Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. -George Santayana
“That men do not learn very much from the lessons of history is the most important of all the lessons that history has to teach.” -Aldous Huxley
I start this note with a pair of quotations. The first was one that made a great impression on me when I saw it on a regular basis when it was on the wall of the classroom of my 8th grade History class. As quotations go, I think it’s probably one of the most important ones you can lodge in your head and keep there. But then another quote follows that, from Huxley, that unfortunately goes with the first all too well.
The topic today is the continuing ugly drama of the situation around the Ukraine uproar. Oddly enough, that hasn’t settled down any as far as I can tell, but checking a quick scan of TV news, the picture is a little strange, which adds even more to the pile to be sorted out, in terms of the amazingly useless state of TV news here in the US now. CNN is following its now normal pattern of acting on the notion that there is one thing happening in the world at a time, and going on and on providing little to no information of the one story. Strangely, the epic drama of showdown to World War III has been sort of shoved aside, a little. Right now, the one story on CNN is the drama of an airliner with over 200 people on board that has been missing for over a week. Clearly that is a big story, a major human drama, but basically CNN is just going on for hour after hour of “BREAKING NEWS” to find how many ways they can say “we don’t know what happened“.
What they are not doing is anything like a serious job of reporting on what’s happening regarding the Ukrainian situation, or any of the background.
The situation being reported by the US news media is generally still following the same standard narrative. Looking a little further, and deeper, turns up an awful lot that makes it pretty apparent that the standard narrative we’re hearing here in the US is disturbingly different from the reality, and the reality is one that people in positions of power seem determined to turn into World War III. That last line isn’t hyperbole, either. That doesn’t mean that World War III is days away, but some people sure do seem to be trying hard to get it going, and I’m not talking about Vladimir Putin.
Even talking rationally about the situation based in truth and reality seems to be an uphill climb, given the propaganda about it, and at this point, it’s nearly impossible to not regard it as plain simple propaganda. Putin ends up being a sort of cartoon villain caricature, and that’s easy enough to pass off. I mean, this is a former KGB agent who seems to have installed himself as dictator for life in Russia, a place that seems to now be some sort of kleptocratic oligarchy. What does not have any serious credibility that I can see is this notion of Putin rebuilding the Soviet Union and trying to conquer the world.
What does appear to be happening is probably summed up by the following text from a recent online note from Dmitry Orlov in his Club Orlov blog:
“It appears that the US State Dept. gave $5 billion to Ukrainian neo-Nazis who used some of the money to hire mass murderers who massacred protesters, policemen and bystanders in order to provide a rationale for overthrowing the democratically elected government of Ukraine and installing an anti-Russian puppet government.”
That seems to sum it up concisely. It also happens to be a summary that Orlov was saying was not just missing from American news reporting, but a message that he says is being actively censored, simply wiped by some website moderator, when people try to get it across in comments on news website story pages about the Ukrainian situation. Depending on the process on a website, the comments are said to either never appear, or disappear after being posted.
At the end of the note I’m adding a long list of articles about the situation in Ukraine and the international political squabbling about it. Please read the stuff and get the picture for yourself.
The situation in Ukraine is definitely not Czechoslovakia 1968, when an uprising of people there, in what was an Eastern Bloc communist nation under the domination of the Soviet Union, was crushed by a Soviet invasion, with Soviet tanks and troops rolling in. The narrative about what’s happening in Ukraine right now is being presented relentlessly by the US government and most of the American news media as if it is.
I found myself watching a brief bit of the proceedings in the US Senate shown on C-Span. A series of speeches were being given by senators about the Ukraine topic, that I suppose was considered a debate. The only debate was about what they wanted to do about the situation, not about whether it was any of our business, if the US government had any place in this. It was all completely assuming that it was all about the assumed narrative: that the Ukrainian people rose up against a corrupt evil government and Russian domination to embrace freedom and democracy, and that evil dictator Putin and the Evil Empire of Russia invaded Ukraine to crush the revolution of freedom and stomp them into submission.
There was a level of irony that was staggering in the show there, in seeing the legislative body that, these days, would have endless useless arguments if the question was raised as to whether water is wet, suddenly putting on a show of “bipartisan” agreement on notions that are almost complete nonsense, to meddle in the matters of places thousands of miles away where we have no business getting involved. But, then, adding to the insanity is that apparently a significant part of the turmoil is because the US government already got involved.
It’s clearly not a simple story, one way or another, but that doesn’t stop people from being simplistic about it. There are probably many people, steered by the warmonger propaganda, who might respond to any attempt to shine some light on a more realistic account of what’s going on by saying something like “oh, so you’re on Russia’s side then? you’re on Putin’s side? you think they’re the good guys and we’re the bad guys?“, and that would be just as simplistic and wrong as anything else.
Here’s a basic point; there is no clear binary grouping of The Good Guys versus The Bad Guys in this saga. At one point in the Senate chatter, one of the senators was giving some very serious and earnest appeal to his colleagues about coming to the rescue and aid of what he described as 45 million freedom-loving people. The rhetorical nature of it was deep and thick; how can we, the United States, the Land of the Free, not come to the rescue of this nation of 45 million freedom-loving people being violently oppressed by Russian aggression? The reality is much more complex and messy.
Part of the story is easy enough to accept as plausible, that the protests in Kiev started with people who were genuinely fed up with a corrupt leader and dysfunctional government, although the now removed and exiled president was, apparently, a democratically elected leader of government (you know, what we here in America are supposed to be all for as a principle).
What we aren’t hearing about, unless you’re looking past the TV news and the rhetorical theatrics here, is another, much uglier bunch. That would be the hard-core Ukrainian nationalists who don’t just hate Russia in general, but are neo-Nazi fascists, literally, tracing themselves back to people a few generations ago who actually fought in support of Nazi Germany against the Soviet army, when Ukraine was part of the USSR. These people are, by any account I can find, a nasty bunch, and, from the looks of things, these people have not just hijacked the Ukrainian government, moving in as all the turmoil and chaos broke loose, but actually very actively being the chaos and violence.
Apparently we’ve learned nothing here in the United States about the long string of ugly folly from our own government that seems to generally follow the idea “the enemy of my enemy is my friend”, including such glaring examples as what I’ve already pointed out in recent days, the position of the US government not so long ago of support for US “friends and allies” like Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein, one because he was fighting the “enemy” USSR in Afghanistan, the other fighting the “enemy” Iran. Now, the official PR campaign from the government with full cooperation and subservience from the main US news media are that truly vile characters in Ukraine are Good Guys we must support in their brave struggle against the evil Russian empire to embrace freedom and democracy.
Added to all that, as another reminder, part of the complex mess is that a large part of the Ukrainian population is apparently not just friendly to Russia, they simply consider themselves Russian, especially in the Crimea region. There, the Russians have a naval base, their only naval base in the Black sea and only warm water port, under a long term agreement with Ukraine, not unlike the huge number of military bases the United States has in dozens of other countries all around the world. According to reports from people reporting news outside the official government narrative, that agreement allows the Russians to have, reportedly, up to 25,000 military personnel in the region for security for their base. But, now, the Russians having troops in that region, as Ukraine spins into conflicts and chaos and a government deposed by what is arguably a coup d’état, is reported as “Russian invasion” and Russian aggression, even though, so far, there is no indication of the Russian military sweeping in and overrunning Ukraine and taking over. Having said that, of course, who knows what will end up happening.
The plans as being reported in the news for some time are for the local government of the Crimea region of Ukraine to hold a referendum vote tomorrow, March 16, for the people to decide whether Crimea will declare itself no longer a part of Ukraine, and choose to become part of Russia, as it was until about 60 years ago.
Ever since that was announced, the repeated message from the US government, with the Europeans falling in line, was that this was unacceptable, even constantly calling it a violation of international law for the parliament and people in Crimea to decide their own future. That’s a pretty obvious contradiction to all the pronouncements about the people of Ukraine and self-determination, but that seems to be one thing, when that involves removal of an elected president by what was arguably a coup, because that president wanted to remain in close relations with Russia, and rejected some economic/trade deal with the European Union. The “interim government” that took over was immediately recognized as valid, but the statements coming from the US government, and the governments obeying their lead, have been that any referendum where the people in Crimea actually voted, themselves, to separate from Ukraine and join Russia, will be not recognized, and declared invalid and illegal.
What happened to all that talk about “freedom and democracy” and “self determination”?
It’s unbelievable, and somehow, none of the absurdity, contradiction, and staggering hypocrisy of the whole mess is being discussed in the US news, or by anybody in government.
It gets even more astounding, as after all the strutting and lecturing from the US government, especially from our Secretary of State John Kerry, about respecting the sovereignty of Ukraine, directed at the Russians as they’ve put military around Crimea, now, apparently, Kerry is, and I’m not joking, demanding that the Russians intervene in Crimea and force the regional government there to stop the voter referendum.
I understand if you felt the need to re-read that bit a few times to be sure it really said what you thought it said the first time. I think I would.
A little earlier today (as I write this paragraph March 15), I turned on C-Span to see a press conference that was given by a group of US senators who were in Kiev. The leader of the delegation was Senator John McCain, who was, as always, leading the most strident voices, whenever there’s a chance to get the United States into yet another war. One comment he made that was pretty disturbing was saying something about reports of Russian military forces gathered near the border of Ukraine, and the possibility of “unprecedented action” by the US in terms of its relations with Russia. God knows what that is supposed to mean, but, considering McCain, it’s hard to regard this as anything other than a vague suggestion or threat of the US military attacking Russia.
The lunatics really are running the asylum.
Below is an extremely long list of items to read, I realize. Most people don’t bother, and this is a serious problem, when the people running your country are repeating the war frenzy chant.
The psychotic megalomania of the neocon faction of American politics is dominating things, and it’s made worse by the problem that it seems that most people who regard themselves as Democrats, while realizing quite rightly that the neocon culture is predominantly an artifact of the Republican party, it infects politicos in the Democratic party badly, and they’re blind to the evidence that President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry are evidently completely in line with the neocon dogma and agenda.
There’s a twisted sort of irony, as I’ve said before, to that fact, when so many Republican party politicians condemn Obama incessantly for being “weak in foreign policy” or whatever, when the gist of their criticisms and condemnations essentially amount to condemning him because he’s not very good at bossing the rest of the world around.
It hasn’t been very long at all, a few weeks, since there was talk in Washington about reducing, slightly, the massive amount of money spent by the US government on military expenditures, labeled as “defense” budget, even though it dwarfs the military spending of all other nations of the world, more than the next ten or twelve countries combined, and, worse, very little of it is probably about defense. It’s about ruling the world.
Just one snippet of the insanity comes from all the howling protest about reductions in this bankrupting of the US that says it “weakens our security and defense of our country”, when so much of it is devoted to trying to cover the entire planet Earth with US military. It never seems to occur to people that if you wanted to weaken defenses of a nation, arguably the best way to go about it would be to remove a large portion of your military forces out of the country and scatter them all over the world.
Maybe the cherry on this rancid cake is the Executive Order imposing sanctions coming from the White House, titled Executive Order — Blocking Property of Certain Persons Contributing to the Situation in Ukraine, which included this text:
Section 1. (a) All property and interests in property that are in the United States, that hereafter come within the United States, or that are or hereafter come within the possession or control of any United States person (including any foreign branch) of the following persons are blocked and may not be transferred, paid, exported, withdrawn, or otherwise dealt in: any person determined by the Secretary of the Treasury, in consultation with the Secretary of State:
(i) to be responsible for or complicit in, or to have engaged in, directly or indirectly, any of the following:
(A) actions or policies that undermine democratic processes or institutions in Ukraine;
(B) actions or policies that threaten the peace, security, stability, sovereignty, or territorial integrity of Ukraine
Will the US government apply this to the US government itself? It certainly appears to fit the conditions for punishment.
But even more astounding, this order comes with the justification, preceding the above text, which I quote here with my own emphasis added in bold text and underlined:
I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, find that the actions and policies of persons — including persons who have asserted governmental authority in the Crimean region without the authorization of the Government of Ukraine — that undermine democratic processes and institutions in Ukraine; threaten its peace, security, stability, sovereignty, and territorial integrity; and contribute to the misappropriation of its assets, constitute an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States, and I hereby declare a national emergency to deal with that threat.
This is not a joke.
It’s easier to fool people than to convince them that they have been fooled- Mark Twain
“Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hope of its children.” -Dwight D. Eisenhower
“Crisis is the rallying cry of the tyrant.” -James Madison
“Never underestimate the power of stupid people in large groups. ” -George Carlin
“An unconscious people, an indoctrinated people, a people fed only partisan information and opinion that confirm their own bias, a people made morbidly obese in mind and spirit by the junk food of propaganda, is less inclined to put up a fight, ask questions and be skeptical.” -Bill Moyers
“When societies get badly stressed, delusional thinking increases. We are now in that situation.” – James Howard Kunstler
For every complex problem, there is an answer that is clear, simple and wrong. -H.L. Mencken
“Giving money and power to politicians is like giving whiskey and car keys to teenage boys.”-P. J. O’Rourke
“Sometimes I wonder whether the world is being run by smart people who are putting us on or by imbeciles who really mean it.” — Mark Twain
“Of course the people don’t want war. But after all, it’s the leaders of the country who determine the policy, and it’s always a simple matter to drag the people along whether it’s a democracy, a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism, and exposing the country to greater danger.” – Hermann Goering at the Nuremberg trials
“What gets us into trouble is not what we don’t know, it’s what we know for sure that just ain’t so.” -Mark Twain