The Age of Self-Delusion

Blinded by what Barbara Tuchman calls “the bellicose frivolity of senile empires,” we are marching ominously towards war with Russia. How else might we explain Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin’s public declaration that the US goal is to “weaken Russia” and Joe Biden’s request for another $33 billion in “emergency” military and economic aid (half of what Russia spent on its military in 2021) for Ukraine?

The same cabal of generals and politicians that drained the state of trillions of dollars in the debacles in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya, and Somalia and learned nothing from the nightmare of Vietnam, revel in the illusion of their omnipotence. They have no interest in a diplomatic solution. There are billions in profits to be made in arms sales. There is political posturing to be done. There are generals itching to pull the trigger. Why have all these high-priced and technologically advanced weapons systems if you can’t use them? Why not show the world this time around that the US still dominates the globe?

The masters of war require an enemy. When an enemy cannot be found, as George Orwell understood in Nineteen Eighty-Four, an enemy is manufactured. That enemy can become an ally overnight – we allied ourselves with Iran in the Middle East to fight the Taliban and later the Caliphate – before instantly reinstated Iran as the incarnation of evil. The enemy is not about logic or geopolitical necessity. It is about stoking the fear and hatred that fuels perpetual war.

In 1989, I covered the revolutions that toppled the communist dictatorships in Central and Eastern Europe. President Mikhail Gorbachev, like his successor Boris Yeltsin and Vladimir Putin in the early stages of his rule, hoped to integrate Russia into the western alliance. But the war industry places profits before national defense. It needed an antagonistic Russia to push the expansion of NATO beyond the borders of a unified Germany in violation of a promise made to Moscow. There were billions of dollars to be made from a Russian enemy, as there are billions more to be made from the proxy war in Ukraine. There would be no “peace dividend” at the end of the Cold War. The war industry was

— source | Chris Hedges | May 2, 2022

Nullius in verba

The Civilian Deaths You Haven’t Heard About

Madogaz Musa Abdullah still remembers the phone call. But what came next was a blur. He drove for hours, deep into the Libyan desert, speeding toward the border with Algeria. His mind buckled, his thoughts reeled, and more than three years later, he’s still not certain how he made that six-hour journey.

The call was about his younger brother, Nasser, who, as he told me, was more than a sibling to him. He was also a close friend. Nasser was polite and caring. He loved music, sang, and played the guitar. Jimi Hendrix, Carlos Santana, and Bob Marley were his favorites.

Abdullah finally found Nasser near the village of Al Awaynat. Or, rather, he found all that remained of him. Nasser and 10 others from their village of Ubari had been riding in three SUVs that were now burnt-out hunks of metal. The 11 men had been incinerated. Abdullah knew one of those charred corpses was his brother, but he was at a loss to identify which one.

If these bodies had recently been found strewn about in the village of Staryi Bykiv, in the streets of Bucha, outside a train station in Kramatorsk, or elsewhere in Ukraine where Russian forces have regularly killed civilians, the images would have been splashed across the Internet, earning worldwide attention and prompting fierce — and justified — outrage. Instead, the day after the attack, November 29, 2018, U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) issued a press release that was met with almost universal silence.

— source | Nick Turse | Apr 26, 2022

Nullius in verba

The Economic Consequences of the War

In 1919, the renowned British economist John Maynard Keynes wrote The Economic Consequences of the Peace, a book that would prove controversial indeed. In it, he warned that the draconian terms imposed on defeated Germany after what was then known as the Great War — which we now call World War I — would have ruinous consequences not just for that country but all of Europe. Today, I’ve adapted his title to explore the economic consequences of the (less than great) war now underway — the one in Ukraine, of course — not just for those directly involved but for the rest of the world.

Not surprisingly, following Russia’s February 24th invasion, coverage has focused mainly on the day-to-day fighting; the destruction of Ukrainian economic assets, ranging from buildings and bridges to factories and whole cities; the plight of both Ukrainian refugees and internally displaced people, or IDPs; and the mounting evidence of atrocities. The war’s potential long-term economic effects in and beyond Ukraine haven’t attracted nearly as much attention, for understandable reasons. They’re less visceral and, by definition, less immediate. Yet the war will take a huge economic toll, not just on Ukraine but on desperately poor people living thousands of miles away. Wealthier countries will experience the ill effects of the war, too, but be better able to cope with them.

Shattered Ukraine

Some expect this war to last years, even decades, though that estimate seems far too bleak. What we do know, however, is that, even two months in, Ukraine’s economic losses and

— source | Rajan Menon | May 3, 2022

Nullius in verba

In the defense of democracy outlawing opposition

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has framed his country’s war against Russia as a battle for democracy itself. In a carefully choreographed address to US Congress on March 16, Zelensky stated, “Right now, the destiny of our country is being decided. The destiny of our people, whether Ukrainians will be free, whether they will be able to preserve their democracy.”

US corporate media has responded by showering Zelensky with fawning press, driving a campaign for his nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize and inspiring a flamboyant musical tribute to himself and the Ukrainian military during the 2022 Grammy awards ceremony on April 3.

Western media has looked the other way, however, as Zelensky and top officials in his administration have sanctioned a campaign of kidnapping, torture, and assassination of local Ukrainian lawmakers accused of collaborating with Russia. Several mayors and other Ukrainian officials have been killed since the outbreak of war, many reportedly by Ukrainian state agents after engaging in de-escalation talks with Russia.

“There is one less traitor in Ukraine,” Internal Affairs Ministry advisor Anton Geraschenko stated in endorsement of the murder of a Ukrainian mayor accused of collaborating with

— source | Max Blumenthal, Esha Krishnaswamy | Apr 17, 2022

Nullius in verba

Weapon Makers Reap “Bonanza” from War

it’s routine in the sense that it’s the military-industrial complex in action, but it’s extraordinary in the sense that it was very specifically to coordinate how to arm Ukraine and how these companies would profit from it. So, the Pentagon has been giving missiles, anti-tank, anti-air missiles, and other equipment through its existing stocks that it already has, and then it’s going to pay these companies to replenish those stocks. And so, the discussion was: How quickly can you crank out these weapons? Do you need new production lines? Do you need more money to make it happen more quickly? So, it was really, in part, about how — how best these companies could profit from the war.

And they’ve been posturing as if they’re some sort of bastions of promoting democracy because they’re arming Ukraine, but, of course, they’re also sending weapons to Yemen that are being used to bomb school buses and civilians, killing thousands of people. So, really, they’ll sell to anybody with the money, but they’re using the Ukraine crisis to sort of try to remold their image.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Bill, could you talk about the relative size we’re talking about here — this is now about more than $3 billion from the Biden administration to Ukraine — in terms of the context of what this means to these companies, this increased amount of money not only now, but, clearly, there will be security needs for years, and maybe decades, into the future?

WILLIAM HARTUNG: Well, this is a bonanza for the companies. You know, they’re going to profit from this in so many ways, it makes my head spin. But you’ve got the $3 billion in direct arms, which is a substantial amount for these companies. Then you’ve got countries like Germany increasing their Pentagon — military budgets to buy things like Lockheed Martin F-35s for billions of dollars, or Poland buying General Dynamics tanks. And then you’ve got several flows of money. There’s a Pentagon program to arm Ukraine. There’s a State Department aid program to help

— source | Apr 15, 2022

Nullius in verba

How Obama-Biden Team Empowered Terrorists in Syria

Hours after the Feb. 3 U.S. military raid in northern Syria that left the leader of ISIS and multiple family members dead, President Biden delivered a triumphant White House address.

The late-night Special Forces operation in Syria’s Idlib province, Biden proclaimed, was a “testament to America’s reach and capability to take out terrorist threats no matter where they hide around the world.”

Unmentioned by the president, and virtually all media accounts of the assassination, was the critical role that top members of his administration played during the Obama years in creating the Al Qaeda-controlled hideout where ISIS head Abu Ibrahim al-Qurayshi, as well as his slain predecessor, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, found their final refuge.

In waging a multi-billion dollar covert war in support of the insurgency against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, top Obama officials who now serve under Biden made it American policy to enable and arm terrorist groups that attracted jihadi fighters from across the globe. This regime change campaign, undertaken one decade after Al Qaeda attacked the U.S. on 9/11, helped a sworn U.S. enemy establish the Idlib safe haven that it still controls today.

A concise articulation came from Jake Sullivan to his then-State Department boss Hillary Clinton in a February 2012 email: “AQ [Al Qaeda] is on our side in Syria.”

— source | Aaron Maté | Apr 24, 2022

Nullius in verba

Funeral of a War Qeen

It’s fitting that Joe Biden and Bill and Hillary Clinton should eulogize Madeleine Albright at the mammoth Episcopalian institution calling itself the “National Cathedral”. After all, just last year, Albright eulogized fellow war maker, “trailblazer” and fellow Episcopalian Colin Powell there for his “honesty, dignity, loyalty and an unshakable commitment to his calling and word.”

Albright, Biden and the Clintons covered for each other’s criminal war making – and ultimately, they all enabled and covered for Republican criminality as well. All showed they were capable of murderous deceits.

It sparked some measure of attention during the 2020 election, but it’s largely been forgotten that the current sitting president, who with great hypocrisy calls Vladimir Putin a war criminal, Joe Biden, won’t tell the truth about his Iraq war record – and he hasn’t for years.

Indeed, the death of Albright on March 23 seemed to almost be a case of Providence attempting to interject history into the current geopolitical situation, most obviously through the war in Ukraine. But one should not expect reckoning to be heard from the podium at the National Cathedral at her funeral on April 27. The war planners have had time to

— source | Sam Husseini | Apr 27, 2022

Nullius in verba

Give War A Chance

A month after Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, blood seems to be rushing to all the wrong places across the Commentariat, which has begun in earnest the predictable process of asking the public to dismiss fears of nuclear combat. Headlines of the “We’ll take those odds” variety are springing up everywhere, from the Seattle Times (“Atrocities change the nuclear weapons calculus”) to Radio Free Europe (“Former NATO Commander Says Western Fears Of Nuclear War Are Preventing A Proper Response To Putin”) to Fox (which had on Sean Penn, of all people, to say to Sean Hannity, “Countries that have nuclear weapons can remain intimidated to use them, and we’re seeing that now with our own country”). This is fast becoming a bipartisan consensus. Check out Republican Adam Kinzinger’s recent comment:

Most of us look back at 9/11 and wish we’d tried to narrow the scope of the problem, not expand it in grandiose ways and make it the central fact of the lives of every person on the planet. We were told right away that 9/11 meant so much more than a policing problem, that instead of a few nut-jobs slipping through the net, bin Laden’s Twin Tower attacks heralded an inevitable, and desirable, Final Battle between new and old worlds. We’re going through something similar now. The pundit excitement over the final clash between “Democracy and Autocracy” perhaps being at hand reminds me exactly of the open praying for signs of the Apocalypse I once heard among the Rapture-ready flock of pastor John Hagee in San Antonio.

We saw a ton of this thinking after 9/11. World-domination advocates who’d been laughed out of meetings for years were taken seriously overnight. Rigid with jingoistic fervor,

— source | Matt Taibbi | Apr 12, 2022

Nullius in verba

Russia’s War Against Ukraine Has Accelerated the Doomsday Clock

On the current military situation, there are two radically different stories. The familiar one is provided by Ukraine’s military intelligence head, Gen. Kyrylo Budanov: Russia’s attempt to overthrow the Ukrainian government has failed, so Russia is now retreating to the occupied south and east of the country, the Donbas region and the eastern Azov sea coast, planning a “Korean scenario.”

The head of the Main Operational Directorate of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation, Col. Gen. Sergey Rudskoy, tells a very different story (as of March 25): a rendition of George W. Bush’s “Mission Accomplished” in Iraq, though without the dramatic trappings:

The main goal of the “special military operation” was to defend the Donbass People’s Republic from the genocidal assaults of Ukrainian Nazis over the past eight years. Since Ukraine rejected diplomacy, it was necessary to extend the operation to “demilitarization and denazification” of Ukraine, destroying military targets with great care to spare civilians. The main goals have been efficiently achieved exactly according to plan. What remains is the full “liberation of Donbass.”

Two tales, same ending, which I presume is accurate.

The West, quite plausibly, adopts the former story. That is, it adopts the story that tells us that Russia is incapable of conquering cities a few miles from its border that are

— source | Mar 30, 2022

Nullius in verba