a policy blunder of epic proportions. It was entirely predictable that Nato expansion would ultimately lead to a tragic, perhaps violent, breach of relations with Moscow. Perceptive analysts warned of the likely consequences, but those warnings went unheeded. We are now paying the price for the US foreign policy establishment’s myopia and arrogance.’

Within days of the 2014 coup, troops loyal to Russia took control of the Crimea peninsula in the south of Ukraine. As Jonathan Steele, a former Moscow correspondent for the Guardian, recently explained:

‘NATO’s stance over membership for Ukraine was what sparked Russia’s takeover of Crimea in 2014. Putin feared the port of Sevastopol, home of Russia’s Black Sea fleet, would soon belong to the Americans.’

The New Yorker magazine describes political scientist John Mearsheimer as ‘one of the most famous critics of American foreign policy since the end of the Cold War’:

‘For years, Mearsheimer has argued that the U.S., in pushing to expand NATO eastward and establishing friendly relations with Ukraine, has increased the likelihood of war between nuclear-armed powers and laid the groundwork for Vladimir Putin’s aggressive position toward Ukraine. Indeed, in 2014, after Russia annexed Crimea, Mearsheimer wrote that “the United States and its European allies share most of the responsibility for this crisis.”’

Mearsheimer argues that Russia views the expansion of NATO to its border with Ukraine as ‘an existential threat’:

‘If Ukraine becomes a pro-American liberal democracy, and a member of NATO, and a member of the E.U., the Russians will consider that categorically unacceptable. If there were no NATO expansion and no E.U. expansion, and Ukraine just became a liberal democracy and was friendly with the United States and the West more generally, it could probably get away with that.’

Mearsheimer adds:

‘I think the evidence is clear that we did not think he [Putin] was an aggressor before February 22, 2014. This is a story that we invented so that we could blame him. My argument is that the West, especially the United States, is principally responsible for this disaster. But no American policymaker, and hardly anywhere in the American foreign-policy establishment, is going to want to acknowledge that line of argument…’

In 2014, then US Secretary of State John Kerry had the gall to proclaim of Russia’s takeover of Crimea:

‘You just don’t in the 21st century behave in 19th century fashion by invading another country on completely trumped up pretext.’

Senior BBC correspondents somehow managed to report such remarks from Kerry and others, without making any reference to the West’s invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan.

The pattern persists today. When Fox News recently spoke about the Russia-Ukraine crisis with former US Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, one of the key perpetrators of the illegal invasion-occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq, she nodded her head in solemn agreement when the presenter said:

‘When you invade a sovereign nation, that is a war crime.’

The cognitive dissonance required to engage in this discussion and pass it off as serious analysis is truly remarkable.

Noam Chomsky highlights one obvious omission in Western media coverage of Ukraine, or any other crisis involving NATO:

‘The question we ought to be asking ourselves is why did NATO even exist after 1990? If NATO was to stop Communism, why is it now expanding to Russia?’

It is sobering to read the dissenting arguments above and recall Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer’s warning to MPs last week:

‘Let me be very clear – There will be no place in this party for false equivalence between the actions of Russia and the actions of Nato.’

The Independent reported that Starmer’s warning came ‘after leading left-wingers – including key shadow cabinet members during the Jeremy Corbyn-era key, John McDonnell and Diane Abbott – were threatened with the removal of the whip if their names were not taken off a Stop the War letter that had accused the UK government of “aggressive posturing”, and said that Nato “should call a halt to its eastward expansion”’.

Starmer had previously waxed Churchillian on Twitter:

‘There will be dark days ahead. But Putin will learn the same lesson as Europe’s tyrants of the last century: that the resolve of the world is harder than he imagines and the desire for liberty burns stronger than ever. The light will prevail.’

Clearly, that liberty does not extend to elected Labour MPs criticising NATO.

In the Guardian, George Monbiot contributed to the witch-hunt, noting ominously that comments made by John Pilger ‘seemed to echo Putin’s speech the previous night’. By way of further evidence:

‘The BBC reports that Pilger’s claims have been widely shared by accounts spreading Russian propaganda.’

Remarkably, Monbiot offered no counter-arguments to ‘Pilger’s claims’, no facts, relying entirely on smear by association. This was not journalism; it was sinister, hit and run, McCarthy-style propaganda.

Earlier, Monbiot had tweeted acerbically:

‘Never let @johnpilger persuade you that he has a principled objection to occupation and invasion. He appears to be fine with them, as long as the aggressor is Russia, not Israel, the US or the UK.’

In fact, for years, Pilger reported – often secretly and at great risk – from the Soviet Union and its European satellites. A chapter of his book, ‘Heroes’, is devoted to his secret meetings with and support for Soviet dissidents (See: John Pilger, ‘Heroes’, Pan, 1987, pp.431-440). In his 1977 undercover film on Czechoslovakia, ‘A Faraway Country’, he described the country’s oppressors as ‘fascists’. He commented:

‘The people I interview in this film know they are taking great risks just by talking to me, but they insist on speaking out. Such is their courage and their commitment to freedom in Czechoslovakia.’

Three days before Monbiot’s article was published in the Guardian, Pilger had tweeted of Ukraine:

‘The invasion of a sovereign state is lawless and wrong. A failure to understand the cynical forces that provoked the invasion of Ukraine insults the victims.’

Pilger is one of the most respected journalists of our time precisely because he has taken a principled and consistent stand against all forms of imperialism, including Soviet imperialism, Chinese imperialism (particularly its underpinning of Pol Pot), Indonesian imperialism (its invasion of East Timor), and so on.

Conclusion – ‘Whataboutism’ Or ‘Wearenobetterism’?

Regardless of the history and context of what came before, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is a major international crime and the consequences are hugely serious.

Our essential point for over 20 years has been that the public is bombarded with the crimes of Official Enemies by ‘mainstream’ media, while ‘our’ crimes are ignored, or downplayed, or ‘justified’. A genuinely free and independent media would be exactly as tough and challenging on US-UK-NATO actions and policies as they are on Russian actions and policies.

To point out this glaring double standard is not to ‘carry water for Putin’; any more than pointing out state-corporate deceptions over Iraq, Libya and Syria meant we held any kind of candle for Saddam, Gaddafi or Assad.

As Chomsky has frequently pointed out, it is easy to condemn the crimes of Official Enemies. But it is a basic ethical principle that, first and foremost, we should hold to account those governments for which we share direct political and moral responsibility. This is why we focus so intensively on the crimes of our own government and its leading allies.

We have condemned Putin’s war of aggression and supported demands for an immediate withdrawal. We are not remotely pro-Russian government – we revile Putin’s tyranny and state violence exactly as much as we revile the West’s tyrannical, imperial violence. We have repeatedly made clear that we oppose all war, killing and hate. Our guiding belief is that these horrors become less likely when journalism drops its double standards and challenges ‘our’ crimes in the same way it challenges ‘theirs’.

Chomsky explained:

‘Suppose I criticise Iran. What impact does that have? The only impact it has is in fortifying those who want to carry out policies I don’t agree with, like bombing.’

Our adding a tiny drop of criticism to the tsunami of Western global, billion-dollar-funded, 24/7 loathing of Putin achieves nothing beyond the outcome identified by Chomsky. If we have any hope of positively impacting the world, it lies in countering the illusions and violence of the government for which we are morally accountable.

But why speak up now, in particular? Shouldn’t we just shut up and ‘get on board’ in a time of crisis? No, because war is a time when propaganda messages are hammered home with great force: ‘We’re the Good Guys standing up for democracy.’ It is a vital time to examine and challenge these claims.

What critics dismiss as ‘Whataboutism’ is actually ‘Wearenobetterism’. If ‘we’ are no better, or if ‘we’ are actually worse, then where does that leave ‘our’ righteous moral outrage? Can ‘compassion’ rooted in deep hypocrisy be deeply felt?

Critics dismissing evidence of double standards as ‘whataboutery’, are promoting the view that ‘their’ crimes should be wholly condemned, but not those committed by ‘Us’ and ‘Our’ allies. The actions of Official Enemies are to be judged by a different standard than that by which we judge ourselves.

As we pointed out via Twitter:

Spot all the high-profile commentators who condemn Russia’s aggression against Ukraine…

…and who remain silent about or support:

* Invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq

* NATO’s destruction of Libya

* Saudi-led coalition bombing of Yemen

* Apartheid Israel’s crushing of Palestinians

The question has to be asked: Is the impassioned public response to another media bombardment of the type described by Howard Zinn at the top of this alert a manifestation of the power of human compassion, or is it a manifestation of power?

Are we witnessing genuine human concern, or the ability of global state-corporate interests to sell essentially the same story over and over again? The same bad guy: Milosevic, Bin Laden, Saddam, Gaddafi, Assad and Putin; the same Good Guys: US, UK, NATO and ‘our’ obedient clients; the same alleged noble cause: freedom, democracy, human rights; the same means: confrontation, violence, a flood of bombs and missiles (‘the best ones’). And the same results: control of whole countries, massively increased arms budgets, and control of natural resources.

Ultimately, we are being asked to believe that the state-corporate system that has illegally bombed, droned, invaded, occupied and sanctioned so many countries over the last few decades – a system that responds even to the threat of human extinction from climate change with ‘Blah, blah, blah!’ – is motivated by compassion for the suffering of Ukrainian civilians. As Erich Fromm wrote:

‘To be naive and easily deceived is impermissible, today more than ever, when the prevailing untruths may lead to a catastrophe because they blind people to real dangers and real possibilities.’2

  1. Quoted, John Pilger, Hidden Agendas, Vintage, 1998, p.45.
  2. Fromm, The Art Of Being, Continuum, 1992, p. 19.
The post Doubling Down On Double Standards: The Ukraine Propaganda Blitz first appeared on Dissident Voice.