When Washington spends billions of dollars to foment a coup, it is simply never, ever, ever about “democracy” or “human rights,” but always, always, always about privatization and plunder.
In this case, as per usual, the vast majority of Ukrainians (73%+) oppose the neoliberal “reforms” being forced on them from without: pension-slashing austerity, reduction of wages, and the willy-nilly privatization of land, water, public utilities, banks…
But at least Bayer/Monsanto, DuPont, Cargill, and the rest of the corporate cartel are happy. That’s what U.S. foreign policy is all about, after all: FREEDOM (of corporate elites) to overthrow democratically-elected governments, to enslave populations, and to loot, loot, loot the resources of other nations.
Ukraine/Russia vs. Washington (in metaphorical terms):
[I’ve been having a constructive dialogue with a very good friend about the Washington-launched, neo-Nazi-dependent 2014 coup in Ukraine that’s destabilized the country, resulting in some 13,000 deaths (according to the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights). Since the corporate media has done such an abysmal job of covering the coup objectively, I began our conversation by sharing some very good articles by award-winning journalists — and an excellent interview with America’s pre-eminent Russia expert, Princeton Professor Emeritus Stephen F. Cohen. I wanted to assure that my friend and I were both working with the same basic facts. We’d gotten off to a pretty good start, but along the way, I failed to adequately convey my criticisms of Vladimir Putin, who is a deeply flawed leader, by any standard, even if many of the stories about Russian “aggression” and “murder of journalists” are Western propaganda, blithely pushed by a corporatized media that no longer does much fact-checking or critical-thinking, when it comes to official narratives.
What follows is my latest attempt to clarify my position on Mr. Putin, who I describe as “a personally revolting criminal and genuine bully.”
I’ve decided to share this latest installment of our conversation here, at Invitation2Artivism.com for two reasons: A) It was well received by my friend; and B) it includes fun and informative metaphors, including one based in the Star Wars universe… or should I say “galaxy.” Enjoy!]
Thanks for the mini-festo and your perspective. I think I can address the concerns you raised fairly simply, without getting too deep into the weeds.
My first thought is that I need to communicate more clearly my condemnation of Vladimir Putin. While I reject the notion that Kremlin propaganda has seeped into my thinking, I can see how you drew that conclusion — especially since the propaganda of the West is so pervasive, these days, making everyone who deviates from approved narratives seem suspect (the Western power establishment sees “Putin puppets” and “useful idiots” everywhere, these days, it seems… and the corporate media acts like the protagonist in John Carpenter’s “They Live” — like they just tried on the special/alien sunglasses for the first time, and now they see RUSSKIE AGENTS everywhere!!! Matt Taibbi recently wrote an excellent piece along those lines, following Sec. Clinton’s recent, bizarrely Trump-esque attack on Rep. Tulsi Gabbard).
I understand how you might conclude that I view Putin as the “Good Guy” in this geopolitical scenario, but I want you to know that I truly don’t (and I seriously doubt Prof. Cohen does, either; it’s a matter not of “Good Guys” and “Bad Guys,” but of history, context, the rule of law, self-determination, etc. — all of which put the U.S./NATO in a far worse light than Putin’s Russia).
If I may use a metaphor, from a galaxy that I once loved… a long time ago… not here…
It is a period of intergalactic war. A vile gangster named Putin the Hutt rules over his neighbors (and those in his tiny sphere) with an iron fist. Putin the Hutt is authoritarian, misogynistic, and thuggish.
Many of his enterprises are wholly illegal, and he is a legitimate menace to virtually all who defy him.
One day, the Emperor (in truth, the Dark Lord of the Sith) — terrified as the Rebellion and galactic resistance are gaining steam, with system after system breaking away from the Empire — decides he absolutely, positively MUST (while his empire’s still standing, however unsteadily) take down Putin the Hutt, a frequently defiant independent operator (if occasional strategic ally).
The Empire is obsessed with absorbing and dominating the Hutt’s important system — a long-desired goal, unrelated to any current political context (concerned least of all with the plight of living beings, democracy-promotion, etc.).
Because Putin the Hutt, corrupt though he is, simply won’t play ball. He thinks he’s big stuff and likes controlling his own turf. He still believes in quaint old things like states and sovereignty and resists Galactic Globalization, the Corellia Consensus (which was never anything but an Imperial colonization plan: Total Galactic Domination, authored by that notorious intergalactic neocon, Darth Wolfowitz).
Not only will Putin the Hutt not roll over and simply hand his system to the Empire, he often works with smaller systems resisting the Empire’s predations, defending them!
(But let’s not be naive: Putin the Hutt isn’t defending the Iraqi System, Georgian System, Libyan System, Syrian System, Venezuelan System, or Ukrainian System from the Empire because he’s an altruist, trying to bring goodness and decency to the galaxy. Pfahh! His back to the wall, an Imperial blaster to his head, Putin the Hutt is acting out of basic self-interest, ultimately in defense of his system and his power.)
When the Empire floods the Hutt’s neighboring/allied systems with Stormtroopers and turns them into war zones, Putin the Hutt fights back. Not because he’s a great champion of democracy or human rights — because he’s largely the opposite — but because it serves his own interests and the interests of the Hutts, writ large.
Many legitimate democracy activists celebrated the 2014 removal of Putin the Hutt’s nominal ally, Yanukovych the Fett — legally elected, ironically, in an intergalactically-monitored election — but those poor souls were unwittingly supporting the Empire, the Dark Side, and bona fide Stormtroopers.
What followed the coup was several times worse than the highly imperfect and deeply corrupt system that preceded it, and the population set about reversing it in short order, electing a leader (in a landslide) who unequivocally promised rapprochement with the Hutts.
OR WE CAN SCRAP MY STAR WARZY METAPHOR AND USE YOURS:
“If a bully is taking a bunch of kids’ money on the playground and a coalition of kids (offers protection)…”
If I thought that scenario accurately reflected the reality, I would certainly agree with you — strength in numbers, looking out for the underdog/victims, and all that…
But there is no “coalition.” There is only an even bigger, far worse “bully,” one so menacing and monstrous, so practiced in murder, that the word “criminal” applies better to this sandbox newcomer.
Because NATO is simply a vicious street gang that ultimately answers to sinister, utterly ruthless organized crime bosses, not some “coalition” of other small-medium sized actors, trying to “liberate” sandboxes (sure, that kind of language is in the NATO Gang’s PR, but the group’s history says otherwise).
NATO is the best organized, most heavily armed gang in this or any other schoolyard, and they’ve been bullying the bullies — and the weak (especially the weak) — for as long as anyone can remember. Their methods are coercion, sanctions, starvation, deprivation of medicine/human rights/political independence, etc. They’re a squad of adult rogues strolling onto the junior-high schoolyard to prey on the weak, as they’ve done time and again (always leaving a trail of carnage, chaos, crime, and plunder in their wake).
The NATO Gang sees a genuinely nasty bully occupying a large, important sandbox that the gang’s bosses have long coveted (in fact they want to control all of the sandboxes in all of the playgrounds, but this one has stubbornly eluded them, thanks to sizeable bullies like this one). So, they move in and forcibly eject one of the bully’s nominal allies. They threaten the bully more directly than at any time in recent memory. They arm/finance sandbox Stormtroopers to run amok, and the plunder begins.
The NATO Gang didn’t care that most of the kids in their quadrant of the sandbox voted for the bully’s nominal ally (actually, more of a neutral player, navigating the difficult path between the bully and the NATO Gang, but who needs nuance when we’re dividing the world into “allies” and “enemies”?).
The NATO Gang didn’t mind that they had to rely on outside-sandbox snipers and brutal Stormtroopers to oust the bully’s democratically-elected “ally.”
All the NATO Gang knew was that they’d won a temporary advantage, had the bully on the defensive, and the time had come to plunder all the sandbox kids’ lunch-money and every juice box, toy, and trinket their criminal syndicate desired.
But enough metaphors. You get the point.
I hope you have a better sense of how I view Putin: a Jabba the Hutt-like figure, a personally revolting criminal and genuine bully, whose methods are intimidation, corruption, and violence.
With respect to the source you shared, I sympathize with where Mr. Shekovtsov is coming from, but he is an activist and partisan, and he’s unambiguously sided with the evil empire, on this one. In the second article you linked, Shekovtsov repeatedly refers to explicitly articulated U.S. policies and other established facts as “conspiracy theories.”
Still, I like the basic point Shekovtsov makes about how meaningless the terms “fascist” and “anti-fascist” have become, as when right-wingers call Bernie Sanders a “fascist” for advocating a “government takeover” of healthcare. Such reckless use of language is dangerously unhinged and only degrades the conversation.
But it seems to me that Shekovtsov employs this basic argument solely to obscure the extent to which Russia, Ukraine, and the world are legitimately resisting Washington-imposed fascism.
To be clear, the biggest fascists aren’t the Ukrainian neo-Nazis we’ve been debating, but the Washington-based neocons, who are undoubtedly the most genocidal faction since the Third Reich.
I concede that that assessment probably sounds like hyperbole to a mainstream, 21st-century American, but I don’t see how anyone could objectively see things otherwise: If an alien race had spent the last several decades watching geopolitical events, they would see ONE HUGE BULLY, dominating virtually the entire world and killing millions of human beings along the way… mostly unchallenged, save for Russia and China.
When it comes to sheer lawlessness and large-scale destruction, no other nation comes close. The U.S. is also — thanks to the corporations that have usurped our democracy — the nation that’s chiefly led the war on the planet’s ecosystem, ultimately dooming most life to extinction.
And NATO is that omnicidal corporate mob’s lawless, privateering gang.
(If we really wanted to see a more peaceful world, we would dissolve NATO and transfer much of the military might of the contributing countries — and others — to a democratically reorganized United Nations. The resulting, legitimately international military force would be deployable only when a super-majority of nations authorizes it. But that would be an ideal world. Instead, a Cold War relic has been deployed willy-nilly to bring destruction to nation after nation. Violating the promises of U.S. presidents engaged in diplomacy, serving one faction alone, NATO has destabilized the globe and brought humanity to the precipice of a third World War.)
Consider: Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, freed from the constraints of a multi-polar world following the end of the first Cold War, butchered millions of human beings in Iraq alone, in an unvarnished bid to dominate the globe through sheer force. They employed draconian sanctions (denying potable water to millions), torture, spying and blackmail against allies, ethnic cleansing, mercenaries, resource theft, drones, white phosphorus, and the “Salvador Option” to obliterate a nation of 27 million people, fracturing it along ethno-sectarian lines.
Then, under President Obama, the same faction, the neocons, proceeded to do something astonishingly similar to Libya, and then Syria, resulting in over half a million deaths and over 10 million refugees.
There is simply no analog to this kind of destructiveness in Putin’s behavior.
(The only analog history offers is that of Hitler’s Germany.)
It legitimately terrifies me that many Americans are capable of falling into the same old Cold War, “Us vs. Them” mindset following recent decades of U.S. genocide in the Middle East and elsewhere, with our presidents distinguishing themselves as among the worst war criminals in recorded human history.
My mind boggles and my heart sinks when I see mainstream Americans pointing to foreign “bad guys” (Qaddafi, Assad, Maduro, Kim, Putin, etc.) …after the colossal atrocities that the Clintons and Bush/Cheney inflicted on Iraq… after the Mujaheddin-fueling horror that President Obama unleashed on Libya and Syria… after so much of Washington’s “Democracy Champion” mask has fallen off, revealing the face of pure, unadulterated, white-supremacist, Christian-Dominionist, predatory, patriarchal corporatism.
(I find it revealing that among America’s strongest foreign allies are Israel and Saudi Arabia, two of the most brutal, undemocratic, ethno-sectarian regimes in the world, both with atrocious human rights records. And then there’s post-coup, police-state Egypt, narco-state Colombia, colonized Kuwait, authoritarian Bahrain and Qatar, India under Narendra Modi, post-coup Brazil under Bolsonaro, post-coup Honduras…)
Does my opposition to the worst of the worst mean that I consider Putin a saint or even a halfway decent human being? Far from it. But in a world as messed up as ours, I don’t think we can afford to join in on the mostly groundless hyper-demonization of one of the few world leaders pushing back against humanity’s worst enemies.
At least, not while those fascists are still running amok, setting the table for WWIII, sewing discord, propagandizing the West, overthrowing democracies, rigging elections, and generally reaping massive profits from mass-murder and ecocide.