Crimea and Punishment

U.S. politicians and pundits want the American people to get so upset about Crimea’s decision to split with Ukraine and rejoin Russia that they will support more U.S. military spending and more U.S. interventions around the world, a tragic misreading of the reality, writes Lorraine Barlett.

By Lorraine Barlett

With a plot line reminiscent of a Russian novel, the revolving cast of rogues and rebels involved in the Ukraine crisis provides the hoi polloi with a fascinating tale of intrigue and treachery.

The trouble is, most of them are getting their information from the Cliff’s Notes version of this season’s War and Peace, as helpfully provided by the so-called “mainstream media” (MSM). And very few MSM outlets are deviating from the party line, which casts Russian President Putin as the Vampire and Ukraine as the victim of his bloodlust.

President Vladimir Putin of Russia welcomes President Barack Obama to the G20 Summit at Konstantinovsky Palace in Saint Petersburg, Russia, Sept. 5, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

President Vladimir Putin of Russia welcomes President Barack Obama to the G20 Summit at Konstantinovsky Palace in Saint Petersburg, Russia, Sept. 5, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Indeed, I am a bit surprised at not having already encountered some reference to Putin as “Vlad the Impaler” (remember, you saw it here first), although I have heard him referred to as a “madman” and when one reaches that status, comparisons to Hitler and Stalin can’t be far behind. (Indeed, we’ve already seen some of that, including George F. Will calling Putin “Stalin’s spawn.”)

In this era of shoot (with your mouth) first and ask questions later, everyone has an opinion about what should be done, but rather than advocating cool heads and constructive diplomatic dialogue, it seems the majority would prefer to reignite the Cold War over Putin’s incursion into Crimea. You want sanctions? I’ll give you stinkin’ sanctions! Let’s deploy a few aircraft carriers and abrogate a few nuclear weapons treaties while we’re at it, to show ‘em we really mean business!

Oh, how we Americans love to have someone to spar with, and to hate on, especially when it brings a renewed opportunity for us to engage in our favorite sport. So ramp up the rhetoric and ready the rockets, gang, it’s time for some war games. So, Risk, anyone? Oh wait that’s just kids’ play. We all know that REAL men prefer Russian roulette … or do they simply march to Tehran?

So now I must ask, where ARE the antiwar activists in this crisis … are they perhaps exhausted by their most recent (and many would argue, failed) foray into pacifism? Meaning, has the ongoing conflict in Syria left such a bad taste in their mouths that they, too, are now wearily resigned to taking up the stick again, when it comes to a stubborn mule like ol’ Vlad? The trouble is, how long can we afford to beat the drum and the dead warhorse before we realize that it just ain’t working anymore

The situation is made worse than ever by virtue of the unison chorus repeating its siren song ad nauseam in this latest episode of Kabuki, American style. Indeed, both the Left and Right have joined together in a saber-rattling extravaganza, choreographed to demonize and denounce Putin for his many, ahem, transgressions (to wit, bringing Russia back from the abyss of economic failure by pumping gas and making deals with the BRIC gang, further undermining U.S. hegemony; intervening in Georgia (well, I might give them that one); pulling Obama’s fat out the fire with regard to his Syrian “red line”, simultaneously promoting a rapprochement with Iran in the mix; then hosting a terror-free Olympics Why, he spent $50 billion on that tacky carnival!)

Even when he’s right, he’s wrong! And don’t forget his macho bareback equestrian adventures maybe we could just settle this whole conflict by having our Duck Dynasty guys challenge him to a catfish noodling contest the reality show crowd would eat that up, wouldn’t they?

The point is, this latest manufactured crisis is, to some extent, attributable to the continuing triumph of hasbara over reason. [Hasbara is a Hebrew word defined as something between propaganda and information. Also see]

In an article which appeared back in March 2007, Muhammad Idrees Ahmad astutely framed the crucial issue which yet persists: “In the lead up to the Iraq war, the antiwar movement itself became the contested space where ideas had to be contained, managed and neutralized, lest they undermine the tenuous support necessary for legitimizing the war. A carefully orchestrated media campaign set the terms of the [then] debate — WMD, regime change, and democracy promotion

“The war party, on the other hand, was far more successful in organizing and centralizing elements of the civil society to legitimize its agenda. [Italian political theorist Antonio] Gramsci’s contention that the civil society is a constitutive element of the state was evident in the various lobby groups, think tanks and support networks that furnished and disseminated propaganda to build support for the war. With a case couched in exaggerated fears and emotive language, it succeeded in engendering the kind of jingoistic unreason that has enabled many wars of aggression.”

Anyone interested in current international events should read the entire article, cited above. For plainly, the tragedy unfolding in Ukraine, as in Syria, is but a continuation of this “politics by other means.” But who, or what, is really controlling the message behind this madness? And what is their purpose?

Greater minds than I have identified the root of the current cause célèbre. As Robert Parry notes at

“You might have expected that the neocons would have been banished to the farthest reaches of U.S. policymaking, so far away that they would never be heard from again. However, instead of disappearing, the neocons have proved their staying power, now reemerging as the architects of the U.S. strategy toward Ukraine. And, despite Obama’s opposition to [their] obsession with endless warfare, he didn’t purge them from his administration. Neocons, who had burrowed deep inside the U.S. government as ‘civil servants’ or ‘career foreign service officers,’ remained as a ‘stay-behind’ force, looking for new allies and biding their time.”

Now, it seems their time has come, and they have again arisen. In a word, the neocons’ motive in this imbroglio is, in the words of fellow writer Maidhc Ó Cathail, “to demonize Putin for getting in the way of their pro-Israel regime change plans in Syria and Iran, and to prevent further Obama-Putin cooperation.”

So the little reported fact is now laid bare and he who has eyes to see, let him see. It is the neocons who are the real vampires, promoting their not-so hidden agenda, subsisting on an evil elixir of blood and oil which they regurgitate into ink useful for producing money and media which influences politicians who will, in turn, keep them employed. And they are legion, the earthly manifestation of a legendary demon that robs humans of their souls and condemns them to the living hell that is war.

The sad truth is, the neocon support of the Ukrainian “democracy” movement is about as legitimate as their support for the overthrow of Morsi, and Gaddafi, and Saddam, and I could go on and on, but you get my drift. They could care less about Crimea, other than viewing it as another tasty morsel on which to feed.

This is not to understate the fact that real evil exists in other parts of the world. But we must first confront the (invisible) man in the mirror. Until we drive a stake through our neocon monster’s craven heart, there will be no peace in Ukraine or anyplace else on earth where the U.S. meddles. And in the tragic Shakespearean twist of this drama, indeed we shall see that “all are punished.” [The Prince, Act V, scene iii, “Romeo and Juliet”]

Lorraine Barlett is a retired U.S. Army JAG officer whose last assignment was with the Office of Military Commissions. She advocates on behalf of Guantanamo detainees, on human rights issues relating to cyber and drone warfare, and against the militarism pervading civil society. As an attorney she also serves disabled veterans and the homeless, and fights predatory lending practices.

10 comments for “Crimea and Punishment

  1. Brenda
    March 24, 2014 at 00:10

    Ms. Barlett, just to clarify your statement about Putin “intervening in Georgia (well, I might give them that one…)”, Putin only intervened after the Georgian government initiated the conflict by launching an attack on South Ossetia.

    • Lorraine Barlett
      March 24, 2014 at 10:16

      Dear Brenda, I must agree that even the Georgian kerfluffle of 5 years ago was not actually provoked by Russia. But out of deference to someone close to me who lived in Georgia for ten years and actually worked for the administration of Edward Schevardnadze, I have heard the other side of that story too. In any case, neither did that incident justify a return to the Cold War.

  2. March 22, 2014 at 10:32

    Crimea is lost and the west must simply get over it. The degree of the response from the west tells us quite a bit about the degree of Russias move. The west had planned on annexing (taking total control) the Ukraine, forcing Russia from its naval base, surround Russia and conquer. No amount of sanctions or retaliatory measures will deter Russias move and may well have emboldened Russia. Now Russia is free to evict the NGOs which it abhors and knows are nests of western influence. The Ukraine will face years of unrest and economic collapse and will be a questionable and expensive asset to the west.

  3. Bob
    March 22, 2014 at 01:51

    You mean: “hey could NOT care less about Crimea”

  4. paul
    March 21, 2014 at 22:33

    It’s truly nauseating. Virtually every article on this website seems to take as it’s main point to blame the neocons for Obama’s warmongering!! That’s quite an amazing political trick. I suppose one can’t call it a lie. Perhaps we could call it an untruth. No matter what happens, let’s stoke the fantasy that Obama is a secret peacenik, desperately trying to hold back the neocons with all his bullying and propaganda and drones and buildups and bombing campaigns and threats and economic wars, etc..

  5. March 21, 2014 at 21:06

    I’ve turned off all corporate media news because it’s a failed “Fourth Estate” —especially when explaining the circumstances in Ukraine.
    Instead, Robert Parry, Paul Craig Roberts (his website) along with RealNewsNetwork, and – based in Canada with ties to the Chicago area.
    The news is out there that better expresses the facts, but, unfortunately, we have a nation of self-interested folks who don’t want to know, or don’t want to recognize the how our govt. endangers their lives everyday……….Such is the case of dying empires.

  6. MarkU
    March 21, 2014 at 15:19

    Look at it from the Russian point of view. The West has reneged on its agreement not to expand NATO eastwards. Similarly the agreement to respect the territorial integrity of Serbia has been ignored (even though backed by UN resolution 1244) Governments friendly to the Russians are being targeted and destroyed. George W Bush unilaterally abrogated the ABM treaty and now a NATO ABM missile “Shield” is being erected around the Russians borders, seriously threatening their ability to retaliate in the event of an attempted disarming first strike by the NATO countries. The Russians are justifiably annoyed and alarmed, the sometimes ludicrous anti-Russian propoganda in western accounts of the Sochi olympics didn’t help matters, it looked rather like softening up public opinion for a conflict.

    People in the West are not the only ones capable of learning the “lessons of Munich”. If Putin were to back down on Ukraine (and Crimea in particular) he would probably go down in history as “Vlad the Appeaser”.

  7. F. G. Sanford
    March 21, 2014 at 14:41

    Yes, a stake indeed, and perhaps “Vlad the Hammer” is just the man to administer the appropriate antidote. The “Big Lies” remain remarkably consistent. Assad still “gassed his own people”, Putin “invaded Ukraine”, the referendum was “coercion at gunpoint”, neo-Nazi extremists are an “insignificant element” in the Neocon installed government, we need to arm “the good rebels” in Syria, etc.

    “The size of the lie is a definite factor in causing it to be believed, because the vast masses of the nation are in the depths of their hearts more easily deceived than they are commonly and intentionally bad. The primitive simplicity of their minds render them more easy victims of a big lie than a small one, because they themselves often tell little lies, but would be ashamed to tell big ones. Such a form of lying would never enter their heads. They would never credit others with the possibility of such great impudence as the complete reversal of the facts. Even explanations would long leave them in doubt and hesitation, and any trifling reason would dispose them to accept a thing as true. Something, therefore, always remains and sticks from the most impudent lies, a fact which all bodies and individuals concerned in the art of lying in this world know only too well. Therefore, they stop at nothing to achieve this end.”

    For those of you who believe the bull-feathers we’re being fed by the media, please note that the primitive simplicity of your mind is the attribute relied upon by the author of the above quote. Vlad the Hammer is no angel, but let’s face it. On an intellectual level, his opponents look like a box of nails.

    GREAT article.

    • historicalia
      March 23, 2014 at 10:20

      Perhaps when you quote Hitler’s comment on his “big lie” theory you ought to include, for perspective, the first sentence of the paragraph, that begins “But it remained for the Jews, with their unqualified capacity for falsehood..” and these lines from the following paragraph: “These people know only too well how to use falsehood for the basest purposes. From time immemorial, however, the Jews have known better than any others how falsehood and calumny can be exploited.”

      He was not describing his policy toward his people, as this infamous racist comment is often misinterpreted.

      • F. G. Sanford
        March 23, 2014 at 12:45

        Propagandists and deceivers come in all stripes. I quoted an excerpt from George Seldes, “Facts and Fascism”, 1943, in which he translates from the 1935 edition by the author with which you are so obviously familiar. But my compliments – as an accomplished deceiver, you have managed to insinuate that I made a deliberate omission. Hardly the case, but I have no intention of actually purchasing a copy of “Mein Kampf”. It obviously contains helpful suggestions for those who wish to feign sanctimonious indignity, and you have afforded yourself of those qualities masterfully.

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