Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Fake Peace, Real War, and The Road to "Plausible Genocide"

 We will destroy everything not Jewish.”

-----Theodore Herzl[i]


 "We have no solution, you shall continue to live like dogs, and whoever wishes may leave, and we will see where this process leads . . . . You Palestinians, as a nation, don't want us today, but we'll change your attitude by forcing our presence on you."

-----Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Dayan[ii]  


" . . . the common denominator amongst all the American peace efforts is their abysmal failure." 

------Cheryl A. Rubenberg [iii]


USrael's disgraceful conduct in Gaza goes on, and on and on. Leveling hospitals, shooting children in the head; gunning down a surgeon at the operating table, using an emergency call from a little girl trapped in a car with the corpses of family members to lure two rescue workers to her, then killing all three; systematically killing Palestinian journalists reporting on the slaughter; promising to save three premature babies at a hospital under forced evacuation, then leaving them to slowly die and be devoured by dogs; singing in chorus of the joy of exterminating Arabs; cheering the blocking of food aid to starving Gazans; killing entire families, inducing a Palestinian boy to lay down in the road hoping someone would run over him and end his misery; this is but a small sampling of the consequences of trapping over a million Gazans in the southern half of a 125-square-mile concentration camp without food, shelter, or sanitation, then methodically shooting and bombing them while thousands of their relatives decompose under expanding mountains of rubble.


Depravity on this scale will not magically disappear by establishing a cease fire and holding peace talks, as urgently necessary as both those preliminaries are. Only relentless popular pressure on the U.S. government to force it to deny Israel the means to subjugate and murder Palestinians can even hope to lead to de-nazification of the Jewish state, without which real peace can never be achieved. Keep in mind that in the midst of the current wholesale slaughter a large majority of Israelis think Netanyahu isn't using enough violence. [Novara Media reported this early on in the current Gaza slaughter; Norman Finkelstein reports that as of late March 2024, 40% of Israelis support increased violence - ed.]


Cease fires we have had before, and peace agreements, too, but they didn't solve the underlying conflict because addressing the absence of Palestinian national rights - the heart of the Palestine conflict - is taboo. 


Because of this taboo, massacres of Palestinians are a feature, not a bug, of Zionist ideology, and have stained Israel's history from before the state was even formed. 


Only the scale of the current Gaza slaughter sets it apart.


In June of 1982, for example, Israel invaded Lebanon on a surge of Pentagon arms shipments, seeking to disperse the Palestine Liberation Organization (the Hamas of its day) and poison its relations with the local population while destroying its political and military structures. Tens of thousands of civilians died as the IDF carved up the country in alliance with Christian fascist militias.


While claiming to stand tall for human rights, Washington kept arms and money flowing in support of Israel's occupation of not just Palestine, but Syria and Lebanon as well. 


Lebanon was savagely pounded, leaving people roaming the wreckage of Beirut in clouds of flies, terror in their eyes, their clothes reduced to rags. Mothers howled, orphans sobbed, and the stench of rotting corpses filled the air. 


Cluster bombs leveled whole blocks. White phosphorous burned people alive. Palestinian refugee camps were blasted to rubble, left pockmarked with blackened craters that filled with dead bodies and other debris. An officer in the U.N. peace-keeping force swept aside by the Israeli attack on Rashidiyeh said, "It was like shooting sparrows with a cannon." Asked why houses containing women and children were being bombarded and bulldozed, an Israeli army officer explained that, "they are all terrorists."


Surrounded by tanks, gunshots, and hysteria, one hundred thousand people were left without shelter or food, roaming through piles of wreckage. Blindfolded men, handcuffed with plastic bonds, were marched away to concentration camps where they were tortured, humiliated, and murdered. Their families were turned over to Phalangist patrols and Haddad forces (Israeli allies), who torched homes and beat people indiscriminately. 


At the United Nations, the United States gave its customary blessing to Israeli savagery, vetoing a Security Council resolution condemning Israel. 


Much impressed by Israel's "purity of arms, The New York Times saluted the "liberation" of Lebanon.


But it was a macabre "liberation." After three months of relentless attack, the southern half of the country lay in ruins. Even President Reagan, as ardent a fan of Israel as any of his predecessors in the Oval Office, couldn't stomach more killing, and called Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin to stop the "holocaust." Offended at the president's use of this word, Begin nevertheless halted the bombardment immediately.


An agreement between Israel, the U.S. and the PLO was signed with security guarantees for the Palestinians. Yasir Arafat and his PLO fighters left for Tunis. On September 16, in defiance of the cease fire, Ariel Sharon's army circled the Palestinian refugee camps of Sabra and Shatila. Israeli soldiers set up checkpoints and allowed truckloads of their Phalange and Haddad allies into the Palestinian camps. The Phalangists came with old scores to settle and a long list of atrocities against Palestinians already to their credit. The Haddad forces acted as part of the Israeli Army and operated under its command.


Perched on rooftops, Israeli soldiers watched through binoculars during the day and lit up the sky with flares at night, guiding the soldiers as they moved from shelter to shelter in the camps slaughtering the defenseless refugees. In mid-massacre, Israeli Chief of Staff Rafael Eitan congratulated the Phalangist command for having "carried out good work," offered a bulldozer for scooping up corpses, and authorized the killers to remain in the camp twelve more hours.[iv]


On September 18 war correspondent Robert Fisk entered the camps and described what he found there: 


"Down every alleyway there were corpses - women, young men, babies and grandparents - lying together in lazy and terrible profusion where they had been killed or machine-gunned to death. . .  In the panic and hatred of battle, tens of thousands had been killed in this country. But these people, hundreds of them, had been shot down unarmed . . . these were women lying in houses with their skirts torn up to their waists and their legs wide apart, children with their throats cut, rows of young men shot in the back after being lined up at an execution wall. There were babies - blackened babies because they had been slaughtered more than 24 hours earlier and their small bodies were already in a state of decomposition - tossed into rubbish heaps alongside discarded U.S. Army ration tins, Israeli army medical equipment, and empty bottles of whiskey. . .. "


". . . Down a laneway to our right, no more than 50 yards from the entrance, there lay a pile of corpses. There were more than a dozen of them, young men whose arms and legs had been wrapped around each other in the agony of death. All had been shot at point-blank range  . . . One had been castrated . . .  The youngest was only 12 or 13 years old." [v]


Such were the results of Israel exercising its "right to self-defense," just as the wholesale slaughter and starvation of Gazans forty-two years later is rationalized on the same grounds.


The moral of the story is that no matter how blindingly obvious its crimes are Israel is never guilty of anything because . . . the Holocaust.


Forty-seven years ago the London Sunday Times reported that Israel routinely tortures Palestinians, a devastating revelation at the time. The scope of the torture, said the Times, was so broad that it implicated "all of Israel's security forces," and was so "systematic that it [could not] be dismissed as a handful of 'rogue cops' exceeding orders."


Among the prisoner experiences detailed by the Times' Insight team were being beaten and kicked, being set upon by dogs, having one's testicles squeezed, having a ball-point pen refill shoved into one's penis, or being raped with a stick and left bleeding from the mouth and face and anus.


Israel categorically denied the charges, but refused to rebut, diverting to side issues and attacking Israeli lawyers who stooped so low as to defend Arabs. Seth Kaplan in the staunchly liberal The New Republic rose in defense of Israeli torture, arguing that how a government treats its people "is not susceptible to simple absolutism, such as the outright condemnation of torture. One may have to use extreme measures - call them 'torture' - to deal with a terrorist movement whose steady tactic is the taking of human life." [vi]Of course, every state in the world practicing administrative torture routinely claimed it was fighting "terrorists," an infinitely elastic designation in the hands of national security officials.


So what supposedly made Palestinians "terrorists"? Mainly, that they resisted Israel's steady tactic of robbing, swindling, torturing, and murdering all those who had been living in Palestine long before Zionism even appeared on the scene. But Israel simply couldn't publicly admit that Palestine was not what it told the world it was - a land without a people for a people without a land. It had to keep torturing and killing Palestinians to induce them to vacate the land, but it could never admit this. At the end of 1996, when the Israeli Supreme Court authorized the torture of Palestinian prisoners, the justices called it "moderate physical pressure," which sounds more like massage than torture.[vii]


Two major Middle East peace agreements have been negotiated entirely under the prejudiced assumption that Palestinians are terrorists to be neutralized, not an oppressed people entitled to its rights. In neither Camp David nor Oslo was there any indication that Palestinian grievances were to be seriously considered, much less honestly dealt with. Had the obvious issues been faced with courage then, Gazans wouldn't be getting slaughtered now. But they weren't, an outcome that could have been foreseen just by looking at the people who produced the agreements. 


The Camp David Treaty was negotiated by Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin, and U.S. President Jimmy Carter. 


Sadat was a former Nazi collaborator whose idol was the Shah of Iran, a U.S. client then moving at break-neck speed to Westernize the country, in the process laying down a human rights record so appalling that Amnesty International characterized it as "beyond belief." He was shortly overthrown by the Iranian Revolution of 1979.


The year before Camp David Sadat had made his "sacred mission" to Jerusalem to speak to the Knesset, opening the way for peace. But he complied with Israeli Foreign Minister Moshe Dayan's instructions to delete references to the PLO, and he never got off his knees after that. At Camp David he threw himself on the goodwill of the United States, striving for an agreement so good for Israel that Begin would invite condemnation should he dare to reject it.  Dismissed as a traitor and a fool throughout the Arab world, he was assassinated three years later.


Former head of the underground terrorist group Irgun, Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin was proud of his role in blowing up 95 British and Arabs in the King David Hotel in 1946, as well as the slaughter of over two-hundred Arab women, children and old men at Deir Yassin in 1948. In WWII, the Irgun had offered to support the Nazis against the British. One of Begin's first acts when he became Israeli Prime Minister was to issue a postage stamp honoring Abraham Stern, whose group made the proposal. [viii]


The last thing one could reasonably expect out of Prime Minister Begin's cabinet was peace. His military junta included five generals who maintained cozy relations with apartheid South Africa and the blood-soaked dictators Augusto Pinochet and Anastasio Somoza.


As for Begin's territorial ambitions, they were expansive, to say the least. The former Irgun commander had been elected on a platform calling for the annexation of the West Bank and the East Bank of the Jordan River, a goal that the Likud Party has never renounced. He regarded the West Bank and Gaza not as occupied but as liberated - from the indigenous Arabs to whom he felt they didn't rightfully belong, and he called the land "Judea and Samaria," Biblical names for God's gift to the Jews. He openly regarded the Palestinians as Israel's coolies, corralling them into Bantustans even as he promised them full autonomy, which he defined mystically as self-rule for people, but not for the land on which they lived. [ix]


The key figure at Camp David, of course, was U.S. President Jimmy Carter, a fundamentalist Baptist and supposedly a neutral mediator between Begin and Sadat. He confessed to having an "affinity for Israel" based on its custodianship of the Holy Land, and regarded it as "compatible with the teachings of the Bible, hence ordained by God." Ordained by God!  He had "no strong feelings about the Arab countries," but condemned the "terrorist PLO." Begin he described implausibly as a man of integrity and honor.


Carter instructed Sadat that unless his proposals were patently fair to Israel, which regarded Arabs as subhuman, Begin would justifiably reject them. When Egypt's opening proposals requested compensation for Israeli use of land and oil wells in the occupied Sinai, free immigration to the West Bank, Israeli withdrawal from the illegally occupied territories (including East Jerusalem), and a Palestinian state, Carter was despondent at the "extremely harsh" recommendations. [x]Any treatment of Palestinians other than as anonymous refugees to be absorbed and pacified in colonial structures was apparently unimaginable extremism.


At the time, the PLO was the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people, and its inclusion in negotiations was the only possible basis for establishing Palestinian national rights and reaching real peace. Nevertheless, Carter's national security advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski summed up the U.S. stance at Camp David as "bye-bye PLO." The Palestinians' nationalist aspirations were summarily dismissed, and a solution for the Occupied Territories was postponed until future "autonomy talks," to which the PLO would not be invited. This doomed any prospect of peace.


Unsurprisingly, Camp David's imagined Palestinian "autonomy" was a substitute for national liberation in the Accords, and was fundamentally colonial. Israel was allowed to retain economic and political power over the West Bank and Gaza, and the Israeli Defense Forces were permitted to indefinitely remain. The Palestinians were essentially granted municipal authority (to pick up the garbage?) provided it didn't threaten Israeli "security." Prime Minister Begin openly declared that he would never allow a Palestinian state on the West Bank.


It's hard to improve upon the summation of Camp David provided by Fayez Sayegh, founder of the Palestine Research Center:


"A fraction of the Palestinian people (under one-third of the whole) is promised a fraction of its rights (not including the national right to self-determination and statehood) in a fraction of its homeland (less than one-fifth of the area of the whole); and this promise is to be fulfilled several years from now, through a step-by-step process in which Israel is to exercise a decisive veto power over any agreement. Beyond that, the vast majority of Palestinians is condemned to permanent loss of its Palestinian national identity, to permanent exile and statelessness, to permanent separation from one another and from Palestine - to a life without national hope or meaning." [xi]


Nevertheless, the United States applauded what it somehow construed as the birth of peace in the Middle East, while Israel proceeded to "annex" Jerusalem and the Golan Heights, tattoo the Occupied Territories with Jewish settlements, carve up southern Lebanon, attack Iraq, and bomb Palestinian refugee camps. [xii]


None of this was a surprise. According to Israeli strategic analyst Avner Yaniv, the effect of Camp David's removing of Egypt from the Arab military alliance was that "Israel would be free to sustain military operations against the PLO in Lebanon as well as settlement activity on the West Bank." [xiii]


Five years after Israel had reduced southern Lebanon to rubble Gaza rose in rebellion (the first intifada), and six years after that came the Oslo Accords, with the White House announcing triumphantly for the second time that lasting Middle East peace was at hand. But once again there was no peace. In accordance with long-standing U.S.-Israeli rejectionism the Oslo Accords called for the incorporation of Palestinian lands in a permanent colonial structure administered by Israel.


In other words, after more than seventy years of sacrifice and popular struggle for their national rights, the Palestinians were triumphantly handed a micro-state with no power. A toothless "Palestinian Authority" was set up in the West Bank. 


Once again, Israel remained in possession of everything that counted: East Jerusalem, the settlements, the economy, the land, water, sovereignty, and "security." The Oslo settlement was based on UN Resolution 242, which only recognized Palestinians as stateless refugees, not as a people possessed of national rights. 


Israel made no commitment to giving up its violence or compensating the Palestinians for 45 years of conquest and dispossession. Yasir Arafat renounced all nationalist aspirations and discarded Palestinian rights, including the right to resist oppression. He accepted responsibility for guaranteeing Israeli security, turning his people into police for their occupiers.


The Palestinians were granted nothing more than "limited autonomy," with no guarantee of Palestinian security, no Palestinian sovereignty, and no autonomous economy. Israeli companies were to set up sweatshops in the Occupied Territories and Palestinians were to continue supplying the $6-a-day labor. After years of granting concessions to Israel, they were asked to wait three to five more years until "final status" talks could determine what Israel's vague references to "improvements" actually meant.  


For the majority of Palestinians living in the Diaspora, this represented the final act of robbery, nullifying years of promises from the UN, Arab governments, and the PLO itself. 


At the celebration of the Oslo Accords on the White House lawn, Arafat, the conquered, thanked everyone for the agreement suspending most of his people's rights, and delivered an emotionally sterile speech as though he were reading out of a phone book. He barely mentioned the Palestinians. 


Yitzak Rabin, the conqueror, gave a long speech detailing Israeli anguish, loss, and suffering involved in the conquest. He promised that Israel would concede nothing on sovereignty and would keep the River Jordan, the boundaries with Egypt and Jordan, the sea, the land between Gaza and Jericho, Jerusalem, the roads, and the settlements.  He did not concede that Israel was, or ever had been, an occupying power. He made no commitment to dismantling the maze of racist laws and repressive fixtures of the Occupation. He said nothing about the thousands of Palestinians rotting in Israeli jails. He expressed not a twinge of remorse for four-and-a-half decades of ethnic cleansing and lies. [xiv]


So the occupation of Palestine continued for years more, severely restricting Palestinian movement, increasing Jewish colonization of Arab land, and intensifying bureaucratic harassment. On September 28, 2000, Ariel Sharon and a thousand Israeli soldiers touched off the second intifada by invading the Al Aqsa mosque site in Arab Jerusalem. The next day Prime Minister Ehud Barak ordered riot police to storm the compound where 20,000 Palestinians were praying. Rocks were thrown and the police opened fire, killing seven and wounding 220. Within days President Clinton dispatched the largest shipment of attack helicopters to Israel in a decade.


Though portrayed by Israel apologists as extraordinarily generous towards the Palestinians, Prime Minister Ehud Barak never dismantled a settlement or freed a Palestinian prisoner during his entire 18 months in office. Like his predecessors, he refused to compromise on settlements, borders, refugee rights, and Jerusalem. According to Robert Malley, special assistant for Arab-Israeli affairs in the Clinton administration, it is a myth that Israel had offered to meet "most if not all of the Palestinians' legitimate aspirations," and equally a myth that the "Palestinians made no concession of their own." In fact, Palestinians expressed willingness to accommodate Jewish settlements on the West Bank, Israeli sovereignty over Jewish neighborhoods in East Jerusalem, and a limit on repatriation of Palestinian exiles, though all of them were entitled to return. Malley stated that "no other Arab party that has negotiated with Israel . . . ever came close to even considering such compromises." 


Meanwhile, Israel offered nothing and demanded surrender, just as it always had. 


According to Israeli military analyst Ze'ev Schiff, the Palestinians were left with three options:  (1) agree to the expanding Occupation, (2) set up Bantustans, or (3) launch an uprising. 


Palestinians chose to fight, and Israel pounded the nearly defenseless civilian population with helicopter gunships, F-16s, tanks, missiles, and machine guns. While systematically assassinating Palestinian leaders, Israel cried "immoral" when its victims turned their bodies into weapons in horrific suicide bombings at supermarkets, restaurants, pool halls, and discotheques. Israeli propaganda blamed "hate teaching" by the PLO, but the real hate teacher was the racist ideology that defined Palestinians as "beasts walking on two legs" and "cockroaches in a bottle," among other terms of endearment popular with Israeli leaders.[xv] This swelled the ranks of the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade with volunteers who had lost close relatives to the Israeli military.


Amidst the firestorm of moral indignation occasioned by the suicide attacks, Israel never considered negotiating in good faith to resolve the longstanding conflict, and the United States applied no pressure to make them do so. Following in the footsteps of a long line of predecessors, President George W. Bush heaped arms and aid on Israel, vetoed UN resolutions calling for observers in the Occupied Territories, and continued funding the ever-expanding Jewish settlements. With the entire world recoiling in shocked outrage at Israel's pulverizing of the West Bank, he declared Ariel Sharon "a man of peace." [xvi]


Post-Oslo the stealing of land and dynamiting of Palestinian homes continued with the same justification as before: Jewish land was redeemed, Arab land was unredeemed. By the end of the twentieth-century, over 80% of Palestine no longer belonged to Palestinian Arabs. Under Clinton-Barak settlement construction had accelerated dramatically and Jews received nearly seven times as much water as Arabs in the West Bank and Gaza. Meanwhile, three hundred miles of Jews-only highways and bypass roads integrated the settlements into Israel proper while dividing Palestinian areas into enclaves of misery completely cut-off from the wider world.


Increasing numbers of Israeli Arabs joined with the Palestinians in the Occupied Territories to protest Jewish supremacy rooted in nationality rights granting Jews exclusive use of land, better access to jobs, special treatment in getting loans, and preferences for college admission, among other unearned advantages. Military service brought even more benefits, from which Palestinians were excluded. 


Founded as a haven for Jews, Israel had become the most dangerous place in the world for them to live. The constant war on Palestinians that made this so was still described as self-defense, and the crushing of their national culture was still the goal of "peace." Orwell would have felt like an amateur. [i]


Whatever differences President Biden and Prime Minister Netanyahu may be having regarding tactics and media sound bites, the commitment they share is to preserving the festering boil of apartheid Israel, rooted in the conviction that Jews are a master race of chosen people destined to scrub the Holy Land of unsightly Arabs and rule over Greater Israel forever.


The stench of death is its constant gift to the world.


[i] Joel Kovel, Overcoming Zionism, (Pluto, 2007) p. 224


[ii] Noam Chomsky, Hopes and Prospects, (Haymarket, 2010), p. 160


[iii] “American Efforts For Peace In The Middle East, 1919-1986, quoted in Anti-Zionism: Analytical Reflections, Tekiner, Abed-Rabbo, Mezvinsky, eds. (Amana Books, 1988) p. 195


[iv] Noam Chomsky, The Fateful Triangle, (South End, 1983) pps. 155, 359-71, Rosemary Sayigh, Too Many Enemies, (Zed, 1994) pps. 117-121


[v] Robert Fisk is quoted from his book Pity The Nation in Susan Abulhawa, Mornings In Jenin, (Bloomsbury, 2010) pps. 224-6. Abulhawa is a novelist, but quotes verbatim passages from Pity The Nation.


[vi] [vi]Noam Chomsky, Towards A New Cold War, (Pantheon, 1973-1982) p. 454n., Alfred Lilienthal, The Zionist Connection, (Dodd Mead, 1978) pps. 178-84.


[vii] Eduardo Galeano, Upside Down - A Primer For The Looking Glass World, (Henry Holt, 1998), p. 88.


[viii] Alfred Lilienthal, The Zionist Connection, (Dodd Mead, 1978) p. 153.


[ix] Edward Said, The Question of Palestine, (Vintage, 1979) pps. 14-15, 44, 57, 138, 195, 204, 206-7; Alfred Lilienthal, The Zionist Connection, (Dodd Mead, 1978) pps. 144, 191, 279, 351, 398, 683. Noam Chomsky, The Fateful Triangle, (South End, 1983), p. 95n.; Jimmy Carter, Keeping Faith: Memoirs of a President, (Bantam, 1982) pps. 334, 347)


[x] Jimmy Carter, Keeping Faith - Memoirs of a President (Bantam, 1982) pps. 274-5, 338-40; Alfred Lilienthal, The Zionist Connection, (Dodd Mead, 1978) p. 651.


[xi] Edward Said, The Question of Palestine, (Vintage, 1979), p. 212



[xii] Edward Said, The Politics of Dispossession, (Chatto and Windus, 1994), p. 244; Larry Shoup, The Carter Presidency and Beyond, (Ramparts, 1980) pps. 120-3)


[xiii] Noam Chomsky, World Orders Old and New, (Columbia, 1994) p. 213.


[xiv] Edward Said, The Pen and the Sword, (Common Courage, 1994) p. 110; Edward Said, The Politics of Dispossession, (Chatto and Windus, 1994) p. xxxiv, xxxv-xxxvii; Christopher Hitchens in Edward Said, Peace and Its Discontents, (Random House, 1993) p. 3.


[xv][xv] John Mearsheimer and Stephen M. Walt, The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy, (Farrar Strauss and Giroux, 2007, p. 89)


[xvi] Stephen Shalom, "The Israel-Palestine Crisis," Z Magazine, May 2002; Edward Said, "The Desertion of Arafat," New Left Review, September-October 2001; Rezeq Faraj, "Israel and Hamas," Covert Action Information Bulletin, Winter 2001; Rania Masri, "The Al Aqsa Intifada - The consequence of Israel's 34-year occupation,” Noam Chomsky International Socialist Review, November-December 2001.


[xvii] Max Elbaum, interview with Phyllis Bennis, "For Jews Only: Racism Inside Israel," ColorLines, December 15, 2000. Edward Herman, "Israel's Ethnic Cleansing," Z Magazine, April 2001. Rene Backmann, A Wall In Palestine, (Picador, 2010), p. 170.



Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Satan of Moscow Seems Remarkably Like A Human Being

In the wake of Tucker Carlson's interview with Vladimir Putin, it's a good time to review the characterization of the Russian head of state as a genocidal maniac incapable of reason, the usual portrayal of official enemies of the United States . . . 

Imperial Demon Watch: Vladimir Putin

Russia wants a peaceful Ukraine, Americans prefer one at war.

---Israel Shamir, "Putin Prefers a Bad Peace"

by Michael K. Smith

Even before the current round of nuclear brinksmanship in Ukraine, U.S.-Russian relations had descended to a lower point than U.S.-Soviet relations reached during the Cuban Missile Crisis. We've been courting nuclear annihilation for some time.

Those who would like to exempt Washington from blame now will have to account for U.S. hostility towards Russia and the USSR, both of which long pre-date anything that could remotely be construed as provocation by Putin. After all, the United States invaded and occupied the former USSR from 1918-1920, maintained a harshly belligerent stance all during the Cold War, and unleashed a plague of financial locusts to loot state enterprises throughout the former USSR as soon as the Berlin Wall came down, while enrolling the newly "independent" states into an anti-Moscow military alliance that extended to the very borders of Russia. Standards of living plunged, death rates soared, diplomacy suffocated, and Boris Yeltsin's proposed U.S.-Russian partnership was immediately forgotten.  

If a China-Russia alliance had installed hostile governments in Canada and Mexico at the end of WWII, after which all of Latin America went full Communist while narco-terrorists began killing Anglo Texans and banning English, it's unlikely any blame would fall on Washington if it attempted to resolve the situation by force, as it surely would. So we can dismiss pious moral grandstanding about the "evil" Putin as the boundless hypocrisy it transparently is.

Furthermore, we should note that the rhetoric employed in this mad rush to terminal war is curious and irrational. For example, labeling Putin a "war criminal" actually legitimizes war, since it implies there is some ethical or at least inoffensive way to conduct mass slaughter, which is all that modern warfare is. Transparent attempts to miss this point by labeling massacre "collateral damage" should be dismissed with ridicule.

And it can hardly be repeated too often that the USA is far and away the guiltiest "criminal" where war is concerned, having by far the greatest war industry ever seen in human history headquartered on its soil and forming the heart of its economy (the Defense Industrial Base), which it has used to fight an endless series of wars directly or by proxy throughout the world for the past eighty years. No other contemporary or historical power has achieved anything close to this commitment to mass killing.

So it is absurd to define the situation in Ukraine as a uniquely evil instance of military aggression by Vladimir Putin. In a world of asymmetrical power with no effective world government, technically sophisticated powers always have the upper hand in violent conflicts with their neighbors, which are inevitable. And, of course, they insist on having friendly neighbors, preferably cooperative, though submissive will do. 

Hostile neighbors no one accepts. How much of the Americas does the United States permit be part of a hostile military alliance? According to the Monroe Doctrine, not one square inch. How did Washington react to Cuba installing Soviet nuclear missiles 90 miles from Florida in 1962? (Spoiler alert: it nearly blew up the planet.) What did the media do when  Rafael Correa jokingly proposed an Ecuadorian military base in Miami to balance Washington's Mena Air Base in Ecuador? It laughed, though the punchline is far from a joke.

A majority of the world is fed-up with the hypocrisies of unilateral world order under U.S. control, and is not averse to accommodating an emerging China-Russia-India based new world order. Yes, the current war in Ukraine is causing further expansion of NATO (supposedly a good thing), but this, in turn, is devouring resources needed to stave off European economic collapse, while an emerging Russia-China-India alliance accelerates the collapse of the U.S. dollar as the world's reserve currency. 

Meanwhile, in Saudi Arabia, a U.S. client state, Biden's phone calls in the early stages of the current war went unanswered while Putin's were cordially received. Got respect?

Our mind managers warn us of the horrors of forced neutrality via Finlandization, and urge instead that we strive for regime change in Moscow. Strange. Finland is a success story, having achieved balance and stability via social democratic prosperity. On the other hand, U.S.-fostered regime change converts countries into corpse-strewn wastelands on a regular basis. Think Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, and Libya. Trying out this strategy on Russia obviously carries a high risk of nuclear annihilation. What stupendous prize awaits us if we successfully navigate this potentially species-terminating risk? The preservation of "our interests and our values," as Hillary Clinton so loves to say.

In other words, converting whole cities to radioactive ash is a small price to pay for preserving our favorite abstractions. Got it.

We hear Putin is a strongman, an authoritarian, a totalitarian dictator, though we also hear people are fleeing Russia in droves. Why are they at liberty to do that in a "dictatorship"?

By the way, was Abraham Lincoln also a dictator, he who suspended habeas corpus, jailed journalists, shut down hundreds of newspapers, and locked up thousands of political enemies? And what about Woodrow Wilson, who destroyed unions, imprisoned editors, closed newspapers, and assumed dictatorial control of finance, the press, farms, and commerce and transportation? 

Or maybe FDR was a dictator, who imprisoned over 100,000 U.S. citizens without charge and burned more civilians alive in a single night than either atomic bomb killed six months later? 

What do we actually mean when we call Putin a dictator? That the media isn't free? But a major part of Russian, state-owned media has long transmitted pro-Western, anti-Russian content, paid for by Russian taxpayers. Try and find taxpayer-funded, Putin-sympathetic content that reaches mass audiences in the U.S. Good luck.

What about free speech? Well, the Russian people have never had it, and therefore don't care much about it. Americans have it in theory, but find its political potency nullified in practice by tsunamis of state and corporate propaganda.  The most popular use of speech in the contemporary U.S. is not to reveal errors of argument and evidence, but to denounce others for being "idiots." How free are we then?

Is Putin a nationalist? In recent years state-enterprise CEOs in Russia were seen earning millions of rubles a year while everyone else had to tighten their belts. The Russian central bank bought U.S. Treasury Bonds and supported the U.S. dollar at the expense of the ruble. Where is the nationalism in such policy?

Is Putin anti-democratic? The annexation of Crimea was overwhelmingly supported by Crimeans (97% vote).

Didn't Putin back Assad? Yes, because he was the legitimate head of state in Syria, while the alternative was rule by Islamic terrorists supported by the United States and Israel, but no sane person in Syria. Israel wants the dismemberment of Syria in order to keep the occupied Golan Heights forever. 

Much demonology is spouted from the simple fact that Putin is the former head of the K.G.B. But Putin is critical of the Bolsheviks and is not himself a Communist. Nevertheless, he considers the demise of the USSR a "world tragedy," since overnight twenty-five million Russians found themselves foreigners living in fourteen new countries.

Is Putin anti-Israel? Well, Daesh oil flowed to Israel, and Putin said nothing, valuing his relations with then Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Israel, of course, supported Al-Nusra, and they were declared terrorists by the United Nations. But Israel is admirable by definition, because . . . the Holocaust. Strange, though, that Putin gets no credit for aiding the Holy State.

We are told that no threat to the Russian state exists, so therefore no cause for war in Ukraine exists. But the Russian state and everything else can be blown off the map in a matter of minutes. The fact that the world is wired up to explode in a nuclear holocaust has been an American initiative from the beginning, and its dominant enemy has been (1) the USSR, and (2) Russia. NATO is by definition hostile to Russia, and lost even an ostensible reason for existing in 1991 with the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact. Why is it still around? Because Russia is still around, and Washington doesn't like that fact. Its efforts to achieve regime change in Moscow can and may end human civilization, which isn't likely to improve matters for Ukrainians. 

Is Putin an extremist? No. There is nothing radical in him. He has no plans for social re-arrangement. He merely seeks to have Russia respected as an independent, wealthy, and "great" nation, and yes, he wants Russia to be treated as an equal. But he also wants to fit into the world, not rebel against it. These modest ambitions are a threat to US/NATO hegemony and world dominance, which represent the triumph of Western extremism.

Keeping things in perspective, Putin is a Russian patriot. He wants to see Russia be a strong, healthy country where people lead good lives, are happy, and Russia occupies a prominent position internationally. He's not a chauvinist or reactionary nationalist. 

The Orange Revolution was totally unexpected in Russia, which can't really be said to have a political opposition because there is no one who embodies and represents the views of a Russian majority. Having said that, Putin has been something of the "golden boy" in Russian politics for the past generation. He is good at addressing issues and speaking in clear terms that average people understand. The initial "democracy" of the Yeltsin period has been curtailed, but the middle class has developed rapidly on Putin's watch.  

Yeltsin spoke to the U.S. Congress in 1992, and offered Washington a partnership in which each nation would treat the other as an equal. For thirty years now the U.S. has rejected this. In the year of the U.S./NATO attack on Serbia (1999), Yeltsin protested, "Russia is not Haiti. You can't treat us like Haiti."* Washington considers Haiti a "shit-hole" country, as one of America's more honest presidents memorably put it.

Washington is incapable of giving Russia its due diplomatic respect. According to the reigning "Wolfowitz Doctrine," the U.S. should dominate the world and not allow any rivals for power to emerge. Russia therefore is and should be treated as a second rate power. This is a non-negotiable position. 

Naturally, Putin does not accept this, and never accepted the U.S. view that Russia lost the Cold War. Russia saw the end of the Cold War as an opportunity for them to become part of the international community. At the core of Russian beliefs is that Russia must be a Great Power. The Russian people have never doubted that Russia is a great country. Having their noses rubbed in the Wolfowitz Doctrine year after year is insulting, degrading, and an open invitation to mutual suicide.

The USSR's forcing its rule onto Eastern Europe was a big mistake, though understandable given two Western invasions in a generation that left much of the country a smoldering ruin. The U.S. ignoring the possibility of Russia "coming back" to international prominence was a big American mistake. Washington continues to think of Russia as at most a regional power whose wants and needs can be ignored. But no nuclear-armed country can be ignored.

At the end of the Cold War the U.S. promised not to expand NATO - not one inch - to the East, a promise it quickly violated.

Now we wait to learn if our three-decade refusal to concede Russia minimal diplomatic respect and cooperation will eventuate in nuclear war.

* Vladimir Pozner, "The Present State of Russian-American Relations," Monterrey Summer Symposium, Middlebury Institute of International Studies, July 24, 2020