by James Rothenberg for the Saker Blog
I read that we’ve entered a “post truth” age. I dislike the term because it seems too sure of itself, as if it encompasses all there is to encompass. As if it should come to mean the same thing to everyone. The worst is “holocaust”, a word I’ve forbidden myself to use for the reasons just mentioned.
Sure, something’s been accelerating. It’s hard to miss the competitive manipulation taking place in the “information age”, another shorthand though with more authenticity. At a certain point in his presidency, the Washington Post catalogued 10,000 of Donald Trump’s lies. They were practically giddy about it. “Now we’ve got him!”, they seemed to be saying. “10,000!”.
Isador Feinstein Stone published the newsletter, I. F. Stone’s Weekly, from 1953-1971. Albert Einstein, Bertrand Russell, and Eleanor Roosevelt were among the first subscribers. (If the reader is unimpressed, this is a good place to stop.) As an investigative journalist, Stone’s bedrock principle was that all governments lie. It’s tempting to say that we find too few like him today. More to the point, there are always and everywhere too few like him. They are the anti-authoritarians.
Once we accept as a given that all governments lie, it reduces to, whose lies can you trust? The answer is easy. You’ll trust the lies of your own country before any other. An example of “post truth”? No, the truth about the lies.
To lie is to be at cross-purposes with the target of the lie. It exposes an adversarial relationship between the two. The unavoidable conclusion is that government is in an adversarial relationship with its own people. How do these cross-purposes come to exist between our government and the people it lies to?
First we should define the sides in this internal conflict because it’s not just government on one side. Multinational corporations have become such a potent force that government must consult with them, and vice versa. Their symbiosis is based on capitalism with a revolving door existing between the public and private sector. When you’re high up in one, you’re not far from the other.
We wouldn’t know we were being lied to without government’s microphone, the mega corporations that disseminate information to us, also a potent international force. And then, easy to overlook, what is government but the only two competing political parties in America, “both sides of the aisle”. There is an aisle, and Democrats and Republicans do sit on opposing sides. And they do have their differences. Otherwise you couldn’t tell them apart. But these differences largely run along cultural lines, and increasingly so.
Not that these are unimportant. They’re very important, but the parties come to be identified mainly by their stances and clashes on sexuality, civil rights, reproduction, religion, immigration and skin color to the exclusion of what could be the most crucial area to disagree on, but isn’t.
Are we to assume that because they differ so strongly on certain things, that their agreement on other things is a good indication of their virtue? I think not because such conformity is less a sign of reasoned judgment than of subordination to larger interests. The result of their general agreement is that we have no major political party independent of capitalist imperialism as promulgated by Wall Street, the Pentagon, the State Department, and the intelligence/security industry.
This is where the “national interest” is manufactured, the great secret plans that are hammered out for our own good. Ordinary people cannot be entrusted to determine the interests of their own country because they might be at odds with the manufactured kind.
Imagine if the public had had a say over the question, in 2003, of whether or not we should invade Iraq. No, forget that. That’s not a good example. The public was in favor of it. But why? For months we were the target of an intense propaganda campaign to sway our support for a decision to attack that had already been made. If you convince people that we’re fighting them “over there” so that we don’t have to fight them “over here”, well, that figures to be enough to win them over.
Now go back to 1991 and the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Much talk about a “peace dividend”. Nice ring to it. The United States has had the lion’s share of the world’s wealth since WW2, and now it had the wealth and no viable rivals anywhere in sight.
However, it was considered to be in the “national interest” to expand NATO, an alliance solely formed to counter the communist menace of the Soviet Union, which no longer existed. There was to be no peace dividend. It’s a made-up thing anyway.
Since then, 13 countries have joined NATO pushing east toward Russia’s borders. Russia’s leadership regards it as a provocation. You can argue against this but only if you wouldn’t consider it a provocation if Russia had formed a military alliance with Cuba, Mexico, and Canada, or any of the three. I suspect patriotic Americans will reject this dialectic.
Imagine if the public had had a say over the question, in 1991, of whether or not we should expand our military alliance with its attendant costs, or whether we should reap the dividend by seeking a more cooperative relationship with the whole of Eurasia including the Middle East. Missing was the propaganda campaign to win our support for a peace dividend so that we could spend “over here” instead of “over there”.
People will instinctively choose peace over war. We are naturally possessed of that much empathy for others. You have to be marshaled into killing. That we identify with peoples’ suffering is evident in all the Ukrainian flag flying. That’s people, not states. States deal in straight power concepts. It is in the anarchist spirit to resist this.
To declare that Ukraine is a pawn in a great-power game greatly overstates the country’s role. A pawn can force a win by checkmate or through progression. A better metaphor is Ukraine is the board the game is being played on. The main players are the United States and Russia.
The US-led NATO contingent would like to diminish Russia as a regional power so that it can fully concentrate on its primary target, China. Russia would like to diminish NATO and expand its influence throughout Eurasia.
On February 4, Russia and China formally announced a strategic partnership, essentially declaring their intention to remake the world order. This wouldn’t have come as a surprise to the United States because it sits atop the existing world order — precariously — and knows perfectly well about the threat China poses to its hegemony. Russia needs China. China doesn’t need Russia, but finds it useful. This accounts for its “hands off” policy in Ukraine.
Putin seems to have calculated, correctly, that the United States has no appetite for a direct military clash over Ukraine. The partnership building with China was likely decisive in ordering the strike. The United States is in full-hypocrisy mode when Nancy Pelosi pledges, “to help the Ukrainian people as they defend democracy for their nation and for the world.”
You’re supposed to be oblivious to the United States orchestrated coup, in 2014, that removed a democratically elected Ukrainian president because he was not sufficiently pro-West. The script never changes. But you can trust it.
James Rothenberg writes on U.S. social and foreign policy.