Category Archives: US Hypocrisy

June 23 Oakland Protest Against Barbara Lee’s Vote for $40 billion to fund War in Ukraine.  Join Us.

On Thursday June 23 people will gather outside Rep Barbara Lee’s office in Oakland at 11:30 am to protest her recent vote for $40 billion for the war in Ukraine. The demonstration is called in conjunction with the International Day of Action for Peace in Ukraine called by the Peace in Ukraine Coalition.  There will be a companion demonstration on the same day in at the Northampton, MA, office of Rep. Jimmy McGovern who also voted for the murderous $40 billion, and accompanied Pelosi in her recent visit to Ukraine.

This massive funding package represents a clear escalation of the war in Ukraine by the government of the United States using the Ukrainian people as cannon fodder in a proxy war with Russia.  The funding pours fuel on the flames of that war.  It will prolong the war, resulting in thousands more Ukrainian and Russian deaths, at the very least.

And this funding is one more step in escalating and widening the scope of the war – up to and including nuclear war.

WHAT: Protest of Barbara Lee’s vote for $40 Billion for the War in Ukraine. This protest is in conjunction with a global day of action against the war, preceding the NATO summit in Madrid, called by the Peace in Ukraine Coalition.

WHERE: 1 Kaiser Plaza, Oakland, California. (Barbara Lee’s Oakland Office)

WHEN: Thursday, June 23rd at 11:30 am.

WHO: Community and AntiWar activists and organizations including Code Pink, Democratic Socialists of American (DSA), East Bay Vets for Peace, Peace in Ukraine Coalition, United Against War & Militarism.

Despite promising just two months ago to “work relentlessly toward de-escalation” of the war in Ukraine, California Congresswoman Barbara Lee voted in lockstep with every Democrat in Congress behind President Biden’s war policy.  This includes not only Barbara Lee but all the other self-styled progressives in Congress, including Bernie Sanders, AOC and the rest of the “Squad.”

Barbara Lee because of her lone vote in opposing the two decade war in Afghanistan, is held up as an icon proving that there are progressive Democratic politicians who will vote for peace.  The promise held out by Lee and her Democratic colleagues that they could be a force for peace now lies in ruins.

Why U.S. involvement in the war in Ukraine must be opposed.

One can look at the war in several ways.

If it is a war between Russia and Ukraine, then it is no business of the United States.

If one believes that it is a war by an idealistic to US to defend sovereignty and national borders, ask the people of Iraq if the US respects sovereignty – or the people of Afghanistan or Libya or Vietnam or Venezuela … the list goes on and on.

If one believes that this is a war to defend democracy, then ask the Palestinians suffering under Apartheid imposed by Israel which is supported by the US government or the people of Saudi Arabia or the many other dictatorships around the world that the US has supported.

No, this is a proxy war of the US against Russia being waged to the last Ukrainian.  If that has not been evident since the role of the US in backing the violent coup in 2014 against a duly elected Ukrainian President, then it is beyond doubt now with the declaration of Defense Secretary Austin that the goal of the US is to “weaken” Russia, the declaration of Joe Biden that Putin must not be allowed to govern and the declaration of Nancy Pelosi that the US must have total “victory” over Russia.  The Biden administration has chosen to confront another major nuclear weapons power, Russia – and that confrontation constitutes an existential threat to all of humanity.

Ukraine now wages war only to improve its bargaining power at the inevitable negotiations which will end the conflict admitted David Arakhamia, who leads Ukraine’s negotiations with Russia and is one of Volodymyr Zelensky’s closest advisers. 200-500 Ukrainian soldiers dying each day with a total of 1000 dead or wounded daily, the latest numbers given by Ukraine, simply to improve a negotiating position is a highly immoral exercise.  Ukraine has now become essentially a puppet state at the mercy of the US for arms and aid.  It is naïve beyond belief to believe that Ukraine proceeds in this immoral fashion without approval of the US – or even perhaps coercion by the US to fight on so as to save face for its patron Biden.

The Biden administration can stop the proxy war.  And we have the power to influence the Biden administration and the pols who support it.  It is our right and responsibility to exercise that power and stop this war.

Who benefits from the war and who is damaged?

Cui bono? Billions in funding for the war serves the interests of weapons manufacturers, military contractors, who pocket untold profits from the war in Ukraine.  Some of these dollars go to funding the endless proliferation of hawkish think tanks whose well paid employees show up as talking heads or op-ed writers in the mainstream media doing all in their power to convince us that “the other” is evil and that war is the answer.  These are media manikins and are ideologues driven by a desire for US world domination and therefore very dangerous

At the same time funding cannot be found for the many problems we face in the US – homelessness, inadequately funded schools, crumbling infrastructure, failure to deal adequately with climate change and now even shortages of baby formula!  Inflation in the U.S. was already running at over 7% before the conflict began due to the tragically inadequate response to Covid-19 and out of control “quantitative easing”; i.e., printing money with abandon.  But the war and sanctions have worsened the inflation which is now running at over 8%.  The average American sees this daily at the gas station and supermarket where soaring prices are now the rule.

Beyond that we must look to the entire world and especially the Global South both of which are suffering beyond belief from inflation and food shortages due to the US sanctions and the continuation of the war.  Led by India, China and nations representing the overwhelming majority of humanity, the world has refused to respect the illegal sanctions.  That leaves only the US and its European allies, former colonial powers, in supporting the US proxy war.  It is not Russia but the US that is isolated.

  • No weapons for war in Ukraine
  • No Proxy War with Russia
  • No to Nuclear War
The post June 23 Oakland Protest Against Barbara Lee’s Vote for $40 billion to fund War in Ukraine.  Join Us. first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Summit of the Americas Flops While Workers Summit Exposes Cracks in the Imperial Façade

Valentín, the man next to us in line as we made our way across the international border, asked what we had been doing in Tijuana. We had been at the Workers Summit of the Americas, organized as an alternative to Biden’s Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles. Our summit was as a place where countries besieged by and barred from the US could participate and was held in cooperation with a kindred counter-summit in Los Angeles.

Valentín, who had been born in Mexico and spent most of his working life in the United States, had seen the border from both perspectives. He commented about Biden’s summit that although the US is rich in resources, industry, and agriculture, “it wants it all,” which pretty much sums up what imperialism is about.

Historical debt to Mexico

That border had not always been at Tijuana. As the immigrant rights movement reminds us, “we did not cross the border, the border crossed us.”

Texas seceded from Mexico and was annexed to the US in 1845. The following year, the Mexican-American War was provoked by the US in a campaign of conquest. Two years later, Mexico was forced to sign the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo ceding nearly half its national territory. The US gained what would become parts or all of California, Arizona, Nevada, Utah, New Mexico, Wyoming, and Colorado. The Gadsden Purchase of 1853 added southern Arizona and New Mexico to the spoils of war.

In all, 55% of Mexico, over half of her sovereign territory, was taken by the Colossus of the North. Consequently, the US owes Mexico a historical debt for the theft of its sovereign territory. This debt should be included with other major US historical debts such as those incurred by the exploitation of African slave labor and the genocide of its original peoples.

Mexican Revolution

Besides acknowledging the theft of Mexican lands, those of us on the left should also recognize Mexico’s considerable political contributions. The Mexican Revolution stands in the pantheon of great 20th century revolutions. Before the Russian, Chinese, Cuban, Vietnamese, and other revolutions, before the many Third World liberation struggles of the last century, came the Mexican Revolution, which began in 1910.

As the first of the major 20th century revolutions, the Mexican Revolution guaranteed labor rights, nationalized subsoil rights, secularized the state and curbed the power of the Roman Catholic Church, and granted inalienable land rights to indigenous communities. Women’s rights were advanced, and women fought as soldiers and even commanders in General Emilio Zapata’s revolutionary army.

There was no established path for the Mexicans when they made their revolution. That path was made by walking; they led the way.

Cracks in the imperial façade

For the first time since its 1994 launch in Miami, the US was hosting the Summit of the Americas, convened by the Washington-based Organization of American States (OAS). However, as AP News described, Biden’s maneuverings in the lead-up to his summit was a “scramble” to “avoid a flop.”

That was in part because, today, Mexico again led the way challenging imperial hubris. Its president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO), stood up to Biden’s imperial summons to come to the summit. AMLO would only dignify the event with his presence if all the countries of Our Americas were invited. Even after the US dispatched a team to Mexico City to cajole him to attend – but still refusing to invite the heads of Cuba, Nicaragua, and Venezuela – AMLO stood by his original principled stand.

Joe Biden surely found it lonely with the presidents of Bolivia, Honduras, Guatemala, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines similarly boycotting his summit. The presidents of El Salvador and Uruguay also purposely missed the party, albeit for different reasons.

Biden’s summit took place, but the buzz both inside the meeting and outside was the hypocrisy of the US attempt to try to appear to be promoting a “Summit for Democracy” while its actions have proven the opposite. The US-imposed illegal sanctions and blockades – unilateral coercive measures – on countries whose people fail to elect leaders sufficiently obedient to Washington are, in fact, a denial of democracy.

And speaking of unelected leaders, the Trump-anointed and Biden-supported so-called “interim president of Venezuela,” Juan Guaidó, wasn’t on the guest list for the Los Angeles summit either. Even though the US and a handful of sycophantic allies still embarrassingly recognize the puppet as the Venezuelan head of state, he was closeted.

Inside Biden’s summit, Argentinian President Alberto Fernández delivered what the press called a “damning speech” condemning the US president to his face for excluding other states. Belize, Chile, and a number of Caribbean countries also criticized the exclusions, calling for a realignment of regional institutions.

Outside Biden’s summit, the official Cuban government statement commented: “Arrogance, fear of inconvenient truths being voiced, determination to prevent the meeting from discussing the most pressing and complex issues in the hemisphere, and the contradictions of its own feeble and polarized political system are behind the US government’s decision to once again resort to exclusion in order to hold a meeting with no concrete contributions yet beneficial for imperialism’s image.”

As Ajamu Baraka of the Black Alliance for Peace commented: “For the peoples of our region, the failure of Biden’s Summit of the Americas would be a welcome event.”

Even a corporate press report admitted: “President Joe Biden sought to put on a show of hemispheric unity at a Los Angeles summit this week, but boycotts, bluster and lackluster pledges instead exposed the shaky state of US influence in Latin America.”

Workers’ Summit of the Americas

In contrast, the Workers’ Summit of the Americas in Tijuana called for the unity of grassroots working class, peasant, political, and social movements to create a permanent forum for solidarity and linking of progressive struggles.

Organizers from workers, peace, human rights, and solidarity organizations from north of the Rio Grande included Alliance for Global Justice, All-African People’s Revolutionary Party, Fire This Time, Unión del Barrio, Troika Kollective, Black Lives Matter – OKC, the Latino Community Service Organization (CSO), Freedom Road Socialist Organization, and the Task Force on the Americas.

Mexican participation included Movimiento Social Por la Tierra, Sindicato Mexicano Electricista, and Frente Popular Revolucionario. Venezuelans included militants with the Plataforma de la Clase Obrera Antiimperialista (PCOA). Among the other participating organizations were Central de Trabajadores de Cuba, Asociación de Trabajadores del Campo de Nicaragua (ATC), and the Haitian MOLEGHAF.

Host Jesús Ruiz Barraza, rector of CUT-University of Tijuana, opened the encuantro on June 10. US political prisoner Mumia Abu Jamal, via recording, welcomed “the delegates of the excluded” in Tijuana. Former president of Ecuador, Rafael Correa, addressed the encuantro, also via recording.

Nelson Herrera of the Venezuelan PCOA, Rosario Rodríguez Remos of the Workers’ Central Union of Cuba, and Fausto Torres Arauz of the ATC of Nicaragua spoke. Revered Venezuelan campesino leader Braulio Alvarez, who had twice survived assassination attempts and is now a deputy in the National Assembly, addressed the meeting along with Venezuelan union leader Jacobo Torres de Leon.

The second day was devoted to movement building and featured workshops on solidarity with the countries excluded from the Biden summit along with workshops on regional integration.

With flags and banners flapping in the sea breeze, the last day convened on the international border. Speakers from both sides of the border and from throughout Our Americas addressed the crowd.

Standing in front of the border wall, Venezuelan-American activist with the FreeAlexSaab campaign William Camacaro called for the immediate release of the Venezuelan diplomat from a Miami prison. That day, June 12, marked the second year of Alex Saab’s imprisonment for the “crime” of engaging in legal international trade to buy needed food, fuel, and medicine for the Venezuelan people, but in contravention of the illegal US sanctions designed to asphyxiate that independent nation.

The final declaration of the Workers Summit called for a robust internationalism to promote solidarity with the sovereign nations and peoples suffering from sanctions imposed by the US and its allies. Latin America and the Caribbean were proclaimed a zone of peace.

The post Summit of the Americas Flops While Workers Summit Exposes Cracks in the Imperial Façade first appeared on Dissident Voice.

For the Peoples of our Region, the Failure of Biden’s Summit of the Americas Would be a Welcome Event

The Summit of the Americas is not the property of the host nation. The U.S. has no right to exclude, Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela, but has done so in disregard of their sovereignty. The U.S. is not fit to judge others or to be responsible for bringing nations together. Every leader in the hemisphere should boycott what has become a farcical event.

I applaud the decision by Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador not to attend this week’s so-called Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles and hope that by Wednesday a majority of the nations in our region would have joined him. However, I am hoping that unlike President Lopez Obrador who is still sending the Mexican foreign minister, other nations demonstrate that their dignity cannot be coerced and stay away completely. Why do I take this position?

If the threat by the Biden Administration as host of the Summit not to invite Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela, all sovereign nations in the Americas’ region, was not outrageous enough, the announced rationale that the administration did not invite these nations because of their human rights record and authoritarian governance is an absurd indignity that cannot be ignored.

I firmly believe that the U.S. should not be allowed to subvert, degrade, and humiliate nations and the peoples of our region with impunity!  A line of demarcation must be drawn between the nations and peoples who represent democracy and life and the parasitic hegemon to the North which can only offer dependence and death. The U.S. has made its choice that is reflected in its public documents. “Full spectrum dominance,” is its stated goal. In other words – waging war against the peoples of our regions and, indeed, the world to maintain global hegemony. It has chosen war, we must choose resistance – on that, there can be no compromise!

The peoples of our region understand that. It is historically imperative that the representatives of the states in our region come to terms with that and commit to resistance and solidarity with the states that are experiencing the most intense pressure from empire. The rhetorical commitment to Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela is not enough. The people want actions that go beyond mere denunciations of imperialism. The people are ready to fight.

And part of this fight includes the ideological war of position. We cannot allow the U.S. to obscure its murderous history by dressing that history up in pretty language about human rights.

The idea that the U.S., or any Western nation for that matter, involved in the ongoing imperialist project, could seriously see itself as a protector of human rights is bizarre and dangerous, and must be countered. The fact that the U.S. will still attempt to advance this fiction reflects either the height of arrogance or a society and administration caught in the grip of a collective national psychosis. I am convinced it is both, but more on that later.

A cognitive rupture from objective reality, the inability to locate oneself in relationship to other human beings individually and collectively in the material world are all symptoms of severe mental derangement. Yet, it appears that this is the condition that structures the psychic make-up of all of the leaders of the U.S. and the collective West.

It is what I have referred to as the psychopathology of white supremacy:

A racialized narcissistic cognitive disorder that centers so-called white people’s and European civilization and renders the afflicted with an inability to perceive objective reality in the same way as others. This affliction is not reducible to the race of so-called whites but can affect all those who have come in contact with the ideological and cultural mechanisms of the Pan-European colonial project.

How else can you explain the self-perceptions of the U.S. and West, responsible for the most horrific crimes against humanity in the annuals of human history from genocide, slavery, world wars, the European, African and Indigenous holocausts, wars and subversion since 1945 that have resulted in over 30 million lives lost – but then assert their innocence, moral superiority and right to define the content and range of human rights?

Aileen Teague of the Quincy Institute points out that the U.S. position on disinviting nations to the Summit of the Americas because of their alleged “authoritarian governance,” is “hypocritical” and “inconsistent,” noting the U.S. historical support for Latin American dictators when convenient for US policy.

Yet is it really hypothetical or inconsistent? I think not. U.S. policymakers are operating from an ethical and philosophical framework that informed Western colonial practice in which racialized humanity became divided between those who were placed into the category of “humans” which was constitutive of the historically expanded category of “white” in relationship to everyone else who was “not white,” and therefore, not fully human.

The “others” during the colonial conquest literally did not have any rights that Europeans were bound to recognize and respect from land rights to their very lives. Consequently, for European colonialists they did not perceive any ethical contradictions in their treatment of the “others” and did not judge themselves as deviating from their principles and values. This is what so many non-Europeans do not understand. When Europeans speak to their “traditional values,” it must be understood that those values mean we – the colonized and exploited non-Europeans are not recognized in our full humanity.

Is there any other way to explain the impressive solidarity among “white peoples” on Ukraine in contrast to the tragedies of Yemen, the six million dead in the Congo, Iraq – the list goes on.

That is why it was so correct for the Black Alliance for Peace (BAP) to call for a boycott of the Summit of the Americas by all of the states in our region. BAP argued that the U.S. had no moral or political standing to host this gathering because it has consistently demonstrated that it did not respect the principles of self-determination and national sovereignty in the region. But even more importantly, it did not respect the lives of the people of this region.

A boycott is only the minimum that should be done. However, we understand it will be difficult because we know the vindictiveness of the gringo hegemon and the lengths it will go to assert its vicious domination. In the arrogance that is typical of the colonial white supremacist mindset, the Biden White House asserts that the “summit will be successful no matter who attends.”

Yet, if Biden is sitting there by himself, no manner of will or the power to define, will avoid the obvious conclusion that the world had changed, and with that change, the balance of power away from the U.S.

And the people say – let it be done!

The post For the Peoples of our Region, the Failure of Biden’s Summit of the Americas Would be a Welcome Event first appeared on Dissident Voice.

“Damned Fun”: “Top Gun: Maverick” And The Military-Entertainment Complex

In 1990, Tom Cruise, star of the 1986 blockbuster, ‘Top Gun’, said:

Some people felt that “Top Gun” was a right-wing film to promote the Navy. And a lot of kids loved it. But I want the kids to know that’s not the way war is – that “Top Gun” was just an amusement park ride, a fun film with a PG-13 rating that was not supposed to be reality. That’s why I didn’t go on and make “Top Gun II” and “III” and “IV” and “V.” That would have been irresponsible.

It would indeed, and one can only admire Cruise’s honesty and selfless determination… in 1990…  not to mislead young people.

Why, then, 32 years later, would Cruise decide to appear in ‘Top Gun: Maverick’? The Daily Mail provides a clue:

The 59-year-old superstar was “only” paid $13million, although he will also earn a percentage of every dollar taken at the global box office. He made $100million for the original Mission: Impossible film – and could earn even more if Top Gun: Maverick is a box office smash.

Which it is already. Associated Press reports:

Top Gun: Maverick” has already grossed $548.6 million worldwide, making it easily one the biggest hits of Cruise’s career.

His earlier refusal to be ‘irresponsible’ was in response to claims that Cruise’s bright, shining film was, in reality, a propaganda fecalith expelled from the bowels of ‘the Military-Entertainment Complex’. Thus, director Oliver Stone, in 1998:

“Top Gun,” man – it was essentially a fascist movie. It sold the idea that war is clean, war can be won … nobody in the movie ever mentions that he just started World War Three!’

In 1986, Time magazine reported that for the cost of just $1.8 million, the US Department of Defense allowed the Top Gun producers ‘the use of Miramar Naval Air Station’ as well as ‘four aircraft carriers and about two dozen F-14 Tomcats, F-5 Tigers and A-4 Skyhawks, some flown by real-life Top Gun pilots’.

The Washington Post reports:

It’s unlikely the film could have gotten made without the Pentagon’s considerable support. A single F-14 Tomcat cost about $38 million. The total budget for “Top Gun” was $15 million.

It wasn’t Catch-22, but there was a catch: in exchange for this lavish military support, the producers agreed to let the US Department of Defense make changes to the script. The changes were substantial but trivial compared to the real issue missed by almost all ‘mainstream’ journalists; namely, that the US war machine would not have spent millions of dollars subsidising a movie unless the core themes of the story provided a powerful propaganda service to the US war machine. And such, indeed, was the case:

The film conquered the box office, as well as the hearts and minds of young Americans. Following its release, applications to become Naval Aviators reportedly jumped by 500 percent. To capitalize on the craze, some enterprising Navy recruiters even set up stands outside theaters.

Time summed it up:

The high-flying hardware turns Top Gun into a 110-minute commercial for the Navy – and it was the Navy’s cooperation that put the planes in the picture.

No surprise, then, as The Washington Post reported:

Top Gun” (1986), turned out to be so influential it set the blueprint for a new kind of corporate movie product fusing Hollywood star power with the U.S. military’s firepower. Think “Black Hawk Down,” “Transformers” or “American Sniper.”

Donald Baruch, the Pentagon’s special assistant for audio-visual media, commented that the US government ‘couldn’t buy the sort of publicity films give us’. In reality, they do, in effect, buy this publicity:

Before a producer receives military assistance for a TV or movie project, the screenplay is reviewed by officials at the Department of Defense and by each of the services involved. The Pentagon ends up rejecting many projects that come its way on the grounds that they distort military life and situations.

Movies critical of the military will be difficult to make,” says former Navy Lieut. John Semcken, who served as the liaison on Top Gun.

The War Zone website provides some details behind military backing for the new, follow-up film, ‘Top Gun: Maverick’:

The War Zone obtained the official production assistance agreements, 84 pages in total, in response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to the Office of the Secretary of Defense…

The documents confirm that filming was conducted on location at Naval Base Coronado, Naval Air Station (NAS) Fallon, NAS Lemoore, Naval Air Facility (NAF) El Centro, Naval Air Weapons Station (NAWS) China Lake, and Naval Air Station (NAS) Whidbey Island. Fallon is home to the Navy’s real-life Topgun program.’

How many aircraft carriers were thrown in?

The Nimitz class aircraft carriers USS Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt were also made available. Some filming even took place inside Roosevelt’s Combat Direction Center, which is the ship’s nerve center.

The War Zone adds:

Two different agreements say that the Navy was expected to provide between four and 12 actual F/A-18 fighters for film, “dependent on availability of aircraft.” There is at least one scene in the trailers that have been released so far showing a row of these jets, including one wearing a special paint job created specifically for the movie.

In addition, the Navy was to “allow for the internal and external placement of the Production Company’s cameras on F/A-18 E/F Super Hornets and Navy helicopters with the approval of the Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR).

And:

There are some details about set construction in various locations, including the complete transformation of a hangar and squadron spaces belonging to Fleet Logistics Support Squadron 30 (VRC-30) at NAS North Island, part of Naval Base Coronado, for the movie.

While the recent, 75th Cannes film festival banned any official delegations or reporters from Russia, ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ was massively promoted. The Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky addressed the gala opening of the festival on a huge screen via a video link from Kyiv. Drawing heavily on Charlie Chaplin’s classic film, The Great Dictator (1940), Zelensky said:

If there is a dictator, if there is a war for freedom, once again, everything depends on our unity. Can cinema stay outside of this unity?

Quoting directly from Chaplin’s anti-war speech at the end of the film, Zelensky said:

In the end, hatred will disappear and dictators will die.

On The World Socialist Website, Stefan Steinberg responded:

The Ukrainian president’s duplicitous speech was then given a standing ovation by the well-heeled audience of film celebrities, super-models, media figures and critics gathered at the festival’s Grand Théâtre Lumière…

Zelensky, whose government’s promotion of unfettered free market capitalism and extreme nationalism includes full support for the notorious fascist Azov battalion, and his US-NATO backers stand for everything that Chaplin abhorred. In fact, what would a Chaplin make out of the self-satisfied rubbish about “poor, defenseless little Ukraine,” armed to the hilt and financed by the biggest imperialist robbers on the planet?

The Independent reports that the ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ film has come at just the right time:

In April, state senators were told how the US army faced a “war for talent” amid shrinking battalion numbers, echoing admissions from air force officials that its own pool of qualified candidates had fallen by half since the beginning of Covid. Things haven’t looked rosy for the navy either, which declared in February that it was 5,000 to 6,000 sailors short at sea. ..

Little wonder, then, that Uncle Sam once again welcomed Paramount Pictures with open arms for Maverick, granting director Joseph Kosinski and his crew all-access passes to highly sensitive naval facilities, including a Nimitz-class nuclear-powered aircraft carrier. World-class technicians provided cast members with top-level fighter pilot training right down to seat ejection…

Happily, press reports inform us:

The US Navy is [again] setting up “recruiting stations” in cinema foyers across America. After the first film there was a 50 per cent increase in applications to join the Navy’s fighter programme. A spokesman said: “Obviously we are hoping for the same outcome this time around.”

If any readers notice any journalists asking Tom Cruise if he still wants ‘the kids to know that’s not the way war is’, that ‘Top Gun’ is just an amusement park ride’ that is ‘not supposed to be reality’, and that it would be ‘irresponsible’ to make ‘Top Gun III’ and ‘IV’ and ‘V’ – do let us know (gro.snelaidemnull@rotide).

The Guardian’s Mark Kermode – ‘I Give Up’

Given the military involvement in both ‘Top Gun’ films and the massive impact of the first film on US military recruitment, a natural concern for anyone reviewing the new film would seem to be the role of the US military since 1986.

A really salient fact about the world since the mid-eighties, as we all know – as our newspaper front pages, echoing ‘Top Gun’ heroics, never tire of telling us – is that the US has been relentlessly bombing countries like Serbia, Panama, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Somalia and Pakistan ever since. In 2015, a study by Physicians for Global Responsibility reported:

The purpose of this investigation is to provide as realistic an estimate as possible of the total body count in the three main war zones Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan during 12 years of “war on terrorism”. An extensive review has been made of the major studies and data published on the numbers of victims in these countries… This investigation comes to the conclusion that the war has, directly or indirectly, killed around 1 million people in Iraq, 220,000 in Afghanistan and 80,000 in Pakistan, i.e. a total of around 1.3 million.

Of course, even these vast numbers omit the untold carnage inflicted by the US military between 1986-2001, and since 2015, but they do give an idea of what ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ and its admirers are actually celebrating.

In the Guardian, film critic Mark Kermode supplied a summary of the plot:

Maverick has in fact been called back to the Top Gun programme – not to fly, but to teach the “best of the best” how to blow up a uranium enrichment plant at face-melting velocity, a mission that will require not one but “two consecutive miracles”.’

As we know, ‘Real men go to Tehran’ – and Iran clearly is ‘the enemy’ here. The Independent acknowledged as much in noting that the US navy was given script approval:

This might also explain why Top Gun: Maverick never goes into detail about its villains – instead, audiences are simply informed that “the enemy” is a rogue state hellbent on uranium enrichment. Let’s assume it rhymes with “Diran”.

When Iran is bombed in real life, Westerners will cheer because they’ll think they’re watching their movie heroes annihilating The Bad Guys. When ‘the best of the best’ move on to trash the whole country, the public will have been so brainwashed, so desensitised, they will rate the ‘action’ on a par with something they saw on the silver screen. The same thing happened during the Gulf War that began in January 1991. One of us saw a spoof ‘Iraqi calendar’ behind the bar of an English pub, which showed the year ending for Iraq on January 16, the date the US-UK attack was launched.

When the state-corporate culture of a highly aggressive imperial power produces war films that deliberately blend fiction and reality, there are real-world consequences. Actual high-tech death and destruction are made to seem ‘cool’, ‘fun’ – an impact that no serious reviewer can ignore. Assuming, that is, we reject the idea that a review in a corporate viewspaper is mere ‘entertainment’ that has nothing to do with the real world it so clearly impacts. Assuming, further, that we reject the idea that we should function as passive, apolitical, amoral consumers manipulated by powerful elites who are not themselves passive or apolitical at all, but who work relentlessly to extend their influence, wealth and power.

As though spoofing, Kermode concluded his review:

Personally, I found myself powerless to resist; overawed by the “real flight” aeronautics and nail-biting sky dances, bludgeoned by the sugar-frosted glow of Cruise’s mercilessly engaging facial muscles, and shamefully brought to tears by moments of hate-yourself-for-going-with-it manipulation. In the immortal words of Abba’s Waterloo, “I was defeated, you won the war”. I give up.

Kermode gave up. In reality, the outcome of his personal ‘Waterloo’ was never in doubt. As Noam Chomsky famously told the BBC’s Andrew Marr:

… if you believed something different, you wouldn’t be sitting where you’re sitting.

Kermode’s review bowed down to an intellectually and morally castrated version of what it means to be a film critic, one that casually waves away the appalling, real-world impact of propaganda efforts like ‘Top Gun: Maverick’. It’s a version of film criticism that just happens – ‘My, my!’ – to align itself with the agenda of the consistently pro-war Guardian newspaper and wider corporate media system that makes him wealthy and famous for the back-breaking task of writing a few clever, filtered words every week.

In the Telegraph, Boris Starling managed to recall some military history:

Since then [“Top Gun”, 1986] we have had two wars in Iraq and one in Afghanistan, 9/11, Syria, and of course the current Russian invasion of Ukraine – all of which have, one way or another, dented the concept of unfettered American military might.’

Clearly, Nato’s devastation of Libya – executed with the assistance of more than a dozen US navy ships and a similar number of aircraft – never happened.

Starling’s distorted vision of history reminds us of the BBC’s unfortunate animated web article: ‘The Incredible Change The Queen Has Seen’. Reviewing major international political events since 1952, the BBC comments:

Russia invades Ukraine twice, bringing it into conflict with the West once again.

According to the BBC, then, no-one spread death and destruction in Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Indonesia, El Salvador, Guatemala, Iraq, Libya, Syria… on and on. The BBC piece concludes:

Happy Jubilee Ma’am

The fact, as we have discussed, that the West got its hands on both Iraqi and Libyan oil challenges Starling’s idea that ‘unfettered American military might’ has been ‘dented’.

In a parallel universe, a film critic might have reflected on whether the vast death toll from US wars has ‘dented’ the ethical status of films like ‘Top Gun’ and ‘Top Gun: Maverick’. Instead, Starling noticed a different problem with the new film:

But at a time when a real conflict with unimaginable casualties and featuring medieval levels of brutality is taking place on NATO’s border – a conflict into which the US is still refusing to countenance direct military intervention – Top Gun: Maverick may be construed in certain quarters as borderline tasteless.

In other words, the problem with the ‘Top Gun’ franchise is not that the US military machine has been blitzing the world before and since 1986. The problem is that, after all that good work, it is refusing to ‘countenance direct military intervention’ in Ukraine – having merely sent $60 billion in ‘aid’, most of it military – making the latest ‘Top Gun’ heroics somewhat embarrassing. This is what passes for ‘mainstream’ ethical discussion in our high-tech, neon-lit dark age.

Another piece by the Telegraph’s chief film critic, Robbie Collin, notes:

The assignment involves neutralising a uranium enrichment plant somewhere overseas, though we’re told details about the enemy regime behind it are “scarce” – as they have to be these days when you’re trying to sell a blockbuster into as many overseas markets as possible.

Presumably, any Iranians wishing to see the film will be too dumb to realise what is blindingly obvious to everyone else:

Certain military details suggest it might be Iran, but it doesn’t matter either way: the film is low on militaristic swagger, and instead focuses on Maverick’s missionary-like determination to have these youngsters not just reach their potential but surpass it, with the help of their extraordinary aircraft.

Yes, who cares? We all know it’s Iran; so what if that background awareness makes it easier for the public to applaud when Iran receives a generous dose of ‘humanitarian intervention’? Collin concluded by heaping praise on ‘this absurdly entertaining film’.

And that’s all that matters – it’s ‘entertaining’. It’s also somehow ‘low on militaristic swagger’, despite being jam-packed with gleaming warplanes, aircraft carriers and military uniforms. Needless to say, it wouldn’t have mattered how ‘absurdly entertaining’ the film was, if it had depicted Iranian or Russian pilots heroically preparing to bomb the US.

In the Independent, Geoffrey Macnab’s article did manage to reference some history, but only in the sense suggested by the title: ‘Why Tom Cruise’s latest thrill ride is a take-off of traditional Hollywood flying movies’:

These films have a poetical dimension you don’t find in conventional earthbound war movies. Their protagonists are young and courageous, performing their own ethereal, Icarus-like dances with death. They’re fighting as much against the elements as against their enemies.

Again, no concern for the front-page carnage inflicted year after year.

Also in the Independent, Clarisse Loughrey supplied the standard, faux-feminist ‘dissent’, commenting on the new film’s compassionate treatment of its male characters :

The film, unfortunately, doesn’t extend as much of a loving hand toward the women of Top Gun – neither McGillis nor Meg Ryan, who played Rooster’s mother, make any kind of return.

But this shouldn’t be allowed to spoil the party:

Again, there’ll come a time when we need to talk about why Hollywood only accepts older women who look a certain way. Until then, who can be blamed for getting swept up by a film this damned fun?

In the Daily Mail, Jan Moir noted Cruise’s fearlessness in performing his own stunts, adding:

But there is one thing this Hollywood hero is scared of – old ladies! That’s where he draws the line – at the genuine and the realistic. And that is his biggest crime of all in my book… where are the women from the 1986 original? Excuse me. Simply nowhere to be seen. Vaporised by the Hollywood Age Patrol, the girls have somehow fallen off their perch and simply ceased to be.

There is one thing that Moir, like essentially all of corporate journalism, is scared of – the dead, injured, grieving and displaced victims of the West’s endless wars of aggression. The victims are not allowed to exist or matter. They’re not allowed to spoil the celebration of this ‘damned fun’, of the state-corporate fundamentalist faith that ‘we’ are The Good Guys.

But anyway, is it really such ‘damned fun’? Somehow managing to defy the corporate hypegeist, A.O. Scott of the New York Times writes of the new film’s characters: ‘the world they inhabit is textureless and generic’, ‘the dramatic stakes seem curiously low’, the movie is ‘bland and basic’. Scott’s conclusion:

Though you may hear otherwise, “Top Gun: Maverick” is not a great movie. It is a thin, over-strenuous and sometimes very enjoyable movie.

The post “Damned Fun”: “Top Gun: Maverick” And The Military-Entertainment Complex first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Paradigm for Peace Applied to Ukraine: Proposal for a Peaceful Pathway Forward (Part 2A)

Part 2A. Russian Fears for Life

In the Paradigm for Peace model, the Roots of Violence are divided into seven categories. While a few of the categories aren’t as easily divided into defensive and aggressive motivations, for the most part, we examine how each party to the conflict may be defensively motivated or aggressively motivated to inflict violence with regard to each category. For example, with regard to the category Wealth, Land, and Possessions, a person using violence to protect his home from attack has a defensive motivation to use violence. A person using violence to attack another person’s home to seize that other person’s wealth and belongings has an aggressive motivation to use violence.

Matters can get complicated, and it can sometimes be quite difficult to distinguish between defensive and aggressive. Sometimes the motivations are mixed within a single person or appear defensive or aggressive simply depending upon one’s perspective. However, without getting all harried about trying to figure out who exactly is motivated by what, it’s hugely helpful to be generally aware of these two categories of violence and to think in these terms so that we never rule out the possibility of legitimate motives in the so-called bad guys and illegitimate motives in the so-called good guys.

Most importantly, it’s crucial to have policy solutions that address both Defensive and Aggressive Roots of Violence. After all, if US foreign policymakers’ policies are always based on the assumption that terrorists, Iranians, North Koreans, left-wing Latinos, and Russians are aggressive and malicious, then US policymakers will never implement policies that help address the very real and legitimate Defensive Roots of Violence in the so-called enemies. Also, note that while Defensive Roots of Violence have legitimate motivations, the use of violence for defensive reasons isn’t necessarily legitimate, especially if there are non-violent means to protect what’s under threat.

In the condensed analysis below, I tend to spend more time writing about the Defensive Roots of Russian Violence and the Aggressive Roots of US Violence, rather than the Aggressive Roots of Russian Violence and the Defensive Roots of US Violence. This imbalance is largely due to the fact that I’m much more aware of these particular roots of violence for these nations. I’m not deliberately hiding anything to create this imbalance but am sharing what I know. This angle also helps place a counterweight to the dominant narrative in the US media that Russia is aggressive and the US and the Ukrainian government are defensive. However, please understand that in a full analysis with cooperative dialogue, equal attention should be paid to all sides’ defensive fears and all sides’ aggressive motivations.

In this essay, we’ll look at the first of seven categories: Life and Safety.

If we were creating a quick chart of the Roots of Violence, we’d list down the left side of the chart the seven categories. Across the top, we’d write in the names of the players in the external and internal conflict. We’d look at the first category, Life and Safety. How do people feel that the lives and safety of those they care about are under threat?

For example, let’s start with Russia. We’d list under Russia’s and President Vladimir Putin’s fears for life several items. NATO has expanded straight across Europe into Slavic lands and former Soviet republics. This is obviously a severe threat to Russia’s survival. After all, NATO was formed precisely to combat the USSR, and now NATO is in Poland, Romania, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. It’s as if the American Southwest seceded, allied with Mexico, and deployed missiles in Texas aimed at Washington, DC.

While those who support NATO may think of NATO’s expansion as enhancing US and European security, they fail to recognize the psychological ramifications of NATO on potential enemies: its existence topped by its expansion could easily cause physical insecurity by creating an ever-present threat to Russia. Emotional insecurity can lead to hostility, thus augmenting physical insecurity. And that, in fact, has happened with the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

This failure to sympathize with an enemy’s perspective, to be able to imagine an enemy’s feelings of being threatened, to respect the need for another’s emotional and psychological security, is the Achilles Heel of US foreign policymakers, who perpetually only think of how to control and dominate enemies. It’s the Achilles Heel because, by provoking rather than alleviating tension in the so-called enemy, US foreign policymakers actually weaken US security, weaken respect and genuine friendship for the US, and weaken the international foundations of democracy—caring equally for all. The resulting policies are also extremely costly and deadly. This is why in cooperative dialogue, or right now in this essay, it’s important for us to practice really sinking into Russia’s shoes and pretending we’re the leader of Russia, feeling these threats, and determined to protect our people.

When NATO expands, it means more than just a picture on the map of NATO covering nearly all of Europe. It means that physical weapons and military bases to potentially be used against Russia have also expanded in coverage across the continent. For example, Lockheed Martin’s Aegis Ashore Mark 41 Vehicle Land System with its SM-3 Block IIA missile interceptors has been deployed in Romania and Poland by the US through NATO. This system is capable of intercepting and destroying an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), thereby theoretically rendering ineffective Russia’s missiles and the strategy of mutual deterrence. If Russia can no longer feel safe, it will feel the need to develop more weapons and new strategies.

Moreover, the Mark 41 VLS, while allegedly intended solely for defensive purposes, could be fitted with aggressive weapons. 1 Making the weapon-imposed threat even more precarious is the fact that the Trump administration withdrew in 2018 from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, which had previously regulated land-based ballistic missiles and missile launchers. Even more ominous are the joint US-Ukrainian and NATO-Ukrainian military training in the nations and seas bordering Russia. 2

US policymakers and media makers have denied Russia’s accusations of US chemical and biological weapon intentions in Ukraine, but with US policymakers and media makers so untruthful about so many things, even the representation of Putin’s essay, and with a terrible documented record throughout the decades of US presidential administrations lying to the American people and Congress, we would be foolish simply to believe these denials on faith alone. Therefore, we should open-mindedly consider these Russian reports and predictions. Russia’s Ministry of Defense recently claimed that forces loyal to Kiev are preparing a chemical attack in eastern Ukraine. Russia has also previously warned of chemical weapons being stored in Ukraine. US policy and media makers, as they have done repeatedly and without proof, reverse Russia’s claims and state that Russia is using its claim as a pretext for its own planned chemical attack. 3

As civilians, how can we know the truth? Who’s preparing a chemical attack? Is anyone? It’s impossible for us to know. But we should understand one thing that’s based upon a long record of US government lies to the American people: there is absolutely no reason to believe US policymakers more than Russian policymakers. Just because we are Americans and each of us may be truthful does not mean that American policymakers are truthful. Our individual identities as Americans are not melded with the identities of US policymakers. They are strangers to us and we do not know them at heart.

Russia has also released documents that allegedly prove that Biden’s son, Hunter Biden, has played a significant role in providing and seeking funding for a military biological program, particularly with the labs of Black & Veatch and Metabiota, in Ukraine. According to Russia’s Defense Minister Igor Kirillov, the Pentagon issued contracts with a number of labs, including Black & Veatch, Metabiota, and CH2M Hill, for this military biological program. Investors in the program have included Hunter Biden, his investment fund Seneca Rosemont, and George Soros and his Open Society Foundation. Documents have reportedly revealed Hunter Biden’s close connections with both the labs and with the Pentagon’s Defense Threat Reduction Agency, the part of the Department of Defense engaged in the biological weapons program.

In the past, the Russian Defense Ministry has repeatedly drawn attention to the Pentagon’s military biological programs in former Soviet republics, including Ukraine. During its invasion, Russia found more than 30 biological laboratories in Ukraine, some of which may be for military purposes. In fact, Russia reports that it has found traces of a biological weapons program in the labs, which Ukraine reportedly was desperately trying to hide.4 Again, although US policymakers deny such an operation, they obviously would never admit it if it were true. And in the current climate, in which US policymakers automatically dismiss every single one of Russia’s fears as absurd, even the obviously valid ones, we cannot gauge the validity of Russia’s fears based upon US denials of their legitimacy.

In fact, a reading of “Rebuilding America’s Defenses” (2000) by Project for a New American Century is enough to be jolted into awareness of the ardent enthusiasm the neoconservative writers feel for conquering several other nations, for enhancing and preserving US hegemony, and for developing weapons including pocket-sized robots to be let loose on enemy territory, skin-patch pharmaceuticals to negate fear in US troops, and biological weapons to target specific genotypes—a recipe, perhaps, for genocide.  5

PNAC is defunct, but one of its co-founders, William Kristol, is an advisor to the Alliance for Securing Democracy, a neoconservative-liberal hawk mix of individuals that has the singular mission of thwarting, weakening, and basically destroying Putin.  PNAC’s other co-founder, Robert Kagan, is the husband of Biden’s Undersecretary of State, Victoria Nuland, infamous for the leaked tapes at the time of the 2014 Ukrainian coup. She is also the former CEO of the similarly-sounding Center for a New American Security. To deny that US policymakers have the intention to develop biological weapons seems unwise.

In the column of our chart under Russian fears, we might also include the US-built Ukrainian naval base on the Black Sea, particularly because of the US ties. We could include Russian and German news reports of the presence in 2015 of US private military contractors connected with Academi in Ukraine training far right-wing Ukrainian extremists.  6 We also might investigate whether there were further results from meetings between Ukraine’s President Zelenskiy and Erik Prince, former head of the infamous Blackwater, regarding the development of a private military contract in Ukraine. 7

Instead of dismissing these fears as “phony”—as US policymakers and media makers perpetually do—we’d recognize the validity of each of these fears. This is how kind, responsible people treat others with fears. They listen to the fears, whether rational or irrational, until they understand the other’s feelings. Then they help them address these fears. Had the tables been turned with all of these military alliances, bases, weapons, and military drills transpiring along US borders or in former US territories or states, US policymakers would have been quaking in their boots long before this. The Russians have shown remarkable restraint.

The Russians also are not stupid and, unlike Uncle Sam, they’re not prone to war. They’re very unlikely to invade anywhere unless they’re feeling severely threatened by realistic, actual threats. They know full well from experience that any invasion attempt will be severely skewed by Western propaganda to make them look bad. With that in mind, it behooves us to seriously examine Russia’s and Putin’s fears, including the threats of chemical and biological weapons, for only something severely threatening must have drawn Russia out.

If Russian fears seem rational, participants should try to create solutions to give Russians valid reasons to no longer fear. Americans can’t simply say, “Trust us.” They have to provide valid reasons not based merely upon trust. If Russian fears come across through discussion as more irrational, then participants should work together supportively to uncover the psychological reasons for these irrational fears.

In dialogue, participants would discuss these fears and really try to step into Russia’s shoes to understand why these factors are mortally threatening. Participants would ideally reverse roles, or reverse the scenario and imagine a similar situation occurring to the US in reverse, such as if Alaska seceded, allied with Russia, and deployed missile launchers aimed at Washington, DC. The goal here is understanding and empathy—not control or intimidation of the other side, and certainly not dismissal of another’s fears as absurd.

For all those foreign policymakers who believe understanding and empathizing with others’ fears—especially enemies’ fears—is not appropriate to foreign policy, I suggest you find another line of work.

In light of these Russian fears, consider that statement made by Defense Secretary Austin, who expressed his belief that the US needs to “weaken” Russia “to the degree that it can’t do the kinds of things that it has done in invading Ukraine.”8 Austin totally misses the point: Russia invaded because it felt militarily threatened and it felt Ukrainians’ lives in Donetsk and Lugansk were threatened. Russia invaded because it felt existentially threatened by expanding US and NATO domination in Eastern Europe and Ukraine and by threats to Ukrainian lives in Donetsk and Lugansk. Why make it feel even more threatened by insisting that Russia become militarily weaker? It doesn’t make sense.

US policymakers persistently demonstrate zero capacity for understanding human dynamics. Their answer to those who resent US domination is always more US domination. Is it because US foreign policymakers want to dominate so completely that no significant signs of resistance are possible? But why? Is this some misguided attempt to seek pseudo-popularity by forcing itself upon those who don’t want it? Are policymakers mistaking domination for being liked and accepted? Is this craze for domination in part the result of clumsy social skills magnified by a billion? What on Earth is going on with these people in power?

And why wasn’t Austin’s idea of weakening an improperly-behaving nation to prevent future misbehavior suggested after the US invasion of Iraq? Or Afghanistan? Or Panama, Grenada, Vietnam, and Korea? Or after the first weapon shipment to the contras in Nicaragua? After the very first US extrajudicial drone attack? After the very first CIA coup? As far as I can see, the answer is that US foreign policymakers do not support justice. They support themselves.

To continue with our chart, we should include for Putin the fear of assassination, which he likely feels. After all, the CIA and its paid foreign agents are infamous for their assassinations which they inflict with impunity, as described in several books and articles, including William Blum’s Killing Hope.  9  The venomous anti-Putin US propaganda which falsely depicts him as both cruel and stupid, the economic sabotage against Russia by means of sanctions and shutting off Nord Stream 2, the cutting off of money to Russia, and even the collaboration with neo-Nazis are all reminiscent of the CIA’s propaganda and economic war against Chile’s President Salvador Allende. With its lies and economic tactics, the CIA helped foment riots and also funded the fascist Patria y Libertad thugs to help with the 9/11/1973 coup, in which Allende was killed. Patria y Libertad also helped ensure a gory aftermath for tens of thousands of civilians of Chile. A coup in Russia is obviously hoped for by American leaders. The blatantly propagandistic program by Infographics, “Russia’s Big Problem with Ukraine,” even portrays with its paper cut-out art a group of Russian troops leveling their weapons at a man intended to be Putin.10

We should also include for Putin’s and Russia’s fears some of the ideas Putin set forth in his February 2007 Munich speech, including Putin’s disappointment that the US and NATO nations failed to ratify the newly adapted Conventional Armed Forces in Europe Treaty. The original treaty of 1987 between Russian President Gorbachev and US President Reagan was adapted in 1999 to reflect the expansion of NATO and the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact. However, only Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, and Kazakhstan signed the new treaty.

It was an important treaty for Russia because NATO had expanded to include the nations of Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Slovenia, but these nations were not parties to the original treaty. After years of hoping the other nations would sign, Russia pulled out of the treaty in December 2007. If the Baltic nations on the border of Russia were not required to observe the treaty, it didn’t make sense for Russia to observe it either. Russia blamed the West for not signing. The US and NATO nations blamed Russia for not complying with certain terms. Either way, one would think that intelligent negotiators talented in integrative negotiation could have worked something out.11

In the 2007 speech, Putin also expresses the dangers of weapon proliferation, nuclear arms, weapons in space, and the hyper-use of force by the US government. Putin offered Russia’s cooperation in disarmament, 12 but instead of reciprocation, his honorable speech was instead followed by a 15-year anti-Putin campaign 13 and by the continuation of US policies of proliferating weapons, revitalizing its nuclear arsenal, preparing for weapons in space, and favoring the hyper-use of force, by US troops and private military contractors.

After really sinking into Russia’s shoes to feel these fears, we’d step out of those shoes and then step into the shoes of Americans who mortally fear Russia. Now I’ll admit right here that I don’t understand US fears, so in this essay I won’t be able to fairly represent those fears. However, in an actual cooperative dialogue, the idea is to ensure it includes people who can sincerely represent US fears, both as American civilians and as US policymakers from groups such as the Alliance for Securing Democracy. Just as we did with Russia and Putin, we’d all sink into these people’s shoes and feel their fears and sincerely try to see their logic as they do. As with Russian fears, there may not be agreement as to which fears are rational and which are irrational. However, participants will try to provide valid reasons for Americans not to mortally fear Russia, and they’d also work together to try to uncover psychological reasons for irrational fears, including decades of propaganda and social dynamics within US culture.

So we’d ask, during the decade or two prior to the Russian invasion of Ukraine and also since the invasion, have any Americans felt their lives and safety were threatened by Russia? If so, how exactly? Did Americans or other NATO members feel the need for NATO expansion in order to feel safe and sleep peacefully at night? Was there disagreement amongst NATO members? Ukraine and Russia had improved their relations in 2010, when Ukraine officially abandoned the goal of joining NATO.14  Was the abandonment of this goal threatening to Americans? Which ones? Why?

Did any Americans feel a sense of lethal danger and an urgent need to send weapons to the Ukrainian government to fight in its civil war? Do Americans feel their current fears are connected with the decades of anti-Soviet Cold War propaganda? Did they think of the USSR as malicious, belligerent, and untrustworthy then and do they think of Russia as malicious, belligerent, and untrustworthy now? What fatal scenario do some American civilians or policymakers fear could result from Russia’s actions?

Whether fears are rational or irrational, we must spend time in dialogue learning about the nature and causes of these American fears. They won’t go away just by dismissing them as absurd. And, frankly, I also don’t think they’ll go away by merely continuing an arms race, sending weapons, and devising lethal strategies for use against Russia. While weapons are one component of security, they’re not even half of what it takes to feel emotionally and psychologically secure and to actually be secure. That type of security requires—not the transfer to nations far and wide of an American form of plutocratic pseudo-democracy pinned upon elections, capitalism, privatization, globalization, and US dominance—but rather egalitarian justice, mutual understanding, and genuine friendship.

It’s not only foreigners who need these components to feel secure, it’s Americans. This is probably why US policymakers have been forever on this wild goose chase for security: they’re feeding an insatiable need for security that is insatiable precisely because they’re feeding it all the wrong food. They seek domination when what they need is friendship. They insist that others understand US goals and serve US interests, when what they really need is two-way mutual understanding and caring. They’re giving themselves junk food when what they really need are all the root vegetables of a big bowl of borsch.

Within Ukraine, we should ask Ukrainians from a range of perspectives how they felt about billions of dollars of US and NATO weapon shipments arriving since the civil war began in 2014. Did these weapons help them feel safer? Did they protect them from harm? Or did they put Ukrainians in greater danger from other Ukrainians and from Russia? Would Ukrainians be suffering now if the weapons had never been sent? Do Ukrainians feel the weapons helped resolve the problems that caused the civil war or did they make the problems worse? Did Ukrainian government members all agree that they wanted to receive US and NATO weapons? Or not? Were the weapons placed in responsible hands? What effect did US and NATO weapon shipments have on the effectiveness and strength of any formal or grassroots non-violent conflict resolution initiatives that may have been unfolding, including the Minsk Agreements?

We should also ask whether Russian weapons were sent to Donetsk and Lugansk, as the West claims. If so, how did these weapons make various Ukrainians feel with regard to their safety? Better or worse? The same set of questions we asked about US and NATO weapons should be asked about Russian weapons.

In the next part, we’ll look at threats to life within Ukraine with regard to the violence of Ukrainian ultranationalists.

Read Part 1 here

  1. Jack Detsch, “Putin’s Fixation with an Old-School US Missile Launcher,” Foreign Policy, January 12, 2022; Tass Russian News Agency, “Russia Slams US Aegis Ashore Missile Deployment in Europe as Direct Breach of INF Treaty,” November 26, 2016; and Ankit Panda, “A New US Missile Defense Test May Have Increased the Risk of Nuclear War,” Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, November 19, 2020.
  2. NATO, “NATO and Ukraine Navy Together in the Fight against Piracy,” October 30, 2013; and Reuters, “Ukraine Holds Military Drills with US Forces, NATO Allies,” September 20, 2021.
  3. Russia Today, “American Mercenaries Preparing ‘Chemical Weapon’ Incident in Eastern Ukraine, Russia Claims,” December 21, 2021; and Paul D. Shinkman, “Fears of False Flag Operation Grow as Russia Claims Ukraine Poised for Chemical Weapons Attack,” May 6, 2022.
  4. Al Mayadeen, “Russia Releases Documents in US-Funded Bio-Weapons, Hunter Biden Exposed,” March 31, 2022; and Al Mayadeen, “Russian Forces Find 30 Biological Labs in Ukraine, Possibly for Bioweapons,” March 7, 2022.
  5. Project for the New American Century (PNAC), “Rebuilding America’s Defenses: Strategy, Forces and Resources for a New Century,” Donald Kagan and Gary Schmitt, Project Co-Chairmen; Thomas Donnelly, Principal Author, (Washington, DC, 2000).
  6. Tass, “Militia Claim Spotting up to 70 Mercenaries of US Military Company Academi in East Ukraine,” April 21, 2015.
  7. Simon Shuster, “Exclusive: Documents Reveal Erik Prince’s $10 Billion Plan to Make Weapons and Create a Private Army in Ukraine,” Time, July 7, 2021.
  8. Julian Boyer, “Pentagon Chief’s Russia Remarks Show Shift in US’s Declared Aims in Ukraine,” Guardian, April 26, 2022.
  9. William Blum, Killing Hope, (London: Zed, 2014).
  10. Infographic Show, “Russia’s Big Problem with Ukraine,” April 8, 2022.
  11. Daryl Kimball, contact, “The Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE) Treaty and the Adapted CFE Treaty at a Glance,” Arms Control Association, last reviewed August 2017.
  12. Vladimir Putin, Munich Security Conference, February 11, 2007.
  13. Diana Johnstone, “For Washington, War Never Ends,” Consortium News, March 16, 2022.
  14. Encyclopaedia Britannica Online, “Svoboda Party”.
The post Paradigm for Peace Applied to Ukraine: Proposal for a Peaceful Pathway Forward (Part 2A) first appeared on Dissident Voice.

The persecution of Julian Assange

The British home secretary, Priti Patel, will decide this month whether Julian Assange is to be extradited to the United States, where he faces a sentence of up to 175 years – served most likely in strict, 24-hour isolation in a US super-max jail.

He has already spent three years in similarly harsh conditions in London’s high-security Belmarsh prison.

The 18 charges laid against Assange in the US relate to the publication by WikiLeaks in 2010 of leaked official documents, many of them showing that the US and UK were responsible for war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan. No one has been brought to justice for those crimes.

Instead, the US has defined Assange’s journalism as espionage – and by implication asserted a right to seize any journalist in the world who takes on the US national security state – and in a series of extradition hearings, the British courts have given their blessing.

The lengthy proceedings against Assange have been carried out in courtrooms with tightly restricted access and in circumstances that have repeatedly denied journalists the ability to cover the case properly.

Despite the grave implications for a free press and democratic accountability, however, Assange’s plight has provoked little more than a flicker of concern from much of the western media.

Few observers appear to be in any doubt that Patel will sign off on the US extradition order – least of all Nils Melzer, a law professor, and a United Nations’ special rapporteur.

In his role as the UN’s expert on torture, Melzer has made it his job since 2019 to scrutinise not only Assange’s treatment during his 12 years of increasing confinement – overseen by the UK courts – but also the extent to which due process and the rule of law have been followed in pursuing the WikiLeaks founder.

Melzer has distilled his detailed research into a new book, The Trial of Julian Assange, that provides a shocking account of rampant lawlessness by the main states involved – Britain, Sweden, the US, and Ecuador. It also documents a sophisticated campaign of misinformation and character assassination to obscure those misdeeds.

The result, Melzer concludes, has been a relentless assault not only on Assange’s fundamental rights but his physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing that Melzer classifies as psychological torture.

The UN rapporteur argues that the UK has invested far too much money and muscle in securing Assange’s prosecution on behalf of the US, and has too pressing a need itself to deter others from following Assange’s path in exposing western crimes, to risk letting Assange walk free.

It has instead participated in a wide-ranging legal charade to obscure the political nature of Assange’s incarceration. And in doing so, it has systematically ridden roughshod over the rule of law.

Melzer believes Assange’s case is so important because it sets a precedent to erode the most basic liberties the rest of us take for granted. He opens the book with a quote from Otto Gritschneder, a German lawyer who observed up close the rise of the Nazis, “those who sleep in a democracy will wake up in a dictatorship”.

Back to the wall

Melzer has raised his voice because he believes that in the Assange case any residual institutional checks and balances on state power, especially those of the US, have been subdued.

He points out that even the prominent human rights group Amnesty International has avoided characterising Assange as a “prisoner of conscience”, despite his meeting all the criteria, with the group apparently fearful of a backlash from funders (p. 81).

He notes too that, aside from the UN’s Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, comprising expert law professors, the UN itself has largely ignored the abuses of Assange’s rights (p. 3). In large part, that is because even states like Russia and China are reluctant to turn Assange’s political persecution into a stick with which to beat the West – as might otherwise have been expected.

The reason, Melzer observes, is that WikiLeaks’ model of journalism demands greater accountability and transparency from all states. With Ecuador’s belated abandonment of Assange, he appears to be utterly at the mercy of the world’s main superpower.

Instead, Melzer argues, Britain and the US have cleared the way to vilify Assange and incrementally disappear him under the pretense of a series of legal proceedings. That has been made possible only because of complicity from prosecutors and the judiciary, who are pursuing the path of least resistance in silencing Assange and the cause he represents.

It is what Melzer terms an official “policy of small compromises” – with dramatic consequences (pp. 250-1).

His 330-page book is so packed with examples of abuses of due process – at the legal, prosecutorial, and judicial levels – that it is impossible to summarise even a tiny fraction of them.

However, the UN rapporteur refuses to label this as a conspiracy – if only because to do so would be to indict himself as part of it. He admits that when Assange’s lawyers first contacted him for help in 2018, arguing that the conditions of Assange’s incarceration amounted to torture, he ignored their pleas.

As he now recognises, he too had been influenced by the demonisation of Assange, despite his long professional and academic training to recognise techniques of perception management and political persecution.

“To me, like most people around the world, he was just a rapist, hacker, spy, and narcissist,” he says (p. 10).

It was only later when Melzer finally agreed to examine the effects of Assange’s long-term confinement on his health – and found the British authorities obstructing his investigation at every turn and openly deceiving him – that he probed deeper. When he started to pick at the legal narratives around Assange, the threads quickly unravelled.

He points to the risks of speaking up – a price he has experienced firsthand – that have kept others silent.

“With my uncompromising stance, I put not only my credibility at risk, but also my career and, potentially, even my personal safety… Now, I suddenly found myself with my back to the wall, defending human rights and the rule of law against the very democracies which I had always considered to be my closest allies in the fight against torture. It was a steep and painful learning curve” (p. 97).

He adds regretfully: “I had inadvertently become a dissident within the system itself” (p. 269).

Subversion of law

The web of complex cases that have ensnared the WikiLeaks founder – and kept him incarcerated – have included an entirely unproductive, decade-long sexual assault investigation by Sweden; an extended detention over a bail infraction that occurred after Assange was granted asylum by Ecuador from political extradition to the US; and the secret convening of a grand jury in the US, followed by endless hearings and appeals in the UK to extradite him as part of the very political persecution he warned of.

The goal throughout, says Melzer, has not been to expedite Assange’s prosecution – that would have risked exposing the absence of evidence against him in both the Swedish and US cases. Rather it has been to trap Assange in an interminable process of non-prosecution while he is imprisoned in ever-more draconian conditions and the public turned against him.

What appeared – at least to onlookers – to be the upholding of the law in Sweden, Britain and the US was the exact reverse: its repeated subversion. The failure to follow basic legal procedures was so consistent, argues Melzer, that it cannot be viewed as simply a series of unfortunate mistakes.

It aims at the “systematic persecution, silencing and destruction of an inconvenient political dissident” (p. 93).

Assange, in Melzer’s view, is not just a political prisoner. He is one whose life is being put in severe danger from relentless abuses that accord with the definition of psychological torture.

Such torture depends on its victim being intimidated, isolated, humiliated, and subjected to arbitrary decisions (p. 74). Melzer clarifies that the consequences of such torture not only break down the mental and emotional coping mechanisms of victims but over time have very tangible physical consequences too.

Melzer explains the so-called “Mandela Rules” – named after the long-jailed black resistance leader Nelson Mandela, who helped bring down South African apartheid – that limit the use of extreme forms of solitary confinement.

In Assange’s case, however, “this form of ill-treatment very quickly became the status quo” in Belmarsh, even though Assange was a “non-violent inmate posing no threat to anyone”. As his health deteriorated, prison authorities isolated him further, professedly for his own safety. As a result, Melzer concludes, Assange’s “silencing and abuse could be perpetuated indefinitely, all under the guise of concern for his health” (pp. 88-9).

The rapporteur observes that he would not be fulfilling his UN mandate if he failed to protest not only Assange’s torture but the fact that he is being tortured to protect those who committed torture and other war crimes exposed in the Iraq and Afghanistan logs published by WikiLeaks. They continue to escape justice with the active connivance of the same state authorities seeking to destroy Assange (p. 95).

With his long experience of handling torture cases around the world, Melzer suggests that Assange has great reserves of inner strength that have kept him alive, if increasingly frail and physically ill. Assange has lost a great deal of weight, is regularly confused and disorientated, and has suffered a minor stroke in Belmarsh.

Many of the rest of us, the reader is left to infer, might well have succumbed by now to a lethal heart attack or stroke, or have committed suicide.

A further troubling implication hangs over the book: that this is the ultimate ambition of those persecuting him. The current extradition hearings can be spun out indefinitely, with appeals right up to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, keeping Assange out of view all that time, further damaging his health, and providing a stronger deterrent effect on whistleblowers and other journalists.

This is a win-win, notes Melzer. If Assange’s mental health breaks down entirely, he can be locked away in a psychiatric institution. And if he dies, that would finally solve the inconvenience of sustaining the legal charade that has been needed to keep him silenced and out of view for so long (p. 322).

Sweden’s charade

Melzer spends much of the book reconstructing the 2010 accusations of sexual assault against Assange in Sweden. He does this not to discredit the two women involved – in fact, he argues that the Swedish legal system failed them as much as it did Assange – but because that case set the stage for the campaign to paint Assange as a rapist, narcissist, and fugitive from justice.

The US might never have been able to launch its overtly political persecution of Assange had he not already been turned into a popular hate figure over the Sweden case. His demonisation was needed – as well as his disappearance from view – to smooth the path to redefining national security journalism as espionage.

Melzer’s meticulous examination of the case – assisted by his fluency in Swedish – reveals something that the mainstream media coverage has ignored: Swedish prosecutors never had the semblance of a case against Assange, and apparently never the slightest intention to move the investigation beyond the initial taking of witness statements.

Nonetheless, as Melzer observes, it became “the longest ‘preliminary investigation’ in Swedish history” (p. 103).

The first prosecutor to examine the case, in 2010, immediately dropped the investigation, saying, “there is no suspicion of a crime” (p. 133).

When the case was finally wrapped up in 2019, many months before the statute of limitations was reached, a third prosecutor observed simply that “it cannot be assumed that further inquiries will change the evidential situation in any significant manner” (p. 261).

Couched in lawyerly language, that was an admission that interviewing Assange would not lead to any charges. The preceding nine years had been a legal charade.

But in those intervening years, the illusion of a credible case was so well sustained that major newspapers, including Britain’s The Guardian newspaper, repeatedly referred to “rape charges” against Assange, even though he had never been charged with anything.

More significantly, as Melzer keeps pointing out, the allegations against Assange were so clearly unsustainable that the Swedish authorities never sought to seriously investigate them. To do so would have instantly exposed their futility.

Instead, Assange was trapped. For the seven years that he was given asylum in Ecuador’s London embassy, Swedish prosecutors refused to follow normal procedures and interview him where he was, in person or via computer, to resolve the case. But the same prosecutors also refused to issue standard reassurances that he would not be extradited onwards to the US, which would have made his asylum in the embassy unnecessary.

In this way, Melzer argues “the rape suspect narrative could be perpetuated indefinitely without ever coming before a court. Publicly, this deliberately manufactured outcome could conveniently be blamed on Assange, by accusing him of having evaded justice” (p. 254).

Neutrality dropped

Ultimately, the success of the Swedish case in vilifying Assange derived from the fact that it was driven by a narrative almost impossible to question without appearing to belittle the two women at its centre.

But the rape narrative was not the women’s. It was effectively imposed on the case – and on them – by elements within the Swedish establishment, echoed by the Swedish media. Melzer hazards a guess as to why the chance to discredit Assange was seized on so aggressively.

After the fall of the Soviet Union, Swedish leaders dropped the country’s historic position of neutrality and threw their hand in with the US and the global “war on terror”. Stockholm was quickly integrated into the western security and intelligence community (p. 102).

All of that was put in jeopardy as Assange began eyeing Sweden as a new base for WikiLeaks, attracted by its constitutional protections for publishers.

In fact, he was in Sweden for precisely that reason in the run-up to WikiLeaks’ publication of the Iraq and Afghanistan war logs. It must have been only too obvious to the Swedish establishment that any move to headquarter WikiLeaks there risked setting Stockholm on a collision course with Washington (p. 159).

This, Melzer argues, is the context that helps to explain an astonishingly hasty decision by the police to notify the public prosecutor of a rape investigation against Assange minutes after a woman referred to only as “S” first spoke to a police officer in a central Stockholm station.

In fact, S and another woman, “A”, had not intended to make any allegation against Assange. After learning he had had sex with them in quick succession, they wanted him to take an HIV test. They thought approaching the police would force his hand (p. 115). The police had other ideas.

The irregularities in the handling of the case are so numerous, Melzer spends the best part of 100 pages documenting them. The women’s testimonies were not recorded, transcribed verbatim, or witnessed by a second officer. They were summarised.

The same, deeply flawed procedure – one that made it impossible to tell whether leading questions influenced their testimony or whether significant information was excluded – was employed during the interviews of witnesses friendly to the women. Assange’s interview and those of his allies, by contrast, were recorded and transcribed verbatim (p. 132).

The reason for the women making their statements – the desire to get an HIV test from Assange – was not mentioned in the police summaries.

In the case of S, her testimony was later altered without her knowledge, in highly dubious circumstances that have never been explained (pp. 139-41). The original text is redacted so it is impossible to know what was altered.

Stranger still, a criminal report of rape was logged against Assange on the police computer system at 4.11pm, 11 minutes after the initial meeting with S and 10 minutes before a senior officer had begun interviewing S – and two and half hours before that interview would finish (pp. 119-20).

In another sign of the astounding speed of developments, Sweden’s public prosecutor had received two criminal reports against Assange from the police by 5pm, long before the interview with S had been completed. The prosecutor then immediately issued an arrest warrant against Assange before the police summary was written and without taking into account that S did not agree to sign it (p. 121).

Almost immediately, the information was leaked to the Swedish media, and within an hour of receiving the criminal reports the public prosecutor had broken protocol by confirming the details to the Swedish media (p. 126).

Secret amendments

The constant lack of transparency in the treatment of Assange by Swedish, British, US, and Ecuadorian authorities becomes a theme in Melzer’s book. Evidence is not made available under freedom of information laws, or, if it is, it is heavily redacted or only some parts are released – presumably those that do not risk undermining the official narrative.

For four years, Assange’s lawyers were denied any copies of the text messages the two Swedish women sent – on the grounds they were “classified”. The messages were also denied to the Swedish courts, even when they were deliberating on whether to extend an arrest warrant for Assange (p. 124).

It was not until nine years later those messages were made public, though Melzer notes that the index numbers show many continue to be withheld. Most notably, 12 messages sent by S from the police station – when she is known to have been unhappy at the police narrative being imposed on her – are missing. They would likely have been crucial to Assange’s defence (p. 125).

Similarly, much of the later correspondence between British and Swedish prosecutors that kept Assange trapped in the Ecuadorian embassy for years was destroyed – even while the Swedish preliminary investigation was supposedly still being pursued (p. 106).

The text messages from the women that have been released, however, suggest strongly that they felt they were being railroaded into a version of events they had not agreed to.

Slowly they relented, the texts suggest, as the juggernaut of the official narrative bore down on them, with the implied threat that if they disputed it they risked prosecution themselves for providing false testimony (p. 130).

Moments after S entered the police station, she texted a friend to say that “the police officer appears to like the idea of getting him [Assange]” (p. 117).

In a later message, she writes that it was “the police who made up the charges” (p. 129). And when the state assigns her a high-profile lawyer, she observes only that she hopes he will get her “out of this shit” (p. 136).

In a further text, she says: “I didn’t want to be part of it [the case against Assange], but now I have no choice” (p. 137).

It was on the basis of the secret amendments made to S’s testimony by the police that the first prosecutor’s decision to drop the case against Assange was overturned, and the investigation reopened (p. 141). As Melzer notes, the faint hope of launching a prosecution of Assange essentially rested on one word: whether S was “asleep”, “half-asleep” or “sleepy” when they had sex.

Melzer write that “as long as the Swedish authorities are allowed to hide behind the convenient veil of secrecy, the truth about this dubious episode may never come to light” (p. 141).

No ordinary extradition’

These and many, many other glaring irregularities in the Swedish preliminary investigation documented by Melzer are vital to decoding what comes next. Or as Melzer concludes “the authorities were not pursuing justice in this case but a completely different, purely political agenda” (p. 147).

With the investigation hanging over his head, Assange struggled to build on the momentum of the Iraq and Afghanistan logs revealing systematic war crimes committed by the US and UK.

“The involved governments had successfully snatched the spotlight directed at them by WikiLeaks, turned it around, and pointed it at Assange,” Melzer observes.

They have been doing the same ever since.

Assange was given permission to leave Sweden after the new prosecutor assigned to the case repeatedly declined to interview him a second time (pp. 153-4).

But as soon as Assange departed for London, an Interpol Red Notice was issued, another extraordinary development given its use for serious international crimes, setting the stage for the fugitive-from-justice narrative (p. 167).

A European Arrest Warrant was approved by the UK courts soon afterwards – but, again exceptionally, after the judges had reversed the express will of the British parliament that such warrants could only be issued by a “judicial authority” in the country seeking extradition not the police or a prosecutor (pp. 177- 9).

A law was passed shortly after the ruling to close that loophole and make sure no one else would suffer Assange’s fate (p. 180).

As the noose tightened around the neck not only of Assange but WikiLeaks too – the group was denied server capacity, its bank accounts were blocked, credit companies refused to process payments (p. 172) – Assange had little choice but to accept that the US was the moving force behind the scenes.

He hurried into the Ecuadorean embassy after being offered political asylum. A new chapter of the same story was about to begin.

British officials in the Crown Prosecution Service, as the few surviving emails show, were the ones bullying their Swedish counterparts to keep going with the case as Swedish interest flagged. The UK, supposedly a disinterested party, insisted behind the scenes that Assange must be required to leave the embassy – and his asylum – to be interviewed in Stockholm (p. 174).

A CPS lawyer told Swedish counterparts “don’t you dare get cold feet!” (p. 186).

As Christmas neared, the Swedish prosecutor joked about Assange being a present, “I am OK without… In fact, it would be a shock to get that one!” (p. 187).

When she discussed with the CPS Swedish doubts about continuing the case, she apologised for “ruining your weekend” (p. 188).

In yet another email, a British CPS lawyer advised “please do not think that the case is being dealt with as just another extradition request” (p. 176).

Embassy spying operation

That may explain why William Hague, the UK’s foreign secretary at the time, risked a major diplomatic incident by threatening to violate Ecuadorean sovereignty and invade the embassy to arrest Assange (p. 184).

And why Sir Alan Duncan, a UK government minister, made regular entries in his diary, later published as a book, on how he was working aggressively behind the scenes to get Assange out of the embassy (pp. 200, 209, 273, 313).

And why the British police were ready to spend £16 million of public money besieging the embassy for seven years to enforce an extradition Swedish prosecutors seemed entirely uninterested in advancing (p. 188).

Ecuador, the only country ready to offer Assange sanctuary, rapidly changed course once its popular left-wing president Rafael Correa stepped down in 2017. His successor, Lenin Moreno, came under enormous diplomatic pressure from Washington and was offered significant financial incentives to give up Assange (p. 212).

At first, this appears to have chiefly involved depriving Assange of almost all contact with the outside world, including access to the internet, and telephone and launching a media demonisation campaign that portrayed him as abusing his cat and smearing faeces on the wall (pp. 207-9).

At the same time, the CIA worked with the embassy’s security firm to launch a sophisticated, covert spying operation of Assange and all his visitors, including his doctors and lawyers (p. 200). We now know that the CIA was also considering plans to kidnap or assassinate Assange (p. 218).

Finally in April 2019, having stripped Assange of his citizenship and asylum – in flagrant violation of international and Ecuadorean law – Quito let the British police seize him (p. 213).

He was dragged into the daylight, his first public appearance in many months, looking unshaven and unkempt – a “demented looking gnome“, as a long-time Guardian columnist called him.

In fact, Assange’s image had been carefully managed to alienate the watching world. Embassy staff had confiscated his shaving and grooming kit months earlier.

Meanwhile, Assange’s personal belongings, his computer, and documents were seized and transferred not to his family or lawyers, or even the British authorities, but to the US – the real author of this drama (p. 214).

That move, and the fact that the CIA had spied on Assange’s conversations with his lawyers inside the embassy, should have sufficiently polluted any legal proceedings against Assange to require that he walk free.

But the rule of law, as Melzer keeps noting, has never seemed to matter in Assange’s case.

Quite the reverse, in fact. Assange was immediately taken to a London police station where a new arrest warrant was issued for his extradition to the US.

The same afternoon Assange appeared before a court for half an hour, with no time to prepare a defence, to be tried for a seven-year-old bail violation over his being granted asylum in the embassy (p. 48).

He was sentenced to 50 weeks – almost the maximum possible – in Belmarsh high-security prison, where he has been ever since.

Apparently, it occurred neither to the British courts nor to the media that the reason Assange had violated his bail conditions was precisely to avoid the political extradition to the US he was faced with as soon as he was forced out of the embassy.

‘Living in a tyranny’

Much of the rest of Melzer’s book documents in disturbing detail what he calls the current “Anglo-American show trial”: the endless procedural abuses Assange has faced over the past three years as British judges have failed to prevent what Melzer argues should be seen as not just one but a raft of glaring miscarriages of justice.

Not least, extradition on political grounds is expressly forbidden under Britain’s extradition treaty with the US (pp. 178-80, 294-5). But yet again the law counts for nothing when it applies to Assange.

The decision on extradition now rests with Patel, the hawkish home secretary who previously had to resign from the government for secret dealings with a foreign power, Israel, and is behind the government’s current draconian plan to ship asylum seekers to Rwanda, almost certainly in violation of the UN Refugee Convention.

Melzer has repeatedly complained to the UK, the US, Sweden, and Ecuador about the many procedural abuses in Assange’s case, as well as the psychological torture he has been subjected to. All four, the UN rapporteur points out, have either stonewalled or treated his inquiries with open contempt (pp. 235-44).

Assange can never hope to get a fair trial in the US, Melzer notes. First, politicians from across the spectrum, including the last two US presidents, have publicly damned Assange as a spy, terrorist, or traitor and many have suggested he deserves death (p. 216-7).

And, second, because he would be tried in the notorious “espionage court” in Alexandria, Virginia, located in the heart of the US intelligence and security establishment, without public or press access (pp. 220-2).

No jury there would be sympathetic to what Assange did in exposing their community’s crimes. Or as Melzer observes: “Assange would get a secret state-security trial very similar to those conducted in dictatorships” (p. 223).

And once in the US, Assange would likely never be seen again, under “special administrative measures” (SAMs) that would keep him in total isolation 24-hours-a-day (pp. 227-9). Melzer calls SAMs “another fraudulent label for torture”.

Melzer’s book is not just a documentation of the persecution of one dissident. He notes that Washington has been meting out abuses on all dissidents, including most famously the whistleblowers Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden.

Assange’s case is so important, Melzer argues, because it marks the moment when western states not only target those working within the system who blow the whistle that breaks their confidentiality contracts, but those outside it too – those like journalists and publishers whose very role in a democratic society is to act as a watchdog on power.

If we do nothing, Melzer’s book warns, we will wake up to find the world transformed. Or as he concludes: “Once telling the truth has become a crime, we will all be living in a tyranny” (p. 331).

The Trial of Julian Assange by Nils Melzer is published by Verso.

First published by Middle East Eye

The post The persecution of Julian Assange first appeared on Dissident Voice.

US/NATO Wants War With Russia

Here is a speech Vladimir Putin DID NOT make — at least in this specific language — to the Russian people just before initiating the special military operations in Ukraine:

“It is my responsibility as the president to warn our citizens of secret, swift, and extraordinary buildup of US/NATO missiles — in an area well known to have a special and historical relationship to Russia and the nations of our hemisphere, in violation of American assurances, and in defiance of treaties and our own policies — this sudden, clandestine decision to station strategic weapons on our borders — is a deliberately provocative and unjustified change in the status quo which cannot be accepted by this country.”

Does this have a familiar feel to it?

Here is the speech which President John F. Kennedy DID MAKE to the American people on October 22, 1962, when he warned of:

… a secret, swift, and extraordinary buildup of Communist missiles — in an area well known to have a special and historical relationship to the United States and the nations of the Western Hemisphere, in violation of Soviet assurances, and in defiance of American and hemispheric policy — this sudden, clandestine decision to station strategic weapons for the first time outside of Soviet soil — is a deliberately provocative and unjustified change in the status quo which cannot be accepted by this country.

The Cuban Missile Crisis which resulted from the discovery of this military escalation by the Soviets, almost resulted in a world war and nuclear annihilation.

The tables have rotated 180º. Now it is the US which is putting the survival of humankind at risk, escalating the conflict in Ukraine by dumping more and more weapons into the conflict zone, demonizing Putin and everything Russian, apparently urging the Ukrainians to avoid a negotiated peace and to fight to the bitter end.

Do not for a moment forget . . .

There were solutions in place to prevent the entire Ukrainian situation from evolving into the terrifying mess we now see. First, there was the Minsk II Agreement of February 12, 2015, signed by Ukraine, guaranteed by France, Germany and Russia. It was ignored by Ukraine, never implemented. There is speculation that it was the US which prompted the stonewalling. Then, December of 2020, Russia itself proposed very concrete steps, as draft treaties, that could be taken to defuse the tensions and guarantee greater security for all of Europe and the world. These were formally submitted to both the US and NATO in writing. They were dismissed. Now with the conflict in full swing, Russia has repeatedly made clear its current position on ending this. What the Russians is demand is no different than what Kennedy demanded of the USSR. This has also been flatly rejected.

From the outset of the crisis, Russia has been maligned, vilified, rejected, canceled, viciously attacked at every opportunity for merely wanting the assurances and concrete reductions to the threat posed by NATO and the US on its borders, just as JFK laid out subsequent to his announcement of Soviet missiles in Cuba.

(As a revealing aside, the comprehensive scale of the vilification and attempted isolation of Russia across the planet, even in spheres completely unrelated to politics — dance, sports, art, music, cultural exchange programs, space exploration, pet shows — could not have been spontaneous. Any multi-layered attack of this scale had to have been in the works for some time. At least, that’s how I see it.)

So . . .

What conclusion can we draw from all of this? What message are we actually hearing from Biden, Blinken, Stoltenberg, Johnson, Scholz, Macron, and the rest of the US puppets around the world?

I can see only one: US/NATO wants war with RussiaWhich frankly, hardly comes as a surprise. From documents, white papers, policy statements, speeches by officials in the State Department and various administrations along the way, all easily accessed by just looking, the dismemberment of Russia and looting its vast and varied natural resources has been on the agenda for at least three decades.

Yes, folks . . .

It’s war. Not liberation. Not freedom and democracy. It’s war.

Please correct me if I’m wrong.

The post US/NATO Wants War With Russia first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Russia, Ukraine, and the USA: Trapped in a Cultural Script

Compassion for Ukrainians victimized by Russia’s violence demonstrates that human hearts care. However, beneath the visible current of compassion there’s an alarming, dangerous dynamic at play.

What’s hair-raising about this crisis is not only the violence but the fact that US political leaders and media makers are not recognizing positive and negative motivations on both sides of conflict. Instead, they’re deliberately creating an inaccurate good vs. evil storyline, a storyline that ignites unwarranted, dangerous feelings of self-righteous hatred against Russia.

The US perpetually perceives its role in conflict as that of a heroic rescuer or innocent victim upholding humanity and freedom against evil persecutors. However, 245 years of US history reveal that this perception is fiction, a psychological construct. Psychological analysts Muriel James and Dorothy Jongeward called the persecutor, victim, and rescuer scenario a “cultural script.”

Examination of 245 years of US history reveals that the perception of always being a good guy fighting evil is fiction, a psychological construct. In fact, good and bad, truths and lies invariably exist on both sides of conflict.

Nonetheless, to deceive others and perhaps themselves, US policymakers’ pattern of relentlessly legitimating their violence, deadly sanctions, and foreign coups by denying the validity of enemy grievances, hiding their own greed and aggressive motives, refusing to cooperatively negotiate, concealing enemy negotiation offers, fabricating lies, omitting significant facts, using false pretexts, and overlooking the disastrous results of a pseudo-religious faith in the problem-solving magic of weapons is so predictable that it’s hard to decide whether it’s more enraging, pathetic, boring, or nauseating.

Consider one persecutor-victim-hero drama that began in 1979. President Jimmy Carter, livid over the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, claimed it was “the greatest threat to peace since the Second World War.” Actually, Afghanistan’s Marxist government, which had been trying to reform the extreme, unjust inequalities of wealth and land ownership in Afghanistan, had requested Soviet assistance against insurgents, but the USSR, the “evil persecutor,” didn’t want to send troops. When the Soviets finally complied, they explained it was because of secret US involvement in Afghanistan. The world called the Soviets liars.

Two decades later US National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski admitted that Carter had begun aiding the insurgent mujahideen—the “heroes”—six months prior to the entry of the persecutors, the Soviets. A delighted Brzezinski knew this could provoke the Soviets to invade and get mired in their own “Vietnam.” Convinced of Soviet evil and mujahideen goodness, US policymakers ignored that the mujahideen skinned Soviet POWs alive.

And now we’re to believe that weapon shipments and sanctions are needed for the US to help rescue Ukraine from “evil” Russia.

The first step in convincing the world to believe the script’s good vs. evil dynamics is to depict Russia as the persecutor who’s motivated, not by fear, but by evil. No problem! Simply label Putin as paranoid and discount Russian fears as ludicrous: NATO’s expansion into Slavic lands, NATO—Ukraine military collaboration, US missile bases in eastern Europe, anti-Russian policies and prejudice in Ukraine, neo-Nazi violence in Ukraine, neo-Nazis and ultranationalists in Ukraine’s police, military, and government, the manipulation of Ukraine by Western profit-seekers, and Western economic and political conquest—likely of Russia itself.

The next step is to paint the US as a heroic rescuer motivated purely by integrity and compassion. Simple! Muffle up all greed-related motives for antagonizing Russia: US weapon industry profits, NATO’s agenda for bases on the Black Sea, IMF goals, ExxonMobil’s coveting Black Sea fossil fuel deposits, and Biden’s connections with Ukraine’s largest natural gas corporation. Then, conceal US hopes to dominate the global energy trade, maintain the dollar as the international energy trade currency, displace Russia from Europe’s gas market, shut down Nord Stream 2, and export fracked liquefied natural gas to Europe via Ukraine.

Also ignored are the biases and aims of those social and business circles who are forever dictating US foreign policy according to their pecuniary priorities and uncooperative, control-oriented habits of international relations. President Biden’s administration, for example, includes many members of the Alliance for Securing Democracy—with an advisory board that combines neoconservatives with liberal hawks, Albright Stonebridge Group—with its interest in Russian business acquisitions, and the Center for a New American Security (CNAS).

CNAS, whose donors include multiple weapon corporations, the European Union, US Department of Defense, Finland’s Defense Ministry, Amazon, Google, and ExxonMobil, was formerly led by President Biden’s current Undersecretary of State Victoria Nuland, whose husband, Robert Kagan, co-founded the conquest-seeking neoconservative Project for the New American Century. Yet we’re to assume that donors’ priorities aren’t skewing foreign policy in dysfunctional ways.

With Russia’s fears dismissed and US greed disguised, the good vs. evil script is further strengthened by permitting only shallow public analysis. For example, how do we know that Russia wasn’t deliberately provoked so that the ulterior goals of certain American social circles could be advanced under the guise of nobly responding to Russia’s aggression? The topic isn’t permitted into discussion.

Another topic given quarter-inch deep analysis is Biden’s seemingly fair-minded declaration that each nation has the right to choose alliances. It’s an unusual statement coming from a “you’re with us or against us” nation that has punished or ousted national leaders who refused to sever alliances with the USSR or Cuba.

Nuland’s leaked tapes from 2014 (which mention Biden and National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan) and a US record of instigating coups indicate that Americans were likely involved in promoting the bloody 2014 coup of Ukraine’s pro-Russian President Yanukovich to install anti-Russian leadership agreeable to European Union and NATO ties. So does Biden’s “right to choose alliances” proclamation apply to nations before a US-approved coup or only afterwards?

Another enraging example of shallow analysis is the opinion falsely parroted by US “experts” that Putin’s 2021 essay, “On the Historical Unity of Russia and Ukraine,” lays bare Putin’s imperialist vision for Ukraine and his lack of recognition of Ukraine’s sovereignty and borders. Whether the experts are deliberately lying or lack reading comprehension skills, their claim is false and, given the self-righteous hatred their claim generates, utterly irresponsible.

Nowhere in the essay does Putin speak of conquering Ukraine or refusing to recognize Ukraine’s sovereignty. Putin specifically describes the relationship between the US and Canada as the type of relationship Russia seeks with Ukraine. When he speaks of “unity,” he’s not speaking of dissolving Ukraine’s political sovereignty. He’s speaking of cultural and historical ties between the two nations.

Putin’s description of the Bolsheviks’ creation of borders never suggests that he’s doing away with them. It’s possible he’s implying that Donetsk, Lugansk, and certainly Crimea have large Russian populations and do not necessarily belong in Ukraine, especially if Ukraine’s post-coup government is harboring neo-Nazism and installing language and indigenous people policies of a deliberate anti-Russian nature. Note that Ukraine and the US are the only two nations in the UN to vote against the recent resolution to condemn the glorification of Nazism.

Of course, US policymakers are not uncomfortable with Nazism and, following WWII, employed one thousand Nazis to spy on Russia. And it was US banks and companies such as Ford, General Motors, and du Pont that opportunistically helped fund Hitler’s war arsenal. Even in 1973, the US worked with pro-Nazi collaborators and US corporate funds to plant protests, propaganda, economic sabotage, and violence that climaxed in the CIA’ s horrific 9/11/73 coup of Chile’s Salvador Allende. It’s not surprising that in 2014, Russian news sources claimed that US private military contractors were training right-wing Ukrainian extremists.

In his essay, Putin clearly states his wish to negotiate with Ukraine, but not with Ukrainian leaders who are mere representatives of Western profiteers eager to use Ukraine’s land and resources for their own benefit. But, of course, US commentators either ignore the statement or, forgetting US history, discount Putin’s fears of Western profiteering as conspiracy theory.

Double standards also fortify the script. Russia’s invasions are motivated by belligerence, never legitimate fears, while US invasions are motivated by legitimate fears, never belligerence. Same behavior, different judgment.

Headlines scream of savage Russian war crimes. TV reporters interview sobbing Ukrainians. Yet US, NATO, and Ukrainian war crimes are barely publicized, their victims ignored. Same actions, different judgment. To learn about US war crimes and Afghan and Iraqi suffering, you’ve got to read investigative reporters’ books.

American groupthink, inflated by its self-righteous role in the script, and seeming to borrow from middle-school social dynamics, jeers and smears President Putin’s every word as absurd and staged. But we’re to trust Biden as honest, unstaged, unconcealing. No proof is needed. Just faith in the script.

Putin’s wish to protect Donetsk and Lugansk, self-declared republics since 2014, and end Kiev’s 8-year war that has killed 14,000 is automatically mocked as false pretext for conquest. Yet US wishes to protect Ukraine from Russia are trusted as caring, without ulterior design. The role of private military contractors, NATO, and the US in escalating civil war and provoking Russia by arming Ukraine with billions in weapons since 2014 rather than committing to non-violently resolve Ukraine’s internal conflict remains shamefully unassessed.

The consequences of belief in this drama? The US habitually uses exaggerated fears of evil enemies as false justification for colossal military budgets, NATO expansion, more military bases, troops, weapons, and nukes—all of which pour gasoline on the world tinderbox of tension, drain desperately-needed funding, and fail to resolve conflict.

If evil is equated with enemies, it becomes deceptively simple for “heroes” to champion goodness: bomb enemies into submission, impose deadly sanctions, strangulate funding, send weapons, engineer coups. But none of these methods nurture goodness. The truth is, those convinced they’re fighting evil are frequently blinded to the immorality and injustice of their own actions against people who aren’t so evil after all.

The good vs. evil script is also unjust because it enables the “innocent” to get away with all they’ve done to exacerbate conflict. The script can even enable the “innocent,” including Biden administration neoconservatives and liberal hawks, to slickly seize power, resources, and markets from those deemed evil.

US leaders’ promotion of this good vs. evil storyline appears compassionate, but it isn’t against killing. It isn’t about justice. It’s about pushing a script that provides pretext on the part of those proclaiming their own goodness to inflict injustice and violence against Russia and Putin, already verbally crucified by a mob of liars. It’s about solidifying our allegiance to US policymakers’ decisions about whom we should kill and whom we should cry for. Yet policymakers step beyond Constitutional grounds when they use their power to turn our hearts on and off, to bait us to hate some and love others to serve their greed for Mid-Eastern, Ukrainian, and Russian wealth.

We’ve got to scrap the script and view conflict impartially. We deserve accurate, sophisticated information about conflict, not propaganda that teaches us to hate. We need full truth to help us ground irrational fears of bad guys, cure the sickness of greed, and offer caring and friendship, not just for those falsely deemed innocent and heroic, but for all of us, with 360 of empathy, all the way around the world.

• View all six videos here:  https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCuNEw9-1OIk-CwU-5vAElcg

• Read the entire essay at Countercurrents

• This article was first published at TRANSCEND Media Service

The post Russia, Ukraine, and the USA: Trapped in a Cultural Script first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Kamila Valieva and Eileen Gu:  Young Women Athletes as Enemies of Empire

Kamila Valieva

As one who has followed Olympic women’s figure skating, especially since Michelle Kwan (ironically a Chinese-American), I was—as an egalitarian feminist when it comes to sports—excited to learn that there was a 15-year-old Russian woman skater, Kamila Valieva, who could do effortless quad jumps.  Waiting in anticipation of her first Olympic performance, I listened to commentators and former US skaters Tara Lipinsky and Johnny Weir rave about her spectacular talent.  They told the audience that we were about to see “the best skating in the world”…that “a talent like this comes around once in a lifetime.”  They found her first performance in the short skate “incredible… flawless… perfect in every way.”  It was, they said, a rare privilege to watch her perform:  “she will have an amazing legacy.”  Days later they would say nothing watching her perform.

Weir and Lipinski were disgusted.  They said she should not be there.  It was so unfair to the other skaters.  They were too sickened to even watch her.  What happened?  The Empire and its allies, based on a highly questionable positive drug test, declared her a “doper.”  She was booed, harassed.  And she finally (literally) fell.  The Russians should obviously not have the first female Olympic quad jumper.  The Russians were taking far too many gold medals.  This whole spectacle was an intersection of hegemonic American world politics and ruthless patriarchy.  Women athletes had become enemies, and thus victims, of Empire. USA!  USA!

The US has always had a need to be first—to put it mildly.  Any coverage of Olympic or international games I’ve ever watched features US athletes and almost never anyone else.  President Jimmy Carter got the ball rolling with his 1980 boycott of the Olympics in the Soviet Union.  Under Carter the Cold War had worsened because of factors like American criticism of Soviet alleged abuses of human rights and the Afghan crisis—therefore the controversial move to ignore the Olympics’ so-called non-political philosophy.  American views of Russian athletics did not improve:  the alleged Russian Doping Scandals began around 2008 and are still going. In 2008, Russian track and field athletes were suspended from competition because of supposed doping, cheating, cover-ups, even “state-sponsored” doping.

A 2015 New York Times article cited an ex-chief of a so-called Russian anti-doping laboratory, Grigory Rodchenkov, who claimed that samples were doctored so that several Russian gold medal winners in the 2014 winter games in Sochi could be victors.  Members of the Russian Sports Ministry thought it an April Fools’ joke, done for “purely political reasons” and threatened to sue the Times. The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) had asked the accuser, Mr. Rodchenkov, to resign years before, for taking bribes, and since 2012 he had lived in L A.  Because of such allegations, the World Athletics Federation suspended the Russian Athletic Federation in 2015, but let “clean athletes” participate under “neutral status”:  no Russian flags or anthems.  In 2019, 2020 and 2021, more accusations were brought against various Russian sports officials for “falsifying documents” and etc., and thus the suspensions continued.

President Vladimir Putin and the Russian government have strongly denied the allegations, calling them a political weapon of the West.  Any appeals from Russian athletes have been denied.  Some argued all countries cheated, why single out Russia?  Others thought the Russians were being framed to keep their very strong athletes from competitions.  It does seem odd that once your athletes were so scrutinized you would be careful to stop “doping.”  In fact, the stated goal of the Russian Sports Ministry at the end of 2021 was –once again—to have the Russian Athletic Federation and Anti-Doping Agency reinstated.  The “West” has remained hostile toward Russian athletics.  And this most certainly included Russian ice skaters:  a sport where Russia has been at the very top for years.

Kamila Valieva had to skate under the same restraints that all Russian athletes face.  But because she was so incredibly good, the skating world simply had to acknowledge her.  In looking at her biographical data—there’s not much!  She’s only 15; born in April of 2006 in Kazan, Russia.  And she has a Pomeranian named Lena, a gift from a fan.  Before she was five years old, her mother had her in gymnastics, ballet and skating, but after age five, it was only skating.   In her first season out of junior ranking she had risen far above her opposition.  She is the fourth woman to land a quadruple jump in competition and the first to do it in Olympic competition.  Valieva set world records on her path to Grand Prix titles in Vancouver and Sochi, and the European Championships in Tallinn in January of this year.  In Beijing the expectations for Kamila Valieva were very high.  As one Russian journalist put it, she was so good in her short skate routine in Beijing that “even some western media outlets often so begrudging with their praise of Russian athletes were forced—perhaps through gritted teeth—to lavish praise on Valieva.” And when she competed next, for the Russian team, she did become the first woman to land a quad in Olympic history. But very soon after that, it was rumored there were “doping allegations” against Kamila Valieva.  A test taken in December was only revealed just then—in the midst of the March Olympics.  It seemed the Russians may not fare so well after all.

Of course, the US also insisted on besting the Chinese athletes in Beijing, but added a nasty political narrative about their host.  Sports analysts like Mike Tirico were pressed into service as experts on alleged Chinese abuses vs. Uyghurs (abuses debunked by reporters like Max Blumenthal), their “authoritarian” government, misguided Covid protocols, etc.  American politicians and media had already prepped the US audience to be anti-Asian generally, by these supposed abuses and the potential of China becoming an even greater economic power—and unapologetically socialist as well.  The COVID pandemic was their fault too; President Trump calling it “Kung Flu” or the “Chinese virus.”  It was embarrassing to listen to the vitriolic commentary by US “analysts” with their long recanting of Chinese faults and crimes.  Our ugly history with China started with the US involvement in the Opium War through the dangerous gradual encirclement of present-day China with US warships and bases placed on numerous unwilling Pacific islands, as John Pilger’s brilliant film The Coming War on China illustrates.   And the US had tried to help their bad faith anti-China Olympic campaign with a “diplomatic boycott” (which didn’t really catch on).

Eileen Gu

Another young woman athlete, Chinese-American Eileen Gu, also became a victim of the Empire’s anger.  Gu is 18; she has a Chinese mother and was raised in San Francisco.  A brilliant world class freestyle skier, she has medalled in X Games, the World Championship and the Youth Olympics.  Gu announced in 2019 that she would represent China in the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics.  But she wasn’t called a traitor until the Olympics drew near.

Gu has said that she welcomes the opportunity to draw people to winter sports.  The Chinese cheered her everywhere, but Americans not so much.  She was derided for taking advantage of “premier training” in the US and then abandoning the US for China.  Tucker Carlson said she had betrayed her country and “renounced” her citizenship.  The New York Times portrayed Gu as an “anti-hero of the feminist ideal” since she chose China which supposedly oppresses women.  At the other end of the political spectrum, right-wing social media echoed Carlson’s sentiments in calling for Gu to leave the country for her betrayal.  Gu won three Olympic medals in freestyle skiing, two gold and a silver.  Unfortunately for USA her three medals added to China’s total of 15 (with nine gold), best ever for China in a winter Olympics.

Eileen Gu also faces anti-female prejudice since extreme sports has always been male-dominated, although women do compete alongside the men.  Gu thinks “as a young biracial woman, it is super important to be able to push boundaries. . . those of the sport and those of the record books because that’s what paves the paths for the next generation of girls.”  So why does the country where she lives give her an incredibly hard time?  As professor of sport Simon Chadwick said, “Her success is being weaponized and used for geopolitical purposes.  This is incredibly unfair because she’s an 18-year-old athlete with a dual heritage family who just wants to try her best and make her parents proud, and yet she’s being turned into a geopolitical weapon.”  Journalist Danny Haiphong has argued that Eileen Gu has chosen the “wrong” side by choosing to compete for a non-white, communist country.  She is assaulting “American exceptionalism” –being a traitor to the “empire’s civilizing mission.”  She should not be skiing for the “Chinese devils.”   But Gu insists (on her Instagram) she hopes “to unite people, promote common understanding, create communication, and forge friendship.”  And she has said:  “I am also a teenage girl.  I do my best to make the world a better place, and I’m having fun while doing it.”  Not what the Empire is about.

Vietnamese-American Haiphong also has pointed out that some American athletes were not going for the Empire’s narrative that the Chinese were being bad hosts—inferior food, lodging, unreasonable COVID protocols, and so on.  Snowboarder Tessa Maud refuted American media’s narrative and talked of the warm welcome she’d received by Chinese volunteers and how she loved the local cuisine.   Skier Aaron Blunk went so far as to criticize American media coverage of the games on Twitter as often “completely false.”  He called Beijing one of the better Olympics he’s been in, including the COVID protocols, the hosting:  “It’s been phenomenal.”  So Twitter suspended his account.  As Haiphong put it:  “Humanizing China represents a direct threat to the new Cold War Agenda.”  The US must control the narrative, and that included not allowing China, or Russia, to shine.

The Empire certainly succeeded in taking the shine from the great Russian figure skater Kamila Valieva.  Commentators Tara Lipinski and Johnny Weir, who had just called Valieva the “best skater in the world” with a “talent that comes once in a lifetime,” were about to change their minds.  At Beijing, Valieva’s performance in the short skate was “a thing of great beauty.”  Weir and Lipinski thought it “incredible.”  Weir gushed about the interview he had been granted by the young Valieva.  Her second performance was a free skate for the Russian team.  She fell once but the skate was historic because as noted, she became the first woman in history to land a quad at the Olympics.  She finished 30 points ahead of second place Kaori Sakamoto.  Weir and Lipinski could not find enough superlatives.

All awaited what would no doubt be another historic performance by Valieva in the ladies singles event.  But then rumors began that the medal ceremony, with Russia winning gold and the US silver—would be delayed.  And then that “a Russian skater” had a positive doping test.  Then it leaked it was Kamila Valieva, in spite of IOC rules that any accusation against a “minor” must remain secret.  A test taken on December 25, sent to a Swedish lab, showed minute traces of trimetazidine, an “illegal” heart drug which may have some positive effect on athletic performance, although many argue it would not help skaters.  Valieva’s family and coaching team believed she may have been exposed to it through her grandfather, who took the drug.  The Russian team also said she had repeatedly tested negative before and after the positive sample.  They said she was innocent.  The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) panel ruled she would not be suspended from the competition.  A further investigation would happen later, now scheduled to conclude by mid-August.

Kamila Valieva rallied to lead the field in the ladies short program.  This was when stalwart patriots Lipinski and Weir were too disgusted to watch.  I remember these stalwarts as being very nasty in speaking of the Russian skaters both during the Sochi (Russia) Olympics in 2014, and the 2018 PyeongChang  (South Korea)  games (where “cleared” Russians could skate).   Some observers found them “a breath of fresh air,” but others as “mean, obnoxious, distracting.”  At any rate, they were outraged Valieva was allowed to perform.  She was “ruining everything.”  Their only comment after her performance was “she skated.”  Getting their wish for her downfall, the scandal finally impacted her free skate and she finished fourth after stumbles and falls.  Unfortunately for USA! Russian Alexandra Trusova won silver.  Former Russian ice dancer champion Alexander Zhulin has said that international sports authorities will have to live with “ruining” Kamila Valieva’s Olympic dreams.  He had never “seen Kamila so lost.”  The IOC and WADA (World Anti-Doping Agency) “destroyed and removed the biggest star of figure skating.”  The December 25 test was revealed after team Russia’s brilliant performance, capped by Valieva’s skate, won gold.  It does seem like an American Empire kind of move.

Valieva’s coact Eteri Tutberidze, who, along with Kamila’s team, was (incredibly) criticized by the IOC’s Thomas Bach, for being “too cold.”   Tutberidze said Kamila was “our star.”  “Those who smiled yesterday—today left the stands demonstrably ignoring and pouncing like jackals.”  There were reporters, especially the British, who followed her around at practice, yelling “Are you a doper?”  Valieva addressed her Beijing experience in two “emotional instagrams” in late February.  She thanked her coaches for “helping me to be strong.”  And she thanked all who “were with me during this tough period . . who did not let me lose heart. . and who believed in me.”  A few weeks later she was on the ice again.

Kamila participated in the “Channel One Cup”  Russian skating (competitive) exhibition, since Russian skaters were banned from the Worlds.  Valieva skated a “simplified” program, but said the experience of being out on the ice was “exhilarating.”  Anna Shcherbakova won the women’s event.  Valieva has said that the Olympics should not be “idealized” and her “journey is just beginning.” In a recent interview with “People Talk” she said she can be “cocky, obnoxious, stubborn, insecure.”  But also “sociable, cheerful, active, and of course, romantic…”  In skating programs, her coaches see her in “lyrical images,” but she wants to be “different in programs:  a hooligan, daring, bold.”  She is a typical teenager, but also very intelligent, a brilliant athlete and a targeted enemy of Empire.

Sportswriters can be very effective operatives for Empire.  My favorite is probably Christine Brennan.  I had admired Brennan as one of the team of reporters on HBO’s “Real Sports,” although unfortunately now they seem more apt to take a corporate line than do the critical reporting they used to do.  Brennan accused Valieva, and Russia, of turning the Winter Games “into a bizarre and troubling fiasco” because of their “state-sponsored doping.”  She said Valieva “would have been favored to win” the Worlds in Montpelier, but she “crumbled under the scrutiny of her positive drug test.”  When Americans won the pairs skating title at Worlds, their first since 1979, Brennan wrote:  “No Russia?  No China?  No problem.”  And “few will miss them.”  The Beijing medal count had USA with 25 medals, behind Norway, Russia, Germany and Canada, much like their finish at PyeongChang.  The Russians had 32 medals, with six gold; the Chinese had 15, with nine gold; USA! had a paltry 25, with eight gold, well behind Russia.  Totally unacceptable.

Of course, by the World Championships, more than Valieva and her fellow skaters were ousted from competition.  It was all Russia, all the time—everyone Russian was out because the World Federations of all the sports, influenced and/or bludgeoned into it, had banned them all because of the Russian military action in Ukraine.  This was the Russian response to being encircled with troops and NATO forces, and a Nazi-led government provided by the US in Ukraine in 2014, which had been attacking the Russian-language population of eastern Ukraine since that 2014 coup.  An unprecedented campaign of Western propaganda and lies is in full swing, definitely McCarthyite in its depth and with parallel lasting and dangerous results to come.  In the 1950s Ethel Rosenberg was executed for being a communist wife—a wife who either evilly influenced her husband Julius to reveal atomic secrets to the Russians or did not, as was her duty, stop him from doing so.  Julius Rosenberg, executed with his wife, was reputedly worried that if the US gained too much power without a balance from the Soviets, it would lead to a dangerous situation.  And he was right.  The US government has become an Empire that will tolerate no state competitor, nor even states who will not line up and stay with the American Empire’s plans.  This is very clear in the world of sport—certainly in the supposedly apolitical Olympic world.

To punish Russia, the US/Europe have gone totally insane with their bans and sanctions.  Many sanctions such as Russian energy, will only punish Europe; others involve outright piracy as in US allies helping themselves to Russian yachts.  The list goes on, but in the world of sport—athletes from Russia and its close ally Belarus are banned “until further notice” from international skiing, track and field events, tennis, basketball, aquatic sports, volleyball, curling, hockey, rugby, football (soccer), and of course, skating.  Many of these sports have Russian champions, and they, as Christine Brennan put it, “will not be missed.”  A few officials have objected, and paid for it.  Russian sports officials say they will “temporarily” develop their own competitions, with foreign athletes.  They say the western world is committing “sporting genocide” against its athletes.

So Kamila Valieva and company will skate at home, and Eileen Gu will still be considered a traitor by many Americans.  The hate expressed by Tara Lipinski and Christine Brennan is too easily tapped by the American sports world.  Here is hegemonic politics, and ruthless patriarchy and racism, coming together.  And here are two remarkably strong and level-headed young women athletes who are braving the results of being who they are.  In its overwhelming power, the US Empire has made evil all things Chinese and Russian, and women athletes have not been spared the weaponizing of that hate.

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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.

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