Tuesday, February 10, 2015


Why has Obama chosen the path to war? Why -- after Vietnam, after Iraq, after Afghanistan, after the loss of trillions of dollars -- would anyone choose a needless war?

Robert Freeman's excellent new piece in Salon has many quotable passages, the most important of which is this:
The U.S. did not learn the limits of imperial power. Vietnam cost the U.S. $450 billion. It inflicted grave damage on the U.S. economy and even greater damage on the U.S. reputation as a “beacon of democracy” in the world. Iraq alone will end up costing the U.S. some $6 trillion according to Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz. That’s twice the amount needed to make Social Security solvent forever. The cost to the U.S.’s prestige in the world is still being tallied.
The same media, now concentrated in corporate hands, has learned how to easily engineer consent for the wars that the empire demands. Witness, for example, the lies about weapons of mass destruction that were used to justify the U.S. invasion of Iraq, not unlike the Gulf of Tonkin lie that formed the go-ahead for U.S. escalation in Vietnam. Witness, too, the lies about Bashar al-Assad gassing his own people in Syria, and of Putin being the aggressor in Ukraine—all public rationales for recent U.S. aggressions.
There was a time when only the wildest, fringe-iest writers on the internet dared to doubt that Assad used sarin. Now, pretty much everyone admits that "extremists" and oddballs like yours truly had it right all along.

(Nevertheless, few dare to ask the obvious question: If the America-backed rebels launched a false flag attack, did they do so on their own initiative? Or did they act at CIA direction?)

If you asked Americans "Which would you rather pay for -- a needless war, or Social Security solvency?" most people would chose solvency. Nevertheless, war is what we are getting. In an era of chic cynicism, in an era when everyone claims to mistrust mainstream news reporting, we continue to mis-spend our tax dollars based on lies published by The New York Times and The Washington Post.

A former CIA analyst describes the WP's efforts to foment hatred against Iran and Syria...
An additional twist that the Post gives to the theme is to state that “the White House has avoided actions Iran might perceive as hostile — such as supporting military action against the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad.”
Yes, the Post actually said that, even though any sensible person would have to concede that our decision to send a proxy army against Assad counts as "military action." A large portion of that proxy army became ISIS. This turn of events offers a superb demonstration of what happens when we pursue regime change in a part of the world where we have no business, and where a viable democracy movement is notably absent.

Let's turn to Ukraine, where the dangers are even greater. Robert Parry:
Frankly, I cannot recall any previous situation in which the U.S. media has been more biased – across the board – than on Ukraine. Not even the “group think” around Iraq’s non-existent WMDs was as single-minded as this, with the U.S. media perspective on Ukraine almost always from the point of view of the western Ukrainians who led the overthrow of elected President Viktor Yanukovych, whose political base was in the east.

So, what might appear to an objective observer as a civil war between western Ukrainians, including the neo-Nazis who spearheaded last year’s coup against Yanukovych, and eastern Ukrainians, who refused to accept the anti-Yanukovych order that followed the coup, has been transformed by the U.S. news media into a confrontation between the forces of good (the western Ukrainians) and the forces of evil (the eastern Ukrainians) with an overlay of “Russian aggression” as Russian President Vladimir Putin is depicted as a new Hitler.
As noted in an earlier post, the Putin-as-Hitler meme is a particularly outrageous lie. The forces we support in Ukraine include a surprisingly large number of creeps who literally worship Hitler.
And the Aidar battalion is not even the worst of the so-called “volunteer” brigades. Others carry Nazi banners and espouse racist contempt for the ethnic Russians who have become the target of something close to “ethnic cleansing” in the areas under control of the Kiev regime. Many eastern Ukrainians fear falling into the hands of these militia members who have been witnessed leading captives to open graves and executing them.

As the conservative London Telegraph described in an article last August by correspondent Tom Parfitt: “Kiev’s use of volunteer paramilitaries to stamp out the Russian-backed Donetsk and Luhansk ‘people’s republics’… should send a shiver down Europe’s spine.

“Recently formed battalions such as Donbas, Dnipro and Azov, with several thousand men under their command, are officially under the control of the interior ministry but their financing is murky, their training inadequate and their ideology often alarming. The Azov men use the neo-Nazi Wolfsangel (Wolf’s Hook) symbol on their banner and members of the battalion are openly white supremacists, or anti-Semites.”

Based on interviews with militia members, the Telegraph reported that some of the fighters doubted the Holocaust, expressed admiration for Adolf Hitler and acknowledged that they are indeed Nazis.
Let us pause here. I offer you these three simple facts:

Fact 1: Neocon fiends (and that is precisely the right word) created ISIS as a force against Bashar Assad.

Fact 2: Neocon fiends brought Hitler-lovers to power in Ukraine.

Fact 3: Neocon fiends erected a massive media infrastructure designed to make sure that anyone who dares to utter either fact 1 or fact 2 will lose both career and credibility.

The neocon-controlled media now wants us to send weapons to Kiev. In furtherance of that end, the NYT has published one of the most disgusting exercises in revisionist history I've ever witnessed.

Surprisingly, the writer of this article is Roger Cohen. In the recent past, neocons have demanded Cohen's head because he wrote a couple of pieces they considered scandalously fair to the Palestinians and the Iranians. I can only presume that Cohen composed his current exercise in bellicosity and mendacity in a bid to keep his job.

Cohen's piece pretends that Putin invaded Crimea. Election? According to Cohen, there was no election. According to Cohen, the poor Crimeans now suffering under Putin's yoke would much rather be ruled by the swastika-bedecked assholes pictured above.

Cohen pretends that the people in eastern Ukraine (who sensibly want nothing to do with the maniacal regime we intalled) are being brutalized by Russia, not by Kiev. Cohen writes as though Communism never fell. He wants us to believe that Putin (a genuinely popular elected leader) is the new Stalin. And the new Hitler. Simultaneously. 

(I sometimes think that mainstream pundits get they pay docked if they don't work a little reductio ad Hitlerum into every argument designed to drag us into a war.)

As you skim the following extract, please make every attempt to keep your breakfast south of your esophagus:
In fact, the Russian annexation of Crimea tore up by forceful means “the territorial integrity” and “political independence” of Ukraine, in direct violation of Article 2 of the United Nations Charter. It also shredded Russia’s formal commitment under the Budapest Memorandum of 1994 to respect Ukraine’s international borders. The “nationalistic violence” that has again raised issues of war and peace in Europe stems not from Kiev but from Moscow...
There is a language Moscow understands: antitank missiles, battlefield radars, reconnaissance drones. Bolster the Ukrainian Army with them and other arms. Change Putin’s cost-benefit analysis. There are risks but no policy is risk-free.
If there's one thing I've learned during the past half-century, it's this: Every single time...


...an editorialist uses the formulation "There is only one language that ___ understands," watch out: Your bank account will be raided, your debt will increase, your country will become poorer, and your young men will lose their limbs and their sanity and (in many cases) their very lives. Innocents will die by their thousands, decent people will learn to despise America, and civilization itself will lurch closer to extinction.

I'm not sure that God exists, but Satan seems real enough. Every single time you hear the formulation "There is only one language that ____ understands," you are hearing the devil's chant.

Every single fucking time.

Only a fool would try to debate the devil; the wise simply cover their ears when he speaks. Nevertheless, we should be grateful to Stephen Walt, who reminds us that arming Kiev is a dangerous business. Even though Walt is unwilling to challenge the foundational lies of the neocon argument, his words contain much wisdom:
Moreover, the Ukraine crisis did not begin with a bold Russian move or even a series of illegitimate Russian demands; it began when the United States and European Union tried to move Ukraine out of Russia’s orbit and into the West’s sphere of influence. That objective may be desirable in the abstract, but Moscow made it abundantly clear it would fight this process tooth and nail.
No, it is not desirable, even in the abstract. But carry on, Mr. Walt...
Nor is arming Ukraine likely to convince Putin to cave in and give Washington what it wants. Ukraine is historically linked to Russia, they are right next door to each other, Russian intelligence has long-standing links inside Ukraine’s own security institutions, and Russia is far stronger militarily. Even massive arms shipments from the United States won’t tip the balance in Kiev’s favor, and Moscow can always escalate if the fighting turns against the rebels, as it did last summer.

Most importantly, Ukraine’s fate is much more important to Moscow than it is to us, which means that Putin and Russia will be willing to pay a bigger price to achieve their aims than we will. The balance of resolve as well as the local balance of power strongly favors Moscow in this conflict. Before starting down an escalatory path, therefore, Americans should ask themselves just how far they are willing to go. If Moscow has more options, is willing to endure more pain, and run more risks than we are, then it makes no sense to begin a competition in resolve we are unlikely to win. And no, that doesn’t show the West is irresolute, craven, or spineless; it simply means Ukraine is a vital strategic interest for Russia but not for us.
Not convinced by Walt? All right. How about Michael Kofman?
Michael Kofman isn’t just a defense expert; he’s specialized in the precise region where Ukraine is located. He spent years managing professional military education programs and military-to-military engagements for senior officers at National Defense University. There he served as a subject matter expert and adviser to military and government officials on issues in Russia/Eurasia. And, now, he is telling the Brookings Institution war-hawks, and its insider ‘experts’ whose expertise is about getting America into invasions but not getting us out, and is certainly not about “winning” anything more than defense contracts — he is telling them that their arguments for getting us into sending weapons to Ukraine as our “proxy” against Russia, is a shockingly stupid and counterproductive idea for everyone but America’s armaments-makers.
Kofman's piece is here:
In reality, the United States has absolutely no obligations to Ukraine’s security under any type of accord or framework, including the Budapest Memorandum.
Staking U.S. credibility on the provision of military aid, while Germany continues to see the provision of lethal assistance as the wrong policy, is a dubious proposition. Berlin is disinclined to abet a proxy war in place of a political solution. American credibility is not on the line in what is first and foremost a European effort, especially when Berlin refuses to see such policies as viable.
The problem with the Ukrainian military isn't the lack of American arms. "Our" Ukrainians may love to wave around swastika flags, but they simply refuse to congeal into an effective fighting force.
It lacks logistics, training, commanders with experience at maneuvering brigade- or battalion-sized elements, any coordination between volunteer battalions and regular forces, along with independent military analysis of the problems. There is no intelligence, no mobile reserves, no unified command and a political leadership that often seems disconnected from the facts on the ground. Dumping weapons into this operating environment is unlikely to prove a solution to the problems, all of which are fundamental and structural. The only thing clear in this conflict is that Ukraine stands no chance of defeating Russian forces, or the separatists, and that military escalation is a disproportionately losing proposition for Kyiv.
Kofman goes down the list. Air support? Won't work. Humvees? These days, everyone laughs at Humvees; the Ukrainians make tanks which serve their purposes better. Drones? They can't turn things around if the Russians have air superiority. In short:
...any weapon we provide will be matched by Russia, escalating the conflict with no advantage gained for Ukraine.
Sending arms to Kiev is akin to lighting a stick of dynamite, placing it between your teeth, and basking in the jackass hallucination that you are smoking a fine cigar.

Alas, neither Walt nor Kofman has the courage to address the fundamental issue: We are responsible for the coup which destroyed Ukrainian democracy. We -- not the Russians -- are the villains of this piece.

Putin has done nothing wrong.

Even though the preceding sentence is perfectly true, we cannot expect a Walt or a Kofman to say those words, at least not out loud, because our neocon media has rendered certain truths unspeakable. One day, historians will agree with what I have written -- but right now, only an extremist oddball who maintains a fringe-y blog may say what needs to be said.

Putin has done nothing wrong.

We must forgive someone like Kofman if he challenges the neocons on purely strategic grounds, as opposed to attacking their underlying weltanschauung. His final paragraph deserves close study:
Undoubtedly, there are no easy solutions to the current conflict in Ukraine, only hard choices to be made. Sending weapons without an overall strategy is not a hard choice, but it is one that the United States has readily made before, often with adverse results. Providing anti-tank missiles to the Free Syrian Army did not change Syria’s or Russia’s calculus, but rather prolonged the demise of the FSA at the hands of Assad’s forces. Russia continues to arm Syria, the conflict continues to cost hundreds of thousands of civilian lives and the FSA is almost completely destroyed, but with no resolution in sight. Arming the militias of Libya and conducting air strikes on their behalf, with no strategy to create a Libyan nation or a Libyan army post-Qaddafi has resulted in one of the most disastrous American foreign policies in the region. Iraq is another example that providing weapons does not a fighting, or a successful, army make. Now ISIS forces drive around in American Humvees, while Shia militias have access to M1A1 Abrams tanks and MRAPs. It is important that the United States learn from these mistakes and seek a better outcome for Ukraine.
It would be even better if we exiled the neocons from our national discourse.


Hildy said...

Thank you again for your thoughtfulness and fine writing.
You say so clearly what needs to be said.

I agree with every word except the "neocon" thing. I think it's more likely an "Epstein" thing, it has no party and is loyal to nothing but money.

Wars are great for making money - that's it. Bombs and all the other devices we use to kill people are very profitable. Moving armies around is very profitable. AND rebuilding, if we ever did it, is very profitable.

That money exchange goes from "the people" who pay as you note. And who wins all the contracts and makes all the money? I'm sure you've heard the names before, and they are of every political persuasion, but they do have one thing in common. They are hardly human and they LOVE money and power. The truth be damned and even the smallest act of compassion must be expunged.

It Takes a Village.

CBarr said...

Did you watch the Russian Foreign Minister, Lavrov's recent talk? He and Putin don't refer to the US as their "partner" anymore. The audience didn't ask questions, the audience made accusations, black propaganda for western consumption.

The Russian's have given up all hope for cooperation with the west. They know that the US is waging war, and the intent is to destroy Russia as a nation. So this is a game of chicken and Russia won't back down. Russians don't make threats, they simply act. This will not end well. It is up to the Europeans to decide if they really want to be used as tools of the US and go down this path, because it will ultimately lead to their destruction.

Michael said...

Lefties who are disappointed in Barack Obama: Think how depressed we'll be when Hillary Clinton is in charge?

b said...

Let's not forget that the Crimea isn't the only place that referenda were held. Referenda took place in Donetsk and Luhansk too, with large majorities in both cases favour of independence from the Ukraine. The independent republics then declared their federation into Novorossiya.

FabA said...

They're all Jews, aren't they? Kerry-Kohn, Nuland-Kagan, Ambassador Pyatt, Poroshenko, Yatsenyuk, and Kolomoisky all are.
How did it happen that one single ethnic group was allowed to take control of the State Department and US foreign policy? And who writes the lying propaganda praising it all at the NYT? Oh yeah, same Tribe. Who creates the bullshit movies supporting endless war and glorifying death on the battlefield? (death for the stupid cattle, not the Chosen.)

In three weeks Netanyahu will arrive to address his congress, and the members will abase themselves and grovel before His Great Satanic Majesty, springing to their feet to clap their hands every time he pauses to draw a breath. Who run Bartertown? Obama? Shit. He's a piss-poor golfer who doesn't even control the State Department.

Joseph Cannon said...

FabA, I was going to disallow publication of this comment, but I decided to let it through just to make my policy clear. I do NOT appreciate anything that smacks of racism, and I do not condone anti-Semitism.

Yes, I know that there are people who think that I must be anti-Semitic because I am a harsh critic of Israel. But my criticism is based on the practice of racism by that state. I cannot effectively criticize racism if I allow racist sentiments to appear on this blog.

American policy is NOT made by only one ethnic group. I have never believed this and I never will.

CBarr said...

Here's a nice photo of Poroshenko giving a straight arm salute to the US Congress. Boehner looks like he's going to choke.


Anonymous said...

The calculus, according to some of the Americans in Munich last week, is that arming the Ukrainians will allow for a war of attrition which will somehow "raise the costs" to Putin or Russia or some combination of the two. (it will also devastate Ukraine just like Syria / Libya / Iraq - but that, according to the Americans, is just trivia). The real intention, likely, is to draw the Russians into an overt move against Ukraine which will allow the new Cold War to be solidified.

b said...

Outrageous headline from the Torygraph:

No Munich agreement as Russia says 'Nyet'".

b said...

Anon 1.34pm - There's also the question of whether the city ofMariupol will fall. The fascists are currently using it as the 'temporary capital of the Donetsk region'. It could fall within weeks.

joseph said...

Well, I'm pleased that you oppose anti-semitism. But, you can't say you oppose anti-semitism and yet be oblivious to the widespread anti-semitism in Europe and the overwhelming anti-semitism in the Muslim world. You can't say you oppose anti-semitism and yet be unconcerned about the fate of six million Israeli Jews. You can't say you oppose anti-semitism and, having a website that regularly discusses various conspiracy theories, be oblivious to what is happening in Argentina, where certainly Hezbollah and very probably Iran, blew up a Jewish center, murdered hundreds of Jews (not Israelis, but Jews) and may have been complicit in the murder of Alberto Nisman. I'm sorry, but the words ring hollow when the facts ring true.

Zolodoco said...

Why? I would start with Monsanto and Chevron, and I'm sure there are plenty of influential others ready to profit from a crony government that rules a unified Ukraine complete with Crimea's resources. The arrogance of that class is enough to blind them to the larger geopolitical consequences.

b said...

The US and Germany (aka 'EU') have backed down for the time being. Their fascist (Bandera flavour) puppets in Kiev won't control the Novorossiyan-Russian border; I doubt they will even have any personnel on most of it. And since Mariupol would have fallen anyway, there's no need for Russia to take it. There are bound to be secret protocols regarding that city. I doubt much defensive weaponry will be wheeled in.

Will the bridge to Crimea get built? I doubt that too, but perhaps construction will start.

'Russia Today' is very well dug in. Is Europe on course for a major war in 2017-18? Psychological warfare has already begun. Remember the present course of events, viewed from a PW angle, started with the Olympics.

I have to say that the analyses of Ukrainian events published by members of the critical community have been less than penetrating. They have largely focused on memes spread in the mainstream media (oil price, Maidan protests, different Ukrainian personalities, some CIA stuff, etc.) without much grasp for what a major war between two nuclear powers would look like, and without much appreciation for the fact (why is it so easy to forget?) that the world economy is going down the toilet. The next Lehmans will be much much bigger than the first one.

b said...

Although Jewish racism is by far a bigger problem in the world, anti-Semitism undoubtedly exists. Here's an example: an exhibition by a Polish artist in Estonia.

joseph said...

"Although Jewish racism is by far a bigger problem in the world, anti-Semitism undoubtedly exists. Here's an example: an exhibition by a Polish artist in Estonia."
Not Israeli racism anymore, but Jewish racism. Welcome to the world of anti-semitism.

Joseph Cannon said...

Oh, fuck you, small J. All groups are capable of racism. I've met plenty of Eye-talian racists -- in my own family, alas -- and, yes, a number of Jewish racists.

What you want is for the rest of us to buy into the bullshit delusion that Jews are always the oppressed, never the oppressor, and culturally incapable of falling prey to the same fascist urge which besets the rest of mankind. Sorry, but I've had my fill of that particular delusion. All human beings are vile, and ain't nobody immune to it. You Jews are on the road to Hell with the rest of us, and every time you tell yourselves "Not us...we're incapable of traveling that road, we must be on some OTHER road" -- the Devil grins and says: "Hey! Look who just sprinted out in front!"

joseph said...

If you truly think all people are vile, then I truly feel sorry for you. Yes, there are vile people and some of them are Jews. But there are also some truly admirable people, who daily risk their lives, who daily give a large part of themselves, who daily work for the common good and who are role models for all of us. Go to any playground and you will see children who, by nature, help other children, who watch over other children and who love and are loved. When I was younger, Desidrata was mocked as being too Pollyanish, but in the final analysis it, just like Grantland Rice's poem, was absolutely true.

joseph said...

In any event, the notion that Jews are worse, which was the point of b's comment, is nonsense. Jews have a history and respond and respect that history. Part of that history was being oppressed, now we choose not to be oppressed. Some people take issue with that choice.

Joseph Cannon said...

Fuck you again, small j. When you say that you choose not to be oppressed, that is code -- TRANSPARENT code -- for "We are going to kill and murder and steal land. That is the lesson we took from the Nazis. You have to act like the Nazis if you want to survive. We admire them, and now we are going to be like them."

And you know what? The same goes for many Americans -- most of whom view themselves as oppressed, most of whom are filled with resentment, and they use those resentments and unearned feelings of oppression as justification for murderous, Nazi-fied policies throughout the world.

The Nazis themselves felt that the Versaille treaty (which was actually far too lenient) was the worst thing ever imposed on anyone, and justified their militarism.

So fuck you and fuck EVERYONE who views past resentments as justification for the commission of horror.

And of course the entire human race is vile. Read a fucking BOOK, why dontcha? The psychological process I've outlined here is repeated throughout history, in every city, in every neighborhood, in every household.

Anonymous said...

@Joseph : 9:48 AM