The neo-Nazi Azov Battalion on parade in Ukraine
This makes two posts in a row I’ve handed over to Caitlin Johnstone, corporate mass media being incapable of telling the truth on matters vital to power. Not just oligarch ownership – Murdoch at the Times, Bezos at the Washington Post – but dependency on advertising and/or rich donors combine to prevent this. That’s before we drill down to the corporate realities of organisational cultures which keep journalists eager to please editors; editors eager to please proprietors.
And it’s before we get to the direct pressures – appeals to ‘patriotism’ … exclusion of ‘hostile’ journalists from the inside track of military/intelligence briefings … rewards to ‘friendly’ ones 1 … outright censorship 2 – applied by state agencies.
But on this the most globally threatening crisis of my life, an elephant of mythic stature has wandered into the room; an elephant so huge and stubbornly ‘there’ as to be glimpsable even through the tiny slit of that room’s Overton Window.
As I argued in Ukraine in La La Land …
… the Ukraine narrative is easily and simply punctured. The problem is not that the arguments are complex and non-intuitive. The problem is that no matter how ridiculous and evidence-defiant the mainstream narrative on Ukraine is, its foundations have been carefully laid over years if not decades … Who cares that the emperor is naked? Everyone has packed and gone to La La Land, a finger in each ear …
This being so, mainstream media’s sole option in respect of a war which may at any moment go nuclear is to ignore the glaring evidence pointing at Washington’s supreme culpability, so as to prop up that narrative less by actively lying – though this assuredly happens, primarily through the recycling of allegations from intelligence services and think tanks funded by the military industrial complex 3 – than by studiously ignoring that evidential glare.
So if something less removed from the truth is what we’re after, we must turn to sources which do not ignore it. Caitlin Johnstone for one. On May 10 she wrote:
The US Could’ve Prevented This War Just By Protecting Kyiv From Nazis
As we hydroplane toward the toward the brink of nuclear armageddon while Bono and the Edge play U2 songs in Kyiv, it’s probably worth taking a moment to highlight the fact that this entire war could have been avoided if the US had simply pledged military protection for Zelensky against the far right extremists who were threatening to lynch him if he enacted the peacemaking policies he was elected to enact.
To be clear, what we are indulging in here is entirely an act of fantasy. In imagining what would have happened if the US had pledged to protect the Ukrainian government from an undemocratic violent overthrow at the hands of fascists instead of waging a horrific proxy war, we are imagining a world in which the US government acts in the highest interest of all instead of working continuously to dominate the planet no matter how much madness and cruelty it needs to inflict upon humanity. A world in which the US hadn’t been taking steps toward the orchestration of this proxy war for many years.
With that out of the way, it’s just a simple fact that for a fraction of the military firepower the US is pouring into Ukraine right now, it could have prevented the entire war by simply protecting Ukrainian democracy from the undemocratic impulses of the worst people in that country.
When he was asked by The Nation’s Katrina vanden Heuvel last month what he thinks is preventing Kyiv from signing a peace agreement with Russia, John Mearsheimer, whose analysis of this conflict has been prophetic for many years, replied as follows:
I think when Zelensky ran for president he made it clear he wanted to work out an arrangement with Russia that ended the crisis in Ukraine, and he won. He then tried to move toward implementing the Minsk II agreement. If you were going to shut down the conflict in Ukraine, you had to implement Minsk II. And Minsk II meant giving the Russian-speaking and the ethnic Russian population in the easternmost part of Ukraine, the Donbas region, a significant amount of autonomy, and you had to make the Russian language an official language of Ukraine.
I think Zelensky found out very quickly that because of the Ukrainian right, it was impossible to implement Minsk II. Therefore even though the French and the Germans, and of course the Russians were very interested in making Minsk II work, because they wanted to shut down the crisis, they couldn’t do it. In other words, the Ukrainian right was able to stymie Zelensky on that front.
When Mearsheimer says the Ukrainian right was able to stymie Zelensky, he doesn’t mean by votes or by democratic processes, he means by threats and violence. In an article last month titled “Siding with Ukraine’s far-right, US sabotaged Zelensky’s mandate for peace,” journalist Aaron Maté wrote the following:
In April 2019, Zelensky was elected with an overwhelming 73% of the vote on a promise to turn the tide. In his inaugural address the next month, Zelensky declared that he was “not afraid to lose my own popularity, my ratings,” and was “prepared to give up my own position – as long as peace arrives.”
But Ukraine’s powerful far-right and neo-Nazi militias made clear to Zelensky that reaching peace in the Donbas would have a much higher cost.
“No, he would lose his life,” Right Sector co-founder Dmytro Anatoliyovych Yarosh, then the commander of the Ukrainian Volunteer Army, responded one week after Zelensky’s inaugural speech. “He will hang on some tree on Khreshchatyk – if he betrays Ukraine and those people who died in the Revolution and the War.”
In a 2019 interview with Maté, the late great scholar Stephen Cohen made the following comments:
But ultimately you have a situation now which seems not to be widely understood, that the new president of Ukraine, Zelensky, ran as a peace candidate. This is a bit of a stretch and maybe it doesn’t mean a whole lot to your generation, but he ran a kind of George McGovern campaign. The difference was McGovern got wiped out and Zelensky won by, I think, 71, 72 percent. He won an enormous mandate to make peace. So, that means he has to negotiate with Vladimir Putin. And there are various formats, right? There’s a so-called Minsk format which involves the German and the French; there’s a bilateral directly with Putin. But his willingness—and this is what’s important and not well reported here—his willingness to deal directly with Putin, which his predecessor, Poroshenko, was not or couldn’t or whatever reason—actually required considerable boldness on Zelensky[‘s part], because there are opponents of this in Ukraine and they are armed. Some people say they’re fascists but they’re certainly ultra-nationalist, and they have said that they will remove and kill Zelensky if he continues along this line of negotiating with Putin …
… Zelensky cannot go forward as I’ve explained. I mean, his life is being threatened literally by a quasi-fascist movement in Ukraine, he can’t go forward with full peace negotiations with Russia, with Putin, unless America has his back. Maybe that won’t be enough, but unless the White House encourages this diplomacy, Zelensky has no chance of negotiating an end to the war, so the stakes are enormously high.
In an article titled “Why Russia Went to War Now,” Antiwar’s Ted Snyder explains that Putin likely made the decision to invade because Kyiv wasn’t respecting Minsk II and because future NATO membership with Ukraine was being kept on the table while weapons poured into the country from the US.
Zelensky wouldn’t talk to the leaders of the Donbas, Minsk was dead and Russia feared an imminent operation against the ethnic Russian population of the Donbas,” Snyder writes. “At the same time, Washington had become a leaky faucet on promises of flooding Ukraine with weapons and open doors to NATO: two red lines Putin had clearly drawn.
But, again, Zelensky couldn’t enact Minsk because it had been made abundantly clear to him that he faced a horrific death by fascist lynch mob if he did. If the choice is between taking a chance on a US proxy war and getting Gaddafied in the public square, I think many leaders around the world would opt for the former.
So Zelensky made peace with the Nazis, whose will for Ukraine aligned with Washington’s.
But what this means is that every major factor which led to Russia’s decision to invade could have been nullified by the US government. A guarantee of no NATO membership for Ukraine could have been made. The weapons supplies could have been stopped. And Zelensky and his government could have received protection from the US military against the armed fascists who would repeat their violent acts of 2014 upon them.
It would have been wins all around. We wouldn’t be staring down the barrel of nuclear armageddon. Ukraine would have been spared the horrors of an insane proxy war. Western powers wouldn’t be sending arms to literal Nazi factions. And the US would actually be protecting Ukrainian democracy, instead of just pretending to.
But, again, we are only indulging in fantasy here. Fighting Nazis, protecting democracy and waging peace are not things the US empire actually does in real life. The US is the most tyrannical and murderous regime on earth, by a truly massive margin, and it will happily risk the life of everyone on earth if it means securing planetary rule.
But sometimes it’s nice to imagine the kind of world we might be living in if we were not ruled by psychopaths.
* * *
- On the sweeteners given by the military industrial complex – not just by military and intelligence services but also by a powerful arms sector, with its lobbyists and ‘think tanks’ – to journalists who don’t rock the boat, see this talk by German journalist and war correspondent, Udo Ulfkotte. Mr Ulfkotte is described in Wiki as a “conspiracy theorist”, a denunciation I routinely disregard as unhelpful. (Conspiracy theories may be true, false or – with varying degrees of probability – unproven.) He is also said to have far right associations. The claim may be true or false but is in any case to be expected from one whose best known book, Bought Journalists, was dubbed by Der Spiegel, “the bible of all who have renounced their faith in the German media”. (It has long been off the shelves while a 2017 successor, Journalists for Hire: How the CIA Buys the News, is now marked “currently unavailable” on Amazon.) This stuff’s a royal rabbit hole but it’s sheer laziness to ignore important allegations simply because bad things – true or false – are said about the person making them. Always the central question should be: how well supported by fact and reason are the allegations? Too often the charge of conspiracy theorist – or rapist (Assange) or homophobe (Mugabe, Putin) or antisemite (Corbyn, Livingstone) – is used to divert us precisely from making an impartial and informed assessment.
- In moves unprecedented against a state on which war has not been declared, it is now illegal for media outlets across Europe and North America to present material from RT, Sputnik and Strategic Culture.
- The link from think tanks funded by the military industrial complex is to a post last August, also featuring Caitlin Johnstone. Having done her homework on “one of nearly infinite examples”, she reaches the only conclusion a rational person could reach.
So government agencies and war profiteers paid for a report which manufactures consent for their agendas among policymakers and the public, and mass media institutions passed this off as “news”.
Since it cannot be rebutted, that conclusion must – like other truths so sinister and momentous as to leave credulous western audiences assuming “we would have been told about them” – be passed over in silence by those whose absolute first duty is or should be to prevent our being dragged into war under false pretences.