Monday, March 03, 2014

Ukraine: Did a "Northwoods"-style covert op create the crisis?

Okay, here's my bottom line -- and it's bound to piss off many of you.

I don't like Obama, but I don't think he is a War Guy. Right now, he may be the only thing keeping the hawks from having their way.

The war drummers have reached a volume that Buddy Rich could only dream of. Obviously, that drumbeat is pushing the national debate toward the right, toward militancy. But it is also intended to make one specific person -- Barack Obama -- march toward the battlefield.

Many of you will scoff at the notion that Obama is the drummEE instead of the drummER. Well, perhaps you're right. Perhaps I'm wrong.


Let us recall that, in the early 1960s, lefties scoffed at those who suggested that JFK was a Peace Guy, despite the hawkish things that politics often forced him to say (and occasionally do). We now have a fuller picture of the pressures placed on him to invade Cuba during the Missile Crisis. Had he done so, had he been a real War Guy (instead of someone who occasionally had to talk like a War Guy), you and I probably would not be here. At the time, no-one in America knew that the Soviets had placed tactical nukes on the island -- which the ground-level commandeers were told to use at their own discretion. Those nukes would have been used against an invading force. Inevitable result: World War III.

Fortunately, JFK was not a War Guy. Those who insisted otherwise were wrong.

Let's hope that the ultra-cynics are also wrong about Obama.

But even if he is not a War Guy, mighty forces are trying to force him to become one. See, for example, this horrific offering from "the editorial board" of the Washington Post.

It's pretty clear what these people want: A new Cold War. Maybe even a hot one.

Note that this same article also takes Obama to task for not going to war against Assad of Syria. Apparently, the editorial board of the WP doesn't give a damn about the will of the American people -- who, according to all the polls, did not want Obama to intervene in Syria. The hawkish elitist neocons who run our propaganda factories apparently don't have much tolerance for this whole "democracy" thing.

For a saner viewpoint, read Michael Cohen's Guardian piece, which bears this headline and sub-head:
Don't listen to Obama's Ukraine critics: he's not 'losing' – and it's not his fight

The ‘do something’ pundits rear their heads. Just like they did on Iraq, Afghanistan and every other crisis of US ‘credibility’
Cohen scores the agit-prop promulgated by the neocons who have commandeered our opinion-making outlets. One of his targets is Julia Ioffe of The New Republic, whom I lambasted a few posts down.
Let’s start here with Julia Ioffe of the New Republic, a popular former reporter in Moscow who now tells us that Putin has sent troops into Crimea “because he can. That’s it, that’s all you need to know”. It’s as if things like regional interests, spheres of influence, geopolitics, coercive diplomacy and the potential loss of a key ally in Kiev (as well as miscalculation) are alien concepts for Russian leaders.
Isn't it amusing that the nation which formulated and still adheres to the Monroe Doctrine -- let me repeat that: The nation that formulated and still adheres to the fucking MONROE DOCTRINE -- now feels that it has the right to tell Russia not to interfere in a country on her border? A border state that was once part of the USSR? A border state run (until recently) by a democratically-elected leader who was forced from office by our own CIA, working in alliance with neo-Nazis?

If hypocrisy were an acid, this new formulation could burn through every floor of the Chrysler building and then sink into the bedrock for half a mile.

Here's a simple way to tell which stories about Ukraine are non-propagandistic: If a writer mentions Victoria Nuland and her machinations, that writer is probably worth reading. Scan for the Nuland name: If you don't see it, caveat lector.

Here's a piece which doesn't mention Nuland directly, but does get to the heart of the matter...
How oblivious or arrogant do you have to be to spend $5 billion dollars destabilizing a country (the actual total is undoubtedly much higher), have your diplomats caught on tape planning a coup, bring a gang of fascist thugs to power on Russia's doorstep--whose first order of business is to outlaw the Russian language, conduct a purge of opposing parties, threaten the Russian-speaking population, threaten to restore Ukraine's nuclear status and provoke and threaten Russia non-stop... and have the *balls* to lecture anyone about interfering? Oh, add to the pot that you have done the same exact thing in several other countries in the past few years alone. It simply boggles the mind.
That may be the best short paragraph on this crisis written in English so far.

Let's take this into "Northwoods" territory. Students of covert warfare may appreciate the argument made here:
On 23 February of this year in Kiev there took place a coup d'état in which armed neo-Nazi militants surrounded and took over Parliament and forced the parliamentarians, under duress, to replace the elected government with opposition figures who were supported and promoted by the EU representatives and the US State Department. Representatives of the party of the overthrown government—the Party of Regions—were threatened into resigning.

What provided the rationale for the coup d'état was the killing of demonstrators by uniformed snipers, blamed on the previous government. The overthrown president, who has since fled to Russia, was accused of mass murder, and the new government demanded his extradition (a dumb move, since Russia's constitution forbids extradition). But there are serious questions about this interpretation of events: the special forces were never issued rifles and were never ordered to open fire on the protesters; there were quite a few special forces members themselves among those killed; the killings were carried out in such a manner as to incite rather than quell protest, by targeting women, bystanders and those assisting the wounded. The killings were followed by a professionally orchestrated public relations campaign, complete with a catchy name—“Heaven's Hundred” (“Небесная сотня”)—complete with candlelight vigils, rapid clean-up and laying of wreaths at the scene of the crime and so on.

Unfortunately, this name has a nasty antecedent in the “Black Hundred” (“Чёрная сотня”), which was the name of a coalition of anti-Semites and ultra-right-wing nationalists back in 1905...
The writer goes on to compare these events to the Reichstag Fire. Frankly, I've heard rather too many things compared to the Reichstag Fire over the years, but in this case, I can only nod in agreement. Sometimes you've just gotta go with the cliche.

The killing of those demonstrators does seem fishy. Did American covert operatives gin up a new version of the Amritsar massacre? I'm not convinced, but I'm certainly persuadable.

Comparisons to the infamous Operation Northwoods document have also become something of a cliche. Still, under these circumstances, it would be criminal not to bring up that precedent. "The special forces were never issued rifles and were never ordered to open fire on the protesters..." Although I'm pretty sure that they did have arms, I question the rest of the story we've been told.

How can anyone not think "Northwoods"?

A former CIA man tells (some of) the truth. I also recommend this offering by Ray McGovern:
Is “regime change” in Ukraine the bridge too far for the neoconservative “regime changers” of Official Washington and their sophomoric “responsibility-to-protect” (R2P) allies in the Obama administration? Have they dangerously over-reached by pushing the putsch that removed duly-elected Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych?
Unless Obama is completely bereft of advisers who know something about Russia, it should have been a “known-known” (pardon the Rumsfeldian mal mot) that the Russians would react this way to a putsch removing Yanukovich. It would have been a no-brainer that Russia would use military force, if necessary, to counter attempts to use economic enticement and subversive incitement to slide Ukraine into the orbit of the West and eventually NATO.

This was all the more predictable in the case of Ukraine, where Putin – although the bête noire in corporate Western media – holds very high strategic cards geographically, militarily, economically and politically.
I think it fair to conclude that forces within this government want war, or at least a new Cold War. Once again: I'm well aware that certain of my readers will argue that those forces must of necessity include Obama himself. We can argue the point until the cows come home, but only time will tell. (That last sentence was composed to demonstrate this blog's new "sometimes you've gotta go with the cliche" policy.)

Let's return to the issue of Ukraine's destabilization. 
There is one huge difference between Prague in 1968 and Kiev 2014. The “Prague Spring” revolution led by Dubcek enjoyed such widespread spontaneous popular support that it was difficult for Russian leaders Leonid Brezhnev and Aleksey Kosygin to argue plausibly that it was spurred by subversion from the West.

Not so 45-plus years later. In early February, as violent protests raged in the Ukrainian capital of Kiev and the White House professed neutrality, U.S. State Department officials were, in the words of NYU professor emeritus of Russian studies Stephen Cohen, “plotting a coup d’état against the elected president of Ukraine.”

We know that thanks to neocon prima donna Victoria Nuland, now Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs, who seemed intent on giving new dimension to the “cookie-pushing” role of U.S. diplomats. Recall the photo showing Nuland in a metaphor of over-reach, as she reached deep into a large plastic bag to give each anti-government demonstrator on the square a cookie before the putsch.

More important, recall her amateurish, boorish use of an open telephone to plot regime change in Ukraine with a fellow neocon, U.S. Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt. Crass U.S. interference in Ukrainian affairs can be seen (actually, better, heard) in an intercepted conversation posted on YouTube on Feb. 4.
The call is on freakin' YouTube. Anyone who wants to can listen to Nuland at any time of the day or night. Yet all reference to that revelatory chat is excised from our mainstream media, and even from most of our alternative media.
U.S. meddling has been so obvious that at President Barack Obama’s hastily scheduled Friday press conference on Ukraine, Yats’s name seemed to get stuck in Obama’s throat.
Obama doesn’t usually stumble like that – especially when reading a text, and is normally quite good at pronouncing foreign names. Perhaps he worried that one of the White House stenographic corps might shout out, “You mean our man, Yats?”
There are bound to be fissures in the international community and in the Western alliance on whether further provocation in Ukraine is advisable. Many countries have much to lose if Moscow uses its considerable economic leverage over natural gas supplies, for example.

And, aspiring diplomat though she may be, Victoria Nuland presumably has not endeared herself to the EC by her expressed “Fuck the EC” attitude.

Aside from the most servile allies of the U.S. there may be a growing caucus of Europeans who would like to return the compliment to Nuland. After all does anyone other than the most extreme neocon ideologue think that instigating a civil war on the border of nuclear-armed Russia is a good idea?
How come we're not seeing these common-sense observations anywhere in our major media? This level of press control is stunning.


Dojo Rat said...

It is indeed "stunning".
I'm glad you took a look at Robert Parry's Consortium News, He is the only journalist that agreed with my observation that Obama has been played by the Neo-cons embedded in his administration.

Let's see if, like the Syrian gas weapon crisis, Obama can negotiate instead of going to war.
I sure hope so.

CBarr said...

Joseph, I think that your assessment and that of Dojo Rat, is good. Obama may be a tool of the banksters, but he is not a war monger. I also think that he’s constantly aware of the fate that befell JFK and MLK.

Barack Obama has not shown himself to be a strong leader. He entered office with very little experience under his belt. He can be expected to give up his bargaining positions in any negotiations. I really can’t think of any time that he has truly used the power of his presidency. Just as the CIA assumed that the young new president JFK could be gamed to go along with the Bay of Pigs operation, it would seem likely that Obama could be gamed into doing the same with Ukraine. The gambit almost worked with Syria after all. With the Bay of Pigs, Kennedy showed himself to be stronger than anyone expected. Obama lucked out in Syria and was saved by Putin. The relationship is different this time in Ukraine.

The clumsy heavy handed actions of Nuland do demonstrate arrogance on the part of the neocon faction. Maybe they just thought Obama to be such a push over that they could get away with murder and got careless. I also think that in their arrogance they badly underestimated Vladmir Putin. Only Americans with their ameri-centric world view would create such a clusterfuck on the Russian border. Did they really want to restart the Cold War or was it just blind delusion? They seem good at tactics but poor at strategy. The rest of the world can see what’s going on. Despite the opinions of our pundits, Putin greatly increased his stature with these decisive actions.

Yanukovych ordering snipers to kill unarmed protesters never made sense. That would be the act of someone desperate to retain power at any cost… not the act of someone preparing to flee across the border. The killing of innocents as a false flag action is the most reasonable explanation.

Anonymous said...

I'm a regular reader of your blog and a skeptic of the Western narrative on Ukraine. But we shouldn't overreach.

Nuland's, shall we say, indelicate call doesn't show her plotting a "coup d'état." Some context is needed. At the time Yanukovych had offered a power-sharing government; opposition leaders would be allowed to take up high, if largely formal, positions in government. Nuland was talking about whom she wanted to see in that government. She didn't want the former boxer because she thought he was - pardon the pun - a lightweight.

The call shows interference. It shows a degree of meddling the U.S would never own up to publicly. But not a coup d'état. And anyway, the opposition rejected the power-sharing offer, if anything showing that the U.S., while seeking to shape that government, had no means of forcing its creation.

More damning in the call - and no one I've seen has pointed this out - is the way she says "Yats" should be talking to the boxer and the leader of Svoboda, the fascist party (that now controls the ministry of defense and so many other positions), "4 times a week." Again, that's our diplomat saying Yats should be in near-daily consultations with a neo-fascist.

Maybe she meant that the phone conversations would be a way of placating the neo-fascist after his being denied power. That's a charitable interpretation. But keeping open that kind of channel between upper-government and a neo-fascist would be so dangerous. In any event, what Nuland didn't say on the phone call - has never said - is that this neo-fascist is a menace and should be kept as far away from power as possible and denied the trappings of legitimacy.

That says a lot about the way she, and America, calculates. No principle, just strategy, with all eyes on the overarching goal of sticking it to Russia and guiding Ukraine like a captured meteor into orbit around Europe.

These people just don't care all that much that neo-fascists are on the ascendance. That's what the call reveals. The cynical bastards.

b said...

Maybe take a look at Oleksandr Turchynov's connection with Semion Mogilevich.

b said...

The Jewish Telegraph Agency has confirmed Israeli involvement in the Kiev fighting.

It was the Israelis (who held two posts in the Georgian cabinet) who egged on the Georgians to invade South Ossetia in 2008. (Does it sound crazy that the Israelis held two posts in the Georgian cabinet? Click here to confirm.)

CBarr said...

Joseph, thank you for showing me OpEdNews. Robert Parry has there an essay which lays out the whole situation; What Neocons Want from Ukraine Crisis.

The parallels with the JFK presidency are striking. JFK was struggling to wrest control of U.S. foreign policy away from other factions of the government, and resorted to secret communications with Khrushchev and Castro. Obama is at odds with his mongrel foreign policy team and has been dealing privately with Putin to help solve issues with Iran and Syria. Parry sees the neocon overreach in Ukraine in part as an attempt to drive a wedge between Putin and Obama.

One needn’t postulate CIA involvement to explain the sniper shootings of innocents. Seems that many different groups have their fingers in this revolutionary pie. The neo-fascist elements in Ukraine should be quite capable of making this calculation themselves.

CBarr said...

OF course the Parry article was first posted on Consortium News. Lack of diligence on my part to not see that.

Propertius said...

I don't like Obama, but I don't think he is a War Guy.

Let's see:

1) unrestricted drone warfare in Yemen, Pakistan, Somalia, Iraq, and Afghanistan - including the extrajudicial murder of American citizens

2) covert military action in Libya, Yemen, Somalia, Syria, Pakistan, and God only knows where else

3) a proposal for overt military action in Syria that was only thwarted by massive Congressional and popular opposition

And he's not a "war guy"? He's much worse than a "war guy" - he's a war criminal.

Anonymous said...

Stunning and depressing, Joe. I've been reading the alternative explanations of what went on and continues brewing in Kiev and throughout Ukraine. And as is usually the case there are many moving parts with US fingerprints galore, neocon and transnational corp. agendas whipping up general chaos and confusion.

Btw, for all my criticisms of Obama, I agree: the man doesn't strike me as pro-war. There was great disappointment and anger when POTUS didn't strike in Syria, took the exit the Russians offered. He actually surprised me; I thought sure we were trotting right the Yellow Brick Road, missiles in tow, Raytheon stock soaring. The Israelis and Saudis were fuming. Beyond the arrogance and recklessness, maybe part of this neocon interference was payback.

On the other hand why isn't Victoria Nuland unemployed after her foot-in-mouth moment? How dangerous are those 'cookies' she's been passing out?

The more I read, the more questions I have. The propaganda fog is impressive. Although the GOP praising Putin as a symbol of 'true leadership' is amusing. You can imagine if a Democratic minority were howling in this vein; the Republicans would be leveling charges of treason.


CBarr said...

I think a big factor in deciding not to pepper Syria with cruise missiles, was Russia's sending a missile cruiser into the Mediterranean as well as upgrading Syria's air defense system. It might have proven rather embarrassing if our cruise missile barrage were shot down out of the sky.

Ken Hoop said...

Joe, you really believe Obama could have outfoxed IDF guy Rahm in Chicago? Vetted, made.
Abbas early on said Obama pulled him out on a limb with his people three times and cut off the limb all three.
Believe Netanyahu was surprised?
Vetted made.

Arbusto205 said...

Sharp analysis anon 2:32! Please post more frequently.

Anonymous said...

Nice post JC. I would only add Michael Hudson's analysis to round it out: