COMMENT: In Ukraine truth is the first casualty

By bne IntelliNews March 17, 2014

Erik Kraus, Truth & Beauty -

How do wars begin? Wars begin when, first, politicians lie to journalists, then they believe what they read in the press! - Karl Kraus, 1912

The nationalist uprising in Kyiv, at least in part stage-managed from Washington and Brussels with that accustomed mixture of arrogance and duplicity last seen in the buildup to previous imperial exercises - from the invasion of Iraq and Libya to former Georgian president Mikheil Saakashvili's disastrous attack on South Ossetia as encouraged by the Washington Neocons - is culminating in a crisis that will be felt far beyond the confines of Eastern Europe. It seems safe to assume that this will ultimately be seen as a Western own-goal of historic proportions, resulting in the partition of Ukraine, a split across the European continent, as well as cementing a new Russo-Chinese alliance to the detriment of the Nato countries.

The risks of miscalculation and uncontrolled reaction have been severely aggravated by "Pravda-on-the-Potomac" (d.b.a. The Washington Post) and other corporate-owned press organs which have actively sought to stir up war hysteria. With a few brave exceptions, western media coverage has put out a single, unitary message - a fable of brave, freedom-loving Ukrainians striving to break the Russian yoke - while ignoring the numerous inconvenient truths: that Russians form the second largest ethnic and linguistic group in Ukraine, and that Viktor Yanukovych, as distasteful as he might be, remains the democratically-elected president of Ukraine - driven into exile by a violent opposition, funded from abroad and infiltrated by openly neo-fascist parties.

Carried away with a sense of triumphalism, among the first acts of the new regime was to revoke the laws granting linguistic equality to Russians and to announce the subservience of the eastern regions to Kiev. Predictably, the Russian provinces of the eastern moiety have appealed to Moscow for protection against the Banderite factions of Kyiv (whose alignment with the Nazis - on whose behalf they perpetrated some of the worst savagery seen in WWII Ukraine, and for whom they continued to fight until 1949 - has not been forgotten in Crimea). Indeed, one encounters hardly a mention of the sentiments of the Ukrainian East in our famously "free and fair" press, which has abandoned any pretense of neutrality or objectivity, competing for the most outlandishly manipulated "human interest" stories; posting selected quotations from anti-Russian Ukrainians, they are simply airbrushing out the Slavic majority in the East, which has pleaded for Russian protection.

Once again, we watch as western governments manipulate their tame media to create a virtual reality that subsequently goes almost totally unchallenged - at least until the failure of the policy becomes too obvious to ignore. Those countries now angrily condemning the "violation of international law" by Russia are the same ones who the week before last actively encouraged the violent overthrow of an elected Ukrainian government. While there is still little evidence of any Russian invasion (it is predominantly the Russian-speaking Crimean forces who have taken power in Crimea), US mercenary companies (Blackwater/Academi, Greystone) have been photographed supporting right-wing forces in the west of the country, while US and EU diplomats have made little secret of their support for the insurgency.

Having nothing to fear from the US media, John Kerry can angrily fustigate countries for "invading other countries on trumped-up pretexts" without fear of ridicule - conveniently ignoring the fraudulent Iraqi WMD dossier, the invasions of Cambodia and Nicaragua kept secret from the US Congress, or indeed dozens of other military interventions, covert or overt, on equally flimsy grounds. As Ukraine fractures, Washington is demanding the respect for international boundaries - a consideration politely ignored during the Nato operations in Kosovo; if Catalonia or Scotland can hold referenda to split from their respective countries, then the principle of self-determination has equal legitimacy.

Yes, the reader will argue, raw power remains the basis for international law - but then why not drop the hypocritical discourse and simply assert that they do it because they can do? And, especially, why does the press not challenge its own camp - rather than simply carry water for those in power?

Democracy, in the absence of a properly and objectively informed populace, and a political process that allows said public to effectively influence policy, is a sham. The mainstream media have been clearly complicit in the steady decline in the level of US political discourse - and with the series of disastrous policy errors resulting. Perhaps the best remaining hope is the rise of social media and of alternative media sources - internet blogs, RT Television, Telesud, etc. While, of course, these alternatives to the tame mainstream media have their own agendas too, they play a vital role by re-injecting a note of pluralism into a landscape which, given the ownership of mass media by corporate interests, would otherwise be totally monochromatic.

Ukraine Splinters as East meets West

As shown by the leaked tape of US Assistant Secretary Victoria Nuland talking with US Ambassador Pyatt, the Ukrainian uprising was openly stage-managed from Washington. What is most extraordinary about the notorious "Fuck the EU" tape, is not that she contemptuously dismisses Europe as unworthy of her time, but that it clearly enunciates Washington's plan to dictate the composition of a new Ukrainian government, dismissing one of the most popular of Ukrainian politicians - Klitschko - as unsuitable; so much for their concern with "democracy".  Meanwhile, over the past three months, a never-ending stream of US and EU officials including Ashton, Nuland, Van Rompuy and McCain have all come to Kyiv to support the violent demonstrations; the reader is invited to imagine how the US would have reacted to a series of visits by Russian politicians encouraging the Occupy movement to storm the State Department and burn the Senate building.

Like Czechoslovakia or Yugoslavia - artificial creations cobbled together in the wake of World Wars - there is in fact no "Ukrainian" nation; modern-day Ukraine is split more-or-less equally between Russian and Ukrainian linguistic groups, with 40% of the population ethnic Russian, speaking Russian at home, and moving freely back and forth across the border for reasons of family, work or study; President Yanukovych's win in the last presidential elections confirms this inconvenient truth. Hailing from the Russian-speaking east of the country, he was elected by a majority of Ukrainians opposed to the western-sponsored Orange coalition. Although Yanukovych proved to be a bumbling and corrupt fool, and clearly deserved to be voted out of office, he currently happens to be the lawfully elected president of Ukraine. Regular presidential elections were scheduled within 12 months, and it was by no means certain that he would lose - thus, the coup d'état.

The portrayal of Yanukovych as Putin's puppet is a convenient fiction - in fact, Putin was well aware of Yanukovych's incompetent thuggishness, but could do little to prevent his election; it is enough to see Mr Putin's body language in the company of the Ukrainian president to sense his ill-disguised contempt. Putin's preferred presidential candidate in the last election was, in fact, Orange Revolution heroine Yulia Tymoshenko - a famously corrupt billionaire oligarch known locally as the "gas princess".  Deeply pragmatic and concerned primarily with the economic interests of her own business faction, and despite some past frictions with Russia, she had always proved amenable to negotiated solutions and maintained reasonably friendly relations with Putin. Unfortunately, Tymoshenko was associated too closely with the abject failure of the Orange Revolution - which collapsed into public feuding between the various oligarchic factions against a background of growing economic distress; Viktor Yanukovych thus emerged triumphant in an election described as "free" by international observers.

It proved a short-lived victory. Given Ukraine's increasingly dire economic situation, Yanukovych faced a series of equally-distasteful options: either 1. the politically catastrophic reforms demanded by the IMF, which would compound the already severe social distress; 2. accession to the Customs Union with Russia and Kazakhstan, which would expose his oligarchic faction to competition with the far more powerful Russian oligarchs; or, 3. signature of the free-trade agreement with the EU, which, given the extremely meager financial package on offer, would have decimated the weak, post-Soviet Ukrainian industrial fabric, no match for German exporters, reducing Ukraine to a third-world agricultural exporter dependent upon the West for its manufactured products.

Read the rest of Kraus' post here

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