Crimea and Punishment

With a plot line reminiscent of a Russian novel, the revolving cast of rogues and rebels involved in the Ukraine crisis provides the hoi polloi with a fascinating tale of intrigue and treachery.

The trouble is, most of them are getting their information from the Cliff’s Notes version of this season’s War and Peace, as helpfully provided by the so-called “mainstream media” (MSM). And very few MSM outlets are deviating from the party line, which casts Russian President Putin as the Vampire and Ukraine as the victim of his bloodlust.

Indeed, I am a bit surprised at not having already encountered some reference to Putin as “Vlad the Impaler” (remember, you saw it here first), although I have heard him referred to as a “madman” – and when one reaches that status, comparisons to Hitler and Stalin can’t be far behind. (Indeed, we’ve already seen some of that, including George F. Will calling Putin “Stalin’s spawn.”)

In this era of shoot (with your mouth) first and ask questions later, everyone has an opinion about what should be done, but rather than advocating cool heads and constructive diplomatic dialogue, it seems the majority would prefer to reignite the Cold War over Putin’s incursion into Crimea. You want sanctions? I’ll give you stinkin’ sanctions! Let’s deploy a few aircraft carriers – and abrogate a few nuclear weapons treaties while we’re at it, to show ‘em we really mean business!

Oh, how we Americans love to have someone to spar with, and to hate on, especially when it brings a renewed opportunity for us to engage in our favorite sport. So ramp up the rhetoric and ready the rockets, gang, it’s time for some war games. So, Risk, anyone? Oh wait … that’s just kids’ play. We all know that REAL men prefer Russian roulette … or do they simply march to Tehran?

So now I must ask, where ARE the antiwar activists in this crisis … are they perhaps exhausted by their most recent (and many would argue, failed) foray into pacifism? Meaning, has the ongoing conflict in Syria left such a bad taste in their mouths that they, too, are now wearily resigned to taking up the stick again, when it comes to a stubborn mule like ol’ Vlad? The trouble is, how long can we afford to beat the drum – and the dead warhorse – before we realize that it just ain’t working anymore…

The situation is made worse than ever by virtue of the unison chorus repeating its siren song ad nauseam in this latest episode of Kabuki, American style. Indeed, both the Left and Right have joined together in a saber-rattling extravaganza, choreographed to demonize and denounce Putin for his many, ahem, transgressions (to wit, bringing Russia back from the abyss of economic failure by pumping gas and making deals with the BRIC gang, further undermining U.S. hegemony; intervening in Georgia (well, I might give them that one…); pulling Obama’s fat out the fire with regard to his Syrian “red line”, simultaneously promoting a rapprochement with Iran in the mix; then hosting a terror-free Olympics… Why, he spent $50 billion on that tacky carnival!)

Even when he’s right, he’s wrong! And don’t forget his macho bareback equestrian adventures… maybe we could just settle this whole conflict by having our Duck Dynasty guys challenge him to a catfish noodling contest… the reality show crowd would eat that up, wouldn’t they?

The point is, this latest manufactured crisis is, to some extent, attributable to the continuing triumph of hasbara over reason. [Hasbara is a Hebrew word defined as something between propaganda and information. Also see]

In an article which appeared back in March 2007, Muhammad Idrees Ahmad astutely framed the crucial issue which yet persists: “In the lead up to the Iraq war, the antiwar movement itself became the contested space where ideas had to be contained, managed and neutralized, lest they undermine the tenuous support necessary for legitimizing the war. A carefully orchestrated media campaign set the terms of the [then] debate — WMD, regime change, and democracy promotion…

“The war party, on the other hand, was far more successful in organizing and centralizing elements of the civil society to legitimize its agenda. [Italian political theorist Antonio] Gramsci’s contention that the civil society is a constitutive element of the state was evident in the various lobby groups, think tanks and support networks that furnished and disseminated propaganda to build support for the war. With a case couched in exaggerated fears and emotive language, it succeeded in engendering the kind of jingoistic unreason that has enabled many wars of aggression.”

Anyone interested in current international events should read the entire article, cited above. For plainly, the tragedy unfolding in Ukraine, as in Syria, is but a continuation of this “politics by other means.” But who, or what, is really controlling the message behind this madness? And what is their purpose?

Greater minds than I have identified the root of the current cause célèbre. As Robert Parry notes at

“You might have expected that the neocons would have been banished to the farthest reaches of U.S. policymaking, so far away that they would never be heard from again. However, instead of disappearing, the neocons have proved their staying power, now reemerging as the architects of the U.S. strategy toward Ukraine. … And, despite Obama’s opposition to [their] obsession with endless warfare, he didn’t purge them from his administration. Neocons, who had burrowed deep inside the U.S. government as ‘civil servants’ or ‘career foreign service officers,’ remained as a ‘stay-behind’ force, looking for new allies and biding their time.”

Now, it seems their time has come, and they have again arisen. In a word, the neocons’ motive in this imbroglio is, in the words of fellow writer Maidhc Ó Cathail, “to demonize Putin for getting in the way of their pro-Israel regime change plans in Syria and Iran, and to prevent further Obama-Putin cooperation.”

So the little reported fact is now laid bare – and he who has eyes to see, let him see. It is the neocons who are the real vampires, promoting their not-so hidden agenda, subsisting on an evil elixir of blood and oil which they regurgitate into ink… useful for producing money and media which influences politicians who will, in turn, keep them employed. And they are legion, the earthly manifestation of a legendary demon that robs humans of their souls and condemns them to the living hell that is war.

The sad truth is, the neocon support of the Ukrainian “democracy” movement is about as legitimate as their support for the overthrow of Morsi, and Gaddafi, and Saddam, and… I could go on and on, but you get my drift. They could care less about Crimea, other than viewing it as another tasty morsel on which to feed.

This is not to understate the fact that real evil exists in other parts of the world. But we must first confront the (invisible) man in the mirror. Until we drive a stake through our neocon monster’s craven heart, there will be no peace in Ukraine or anyplace else on earth where the U.S. meddles. And in the tragic Shakespearean twist of this drama, indeed we shall see that “all are punished.” [The Prince, Act V, scene iii, “Romeo and Juliet”]