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.
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.
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.
- 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.
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.