Counterpunch April 14, 2014
We live in the times that George Orwell predicted in his groundbreaking novel 1984. A time of deception, where nothing is what it seems to be. Lost in a deep fog of propaganda that passes for information, we have to decipher through conflicting narratives, where stories are planted to hide other ones. In this fictional conundrum, reality has become surreal, and words have lost their meaning.
In our Orwellian lexicon, a pro-capitalist and neo-colonialist such as French President Francois Hollande is called a socialist; violent imperialist interventions conducted by the United States and its allies, or even the United Nations, worldwide are called humanitarian missions or peacekeeping missions; policies of regime change, already conducted in Iraq and Libya, and underway in Ukraine, Syria, Venezuela, and even Cuba, are called promoting democracy or strengthening civil society. In Orwellian times, a phony revolution in Kiev is concocted by neocons in Washington DC with help from so-called humanitarian non-g0vernmental organizations (NGO), and USAID takes on the CIA’s role to promote supposedly spontaneous protests in Cuba. In Orwellian times, a big lie often repeated becomes the truth. When policymakers are spin masters, truth is the first casualty.
Smoke and Mirrors: Spin as Policy
Public policy with the welfare of millions at stake should be a serious matter. But this has been treated with contempt by the so-called public servants who should take it most to heart. Politicians, especially the heads of state, are marketed and sold to the public like big-ticket items. Most citizens have become consumers of political products. As in advertising, political campaigns are tested on focus groups. Once a political brand is established, consumers develop a relationship to the brand either of trust and fidelity or hostility. In the United States, Bush, Clinton and Kennedy are well-known political brands. In France, the brand Le Pen is trending strongly. The symbiosis of politics and marketing is symptomatic of this age. Once addicted to a brand, the political consumer will keep buying it (voting for it). In Orwellian times, branding is king.
Putin: The New Bogeyman
Before the referendum in Crimea, Hillary Clinton compared Vladimir Putin’s actions to those of Adolf Hitler in the buildup to World War II. Historically, this was a grossly inaccurate comparison, but to the average Clinton consumer, it conveyed the simple equation: Putin=Hitler. The West always needs a bogeyman, an enemy number one. Russian President Vladimir Putin, the current popular leader of the former “evil empire” could not have been a better candidate. To stay on message, the sycophant Western mainstream media hint that Putin’s hidden agenda is to restore the Soviet Union, and that the neo-Nazis in Ukraine and Jihadists in Syria are revolutionaries. In Orwellian times, information is mostly propaganda and conventions such as calling the US president the “leader of the free world” have become as oxymoronic as the coal industry’s advertisements of “clean coal.” When NATO declares that it wants to “promote stability in Eastern Europe,” it is doing exactly the opposite by provoking Moscow.
Ukraine Crisis: a New Raison d’etre for NATO
NATO has received a big boost from the Ukrainian crisis: a reclaimed raison d’etre, and it will likely recruit new members such as Sweden and Finland. The military alliance plans to reinforce its ties with Armenia, Moldova and Azerbaijan as well as present a stronger presence in the Baltic states.
The US has stationed six F15 in Lithuania, and plans to send sixteen F16 and four C-130 to Poland. More AWACS surveillance flights and a stronger presence in the Eastern Baltic sea, regular air patrol over Baltic states, and a boost of the number of troops in Romania are also on NATO’s agenda. Russia legitimately views NATO’s actions as a strategy of encirclement. At the end of the USSR in 1991, US President George Bush Sr., German Chancellor Helmut Khol and US Secretary of State James Baker gave the Soviet Premier, Mikhail Gorbachev, a formal guarantee that there would never be an Eastern expansion of NATO to include former members of the Warsaw Pact. But under Vladimir Putin, Russia has been investing in its military, and Western analysts, including the powerful puppet masters of the Council on Foreign Relations took notice and were impressed by the Russian troops’ performance in Crimea.
A Boost for the Global Military-Industrial Complex
The 1991 agreement between Gorbachev and the West was never respected by any US administration, and it is the major issue with regard to Ukraine. Since 1945, and even more so since the collapse of the USSR, the US has behaved as a bully even as it presented itself as the voice and conscience of the international community. If NATO is not stopped, its Eastward expansion might continue to include Montenegro, Macedonia, and Bosnia.
Importantly, the tension with Russia will serve as a pretext to continue to base US ballistic nuclear weapons in Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, Italy and Turkey for a long time. This revisited Cold War provides a unique opportunity to justify a boost in military spending everywhere: especially in the US and Russia. It is also a way for the US to legitimize and expand, almost 70 years after the end of World War II, the occupation by its troops of 900 US military bases in more than 150 countries. While tensions rise in Europe over Ukraine, the top five arms manufacturing and exporting countries, which are the US, Russia, Germany, France and China, will benefit most as their merchants of death justify a boost of military budgets by the new arms race, especially between the US, Russia and China.
For Both Ukraine and Syria, Balkanization or Federation Should be on the Table
As ethnic and pro-Russian arm themselves and take over official buildings in Donetsk, demanding independence from Kiev, Ukraine’s crisis enters a phase three. Phase one was the Western-sponsored Maidan pseudo revolution, phase two was the referendum that attached Crimea to the Russian federation.
On April 12, 2014, protesters in Donetsk were joined by coalminers behind barricades made of stack tires and barbed wire. The support of coalminers, a work force of about 100,000, could be a tipping point for a push at either a full-on partition of Ukraine or a federation with considerable autonomy. Donetsk is the center of Eastern Ukraine’s coal-mining area; it is historically called the Donbass and 75 percent of the population are Russian speakers. The pro-Russian secession protest seems to be gaining momentum as armed separatists take over official buildings in the smaller towns of Slaviansk and Kramatorsk. Meanwhile the benefactors of the Euromaidan coup in Kiev threaten to crack down on the protesters in Eastern Ukraine, whom they call terrorists: a surreal irony from an illegitimate government.
Syria’s deadly three-year-old proxy war has almost disappeared from the news as the killings, displacements and destruction of the country continue. But this is about to change. On April 12, 2014, new accusations of the use of poison gas (presumably sarin gas) floated back and forth between Bashar al-Assad’s government and rebel forces. The attack, which is believed to have killed two people and injured many, was reported in the village of Kfar Zeita.
The al-Assad administration immediately blamed the al-Qaeda affiliated al-Nusra Front while, predictably, the Western-backed Syrian National Coalition pointed the fingers towards the Syrian government. Since the grave crisis of fall 2013, when a NATO military attack was dissuaded by Russia and China, the al-Assad government agreed to decommission all of his chemical arsenal.
The deadline is approaching fast. So far, the political negotiations between al-Assad and the Syrian opposition, organized by Russia and the US have failed. The new tension between Russia and the West over Ukraine will make the already difficult task of a political solution for Syria almost impossible.
Just like in Ukraine, a Balkanization, or loose federation of Syria along sectarian lines, as suggested in this publication on January 10, 2013, might be the only way out of a deadly crisis. In the Orwellian construct of most policymakers, it is common to pretend that gangrene is a trivial infection, as wrecking nations and engineering permanent crisis is good for business, whereas in honest geopolitics you act quickly, inform the patient, and amputate the gangrenous arm or leg.
Gilbert Mercier is the Editor in Chief of News Junkie Post, where this essay originally appeared.