Putin does not play fairly. By remaining circumspect, low-keyed, initiating dialogue, he neither conforms to America’s image and ground-rules of power politics nor provides the pretext, for that reason, of a US-EU-NATO military offensive at the risk of nuclear annihilation. (Yulia Tymoshenko of the Fatherland party, the Ilsa Koch—lampshades made from Jewish skins of World War II fame—who is the darling of American foreign policy in the upcoming Ukrainian presidential election, did call for that annihilation of Russia, although her reference may have been merely to main force US-NATO armies and, implicitly, referring to a “scorched earth policy,” air power, a variant of “shock and awe” in Iraq or Nazi blitzkrieg of London.) The US does not know how to handle Putin except to ratchet up hostility still further, threaten greater sanctions, boast of America’s “toughness” and “credibility,” meanwhile deriding his “weakness” for seeking discussions. From every quarter, the New York Times to Congress, from Oval Office to public opinion, America, to honor its “obligations,” stand by its “friends and allies,” and its—the newly voguish term—“partners,” is prepared, indeed, overjoyed at the opportunity presented, to use Crimea as pretext for enlarging still further its political-economic-military-ideological boundaries, aka, sphere of influence and self-defined framework of globalization. Ukraine is manna from Cold War heaven, support of neo-Nazis, whether Fatherland party, Right Sector, Svoboda, or Steven Bendara admiration societies even to their Right (this is turning into a script for Zero Mostel’s sequel to “The Producers,” with a reprise of “Springtime for Hitler in Berchtesgaden,” only now it’s Kiev) constituting an if not wholly admired yet still welcomed ally in the struggle against Russia. Who says the Cold War has ended? Since World War II America has gravitated to any dictatorship, and made most of them possible, opposed to Russia, or, more frequently than not, opposed to democratization of their own country. But Ukraine is not Chile; it borders Russia, the manna—or spiritual nourishment—in this case having been materialized as missile systems, military bases, possibly air fields, God’s divine gift in a holy war against the former Soviet Union and its Stalin look-alike. If Kerry-Lavrov talks prove fruitful, Washington will be draped in black. The last thing wanted in the US Congress is peace, a sentiment so pervasive in America that one would not be surprised if church bells rang, not for the break out of peace but that of war. E.g., as Weisman and Joachim in their NYT article, “Congress Approves Aid of $1 Billion for Ukraine,” bring out, the House, 399-19, and the Senate, 98-2, have near-identical bills, which Obama said he would sign, that in addition to the appropriation itself increases the sanctions, makes them mandatory, and removes the president’s discretionary powers, all to be rushed through for signature. In the words of Eric Cantor, House majority leader, a Republican, “This bill is a first step toward supporting the Ukrainians and our Central and Eastern European partners, and imposing truly significant costs on Moscow.” In bipartisan synch, Robert Menendez, chair, Senate Foreign Relations, echoed the sentiment: first step; throw in Central and Eastern Europe; the ominous notion of significant costs. Ah back to the late 1940s: “the Senate [they write] will move to pass a House bill to authorize the broadcast of Western news programs into Ukraine and the region,” while the House reciprocates in true cooperative fashion by agreeing to “take up the Senate aid-and-sanctions bill in order to pass it by a voice vote on Friday.” Passed. The feeding frenzy goes on, the hurry—strike while the fire is hot (the propaganda build-up on Putin and Crimea). But why the Grand Strategy vis-à-vis Russia in the first place? The CP reader will pardon me if I take a seemingly Marxian detour, in this case, compounded by the mileage: from Crimea and Ukraine to Oso, Washington State. Documentation on anti-Russian fervor surrounds us, just turn on the tv or read The Times. Presently in the news also is the tragedy of the Oso landslide, the victims buried in mud and debris, never having had a chance, much like collective entrapment in an avalanche which every climber feels. No, I don’t blame Obama, Kerry, Brennan, Clapper, McCain, Graham, Cantor, etc. etc., although each has a supporting role in the articulation of what has happened, less in Oso proper, than the context (one both ideological and military) making what has happened possible and understandable. The blame is shared by us all, and goes back to what we affectionately call, The Founding of the Republic. I refer to the Property Right, reified, emblazoned on our collective foreheads and in our hearts, that which has divine blessing and provides the inspiration for living, as though making forcible entry into our consciousness and pressed indelibly as the moral standard on our conscience. That landslide was avoidable. Those deaths should be ascribed to negligent homicide. In the accounts one reads, blame is assigned to the victims for choosing to live in a dangerous geological area subject to slides, or else the legal explanation is sought by way of throwing up one’s hands at the difficulty—as in the title of James Schwartz’s article in The Times, “No Easy Way to Restrict Construction in Risky Areas,” (March 29)—of abridging the right of property, however manifested. Here the focus should be, not on the householders of Oso, but the logging companies cutting timber on the slope above—in full knowledge of the dangers to the people below, who became “entombed” (in the account of another writer) in the mud, timber, and debris. Oso is a national tragedy on the altar of private property. The company cannot be denied. No corporation can be denied. The absolutism of property in American ideology here becomes the ideologization of Nature itself, to be possessed (the verb which characterizes rape, but more familiarly attaches to consumerism—perhaps a rape of the mind) within the fabric of law and meeting the approval of the public. These two points, Crimea and Oso, appear to be worlds apart, and yet the forces driving people to needlessly suffer through the recklessness of capital are the SAME accounting for America’s societal hysteria in its relationship to Russia—and truth be told, to China, Cuba, a host of nations which in our ingrained counterrevolutionary psychopathology appear to us menacing because they are not exactly like us, i.e., do not define “democracy” and “freedom” exactly as we do, or to our liking. My New York Times Comment on Schwartz’s article, same date, follows:
As a non-expert on geologic matters I looked in vain for the discussion of timber cutting above Oso, which definitely created the landslide conditions and horrific deaths that followed. That timber workers were among the searchers only added to the macabre scene. What is at stake here obviously is PROPERTY RIGHTS (in this case, I refer not to the Oso residents, but the logging companies, which, in any sane world, should never have been given the right to cut, knowing the potential consequences). Oso is a tragic example, indeed a microcosm, of a property-crazy American civilization. Government regulation, tarnished to begin with, because sharing the animus to its own powers, and complicit with the violators it is supposed to regulate, is seen by practically all (bless libertarianism!) as a species of communism. America gets what it deserves: more Osos, more defiance against rational rules of human existence. Why are the predators protected, the people wanting a quiet life, not? Why must property rights, which has led in America to the highest concentration of wealth and differentiation between rich and poor in its history, trump moral values–save, of course, that wealth itself is the highest moral value. I grieve for the people of Oso, and for a nation that is blind to its own folly as well.
Norman Pollack has written on Populism. His interests are social theory and the structural analysis of capitalism and fascism. He can be reached at email@example.com.