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.

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.

In Ukraine, “Gangsters of Capitalism” Have “Gone to the Mattresses” Again

I just finished reading Jonathan Katz’s Gangsters of Capitalism. It helped me understand what’s really going on in Ukraine, where they’re at it again. I mean they’re fighting yet another White People’s inter-capitalist war between Mafia dons. I’m talking about Vladimir Putin and Joe Biden.

Let me explain the connections by first identifying those involved as no better than blood thirsty mafiosi, then linking them to Katz’s book, and finally suggesting the shocking conclusion thoughtful people might draw after considering the gangland realities of the Ukraine fiasco.

White People’s Inter-capitalist War

To begin with, like everyone else, I’m appalled by the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Nothing can justify such blatant transgression of the UN Charter.  Putin’s a thug.

However,  I’m even more dismayed by our nation’s part in provoking the conflict, and its apparent reluctance to help bring it to conclusion. Biden’s a thug too.

[On that latter point about wanting to prolong the war, Hillary Clinton’s recent pronouncements are telling. She apparently wants to turn the Ukraine war into a decades-long disaster modeled on Afghanistan’s. Think about that. Clearly, from the safety of  her mansion in Chappaqua New York, her faux heroism provides courage to continue the fight (6000 miles away) to the very last Ukrainian.]

Most outrageous of all however, is both sides’ entertainment of the possibility of nuclear war — over Ukraine, a place most Americans can’t find on the map! Mr. Putin’s explicit threats and and Zelenskyy’s appeals for a suicidal “no fly zone” should scare the hell out of anyone.

All of that should also make us doubt the sanity and validity of “leadership” on both sides. That’s my main point here. These people are insane!

And I’m not just talking about Putin and Biden. The real powers in question are the deeper, darker forces that the two front men represent. In Russia we refer to the latter as “the oligarchs.” Over here, we call them the “deep state” – you know, the military industrial complex, fossil fuel magnates, bankers, financiers, the CIA, FBI, NSA — the whole disaster.  

Like the Mafia, those forces and the sock puppets just mentioned are accountable to no one – only to their own personal and class welfare including most prominently their bank accounts. They’re like Cosa Nostra bosses – willing to kill bystanders as they’ve “gone to the mattresses” fighting over protection money, gun running, “territory,” “credibility,” “reputation” and “respect” on behalf of conflicting “families.”  

Let me say it again: neither Putin nor Biden represent anyone resembling you or me or ordinary Ukrainians and Russians. For instance, Biden and his henchmen can find billions and billions for war, but nothing for infrastructure, universal health care, guaranteed incomes, or free university education.

No doubt, we should feel for these godfathers’ victims. But allegiance to either side and what they represent is entirely misplaced.

Gangsters of Capitalism

Such realizations have come home to me starkly as I finished reading Katz’s eye opening Gangsters of Capitalism: Smedley Butler, the Marines and the Making and Breaking of America’s Empire. It’s one of the saddest books I’ve ever read.

It has made me realize how despite my supposed sophistication, I’ve been completely duped over the last month of conflict in Ukraine into taking the sides of capitalist gangsters fighting over those traditional Mafia concerns I just mentioned.

The book’s title says it all. Gangsters of Capitalism is a biography of General Smedley Butler (1881-1940), the most famous military figure of his era who after devastating countries all over the world ended up authoring the famous book-length mea culpa, War Is a Racket.

There, towards the end of his life he famously confessed:

“I spent 33 years and four months in active military service and during that period I spent most of my time as a high class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street and the bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism. I helped make Mexico and especially Tampico safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefit of Wall Street. I helped purify Nicaragua for the International Banking House of Brown Brothers in 1902-1912. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for the American sugar interests in 1916. I helped make Honduras right for the American fruit companies in 1903. In China in 1927 I helped see to it that Standard Oil went on its way unmolested. Looking back on it, I might have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was to operate his racket in three districts. I operated on three continents.”

The racket Butler described involved his Marines in massacres, looting, slavery, outright robbery of national treasuries, and support for dictators and tyrants. It all took a severe toll on Butler’s body and mind. But it also awakened him towards the end of his life to the criminality of the U.S. capitalist system itself. He came to understand that its overlords care nothing for the lives of workers lost as a result of their fights, especially if the laborers are not white.

Mafiosi in Ukraine

Now, think about Butler’s revelations in view of the current inter-capitalist conflict between the mafia bosses, Vlad “the Czar” Putin on the one hand, and  “Sleepy” Joe Biden on the other – with “Pretty Boy” Volodymyr Zelenskyy thrown in for good measure.

As noted earlier, these guys are thugs one an all. They care nothing for democracy, law, or even genocide. An overriding concern is “credibility” understood as instilling fear by a demonstrated willingness to kill the disobedient without a second thought.

In the current political climate, there’s no need to convince anyone that Vlad the Czar is a thug.

But Zelenskyy? And Biden ?

Think about “Pretty Boy” first. He’s head of the ninth most corrupt country in the world. Its leadership (including him) is deeply involved with self-identified Nazis. They’ve been incorporated into the army. Moreover, just last week, the Boy outlawed 11 opposition parties and forbade airing of any accounts of the Ukraine war that differ from the state’s official narrative. These, of course, are the very policies for which Zelenskyy’s (and our) press criticize Vlad the Czar.  

As for Sleepy Joe . . .. One minute in defense of “democracy” and “international law” he’s denouncing and sanctioning Vlad as a “war criminal.” Then the next minute the American godfather considers a trip to Saudi Arabia to “restore relationships” with another mafioso kingpin, Moe “the butcher” bin Salman.

The Butcher is the mafia boss who over the last seven years has been bombing a neighboring country (Yemen) into rubble. In the process he’s created what the UN calls the world’s greatest humanitarian crisis with an overwhelming number of its victims, children. As a Saudi royal, the Butcher is a sworn enemy of democracy.

He’s also the one who just this week beheaded 81 men in a single day – many of them for thought crimes. And by the way, the he got his nickname from instructing his hit men to use bone saws to dismember a Washington Post journalist. I mean, this man’s got real credibility; you better not cross him.

But he’s okay with the Sleeper who not only supports the Yemen slaughter, but wants to kiss the Butcher’s ring in order to persuade him (in the midst of climate catastrophe) to pump more oil. (That oil by the way, won’t go online till next winter. Think of the progress against climate change that would happen if instead of using the coming year to prepare for pumping more oil, the time were used to go all out to replace fossil fuels with renewable green energy.)

Say what?

I’m sure you see what I mean about criminality, insanity, and general disregard  of human welfare. That’s the Mafia for you.

Conclusion

I do not mean to make light of the war in Ukraine. No, I’m as serious about my characterization of Putin, Zelenskiyy, and Biden as Mafiosi as Smedley Butler was about his own war crimes. My point is that none of them – not Putin, not Biden, not Zelenskyy, not MBS – enjoy a scintilla of credibility in the sense of responsible statecraft.

None of them gives the slightest damn about the rest of us, our health care, education, debts, or jobs – and much less about democracy, freedom, justice, or the continuity of human life on a planet facing the imminent threats of climate change and nuclear war. The record speaks for itself. Simply put, every one of them is certifiably insane.  

And the certification?  Let me put it this way: Anyone, and I mean ANYONE, who talks about using nuclear weapons is ipso facto nuts.

No one has that right? Why do we give it to them? And why are we not outraged at the mere mention of employing nuclear weapons? 

And for what? To defend ultimately imaginary entities like “Ukraine,” “Russia,” “The United States,” and NATO.” That’s what they are, you know – imaginary constructs. History shows that like all such entities, they inevitably emerge and disappear and have no lasting reality.

So-called “leaders” who stand ready to commit collective suicide on behalf of such constructs either belong in an asylum at best or in a maximum security prison – simply for threatening the rest of us on behalf of their venality, stupidity, and incompetence.

So, let me say it even more starkly although it will offend many. Here it is: The Sandinistas were right. In their anthem, they identified the Yankee as “the enemy of humanity.” As Katz shows, “our” government roams the world stirring up trouble everywhere, exploiting differences, dividing and conquering. As Dr.King put it, we’re the world’s “greatest purveyor of violence.”

One can hardly resist endorsing such conclusions after reading Gangsters of Capitalism. It rehearses so well the planetary devastation brought on by the United States government and its military which allied so easily with mafias everywhere, as well as with dictators, fascists, Nazis, drug dealers, terrorists, and (it seems) with the devil himself.

It’s time to stop being “Good Americans” and to realize instead that our real enemy resides in DC.

20 Principles for Making Sense of the Ukraine War

It’s easy for any of us to lose our way in “the fog of war.” I’m sure you agree. After all, most of us aren’t experts in matters Ukrainian. What do we know?

One way of dealing with such mystification is to remember some elementary principles and truisms that apply to all cases of international conflict including Ukraine and far beyond.

Let me review 20 of them. See if these help:

  1. The United States (not Russia, China, or ISIS) is the world’s “greatest purveyor of violence.” Martin Luther King made that identification. By all measures (including weapons sales, “defense” budgets and involvement in ongoing wars), it remains true today. This realization might be enough to raise suspicions about “our” government’s position on Ukraine.
  2. Might does not make right. A military force powerful enough to impose its will on weaker opponents is no indication of who’s right. This, of course applies to the United States as well as to Russia.
  3. International laws should never be disobeyed. This principle the United States applies to its enemies (such as Russia in the Ukraine) but rarely to itself.
  4. Wars are illegal unless they follow UN protocols. Please note that nearly every (if not all) of the myriad “American” wars since the end of the Second Inter-capitalist war have been illegal according to this standard.
  5. Everyone is equal before the law. Obviously,, legal double standards are morally repugnant. For instance, the United States can’t deny the authority of the World Court when it’s invoked against itself and then turn around and invoke its authority against an “enemy” like Putin.
  6. It is not logically permitted to lecture others to “Do as I say, not as I do.” In other words, law breakers lose moral authority to lecture others about the virtue of law abidingness. Every child can grasp this rule.
  7. People in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones. The U.S. cannot condemn Vladimir Putin for his actions in Ukraine, when it’s doing and has done worse things in Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Somalia, and Yemen.
  8. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander. If the United States can invoke its “Monroe Doctrine” to protect its Latin American “backyard,” a similar right must be extended to Russia and its perceived need for a buffer zone around its borders.
  9. The one who delivers the first punch can’t prevent a counterpunch by claiming “Two wrongs don’t make a right.” I’ve even heard State Department officials adopt this defense when U.S. crimes are compared to those of designated enemies.  [“Well, are you telling me that two wrongs make a right?” (Please don’t hit me back!)]
  10. “Whataboutism” should be cultivated. It’s simply the informed art of making connections. That’s what I’m trying to do with this piece.
  11. Without making connections, the world cannot be understood. We lurch from one crisis to another with no ability to understand.
  12. Borders, nationality, and race are creations of the elite to control the rest of us. Imperialists have used these fictions throughout the history of colonialism. All three, borders, superstitions about national allegiance and the illusion of race have been used to divide, conquer, and rule — to know whom to bomb, to collect taxes, and create captive workforces forbidden to cross imaginary lines to better their lives. (To illustrate, imagine if there were no enforceable border line between Russia and Ukraine. How would Putin know whom to attack? Would there even be a Putin?}
  13. Cultivate a long memory. This is another way of expressing the truism that those who forget history are bound to repeat its errors as we’re seeing with the coalescing dangers of yet another European war.
  14. Follow the money. Because NATO requires its members to increase their “defense” expenditures, the military-industrial complex benefits from each additional affiliate. Could that be a factor in the campaign to increase NATO’s membership — including in Ukraine?
  15. Follow the oil. Decommissioning the Nord Stream pipelines from Russia to Europe means new markets for U.S. liquified natural gas. Hmm. . ..
  16. The CIA, the U.S. government, and the media which unquestioningly report their claims cannot be trusted. After all, CIA boss, Mike Pompeo admitted “We lie, we cheat, we steal all the time. In fact, we take entire courses. . ..” (See below, point # 20.)
  17. If the U.S. favors a national leader, he’s probably a puppet or subservient client. This applies to U.S. creations such as Venezuela’s Juan Guaido and (on this principle) like Volodymyr Zelenskyy
  18. If the U.S. opposes a national leader, he’s usually doing something right. The leader in question is probably somehow interfering with U.S. claims to world hegemony. Certainly Putin is doing that.
  19. Non-white lives matter too – just as much as Europeans’ or Americans’. Again, it’s amazing how we’re led to clutch our pearls at the sight of thousands of Europeans (“who look and live like us”) as victims of war and as refugees while ignoring the far higher number of refugees and war casualties “we” produce every day among black and brown people.
  20. Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me. Another Great Man (remember him?) tried to say that but failed. I wonder why he didn’t seem to understand. Do we?

Can you think of other applicable principles? If so, please share them.

A Ukrainian Ash Wednesday: Give Up Chauvinism, Borders, and War for Lent

Today is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the season of prayer and penance that prepares the so-called Christian world for Easter (April 17th).

Lent should be especially welcome this year when would-be followers of Yeshua have somehow been caught up in a faith-contradictory fever of war.

In traditional terms Lenten “penance” is the English translation of the theological term metanoia. It refers to a change of heart and mind; it’s connected “conversion” and “reformation.”

More specifically, metanoia is about atonement in the sense of at-one-ment. That means acceptance of the spiritual reality that all human beings represent a single entity.

In the eyes of Life’s Great Spirit, there are no Americans, Russians, Chinese, or Africans. All of us are even more than brothers and sisters. In the great scheme of things, there is actually no distinction between us. There are no valid borders – not between Russia and Ukraine, not even between the U.S. and Mexico.

That’s the meaning of Yeshua’s injunction: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Our neighbors (even if they live in Russia or Ukraine) are ourselves.” That’s what Paul meant when he said that in the Great Mother’s order, “there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female.” (Galatians 3:28). There is really only one of us here.

You see, missing from the entire debate about the war in Ukraine and about U.S. policy everywhere has been faith, diplomacy and compromise in place of the reigning machismo, self-assertion, militarism, refusal to give in (e.g., about Ukraine’s admission to NATO) and belief in American or Russian “exceptionalism.”

So, this Lent, how about embracing at-one-ment and giving up chauvinism? During the war in Ukraine, the continued U.S. occupation of Syria, its genocidal bombing of Yemen and Somalia, its famine-inducing sanctions of Afghanistan, and its illegal support of Israel’s apartheid system, it’s time for American Christians to embrace the viewpoint of Yeshua and Paul. Only that can save us now.

It’s high time to leave behind the ethnocentrism, jingoism, and warmongering our government, the arms industry, and the mainstream media would have us faithlessly endorse. It’s time to give up chauvinism for Lent.

And that’s hard, isn’t it? It’s difficult because it entails admission of our own responsibility for strife in the world rather than blaming fictional others. They’re “fictional” because in the eyes of our Mother, there are no “others” to blame. You and I – “Americans” – are 100% responsible for the disastrous state of the planet. Again, there is no one else to accuse.

So, if we’re thinking about what to “give up for Lent,” how about giving up chauvinism, jingoism, militarism, and war?

Join the peace movement founded not on a spirit of “Don’t Look Up,” but on determination to spend the next 40 days looking within and changing the ugliness and bringing to light the loveliness we see there.

20 reasons why the U.S. & NATO are ultimately responsible for the crisis in Ukraine.

Despite what you might read in the mainstream press, the United States and NATO, not Putin, are the ones ultimately responsible for the crisis in Ukraine. More specifically, since the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, the United States has consistently provoked Russia by:

  1. Repeatedly interfering in Russian elections and internal politics from Boris Yeltsin on
  2. Resulting in the shocking U.S.-sponsored theft (by privatization) of the Russian people’s communal property by oligarchs and the Russian mafia
  3. Ignoring Russian sensitivities about the geostrategic importance of Ukraine in Russian history. (Russia has twice been invaded by its European enemies using Ukraine as their entry point.)
  4. Discounting Russia’s concerns about the ideological ties of Ukraine’s current leadership (including that of its army) to Nazi collaborators during World War II
  5. Breaking the promise of George H.W. Bush to Mikhail Gorbachev not to move NATO “one inch closer to Russia” than its position in 1990
  6. But instead incorporating into NATO countries of the former Soviet Union often extremely close to the Russian border
  7. Constantly entertaining the possibility of extending NATO membership even to Ukraine against Russia’s demands to the contrary
  8. Refusing to put in writing a promise not to do so
  9. In this way blocking diplomatic solutions to the Ukraine crisis
  10. And also hypocritically denying to Russia the same rights the U.S. claims (via its Monroe Doctrine) to be free from international threats in its own “backyard”
  11. Engineering a coup d’état in Ukraine in 2014 to replace the neutral (towards Russia) and democratically elected president of Ukraine (Viktor Yanukovych) with a far right rabidly anti-Russian U.S. client (Petro Poroshenko)
  12. Who then surrounded himself with anti-Russian, often neo-Nazi advisors, and cabinet members who are internationally recognized as constituting one of the most corrupt governments in the world
  13. Selecting the leaders of Ukraine by American fiat rather than by democratic processes
  14. Thus, making Ukraine a quasi-U.S. neo-colony right on Russia’s border
  15. And giving rise to an anti-coup, anti-corruption, anti-NATO rebellion on the part of constitutional democrats and anti-fascists centered in Ukraine’s pro-Russian Donbas region
  16.  Which over the last seven years has been subject to shelling by the Ukrainian armed forces costing over 14,000 mostly civilian lives
  17. Ignoring the provisions of the Minsk I and Minsk II agreements between Russia and Ukraine calling for a ceasefire, withdrawal of heavy weapons from the Donbas front line, release of prisoners of war, and constitutional reform extending self-government to certain areas of Donbas, while restoring to the Ukrainian government control of its national borders
  18. Pouring weapons of mass destruction into Ukraine
  19. Countenancing (by not denouncing) Ukraine’s threat to seek installation of nuclear armaments on its territory
  20. While constantly proposing harsh sanctions on Russia as if it alone were responsible for the Ukrainian crisis.

None of this is to say that Vladimir Putin’s illegal invasion of Ukraine is justified. Like the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, it is clearly a violation of international law.

The claim here, however, is that Putin was provoked into his act of aggression by NATO led by the United States. The provocations benefit the U.S. not only in terms of discrediting Russia as a regional power, but of providing European markets for U.S. liquified natural gas (after sanctions deprive Russia of its own natural gas markets in Europe). The crisis also creates huge profits for U.S. arms manufacturers along with persuasive rationales for increased Pentagon budgets. As well, the entire fiasco promises to raise (at least temporarily) President Biden’s abysmal poll numbers.

As a final note, there is good reason to believe that the United States would long ago have adopted military measures similar to Putin’s had it experienced comparable acts of aggression for instance on its border with Mexico.

Imagine the response of “our” government had Russia or China sponsored a coup d’état replacing a Mexican government neutral or friendly to the U.S. with a virulently anti-American puppet regime. Imagine further if Russia or China had armed that hostile government to the teeth and shelled mercilessly Mexican citizens friendly to the United States. History (such as that of United States throughout Latin America during the 1980s) tells us that such action would never be tolerated. It would predictably result in American military operations dwarfing those of Russian forces in Ukraine.

So don’t believe what the mainstream media is telling you about Ukraine. Putin has his reasons and is no worse than our own country’s leaders. This is yet another tragedy created by the country Martin Luther King described as the “greatest purveyor of violence” in the world.