Empire Burlesque
Night of the Hunter: Family Values in American Foreign Policy
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Written by Chris Floyd   
Friday, 16 May 2014 00:25

The only article I ever had published in The Nation involved the offspring of a powerful politician trading on his White House connections to advance his private fortune. The piece was written 12 years ago, as the Enron scandal was breaking. (And boy, doesn't that seem several centuries ago now, looking back over the vast flooded plains of blood and ruin that our bipartisan elites have bequeathed us since then.)

It was a short article, dealing with the key role that the accounting firm Arthur Andersen had played both in the unfolding Enron morass in 2002 and the murky political machinations that kept George W. Bush from facing charges over what appeared to be a fairly flagrant -- and highly profitable -- bout of insider trading in 1990. That was when yet another Bush business was bailed out -- yet again -- by sugar daddies currying favor with his sour daddy in the White House; in this case, Harken Energy. Bush became a company director and member of the audit committee -- then cashed out just weeks before Harken's stock took a deep dive.

The deal netted L'il Dub a cool $800,000+, while ordinary investors in the company took an acid bath. The hijinks were so blatant the SEC was forced to investigate but in the end declined to take "enforcement action" against the president's son. However, as I noted in the article, the SEC made a point of declaring that

this [decision] "must in no way be construed as indicating that the party has been exonerated or that no action may ultimately result from the staff's investigation." (Of course, this has never stopped Bush from claiming that he was "exonerated" by the SEC.)

All in all, the Harken caper was pretty small beer when viewed against the Bush Family's mammoth record of corruption, going back many decades, mixing politics and private profit with a cheerful amorality that easily encompassed mobsters, tyrants, gun-runners, drug dealers, religious extremists, spies and, yes, the Nazis.

I wrote a lot about this interesting history (as did others, most notably Robert Parry), and always found a ready audience on the left eager to see, rightly, the true face of American power -- sleazy, greasy, brutal, cold -- in the machinations of this clan of ruthless clowns. But I don’t think we will see an equal eagerness to pursue a very similar story that broke this week about the offspring of a powerful politician trading on his White House connections to advance his private fortunes. And unlike the Harken deal (although not dissimilar from many other Bush Family deals, including the one with German fascists), this particular piece of elite corruption could have — or is already having — deadly international consequences.

We speak, of course, of the news that the son of the US Vice President, and the stepson of the US Secretary of State, have been given lucrative positions with a Ukrainian energy firm whose future fortunes depend on the Kyiv coup regime’s control of western Ukraine — where  pro-Russian forces are in the ascendant. As Yahoo News reports:

In the span of a few weeks, an energy firm little-known inside the United States added two members to its board of directors — scoring connections to Secretary of State John Kerry and Vice President Joe Biden in the bargain.

On April 22, Cyprus-based Burisma announced that financier Devon Archer had joined its board. Archer, who shared a room in college with Kerry’s stepson, Christopher Heinz, served as national finance co-chair for the former senator’s 2004 presidential campaign.

Then, on Monday, the firm announced that Biden’s younger son, R. Hunter Biden, would join the board of directors.

Why would the company, which bills itself as Ukraine’s largest private gas producer, need such powerful friends in Washington?

The answer might be the company’s holdings in Ukraine. They include, according to the firm’s website, permits to explore in the Dnieper-Donets Basin in the country’s eastern regions, home to an armed pro-Russian separatist movement. They also include permits to explore in the Azov-Kuban Basin of the strategic Crimean peninsula, annexed earlier this year by Moscow.

So: a Ukrainian energy firm with holdings in pro-Russian Ukraine has just hired the son of the US Vice President — who has been Washington’s point man in supporting the coup regime in Kyiv — to a prominent and no doubt well-remunerated position. At the same time, Washington has been fierce and forceful in its support for the Kyiv regime’s violent efforts to quell the kind of opposition in Western Ukraine that it employed to take power in the capital; i.e., occupation of public spaces with the support of armed militias, with support from foreign entities (the Kremlin in eastern Ukraine; Washington (and US oligarchs) in Kyiv).

America policy in Ukraine — securing control of eastern Ukraine by the Kyiv regime, and, if possible, the rollback of Russia’s annexation of the Crimea — has now become directly tied to the personal family fortunes of the American Vice President and Secretary of State. In what way is this remotely differently from the corruption of the Bush Family that once stuck so painfully in “progressive” craws? And yet, is it even remotely conceivable that we will see the same angry attention to this blatant baksheesh that we saw back in those Bush Regime days of yore?

UPDATE: It looks like L’il Hunter and Devon might be in high cotton. On Thursday night, the New York Times reports that Rinat Akhmetov, Ukraine’s richest man and once a major backer of Ukraine’s ousted pro-Russian president, Victor Yanukovich, has now thrown his support and his money behind the American-backed Kyiv regime. According to the Times (which of course doesn’t breathe a word of Akhmetov’s unsavoury past), Akhmetov has ordered “his” workers onto the streets of Mariupol, Donetsk and other eastern Ukrainian cities to reassert the control of the Kyiv government. The pro-Russian forces have “melted away,” even in Donetsk, ground zero of the resistance, and oligarchical control is being re-established.

Of course, Akhmetov has long-standing ties to John McCain and his rightwing network, so it’s not surprising to see him turning his ermine coat this way and that as the prevailing winds blow across Ukraine. The oligarchs are banding together on every side of the ostensible conflict — Ukranian, Russian, Republican, Democrat — and the fix, as always, as ever, is in.

So good luck, Hunter! I expect we’ll see you on a national ticket someday — maybe with Chelsea Clinton — running against one Bush or another, with Ukrainian oil money (suitably laundered) pouring into your campaign coffers — and into that future Bush campaign as well.

 
It's All Good, Again: 'Uptick' in the American-Made Tides of Violence in Iraq
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Written by Chris Floyd   
Thursday, 25 June 2009 09:36
From the very beginning of the abomination that is the American war in Iraq, imperial courtiers have pushed the same line: every act of mass slaughter in the occupied land was actually an encouraging development -- a sign that the insurgents were "getting desperate," that "dead-enders" were launching last-gasp efforts, unable to derail the bounty of liberty and peace that America's paternal goodness had bestowed upon the Iraqi people.

This has held true from the first suicide attacks following George W. Bush's declaration of "Mission Accomplished" in the spring of 2003 and all through the mounting violence that has claimed more than a million innocent lives. The only exception was during the height of the genocidal fury of 2006, when the forces unleashed and empowered and assisted by the American occupiers carried out a brutal campaign of ethnic cleansing against fierce resistance. The American elite suffered a slight wobble at that point, putting together a conclave of worthies in the "Iraq Study Group" to suggest ways to tamp down the raging PR disaster. (And that's all there was to the ISG plan; they were never going to pull out of Iraq.) The whole episose could be seen as yet another sorry chapter in the saga of the ghoulish, goonish family that somehow came to hold sway in American affairs for almost three decades, with Daddy Bush's factotums guiding the ISG, while Junior Bush brushed them off and consulted his own little circle of militarist agitators to find a way to continue the war but get it off the front pages.

This was, of course, the famous "surge," which saw a fresh influx of not-so-fresh American troops, blanketing the country and helping consolidate the gains of the ethnic cleansing campaign for the occupier's favored factions. The ultimate result was the violent demographic shift -- including the forced migration of 4 million people -- and mass murder that is the foundation of the American-propped Maliki regime. Its sole purpose was to ensure that the war continued, and that the American military presence could be more deeply embedded in the client state.

The levels of violence did drop from the horrific heights of 2006 and 2007 -- again, partly because the American-assisted ethnic cleansing had been so successful. (In much the same way, there was a significant drop in Nazi violence against Jews in, say, Poland -- after the Nazis had killed most of the Jews in Poland.) But the violence in Iraq never went away; the conquered land remained one of the most dangerous places on earth, and very few of the 4 million refugees felt safe enough to return home. (And in many cases, their "ethnically cleansed" homes were no longer available to them.) And of course, the million dead are still dead -- and the millions more maimed, broken, ruined, grieved and traumatized are still suffering.

And now that the Americans and their Iraqi clients have reneged on their payoff deal with the Sunni insurgents they bribed to keep quiet during the surge, we are seeing the inevitable "uptick" in violence (to borrow Joe Biden's atrociously dismissive term for the coming slaughter in Obama's Afghanistan "surge"). More than 150 people have been killed in just two bombings of Shi'ite sites in the past five days.

And right on cue, the Obama Administration trots out the same old platitudes: "Nothing to worry about, nothing to see here, things are just hunky-dorry, don't sweat the small stuff, it's all good." Or as Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell put it:

"Despite the fact that you've seen sporadic high-profile attacks still taking place in Iraq, the overall security climate is a good one and we remain at all-time lows."

"All-time lows" means that, on average, "only" a few dozen or more are murdered in war-spawned violence each and every month of the year. The Obama mouthpiece then tried to blame the "sporadic" mass slaughters on the "Status of Forces Agreement," which calls for American troops to withdraw from Iraqi cities by the end of June. This is all part of an overall "withdrawal" plan concocted by the Bush Regime and their client Maliki, and adopted, with only the slightest modifications, by Barack Obama as his own. Naturally, both the "withdrawal from cities" this month and the promised "withdrawal of all combat troops" from the country in August 2010 are riddled with "exceptions." For example, Americans will remain thoroughly ensconced in strategic points inside the city of Baghdad (not least in the massive Crusader fortress they are building in the Green Zone), while continuing to "assist" Iraqi military operations in all Iraqi cities. And of course, the long-range "withdrawal" plan will leave tens of thousands of American troops on the ground in Iraq -- again, "assisting" and "training" Iraqi forces.

The recent "uptick" (and yes, Morrell used that very word in his spin session) is just part of the endless ebb and flow of death that the bipartisan American war on Iraq has set in motion. These bloodsoaked tides will continue to "surge" across the conquered land as the years of America's military implantation drag on and on -- and no doubt for long afterward.

"But you know what they say, man: It's all good." -- Bob Dylan
 
Hebrew Lessons: America's Secret Lexicon and the 'Synagogue of Satan'
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Written by Chris Floyd   
Wednesday, 24 June 2009 23:17
I.
Jonathan Schwarz points out how that bastion of the "secular-humanist liberal media," CBS, edited the new release of Nixon tapes in order to protect the reputation of the national saint of Bible-believing conservatives, Billy Graham.

The latest release of White House conversations secretly taped by Richard Nixon shows the elite's favorite evangelist spewing venomous invective about Jews. Responding to Nixon's ostensible worry that America might be gripped by Nazi or Franco-style anti-semitism if Jews "don't start behaving," Graham replies with the time-honored wisdom that made him the confidant and confessor of presidents for generations:

Well, you know I told you one time that the bible talks about two kinds of Jews. One is called the Synagogue of Satan. They're the ones putting out the pornographic literature. They're the ones putting out these obscene films.

This is the bit that CBS snipped out of the conversation, leaving only an innocuous statement by Graham about Jews' "usefulness" to God. Schwarz also notes that Nixon's warning about Jewish behavior had nothing to do with Israeli militarism, as the CBS story claims; it was in fact a response to "Graham being angry about a rabbi criticizing a new attempt at widespread evangelism." Schwarz concludes:

The whole thing is well worth listening to if you're a connoisseur of the psychosis of the people who run this planet. My favorite part is the repeated tongue baths Graham bestows on Nixon, assuring him the country loves him and he may well be the greatest president in history.

II.
There is of course nothing really new in the latest tapes. Nixon and Graham's fascinating dialogues about Jews have already entered the public record. I first wrote about this issue more than seven years ago, in The Moscow Times, showing also how Graham also helped sow the seeds of anti-semitism in yet another of his elite charges: George W. Bush.

Picture this: the skulking ruler of a corrupt and vicious regime, hunkered down in his palace, besieged by the forces of good as he plots to unleash weapons of mass destruction on his "satanic" foes across the sea. Accused of war crimes and military aggression, he cynically turns to religion, often calling in the leader of the country's largest fundamentalist sect to lend "moral" support to the criminal regime. Together, the ruler and the holy man engage in frenzied diatribes against the enemies of the state, especially that sinister conspiratorial power lurking behind every eruption of evil in the world – the Jews.

A portrait of Saddam Hussein, raging desperately as he braces for the final reckoning at the hands of history's avenging angel, George W. Bush? No, it's just our ole pal Tricky Dick – Nixon, that is, not Cheney – back from the dead in White House tapes released this week: yet another star turn from the Founding Father of modern U.S. politics.

In the tapes, recorded in early 1972, we find Nixon hankering to hurl his nuclear thunderbolts at Vietnam – standard Cold War ranting for the apostate Quaker, who first suggested nuking 'Nam back in 1954. More relevant to the current scene is the Jew-bashing duet Nixon shares with the American elite's favorite fire-breathing evangelical, the Reverend (sic) Billy Graham.

Graham has – not to put too fine a point on it – sucked from the teat of American power for more than 50 years, lending his "moral authority" to various presidents (usually when they're in political hot water) then leveraging the resultant publicity into boffo box office for his stadium harangues around the world. He is perhaps best known in recent years for a miracle that changed the course of human history – saving the soul of the aforementioned angel, G.W. Bush.

Bush credits Graham with "planting the seeds" of fundamentalist faith in his pre-presidential person during a family gathering in 1985. Graham was visiting the Bush clan's luxurious compound in Maine, mooching free meals and sucking up to the sitting vice president, Daddy Bush. (Well, what else should a disciple of Christ be doing? Breaking bread with the poor or something? Get real.)

At that time, of course, young George was in wastrel mode, boozing it up and losing millions of dollars of other people's money in the oil companies Daddy's friends gave him to play with. But the meeting with Graham struck a chord in the lost soul, as Bush himself (or rather his ghostwriter) tells it, in properly hagiographic tones: "[Graham] sat by the fire and talked. And what he said sparked a change in my heart. I don't remember the exact words. It was more the power of his example. The Lord was so clearly reflected in his gentle and loving demeanor."

That divine emanation was somewhat occluded in the Nixon meeting, where Graham heatedly denounced "satanic Jews" and warned Nixon that the "Jewish stranglehold" on the national media "has got to be broken or the country's going down the drain." The Lord-reflecting preacher then gently and lovingly described how he turned the Jews' two-faced perfidy against them with wily Christian deception of his own.

"A lot of Jews are great friends of mine," Graham begins with gentle, loving sarcasm. "They swarm around me and are friendly to me, because they know I am friendly to Israel and so forth. But they don't know how I really feel about what they're doing to this country, and I have no power and no way to handle them."

Graham chortles heartily when Nixon's toady and enforcer, H.R. Haldeman (the Karl Rove of his day) tells him to "wear a Jewish beanie" at an upcoming meeting with Time Magazine editors. And he yearns for a Nixon re-election later in the year: "Then we might be able to do something" about those nefarious Hebrews, says Graham.

As with Bush, Graham's potent spiritual seed found fertile ground in Nixon. "It's good we got this point about the Jews across," the president says after the meeting. "The Jews are an irreligious, atheistic, immoral bunch of bastards."

This week Graham issued a most Nixonian reply to the taped revelations, saying he had "no memory" of the occasion, but even so, he "deeply regretted" comments he "apparently made" during the meeting. "Apparently?" Perhaps those "satanic Jews" doctored the tape, eh, Billy? As it says in the Gospels: "When the sins of thy past confront thee, always use a weasel-word to squirm thy way out."

These days, the elderly Graham is too frail to whack the Bible leather on the road anymore. His place has been taken by his son, Franklin, who runs the racket along the same old lines: hell-fire for the common folk, political cover for the high and mighty. Indeed, Franklin was called upon by the skulking ruler of yet another corrupt and vicious regime in January 2001, when he showered the Lord's blessing on the illicit inauguration of the unelected wastrel whom Daddy Graham put on the road to glory all those years ago.

Meanwhile, Bush is still faithful to his Imam's teaching. He believes Jews are damned to eternal torment unless they adopt his own pinched and primitive fundamentalist faith -- an opinion that once landed him in hot water with his less jihadic mother. Alarmed at her son's ignorant intolerance, she called – who else? – Graham to set Junior straight. Graham's response? "I happen to agree with what George says."

Well, he would, wouldn't he?

III.
Graham's janus-faced enmity -- supporting Israeli militarism while hiding what he "really feels" about Jews -- is still very much alive among the American elite. (And not just among the elite, of course.) The marriage of convenience -- or rather, the three-way orgy -- between Likudnik Jews and America's imperial militarists and Christian nationalists -- has obscured the fundamental hatred and distrust of Jews that underlies much of the nation's political discourse. For example, veteran cognoscenti have long known that "liberal media" is a code word for "the Jews" -- cast as wily, relentless corruptors of America's pure soul, with their promotion of immoral movies, jungle be-bop music, investigative journalism and what all. Indeed, in the subterranean American lexicon, the term "liberal" itself has long denoted a) Jews; b) uppity darkies duped by Jews, and c) white commies and race traitors in league with Jews to destroy America.

And if you think this template doesn't lie buried but percolating in the amygdala of America's cultural brain, then brother, you don't know these here United States at all. Of course, as with almost every anti-semitic elite down through the ages, there are also many "good Jews" around -- as Graham himself noted. In our day, these are the Jews who support America's imperial agenda and help keep down the "recalcitrant tribes" of the Middle East, in much the same manner as the American elite's illustrious forbears cleaned out those pesky redskins. In fact, with Israeli society now hurtling headlong into a quasi-fascist fortress state, there are probably more "good Jews" of this stripe than there have been in a long time -- perhaps ever.

But of course, most Jews are not imperial stooges or ethnic cleansers -- and these clearly belong to the "Synagogue of Satan" (with Noam Chomsky as High Priest, perhaps.) The American amygdala still pulses with a primitive fear response at the thought of these impure Others: Nixon's "irreligious, atheistic, immoral bunch of bastards," still potently evoked by the masking term "liberal."

NOTE: One should not be fooled by the manufactured "tussle" between the Obama and Netanyahu administrations over Israeli "settlements," by the way. The bipartisan foreign policy elite of the United States do not give a rat's damn about how many Palestinian Indians are forced from their land, or how many Warsaw Ghettos the Israelis construct for their captives. If they did, they would not have sat idly by and watched the "settlements" grow like topsy throughout the so-called "peace process." Such rote displays of displeasure are just part of the game. Israeli nationalists get to look tough for their domestic political audiences; the Americans get to appear "even-handed," which in turn provides some cover for the brutal dictatorships they support in the region. Israel can then make "concessions" (insincerely offered, never carried out), which makes the American president look effective -- and casts Israel in a better light for the American audience. ("See, they listen to reason, they want to work things out.") It's a game that everybody wins -- except ordinary Palestinians.

If the Americans were serious about influencing Israeli policy on the "settlements" -- or anything else -- then they would move to cut off the nearly $3 billion a year the United States provides to fund Israel's war machine -- and its settlements. In politics, as in so much else, you must follow the money. And in American-Israeli relations -- as in so much else -- the money is not where the mouth is.

P.S. If you want to hear what the "Synagogue of Satan" really sounds like in full flow, then attend the words of Sir Gerald Kaufman, standing up in Britain's House of Commons during Israel's brutal decimation of Gaza earlier this year. As the UK magazine Lobster notes, Kaufman "described the murder of his Polish grandmother by a German soldier and then said:

"My grandmother did not die to provide cover for Israeli soldiers murdering Palestinian grandmothers in Gaza. The current Israeli Government ruthlessly and cynically exploits the continuing guilt among gentiles over the slaughter of Jews in the Holocaust as their justification for their murder of Palestinians. The implication is that Jewish lives are precious, but the lives of Palestinians do not count."


Compare that to the overwhelming pro-massacre majority in the U.S. Congress, which voted its "vigorous and unwavering commitment" to Israel during the slaughter. Or indeed, compare it to the eloquent response then-President-Elect Barack Obama made to the attack, which Israel conveniently ended just before his inauguration:

 
Potomac Fever: Sleepwalking to the Brink in Ukraine
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Written by Chris Floyd   
Tuesday, 13 May 2014 23:34

The events unfolding in Ukraine are extraordinary, and extraordinarily dangerous. They are made even more dangerous by the unending slagheap of lies and propaganda being used to shape the shifting, chaotic situation on the ground into a narrative that serves the narrow and ruthless agenda of the Potomac Empire and its factotums in the European elite.

I've written here previously of the growing ugliness of the Putin regime in Russia. But what we are seeing played out among the knowing liars of the Washington power structure and their willing executioners in the Western press has nothing to do with the Kremlin's depredations against the Russian people. Nor does it have anything to do with the freedom, security or aspirations of the Ukrainian people. As always, there is a single, overarching aim behind Washington's maneuvering: the expansion of American dominance and the aggrandizement of its ruling elite. This is the abiding, bipartisan, overriding concern of all policy emanating from the corrupted corridors of power in Washington, and it is glaringly evident in the debacle now convulsing Ukraine.

At every turn in the Western press, Putin is being portrayed as the usual maniacal monster bent on world conquest, pushing his agenda forward with ruthless determination and consummate skill. The Potomac elite never tire of this trope. They pretend it's an echo of Hitler, and seek to draw on the deep wells of trauma and fear still lurking in the global psyche from the unbearable horrors of the Second World War -- but in truth, it is actually the projection of their own obvious agenda. An never-ending series of stock villains are painted with a Hitler moustache and brandished before the people, like some perversion of Christian doctrine of resurrection: He is risen, he is coming again, he is coming for your soul! It is now Putin's turn in this monstrous minstrel show.

But of course Putin is clearly on the back foot in this crisis. Acts portrayed as aggressive are in fact defensive, even desperate, and come in response to more than 20 years of remorseless military expansion by the West to Russia's borders. Western elites have not been coy about their intentions to keep Russia weak and quiescent, or even to smash it altogether. William Blum quotes an apposite passage from the memoirs of that quintessential imperial courtier, former Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who ran the Washington war machine for both George W. Bush and Barack Obama.

[Gates writes:]  “When the Soviet Union was collapsing in late 1991, [Defense Secretary Dick Cheney] wanted to see the dismemberment not only of the Soviet Union and the Russian empire but of Russia itself, so it could never again be a threat to the rest of the world.”

As Blum goes on to note: "Soon thereafter, NATO began to surround Russia with military bases, missile sites, and NATO members, while yearning for perhaps the most important part needed to complete the circle – Ukraine."

This is not ancient history. It has played out in front of our eyes over the past two decades. Yet Russian remarks about Western aggression -- and the repeatedly broken promise not to push NATO to Russia's borders -- are treated as a sign of "madness," of wild, specious propaganda by the wily wheeler-dealers in the Kremlin. Again, this characterization is a projection of what is actually happening on the Western side: wild, specious propaganda to press forward an act of madness -- risking world war, even nuclear war, to feed the psychosexual power fantasies and bottomless financial greed of a tiny imperial elite.

Let's be clear about what has happened. A corrupt but legitimately elected government (a phrase that could describe almost every government in the West, and certainly the ones in Washington, London and Paris) was overthrown in an action that was to a large extent funded and manipulated by Washington. American officials have publicly admitted spending up to $5 billion -- with their private partners among US oligarchs -- to fund the political opposition in Ukraine. They took advantage of the legimiate grievances of Ukranians against a government infected by the same oligarchism and market extremism that rules in the West to foment what, in the end, was an armed uprising led by unabashed, unashamed neo-fascists. This remains a fact, it remains the truth, even if Vladimir Putin and the ugly revanchists in his political faction say it.

It is also the truth that the Ukrainian "government" installed by the West -- a government led by the very people American officials were caught, on tape, conspiring to install -- is now relying on unabashed neo-fascist "paramilitaries" to put down uprisings by pro-Russian groups that exactly mirror what happened in Kyiv: the occupation of government buildings and public squares, the appearance of armed factions, the refusal to accept the legitimacy of the Ukrainian government. Although in the case of the protestors in eastern Ukraine, the government they are protesting was not legitimately elected; it has not been elected at all.

These neo-fascist militias in the service of the Kyiv regime have now killed far more Ukrainians than died in the Maidan uprising. In fact, they have adopted a horrific technique -- setting fire to buildings occupied by protesters, then killing the survivors as they plea. The world focuses -- rightly -- on the plight of the kidnapped Nigerian girls, but here is a nearly equivalent barbarism which is ignored, or even justified, by Western media. And why? Because in Ukraine, it is our extremists, our violent, murderous Boko Haram, who are doing the killing. As Robert Parry reports:

In Ukraine, a grisly new strategy – bringing in neo-Nazi paramilitary forces to set fire to occupied buildings in the country’s rebellious southeast – appears to be emerging as a favored tactic as the coup-installed regime in Kiev seeks to put down resistance from ethnic Russians and other opponents.

The technique first emerged on May 2 in the port city of Odessa when pro-regime militants chased dissidents into the Trade Unions Building and then set it on fire. As some 40 or more ethnic Russians were burned alive or died of smoke inhalation, the crowd outside mocked them as red-and-black Colorado potato beetles, with the chant of “Burn, Colorado, burn.” Afterwards, reporters spotted graffiti on the building’s walls containing Swastika-like symbols and honoring the “Galician SS,” the Ukrainian adjunct to the German SS in World War II.

This tactic of torching an occupied building occurred again on May 9 in Mariupol, another port city, as neo-Nazi paramilitaries – organized now as the regime’s “National Guard” – were dispatched to a police station that had been seized by dissidents, possibly including police officers who rejected a new Kiev-appointed chief. Again, the deployment of the “National Guard” was followed by burning the building and killing a significant but still-undetermined number of people inside. (Early estimates of the dead range from seven to 20.)

In the U.S. press, Ukraine’s “National Guard” is usually described as a new force derived from the Maidan’s “self-defense” units that spearheaded the Feb. 22 revolt in Kiev overthrowing elected President Viktor Yanukovych. But the Maidan’s “self-defense” units were drawn primarily from well-organized bands of neo-Nazi extremists from western Ukraine who hurled firebombs at police and fired weapons as the anti-Yanukovych protests turned increasingly violent.

I've written previously of these neo-Nazi groups and their brazen celebration of Ukrainian collaborators with Nazi genocidists. [See more detail from Max Blumenthal here.] The Kyiv government installed by the machinations of the Nobel Peace Prize laureate Barack Obama is the first European regime since World War II to contain openly fascist factions in its cabinet. Indeed, the fascists are in control of such key posts as the Interior Ministry. And the government of the United States -- along with its favored oligarchs, like Pierre Omidyar -- spent $5 billion to make this happen.

But as Parry notes, this is not exactly news. It is, as I said, the long-running, bipartisan policy of the American elite. Parry writes:

In Central American conflicts that I covered for the Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s, some of the “death squads” associated with pro-U.S. regimes were drawn from neo-fascist movements allied with the far-right World Anti-Communist League. In Afghanistan, the CIA relied on Islamist extremists, including Saudi jihadist Osama bin Laden, to kill Russians and their Afghan government allies. Today, in Syria, many of the most aggressive fighters against Bashar al-Assad’s government are Arab jihadists recruited from across the region and armed by Saudi Arabia and other Persian Gulf oil sheikdoms. So, it fits with a pattern for the U.S. government to hold its nose and rely on neo-Nazis from western Ukraine to take the fight to rebellious ethnic Russians in the east and south.

The key to all these unsavory alliances is for the American people not to know about the real nature of these U.S. clients. In the 1980s, the Reagan administration advanced the concept of “public diplomacy” to intimidate journalists and human rights activists who dared report on the brutality of U.S.-backed forces in El Salvador and Guatemala and the CIA-trained Contra rebels in Nicaragua.

Thus, most Americans weren’t sure what to make of recurring reports about right-wing “death squads” killing priests and nuns and committing other massacres across Central America. Regarding Afghanistan, it took the American people until Sept. 11, 2001, to fully comprehend whom the Reagan administration had been working with in the 1980s. Similarly, the Obama administration has tried to maintain the fiction that the Syrian opposition is dominated by well-meaning “moderates.” However, as the brutal civil war has ground on, it gradually has become apparent that the most effective anti-Assad fighters are the Sunni extremists allied with al-Qaeda and determined to kill Shiites, Alawites and Christians.

So, it should come as no surprise that the Kiev regime would turn to its Maidan “self-defense” forces – formed around neo-Nazi militias – to go into southern and eastern Ukraine with the purpose of burning to death ethnic Russian “insects” occupying buildings. The key is not to let the American people in on the secret.

"Public diplomacy" is alive and well today. (I would demur from one of Parry's assertions, however; I don't think the U.S. government has to "hold its nose" in relying on neo-Nazis in Ukraine -- or on al Qaeda in Syria. Our Potomac imperialists are quite simpatico with those who share their belief in violent extremism.) Indeed, with the intensifications of social media and the internet at large, it is more effective than ever. Think of the storyline painted so starkly just a couple of weeks ago: Putin was 'obviously' controlling the anti-Kyiv uprising in eastern Ukraine. He was a wily puppetmaster, deliberately fomenting provocations so that the moment violence erupted, he could march in with his Hitlerian army and occupy eastern Ukraine.

But what happened in reality? Even when dozens of pro-Russians were literally burned to death and murdered by fascists, Putin ... called for restraint. He called for the pro-Russian referendums in eastern Ukraine to be called off. He was ignored, because, although the pro-Russians are evidently getting some material aid from Russia, they are not under the Kremlin's control. As Tony Wood notes in the London Review of Books:

Western governments decried these movements as mere puppets of the Kremlin, lacking any genuine popular support in the region – an ironic mirror-image of the Kremlin’s own claims about the Maidan groups being Western stooges and neo-Nazis. It certainly seems likely that the forces who have taken control of parts of Donetsk and Lugansk provinces benefited from logistical support from members of the Russian security services, who presumably wouldn’t have been involved without the Kremlin’s say-so. But to assume from this that Moscow has total control over events there is to overlook the complex reality on the ground, which seems to involve an often bizarre mix of personnel – local citizens, many with Soviet army training; nationalist ‘volunteers’ from across the former USSR; taciturn, mysteriously well-equipped Russians. It’s also not at all clear that the interests of eastern Ukraine’s pro-Russian groups are aligned with those of Russia itself.

Again, it is clear that Putin is playing with a weak hand, trying to make the best of a bad situation, not controlling events from afar like a cackling Fu Manchu. Indeed, Wood speculates, not implausibly, that Putin would be glad to see the Kyiv regime quell, or at least defang the pro-Russian uprisings in eastern Ukraine -- precisely because they are uncontrollable, and may lead to dangerous precedents. Wood notes the dark irony of the fact that the oligarch that the Kyiv regime appointed to govern the rebellious province of Donetsk is himself a crony of Putin:

... Putin’s decision to distance himself from the 11 May referendums has been interpreted in the West as cynical double-dealing, on the assumption that he could have stopped them with no more than a phone call. But this underestimates the degree to which the Donetsk and Lugansk uprisings represent a serious strategic problem for Putin ... [Rather than annex part of Ukraine,] it’s much more in Russia’s interests to keep it fragmented and semi-sovereign within its present borders. This would, for example, allow the sizeable Russian-speaking population to inflect electoral outcomes in directions favourable to Moscow, whereas absorbing that part of the electorate into Russia would involve losing all say in Ukraine’s political set-up. ... It's possible that Putin was actually telling the truth on 18 March when he said: ‘We do not want a partition of Ukraine, we do not need this.’ ...

One of the most striking features of the pro-Russian movements in eastern Ukraine, in fact, has been the institutional vacuum in which they have operated. In the absence of recognisable political parties that might channel their demands – but also defang them – the rough-and-ready methods of popular assemblies have taken hold; hence, too, the improvised character of the 11 May referendums. Whatever their level of support in Ukraine, these movements, combining nationalist appeals to Russian ethnicity and tradition with rebellious impulses to self-organisation, set an example Putin has no more desire to see emulated in Russia than he did the Maidan. This is another reason why he sought to distance himself from the referendums, and why he might prefer to see Turchynov crush the ‘people’s militias’ than see them succeed: they are not the natural allies, but the enemies of an oligarchic order whose local representative is the billionaire industrialist Serhiy Taruta, appointed governor of Donetsk by Kiev in early March, and whose Russian champion is Putin himself. It seems significant that, according to the mid-April poll by the Kiev International Sociology Institute, close to 40 per cent of respondents in Donetsk and a quarter of those in Lugansk favoured nationalisation of all property belonging to the country’s oligarchs.

The latter is another reason why Washington is backing Kyiv's burning and killing of protestors so assiduously. They certainly didn't go to all the trouble and expense of empowering a fascist-backed regime in Ukraine just to see oligarchs lose their property! Neither Washington nor Moscow want to see that kind of precedent being set.

And so the game goes on, teetering on a knife's edge. There is no doubt a limit to what Putin can accept before the imperatives of saving his own system, his own power, drive him to a stronger reaction in Ukraine -- perhaps even the invasion that the Potomac imperialists seem so eager to provoke. As for Washington and the EU, Wood notes that they've "got what they wanted – an unequivocally pro-Western government in Kiev – and [have] little reason to back down."

But as we learned 100 years ago, these power games and cynical calculations can spiral out of control, with catastrophic, world-shattering results. If we avoid the abyss this time -- an abyss now bristling with nuclear weapons -- it will be sheer luck; certainly we cannot count on the vapid, power-crazed poltroons of the Potomac to pull back from the brink.

 
Sweet Discontent: The Story of a Different World
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Written by Chris Floyd   
Thursday, 08 May 2014 22:29

Crossing the tripwires, counting up the sins, standing in the midnight breeze ...

 

 

 
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