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Let’s stop the 2-minute hate on Putin & think before we reignite the Cold War

11 August 2014

Summary: Americans cheer as our leaders restart the cold war, for reasons known only to them (just like the Iraq War). They need a casus belli, and have the ability (abetted by our gullibility) to produce one. In our eagerness for conflict, a defining characteristic of us since 9-11), it’s easy to do. This post attempts to put the current crisis into a more useful context.

“Mysteries abound where most we seek for answers.”
— Ray Bradbury, “All flesh is one: what matter scores?” (1975)

Freed from desire, you can see the hidden mystery.
By having desire, you can only see what is visible.
Yet mystery and reality emerge from the same source.
This source is called darkness.
Darkness born from darkness.
The beginning of all understanding.

— Lao Tzu, the Tao Te Ching

Wreckage from MH17

MH17 wreckage (perhaps), proving something!

 

Contents

  1. Another perspective
  2. Who are the sinners?
  3. Malaysia Airlines Flight 17
  4. What we know for certain
  5. For More Information
  6. Obama’s future entry in Guinness

(1) Another perspective

One cause of conflict, often leading to war, is people’s inability to see things from the other nation’s perspective — and so see things in terms of good guys and bad guys, with us of course as the angels.

Russia, during the last days of the USSR, left Eastern Europe with a tacit agreement that the West would not occupy it. Respecting Russia’s sphere of influence — its “near abroad“, their version of the Monroe Doctrine — might have led to a new era of global peace in the new millennium.

Instead we’ve aggressively moved into the geopolitical space left vacant by the collapse of the USSR. Russia let us run until we came up to their borders in Ukraine. Then came the 2014 Ukraine coup. We don’t know the degree of western involvement. We seldom do in such things, until years or decades later (only last year did the CIA admit its role in the 1953 Iran Coup). However, it fits the pattern of past coups run with assistance of the UK’s SIS and US CIA. Then the new friendly government is invited into NATO.

(2) Who are the sinners?

Who are the angels and devils in this? As usual in geopolitics, both sides are sinners (not every year is 1939).

The West’s leaders must have known that shifting the Ukraine into the West’s military and economic alliances would inevitably start a conflict with Russia. Perhaps like the US response to the USSR’s involvement in Cuba, which wrecked Cuba’s economy and brought the world to the brink of nuclear war. (See the terrifying transcripts of the White House Executive Committee described in The Virtual JFK).

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Let’s see these events in a wider context. Only if Russia works hard can they equal the total of nations invaded and occupied in this century by the US and UK. Enormously destructive occupations for the local people, especially minorities and women. The regimes we helped overthrew in Afghanistan (Operation Cyclone 1979-89) and Iraq (2003 Operation Iraq Freedom) were friendly to women, unlike the regimes we helped install. Both were allies of Russia. Apparently the former was less important to the West than the latter.

We have no right to cast ourselves as saints and judges in this play, or any other with Russia.

CBS map of MH17 flight

CBS News, 17 July 2014

 

(3) Malaysia Airlines Flight 17

Loud voices in America immediately blamed Russia — even Putin personally — for the shooting of Flight 370. That’s quite mad. Each of three nations involved has shot down civilian airliners, with less excuse than MH17 (none in war zones, or through a proxy).  Airlines flying through air defense systems easily become collateral damage.

More importantly, initial reports of such incidents have proven quite false.

(a)  The US government lied in 1960 about Gary Powers’ U2 flight over the USSR, shot down by their military.

(b)  Russia’s military shot down Korean Air Lines Flight 007 on 1 September 1983. Only in 1992 did they release vital information about the event. They never apologized.

(c)  The USS Vincennes shot down Iran Air Flight 655 on 3 July 1988. The US initially denied it. The next day we took responsibility, but made a wide range of claims in defense about the location of the ship and the behavior of the aircraft. Most of these were proven false during the next five years (people reading foreign news learned the truth at the time). Contrary to US claims the Vincennes was in Iranian waters, the plane was flying the correct course, it was ascending (not descending), etc. See this Newsweek – ABC News report for details, and this Proceedings article for deeper analysis. The US paid compensation in 1996 only after Iran sued in the ICJ; the US has never apologized.

(d)  Ukraine’s military shot down Siberia Airlines Flight 1812 on 4 October 2001. For 9 days they denied responsibility.

Four weeks later we still have almost no data proving who shot down MH17. Just bold statements by the governments of Ukraine and its allies (plus some admissions by US officials that we know little). Given the long history of lies under such circumstances, only the gullible consider the question closed.

As usual, wild reports circulate. Such as this by Robert Parry (Editor) at Consortium News: “Flight 17 Shoot-Down Scenario Shifts“, 3 August 2014. (Parry broke Iran-Contra stories for the AP and Newsweek; bio here).

Contrary to the Obama administration’s public claims blaming eastern Ukrainian rebels and Russia for the shoot-down of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, some U.S. intelligence analysts have concluded that the rebels and Russia were likely not at fault and that it appears Ukrainian government forces were to blame, according to a source briefed on these findings.

He also repeats rumors that the wreckage shows bullet holes (US experts disagree). Note that some reports attribute this story, incorrectly, to the Associated Press (e.g., New Straits Times).  What’s true? All we know is that initial reports are often wrong — mistaken or outright lies. All we have are questions, such as:

  1. Was the airliner flying on its original route, or was it diverted over the war zone? See stories by CBS News and The Telegraph; the NYT provides more maps of airliner routes through the area. The Times of India cites witnesses to the re-routing order. Malaysia Airlines denied the rumor that MH17 was diverted from a storm.
  2. Who had operating surface-to-air missiles capable of reaching MH17? The Ukraine military or the rebels, or (more probably) both? The BUK missiles commonly cited as the culprit are 16 feet long, too long to easily hide from US reconnaissance.

No More Lies

(4)  What we know for certain

We know that governments often lie to justify starting wars. The American government especially so.

  1. Spain did not sink the USS Maine, but the story served to start the war.
  2. The 1964 Gulf of Tonkin incident was almost fictitious, but served to start our war in Vietnam.
  3. Iraq didn’t have WMDs, but we invaded, occupied, and trashed Iraq anyway.
  4. The 9-11 Commission’s report debunked the Bush Administration’s story about why they invaded Afghanistan (e.g., the Taliban played only a minor role in 9-11; Bush invaded without attempting to negotiate with them).

We do not know the answer to the great mystery: why do we continue to believe uncritically what US government officials say, despite their long history of lies about matters of the highest importance? The internet does not seem to have made us less gullible or better informed. When we seriously ask ourselves this question, America will have taken a large step to reform.

(5)  For More Information

Posts about the crisis in Ukraine:

  1. A warning from Germany about our new cold war: “The West on the wrong path”, 9 August 2014
  2. Let’s stop the 2-minute hate on Putin & think before we reignite the Cold War, 11 August 2014
  3. We can learn much from the tragedy of Flight MH17 – about ourselves, 12 August 2014
  4. Look at past airliner shootings so we can learn about government lies, 13 August 2014

An assortment of relevant posts:

  1. We live in an age of ignorance, but can decide to fix this – today, 15 April 2014
  2. The Ukraine anti-semitic flyer: a case study in propaganda, 21 April 2014
  3. Choose to follow those who were right about our wars, or those who were wrong, 17 June 2014
  4. Finding insights in the seas of information & misinformation, 24 June 2014

(6)  Obama’s entry in a future Guinness Book of World Records

Most violent conflicts fought by a leader who carries the Nobel Peace Prize.

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President Obama with Halo

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20 Comments leave one →
  1. dashui permalink
    11 August 2014 12:22 pm

    Certain “Americans” want to take Putin down because of his “war against the oligarchs” so the truth doesn’t matter. How do I know? I worked for one in dc.

    Like

    • 11 August 2014 1:02 pm

      Dashul,

      That’s fascinating! Can you tell us more? Were these Americans acting on some sort of class interest? Why did they care what happened to some ex-commie Russian oligarchs?

      Like

    • 12 August 2014 3:42 pm

      Maybe the American Oligarchs are still mad about the Yukos takeover, which with a bit of Googling I find was back in 2003. I need to find a decent account of this, but just going by recollection, I believe that Oligarchs in Russia had this oil company nearly ready to be sold to Wall Street. Putin basically pulled the plug on this and nationalized the thing first.

      Yukos is still mudling around in the courts.

      http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/07/28/us-russia-yukos-idUSKBN0FW0TP20140728

      Like

  2. 11 August 2014 1:33 pm

    Hillary Clinton, former Secretary of State, displays for us the cartoon-vision of 21st century American jingoism in her interview by Israel apologist-propagandist Jeffrey Goldberg (SHAME bio), in The Atlantic. She says weird and terrifying things, often quite disconnected from reality.

    .

    Hillary Clinton

    Hillary Clinton, photo by Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

    Like

    • 12 August 2014 5:39 pm

      It’s the “Look what they made us do” defense. We keep telling ourselves that we’re good people, we really are. “It’s just that, well, we’re trying to teach them a lesson, and, uh, you know, accidents do happen.(sic)”

      Like

  3. 11 August 2014 3:21 pm

    This reminds me of John Mearsheimer’s thoughts on the subject, essentially that NATO has precipitated the crisis by pushing Russia far too much. I took his American Grand Strategy class this Winter and he gave a great lecture on the topic:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/14/opinion/getting-ukraine-wrong.html

    Like

  4. Thomas More permalink
    11 August 2014 10:50 pm

    Since the entire American military-industrial complex with its one-trillion-dollar-plus per year budget arose from the Cold War, this is a dream come true for the U.S. military industrial complex and those who profit by it.

    The disintegration of the Soviet Union represented an unparalleled disaster for the military-industrial complex. Overnight, their funding became justifiable.

    After 9/11, various ad hoc organizations like Al Qaeda got trotted out to take the place of the Soviet Union, but it had become increasingly hard to justify this. After all, the USSR boasted 3500 nuclear warheads, a navy with aircraft carriers and nuclear battleships, an air force with supersonic jet bombers, and a multimillion man army with more than 40 divisions of heavy tanks. Whereas Al Qaeda had…a couple of guys skulking around caves in Wziristan armed with bolt-action rifles.

    But now the Cold War is back! Much rejoicing in Versailles on the Potomac. Their funding levels are once again secure.

    Like

  5. 12 August 2014 3:56 pm

    Russia, during the last days of the USSR, left Eastern Europe with a tacit agreement that the West would not occupy it. Respecting Russia’s sphere of influence — its “near abroad“, their version of the Monroe Doctrine — might have led to a new era of global peace in the new millennium. Instead we’ve aggressively moved into the geopolitical space left vacant by the collapse of the USSR. Russia let us run until we came up to their borders in Ukraine.

    It was disgusting for me to read this paragraph. I am a Latvian. I live in the former Russia’s sphere of influence. Unlike the author of this article, I do not believe that Russia has “rights” to keep me and my country in their “sphere of influence”. And of course I do not want to live in Russia’s sphere of influence. I do not want to live in USA/EU sphere of influence either. Having two large nations talk about who has rights to keep me in their sphere of influence feels like having two rapists argue about which one of them has rights to rape me. And, to say the truth, Russia and USA/EU both are equally bad, those are just two evils.

    All I want is to be left alone by other nations with imperialistic ambitions. Similarly, I believe that both Russia and USA/EU should leave Ukrainians alone so that Ukrainians can decide for themselves what they want to do.

    We do not know the answer to the great mystery: why do we continue to believe uncritically what US government officials say, despite their long history of lies about matters of the highest importance?

    I could easily answer this. There simply is no other choice. If I refuse to watch and believe USA news channels, then which news should I watch instead? Russian news channels? I happen to speak 6 languages and Russian is one of them. So, for the sake of amusement, I occasionally watch Russian news broadcasts. And they sure are amusing. Just like USA news, also Russian news are full of lies, logical fallacies and war propaganda. So I cannot believe Russian news either. What’s left? Disbelieving everybody, suspending any judgments, embracing a Pyrrhonian skepticism and becoming a pacifist? This is what I do (to some extent), but I am aware of the fact that majority of human population hate uncertainty and they just have to believe in something. So they just decide to believe whatever is supported by their government.

    Like

    • 12 August 2014 5:38 pm

      Seems like the thing to do then is play one side off against the other. I have no idea why Ukraine is not following this strategy.

      Like

    • 12 August 2014 7:25 pm

      avestra,

      “I do not believe that Russia has the ‘right’ to keep me and my country in their sphere of influence”

      I don’t know why you put “rights” in quotes. It is your word not mine. Of course you have the right to do whatever is best for your people. This post discusses a completely different question: what is best for America to do. So your “disgust” is unwarranted.

      Spheres of influence are an ancient tool to maintain peace with respect to interference in 3rd party nations.

      “There is simply no other choice. If I refuse to watch and believe USA news channels, then which news should I watch instead?”

      You conflate two distinct questions: who to watch, and who to believe. I suggest watching both and believing neither. Become a skeptical consumer of information, and think for yourself. It’s the only path to freedom.

      Like

    • 13 August 2014 3:17 am

      “What’s left? Disbelieving everybody, suspending any judgments, embracing a Pyrrhonian skepticism and becoming a pacifist?”

      There are lots of options left. Maybe you’ll even invent new ones that nobody has thought of yet. And I think there’s nothing wrong with being a pacifist, though this shouldn’t mean being passive.

      Like

    • 13 August 2014 3:28 am

      Pete,

      I agree. It’s amazing how people prefer faith — up to gullibilty — rather than make the effort to be skeptical and assume responsibility for what they believe.

      Like

    • Duncan Kinder permalink
      13 August 2014 5:25 am

      Avestra, the Internet provides many alternate news sources. There are numerous British publications, such as the Guardian. There are also the Huffingon Post, Salon.com and other Internet publications.

      Beyond which, there are many blogs.

      Here are a few. None is perfect, but subscribing to the RSS feeds should provide you with many pointers.:

      Firedoglake
      A Lightning War for Liberty
      Zero Hedge
      Economists View
      Naked Capitalism
      Zenpundit
      Sic Semper Tyrranis

      I have a lot of other items on my RSS reader ( many of which have to do with such personal interests as archeology, the Classics, art history, art crime, and various science topics ) and it would be difficult to list them all. But simply subscribing to the blogs listed by Naked Capitalism as they appear will get you well underway.

      Like

    • 13 August 2014 10:58 am

      Duncan,

      Many of those websites provide interesting information, but mixed in with misleading or outright false information. Zero Hedge is the outstanding example on your list. Although providing much useful information and reposting (pirating?) high quality and difficult to get material, much of it is either spun incorrectly or outright false.

      Much the same is true of the others, although they’re more reliable than ZH. All of these must be read with skepticism as your default mode. Interesting but require verification. NOTE: I am unfamilar with A Lightning War.

      For more about sources of information see Finding insights in the seas of information & misinformation, 24 June 2014

      Like

    • 13 August 2014 10:51 am

      Of course you have the right to do whatever is best for your people. This post discusses a completely different question: what is best for America to do. So your “disgust” is unwarranted.

      Whatever? You actually mean that word seriously? I will have to disagree – a country can do whatever increases their people’s wellbeing only as long as this action is not harming citizens of other countries. Both USA and Russia have done countless crimes in an attempt to increase and maintain their spheres of influence. And, of course both these countries have exploited those regions for their financial benefit, thus causing lots of misery for people living in the exploited regions. One example for that could be what the United Fruit Company did to Honduran people at the beginning of 20th century. Now USA is doing the same with poor countries, which have lots of oil reserves. Or Russia, which is now arming the Ukrainian rebels thus causing hundreds of deaths.

      And when somebody claims that it is ok for a big, rich and influential country to exploit their neighbors, my disgust is completely warranted.

      In the case of Ukraine everybody should just leave them alone, so that Ukrainians can decide for themselves what they want to do. So we seem to agree that USA should not interfere there.

      Spheres of influence are an ancient tool to maintain peace with respect to interference in 3rd party nations.

      Are you trying to defend Ian Morris’ point (I mean this one http://www.thersa.org/events/audio-and-past-events/2014/is-war-good-for-us ) that having a big bully is a good thing, because it increases peace? People do not choose their parents nor do they choose the country they are born in. Result – people who were accidentally born in a big and rich country love this theory; people who were born in a small and poor country (with oil reserves, valuable land or anything else of value) hate this theory. If the big countries in addition to their peacekeeping also had a bit of morals, then everything would be perfect. Unfortunately this is not the case. These countries are constantly abusing their power. So for me this theory sounds more like having an abusive husband who regularly beats up his wife, but is excusing himself with “but I am also taking care of you”.

      Like

    • 13 August 2014 11:05 am

      Avestra,

      Your comment is a long series of reading FAILS. You reply to two quotes, to which I’ll respond.

      (1) “you have the right to do whatever is best for your people”

      By that I mean that there is nobody else to rule on such things. God is silent; there is no system of global justice. A person’s own conscience is the only guide on this world. Perhaps it should be different, but it isn’t.

      (2) “that having a big bully is a good thing”

      I said nothing remotely like that. Spheres of influence are a means to prevent war in a world with big bullies.

      Like

    • 13 August 2014 11:30 am

      Duncan, I was not asking for a list of news sources. I know a lot of them already.

      I have a habit of lumping news sources together. One group contains the official Kremlin news and Western conspiracy theorist sites, which are just taking articles and translating them from Russian to English. The other group contains official USA, British, German, French, Italian sources and the sources in Russian language written by Russians who dislike their own government.

      Of course there are some important differences between the sources in the second group. One will say “We are almost certain about what happened with MH17”, another will say “We don’t know what happened with MH17, but there are some theories”. Some will say “It’s a good idea to start another cold war and our side is so going to win”. Russians who dislike their own government won’t say anything like that; instead they will be focusing on the fact that there is too little water in Crimea and that there are problems with food supply chains, not to mention all the problems faced by people living in eastern Ukraine in the war zone.

      But in general, the main lines of opinions are consistent within these groups. Who were those men in Crimea with Russian army guns but without uniforms before the referendum? One group will say “Russian peace keepers”, the other group will say “Russian army illegally trespassing in another country’s territory”. Who are those armed rebels in eastern Ukraine? One group will say “terrorists”, the other group will say “freedom fighters”. So if you want to have an opinion about what’s happening in Ukraine, you are forced to agree with one of the groups. And once you agree with one of the groups, there is little difference, which exact news source you read from within that group.

      I barely read any USA sources, simply because most of them are not very professional. Besides it’s a waste of my time to read in English anything that can be read in another language. I am interested in learning new languages, but I’m not interested in English anymore. So most of the time I just choose German sources (usually it is spiegel.de and zeit.de), because they are professional and they are in German. And of course I also have lots of different RSS feeds. Some I read for the sake of amusement. Russian official stories are sometimes so crazy, that they are really amusing. Others I read for the sake of comparison.

      Like

    • Duncan Kinder permalink
      13 August 2014 7:00 pm

      Avestra,

      Proceeding in the manner you have described is, of course, your privilege.

      FM:

      I am well aware of the foibles as well as the virtues of various sites. One thing these sites can do is to raise a flag. You can then investigate the topic to see if it may pan out. Another trick is to use Google Alert for terms that one finds to be of interest. For example, I just received an update on the topic, “vulture fund,” which happens to be a subject that interests me.

      I no longer listen to CNN and haven’t watched Meet the Press in years. I understand Rush just said something outrageous about Robert Williams. That is what he does.

      Like

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