The United States and the Rus­sian Devil: 1917-2017

Traveling Minds - - Table Of Contents - By Wil­liam Blum

Con­ser­va­tives have had a very hard time get­ting over Pres­i­dent Trump’s much-re­peated re­sponse to Fox News an­chor Bill O’reilly’s call­ing Rus­sian pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin “a killer”. Replied Trump: “There are a lot of killers. We have a lot of killers. You think our coun­try is so in­no­cent?”

One could al­most feel a bit sorry for O’reilly as he strug­gled to re­gain his com­po­sure in the face of such blas­phemy. Had any Amer­i­can es­tab­lish­ment me­dia star ever heard such a thought com­ing from the mouth of an Amer­i­can pres­i­dent? From some­one on the rad­i­cal left, yes, but from the pres­i­dent?

Se­na­tor John Mccain on the floor of Congress, re­fer­ring to Putin, tore into at­tempts to draw “moral equiv­a­lency be­tween that butcher and thug and KGB colonel and the United States of Amer­ica.”

Ah yes, the in­fa­mous KGB. Can any­thing good be said about a per­son associated with such an or­ga­ni­za­tion? We wouldn’t like it if a US pres­i­dent had a back­ground with any­thing like that. Oh, wait, a pres­i­dent of the United States was not merely a CIA “colonel”, but was the Di­rec­tor of the CIA! I of course speak of Ge­orge Herbert Walker Bush. And as far as butch­ery and thug­gery … How many Amer­i­cans re­mem­ber the De­cem­ber 1989 bomb­ing and in­va­sion of the peo­ple of Panama car­ried out by the same Mr. Bush? Many thou­sands killed or wounded; thou­sands more left home­less.

Try and match that, Vladimir!

And in case you’re won­der­ing for what good rea­son all this was per­pe­trated? Of­fi­cially, to ar­rest dic­ta­tor Manuel Nor­iega on drug charges. How is that for a ra­tio­nal­iza­tion for wide­spread dev­as­ta­tion and slaugh­ter? It should sur­prise no one that only shortly be­fore the in­va­sion Nor­iega had been on the CIA pay­roll.

It’s the “moral equiv­a­lency” that’s so tough to swal­low for proud Amer­i­cans like O’reilly and Mccain. Repub­li­can Se­nate Ma­jor­ity leader Mitch Mccon­nell also chipped in with: “And no, I don’t think there’s any equiv­a­lency be­tween the way the Rus­sians con­duct them­selves and the way the United States does.”other Sen­a­tors echoed the same theme, all in­spired by good ol’ “Amer­i­can ex­cep­tion­al­ism”, drilled into the mind of ev­ery de­cent Amer­i­can from child­hood on … Who would dare to com­pare the morals of (ugh!) Rus­sia with those of God’s cho­sen land, even in Moscow’s cur­rent non-com­mu­nist form?

The com­mu­nist form be­gan of course with the Oc­to­ber 1917 Rus­sian Rev­o­lu­tion. By the sum­mer of 1918 some 13,000 Amer­i­can troops could be found in the newly-born state, the fu­ture Union of Soviet So­cial­ist Re­publics. Two years and thou­sands of ca­su­al­ties later, the Amer­i­can troops left, hav­ing failed in their mis­sion to “stran­gle at its birth” the Bol­she­vik state, as Win­ston Churchill so charm­ingly put it.

US for­eign pol­icy has not been much more noble-minded since then. I think, dear stu­dents, it’s time for me to once again present my con­cise his­tor­i­cal sum­mary:

Since the end of World War 2, the United States has:

At­tempted to over­throw more than 50 for­eign gov­ern­ments, most of which were demo­crat­i­cally-elected. Dropped bombs on the peo­ple of more than 30 coun­tries. At­tempted to as­sas­si­nate more than 50 for­eign lead­ers. At­tempted to sup­press a pop­ulist or na­tion­al­ist move­ment in 20 coun­tries. Grossly in­ter­fered in demo­cratic elec­tions in at least 30 coun­tries.

Though not as easy to quan­tify, has also led the world in tor­ture; not only the tor­ture per­formed di­rectly by Amer­i­cans upon for­eign­ers, but pro­vid­ing tor­ture equip­ment, tor­ture man­u­als, lists of peo­ple to be tor­tured, and in-per­son guid­ance by Amer­i­can in­struc­tors.

Where does the United States get the nerve to mor­al­ize about Rus­sia? Same place they get the nerve to la­bel Putin a “killer” … a “butcher” … a “thug”. It would be dif­fi­cult to name a world-renowned killer, butcher, or thug – not to men­tion dic­ta­tor, mass mur­derer, or tor­turer – of the past 75 years who was not a close ally of Wash­ing­ton.

So why then does the Amer­i­can power elite hate Putin so? It can be dated back to the pe­riod of Boris Yeltsin.

Dur­ing the Western fi­nan­cial loot­ing of the dy­ing Soviet Union the US could be found med­dling in fa­vor

of Yeltsin in the elec­tion held in 1996. Un­der Yeltsin’s reign, poverty ex­ploded and life ex­pectancy for men ac­tu­ally de­creased by five years, all in the name of “shock ther­apy.” The Us/western-backed desta­bi­liza­tion of the Soviet Union al­lowed global cap­i­tal­ism to spread its mis­ery un­fet­tered by any in­con­ve­nient so­cial­ism. Rus­sia came un­der the con­trol of oli­garchs con­cerned only for their own en­rich­ment and that of their bil­lion­aire part­ners in the West. The tran­si­tion of power to Vladimir Putin in the 21st cen­tury led to a num­ber of re­forms that curbed the dis­as­trous loot­ing of the na­tion by the oli­garchic ban­dits. Putin and his al­lies vowed to build an in­de­pen­dent, cap­i­tal­ist Rus­sia that was ca­pa­ble of de­ter­min­ing its own af­fairs free from US and Western dom­i­na­tion. Such an ori­en­ta­tion placed Putin in di­rect con­fronta­tion with US im­pe­ri­al­ism’s plans for unipo­lar global hege­mony.

Wash­ing­ton’s dis­dain for Putin in­creased when he de­rided US war pro­pa­ganda lead­ing up to the in­va­sion of Iraq in 2003. Then, the Rus­sian leader played a cru­cial role in get­ting Iran to cur­tail its nu­clear pro­gram and ar­rang­ing for Syria to sur­ren­der its stock­piles of chem­i­cal weapons. Wash­ing­ton’s pow­er­ful neo-con­ser­va­tives had been lust­ing for di­rect US mil­i­tary strikes against those two coun­tries, lead­ing to regime change, not diplo­matic agree­ments that left the gov­ern­ments in place.

Lastly, af­ter the United States over­threw the Ukrainian gov­ern­ment in 2014, Putin was obliged to in­ter­vene on be­half of threat­ened eth­nic Rus­sians in Crimea and east­ern Ukraine. That, in turn, was trans­formed by the Western me­dia into a “Rus­sian in­va­sion”.

The same Western me­dia has rou­tinely charged Putin with mur­der­ing jour­nal­ists but doesn’t re­mind its au­di­ence of the Amer­i­can record in this re­gard. The Amer­i­can mil­i­tary, in the course of its wars in re­cent decades, has been re­spon­si­ble for the de­lib­er­ate deaths of many jour­nal­ists. In Iraq, for ex­am­ple, there’s the Wik­ileaks 2007 video, ex­posed by Chelsea Man­ning, of the cold-blooded mur­der of two Reuters jour­nal­ists; the 2003 US air-to-sur­face mis­sile at­tack on the of­fices of Al Jazeera in Bagh­dad that left three jour­nal­ists dead and four wounded; and the Amer­i­can fir­ing on Bagh­dad’s Ho­tel Pales­tine, a known jour­nal­ist res­i­dence, the same year that killed two for­eign news cam­era­men.

The Trump hon­ey­moon is over for me. It was never ac­tu­ally love; hardly more than an in­trigu­ing cu­rios­ity; mainly that he wasn’t Hil­lary Clin­ton; that he was un­likely to start a war with Rus­sia or close down the Rus­sia To­day (RT) TV sta­tion in the US, which I and many oth­ers de­pend on daily; and that he was not po­lit­i­cally cor­rect when it came to fight­ing the Is­lamic State. Trump’s “moral equiv­a­lency” re­mark above gave me some hope. But this all van­ished with his ap­point­ment to high of­fice of one war-lov­ing, be­medalled gen­eral af­ter another, in­ter­min­gled with one bil­lion­aire Goldman-sachs of­fi­cial af­ter another; his ap­par­ent con­fir­ma­tion of his Mex­i­can Wall; and, worst of all, his in­creas­ing the mil­i­tary bud­get by $54 bil­lion (sic, sick) … this will cer­tainly be at the ex­pense of hu­man life and health and the en­vi­ron­ment. What man­ner of man is this who walks amongst us?

The word is “nar­cis­sism”. New York Times colum­nist Frank Bruni (Fe­bru­ary 28, 2017) cap­tures this well: “Why do I get the sense that fighter jets are Don­ald Trump’s bi­ceps, war­ships are his pec­torals and what he’s do­ing with his pro­posed $54 bil­lion in­crease for the Pen­tagon is flex­ing?”

Will there ever be an end to the never-end­ing Amer­i­can wars?

How should we re­act to ter­ror­ism?

I hadn’t planned on re­turn­ing to this sub­ject so soon, if ever, be­cause of the dis­taste­ful ex­pe­ri­ence of last sum­mer when at least 50 of my sub­scribers can­celed be­cause I said that ter­ror­ism car­ried out by Is­lam­ics was to some ex­tent mo­ti­vated by their re­li­gion, an hy­poth­e­sis re­jected by what I see as the “po­lit­i­cally cor­rect” who took it to be an un­just at­tack upon an an­cient and noble re­li­gion. The fact that I, a leftist, a com­rade, would say such a thing was es­pe­cially hard for them to take.

Since then I have reg­u­larly re­ceived emails point­ing out that nei­ther I nor the me­dia have the right to cat­e­gor­i­cally con­demn bru­tal ter­ror­ist ac­tions be­cause the ter­ror­ists are re­act­ing to decades of Western, par­tic­u­larly Amer­i­can, vi­o­lence against the Mus­lims of the Mid­dle East and else­where; and that if only the West would stop their bomb­ing they would stop cre­at­ing new ter­ror­ists. Lib­eral colum­nists of­ten echo th­ese sen­ti­ments, but at the same time can­not ac­cept the role played by rad­i­cal Is­lamic be­liefs in in­sti­gat­ing the Is­lamic ter­ror.

Not ev­ery Amer­i­can sol­dier in World War II was a knowl­edgable and con­vinced anti-fas­cist; nor were all of those fight­ing in Viet­nam knowl­edgable and con­vinced anti-com­mu­nists; but they deeply be­lieved in Amer­i­can ex­cep­tion­al­ism. I pro­ceed from the as­sump­tion that Is­lamic ter­ror­ists deeply be­lieve in the lead­ing tenets of Is­lam though many of them may have

been drawn to ISIS for a va­ri­ety of rea­sons and may have only a pass­ing knowl­edge of the Ko­ran and may only rarely en­ter a mosque. Why is it that ter­ror­ists rou­tinely shout “Al­lah Akhbar” (“God is great”) while car­ry­ing out a bloody at­tack?

Why is it that so much of Is­lam teaches that non-mus­lims are the en­emy, that “dis­be­liev­ers” are to be ex­e­cuted?

Why do they speak of their duty to per­form “ji­had”, which is usu­ally de­fined as a strug­gle against the en­e­mies of Is­lam or against the “in­fi­dels”?

Why do they speak of “mar­tyrs”, which is of­ten used as an hon­orific for Mus­lims who have died ful­fill­ing a re­li­gious com­mand­ment, es­pe­cially those who die wag­ing ji­had, or his­tor­i­cally in the mil­i­tary ex­pan­sion of Is­lam?

Why do they speak of mar­tyrs go­ing to par­adise af­ter dy­ing and re­ceiv­ing heav­enly re­wards? Even be­ing res­ur­rected on earth, to once again die as a mar­tyr, go­ing again to par­adise.

Yes, yes, I know about the ter­ri­ble crimes of the IRA Catholics and the Is­raeli Jews, but on the scale of hu­man moral evo­lu­tion they don’t com­pare to the rou­tine cut­ting off of heads; the whip­pings; de­mol­ish­ing 2000-year-old mon­u­ments; sternly ban­ning al­co­hol, mu­sic, gays and sex; cov­er­ing up women’s faces; forcibly im­pos­ing re­li­gious law; and on and on, in­clud­ing the worst of all: the never-end­ing hor­rific sui­cide bomb­ings. ISIS has done the im­pos­si­ble: It has made Amer­i­can for­eign pol­icy look al­most half­way de­cent.

Oc­ca­sion­ally I re­ply to crit­ics with some­thing to this ef­fect: Even if I com­pletely ac­cepted your premises, I’d still feel that it was too late. We can’t undo the harm that US for­eign pol­icy and the West have caused. The barn door is wide open and all the horses have es­caped. There is an en­tire gen­er­a­tion, or two gen­er­a­tions, in the Mus­lim world to­tally com­mit­ted to gain­ing bloody re­venge against the West. It ap­pears to be that it’s ei­ther us or them.

Ex­plain­ing the cause of ter­ror­ism is not the same as ex­cus­ing it.

It might be dif­fer­ent if the ter­ror­ists fo­cused on killing only those in the West re­spon­si­ble for the hor­ror car­ried out against their peo­ple, but their acts of vi­o­lence are largely in­dis­crim­i­nate; they at­tack West­ern­ers at ran­dom, of­ten with Mus­lim vic­tims in­cluded; of­ten with only Mus­lim vic­tims. As I’ve pointed out in the past, we should con­sider this: From the 1950s to the 1980s the United States car­ried out all kinds of very harm­ful poli­cies against Latin Amer­ica, in­clud­ing nu­mer­ous bomb­ings, with­out the na­tives ever re­sort­ing to the un­civ­i­lized, bar­baric kind of re­tal­i­a­tion as em­ployed by ISIS. Latin Amer­i­can left­ists gen­er­ally took their re­venge out upon con­crete rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the Amer­i­can em­pire: diplo­matic, mil­i­tary and cor­po­rate tar­gets – not mar­kets, the­atres, night­clubs, hos­pi­tals, schools, restau­rants or churches.

France, the site of nu­mer­ous ter­ror­ist at­tacks, has ex­per­i­mented with de­rad­i­cal­iza­tion cen­ters in an at­tempt to com­bat home­grown ex­trem­ism. The cen­ters sub­jected those they housed to in­tense cour­ses in French his­tory and phi­los­o­phy. But af­ter five months the ex­per­i­ment has been aban­doned as a com­plete fail­ure. My guess is that one rea­son for the fail­ure is that French of­fi­cials, like their Amer­i­can coun­ter­parts, were too po­lit­i­cally cor­rect when it came to ques­tions of re­li­gion. If I were a teacher at one of th­ese cen­ters I would ask the stu­dents how they know – I mean re­ally know – that “mar­tyrs” go to par­adise. They are, af­ter all, con­sid­er­ing sac­ri­fic­ing their lives for this be­lief. Se­ri­ously con­fronting this ques­tion for per­haps the first time ever, the stu­dents’ minds may well be­come some­what con­fused, leav­ing them open for other chal­leng­ing ques­tions and thoughts.

For the record: I don’t sup­port the US fight­ing ISIS in Syria. I don’t trust the Pen­tagon’s mo­ti­va­tion, or their choice of bomb­ing tar­gets. They’re prob­a­bly still into regime change. I’d leave the job to Rus­sia and its al­lies.

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