Archive for the ‘War and Peace’ Category

Maidan snipers: Ukraine’s Gulf of Tonkin?

April 18, 2014

The crisis in Ukraine was set off on Feb. 20 by snipers killing peaceful anti-government demonstrators in Kiev’s Maidan Square on Feb. 20.   Angry mobs surrounded the Ukrainian Parliament and forced President Yanukovych to flee the country, and he was replaced by an unelected provisional government.

Now an investigation by a German TV station, ARM Monitor, which was broadcast last week, indicates the sniper was working for the extreme Ukrainian nationalist Svoboda Party, which was part of the opposition and is now part of the new government.   Police as well as protestors were killed, and the bullets came from the same guns.   The snipers were operating from the roof of the Hotel Ukrayina, which was the headquarters of the protestors.

Now a member of the Svoboda Party is in charge of the investigation.   Families of dead protestors are unable to get autopsy reporters or other vital information.

Michael Hudson, a distinguished professor of research economics at the University of Missouri at Kansas City, was interviewed about this on the relatively obscure Real News Network  (which is listed on my Resources page).   The ARM Monitor investigation is headline news in Germany and (naturally) in Russia, he noted; why is it ignored in the United States?

I’m not saying that President Yanukovych or President Vladimir Putin necessarily have good intentions, or that the Russian secret services are not capable of false flag operations of their own, or that Russian-speaking Ukrainians necessarily want to be part of Russia.   I recognize that there are armed minorities in both east and west Ukraine who don’t necessarily speak for the people they claim to represent.   I do not claim to understand the intricacies of Ukrainian politics.

All I’m saying is that the Ukrainian people, and the American people, are being pushed toward war over something that didn’t happen the way we were told it did.

A weekend to share Afghan love of kite-flying

March 11, 2014


Hat tip for this to Mike Connelly

Partition of Ukraine is a truly evil idea

March 7, 2014
Double click to enlarge.  Source: New York Times

Click to enlarge. Source: New York Times

A partition of Ukraine along the lines of ethnicity or language would be a terrible tragedy, a repeat of the breakup of Yugoslavia on a larger scale.

People of different national heritages can live together in peace so long as none of the groups attempts to impose its language and culture on the others.  But when demagogues pit different nationalities against each other, peaceful neighbors can become bloody enemies.

If there were areas of Ukraine that were exclusively Ukrainian and others that were exclusively Russian, then a peaceful partition might be possible.  But the population is so mixed that any partition line would require a bloody ethnic cleansing.

There also are significant numbers of people in Ukraine whose heritage is neither Russian nor Ukrainian.  One such group is the Crimean Tatars, a Muslim minority descended from the original inhabitants of the region before it was conquered by Russia in the late 18th century.

Huge numbers of them were killed and starved to death under Stalin’s rule and the rest were deported to Central Asia during World War Two, but they started to trickle back starting in the Khruschev era.   They have justified fears about living in a new Crimea based on Russian ethnic nationalism.


Ukrainian resistance to the Nazis

March 4, 2014

Since there has been a lot of talk about neo-Nazis and fascists in Ukraine, it’s worth remembering that the Nazis killed millions of Ukrainians as well as Belorussians, Poles and other Slavs during the Second World War.

The Nazis regarded Ukrainians and other Slavs as sub-human, and that their long-range plan was to open up Ukraine as “living room” for the German population by killing or starving the majority of Ukrainians and reducing the rest to slaves and serfs.

Ukrainians suffered as much or more than Russians did from the Nazis, because the German army occupied all of Ukraine but only a tiny portion of Russia proper. Ukrainians in the Red Army against the Nazis as valiantly as any of Soviet peoples.

I briefly had a Ukrainian roommate, actually a naturalized Canadian citizen, when I was in college in the 1950s.  Lubaslaw was a teenager when the Nazis consquered Ukraine.  He ran away to join the partisan resistance fighters, and this enabled him to survive.  He told me of watching from a hiding place as German soldiers lined up all the members of his high school and shot them dead in reprisal.

He also told me that many Ukrainians initially welcomed the German invasion.  That is because during the 1930s, the Stalin regime also killed and starved millions of Ukrainians.  Stalin ordered targeted killings and deportations to force labor camps of prosperous farmers (kulaks) and confiscated Ukrainian harvests and let millions of Ukrainians die in order to force them into collective farms.   The government-controlled collective farms were an ineffective system for farming, but a highly effective system for keeping control of the population.

Older Ukrainians remembered the German occupation during World War One as comparatively benign, and were understandably willing to welcome the Germans back.  They soon learned they had gone from the devil they knew to the devil they didn’t know.

I find it hard to believe that, in the light of this history, that there is a substantial neo-Nazi following in Ukraine.  I have no direct knowledge, and I could be wrong, but I find it hard to believe.   Anybody who identifies with the Nazis is ignorant of the historical record and blinded by hate, but this would be especially true of Ukrainians and for that matter Russians.

Faceoff in Ukraine: Links & comments 3/4/14

March 4, 2014

Ukraine Protest

One of my father’s favorite sayings was that the biggest mistake you could make in life is to start a fight you are not prepared to finish.

I don’t know what President Obama has in mind with his stern warnings to President Putin about military intervention in Ukraine, but I don’t believe he is foolish enough to be willing to go to the brink of war over something that is not a vital national interest with Russia, the only nation with a nuclear arsenal capable of destroying the United States.

What Obama probably has in mind are economic and moral sanctions, of the kind that were used without effect following the invasion of Afghanistan.

Click on Why Russia No Longer Fears the West by Ben Judah in Politico magazine for an explanation of why sanctions will be even less effective now than they were then.   The European countries need Russia more than Russia needs them.  The prosperity of the City of London (the British Wall Street) in particular depends on bank deposits and real estate purchases by rich Russian oligarchs.

The European governments could harm Russia by declaring an embargo on Russian oil and gas exports, but I don’t think many Germans, Poles or other Europeans are willing to freeze in the dark to make a moral gesture on behalf of Ukraine.

One possibility is that the belligerent statements of Secretary of State John Kerry are more than the empty posturing they seem to be.  Maybe Kerry, or a neo-conservative faction within the government, wants to provoke Russia into getting bogged down in an Afghanistan-type war in Ukraine, on the false premise that whatever harms Russia is good for the United States.

Click on What Neocons Want From Ukrainian Crisis by Robert Party of Consortium News for a discussion of this possibility.   Click on Russian Invasion of Crimea Will Create Nationalist Problem in Ukraine by Benjamin Bidder of Der Spiegel (hat tip to Oidin for this link) for reasons why invading Ukraine is not in Russia’s best interest.

Click on either Fact-Checking the Ukraine Revolution by Andrea Chalupa for the case for the Ukrainian revolution.  Click on Ukraine: The Case Against the Revolution by Peter Strzelski Rieth for the opposite view.  Click on Reichstag Fire in Kiev by Dmitry Orlov for the case for Russian intervention.

I would find any of these articles completely convincing if I didn’t read them all.  Having read all three, the only thing I am sure about is that it is a bad idea for us Americans to interfere in conflicts we don’t understand and that don’t concern us.

The lesson of Iraq is that it may be a lesser evil to live under a murderous tyrant — and Saddam Hussein was more murderous than any of the leaders of the current Ukrainian factions — than to have your country be a battleground among factions being funded as proxies for foreign powers.

Making the Ukraine such a battleground is not in the best interest of anyone – not the Russian Federation, not the United States, not the European Union and certainly not the Ukrainian people themselves.   What is in the best interest of all is an independent, intact and well-governed Ukraine, on good terms with both Russia and the EU.  But people don’t always choose what is in their best interest.

Some thoughts about national priorities

March 3, 2014

Mike Lofgren, author of The Party Is Over

During the time in 2011 when political warfare over the debt ceiling was beginning to paralyze the business of governance in Washington, the United States government somehow summoned the resources to overthrow Muammar Ghaddafi’s regime in Libya, and, when the instability created by that coup spilled over into Mali, provide overt and covert assistance to French intervention there.

At a time when there was heated debate about continuing meat inspections and civilian air traffic control because of the budget crisis, our government was somehow able to commit $115 million to keeping a civil war going in Syria and to pay at least £100m to the United Kingdom’s Government Communications Headquarters to buy influence over and access to that country’s intelligence.

Since 2007, two bridges carrying interstate highways have collapsed due to inadequate maintenance of infrastructure, one killing 13 people.

During that same period of time, the government spent $1.7 billion constructing a building in Utah that is the size of 17 football fields.  This mammoth structure is intended to allow the National Security Agency to store a yottabyte of information, the largest numerical designator computer scientists have coined.  A yottabyte is equal to 500 quintillion pages of text.  They need that much storage to archive every single trace of your electronic life.

via Essay: Anatomy of the Deep State | Blog, Perspectives |


Thomas Frank, author of What’s the Matter With Kansas?

“Inequality” is an inadequate word for the Big Smashup, but we need some term to describe all the things that have gone to make the lives of the rich so superlative and the lives of people who work so shitty and so precarious.

It is visible in the ever-rising cost of healthcare and college, in the deindustrialization of the Midwest and the ballooning of Wall Street, in the power of lobbying, in the dot-com bubble, in the housing bubble, in the commodities bubble.

It was made possible by the signal political events of our time: the collapse of the New Deal coalition; the decline of labor; the infernal populism of the New Right; the fall of antitrust and the triumph of deregulation; the rise of Ronald Reagan, and after him Newt Gingrich, and after him George W. Bush, and after him the Tea Party, all of them bringing their pet tax cuts with them to Washington.

The word is a polite one, but “inequality” is what we say when we mean to describe the ruined downtown of your city, or your constant fear that the next round of layoffs will include you, or the impeccable air conditioning of your boss’s McMansion, or the way you had to declare bankruptcy when your child got sick.  It is a pleasant-sounding euphemism for the Appalachification of our world.  “The defining challenge of our time”?: Oh, yes.

via Paul Krugman won’t save us: We need a new conversation about inequality –

Would a smaller Army mean a smaller mission?

February 24, 2014

The Obama administration wants to shrink the U.S. Army to the smallest number of troops since prior to World War Two, according to the New York Times.

But, in my opinion, this does not necessarily mean a reduction in the number of U.S. military operations overseas.  I think it means a greater reliance of flying killer drones and Special Operations assassination teams.  I would be happy to be proved wrong about this.

The U.S. Army is already on track to reduce the number of soldiers from the post 9/11 peak of 570,000 to 490,000.  The New York Times reported that Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced plans to further reduce the Army’s forces to between 440,000 and 450,000.  This is ample to defend the U.S. homeland, he said.

Hagel also announced plans to eliminate an Air Force wing whose primary mission is to fight enemy tanks — a vital capabililty in case of a Soviet invasion of western Europe, but less likely to be needed now.

Special Operations and cyberwarfare will be exempt from budget cuts, and the Navy will keep its 11 aircraft carriers.

I would be glad if this signified the Obama administration and the Pentagon generals have adopted more modest military goals.  But what I suspect it means is that the new policy is a recognition that U.S. ground forces cannot cope with insurgencies, and that the quest for global military domination will be pursued by other means.

Bosnian protesters unite across ethnic lies

February 10, 2014

My e-mail pen pal  Jack Clontz sent me the following link.

He thinks it is important and so do I.

Anger in Bosnia, but this time the people can read their leaders’ ethnic lies by Slavoj Zizek for The Guardian.ho

Click on the link to read about how Serbs, Croats and Bosnian Muslims in Bosnia-Herzegovina have joined in protests against corruption and demands for jobs.

As Zizek points out, their action has significance beyond Bosnia, because it shows it is possible to avoid the sterile dilemma of  rule by religious theocrats and rule by materialistic dictators, as seems to be the case in so many countries.

Conflicts among nationalities and religions, and between religious zealots and secularists, helps the powers that be to divide and rule.

Colin Powell’s forgotten doctrine

February 1, 2014

General Colin Powell, chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from 1989 to 1993, formulated what came to be known as the Powell Doctrine. He said the United States should not go to war unless the decision-makers could answer “yes” to the following questions:

General Colin Powell

General Colin Powell

  1. Do we have a clear and attainable objective?
  2. Have the risks and costs been fully and frankly analyzed?
  3. Have all non-violent policy means been exhausted?
  4. Is there a plausible exit strategy to avoid endless entanglement?
  5. Have the consequences of our actions been fully considered?
  6. Is the action supported by the American people?
  7. Do we have broad international support?

If the Powell Doctrine had been used as a basis for decision-making, the United States would have seldom if ever gone to war in the past 20 years — which perhaps was his intention.

The objection to the Powell Doctrine was expressed by Madelaine Albright, UN ambassador and later Secretary of State during the Clinton administration. She reportedly asked Powell: What is the point of having the world’s largest military if you’re never going to use it?

If a government has the world’s largest hammer, it is hard to avoid the temptation to treat every problem like a nail.

Fighting wars just to show US can win one

January 31, 2014

When I was a schoolboy, I was taught that the United States had never lost a war.  Reasonable people can differ over the War of 1812, but the United States not only defeated, but utterly crushed, its enemies in the Mexican War, the American Civil War, the Indian wars, the Spanish-American War, World War One and World War Two [1].


The Vietnam Conflict, on the other hand, was an unambiguous defeat — the first in American history.  The Nixon-Kissinger administration was the first, but not the last, U.S. administration whose objective was not victory, but to mask defeat in the guise of an “honorable” withdrawal.  The U.S. outcome is symbolized by the fact that our heroes in that conflict were defiant prisoners of war (and they really were heroes, I don’t question that) rather than triumphant conquerors.

Subsequent U.S. administrations did not seek to avoid military interventions.  Instead, starting with the Reagan administration, they sought to overcome the “Vietnam syndrome”, which was perceived as the American public’s cowardly refusal to support open-ended wars in far off lands.

This was weakness rather than strength.  Strong nations do not need to go to war merely to project an image of strength.



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