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Thursday, March 20, 2014

Propaganda and truth

When it comes to the Ukraine controversy, even our liberal-leaning media organs overflow with neocon propaganda. For example, the allegedly liberal-ish Slate has published this piece of claptrap from Fred Kaplan of the Council on Foreign Relations:
Either way, two things should be understood. First, Putin’s actions have been driven less by a belief that the West is weak than his knowledge that Russia is. Second, he dreams of restoring Russia’s empire—his March 18 Kremlin speech is, at heart, a cry of resentment against the West for its humiliation of his country during the early years after the Soviet Union’s collapse. A bitter autocrat with a head full of grandiose daydreams can be a dangerous creature.
Kaplan can make such a silly statement because he knows that most of his readers won't actually bother to read Putin's words. Much of his speech strikes me as both sensible and candid. No, I'm not saying that Putin is a saint. But in politics (as Reagan adviser Martin Anderson liked to say), the question is always: "Compared to what?"

Compare these words to what we're hearing from our own politicians and pundits, and come to your own decisions. Putin:
More than 82 percent of the electorate took part in the vote. Over 96 percent of them spoke out in favour of reuniting with Russia. These numbers speak for themselves.
Incidentally, the total population of the Crimean Peninsula today is 2.2 million people, of whom almost 1.5 million are Russians, 350,000 are Ukrainians who predominantly consider Russian their native language, and about 290,000-300,000 are Crimean Tatars, who, as the referendum has shown, also lean towards Russia.
Notice that Putin is talking about something that our own commentators (such as Kaplan) rarely address: The actual history of the region. In a robustly ethnocentric fashion, Kaplan pretends that Putin's speech was all about the U.S., a conclusion one can reach only by ignoring the text. 
In people’s hearts and minds, Crimea has always been an inseparable part of Russia. This firm conviction is based on truth and justice and was passed from generation to generation, over time, under any circumstances, despite all the dramatic changes our country went through during the entire 20th century.

After the revolution, the Bolsheviks, for a number of reasons – may God judge them – added large sections of the historical South of Russia to the Republic of Ukraine. This was done with no consideration for the ethnic make-up of the population, and today these areas form the southeast of Ukraine. Then, in 1954, a decision was made to transfer Crimean Region to Ukraine, along with Sevastopol, despite the fact that it was a federal city. This was the personal initiative of the Communist Party head Nikita Khrushchev. What stood behind this decision of his – a desire to win the support of the Ukrainian political establishment or to atone for the mass repressions of the 1930’s in Ukraine – is for historians to figure out.

What matters now is that this decision was made in clear violation of the constitutional norms that were in place even then.
Here is what the man actually said about the break-up of the Soviet Union:
It was only when Crimea ended up as part of a different country that Russia realised that it was not simply robbed, it was plundered.

At the same time, we have to admit that by launching the sovereignty parade Russia itself aided in the collapse of the Soviet Union. And as this collapse was legalised, everyone forgot about Crimea and Sevastopol ­– the main base of the Black Sea Fleet. Millions of people went to bed in one country and awoke in different ones, overnight becoming ethnic minorities in former Union republics, while the Russian nation became one of the biggest, if not the biggest ethnic group in the world to be divided by borders.

Now, many years later, I heard residents of Crimea say that back in 1991 they were handed over like a sack of potatoes. This is hard to disagree with.
When Putin does speak of American intervention, the focus is on more recent events.
I would like to reiterate that I understand those who came out on Maidan with peaceful slogans against corruption, inefficient state management and poverty. The right to peaceful protest, democratic procedures and elections exist for the sole purpose of replacing the authorities that do not satisfy the people. However, those who stood behind the latest events in Ukraine had a different agenda: they were preparing yet another government takeover; they wanted to seize power and would stop short of nothing. They resorted to terror, murder and riots. Nationalists, neo-Nazis, Russophobes and anti-Semites executed this coup. They continue to set the tone in Ukraine to this day.
It is also obvious that there is no legitimate executive authority in Ukraine now, nobody to talk to. Many government agencies have been taken over by the impostors, but they do not have any control in the country, while they themselves – and I would like to stress this – are often controlled by radicals. In some cases, you need a special permit from the militants on Maidan to meet with certain ministers of the current government. This is not a joke – this is reality.
Does Putin have an angle? Of course. Is he telling the full story? Of course not. All politicians have agendas, and Putin -- let us repeat -- is no saint.

But does his narrative really bear so little resemblance to what actually happened? Is the neocon narrative really closer to the truth? All I ask is for you to do some research and come to your own conclusions.
However, what do we hear from our colleagues in Western Europe and North America? They say we are violating norms of international law. Firstly, it’s a good thing that they at least remember that there exists such a thing as international law – better late than never.
Our pundits recognize the existence of international law only when doing so conveniences their agenda. At all other times, our propagandists speak of American "exceptionalism," a phrase that the neocons like to use because they've found that it plays better than "We're an empire now." Remember when the war-hawks felt bold enough to make that declaration openly? Remember when they sneered at the very idea of international law?

Putin isn't afraid to make that very point:
Key international institutions are not getting any stronger; on the contrary, in many cases, they are sadly degrading. Our western partners, led by the United States of America, prefer not to be guided by international law in their practical policies, but by the rule of the gun. They have come to believe in their exclusivity and exceptionalism, that they can decide the destinies of the world, that only they can ever be right. They act as they please: here and there, they use force against sovereign states, building coalitions based on the principle “If you are not with us, you are against us.” To make this aggression look legitimate, they force the necessary resolutions from international organisations, and if for some reason this does not work, they simply ignore the UN Security Council and the UN overall.
Any neocon reading these words will huff and puff and sputter in mock (or perhaps real) outrage. But can any honest person argue that Putin has misrepresented what happened during the Bush years?

Now let's come to more recent events:
There was a whole series of controlled “colour” revolutions. Clearly, the people in those nations, where these events took place, were sick of tyranny and poverty, of their lack of prospects; but these feelings were taken advantage of cynically. Standards were imposed on these nations that did not in any way correspond to their way of life, traditions, or these peoples’ cultures. As a result, instead of democracy and freedom, there was chaos, outbreaks in violence and a series of upheavals. The Arab Spring turned into the Arab Winter.
This blog -- along with many other blogs, and not just those on the left side of the political aisle -- reached a similar conclusion some time ago. To be candid, I didn't want to face the reality of what was going on. The first Egyptian revolution seemed pretty damned groovy at the time. No-one wanted to admit that the spirit of grooviness might soon provide a cover for covert ops and cynical manipulation.
Today, I would like to address the people of the United States of America, the people who, since the foundation of their nation and adoption of the Declaration of Independence, have been proud to hold freedom above all else. Isn’t the desire of Crimea’s residents to freely choose their fate such a value?
The massive voter turnout speaks to the fairness of that election. I'll say it again: Nobody voted because he or she had a gun to his head. And certainly no-one was forced to celebrate that election, as the Crimeans did. The Russian "invasion" was met not with bullets but with waving flags.

Again, I must emphasize that Putin does not wear a suit tailored to accommodate the wings of an angel. This man is guilty of many sins. Everyone knows this.

But the question is always: "Compared to what?"

In your heart of hearts, can you truthfully say that this speech contains the kind of deceptive and inflammatory rhetoric we encounter in this toxic piece of neocon agit-prop, published in the Wall Street Journal?
Sometime in the first Obama term, opinion polls began to report that the American people were experiencing what media shorthand came to call "fatigue" with the affairs of the world. The U.S. should "mind its own business." The America-is-fatigued polling fit with Mr. Obama's stated goal to lead from behind. A close observer of American politics also could notice that Republican politicians, the presumptive heirs of Reagan, began to recalibrate their worldview inward to accommodate the "fatigue" in the opinion polls.
"Stated goal"? When did Obama make such a statement?

"Fatigue" is the new "Vietnam syndrome." Many members of my generation will tell you that "Vietnam syndrome" was a good thing. If not for that "syndrome," Reagan might have put American boots on the ground in Central America.

During the reign of Dubya, the right-wingers finally got their chance to put a whole lot of boots on the ground -- and look at what happened. Neocons ruined our economy by spending trillions of dollars in pursuit of their vile delusions of empire. Damned right we're fatigued. We're tired of being bullshitted into committing atrocities despised by the entire world. We need a respite from jingoism and mass violence.

We also need a little more truth in our political discourse. Try to count the lies in this next paragraph from the WSJ:
Last September, every foreign chancery in the world concluded that the United States would bomb Bashar Assad's airfields with Tomahawk missiles in reprisal for killing nearly 1,500 Syrians with chemical weapons, including sarin gas. Vladimir Putin placed a bet. He suggested to the American president that in lieu of the U.S. bombing Assad's airfields, their two nations, in concert, could remove all of Syria's chemical weapons. Mr. Obama accepted and stood down from bombing Assad. Six months later Vladimir Putin invaded and annexed Crimea.
It takes a kind of genius to shove so many deceits into so small a space.

First: We have the fallacy of post hoc ergo propter hoc: Crimea happened after; therefore Crimea happened because.

Second: Putin did not invade and annex Crimea. The people of the region overwhelmingly voted for a return to a historical norm.

Third: Obama stood down in Syria because the people of the United States demanded a stand down. Wisely -- and Constitutionally -- the President left the "war or peace" decision up to Congress. The citizenry shouted "No more war!" in a voice so loud that even the politicians could not ignore it.

Fourth: As we have seen in many previous posts, persuasive evidence indicates that Assad (who, let us stress for the umpteenth time, is a thug) did not use chemical weaponry on his own people. The attack gave him zero military advantage -- but it did give a political advantage to his opponents, who wanted America to intervene on their side.

Let's hear one last time from the WSJ. As you read, try to visualize the writer -- his eyes bloodshot, his cheeks flushed, and small spittle-flecks of white bile dribbling down his chin: 
This moment is not about Barack Obama. By now we know about him. This is about Vladimir Putin and the self-delusions of Western nations and their famous "fatigue." Vladimir Putin is teaching the West and especially the United States that fatigue is not an option.
It is difficult for men embedded in a world of rational affairs to come to grips with Mr. Putin's point of view: He doesn't care what they think.

The solitary but thrilling world of Vladimir Putin's mind is the one inhabited by the Assads, Saddams, bin Ladens, Kims, Gadhafis and Khomeinis of the world, and when it really runs out of control, or is allowed to, by a Stalin, Hitler, or Mao. Whether one man's grandiosity will burst across borders is not about normal logic. It is about personal power and forcing the obeisance of other nations.
All I'm asking is for you to read both sides. Read Kaplan, read the Wall Street Journal -- and then read Putin's speech. Decide for yourself: Who is spewing the kind of propaganda that appeals to our lowest, most venal instincts? And who is speaking reasonably?
Through this whole affair it seems that Putin has been the only rational actor.

Also, both the Slate and WSJ articles resort to armchair psychological analysis of Putin's mind to explain his actions; "A bitter autocrat with a head full of grandiose daydreams", "The solitary but thrilling world of Vladimir Putin's mind ... Whether one man's grandiosity will burst across borders is not about normal logic." Reminds me of the attacks on Edward Snowden as being a narcissistic loner with delusions of grandiosity. This all seems to be right out of the playbook. And all the pundits are reading from the same book.

And these psychological projections remind me of the attempts to paint Lee Harvey Oswald as the self absorbed lone nut assassin trying to elevate himself by killing a president. Seems that this same playbook has been around for a long time now. And people still just nod their heads and buy this crap.

Very interesting video of a past interview with Putin. The whole thing is set up to show Vladmir in the best light, but there's no doubt that the guy is in total control of his faculties and sharp as a tack.
Kagan could care less which way Crimea or the Ukraine went if Russia was not aligned with Assad....Hezbollah....Iran.
Which, admittedly it took a while into the Syrian chaos before Israel's government admitted it supported the coalition including Sunni jihadists!! against Assad, because the Syria-Hezbollah-Iran axis was considered a stronger force against Israel just now.
Putin's words make for better propaganda. Either he's intelligent as hell or he has some smart people writing his stuff.

As far as Kaplan, the CFR, and the WSJ, it's not too far from the views of Hillary. In fact, a lot of people now assume she is a neocon (or at least taking on that role since Obama); and for the last 10 years hasn't her second home been the CFR?

Not being an American myself, the best thing the world can hope for in a US President (now or in the future) is to get as close to an antiwar policy as possible. Even though Obama still conducts the war against the boogey men through drone strikes, overt occupations of other countries has declined. If McCain, Romney or Hillary had become president ....?
I can't believe anybody still buys the neocon propaganda. For all of Putin's problems, he certainly comes across as the far more rational one. The Slate and WSJ articles are ironic to the point that I would think they were spoofs of rabid neocon rhetoric if it weren't obvious that the writers really don't see the irony (or maybe they do and don't care?). Projection is what they are. How people can not see this when it is so incredibly clear is beyond my comprehension.
And remember;
Fred Kagan is the brother of Robert Kagan, who is the husband of Victoria "Fu** the E.U." Nuland.
thanks for the article and for trying to put the propaganda in perspective.

terry - i don't see how that is going to happen with a country that is completely dependent on the military industrial industry.. something much more grass roots and radical will have to happen at this point for the usa to change direction.
A very well written, informed, and thorough analysis of the Ukraine Coup and the people involved;
The point that goes significantly against Putin's action is the situation of the Crimean Tartars. Contrary to what the voting numbers you reported, a significant number of the Crimean Tartars boycotted the vote, something they also did about the vote that triggered the conflict. Russia's history and the Crimean Russians current behavior toward the Tartars certainly throws into question what has gone on in Crimea- both in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. This website articles look to be straightforwardly reporting on this aspect of the situation.
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