Master Class: The Elite School of Moral Statecraft

Below is my column from the December issue of CounterPunch Magazine.

Although we live in an age of outrages that keep the mind in a state of continual embogglement, it was still something of a shock to see the brazen hypocrisy displayed by the Lords of the West recently when they "confronted" Vladimir Putin at the five-star freakshow known as the G20. As the breathless headlines in the entirely free and not-at-all government-influenced Western media related, the paragons of the "Anglosphere" lined up to deliver some stark home truths to the Russian honcho about his wanton "interference" in the sovereign affairs of another country – a heinous crime which, as we all know, automatically casts the perpetrator from the bosom of the international community.

No doubt the Kremlin mountaineer was shaking in his boots from the tongue-lashings ladled out by the pasty-faced PR flack, David Cameron, the gibbering, land-raping woman-hating twit, Tony Abbot, and that oozing mass of bile in a suit, Stephen Harper. (Oh, there were giants in those days, our grandchildren will surely say of the heroes who walk among us.)

But the squeakings of these pips were as sounding brass or tinkling cymbal to the moral thunder of the Prince of Peace his own self, Barack Nobel Obama, when he took his turn at the stern finger-wagging. A man who for six years has directed a world-wide campaign of drone terrorism, reserving the right to intervene in any country, anywhere, with deadly force, with public bombs and private murder, a man who began his term by green-lighting a brutal coup in Honduras that overthrew a democratically elected government and ushered in a reign of society-devouring crime and chaos, a man who joined with hand-picked oligarchs to pour $5 billion into a campaign to overthrow the democratically elected government in Ukraine (entering into an alliance with armed, avowedly neofascist factions to bring about the final blow) …. this is the man who had the DU-plated brass to publicly admonish another national leader in these terms:

“We’re also very firm on the need to uphold core international principles, and one of those principles is you don’t invade other countries or finance proxies and support them in ways that break up a country that has mechanisms for democratic elections.”

Never let it be said that the American elite doesn't have a sense of humor. For not only was the leader of the world's chief invader, intervener and subverter of other nations -- including Ukraine -- hawking this hypocrisy in public, he was delivering it as a criticism of unseemly intervention in … Ukraine! This comedy tour-de-force recalls the brilliant work of Obama's predecessor, George Diddly Bush, who used to leave 'em laughing in the aisles with his blasts at "foreign nations interfering in Iraq" -- even as he was happily killing thousands of innocent Iraqis with a foreign invading army. These guys are a riot.

But perhaps we should tread more lightly here. After all, in our brave new Cold War world, to utter criticism of the Ukrainian upheaval is to find oneself lambasted as a "Putin apologist" or a "blinkered Russophile" foolishly swallowing Kremlin propaganda … and probably in the pay of Kremlin gold.

This tedious reaction is as old as the hills, of course. I'm sure that when Cato the Elder (the John McCain of ancient Rome) ended every speech with “Furthermore, Carthage must be destroyed!" anyone who objected was invariably denounced as a "Punic apologist" or a "Didoist appeaser.” The idea that you cannot criticize your own country's dangerous policies without automatically being a supporter (or "lover") of the regimes targeted by those policies is primitive and puerile in the extreme -- which, naturally, makes it the prevailing attitude in America's super-sophisticated and deeply nuanced political discourse today.

That Putin's Kremlin regime is vile should go without saying. In fact, it is more vile than most of our newfangled Cold Warriors know. Their main objection to Putin is that he does not show proper, cowering deference to American dictates on foreign policy and economic exploitation. If he got with the Potomac program, if he kowtowed to the "Washington consensus" and let our big dogs eat anywhere and everywhere they like, why then, our leaders would still be looking deep into his eyes and seeing a soulmate, as Diddly did in days of old.

But they could not give a damn -- and have never given a damn -- about the actual lives of actual Russian people. They were happy to see millions of Russians go under in the neoliberal “Shock Doctrine” unleashed by the properly deferential Yeltsin administration. And if Vlad got his mind right with the Man, they would just as happily turn a blind eye to the depredations of today’s Putinistan – a ghastly conglomerate of Tea Party crankery, authoritarian religiosity in the Saudi manner, and old-fashioned hardball oligarchism, in the Rockefeller-Morgan-Koch-Omidyar style.

The situation on the ground is grim in Russia right now, as my friends there can amply testify. But the West’s aggressive machinations only intensify the siege mentality that ‘justifies’ authoritarian rule. (A dynamic running rampant in the Western ‘democracies’ as well.) Putin might be a putz, but as a “threat” to “core international principles,” he is an absolute piker next to our pious Western paladins, whose interventions and proxies have brought whole nations (Libya, Syria, Iraq, et al) to violent ruin – and promise to set many more aflame.