Monday, March 3, 2014

Ukraine-o-Mania: The Worst of Times


Like many of you, I'm confused about the situation in Ukraine. Who and what to believe? Oligarch A, Factotum B, Pundit C, or Politician D?  After immediately scratching all the bloviators appearing on the corporate-sponsored Sunday shows, I turned to the Paper of Record for some much-needed insight. Here's Peter Baker keeping us informed with today's headline about Obama the bronco-buster trying to break Vlad the Stallion:
Pressure Rising as Obama Works to Rein In Russia (accompanied by the standard artistic photos capturing the dark night of the soul that only a man shouldering the full weight of American exceptionalism can ever hope to fully comprehend and stoically endure.)

 Working the telephone from the Oval Office, Mr. Obama rallied allies, agreed to send Secretary of State John Kerry to Kiev  and approved a series of diplomatic and economic moves intended to “make it hurt,” as one administration official put it. But the president found himself besieged by advice to take more assertive action.
(You may now imagine John Kerry triumphantly marching through the gates of Kiev, whip in hand, with this optional musical accompaniment, courtesy of Modest Mussorgsky). Baker continues:
Create a democratic noose around Putin’s Russia,” urged Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina. “Revisit the missile defense shield,” suggested Senator Marco Rubio, Republican of Florida. “Cancel Sochi,” argued Representative Mike Rogers, the Michigan Republican who leads the Intelligence Committee, referring to the Group of 8 summit meeting to be hosted by President Vladimir V. Putin. Kick “him out of the G-8” altogether, said Senator Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, the Democratic whip.
What reportage! Baker watched the TV bloviators so we wouldn't have to, and dutifully stenographed every precious little bellicose word, never once stopping to question their tenuous at best grip on reality. Inquiring minds want to know in vain: can one buy a democratic noose on eBay? Where does one go to pay a call on the Missile Defense Shield? Is Dick Durbin the scold that Kerry is bringing with him to Kiev?
The Russian occupation of Crimea has challenged Mr. Obama as has no other international crisis, and at its heart, the advice seemed to pose the same question: Is Mr. Obama tough enough to take on the former K.G.B. colonel in the Kremlin? It is no easy task. Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany told Mr. Obama by telephone on Sunday that after speaking with Mr. Putin she was not sure he was in touch with reality, people briefed on the call said. “In another world,” she said.
Oh God. Answering the questions of the aforementioned pols, Baker pretends to cast doubt on Obama's testosterone level. But wait --  some higher-up (probably Obama) leaked to Peter Baker that Angela Merkel confidentially told Obama that not only has Putin lost his grip on reality, he's living in outer space. This is what authoritarian-controlled media outlets do when their handlers are caught in a bind. They cast doubt on the mental health of the enemy, and the machismo and competence of the "good guy" survives. Nobody can fight a lunatic, after all.
 That makes for a crisis significantly different from others on Mr. Obama’s watch. On Syria, Iran, Libya and Egypt, the political factions in Washington have been as torn as the president over the proper balance of firmness and flexibility. But as an old nuclear-armed adversary returns to Cold War form, the consequences seem greater, the challenges more daunting and the voices more unified.
Two choices, and they're both as sexy as hell. Firmness is the opposite of flexibility in this particular framing, and they're both ego-savers. In another world, outside the propaganda orbit of the Times-White House solar system, the opposite of firmness might be a limp noodle. But that contrast is not allowed in the official narrative as dictated to Peter Baker.

This is the New York Times at its most pandering, obfuscatingly disgraceful worst.What we're subjected to is an unintentional parody of House of Cards, itself a satire of Washington group-think and self-serving malfeasance and media complicity.

I've done as much reading as I can on the Ukraine situation, and so far, nothing beats the journalism of Pulitzer-winner Robert Parry for background, clarity and analysis. (His independent site, Consortiumnews, is now listed on my blog roll.) His take: our foreign policy is still largely run by Bush-era neocons, held over for whatever baffling reason by President Obama. He should have purged f-bombing Evil-Eyed Cookie Lady Victoria Nuland while he still had the chance. A little late now, says Parry.

Moon of Alabama and Counterpunch, also on the Blog Roll, are two more must go-to sources for a wealth of opinions and cogent analyses.

Back to reading now, and trying to stay informed to keep you informed.


16 comments:

fahrenheit451 said...

I haven't read Parry's piece, but I invite Sardonicky readers to take a look at Ray McGovern's take at the RealNews network, in print format only, very unusual because the usual is film intervies.

Here at http://therealnews.com/t2/component/content/article/57-ray-mcgovern/1993--ukraine-one-regime-change-too-many-

I don't want to translate too crudely here; he cites Professor Cohen, who is almost always on the outs with the for. policy establishment, and who upset Fareed Zakaria on GPS yesterday morning with his take...but my translation, quite reductionist and saying nothing good about Putin and his government or the current economic regime in Russia: if you poke the Russian bear often enough just outside of his den - and I mean just outside it - he may come charging out and it won't be a bluff.

That having been said, whatever is genuine in Ukrainian protesting and policy is probably going to be stuck with the choice of Putin's version of austerity or the IMF's...take your pick...McGovern says European is filled with Polish plumbers and isn't exactly in a housing boom these days...Ukranian plumbers aren't going to be welcome either...this is one ugly constellation of forces for the Ukrainians

annenigma said...

Here's my 2 cents worth about Ukraine carried over from off-topic in the previous post:

Anytime we incite and support forces attempting the violent overthrow of a democratically elected government (Ukraine, Egypt, Venezuela) instead of advocating for elections to replace them, it suggests we are worse than hypocrites.

Of course elections aren't conducive to putting our puppet in place, as evidenced in Egypt, thus our denial that it was a 'military coup' in order to continue arming their military to the tune of $1 billion a year as we have for the past 40 years.

It's clear to me that the US Government is rarely, if ever, the Good Guy played so artfully for the world audience. It makes me think that if We the People ever managed to elect someone the PTB didn't like, we'll be allowed a violent overthrow here also so that they could install a proper puppet. Maybe that's why they haven't taken away the Second Amendment yet - they might just need gun owners to be 'useful idiots'. (Ouch!)

annenigma said...

This is an interesting and valuable piece to read as it relates to Ukraine, Venezuela, and 'democracy'. I got it from Karen's handy dandy blogroll.

http://www.popularresistance.org/the-national-endowment-for-democracy-in-venezuela/

Pearl said...

The same voices urging strength and firmness dealing with the
Russian-Crimean-Ukrainian rat's maze, are the ones who helped us put our feet into Vietnam (to save them from Communism), rush to bring enlightenment to Afghanistan (working with corrupt leaders), march into Iraq to show them
who's boss, mess with a crisis in Egypt by supporting the army, ditto for Libya, get involved with Tito's empire, have strange dealings with Iran past and present (with the help of Netanyahu), etc. (Have I left anyone out?). Yes, a successful outcome all around. But then Kerry will of course be able to enlighten Putin as to how to run his country since he represents
a bastion of true democracy in the West.

No one could write a script like this and be believed. It might even win an Oscar in Hollywood.

Zee said...

@Karen--

Robert Parry article, Part I

Not having closely followed the origin and evolution of the Ukrainian coup, the article by Robert Parry was illuminating insofar as shedding light on the role of neocons—both within and without the Obama State Department—in destabilizing the previous, democratically elected Ukrainian government.

I've only skimmed the article as it falls into that category that Will—I think it was—has characterized as TLTR (“Too Long To Read”) so I may have missed something; but despite being informative regarding the role that neocons have played in fomenting the current mess, Parry still seems to bend over backwards to cover Obama's ass for having harbored this nest of neocon adders in his government—from Hillary Clinton on down—in the first place.

Parry portrays Obama as having valiantly (my word) tried to forge a new relationship with Russia and Putin, but was betrayed by the State's bureaucratic neocon “we-bees” (as in We be here when you get here, and we be here when you gone.) So he ruggedly (my word) chose to “go it alone:”

“Faced with this resistance from his own bureaucracy, Obama began to rely on a small inner circle built around Vice President Joe Biden and a few White House advisers with the analytical support of some CIA officials, including CIA Director Leon Panetta.

Obama also found a surprising ally in Putin after he regained the Russian presidency in 2012. A Putin adviser told me that the Russian president personally liked Obama and genuinely wanted to help him resolve dangerous disputes, especially crises with Iran and Syria.”


Why not have just cleaned neocon house to start with so as not to have to go it alone at all? I mean, what “transformative president,” in his right mind, would keep on the wife of Robert Kagan? Jeeze, Louise...even dumber than appointing Hillary as Secretary of State in the first place! This merely confirms to me that Obama is the most disinterested and disengaged president in history.

To hear Parry further describe it, one would think that Obama and Putin had sat down together in advance and were jointly responsible for some carefully engineered plan to have Syria surrender its chemical weapons to the West:

“...the President worked with Putin to defuse the crisis sparked by a disputed chemical weapons attack outside Damascus.”

As I heard the story at the time—before history was rewritten—one of Putin's diplomatic minions simply heard an off-the-cuff, joking, maybe even despairing remark by John Kerry at some meeting or other, that the only way to avoid a U.S. invasion of Syria was for Assad to surrender his chemical weapons to the West. The diplomat, being at least as smart as the average Russian bear, picked up on this remark and passed it along to Putin, who got the ball rolling with Assad and thereby pulled Obama's “red line” chestnut out of a blazing fire.

Obama and his feckless band had to desperately try to get out in front of this thing, and act like it was O's idea all along. With the administration repeating this “Big Lie” ad infinitum, people such as Parry now either seem convinced that this was the case, or, if they really know the truth, duplicitously use it to make Obama look good.

(To be continued...)

Zee said...

@Karen--

Robert Parry article, Part II


So I see Parry as first, trying to make Obama appear to be a victim of betrayal by underlings regarding the coup in the Ukraine—which he could have prevented—and second, to make him appear much smarter than he is despite said preventable betrayal.

Only at the bitter end of the article do we see some suggestion on Parry's part that Obama needn't have been a neocon dupe from the git-go:

“As events spin out of control, it appears way past time for President Obama to explain to the American people why he has collaborated with President Putin in trying to resolve some of the world’s thorniest problems.

That, however, would require him to belatedly take control of his own administration, to purge the neocon holdovers who have worked to sabotage his actual foreign policy, and to put an end to neocon-controlled organizations, like the National Endowment for Democracy, that use U.S. taxpayers’ money to stir up trouble abroad. That would require real political courage.
(My bold emphasis.)

My final observation: It's not clear that President Obama needs to explain to the American people why he has collaborated with President Putin in trying to resolve some of the world's thorniest problems.

These are two of the most powerful national leaders in the world. Of course they should be collaborating to solve the world's thorniest problems.

The question in my mind remains: Has Putin really been collaborating with Obama, or merely “outplaying” him? And would Obama—for all his vaunted intellect—know the difference?

fahrenheit451 said...

Karen:

I've read Parry's piece now, and I see that Ray McGovern's is up there as well. Put them together with Stephen Cohen's interviews, and the public is beginning to get another picture, a fuller one of what is going on.

So much depends though, upon what is actually going on behind the scenes in the Ukraine, and how one defines "meddling and foreign" intervention by the NGO's that are mentioned. At the worst interpretation, its the best of all possible cover stories to sell a busy American public that these neocon supported if not sponsored groups are promoting democracy in regions that long to be finally free from the hug of the Russian bear, whatever the ideology is inside Russia. But we've heard that song all over the Middle East and by now, I don't quite accept it at face value. But I think Angela Merkel is stretching it when she says Putin is detached from reality; Cohen I think is right to cite how the world looks from Moscow as the early promises after the fall of the curtain have been reneged on. If Putin has had a clear red line with the Ukraine and the neocons are testing it, it's pure trouble...and the lines inside the Ukraine are hardly clear at all...No US military leader in his or her right mind is going to put forces in that area where Russia has such a command of the access points and easy supply lines.

Maybe McGovern has the most powerful point: the US has made a major miscalculation of what is the make or break point of meddling with another super power, something the Soviets did in Cuba, partly due to our meddling in the overthrow - scratch that - direct participation in the overthrow of Castro.

Nasty, nasty all the way around.

Zee said...

@annenigma--

To your list of democratically elected governments that the United States has chosen to overthrow because we/they didn't like the outcome, I would certainly add Iran (1953) and Chile (1973), and I'm quite certain that more knowledgable Sardonickistas can add even more to our mutual list.

As you say, we have a pretty hypocritical attitude when it comes to our “support” for new democracies: if they don't immediately stand up and salute the “Red, White and Blue,” well, they're likely to become toast, one way or another. With barbaric results.

But I'm not quite certain what you're referring to when you say that:

“if We the People ever managed to elect someone the PTB [Powers That Be] didn't like, we'll be allowed a violent overthrow here also so that they [the PTB] could install a proper puppet. Maybe that's why they haven't taken away the Second Amendment yet—they might just need gun owners to be 'useful idiots'. (Ouch!)” --annenigma

As one of those “[presumably American] gun owners”-cum-[perhaps] “useful idiots,” I would be grateful for some elaboration.

And, @Jay--

NB. It was, once again, not me who first brought up the subject of the Second Amendment on this thread, but rather, annenigma.

Perhaps I can propose something equivalent to “Godwin's Law;” maybe we can even call it “Zee's Law:”

“If an online discussion—regardless of topic or scope—goes on long enough, sooner or later someone will invoke the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution as somehow being relevant, or maybe even conclusive to, the argument.”

fahrenheit451 said...

Just finished watching Professor Cohen on PBS newshour, surprised he was on, but he was good and left things where I did, and Ray McGovern did. Putin, right or wrong, had red lines, Georgia and Ukraine, and now we've crossed them by working to create a less than friendly gov't on Russia's border...Russia, in neo-con land but also the broader f.p. establishment, is no longer entitled to its red lines on what it defines as vital national interests. That's where we are. I don't thing Russia can accept that. Who is going to defuse this situation...

annenigma said...

Zee, I was just referring to the current situations in Ukraine, Egypt, and Venezuela, not to any from the past. I am well aware of how many there have been - too many.

And in regard to my Second Amendment comment, I believe I made myself clear, but please don't take it personally. Occupy protesters and Tea Party Patriots have been called 'useful idiots' too. Anytime a group gets manipulated or even inadvertently serves another purpose from their own, they are referred to as 'useful idiots' because they so often end up helping the PTB without even realizing it. The 'Ouch!' just means that sometimes the truth hurts. I didn't make up the term. I think 'Useful Tools' might be more apt - like Obama.

The Popular Resistance article I referred to probably won't be read by many but I think it's worth pointing a few things out as they related to our phony democracy campaign waged around the world. When I look at how our government has meddled abroad in the past and in the present, I can't help but see our our own country being subject to the same manipulations in the future. That's why I thought the article about the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) was so interesting as just one of the more visible facets of the USG's huge covert regime change operation.

The NED has been referred to as the government's stealth destabilizer. Rather than promote the type of democracy that our government publicly espouses, "The NED promotes top-down, elite, constrained (or “polyarchal”) democracy. This is the democracy where the elites get to decide the candidates or questions suitable to go before the people—and always limiting the choices to what the elites are comfortable with. Then, once the elites have made their decision, THEN the people are presented with the “choice” that the elites approve. And then NED prattles on with its nonsense about how it is “promoting democracy around the world.”

Sound familiar? The very problem we face here with our own government unresponsive to the needs of the people and country is the same problem we are inflicting on others elsewhere and the benefit of the same powerful factions. Sadly, Americans can see what is going on abroad but not recognize our role in it and the fact that it's the root of our own problems. The same violent overthrow of an elected government COULD happen here for the same reasons - IF we were ever lucky enough to elect a President and administration that actually served the People. But as Mark Twain once said, "If voting worked, it would be illegal".

The possibility of incitement of violence ('democratic freedom fighting') here when/if it served a purpose is not entirely unlikely. The only real unlikely part is our actually having an administration couldn't be bought off by the PTB. In that case, they'd have to resort to their usual methods used abroad - inciting violence causing a declaration of martial law, then total regime change. Elections only work and are allowed when they can bank on the general outcome.

And if you still think I's far out about all this, consider this: 'Techniques Used In Prisons Are Now Applied To All of Us'. It's an eye opener.

http://www.popularresistance.org/techniques-used-in-prisons-are-now-applied-to-all-of-us/

Jay - Ottawa said...

Thanks for the research on all sides. The more you dig into this, the thicker the muck. Cynical? Just listen to that YouTube clip of Victoria Nuland. And there are still people who assert the US wasn’t into orchestrating a coup under Putin’s nose?

Ray McGovern’s article (Truthout, 3 March, 10:46) gives us a feel for the neocon strut of US foreign policy. Hey, Kerry’s tall, cool and menacing; let’s send him scare the Russian bear back across the border. Kerry will no doubt cause a sensation tomorrow as he stands tall in Independence Square to announce, in his best Ukrainian, “Я український.”*

Then what?

‘drrichard,’ in his comment following McGovern’s article summed it up this way:
“Whatever the reality of what is pushing the Ukrainian situation, and I suspect it is as complex as the mix of ethnic groups there, the US will be seen as the loser. I doubt if American meddling is the whole story, but it obviously didn't help. But what can you expect with a paper mache president?”

The best thing we can hope for at this stage in terms of national interest is that the president continues to remain a whimp reading empty words.

*Ich bin ein Ukrainian. (Thank you, JFK. Thank you, Google Translate.)

Zee said...

@annenigma--

Thanks for the explanation.

No offense taken.

The Black Swan said...

The Spanish-American war at the end of the 19th Century is a great example. Cubans are revolting against Spanish colonial rule, the US intervenes in order to protect certain economic interests, Cubans end up with US colonial rule. Whatever the people of the Ukraine may want, the US is not going to give it to them.

And has any else heard Kerry talk about how you can't just invade countries under false pretexts. I mean come on, this isn't the 19th century anymore! Only the US can invade countries under false pretexts.

Pearl said...

With all the information I try to find about Russian-Ukrainian
relations, there is very little discussion about the current Russian make-up. Is it a Capitalist country, a partial Communist country, a mixture
of the two, or in flux? There don't seem to be any definitive reports and of course, it depends on who is writing up this information. But should we not know more about the Russian political structure before passing judgment on how they are handling the present crisis and how the political differences are affecting the current crisis Between Russia and the Ukraine?

Jay - Ottawa said...

Two contrasting articles about Ukraine turmoil in the same publication.

Lately, we’ve been focused, perhaps overmuch, on the bloody strife in Kiev’s Maidan Square and the excited reactions over Putin’s move into Crimea. The enduring base of reality, however, has been and still is the long-term tug-of-war between Brussels and Moscow over Ukraine’s future in one or the other camp.

Tim Judah has an excellent article on the main economic and political forces long in play in Ukraine. Although Judah’s article went to press December 11 (updated January 9), it well describes the characters of importance and their positions up to that date.
http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2014/jan/09/fighting-soul-ukraine/?page=1

The second article, by Timothy Snyder, is a much, much smoother read. But we should expect more from a Yale historian. His article smacks of Western propaganda of the rose-colored glasses variety from beginning to end. For a chaser I slogged through all of the many comments that followed. They are a mixed bag of homeland and foreign opinion (plus trolls) that serve overwhelmingly to contradict and thus counterbalance Snyder’s one-sided and syrupy analysis. If you don’t have time waste, skip Snyder; but be sure to read Judah.
http://www.nybooks.com/blogs/nyrblog/2014/mar/01/ukraine-haze-propaganda/?utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=March+4+2014&utm_content=March+4+2014+CID_de496d7eeb74865de05817b3143b56a6&utm_source=Email%20marketing%20software&utm_term=Ukraine%20The%20Haze%20of%20Propaganda

James F Traynor said...

Y'see, it's like this. Started with Peter the Great, and first came to an angry, pustular head with the Crimean War. And of course the current events which, as Jay has pointed out, are ably described by Tim Judah in the NY Review without the usual bullshit. Wikipedia has a good précis of the Crimean War and its causes.

Putin would be nuts to give up Russian control of the Crimea, but nuttier still if he occupied the rest of Ukraine. Krushchev was definitely crazy when he put the Crimea under nominal control of the Ukraine in, I think, 1953. I guess, back in those days, the Soviet Empire seemed insoluble.