Exclusively in the new print issue of CounterPunch
THE DECAY OF AMERICAN MEDIA — Patrick L. Smith on the decline and fall of American journalism; Peter Lee on China and its Uyghur problem; Dave Macaray on brain trauma, profits and the NFL; Lee Ballinger on the bloody history of cotton. PLUS: “The Vindication of Love” by JoAnn Wypijewski; “The Age of SurrealPolitick” by Jeffrey St. Clair; “The Radiation Zone” by Kristin Kolb; “Washington’s Enemies List” by Mike Whitney; “The School of Moral Statecraft” by Chris Floyd and “The Surveillance Films of Laura Poitras” by Kim Nicolini.
Exacerbating the Crisis in Ukraine

No Winners in a Sanctions War

by RENEE PARSONS

I’ve never missed George Carlin as much as in the last week when some of the most utterly preposterous political pronouncements have been foisted upon the American public as gospel truth.   For the young’uns among us who may have missed the brilliance of Carlin, he was a biting political satirist, a comic of clear-eyed integrity who possessed an unparalleled ability to point out the lies, the inconsistencies and utter absurdity of the political elites as sociopathic fools in a country gone loco.

Carlin had great instincts and recognized valuable political comedic material when he saw it and the buffoonery of US Secretary of State John Kerry laying roses at a Kiev memorial and making the sign of the cross would have been one of his all-time favorites.  We can only imagine Carlin’s utter delight in sticking it to the ever-righteous Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) as he shared a stage with a very grim reaper neo-Nazi Oleh Tynahabok appearing as if he had just crawled out of the dark dank depths of Transylvania or bring his razor-sharp insights to the photo of a mediocre President Obama dressed in denim as he struck a Reagan-esque pose (minus the cowboy hat) in the Oval Office talking tough to Russian President Vladimir Putin.   It would not have escaped Carlin’s eagle-eye to ridicule Hillary Clinton’s lust for political power, her willingness to reveal her neo-con leanings with Victoria Nuland as her State Department spokesperson and as a supporter of the Iraq war, devotee of AIPAC and Israel.   Nor would he have missed her mimic of former Clinton Secretary of State Madeline Albright in comparing Adolf Hitler to Vladimir Putin’s policy in Ukraine.

With Carlin’s passing, we are left to ferret out the truth for ourselves, to identify what is principled and what is nefarious, challenged to dig deep and see for ourselves without benefit of Carlin’s laser vision through the maze of deceits and obfuscations deliberately meant to confuse and befuddle the American public.

Not enough can be said about the depth of the President and Kerry‘s do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do double standard of the last few weeks as many capable writers have already identified.  My personal favorite has been Kerry telling a Kiev citizen that “we hope Russia will respect the election you are going to have” –  uttered within days of irrefutable evidence of US involvement in deposing a democratically-elected President – that is until Obama’s meeting with “Yats”, (Yatsenyuk of the famed recording with Assistant US Secretary of State Victoria Nuland  dictating Ukraine’s new leadership) at the White House.   During their side-by-side chat, Obama unbelievably declared that Ukraine “cannot have an outside country dictate to them how to arrange their affairs…”  in a statement filled with outright  fabrications and deceits.

The President’s March 6 statement regarding his Executive Order  oddly entitled “Blocking Property of Certain Persons Contributing to the Situation in Ukraine” declaring a “national emergency” laid the foundation for the long-term US goal of destabilizing Putin and reducing Russia to an inconsequential, irrelevant force.   We can assume that recollections of Putin’s leadership in blocking a US attack on Syria still sting at the White House.

The President’s statement identified the threat as those persons that “undermine democratic processes and institutions in Ukraine; threaten its peace, security, stability, sovereignty, and territorial integrity; and contribute to the misappropriation of its assets, [which] constitute an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States.”   The largely symbolic Executive Order went on to restrict travel of certain individuals (not Vladimir Putin), announced unspecified economic sanctions  including a plea to “let international monitors into all of Ukraine” and that “… if this violation of international law continues, the resolve of the United States…will remain firm.”

It all makes you wonder who is writing this stuff?  Have they no shame, no sense of history or an active conscience?   And what “unusual and extraordinary threat to national security” exists?   Under what circumstances will “international monitors” be allowed into the US?  And presumably the mention of “persons” did not refer to Victoria Nuland, Assistant Secretary of State for Europe or US Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt, both of whom spent considerable energy on behalf of American taxpayers creating crisis in the streets designed to overthrow the country’s legitimate government including its President Viktor Yanukovych.

Assuming that Bush holdover neo-cons at State are running the show and there is no reason to believe they are not, has anyone informed the President that in an international  global economy, what happens in one country may very well spill over onto its neighbors; that one country’s economic ills are not limited to its borders but may spread beyond its immediate geographic region to the entire global economy?  Did any of those geniuses at the EU or IMF inform the President that economic isolation is a thing of the past?

Meanwhile, the House of Representatives supported a measure (HR 4152) on a 386-23 vote to approve a $1 billion loan guarantee sought by the Obama Administration while the Senate is expected to act this week.   It would be enlightening to compare Congressional votes to determine which Members  support bailing out the interim Ukrainian government but not millions of Americans applying for food stamps or unemployment insurance.

While economic sanctions have become a favorite punitive tool of US foreign policy against Third World countries to make them financially and politically beholden to US interests, sanctions on Russia is a another matter entirely.   Unlike their US counterparts, Putin and his erudite Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov know how the game is played, as a bevy of US corporations doing business in Russia (ie Pepsi, Coca Cola, McDonalds, IBM, GM etc.) can expect to have their assets frozen.

So whatever form sanctions may take, have any of those geniuses at the White House or in Congress considered that economic sanctions might encourage Russia to accelerate its search for an alternative currency to replace the sinking dollar?   Have the President or Kerry considered the impacts of freezing Russia’s assets that will also freeze its ability to repay its loans to US banks?  How about the scenario that if Russia gets really pissed off and decides to sell its US currency assets  estimated at around $200-300 billion in Treasury bonds, have  any of those aforementioned geniuses considered how the US economy will respond and, in that event, what are the risks of a widespread economic collapse?  Russia has, of course, been instrumental in the BRICS (Brazil, India, China, South Africa and Russia) coalition that has been moving away from the dollar as the basis for international reserve currency and in proposing a development bank to lessen dependence on western financial institutions.

In another scenario, have any of those EU or US movers-and-shakers considered the impacts of Ukraine’s missed payment of $1.89 billion to Gazprom, the Russian-owned petroleum company which supplies Ukraine with more than 50% of its gas.  Putin has already announced that Gazprom will no longer offer a promised 33% discount or provide a $15 billion aid package.  Currently, Gazprom supplies 25% of Europe’s gas requirements.

Oops… I was mistaken.    There are jokesters in today’s politics – just not the funny kind.  

Renee Parsons was a staffer in the U.S. House of Representatives and a lobbyist on nuclear energy issues with Friends of the Earth.  in 2005, she was elected to the Durango City Council and served as Councilor and Mayor.  Currently, she is a member of the Treasure Coast ACLU Board.