President Johnson’s administration sold a false bill of goods on Vietnam. (The Captain of the ship supposedly attacked in Tonkin Gulf later testified his ship was not actually fired on.) President George W. Bush’s administration sold a false bill of goods on Iraq. (No weapons of mass destruction; no alliance with Al Qaeda.) Now President Obama’s administration is peddling a false bill of goods on Ukraine.
When Russia annexed Crimea, Mr. Kerry said “You just don’t invade another country on phony pretexts….” Does he think we hear that and not recall Iraq? When pro-Russian militants took over public buildings in eastern Ukrainian cities, President Obama said they were not peaceful protesters, but armed men. That is only half the truth. While the pro-Russian militants are indeed using guns, Molotov cocktails, and rubber tire and barbed wire barricades, it is also true that what the Obama administration calls “the government of Ukraine” took Kiev by similar tactics.
On TV, viewers saw Kiev in flames and heard the gunfire; who does President Obama expect people to think chased President Yanukovych out? Peaceful demonstrators singing Kumbayah ? No, it was armed men of the “ultranationalist” militia Pravy Sektor, whose website until recently displayed Nazi insignia, and who, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported, were distributing Hitler’s Mein Kampf in Maidan Square in Kiev. They are allied with the fringe Ukrainian political party Svoboda, which seldom gets over 5% in national elections, and which European leaders have criticized for xenophobia and anti-Semitism.
But now, the Kiev “government” suddenly includes Svoboda members as Defense Minister and Deputy Prime Minister. They did not get there by winning election. And US Vice President Biden offers US support to this “government” while warning Russia not to support pro-Russians.
Mr. Kerry says the separation of Crimea from Ukraine is “unconstitutional,” yet he supports the Kiev “government” which took power by armed revolution, overthrowing what was after all an elected government – that was not constitutional either.
The Obama administration complains that Russia violates Ukraine’s sovereignty. But did the United States respect the sovereignty of Guatemala, Cuba, Chile, Nicaragua, or Grenada? No. When governments came to power that did or might align themselves with perceived US enemies, the US intervened by invasion, proxy war, or coup.
Mr. Kerry calls Crimea rejoining Russia “unilateral.” Unilateral means one-sided. But the people of Crimea voted (by a huge majority) to leave Ukraine and rejoin Russia – which historically it was part of – and the Russian government voted to accept Crimea back into Russia. The people of Crimea are one side; the Russian government is another. That makes two sides, which is bilateral.
Calling it “unilateral” is one of many cheap little lies this administration is peddling, which the US news media are repeating without correction. Sadly, when the drums of war start beating, the media serve more as sounding board than reality check.
Russian President Putin complained the Kiev “government” hurt Ukraine’s ethnic Russians by taking away their historical right to have Russian be an official language of Ukraine. The Obama administration calls that “propaganda,” implying the claim is not true. But it is true; the Kiev “government” did exactly that, revealing anti-Russian bitterness. They have since back-tracked, and Pravy Sektor and Svoboda are scrubbing their images, but Svoboda’s hero Stepan Bandera fought with Nazi Germany against Russia, and anti-Russian animosity is still a very real factor in “ultranationalist” western Ukrainian politics.
Calling whatever Mr. Putin says “propaganda” – even when what he is saying has some truth in it – is itself Obama administration propaganda.
Another Obama administration half-truth is that the uprising in Kiev was about President Yanukovych rejecting an “economic” agreement with the European Union. Yes, it had economic terms, but it also included military cooperation, which Russia saw as a precursor to Ukraine joining NATO, the anti-Russian military alliance.
The double standard is striking: the “Monroe Doctrine” means the US won’t tolerate alliances linking anyone in this hemisphere with potential US enemies – the “sovereignty” of neighbor countries notwithstanding. But Russia must not interfere in its neighbor countries, and must give up its major naval base at Sevastopol in the Crimea to its enemies?
US security does not require Ukraine in NATO, but Russia does have legitimate defensive interests in Ukraine, which reaches within roughly 300 miles of Moscow.
When our government calls Russia aggressive, we should realize that the US-led military alliance NATO has moved inexorably closer to Russia since the “end” of the cold war, breaking a pledge by the first President Bush not to. As the crisis rages in Ukraine, more western military might moves into Romania, Poland, Lithuania, and Estonia. The US General who heads NATO in Europe calls that “defensive” – but Russia cannot legitimately defend ethnic Russians in Ukraine, according to Mr. Kerry.
The US invaded Grenada to defend Americans there, we were told, and to prevent the Soviets having an airport close to our homeland. Yet Russia is already faced with NATO warplanes based close to its homeland. And now even more warplanes are moving closer to Russia, and US paratroopers into Poland and the Baltic countries.
We are told of Russian aggression, as NATO moves militarily toward Russia.
The drums of war can drown out facts. It is said the first casualty of war is the truth. Russians must try to avoid being fooled by Mr. Putin’s deceptions, and Americans must try to avoid being fooled by the US government’s deceptions, particularly since peace-loving Americans have been fooled before, tragically.
The US government lied about Vietnam and Iraq. Those lies not only cost the US colossal sums of money, but also unnecessarily sacrificed many thousands of American lives.
Now, when the US government again sacrifices the truth, Americans should beware that next they may be asked to sacrifice far more, in yet another war they do not want or need.