As Israel begins its latest ground assault on the Gaza Ghetto -- accompanied by whoops of support across the American political and media spectrum -- it is worth remembering this:
For the third time in five years, the world’s fourth largest military power has launched a full-scale armed onslaught on one of its most deprived and overcrowded territories. Since Israel’s bombardment of the Gaza Strip began, just over a week ago, more than 200 Palestinians have been killed. Nearly 80% of the dead are civilians, over 20% of them children.
But the idea that Israel is responding to a hail of rockets out of a clear blue sky takes “narrative framing” beyond the realm of fantasy. … The latest violence is supposed to have been triggered by the kidnapping and killing of three Israeli teenagers in the occupied West Bank in June, for which Hamas denied responsibility. But its origin clearly lies in the collapse of US-sponsored negotiations for a final settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the spring.
That was followed by the formation of a “national reconciliation” government by the Fatah and Hamas movements, whose division has been a mainstay of Israeli and US policy. Israeli incursions and killings were then stepped up, including attacks on Palestinian civilians by armed West Bank settlers. In May, two Palestinian teenagers were shot dead by the Israeli army with barely a flicker of interest outside the country.
It’s now clear the Israeli government knew from the start that its own kidnapped teenagers had been killed within hours. But the news was suppressed while a #BringBackOurBoys campaign was drummed up and a sweeping crackdown launched against Hamas throughout the West Bank. Over 500 activists were arrested and more than half a dozen killed – along with a Palestinian teenager burned to death by settlers. Binyamin Netanyahu’s aim was evidently to signal that whatever deal Hamas had signed with Mahmoud Abbas would never be accepted by Israel.
Gaza had nothing to do with the kidnapping, but Israeli attacks were also launched on the strip and Hamas activists killed. It was those killings and the West Bank campaign that led to Hamas resuming its rocket attacks – and in turn to Israel’s devastating bombardment.
It is also worth remembering this:
Over the past 14 years, Israel has killed Palestinian children at a rate of more than two a week. There seems to be no Israeli child in harm’s way that Barack Obama will not compare to his own daughters, but their Palestinian counterparts are brushed aside with mantras about Israel’s right to self-defence. The institutionalised disregard for Palestinian life in the West helps explain not only why Palestinians resort to violence, but also Israel’s latest assault on the Gaza Strip.
So we are now in the midst of two major military operations where American-backed governments are killing large numbers of civilians with the full approval of the West's political and media elite. The outcome of the American-backed coup in Ukraine has devolved into a civil war which has laid waste to cities and killed hundreds of people, fighters and civilians alike. This week it also claimed the life of 295 innocent civilians on an Air Malaysia flight.
It’s obvious what happened. Undertrained rocket jockeys among the rebels mistook the airliner for a Ukrainian military transport plane and fired. That is to say, it was a ghastly accident of the sort we are always told is one of regrettable consequences of war -- when it happens to American forces or their allies. We all recall that a US Navy vessel accidentally blew a civilian Iranian airliner out of the sky in 1988. The accident occurred after the commander, William Rogers, had invaded Iranian waters and was attacking the Iranian gunboats which, naturally enough, had come to investigate this act of aggression. Distracted by the sea skirmish he had provoked, Rogers and his crew hastily fired on the airliner before its true identity could be confirmed. Rogers was later awarded the Legion of Merit for his tenure on the ship, which included the slaughter of 290 civilians.
In a similar fashion, most Western politicians and pundits have excused what seems to be Israel's gratuitous killing of four Palestinian children on a peaceful beach -- right in front of the hotel where Western reporters were staying; hardly a hotbed of Hamas "terrorism"-- as one of those inevitable, tragic "mix-ups" that happen in war. And of course, the Ukrainian military itself accidentally shot down a civilian airliner in 2001, killing 78 people, most of them Israelis flying to visit relatives in Russia. After initial denials, Ukraine finally admitted that the plane was accidentally shot down by its military forces in a missile training exercise gone awry. The government paid compensation to Israel and the victims' families, and the matter was settled.
But the Malaysian Air incident will not be given the same treatment. Indeed, the very next day, the British press was filled with screaming headlines about "Russian terror missiles" and a deliberate "terrorist attack" on the airplane, and how, if Russian involvement is shown, "there'll be hell to pay!" (As if either the Ukrainian rebels or the Kremlin would gain the slightest advantage by shooting down a civilian airplane on purpose.)
Meanwhile in the United States, similar bellicose noises were being made. The already anointed next president of the United States, Hillary Clinton, thundered that Putin "had gone too far" while the current warmer of the Oval Office seat made ready for new sanctions on Russia -- having already imposed more sanctions earlier in the week. He also made a stirring speech about the “men, women, children and infants” who were killed in Malaysian Air attack. This, from a man who each week ticks off lists of people to be assassinated around the world, and who has killed hundreds of civilians in drone attacks in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and elsewhere. The deaths of the airline passengers is indeed a wrenching human tragedy; but it strains credulity to believe that Obama – or anyone else in the bloodthirsty Beltway elite – felt the slightest genuine remorse about the incident. They are only concerned with how politically useful it might be.
Yet we have seen a parade of Washington worthies (and their courtier pundits) expressing outrage that Russia might have supplied heavy weapons to the Ukrainian rebels. Really now! Just try to imagine the evil of intervening militarily in the internal affairs of another nation! Imagine stoking conflicts by pouring weapons into them1 The whole Beltway came down with a fit of the vapours at the very thought.
The fact is, of course, there would be no military conflict in Ukraine right now if the United States and its European allies had not backed -- with billions of dollars and feverish backroom maneuvering -- the ouster of a democratically elected president for choosing to sign an economic deal with Russia rather than the EU. This, even though elections were to be held later this year that would have almost certainly removed the corrupt president by democratic means. Instead, a new government was installed, with avowedly neo-fascist factions given prominent and powerful positions. Indeed, neofascist militias have been playing a large role in the new government's military assault on rebels in eastern Ukraine.
Now hundreds of civilians are dead -- including 40 ethnic Russians burned alive by neofascist militias in Odessa. Ukraine is mired in civil war. Russia has taken over Crimea. An airliner has been shot down. Putin's authoritarian regime has been strengthened at home. A new Cold War has begun, with all the lurking dangers of "hot war" flaring up. The world has been even more destabilized.
Seems a pretty high price to pay for one trade agreement.
But of course, it's not just about the economic deal. It's all part of the "great game" that Western powers have been playing across the world for centuries now. It's about extending dominance and bagging loot. It's about punishing, confining, degrading -- and sometimes, as in Iraq, destroying -- any nation that doesn't open itself up to exploitation or offers any resistance or any alternative to the "Washington consensus" of neoliberal predation. Washington and its Euro-satraps want a pro-Western Ukraine; they do not care about the consequences, or how much ruin, death and chaos it takes to get what they want. They also want a diminished, toothless, acquiescent Russia. Doubtless they have the same attitude toward the consequences -- which means the world is in great peril.
I hold no brief for Hamas, Putin, the former Ukrainian government, the pro-Russian rebels. All of them are unsavory in their various ways. But the heedless insanity of Western policy -- led by the bipartisan American elite -- is building a future in hell for us all. Meddling, pushing, arming, funding, scheming, suborning, corrupting, colluding, drone-bombing, assassinating -- everywhere, all over the world, all the time, pressing for advantage that only ever accrues to their elites … while their own countries decay under brutal, unnecessary "austerity" and near-total political dysfunction.
Because these reckless adventures do have consequences. (For a shattering view of the consequences of the American war crime in Iraq, see this piece by Dahr Jamail.) They don't simply pop up then go away when the news cycle moves on. They reverberate for years, for decades, in horrible, unseen ways. For example, consider the unbelievable folly of Jimmy Carter and Zbigniew Brzezinski in 1979 -- arming "holy warriors" to destabilize Afghanistan and draw the Soviets into invading – which led directly to the "War on Terror." The CIA's machinations -- in two coups -- to put Saddam Hussein's Ba'ath Party into power led to the deaths of millions of people, from the two Gulf Wars, from the Western sanctions, from Saddam's repression and his American-backed war with Iran. The list could go on and on.
And why are we in the situation in Ukraine today, and the new Cold War it has engendered? (Or exacerbated.) Why is there a bristling, distrustful authoritarian regime in Russia? Why did Ukraine face such a stark choice between the West (or rather, the financial straitjacket of the EU's "austerity" program) and the dubious embrace of the Kremlin regime? How did we get from the bright promise of the early 90s, when the Soviet Union dissolved -- without civil war, without a color revolution, without NGOs and "democracy-building programs," without military intervention, without (gasp!) social media -- to the bloodstained muck of today?
There are many elements at work in the development of the current situation, of course, but one very large component is clear: the deceit, arrogance and greed of American policy in the early days of Russia's faltering steps toward democracy. And as John Walsh makes clear in CounterPunch, this destructive policy was advanced with reckless abandon by Bill Clinton and his team -- which of course included that anointed future president of the United States (AFPOTUS), Hillary Clinton.
Ever more antiwar voices are clamoring for a Stop Hillary Clinton movement in the Democratic primaries – and with very good reason. There are many alarming, indeed frightening, indictments of her tenures as one-half president in the 90s and then as Senator and Secretary of State. Her estranged relationship with truth, her callousness toward human life and her love for every imperial military adventure and regime change scheme are beyond worrisome. They are downright scary.
But the most damning indictment yet of the Clintons on the world stage comes in the book Superpower Illusions by former Ambassador to the USSR, Jack Matlock. … [Matlock writes]:
“The Clinton administration’s decision to expand NATO to the East rather than draw Russia into a cooperative arrangement to ensure European security undermined the prospects of democracy in Russia, made it more difficult to keep peace in the Balkans and slowed the process of nuclear disarmament started by Presidents Reagan and Gorbachev. …
“For all of its initial talk about a ‘partnership for reform,’ the Clinton administration dealt with Russia as if it no longer counted, even in European politics. Two decisions in particular turned Russian public opinion during the years of the Clinton administration from strongly pro-American to vigorous opposition to American policies abroad. The first was the decision to extend the NATO military structure into countries that had previously been members of the Warsaw Pact – something Gorbachev had understood would not happen if he allowed a united Germany to remain in NATO. The second was the decision to bomb Serbia without authorization from the United Nations Security Council.
“There was no need to expand NATO to ensure the security of the newly independent countries of Eastern Europe. There were other ways those countries could have been reassured and protected without seeming to re-divide Europe to Russia’s disadvantage. As for the bombing of Serbia, if NATO had not been enlarged in the manner that occurred, Russia’s government would been much more willing to put pressure on Slobodan Milosevic to come to terms with the Kosovars and – if unsuccessful in this effort – more willing to vote in the United Nations to authorize military intervention…….Clinton’s actions severely damaged the credibility of democratic leaders in Russia who appealed for a more considerate attitude toward Russian national interests. …
“The Clinton administration was deaf to these appeals as well as those of George Kennan the author of the successful containment policy, who warned that enlarging NATO in the proposed manner would be the ‘most fateful error of American policy in the entire post-cold-war era.’ …
“The Clinton administration, without any provocation, in effect repeated a fundamental mistake made at Versailles in 1919. … The Clinton administration practically ensured that … Russia would lose its incentive to reduce nuclear weapons….My point is that the United States should have made every effort to bring the European states, West and East, and including Russia into a new security arrangement…..
“The Clinton administration’s action in bombing Serbia without U.N. approval not only enraged Russia and made close cooperation on nuclear issues more difficult, but it also sent a message to other countries with policies or practices that met American disapproval: Better get nuclear weapons as fast as you can! Otherwise, you can become a target for the U.S. Air Force.”
As Walsh notes, Hillary Clinton was an enthusiastic backer of all these actions, and has continued to be an eager champion of military adventuring, such as the ruinous "regime change" in Libya, which has spread violence, extremism -- and weapons -- throughout Africa. Indeed, she has lately been boasting of how tougher she is than Obama, making it clear that she wanted to arm the Syrian rebels -- that is, she wanted to give high-powered weapons to anti-government rebels in an internal conflict in another country: the very thing she now condemns Putin for doing.
When the Soviet Union fell, there was an opening -- a genuine opening -- to make a better world. But America's bipartisan elites refused to take that path. Instead they chose a threatening military expansion, after promising not to do it. They chose the "Shock Doctrine" tactics of hyper-capitalism, driving millions of people into desperate ruin and early deaths, while empowering gangsters and crooks whose predatory instincts fit well with the new system. At every turn, they chose policies and supported corrupt leaders and a corrupt system that led people to see "democracy" as a dirty word, a hypocritical mask for robbery and repression. They chose to keep Russia down, keep it cowed and contained; they chose, as Matlock said, to re-divide the world, seeing the Soviet collapse not as an opportunity to make a safer, more secure and prosperous future for their own people -- but as a chance to push their sick agenda of domination, greed and elite rule.
And now these same fools, and their equally foolish successors,are astonished that Russia has not become a safe and peaceful liberal democracy but has instead turned to authoritarianism -- as happens to many societies in chaos, grasping at any straw that seems to promise (however falsely) some way out of the abyss. They are astonished that the Russian regime mirrors the meddling, arms peddling and power-gaming that they have practiced ruthlessly for generations – just as they express astonishment and outrage that a people who have been violently repressed and confined for decades would dare to strike back at a regime that has killed multitudes of their children and literally sealed them up behind a concrete wall, as in Gaza.
So with the horrors raging in Ukraine and Gaza (and Iraq and Syria), we have now arrived at another turning point – yet another further turning away from sanity and humanity, toward more war, more hatred, more enmity, more grasping, more greed, and more – many, many more – needless deaths.