Americans Should Be Dying in Ukraine: Random Notes from the Resistance Underground

Let’s face it. The United States is the world’s classic bully – a synonym for “coward.” It’s like the playground tough who fearful of a bloody nose has others do the dirty work for him. “Let’s you and him fight,” is the bully’s refrain.

When you think about it, that’s exactly what the United States and the gang of thugs called NATO are doing in Ukraine. They admit it’s a proxy war. But our cowardly “leaders” know that a direct battlefield confrontation with Russia would be monumentally unpopular at home. (Imagine having to explain to American wives, children, parents, and grandparents why it’s worth their loved one’s death or maiming to bring “freedom” to a country more than 7000 miles away and which most would have difficulty locating on a map! It would be worse than Vietnam.)

Instead, it’s better to have Ukrainian husbands, fathers, sons, and brothers die rather than Americans. Yes: Let’s you and him fight. Few of us would have it any other way.

What I’m saying is that in the final analysis, it’s our permission, apathetic disinterest, and empty virtue signaling that has transformed the “land of the free and the home of the brave” into the land of cowardly and powerless bullies. I’m talking about you and me.

In other words, if we really believe that we’re the ones at war in Ukraine and (as Joe Biden said) “Putin must go,” then we should be willing to send our brothers, husbands, fathers, and uncles to die there, not Ukrainians. If we’re young enough, we should be willing to enlist and put our own heads into the Russian meat grinder.

But would any of us do that? Why should we dirty our hands? Why should Americans die in the war planned for decades?

No: Let’s you and him fight.

***

In the prolonged conflict in Ukraine, I’ve found that virtually the only completely informed, honest and balanced analysis derives from interviews involving Scott Ritter – the former Marine intelligence officer, Russia expert, and U.N. weapons inspector. Most others (i.e., all the mainstream media) are nothing but U.S., NATO, and Ukraine cheerleaders. Even the few who dare to speak out against “our” country’s belligerent policies miss the big picture that Ritter sees. 

***

Here’s what he’s saying now:

  • Despite its undeniable battlefield successes, Russia is not winning in Ukraine.
  • Russia had three clear objectives in initiating its special operation: (1) Free Ukraine’s Russian-speaking populations in the country’s southeastern region from attacks by the Ukrainian army which over the last six years have cost the Donbass more than 14,000 lives. (2) De-Nazify Ukraine which has incorporated card carrying, swastika-tattooed Nazis into its government and military forces. (3) Force the Kyiv government to drop its ambitions to join NATO – instead adopting a position of neutrality like Sweden once did
  • Russia will surely achieve the first objective. Its forces have surrounded Ukrainian troops in the Donbass in ever-tightening pincers. There, Ukrainians will be compelled to surrender or be annihilated. They have no other options.
  • Russia success in Mariupol (a major Neo-Nazi center) has also removed from action many extreme right-wing cadres. It has achieved the same result in the Donbass where the Ukrainian army had been spearheaded by openly white supremacist, fascist troops. As already indicated, the latter are surrounded and trapped in what Russian military theory describes as an inescapable “cauldron.” In other words, Ukraine has been or will be significantly (though by no means completely) de-nazified.
  • However, the massive and unforeseen influx of U.S. funding and ordnance into Ukraine has rendered virtually impossible the achievement of Russia’s goal of demilitarizing the country and forcing it into political neutrality. (The $40 billion just authorized by Washington means that in just two months, Ukraine will have received dollar amounts exceeding Russian defense budgeting for an entire year!)
  • This unexpected development means that even if Russia declares “mission accomplished,” withdraws, and ends up controlling Donbass, Odessa, Crimea, and a few other cities and regions, it will always have to deal with a massively armed and NATO trained adversary threatening those gains.
  • Russia’s President Putin can counter such moves only by securing his Duma’s permission to move from special military operation to all-out war against Ukraine. That’s because his countermove would necessarily entail national mobilization including a military draft to increase Russian forces in Ukraine far beyond the 200,000 now deployed there.
  • In Ritter’s eyes, there’s no way anything short of the latter change in strategy might be called “victory.”
  • In other words, Russia will have won its battles but lost the war.

***

As he himself admits, Ritter makes the above analysis while wearing only his military glasses that allow him to perceive nothing but highly predictable battlefield realities. Such limited vision, he concedes, blinkers out crucial political factors whose effects are less foreseeable. For instance, how long will it take Ukraine’s mothers and wives to demand that Kyiv stop sending their sons, husbands, brothers, and uncles to certain death in that Russian meat grinder? How long will it take electorates in Europe and the States to rebel against food, petrol, home heating and cooling prices inflated by sanctions interdicting Russia’s supply of oil and natural gas? In other words, rebellion at the ballot box and/or in the streets could pressure NATO representatives to the negotiating table despite their desire to prolong the conflict. Ritter chooses not to highlight such factors.

***

Of course, the same holds true for Moscow. Though Russian casualties are fewer and though (contrary to the intentions of the sanctions) the ruble is now stronger than ever and even though Russia’s producers are successfully locating markets (in China, India, Iran, and by import substitution) and even though Putin’s approval ratings are over 80%, Russian wives and mothers find body bags just as repellant as their Ukrainian counterparts.  

***

I do too. So let’s change the subject.

***

They say that about a thousand Ukrainian Neo-Nazi soldiers have finally surrendered after months of de facto imprisonment in the bowels of Mariupol’s Azovstal steel plant. But our deceitful MSM has called the capitulation an “evacuation” (Where? To Siberia?). They’ve called it a “leaving,” a “withdrawal,” a recognition of “mission accomplished.”

***

Can you imagine the MSM reaction if the situation were reversed – if the Russians were the ones virtually imprisoned for weeks in that steel plant? That, after all, is the way they would have been described – helplessly imprisoned rather than heroically resisting. And their “evacuation” from their underground holes waving their underwear as white flags would have been described as a humiliating surrender.

***

Where’s the peace movement in all of this? Why are the most prominent voices for peace in Ukraine coming from the right — from Trumpists for God’s sake? Can’t figure that one out.

***

And where are the followers of the one who said “Put away your sword. Those who live by the sword will die by the sword” (MT 26:2) and “Love your enemies; do good to them that hate you” (MT 5:44) and “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (LK 23:34)? Catholic Joe Biden’s not saying that — even though Pope Francis lays much of the blame for Ukraine’s war at his feet.

***

Are you saying any of those things?

***

Can anyone say “Bully for you?”

Only Critical Thinkers Taking to the Streets Can Save Us

­I just finished watching an hour-long interview on Garland Nixon’s “Saturday Morning Live with Scott Ritter and Ray McGovern” (see above). Both the guests are former U.S. government insiders with wide experience in Russia.

As an anti-imperialist, I found the program quite sobering.

Scott Ritter, it turns out, has drastically changed his assessment of what’s occurring in Ukraine.

His previous analysis was quite certain that the Ukrainians would be no match for the Russians. Now however Ritter’s evaluation of Moscow’s threefold goals (liberation of Ukraine’s Donbass region, denazification of its army, and general demilitarization of the country) is much more nuanced.

He still sees the Russians moving ahead (but much more slowly than anticipated) with the liberation of the Donbass and with destruction of significant Nazi cadres there and in Mariupol.

However, he now admits, that destroying the Ukrainian military has been gravely complicated by the influx of money and weaponry (most recently, $40 billion worth) from the United States.

That flood of support has allowed the Ukrainian army to reconstitute itself in Ukraine’s west.

So, even if the Russians might be successful in the country’s southeast region, the question becomes what next? Reconstitution of the Ukrainian army complicates achievement of the goal of demilitarizing Ukraine.

All of this also raises the question of maintaining any gains the Russians might be able to achieve in the Donbass region. Maintenance there could potentially bleed the Russians dry in terms of resources, materiel, and lives lost. Will it be necessary for Moscow to keep an occupation force there to protect the breakaway republics of Luhansk and Donetsk?

Such developments and questions have forced upon the Kremlin serious decisions which include:

  • (1) Declaration of “mission accomplished” after the Donbass region has been secured and (2) subsequent withdrawal of forces from Ukraine, however without securing the surrender of the Ukrainian government or the country’s demilitarization
  • In pursuit of the goal of demilitarizing Ukraine turning attention north towards Kyiv and the military capabilities developing in that area of the country. This option would entail extensive bombing of western supply routes, depots and garrisons.
  • However, this would also involve widening the conflict from a “special military operation” to a declared war on Ukraine along with a corresponding mobilization of millions of Russian troops – with the social and economic costs inevitably associated with that decision.
  • Broadening the war even wider to include Finland’s threat to Russia before it can become a NATO member under the protection of Article 5 of the NATO Charter.

Of course, all of this involves China (by far the ultimate and real target in NATO’s crosshairs) which is keeping a close eye on the situation.

According to Ritter and McGovern, China’s fear is that NATO will try to draw it into a debilitating conflict like Russia’s in Ukraine. To that end NATO’s imperial forces seem bent on encouraging Taiwan to declare independence from China.

In the eyes of McGovern and Ritter, China would not tolerate such a move and would act immediately and decisively to keep Taiwan under control. They point out that the island’s situation is far different from Ukraine’s. Whereas Ukraine can be supplied militarily from surrounding NATO countries, that same possibility isn’t available for Taiwan. As shown by the sinking of the Russian flagship (the Moskva) any NATO ships carrying materiel would be easily sunk by Chinese artillery onshore.

So, Taiwan has two alternatives, both including ultimate control by China: (1) Taiwan can either continue with its mutually beneficial socio-political and economic arrangements with the mainland or (2) those arrangements will be maintained under Chinese occupation. China will tolerate no third eventuation.

Conclusion

Of course, both McGovern and Ritter were quite clear that none of this need be happening. No critical thinker should forget this or get swept up into our nation’s current war fever.

Instead, critical thought entails remembering that it is the bellicose insistence of the United States on widening NATO right up to Russia’s borders (rather than the dissolution of NATO itself as an outmoded organization) that has provoked this entire crisis.

Absent U.S. insistence on expanding NATO and installing missiles on Russia’s border, the Kremlin represented a military threat to no one in Europe. Neither does China constitute anything other than an economic competitor to the United States. Militarily, it is nowhere threatening the United States.

Rather, within the web of capitalist sanctification of competition as the ultimate value, China’s mortal sin consists merely in the fact that it greatly outperforms the U.S. and Europe in terms of economic growth, foreign assistance, and elimination of world poverty.

It is the decision of the United States to allow no economic rivals, it is its arbitrary and criminal insistence on maintaining “full spectrum dominance” that lies behind the current lamentable set of events. Only an anti-war movement taking to the streets in the name of clear vision, critical thinking, and sanity can prevent our government’s warmongers from leading the world to ultimate disaster.  

Why Is the U.S. so Interested in Ukraine? The Conflict’s Long and Deep Conceptual Roots

Why is the United States so interested in Ukraine more than 7000 miles away?

The answer to that question goes to the conceptual taproot of the conflict. It lies much deeper than is commonly perceived and is connected with U.S. ambitions (like Nazi Germany’s) to control the entire world. The details are supplied in the April 2022 edition of Monthly Review (Vol. 73, No. 11) in the journal’s “Notes from the editors: Ukraine as the ‘Geopolitical Pivot’.”

Here’s what the editors say:

In 1904, Britain’s Halford Mackinder articulated the relevant and guiding geopolitical doctrine (later developed in Nazi Germany by Karl Haushofer as well as by John Spykman in the United States during the 1930s and 40s.)

The doctrine’s basic idea was that the domination of Eastern Europe (including Belarus, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Moldova, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Ukraine, and the western part of the Russian Federation) was the key to dominating the planet. Mackinder said in effect:  Who rules East Europe commands Eurasia. / Who rules Eurasia commands the rest of Asia and Africa. /Who rules those continents commands the World.

Since its original expression at the beginning of the last century, Mackinder’s doctrine has informed the strategies of all leading capitalist nations as they sought world domination – including Great Britain, Nazi Germany, and the United States. In its latter form, the doctrine is commonly referred to as “The Grand Strategy.”

It was further refined by U.S. planners such as Henry Kissinger, Zbigniew Brzezinski, and Paul Wolfowitz. Following their advisement, U.S. presidents from Nixon to Biden have used it to guide their geopolitical policies.

The advisors’ clearest expression emerged in 1991, when then undersecretary of defense (appointed by George H.W. Bush) Paul Wolfowitz published his Defense Planning Guidance. There he wrote, “Our policy [after the fall of the Soviet Union] must now refocus on precluding the emergence of any potential future global competitor.”

Towards achieving this end, Wolfowitz recognized a particular need to defang a weakened Russia which was then the strongest military power in Eurasia. Russia, he contended, must be quickly neutralized before it could recover from its post-Soviet reduction in status and power. The most effective avenue towards such nullification of Russian might would be to bring into the Western orbit the countries that had been part of Eastern Europe’s Warsaw Pact defense organization.

In making his case, Wolfowitz was echoing not only Mackinder, Haushofer, and Spykman, but the position of Truman advisor, George Kennan who in 1948 had written, 

“. . . we have about 50% of the world’s wealth, but only 6.3% of its population…. In this situation, we cannot fail to be the object of envy and resentment. Our real task in the coming period is to devise a pattern of relationships which will permit us to maintain this position of disparity…. To do so, we will have to dispense with all sentimentality and daydreaming; and our attention will have to be concentrated everywhere on our immediate national objectives…. We should cease to talk about vague and … unreal objectives such as human rights, the raising of the living standards, and democratization. The day is not far off when we are going to have to deal in straight power concepts. The less we are then hampered by idealistic slogans, the better.”

Though adopted in practice by United States policy planners, Kennan’s strategy remained their unarticulated “quiet part,” because (following so closely upon World War II) it eerily echoed the ultimate goal of Nazi Germany’s aspirations to world domination.  

However, following the fall of the Soviets and its bruited “end of history,” it became fashionable for U.S. politicians to finally speak the quiet part aloud openly identifying America’s system as “imperialist,” “dominant,” and brooking no rivals.

In turn, Carter advisor Brzezinski’s own elaboration of The Strategy shaped U.S. policy vis a vis Russia for over three decades.

In pursuit of controlling Russia, Brzezinski was the one responsible for creating a quagmire in Afghanistan to trap the Soviet Union in an unwinnable war. Supported by Carter, he initiated the program that armed and trained the Mujahideen to confront the Soviets in “the graveyard of empires.”

The trap worked and its debilitating swamp became a key element contributing to the dissolution of the USSR (and to the disastrous events of 9/11 in the United States). Brzezinski considered it a giant step towards seizing control of Eastern Europe.

Bill Clinton took the next step. Contravening U.S. promises to Gorbachev not to move the alliance “one inch” eastward, the U.S. president proceeded to dismember Yugoslavia and decided to move the organization into the actual sphere of the former Soviet Union.

Subsequently (in 1997) Brzezinski produced his book, The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy and Its Geostrategic Imperatives. There he argued that the U.S. had finally found itself in a position “for the first time ever (for) a non-Eurasian power” to become “the key arbiter of Eurasian power relations,” while at the same time “emerging as “the world’s paramount power.” In other words, because of the opening in Russia, the United States found itself poised to become the first and the last globally dominant empire.

For Brzezinski, assuming that role in Eurasia required further weakening Russia to deprive it of any pretension to being a world power. Such debilitation, he argued, depended on incorporating Ukraine (which shares a 1,200 mile border with Russia) into NATO as a kind of Damocles’ sword over the head of the geographically largest country in the world.

However, Brzezinski warned that the inclusion in question would inevitably be perceived by Russia as an existential threat – as an unacceptable crossing of a red line that would force Russia into an anti-hegemonic alliance with China and possibly Iran in a tripartite bloc.

A U.S. countermove, Brzezinski wrote, would involve gradually expanding NATO into countries formerly belonging to the Soviet Union. It would mean applying pressure on China by creating distracting problems for it in Hong Kong and Taiwan and by forging closer NATO ties with the regional powers Japan, South Korea, and Australia.

Nevertheless, the greatest stumbling block to such moves on the grand chessboard remained Ukraine. How could the U.S. gain its control without having Russia interpret the move as a death threat aimed at its breakup and without having China perceive Russia’s balkanization as destabilizing its own far western regions?

With those questions still unanswered, Washington continued to implement Brzezinski’s grand strategy. Over the past 30 years, it has moved ahead with the project of normalizing NATO expansion to include 15 previous Warsaw Pact members. In those countries, it placed troops (including U.S. divisions) while locating missile facilities in Poland and Romania. The final goal continued to be the incorporation of the crucial Ukraine prize. So, finally, in 2008 NATO formally announced its intention to admit that trophy as a member state.

Towards that end, the U.S. played a major role in provoking a coup d’état in the Ukraine capital. It replaced the country’s elected president Viktor Yanukovych, who though once favorable to the West sought economic help from Russia when the International Monetary fund proposed austerity conditionalities on its loans. That move was unacceptable to U.S. ambitions in Ukraine. So, using Neo-Nazi agents provocateurs, they had Yanukovych replaced with a more amenable hand-picked client.

The U.S.-supported coup led to uprisings of dissent in Ukraine’s Donbass region and to brutal repression by the replacement government. For instance, in Odessa, more than 40 resisters were burnt alive in a union hall at the hands of Ukraine’s Neo-Nazis. Such right-wing repression led the Donbass regions of Luhansk and Donetsk to break away from Ukraine and form two people’s republics.  

Additionally, even before the coup (in 1991) Crimea (whose citizens are predominantly Russian speaking) had become an autonomous republic within Ukraine. After the coup, a referendum had it voting to merge with Russia.      

Kyiv’s response to these secessions took the form of intense military operations against the breakaways. Since 2014, the resulting civil war has taken the lives of over 14,000 people and has created 2.5 million refugees most of whom have fled to Russia.

The conflict came to an apparent end with the signing of the Minsk Agreements of 2014-15. The accords were worked out between Russia, Ukraine, France and Germany and endorsed by the UN Security Council. The pacts gave Luhansk and Donetsk the right to self-government while remaining in Ukraine. However, Kyiv ignored the agreements and pressed on with its Donbass offensive.

Russia replied by demanding that the Minsk Agreements be honored. It also insisted that Ukraine agree not to enter NATO and that the 130,00 Ukrainian troops then attacking Donbass cease their operations. All of these, Moscow said, were red lines which if crossed would require vigorous response.

NATO and Kyiv insisted on crossing all the lines just noted. Russia’s “special military operation” was the result.

Conclusion

So, there we have it. The Ukraine conflict has been over a century in the making.

In 1904, Mackinder saw its importance for world hegemons who themselves (from Great Britain and Nazi Germany to the United States of America) concurred with his assessment. Though recognizing the dangers of doing so, Kissinger, Brzezinski, and Wolfowitz embraced Mackinder’s viewpoint. They focused their Grand Strategy on the world’s Chessboard towards ultimately securing control of Ukraine. To that end, the presidents they advised following the breakup of the Soviet Union expanded NATO right up to Russia’s borders.   

In doing so, they insisted on crossing red lines repeatedly drawn by Russian leaders. U.S. support of a coup and the installation of a NATO friendly government in Kyiv caused alarm bells to ring in Moscow. So did a Neo-Nazi-led assault on dissenting Russian speakers in Ukraine’s Donbass region.

U.S. refusal to recognize and enter negotiations over Russia’s concerns on such matters represented the last straw.

All of that explains not only a desperate Russia’s “special military operation” against what it sees as a threat to its very existence, but why a U.S.-led NATO is pouring billions into the conflict.

It’s about the lynchpin of world domination. It’s about shoring up a vanishing U.S hegemony. It’s about America’s brooking no rivals. It’s about maintaining “full spectrum dominance” in a doomed unipolar world.

O.K. I’m A Putin Apologist: Here’s Why

Recently, on “Democracy Now,” Amy Goodman interviewed a Yale history professor, Timothy Snyder, about the Ukraine War. He was commenting on his New Yorker article “The War in Ukraine is a Colonial War.”

That was his argument: As if we had to guess Putin’s end game in Ukraine, the good professor opined that it probably is to annex Ukraine and afterwards who knows what other country.  Putin’s an imperialist, Snyder charged. Like Hitler, he’s after land and soil.

The colonizer must therefore be stopped, Dr. Snyder concluded, and be brought by force of arms to acknowledge Russia’s total defeat. Turning just war theory on its head, Snyder’s point came across as: war is the first resort; negotiation comes only after your enemy has been militarily defeated and is forced to accept the winner’s terms without reservation.

That kind of support for what has prevailed in America as “the official story,” especially coming from a fellow academic who should know better, struck a fraying nerve within me. I mean, to my understanding, it’s not the function of academics (nor for that matter, of news media such as “Democracy Now”) to lend support to the approved narrative. It is rather to test the received account against documented reality.

So, I decided to find out once and for all (1) who Vladimir Putin is, (2) the detailed background of the Ukraine conflict, and (3) what the Russian president’s intention might be in his “special military operation.”

No need, I found, to speculate on any of that. It’s all quite well recorded – for instance (1) in Oliver Stone’s four interviews (each an hour long) with the Russian president, (2) in the film “Ukraine on Fire” (counterpointed by “Winter on Fire”), and (3) in Putin’s two long pre-war speeches (one delivered last February 21st, the other just after on February 24th).

Reviewing that material quite carefully has convinced me that as a national leader, Putin stands head and shoulders above any others I can think of. His reasons for initiating his “special operation” are defensible historically, legally, and according to U.S. precedent.

Putin as Statesman

Before mounting the “Putin Bad” bandwagon, be sure to view Oliver Stone’s “The Putin Interviews” on Showtime. They’re the product of 12 conversations between Stone and Mr. Putin over two and a half years between July 2015 and February 2017.

I found the interviews revealing a man who is difficult to dislike. He is charming and humorous. He drives his own car, is a judo enthusiast, plays hockey, and rides horses. He describes himself as a “cautious optimist” who believes, he says, “there is always hope until the day they put you in the ground.”

Born into a working-class family in 1952, his father was wounded in what Russians call “The Great Patriotic War,” when the United States and the USSR were allies against Nazi Germany.

From an early age, young Vladimir studied judo, whose practice, he says, summarizes his theory of life: be flexible and disciplined; think ahead. (For political leaders, he adds, that means planning 25 to 50 years into the future).

Movies and books made Putin, who studied law in the university, an admirer of the KGB as a patriotic organization. He joined up and was assigned to East Germany. Life there, he remembers, was not dismal, but “frozen in the 1950s.”

Then came Mikhail Gorbachev’s presidency (March 1990 – Dec. 25, 1991). Gorbachev’s “reforms” made everything fall apart. (Putin does not particularly admire him.) Social programs were destroyed. Millions lost their previously guaranteed rights and fell into poverty. Oligarchs criminally seized property belonging to the Russian people and became instant billionaires. Overnight, 25 million people lost their nationality and became displaced. 

Though opposed to communism, Lenin, and Stalin, Putin recalls that succession of events “one of the greatest catastrophes of the 20th century.” The country moved towards civil war.

Gorbachev was succeeded by Boris Yeltsin (in office 1991-1999). Before the latter’s resignation, he unexpectedly chose the relatively unknown Vladimir Putin as acting prime minister. Later that year (2000), Putin was elected president with 53% of the vote. He recalls his major accomplishments as bringing the oligarchs more under control and cutting the poverty rate by two-thirds.

As a result, Putin was re-elected in 2004 with 70% of the votes cast. Russia’s constitution forbade his running again in 2008, so he served as prime minister under President Dmitry Medvedev (2008-2012). Putin ran again for president in 20012 and won with 63% of the vote.

As for charges that on his watch, Russia’s system is “authoritarian,” Putin calls for historical perspective. He points out that Russia was a monarchy for 1000 years. Then came what he refers to as “the so-called revolution of 1917” followed by dictatorship under Stalin and his successors until the 1990s. In view of such history, it is unreasonable, Putin observes, to expect Russia’s attempts at democracy to rise to the levels of the United States, Germany, or France in such a short time.

Though a survivor of five assassination attempts and criticized mercilessly by the West’s politicians and press, Putin refuses to respond in kind. For instance, Arizona senator John McCain called him “a killer, butcher, thug, and KGB colonel.” Putin replies, “We could make similar comparisons, but due to the level of our political culture, we abstain from extreme statements.”  Instead, Putin consistently refers to the U.S. government at “our friends,” and “our partners,”

“Actually,” he adds, “I admire Senator McCain, because of his patriotism.”

Ukraine

Of course, Oliver Stone’s “Putin Interviews” came long before the present crisis in Ukraine. So, for perspective here, let me turn to President Putin’s speech of February 21, 2022, where he laid out the history of the conflict, as well as to his speech of February 24th, the day his “special military operation” began.

Both addresses were substantial, each lasting more than an hour.  Commentary shows that few in the West have read the speeches. (The earlier-referenced film “Ukraine on Fire,” also contains information mirroring what the Russian president said.)

Here’s the way Vladimir Putin tells the story:

  • The conflict in Ukraine takes place between people who share a history, culture, and spiritual space. They are comrades, colleagues, friends, relatives, and family members.
  • Ukraine was always part of Russia. Its modern form as a state was created by the Bolsheviks.
  • Both the Russian Empire and the USSR always found it difficult to control their colonies and federated states.
  • Beginning in 1922, Stalin did so by complete repression.
  • In the 1980s, the nationalist ambitions of local elites resurfaced, supported by some factions of the Communist Party.
  • By 1989, the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) conceded sovereignty to its federated states (including Ukraine).
  • Russia was then pillaged by its own oligarchs, while it continued to economically support states like Ukraine.
  • Ukraine suffered similar pillage at the hands of its oligarchs who began allying themselves with western powers.
  • Those same Ukrainian officials allowed Russophobe Neo-Nazi nationalists to arise who supported terrorists in Chechnya and laid new claims to Russian territories.
  • They terrorized Russian-speaking Ukrainians including politicians, activists, and journalists, even burning alive peaceful protestors in Odessa.
  • All these events, eventually led to the Maidan Coup (2014) supported by the United States with $1million per day.
  • With corrupt leaders in charge, Ukraine is now run from western capitals as a neo-colony.
  • As such, the west threatens to introduce nuclear weapons into Ukraine while flooding it with conventional arms and conducting constant military exercises aimed at Russia.
  • Ukraine’s application for NATO membership represents a further direct threat to Russia’s national security.
  • Russia has appealed for dialog, peace talks, and negotiations, but its appeals have been ignored by the United States which refuses to countenance the existence of any independent country, especially one as large as Russia.
  • Accords between Russia and Ukraine that have been signed (an apparent reference to the Minsk agreements) have been transgressed by Kyiv.
  • This leaves Moscow with no other choice but to take measures to protect its own interests.
  • It will begin by coming to the rescue of the Donbass region which has been under constant attack by Kyiv since 2014 (with more than 14,000 lives lost).
  • Russia therefore recognizes the sovereignty of Donetsk and Lugansk as “People’s Republics.”

Putin’s Justifications

Reviewing the bullet points just noted along with additional justifications advanced three days later in a similar speech, show that at least according to U.S. logic, Vladimir Putin’s action in Ukraine is completely justified.

Together with additional information garnered from the film “Ukraine on Fire,” Putin’s own words show that he clearly recognizes that Ukraine was given sovereignty by the USSR in 1989. He has no intention (pace, Professor Snyder) of refusing to recognize the country’s existence or of colonizing or occupying it militarily.

As affirmed in his speech of February 24th, the Russian president states his focused intention as protecting his country from a clear, present, and illegal threat represented by NATO’s expansion right up to Russia’s borders despite:

  • Ukraine’s constitutional prohibition against the establishment of foreign military bases on the country’s soil
  • The accords of the Organization for Security Interests in Europe (OSCE)
  • As well as the de-escalating provisions of two Minsk Accords.   

Since appeals for negotiation and dialog have been ignored, Putin’s only option, he claims, is military self-defense and rescue of the citizens of Donbass who have appealed to Russia for help in a war which has already taken many thousands of lives.

With all this in mind, Putin declares his intention in Ukraine as restricted to the following goals:

  1. Protecting Donetsk and Luhansk from what he sees as genocide perpetrated there by the Ukrainian Nazi Azov regiment largely responsible for Kyiv’s aggression in Donbass since 2014
  2. Bringing to justice those responsible for the massacres
  3. Denazifying and destroying the Ukrainian army in the process.

Again, those goals are clearly limited. The Russian president completely denies an intention or ability to occupy Ukraine which is a sovereign state.

Moreover, all of this is in accord with U.S. doctrine and policy. For instance, just last week when the Solomon Islands (7000 miles distant from the U.S.) announced an intention of signing a security agreement with China, the U.S. threatened military response, on grounds that such agreement threatened its national interests.

Case closed.

Conclusion

According to the word’s definition, an “apologist” is “a person who offers an argument in defense of something controversial.” It refers to one who defends another from what s/he considers an unjust attack. In the name of even handedness, respect for documentary evidence, and historical fact, that’s the role I’ve attempted to assume here.

Considering such factors , I personally have concluded that Alexander Putin has been defamed. He is no Hitler. He is not insane. He is acting according to the “rules based order” long established and acted upon by U.S. presidents in a whole series of wars that have contravened international law and led to the needless deaths of millions of innocent people.

That is to say that Putin no worse than any U.S. president you care to name. As Chomsky points out (see video above), all of them have committed war crimes far worse than Putin’s – mostly without attempting the detailed justifications found in the Russian president’s extended statements. America’s posture towards the Solomon Islands makes the point.

That’s why I’ve turned into a Putin apologist who hopes for Russia’s success in resisting U.S. aggression at its border that (according to Professor Snyder’s logic) will force Biden and NATO to the negotiation table. But don’t hold your breath. There are still Ukrainian proxies available for cannon fodder.

Ukraine: Scott Ritter Exposes Six Mainstream Media Lies

There  is no need to recall the familiar memes: Insane, evil, Hitler-like Vladimir Putin! His total war! Russian war crimes! The massacre at Boucha! Mass graves in Mariupol! Russian military ineptitude! Their failure to conquer Kiev! Their stalled campaign in Donbass! Moderate and heroic (reformed) Nazi patriots!

Like most Americans, when this Ukrainian crisis began, it seemed almost irresistible to accept such unanimous mainstream media (MSM) “of course” characterizations.

Most became persuaded that Vladimir Putin expected a quick victory in Ukraine. It also seemed simply given that the madman’s goal was to completely overrun, conquer, and occupy his neighbor to the west. His failure to simply roll over the country in two or three days revealed his miscalculations and the ineptitude of the Russian army. Putin’s calling the invasion a “special military operation” was a cynical renaming of a blatantly illegal incursion. The Ukrainians seemed to have a chance of winning.

Now, however, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to believe any of that – largely because of analysis offered by critically thinking sources  – especially that of Scott Ritter, whose explanations of military strategy seem far more detailed, coherent, logical, and informed than what’s presented on CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, or even on “Democracy Now.”

Let me show you what I mean.   

Critical Analysis

The trustworthy sources I’m referring to include Robert Merschiemer, Noam Chomsky, Stephen F. Cohen,  Chris Hedges, Vijay Prashad, George Galloway, Max Blumenthal, Yanis Varoufakis, Matt Taibbi, Aaron Mate, Ben Norton, and  even Jimmy Dore.

Yes, most of them admit that there was grave miscalculation on Putin’s part. For instance, they point out that he was clearly erroneous in expecting Ukrainian Russian-speakers to rally to his side. His intelligence staffs got that terribly wrong (and heads rolled as a result).

Moreover, according to almost everyone, the Russian president’s operation is rendered unquestionably illegal by international law. Wars of aggression are forbidden, they point out, by post- World War II Nuremberg Laws and the  Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. All those rulings (and more) prohibit wars like Putin’s (and the one, for instance, initiated by President George W. Bush against Iraq in 2003).

However, analysts outside the MSM also agree that the United States and NATO purposely provoked the Russian president to take the action he did. They also concur that the MSM has become simply a mouthpiece for the State Department with no mainstream dissent allowed. They are completely untrustworthy.

Moreover, even apart from the critical sources just mentioned, a close reading of Putin’s speeches delivered just prior to Russia’s entry into Ukraine show him to be much more thoughtful, and rational than most U.S. leaders who typically speak in slogans. By contrast, Putin has a firm grasp of history and an impressive ability to martial persuasive argument including historical and legal justifications for his actions. He respects his audience by treating them like adults. By all accounts, he doesn’t bluff.

Scott Ritter   

Beyond all that, however, Scott Ritter has distinguished himself as the non-MSM commentator offering the most help towards understanding what’s actually happening on Ukraine’s field of battle. It’s not what you think.

A former Marine major, Ritter was a longtime U.S. intelligence expert. He also reached prominence as the U.S. weapons inspector. Before the Iraq War he was charged with investigating U.S. convictions that Saddam Hussein was concealing in his country weapons of mass destruction. Ritter’s team found no evidence of such concealment. They were relieved of their duties when they reported their findings.

Ritter also turns out to be highly literate and knowledgeable about military strategy. That’s where his analysis turns out to be most helpful.     

Consider the following six points contradicting the memes just listed. They represent Ritter’s main points about what’s happening on the battlefield.

  1. Putin’s war is indeed a “special military operation“: It was never the Russian president’s intention to conquer all of Ukraine. Instead, as he stated on the day beginning his Ukrainian foray: “The purpose of this operation is to protect people who, for eight years now, have been facing humiliation and genocide perpetrated by the Kiev regime. To this end, we will seek to demilitarise and denazify Ukraine, as well as bring to trial those who perpetrated numerous bloody crimes against civilians, including against citizens of the Russian Federation. It is not our plan to occupy the Ukrainian territory. We do not intend to impose anything on anyone by force.”

In other words, Putin’s purpose in Ukraine is threefold:

a) To protect Donetsk and Luhansk from what he sees as genocide perpetrated there by the Ukrainian Nazi Azov regiment largely responsible for Kiev’s aggression in Donbass since 2014

b) To bring to justice those who directed the massacres  

c) And denazify and destroy the Ukrainian army in the process.

Those goals are clearly limited. The Russian president completely denies an intention or ability to occupy Ukraine.  

2. The operation has been run with scrupulous respect for rules of war: According to Ritter, the Russian army “came in soft” to Ukraine. As distinguished from U.S. tactics in Iraq, there was no “Shock and Awe” – no preliminary levelling of entire cities such as Mosul and Fallujah.  Instead, in the words of U.S. Colonel Doug Macgregor, “The first five days, I think frankly, the Russian forces were too gentle. They’ve since corrected that.” Moreover, on Ritter’s analysis, civilian targets have been carefully avoided. However, he points out that if Ukrainians use civilians as shields by, for instance, locating tanks next to hospitals or schools, those buildings become military targets. As for “mass graves,” bodies have been identified and given separate temporary marked graves near established cemeteries. In summary, according to Ritter, the rules of war have in general been followed scrupulously by the Russian army which is run by “highly professional” officers.

3. Accounts of the Boucha massacre are questionable: Here, Ritter uses his experience as a weapons inspector to underline the inconsistencies in the widespread mainstream accounts of the execution-style killings in Boucha. According to the MSM, Russian forces were shockingly brutal in leaving behind many Boucha civilians shot in the back of their heads with their hands tied behind their backs. Such accounts, Ritter contends, are suspicious. Questions are raised, he notes, by the fact that the executed civilians often had white or green ribbons displayed around their arms. White, he says, was an indication of neutrality in the war; green showed support of the Russians. As well, in some photos, empty green boxes appeared near the victims. Such boxes were used by Russian soldiers to supply food to civilians in occupied neighborhoods. Ritter’s conclusion: the victims in Boucha were likely executed as collaborators by the Ukrainian police force.

4. Russia’s early attack on Kiev was highly successful. According to Ritter, the early assault on Kiev and other western cities were “feints” – deceptive military maneuvers that are standard parts of what military textbooks call “shaping the battlefield.” The deception’s intention was to fix in place Ukrainian defenders, so that they would be rendered unable to come to the aid of eastern comrades in Mariupol and the Donbass – Russia’s real targets as havens for the Nazi Azov Battalion. No responsible military leadership (and the Russian generals, he says, are consummate professionals) would ever attack any city (much less a huge one like Kiev) with less than a ratio of 3 attackers for every 1 defender. In Kiev, the Russians attacked with far less — only 40,00 troops in total. They therefore had no intention of taking Kiev early on. They were shaping the battlefield. The marvel is that they succeeded in getting Ukrainian defenders to buy their feints.

5. The campaign in Donbass is unfolding according to plan. Putin’s words are that the battle in Donbass is very “literate.” He means it’s being waged by the book – intentionally slowly and deliberately according to classic military strategy in order to lessen Russian casualties. Two pincers (one from the north and one from the south) have about 60,000-100,000 Ukrainian troops trapped in a military “cauldron.” Gradually (not allowing themselves to be hurried by outside expectations, criticism, and misinterpretation), the Russians are moving sector by sector towards their surrounded prey that has nowhere to go. Ukrainian options are to surrender, be killed, or attempt a breakout that will cost them at least 20,000-30,000 dead.  

6. The Ukrainian army is a Nazi organization: Ritter supports this position as follows: He asks, would you say that the U.S. Army is racist? Of course not, he answers. But what if there were in the U.S. south a highly organized KKK regiment? And what if the U.S. Army incorporated that regiment as such into its ranks and distributed its officers throughout the army hierarchy? And what if it used that regiment as the leading edge of its military operations? Would you then consider the army racist? Yes, Ritter concludes. But, he says, (mutatis mutandis) that’s precisely what’s happened in the Ukrainian armed forces. A large Nazi regiment has been incorporated as such into its ranks with Nazi officer distributed throughout. And the Ukrainian government has those forces leading the attack on the Donbass region – which has taken 14,000 lives since 2014. That renders, he concludes, the Ukrainian army and its sponsoring government Nazi.

Conclusion  

Recently, The Economist ran a story based on the memes initially named here. The article’s title was “How Rotten is Russia’s Army?” It contended that:

“The invasion of Ukraine has been a disaster for Russia’s armed forces. About 15,000 troops have been killed in two months of fighting, according to the British government. At least 1,600 armoured vehicles have been destroyed. The assault on the capital, Kyiv, was a chaotic failure. For Mr. Putin this is a crushing setback, because the use of military force is central to his strategy for making Russia count in the world. Russia may be vast, but it is a medium-sized polity that still yearns to be a superpower. To fill the gap between its capacities and its aspirations, Mr. Putin has repeatedly turned to the only sphere where Russia can still purport to worldclass: military force. It is a welcome fact that the failure of Russia’s rotten army in Ukraine weakens this claim. Unfortunately, this also leaves the world facing a nuclear-armed power with a point to prove.”

As noted earlier, conclusions like The Economist’s are par for the course in the mainstream media. Their propagandistic nature is shown by the fact that they would never have been drawn about the U.S. army after its repeated and obvious failures in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Vietnam. In their light, can anyone imagine an MSM outlet posing the question “How Rotten is America’s Army?”

Neither would The Economist or any other mainstream outlet perceive the obvious psychological projection and irony of describing Russia in terms entirely applicable to the United States which has “repeatedly turned to the only sphere where (it) can still purport to be world class: military force.”

Be that as it may, the common sense of Scott Ritter’s analysis seems far more evident than the The Economist’s or anyone else’s self-serving and misleading memes.

The conclusion here is that the MSM should be ignored as propaganda pure and simple. Instead, analysts like Scott Ritter and the other critical reporters mentioned above should be sought out and heeded.

I’m Interviewed about Liberation Theology & A Course in Miracles

At the beginning of April, I was interviewed on a podcast called “Sunday with Mundy” hosted by Jon Mundy, a leading light in Course in Miracles (ACIM) circles.

Jon was interested in my own podcast site, “A Course in Miracles for Social Justice Warriors.” He wondered about my thesis there that ACIM represents the channelled voice of Christ addressed to North Americans living in the belly of the United States Imperial Beast. In veiled terms, the Christ of ACIM, I contend, speaks against what my late colleague at Berea College, bell hooks, called the “white supremacist, imperialist, capitalist, patriarchy.”

In this episode of Jon’s show, Ted Kneupper, an emeritus ACIM scholar from Slippery Rock University is my dialog partner (along, of course with Dr. Mundy).

Easter Reflection: Did Jesus Really Rise from the Dead?

Readings for Easter Sunday:ACTS 10:3A, 37-43; PS 118: 1-2, 16-17, 22-23; COL 3:1-4; JN 20: 1-9.

Did Jesus really rise from the dead? Or is belief in his physical resurrection childish and equivalent to belief in the Easter Bunny or Santa Claus?

I suppose the answer to those questions depends on what you mean by “really.” Let’s look at what our tradition tells us.

Following Jesus’ death, his disciples gave up hope and went back to fishing and their other pre-Jesus pursuits. Then, according to the synoptic gospels, some women in the community reported an experience that came to be called Jesus’ “resurrection” (Mt. 28:1-10; Mk. 16: 1-8; Lk. 24:1-11). That is, the rabbi from Nazareth was somehow experienced as alive and as more intensely present among them than he was before his crucifixion.

That women were the first witnesses to the resurrection seems certain. According to Jewish law, female testimony was without value. It therefore seems unlikely that Jesus’ followers, anxious to convince others of the reality of Jesus’ resurrection, would have concocted a story dependent on women as primary witnesses. Ironically then, the story’s “incredible” origin itself lends credence to the authenticity of early belief in Jesus return to life in some way.

But what was the exact nature of the resurrection? Did it involve a resuscitated corpse? Or was it something more spiritual, psychic, metaphorical or visionary?

In Paul (the only 1st person report we have – written around 50 C.E.) the experience of resurrection is clearly visionary. Paul sees a light and hears a voice, but for him there is no embodiment of the risen Jesus. When Paul reports his experience (I Cor. 15: 3-8) he equates his vision with the resurrection manifestations to others claiming to have encountered the risen Christ. Paul writes “Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.”

In fact, even though Paul never met the historical Jesus, he claims that he too is an “apostle” specifically because his experience was equivalent to that of the companions of Jesus who were known by  name. This implies that the other resurrection appearances might also be accurately described as visionary rather than physical.

The earliest gospel account of a “resurrection” is found in Mark, Ch. 16. There a “young man” (not an angel) announces Jesus’ resurrection to a group of women (!) who had come to Jesus’ tomb to anoint him (16: 5-8). But there is no encounter with the risen Jesus.

In fact, Mark’s account actually ends without any narrations of resurrection appearances at all. (According to virtually all scholarly analysis, the “appearances” found in chapter 16 were added by a later editor.) In Mark’s original ending, the women are told by the young man to go back to Jerusalem and tell Peter and the others. But they fail to do so, because of their great fear (16: 8). This means that in Mark there are not only no resurrection appearances, but the resurrection itself goes unproclaimed. This makes one wonder: was Mark unacquainted with the appearance stories? Or did he (incredibly) not think them important enough to include?

Resurrection appearances finally make their own appearance in Matthew (writing about 80) and in Luke (about 85) with increasing detail. Always however there is some initial difficulty in recognizing Jesus. For instance, Matthew 28:11-20 says, “Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw him they worshipped him; but some doubted.” So the disciples saw Jesus, but not everyone was sure they did. In Luke 24:13-53, two disciples walk seven miles with the risen Jesus without recognizing him until the three break bread together.

Even in John’s gospel (published about 100) Mary Magdalene (the woman with the most intimate relationship to Jesus) thinks she’s talking to a gardener when the risen Jesus appears to her (20: 11-18). In the same gospel, the apostle Thomas does not recognize the risen Jesus until he touches the wounds on Jesus’ body (Jn. 26-29). When Jesus appears to disciples at the Sea of Tiberius, they at first think he is a fishing kibitzer giving them instructions about where to find the most fish (Jn. 21: 4-8).

All of this raises questions about the nature of the “resurrection.” It doesn’t seem to have been resuscitation of a corpse. What then was it? Was it the community coming to realize the truth of Jesus’ words, “Whatever you do to the least of my brethren, you do to me” (Mt. 25:45) or “Wherever two or three are gathered together in my name, I am there in their midst” (Mt. 18:20)? Do the resurrection stories reveal a Lord’s Supper phenomenon where Jesus’ early followers experienced his intense presence “in the breaking of the bread” (Lk. 24:30-32)?

Some would say that this “more spiritual” interpretation of the resurrection threatens to destroy faith.

However, doesn’t such perception of threat reveal a quasi-magical understanding of faith? Does it risk limiting faith to belief in a God who operates outside the laws of nature and performs extraordinary physical feats that amaze and mystify? Doesn’t it flatten the significance of resurrection belief to simply one more “proof” of Jesus’ divinity?

But faith doesn’t seem to be principally about amazement, mystification and proof analogous to the scientific. It is about meaning.

And regardless of whether one believes in resurrection as resuscitation of a corpse or as a metaphor about the spiritual presence of God in communities serving the poor, the question must be answered, “What does resurrection mean?”

Surely it meant that Jesus’ original followers experienced a powerful continuity in their relationship Jesus even after his shameful execution. Their realm of experience had expanded. Both Jesus and his followers had entered broadened dimensions of time and space. They had crossed the threshold of another world where life was fuller and where physical and practical laws governing bodies and limiting spirits no longer applied. In other words, the resurrection was not originally about belief or dogma. It was about a realm of experience that had at the very least opened up in the context of sharing bread – in an experience of worship and prayer.

Resurrection meant that another world is possible — in the here and now! Yes, that other world was entered through baptism. But baptism meant participation in a community (another realm) where all things were held in common, and where the laws of market and “normal” society did not apply (Acts 2:44-45).

In order to talk about that realm, Jesus’ followers told exciting stories of encounters with a revivified being who possessed a spiritual body, that was difficult to recognize, needed food and drink, suddenly appeared in their midst, and which just as quickly disappeared. This body could sometimes be touched (Jn. 20:27); at others touching was forbidden (Jn. 20:17).

Resurrection and Easter represent an invitation offered each of us to enter the realm opened by the risen Lord however we understand the word “risen.” We enter that realm through a deepened life of prayer, worship, community and sharing.

We are called to live in the “other world” our faith tells us is possible – a world that is not defined by market, consumption, competition, technology, or war.

Pope Francis’ encyclical, Fratelli Tutti supplies the details.

Gleeful Liberal Pundits Arrogantly Bash China’s Covid “Dystopia:” 10 Reasons to Mistrust Them

The war in Ukraine is far from over. Yet already even the so-called “alternative media” are softening us up for the next conflict – this time with China.

That’s the conclusion easily drawn after witnessing a recent Sinophobic segment of “Breaking Points” with Krystal Ball and Saagar Enjeti (see above). Together they gleefully tag-teamed on China’s Covid-19 “dystopia.” (“Dystopia,” you recall is an “imagined world or society in which people lead wretched, dehumanized, fearful lives.”)

According to Enjeti and Ball, that’s China for you. Under its “authoritarian” regime, the people there lead wretched, dehumanized, fearful lives. A familiar story this side of the pond.

But are such charges valid? To find out, consider first the accusations themselves, secondly the hubris behind them, and finally a real-life example suggesting caution about indictments of cultures and policies few in the west can understand.

Accusations Vs. China

According to Enjeti and Ball, the People’s Republic lockdown strategy, though admittedly spectacularly successful in combatting the first two waves of Covid, is failing miserably with the Omicron version.

“Whew, thank God,” they seemed to gloat. “That was a close one. Imagine, if we’d have to admit that China’s universal healthcare system and prioritization of citizens’ lives and community health over business profits and getting people back to work has something to teach us.” Close one indeed.

Ball specifically expressed her happy relief by observing that she and others like her initially experienced a kind of “China envy” regarding the way the country so efficiently and effectively dealt with Covid since the pandemic’s dawn in 2020.  She then admired the way lockdowns, testing, contact tracing, provision of personal protective equipment, vaccinations, and expansions of hospital facilities kept Chinese fatalities minimal compared with the nearly one million pandemic deaths in the United States where such policies took months to develop. All of that seemed to explain why even though China has four times the U.S. population, over the first two years of the pandemic, it experienced only a fraction of America’s Covid fatalities.

Thankfully, however, in the welcome light of China’s struggles with Omicron, the truth has come to light. According to a chuckling Enjeti, China’s “dystopian nightmarish lockdown” reveals the sad truth. “This is what full communist collectivism really looks like,” he said.

Say what? “Full communist collectivism?” China?

In other contexts, commentators like our intrepid pair explain China’s economic and social successes as “not really socialism.” Instead, China’s capitalist nature is what accounts for its success.

Now however it’s “full communist collectivism” that explains everything.

Such self-contradictory and infantile analysis enabled Ball to chime in that though there’s “a long way” before we in the U.S. have a real true democracy, “at least the say of the people (she rolled her eyes appropriately at this point) “means something. And I will take that and all of the strife and messiness that it entails on a daily basis over drones circling overhead chastising your soul for wanting freedom.”

Ball’s reference was to Shanghai residents’ being admonished by drone loudspeakers to (according to somebody’s translation) “Please comply with Covid restrictions. Control your soul’s desire for freedom. Do not open the window or sing.”

Oh, the horror! What could be more authoritarian than asking people to control their soul’s desire for freedom and ask them not to sing?  What evil masters the poor Chinese have!

And imagine this: government food deliveries (to Shanghai’s 27 million people!) have been disrupted. Black markets for scarce commodities have resulted. The elderly are especially threatened.

According to a smirking Enjeti, the other end of the mortality table is threatened as well. Officials in Shanghai, he reports, are defending the policy of separating babies and young children from their parents if they test positive for Covid-19. “So, they’re literally taking children, he lamented, who are testing positive for Covid and administering treatment to them in public health centers.

And besides that, “there are people kneeling (sic) in the street and as people pass by, they check their ID passes and swabbing them constantly. This is the full stuff of nightmares of authoritarian lockdown.”

According to the “Breaking Point” hosts, all such horrors are due to Shanghai’s “total zero policy” regarding Covid.

Luckily, Enjeti claimed, we know all about this, while the Chinese people do not. According to young Sagaar, “We probably have a better idea of what’s happening in Shanghai than people in Beijing and in the rest of the country, just because of the Chinese government’s ability in order to crack down. In the Chinese equivalent of Times Square there were signs saying, ‘Don’t believe everything you see on social media and do not share viral videos’.”

Yes, it’s gotten that bad. Shanghai’s government is actually telling its people not to trust what they see on social media. Dangerous advice indeed.

Unhinged Hubris

Please excuse the sarcasm that leaked into my account that I had planned to be simply descriptive. However, the ironies and arrogance of the “Breaking Points” segment was so stunningly slanted and obviously anti-Chinese that I just couldn’t help myself.

I mean, think about the pomposity of young pundits living in a country that has experienced many more per capita Covid deaths than China criticizing a 6000-year-old culture that apparently places the common good above individual “freedom.”  Consider 10 such overreaches by Enjeti and Ball:  

  1. To begin with, they adopt a moral position that amounts to the pot calling the kettle black or people in glass houses throwing stones. To repeat, Americans whose government failed miserably to protect their citizens from a viral pandemic, have no moral right to criticize a government like China’s which did.
  2. That U.S. failure is never seen by commentators like our 2 exemplars as indicating the systemic failure of capitalism. Yet, China’s successes with the first two waves of Covid along with its vigorous efforts to combat Omicron somehow indicate the failure of Enjeti’s “full communist collectivism.”
  3. Enjeti and Ball also naively take at face value a 4 second video (showing buildings somewhere at night with sounds of people wailing in the background). They present the footage as unquestionably demonstrating the plight of Shanghai’s suffering millions. Instead, in the light of recent revelations about CIA and Pentagon deceptions, such easily faked video should have evoked strong journalistic skepticism.
  4. Similarly, Enjeti imagines Shanghai residents’ understandings of complex concepts such as “soul” and “freedom,” and “sing” (and of “government” for that matter) are accurate, non-ideological, non-propagandistic CIA translations of the Chinese terms involved.
  5. He further imagines that such terms have the same meanings for Chinese as they do for Americans.
  6. Moreover, Enjeti actually claims that he, a 20 something American, and the rest of us have a better understanding of what’s happening in Shanghai than the Chinese do. Such hubris needs no commentary.
  7. “Breaking Points” also gives the impression that children separated from parents “to be taken for treatment in a health center” represent permanent involuntary separation of child and parent (like that practiced by the U.S. at the Mexican border) instead of simply taking children (with their parents’ permission?) for treatment.
  8. Perhaps worst of all, “Breaking Points” never explains or even speculates why the Chinese government has adopted its lockdown, zero tolerance policy. The program simply leaves the impression that zero tolerance is a question of the mean communists exercising arbitrary power for the sake of doing so. Could it be however that Beijing actually cares about the health of the Chinese people and prefers saving lives to a return to normal that will increase corporate profits while causing preventable losses of life?  
  9. Finally, the “Breaking Points” hosts assume that the term “authoritarian” is univocal in meaning. China is “authoritarian;” the U.S. is not. “Communism” is authoritarian; capitalism is not. Such misunderstandings fail to reflect the undeniable fact that ALL extant systems of political economy are authoritarian, be they capitalist or socialist. Certainly, it’s undeniable that by definition America’s capitalist “empire” (a term enthusiastically embraced by its politicians) can never claim to be democratic or a respecter of human rights. It’s essentially authoritarian. That is, by nature, empire is imposed upon (not chosen by) its subjects. The same goes for capitalism itself. Yes, it has its Tweedle Dum vs. Tweedle Dee elections. But under capitalism, most of our time is spent working for wages under completely authoritarian bosses who give us no say over how we spend our time and who can fire us at whim.
  10. With all systems sharing authoritarianism, the question is which kind do we prefer – one that takes care of ordinary people or the type that prioritizes the needs of the rich. It’s clear from the examples like “our” allies Brazil, the Philippines, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Hungary, etc.., which type of authoritarians the United States prefers. Policies towards China (which has virtually eliminated poverty among its people and enjoys their 85% approval) as well as towards Venezuela, Nicaragua, and Cuba, do the same thing.

Conclusion

I have a Chinese friend who takes part in a prayer circle my wife and I participate in.

Recently, at one of our sessions with our Chinese friend absent, members of our circle were lamenting the plight of Shanghai’s residents as reported by news outlets like “Breaking Points.” “It just all seems so inhumane,” most prayer circle members lamented.

The next night we checked it out with our this-time present Chinese sister. We knew her elderly parents lived in Shanghai. We were worried about them.

“Well, what about the horror of Shanghai?” we asked her.

“Oh, that’s nothing,” she replied. “It’s just the Chinese government overacting a bit to Covid. My folks are o.k.”

“Wow,” was the response of others in the group. “I guess you just can’t be sure whom or what to believe.”

Why Jesus’ Followers Should Never Support an Empire Like America’s — Not Even in Ukraine

Readings: LK 19:28-40; IS 50: 4-7, PS 22: 8-9, 12-20, 23=24, PHIL 2:6-11, LK 22: 14-23:58.

Can a follower of Jesus ever be pro-empire? Can genuine Christians support an empire like the United States?

If you answer “yes,” you’re in good company. That’s because ever since the 4th century, mainstream Christians have given empire hearty endorsements that Jesus could never have tolerated.

I bring that up because today’s Palm Sunday readings pinpoint not only Jesus’ anti-imperialism, but the precise moment when Christians began their fatal departure from the stance against empire that the Master evidently adopted throughout his life. (After all, he was executed by Rome as an insurgent and terrorist.)

And that departure has made it possible for us who now live in the belly of the imperial beast to naively think that representatives of empire are actually capable of telling the truth when empire’s criminal interests are involved — for example in Ukraine.

From the viewpoint of the imperialized (like Jesus and his counterparts in today’s Global South) imperialists have no idea of truth.  

This whole question is related to the process of discernment in Ukraine as puzzled over recently on OpEdNews.

Let me explain by first looking at questions asked there about the war, truth and falsehood. Then I’ll compare those queries with Jesus’ attitude towards the Roman Empire as described and eventually distorted in today’s reading from the Gospel of Luke. Finally, I’ll return to the Ukraine question with some practical conclusions about truth discernment in the light of the gospel.  

Truth & Ukraine

Last week, Meryl Ann Butler published a thoughtful and soberly reasoned article headlined under the title “Russia, Ukraine, and the Elusive Truth.” Towards helping readers uncover that furtive reality, she stated indisputably that “Each one of us can’t physically go all over the globe to find out for ourselves what is actually going on.”

Given that obstacle, she wondered what is a truth seeker to do?

I think Jesus’ example in today’s liturgy of the word suggests an answer. The readings imply that at least for Christians (and leftists and progressives in general) determination of truth relative to wars fought by imperialist powers can be reached much more easily than by on-site visitation or even intense study of each case of imperial involvement in far off corners of the world.

I mean, the case of the colonized Jesus indicates that imperial intervention can NEVER be justified – and certainly not in modern terms of protecting democracy or human rights. This is because (like all victims of imperialism) Jesus must have somehow realized that by definition, empires can NEVER be genuinely interested in realities that contradict their very essence.

I mean that whatever their pretensions, all empires are essentially rapacious systems of tyranny. Again, in terms foreign to Jesus (but relevant nonetheless) they’re all definitively anti-democratic violators of human rights. So, without the strongest evidence to the contrary, interventions by empires MUST BE understood as aggressive self-extension, larcenous enrichment, and anti-democratic control.

With all of that in mind, all that’s required for progressive critical thinkers to evaluate information and disinformation coming from Ukraine is acknowledgment of the above facts coupled with recognition of the presence in Ukraine’s case of established historical patterns followed elsewhere by U.S. empire.

Yes, you might say, but isn’t Russia imperial too?

Not really. The only empire involved in Ukraine is the United States which proudly owns the designation. Russia (whose economy is smaller than Italy’s) is economically incapable of imperialism. In fact, the war in Ukraine pits a David against a huge menacing Goliath – or, as Richard Wolff has expressed it, against at least 15 Goliaths (NATO has 30 members).

Instead of imperialist aggression (like it or not) Russia is simply following the long-established malpractice of the United States by protecting its own “backyard” from imperial aggression, but this time precisely by the U.S. and its NATO clients against a country 6000 miles from U.S. borders. In other words, Russia’s interest in defending itself from an enemy at the gates is on the face of it far more credible and legitimate than the more remote interests of NATO and especially of America.

Jesus Anti-Imperialism

If all of that is true, how did Jesus become a champion of empire? Why would adherents of the Judeo-Christian tradition support U.S.. policy in Ukraine?

Today’s Palm Sunday readings provide some clues. Luke’s so-called “Passion Narratives” reveal a first century Christian community already depoliticizing their leader in order to please Roman imperialists. The stories turn Jesus against his own people as though they were foreign enemies of God.

Think about the context of today’s Palm Sunday readings.

Note that Jesus and his audiences were first and foremost anti-imperialist Jews whose lives were shaped more than anything else by the Roman occupation of their homeland. As such, they were awaiting a Davidic messiah who would liberate them from empire.

So, on this Palm Sunday, what do you think was on the minds of the crowds who Luke tells us lined the streets of Jerusalem to acclaim Jesus, the messianic construction worker? Were they shouting “Hosanna! Hosanna!” (Save us! Save us!) because they thought Jesus’ sacrificial death was about to open the gates of heaven closed since Adam’s sin by a petulant God? Of course not. They were shouting for Jesus to save them from the Romans.

The palm branches in their hands were (since the time of the Maccabees) the symbols of resistance to empire. Those acclaiming Jesus looked to him to play a key role in the Great Rebellion everyone knew was about to take place against the hated Roman occupiers.

And what do you suppose was on Jesus’ mind? He was probably intending to take part in the rebellion just mentioned. It had been plotted by the Jews’ Zealot insurgency. Jesus words at the “Last Supper” show his anticipation that the events planned for Jerusalem might cause God’s Kingdom to dawn that very weekend (Luke 22:18).

Clearly Jesus had his differences with the Zealots. They were nationalists; he was an internationalist open to gentiles. The Zealots were violent; Jesus probably was not.

And yet the Zealots and Jesus came together on their abhorrence of Roman presence in the Holy Land. They found common ground on the issues of debt forgiveness, non-payment of taxes to the occupiers, and land reform. Within Jesus’ inner circle there was at least one Zealot (Simon) . Indications might also implicate Peter, Judas, James, and John. And Jesus’ friends were armed when he was arrested. Whoever cut off the right ear of the high priest’s servant was used to wielding a sword – perhaps as a “sicarius” (the violent wing of the Zealots who specialized in knifing Jews collaborating with the Romans).

But we’re getting ahead of our story. . . Following his triumphant entry into Jerusalem, Jesus soon found himself and his disciples inside the temple participating in what we’d call a “direct action” protest. They were demonstrating against the collaborative role the temple and its priesthood were fulfilling on behalf of the Romans.

As collaborators, the temple priests were serving a foreign god (the Roman emperor) within the temple precincts. For Jesus that delegitimized the entire system. So, as John Dominic Crossan puts it, Jesus’ direct action was not so much a “cleansing” of the temple as the symbolic destruction of an institution that had completely lost its way.

It was this demonstration that represented the immediate cause of Jesus’ arrest and execution described so poignantly in today’s long gospel reading.

Following the temple demonstration, Jesus and his disciples became “wanted” men (Lk. 19:47). At first Jesus’ popularity affords him protection from the authorities (19:47-48). The people constantly surround him eager to hear his words denouncing their treasonous “leaders” (20:9-19), about the issue of Roman taxation (20:20-25), the destruction of the temple (21:1-6), the coming war (21:20-24) and the imminence of God’s Kingdom (21:29-33).

Eventually however, Jesus has to go underground. On Passover eve he sends out Peter and John to arrange for a safe house to celebrate the feast I mentioned earlier. The two disciples are to locate the “upper room.” They do so by exchanging a set of secret signs and passwords with a local comrade (Matthew 21:2).

Then comes Jesus’ arrest. Judas has betrayed Jesus to collect the reward on Jesus’ head – 30 pieces of silver. The arrest is followed by a series of “trials” before the Jewish Council (the Sanhedrin), before Pilate and Herod. Eventually, Jesus is brought back to Pilate. There he’s tortured, condemned and executed along with other insurgents.

Note that Luke presents Pilate in way completely at odds with what we know of the procurator as described for example by the Jewish historian Josephus. After the presentation of clear-cut evidence that the Nazarene rabbi was “stirring up the people,” and despite Jesus’ own admission to crimes against the state (claiming to be a rival king), Pilate insists three times that the carpenter is innocent of capital crime.

Such tolerance of rebellion contradicts Crossan’s insistence that Pilate had standing orders to execute anyone associated with lower class rebellion during the extremely volatile Passover festivities. In other words, there would have been no drawn-out trial.

Conclusion

What’s going on here relative to our questions about empire and Ukraine? Two things.

First of all, like everyone else, Luke knew that Jesus had been crucified by the Romans. That was an inconvenient truth for his audience which around the year 85 CE (when Luke wrote) was desperately trying to reconcile with the Roman Empire which lumped the emerging Christian community with the Jews whom the Romans despised.

Luke’s account represents an attempt to create distance between Christians and Jews. So, he makes up an account that exonerates Pilate (and the Romans) from guilt for Jesus’ execution. Simultaneously, he lays the burden of blame for Jesus’ execution at the doorstep of Jewish authorities.

In this way, Luke made overtures of friendship towards Rome. He wasn’t worried about the Jews, since by the year 70 the Romans had destroyed Jerusalem and its temple along with more than a million of its inhabitants. After 70 Jewish Christians no longer represented the important factor they once were. Their leadership had been decapitated with the destruction of Jerusalem.

Relatedly, Jesus’ crucifixion would have meant that Rome perceived him as a rebel against the Empire. Luke is anxious to make the case that such perception was false. Rome had nothing to fear from Christians.

I’m suggesting that such assurance was unfaithful to the Jesus of history. It domesticated the rebel who shines through even in Luke’s account when it is viewed contextually.

And so what?

Well, if you wonder why Christians can so easily succumb to empires (Roman, British, Nazi, U.S.) you’ve got your answer. It all starts here – in the gospels themselves – with the great cover-up of the insurgent Jesus.

And if you wonder where the West’s and Ukrainian Nazis’ comfort with xenophobia in general and anti-Semitism in particular come from, you have that answer as well.

The point here is that only by recovering the obscured rebel Jesus can Christians avoid the mistake Germans made 80 years ago and Ukrainian Nazis are making today. Then (and now in Ukraine) instead of singing “Hosanna” to Jesus, they shout(ed) “Heil Hitler!” to imperialist torturers, xenophobes, and hypocrites found so plenteously in “neo” form within the Ukraine government and military.

The readings for Palm Sunday present us with a cautionary tale about these sad realities.

As for the search for truth, my practical conclusion here is that the reason for imperial interest in a far distant country like Ukraine can be determined by what I call “historical pattern analysis,”

I mean, the well-established U.S. pattern of imperial aggression involving oil-rich nations strongly suggests that the operative reason for United States interest in Ukraine is not only connected with threatening and controlling NATO’s prime enemy (its very raison d’etre), but with capturing Russian oil and liquid natural gas markets – along with astronomical profits benefitting the military industrial complex – not to mention rehabilitating the status of a president with precipitously plunging poll numbers.

Statements by U.S. spokespersons contradicting the above are at best highly questionable and at worst outright lies.

They also contradict the experience and example of Jesus.

Ukraine: We’re Falling for CIA Lies Again!

I just can’t believe what’s happening before our eyes. I’m talking about Ukraine.

My disbelief is not related to Vladimir Putin’s relatively restrained assault on his beleaguered neighbor. Yes . . .“relatively restrained.”

(I see no need here to obscure my point by joining the chorus of Putin haters – just as there was none to join haters of Castro, Milosevic, Noriega, Chavez, Ortega, Maduro, Gaddafi, or the other innumerable “Emmanuel Goldsteins” identified as objects deserving of our de rigueur, periodic two minutes of hate.)

No, my disbelief is more about the fact that after being fooled in Vietnam, Iraq and elsewhere, so many Americans have been roped into somehow thinking anyone in this country has the moral authority to criticize any “war crimes” or perceived violations of “democracy” — as directed by the CIA!

In fact, by despicable U.S. standards, Putin is absolutely justified in his assault on Ukraine. By those criminal canons, Russia deserves its own Monroe Doctrine, its own buffer zone against a hostile and Russia-phobic NATO, its own sphere of influence. And unless we’re out in the street denouncing what “our” government routinely does and is currently doing in the world, we have no right to utter a syllable of protest about Mr. Putin. Not a single syllable!

War crimes? Are you kidding me? Think about those our current government is committing and supporting in Yemen, Afghanistan, Palestine, Libya, Somalia, and who knows where else. Think about its use of the cluster bombs it now decries. Think about its shooting contaminating nuclear waste at enemies du jour. Think about its use of agent orange and white phosphorous – both chemical weapons. Think about its rejection of World Court jurisdiction when there’s all those questions about U.S. war crimes.

All of that makes Putin’s gambit in Ukraine look absolutely statesman like. That’s compared (to take just one example) to U.S.routine “shock and awe” devastations. Putin’s crimes are nothing like the levelling of Iraq’s Fallujah.” Civilian casualties in Ukraine don’t even approach the million Muslims the U.S. military has slaughtered in Iraq alone – not to mention the million children who will die this year because of U.S. sanctions now operative in Afghanistan.]

Face it: our troops and government are out-and-out butchers compared with Putin’s.

That can’t be said too strongly.

And as for democracy, Putin’s system is no less democratic than ours. Are you aware of our new Jim Crow laws (supported by a criminally cooperative Supreme Court)? Think about how the system rigs elections to disenfranchise the poorest among us.

And you’re telling me that given the corruption legendarily involved in American electoral politics (with its interminable campaigns, demonstrably mendacious ads, gerrymandering, voter suppression, hackable voting machines, dark money, bribes in the form of “campaign contributions,” and the absolutely silly “politicians” that emerge to represent their donors – you’re telling me that we want Russia or China to follow suit?)

Please!

Our ignorance is not only blind, but arrogant!

Of course, Putin, like other heads of state in the capitalist world (the only one we’ve got), represents the rich elite. For that reason, as I’ve tried to show elsewhere (here, here, here, here, and here) his authority is no more legitimate than Joe Biden’s. Yes, that’s the hard truth:  if Putin’s authority is somehow de-legitimized, so is Biden’s.

Neither of them nor U.S. clients in Europe and throughout what is laughably called the “free world” cares a wit about people like you and me – much less about those with darker skins and emptier wallets.

With all of this in mind, think again about our collective stupidity. . ..

When was the last time you believed someone who told you that he makes a living by telling lies? You think you’re too smart for that, I’m sure.

But that’s what’s happening relative to Ukraine.

You know that, right?

I’m referring to the words of former CIA head, Mike Pompeo. Remember how he joked and bragged about that. He actually said, “We lied, we cheated, we stole all the time. We take entire courses about. . .. Ha, ha, ha!”

Well, the joke’s on us if we believe a single word coming out of Langley. In view of Pompeo’s words and reams of evidence supporting their truth, why would we ever think otherwise? Why would we ever not draw the conclusion, “If the CIA (or our government!) says ‘black,’ it’s definitely got to be ‘white.’”

Who wouldn’t draw the conclusion, “If the CIA’s involved on Ukraine’s side, Putin can’t be all that bad?”

That’s a serious question, because, of course, the CIA is deeply involved with the Ukrainian situation.

What I’m saying is that we’ve got to wake up. Sadly, this is the way the world works. “Great powers” – including Russia, China, and (in spades) the United States always act just the way Putin does — just the way U.S. presidents always have. If we accept borders and sovereign states, great powers, lesser powers, imperialism, and client states, this is what we have. Great powers (especially the United States) only selectively respect international law.

That’s the system that needs identification, rejection, and overthrow.

So, what’s called for is not rending our garments over the crimes of Vladimir Putin, but over those of our own government – of the entire capitalist system for that matter. Those are the ones we can do something about.

So, it’s time to shut up about Ukraine. Correlatively, it’s well past time to get out into the streets over our own war crimes and assaults on democracy not in a single country, but throughout the world and especially here at home.