‘The first casualty when war comes is truth’. Hiram W Johnson (1917)
As this horrendous war in Ukraine unfolds, we see the Western media carefully following their politicians’ lines. ‘There is no Nazi problem in Ukraine’, ‘NATO is not a threat to Russia’, “Putin is a madman dictator’ etc etc…
Curiously, as I have noted in a previous blog, these memes were becoming increasingly strident even before Russia recognised the 2 Donbass republics, even in my little country of New Zealand (part of ‘Five Eyes’) we are apparently an enthusiastic supporter of the (neo)- nazi Azov Battalion in the Ukraine and their propaganda videos, should you want to believe our government funded TVNZ ‘news’.
But perhaps the most obscene media article I have seen is this recent Guardian article by a Mr Jason Stanley who states ‘no democratic country is free of far-right nationalist groups, including the United States’, in downplaying the risks of Nazis in Ukraine. What Mr Stanley deliberately omits to say is that Ukraine is the only country in the world where Nazi battalions are an integral part of their army, and whose battalions have been actively involved in killing as many Eastern Ukrainian Russian speakers in the Donbass as possible (13,000 at the last count) – with the full support of the Ukrainian government in Kiev. Let us also not forget the post-Maidan coup Kiev government’s enthusiastic sanctifying of Stepan Bandera, the white (Ukrainian Slav) supremacist and killer of ‘Asiatic’ Russian Slavs, Poles, Gypsies, the LGBTIQ community, Communists and Jews, both during and after the second world war (with support for his OUN-B group and its successors from the Americans).
Mr Stanley’s customary caricature of Putin as the ‘global leader of the far right’ is, to be polite, somewhat strange. Putin is certainly a nationalist, an anti-communist, a Russian Orthodox believer and a fervent conservative (none of those Putin attributes particularly endear him to me; as do most politicians’ ‘values’ in the West or East!), but ‘far right’? -no.
The decision by European countries to constrain Russian economic interest in Europe and beyond is an entirely valid response to Russia’s aggression, but the decision to suppress access to Russian government media like RT and Sputnik in the West indicates a strong wish to ensure the views of only one side of the war are circulated to Western populations; a series of views that are indisputably half-truths in many cases and often lies (e.g. the 4 years of ‘Russia-gate’ fabrications), as noted above. Such repressive actions lead the public to believe right is completely on our side and no compromise is possible with the evil aggressor. A recipe for a third world war, or worse.
However, as Chris Hedges so aptly says, ‘to understand is not to condone. The invasion of Ukraine, under post-Nuremberg laws, is a criminal war of aggression.’
And that is not to say that the Russian government and its media are the epitome of truth. The Russian government and its media unequivocally stated that no Ukrainian invasion was planned, while they were preparing for just such an invasion.
Reports from websites that are Russian supporters are as likely to provide a slanted or untrue version of events on the ground in Ukraine as the Western media. Part of that false view can be attributed to the ‘fog of war’ – journalists rely on narratives from people in the war-zone with their own agendas, or from people who are simply making things up to suit their audience. And then there are the journalists in the West, and no doubt in the East as well, who are paid by their various ‘intelligence’ agencies to provide that ‘special’ messaging for a gullible public.
Emotive videos of Ukrainian women filling bottles with petrol to make Molotov cocktails, of a man supposedly holding back a Russian tank, or of an armoured personnel carrier (Russian or more likely Ukrainian) deliberately running over a car, the Snake Island defenders who died but are now resurrected etc etc are all designed to dull our intellectual acuity and make us react with anger and fear rather than a calm consideration of the facts, and make mediation between the warring factions impossible.
The current fad to sanction Russian cats, deprive Russian paralympians of competing, remove access to Russian authors or composers or remove Russian media from the Western world is bizarre. Perhaps a glimpse into this madness can be seen in a recent CNN article by one Oliver Darcy where the Russian website RT is blasted for actually giving a Russian point of view to the Russian invasion! How dastardly is that! We of course should know that there is only one viewpoint to be had on this deadly event, and that is the American official line! Knowledge of any other viewpoint is therefor treasonable an un-American!
We should also note the ‘extraordinary’ levels of white racism that pervade Western media- they imply how shocking that this war could have happened to European, well-dressed educated white people who look just like us!, not those people of darker skins in Africa, Asia and the Middle East.
Be warned! The populations of Arab, African, South American and Asian countries who have endured so much pointless war by the U.S. and its allies over the past 50 years are taking due note of the total hypocrisy and racism of Western media.
As Moon of Alabama notes: Historian Anne Morelli has summarized Arthur Ponsonby’s classic book Falsehood in War-Time as this:
- We do not want war.
- The opposite party alone is guilty of war.
- The enemy is inherently evil and resembles the devil.
- We defend a noble cause, not our own interests.
- The enemy commits atrocities on purpose; our mishaps are involuntary.
- The enemy uses forbidden weapons.
- We suffer small losses, those of the enemy are enormous.
- Recognized artists and intellectuals back our cause.
- Our cause is sacred.
- All who doubt our propaganda are traitors.
On the Russian side we hear of the Ukrainian government military using illegal phosphorous shells near Kyev, or prisoners released from jails given automatic weapons, of Azov battalion units using Eastern Ukrainians as human shields in the Donbass – fact or fiction? We may never know.
The increasing practice in both West and East to use legislation to designate foreign media companies as ‘foreign agents’ also exacerbates the considerable risk for governments and their publics to misinterpret, deliberately or otherwise, the intent of a ‘foreign’ government, and thereby increase the risk of war.
After talking to a very frightened and distraught friend in Ukraine over the weekend, I know that the internet is up and running there, that water and electricity are (at least so far) not being destroyed, unlike the terror attacks by the Americans in Korea, Vietnam, Libya and Iraq (to name just a few) that deliberately destroyed all infrastructure (a ‘shock and awe’ war-crime).
This terror and destruction needs to stop -now. Russia needs to negotiate in good faith with the Kiev government; withdraw its troops and compensate for lives lost and destruction caused. In turn, Kiev and NATO need to recognise the very real fears by Russia about the likely destruction of Russia by NATO. A neutral Ukraine (as Austria was during the cold war) is the only solution. A neutral Ukraine will not only be of benefit to Russia, but also Ukraine, its neighbours, and the wider world.
We instead need to mobilise globally now to ‘fight’ catastrophic climate change and species loss . The intensely environmentally destructiveness of armies and wars of aggression need to be replaced with deliberate processes to safely reduce global consumption of commodities, to plant billions of hectares of trees that can grow in perpetuity and restore natural eco-systems – to create a sustainable planet.