Podcast: Ukraine World

If you are at all interested in the build up of Russian troops on the border of Ukraine, you should listen to the podcast “Ukraine World.”  It is by far the most intelligent discussion of the situation.

The following are notes from several of the Ukraine World podcasts.

  • Ukrainian president Zelensky came to office arguing that more negotiation was needed with Russia and that the previous administration in Ukraine had done a bad job of negotiating.  Two years later, halfway through Zelensky’s term, he has come to the conclusion that Putin cannot be negotiated with and does not want peace. 
  • Even though the situation on the border is extremely serious, Zelensky seems to be also fighting major battles domestically.  As one commentator phrased it, Zelensky seems to be “waging a war against everybody else in Ukrainian politics.”  These “internal turbulences” are creating an unstable situation inside Ukraine.
  • It is unclear whether Zelensky is battling against powerful domestic players and interests for reasons of his own, or is being manipulated by others.  Who these others might be was not explained.
  • The rhetoric coming out of Russia seems to be intended to prepare the Russian population for war.  As one commentator said, Putin is almost promising that Russia will invade Ukraine.  Another commentator stated: Putin is “preparing the Russian public to the fact that the war is inevitable.”
  • It also seems clear that the West is unwilling to engage in a full-fledged war with Russia over Ukraine.  Russia perceives the West as withdrawing.
  • After the feckless and disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan, the Biden administration is almost certain not to involve itself in another war.
  • Even though the Biden administration has made clear that there will be sanctions if Russia invades, many point out that Russia has already invaded Ukraine.  Sanctions have already been applied to Russia and the Russians have not withdrawn.
  • The Russian government has been taking steps to make the economy sanction proof, or at least more sanction proof so that sanctions are unlikely to have a significant impact.
  • In addition, meaningful sanctions would affect powerful economic interests and are unlikely to be implemented no matter how much they are touted by the Biden administration. 
  • There is extensive ideological work going on in Russia preparing the population for war.  Even on popular talk shows on television, there is discussion about Ukraine having plans to militarily take back the territories.  Russia is distributing Russian passports to Russian-speakers in occupied territories.
  • There is a distinct advantage in exporting chaos.  Conflicts rouse nationalistic fervor in Russia and help distract people from their stalled economy and decreased standard of living.
  • The underlying narrative is that there are serious external threats but also victories against those threats (such as in Crimea).  The taking of territory is a success, so don’t complain about how you are living.
  • The west was reluctant to encourage Ukraine to become a separate country after the fall of the Soviet Union.  George Bush, Sr. went to Kiev in 1991 in an attempt to calm down the Ukrainians and persuade them not to leave the Soviet Union.  The west is afraid of a breakup of the Soviet Union.  The narrative inside Russia, however, is completely different.
  • There, the Zelensky administration is portrayed as being a puppet of the West.   And, there are dire warnings that just as the U.S. left Afghanistan, it will leave Ukraine.
  • The Ukrainians in fact helped support U.S. troops in the withdrawal from Afghanistan.  At a time when it was too dangerous politically to risk U.S. soldiers leaving the airport in Kabul, Ukrainian troops went into Kabul and helped people get to safety at the airport.  Ukraine was anxious to demonstrate that it could be a helpful ally, a country that could help as well as ask for assistance.
  • Internal polling inside Ukraine indicates that if a presidential election were held today, Zelensky would get approximately 24% of the vote, but there are three parties opposing him.  Two of them are pro-Russian. 
  • The Zelensky administration is being drained by the conflict on the border.  And Zelensky’s own conflicts domestically are fracturing the country.
  • Ukrainians are understandably distrustful of their politicians.  Hopes for Zelensky when he was elected were extremely high.  Calmer souls warned that Zelensky could not possibly deliver on the promises he was making.  Now, disenchantment has set in. 
  • Corruption remains a serious problem and hopes that Zelensky could do anything about this ingrained corruption were probably misplaced.

How They Would Survive

It is as if Afghanistan has ceased to exist for the corporate media. If you would like to hear what the situation is like in Afghanistan, listen to this podcast.

NYT The Daily

https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/an-economic-catastrophe-in-afghanistan/id1200361736?i=1000545034424

The Democrats and Haiti

MONDAY 27 SEPTEMBER 2021

On MSNBC, Ari Melber was reporting that the Democrats were not sure they were going to pass the infrastructure bill so central to Biden’s plans. 

Even so, Melber was describing Pelosi as “a master tactician.”  This has become the received wisdom of those in the corporate news.  No matter what Pelosi does, the pundits assume that she is playing two dimensional chess or fifteen dimensional chess.  Even though none of us can figure out what she is doing, it is assumed that she can.  

Josh Marshall, from Talking Points Memo, pointed out that neither Manchin nor Sienna will explain exactly what they object to in the $3.5 trillion bill, and therefore why they are threatening to hold it up.  Even though they are in the position to bring the entire bill to its knees, there is nothing specific that Manchin or Sienna can name that would satisfy them and cause them to vote for the bill.  Marshall claims that they are more concerned with positioning themselves than developing policy.  There is not, in effect, much difference in terms of policy, the two senators just want to have themselves positioned as or known to be positioned as “moderates” rather than Senators on the “extreme.”

As Marshall notes: “There’s not really a disagreement over policy.”

Juanita Tolliver noted that if the Republicans don’t vote for the bill, it will hurt the Republicans politically.  Note: If she thinks that warning the Republicans that they are going to be hurt politically if they stand strong and don’t vote for the infrastructure bill will work, I think she is sadly mistaken.  Republicans cannot be shamed.

Haiti                                                   

 A “principled resignation” Chris Hayes called the decision of Daniel Foote, the Special Envoy to Haiti to quit.  We haven’t, Hayes continued, seen one of those in years.  I have to agree with him.  Milley watched a potential nuclear war unfolding in front of him, set in motion by Donald Trump, and even though he placed a call to China, he didn’t stand in front of the American people and resign.

Foote did.  Appointed as special envoy to Haiti in July of 2021, after the assassination of the Haitian president, Jovenel Moise, Foote resigned over what he characterized as “inhumane” and “counterproductive” deportation of thousands of Haitians back into a desperately troubled country. 

In his letter of resignation, Foote noted that American officials  were confined to secure compounds in Haiti because of the danger of armed gangs which operated freely.

The situation of a failed state was so dangerous, Americans were advised not to travel to Haiti and those living there were told to confine themselves to armed areas.  But, the Biden Administration airlifted an estimated 2,000 Haitians back to Port-au-Prince and dumped them in a country where some of them had no friends, relatives, or means of support.  Many of them had not even lived in Haiti for years.

In Foote’s resignation letter, he not only pointed out the immediate political situation, Foote noted a “cycle of international political interventions in Haiti” that have “consistently produced catastrophic results.”  Foote warned that the number of people who would show up on the borders of the U.S. would increase as long as we refused to confront the fundamental problems surrounding Haiti and our policy toward the country.

It doesn’t seem to be an especially radical thing to say. 

Foote wasn’t reluctant to pass his judgment on to the Biden Administration.  After all, he was supposedly appointed for that very reason.  But, Foote claimed that his recommendations were “ignored and dismissed.”

So, Biden administration officials who trusted his experience and judgment so much that they called upon him when the president of the country had just been assassinated and the country was turning into an anarchy, refused to listen to his assessment of the situation in Haiti and dismissed recommendations based on his expertise.

The thanks Foote received for pointing out that in regards to Haiti “Our policy approach to Haiti remains deeply flawed,” was conveyed to him by Ned Price.  In an unusually graceless strike back at Foote Price said that Foot’s recommendations were “even harmful to our commitment to the promotion of democracy in Haiti.”

Contradicting what some have said about the reception of differing opinions on Afghanistan (Sarah Chase), Price snipped that “no ideas are ignored.”  He finished up, “but not all ideas are good ideas.”   

But, Foote was not the only one familiar with the situation in the country who was disagreeing with Biden administration policy.  Representative Andy Levin (D-Michian), chairman of the House Haiti Caucus, said that the Biden administration was “propping up” the governent of Ariel Henry, Haiti’s acting prime minister.  After Henry had been accused by Haiti’s chief prosecutor as having been involved in the assassination of Moises, Henry summarily removed him from office.  Mr. Levin told reporters on Thursday:

“The Haitian people are crying out for the opportunity to chart their own country’s future, and the United States is ignoring their pleas.”  

“Over-the-Horizon” Foreign Policy” Afghanistan

Pundit after pundit in the corporate media has given the U.S. military enormous credit for coming clean and admitting to the world that they made a “mistake” with the drone strike that killed 10 people in Afghanistan, including 7 children.

It seems evident, however, that the military would have never admitted the tragic error had the New York Times not done a documented investigation of the strike that made it impossible for the military leadership to do anything else.

Because we still had reporters in Afghanistan, in Kabul, they were able to visit the site and document the outrageous irresponsible drone strike. But, the U.S. military has been carrying out drone strikes for 20 years in Afghanistan and almost none of them were subjected to the kind of scrutiny this one was.

In the period that led up to the total withdrawal from Afghanistan, the U.S. military carried out two drone strikes in Kabul that we know of. They initially claimed with certainty that the attack on August 29, 2021 was a hit on Isis. It was not. That means that if we believe them, their rate of successful targeting of Isis was 50%. Is that what we are willing to accept?

CNN and MSNBC are no longer worth watching. This podcast episode, put out by the New York Times, should be listened to by every citizen.

Sources:

Podcast:

https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/a-righteous-strike/id1200361736?i=1000536128627

New York Times

NEWS RUNDOWN: WEDNESDAY 8 SEPTEMER 2021

News Rundown

The BBC is reporting that women staging a protest in Afghanistan were met with pepper spray by the authorities. They were demanding the right to work.  Taliban leaders have said that women will not be given senior roles in the new government (BBC 9/4/1).

Fighting is still going on in the Panjshir Valley (BBC, 9/4/21).

The new caretaker government has been announced in Afghanistan including a new Prime Minister and Minister of the Interior (wanted by the FBI).  There were no women or outsiders appointed (BBC, 9/8/21).

Protests of Pakistan’s support of the Taliban.  Taliban fired in the air in response to the protests (BBC, 9/8/21). 

The UN says that basic services are collapsing in Afghanistan (CNN, Podcast, 9/8/21)

9/11 planner, Shalid Sheikh Mohammed, is still awaiting trial.  Lawyers for Mohammed are still awaiting documents.  They argue that the government is trying to hide evidence of torture before Mohammed was moved to Guantanamo.  Had he been tried in a normal court; this would have been over a decade ago.  It is possible that there will never be a trial (Apple News, 9/8/21). 

ABC News Article: Shalid Sheikh Mohammed https://abcnews.go.com/Politics/trial-911-mastermind-khalid-sheikh-mohammed-resumes-hits/story?id=79876586

While there is a narrative that police officers are leaving in droves in response to a lack of confidence in police, the figures don’t bear this out (The Marshall Plan).

If you are interested in the history of the war against terrorism since 9/11, this is a really good book by spencer Ackerman. 

BLURRING THE IMAGES: CNN AND THE CORPORATE MEDIA IN AFGHANISTAN

CNN is showing video of piles of dead and injured people in the sewage ditch just outside the Kabul airport. They are blurring the image. That seems to me to be highly symbolic. The corporate media has been blurring the images coming from Afghanistan for twenty years.

Also, why should Americans have the reality of what is happening in Afghanistan softened?

The Leader of Your Party: Afghanistan

I am a cynical person.  It takes a lot to amaze me. But, twice in the past couple of years I have been utterly and completely astounded by the blatant manipulative nature of the corporate media.  I don’t know exactly why this should be so.

Years ago, I wrote a book about ideology, the media and the invasion of Panama.  I started off the book relating a story of sitting in my study watching the coverage of the invasion.  The invasion.  That’s what it was called by the news media in the beginning because that was what it was.  It only took a few hours, however, until otherwise respectable news people became cheerleaders for the clearly illegal invasion.  And, also within a few hours they started referring to the invasion as “Operation Just Cause.”

I kid you not.  Major news anchors would say: “We are covering Operation Just Cause” using the name given to the invasion by the military.

I wouldn’t at all be surprised (although I would be disgusted) if by Monday, the major corporate news outlets started referring to the Biden withdrawal from Afghanistan as “Operation Just Ending to a Forever War.”

Another reason none of this should surprise me is that I sat and watched the outrageous effort on the part of MSNBC news to destroy Bernie Sanders’s candidacy after he won the Arizona primary.  I have photos on my cell phone of Joy Reid’s devastated face when she had to report Sanders’s win, a win that was multi-ethnic and that included union members who refused to obey their bosses and voted for Sanders. 

After that primary, MSNBC anchors (especially Reid) went into overdrive to help the DNC prevent Sanders from being nominated and promoting Joe Biden.  There was nothing subtle about it.  Chris Matthews even said on his dreadful nightly show that Bernie Sanders would take people like him (Matthews) out in Central Park and execute them.  (We can only wish).

Now, this time, corporate news, especially MSNBC, is busily trying to whitewash Biden’s ill-conceived and disastrously bungled withdrawal from Afghanistan.  They are doing it for the same reason they worked to destroy Bernie Sanders – to promote and protect Joe Biden.

Since early last week I have been watching with growing alarm the Taliban take over Afghanistan.  Every time I looked at an article with a map of who controlled territory in Afghanistan the Taliban’s control expanded.  I had read with shame and disbelief about the decision to abandon Bagram air force base in the middle of the night without even consulting and informing the local governments.

I had read with disgust about the “negotiating” between the Trump administration and the Taliban.  Who in their right mind would even think of “negotiating” with the Taliban?  But, that was Trump and the dangerously ill religious zealot Pompeo.  We had elected Biden to change things.

Then, I watched with utter horror and incomprehension as Joe Biden doggedly continued to pursue a policy of total withdrawal from Afghanistan by a specific date even in the face of mounting evidence that we could not even get all the Americans out much less all the Afghans who fought with us and for us.

I was 24 when the U.S. withdrew from Saigon.  I had nightmares about those scenes well into my 40s and I had been an anti-war activist who worked with SDS.  I opposed that war.

I opposed the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.  But, even the most anti-war activist can make a distinction between going into a war and getting out of one.  I opposed the war in Afghanistan but once we were there, had been there for 20 years, we owned it.  We couldn’t just walk away as if we had never started any of this.

But that was evidently exactly what Joe Biden intended to do.  I just could not wrap my mind around it.  Who was this precipitous withdrawal intended to please?  To what constituency was this supposed to appeal? 

Added to this, the behavior of Biden and his administration was so Trumpian it made me sick to my stomach.  Biden appeared on television doubling down on his decision to pursue this ill planned and ill conducted withdrawal.   He would not even admit that there had been any mistakes.  It was a “do you believe me or your lying eyes” strategy.  I thought we voted for Biden to stop that kind of behavior.  Ned Price (from whom I expected more) and Jake Sullivan spouted bureaucratic-speak nonsense from the podium trying to legitimate the policy.  They were both utterly terrible at it.  They lied and obfuscated with evasive eye movements and even hostility when they were asked to answer legitimate questions.

It reminded me of the “I’m the smartest person in every room” hubris of the Obama people who have always felt that criticizing or even questioning Obama’s policies or behavior was tantamount to treason and also a personal affront.

On the corporate news, in an attempt to protect Joe Biden, hosts minimized the chaos and the impact of the set of decisions Biden made with regard to this withdrawal from Afghanistan.

As Charlotte Rampell wrote, otherwise rational people seem to be having a great deal of trouble distinguishing between the withdrawal from Afghanistan and the way in which this particular withdrawal was carried out.  They are having trouble and they are having trouble for a reason, they wish to protect Joe Biden.

As one former Republican, Matthew Dowd, hosted on several of the programs last week said, Democrats should circle the wagons around Joe Biden, support the president, because that’s what the Republicans would do.  So, this guy is treated like an oracle because he is saying was that we should support the leader of our party whatever he does because he is the leader of the party. 

As someone tweeted recently: You can unwaveringly support your ethics and morals or you can unwaveringly support the leader of your party, you can’t do both.  

I Hope I’m Wrong: Afghanistan and biden

From an interview this morning with Leon Panetta, it seems likely that members of the corporate Democratic Party elite are advising Joe Biden to come out and take responsibility for the decision to precipitously withdraw from Afghanistan, and to admit that it was a mistake.

It has been reported that when Joe Biden was Vice President and Obama was thinking about withdrawing from Afghanistan, Biden went to Obama and counseled him not to listen to the generals, to withdraw. Obama didn’t follow Biden’s advice, but it looks as if Biden followed his own advice. He didn’t listen to the generals. That doesn’t appear to be working out very well for Biden and it has created a humanitarian disaster.

It is unlikely that Biden will accept responsibility. He may make some gratuitous statement that “the buck stops here.” But, I am willing to bet he also spends time outlining how the fault lies everywhere but with him and his administration.

Support for this comes from the reaction of the White House for the past week. Not only have they refused to take responsibility, they have issued a statement essentially blaming Donald Trump. They have as well blamed the Afghan government, corruption, the intelligence community, the Afghan “will to fight,” essentially everybody involved but themselves.

The amount of nonsense that has come out of the mouths of administration officials like Jake Sherman, Ned Price, Blinken and John Kirby is just breath taking. There is very little chance that Biden will do anything but dig himself deeper into this hole than he was a week ago.

I may be wrong. I hope I am wrong. But, I’m probably not.