Deadly "Dissent": Hidden Hell Lurks in New Critique of Syria Policy

Written by Chris Floyd 19 February 2015 3291 Hits

Robert Ford, once one of the most vociferous champions of an aggressive American policy toward Syria has now changed his mind, McClatchy reports. Ford, who famously resigned from his diplomatic post last year in protest at the Obama Administration's "weak" support of Syrian rebels, now says the United States should not give any weapons to the rebels at all; they are too "disjointed and untrustworthy because they collaborate with jihadists."

Ford, at one time Obama's ambassador to Syria, had long insisted that "moderate rebels" in Syria could turn the tide in their war with both the Syrian government and the jihadi groups that have poured into the war zone. As McClatchy notes, just six months ago he was trumpeting the moderates in the Establishment journal Foreign Policy, saying they had broken with al Qaeda's Nusra Front -- one of the most powerful rebel groups -- and just needed more American weapons to take charge of the war and drive the Assad regime from power at last.

But now he says the scales have fallen from his eyes: the moderate rebels are barely clinging on, they're weak and disjointed, and they continue to collaborate with the Nusra Front. He said that giving the moderates more weapons is tantamount to handing the deadly goods to al Qaeda -- which has already happened time and again during the American-backed, Saudi-fuelled civil war. (Whether this pass-through of weaponry to violent extremists is a bug or a feature of American policy in Syria -- and elsewhere -- is another matter, but too large to be dealt with here.) 

The new Obama initiative -- to essentially replace the fractured moderates now losing out to jihadis Syria by arming and training a new "moderate" army from scratch -- is, Ford rightly says, doomed from the start:

Syrian rebels are more concerned with bringing down Assad than with fighting extremists for the West, and there are far too few fighters to take the project seriously. “The size of the assistance is still too small,” he said. “What are they going to do with 5,000 guys? Or even 10,000 in a year? What’s that going to do?”

Ford's road to Damascus conversion from militant interventionist to skeptical opponent of American policy in Syria seems at first like a positive development; it's always good to have another voice raised against America's knee-jerk militarism -- and it's even better PR for anti-war forces if that voice comes from the center of the Establishment itself, right? So Ford's new stance is getting some play and praise among the dwindling circles of "progressives" who oppose the Peace Prize Prez's policies of permanent war.

But a closer look at Ford's position reveals that his "opposition" to the new Obama approach is based on the same argument as his earlier criticism of the president's policy: that it isn't bloodthirsty enough.

Ford may now concede that the "moderate" rebels are not up to the job of overthrowing Assad and defeating the jihadis in order to clear (or raze) the ground for a properly pro-US regime. But he still believes that this violent razing and regime implantation should be America's goal in Syria. What he calls for now is not the amateur hour of the cobbled-together moderates, but a "professional ground force" to come in and do the necessary bloodwork of empire.

Of course, Ford is a savvy realist. (He wouldn't be writing for FP if he weren't!) He recognizes the political difficulties of such a course, as McClatchy reports:

Ford said the time had come for U.S. officials and their allies to have a serious talk about “boots on the ground,” though he was quick to add that the fighters didn’t need to be American. He said a professional ground force was the only way to wrest Syria from the jihadists.

Two things to note here. First, see how the original, ostensible purpose of American involvement in Syria -- to help democratic forces liberate themselves from an authoritarian regime -- has now morphed into a campaign to "wrest Syria from the jihadists." Of course, it was the involvement of "U.S. officials and their allies" that led to the presence of the jihadi armies in Syria in the first place. The covert and overt intervention of Washington and the, er, authoritarian regimes it supports, such as Saudi Arabia, has created and maintained the conditions for an all-out civil war, spreading the chaos and hatred that is the sine qua non for jihadi movements to thrive. Now we're told we must put "boots on the ground" to fight the forces we ourselves have spawned.

Every intervention in the region has produced a catastrophic result, killing hundreds of thousands of innocent people, displacing millions more, destroying whole societies and fomenting ever-more violent and virulent extremism, not just in the region but around the world. Every single application of the policy Ford now espouses has led to this result. There can be no doubt whatsoever that "seriously" putting "boots on the ground" in the Syrian civil war will have the same consequences: more war, more chaos, more death, more extremism.

Second, Ford is "quick" to assure people that these "boots" don't necessarily have to be American. He doesn't offer any other specific alternatives. It is not likely that the military forces of America's allies in the region -- devoted as they are almost solely to oppressing their own people and pocketing baksheesh from America's war profiteers -- could "wrest Syria from the jihadists" or do anything else except shoot unarmed protesters conveniently grouped in a city square. Of course, Iran's  "professional ground forces" would probably make short work of the jihadis in Syria; but no savvy, FP-published Establishment professional is going to suggest bringing the Iranians into Syria.

So who does that leave? Either the Americans, or the Israelis, or perhaps some kind of vast army of mercenaries -- a counter-jihad, where soldiers of fortune, professional killers, psychopaths and profiteers gather from around the world to wage merciless war. Ford's savvy realism doesn't extend to explaining who would actually be doing the killing for Ford's dream of a new, purged and purified Syria. But in any case, the ultimate goal remains: Assad must go, the jihadis must go, and this must be accomplished by the use of a massive "professional" force from outside -- accompanied, to be sure, by a strongly "centralized" group of local rebels, gathered and controlled under a single guiding hand. (Whose hand would that be, one wonders?)

Ford shows another flash of "savvy" insidery in his conclusion, which veritably reeks of Washingtonia in its implicit message: "It's my way or the highway." Ford says that his solution to the Syria crisis -- his new solution, that is, not the one he was peddling six months ago -- is the only solution. If his sage advice for a full-blown "professional," "boots on the ground" invasion of Syria by outside forces is not followed, "then we have to just walk away and say there's nothing we can do about Syria."

Diplomatic solutions? All-party talks? Ceasefires and demilitarization? UN mediation? Racheting down the terror-producing War on Terror? Nope, none of that, and nothing else that human creativity -- and a genuine will for achieving genuine peace and stability in the region -- could possibly devise. It's either war -- or just let the Syrian people stew and die in the bloodbath we have drawn for them.

That's what passes for "opposition" to America's berserk militarism these days: even more militarism. No doubt Ford is angling for a choice position on Hillary Clinton's national security team -- or Jeb Bush's, for that matter; there won't be a dime's worth of difference between them. But there is no dazzling, life-changing light on his road to Damascus -- only more death, only more darkness.

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The Wrong Kind of Victim: No Hashtag for Dead Hostage in ISIS War

Written by Chris Floyd 16 February 2015 3649 Hits

Ordinarily the death of an American hostage held by Islamic extremists is the occasion of bellicose, ballyhooed, bloody shirt-waving rage, stoked in tandem by government and media. It usually evokes widespread calls for retaliation, for taking the gloves off at last and exterminating the barbarians once and for all. Today, it almost always comes with its own hashtag, so that people can immediately identify themselves with the victim, who is seen invariably as a martyr for the goodness and specialness of America.

But it turns out that some victims are less special than others. In a time when the killing of French journalists whom no American had ever heard of, working at at magazine no American had ever heard of, brings forth a flood not just of sympathy but of direct, personal identification with the victims -- JeSuisCharlie! -- the death of a young American woman captured by ISIS has been remarkably muted. Where is the global flood of JeSuisKayla hashtags?

Not only has the death of 26-year-old Kayla Mueller failed to evoke the usual spasm of anger and grief -- it has actually been celebrated by some of America's most rock-ribbed, hardcore, give-no-quarter opponents of Islamic terrorism (which they broadly define as the merest expression of Islam in any form anywhere on earth). You would think our stalwart halal-haters would be the first to mourn the death of an honest-to-goodness real human being -- a white American! -- while she was in the grip of the most monstrous Muslimy monsters who ever lived. 

(There are conflicting reports on how Mueller died; ISIS claims she was killed in a Jordanian airstrike on the building where she was being held; the official line is that ISIS killed her some time before, and was just using the airstrike claim for propaganda value. With conflicting claims from such noble and honest adversaries, it is of course hard to ascertain the truth of either claim. One may make the observation, however, that the historical record provides ample scope for skepticism of the "official line" in such matters, going all the way back to the Gulf of Tonkin, and beyond )

But however she died, it seems that Kayla Mueller forfeited her sacred American citizenship -- indeed, her very humanity -- by committing the heinous crime of … supporting Palestinian rights. That's all it took for her to be branded "a Jew-hating bitch." That's all it took for inveterate foes of the "savage barbarians" in the Middle East to tweet and trumpet their jubilation at her death. As Rania Khalek reports at The Electronic Intifada:

Mueller participated in nonviolent protests with Palestinians against Israeli home demolitions and walked Palestinian children to school to protect them from harassment by Jewish settlers — the kind of work [the International Solidarity Movement] is known for.

A serious malefactor indeed! Taking part in non-violent protests, walking children to school -- offenses surely worthy of death. Khalek continues:

American-born Rabbi Ben Packer shared Kaplan’s op-ed on his Facebook page along with the comment, “All sympathy - GONE!!”

Packer, who served as the “Rabbi on Campus” at Duke University and the University of North Carolina (UNC) after a stint in the Israeli army, is currently “Supreme Commander” of “Heritage House,” a Jewish settlement in occupied East Jerusalem that provides lodging for Jewish tourists and “lone soldiers,” essentially foreign fighters recruited from abroad to participate in Israel’s military occupation in Palestine.


Packer went on to respond enthusiastically to a friend who remarked that Islamic State should have burned Mueller alive like it did the captured Jordanian pilot Muath al-Kasassbeh.

In a blog post titled, “Dead ISIS Hostage Was Jew-Hating, Anti-Israel Bitch,” conservative blogger Debbie Schlussel calls Mueller “a Jew-hating, anti-Israel piece of crap who worked with HAMAS and helped Palestinians harass Israeli soldiers and block them from doing their job of keeping Islamic terrorists out of Israel.”

Schlussel concludes her post with the following farewell: “Buh-bye, Kayla. Have fun with your 72 Yasser Arafats.”

This is perhaps just par for the course, the kind of thing one would expect from -- in the scornful words of Atticus Finch -- "minds of that caliber." But Khalek notes that America's respectable mainstream media -- while certainly not glorying in Mueller's death -- went to great lengths to eradicate the reality of her life:

In a timeline of Mueller’s humanitarian work, USA Today completely erased her work in Palestine, saying only that between 2010 and 2011, she worked in “Tel Aviv, Israel, volunteering at the African Refugee Development Center.”

Although a more in-depth USA Today article specified that Mueller worked with ISM for the Palestinian cause, the article claimed she did so in Israel, vaguely noting that Mueller “would walk to school with children in the morning and then make sure they returned home safely later in the day.”

Mueller escorted Palestinian children to school in Hebron in the occupied West Bank, not “Israel,” to protect them from violent Jewish settlers. Leaving out such crucial details obscures the reality of Israeli violence.

While some outlets shied away from emphasizing Mueller’s Palestine activism, others framed her death as a consequence of it.

The liberal Israeli newspaper Haaretz implied that her involvement in Palestine led to her death with the headline, “US idealist Kayla Mueller’s road to ISIS captivity went through West Bank.” The Washington Post seemed to agree, with an article titled, “How Kayla Mueller’s pro-Palestinian activism led her to Syria.” …

Between the Zionist backlash against Mueller, the outlets erasing her Palestine activism and those using her death to advance their own agendas, there is one constant: Mueller’s support for Palestinians against Israeli oppression is a taboo that must be ignored, obscured or ridiculed.

Same as it ever was. In death, as in life, certain people are accorded the full dignity and respect of personhood; others are stripped of their humanity and turned into lumps of meaningless meat whose lives and concerns don't matter.

In the memory of many people still living, this was precisely the treatment meted out to the Jews of Europe by the Germans (and many of their helpers, like Ukraine's Stepan Bandera, being celebrated today by America's allies). This was the treatment meted out to the Iraqi people, in the extraordinary 20-year American campaign to strangle their country to death, with sanctions that Washington itself admits killed half a million innocent children and a war of aggression that killed up to a million more people, and led directly to the depredations of ISIS and other extremists in the region.

This is the treatment meted out every single week by the White House death squads of the Peace Prize Prez, as they rain drone death on villages, houses and farms, killing women and children, killing the sick and elderly, killing masses of men who may or may not have behaved in a manner that a distant button-pusher looking through an electronic bug-eye in the sky believes might possibly be construed as the arbitrarily designated, insanely broad "signature" of someone who might possibly carry out some unspecified act of terrorism against an unspecified target at some unspecified location at some unspecified point in the future. For this alone, they and everyone in their proximity can be blown to pieces or burned to death by the defenders of civilization.

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Cartoon Network:The Age of Terror and Absurdity

Written by Chris Floyd 11 February 2015 2997 Hits

Millions of words have already been written about the Charlie Hebdo spectacle. No doubt readers have seen much of the small proportion of this verbiage that was pertinent, informative and insightful. There have been laudable attempts to provide political context, cultural nuance, historical background — and that rarest of unicorns, the voice of reason — amidst the Niagra-level roar of bullshit that engulfed the Hebdo case within minutes of the first tweets about the incident. And of course, it is good that we go on trying to make sense of a reality that is at all times besieged by a bewildering array of powerful forces trying to manipulate our perceptions to suit their agendas.

But from one perspective, these worthwhile efforts to render clarity and meaning from yet another eruption of our era’s madness are beside the point. For from the first collision between human actuality and public awareness, any Terror War event immediately leaves the plane of meaningful discourse and is taken up into the “Cloud of Unknowing” generated by power-seekers on all sides. There it is masticated, atomized and refashioned to buttress any argument or position. It acquires an almost quantum nature, becoming whatever the observer says it is.

There is something more to this than the old-fashioned “spin” which the powerful have been imposing on events since the dawn of human consciousness. This ancient practice still goes on, of course, but there is an extra element in the mix today. And this is the nearly unfathomable hyper-acceleration of power in the modern world. Technology has made possible concentrations and mobilities of power with a scale and reach — and ease of use — that were simply unimaginable before our time. The power of violence, money, surveillance, information and communication — all these have been amplified by several orders of magnitude and set loose in a relentless, cacophonous, thought-obliterating global flow, where they can be used by those who seek to control the will of others and to impose their own. This applies most particularly to states (and organizations that seek some sort of state-like rule) and powerful corporations. But it also applies to other levels: criminal organizations, or smaller, less structured groups, right down to “lone wolf” individuals — terrorists, stalkers, trolls — who now have at their disposal an array of cheap, available means to murder, terrorize, and disrupt the lives of others.

This is not a salvo in the endless, tedious battle about whether technology is “good or bad.” Technology is what it is — and what we make of it. I’m simply noting that the tools available to the violent and the powerful are immensely more effective than they have ever been. Their reach is vastly more extensive and penetrating. And new technology, such as the internet, has brought their power into the very fabric of our daily lives.

All this makes it much easier to drain the reality of an event and repackage it according to the needs of the dominators. Events like the Hebdo killings (and the innumerable, far greater atrocities suffered by the unwhite, the non-European) are fed into the ever-boiling brew of politics, profit and power. Their terrible human reality is not allowed to influence or deflect the remorseless policies — and insatiable appetites — of power. Is Hebdo about free speech, terror, blasphemy, blowback, racism, a war of civilizations, etc.? It doesn’t matter in the end. Hebdo, like all Terror War events, is allowed to have only one effective “meaning,” one message: “We need more power. Give it to us, give it all to us, let nothing restrain us. And we will make you whole, safe, good.”

The vast technological augmentation at hand for dominators makes it possible for them to maintain an unprecedented level of absurdity in their spin, until public discourse no longer make any sense. This is deliberate. As filmmaker Adam Curtis noted recently, effective opposition is enfeebled when there is nothing solid to oppose, only a barrage of absurdities backed up by violence and money. Such as:

Western powers fight Islamic extremism by arming Islamic extremists (like Saudi Arabia) and destroying secular regimes. The West fights for democracy by arming and coddling authoritarians and theocrats. The West urges the overthrow of the Syrian regime, then prosecutes those who go off to overthrow the Syrian regime. Hebdo means we must fiercely uphold the “right to offend” (as David Cameron says), while we put people in jail — or simply murder them, like Anwar al-Awlaki  — when their speech offends us. Beggaring and degrading the world to make rich people richer is the only way to prosperity. Taking actions known to increase terrorism — death squads, drone strikes, torture, violent intervention, etc. — is the only way to fight terrorism.

The list goes on an on, an inexhaustible parade of non sequiturs. Leaders no longer even try to make the stories exhibit an outward veneer of consistency or plausibility. The efforts of the Bush gang to manufacture bogus evidence to “justify” their rape of Iraq looks downright quaint these days, next to, say, Obama’s ever-changing, shoulder-shrugging, contradictory “rationales” for turning Libya and Syria into violent, extremist-spawning hellholes. Absurdity — the radical denial of meaning, context, reason and the continuity of consciousness — is the handmaiden of profit and power in our deliberately degraded, deliberately dazed era.

We are all living in a salacious, vicious caricature. JeSuisCharlie!

***

This is my latest column for the print version of CounterPunch.

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Shame and Shame Again: Obama Signs Death Warrant for Somalis

Written by Chris Floyd 11 February 2015 3023 Hits

The American record in Somalia is shameful beyond measuring. Few people even know that 10 years ago, the US had a direct military involvement in Ethiopia’s invasion of Somalia, which destroyed the country’s first stable government in 15 years, killed thousands of innocent people, and opened the door for the radical extremists who plague the country today.  I wrote about this Terror War sideshow for years (see below); nobody cared then, and nobody cares now. And still the beat goes on. George Monbiot details a new move by the Peace Prize Laureate in the White House that puts the lives of thousands of Somalis at risk — and will only exacerbate the terrorism that the policy is ostensibly designed to quell. But that has been the bipartisan MO of US policy for many years now.

So yes, by all means, let’s keep lecturing other countries and their crazy leaders about how they should behave more morally, more lawfully, more peacefully. There is SO much moral high ground in the fetid swamps of Washington.

Here’s an excerpt from Monbiot’s piece:

Let me introduce you to the world’s most powerful terrorist recruiting sergeant: a US federal agency called the office of the comptroller of the currency. Its decision to cause a humanitarian catastrophe in one of the poorest, most troubled places on Earth could resonate around the world for decades.

Last Friday, after the OCC had sent it a cease-and-desist order, the last bank in the United States still processing money transfers to Somalia closed its service. The agency, which reports to the US treasury, reasoned that some of this money might find its way into the hands of the Somali terrorist group al-Shabaab. It’s true that some of it might, just as some resources in any nation will find their way into the hands of criminals (ask HSBC). So why don’t we shut down the phone networks to hamper terrorism? Why don’t we ban agriculture in case fertiliser is used to make explosives? Why don’t we stop all the clocks to prevent armed gangs from planning their next atrocity?

Ridiculous? In fact it’s not far off. Remittances from the Somalian diaspora amount to $1.2bn-$1.6bn a year, which is roughly 50% of the country’s gross national income, and on which 40% of the population relies for survival. Over the past 10 years the money known to have been transferred to suspected terrorists in Somalia amounts to a few thousand dollars. Cutting off remittances is likely to kill more people than terrorists will ever manage.

…So you take a country suffering from terrorism, massive youth unemployment and the threat of famine, and seek to shut off half its earnings. You force money transfers underground where they are more likely to be captured by terrorists. You destroy hope, making young men more susceptible to recruitment by an organisation promising loot and status. Through an iniquitous mass punishment, you mobilise the anger and grievance on which terrorist organisations thrive. You help al-Shabaab to destroy Somalia’s economic life.

Compare this pointless destruction with the US government’s continued licensing of HSBC. In 2012 the bank was condemned by a Senate committee for circumventing safeguards “designed to block transactions involving terrorists, drug lords, and rogue regimes”. It processed billions of dollars for Mexican drug barons, and provided services to Saudi and Bangladeshi banks linked with the financing of terrorists. But there was no criminal prosecution because, the attorney general’s office argued, too many jobs were at stake. The outrageous practices revealed this week will doubtless be treated with the same leniency.

***
Here are a few older articles about America’s atrocities in Somalia — including some sinister hijinks perpetrated by our next president:

Hellfire Hillary Pours Oil On Somalia’s Fire
The Essence of Modern America in Somalia’s Blood-Drenched Soil
Willing Executioners: America's Bipartisan Atrocity Deepens in Somalia
'Kill Anyone Still Alive': American Special Ops in Somalia
Black Hawk Rising: CIA Warlords Take Control in Mogadishu

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Life of Brian: The Unbearable Lightness of American Being

Written by Chris Floyd 08 February 2015 3135 Hits

One thing I always wonder about: when did the people who consider themselves hip start to worry about what the hell was on television? When did they begin to write long, earnest disquisitions about the box set of some TV show? When did they start to dig deep into the philosophical and sociocultural implications of what a TV news anchor — a professional liar by trade — says about himself …. or anything?

I guess I’m too old to understand. I’m not pretending I hung around with Ginsberg and Burroughs or anything, but I do remember very well a time when anyone who thought of themselves as anti-establishment — even to the slightest degree, even while they worked in an office or in a factory or anywhere else to get a paycheck to keep body and soul together — would not have even known what television series was playing or what anchorman was spewing conventional wisdom on network, corporate-owned TV. And, more to the point, they would not have even cared about such things, or expected to find any kind of meaning or insight there.

Yet it seems today that 95 percent of the so-called ‘dissident’ or ‘counter-cultural’ media spends 95 percent of its time discussing the deep political/social/cultural ramifications of Game of Thrones or Girls or The Wire or whatever. There are also yards — acres — square miles — of print and pixels given over to the latest scandal or stance or political leaning of whatever witless, vapid talking head happens to be fronting this or that corporate-sponsored news show.

The latest, of course, is the bullshit about Brian Williams. Oh, what does this say about our media, our culture, etc., etc.? It doesn’t say anything. It says that Williams, like every other person in our ridiculous and pathetic public life, gilds the lily whenever he can to make himself look good. So fucking what? Is there anyone with half or even a quarter of a brain who has ever, for a single moment of their lives, given one iota of thought or concern to Brian Williams and his “integrity”? What could that possibly matter to anyone even marginally concerned with reality?

For god’s sake, Ronald Reagan spent decades — decades — telling the most bald-faced lies about “liberating” Nazi death camps during WWII, when in actuality he spent the entire war parked on his well-paid, comfortable ass in Hollywood. And what happened to him? He became president of the whole freaking United States for eight years, and is now regarded as such an icon of moral virtue that thousands of people spend their days trying to make sure that every state and every county in the Union has some kind of facility or statue or dog pound named after him.

Again, it’s probably because I’m too old. It’s probably because I grew up in a time when anyone associated with national power structures and elites were considered sinister jokes and ludicrous non-entities, worthless suits of clothes, who should be resisted, yes — but who should never, ever be taken seriously. Yet today — OK, let us, like the New York Times, sit on the ground and tell sad stories of the hiatuses taken by warmongering, military-worshipping, bullshit-peddling NBC anchormen.

Jesus Christ Almighty, what a country. What a culture.

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Waltzing To Armageddon: The West's Dance With Death in Ukraine

Written by Chris Floyd 06 February 2015 3540 Hits

Last week, the Obama Administration announced it is sending troops to Ukraine to "train" the Ukrainian National Guard. The folly of this move -- which, as later stories showed, is only the beginning of a much larger U.S. military involvement in Ukraine -- is so astounding and appalling as to defy comprehension.

What it amounts to, in essence, is deliberately provoking a crisis that will bring the world closer to a nuclear war than it has been since the 1962 Cuban missile crisis, all for the sake of a territorial and political dispute in one corner of Ukraine.  In following this insane policy, Obama is backed by the full weight of the entire bipartisan political establishment -- and by the media establishment, which is eagerly pushing a maniacal anti-Russianism unseen since the McCarthy era.

Nowhere is the latter more true than among many "progressive" writers -- people who easily saw the catastrophic danger of the push to war with Iraq, but are now championing an identical advance to an unnecessary war. Whereas before they rightly resisted the primitive "humanitarian intervention" argument that "Saddam is bad, therefore the war is good" -- even it is carried out by a transparently rapacious imperial system which had already killed, by its own admission, more than half a million Iraqi children through years of murderous, senseless sanctions -- now they swallow that specious argument whole: "Putin is bad, ergo we must now trust that same transparently rapacious imperial system to pursue the same policies and propaganda and demonization against Putin and Russia that it did against Saddam and Iraq -- but this time, everything will turn out fine! This time, we'll be the good guys! This time, we'll be on the right side of history!"

In many cases, the demonization of Putin seems to surpass that of Saddam. For our new-style Liberal war hawks, it is not enough that Putin is ruthless, authoritarian and heedless of law and morality in his exercise of power; he must be an inhuman monster, a "psychopath," mentally unstable, impossible to deal with in any rational manner, fit only to be gotten rid of, like a rabid dog.  Yet in being ruthless, authoritarian, heedless of law and morality, Putin is exactly like his counterparts in the West -- especially the "leader of the free world" who meets with his security bosses every single week and ticks off names on a list of people to be assassinated without mercy, outside all legal process. Putin's regime also assassinates arbitrarily designated enemies, but on a scale and with a frequency that is several orders of magnitude below that of the Nobel Peace Prize laureate in the White House.

But wait; Putin is notoriously corrupt, right, running the country for the benefit of a few well-connected oligarchs? That's bad! Yes, he is, and yes, it is. But even the Kremlin's epic corruption can hardly match that of Washington, which has given $14 trillion in bailouts and "guarantees" to the few well-connected oligarchs who run Wall Street. Trillions more have gone to the war profiteers who have benefited from the gargantuan corruption in the War on Terror's military operations. Likewise, Putin's repressive domestic regime finds strong echoes in America's militarized police forces, who routinely -- almost every week -- kill innocent people without any consequences. The Kremlin stifles dissent, cracks down any protest not specifically authorized by law; this is shocking, but -- where are America's "Occupy" encampments today? What happened to them? Where are the mass, permit-less protests, like those which evoked such furious repression in Russia? They don't exist in America either; protest is limited to specially designated, heavily policed "free speech zones." Anyone straying outside these strict limits risks a bashed head and a spell in stir.

None of these parallels excuse atrocious behavior on either side. The fact that the United States government has killed hundreds of thousands more innocent people than the Russian government has in the last 12 years does not make Putin a moral exemplar, or make him any less culpable for crimes carried out by his regime. But it does mean that all those who declare that Putin is a "psychopath" who cannot be reasoned with and who can only be resisted by military force must also apply those same epithets and approaches to the leaders of the West, especially the United States. But I see nothing of that among the liberal demonizers. At most, you might see a criticism or two of Obama, offered more in sorrow than in anger, and always mitigated with anecdotes about some cool thing he did, or some cool dig he made at the nasty Republicans -- who are, of course, entirely to blame for any bad thing that Obama might have been "forced" to do. (Oh, that awful Ted Cruz, breaking into the Oval Office every week and forcing Obama to murder people all over the world! Oh, that evil John Boehner, literally putting a gun to Obama's head and forcing him to prosecute people who reveal government crimes and to protect torturers and war criminals from any harm! And oh my god, that beastly Sarah Palin, who stuck Obama with a cattle prod and made him save the criminal bankers instead of the millions of people they ruined! O that poor man! O that poor, sweet, helpless man, who only wanted to do good!)

But enough of that for now. The folly of arming the Ukrainian National Guard is compounded by the prominent role played in that organization by avowedly neo-fascist groups like the Azov Battalion. I wrote recently of the disturbing neo-fascist elements now in ascendance in Ukraine; Chris Ernesto at Antiwar.com focuses on the Azov Battalion in particular. These are the people that American taxpayers will soon be funding and arming and training:

According to the BBC, Azov’s aims are stated in one of their online publications: "To prepare Ukraine for further expansion and to struggle for the liberation of the entire White Race from the domination of the internationalist speculative capital," and "to punish severely sexual perversions and any interracial contacts that lead to the extinction of the white man."

"Run by the extremist Patriot of Ukraine organization, which considers Jews and other minorities "sub-human" and calls for a white, Christian crusade against them, it sports three Nazi symbols on its insignia: a modified Wolf’s Hook, a black sun (or "Hakensonne") and the title Black Corps, which was used by the Waffen SS," stated the BBC.

…Vadim Troyan, an Azov deputy commander was appointed as Police Chief of Kiev Oblast (Region). "If they are appointing people like this to positions of such importance and power it is a very dangerous signal to the Jewish community of Ukraine," said Efraim Zuroff, head of the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Jerusalem office. "This is a very strange way of convincing the justifiably concerned Jewish world that there is no intention to encourage fascist sympathies or neo-Nazi activities."

…Azov’s founder, Andriy Biletsky, who also heads two neo-Nazi political groups, was elected to serve in Ukraine’s parliament while the battalion itself has been integrated into the country’s National Guard, according to Sky News’ Kemp.

Biletsky, who was given an "Order For Courage" award by Poroshenko, recently wrote, "The historic mission of our nation in this critical moment is to lead the white races of the world in a final crusade for their survival. A crusade against the Semite-led sub-humans. The task of the present generation is to create a Third Empire."

This is the mentality that American money is empowering in a region that has become the most volatile and dangerous place on earth. These are the people acting as America's proxies in what is increasingly becoming a direct military confrontation between the world's two largest nuclear arsenals. This is an act of monstrous, murderous, mind-boggling folly.

It precisely parallels the creation of the international jihadi movement by the United States and Saudi Arabia in order to goad the Kremlin in Afghanistan. We are still dealing with the ever-worsening consequences of that moral insanity more than 35 years later. The latest ISIS atrocity is a direct result of that policy, which originated in the Oval Office of yet another Nobel Peace Prize-winning "centrist" Democrat, Jimmy Carter.  Now we are planting the seeds of another generation of evil, arming and funding violent extremists -- and for the same reason: to goad the Kremlin! -- who, like the jihadi "freedom fighters" of yore, will go on to pursue their own agendas.

2.
Patrick Smith continues to write with depth and fervor on the West's drive to war with Russia. His latest piece gives a sharp and disturbing look at how the warmongers in Washington are working in happy tandem with the media -- particularly the New York Times -- in the Potomac Empire's latest Drang mach Osten:

As of Monday—as of Monday’s New York Times, to be precise—we are now on notice. In all probability, in a matter of months the U.S. will begin sending lethal weapons to the Ukrainian military. Those named as part of the deliberations for this turn in policy include Secretary of State Kerry, National Security Adviser Susan Rice, Defense Secretary Hagel, Joint Chiefs chairman Martin Dempsey,  and Philip Breedlove, the American commander of NATO’s military forces.

Look at the list. Two soldiers, who by training and tradition think in terms of military capability alone, a Vietnam veteran turned Republican hawk who is not noted for his field of vision, and two Democrats of the breed lately achieving egregious prominence, the liberal interventionists. The take-homes here are two: One, be on notice, too, that there is little consequential opposition, if any, as Washington once more reiterates America’s right to pursue the providential mission in every corner of the planet. Two, this is not about Ukraine: It is about a greatly craved face-off with Russia with a long history behind it.

I stand astonished we are hurtling toward armed confrontation at this speed, with no one in sight to check what starts to look like an obsessive-compulsive addiction to some kind of regeneration through violence.

“The U.S. has already dragged us into a new Cold War, trying to openly implement its idea of triumphalism,” Mikhail Gorbachev, whose subtle grasp of the divide between East and West is second to nobody’s, said in an interview last week. “Where will that lead all of us? Have they totally lost their heads?”

On this side of the concertina wire, we are amid a propaganda campaign that exceeds itself as we speak. The latest is an old Pentagon “study” leaked to the networks Wednesday  —and dutifully reported in grave tones—purporting to establish that Vladimir Putin suffers from Asperger’s syndrome. Any younger reader who does not understand why this column brays regularly about a return to the suffocating absurdities of the 1950s, now you know. Future generations will laugh, but we cannot now.

Along with the above-named officials, eight others gathered separately to publish a report urging—you will never guess—arming Ukraine against its rebellious population in the East and countering the yet-to-be-demonstrated Russian presence behind them. Here we have a retired Air Force general, a retired admiral, two former ambassadors to Ukraine and one to NATO, two former Pentagon officials (Michèle Flournoy could be defense secretary were Hillary Clinton to win in 2016), and Strobe Talbott, Bill Clinton’s deputy defense secretary. Talbott now presides at the Brookings Institution, one of three think tanks to issue the report.  ...The report recommends the U.S. send Ukraine $3 billion worth of anti-armor missiles, reconnaissance drones, armored vehicles and radar systems to identify the source of rocket and artillery fire.

The choreography at work in the Times report is remarkable even for a paper accustomed to doing what it is told. Michael Gordon, a long-serving defense and security correspondent noted for his obedience, reported the deliberations in Washington (without naming a single source) the same day the Brookings report appeared (and in the same story).

First, anyone who continues to mistake a clerk such as Gordon for a journalist must by now be judged irredeemably naive. … Second and more important, the careful coordination of the disclosures spoon-fed Gordon suggests very strongly that a) public opinion is now being prepared for a new military intervention and b) planning for this intervention is in all likelihood already in motion.

And here we go. On Wednesday the defense secretary-designate, Ashton Carter, testified at his confirmation hearings that arming Ukraine would be fine with him. On Thursday Secretary Kerry arrived in Kiev to confer with the Poroshenko government. It will be interesting to read the reporting on this curiously timed visit in light of the artlessly artful manner in which we seem to be advised of our next war in the making.

It will also be interesting to see what, if anything, comes from the summit between Putin, Angela Merkel and Francois Hollande who are meeting today (Friday) to discuss a peace plan. Will the Europeans be able to derail -- or at least delay -- the American drive for confrontation? Or has the bloodlust gone too far, as it did with Iraq? (You might recall the fate of the many diplomatic initiatives that tried to avert that war -- including Saddam's complete capitulation to all terms for unbridled inspection by the UN.) Either way, with the entire American power structure now lined up for more conflict with the "psychopath" in the Kremlin, we have a treacherous path ahead of us.

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Letter Head: The Enduring Sorrows of the Savvy Liberal

Written by Chris Floyd 28 January 2015 3510 Hits

Rooting around in my files for something else tonight, I ran across a letter I sent to the Guardian a few months back. They didn’t print it, of course. They ran a fair few of my letters back in the Bush-bashing days, but not so much in recent years. Anyway, as it deals with a perennial theme — the yearning of “savvy” liberals for “tough” leaders — I thought it might be worth a brief airing, especially in light of one of the likely electoral outcomes next year.

To the Editor:

Timothy Garton-Ash wonders what would have happened if Hillary Clinton had been elected in 2008 instead of Barack Obama ("Should the US have chosen Hillary Clinton instead of Barack Obama?"). That’s easy: the same, only more so. The same blunderbuss foreign policy, the same kowtowing to the rich elite, the same spying, lying and White House death squads — all with the added fillip of corruption scandals emanating from her husband’s Tony Blair-like private foundation. But Garton-Ash believes H. Clinton would have been “tougher” than Obama”: even more interventionist, even quicker on the draw, even more cretinously bellicose in word and deed. This, he thinks, would have been better. 



Garton-Ash, like the rest of us, lives in an Anglo-American power-sphere that in the last ten years alone has sent hundreds of thousands of innocent people to their deaths, and sown chaos and extremism across the Middle East and North Africa. Yet he, like so many of our “savvy” liberal analysts, constantly decries the lack of “toughness” in American policy. They shake with moral outrage at, say, the Kremlin’s machinations in Crimea; they want, always, a “tougher” response — more brinkmanship, more aggression. They want lives (other people’s lives) put on the line to maintain the West’s “credibility.” All this, while in their name — in all our names —  thousands of people are murdered, civil liberties are ravaged and whole regions are destroyed by a system our savvy analysts laud and uphold. 

In any case, we will likely see H. Clinton’s “toughness” and “credibility” in action soon enough. And I’m sure the world will be a better place for it.

Sincerely,
Chris Floyd

Or to put it another way:

We saw the sleepwalkers
Come dancing down the street
Thrashing at the empty air
with their jagged knives
You been chewing wormwood for so long
It tastes sweet
Every day you cut away a little more
Of what could survive

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Word Association: White House Threatened By Drones

Written by Chris Floyd 26 January 2015 3305 Hits

WASHINGTON – The White House faces a serious threat from drones, administration officials said today, after a recent incident in which a small, private drone crashed on the lawn near the president’s home. This episode, though minor, has alerted the White House to a wider problem, the official said.

“The drone campaign conducted by President Obama in countries all over world threatens to make the term ‘White House’ synonymous with murder, destruction, violence, terror and cowardly sneak attacks that have claimed hundreds of innocent lives,” said the official.

“Even now, there are many people who, when they hear the words ‘White House,’ immediately think of wedding parties blown to bits, of sleeping children eviscerated by flying shards of burning metal, of farmers in their fields atomized by missiles fired by comfortable suburban soldiers sitting in a wadded armchair ten thousand miles away, wolfing down Doritos while they push a button to kill someone. And hey, we don’t want people thinking that.”

The official said this risk from drones is compounded by the fact that President of the United States actually sits in his office in the White House and goes through checklists of people who are to be murdered that week by imperial fiat, with no charges, no judicial process, no defense, “not shriving time allowed,” he added, apparently making some kind of literary reference.

This association was particularly unfair, the official said. “Some of the people on White House death lists aren’t even murdered by drones! Guns, knives, garrottes, poison, defenestration, old-fashioned, non-robotic bombs and missiles — the White House murders people in many different ways all over the world, week after week. I think we should get more credit for this variety, and not have it all reduced to ‘drone attacks.’ Not only does that put the White House at risk of being identified solely as the center for a particularly hideous technology-driven evil of our times, it also does a disservice to the skills and inventiveness of our death squads.”

The official said the White House is taking urgent steps to protect itself from its association with the murderous state terror of the drone campaign. “We’re going to be stepping up the number of happy, peppy events we have at the White House,” he said, “and making sure they all have a very prominent ‘White House’ label. In the next few weeks, we’ll be having the White House Sweet Ole Granny Quilting Bee, featuring photogenic grannies from all over the country, and the White House ‘Smores and More Weekend, where the President and Mrs. President will gather with kindergarten kids from across this great land of ours to make some simple, tasty picnic treats.

“That will be followed by the White House Gala of Goodness at the White House, a celebration of all that is good and wholesome and right about America. The real coup of that one is that Clint Eastwood is going to be the guest host, and we have a really funny skit with Clint and the President and a chair, in the White House. The week after that we’ll have the White House Shout-Out to Brooklyn and Portland, where the nation’s hipster elite will gather at the White House to trade self-deprecating drollery with the Hipster-in-Chief. I’m not supposed to say anything about Lena Dunham being there, so you didn’t hear it from me!”

The official said the White House was confident these measures will help defend the White House from being attacked by drone associations. “I think we’re pushing at an open door,” the official said. “Look at the boffo box office for American Sniper. The American people want — and the American people deserve — to feel good about the murders being done in their name. A few marshmallow roasts, a few poetry readings or ceremonies with national champions of something or other, and the words ‘White House’ will go back to what they’ve always been: a synonym for good, clean fun.”

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Can't Slay the Serpent: Ancient Ills Rise Again

Written by Chris Floyd 25 January 2015 3304 Hits

Old evils never die.  You think you’re got them whipped — but they spring up again, years or decades (or centuries) later, as virulent as ever.  Our cursed 21st century has given ample proof of this, both at home and abroad: ancient ills returning with horrific force (torture, racism, repression, oligarchy, feudalism, imperialism, militarism, etc. etc.), old battles to be fought over and over again. This is also true for the “electrics in our brain,” of course, a stubbornly enduring pattern of the individual human psyche.

Anyway, here’s the lovely Velma and Pansy the Dancing Horse to tell us all about it. Take it away, friends!

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Necks and Nostrils: The Murderous Folly of the New Cold War

Written by Chris Floyd 22 January 2015 4149 Hits

(UPDATED BELOW)

Let's be clear about this. The Putin regime is odious. What it is doing to the Russian people -- the degradation of their liberties; the imposition of Tea Party-style willful ignorance, false piety and bellicose nationalism on the culture; the crippling corruption of its klepto-capitalism (which almost, but not quite, approaches the level in the US and UK, where trillions of dollars have been transferred from working people to a tiny sliver of politically connected elites on Wall Street); its brutal prison system (which, while rivalling the American gulag in its harshness, lags far behind it in the proportion of citizens it imprisons and the racial disparities of the captive population) -- all of this is insupportable.  I hold no brief for the oft-seen stance that soft-pedals the Putin regime's domestic depredations in order to play up the egregious sins of America's foreign policy. You don't have to do that in order to condemn the murderous poltroonery of the Potomac imperialists, any more than you had to pretend that Saddam Hussein was an enlightened statesman in order to condemn America's Nazi-like military aggression to destroy his regime.

But as Patrick Smith notes in a recent column, America’s media and political elites are colluding to obscure the realities of the most volatile and dangerous situation in world politics today: Washington's insane drive to destroy the Russian economy and force "regime change" in the Kremlin.

As Smith reports, Americans -- and to barely lesser degree, the Brits -- are being sold an extremely fetid bill of goods in regard to the New Cold War in general, and the situation in Ukraine in particular. One major aspect of this snow job is the fierce -- not to say hysterical -- dismissal in the West of any idea that repulsive neo-fascists factions played a decisive role in the final overthrow of the previous government and are playing a leading role in many aspects of Ukrainian policy today, particularly in the war against Russian-leaning eastern Ukraine. (And again, you don't have to pretend that the pro-Russian separatists are all noble freedom fighters free of any ideological taint or criminal activity in order to criticize the sinister nature of the neo-fascist militants now in ascendancy in Ukraine.) As Smith points out, any Western media references to the neo-fascists in Ukraine -- most of whom are proud to publicly proclaim their association with right-wing extremism, even national socialism-- are always put in quotes, e.g., "the so-called 'neo-fascist' groups," etc. Their point, of course, is that only conspiracy-theory nuts and Kremlin apologists would use such terminology to label these very important factions in the new Washington-backed (and Washington-picked) Ukrainian government. Smith writes:

It has been more or less evident for some time that extreme-right nationalists have been key to Kiev’s military strategy as an advance guard and as shock troops in the streets of eastern Ukraine’s cities. Here is a Facebook entry posted the other day on Voice of Ukraine by Right Sector USA, which reps for said right-wing group in the States:

“As promised, here’s the news you are probably aware of by now—the combat has moved into Donetsk. The Right Sector and the 93rd Mechanized Brigade have wedged themselves into the city and continue to fight. Separatists are suffering heavy losses and keep running away. Despite this, the support is still needed, so we need you to share [this info] for maximum resonance and forcing the authorities to act immediately…. Please offer your support by sharing and sending prayers to our heroes! Glory to Ukraine!”

Horse’s mouth. And there is worse from the same source. Considering the cynical American role in creating and now worsening the Ukraine crisis, the following is a source of shame.

On New Year’s Day members of Svoboda, the extreme-right party that many neo-Nazis count their political home, held a candle-lit parade through Kiev to mark the 106th anniversary of Stepan Bandera’s birth. Bandera was the Jew-hating, Russian-hating, Pole-hating Third Reich collaborator, assassin and terrorist now honored as an icon of Ukrainian nationalism.

Look at the video, provided by Liveleak. Listen to the crazed chanting. Czech President Milos Zeman did, and the images reminded him of similar scenes during Hitler’s occupation of Czechoslovakia. Here is what Zeman said: “There is something wrong with Ukraine.”

Here is what the E.U. said: Nothing.
Here is what the State Department said: Nothing.
Here is what the American press reported: Nothing.

There is yet more, per usual with this bunch in Kiev. The day after the neo-Nazi parade Liveleak posted a video, with transcript, of a lengthy interview Channel 5 TV in Kiev conducted with a Ukrainian soldier. Poroshenko owned the station until he became president last year.
The station did the interview but killed it: “This interview was not aired, because the Ukrainian Government decided that it wasn’t appropriate for their purposes.” This is to put it mildly.

Forget about neo- or crypto- or any of that. This “trooper,” as the transcript unfortunately calls this man, is a right-in-the-open Nazi, worse than the most committed skeptic might have conjured. Ukraine is even better than Europe: “Only gays, transvestites and other degenerates live there.” Then: “When we have liberated Ukraine, we will go to Europe under our banners and revive all national socialist organizations there.”

All sorts of talk about “the purification of the nation,” a phrase Hitler liked, “a strong state,” who can stay in Ukraine and who must go. Now comes repellent language, readers, but we should all know of it:

“First of all, we ought to oust, and if they do not wish to leave, then cut the throats of all of the Muscovites, or kikes—we will exterminate all of them. Our principle is ‘One God, one country, one nation’”—this also from Hitler. “As far as the current government is concerned, can you see that they are the same scum? Poroshenko is a kike….”

The blood boils. And it boils over with the haunting knowledge that American officials support these people. Beyond the sewer consciousness and language, there is the apparent danger: These people have the Kiev government backed into a corner, unable to behave responsibly.

Smith notes that pressure from these armed and violent extremists is one reason Ukrainian officials suddenly and peremptorily broke off peace negotiations last week and instead launched a new full-blown assault on the rebellious regions.

Another reason for the return to violence is, as Smith notes, the destruction of the Ukrainian economy -- and the vast degradation of the lives and hopes of the Ukrainian people -- by the harsh austerity demanded by the enlightened West. The yearning to escape the orbit of the Kremlin and turn toward the West was one of the driving forces of the original Maidan protest movement; many Ukrainians wanted the kind of freedom, prosperity and economic opportunity they saw in the West. (Or in increasingly smaller pockets of Western society.) It was these understandable yearnings that were seized upon by our Great Gamesters in the State Department, our corporate oligarchs seeking new fields for profitable exploitation, and by oligarchic and neo-fascist forces in Ukraine who saw the opportunity for gaining power.

But what has been the reality of the successful turn to the West? What has it brought Ukrainians? Utter ruin, as Smith reports (italics are mine):

The news coming from Kiev starts to make Greece look like the Klondike. The economy shrank 7.5 percent last year and will recede at least as much this. No one knows. It could shrink as much as 10 percent. Here is what Roland Hinterkoerner, a thoughtful analyst at RBS Asia-Pacific, the Royal Bank of Scotland’s Hong Kong outpost, had to say about Ukraine in a recent economic report:

“The country is clinically dead…. There is nothing government or the central bank can do to stop the decline. The population is being pushed further and further into poverty. Food prices are up 25 percent and rent, electricity, gas and water by 34 percent…. This is the picture of a Ukraine that is looking an economic collapse in the eye. But its government is still attempting to channel money into the military to fend off the big bear’s aggression…. The danger for Ukraine is not Russia. It is its own demise….”

Bloomberg published an interesting report earlier this month on Ukraine’s external position … The news in it is that Ukraine’s 2017 bond is now selling at 58 cents, down from par ($1) a year ago. Translation: The markets are now pricing in an across-the-board default. … Further tranches of the IMF’s $17 billion bailout, launched last April, are now blocked until Kiev makes more and very deep cuts in public spending.

O.K., $17 billion from the IMF, once the government savages its budget. Against this, Kiev has payments of $10 billion in debt service alone due this year—that is interest, not principal. With principal, Bloomberg puts the figure at $14 billion, and an additional $10 billion is due next year. It is not clear it can cover these payments even with the IMF funds.

Do you see what is going on here? The IMF’s bailout is not marked for Ukrainian social services or any other benefit to the citizenry. All that is about to be taken away, in the neoliberal style. The bailout money goes to Kiev and back out again to the Western financial institutions holding Ukrainian debt. In effect, debt held by private-sector creditors is transferred to the IMF, which uses it to leverage Ukraine into a free-market model via its standard conditionality: No austerity, no dough.

Now you know why the new finance minister in Kiev is an American apparatchik with long experience in the Hillary-era State Department. Now you know what Washington means when it uses the words “democracy” and “freedom.”

Once again, we see tragic confirmation of the true aims of American foreign policy. Those aims are not and have never been the welfare, freedom and prosperity of the the people it purports to "help" by its interventions and machinations. Washington does not care -- in the slightest, for even a second -- what actually happens to the actual human beings living in Ukraine (or Russia or Iraq or Syria or Libya or Egypt or Yemen -- or even in America, whose citizens have been bankrupted, repressed and made targets for blowback from their leaders' reckless violence and destabilization overseas.) All that matters is that the interests of the dominating elite are advanced. All that matters is that American-backed satraps -- or, in the case of Ukraine, an actual American citizen, former State Department staffer Natalie Jurasko, who had to be hastily awarded Ukrainian citizenship before taking over the nation's finances -- are put in power. All that matters is that foreign governments bleed their own people dry in order to enrich Western financial elites (who are, of course, busy bleeding their own people dry). All that matters is that legacy insiders like Hunter Biden, the Vice-President's son, get plum jobs with Ukrainian energy companies in Kiev's new, American-centric dispensation. (Shades of the oil company jobs and sweetheart deals bestowed on the son of another Vice-President (and later President) back in the day: George Dubya Bush. I expect we will see good old Hunter stepping into America's increasingly dynastic political mix in the future.)

Barack Obama's economic strangulation of Russia is another example. As in all other cases of war-by-sanctions, these measures will not harm the elites in Russia nor cause the people to rise up as one and overthrow Putin. It only strengthens him politically -- and allows him to paint the legitimate opposition to his authoritarian rule as "unpatriotic," at best, or "traitors" or "foreign agents" at worst. (This dreary dynamic should be thoroughly familiar to anyone who has dissented even mildly against American policy over the last, oh, 100 years or so.) The only people who will suffer from Obama's sanctions will be the most vulnerable -- physically, financially, politically.

In any case, if the Russian state actually does collapse under the pressure of sanctions and their economic destructiveness, it will almost certainly not be replaced by the liberal, open, tolerant, democratic, secular opposition that still bravely takes to the streets to protest Putin's rule. That was not the case in Iraq. It was not the case in Libya. It was not the case in Afghanistan, where the Americans and Saudis colluded in the destruction of secular government and the creation of the international jihadi movement. It will certainly not be the case in Syria. In the event of a sanctions-led downfall in Russia, the result will very likely be a regime even worse than Putin's -- one even more unstable, xenophobic, nationalistic, even more repressive and violent at home, more bellicose and unpredictable abroad. Or else there could be chaos and collapse on the Syrian or Libyan scale -- with nuclear weapons in the mix.

Yet far from reconsidering the policy of maximum pressure on Russia (that is to say, economic warfare whose main victims will be ordinary Russians -- and the ordinary Europeans who will suffer if the Russian economy is destroyed; as Smith says: "you cannot shove the world's No. 8 economy into the gutter and expect it to land there alone"), Obama keeps doubling down on the strategy. What's more, he keeps bragging about the damage he is doing to ordinary Russian people by economic warfare.

He did again in his State of the Union address, boasting with a Bush-like swagger, "Russia is isolated with its economy in tatters. That's how American leads." This followed a statement of such staggering, breathtaking, jaw-dropping hypocrisy that it almost surpasses comprehension. Describing his New Cold War policies, Obama actually said:

"We're upholding the principle that bigger nations can't bully the small."

This from the head of a government that spends every waking hour seeking to bend "small nations" to its will by hook, crook, violence and intimidation. This from a man who actually sits in his office every week and ticks off names of people to be killed -- without trial, without charge, without defense -- all over the world. This from a man who weekly shreds the sovereignty of other nations to rain sudden death on wedding parties, worshippers, farmers, picnickers, family homes and an endless parade of unknown, nameless people in distant villages and poverty-stricken regions whose "activities"-- observed from on high by robotic eyes -- are somehow considered to match the "signature" of those who somehow, in some way, might conceivably wish to somehow, in some way, do some kind of harm to America's "national interest" at some point in the future. This death-deserving behaviour might include things like two men putting shovels in a pick-up truck, or a group of Muslim farmers gathering goods for a trip to the market, or a sheepherder carrying a rifle along a narrow path in some mountain wasteland (obviously on his way to shoot his secret atom bomb straight at Times Square).

This from a man who, in one of his first foreign policy triumphs, greenlighted a coup in Honduras when the existing government made mild noises about possibly curtailing the boundless privilege of the elite just a little bit, and now supports the repressive regime he helped into power. This from a man who boldly walked into CIA headquarters shortly after taking office and bravely told the agents there … that none of them would ever be prosecuted for the sickening torture atrocities they committed and then brazenly covered up. This is the man who –

Well, enough. The list of the "bullying" that America is perpetrating in the world is too long to enumerate here. It also well known to anyone who cares about such matters. Meanwhile, no amount of enumeration or outrage will change the minds of those (including most progressives) who see these facts but still believe that Washington has even the slightest crumb of moral standing from which to lecture other nations on their behavior -- much less gleefully leave those nations "in tatters" because they don't act as Washington wishes them too.

And for God's sake, let's not pretend that it is the "immorality" of Russian policies that have provoked the sanctions and the New Cold War.  Any nation which counts as one of its staunchest allies the repressive feudal tyranny of Saudi Arabia is not concerned with the "morality" of any nation's behavior. (And again, if "morality" is the standard, what to make of a nation whose leader personally runs a death squad out of his office? And if taking over and holding territory, like Crimea, is a sanction-worthy crime, where are the sanctions against China or Israel?) No, what matters is how much any given nation might stand in the way of our elites' endless, heedless, shark-like appetite for power and profits.  If you play ball -- or at least turn a blind eye -- to their domination agenda, then you are all right, Jack. But if you are thought to pose some kind of threat to that agenda -- or even offer a benign alternative to our elites' extremist ideology of domination -- then you will be dealt with, in one way or another, at some point.

Because Putin is odious, we can pretend that what Washington has done and is doing in Ukraine is not odious. We can pretend that Obama’s genuinely stupid policy — dicing with the prospect of nuclear war just to grab a new trough for our elites to chow down in — is not a moral abomination that is degrading the lives of millions of people in Ukraine and Russia, and casting a minatory shadow over the future of our children. But this pretense doesn’t change the reality. We are up to our necks — up to our nostrils — in a river of blood and folly.

UPDATE: Arthur Silber gives us a telling look at America's "moral authority" in his latest essay.

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