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THE PROFOUND DISAPPOINTMENT OF ANGELA MERKEL

John Chuckman

 

Anyone who says she admires Hillary Clinton, as Angela Merkel has said, plainly invites revulsion if not contempt. The lack of judgment broadcast by such words strikes the mind like a grating noise. Clinton’s record of behavior literally stinks to high heaven, much as a pile of corpses left to rot in the hot sun, and, as it happens, there are a great many rotting corpses in Clinton’s history.

What an immense disappointment Merkel is. Intelligent and well educated with an appealing, fairly benign face, but, wait, am I describing Merkel or, in fact, Obama? It turns out not to matter. They are a pair of malignant soul mates born thousands of miles apart who conspired later in life to bring the world a great deal of unhappiness.

Merkel has been de facto leader of Europe during an extremely challenging period, one demanding real statesmanship. Instead, she has provided attitudes and short-term fixes married to complete acceptance of the most destructive American policies possible. Her policies have alienated large numbers of her own people and, almost more importantly, contributed mightily to the weakening of loyalties in Europe – not a record of which to be proud.

Unfortunately, during the period of her Chancellorship, there have been no other European leaders of stature and ability to balance or oppose her. Absolutely none. Britain had the flabby joke of David Cameron who collapsed his own house of cards through sheer political incompetence. France had the absurd Francois Hollande, an impossibly pompous man with not a single achievement to his credit, a parody of a French President, certainly the worst leader in modern French history.

So, Europe at a time when America put great new stresses and demands upon it for its own selfish reasons had no leadership worth mentioning. All the major figures were content with accommodating America’s harsh and destructive initiatives. Well, I do think there is something to be said for the dictum that history is biography.

Everyone involved has suffered for Merkel’s attitudes and whims. Europe simply could not have done much worse. The press so glibly speaks of the rise of the political Right in Europe and in America, but what we really see on both continents is public reaction to years of blundering policies causing vast misery in many places.

You cannot support America’s destruction of the Middle East without accepting its direct consequences both in massive migrations of terrified people and in the rise of terror by relatively powerless young men wanting revenge for what has been done to them, their families and homes. Yet this is precisely what Angela Merkel has tried to do, trying to avoid inevitable, destructive consequences of stupid acts she has supported. Having never raised her voice against what America was doing, Merkel decided to deal with some of the consequences by playing the grandmotherly figure who welcomes an avalanche of refugees, seemingly not appreciating for a second what that means on the streets of her own country.

No decent person is against organized, peaceful immigration or against giving assistance to desperate refugees. There is an ethical obligation for both as well as some sound economic reasons. But if a truck, set to deliver two hundred gallons of fuel oil to your home’s heating system, pumps instead two thousand gallons, you suddenly have a disturbing, costly, and dangerous situation. The analogy is actually quite inadequate for what has happened in some places with armies of terrified people fleeing America’s imposed-horrors.

Merkel, realizing what her support of America’s destruction in Libya, Syria, and other places has wrought, tried setting the example of a benign figure ready to help everyone, a kind of bonhomie approach to what was a totally-avoidable catastrophe. The impossibility of this should have been seen, but it was not. Too many extremely-different refugees – different in language, customs, religion, wealth, and politics – cannot be absorbed quickly or peacefully by any country, and perhaps that is even more true of relatively old and homogeneous societies such as Germany.

We like to speak of xenophobia with contempt, but in the gritty real lives of vast populations everywhere on the planet, it is a reality just as much as backward religious practices, which cannot be wished away. True xenophobia, indeed, much resembles fundamentalist religion in that it is an expression of superstitious instincts, deeply-rooted instincts whose origins go beyond mere learned behaviors. Just try asking highly religious people to set aside their feelings for completely different newcomers, the example coming to mind of the Ultra-Orthodox in Israel and their “take” on others. It is possible only in the imagination.

But xenophobia is only part of the mix, despite the claims of a superficial mainstream press, and I am not just speaking of it. We promote nationalism and national unity in every Western country with flags, anthems, pledges, holiday customs, uniforms, speeches, parades, even laws, and then some leaders seem to expect their people, almost on command, to turn their backs on all the lifelong indoctrination and embrace sudden, great change? It simply cannot be done.

As with anything else you may care to discuss, the time to act is before a great problem or crisis has been created. Preventative health care is no less valuable for nations than it is for individuals. The leaders of Europe should have seen what America’s fanatical crusade was going to do and opposed it, forcefully, before it was started. In doing so, Europe would have been strengthened instead of diminished as it has been., to say nothing of preventing the death and maiming of millions in the Middle East. Instead they quietly supported it and even donated resources to the insane efforts of America’s Grande Armée in the Middle East.

Merkel’s contribution to disaster goes further, to her relations with one of the planet’s genuine madman-leaders, Netanyahu. She has been selling him sophisticated submarines at knock-down prices for years. Only recently they agreed to three more of them in a deal which has Netanyahu being examined in Israel for criminal activity. I think it fair to ask, too, why a sardine-sized country needs a fleet of sophisticated submarines, some or all of which are widely rumored to be outfitted with nuclear-armed cruise missiles? Does that make sense to anyone other than Merkel, Netanyahu, Clinton, and Obama?  Does that contribute to stability in the Middle East? And why doesn’t the excruciating injustice of Israel’s occupation and regular theft of land enter into considerations?

Germany’s taking a million refugees is roughly equivalent to America’s taking four million. It does not take a great imagination to see what the results of such a massive, short-term influx would be. Moreover, never mind Donald Trump, there has been no American government, ever, willing to accept such numbers at one time. Indeed, had America’s recent governments demonstrated the slightest sense of responsibility for what they had caused, they would have taken extraordinary steps for the refugees, but they did not. Instead, they encouraged measures like Merkel’s response, which, in terms of total numbers involved in the human catastrophe, is necessarily pathetic.

But, if you read enough history, you will know it has always been part of the American government’s character to do what as it pleases in the world with little or no regard for the consequences, so long as those consequences are on foreign shores. It is an attitude bred in a people who too often feel they can have it all and have it now and a people who have the illusion, generated both in commercial advertising and in fundamentalist Christianity, of endless youth with all its happy irresponsibility. It is something which actually marks America as especially unsuitable for enlightened world leadership, while it is the very quality demonic figures such as Kissinger or Brzezinski regarded as useful to their twisted international purposes.

Merkel quickly learned what she had done was a terrible political mistake. Consequences were quick, so she backtracked, never a dignified behavior for a national leader. But more than that, Merkel, realizing what the consequences might be of a few million more refugees temporarily encamped in Turkey continuing on into Europe, was quick to strike a deal with another of our planet’s most unscrupulous and dangerous leaders, the madman who rules Turkey, Erdogan. She agreed to pay him several billion Euros to keep the refugees in their massive Turkish camps.

This was not just a highly unethical deal, it should have been seen for the ongoing danger it represented, especially in view of Europe’s general relations with Erdogan and its confused efforts to deal with his many demands, ranging from visa-free travel in Europe for Turks to full membership in the EU. Again, American policy had created a huge problem by treating Turkey, an undemocratic country with limited respect for human rights and one for some years ruled by a madman, as an indispensable ally against Russia, so the EU to this day feels it must accommodate that ugly reality in all its policies.

Obviously, a country in the state we see in Turkey – constant war and terror against the Kurds, serious government suppression of free speech and activities, assassinations, widespread Muslim fundamentalism, and now new waves of repression following a failed coup – is in no shape to qualify for EU membership under the EU’s own requirements, which at least struggle to be faithful to Enlightenment principles.

Erdogan, never one to be shy about what he wants, has already threatened publicly to “open the gates” if the EU does not proceed in treating his demands appropriately. So, Merkel’s dirty deal with the devil is seriously threatened and becomes just one more source of uncertainty and instability. It is not a promising situation.

I believe Merkel was permanently scarred by growing up in East Germany and likely harbors both inordinate fear of Russia and slavish admiration for America, neither attitude being warranted in the least today. Her mental landscape possibly includes images of Andropov versus Jimmy Stewart, but policy built on fantasy and fears is bad policy, always.

The Bush-Obama years have been, in so far as foreign policy goes, about as stupidly and blunderingly destructive as Lyndon Johnson’s bull-headed insistence on fighting a major war in Vietnam. Johnson ended by killing about 3 million people, generating instability and misery, dividing America itself, and achieving nothing worth achieving. Bush-Obama have killed at least a couple of million, generated instability and misery, divided the countries of Europe, also achieving nothing worth achieving. There is not one part of the vast sphere America has arrogantly viewed as its area of influence that has not been made worse by Bush-Obama policies.

Mass killing, mass destruction of old societies and cities, induced-coups, threats, fears, torture, the creation of huge and desperate human movements, promotion and reward of terror as a covert policy tool, the decline everywhere in the rule of law, extra-judicial killing on an organized scale, a huge erosion in respect for international institutions like the now much-debased UN, an endless and confusing patchwork of lies told about terrible events – all while ignoring genuinely terrible situations like those in Palestine or in Saudi Arabia or in Turkey.

Apart from the horrors Merkel has implicitly or explicitly embraced and apart from the anger and disruptions and economic hardship her embrace has meant for Europe – America’s arbitrary and unwarranted sanctions against Russia have cost the German and French economies literally billions which America smilingly allows them to pay –  one look at a map of Europe tells you just part of the reason why her views are so utterly counter-productive.

For scores of reasons, the future of Europe is in a cooperative and close relationship with Russia. It just cannot be otherwise, although, if you are determined to waste enough resources, impoverishing to some degree your own people through decreased trade and increased military waste, you can hold the inevitable off for quite a while. Look at America’s ten years of sheer insanity in Vietnam if you doubt for a moment that it is possible for a great country to do absolutely pointless and insanely costly things. Well, another insane and costly crusade is exactly the course America has been on in recent years, and leaders like Merkel have served as the most willing helpers in the task.

Obama and his political associate, Hillary Clinton, are total failures as figures of principle and as leaders, and Merkel very much resembles them, even down to the pathetic recent appeal she is using with German voters in anticipation of 2017 elections. She has imported wholesale Hillary’s squalid, 1950s-style claim that Russia threatens the integrity of elections, her empty claims being just an effort to stoke-up fears to get what she wants.

And then there are the remarkably empty and pretentious words she wrote in her official letter to President-elect Trump:

“Germany and America are united by shared values: through democracy, freedom, respect for the right and dignity of every individual, irrespective of origin, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation or political attitude. On the basis of these values, I would like to offer you a close cooperation between the governments of our countries.”

No clear-thinking person can accept such words as anything but hypocritical establishment claptrap – the kind of phony stuff just rejected by the American people. There is not a sincere phrase contained in the paragraph, just an arrogant assumption of moral loftiness and a presumption of setting standards for future relations. Can any thoughtful reader not sense almost an insult in the words? Insufferable stuff coming, as it does, from someone who never lifted a finger, except to assist, in the killing of tens of thousands of women and their families in half a dozen lands.

Trump will not do everything right, I know, but Merkel has done almost nothing right, much as her admired friends, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.

 

 

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FOOLING MOST OF THE PEOPLE MOST OF THE TIME IS WHAT AMERICAN POLITICS ARE ABOUT, EVEN WHEN IT COMES TO THE THREAT OF NUCLEAR WAR

John Chuckman

I read a column recently, and it was imbued with hopeful thinking about America’s political establishment dealing with its constituents concerning the now increasing threat of nuclear catastrophe.

The author said the piece was intended as “Drano” to clear the political pipes, but I am afraid that much as I sometimes enjoy the same author’s pieces, this one for me had to be characterized as illusion. It may have a lot to do with the author not being a native of the United States, and I do think my background in that country and having studied its history removes any possibility of illusion ever seriously taking hold.

When did America’s establishment ever discuss, in elections or at other times, issues of war and peace for the people’s understanding and consent?

Virtually never.

There was no mandate for Vietnam, Cambodia, Iraq, Libya, Syria, or a dozen other conflicts.

Of course, once a war gets going, there is a tendency for Americans to close ranks with flags and ribbons and slogans such as “Support our troops” and “Love it or leave it.”

The senior leaders know this psychological pattern, and they count on it, every time.

The fundamental problem in America’s government is an elaborate political structure much resembling democracy but with actual rule by a powerful establishment and a set of special interests – all supported by a monstrous security apparatus and a huge, lumbering military, which wouldn’t even know what to do with itself in peace.

Unfortunately, I don’t think there is any apparent solution to this horrible political reality, and, while once it affected primarily Americans themselves, today it affects the planet.

There is an intense new element that has been added to America’s governing establishment: the drive of the neo-cons for American supremacy everywhere, for complete global dominance, and it is something which is frighteningly similar to past drives by fascist governments which brought only human misery on a vast scale.

The neo-cons’ underlying motive, I believe, is absolute security for America’s colony in the Middle East, Israel – put another way, their concern is for Israel’s hegemony over its entire region with no room for anyone else to act in their own interests. It is only if the United States is deeply engaged all over the planet that Israel can constantly benefit from its strange relationship with America.

It did not require the neo-cons to interest America’s establishment with interfering in other people’s affairs. America has a long history of doing so, stretching back to the Mexican War, the Spanish-American War, the Philippine-American War, the brazen seizure of Hawaii from its people and going right up to the pointless War in Vietnam and Cambodia in the hope of keeping the Pacific Ocean effectively an American lake. But the neo-cons have added a new force, a new impulse to something which would be better left alone, and they are very influential in American affairs.

Ordinary Americans are not interested in world affairs, and there is a great deal of evidence to support that statement. American Imperialists of earlier times disparaged this tendency to just want peace at home with the pejorative name, isolationism, and avoiding isolationism became an excuse for a whole series of wars and interventions.

So, Americans today cannot be allowed to fall back into their natural tendency of not caring. Thus we have the drive of the neo-cons and, tragically, thus we have America being driven into direct confrontation with Russia. And with China, too, of course, but Russia is my focus since Russia is the only country in the world literally capable of obliterating the United States. There is unquestionably a sense here of Rome wanting to go after Carthage, although cavalry, swords, spears, and catapults no longer can settle such conflicts.

The situation is compounded by the American establishment’s dawning realization that its days of largely unquestioned supremacy in the world are fading into memory, as other countries grow and develop and have important interests in world affairs. In many respects, it has been a long downhill slide for the average American since the economic heyday of the 1950s. Decline in real incomes, decline in good job opportunities at home, the export of American industries abroad to areas of less costly labor, and the virtual collapse of American towns and cities in many places, Detroit being perhaps the most sorrowful case of many – all these are evident year-in and year-out.

I do think the American establishment simply does not know how to handle its role in a brave new world, but do something it clearly thinks it must, and that is an extremely dangerous state of mind. It is armed with vast armies and terrible weapons so that it retains a sense of being able to act in some way to permanently reclaim its place, an illusion if ever there was one.

We know from scholars of the past the role that the mere existence of terrible military power can play in disaster. Huge standing armies were one of the major underlying causes of the First World War, a conflict in which twenty millions perished. Germany repeated the effort with Hitler’s government working tirelessly to create what was to become the finest and most advanced army the world had ever seen until that time, but it, too, ended in disaster, and of even greater proportions. America has not discovered the secret to making itself invulnerable, although I fear that its establishment believes that it can do so, and that represents the most dangerous possible thinking.

Contrary to political speeches, America’s establishment has never shown great concern over the welfare of ordinary Americans, and today its lack of concern is almost palpable. Washington’s white-maned, over-fed, crinkly-faced Senators spend virtually every ounce of effort in two activities: raising funds from special interests for re-election (estimated at two-thirds of an average Senator’s time) and conspiring on how to keep America dominant in the world. Anything else is just piffle. America’s unique place in the world of 1950 took care of ordinary Americans, not any effort by government. Again, the utter contempt for ordinary Americans perhaps offers a dark element in the thinking of America’s establishment when it comes to possible nuclear war.

Russia is not, of course, a direct threat to neo-con interests, except when it comes to matters like Syria, a deliberately-engineered horror to bring down the last independent-minded leader in the Middle East and to smash and Balkanize his country, parts of which, Israel has always lusted after in its vision of Greater Israel. The coup in Ukraine, which borders along a great stretch of Russia, represented a direct challenge to Russia’s security, offering a place ultimately to be filled with hostile forces and missiles and American advisors – all of which was expected to silence Russia’s independent voice in the world and its ability to in any way thwart neo-con adventures, if not, in the longer-range, savage dreams of some, to provide a platform for the ultimate destruction or overthrow of Russia herself.

Russia’s effective countering with skillful moves in its own interests both in Syria and Ukraine has driven some of America’s establishment to the edge of madness, and that madness is what we see and hear in Europe. Europe is once again being turned into a vast armed camp, and it is now seething with anti-Russian rhetoric, threats, and activities such as huge war games, the largest of which occurred around the anniversary of Hitler’s invasion of Russia, the single most destructive event in all of human history.

America has created deliberately a situation almost as dangerous as the days of the Cuban missile crisis, which itself arose from the American establishment’s belief that it had every right to interfere in Cuba’s affairs.

We have another element, now compounding the danger, in a far greater variety and level of sophistication of weapons, including some nuclear weapons whose controlled yields are regarded by America’s military as being perhaps “usable” in a theater like Europe. The installation of anti-missile systems near Russia is very much part of this threat since these systems not only are intended to neutralize Russia’s capacity for response to a sudden, massive attack but to provide a cover for future covert, easily-done substitution of other kinds of missiles into the launchers, faster-arriving, nuclear-armed missiles which would indeed be an element in such an attack.

Russia, a country twice invaded with all the might of Germany and before that by Napoleon’s Grande Armeé, cannot be expected just to sit and do nothing. It won’t. It cannot.

The world must not forget that America’s military, a number of times in the past, created complete plans for a massive, surprise nuclear attack on what was then the Soviet Union, the last of which I am aware was in the early 1960s, and it was presented as being feasible to President Kennedy, who is said to have left the Pentagon briefing sick to his stomach.

Nuclear war, just as with any other kind of war, can happen almost by accident through blunders and careless acts and overly-aggressive postures. Just let the blood of two sides get up enough, and an utter disaster could quickly overtake us. Constantly decreasing the possibilities for accidents and misunderstandings is a prime responsibility of every major world leader, and right now the United States is pretty close to having completely abdicated its responsibility.

THE SICKLY SMELL OF LIES AND DEATH

John Chuckman

Only the other day, Benjamin Netanyahu earned a small note of immortality when he said the peace talks were ended by the new arrangements between the Palestine Authority and Hamas: Netanyahu’s announcement bundled a record number of lies into one mouthful of words.  There, of course, never was anything properly called peace talks with Israel. There has been only a long series of closed-door personal, and security-scrambled telephonic, exchanges with America’s superbly ineffectual John Kerry, exchanges in which the Palestinians played virtually no role and in which Mr. Netanyahu had absolutely no interest, Netanyahu always setting an impossible set of conditions as prerequisites to anything happening precisely because he does not want anything to happen, while undoubtedly periodically raging with one of his mind-numbing harangues which are impossible to answer rationally for the simple reason they are not rational.

Netanyahu’s announcement is larded with layers of lies much like layers of rock in stratigraphic formations. Perhaps the chief of these being that Hamas – that democratically elected party led by middle-class professionals whose only concerns have been to obtain a fair deal for Palestinians and to provide clean government after the long-term corruption of Fatah – is a dreadful terrorist organization. Of course, you do have to say something along those lines to excuse your warring on civilians, blockading their needs (starting with a viciously-calculated minimal calorie allowance per person), cutting off services, piracy on the high seas, denying fishing rights, kidnapping and murdering politicians, and constant menaces. You wouldn’t do all that to people just trying to run a democratic, clean government, now would you? You might if you viewed the Palestinians in Gaza as a nightmare (a past Israeli prime minister’s actual word), as a source of constant fear, resembling fears in the Old South of revolt in the slave quarters some dark night, something which caused uneasy sleep for plantation families with pistols and knives tucked under their pillows.

Israel, despite the meaningless outpourings and rages of Netanyahu, is not looking for clean government and it certainly isn’t looking for democracy in any of its neighbors’ arrangements. Israel loved thirty years of corrupt and completely undemocratic government in Egypt, and it is Israel’s silent influence with the United States that has returned Egypt’s eighty million people, after one year of democratic government, to tyranny and openly corrupt arrangements. Israel also likes the absolute government of Saudi Arabia because it makes many secret deals with the Saudi princes, eager themselves to suppress democratic tendencies in the region. Saudi Arabia, with its Islamic fundamentalism, once was viewed as an implacable enemy of Israel, but the less-than-idealistic gritty interests of both states have nicely, quietly meshed in recent years with the fabulously wealthy aristocracy of Saudi Arabia viewing democracy and clean government through the same lens as the Middle East’s Crusader garrison state.

Israel is not even looking for peace, peace as any thoughtful, disinterested person in the world would define it. I believe Netanyahu has given new ferocity to an old strategy towards what every past leader of Israel regarded as the problem of the Palestinians, and that involves the goal either of making them so miserable that they will leave en masse or become so compliant they will agree to arrangements which assure their perpetual isolation, inferiority, and servitude. Either or any combination of those two outcomes is what Netanyahu understands as peace. I don’t see any other way of interpreting years of appallingly abusive behavior and law-breaking and injustice on a scale affecting millions. And there is no other way to interpret the American government’s tolerance for the abuse and law-breaking and injustice beyond its secretly sharing the same hopes as Israel’s malevolent leaders, being sick and tired of having to hear about and deal with a grotesque situation involving a few million people in a world where it tries to direct the destinies of billions.

Israel’s limited dealings with the Palestinian Authority – a kind of quasi-government formed out of the Oslo Accords of 1993 for the purpose of managing basic local services and negotiating with Israel – are themselves built on lies. The existing head of that quasi-government, Mahmoud Abbas, was last elected to serve as president until 2009, but with the connivance of the United States and Israel he regularly extends his term, never receiving the least recrimination for doing so, another demonstration of Israel’s love for democracy and clean government. His democratic credentials are further enhanced by the fact that he “governs” only in the West Bank – at least in those portions not yet seized by Israel – having been driven out of Gaza. Yet he is the only one of the Palestinians even admitted to symbolic membership in the “peace talks.” The reason for this is simple: up until very recently, Abbas has been a passive figure who offers Israel no open challenge to the huge injustices of the status quo, very much in contrast to the late Yasser Arafat, who is believed by many to have been assassinated by Israel after an extended period of abuse and threats including the shelling of his house and denying his even attending religious services. Netanyahu, by the way, is on record as having vigorously denounced as unworkable the now pretty much failed Oslo Accords, a case of self-fulfilling prophecy.

Analyzing “the peace talks,” discovering their rotten construction and the dishonest motives of those involved, yields unpleasant surprises much like those from stumbling accidentally upon a rotten timber and seeing a myriad of critters scrambling and flying off in all directions. John Kerry carries on his charade in the Middle East while at the same time lying about Russian news sources and threatening a red line for Russia to make it pay dearly for its “transgressions” in Ukraine. And there is still the hypocritical pretence about the induced horrors of Syria for which Mr. Kerry along with his boss bear direct responsibility.

Russia Today, the newspaper Kerry recently publicly criticized, can have nothing to its shame to compare with The New York Times which one day published images supposedly proving Russian soldiers were active in Eastern Ukraine and shortly after retracted when the lie was hurled in its face. The same New York Times, it was revealed, passes its reportage on Israel through Israeli censors before publication, providing a standard of journalistic integrity it would be hard to match. What Kerry and Company are actually upset about is Russia’s new, sophisticated use of the press and broadcasting. Gone are the not-believable voices of the Soviet era, words by apparatchiks featuring such colorful expressions as “running dogs.” Instead we find thoughtful reportage and analysis reaching out to people in the West, correcting misrepresentations imposed by their own leaders through outlets like The New York Times and America’s major networks. America’s Cold War era monopoly on “credible press” is gone (in fact, it never was that credible, only seeming so by contrast to the old Soviet efforts). With the monopoly’s disappearance, America’s unrestricted ability to “get a story out there,” as someone from the CIA might say, also has suffered, and Mr. Kerry clearly isn’t happy about the fact.

As for Kerry’s comments about red lines and making Russia pay, it would be difficult to come up with a poorer example of diplomacy from America’s supposed chief of diplomacy. Of course, the last time we heard the expression “red line” concerned the use of chemical weapons by Syria’s government, something that never happened, but the American official words about a red line served as a kind of segue to the actual, totally-immoral use of such chemicals by some of the fanatics America secretly supports. And just a short while before that use of “red line,” we had the world’s most predictable liar talking about red lines for Iran, a country he threatened and continues to threaten but which has never threatened him.

Kerry’s public face on the situation in Ukraine is just as rankly dishonest as his “peace talks” in the Middle East and his words about Syria. The fact is that Ukrainian groups America has supported secretly for years with almost unlimited amounts of CIA-infiltrated money overthrew an elected government, and they did so before previously-agreed arrangements for new elections which were intended to appease the divided factions in Ukraine. Part of the way these groups seized power was through the dirty work of right-wing thugs, who, among other acts, served as snipers shooting many hundreds of people dead in the streets of Kiev. Now, we see this self-proclaimed government receiving visits by America’s CIA Director and Vice President for unexplained reasons. Was there ever a less honest effort at pretending democratic forces are at work in a crisis? Please, Mr. Kerry, who is it that you think you are convincing of anything, beyond your own dishonesty and remarkably limited diplomatic skills?

VLADIMIR PUTIN, THE WORLD’S LAST TRUE STATESMAN

John Chuckman

Everywhere you look in the West, you find political pygmies rather than statesmen. In France, we see a pathetic man whose own people intensely dislike him, François Hollande, attempt to speak as though he were something other than a dry, pompous school teacher-like purveyor of American views. Almost forgotten are the strong, independent voices of a de Gaulle or a Chirac. In Britain, the Prime Minister, David Cameron, is a wishy-washy man of little integrity and less ability, again a purveyor of American views, and I’m sure he goes to sleep every night fantasizing about the last Prime Minister who faithfully served American interests, Tony Blair, being showered with gold, resembling something from the Arabian Nights, every year since his retirement. The United States is represented by a man of not one achievement, unless you count instituting an industrial-scale system of extrajudicial killing, sending missiles against women and children and mere suspects, a man who serves the American military-intelligence complex as doggedly as George Bush, surely the most ignorant and cowardly man ever to be called President. Germany has a leader of considerable ability in Angela Merkel, but, as few people understand, Germany acts only under the most onerous secret agreements imposed by America after World War II, its independence still heavily constrained nearly three-quarters of a century later.

No, Putin stands out, for his independence of mind, keen intelligence, ability to make decisions, and his readiness to act in proportion to the threat of a situation. In Syria he blunted America’s effort to bomb its government into submission, a la Libya. In Ukraine, he has acted appropriately and without excess, quietly taking steps to secure a region whose population includes a majority of Russians and where Russia has a major naval base and longstanding interests and relationships. The bellowing we hear from the United States about “Russia is committing a breach of international law,” or “You just don’t invade a country on phony pretext in order to assert your interest!” should amuse the world rather than arouse it. These words come from the folks who slaughtered 3 million Vietnamese, precipitated the deaths of more than a million Cambodians through de-stabilizing secret invasions, killed a million Iraqis, killed tens of thousands in Afghanistan, invaded Grenada, invaded Haiti, invaded Panama, overturned democratic governments in Chile, Iran, and Guatemala, fought a years-long secret terror war against Cuba, supported the 1965 genocide in Indonesia with lists of names of communist suspects for killing after the fall of Sukarno, and today finds itself murdering strangers by the thousands in Yemen, Somalia, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. It tolerates brutal suppression in Israel, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and other places. The establishment in Washington, publically lecturing Russia despite its own blood-soaked record, apparently has utter contempt for the public’s intelligence, viewing them much as 1984’s Inner Party viewed Proles.

Going back to that Russian naval base on the Black Sea, I am reminded of Guantanamo, Cuba. In case Americans forget, Guantanamo is Cuban territory. Decades ago, America’s long-term lease – extracted after the Spanish-American War, another American-engineered war used to grab desirable territory – ran out, and the government of Cuba asked that the territory be returned. America refused and still it keeps this military base against the wishes of the Cuban government, having used it over the last decade for its infamous torture camp for people captured after 9/11 and proved guilty of nothing.

To hear Obama and the droning, tiresome John Kerry talk, you’d think Putin had recklessly hurled the world into danger. Of course, what their strained rhetoric really is telling us is that, just after a round of champagne toasts and patting themselves on the back over the presumed success of having secretly de-stabilized Ukraine for Western interests, they are seriously annoyed by Putin acting swiftly and decisively to secure an insecure situation. Most people don’t like being shown up in public, but when you get to the level of a Kerry or an Obama, being shown up in public is plainly infuriating. And, of course, it makes so much sense to be cutting off avenues of discussion, such as Russia’s G-8 meeting, talking of “going to the hilt” as Kerry has foolishly done, and threatening serious reprisals if Russia fails to do as Washington wishes

The “revolution” in Ukraine is the product of years of effort by the CIA to exploit weaknesses there and gain a major foothold on Russia’s border. Whether you like the man’s views or not, Viktor Yanukovich, a democratically-elected president was ousted, and some extremely unpleasant people have re-entered the national spotlight, including Yulia Tymoshenko – a founder of the right wing outfit, The Fatherland Party, once one of the wealthiest people in Ukraine, someone who had charges of bribery and embezzlement swirling about her and her husband, and someone who served 3 years in prison for abuse of office. Tymoshenko’s public image, with heavy (bleached) blond braids wrapped around her head as a crown, reminds me of nothing so much as 1930s images of Germanic womanhood promoted by the Nazis in books and films. And then there’s Oleh Tyahnybok, leader of the All Ukrainian Union Svoboda Party, an unapologetically fascist organization. There are still other extreme right wing groups at work too, including The Right Sector Party, again a genuinely fascist organization. There is, and has long been, a strong streak of fascism in Ukraine. Ukraine, much as Baltic states such as Latvia, was at the forefront of supporting Hitler’s invasion of the Soviet Union and violence against Jews, the infamous massacre at Babi Yar having been committed in part by Ukrainian police. Ukraine provided the infamous Galicia Division to serve as a unit of the Waffen-SS.

During “the revolution” right wingers provided most of the street thugs and snipers, and there is considerable evidence that they continue some of their violence against peaceful protesters. Already, many unpleasant legislative acts are being considered by those now running Ukraine, including a law offering a penalty of ten years in prison for dual-nationality Ukrainians who insist on holding Russian passports. One of the first acts of the new government was to repeal a law allowing minorities to conduct business and education in their own languages. The coup has thrown the country into serious economic uncertainty, leaving it unable to pay many sizeable debts. “We’ll regain our status as a nuclear power and that’ll change the conversation. Ukraine has all the technological means needed to create a nuclear arsenal – which would take us about three to six months,” threatened Svoboda Party MP, Mikhail Golovko.  Can you just imagine the reaction in Washington were such activities underway in Mexico or Canada? An invasion in force with no pause for diplomatic niceties would be swift.

It is not the slightest exaggeration to say that Putin’s prompt and low-key action stands in sharp contrast to the shrill, hypocritical voices coming from Washington and being echoed in Paris and London. We all know that Washington’s readiness to threaten or bomb those who disagree with it is exceeded only by the monstrousness of its hypocrisy when speaking about law or rights or democratic values. It is perfectly represented by that genuine American Gothic, Senator John McCain, a fossilized, corrupt old reprobate who flies off here and there, sticking his nose into other people’s countries, trying to stoke up the fires of war in every difficult place he thinks an American advantage is to be had, a much diminished version of what he once did in Vietnam where he flew jets to bomb civilians.

We cannot know what Ukraine is going to experience given America’s support of extremists and cutthroats to overturn an elected government, a situation somewhat resembling what was intended for Syria through support of extremists and terrorists there, including the supply even of small quantities of Sarin gas used to produce atrocities inviting American intervention. The Syrian effort has collapsed into a hellish situation for which the United States takes no responsibility. So too the situation in Libya, another American-manufactured disaster, but I am confident in the ability of Mr. Putin to outplay the current crop of uninspired politicians in the West at geopolitical chess, especially where Russia’s vital interests are at stake, and we should all wish him well to prevent anything like Syria or Libya being repeated in Ukraine.

The fact is that we will have a better world where there are independent actors able enough to thwart a world bully from kicking sand into everyone’s eyes, an activity which appears now to have become a favorite American pastime. How is a world dictator-nation any less contemptible and dangerous than a country dictator-leader? It’s not.

AMERICA’S BRUTAL TACTICS

John Chuckman

Naturally enough, few details of what American troops do in Iraq and Afghanistan reach the nation’s television screens, the main source of news for most Americans. American television takes the approach of the New York Times when it refers to professional soldiers as GIs, as though they were humble mechanics and bricklayers of America drafted into the titanic struggle against Hitler and Tojo.

But if you are genuinely interested in discovering the truth, there are plenty of sources for first-hand information. And anyone taking a little time to search through some of these comes away with a sick feeling.

From several ex-soldiers comes a vivid image of America’s house-to-house methods of searching for “insurgents.” A small block of C-4 plastique is fixed to the front door of a house, the door is blown in, and several armored giants rush through the shock and smoke with their automatic weapons at the ready. Women and children are held to one side at gunpoint, while any men are taken roughly for questioning. In most cases, the men have nothing worthwhile to say, but they and other members of their families are left with a terrifying experience they will never forget.

These violent procedures have been repeated thousands of times, both in Iraq and in the mountain villages of Afghanistan. Could this be part of what Condoleezza Rice meant when she said recently in Britain that despite thousands of tactical mistakes, America’s basic strategy was sound? Can you imagine her saying the same thing if Washington-area police blew her door down and stormed into her home in Chevy Chase or whatever other exclusive area she lives, perhaps looking for drug dealers or murderers, suspecting her home because she is black?

Another aspect of America’s crude tactics has been their way of responding to periodic mortar fire. The American forces use a high-tech radar gizmo that tracks the path of such shells supposedly to permit accurate return fire by artillery. Unfortunately the gizmo often does not work properly, and even when it does operate well, the tactics of mobile guerillas firing a shell from a truck or car and driving away leave the data of the gizmo useless. Well, not completely useless, because American artillery still responds. It’s just that all they hit are innocent residences or businesses.

The trigger-happy nature of Americans at check points is a well-established fact. These boys, many of them having joined up for benefits like money for college, do not want to be in these places, and they are irritated by the strange tongues and cultures and the blazing heat and sandstorms. They simply shoot first and ask questions after. I suppose this tactic might have been appropriate on the Eastern Front in World War II, but it is totally unsuited to a place you are occupying after having invaded, a place where the overwhelming majority of people with which you interact are just ordinary people going about their lives.

There have been dozens of pictures on the Internet of whole families obliterated in their cars by American soldiers. Children have been pumped full of holes. A kidnapped Italian journalist almost lost her life on her short journey back to freedom. The brave Italian secret service agent who had secured her freedom and was accompanying her to freedom was pumped full of holes. Yet this car and its contents were well known and had been identified to American forces.

It is extremely unlikely this was an error, the Italian journalist being someone hated by American occupation authorities for her critical stories. Such a number of unarmed journalists have been shot by American troops that the idea of the accidents of war is not credible. Of course, the recent revelation in Britain that Bush actually discussed bombing offices of Aljazeera adds another dimension to these events.

A number of British soldiers, Britain’s pathetic Blair being America’s only true ally in the phony coalition America’s press never fails to name, have gone on record about American tactics. These include several senior officers, an unprecedented criticism of an ally during war. What they have said to the press is that American tactics are brutal and thoughtless, almost certain in the long run to produce more enemies than friends. Few forces in the world have more genuine experience than Britain’s after decades in Northern Ireland, yet all their advice is treated with contempt by arrogant American commanders and politicians.

It seems both public and press have forgotten the words of Donald Rumsfeld not long after the U.S. triumphed in Afghanistan, the words being among the most shameful in American history and certainly ranking with anything a dread figure like Reinhard Heydrich uttered. On what to do with the thousands of prisoners taken in the invasion, Rumsfeld publicly stated they should be killed or walled away forever. It does appear he was taken at his word, for thousands of prisoners disappeared around the time. There are many eye-witness reports – a documentary film was made by a Scots director – about Afghan prisoners having been taken into the desert in trucks to suffocate in the blazing heat. American soldiers, if they didn’t actively help, just stood around and let it happen.

In the early part of the invasion of Afghanistan, tens of thousands of emergency de-hydrated food packets were dropped by American planes in some of the same areas that cluster bombs were being dropped. As pictures on the Internet testify, the bomblet canisters (pressure-sensitive cans packed with something like razor wire and high explosive) and the food packages were virtually the same optical yellow color. Imagine how many hungry peasants and children were attracted to these deadly areas by the food packets, only to be torn apart?

Bad publicity all over the world did stop the Pentagon’s grotesque practice, but the question of using cluster bombs near civilian populations remains. It was done both in Afghanistan and Iraq. The brave journalists of Aljazeera took dozens of pictures of what these bombs did to children in Iraq, their publication providing one of the reasons for the Pentagon’s and Bush’s intense hatred of the network.

The revelations about the behavior of American soldiers in Abu Ghraib prison are well known, although the last round of abuse and torture pictures released did not include the worst stuff that American Senators saw in closed session a while back. It’s almost as though the “tamer” stuff was released to defuse demands for more information. America’s great investigative journalist Seymour Hersh has said the worst stuff included boys being raped by American soldiers.

How many senior officers or officials have paid for these horrors that absolutely had to be known to them? The answer is none. What did Lieutenant Calley and Captain Medina suffer for the mass murder and rape of women and children in Vietnam a few decades ago? Not much, and their seniors nothing at all.

Of course we know from many sources including amateur plane spotters and flight records that America runs a gigantic secret prison system. Sources in Europe say that 14,000 are held in Iraq alone. There are also secret prisons in Eastern Europe, Central Asia, Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean, and at Guantanamo. All of these prisoners are held with no legal rights whatever, just as though they had disappeared into Stalin’s Gulag.

In most cases the prisoners are simply people who fought Americans in their invasions of two lands. Since when do we do this to the fighters who oppose us in war? Americans themselves in the past have joined foreign wars as idealists or as mercenaries. This happened in South Africa, various African anti-colonial wars, Central America, South America, Indo-China, Spain, and other places. It’s an old tradition going back to Lafayette and Pulaski in the American Revolutionary War. The men, and boys, America now holds with no rights were doing no more than what tens of thousands of Americans and others have done previously.

As I have written before, if you want the rule of law, you cannot stand outside the law and claim its moral support. What America is doing in its “war on terror” is little more than freshened-up fascism. It wants a pipeline through Afghanistan and a subservient government in Iraq, and it dresses up the brutal tactics used to achieve these goals as a war on terror.