Archive | June 13th, 2014

Champion boxers call for release of Puerto Rican political prisoner


Contingent for Oscar Lopez Rivera to join Puerto Rican Day Parade

José Pedraza (fourth from left on top) and team display “Oscar Lopez Rivera” banner for the Puerto Rican Day parade in New York
Photo: Nelson Ramirez

Miguel Cotto and Jose Pedraza are calling for the release of Puerto Rican Political Prisoner, Oscar López Rivera, lending their prestige as champion fighters hailing from Puerto Rico to the revolutionary who has toiled in U.S. prisons for 33 years.

Cotto, the “pride of Puerto Rico,” defended his Lightweight title six times before ascending to heavier weight classes. Cotto is fighting Middleweight Sergio Martinez at Madison Square Garden as the main card fight Sat. June 7. José “Sniper” Pedraza, super-featherweight champ, is fighting in the undercard this same night against Arturo Uruzquieta.

The two fighters are going to appear with “Free Oscar López Rivera” shirts in the ring at Madison Square Garden. Pedraza previously wore the shirt in a fight in Puerto Rico.

A growing number of supporters have joined the efforts to free Oscar López Rivera including City Council Speaker Melissa Mark Viverito, José Rivera and leaders of the community like Orlando Plaza (National Parade Board member), María Kercado (1199), Santos Crespo, (32BJ Union), Ramón Jiménez, Esq, and Fernando Láspinas.

Oscar López Rivera has been incarcerated for 33 years for participating in the movement for an independent Puerto Rico—charged with “Seditious Conspiracy”—the same charges that held Nelson Mandela in prison.

In 1999, Bill Clinton commuted the sentences of 16 members of the Fuerza Armadas de Liberación Nacional (FALN), but López refused the deal as it excluded two fellow revolutionaries who have since been released.

The National Puerto Rican Parade is paying tribute to Oscar López Rivera and a contingent in support of his release will be marching in the Puerto Rican Day Parade in New York City on June 8. The June 1 Bronx march was also dedicated to Lopez Rivera.

“We are going to be marching down 5th Ave. with a 60″ long by 30″ wide Puerto Rican flag with members of his family on a float. I am participating to express my solidarity for this brother and because these charges are the same charges that were put Nelson Mandela to fighting against apartheid in South Africa,” said Nelson Ramirez, one of the pleneros performing as part of the contingent of hundreds.


Liberation News

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Communist forces debate the way forward in Nepal


New Constituent Assembly fails to make progress towards constitution

 Liberation News.

Since the 2006 revolution that overthrew the monarchy, Nepal’s new government has been engaged in a series of political struggles over how to complete the revolution. Pictured above, a May Day protest in 2010.

Dramatic election results in Nepal have set the stage for a period of political realignment as the seventh government since the 2006 “People’s Movement 2” revolution attempts to advance the process of drafting a constitution. This new chapter in the country’s transition out of feudal, monarchical rule began when voters again went to the polls to elect a second Constituent Assembly last November 19. The Constituent Assembly is tasked with writing the new constitution.

The first Constituent Assembly was elected in 2008 with a two-year mandate, which was extended several times until finally expiring in 2012. A caretaker government led by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court ran the country until the most recent election, an arrangement that had dubious constitutional legitimacy.

Prior to the election, the Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) suffered a major split. It had been the largest party in the first Constituent Assembly and led the 1996-2006 People’s War that culminated with the uprising that overthrew the monarchy. Afterwards, a long-running, intense internal debate erupted over what strategy the party should adopt.

One of the Vice-Chairmen of the UCPN(M), Kiran, led a faction that wanted to organize an insurrection in order to seize power – the line of “people’s revolt.” Chairman Prachanda and another Vice-Chairperson, Baburam Bhattarai, put forward the line of “peace and constitution,” arguing that the international situation and the level of economic development in Nepal were not conducive to an immediate socialist revolution. The Prachanda-Bhattarai leadership dissolved on humiliating terms the 10,000-strong People’s Liberation Army, which had in the past captured large swaths of the country from the royalist forces.

In mid-2012 these tensions led to a split, with Kiran leading a sizable minority out of the party and into a new formation, the Communist Party of Nepal – Maoist. While the UCPN(M) participated in the Constituent Assembly elections of 2013, the new party, the CPN-M, boycotted it, arguing that it would be incapable of solving the country’s political deadlock. The CPN-M further argued that it threatened  the country’s sovereignty. Nepal is subjected to several “unequal treaties” that are economically and politically advantageous to India and the Indian government regularly intervenes in domestic Nepali affairs.

Despite a massive military mobilization to intimidate those who were calling for a boycott, participation in the second Constituent Assembly election was much lower than the previous one. Only 12.1 million voters registered, down 5.4 million from last time, and approximately 2 million fewer people ultimately voted. Corporate media outlets around the world reported the technically correct figure of 70 percent turnout – higher than the 2008 election – but this is because the number of registered voters was so much smaller. In one village in the Rolpa district, the heartland of the People’s War, not a single vote was cast.

The vote delivered a  blow to the UCPN(M), which lost nearly two-thirds of its seats in the Constituent Assembly. Nepali Congress, a bourgeois centrist party, was the biggest winner, coming in first and gaining 81 seats over the last election. Meanwhile, the Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist-Leninist), which is a social democratic party despite its revolutionary-sounding name, increased its share from 108 to 175 seats for a second place finish.

The Madhesi political parties that advocate for the rights of the people living in the plains near the border with India saw their share of seats decline as a result of the many splits that occurred since 2008. Although they are not a communist force, the Madhesi parties raise the progressive demand of self-determination for oppressed nationalities, or as it is referred to in Nepal “identity-based federalism.” In a troubling development, the right-wing Rastriya Prajatantra Party improved on its results and is now the fourth largest party in the new Constituent Assembly, where it advocates for a return to the monarchy on the basis of Hindu fundamentalism.

In short, social-democratic, centrist and right-wing parties gained in the Constituent Assembly, while the progressive Madhesi parties and UCPN(M), having lost a large number of revolutionary cadres to the split and boycott, declined.

New government, same deadlock

The election led to the formation of a  government, led by Nepali Congress Chairman Sushil Koirala, in coalition with the social-democratic CPN-UML. Although there was tension over allocation of cabinet positions, the two parties have a history of collaboration on the basis that both advocate for a “democratic” capitalist model and are hostile to those forces that seek to push further.

It appears that the deadlock that consistently bogged down the previous constitution-drafting effort will persist in the new government. The new Constituent Assembly was not convened until over two months after the election, due in large part to a dispute over whether the Prime Minister or President would preside over the ceremony inaugurating the assembly – an issue that eventually reached the Supreme Court. The Constituent Assembly still has not taken full shape, since the parties are yet to reach an agreement on how to allocate the appointed seats.

This may seem almost absurd, but the deadlock is an expression of the underlying causes of years of political stalemate between the contending class and political forces in the country. It is impossible to meet the demands and aspirations of the masses of Nepalese people without a radical transformation of property relations in the country, but the Constituent Assembly, filled as it is with pro-capitalist parties, will certainly not reach a consensus on such measures.

One of the committees, led by Baburam Bhattarai, the leader of the moderate wing of the UCPN(M) is tasked with reviewing the decisions of the last Constituent Assembly, but even this has been impossible. The Constituent Assembly only has a one-year deadline, but barring a major breakthrough it appears that Nepal is headed towards another missed deadline.

The new assembly seems even less likely than the last one to produce a pro-people constitution, which would address issues such as national self-determination and land reform. The People’s Liberation Army is gone, revolutionary forces are almost totally absent and other progressive forces have a diminished presence.

Sharp debate over how to complete the revolution

In this challenging situation, the communist forces have been engaged in heated internal debates over organizational and strategic questions. The departure of the left-wing Kiran faction did not end the divisions inside the UCPN(M). Sharp differences have emerged between the Bhattarai and Prachanda factions, with another third force led by another Vice-Chairman, Narayan Kaji Shrestha, usually aligning with Prachanda but with a heavier focus on nationalism.

This dispute came to a head at the UCPN(M) National Convention in early May. Meeting in the wake of the party’s disastrous performance in the election, the National Convention has the authority to elect party leaders but not to make fundamental changes to the party’s program. In reality though, rather seismic changes were proposed by party leaders.

At the national convention, Prachanda presented a political document that maintained the party’s existing position that the main task was to foster a “capitalist economic revolution” to combat feudalism and underdevelopment. He also proposed the dissolution of the party into a new communist formation by merging UCPN(M) with both CPN-M (the left-wing split), and CPN-UML (the social-democratic party).

Even though Prachanda’s proposal would essentially postpone socialist revolution indefinitely, Bhattarai stands further to the right, and his faction was still not satisfied. Bhattarai resigned his post as Vice-Chairman of the party prior to the National Convention in protest of Prachanda’s strategy and “working style.” His faction raised the demand for a General Convention, the highest decision making body of the UCPN(M), to adopt a “new ideology” for the party. Bhattarai uses the same language of “updating” Marxism that many formerly communist parties have used when they are preparing to abandon revolutionary politics. He also demanded a smaller, more streamlined central leadership and term limits for top leaders.

While the senior leaders were maneuvering for power, they had to deal with growing discontent among rank-and-file UCPN(M) cadre, who have many grievances with the entire leadership. High-ranking party officials have been accused of adopting a decadent lifestyle after the end of the armed struggle. Following the split, the cadres of the newly formed CPN-M participated in the landless peasants’ movement have targeted land owned by UCPN(M) leaders, expropriating them and distributing their property to the poor.

The issue of outright corruption has grown in importance. As a stipulation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement that ended the People’s War after the overthrow of the monarchy, revolutionary soldiers received a regular salary while they were confined to their barracks. They were instructed to give a portion of this salary to the party, but there has been little accountability as to how this money was ultimately spent. At the National Convention, delegates demanded that the leadership publicly release the results of an internal investigation into the matter.

Zigzags on the question of national sovereignty have disoriented and upset many UCPN(M) members. While Prachanda had in the past postured as a leftist in comparison with Bhattarai, often stressing the importance of combating Indian intervention, his position has dramatically changed now that he no longer faces pressure from the Kiran faction. Prachanda even went so far as to publicly congratulate Narendra Modi, the far right-wing politician who was recently elected as the new Prime Minister of India.

Ultimately, the Prachanda faction was able to garner the support of a large majority of convention delegates to endorse his political and organizational proposals. The Bhattarai faction boycotted the subsequent election process for the party’s Central Committee, Politburo, Standing Committee and senior officers. It remains to be seen whether or not UCPN(M) will suffer yet another split — this time from the right.

Rumors of a merger between UCPN(M) and CPN-M

In the run-up to the UCPN(M) National Convention, leaders of the Prachanda faction had insinuated that reunification with CPN-M was imminent. Prachanda himself stated that if it was necessary for communist unity he would be willing to resign his post and function as an ordinary cadre. Few take Prachanda’s statements seriously given the level of factional struggle. More likely, these overtures are meant to discourage defections to CPN-M, and shore up Prachanda’s support among left-leaning UCPN(M) members.

CPN-M leaders have stated fairly consistently that unification under the current circumstances is impossible, but that they would be open to the proposal if UCPN(M) adopts a revolutionary line and agrees to operate under Kiran’s leadership.

However, there is a growing debate inside the ranks of the CPN-M over if and when to return to armed struggle. The official line of the party is “people’s revolt on the basis of people’s war” – drawing on the experience and prestige of the People’s War to organize an insurrection in the urban centers of the country and seize power.

In the short-term, the CPN-M hopes to undercut the authority of the Constituent Assembly by agitating for a “round-table conference” that would be composed of all social and political organizations in the country to take up issues related to the new constitution.

One of the components of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement was the formation of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to deal with civil and criminal grievances from the period of the People’s War. It was understood by revolutionaries that the balance of class forces would determine whether the commission would focus on prosecuting the atrocities committed by members of the old regime or instead attack communists for their actions against the ruling elites.

In a blatant violation of the peace agreement, the new government has brought charges against a group of UCPN(M) and CPN-M cadre for alleged murder. The prospect of an anti-communist witch hunt strengthens the case of CPN-M leaders who argue for the rapid development of a military wing for the party.

Depending on how these strategic differences within both UCPN(M) and CPN-M play out, there could be yet another political realignment. Even without a formal merger, a united front could emerge between the two large communist parties in the mass movement against the bourgeois NC-UML government.

Given the heroic sacrifices of the country’s millions of communists and ordinary people who have engaged in revolutionary struggle and taken to the streets, the popular aspirations for a new society, for socialism, will not simply disappear.

After overthrowing the monarchy, communist forces struggled to overcome the contradictions of how to preside over a bourgeois-democratic government in a largely feudal society while still advancing towards socialism. Now that the class character of the Nepalese state is more fully exposed, with bourgeois parties in the lead, a new stage of intensifying struggle is on the horizon.



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What the gov’t shutdown teaches us about the Afghanistan war


An Iraq war veteran’s perspective

For both Republicans and Democrats, life is good playing political games while our lives are used as bargaining chips.
U.S. troops are now dying and losing limbs patrolling areas the generals and politicians know we will abandon.

Let’s look at this debate and the shutdown for what it really is, and what the attitudes about the politicians involved teach us about their management of our lives.

For veterans and service members, the government shut down means the closing down of many essential services. The Veterans Benefits Administration will be unable to process education and rehabilitation benefits, which are critical to so many vets being able to pay their bills. The Board of Veterans’ Appeals will be unable to hold hearings, extending our already outrageous wait period even longer.

If the shutdown continues, the 3.6 million veterans who receive disability and compensation payments for wounds in service—many of whom completely rely on these paychecks to eat—will not be paid. “Thank you for your service”?

The Republicans, on their quest to attack all social programs, civil rights and social rights, are mad that 50 million people will have access to healthcare who didn’t before. This is their opportunity to rally their base against “big government” to pad their pockets from lobbyist friends and boost their anti-worker election strategy.

The Democratic Party is cool with the shutdown. Instead of fighting the right-wing assault that will affect millions, they’re excited to use this towards their election strategy, too, with new ammunition to paint the Republicans as causing hardship for the “middle class”—so they’re happy to wait it out. No rush for them.

So these Congressmen, who are mostly millionaires and work only around 135 days out of the year, are playing a political chess game and in their rich-guy spat consider our lives fair game to throw on the table. Our lives and the lives of our families are expendable, to enrich the lives and careers of these rich politicians.

These same politicians gush endlessly over loving the troops and veterans, especially when it comes to justifying multi-billion-dollar contracts to defense corporations—like the recent  1.2 billion (yes, billion) dollar deal to buy 48 missiles for the United Arab Emirates. Seems like our tax money well spent, if you’re a Lockheed Martin CEO or a prince in the UAE. (NPR, Sept. 23, 2013)

At home and abroad, their careers more important than our lives

Now the let’s look at how the politicians take this same attitude in the government shutdown to the war in Afghanistan. We’re about to mark its 12th year anniversary. The vast majority of Americans oppose it. But Congress has no qualms about approving funds to keep that war going endlessly.

Those same politicians know and acknowledge from their classified foreign policy briefings that the war in Afghanistan cannot be won. Just take it from the general who commanded the war (and the CIA), David Petraeus, when he thought nobody was listening: “You have to recognize also that I don’t think you win this war. … This is the kind of fight we’re in for our lives and probably our kids’ lives.”

They tell us we’re fighting and dying and killing to keep the Taliban from coming back to power. But that isn’t actually true. The U.S. is negotiating with the Taliban behind the scenes and begging them to join a national unity government (i.e., putting them in power).

But they also  know and acknowledge that the Taliban, bolstered by a national, multi-dimensional resistance movement against the U.S./NATO occupation, doesn’t really care about the offers that include bowing to the U.S. military, because they’re committed to a long war and know, like the U.S. commanders, that they’ve created a no-win situation for the U.S. military effort.

The people of the United States do not support this ridiculous exercise and the politicians also know that the U.S. must withdraw from Afghanistan. But they don’t want to do it right away because none of them want to take responsibility for telling the truth and saying that the war is lost and that we need to leave immediately.

Neither the politicians nor the generals want to even suggest that they would tarnish the image of the U.S. military as the most invincible, powerful force ever known. They use that a lot, in their dealings with many other countries, as we know.

So they keep us there. They “end” the war in a “phased withdrawal” that lasts several years. That way they can maintain the myth that the U.S. is not retreating from the battlefield without “victory.” We die and get badly wounded just so they can save face. What makes this even more disgusting is that these politicians are mostly privileged millionaires who, except in the rarest case, never see their children go to war nor served themselves.

In the meantime, they get bought dinner at 5-star steakhouses with their defense contractor friends, going home to their families in big homes, with no worries about putting their rich-mans-club career in jeopardy. At that same time, we do something very different.

We kill the time losing legs on pointless patrols through fields we know will return to the hands of the people resisting in them; we spend the time getting blown apart by rockets in outposts we know will close down when it is politically convenient for those rich politicians.

While the generals and politicians order us to retreat in slow motion, to protect their image and the endless flow of cash to the defense industry, countless lives and limbs are sacrificed.

Like their current posturing match, they are also playing a political chess game in Afghanistan, in which our lives are expendable to suit theirs.

The government shutdown charade and the saving-face strategy in Afghanistan are both examples of how our “leaders” are incapable of managing our lives, and why we shouldn’t follow their ridiculous orders.

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The real crime in the Bergdahl-Taliban prisoner swap


Holding prisoners in perpetuity in Gitmo torture center is a crime against humanity

Hundreds have been held in the notorious torture center for years without the U.S. government ever finding any crime to charge them with.
Hip hop artist and actor Yasiin Bey submits himself to standard treatment at Guantanamo to draw attention to the flagrant crimes against humanity

The following is a statement from March Forward!

The right wing is making a big deal out of the fact that five Taliban officials were released to retrieve captured U.S. Army infantryman Bowe Bergdahl.

They shriek: “How many soldiers did they kill?”

The answer is none, actually.

None of them were picked up in battle. In the 12 years they were held in Guantanamo, they were never charged with any crime.

If there was even the smallest bit of evidence that they were connected to attacks that killed U.S. soldiers, wouldn’t they have been charged by the scandalous detention facility already struggling to justify holding its captives?

The five people released were held hostage and tortured for 12 years. But for the right wing, their release, and not this abuse, is the crime against humanity.

Of the 779 people who have been held at Guantanamo, over 600 have been released without the U.S. government being able to find a way to charge them—after years of digging hard for any excuse, through brutality and humiliation.

Guantanamo is considered an illegal torture center by the United Nations. Amidst worldwide disgust, then-candidate Obama said “we’re going to close Guantanamo. And we’re going to restore habeas corpus.” Congress has fought this at every turn and Obama has refused to use his executive authority to make it happen.

Washington has been playing politics with the lives of hundreds of its hostages and torture victims at Guantanamo. That is the real crime.

Anti-war veterans and service members say: Close Guantanamo now!

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No Sanctions! Hands off Venezuela!


ANSWER condemns sanctions passed by U.S. House of Representatives against Venezuela

Supporters of the Bolivarian Revolution

Adding yet another provocative act to the U.S. government’s long history of aggression against Venezuela, the House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved by voice vote a bill imposing sanctions on Venezuela and prominent Venezuelans. The ANSWER Coalition is outraged at this development and is committed to continuing to mobilize in solidarity with the country’s Bolivarian Revolution, led by President Nicolas Maduro.

The proposed sanctions, which are yet to be passed in the Senate or signed by President Obama, are meant to support the ongoing campaign of fascist violence being unleashed by the right-wing Venezuelan opposition. These forces represent the old elites who lost their positions of economic and political power as a result of the country’s revolutionary process.

The U.S. government, corporate media outlets and pro-imperialist NGOs like Human Rights Watch have been promoting a false narrative of repression committed against peaceful protesters. In reality, the country’s security forces have exercised extreme restraint in the face of terroristic street blockades that infringe on the population’s right to free movement. The majority of deaths have been of either security force members or innocent bystanders who were caught up in the opposition’s violence.

This comes in the context of an economic war being waged by what remains of the country’s business elite. Far from being a product of government mismanagement, the high inflation rates that are so often talked about in the corporate media are the result of a deliberate attempt to destabilize the situation and weaken the government’s support base among poor and working people. U.S. imperialism followed essentially the same script when it decided to “make the economy scream” in Chile prior to the 1973 coup that installed the fascist regime of Augusto Pinochet.

Should they be enacted, the sanctions that passed in the House of Representatives will add to the perception that the situation is spiraling out of control. The bill also includes more funding for the Venezuelan opposition, which already receives huge amounts of money from the U.S. government via a labyrinth of “civil society” shells.

The Bolivarian Revolution has already delivered stunning gains to the country’s poor and working people. By confronting western and corporate interests, massive progress has been made in the areas of healthcare, education, poverty reduction, housing and more. For the first time, the oppressed have control over their own destiny through institutions of people’s power such as communal councils and communes. It is critical that all progressive people mobilize to defeat these sanctions and defend Venezuela’s right to self-determination.

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The Fateful Triangle: Russia, Ukraine and the Jews

Global Research

The erotic reliefs of Hindu temples with their gravity-defying and anatomy-challenging positions have found a new modern competitor in the Ukrainian crisis. Each party wants to get the Jews on their side, while claiming that the other side is anti-Jewish and a Jewish puppet at once. This impossible, Kama-Sutraesque position is the result of extremely confusing alliances: the Kiev regime lists devout Jews and fiery antisemites among its mainstays.

The leading figures of the regime (including the president-elect) are of Jewish origin; strongman and chief financier Mr. Igor (Benya) Kolomoysky is a prominent Jewish public figure, the builder of many synagogues and a supporter of Israel. The most pro-active force of the regime, the ultra-nationalists of the Svoboda party and the Right Sector, admire Hitler and his Ukrainian Quisling, Stepan Bandera, “liberators of Ukraine from the Judeo-Muscovite yoke”. Jews are ambivalent, and the sides are ambivalent about them, and a most dramatic intrigue has been hatched.

The Russians tried to pull Israel and American Jews to their side, with little success. President Putin condemned the antisemitism of the Svoboda party; he mentioned the desecration of the Odessa Jewish cemetery in his important talk.

The Russians re-vitalised the World War Two narrative, fully identifying the Kiev regime with the Bandera gangs and the Nazi enemy. Still, this rhetoric is not taken seriously by Jews who refuse to feel threatened by cuddly Kolomoysky. “These Nazis are not against Jews, they are against Russians, so it is not a Jewish problem”, they say.

The Kiev regime mirrored the Russian attitude, if not Russia’s tactics. Being rather short of facts to brandish, they faked a leaflet from Donetsk rebels to local Jews calling upon them to register and pay a special poll tax “for the Jews support the Kiev regime”. This rude and improbable hoax was immediately and convincingly disproved, but not before it was used by, no less, Barak Obama and John Kerry.

The American Jewish newspaper of record, The Forward, obfuscated the issue by saying that Russians and Ukrainians are antisemites by birth and their denials are to be taken with a grain of salt. This mud-slinging was effective – the hoax has made the front pages, while its debunking was published on the back pages.

The Russians had the facts on their side, and the West knew that: the US refused entry to Oleg Tyagnibok and other Svoboda leaders (now members of Kiev government) because of their antisemitism as recently as 2013. But Russian appeals to Jewish and American sensitivities failed to make an impact. They know when to feign indignation and when to hush.

Pro-Hitler commemorations are frequent in Estonia, Latvia, Croatia, and cause no lifting of a censorious brow, for these countries are solidly anti-Russian. In March of this year, the Obama administration’s special envoy on anti-Semitism, Ira Forman, flatly denied everything and said to the Forward that Putin’s assertions of Svoboda’s antisemitism “were not credible”. The US wants to decide who is an antisemite and who is not; like Hermann Goering wanted to decide who is a Jew and who is not in the Luftwaffe. In the Ukrainian crisis, the Jews remain divided, and follow their countries’ preferences.

Israel is neutral

Recently Prime Minister Netanyahu called President Putin. Putin is always available for and always courteous to Netanyahu, as opposed to President Obama, who shows signs of irritation. (Admittedly Obama has to listen to Netanyahu much more often and for hours.) Netanyahu apologised that he wouldn’t be able to come to St Petersburg for Israeli Culture Week; instead, old reliable Shimon Peres, Israel’s President, will make the trip. He apologised for leaking the news of this visit cancellation to the media, as well.

This is quite typical for the Israeli PM: at first, he asks for an invitation, Russia extends it, then he cancels his visit and leaks it to the press, thus earning brownie points with the Americans. He did it at the Sochi Olympic games, and now again, in St Petersburg. This is his way of expressing Israeli neutrality.

Israel is explicitly neutral in the Ukrainian crisis. Israelis walked out and did not vote on the UN GA Crimea resolution at all, annoying its American sponsors. The Israelis had a flimsy excuse: their Foreign Office was on strike. The Americans weren’t satisfied with this explanation. Strike or not, vote you must!

We learned from our Israeli colleagues the details of the Putin-Netanyahu phone conversation, which elaborated the reasons for Israeli neutrality. Israel is worried that as an asymmetric response to the US sanctions, Russia would deliver its potent air defence systems to Iran and Syria. Iran and Russia had signed a weapons supply contract a few years ago, Iran duly paid; then the shipment was suspended. Iran went to court demanding a massive compensation for the breach of contract. Likewise, the Syrians were supposed to get the S-300 surface-to-air missile system, able to protect its skies from Israeli raids.

The deliveries commenced; PM Netanyahu beseeched Putin to put it on hold. Initially Putin objected, stressing the defensive nature of the system. Netanyahu told the Russian president that the S-300 would allow the Syrians to cover the whole North of Israel, at least all the way to Haifa, rendering important airfields unusable and endangering civil aviation as well. Putin agreed to stop the deliveries.

Vladimir Putin is friendly to Israel. He promised he would not allow the destruction of Israel; he promised to save its population if the situation should become truly dangerous. During the recent visit of PM Netanyahu to Moscow, Putin was not carried away by Netanyahu and Liberman’s hints of possible Israeli re-alliance with Moscow instead of Washington. He told the Israelis that their ties with the US are too strong for such a re-alliance being conceivable. Putin said that Russia is satisfied with the present level of friendship and does not demand that Tel Aviv weaken its ties with Washington. Putin visited Israel a few times, he received the Israeli PM in Kremlin. The Israeli ambassador Mme Golender sees Putin more often than do her American or French counterparts.

This friendly attitude has a down-to-earth reason: Putin is not fluent in English or French, while Mme Ambassador speaks Russian to him, eliminating the bothersome need of an interpreter. A deeper reason is Putin’s background: a scion of liberal elites, brought up in St Petersburg, schooled by ultra-liberal Mayor Sobchack, anointed by Boris Yeltsin, Putin is naturally friendly to Jews and to Israel. This friendly attitude annoyed some Russian ultra-patriots, who excitedly circulated his photo taken in the obligatory kippah near the Wailing Wall. They also counted and recounted the names of Jewish oligarchs in Moscow.

True, some of them – Berezovsky, Gusinsky, Hodorkovsky – had to flee their Russian homeland, but the Russian president is surely not the Jewish-tycoons-Nemesis and the-new-Hitler he is sometimes made out to be. Abramovich and Friedman, to name just two, retain his trust and access. Putin does not mind any oligarch (Jewish or Gentile) – as long as he stays out of politics.

Putin is also friendly with Jewish intellectuals and gentlemen-of-the-media, even if they are outright hostile to him. Masha Gessen, and magazine editor; Alexey Venediktov, Jewish chief editor of Echo Moskvy, a popular liberal medium that attacks Putin every day; many others enjoy access to Putin, – while no Russian nationalist including Dr Alexander Dugin can boast of having met with the president privately.

Putin’s affability does not turn him into a bountiful source for every Jewish initiative. He stopped S-300 deliveries to Iran, but rejected all Israeli overtures asking him to ditch Iran, or Syria, or Hamas. In the course of their last phone conversation, Netanyahu claimed the Israelis discovered proofs of Iranian nukes. Putin politely expressed his doubts and re-addressed him to IAEA. He agreed to receive the Israeli “experts” with their proofs in Moscow, but nothing came of it. Russia’s support for Palestine is unwavering, – there is a Palestinian embassy in Moscow, too.

Putin supported building of a spacious Jewish museum in Moscow and personally contributed to its budget – but Russian street advertising proclaims the Resurrection of Christ, Eastertide, and His Nativity at Christmas. No “season’s greetings”, but open affirmation of Christianity. Russia is not like the US or EU, where external signs of Christian faith are forbidden, Easter and Christmas can’t be mentioned and whatever Jews request must be done immediately. Western Jews are annoyed (so their organisations claim) by public displays of Christian faith, but Russian Jews do not mind; moreover, they intermarry, convert and enter the Church in previously unheard of numbers. They are not strongly pro-Israeli, those that were already left for Israel.

So the Jews of Russia are not an influential factor to the Russian President. Putin will do what is right according to the Christian faith, and what is good for Russia, as he understands it — and he can’t be convinced to give up really important points. Other considerations – such as friendship with Israel – would normally take a much lower place in his priorities. However, in the midst of the Ukrainian crisis, as the Russians are worried by sanctions and by threats of isolation, they try to pull Jews to their side. This makes them increasingly susceptible to Israeli manipulation, whether state-authorised or a private venture.

Last week, Israeli military historian Martin van Creveld visited Moscow. In 2003, he famously threatened Europe with nuclear destruction (the “Samson Option”), saying “Israel has the capability to take the world down with us, and that will happen before Israel goes under”. Now he has explained to Russians Israel’s new policy: While the US enters the period of its decline, Israel must diversify and hedge its bets by drawing close to Moscow, Beijing and Delhi, he wrote in Izvestia daily. Perhaps, but without going too far. A flirt – yes, switching sides – not yet.

Israel prefers to stick to its neutrality. This is easy, as the Israeli populace (excepting its Russians) is not interested in Russian/Ukrainian affairs, does not know the difference between Russia and the Ukraine and is rather unfriendly to Russians/Ukrainians. This goes for both the Left and Right; the Israeli Left is even more pro-American than the Israeli Right. As for Russian Israelis, they are equally divided between supporters of Russia and supporters of Kiev regime. While observing niceties towards Russia, Israel does not intend to side with Moscow. The Jewish oligarchs of Ukraine – Kolomoysky, Pinchuk, Rabinovich – are integrated within the Kiev regime, and they support Israeli right-wing on a large scale. Israeli businessmen are invested in the Ukraine, and the oligarchs are invested in Israel. Kolomoysky controls YuzhMash, the famed missile construction complex in Dnepropetrovsk, and holds the secrets of the Satan ballistic missile, the most powerful Russian strategic weapon. He allegedly intends to share these secrets with the Israelis. If Israel were to side with Moscow regarding Ukraine, the breach with Washington would be unavoidable, and Israel does not intend to provoke it.

Some marginal Israeli right-wingers support Russia; they claim that they represent Israeli public opinion and government. They try to collect on their promises before they deliver. However, this is not an ordinary scam: they are trying to turn Russia into a supporter of right-wing Zionism.

Consider Russian-Israeli far right activist Avigdor Eskin. He impossibly claims that the Israeli government has already decided to jump from the US train to join the Russian one, that Israeli commandos are on their way to fight for the Russians in Donetsk, that Israeli authorities intend to strip Mr Kolomoysky of his Israeli citizenship. Naturally, all that is a load of bunkum, but Russians swallow it hook, line and sinker.

Avigdor Eskin is a colourful personality: a convert to Jewish faith (his mother is not Jewish), an observant Jew, an ex-Kahanist who was arrested in Israel for an alleged attempt to desecrate Al Aqsa mosque and a Muslim cemetery, and who served two or three years in Israeli jail; he styles himself a “Rabbi” and wears a full beard. After serving his time in jail, he moved to Russia and built a network of Israel supporters among the Russian far right. His message is “Israel is a true friend of Russia, while Muslims are Russia’s enemies”. He also adds that Israeli settlers are anti-American and pro-Russian. (If you believe that, the tooth fairy is the next step.)

Recently he claimed that the Aliya Battalion of “experienced Israeli commandos and sharpshooters” came to warring Donbass to fight on the Russian side against the Kiev regime troops. The Aliya Battalion is a battalion in the sense Salvation Army is an army. This is an Israeli NGO, established by Russian Israelis of far-right Zionist persuasion and of some Russian military background. It is not a part of Israeli Army. For a short while, the NGO provided guards for Jewish settlements in Gaza and the West Bank, but the settlements stopped using them as they were extremely unreliable. They boasted of murdering Palestinian civilians, of torturing and killing children, but this was just a sick sadist and racist fantasy, people say. Afterwards, the Battalion leaders turned its name into a profitable scam, roaming American Jewish communities and collecting donations for their supposedly secret activities. As this scam was exposed by Israeli TV (RTVI network; it is available on the YouTube), they had disappeared from the public eye. Now Avigdor Eskin resurrected the old scam, and made a lot of headlines in the Russian media.

Eskin found a soulmate in prominent Russian media man Vladimir Solovyev. The Solovyev is of partly Jewish origin, lived abroad, then returned to Russia; he runs an important political show Sunday Evening on Russian TV. The Saker (a well-known blogger) described him as follows:

“This show is hosted by a famous personality, Vladimir Solovyev, who is a very interesting guy. Solovyev is a Jew, and he is not shy about reminding his audience about it, who was even elected as a member of the Russian Jewish Congress. He is also a Russian patriot, and he is an outspoken supporter of Putin and his policies. His position on the Ukraine is simple: he as a Jew and as a Russian has zero tolerance for Ukrainian nationalism, neo-Nazism or Banderism. He is a determined and total enemy of the new Kiev regime.”

It is possible Solovyev is going through some personal identity crisis: from celebrating his Russian roots, he moved to proclaiming his Jewish origin. Alternatively, it is possible (and more likely) that the Russian decision-makers want to pull Jews on their side, and Solovyev is acting with US Jews in mind. Stalin did it, so Putin could repeat the trick. In 1942, as Nazi onslaught threatened Russia, Stalin had sent some Russian Jews to the US, to speak Yiddish to Jewish communities and lobby for the USSR. The American Jewish community surely carries some clout… Now Solovyev and others are trying to influence Jews abroad; or at least to show to their superiors they are trying.

The price Eskin extracts for his fantasy stories is high. In Solovyev’s prime time programme, he called for the destruction of al Aqsa mosque and for the building of the Jewish temple on its place. He called Palestinians “the people of Antichrist”. Even in Israel such statements can’t be voiced on public TV. In confused Moscow, Eskin was feted and given a place in another important political programme, that of Arcady Mamontov. Who is conning whom: is Eskin conning his Russian hosts, or are his media hosts using him to con their superiors, or are their superiors trying to con the Russian people? Or is Israel hedging its bets? Who knows?

Ukrainian Jews beg to differ

Jews came to the Ukraine a thousand years ago, perhaps from Khazaria. This is not a homogeneous community; rather, they represent several communities. A lot of them emigrated to Israel; even more moved to Russia. They speak Russian and usually do not speak Ukrainian, though they picked up the vernacular over last twenty years. Normally, they wouldn’t care about Ukraine’s independence, as Jews traditionally side with the strong, be it Poles under Polish rule, with Russians under Moscow rule, or with Germans under Vienna or Berlin. Now many of them have decided to side with the US or EU. One of the reasons why so many people of Jewish origin do well is that the ruling ethnic groups trust the Jews and rely upon their loyalty to the powerful and lack of compassion for their Gentile neighbours.

Another reason is the vague definitions. For last three or four generations, Jews have intermarried freely; children of these mixed marriages are often considered ‘Jews’. These are the ‘Jews’ to the present regime; often they have only one Jewish grandparent.

Ukraine, following its independence in 1991, moved into the Western sphere of influence, but Eastern Ukraine (Novorossia) retained its Russian character and links. Jews did well in both parts. Mr Kolomoysky is a prominent member of the Jewish community, and a mainstay of the Kiev regime. He is a ruthless businessman, famous for his raiding of others’properties and for his Mafia connections. Rumours connect him with many killings of business adversaries.

On the other side, in Kharkov, the Mayor and the district Governor (nicknamed Dopah and Gepah) are Jewish, and they can be considered pro-Russian. It was thought that Kharkov would become the centre of rising Novorossia; president Yanukovich fled to Kharkov hoping to find allies and supporters. But Dopa and Gepa disabused him, so he continued his flight all the way to the Russian city of Rostov. Their decision to remain loyal to Kiev did not work well for them: one was shot, and the second one has been imprisoned and his attempt to run for president thwarted.

Kharkov is also home to Mr. Hodos, a wealthy and prominent Jew who fought most valiantly against Habad, the Jewish spiritual movement of which Mr Kolomoysky is a prominent member. The Jews of Novorossia apparently support the general pro-Russian trend, though there are exceptions. Practically all Ukrainian Jews have relatives in Russia, and had Russian education.

Israel has a strong network of agents in the Ukraine. They snatched a Palestinian engineer and flew him to an Israeli dungeon, and that could not be done without support of Ukrainian security services. However, the stories of Israeli soldiers fighting in Ukraine are somewhat exaggerated: these are individuals of dual citizenship who act at their own will, not a state representatives.

US Jews are divided

US Jews are divided on the Ukraine, as they were divided on Palestine. Friends of Palestine, people with a strong anti-imperialist record and sound knowledge of East European history – Noam Chomsky and Stephen F. Cohen — recognised and renounced the US attempt to sustain their hegemony by keeping brazen Russia down. A subset of people, Gilad Atzmon aptly called AZZ (anti-zionist zionists), Trots and other faux-Leftist shills for NATO like Louis Proyect – called for American intervention and brayed for Russian blood.

The notorious Israel Lobby is strictly anti-Russian. The State Dept. official Victoria (“Fuck EU”) Nuland personally directed the Kiev coup; she handpicked the government and the president of the new American colony on the Dnieper River. Her husband, Robert Kagan, is a founder of FPI, the successor of infamous PNAC, the extremist Zionist think tank which promoted wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and pushed for a war with Iran. Now they attack Russia, but they do not forget about their support for Israel.

Consider a young American gender activist and journalist, James Kirchick. He entered the Neocon network by shilling for the Lobby. He pink-washed Israel (“Israel as the best friend of gays on earth, while the Palestinians are homophobes who deserve to be bombed”). After doing the Israeli stint, he moved on to fighting Russia. He worked for the CIA-owned and US Congress-funded Radio Free Europe; stage-managed the sensational Liz Wahl’s on-air resignation from the RT and protested alleged mistreatment of gays in Russia. His dirty tricks were revealed by Max Blumenthal, a Jewish American journalist, a known anti-Zionist (working together with a Palestinian Rania Khalek).

While Israel is neutral re Ukraine, Israeli friends in EU and US are hostile to Russia and supportive of American hegemony, while friends of Palestine stand for Russia’s challenge to the Empire. The French Zionist media philosopher Bernard Henri Levy is an example of the former, while Michel Chossudovsky of Global Research is a representative of the latter. Leading critical (“anti-Zionist”) websites Counterpunch, Antiwar, Global Research sympathise with Russia, while pro-Israeli sites are hostile to Russia.

Zionists are enemies, but they make even worse friends. Edward N. Luttwak is friendly to Russia; he called upon the US to make up with Russia. Strategic union of Russia and America is necessary, he says. Who cares about Ukraine? And here is his pitch line: Russia should fight China for the US benefit. Another Zionist friend, Tony Blair, also calls for peace with Russia – so Russia can fight the Muslim world for Israel. Quite similar to Eskin who offers his pathetic support to Russia in order to neutralise her positive influence and defence of Palestine.

The bottom line: Israel remains neutral for its own reasons. While Jews as individuals differ on Ukraine, there is a correlation with their stand on Palestine and on Syria. Enemies of Putin in Russia, Ukraine, Europe and US do support Israel and are hostile to Palestine, to Syria of Bashar, to Venezuela of Chavez. And the most dangerous lot are those who support Israel and Russia, as they are surely plotting some mischief.

Posted in Russia, UkraineComments Off on The Fateful Triangle: Russia, Ukraine and the Jews

Navy SEAL Commander behind Bin Laden Killing: Keystone XL Vulnerable to Terrorism

Global Research


Dave Cooper, Command Master Chief SEAL (Retired) for the Naval Special Warfare Development Group (DEVGRU), has authored a threat assessment concluding TransCanada‘s Keystone XL tar sands pipeline is potentially at-risk of a terrorism attack.

In the report, Cooper concluded operational security vulnerabilities for the pipeline have been overlooked by the U.S. government. Cooper — most famous for overseeing the Abbottabad, Pakistan Osama Bin Laden raid as the commander of Navy SEAL Team Six — wrote the report as a consultant for billionaire Tom Steyer‘s advocacy group NextGen Climate Action.

“The very nature of Keystone XL’s newsworthiness, should it ever be built, increases its attractiveness as a target to terrorists: Keystone XL, aside from being a ‘soft’ target just like any other pipeline, has a built-in emotional impact that can’t be denied or wished away,” he wrote in the report’s introduction.

“That simple fact, a newsworthy proposal that engenders strong passions, should clue in pipeline owners and government officials to the very real possibility of intentional attack.”

For the report, Cooper utilized a “red cell” methodology, parlance for U.S. special operations forces performing pre-mission reconnaissance, using open source data readily available to terrorists on the internet. In so doing, the special operations forces snuff out operational security (“OpSec” in military lingo) weaknesses, which they use as actionable intelligence in defense missions.

In the report, Cooper explained he “designed [the methodology this way] to showcase weaknesses in the current reality by exploiting the same information to which an outside terrorist group would have access.”

Cooper’s probe included a due diligence trip out to the Sand Hills region of Nebraska, where Phase I of theKeystone Pipeline System is currently operational (the northern leg of Keystone XL is Phase IV). Going out into the field, Cooper came away shocked by his discoveries.

His findings raise a troubling question: have real Keystone XL terrorism threats been ignored, while non-violent activists have been labeled potential eco-terrorists? Cooper offered his take on this question to DeSmogBlog.

“No Sight” of Active Security Program

Cooper said he mapped out his entire Nebraska trip by using a maps of the Keystone Pipeline System he found online.

“In military parlance, the site visit at [redacted] was a ‘cold shot,’ done with no advance preparation or planning, using only information and intelligence gathered from publicly available sources,” wrote Cooper.

TransCanada Keystone Pipeline System; Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

“[redacted] was selected because it has both a valve and pumping station for the operational Keystone 1, it is somewhat near Keystone XL’s route, and it is roughly similar to the proposed Keystone XL – with presumably the same level of security as the proposed pipeline.”

Once on the ground, Cooper found absolutely nothing indicating an active security program.

“I was able to freely approach, then stand at a Keystone 1 pump station for over 15 minutes snapping photos,” he wrote. “I was not approached, questioned or even noticed at any point.”

Cooper concluded that in a worst case scenario, a dozen terrorists could cause a seven million gallon spill by attacking the pipeline at three points. And that’s if TransCanada were to have perfect execution of shut-down protocol.

KXL and FBI/DHS Fusion Centers

In concluding his report, Cooper pays homage to domestic intelligence agencies for practicing predictive policing.

“This assessment also cannot speak for the innumerable and valiant efforts of our intelligence agencies, those who strive daily to defeat terrorists ‘upstream’ before they can actually act on their designs,” wrote Cooper. “Their persistent actions in our defense could very well thwart any such pipeline attack during the terrorists’ observation, orientation and decision phases.”

DeSmogBlog has reported on these predictive policing efforts as it pertains to Keystone XL. And the results, put mildly, haven’t been pretty.

Documents obtained by Bold Nebraska and reported on here in June 2013 revealed TransCanada and the Nebraska-based Department of Homeland Security (DHS)/U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) Fusion Center labeled non-violent activists as possible candidates for terrorism charges and other serious criminal charges.

This tension existing between protecting national security and protecting civil liberties brings ire to Shahid Buttar, executive director for the Bill of Rights Defense Committee.

“Throughout the 1990s, the principal targets of US counter-terror investigations were environmental activists who planned non-violent acts,” he told DeSmogBlog.

“If the northern leg of Keystone XL pipeline becomes operational, the security concerns of fossil fuel companies could be used once again, like they were in Pennsylvania only a few years ago, to justify government intelligence agencies undermining the constitutional rights of environmentalists to peacefully organize and dissent.”

Asked about these concerns by DeSmogBlog, Cooper agreed with Buttar.

“The focus on protesters and activists is somewhat shortsighted,” he said. “It’s not like activism is a gateway drug to terrorism and it amounts to profiling (like racial profiling). Just following around protesters or activists isn’t the answer. What you see is all there is.”

“An activist’s intentions typically revolve around disobedience in all its forms. While most might get arrested, it’s typically for stuff like trespassing. A real mean bunch!”

A recent historical case study and parallel is also instructive and sobering.

Boston Marathon bombers Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and Tamerlan Tsarnaev; Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

The Boston-based FBI/DHS Fusion Center poured massive amounts of resources into monitoring Occupy Boston activists rather than the would-be Boston Marathon bombers, as revealed in a May 2013 investigative report published by NBC News.Mr. Cooper Goes to Washington

According to an article appearing in National Journal, Cooper has already presented his findings to both U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-NM).

NextGen spokesman Mike Casey told DeSmogBlog that NextGen also delivered a copy of the report toCarlos Pascual, Special Envoy and Coordinator for International Energy Affairs for the U.S. State Department.

The letter delivery — as opposed to an actual meeting — took place after Pascual cancelled a meeting they had set late on the afternoon of Friday, May 30. They had planned to meet the following Monday.

NextGen has provided DeSmogBlog with a copy of that tersely-crafted email.


According to Casey, the State Department told NextGen the next opening it had for a meeting was in mid-August.

“The State Department’s review of the Presidential Permit application for the proposed project – and the ultimate determination of whether granting a permit serves the national interest – will take a number of factors into consideration, including the national security of the United States,” the State Department told The Huffington Post.

“Serious National Conversation”

Cooper concluded the threat assessment by highlighting why he took on the study.

“My goal in releasing this version of the assessment is to provide federal officials and the public with the information on this vulnerability to take it into account – and take steps to address it,” he said in a press release provided to DeSmogBlog. “We need a serious national conversation about what we do to head off an attack.”

But this is also a tale about where best to pool resources — and where not to — in the name of national security. Cooper has opened a new chapter in the ongoing saga that is the debate over Keystone XL’s northern leg.

Posted in USAComments Off on Navy SEAL Commander behind Bin Laden Killing: Keystone XL Vulnerable to Terrorism

Washington’s Iron Curtain in Ukraine

Tightening the U.S. Grip on Western Europe

NATO leaders are currently acting out a deliberate charade in Europe, designed to reconstruct an Iron Curtain between Russia and the West.

With astonishing unanimity, NATO leaders feign surprise at events they planned months in advance. Events that they deliberately triggered are being misrepresented as sudden, astonishing, unjustified “Russian aggression”. The United States and the European Union undertook an aggressive provocation in Ukraine that they knew would force Russia to react defensively, one way or another.

They could not be sure exactly how Russian president Vladimir Putin would react when he saw that the United States was manipulating political conflict in Ukraine to install a pro-Western government intent on joining NATO.  This was not a mere matter of a “sphere of influence” in Russia’s “near abroad”, but a matter of life and death to the Russian Navy, as well as a grave national security threat on Russia’s border.

A trap was thereby set for Putin. He was damned if he did, and damned if he didn’t.  He could underreact, and betray Russia’s basic national interests, allowing NATO to advance its hostile forces to an ideal attack position.

Or he could overreact, by sending Russian forces to invade Ukraine.  The West was ready for this, prepared to scream that Putin was “the new Hitler”, poised to overrun poor, helpless Europe, which could only be saved (again) by the generous Americans.

In reality, the Russian defensive move was a very reasonable middle course.  Thanks to the fact that the overwhelming majority of Crimeans felt Russian, having been Russian citizens until Khrushchev frivolously bestowed the territory on Ukraine in 1954, a peaceful democratic solution was found.  Crimeans voted for their return to Russia in a referendum which was perfectly legal according to international law, although in violation of the Ukrainian constitution, which was by then in tatters having just been violated by the overthrow of the country’s duly elected president, Victor Yanukovych, facilitated by violent militias.  The change of status of Crimea was achieved without bloodshed, by the ballot box.

Nevertheless, the cries of indignation from the West were every bit as hysterically hostile as if Putin had overreacted and subjected Ukraine to a U.S.-style bombing campaign, or invaded the country outright – which they may have expected him to do.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry led the chorus of self-righteous indignation, accusing Russia of the sort of thing his own government is in the habit of doing. “You just don’t invade another country on phony pretext in order to assert your interests. This is an act of aggression that is completely trumped up in terms of its pretext”, Kerry pontificated.  “It’s really 19th century behavior in the 21st century”. Instead of laughing at this hypocrisy, U.S. media, politicians and punditry zealously took up the theme of Putin’s unacceptable expansionist aggression. The Europeans followed with a weak, obedient echo.

It Was All Planned at Yalta

 In September 2013, one of Ukraine’s richest oligarchs, Viktor Pinchuk, paid for an elite strategic conference on Ukraine’s future that was held in the same Palace in Yalta, Crimea, where Roosevelt, Stalin and Churchill met to decide the future of Europe in 1945.  The Economist, one of the elite media reporting on what it called a “display of fierce diplomacy”, stated that: “The future of Ukraine, a country of 48m people, and of Europe was being decided in real time.” The participants included Bill and Hillary Clinton, former CIA head General David Petraeus, former U.S. Treasury secretary Lawrence Summers, former World Bank head Robert Zoellick, Swedish foreign minister Carl Bildt, Shimon Peres, Tony Blair, Gerhard Schröder, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Mario Monti, Lithuanian president Dalia Grybauskaite, and Poland’s influential foreign minister Radek Sikorski.  Both President Viktor Yanukovych, deposed five months later, and his recently elected successor Petro Poroshenko were present. Former U.S. energy secretary Bill Richardson was there to talk about the shale-gas revolution which the United States hopes to use to weaken Russia by substituting fracking for Russia’s natural gas reserves.  The center of discussion was the “Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement” (DCFTA) between Ukraine and the European Union, and the prospect of Ukraine’s integration with the West.  The general tone was euphoria over the prospect of breaking Ukraine’s ties with Russia in favor of the West.

Conspiracy against Russia?  Not at all. Unlike Bilderberg, the proceedings were not secret. Facing a dozen or so American VIPs and a large sampling of the European political elite was a Putin adviser named Sergei Glazyev, who made Russia’s position perfectly clear.

Glazyev injected a note of political and economic realism into the conference.   Forbes reported at the time  on the “stark difference” between the Russian and Western views “not over the advisability of Ukraine’s integration with the EU but over its likely impact.”  In contrast to Western euphoria, the Russian view was based on “very specific and


pointed economic criticisms” about the Trade Agreement’s impact on Ukraine’s economy, noting that Ukraine was running an enormous foreign accounts deficit, funded with foreign borrowing, and that the resulting substantial increase in Western imports ccould only swell the deficit.  Ukraine “will either default on its debts or require a sizable bailout”.

The Forbes reporter concluded that “the Russian position is far closer to the truth than the happy talk coming from Brussels and Kiev.”

As for the political impact, Glazyev pointed out that the Russian-speaking minority in Eastern Ukraine might move to split the country in protest against cutting ties with Russia, and that Russia would be legally entitled to support them, according to The Times of London.

In short, while planning to incorporate Ukraine into the Western sphere, Western leaders were perfectly aware that this move would entail serious problems with Russian-speaking Ukrainians, and with Russia itself.  Rather than seeking to work out a compromise, Western leaders decided to forge ahead and to blame Russia for whatever would go wrong.  What went wrong first was that Yanukovych  got cold feet faced with the economic collapse implied by the Trade Agreement with the European Union.  He postponed signing, hoping for a better deal. Since none of this was explained clearly to the Ukrainian public, outraged protests ensued, which were rapidly exploited by the United States… against Russia.

Ukraine as Bridge…Or Achilles Heel

Ukraine, a term meaning borderland, is a country without clearly fixed historical borders that has been stretched too far to the East and too far to the West.  The Soviet Union was responsible for this, but the Soviet Union no longer exists, and the result is a country without a unified identity and which emerges as a problem for itself and for its neighbors.

It was extended too far East, incorporating territory that might as well have been Russian, as part of a general policy to distinguish the USSR from the Tsarist empire, enlarging Ukraine at the expense of its Russian component and demonstrating that the Soviet Union was really a union among equal socialist republics.  So long as the whole Soviet Union was run by the Communist leadership, these borders didn’t matter too much.

It was extended too far West at the end of World War II. The victorious Soviet Union extended Ukraine’s border to include Western regions, dominated by the city variously named Lviv, Lwow,  Lemberg or Lvov, depending on whether it belonged to Lithuania, Poland, the Habsburg Empire or the USSR, a region which was a hotbed of anti-Russian sentiments. This was no doubt conceived as a defensive move, to neutralize hostile elements, but it created the fundamentally divided nation that today constitutes the perfect troubled waters for hostile fishing.

The Forbes report cited above pointed out that: “For most of the past five years, Ukraine was basically playing a double game, telling the EU that it was interested in signing the DCFTA while telling the Russians that it was interested in joining the customs union.”  Either Yanukovych could not make up his mind, or was trying to squeeze the best deal out of both sides, or was seeking the highest bidder.  In any case, he was never “Moscow’s man”, and his downfall owes a lot no doubt to his own role in playing both ends against the middle. His was a dangerous game of pitting greater powers against each other.

It is safe to say that what was needed was something that so far seems totally lacking in Ukraine: a leadership that recognizes the divided nature of the country and works diplomatically to find a solution that satisfies both the local populations and their historic ties with the Catholic West and with Russia.  In short, Ukraine could be a bridge between East and West – and this, incidentally, has been precisely the Russian position.  The Russian position has not been to split Ukraine, much less to conquer it, but to facilitate the country’s role as bridge.  This would involve a degree of federalism, of local government, which so far is entirely lacking in the country, with local governors selected not by election but by the central government in Kiev.  A federal Ukraine could both develop relations with the EU and maintain its vital (and profitable) economic relations with Russia.

But this arrangement calls for Western readiness to cooperate with Russia. The United States has plainly vetoed this possibility, preferring to exploit the crisis to brand Russia “the enemy”.

Plan A and Plan B

U.S. policy, already evident at the September 2013 Yalta meeting, was carried out on the ground by Victoria Nuland, former advisor to Dick Cheney, deputy ambassador to NATO, spokeswoman for Hillary Clinton, wife of neocon theorist Robert Kagan. Her leading role in the Ukraine events proves that the neo-con influence in the State Department, established under Bush II, was retained by Obama, whose only visible contribution to foreign policy change has been the presence of a man of African descent in the presidency, calculated to impress the world with U.S. multicultural virtue.  Like most other recent presidents, Obama is there as a temporary salesman for policies made and executed by others.

As Victoria Nuland boasted in Washington, since the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, the United States has spent five billion dollars to gain political influence in Ukraine (this is called “promoting democracy”).  This investment is not “for oil”, or for any immediate economic advantage. The primary motives are geopolitical, because Ukraine is Russia’s Achilles’ heel, the territory with the greatest potential for causing trouble to Russia.

What called public attention to Victoria Nuland’s role in the Ukrainian crisis was her use of a naughty word, when she told the U.S. ambassador, “Fuck the EU”.  But the fuss over her bad language veiled her bad intentions.  The issue was who should take power away from the elected president Viktor Yanukovych.  German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s party been promoting former boxer Vitaly Klitschko as its candidate.  Nuland’s rude rebuff signified that the United States, not Germany or the EU, was to choose the next leader, and that was not Klitschko but “Yats”.  And indeed it was Yats, Arseniy Yatsenyuk , a second-string US-sponsored technocrat known for his enthusiasm for IMF austerity policies and NATO membership, who got the job. This put a U.S. sponsored government, enforced in the streets by fascist militia with little electoral clout but plenty of armed meanness, in a position to manage the May 25 elections, from which the Russophone East was largely excluded.

Plan A for the Victoria Nuland putsch was probably to install, rapidly, a government in Kiev that would join NATO, thus formally setting the stage for the United States to take possession of Russia’s indispensable Black Sea naval base at Sebastopol in Crimea.  Reincorporating Crimea into Russia was Putin’s necessary defensive move to prevent this.

But the Nuland gambit was in fact a win-win ploy.  If Russia failed to defend itself, it risked losing its entire southern fleet – a total national disaster.  On the other hand, if Russia reacted, as was most likely, the US thereby won a political victory that was perhaps its main objective.  Putin’s totally defensive move is portrayed by the Western mainstream media, echoing political leaders, as unprovoked “Russian expansionism”, which the propaganda machine compares to Hitler grabbing Czechoslovakia and Poland.

Thus a blatant Western provocation, using Ukrainian political confusion against a fundamentally defensive Russia, has astonishingly succeeded in producing a total change in the artificial Zeitgeist produced by Western mass media.  Suddenly, we are told that the “freedom-loving West” is faced with the threat of “aggressive Russian expansionism”.  Some forty years ago, Soviet leaders gave away the store under the illusion that peaceful renunciation on their part could lead to a friendly partnership with the West, and especially with the United States.  But those in the United States who never wanted to end the Cold War are having their revenge.  Never mind “communism”; if, instead of advocating the dictatorship of the proletariat, Russia’s current leader is simply old-fashioned in certain ways, Western media can fabricate a monster out of that.  The United States needs an enemy to save the world from.

The Protection Racket Returns

But first of all, the United States needs Russia as an enemy in order to “save Europe”,  which is another way to say, in order to continue to dominate Europe.  Washington policy-makers seemed to be worried that Obama’s swing to Asia and neglect of Europe might weaken U.S. control of its NATO allies.  The May 25 European Parliament elections revealed a large measure of disaffection with the European Union.  This disaffection, notably in France, is linked to a growing realization that the EU, far from being a potential alternative to the United States, is in reality a mechanism that locks European countries into U.S.-defined globalization, economic decline and U.S. foreign policy, wars and all.

Ukraine is not the only entity that has been overextended.  So has the EU.  With 28 members of diverse language, culture, history and mentality, the EU is unable to agree on any foreign policy other than the one Washington imposes.  The extension of the EU to former Eastern European satellites has totally broken whatever deep consensus might have been possible among the countries of the original Economic Community: France, Germany, Italy and the Benelux states.  Poland and the Baltic States see EU membership as useful, but their hearts are in America – where many of their most influential leaders have been educated and trained.  Washington is able to exploit the anti-communist, anti-Russian and even pro-Nazi nostalgia of northeastern Europe to raise the false cry of “the Russians are coming!” in order to obstruct the growing economic partnership between the old EU, notably Germany, and Russia.

Russia is no threat. But to vociferous Russophobes in the Baltic States, Western Ukraine and Poland, the very existence of Russia is a threat.  Encouraged by the United States and NATO, this endemic hostility is the political basis for the new “iron curtain” meant to achieve the aim spelled out in 1997 by Zbigniew Brzezinski in The Grand Chessboard: keeping the Eurasian continent divided in order to perpetuate U.S. world hegemony.  The old Cold War served that purpose, cementing U.S. military presence and political influence in Western Europe. A new Cold War can prevent U.S. influence from being diluted by good relations between Western Europe and Russia.

Obama has come to Europe ostentatiously promising to “protect” Europe by basing more troops in regions as close as possible to Russia, while at the same time ordering Russia to withdraw its own troops, on its own territory, still farther away from troubled Ukraine.  This appears designed to humiliate Putin and deprive him of political support at home, at a time when protests are rising in Eastern Ukraine against the Russian leader for abandoning them to killers sent from Kiev.

To tighten the U.S. grip on Europe, the United States is using the artificial crisis to demand that its indebted allies spend more on “defense”, notably by purchasing U.S. weapons systems. Although the U.S. is still far from being able to meet Europe’s energy needs from the new U.S. fracking boom, this prospect is being hailed as a substitute for Russia’s natural gas sales  – stigmatized as a “way of exercising political pressure”, something of which hypothetic U.S. energy sales are presumed to be innocent.  Pressure is being brought against Bulgaria and even Serbia to block construction of the South Stream pipeline that would bring Russian gas into the Balkans and southern Europe.

From D-Day to Dooms Day

Today, June 6, the seventieth anniversary of the D-Day landing is being played in Normandy as a gigantic celebration of American domination, with Obama heading an all-star cast of European leaders. The last of the aged surviving soldiers and aviators present are like the ghosts of a more innocent age when the United States was only at the start of its new career as world master. They were real, but the rest is a charade.  French television is awash with the tears of young villagers in Normandy who have been taught that the United States is some sort of Guardian Angel, which sent its boys to die on the shores of Normandy out of pure love for France. This idealized image of the past is implicitly projected on the future.  In seventy years, the Cold War, a dominant propaganda narrative and above all Hollywood have convinced the French, and most of the West, that D-Day was the turning point that won World War II and saved Europe from Nazi Germany.

Vladimir Putin came to the celebration, and has been elaborately shunned by Obama, self-appointed arbiter of Virtue.  The Russians are paying tribute to the D-Day operation which liberated France from Nazi occupation, but they – and historians – know what most of the West has forgotten: that the Wehrmacht was decisively defeated not by the Normandy landing, but by the Red Army.  If the vast bulk of German forces had not been pinned down fighting a losing war on the Eastern front, nobody would celebrate D-Day as it is being celebrated today.

Putin is widely credited as being “the best chess player”, who won the first round of the Ukrainian crisis.  He has no doubt done the best he could, faced with the crisis foisted on him.  But the U.S. has whole ranks of pawns which Putin does not have. And this is not only a chess game, but chess combined with poker combined with Russian roulette. The United States is ready to take risks that the more prudent Russian leaders prefer to avoid… as long as possible.

Perhaps the most extraordinary aspect of the current charade is the servility of the “old” Europeans.  Apparently abandoning all Europe’s accumulated wisdom, drawn from its wars and tragedies, and even oblivious to their own best interests, today’s European leaders seem ready to follow their American protectors to another D-Day … D for Doom.

Can the presence of a peace-seeking Russian leader in Normandy make a difference?  All it would take would be for mass media to tell the truth, and for Europe to produce reasonably wise and courageous leaders, for the whole fake war machine to lose its luster, and for truth to begin to dawn. A peaceful Europe is still possible, but for how long?

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Obama’s Boundless Contempt

Contempt to the Contempible

Governments lie – to each other and to their own citizens.  This is not news; it has always been this way.   It is not news either that governments hold their citizens in contempt.

Nor is it news that real world “democracies” bear little resemblance to the democracies political philosophers imagine and defend.  Forget about rule of, by and for the demos, the people (as opposed to elites); forget about citizens collectively deliberating about what is best for the political entity they comprise; even forget about procedures for combining peoples’ preferences into collective choices.

Nowadays, if a country holds competitive elections, it counts as a democracy.  It doesn’t even have to accord equal rights to all its citizens.

And even competitive elections may not be enough.  Lately, an additional requirement is sometimes added on: the outcomes have to accord with Western –  more precisely, American — ideas of what the outcomes should be.

For example, Israel counts as a democracy – the only one in the Middle East, we are told – though it denies equal rights to its Arab citizens.  It is a Herrenvolk democracy, but that is good enough.  Meanwhile, part of occupied Palestine, Gaza, is condemned to pariah status because Hamas won a free, fair and competitive election there.

Where there are competitive elections, politicians court voters.  When they do, they try not to show the contempt they have for them.  But electoral campaigns don’t last forever.  They end and then everything reverts back to the way it was.

Personalities at the top, and a little way down, may change.  But policies remain generally the same.  Voter disappointment – indeed, voter regret — is therefore an inevitable by-product of what we have come to call democratic governance.

In non-democratic, “authoritarian” regimes, the leaders change less frequently.  Paradoxically, though, it is easier for them than for their “democratic” counterparts to change policies fundamentally.   This doesn’t happen often, but it does happen; sometimes quite dramatically.

Of course, nothing is frozen in time; inevitably, circumstances change and policies accommodate.  Political figures die or lose favor too, and, eventually, there are generational shifts.

Now that capitalism afflicts the entire world, the pace of change everywhere has picked up.  Marx said famously that under capitalism “all that is solid melts into air.”  Refuting Marx has been an obsession of pro-capitalist ideologues for generations; it is one of the many ways they make fools of themselves.  But even they are not foolish enough to gainsay Marx on this.

But all things solid don’t melt at the same rate.  The political realm, in modern democracies especially, is a case in point.  It is not immobile, but it sometimes seems that it is.

This is especially true in the United States; witness the overarching continuities, obscured only by stylistic differences, between the George W. Bush administration and the administration of the “hope” and “change” President who followed him.

It would be very different if the people actually did rule.  But real democracy is on the wane everywhere.  Neoliberalism is a grave enemy of democracy – an effect, but also a cause, of its decline.

President Obama declared recently at West Point that he believes in “American exceptionalism” with “every fiber” of his being.  Who knows what, if anything, he was thinking.  The one sure thing is that when it comes to democracy in decline, the Land of the Free is no exception.

Except perhaps in the extremism with which its government – Obama’s government – holds its citizens in contempt.  This truly is exceptional.

The brunt is born by constituencies that Democrats take for granted because they think they have nowhere else to go.

Organized labor is at the top of the list.  To keep Republicans at bay, they do yeomen’s work for Democrats.  They supply the party’s foot soldiers and they squander their resources on the party’s electoral campaigns.  They ask for nothing in return, and that is exactly what they get.  Obama’s labor policy is malign neglect.

The neglect suffered by African Americans and other persons of color is more usually the benign variety celebrated by the late New York Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan.  The main exception is the Obama administration’s passion for deporting “undocumented” workers, a point to which I will return.

Only constituencies that can’t entirely be taken for granted garner less contempt.  If their money is at stake, then so much the better – for them.

This explains the end, finally, of “don’t ask, don’t tell” and the support, such as it has been, that the Obama administration has given to marriage equality.

In both cases, it is also relevant that polling data suggests overwhelming support for both measures.  When a sizeable majority wants Obama to do the right thing, he will sometimes do it.

Obama is hardly the first Democratic president to treat Democratic constituencies with contempt.   This was the norm in the Clinton era too.  But the extent to which the Obama administration insults the American people’s intelligence is unprecedented.

A good example is the post mortem on the negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority that Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry launched and superintended.  The word from official sources and also from “unnamed” muckety mucks in the know – Martin Indyk is a prime suspect — is that they are shocked, shocked, that the Israelis sabotaged the whole affair.

Of course, they don’t quite put it that way – that would be undiplomatic, not to mention impolitic.   It would also require moral and political courage, something conspicuously lacking in the Obama White House.  But the message is clear.

It is also clear that if they really were shocked, they must be the only ones on the planet who were.

Kerry is not a stupid man nor is he exceptionally ill informed, and neither is Obama.  Whatever their reasons for restarting negotiations between a party that holds all the cards and that has unqualified U.S. support and another that holds no cards and that the West treats like dirt, the prospect of success could hardly have been among them.

Not when the side holding all the cards has no interest in peace or, for that matter, in reaching any agreement at all.

For the negotiations to have succeeded, Obama and Kerry would have had to make Israel an offer it couldn’t refuse.  This was never a remote possibility.

Then why the charade?  The most likely answer is that starting up another “peace process” seemed like a good way to keep well-meaning liberals on board.  Team Obama wants them to think that the Obama administration really is on their side.  This is important because no matter how scary Republics are, lesser evilism isn’t always enough to get liberals to part with as much of their “free speech” as they can afford.

But then why insult their intelligence by setting up a situation that was bound to fail, and then going on to absolve themselves of responsibility by feigning surprise that Benjamin Netanyahu, the American political class’s BFFL (best friend for life), let them down?

Unless they are a lot dumber than anyone suspects or unless they are absurdly incompetent and driven to show their incompetence off, there is only one explanation: that they hold their liberal supporters in so much contempt that they don’t care what they tell them or what kind of nonsense they spout.

Then there is the Deporter-in-Chief claiming that no one wants immigration reform more than he, but that we can’t have it yet because those pesky Republicans won’t do their part.  And so, Obama tells us, he will placate them (along with nativists in his own party), by not putting deportations on hold just yet, as his supporters thought he would, so that he can win bipartisan support for the immigration reform bill he is eager to sign.

His rationale hardly merits a “huh?”   One would think that with elections coming, Democrats would be working overtime to court Hispanic voters.  Obama evidently holds them in too much contempt for that.

Then there is the dangerous geopolitical maneuvering that the Obama administration seems intent on pursuing, now that the repackaged Bush-Obama wars and the quasi-secret wars in Yemen, Pakistan, and east Africa that Obama expanded no longer suffice to keep America’s perpetual war machine flourishing.

The new strategy is to go after Russian and China by fomenting instability in and around those countries – exacerbating linguistic, ethnic and religious tensions wherever they can.  Much of this work is done through NGOs; the pretext is always “democracy” promotion.  It is a ploy America is good at; it has had a lot of practice.

Obama is playing with fire, of course; and since America’s grand strategists are nothing if not clueless, the danger is multiplied many fold.

What they tell us, and what their media flacks slavishly repeat, is that it’s all Putin’s fault or China’s – when, of course, just the opposite is the case.

They don’t care.  They’ll say whatever suits their purpose, confident that the corporate media will reinforce their message.   Their confidence is well placed:  when it comes to insulting our intelligence, they are all in it together.

Then, of course, there is Obama’s gobbledygook about how privacy rights are protected under the 24/7 total surveillance regime that he, the ace Constitutional scholar, oversees.  The wonder is that he can go on about this with a straight face.

But, for sheer preposterousness, the pièce de résistance has to be the Obama administration’s response to Edward Snowden’s claim that he had tried whistleblowing by going through channels, and that the NSA has an ample record of his efforts.

Ever since Snowden said this during his interview with Brian Williams on NBC, the administration’s hackles have gone back up.  John Kerry famously told Snowden to “man up” and come home to face the music.

Evidently, Kerry thinks that real men submit to injustice by willingly turning themselves over to the malefactors they have embarrassed by telling the truth.  This would be the same John Kerry who thinks that it is perfectly OK to be bossed around and made a fool of by a pipsqueak bully named Bibi.

Then the NSA claimed that they had made an exhaustive search and could find only one email from Snowden, and that it only voiced vague concerns.  They declared that it hardly rose to the level of whistle blowing; that Snowden had just been blowing air.

Did Obama made them do it or did they figure this out on their own?  It hardly matters except for determining which of the two holds the American people in greater contempt.  Could they seriously think that any sane person would believe them?

Of course, they knew that they could count on corporate media to repeat their story so often that it would turn into conventional wisdom.  But the truth will out in the end; it always does.

By the time it does, it is usually too late.  This time may be an exception.

However much Obama and Kerry and Hillary Clinton and the rest want people to think that Snowden is a troubled soul asking to be caught in a lie, they won’t succeed.  That just the opposite is the case is too obvious.

Even if they can fool most of the people all of the time about Ukraine, fooling them about Snowden is beyond the power even of National Public Radio, the cable news networks (minus Fox, which no one takes seriously anyway), and the three or four “quality” newspapers that still survive more or less undiminished.

Either Obama doesn’t understand this or else his contempt for the “folks” (his favorite word) he governs is so profound that he simply doesn’t care.  Obama to his minions: insult their intelligence — by all means!  Go for it!

Perhaps he has taken H.L. Mencken’s maxim — that “no one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American people”—too much to heart.

Or perhaps his contempt for all but the rich and malicious is so overwhelming that he just can’t help himself.

But contempt is a two-edged sword.

One of William Blake’s Proverbs of Hell goes: “as the air to a bird or the sea to a fish, so is contempt to the contemptible.”  Obama thinks this applies to the people he governs – especially the gullible, well-meaning ones who voted for him.

Sooner or later, he will learn, to his dismay, that it applies as well to himself.

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The Durability of Ukrainian Fascism

Fascism: an “Ism” for the 21st Century

Readers outside of Europe might not be aware of it, but spring is the fascist marching season in the Baltic republics.

In Estonia on February 16; February 16 & March 11 in Lithuania (anniversaries of 1918 and 1990 declarations of independence); and March 16 in Latvia (March 16, 1944 was first day the Latvian Legion fought alongside the Wehrmacht against the Red Army), local fascists parade to celebrate fascist principals and fascist heroes, most of whom collaborated in some ways with Nazi Germany during World War II while resisting the Soviet Union.

The big event for Ukrainian fascists is January 1, the anniversary of the birth of Stepan Bandera (1909-1959), leader of the OUN-B (Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists—Bandera) fascist faction.

This year, 15,000 people marched by torchlight in Kyiv on January 1 to commemorate Bandera.

Eastern European fascism is a durable and alarmingly vital ideology.  It is not just a matter of atavistic affection for Hitler and Nazism by bigoted cranks.

And Ukrainian fascism is more durable and vital than most.  It was forged in the most adverse conditions imaginable, in the furnace of Stalinism, under the reign of Hitler, and amid Poland’s effort to destroy Ukrainian nationality.

Ukrainian nationalism was under ferocious attack between the two world wars.  The USSR occupied the eastern half of Ukraine, subjected it to collectivization under Stalin, and committed repression and enabled a famine that killed millions.  At first, the Soviets sought to co-opt Ukrainian nationalism by supporting Ukrainian cultural expression while repressing Ukrainian political aspirations; USSR nationalities policies were “nationalist in expression and socialist in essence”.  Then, in 1937 Stalin obliterated the native Ukrainian cultural and communist apparatus in a thoroughgoing purge and implemented Russified central control through his bespoke instrument, Nikita Krushchev.

Meanwhile, the eastern part of the Ukraine was under the thumb of the Polish Republic, which was trying to entrench its rule before either the Germans or the Russians got around to destroying it again.  This translated into a concerted Polish political, security, cultural, and demographic push into Ukrainian Galicia.  The Polish government displaced Ukrainian intellectuals and farmers, attacked their culture and religion (including seizure of Orthodox churches and conversion into Roman Catholic edifices), marginalized the Ukrainians in their own homeland, and suppressed Ukrainian independence activists (like Bandera, who spent the years 1933 to 1939 in Poland’s Wronki Prison after trying to assassinate Poland’s Minister of the Interior).

Ukrainian nationalists, therefore, were unable to ride communism or bourgeois democracy into power.  Communism was a tool of Soviet expansionism, not class empowerment, and Polish democracy offered no protection for Ukrainian minority rights or political expression, let alone a Ukrainian state.

Ukrainian nationalists turned largely toward fascism, specifically toward a concept of “integral nationalism” that, in the absence of an acceptable national government, manifested itself in a national will residing in the spirit of its adherents, not expressed by the state or restrained by its laws, but embodied by a charismatic leader and exercised through his organization, whose legitimacy supersedes that of the state and whose commitment to violence makes it a law unto itself.

That leader, at least for many Ukrainians of the fascist persuasion, was Stepan Bandera.  The organization, his OUN-B faction.

This state of affairs persists in today’s successor to the OUN-B, Pravy Sektor, with its fascist trappings, leader cult, and paramilitary arm.  The “mainstreaming” of the second major fascist grouping, Svoboda, looks more like a strategic repackaging in order to strive for greater electoral success by hiding its fascist antecedents.

So, unfortunately for apologists for the current Kyiv regime, the correct description of these two groups is not “nationalist” or “ultranationalist”; it is “fascist”.

Fatally, the Ukrainian government has turned to fascist nationalism and heroes in order to forge a post-Soviet, essentially Ukrainian, identity for the post-1991 state.

In a recapitulation of a trend in eastern Europe to resurrect World War II era nationalist fascists—some of whom actively collaborated with the Nazis—as rallying points for anti-Russian sentiment, Bandera has also been adopted as a Ukrainian national hero: in 2010 President Yuschenko posthumously (and, according to a court in pro-Russian Donetsk, illegally) awarded Bandera the title of Hero of Ukraine.

The uncomfortable truth is that the government has invested enough effort into celebrating Bandera as a national hero that the epithet “Banderite” that pro-Russian elements apply to the Kyiv regime is not terribly far from the mark.

For obvious reasons, Russian propaganda has labored mightily to characterize Bandera as a Nazi, so that he can be condemned as a collaborator with Hitler in his war on the USSR and the world, and not an independence fighter against Russia and its brutal and extremely unpopular (for ethnic Ukrainians, at least) rule over eastern Ukraine.

Actually, Banderan fascism, with its focus on establishing a pure Ukrainian state, was only tangentially related to Hitler’s expansionist extravagances, which centered on an apocalyptic war against the “Judeo-Bolshevism” that, in Hitler’s view, stood between Germany and its rightful place as lord of a racially cleansed Europe and a global empire rivalling those of the United States and Great Britain.

Bandera was not an important Nazi collaborator, albeit because he was never given a real chance.  Ukrainian independence activists of every stripe threw themselves at the Nazis in the Thirties, seeing Germany as the only force that could destroy both of their hated oppressors—Poland, for the western Ukrainians, and the USSR for the eastern Ukraine.

However, the Nazis were contemptuous of Slavs, who were assigned the role of hewers of wood and drawers of water in the new Aryan order.  Ukrainian workers transported to Germany as laborers were subjected to miserable and degrading treatment as they sweated for the Reich.

The notorious ethnic Ukrainian “Galician SS” and “Nachtigall” and “Roland” military formations apparently were kept on a short leash by the Germans, did not accomplish a great deal during World War II, and only saw serious action when the Nazis got really desperate.

The Nazis were above all determined to keep a tight grip on Ukraine, which was a central region for their concept of a Slav-free Lebensraum for Germans and a key zone for their military operations against the USSR.  They recognized that Bandera’s bedrock interest was in creating a Ukrainian state free of anyone’s control and were well aware of his tendency toward bloody mischief.  The Nazis detained him for most of World War II and only released in a “too little too late” effort to slow up the Red Army as it drove Germany out of eastern Europe in 1945.

Post-war, a German officer made the telling observation that the war in the east was not lost at Stalingrad; it was lost “long before that—in Kiev, when we hosted the swastika instead of the Ukrainian flag!”

Stepan Bandera was an unapologetic fascist and terrorist whose OUN-B faction launched an unimaginably brutal campaign of ethnic cleansing campaign through slaughter during World War II.  Yale historian Thomas Snyder, who is an enthusiastic cheerleader for almost all things EuroMaidan, draws the line at exalting Bandera.

The Nazis killed tens of millions of anonymous strangers in the East as part of a war of conquest meant to Germanize Europe to the Urals; the Ukrainians of the OUN-B murdered tens of thousands of their neighbors while trying to rip a national state out of the social and political fabric of eastern Europe.

Like Hitler, Bandera was keen to purify the “homeland” of impure elements.  Unlike Hitler, Bandera only had the chance to turn his fury on his enemies—primarily the Poles of Galicia–for a few months.

5000 Ukrainian police defected with their weapons to join Bandera’s faction as Nazi rule crumbled in Ukraine, and provided the muscle for the most notorious Bandera action of the Second World War: the massacre of Poles in what is now western Ukraine.

Historians generally agree that Bandera’s forces committed systematic atrocities in order to institute a reign of terror that would drive out the Poles out.

Norman Davies:

Villages were torched. Roman Catholic priests were axed or crucified. Churches were burned with all their parishioners. Isolated farms were attacked by gangs carrying pitchforks and kitchen knives. Throats were cut. Pregnant women were bayoneted. Children were cut in two. Men were ambushed in the field and led away.

Timothy Snyder:

Ukrainian partisans burned homes, shot or forced back inside those who tried to flee, and used sickles and pitchforks to kill those they captured outside. In some cases, beheaded, crucified, dismembered, or disemboweled bodies were displayed, in order to encourage remaining Poles to flee.

Various estimates calculate that somewhere between 35,000 and 100,000 Poles died in the Bandera terror.

Bandera’s champions point to the fact that he was still in German detention when the massacres took place and there is no evidence that he explicitly ordered the massacres.  But given his ideology, his detestation of the Poles, and his role as the charismatic leader of his faction, it seems unlikely his subordinates undertook this massive enterprise on their own initiative.

One of Bandera’s lieutenants was Roman Shukhevych.  In February 1945, Shukhevych issued an order stating, “In view of the success of the Soviet forces it is necessary to speed up the liquidation of the Poles, they must be totally wiped out, their villages burned … only the Polish population must be destroyed.”

As a matter of additional embarrassment, Shukhevych was also a commander in the Nachtigall (Nightingale) battalion organized by the Wehrmacht.

Today, a major preoccupation of Ukrainian nationalist historical scholarship is beating back rather convincing allegations by Russian, Polish, and Jewish historians that Nachtigall was an important and active participant in the massacre of Lviv Jews orchestrated by the German army upon its arrival in June 1941.

It’s an uphill battle.  Bandera had classified Jews as “second order enemies” thanks to their perceived role as collaborators and adjuncts to the Polish and Russian strategy of “divide and conquer” against Ukrainian nationalism.  Anti-Semitism, indeed, is a staple of modern Ukrainian fascism and has undoubtedly contributed to the emigration of 60% of Ukraine’s Jews—340,000 people—since independence.

Shukhevych remains a hero to Ukrainian fascists today.  Most importantly—since Bandera was assassinated in Munich by the USSR in 1959 and left no issue—he serves as the direct lineal ancestor of Ukraine’s key fascist formation, Pravy Sektor.

In February 2014, the New York Times’ Andrew Higgins penned a rather embarrassing passage that valorized the occupation of Lviv—the Galician city at the heart of Ukrainian fascism, the old stomping grounds of Roman Shukhevych and the Nachtigall battlaian, and also Simon Wiesnthal’s home town—by anti-Yanyukovich forces in January 2014:

Some of the president’s longtime opponents here have taken an increasingly radical line.

Offering inspiration and advice has been Yuriy Shukhevych, a blind veteran nationalist who spent 31 years in Soviet prisons and labor camps and whose father, Roman, led the Ukrainian Insurgent Army against Polish and then Soviet rule.

Mr. Shukhevych, 80, who lost his sight during his time in the Soviet gulag, helped guide the formation of Right Sector, an unruly organization whose fighters now man barricades around Independence Square, the epicenter of the protest movement in Kiev.

Yuriy Shukhevych’s role in modern Ukrainian fascism is not simply that of an inspirational figurehead and reminder of his father’s anti-Soviet heroics for proud Ukrainian nationalists.  He is a core figure in the emergence of the key Ukrainian fascist formation, Pravy Sektor and its paramilitary.

And Pravy Sektor’s paramilitary, the UNA-UNSO, is not an “unruly” collection of weekend-warrior-wannabes, as Mr. Higgins might believe.

UNA-UNSO was formed during the turmoil of the early 1990s, largely by ethnic Ukrainian veterans of the Soviet Union’s bitter war in Afghanistan.  From the first, the UNA-UNSO has shown a taste for foreign adventures, sending detachments to Moscow in 1990 to oppose the Communist coup against Yeltsin, and to Lithuania in 1991.  With apparently very good reason, the Russians have also accused UNA-UNSO fighters of participating on the anti-Russian side in Georgia and Chechnya.

After formal Ukrainian independence, the militia elected Yuriy Shukhevych—the son of OUN-B commander Roman Shukhevych– as its leader and set up a political arm, which later became Pravy Sektor.

Also after independence in 1991, the unapologetically fascistic Social Nationalist Party—with, inevitably, its own paramilitary, Patriots of Ukraine—was set up under the leadership of Andriy Parubiy.

Parubiy left the Social Nationalist Party in 2004, when it became the vehicle for the political aspirations of Oleh Tyahnybok and became the Svoboda Party.  Parubiy’s motivations are relatively opaque, but I would argue he left to become the fascist Trojan horse inside Yulya Tymoshenko’s Fatherland party.  Indeed, while Timoshenko’s political clout dwindled during her imprisonment, Parubiy was a key organizer of “volunteers” at Maidan and emerged as the secretary of the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine, charged with handling the “anti-terrorist” operations in the east.

Rather Panglossian analyses of Ukranian fascism usually take as their point of departure the dismal showing of Pravy Sektor and Svoboda in the 2014 presidential election.

The two fascist parties polled less than 2% combined in the 2014 presidential poll.  Hoever, this is probably a misleading indicator of their strength.  Pravy Sektor’s Yarosh had announced he wouldn’t run an active campaign, presumably as part of a deal at the behest of EuroMaidan’s Western backers to help Petro Poroshenko avoid a run-off with Yulya Tymoshenko.  As for Tyahnybok, Svoboda got 10% of the vote in the parliamentary elections of 2012, and it seems implausible that his backing has completely collapsed after his high-profile role in the triumphant Maidan troika together with Klitschko and Yatsenyuk.

In any case, as noted above, fascists do not regard the state, its constitution, and the electoral process as the vehicle for Ukrainian national aspirations.  That role is reserved for the leader, the party, and the paramilitaries.  What matters to fascists is their influence in the affairs of the nation, and in Ukraine that influence is significant.

When eastern Ukraine rose up, the current Kyiv government, admittedly laboring under significant disabilities of illegitimacy, incompetence, and penury, has experienced immense difficulties in rallying a multi-ethnic Ukrainian nation.   It was almost a foregone conclusion that fascist paramilitaries would be called upon to supplement or even replace the wavering regime forces in the field.

In an eerie—well, perhaps, predictable—recapitulation of the OUN-B’s opportunistic military collaboration with the Wehrmacht, Pravy Sektor leader Dmytro Yarosh organized the “Donbass Batallion” to assist the Ukrainian government’s operations in the east.  Pravy Sektor leaders and rank and file have also apparently augmented if not formed the oligarch-funded Dniepr Battalion–currently one of the few military formations operating in the east that is reliably and brutally loyal to the Kyiv regime.

Even though it is plausibly alleged that Russia is inciting and abetting resistance, local resentment against Kyiv and its heavy-handed tactics is undeniably present and apparently increasing, and perhaps with it the need for fascist backbone and muscle to subjugate the unruly east.

The optimistic European scenario is for Ukraine’s barely acknowledged fascist problems to melt away as European integration and prosperity do their moderating work, and Ukraine emerges as another Poland: politically stable, united, democratic, and reliably anti-Russian.

However, it is an ugly truth that Poland had its issues of national identity resolved by Hitler, Stalin, and the Holocaust, which stripped away the complicating nationalities issues posed by its German, Ukrainian, and Jewish populations.  Before World War II, one-third of Poland’s population was “minorities”.  Today, Poland is 96% “Polish”.

Ukraine, on the other hand, carries a legacy of division thanks to the USSR’s administration of eastern Ukraine before World War II, and Russian domination of the Kiev elite during the Soviet period.  About 18% of Ukrainians are ethnic Russian; but 30% of the population is native-Russian speaking.  In the western oblasts currently battling Kyiv, the percentage of Russian speakers ranges from 72% (Dnipropetrovsk) to 93% (Donetsk).  Crimea, now annexed to Russia, was 97%.

Unless the Kyiv regime unwittingly solves its problem by escalating the crisis to the point that Russia annexes the eastern oblasts and removes Russian Ukrainians from the nationalist equation, a plausible forecast for Ukraine is failure, polarization, poverty, violence—and fascist political success as Russian ethnic and linguistic identity become signifiers for looming threats to the Ukrainian state.

But in evaluating the outlook for fascism in Europe, it is a mistake to think fascists are just fighting the last war—finishing up the de-Bolshevization and de-Russification of eastern Europe that Hitler was only able to begin.

Communism isn’t the only light that’s failing.

Ukrainian fascists love the Russia-hammering NATO, but detest the Russia-accommodating and supra-nationalistic EU.

And they aren’t alone.  Fascism—and anti-EU sentiment—pervade parts of Europe that never felt Stalin’s wrath.  In the last elections for the European Parliament, “eurosceptics” and xenophobic ultra-nationalists scored significant gains, led by Marine Le Pen, whose National Front took 25% of the French seats.

A lot of it has to do with the equivocal track record of globalized neo-liberal capitalism in the last decade.  We’re all Pikettyists now, and it seems that among the most important outcomes of neo-liberalism are income inequality and oligarchs.

It is anathema to liberal democrats, but it should be acknowledged that fascism is catching on, largely as a result of a growing perception that neo-liberalism and globalization are failing to deliver the economic and social goods to a lot of people.

Democracy is seen as the plaything of oligarchs who manipulate the current system to secure and expand their wealth and power; liberal constitutions with their guarantees of minority rights appear to be recipes for national impotence. Transnational free markets in capital and goods breed local austerity, unemployment, and poverty.  Democratic governments seem to follow the free market playbook, get into problems they can’t handle, and surrender their sovereignty to committees of Euro-financiers.

Fascism, with its exaltation of the particular, the emotional, and the undemocratic provides an impregnable ideological and political bulwark against these outside forces.

Fascism has become an important element in the politics of resistance: a force that obstructs imposition of the norms of globalization, and an ideology that justifies the protection of local local interests against the demands of liberal democracy, transnational capital, and property and minority rights.

Maybe it’s neo-liberalism, not fascism, that is facing a crisis of legitimacy and acceptance.

So the idea that fascism can be treated as a delusional artifact of the 20thcentury and the challenge of fascism to the neo-liberal order can be ignored is, itself, wishful thinking.

Even if the European Union grows and flourishes, it will continue to have a hard time outrunning the perception that it delivers its benefits preferentially to a limited subset of nations, corporations, and individuals, at the expense of the many.

In eastern Europe, add to the incendiary mix the perception that the EU, that bastion of liberal democratic and free market ideals, has very little will or even interest in standing up to Russia.

This sentiment will not exclusively spawn benign “Green” and “Occupy” progressive movement, that combine their allegiance to democracy and human and individual rights with their well-earned reputations for internal division, political impotence, and unwillingness to confront.

For some, resentment will, inevitably, congeal around nationalism and the perception that fascist resistance, defiantly militant, uncompromising, and irrational, racial and undemocratic, exclusionary and brutal, is the best instrument to achieve local identity and agency—power– in an ever bigger, more dangerous, and less responsive continental order.

Fascism, I’m afraid, isn’t just part of Europe’s past; it’s part of Europe’s future.

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