FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Ukraine and Syria, In Orwellian Times

by

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.

Gilbert Mercier is the editor in chief of News Junkie Post and the author of  The Orwellian Empire.

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

February 27, 2017
Anthony DiMaggio
Media Ban! Making Sense of the War Between Trump and the Press
Dave Lindorff
Resume Inflation at the NSC: Lt. General McMaster’s Silver Star Was Essentially Earned for Target Practice
Conn Hallinan
Is Trump Moderating US Foreign Policy? Hardly
Norman Pollack
Political Castration of State: Militarization of Government
Kenneth Surin
Inside Dharavi, a Mumbai Slum
Lawrence Davidson
Truth vs. Trump
Binoy Kampmark
The Extradition Saga of Kim Dotcom
Robert Fisk
Why a Victory Over ISIS in Mosul Might Spell Defeat in Deir Ezzor
David Swanson
Open Guantanamo!
Ted Rall
The Republicans May Impeach Trump
Lawrence Wittner
Why Should Trump―or Anyone―Be Able to Launch a Nuclear War?
Andrew Stewart
Down with Obamacare, Up with Single Payer!
Colin Todhunter
Message to John Beddington and the Oxford Martin Commission
David Macaray
UFOs: The Myth That Won’t Die?
Weekend Edition
February 24, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Exxon’s End Game Theory
Pierre M. Sprey - Franklin “Chuck” Spinney
Sleepwalking Into a Nuclear Arms Race with Russia
Paul Street
Liberal Hypocrisy, “Late-Shaming,” and Russia-Blaming in the Age of Trump
Ajamu Baraka
Malcolm X and Human Rights in the Time of Trumpism: Transcending the Master’s Tools
John Laforge
Did Obama Pave the Way for More Torture?
Mike Whitney
McMaster Takes Charge: Trump Relinquishes Control of Foreign Policy 
Patrick Cockburn
The Coming Decline of US and UK Power
Louisa Willcox
The Endangered Species Act: a Critical Safety Net Now Threatened by Congress and Trump
Vijay Prashad
A Foreign Policy of Cruel Populism
John Chuckman
Israel’s Terrible Problem: Two States or One?
Matthew Stevenson
The Parallax View of Donald Trump
Norman Pollack
Drumbeat of Fascism: Find, Arrest, Deport
Stan Cox
Can the Climate Survive Electoral Democracy? Maybe. Can It Survive Capitalism? No.
Ramzy Baroud
The Trump-Netanyahu Circus: Now, No One Can Save Israel from Itself
Edward Hunt
The United States of Permanent War
David Morgan
Trump and the Left: a Case of Mass Hysteria?
Pete Dolack
The Bait and Switch of Public-Private Partnerships
Mike Miller
What Kind of Movement Moment Are We In? 
Elliot Sperber
Why Resistance is Insufficient
Brian Cloughley
What are You Going to Do About Afghanistan, President Trump?
Binoy Kampmark
Warring in the Oncology Ward
Yves Engler
Remembering the Coup in Ghana
Jeremy Brecher
“Climate Kids” v. Trump: Trial of the Century Pits Trump Climate Denialism Against Right to a Climate System Capable of Sustaining Human Life”
Jonathan Taylor
Hate Trump? You Should Have Voted for Ron Paul
Franklin Lamb
Another Small Step for Syrian Refugee Children in Beirut’s “Aleppo Park”
Ron Jacobs
The Realist: Irreverence Was Their Only Sacred Cow
Andre Vltchek
Lock up England in Jail or an Insane Asylum!
Rev. William Alberts
Grandiose Marketing of Spirituality
Paul DeRienzo
Three Years Since the Kitty Litter Disaster at Waste Isolation Pilot Plant
Eric Sommer
Organize Workers Immigrant Defense Committees!
Steve Cooper
A Progressive Agenda
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail