The games and festivities of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi are over now. I’m not a huge sports fan, but, like many people, I’m interested when the Olympics roll around, the Winter Olympics especially, for some reason, largely just because of the Big Event nature of the thing.
With the whole world coming together for this, and the international focus, naturally host nations always like to try to make the best of it to look good.
That can go a little haywire and not make the host nation look so good. A classic example was the summer games of 1936, when the building empire of madness of Nazi Germany, under the control of an Austrian with delusions of grandeur, hosted the games in Berlin.
Said Austrian A. Hitler had clear hopes to demonstrate to the rest of the people and nations of the world the supposed great superiority of what he proclaimed as his great coming empire of pure Aryan race, and probably the most well remembered historical note of the games was how Hitler and his bunch were more than a little embarrassed by the spoiling of their PR event by the success of track and field competitor Jesse Owens. This was an outrage in Hitler’s view, by virtue of being a citizen representative athlete from the United States of America, a nation Hitler regarded as a motley bunch, a nation of flawed mongrels in his worldview, and even more so by being an American from African ancestry, one of those dark-skinned races Hitler and his ideology held to be inferior, even subhuman. It probably wound up Hitler even worse to see that Owens’ German competition in his events was a good sport offering genuine congratulations and respect to Owens when the competition was over.
Evidently the Russians poured an enormous amount of money into the Sochi area for the event, said to be something like 50 billion USD, also said to be way more than any other host nation had ever put into preparation for the games, by a large margin. That puts a slight twist on the reports of unfinished facilities, and major malfunctions of what was supposedly finished, with all the stories you’ve probably heard about. On the positive side, what I saw of the opening ceremonies was pretty spectacular. The stories of farcical levels of problems probably suggest more than a little bit of ineptitude and maybe raw corruption being involved, probably not quite the impression Vladimir Putin wanted to make.
Sochi is apparently something of a resort vacation spot for the Russians, about as far south as Russia gets, which made it a slightly odd choice as a site for the winter Olympics, but maybe that might mean that the facilities for the Olympics might have some lasting future. It’s hard to say on that one. The 1984 Winter Olympics were held in Sarajevo, in what was then the Eastern Bloc nation of Yugoslavia. A decade later, Yugoslavia was disintegrating and breaking up into the regions and cultural factions that existed before the artificial nation was created under Soviet Union domination behind the Iron Curtain. Sarajevo was a main stage of a tragic civil war (which sounds stupid as soon as I write that, as what civil war is not tragic?). Now, apparently, the site of the 1984 games is a sad and thoroughly wrecked place.
What turned out to be a somewhat surprising distraction for the Sochi games as Russian PR boost was trouble breaking out in another nation closely aligned with the former Soviet Union, actually a part of the Soviet Union, and back to being an at least theoretically independent country on the current Russian Federation’s border. Trouble broke out in Ukraine.
Check out the usual news fare here in the US now, and much of what you find will be a fairly simple narrative; that a popular uprising of the Ukrainian people rose up against a corrupt tyrant tying binding them to Russian domination, in order to gain freedom and create a relationship to the European Union. I caught a brief blurb of a story on local TV news in their brief segment on national and world news headlines, and part of that included a statement about how it was all about, in their words, “closer ties to the European Union and the US“. I emphasize that last part.
Trying to dig into the matter of what the hell is happening in Ukraine turns up an assortment of more information and analysis of what’s happening that is evidently very complex and messy, and very ugly. The ugly has many facets to it, the situation being as messy and complex as it apparently is, not just in what we might call the internal dramas of that country, but in the international relationship department.
Look around at the main American news and chattering of politicos, and the standard narrative is one of popular uprising of the Ukrainian people to shake off a tyrannical leader and Russian domination to embrace the EU (and by association, the US), with that being “freedom and democracy”.
It’s certainly easy enough to buy the notion of the Ukrainians not wanting to be bound to seemingly permanent leader of Russian government and former KGB agent Vlad Putin, and so many people probably accept that without another moment’s thought. Checking around (see the links at the bottom here), it seems that the actual reality of the dramas playing out in Kiev is complicated, and not what we’re generally being told in the kind of narratives mentioned above.
Among the fairly disturbing reports around about what’s happening we can find statements that the deaths and wounded people involved come down to things turning ugly when armed people (including snipers, it’s said) began firing on the police on hand for the protests, and the police began firing back. I think it’s probably reasonable to think that finding the truth and full story about what has been happening is challenging, to say the least.
It’s even more disturbing and suspicious in light of reports that the US government has been, shall we say, actively involved in some pretty foul meddling in the affairs there, with the apparent goal of making sure that the Ukraine government becomes a government that is “friendly” with the EU, and by association, the US. By that, the meaning here would be more like dominated by the EU and the United States government. Any new agreements and associations with the European Union would probably then involve having Ukraine join NATO, or, if nothing else, being subservient to NATO (which would be called “cooperation”), which means the US military. The only question then would be, how long until the US military establishes a base or two in Ukraine, right on Russia’s doorstep?
Couple that with the chatter about Ukraine apparently having severe economic problems, and specifically, major governmental financial problems, and the aroma of manipulation becomes a stench, as we can likely expect to see talk about looking to “offer aid and assistance” to the Ukrainian government (whatever that government might be in the near and distant future), and make the nation debt slaves to some complex knot of the US and European banking systems, and, presumably, be offered “help” with certain conditions about “cooperation” with the EU and US government.
It seems evident that people in our government here in the US simply cannot resist the incessant urge to meddle in everything everywhere in the world and generally act as if they rule the world. The obvious thing to infer from it all is that they think they do rule the world. Then, when the rest of the world gets understandably somewhat annoyed by this kind of thing, we get to hear astounding bullshit like “they hate us for our freedoms and prosperity” and similar nonsense. It’s the neocon brigade in action.
As the drama started to unfold and get more severe in Kiev, we got things like President Obama making public statements directed at the Ukrainian government about “consequences” if “lines are crossed”, in regard to action toward the protesters in the streets, with the vice president lecturing about “restraint”, even as part of the violence was, from various reports, people shooting at the police. Judging from what I can gather about what is apparently quite a complex and unclear mess, it’s far from certain about who, exactly, is causing what trouble, and it’s even more ugly to consider the very real possibility that our own government might somehow be involved in some sort of subterfuge and manipulations.
It’s worth taking more than a few moments to reflect on the ugly reality that the US government, under President Ronald Reagan, and certainly under the influence of the neocon bunch, supported Osama bin Laden and his gang as “freedom fighters” opposing the Soviet Union in Afghanistan, as well as supposed friend and ally Saddam Hussein as leader of Iraq.
You would think that people might learn from these things.
Just to make it worse, as our current president and VP spout at people elsewhere in the world, offering up the obligitory theater with grand statements about freedom and democracy and human rights and freedom of speech, we seem to have a severe inability to face the reality of what actual protest here in the United States is likely to bring as a response from our own government, such as what we found as the Occupy Wall Street movement was wiped away, people hauled off to jail, mauled by paramilitary police in riot gear, even journalists being targeted as some sort of wrongdoers for daring to practice journalism as a free press and report on the events.
There was, just recently, a pretty big fuss in the news about the revelation of a recording of a telephone conversation between U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland and U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt. You might remember that one, the big item of the story was boiled down to a comment by Nuland saying “fuck the EU”. That got all the attention, the idea that high ranking diplomats, including the second highest in the US State Department, would say such a crude rude thing. Secondary to that was chatter about how such a conversation was recorded and made public, and that this was evidently the work of the Russians.
What didn’t seem to get much attention at all was that the conversation was generally about US diplomatic people seemingly discussing and deciding the future of the Ukrainian government, without the meddling of the European Union that Nuland was dismissing in blunt language, or, more to the point, the Ukrainians.
The twists and turns pile up even without considering the situation in the Ukraine. Considerable attention was given to the matter of the Russians said to be involved in the recording and release of that diplomatic phone conversation, with some indignation about that from the State Department people involved, even as we have the continuing revelations of how our own government has been, and still is, making everybody the subject of surveillance of electronic communications, including us, the people of the United States. That continues, even as US government officials go on about being the guardians of freedom for the world, with no sense of irony, or shame.
Added to that, we found out about this, apparently only a small portion of it, from a man who is now a refugee from his home country of the United States, given political asylum and refuge in Russia, in a staggering bit of irony, because his own country seeks to arrest him and charge him with espionage, possibly treason, accusing him of being a spy for other nations even though it seems very clear that he is no such thing, and his only “crime” was revealing the truth to the American people about the gross misconduct of our own government against us. Seriously, how deranged have things become that Russia becomes a haven for people fleeing their home country to escape almost certain kangaroo court proceedings for uncovering their own government’s egregious misbehavior, and that home country is the United States of America?
Back to Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland, it’s interesting to look her up and note, for example, that her resume includes being advisor to former VP Dick Cheney, one of the prime bad actors of the neocon bunch.
Quoting from the Wikipedia page about Victoria Nuland:
During the George W. Bush administration, she served as the principal deputy foreign policy adviser to Vice President Dick Cheney and then as U.S. ambassador to NATO. During the Barack Obama administration, she was special envoy for Conventional Armed Forces in Europe before assuming the position of State Department spokesperson in summer 2011, which she held until February 2013.
Funny that this comes up, considering that once again former Vice President Dick Cheney has popped his head up to run his mouth in public again. The news of the past few days has included the statement by the current Secretary of Defense about reducing the size of the US military, including something to the effect of reducing the US military to “pre World War II” levels, whatever that might mean specifically.
Anytime anything like this comes up, one of my recurring thoughts is always sort of asking myself a rhetorical question, about how long it has been since the “Department of Defense” of the United States has actually been about maintaining a protective defense of the nation.
Somewhere in all the news chatter in response to Secretary Nagel’s statement, there was something said about who objected energetically to such a plan, with part of this being dramatic objections coming from “arms merchants”. No surprise there.
All this is exactly the stuff that former president Dwight Eisenhower was warning the American people about in his last public address to the nation as president, where he described the problems to watch for and described what he called “the military-industrial complex”. I’ve pointed to that very speech more times than I can probably count, and I’ll do it again. People like Dick Cheney, and permanent institutionalized business of “the defense industry”, are exactly what Eisenhower was talking about.
Let’s see something from one online article about Cheney’s pronouncements:
Appearing on Fox News’s “Hannity,” he said President Barack Obama “would rather spend the money on food stamps than he would on a strong military or support for our troops.”
Host Sean Hannity asked Cheney whether the Pentagon’s proposed cuts to the Army, unveiled by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on Monday, were “dangerous.”
“I have not been a strong supporter of Barack Obama. But this really is over the top. It does enormous long-term damage to our military,” Cheney responded. He went on to say that the president has always wanted to downsize the military, and that the cuts would be “absolutely devastating.”
Cheney also said U.S. allies are rapidly losing confidence in the White House and don’t believe they can trust the U.S.
That last part would be hilarious if not for the seriousness of the circumstances of world affairs, and the affairs of the United States. I would say with absolute certainty that “US allies” generally are having a hard time trusting the US, and we can trace a great deal of that back to Mr. Cheney and his reign (with President G.W. Bush theoretically running things).
The extra massive dose of irony is that it appeared that generally people and governments around the world tended to think things were going to get better, in terms of the United States government, and how it related to the rest of the world, when Barack Obama was elected to the presidency. The twist, unfortunately, making the irony of the comments coming from Dick Cheney enough to down a rhino, is that this sense of positive relations and trust of the US after the election of Obama has been ripped to bits, as it has become increasingly harder to not think that Obama as president was essentially carrying on a continuation of the Bush/Cheney regime.
Anytime anything comes up in the realm of government and politics about reducing anything stuck under the label of “defense” (again, seemingly regardless of what is actually defense), all of us here in the US hear a barrage of the same stuff, such as the barking of former VP Cheney, and many others, about “making America less safe” and “weakening our defenses” and “national security”. I keep forgetting the exact numbers, but at this point the US has hundreds of military bases (or other “installations”) scattered around the planet, in over a hundred different countries, US military bases in the territory of other nations. Raise the question of how exactly all that is defending the United States from attack, and you will find all kinds of interesting tap dancing around, with things like people subtly shifting their language to vagaries like “protecting American interests abroad”, which should get every American citizen thinking what people elsewhere in the world certainly think about that kind of thing, which is “what the hell does that mean?“.
The official theater that plays out in government here, regarding the situation of the Ukraine or anything else in the world, includes all the standard fare about how we’re all about freedom and democracy and defending human rights, with lots of lecturing other nations about how they conduct things, and with either overt or implied threats that the US military empire will come to visit if they don’t play along with what the US government wants. Here in the United States, we, the people, are generally getting pretty fed up with this kind of thing, and I think it’s a safe bet that the rest of the world is pretty sick of it too.
Neoconservatives Planned Regime Change Throughout the Middle East and North Africa 20 Years Ago