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Why Does the United States Beat Up On Capitalist Russia?

Photo by josef.stuefer | CC BY 2.0

The Cold War we are familiar with ended with the collapse of the Soviet Union. In his new book “The Plot to Scapegoat Russia,” lawyer and human rights activist Dan Kovalik writes about a new Cold War against Russia – and about the peace that never came. He discusses the role of the Democratic Party and the CIA, but his book centers on explaining why hostilities resumed.

The real motivations of a revived confrontation are hardly the stuff of day-to-day news, and so the author relies upon the historical record for discovering the origins of a new Cold War. And he tells why the old Cold War was waged.

The common explanation was a pretext, he thinks. In Kovalik’s words: “the Cold War, at least from the vantage point of the US, had little to do with fighting ‘Communism,’ and more to do with making the world safe for corporate plunder.” This proposition, implied more than dwelled upon, enables the author to account for other U. S. wars and interventions.

CIA involvement is mentioned but not detailed. For Kovalik, “the CIA is a nefarious, criminal organization which often misleads the Ameri­can public and government into wars and misadventures.” These two themes – the real reason for why the United States fights wars and the CIA’s role in such wars – are unobtrusively present throughout the history recounted in the book.

Readers hungry to know about the “plot” advertised in the book’s title will need patience.  The author conducts a tour over time and across the world that takes in examples of U. S. military interventions and foreign meddling. At the point Kovalik is discussing the current U. S. – Russia confrontation, he has already described patterns of U. S. aggression and thereby has already traced out a scenario where motivations for harassing Russia are clear.

This highly – recommended book offers material so encompassing as to belie its small size.  Kovalik’s writing is clear, evocative, and readable. Along the way, he recalls those causes and the outrage that fired up activists who were his contemporaries. That’s a side benefit.

In college Kovalik learned about CIA machinations in Central America. Revelations from former agents Philip Agee, Ray McGovern, and John Stockman astonished him. His first trip to Nicaragua exposed him to a harvest of killings and terror. He learned first-hand about the role of Contra paramilitaries, recruited and paid for by the CIA. At one point he was comforting a father burying his son, killed by the Contras, along with 50,000 other Nicaraguans.

The author recalls the four churchwomen and six Jesuit priests murdered by U. S. – trained soldiers in El Salvador, U. S. support for soldiers and paramilitaries who killed and displaced populations in Colombia, and the CIA’s Operation Condor by which South American client states murdered political enemies. He recounts U. S – instigated coups in Iran, 1953; Guatemala, 1954; and Chile, 1973. Along the way he mentions U.S. war in Vietnam, occupation and war in Korea, nuclear bombs dropped on Japan, nuclear testing and dying in the Marshall Islands, and the CIA’s recruitment of the anti-Soviet Mujahideen in Afghan­istan.

This was the justification: keeping “the world safe from the threat of Soviet totalitarianism.” Then the Soviet Union was no more and the search was on for a new pretext. Having turned to “humanitarian intervention,” the Clinton administration soon was assisting the Paul Kagame regime in Ruanda and other African nations as they assaulted the Democratic Republic of the Congo. “US mining interests” were satisfied, Kovalik says, but “nearly six million people” people died.

Clinton’s government intervened in Haiti and participated in the destruction of Yugoslavia, Europe’s last socialist state. Supposed humanitarian motivations were behind the United States role in delivering Libya into chaos. For the author, U. S. pretensions and brutality stand in contrast to the relatively benign nature of Russian misdeeds.

More recently, in Kovalik’s telling, the U. S. government settled upon the rationalization of  “American exceptionalism.” This is “the belief that the US is a uniquely benign actor in the world, spreading peace and democracy.” Thus terror was exported to Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, and Yemen, where Saudi Arabia acted as a U. S. proxy. The list includes the 2009 military coup in Honduras facilitated by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

For the author, “The US’s outsized military exists not only to ensure the US’s quite unjust share of the world’s riches, but also to ensure that those riches are not shared with the poor huddled masses in this country.” Good relations with Russia would be “simply bad for business, in particular the business of war which so profoundly undergirds the US economy … As of 2015, the US had at least 800 military bases in over 70 nations, while Britain, France and Russia had only 30 military bases combined.” And, “under Obama alone, the US had Special Forces deployed in about 138 countries.”

Having surveyed decades worth of U.S. interventions abroad, military and otherwise, Kovalik turns to Russia. In the early 1990s that fledgling capitalist state was in crisis, he reports. Life expectancy had plummeted, the poverty rate was 75 percent, and investments in the economy were down 80 percent. National pride was in the cellar, the more so after the United States backed away from Secretary of State Baker’s 1991 promise that NATO would never move east, after the United States attacked Russia’s ally Serbia, and after the United States attacked Iraq in 2003 and Libya in 2011 without consulting Russia.

He regards Russia’s approach to Ukraine as defensible while reminding readers that Russia offered to cooperate with the United States in ending war in Syria. And U. S. claims about lack of democracy in Russia seem strained, especially when, as Kovalik insists, the United States abuses peoples the world over and itself suffers from a “severe democracy deficit.”

He argues that the Obama administration, particularly Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, was obsessed with Russia and that Democrats currently are fueling hostilities, backed by a compliant media. He discusses WikiLeaks revelations about the Democratic Party and hacking attributed to the Russians. He also suggests, without offering specifics, that the CIA is involved.  Kovalik doesn’t comment on possible interaction between Trump campaign personnel and Russian officials.

But prior to his discussion of confrontation with Russia, Kovalik had devoted considerable attention to why and how the United States harasses other countries. The reader, therefore, already knows never to expect U.S. imperialism to give Russia a break and knows why that is so.

Kovalik’s treatment of the Soviet Union is an essential part of his narrative. For one thing, many of the U. S. military interventions he reports on wouldn’t have occurred if the Soviet Union still existed. But basically, “the Soviet Union, did wield sizable polit­ical and ideological influence in the world for some time, due to the appeal of its socialist message as well as its critical role in winning [World War] II.”

Kovalik acknowledges “periods of great repression.” He adds, however, that “the Russian Revolution and the USSR … delivered on many of their promises, and against great odds. …. In any case, the goals of the Russian Revolution—equality, worker control of the economy, universal health care and social security— were laudable ones.”  And, “One of the reasons that the West continues to dance on the grave of the Soviet Union, and to emphasize the worst parts of that society and downplay its achievements, is to make sure that, as the world-wide economy worsens, and as the suffering of work­ing people around the world deepens, they don’t get any notions in their head to organize some new socialist revolution with such ideals.”

Ultimately, Kovalik sides with Martin Luther King, who remarked that, ‘The US is on the wrong side of the world-wide revolution’ – and with Daniel Ellsberg’s clarification: ‘The US is not on the wrong side; it is the wrong side.’”

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W.T. Whitney Jr. is a retired pediatrician and political journalist living in Maine.

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