Ukraine: Taking leave of our senses

Jun 17, 2023
World globe Ukrainian flag background blue and yellow.

My first article published here at Pearls and Irritations, titled Built on a tower of lies, described how positive feedback loops have created at a societal level an enormous tower of lies that guide public discourse. I further warned that if we failed to dismantle this tower the consequences would be traumatic. Unfortunately, the horrifically traumatic war in Ukraine has driven these positive feedback loops into overdrive. The inability for us in the ’collective West’ to unwind these lies, or in other words to be honest with ourselves, is a major reason why I believe we are witnessing the demise of the West as a major power bloc.

A case in point is the current furore in New Zealand after a number of articles at Radio New Zealand (RNZ) were edited with “pro-Kremlin garbage.” The pro-Kremlin garbage included mention of the “violent Maidan colour revolution”, that Russia annexed Crimea after a referendum and that the pro-Western government suppressed ethnic Russians in eastern and southern Ukraine. What is remarkable is that even the Wikipedia pages on each of these events (see here, here and here) support the “pro-Kremlin version” of events as presented in the offending article at RNZ.

The Guardian, in its coverage of this story described how on several occasions references were added to stories on Russian concerns about “neo-Nazi elements” in Ukraine. What the Guardian did not mention was the numerous articles it itself has previously published on this very topic (see here, here, here, here and here for examples). Indeed, if you were to only rely upon the Guardian’s pre-war coverage, an entirely logical and entirely defensible conclusion would be that there is indeed an issue with neo-Nazi’s in Ukraine.

If we take it as a given that propaganda is ubiquitous, that there is also an objective truth, and that the most effective propaganda is that which aligns the closest with the truth; then in these instances the so-called pro-Kremlin version of events appears at its core to be not too far from that truth, as inconvenient as this maybe in the collective West.

Think through the implications of this approach to journalism. An RNZ editor has now been placed “on leave” for editing articles that are a reasonably close approximation to events as detailed in the historical record. The story has been aired by major media organisations globally. The message for any journalist not convinced of the narrative that has been fostered about the war in Ukraine is loud and clear; your job is at risk if you even think of bucking the narrative. How can media organisations such as RNZ meet their charter requirements to provide “independent, accurate, impartial and balanced” news in such circumstances? The short answer is they can’t. Journalism under these conditions can be little more than narrative management for the whims of increasingly authoritarian power structures.

Then we have the “unprovoked, unjustified and unlawful” mantra that has become standard for Australian politicians when discussing the war in Ukraine. The claim that the war was unprovoked does not stand up to the slightest scrutiny, either over the long term or in the immediate lead up to the war.

A short summary of the longer-term provocations include a prescient 2008 article, where the editors at The Nation warned that:

“Washington’s championing of NATO membership for … Ukraine, a country that is deeply entwined with Russia economically, demographically and culturally, threatens to further damage relations with Russia (it’s also bound to create internal tensions in Ukraine, where a majority of the population opposes NATO membership).”

Then we have John Mearsheimer’s 2015 presentation, which has 29 million views on YouTube, providing a clinical dissection of how the Ukraine crisis, as it was then, the West’s fault.

In 2016, writing for the Australian Army’s Land Power Forum in an article tilted The Russian’s are not Coming, I warned that “If we wish to avoid conflict between Russia and the West, perhaps it’s time to stop poking the bear?” Of course, the poking never stopped, indeed it became ever more aggressive.

As a final example of the longer-term forces that ultimately led to the Ukraine war, Scott Horton’s detailed historical analysis led him to the conclusion that the war in Ukraine is 99 per cent the fault of the United States.

Whilst the political and media ignorance, to be polite, of this longer-term historical evidence is damning in and of itself, the complete whitewashing of the events that directly led to the Special Military Operation are particularly galling.

What we know to be a fact is that the United States publicly predicted Russia’s invasion plans pre-war. We know that the United States/NATO military and intelligence agencies had a significant presence in Ukraine and have done so since the 2014. We also know that the Ukrainian Armed Force’s shelling of the Donetsk and Lugansk self-declared Republics increased dramatically in the days immediately before the Russian Special Military Operation commenced as detailed in the Daily and Spot Reports from the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Special Monitoring Mission (SMM). What we don’t know is the purpose behind this surge in ceasefire violations.

Here is a hypothesis.

The United States predicted Russia’s invasion in January 2022 because it was actively involved in the planning of the upcoming surge in ceasefire violations to be launched by the Ukrainian Armed Forces. The purpose of the surge was to either provoke Russia into responding militarily, and/or as a prelude to an attack to retake the self-declared Donetsk and Lugansk Republics. Either way as a result of these actions President Putin would be faced with a dilemma. Domestic pressure in Russia would not tolerate a Ukrainian assault against the Donbass. Failure to act could very well have seen a revolt against Putin and his ousting. On the other hand, if he did launch a military operation, Russia would face the wrath of the collective West, primarily through economic sanctions. For the neo-cons planning this operation in the United States, the sanctions would pull the hesitant European governments into line, collapse (it was hoped) the Russian economy and see the overthrow of Putin. For the Ukrainian Government, it would ultimately enable the reclaiming of all its territory.

This hypothesis should and could be tested. There is sufficient circumstantial evidence to suggest that this is a likely explanation. For example, the SMM Reports were reported daily, in real time. Therefore, President Biden and his advisors must have been aware of this surge in ceasefire violations (as the readers of the Moon of Alabama website were, but apparently the world’s major media organisations and Western governments were not).

The question then becomes, assuming the United States was attempting to avoid a war, what action did it take to prevent Ukraine from continuing this surge in ceasefire violations knowing the likely response from Russia? How many journalists have asked this question? How many Western governments have asked this question? Has the Australian Government asked this question?

Given the United States long history of starting wars on false pretexts, now might be a pertinent time to reflect upon the causes of this war, and why it is being prolonged. Particularly as the next step on the escalatory path includes calls for Ukraine to be provided with tactical nuclear weapons.

Are we ready to risk World War Three and nuclear war, or to put it more bluntly the end of civilisation, over Ukraine? If this is what the leaders of the collective West are willing to sign up to in an effort to “weaken Russia” then they have completely taken leave of their senses. But this is the path we are on unless there is some urgent change in direction.

That urgent change in direction must include the re-establishment of the negative feedback loops that keep our system of governance stable. Currently the Overton Window is so narrow that meaningful debate on the war in Ukraine, and many other critically important issues, is all but impossible.

There are however two glimmers of hope. The first is the growth in independent media which is opening up once again the marketplace of ideas so crucial for democracy. The second is the frenetic expansion of the multipolar world, offering a viable and positive alternative to the dying “rules-based global order.” Fingers crossed these glimmers are enough to bring the leaders of the collective West back to their senses!

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