Category Archives: Narrative

The Subtleties of Anti-Russia Leftist Rhetoric

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.

In a recent article – How the organized Left got Covid wrong, learned to love lockdowns and lost its mind: an autopsy – Christian Parenti writes this about Chomsky:

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.

The post The Subtleties of Anti-Russia Leftist Rhetoric first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Ending “West’s Neocolonial Oppression”: On the New Language and Superstructures

The Russia-Ukraine war has quickly turned into a global conflict. One of the likely outcomes of this war is the very redefinition of the current world order, which has been in effect, at least since the collapse of the Soviet Union over three decades ago.

Indeed, there is a growing sense that a new global agenda is forthcoming, one that could unite Russia and China and, to a degree, India and others, under the same banner. This is evident, not only by the succession of the earth-shattering events underway, but, equally important, the language employed to describe these events.

The Russian position on Ukraine has morphed throughout the war from merely wanting to “demilitarize” and “denazify” Ukraine to a much bigger regional and global agenda, to eventually, per the words of Russia’s Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov, “put an end to the unabashed expansion” of NATO, and the “unabashed drive towards full domination by the US and its Western subjects on the world stage.”

On April 30, Lavrov went further, stating in an interview with the official Chinese news agency, Xinhua, that Russia’s war “contributes to the process of freeing the world from the West’s neocolonial oppression,” predicated on “racism and an exceptionality.”

But Russia is not the only country that feels this way. China, too, even India, and many others. The meeting between Lavrov and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi on March 30, served as a foundation of this truly new global language. Statements made by the two countries’ top diplomats were more concerned about challenging US hegemony than the specifics of the Ukraine war.

Those following the evolution of the Russia-China political discourse, even before the start of the Russia-Ukraine war on February 24, will notice that the language employed supersedes that of a regional conflict, into the desire to bring about the reordering of world affairs altogether. 

But is this new world order possible? If yes, what would it look like? These questions, and others, remain unanswered, at least for now. What we know, however, is that the Russian quest for global transformation exceeds Ukraine by far, and that China, too, is on board.

While Russia and China remain the foundation of this new world order, many other countries, especially in the Global South, are eager to join. This should not come as a surprise as frustration with the unilateral US-led world order has been brewing for many years, and has come at a great cost. Even the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres, though timid at times, has warned against this unilaterality, calling instead on the international community to commit itself to  “the values of multilateralism and diplomacy for peace.”

However, the pro-Russian stances in the South – as indicated by the refusal of many governments to join western sanctions on Moscow, and the many displays of popular support through protests, rallies and statements – continue to lack a cohesive narrative. Unlike the Soviet Union of yesteryears, Russia of today does not champion a global ideology, like socialism, and its current attempt at articulating a relatable global discourse remains, for now, limited.

It is obviously too early to examine any kind of superstructure – language, political institutions, religion, philosophy, etc – resulting from the Russia-NATO global conflict, Russia-Ukraine war and the growing Russia-China affinity.

Though much discussion has been dedicated to the establishing of an alternative monetary system, in the case of Lavrov’s and Yi’s new world order, a fully-fledged substructure is yet to be developed.

New substructures will only start forming once the national currency of countries like Russia and China replace the US dollar, alternative money transfer systems, like CIPS, are put into effect, new trade routes are open, and eventually new modes of production replace the old ones. Only then, superstructures will follow, including new political discourses, historical narratives, everyday language, culture, art and even symbols.

The thousands of US-western sanctions slapped on Russia were largely meant to weaken the country’s ability to navigate outside the current US-dominated global economic system. Without this maneuverability, the West believes, Moscow would not be able to create and sustain an alternative economic model that is centered around Russia.

True, US sanctions on Cuba, North Korea, Iraq, Iran, Venezuela and others have failed to produce the coveted ‘regime change’, but they have succeeded in weakening the substructures of these societies, denying them the chance to be relevant economic actors at a regional and international stage. They were merely allowed to subsist, and barely so.

Russia, on the other hand, is a global power, with a relatively large economy, international networks of allies, trade partners and supporters. That in mind, surely a regime change will not take place in Moscow any time soon. The latter’s challenge, however, is whether it will be able to orchestrate a sustainable paradigm shift under current western pressures and sanctions.

Time will tell. For now, it is certain that some kind of a global transformation is taking place, along with the potential of a ‘new world order’, a term, ironically employed by the US government more than any other.

The post Ending “West’s Neocolonial Oppression”: On the New Language and Superstructures first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Phone Call Records Appear to Cast Doubt on Ukrainian Claims of Russian Atrocities

Phone call records appear to cast doubt on Ukrainian claims of Russian atrocities

Ukrainian and Western media outlets have accused Russian troops of killing civilians in Bucha and other towns around Ukraine’s capital, Kiev in the past month. Excerpts of phone calls obtained by RT, however, appear to contradict some of the allegations and seem to paint a different picture of the situation on the ground.

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky claimed, on Thursday, that the situation in settlement of Borodyanka is “much more disastrous” than that reported in Bucha, about 25 kilometers (15.5 miles), to the southeast. Moscow has strongly denied the allegations and accused Ukraine, and its Western backers of trying to “frame” its personnel.

RT was unable to independently verify the authenticity of the recordings. In what appears to be an excerpt from a satellite phone call, an alleged reporter identified only as ‘Simon’ tells his colleagues he visited Borodyanka and found that “there’s no bodies in the streets at all,” contrary to what he was led to expect.

The town has been “shelled to pieces,” he outlines, “but there’s no evidence of any rights abuses here at all.” Simon claims that he and his crew interviewed multiple residents who said the Russian troops had been very friendly and gave them food and water and other supplies. “And we got quotes on camera for that,” he adds.

“I don’t know what the prosecutor was talking about, but we have seen nothing like that at all. It’s a completely different picture,” he continues, adding that a French journalist may have seen the body of someone killed by shelling, but “no executions.”

The alleged reporter ends the call by saying he was going back to Bucha, to “try and find some more evidence of extrajudicial killings there, but there’s no sign of any of that here.”

Ukraine accused Russia of murdering over 400 civilians in Bucha before retreating from the town near Kiev last week. The US and its allies have backed Kiev’s claims, citing them as reasons to impose more sanctions against Russia.

Moscow has categorically denied the accusations, saying that Russian troops pulled out of the town on March 30, and that claims of killings appeared only four days later – after Ukrainian security forces and TV cameras arrived in the town.

Another recording obtained by RT seems to depict a conversation between two Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) officials. The SBU is the local successor agency to the Soviet KGB.

They discuss the situation in Kukhari, a town about 60 kilometers (37 miles) northwest of Bucha, and seem to contradict the prevailing media narrative coming from Kiev and the NATO capitals.

“From March 24 to April 3, after we pushed the ‘orcs’ away from here,” says a person only identified as Sergey Anatolyevich, speaking to someone named Lesogor and using a derogatory Ukrainian term for Russians. “After the unit that pushed them out moved on, the territorial defense came from Malin … and marauded during that time. Looted everything they could. Broke down doors, everything. Safes were opened, cars were stolen. They stuffed the cars with everything worth anything and took it away,” he adds.

“It turns out the ‘Moskals’ took nothing, but ours went in and looted everything,” Sergey Anatolyevich adds, using another derogatory term for Russians. Malin is a nearby town southwest of Kukhari, held by the Ukrainian military.

When Lesogor asks which unit was looting, Sergey Anatolyevich replies that no one really knows. “Some say Volhynian, others say someone else,” he says, referring to a region in western Ukraine.

Moscow attacked the neighboring state in late February, following Ukraine’s failure to implement the terms of the Minsk agreements signed in 2014, and Russia’s eventual recognition of the Donbass republics of Donetsk and Lugansk. The German and French brokered Minsk Protocol was designed to regularize the status of the regions within the Ukrainian state.

Russia has now demanded that Ukraine officially declare itself a neutral country that will never join the US-led NATO military bloc. Kiev insists the Russian offensive was completely unprovoked and has denied claims it was planning to retake the two regions by force.

The post Phone Call Records Appear to Cast Doubt on Ukrainian Claims of Russian Atrocities first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Fabricating Putin Quotes and Banning Paraplegic Athletes to Undermine Russia

Mobilizing a population to vilify and hate a targeted enemy is a tactic that leaders have used since before the dawn of human history, and it is being used to demonize Russia and Vladimir Putin in the current conflict. If we want to join the march to war, we can join the hate fest.  But if we want a more objective and honest assessment of events, we must rely upon facts that our government and its cheer-leading mainstream media are not anxious for us to view.

In the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine,  all things Russian are being punished. Russian athletes, including paraplegics, are barred from international sports competition. Century old Russian writers and musicians such as Tolstoy and Tchaikovsky are being removed from book shelves and concerts. Even Russian bred cats are not exempt.

If such actions are justified, why was there no such banning of US athletes, musicians or writers after the US invasion of Iraq?  Moreover, why are so few people outraged by the bombing and killing of 370,000 Yemeni people?  Why are so few people outraged as thousands of Afghans starve because the United States is seizing Afghanistan’s national assets which were in western banks?

Why Ukraine?

There has been massive and widespread publicity about Ukraine. It is a simple Hollywood script:  Ukraine is the angel, Russia is the devil, Zelensky is the hero and all good people will wear blue and yellow ribbons.

Maintaining this image requires propaganda to promote it, and censorship to prevent challengers debunking it.

This has required trashing some long held western traditions. By banning all Russian athletes from international competition, the International Olympic Committee and different athletic federations have violated the Olympic Charter which prohibits discrimination on the basis of nationality.

Censorship

The West prides itself on free speech yet censorship of alternative viewpoints is now widespread in Europe and North America.  Russia Today and other Russian media outlets are being blocked on the internet as well as cable TV.  Ironically,  numerous programs on RT were hosted by Americans, for example journalist Chris Hedges and comedian Lee Camp.  The US is silencing its own citizens.

Censorship or shadow banning is widespread on social media. On April 6, one of the best informed military analysts, Scott Ritter @realScottRitter, was suspended from Twitter. Why?  Because he  suggested that the victims of Bucha may have been murdered not by Russians, but rather by Ukrainian ultra-nationalists and the US and UK may also be culpable.

The 2015 Netflix documentary titled “Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom” deals with the Maidan (Kiev central square) uprising of 2013-2014.  It ignores the most essential elements of the events: the management provided by the US  and the muscle provided by ultra-nationalists of the Right Sector and Azov Battalion. The attacks and killing of Ukrainian police are whitewashed away.

By contrast, the 2016 documentary “Ukraine on Fire provides the background and essential elements of the conflict.  It is not available on Netflix and was banned from distribution on YouTube for some time.

Most people in the West are unaware of the US involvement in the 2014 Kiev coup, subsequent US funding and training of ultra-nationalist and Neo Nazi battalions, and the eight year war in eastern Ukraine resulting in fourteen thousand deaths.

Sensational Accusations

Backed by US and UK intelligence agencies, Ukraine knows the importance of the information war. They make sensational accusations that receive uncritical media coverage. When the truth eventually comes out, it is ignored or buried on the back pages. Here are a few examples:

– In 2014,  eleven civilians were killed in eastern Ukraine when an apartment was hit in rebel held territory.  Ukraine tried to blame Russia even though no bombs were coming from Russia and the population is ethnically Russian.

– At the beginning of the current conflict, Ukrainian President Zelensky claimed that soldiers on Snake Island died heroically rather than surrender. Actually, all the soldiers surrendered.

– Ukraine and western media claim a maternity hospital in Mariupol was bombed by Russia. Evidence shows the hospital was taken over by Ukrainian military forces on March 7, two days before the bombing on March 9.

– The latest sensational accusations are regarding dead civilians in Bucha,  north of Kiev. Again, there is much contrary evidence. The Russian soldiers left Bucha on March 31, the mayor of Bucha announced the town liberated with no mention of atrocities on March 31, the Azov battalion entered Bucha on April 1,  the Ukrainian Defense Ministry published video of  “Russian” atrocities on April 3.

In most cases, western media does not probe the accusations or use simple logic to ask if they make sense.  However, in the case of Bucha story, the NY Times had to acknowledge they were “unable to independently verify the assertions by Ukraine’s Defense Ministry.”

Self Censorship

In addition to actual censorship, there is widespread self-censorship. Instead of reading what the Russians are saying, western political “analysts” engage in outlandish amateur psychology and speculation. With no factual basis, they speculate about what Putin wants and his mental state.

This is convenient if one does not want to deal with the real issues and arguments.

Most western analysts and journalists are afraid or unwilling to read or listen to what the Russian leaders say. That is unfortunate because those speeches are more clear and direct than those from western politicians who rely on public relations, spin and platitudes.

Fabricating quotes

Ignorance of Russian foreign policy is such that Truthout online magazine recently published an article which contains a sensational but completely invented quote from Putin. It says,

Putin here is clear enough: “Ukraine has no national rights that Russians are bound to respect. Prepare for reunification, reabsorption, or some other euphemism for subaltern status with Mother Russia.”

Putin said no such thing and any moderately knowledgeable person would recognize this to be fake.

When I emailed the co-author, Carl Davidson, asking where the quotation came from, he admitted inventing it. This is significant because the statement goes to the core of what the conflict is about. Is Russia trying to absorb all of Ukraine? Do they intend to occupy Ukraine?  Anyone who reads the speeches of Putin and Lavrov, such as here, here and here,  knows they do not. Davidson’s fabricated quote suggests he has not read the speeches himself.

Ukraine in the Global Context

The article with the made-up quote contends that “Putin is part of a global right-wing authoritarian movements that seeks to ‘overthrow’ the 20th Century.” This analysis is close to that of the US Democratic Party, which sees the major global division being between “authoritarianism” vs “democracy”.

It is highly US-centered and partisan, with Putin somehow lumped with Trump. It  is also self-serving, with US Democrats as the embodiment of “democracy”.  It is completely contrary to a class analysis.

This faulty analysis has major contradictions. It is well known that Biden is unpopular. Biden’s latest approval rating is under 42%. It is less well known in the West that Putin is popular in Russia. Since the intervention in Ukraine his approval rating has increased to over 80%.

Also largely unknown in the West, most of the world does NOT support the Western analysis of the Ukraine conflict.  Countries representing 59% of the global population abstained or voted against the condemnation of Russia at the UN General Assembly. These countries tend to see US exceptionalism and economic-military domination as a key problem. They do not think it helpful to demonize Russia and they urge negotiations and quick resolution to the Ukraine war.

Cuba said:

History will hold the United States accountable for the consequences of an increasingly offensive military doctrine beyond NATO’s borders which threatens international peace, security and stability…. Russia has the right to defend itself.

South African President Ramaphosa blamed NATO saying:

The war could have been avoided if NATO had heeded warnings from amongst its own leaders and officials over the years that its eastward expansion would lead to greater, not less, instability in the region.

The Chinese representative said:

The final settlement of the Ukraine crisis requires abandoning the Cold War mentality, abandoning the logic of ensuring one’s own security at the expense of others’ security, and abandoning the approach of seeking regional security by expanding military bloc.

Many western anti-war movements are critical of Russia’s invasion. Others, such as the US Peace Council, see the US and NATO as largely responsible. However, they all see the necessity of pressing to stop the war before it gets worse.

In contrast, the western military-industrial-media complex is fueling the war with propaganda, censorship, banning, demonization and more weapons. It appears they do not want a resolution to the conflict. Just as they supported NATO pushing up against Russia, knowing that it risked provoking Russia to the point of retaliation, they seem to be pushing for a protracted bloody conflict in Ukraine, knowing that it risks global conflagration.  Yet they persist, while crying crocodile tears.

The post Fabricating Putin Quotes and Banning Paraplegic Athletes to Undermine Russia first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Is Europe Really More Civilized? Ukraine Conflict a Platform for Racism and Rewriting History

When a gruesome six-minute video of Ukrainian soldiers shooting and torturing handcuffed and tied up Russian soldiers circulated online, outraged people on social media and elsewhere compared this barbaric behavior to that of Daesh.

In a rare admission of moral responsibility, Oleksiy Arestovych, an adviser to the Ukrainian President, quickly reminded Ukrainian fighters of their responsibility under international law. “I would like to remind all our military, civilian and defense forces, once again, that the abuse of prisoners is a war crime that has no amnesty under military law and has no statute of limitations,” he said, asserting that “We are a European army”, as if the latter is synonymous with civilized behavior.

Even that supposed claim of responsibility conveyed subtle racism, as if to suggest that non-westerners, non-Europeans, may carry out such grisly and cowardly violence, but certainly not the more rational, humane and intellectually superior Europeans.

The comment, though less obvious, reminds one of the racist remarks by CBS’ foreign correspondent, Charlie D’Agata, on February 26, when he shamelessly compared Middle Eastern cities with the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, stating that “Unlike Iraq or Afghanistan, (…) this is a relatively civilized, relatively European city”.

The Russia-Ukraine war has been a stage of racist comments and behavior, some explicit and obvious, others implicit and indirect. Far from being implicit, however, Bulgarian Prime Minister, Kiril Petkov, did not mince words when, last February, he addressed the issue of Ukrainian refugees. Europe can benefit from Ukrainian refugees, he said, because “these people are Europeans. (…) These people are intelligent, they are educated people. This is not the refugee wave we have been used to, people we were not sure about their identity, people with unclear pasts, who could have been even terrorists.”

One of many other telling episodes that highlight western racism, but also continued denial of its grim reality, was an interview conducted by the Italian newspaper, La Repubblica, with the Ukrainian Azov Battalion Commander, Dmytro Kuharchuck. The latter’s militia is known for its far-right politics, outright racism and horrific acts of violence. Yet, the newspaper described Kuharchuck as “the kind of fighter you don’t expect. He reads Kant and he doesn’t only use his bazooka.” If this is not the very definition of denial, what is?

That said, our proud European friends must be careful before supplanting the word ‘European’ with ‘civilization’ and respect for human rights. They ought not to forget their past or rewrite their history because, after all, racially-based slavery is a European and western brand. The slave trade, as a result of which millions of slaves were shipped from Africa during the course of four centuries, was very much European. According to Encyclopedia Virginia, 1.8 million people “died on the Middle Passage of the transatlantic slave trade”. Other estimations put the number much higher.

Colonialism is another European quality. Starting in the 15th century, and lasting for centuries afterward, colonialism ravaged the entire Global South. Unlike the slave trade, colonialism enslaved entire peoples and divided whole continents, like Africa, among European spheres of influence.

The nation of Congo was literally owned by one person, Belgian King Leopold II. India was effectively controlled and colonized by the British East India Company and, later, by the British government. The fate of South America was largely determined by the US-imposed Monroe Doctrines of 1823. For nearly 200 years, this continent has paid – and continues to pay – an extremely heavy price of US colonialism and neocolonialism. No numbers or figures can possibly express the destruction and death toll inflicted by Western-European colonialism on the rest of the world, simply because the victims are still being counted. But for the sake of illustration, according to American historian, Adam Hochschild, ten million people have died in Congo alone from 1885 to 1908.

And how can we forget that World War I and II are also entirely European, leaving behind around 40 million and 75 million dead, respectively. (Other estimations are significantly higher). The gruesomeness of these European wars can only be compared to the atrocities committed, also by Europeans, throughout the South, for hundreds of years prior.

Mere months after The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) was formed in 1949, the eager western partners were quick to flex their muscles in Korea in 1950, instigating a war that lasted for three years, resulting in the death of nearly 5 million people. The Korean war, like many other NATO-instigated conflicts, remains an unhealed wound to this day.

The list goes on and on, from the disgraceful Opium Wars on China, starting in 1839, to the nuclear bombings of Japan in 1945, to the destruction of Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, in 1954, 1959 and 1970 respectively, to the political meddling, military interventions and regime change in numerous countries around the world. They are all the work of the West, of the US and its ever-willing ‘European partners’, all done in the name of spreading democracy, freedom and human rights.

If it were not for the Europeans, Palestine would have gained its independence decades ago, and its people, this writer included, would have not been made refugees, suffering under the yoke of Zionist Israel. If it were not for the US and the Europeans, Iraq would have remained a sovereign country and millions of lives would have been spared in one of the world’s oldest civilizations; and Afghanistan would have not endured this untold hardship. Even when the US and its European friends finally relented and left Afghanistan last year, they continue to hold the country hostage, by blocking the release of its funds, leading to actual starvation among the people of that war-torn country.

So before bragging about the virtues of Europe, and the demeaning of everyone else, the likes of Arestovych, D’Agata, and Petkov should take a look at themselves in the mirror and reconsider their unsubstantiated ethnocentric view of the world and of history. In fact, if anyone deserves bragging rights it is those colonized nations that resisted colonialism, the slaves that fought for their freedom, and the oppressed nations that resisted their European oppressors, despite the pain and suffering that such struggles entailed.

Sadly, for Europe, however, instead of using the Russia-Ukraine war as an opportunity to reflect on the future of the European project, whatever that is, it is being used as an opportunity to score cheap points against the very victims of Europe everywhere. Once more, valuable lessons remain unlearned.

The post Is Europe Really More Civilized? Ukraine Conflict a Platform for Racism and Rewriting History first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Everyone Can be a Poet Under Just the Right Moment of Epiphany: April is Poetry Month

I could write a book on why I believe poetry can heal, engage our inner soul and give young and old a voice from which to sing ourselves into being.  Even out here on the coast, we have poets gathering at dawn after a long day and night catching fish.

It’s not just another month. National Poetry Month (first organized in 1996) celebrates poetry to increase awareness and appreciation of poetry.

2022 National Poetry Month Poster

It’s not just a Carl Sandburg, Walt Whitman or Maya Angelou time of remembrance of past laureates. Poetry is for the masses, and written by the working class.

For example, since 2013 Astoria has organized the FisherPoets gathering celebrating poetry, stories, song and art of fishermen and fisherwomen.

There’s even an anthology titled, Anchored in Deep Water.

One of my students in the memoir class I teach reminded me of his own walkabout on earth as a man, a father, husband and someone who has survived many a travail. “We all can’t live large and do great important things, but . . . .” He then quoted Pulitzer Prize winning poet Mary Oliver:

May I be the tiniest nail in the house of the universe, tiny but useful. May I stay forever in the stream. May I look down upon the windflower and the bull thistle and the coreopsis with the greatest respect.

Mary Oliver in The New Yorker | The New Yorker

A great illustration of this simplicity of observation and self reflection is seen in Patrick Dixon’s poem, “Boat Puller.” Again, a tiny nail in the universe, but he’s harvesting wisdom as he’s taught by a Norwegian how to fish in Alaska:

While I was picking fish with you,
stunned at the sight of the sea so near
and the mountains filling the western sky,
I thought of dry midwestern cornfields,
and of lost, empty days filled with a wish to leave
…..but nowhere to go.

You bent over a red to show me how to use a fish pick,
never realizing what was happening to me,
how you were stripping away the web of my past life,
pulling me through to solid ground.

Fisher poet publishes memoir about his years in Cook Inlet

I walked aged stones over a bridge made famous by an 18th Century poet.

Brig o' Doon - Wikipedia

One side of my family came from Ayr, where Robert Burns was born. Scotland’s National Poet immortalized the bridge in his poem “Tam O’Shanter“. Tam and Meg (his horse) escape the clutches of the witch Nannie by galloping over the Brig O’Doon. This escapade left Nannie with nothing more than Meg’s tail.

I was a kid then, crossing the river Doon many times, and I am so old I saw plenty of salmon run the currents. I have since graduated into a panoply of world poets. One big thing for me as a poet was running my gift of gab in front of a crowd at a Poetry Slam in El Paso.

Purely fun, as we were lubricated with tequila and mescal, the poets went head to head to claim the loudest crowd applause. It’s a literary ruckus; in the parlance of my literary world, those folk are called performance artists.

The Undressing”: Poetry of Passion Laid Bare | The New Yorker

One of my favorite poets, Li-Young Lee, was born in Djakarta, Indonesia, in 1957 to Chinese political exiles. I’ve heard him read twice live. Here, a slice of his poem, “Immigrant Blues”:

People have been trying to kill me since I was born,
a man tells his son, trying to explain
the wisdom of learning a second tongue.

It’s an old story from the previous century
about my father and me.

The same old story from yesterday morning
about me and my son.

It’s called “Survival Strategies
and the Melancholy of Racial Assimilation.”

It’s called “Psychological Paradigms of Displaced Persons,”

called “The Child Who’d Rather Play than Study.”

Practice until you feel
the language inside you, says the man.

For Lee, his work is acclaimed for its use of silence and “near mysticism” which is nonetheless “fully engaged in life and memory while building and shaping the self from words.”

That is the universality of poetry, really, to become tied to life and construct oneself through words, as if the power of poetry is an electrical cord of life pulsating through the artist to be read and celebrated by an audience. We should always find a universal connection to a poet’s lamentations.

Teaching poetry in El Paso and in Spokane, I’ve found even the most hardened souls can lift light or soft shadow from scabbed-over souls and hardscrabble lives.

One of my teachers, Tucson poet Richard Shelton, took us undergraduate and graduate students to the Arizona State prison to help facilitate writing workshops with men behind bars. He ended up doing it for 30 years, and wrote the book, Crossing the Yard.

Crossing the Yard: Thirty Years as a Prison Volunteer: Shelton, Richard: 9780816525959: Amazon.com: Books

I’ve taught poetry and photography to gang-influenced youth in El Paso. We’re talking about some students who were huffers, that is, they sniffed gas and glue to get high. The summer session pulled from these young men and women the stories of their neighborhood, El Segundo Barrio. The old people and merchants were captured in film, essays and poems.

We held a huge event with youth showing snapshots and others reading poems. Eighty-year-old grannies (abuelas) were bawling their eyes out. Some told me, Nadie piensa que vale nada, pero escúchalo ahora.

The hardened youth gave luminescence to their families. Translated above: “No one thinks he is worth anything but look at him now.”

Pablo Neruda | Poetry Foundation

Heck, we see my favorite poet, Chilean Pablo Neruda, depicted in the 1994 film, l Postino (The Postman). Even recently, Adam Driver played a bus driver-poet in Jim Jarmusch’s film, Patterson, inspired in part by William Carlos Williams.

William Carlos Williams | Poetry Foundation

Teaching poetry and encouraging anyone to learn to listen to their own songs, I believe a great healing could take place if we all stopped our social media-fueled lives and lend pause to our inner voices. And to harvest life and nature around us: the simple things, which in poetry are that tiny nail we all should pound into our collective creative home. William Carlos Williams:

4th of July

I
The ship moves
but its smoke
moves with the wind
faster than the ship

— thick coils of it
through leafy trees
pressing
upon the river

II
The heat makes
this place of the woods
a room
in which two robins pain

crying
distractedly
over the plight of
their unhappy young

III
During the explosions
at dawn, the celebrations
I could hear
a native cuckoo

in the distance
as at dusk, before
I’d heard
a night hawk calling

 

The post Everyone Can be a Poet Under Just the Right Moment of Epiphany: April is Poetry Month 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.