Acting Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk recently announced his resignation from the government amidst parliamentary infighting in the Rada, supposedly over none of the factions wanting to take the fall for the upcoming suicidal IMF stipulations. (His desire to leave off the hook ahead of the coming economic and social collapse of Ukraine has apparently come into collision with the interests of Western power groups seeking to establish control over the Ukrainian gas trasportation system first – OR ). The withdraw of the nationalist party Svoboda and Klitschko’s (German) project Udar continues the chain reaction of institutional collapse that began in late-November with the EuroMaidan Color Revolution. If a new Rada isn’t formed within 30 days, elections will have to take place. It has already been forecasted that this is nothing more than a ploy to solidify Poroshenko’s power base (Udar is a close ally) and expand the reach of the Svoboda nationalists. These risky and Machiavellian calculations will likely have far-reaching implications, continuing to push Ukraine ever further towards full-scale collapse and spreading the black hole of chaos that has begun to emerge in the country.
Nearing the Precipice
In the run-up to the most recent stage of institutional collapse, Kiev had found itself in a conundrum. After revving up the population for so-called Western integration and signing the EU Association Agreement and receiving IMF loans, the Rada realized that none of its members wanted to be responsible for implementing the brutal economic ‘tweaks’ that both of them necessitate. This is the immediate cause of the current Rada crisis – everyone wanted to ‘join the West’, but no one wanted to take electoral responsibility for what that truly means.
Concurrent to this, Ukraine also banned one of its consistently largest political parties, the Communist Party, which polled 15% at the last legitimate election in 2012. For a country trying to ingratiate itself with ‘Western values’, it is contradictory that it would carry out such a policy, however, it cannot be said to be unexpected. After all, there had been loud calls for lustration ever since the February coup against legitimate president Yanukovich. This policy of political (and therefore, social) exclusion has been aided by the nationalist and fascist forces that have swept to power and influence in Ukraine in recent months.
All of this is to say nothing of the enormous humanitarian catastrophe ongoing in the Donbass region, where the UN officially estimates that at least 1,000 people have been killed and over 3,500 injured since the start of punitive operations against Federalist supporters in mid-April. 500,000 refugees have fled to Russia since then, with over 34,000 of them currently being housed by the state.
The Real Reason for the Void
The aforementioned explanations for the current governing void all owe their genesis to events that started earlier than the coup itself. First and foremost, Ukraine has been a geopolitical chess piece for the US since its independence in 1991. Zbigniew Brzezinski wrote about its role as a pivot of America’s Eurasian influence in his 1997 work “The Grand Chessboard”, quipping that “Without Ukraine, Russia ceases to be a Eurasian empire”. This strategic advice was certainly heeded at the State Department, since Victoria Nuland admitted that the US had spent $5 billion for “democracy promotion” in Ukraine since 1991. This investment wasn’t for “democracy” but rather for regime change by mobocracy, as can be seen by the Maidan mobs that ravaged Kiev before the coup. The drawn-out urban warfare of EuroMaidan, coupled with an intense Western propaganda campaign of state demonization, inevitably led to the shredding of the state’s structure right after the coup. This is something which did not even happen after the 2004 Orange Revolution, when the governing apparatus still relatively functioned in comparison to today.
Had it not been for the US’ geostrategic goals in enacting regime change in Ukraine and attacking Russia via proxy, there would be no crisis in the country. Refugees would not be streaming eastwards and Ukraine would not be split along civilizational fault lines. The growing black hole of chaos is completely attributable to the efforts of the US to follow through on its threats to disrupt Russia’s Eurasian Union integration goals, of which Ukraine was a possible candidate for membership prior to the destabilization’s commencement.
Ukraine Before the Storm
Events have been so dramatic and have moved so fast since November that it may be easy to forget what the country was like one year ago. In summer 2013, the government was corrupt but workable, with no large-scale violence and relative macro stability. All political parties were welcome in the inclusive government and the country had profitable dealings with the US, EU, and Russia. Importantly, energy supplies were secured and no downstream partners were in danger of a winter shortage.
Flash forward to the present day. The ‘government’ is dysfunctional and cripplingly corrupt, resembling Italy during the Cold War (one could even provocatively say today). Wide-scale violence has already claimed over 1,000 lives and destroyed the infrastructure in of one of Ukraine’s most formerly prosperous regions, destabilizing the entire Donbass. Lustration has made the Rada an exclusive club of those in alliance with the oligarchs, and extreme fringe movements hold disproportionate influence over the country. Although nominally moving towards Europe economically, Ukraine is now shackled in debt and is on the cusp of losing all bilateral trade with Russia, on which its economy is dependent. Failed political maneuvering by Kiev forced Russia to shut off the gas tap, raising fears of a cold winter and almost certainly guaranteeing another future crisis at the end of the year.
Over the Edge and Into the Unknown
In hindsight, the EuroMaidan coup may very well be seen as the fatal outside blow that wrecked Ukrainian statehood once and for all. The country is experiencing a painful and extended collapse before the eyes of the world, with the current political void being but the latest iteration of its downward spiral. Ukraine has gone over the edge and into unknown territory, with the only blueprint being the Yugoslavian scenario. The black hole of chaos inside of Ukraine is only growing, with the country now certainly exhibiting the symptoms of failed state status. There was an outside-engineered coup in a geopolitically convenient area, a proxy government, a merry-go-round parliament, a civil war that could possibly involve an intervention by its neighbor (Russia), and rabid nationalists scheming for power.
Being a country of 45 million and located smack dab in the middle of Eastern Europe, Ukraine may be ‘too big to fail’ for its foreign backers. In the past, it could never sustain itself on its own, being previously dependent on Russia since independence. Now that Russia has been violently pushed away, Ukraine is making itself a burden on the West and the EU, neither of which now wants to properly deal with it. The Western integration of Ukraine was a slogan used by both Ukrainian and Western politicians alike, none of whom wanted to take on the responsibilities associated with it, thereby putting the country in an untenable position and leading to the destitution of its masses.
Any entity demonstrating Ukraine’s failed-state characteristics should be something that other states’ militaries steer clear away from at all costs, but the US and NATO have unreasonably been moving even closer to this sick man since its symptoms began to show. The absorption of Ukraine into Shadow NATO under these circumstances is tantamount to directly involving the alliance in Ukraine’s hurricane-like spiral of chaos. Granting the country major non-NATO ally status is dangerous and irresponsible, especially when occurring during a government collapse and the increasingly dictatorial tendencies of its leader. The situation in Afghanistan, the most recent major non-NATO ally, has at least been semi-stable and predictable due to the forcible NATO occupation there (set to expire at the end of the year, however), but such a situation does not (yet) exist in Ukraine. It may be, however, that the West finds its Ukrainian operation ‘too big to fail’, and as the country experiences slow-motion economic, military, and political collapse, it may desperately think that NATO integration can plug these processes and reverse the inevitable.
An inquiry by the EU has found “compelling indications” that ten Serb captives had their body organs harvested for illegal trafficking during the 1998-99 Kosovo war. However, it wasn’t widespread and there will be no trial, the lead investigator said.
The chief prosecutor Clint Williamson, who led the investigation, said there was no evidence of widespread organ harvesting, but that the crime had occurred a number of times.
“There are compelling indications that this practice did occur on a very limited scale and that a small number of individuals were killed for the purpose of extracting and trafficking their organs,” he told journalists. However, he added that there would not be enough evidence at the moment to prosecute the alleged crimes.
The revelation was part of a presentation on a 2 1/2 year investigation into atrocities that also largely confirmed human right reports that there was a campaign of persecution against Serb, Roma and other minorities by some people in the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA).
The investigation was prompted by a 2011 report by Council of Europe member Dick Marty that accused senior KLA commanders of involvement in the smuggling of Serb prisoners into northern Albania and the removal of their organs for sale.
Kosovo’s Prime Minister Hashim Thaci, himself a former KLA leader who was named in Marty’s report, has dismissed the accusations as an attempt to tarnish the Kosovo Albanian fight for independence.
“The government of the Republic of Kosovo appreciates the completion of the ambassador Williamson’s work, which is an important step to determine potential individual responsibility and gives an end to the claims of the unfounded charges,” Tachi said.
However, Williamson bitterly complained that the investigation had been made far more difficult because of “a climate of intimidation that seeks to undermine any investigations of individuals associated with the former Kosovo Liberation Army.”
Williamson did say the Special Investigative Task Force would in future be “in a position to file an indictment against certain senior officials of the former Kosovo Liberation Army” for a series of crimes, including killings, disappearances, camp detentions and sexual violence.
Without naming any individuals, Williamson said that “there are compelling indications that this practice did occur.“ He went to lengths to make clear the alleged harvesting was not a wholesale practice, rejecting claims of hundreds of victims. Some 400 people, mostly Kosovo Serbs, disappeared near the end of the war, AP reports.
Just over 2,000 Serbs are believed to have been killed during and immediately after the war.
Serbia has vowed never to recognize the independence of its former province, which many Serbians consider their nation’s heartland, after it declared independence in 2008. It is also not recognized by dozens of country’s worldwide, including Russia.
In Belgrade, Serbia’s war crimes prosecutor Vladimir Vukcevic told The Associated Press that Tuesday’s announcement “crowns a big effort on our part and shows that we were right when we said that war crimes had been committed and that organ trafficking took place.”
The Ukrainian Civil War took a violent and headline-grabbing international turn for the worst on 17 July following the downing of Flight MH17. Although it appears more and more likely that it was the Ukrainian Army that shot it down and not the anti-Kiev Resistance, pro-Western media has been aggressively pushing the narrative that Russia, specifically President Putin, was involved and has been suppressing evidence to the contrary. It has even gone as far as to infer that “Russian-backed separatists” carried out a “terrorist attack”, further upping the propaganda ante. The reason behind this massive information war is that the US wants to “isolate Russia” and expand NATO into Ukraine, something which it has largely been unable to successfully do up until this point. In fact, it appears as though the US is now readying to play its trump card – granting Ukraine major non-NATO ally status and declaring Russia as a “state sponsor of terrorism”, both of which would in turn advance NATO interests and threateningly force the EU to choose whether its destiny lies with the Atlantic or the Continent.
“Operation: Isolation” before Flight MH17
Prior to the downing of MH17, US-led sanctions against Russia were unsuccessful in isolating Moscow. The EU refused to enact any meaningful sanctions that would endanger its $330 billion yearly trade with Russia, thereby mitigating the US’ economic bullying efforts. In fact, the verbal threat of sanctions was actually beneficial for Russia since it motivated the country to look outside the West for future economic prospects. An historic gas deal with China was signed in May that was worth nearly half a trillion dollars, and in the same month, the Eurasian Economic Union was officially formed. Then, right before 17 July, Putin attended the BRICS conference in Brazil where he met with leaders representing nearly half of the world’s population, and they committed to creating the alternative BRICS Development Bank. Clearly, Russia wasn’t going to be isolated by the West.
All while this was happening, the US kept trying to find a backdoor way for incorporating Kiev’s armed forces into NATO, and it found it through its local lackey, Poland. A plan was concocted by Ukraine to create a joint brigade between it, Lithuania, and Poland, with Poland being the key NATO partner involved (Lithuania on its own is almost insignificant in international and military affairs of any kind). The importance here is that Kiev has been institutionalizing the relationship it has with its new strategic partner, Poland, also inviting its former overlord and mercenary-in-arms into the east to assist with “creating new jobs” (read: plundering) in Donbass. What is happening here is that even if the West was unsuccessful in isolating Russia, it could at the very least move as much of its influence eastward to the Russian frontier as it can in order to enact maximum pressure on Moscow.
The “Terrorist” Label and Shadow NATO
Almost immediately after it happened, the MH17 catastrophe was seized upon by Western political opportunists as valuable capital for their geostrategic game. As was mentioned in the first paragraph, pro-Western media outlets immediately laid the blame squarely at Putin’s feet, and this wasn’t coincidental. The objective in doing so has been to generate enough anti-Russian sentiment in Europe so as to justify mutually disadvantageous sanctions (more so for the socially and politically fractured EU, many of whose members are still in recession, than for the economically resolute Russia). The EU, and especially Germany, will only “shoot itself in the kneecaps” as either an emotional or forced response, as to do so under any normal circumstances would be absolutely unreasonable.
Thus, the “terrorist” label entered the discourse.
It has now become popular for Western opinion makers to repeat the Kiev slur that the anti-coup Resistance are “terrorists”, emphasizing that they are “Russian-backed” and “supported by Putin”. It doesn’t matter that none of this is true – what is important is that it is repeated as loudly and as often as can be. The result is to acclimate the public into believing that Russia under Putin is a pariah state, much as Newsweek magazine tried to convince their audience with its last hate piece. Poroshenko has taken things even further, likening MH17 to Lockerbie and 9/11 and trying to get Donetsk and Lugansk’s governments on the international terrorist list.
It is only a short leap of “logic” to see the connection between Russia and Putin as terrorist sponsors and the US’ designation of state-sponsor-of-terrorism status onto the country. Such a step would lead to immediate US sanctions and intense pressure on the EU to cut off its major non-energy trade contacts with Russia and fiendishly move towards diversifying away from Russian gas (to say nothing of killing the South Stream project). The US will only take this extreme step if it is sure that it has more influence over Europe than Russia does and that Europe can be convinced to sacrifice its economic well-being for ideological and political reasons (which is not that far-off of a possibility for such an indoctrinated leadership).
Just as before the tragedy, it must be noted that the US is still pursuing the goal of shadow NATO integration with Ukraine parallel to isolating Russia. It is reported that it may be on the cusp of granting Ukraine major non-NATO ally status and even providing pinpoint precision intelligence for attacking anti-Kiev SAM sites. This could rapidly creep into something much more, per the Libya model, especially since US military advisors will be on the ground. Thus, in one fell swoop, by evoking the “terrorist” label, the US can ‘kill two birds with one stone’ – guilt/force the EU into “isolating Russia” (thereby isolating and harming itself as well) and swallow Ukraine into Shadow NATO.
The US has plainly demonstrated that it is salivating for a Cold War redux with Russia, and once more, Europe is caught in the middle. It is completely contrary to any of its interests for it to participate in this needless and aggressive geopolitical struggle, but as the EU seems wont to do nowadays, it may easily get sucked into it out of misguided ideological and political reasons dictated by the US. In fact, it may have little choice: the US could unilaterally declare Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism and then force the EU, whose largest export market is the US and with whom it is negotiating the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (which European political elite naively believe will benefit them), into acquiescing to its military occupier’s demands. This wouldn’t “isolate” Russia, which has already made a strong push into the non-Western world since April, as much as it would isolate the EU, but ironically, this may even work in Washington’s favor by crippling its friendly economic rival and keeping it under its thumb for at least another decade.
Moreover, Russia as a “state sponsor of terrorism” would create a clear dividing line between the West and Russia and could give a renewed hybrid purpose to NATO. Whereas in the Cold War it was an anti-Russian organization and then in the “Global War on Terror” it nominally became an anti-terrorist organization, it may soon carry the new hybrid mission of containing a “terrorist-supporting” Russia. This would also provide enhanced justification to European populations for the deployment of even more US and NATO personnel in Eastern Europe, as well as deeper and faster Shadow NATO integration for Ukraine, Georgia, and Moldova, thereby laying the framework for a Western battering ram into Russia’s Near Abroad. All of this would rightfully alarm Russia, which would then defensively ramp up its multivector cooperation with ‘The Rest’ and BRICS. This would be especially so for its prized strategic partner and fellow Western target, China, potentially creating an eventual de-facto alliance between the two giants out of shared security concerns and transforming the Eurasian strategic landscape.
One month ago today, President Obama was congratulating Libya on a “milestone” election — even though the disintegration of the country after the 2011 US invasion was ongoing.
Said Obama in June:
I congratulate the Libyan people on the conclusion of the elections for a new Council of Representatives, a milestone in their courageous efforts to transition from four decades of dictatorship toward a full democracy.
Today, the US announced it has evacuated all US personnel from Libya. They piled into vehicles and escaped to Tunisia.
The only thing left behind was the hollow words of hollow State Department Spokeswoman Marie Harf:
Due to the ongoing violence resulting from clashes between Libyan militias in the immediate vicinity of the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli, we have temporarily relocated all of our personnel out of Libya.. …We reiterate that Libyans must immediately cease hostilities and begin negotiations to resolve their grievances.
Nothing better demonstrates the enormous disconnect between Washington’s rhetoric and actual reality than this, an emergency evacuation of the entire US diplomatic and military presence in Libya just weeks after a “milestone” election and just over three years after a US/NATO attack that was to bring democracy and prosperity to the country.
As the US and NATO attacked Libya in March, 2011, President Obama addressed the American people to explain his decision to attack.
Gaddafi was killing his own people, Obama claimed. That was a lie. He was fighting the very insurgents whose ongoing violence has forced the United States to flee the country.
US intervention would stop the violence, Obama claimed. That was a lie.
“Qaddafi has not yet stepped down from power, and until he does, Libya will remain dangerous,” said Obama.
But Gaddafi was forced from power — sodomized and murdered by US allies in Libya. The country is more dangerous than ever. The US has been forced to evacuate.
Obama claimed that the US/NATO invasion would end the violence in Libya:
[W]e were faced with the prospect of violence on a horrific scale. We had a unique ability to stop that violence: an international mandate for action, a broad coalition prepared to join us, the support of Arab countries, and a plea for help from the Libyan people themselves.
That was a lie. The violence worsened.
America was exceptional, claimed Obama in his 2011 speech. That is why we had to invade Libya:
To brush aside America’s responsibility as a leader and -– more profoundly -– our responsibilities to our fellow human beings under such circumstances would have been a betrayal of who we are. Some nations may be able to turn a blind eye to atrocities in other countries. The United States of America is different.
Libya was supposed to be the next “domino” in the fantasy of an “Arab Spring” pushed so hard by the US administration and its compliant media. Instead, Egypt is ruled by a US-backed dictator who overthrew an elected government and Libya is a completely destroyed no-go zone.
Reality caught up with Obama and the murderous rhetoric of the interventionists and neocons.
Moscow is next on their target list. Those in the US who push back against the lies designed to provoke a war with Russia are called “Putin’s best friend” and “Russian agents.” Just like they were called “Saddam’s best friend” and “Iraqi agents” just like they were called “Gaddafi’s best friend” and “Libyan agents.” The lies are the same, the results are always a disaster.
Will Americans notice what failures their leaders are? Will Americans demand an end to the disastrous interventions?
Let this sink in: three years after the US invasion of Libya that would “free” the country, the US has been forced to have a Saigon moment.
Inspectors who came to check the state of Russian troops along the Ukrainian borders have found no violations, Russia’s Ministry of Defense said. This came as a response to the US alleging 15,000 Russian troops have amassed in the area.
“It has come to our attention that new allegations by top US officials as to the alleged amassing of Russian troops along the Ukrainian border have been voiced,” the statement by the Defense Ministry read, following allegations by the US Permanent Representative to NATO, Douglas Lute, and State Department spokeswoman, Marie Harf.
“The last four months have witnessed 18 separate inspections along the Ukrainian border with the Russian Federation, all in line with the Vienna Open Skies Treaty and the Vienna agreement of 2011.”
The statement goes on to list the international makeup of those inspections, which included representatives from the US, as well as NATO and Ukraine. The inspections also included flybys and visits to any military units that might have aroused suspicion.
“No instances of violations by Russia along the Ukrainian border had been registered by the inspectors,” adding that in spite of the above, “frequent action by the Ukrainian military taking place on the Russian border has hindered our own ability to perform similar inspections and flybys along our border.”
While no evidence of a Russian military buildup at Ukrainian border regions was registered, similar inspections in other regions, were they to be carried out, would undoubtedly find that the opposite is true for Ukrainian forces, who’ve had heavy equipment stationed there, firing regularly onto Russian settlements, the ministry states.
“Their actions have already led to casualties on our side,” the statement concludes.
Just on Friday, Ukraine’s army fired at least 45 mortar shells at targets located inside the Rostov-on-Don region, Russia’s border officials said. The barrage destroyed houses and forced an evacuation of civilians. Ukrainian officials denied responsibility, and say that it is Russia that has been using its artillery to support anti-Kiev militants in the Donetsk region across the border.
Shells from artillery fights in Ukraine have frequently landed on Russian territory since the beginning of summer. Earlier this week, a temporary refugee camp for Ukrainians fleeing the conflict was relocated further from the border, after several mortars landed nearby.
Dear Kenneth Roth,
While we welcome your stated commitment to Human Rights Watch’s independence and credibility, we are dismayed by your rejection of our common-sense suggestion for strengthening them: bar those who have crafted or executed U.S. foreign policy from serving as HRW staff, advisors or board members—or, at a bare minimum, mandate lengthy “cooling-off” periods before and after any associate moves between HRW and the foreign-policy divisions of the U.S. government.
Before addressing your letter’s objections to the three instances of HRW’s advocacy that suggest a conflict of interest, we would like to reiterate that they were “limited to only recent history,” and that other cases could have been raised as well. One obvious example of HRW’s failure to appropriately criticize U.S. crimes occurred after the 2004 coup d’état against the democratically elected government of Haiti. The U.S. government essentially kidnapped Haiti’s president; thousands of people were killed under the ensuing coup regime; and deposed officials of the constitutional government were jailed.
In the face of what were likely the worst human rights abuses of any country in the Western hemisphere at the time, HRW barely lifted a finger. HRW never hosted a press conference criticizing the coup or post-coup atrocities. In contrast to HRW’s appeals to the Organization of American States’ Inter-American Democratic Charter for Venezuela and Cuba, HRW never publicly invoked the Charter in the case of Haiti, even as Articles 20 and 21 afforded multilateral measures “in the event of an unconstitutional alteration of the constitutional regime.” HRW never placed an op-ed about the overthrow in a prominent newspaper. (In 2004 The New York Times alone published at least five HRW opinion pieces and four HRW letters on other subjects.) It is reasonable for outside observers to question whether this lack of response from HRW to such large-scale human rights violations had anything to do with U.S. foreign-policy priorities.
The very existence of such questions regarding HRW’s advocacy should be reason enough to impose sharp restrictions on HRW’s close ties to the U.S. government. Given the impact of global perceptions on HRW’s ability to carry out its work, simply the appearance of impropriety can impede HRW’s effectiveness. Closing HRW’s revolving door would be an important first step to allaying or preempting concerns that HRW’s priorities are compromised.
Concrete evidence of a revolving-door phenomenon between HRW and the U.S. government renders crucially incomplete your admission that “it is true that some served in the US government before or after their involvement with Human Rights Watch.” We provided examples of those who served in the U.S. government both before and after their involvement with HRW, a norm widely recognized to generate perverse incentives and undermine an institution’s reputation for independence.
For instance, you may disagree with our view that a former official of the Central Intelligence Agency—one of the world’s greatest institutional human rights violators over the past half-century—has no standing to advise on human rights issues for your organization. Surely you must concede, however, that a conflict of interest was raised when Miguel Díaz, the ex-CIA analyst in question, exploited the eight years of experience and relationships he accumulated within HRW’s advisory committee for his subsequent role as the U.S. State Department’s “interlocutor between the intelligence community and non-government experts.”
Your colleague, HRW Counsel and Spokesperson Reed Brody, seemed to misunderstand the nature of our proposal, arguing in a June 11 debate on Democracy Now! that “Miguel Díaz never worked at Human Rights Watch,” and that the organization is “a big tent—we’ve got people on the right; we’ve got people on the left.” In fact, our letter suggested prohibitions or cooling-off periods for “any associate,” including advisory-committee members like Díaz. Secondly, our proposals would not impact political diversity; rather, they would make it more difficult for those previously employed by human rights-abusing organizations like the CIA from adversely influencing HRW’s priorities or damaging HRW’s reputation.
It is important to further clarify our request, as Brody made two mutually irreconcilable claims: that “there is no revolving door,” and that “this revolving-door policy, if we implemented it, would have changed one person at Human Rights Watch.” Both statements are untrue. A cooling-off period, which all HRW associates would accept, would have prevented both Díaz and former HRW Washington director Tom Malinowski from almost immediately entering the U.S. State Department (Malinowski is now Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor), and would have also applied to Nik Steinberg, a senior researcher in HRW’s Americas division as of May 2014.
Just one week after you received our May 12 letter, Mr. Steinberg announced that he was leaving HRW to take a position with U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power, which he described as an “extraordinary opportunity.” This is disturbing from a human rights perspective, because Ms. Power’s July 17, 2013 confirmation hearing was riddled with provocative comments, including her evidence-free claim of an Iranian “nuclear weapons program,” her promise to “never apologize for America,” and her commitment to “work tirelessly to defend” Israel. After assuming her post, she advocated in favor of a U.S. strike against Syria in 2013, defending it as “legitimate” while tacitly acknowledging its illegality. She later declared that the United States has “nothing to apologize for” in Afghanistan, despite its record of numerous atrocities. Most recently, Ms. Power engaged in a coordinated media event with Henry Kissinger, whom Mr. Brody once referred to as a war criminal.
HRW’s proximity to Ms. Power damages HRW’s stated independence in light of her declarations that “the United States is the greatest country on Earth,” “the leader in human rights,” and “the leader in human dignity.” Shortly after leaving HRW, Malinowski similarly lauded the “bipartisan consensus for America’s defense of liberty around the world” and the “exceptional” nature of the United States at his own September 24, 2013 confirmation hearing.
Mr. Roth, we are deeply worried that Mr. Steinberg’s announced transition to Ms. Power’s office—a week after your receipt of our letter—is just one of many more revolving-door episodes that will continue to create perverse incentive structures within the organization. How can we expect HRW associates to be completely unafraid to hold human rights violators in the U.S. government accountable for their offenses and crimes when they are hoping to work for some of these very same functionaries immediately upon leaving HRW? That is the question that you must answer, Mr. Roth, in light of the transitions of Malinowski, Díaz and Steinberg to the U.S. State Department.
If you nevertheless object to prohibiting the involvement of U.S. foreign-policy officials at HRW or instituting cooling-off periods for them, we suggest, in parallel, an even narrower proposal: bar the participation at HRW of those who bear a direct responsibility for violating international humanitarian law. Javier Solana, currently a member of HRW’s board of directors, served as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s Secretary General during its 1999 military campaign in Yugoslavia. NATO’s use of cluster munitions and its bombing of civilian targets in Yugoslavia led HRW itself to conclude that the organization “committed violations of international humanitarian law.”
Solana is therefore a poor choice for HRW’s board of directors. His removal from your board would signal HRW’s good-faith effort to bolster its independence and credibility as an advocate for human rights. When Mr. Brody was asked on Democracy Now! to respond to the argument that “those who bear direct responsibility for human rights violations should not be on the board of directors of an independent human rights organization,” Mr. Brody said, “I would agree with that.” We hope you concur with your colleague.
We will now address in turn your responses to the three cases of problematic HRW advocacy mentioned in our letter:
First, you objected to our concerns over the 2009 statements made by Tom Malinowski as HRW’s Washington director to the LA Times. He contended that “under limited circumstances” there was a “legitimate place” for renditions. You argue that our letter “mistakenly claims he was supporting unlawful CIA renditions,” and that “Malinowski was certainly not endorsing the CIA’s illegal rendition program, which entailed transferring individuals without due process protections to countries where they faced torture.” You further define renditions as simply “the transfer of a person in custody from one jurisdiction to another, which is legal under certain circumstances,” and cite extraditions as a legitimate form of rendition.
We appreciate your attempt to clarify Malinowski’s statement, which at the time provoked public consternation from law professors specializing in constitutional law and international law, such as Darren Hutchinson and Kenneth Anderson. This reaction arose because the LA Times article in question focused exclusively on CIA renditions and President Barack Obama’s executive order, which preserved them through a redefinition that allowed the transfer of suspects on a “short-term, transitory basis.” All CIA renditions, whether long- or short-term, whether they lead to torture or not, deny suspects the right to legal proceedings in which they can challenge their transfer from the country in question. Unlike commonplace extraditions, CIA renditions—extraordinary or otherwise—do not guarantee the detainees’ right to legal counsel or access to the court system of the country where they are seized.
In our previous letter to you, we cited Obama’s “preservation of renditions” as a serious human rights concern, and hyperlinked to a widely cited Open Society Justice Initiative report from 2013 which observed that Obama’s 2009 “executive order did not repudiate extraordinary rendition,” and that “it appears that the Obama administration did not end extraordinary rendition.” In light of this and the fact that the LA Times solely focused on an executive order pertaining to CIA renditions, Malinowski’s comment on their “legitimate place” was troubling and remains so, especially given his now-senior position within the Obama administration. Controversy around the practice persists, as exemplified by the headline of a 2013 Washington Post news article: “Renditions continue under Obama, despite due-process concerns.”
Malinowski’s subsequent statement to the LA Times was perhaps even more dubious, for additional reasons. As HRW’s Washington director, he paraphrased the Obama administration’s claim that designing an alternative to “people being sent to foreign dungeons to be tortured” was “going to take some time,” without questioning whether a gradual approach to ending such abuses was justifiable or even legal. For an organization that operates under the principle that human rights are absolute rights, not rights to be traded away for expediency or other political goals—which is the only way that a credible human rights organization can or should operate—such a statement should be deeply alarming. In fact, the Obama administration did proceed to “take some time,” sustaining the use of such “foreign dungeons” for years—likely up to the present day.
Numerous eye-witness testimonies led to articles by Der Spiegel in 2009 and the BBC in 2010 that reported on torture conducted under Obama’s presidency at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan, where detainees have had no right to habeas corpus. A 2011 Nation investigative piece detailed the conditions of an underground “secret prison” in Somalia used by the CIA, which serves as a destination for U.S.-assisted renditions. U.S. officials are said to conduct joint “debriefings,” or interrogations, at the site. The report’s author, Jeremy Scahill, found that the prisoners were unable to be seen by the Red Cross, and “they are not ever presented with charges.”
We note with interest that none of the HRW reports on rendition that you listed and hyperlinked to in your letter refer to torture, CIA renditions, or long-term detention without due process that have occurred under the Obama administration. While we welcome HRW’s call for criminal investigations regarding Bush-era human rights abuses, it appears that HRW has not advocated for criminal investigations into any of these Obama-era abuses. In fact, two HRW researchers have publicly fretted over the U.S. handover of the Bagram base to the Afghan government due to concerns over Afghanistan’s use of torture, without ever mentioning Obama-era, U.S.-directed torture at the same base. There may be some legitimate reason for HRW’s very different positions regarding the two administrations, but combined with the existence of HRW’s revolving door, they reinforce a reasonable suspicion that Malinowski’s inappropriate comments in 2009 as an HRW employee were influenced by his intention to serve in the Obama administration, and that HRW’s decidedly more muted position today on Obama’s policies is perhaps related to its ties to the administration.
Your second point pertains to our argument that in light of HRW’s 2012 letter to President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela questioning the country’s suitability as a candidate for the UN Human Rights Council, HRW had reason to write a similar letter to President Obama expressing reservations over the U.S. position in the same council. In our previous letter to you, we cited the U.S. record of human rights abuses that include a secret, global assassination program and the illegal detention of individuals at Guantánamo Bay. You have countered by avoiding a discussion of comparative abuses between the two countries, and have instead argued that for HRW, a “central concern on council membership is whether a government takes the council and its special procedures seriously,” and that Venezuela, unlike the United States, does not.
However, under no objective standard was this a “central concern” of the 2012 letter to Chávez signed by your colleagues José Miguel Vivanco and Peggy Hicks that we originally cited. After asserting in their introduction that “Venezuela currently falls far short of acceptable standards” in “promoting and protecting human rights,” Vivanco and Hicks outlined specific “policies and practices of [the Chávez] administration” and argued for their reversal. Their letter then dedicated the next 10 paragraphs to arguing that Venezuela has failed in the areas of judicial independence, media freedom and civil society. Before concluding their letter, Vivanco and Hicks devoted only one paragraph to “cooperation with the Human Rights Council.”
Given the broad scope of the content and priorities of HRW’s letter to Chávez, HRW simply has no tenable justification for its continued support of the U.S. presence on the UN Human Rights Council. Aside from its far grimmer human rights record than Venezuela, “[t]he United States is the only country to vote against all the Council’s resolutions focusing on the human rights situation in Palestine and other occupied Arab territories,” admits HRW. “The US rejection of any resolution focusing on Israel and the [Occupied Palestinian Territories] and Israel [sic] exposes its double standards.” HRW’s own finding, coupled with the U.S. role in blocking the implementation of the Council’s recommendations of the Goldstone Report on Israeli war crimes during the Gaza attack of 2008-09, certainly weakens your letter’s claim that “on balance, the United States has played a constructive role at the Human Rights Council.”
It is not too late for HRW to demonstrate its independence from the U.S. government by writing a letter to President Obama outlining the most egregious U.S. human rights violations that should be reversed in order for the country to serve as a credible member of the UN Human Rights Council. HRW’s letter could demand an end to the Obama’s extrajudicial “kill list,” an authoritarian U.S. policy for which a Venezuelan analogue is nonexistent and inconceivable, and the letter could also condemn U.S. intransigence within the Council, particularly toward Palestinian human rights.
Our third and final example questioned HRW’s lack of opposition to Obama’s consideration of a missile strike on Syria in 2013—a violation of the UN Charter’s prohibition on the unilateral “threat or use of force” in international affairs. We appreciate your clarification of HRW’s mandate, “which is to monitor governments’ adherence to international human rights and humanitarian law.” We would urge HRW to consider expanding its purview to adopt the UN Charter as a foundation for its legal determinations due to the inevitable human rights violations that occur as a result of a war of aggression, considered the “supreme international crime” by the Nuremberg Tribunal.
We express our concern, however, that HRW’s stated neutrality on matters of war and peace is compromised by your public statements of questionable judgment. At the height of intense pressure for a U.S. bombing campaign on Syria in late August of 2013, you all but advocated military intervention on social media, while maintaining plausible deniability in the context of a climate of warmongering. A sampling of your tweets include:
* To justify #Syria inaction, top US general trots out age-old ethnic animosities line. Heard that B4? Bosnia. Rwanda. trib.al/qSzrz1N
* Top general suggests US is more interested in a geopolitical partner in #Syria than saving civilians from slaughter. trib.al/WElNRGM
* It took chemical attack to convince Obama/Kerry that Assad isn’t interested in negotiated solution!? No more excuses. trib.al/viu2scd
* If the appalling slaughter in #Syria won’t get Obama to act, maybe ridicule will: trib.al/gp7HDo1
* If Obama decides to strike #Syria, will he settle for symbolism or do something that will help protect civilians? trib.al/hl6QhA1
Such behavior is unbecoming for the head of a major human rights organization and runs counter to the spirit of HRW’s official neutrality toward the impending intervention in Syria. We encourage you to demonstrate greater tact and responsibility in light of the near-inevitability that U.S. missile strikes would have led to violations of international humanitarian law, including the killing, maiming, and displacement of many innocent civilians—as shown by the U.S. bombings of Yugoslavia in 1999, and of Iraq during the 2003 invasion and subsequent years of war.
HRW’s official abstention from endorsing or opposing wars also appeared to be broken by Tom Malinowski’s March 27, 2011 article in The New Republic on NATO’s Libya intervention. The piece was originally titled “Why Isn’t Obama Getting Credit For Stopping An Atrocity?” and contended that “NATO acted more quickly [than in Bosnia] to stop atrocities in Kosovo.” In the case of Kosovo, “we could see and feel the difference Clinton and NATO had made.” Malinowski then celebrated NATO’s intervention in Libya as “the most rapid multinational military response to an impending human rights crisis in history” for which “we should be grateful.”
As Washington director for HRW at the time of the article, Malinowski offered no disclosure of his previous responsibilities in foreign-policy speech-writing as the Senior Director of the White House’s National Security Council during Clinton’s bombing of Yugoslavia in 1999. Nor did his sanitized portrayal of those actions include his own organization’s inconvenient conclusion that “NATO committed violations of international humanitarian law.” Malinowski’s piece also omitted the clearly unconstitutional nature of Obama’s military intervention in Libya. Furthermore, he excluded evidence that the NATO coalition quickly had moved away from the scope of the civilian-protection mandate provided in UN Resolution 1973 and toward the aim of regime change, which conformed with Obama’s comments weeks prior that “it’s time for Qaddafi to go.”
More egregiously, the following year—months after your organization’s report, “Unacknowledged Deaths: Civilian Casualties in NATO’s Air Campaign in Libya,” examined eight NATO strikes that killed 72 civilians—Malinowski offered unalloyed praise for the NATO intervention. He argued that “Barack Obama’s administration made its most unequivocal stand on behalf of an Arab Spring uprising” in Libya, where the destabilizing consequences of the administration’s support in arming rebel forces continue to be felt. Completely ignoring the issue of civilian deaths at the hands of NATO (confirmed by HRW itself), Malinowski claimed in this October 2, 2012 Foreign Policy article that “recent events have reinforced, not weakened, the rationale for supporting political change in the Arab world.”
Advocacy divorced from HRW’s own empirical findings, unconditionally applauding U.S.-NATO military actions in Libya and endorsing their suitability elsewhere, is a predictable outcome for a former Clinton official who became HRW’s chief lobbyist in Washington, and who may have aspired to a position in the Obama administration as he wrote such statements. However, such advocacy is unhelpful to HRW’s stated concerns over NATO’s airstrikes and its failure “to acknowledge these casualties or to examine how and why they occurred.”
We are heartened, Mr. Roth, by your expressed willingness to “speak out, as we have done” in Kosovo and elsewhere. But HRW’s track record for holding NATO accountable for its violations of international humanitarian law is wholly inadequate. Javier Solana initiated a war in violation of the UN Charter in 1999 and presided over the deliberate NATO bombing of a Serbian television station, a war crime that killed 16 civilians including a make-up artist, a cameraman, an editor, and a program director.
In your May 1999 letter to Solana, which mentioned that bombing, you urged that “these issues be scrutinized promptly and rigorously,” and that “disciplinary or criminal investigations be launched.” NATO implemented none of your suggestions and has held no one to account for that atrocity or for any other crime in Yugoslavia. And yet Solana was awarded a position on HRW’s board in 2011. It is hard to escape the conclusion that HRW’s admonishments of NATO’s behavior are toothless, and that Solana’s subsequent leadership role at HRW signals to former and future NATO leaders who violate international law that they should be undeterred by HRW’s objections and inquiries.
Finally, you responded to our emphasis on HRW’s ties to the United States by mentioning the involvement of former government officials of Mexico, Peru, South Africa, and other countries at HRW. But our focus is HRW’s ties to the foreign-policy divisions of the U.S. government, which, unlike the foreign-policy arms of many of the governments you cite, are continuously engaged in massive human rights abuses. This is a consequence of the status of the United States as the world’s sole military superpower, which frequently violates international law with impunity, and, as in the case of its invasion of Iraq, is responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people. As a recent poll showed, the rest of the globe sees the United States as “the greatest threat to peace in the world today” by a wide margin, so HRW’s unabashed closeness to that government is understandably viewed as an extremely political decision.
One of us would be delighted to meet with you whenever convenient at your New York offices to discuss these matters further and to personally deliver a petition signed by over 15,500 people so far, along with their individual comments in support of the following demand:
The credibility of a global human-rights organization depends on its independence. Human Rights Watch has done important, critical work, but it can do better. It should implement at least a five-year “cooling-off” period before and after its associates move between HRW and the U.S. government’s foreign-policy divisions. Human Rights Watch associates should concentrate on protecting human rights. They should not have conflicts of interest with past or future careers in branches of the U.S. government that may themselves be involved in human-rights violations.
We eagerly await your reply, and believe that HRW’s implementation of cooling-off periods for its associates and its removal of Solana from its board of directors will represent valuable first steps toward greater independence. Thank you for engaging with us on issues that we believe are essential to the pursuit of human rights throughout the world.
Mairead Maguire – Nobel Peace Prize Laureate (1977)
Adolfo Pérez Esquivel – Nobel Peace Prize Laureate (1980)
Richard Falk – United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967 (2008-14)
Hans von Sponeck – United Nations Assistant Secretary General (1998-2000)
Keane Bhatt – activist, writer
A principal way that the New York Times and other leading U.S. news outlets engage in propaganda is by selecting which facts to include in a story and which ones to exclude, a process exemplified by a Times article on an interview in which the head of NATO excoriates Russia over Ukraine.
NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen accused Russia of playing a “double game,” warned the West not to be fooled by the peaceful overtures of Russian President Vladimir Putin, and declared, “There’s no doubt that Russia is heavily engaged in destabilizing eastern Ukraine, and they continue their activities.”
However, since Rasmussen provided no evidence, his credibility would seem to be central to this story. And, on Wednesday, correspondents Mark Landler and Michael R. Gordon provided some background about Rasmussen, noting that he served as prime minister of Denmark before getting the NATO gig in 2009.
But what is excluded from the Times’ story is what the readers would need to evaluate Rasmussen’s honesty as well as his own ability to weigh evidence. Not mentioned by Landler and Gordon was the fact that this is the same Anders Fogh Rasmussen who swallowed President George W. Bush’s bogus case for invading Iraq hook, line and sinker.
Before the U.S. invasion in 2003, Rasmussen famously declared that “Iraq has WMDs. It is not something we think; it is something we know. Iraq has itself admitted that it has had mustard gas, nerve gas, anthrax, but Saddam won’t disclose. He won’t tell us where and how these weapons have been destroyed. We know this from the UN inspectors, so there is no doubt in my mind.”
Of course, pretty much everything that Rasmussen declared was wrong, but it succeeded in tricking the Danish parliament into voting to join Bush’s “coalition of the willing” to invade Iraq. Yet, while Rasmussen was rewarded for his cooperation and his duplicity with the NATO job, a Danish intelligence analyst Frank S. Grevil was imprisoned for four months for disclosing documents that exposed Rasmussen’s deception.
While such an arrangement might now seem normal for Americans who have gotten use to prosecutions of truth-tellers who expose war crimes and immunity for liars who start unnecessary wars, Rasmussen’s falsehoods on Iraq – and his role in that criminal invasion – are facts that should have been provided to the Times’ readers as they judge whether to believe his current allegations about Russia and Ukraine.
But Landler and Gordon saw fit to protect the Fogh machine by leaving out his unpleasant history, all the better to sell the preferred narrative blaming the entire Ukraine crisis on Russia and Putin. [For more on the New York Times' journalistic malfeasance, see Consortiumnews.com’s “Will Ukraine Be NYT’s Waterloo?”]
Checkered Journalistic Careers
Michael Gordon’s bias in favor of U.S./NATO propaganda also has a long history. He co-wrote, with Judith Miller, the infamous aluminum tube story of Sept. 8, 2002, relying on U.S. intelligence sources and Iraqi defectors to frighten Americans with images of “mushroom clouds” if they didn’t support Bush’s invasion of Iraq. The timing played perfectly into the administration’s advertising “rollout” for the Iraq War.
The story turned out to be false and to have unfairly downplayed skeptics of the nuclear-centrifuge scenario. The aluminum tubes actually were meant for artillery. But the article provided a great impetus toward the Iraq War, which ended up killing nearly 4,500 U.S. soldiers and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis.
Gordon’s co-author, Judith Miller, became the only U.S. journalist known to have lost a job over the reckless and shoddy reporting that contributed to the Iraq disaster. For his part, Gordon continued serving as a respected Pentagon correspondent.
Gordon’s name also showed up in a supporting role on the Times’ botched “vector analysis” story of Sept. 17, 2013, which nearly helped get the United States into another Mideast war, with Syria. That story traced the flight paths of two rockets, recovered in suburbs of Damascus after the Aug. 21 sarin gas attack, back to a Syrian military base 9.5 kilometers away.
The article became the “slam-dunk” evidence that the Syrian government was lying when it denied launching the sarin attack that killed several hundred people. However, like the aluminum tube story, the Times’ ”vector analysis” ignored contrary evidence, such as the unreliability of one azimuth from a rocket that landed in Moadamiya because it had struck a building in its descent. That rocket also was found to contain no sarin, so it’s inclusion in the vectoring of two sarin-laden rockets made no sense.
But the Times’ story ultimately fell apart when rocket scientists analyzed the one sarin-laden rocket that had landed in the Zamalka area and determined that it had a maximum range of about two kilometers, meaning that it could not have originated from the Syrian military base 9.5 kilometers away. C.J. Chivers, one of the co-authors of the article, waited until Dec. 28, 2013, to publish a halfhearted semi-retraction. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “NYT Backs Off Its Syria-Sarin Analysis.”]
Last April, Gordon was involved in another journalistic fiasco when he and two other correspondents fell for some grainy photographs peddled by the U.S. State Department to supposedly prove that Russian military personnel — who had been “clearly” photographed in Russia — turned up fighting in Ukraine.
However, two days later, the Times was forced to retract the story when it was discovered that a key photo that was supposedly taken in Russia was actually snapped in Ukraine, destroying the premise of the article. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “NYT Retracts Russian Photo Scoop.”]
Taking the Israeli Line
Landler, the Times’ White House correspondent, has been another propaganda specialist when it comes to framing foreign confrontations in ways favorable to the U.S. government and its allies. For instance, on March 5, 2012, he appeared on MSNBC and offered this account of Israeli-Iranian tensions:
“The Israelis feel the window for that [denying Iran the capability to build nuclear weapons] is closing and it’s closing really fast, and if they allow it to close without taking military action, they would find themselves in a position where the Iranians suddenly are in possession of nuclear weapons, which they’ve threatened already to use against Israel. As the Israelis always say, that’s an existential threat to Israel, which is something we don’t necessarily feel here in the United States.”
Landler’s account was hair-raising, claiming that Iranians have “threatened already to use [nuclear weapons] against Israel” which the Israelis understandably would perceive as an “existential threat.” But Landler’s statement simply wasn’t true. Iranian leaders continue to deny that they even want nuclear weapons, so it makes no sense that they would threaten to use them against Israel.
For instance, in February 2012, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, who controls the armed forces, called “the possession of nuclear weapons a grave sin” and said “the proliferation of such weapons is senseless, destructive and dangerous.” He insisted that “the Iranian nation has never pursued and will never pursue nuclear weapons.”
Further, the U.S. intelligence community reported in 2007 that Iran stopped research work on a nuclear weapon in 2003 and has not resumed that effort. That assessment has been reaffirmed periodically and remains the position of the CIA and other intelligence agencies.
Beyond that, for Iran to threaten to “annihilate” Israel with its hypothetical nuclear weapons would represent one of the strangest threats in world history. Here is a nation without nuclear weapons – and whose top leader disavows any intent to get nuclear weapons – supposedly threatening to use those non-existent weapons against a nation which has a large stockpile of nuclear weapons.
So, perhaps it’s no surprise that the Times would spare its readers the relevant background on NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen’s credibility because otherwise the supposed “newspaper of record” might also be expected to explain why it continues to entrust sensitive stories to journalists who have a history of slanting information in ways that may advance their careers but misleads the public.
Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his new book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com).
NATO’s newest Eastern European members are handing over their Soviet arms stockpiles to the Ukrainian army, Russia’s Deputy PM Dmitry Rogozin says, adding that the alliance is in danger of pouring gasoline on the flames of that country’s civil war.
Rogozin, who supervises the Russian military industry, has tweeted that NATO is asking its newest members to get rid of operable Soviet military equipment and send it to Ukraine, to aid the miserable state of the country’s military hardware.
“In turn, the US is ready to compensate for the “losses” of the newly co-opted NATO member states. The American military-industrial complex must be happy,” Rogozin wrote in his Twitter account.
“By the way, this is NATO’s commonplace to put out civil wars’ fire with aviation kerosene,” Rogozin added.
Over the months of Ukraine’s hot political crisis, NATO member states, primarily the US, announced they are planning non-lethal aid to Ukrainian troops, supplying uniforms and tents, and even promising to deploy a number of military instructors to train the Ukrainian army to fight the adherents of federalization of the country in Eastern Ukraine.
Political commentator Mikhail Rostovsky told RIA Novosti news agency that the “US and EU are thinking not about Ukraine but about the neutralization of Russia.”
Rostovsky compared the current policies of the European and American leaders with that of British PM Margaret Thatcher and French President François Mitterrand towards the reunification of East and West Germany in 1990.
Speaking loudly about “the European choice for Ukraine,” the EU and US politicians are essentially seeking ways to drive a wedge between Moscow and Kiev to neutralize what they regard as Russia’s possible “imperial ambitions,” Rostovsky said. “We’re dealing with politics dictated by fear: God forbid the Kremlin’s imperial instincts got awakened! This is a matter of principle to deny the Kremlin such an opportunity and break Ukraine away from Russia.”
Rostovsky said he fully agreed with German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who told Der Spiegel in late April that Europe has slid “into the worst crisis since the end of the Cold War.”
“Those who can remember the fall of the Berlin Wall know what we’ve accomplished over the past 25 years. The gains we’ve made almost everywhere in Europe in terms of peace, freedom and prosperity are now at risk,” Steinmeier said, adding that that it was important to take “every measure to prevent things [in Ukraine] from getting worse.”
The US put pressure on Danish authorities to close the Kurdish Roj TV channel in order to appease Turkey. This was done so Anders Fogh Rasmussen’s position as NATO secretary general would be secure, the station’s lawyer told RT amid WikiLeaks revelations.
WikiLeaks documents released back in March suggest Rasmussen abused his powers during his time as Denmark’s prime minister, in order to secure his future job.
In 2009, Denmark reportedly agreed to start legal action against Roj TV, a Kurdish separatist channel that was broadcasting from Copenhagen, in order to appease Turkey. In return, Ankara said it would back Rasmussen as the future NATO chief.
“There were some conflicts of political character between Denmark and Turkey. And the US intervened because they liked very much [for the] then-Danish prime minister to become secretary general. And therefore they felt confident with him as a secretary general,” Roj TV lawyer Bjorn Elmquist told RT.
“There was big pressure from the US to think in a creative manner how to indict and how to prove that Roj television was promoting terrorism. And in the end, the indictment was there. And within hours after that indictment it was announced that there was an agreement between the Turkish government and the other NATO countries to decide for the previous Danish prime minister to be secretary general.”
Roj TV began broadcasting in 2004. In 2010, it was accused in Denmark of promoting terrorist activities. It was officially shut down in February 2014.
Turkey maintained that Roj TV was a mouthpiece for the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which fights for the rights of the Kurdish minority – and is considered a terrorist organization in Turkey and the West.
In fact, Turkey had on three different occasions unsuccessfully complained to the Danish Radio and Television Board about Roj TV, with the watchdog ruling that the channel’s reporting standards matched those of other TV stations in Denmark, Elmquist added.
“We have a special independent committee on television in Denmark, which would issue the certificates. And the Turkish government had on three different occasions complained to the committee. And each time they concluded that the coverage of the conflict between the PKK, the Kurdish guerrillas, and Turkish security forces was just like the coverage you would find at the big Danish news television stations,” he said.
“So, we thought that also the courts would respect the freedom of expression, the freedom of press, the freedom of information, but it didn’t occur.”
When NATO was asked to comment on the leaks about the deal to appoint Rasmussen, its press office directed RT to the Danish judicial authorities, insisting that the courts were fully independent.
“We do not comment on alleged leaked documents. However, in general I can say that in real democracies, such as Denmark, the courts are fully independent. For any other inquiries, I refer you to the Danish judicial authorities,” press officer Ben Nimmo from NATO’s Public Diplomacy Division told RT in a letter.
Kurdish activist Dilar Diriq said that Turkey has been after Roj TV ever since it launched.
“They repeatedly filed complaints, but they were unsuccessful until Rasmussen became NATO’s secretary general in 2009. And Turkey did not make it a secret that Roj TV’s closure was a condition for them to support Rasmussen. And suddenly in the next year, the Danish government decided to prosecute Roj TV. This really does not come as a surprise because there had been several anti-Kurdish policies that were adopted by European governments to appease Turkey,” she told RT.
The 2009 WikiLeaks diplomatic cable sent by Terence McCulley, then-deputy chief of mission at the US embassy in Copenhagen says that the Danish promised to come after Roj TV.
“Danish pledges to intensify efforts against Roj-TV — among the measures offered Turkey for not blocking former PM Rasmussen’s appointment as NATO secretary general — have given additional impetus to the investigation while also prompting senior officials to tread carefully, to avoid the appearance of a quid pro quo (i.e., sacrificing freedom of speech in exchange for a high-level post),” the cable states.
The cable also says that “no clear evidence has been found to connect the broadcaster with the PKK,” but that the Danish are being encouraged to “think creatively about ways to disrupt or close the station.”
NATO is preparing a package deal to ramp up the Ukrainian military because it ‘must adapt’ to Russia viewing it as an enemy, the outgoing chief of the military bloc said.
The deal would be submitted to foreign ministers of members states later this month, NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen told El Pais in an interview. He declined to go into detail, but said it provides for defense industry reform and modernization of the Ukrainian military.
The alliance may also facilitate cooperation with Ukraine over military training, although whatever exercises of NATO member troops would be held in Ukraine is up to individual countries, Rasmussen said.
“We must adapt to the fact that Russia now considers us its adversary,” he explained.
The help that NATO plans to give Ukrainian military comes as the said military are used in a bloody crackdown on the defiant eastern provinces, where local militias defend cities from daily artillery shelling and airstrikes.
Kiev regards the militias as Russia-backed terrorists and refuses any kind of negotiation with them. NATO shares the view, accusing Russia of funneling heavy weapons into Ukraine across the border, although so far no solid evidence of such actions was presented.
The alliance itself is experiencing a sort of revival playing the ‘Russian threat’ card to justify the build-up of troops in Central and Eastern Europe. Moscow sees such deployments as provocative and confirming NATO’s aggressive stance towards Russia.
NATO claims that it has been cooperating with Russia in every way until the Ukrainian crisis sparked the cold war hostilities again. It’s not quite true, considering the alliance’s expansion eastwards in Europe and its plans to deploy a system of anti-ballistic missile defense closer to Russian borders. Both have been done against Russia’s objections that such moves compromise Russian national security.
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 could 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 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?
Diana Johnstone is the author of Fools’ Crusade: Yugoslavia, NATO, and Western Delusions. She can be reached at email@example.com