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The Main Result of the Impeachment Process

The House Democrats have impeached the president, but the Senate will surely acquit him Thus the wistful plan to turn enough Republicans to make a difference won’t work. Meanwhile, Trump’s base has remained at around 42% throughout. The hearings appear to have consolidated the Trump base. Fundraising has reportedly “gone through the roof.” In short, the impeachment hearings have not succeeded, either in disillusioning Trump supporters or in reducing his prospects for a second term.

The entire Democratic case against Trump has centered on Ukraine. Not the wall, not family separation, not the racism and Islamophobia, not the lies…but failure to provide weapons to Ukraine on schedule in the hopes of receiving the new president’s help in investigating the activities of the son of a political opponent.

Never mind the morality of the arms delivery in the first place. No mind the wisdom of the decision of the Trump campaign to remove a plank in the Republican Party platform in 2016 promising lethal weaponry to Ukraine. (Why has that decision been used again and again to prove Trump’s loyalty to Putin? I’ll tell you: it’s to make you accept as default commonsense the idea that anyone in conflict with Russia deserves U.S. arms. It’s to make you accept an Us vs. Them world in which U.S. imperialism wages moral war on everybody else.)

The hearings’ only apparent success was to expose the U.S. audience to a line-up of State Department officials of the John Bolton variety (although not including him) to explain how Russia is our main adversary (Bolton’s deputy Fiona Hill); how Ukraine is a “strategic ally” of the U.S. (George Kent, Rep. Adam Schiff); how Russia has invaded/is invading Ukraine; how the beleaguered Ukrainians have an “urgent, desperate” need for weapons like the Javelin anti-tank missiles Trump withheld.

The more dire the Ukrainian crisis, the more evil seems the withholding of aid. The president appears not only politically selfish, demanding Biden dirt in return for arms; he appears evil, indifferent to human suffering, cruel. At least that was the picture witnesses wanted to paint.

But recall how Ukraine, having once been much in the news, from February 2014 when the Maidan events brought the elected government down in a bloody putsch, and a hand-picked U.S. candidate became prime minister in a fascist-backed regime, and the Donbass region rebelled, and Russia seized Crimea. In July the Malaysian airliner was shot down over eastern Ukraine, with the west blaming Russia for supplying the BUK missile used, and Moscow blaming the Kiev forces, noting both countries’ arsenals possess and continue to manufacture the weapon. All these events were cited by the U.S.

Actually the war in the Donbass region has been in a stalemate since 2015; in September 14, 2014 the first Mink Protocol was signed by the newly-elected Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko, Russia, the two Donbass separatist republics, and the Organization for Security and Cooperation and in Europe. There have been more than 20 ceasefires, the last signed March 8, 2019. On Oct. 1 as follow-up to the Minsk peace process, the new government in Ukraine signed on to a roadmap for peace with Russia, the two Donbass people’s republics, France, Germany and the OSCE. Notice how Russia is taking a leading role in these negotiations, drawing in Europe, while the U.S. remains aloof. One might conclude that Russia wants peace, while Washington wants ongoing confrontation.

Some witnesses at the impeachment hearings referred to the 13,000 (including 3300 civilians) killed in the conflict. The Donetsk and Lutansk people’s republics report 5650 killed, Kiev 4326.These were overwhelmingly in the first year of the conflict, and not the result of an invasion but of civil war. It was misleading to suggest that there is heavy fighting underway at present, including the use of “urgently needed” anti-tank missiles.

Foreign Policy reported on Oct. 3, 2019 that the Trump administration had already sent Javelins as early as 2018.

“Experts say the conditions of the sale render them useless in the event of a sustained low-level assault—the kind of attack Ukraine is most likely to face from Russia. Shortly after the first batch of Javelins arrived in Ukraine in 2018, they were tested by the Ukrainian military in what then-President Petro Poroshenko described as a ‘dream come true.’ The Ukrainian military has been trained on how to use the Javelins, but with no tank battles in eastern Ukraine since 2015, they haven’t yet had the chance to use them for real.”

Repeat: No tank battles in eastern Ukraine since 2015.

Anyway, FP points out: “Under the conditions of the foreign military sale, the Trump administration stipulates that the Javelins must be stored in western Ukraine—hundreds of miles from the battlefield.”

There had been little reportage about Ukraine (and almost none from there) in the U.S. media in recent years. A poll had showed that few Americans can locate Ukraine on an unmarked map. Few people in this country held firm opinions about the civil conflict or the annexation of Crimea. But by happenstance—a whistle blower’s report—it was revealed that Trump tried to secure a quid pro quo deal with Volodimr Zelensky involving arms for dirt. Democratic strategists immediately recognized this is the perfect issue to place at the center of impeachment hearings.

We can assume prior plans to pursue impeachment. It was just a question of the right issues, the right political calculation. Nancy Pelosi intelligently expressed her concern that the House could impeach, and the Senate acquit, to no purpose. This was my opinion, too; I thought impeachment might strengthen Trump’s base.

Some opined that even if the Republicans do acquit, so much damage could be done to Trump’s reputation that his support would shrink. But again, this seems unlikely.

From Day One the Democrats had selected the Russian connection as their best line of attack. Drawing is it does so primitively, given the decades of the Cold War and systematic red-baiting brainwashing, on Russophobia, it unites the Democratic leadership with neocon warmongers as never before. (See the reverence recently shown John Bolton, a vicious thug, and his remaking as responsible elder statesman even as he advocates a “strong line” on North Korea.)

So we can expect the Democratic Party, whoever heads the ticket, to include in their anti-Trump talking points his “bribery attempt” if not his “betrayal of Ukraine,” ignoring the historical context. This charge will be combined with: “…and he betrayed our Kurdish allies” as though it was ever a fine thing that the U.S. deploys troops illegally in Syria, originally sent with the end of effecting regime change. The theme of Trump as “Putin’s puppet”—introduced by that warmongering monster Hillary Clinton in the 2016 debates—while echo on, in large part as a legacy of the impeachment hearings.

***

In 2008, the year the United States recognized Kosovo as an independent state, NATO announced its intention to include Ukraine and Georgia, essentially completing the military encirclement of European Russia. A very confidant Georgian government brought to power with U.S. assistance foolishly attacked the separatist republic of South Ossetia, provoking a Russian invasion of Georgia. Russia then recognized the two new republics of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. The Georgian president fled the country in disgrace where he is now wanted for various crimes; his citizenship has been revoked and he now works for—you guess what?—Ukraine. (He was governor of Odessa for a while.)

According to NATO General-Secretary Jens Stoltenberg, both Georgia and Ukraine are on track to join NATO. But Russia says it will not accept this. (It would be like Mexico joining an anti-U.S. military bloc, pledging to commit 2% of its GDP to military expenses every year to prepare for eventual war in alliance with Europe and Canada. For the U.S. media to treat the expansion of NATO—when they discuss it at all—as anything more questionable than the expansion of UNESCO or UNICEF is to cover up the central issue of U.S.-Russian and even U.S.-European relations.)

NATO needs to be problematized, not secured as an aspect of the national cult. It is an antiquated alliance, established in 1949 to cement U.S. hegemony over western Europe, holding the Soviets and Marxism at bay. But since there were no Soviet invasions of the west, and since the Soviets followed a policy of “peaceful coexistence,” NATO troops were never deployed in warfare until after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, after the Cold War—against Yugoslavia, a Balkan country that had been neutral all through the Cold War, and in order to dismember it and establish U.S.-client states like the dysfunctional Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo. It has been used as an extension of U.S. power in Afghanistan and Libya, never to good purpose, never to “protect our freedoms.”

The problem of Ukraine is the problem of NATO expansion. That was the reason for the 2014 coup (to make it happen), the Russian annexation of Crimea (to prevent it), the ongoing turmoil in Ukraine and its use as a football between Moscow and Washington. Trump did not create the problem. It is good that he’s expressed skepticism about NATO—but bad that he always backs down o n his views and plans when corrected by “his” beloved generals. He now boasts that he’s done more to boost NATO spending than anyone, ever! And he’s been harder on Russia with sanctions than any president, ever!

He announces he’s pulling out from Afghanistan. No, his advisors warn, while TV pundits say only Russia will profit. And from Syria. No, he’s warned again, even by evangelists who tell him he might “lose the mandate of heaven” by breaking with the Kurds. So he rethinks.

Trump is a mercurial, unpredictable, ignorant, amoral fluke of a president whose views on geopolitics are grounded in no ideology other than his solipsism. Hillary Clinton in contrast was a predictable “liberal interventionist” and lifelong Goldwater Girl with a consistent view on confronting, surrounding and intimidating Russia while dominating the Balkans, North Africa and Southwest Asia through bombing. It is a good thing she did not win. It is unforgivable that the Democratic National Committee inflicted her on the people as their candidate, having blocked Bernie Sanders’ bid.

If this time the Democratic Party runs with a message of undoing Trump’s legacy by “closer cooperation with our allies,” etc., to maintain the moribund international order under U.S. hegemony while depicting Russia as an “existential threat,” strengthening not dissolving military alliances such as NATO and the U.S. alliances with Japan and South Korea, it will confirm that it remains the (other) party of Capital, incapable of opposing imperialism.

Gary Leupp is Professor of History at Tufts University, and holds a secondary appointment in the Department of Religion. He is the author of Servants, Shophands and Laborers in in the Cities of Tokugawa JapanMale Colors: The Construction of Homosexuality in Tokugawa Japan; and Interracial Intimacy in Japan: Western Men and Japanese Women, 1543-1900. He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, (AK Press). He can be reached at: gleupp@tufts.edu

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