Delusional US ‘Group Think’ on Syria, Ukraine

Exclusive: Official Washington’s “group think” on Syria and Ukraine is so delusional that it is putting the whole world in danger, but as with the Iraq War the mainstream U.S. news media is part of the problem, not part of any solution, writes Robert Parry.

By Robert Parry

Neocon ideology appears to have seized near total control over the editorial pages of America’s premier news organizations, including the New York Times and the Washington Post, contributing to an information crisis inside “the world’s superpower,” a development that should unnerve both Americans and the world community.

A Washington Post editorial, for instance, took President Barack Obama to task on Wednesday for one of the few moments when he was making sense, when he answered “no” to whether  he was “actively discussing ways to remove” Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Obama added, “we are looking for a political solution eventually within Syria. But we’re not even close to being at that stage yet.”

President Barack Obama delivers a statement on the situation in Ukraine, on the South Lawn of the White House, July 29, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

President Barack Obama delivers a statement on the situation in Ukraine, on the South Lawn of the White House, July 29, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

The question itself — from Kristen Welker of NBC News — would have been remarkable enough if you weren’t steeped in the arrogance of Official Washington where it’s common to engage in casual speculation about overthrowing another country’s government. In Neocon Land, it goes without saying that once the United States judges some world leader guilty for having violated international law or human rights or whatever, it is fine for the U.S. government to “take out” that leader, even if the supposed “facts” are a jumble of reality and propaganda that no one has bothered to seriously sort out.

In Assad’s case, there is the conventional wisdom that his government carried out the Aug. 21, 2013 sarin gas attack outside Damascus, although much evidence now points to a provocation by anti-Assad rebels. There is also the fact that Assad’s military has been battling the ruthless Islamic State and Al-Qaeda’s Nusra Front, two terroristic organizations.

While that doesn’t excuse excessive civilian casualties, it is a mitigating circumstance, much as the U.S. military rationalized the massive loss of civilian life after the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq as regrettable collateral damage but justified in prosecuting the post-9/11 “war on terror.”

But, of course, there are two sets of rules, one for the world’s “indispensible nation” and its allies and another for everyone else. There is an unstated acceptance of these double standards by every “serious” person in Official Washington, including mainstream journalists.

In this view, the “exceptional” United States has the right to invade any country of its choosing and violently remove leaders not to its liking. If the shoe were on another foot say, some country seeking to remove a U.S. ally for violating international law or human rights or someone trying to hold former President George W. Bush accountable for his war crimes an entirely different fashion rack of principles would suddenly be in vogue.

Nevertheless, Obama answered Welker’s question appropriately. “No,” he said, the U.S. government is not now trying to overthrow Assad, whose government is the principal bulwark against an outright military victory by Al-Qaeda’s affiliate, Nusra Front, or the even more barbaric Islamic State.

Indeed, it would be madness for Obama to say or do differently, since he himself acknowledged last summer to New York Times columnist Thomas L. Friedman that the idea of a “moderate” rebel force in Syria was always a “fantasy.” [See Consortiumnews.com’s “Behind Obama’s Chaotic Foreign Policy.”]

Dreamy Neocon Thinking

The likely result of the U.S. military destroying Assad’s defenses would be a victory by Islamic extremists with their black flags flying over Damascus. That, in turn, would probably force the United States and its European allies to undertake a major invasion of Syria with hundreds of thousands of troops at the cost of hundreds of billions of dollars and no reasonable prospect for success.

Despite the craziness of this we-must-take-out-Assad thinking, it has become the “group think” of Official Washington. If only Assad were forcibly removed, this thinking goes, then the supposed “moderate opposition” would take over, transform Syria into a model democracy and everything would work out just fine. That this scenario is reminiscent of the dreamy neocon predictions about Iraq before the U.S. invasion in 2003 and would be even less likely in Syria seems to bother no one.

So, the Washington Post’s editors write in reaction to Obama’s negative reply on ousting Assad: “That message will be greeted with cheers by the Assad clique and its supporters in Iran; it will encourage the regime to believe it can continue its ‘barrel bomb’ and chlorine gas attacks with impunity. It will also probably ensure that the rift between the United States and its allies against the Islamic State continues to widen.”

Then, the Post’s editors glibly suggest that Obama should introduce U.S. ground forces, presumably into Syria as well as Iraq: “Mr. Obama appears to recognize the severity of the threat posed by the Islamic State and appears to be focused on the job of leading the fight against it. But if he continues to allow his ideological resistance to steps such as the deployment of ground forces to constrain the campaign, he will ensure its failure.”

The Post’s casual attitude toward dispatching the U.S. military into foreign countries, even without the approval of a sovereign government and thus in defiance of international law, is typical of the neocon arrogance that launched the Iraq War, which, in turn, gave rise to both Al-Qaeda’s presence in the region and the Islamic State, which fought the U.S. occupation of Iraq under the name “Al-Qaeda in Iraq.”

In other words, it was the neocon disregard for international law that touched off this bloody mess in the first place, but the neocons are now popping up to give more advice on how Obama must handle the situation now. But their recommendations amount to war and more war. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “The Neocon Plan for War and More War.”]

The Neocon NYT

The neocons also have their claws into the New York Times, both the editorial section and the foreign desk. The Times’ coverage of Ukraine, for example, could be a textbook study of biased journalism, presenting the Ukraine crisis as all the fault of Russian President Vladimir Putin who supposedly instigated the trouble in some bid to reestablish the Russian Empire.

In reality, Putin was distracted by the Sochi Winter Olympics in February when the political crisis in Ukraine erupted into major violence. Belatedly, Putin sought to sustain the status quo in Ukraine, i.e., the government of the constitutionally elected President Viktor Yanukovych, but Putin’s efforts failed.

It was the United States and, to an extent, the European Union that were pressing for “regime change” in Ukraine. This strategy went back months if not years, with neocon Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Victoria Nuland reminding Ukrainian business leaders in December 2013 that the United States had invested $5 billion in their “European aspirations.”

Then, in early February, Nuland was caught on the phone to U.S. Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt discussing who should be in the government after Yanukovych was removed. “Yats is the guy,” Nuland said in reference to Arseniy Yatsenyuk, who indeed became prime minister after Yanukovych was ousted in a putsch on Feb. 22. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “The Powerful ‘Group Think’ on Ukraine.”]

Yet, it is now Official Washington’s consensus that Putin instigated the Ukraine crisis out of a desire to reclaim territory lost after the collapse of the Soviet Union and that he further plans to seize the Baltic states like some reincarnation of Adolf Hitler.

The “group think” is so absurd that even former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger saw through it. Kissinger said in an interview with the German newsmagazine Der Spiegel that the West was exaggerating the significance of the Crimean annexation given the peninsula’s long historic ties to Russia.

“The annexation of Crimea was not a move toward global conquest,” the 91-year-old Kissinger said. “It was not Hitler moving into Czechoslovakia. Putin spent tens of billions of dollars on the Winter Olympics in Sochi. The theme of the Olympics was that Russia is a progressive state tied to the West through its culture and, therefore, it presumably wants to be part of it. So it doesn’t make any sense that a week after the close of the Olympics, Putin would take Crimea and start a war over Ukraine.”

Instead, Kissinger argued that the West with its strategy of pulling Ukraine into the orbit of the European Union was responsible for the crisis by failing to understand Russian sensitivity over Ukraine and making the grave mistake of quickly pushing the confrontation beyond dialogue. But Kissinger also faulted Putin for his reaction to the crisis. “This does not mean the Russian response was appropriate,” Kissinger said.

But the neocon editors of the New York Times continue to pin everything on Putin, declaring in a Thursday editorial: “The United States and the European Union have made clear, and correctly so, that they hold President Vladimir Putin of Russia largely responsible for this state of affairs [in Ukraine].

“There is no question that by annexing Crimea and arming separatists in eastern Ukraine, Mr. Putin has done great damage to East-West relations, and to his country, which finds itself isolated and in economic trouble. The decision on Monday by the European Union to add more separatist leaders to the list of Mr. Putin’s allies barred from Europe may be largely symbolic, but along with the cold reception [toward Putin at the G-20 meeting] in Brisbane, it does let the Russian leader know that the West is not about to let him off the hook.”

But it is really the whole world that is on the hook of neocon ideology with the major U.S. news media now incapable of wriggling off and presenting anything approaching an objective analysis of what is happening in either the Middle East or Eastern Europe.

Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his new book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com). For a limited time, you also can order Robert Parry’s trilogy on the Bush Family and its connections to various right-wing operatives for only $34. The trilogy includes America’s Stolen Narrative. For details on this offer, click here.

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19 comments for “Delusional US ‘Group Think’ on Syria, Ukraine

  1. Vierotchka
    November 20, 2014 at 7:31 pm

    “If the shoe were on another foot — say, some country seeking to remove a U.S. ally for violating international law or human rights or someone trying to hold former President George W. Bush accountable for his war crimes — an entirely different fashion rack of principles would suddenly be in vogue.”

    Well, there was the case of George W. Bush, Dick Cheney Convicted Of War Crimes in Malaysia in 2012.

    Two years later, two Malaysian planes downed.

  2. Abe
    November 20, 2014 at 7:37 pm

    “It is difficult to get a man to understand something,
    when his salary depends upon his not understanding it!”
    – Upton Sinclair

  3. Joe Tedesky
    November 21, 2014 at 1:50 am

    Here is another article which demonstrates to me why I frequent this site. I always take Mr Parry seriously, especially when he speaks of journalism and politics. Without a doubt Robert Parry has earned his wings as a journalist. I take in to consideration his location, along with his experienced contacts he has made to further his credibility. The reason I bring this up is because this countries last salvation may only be found by having an honest press.

    We could make a difference by encouraging others (family/friends) to work harder to gain current event news. This site of course, but anything obtainable through the Internet would be better than Cable, or Main Stream Media outlets. Yes, this especially would be better than reading the Sunday New York Times…do the crosswords, but don’t just get your news there.

    If you are a regular here you know what I am talking about. I urge all of you regulars, and first time news junkies to tell people (nicely) to stretch out there news gathering. I can’t see no other way to correct the countries wrongs other than our people becoming better informed…So!

    • Abe
      November 21, 2014 at 3:00 am

      I agree, Joe. I trust Consortium News as an indispensable primary source for independent journalism. I forward Mr. Parry’s articles most frequently. Although occasionally I strongly disagree with certain contributors, I have enormous respect for both the range of perspectives and the thoughtfulness of reader responses.

      • Joe Tedesky
        November 21, 2014 at 11:09 am

        I know Abe, but on the whole the average contributing writer to this site is still way better than the MSM hacks. I can also see that you probably don’t need to take my advice. You seem that you care deeply about the world we live in. In fact you should be writing articles, and not so many comments. (I read and enjoy your comments, so don’t read into my statement). There is much to do, if some of us may turn some more of us into decently informed citizens, then it starts by having a free and honest press. Go, Thomas Paine, Go Robert Parry…Go Abe!

      • Joe Tedesky
        November 21, 2014 at 11:15 am

        By the way, I hope F.G. Sanford is alright. I am starting to miss reading his/her comments. F.G. is one of the reasons I read here.

      • Abe
        November 21, 2014 at 7:13 pm

        Apparently F.G. had encountered technical difficulties, but he’s back and bold as ever.

        The contributions of you, F.G., Zachary and so many others here are most inspiring.

      • Joe Tedesky
        November 22, 2014 at 12:10 am

        Thanks Abe!

  4. Gregory Kruse
    November 21, 2014 at 8:43 am

    It’s called the “New World Order”. Somebody has to come up with the goods. Nuland and her ilk are trying to fill the order, but their creations don’t cover everything, at least not yet.

  5. epiphany
    November 21, 2014 at 10:30 am

    Leading German Journalist Admits CIA ‘Bribed’ Him and Other Leaders of the Western ‘Press’
    http://www.washingtonsblog.com/2014/10/leading-german-journalist-admits-cia-bribed-leaders-western-press.html

  6. Joe
    November 21, 2014 at 1:45 pm

    I have to say Mr. Parry that there is no country on earth that scares me more than the United States, by the way I am Canadian. For me, I find the aggressive actions of the US in the Middle East (where I believe the US is the arsonist and the fireman) and pulling off a coup in a country bordering Russia to be hubris. I sometimes think that the United States has become the very thing that its’ forefathers fought against – an empire. It blows my mind to think that American patriots fought for their own freedom to shape their own country against the British Empire and yet now the US pulls off regime change even against democracies. In essence, the US is removing the freedom of the people to decide their own destinies by interfering. Seeing these endless wars and the sheer recklessness by the US government (militarily, financially etc), I welcome China’s rise in hopes that it can bring the world back into some sort of balance.

    • Rough McHewn
      November 23, 2014 at 11:05 pm

      How very true Joe, but I honestly believe that the situation would be much worse if our Prime Minister had direct control of the US military might. Right now he is nothing but heap-big-noise, albeit cheering for the criminally insane – “armed and dangerous”.

      It gets worse: the average Canadian is incognisant to the dangers this man, Stephen Harper, poses to what is left of our democracy as we inch toward an “elected” dictatorship whereby revolution would be the only means of reversal.

      This situation is dealt with in length by Michael Harris in “Party of One”. Highly recommended reading for fellow Canadians.

      • Oldgodnewtricks
        November 25, 2014 at 6:55 am

        I could not agree more about Harper and his bloviating. The man has no principles what so ever but rather is a political opportunist who will exploit any situation that he calculates will increase his power or bank account. His Reform, Alliance Conservative rump pulled a coup in Canada-right down to sabatoging Dion’s election eve speech hosted by Duffy no less-I hope he comes clean on that bit of political espionage-the fraudulent robocalls stretched across Canada and our security services have all been bribed with our tax dollars. Let’s hope the Saudi oil move collapses the tar-sands it is only 4% of Canadian economy we could survive the crash and finally look to alternatives but Takfiris like Harper would loose his base. Well worth the temporary inconvenience and again we could get down to the business of bringing Canadian infrastructure into the 21st century in a fashion that the majority of Canadian’s desire-renewable and green.

    • Carroll Price
      November 26, 2014 at 8:32 pm

      Good point Joe, but please try to keep in mind that it’s really not the “United States” (meaning the well-meaning, dumbed-down American population) that’s responsible for the criminal acts being committed in their name by Zionist neocons, 99.9 percent of whom are Jewish left-wing radicals who despise everything that pre-coup America once stood for.

  7. delia ruhe
    November 24, 2014 at 6:03 am

    I do not see the logic of pushing Putin into the arms of Beijing — or forcing those EU countries that depend on Russian gas to support Washington’s sanctions against Russia. The Russia-China gas deal will be paid in Chinese yuan, driving yet another nail into the coffin of the petrodollar.

    Smooth move, America.

    But I suppose — like so many other irrational behaviours of those living on that space platform called Washington — these are the kinds of unintelligible decisions that characterize states in the process of decline.

  8. RockyRacoon
    November 25, 2014 at 7:03 am

    And the umbrella revolution in Hong Kong really was the icing on the cake for China-I am sure they can see the same type of revolutions and coups on /within their own borders-take the Dali Lama for example. USA USA stupid stupid stupid. So sophomoric-juvenile in fact. This is what happens when you outsource your security to kids who grew up playing video games.

  9. RockyRacoon
    November 25, 2014 at 7:09 am

    The American Way, ‘life is a carnival two bits a shot” says it all doesn’t it and hasn’t it always been that way? A society based on buyer beware should be understood as such. When has it been otherwise?

  10. Boris M. Garsky
    November 26, 2014 at 1:31 pm

    When Yunuckovich escaped to Russia, it should have signaled a red flag to the west, but because of its greed, the west declared a premature victory as it did in Iraq and Libya. The so called maiden protesters were paid agents, malcontents, drug addicts, sexual perverts, delusional, of the west and the people of the world are becoming increasingly aware. China had no difficulty in routing the protests in HK because it could anticipate and effect a quick solution. Merkel betrayed her weakness, taking the wrong side in this conflict. Now Germany is stuck, holding the bill for a nation that does not exist. The eurozone is unraveling; austerity, a scheme to deprive the people of their hard earned money is being met with protests and rioting. America is 17 trillion dollars in debt with no GNP to offset it. Europe does not have the money to pay off the Ukraine’s gas debt. Soon, Europe will have no choice, but to gravitate eastward; businesses and the people will demand it. Our congress is paralyzed by greed and stupidity. 2016 will only lead us to the end.

  11. Carroll Price
    November 26, 2014 at 9:00 pm

    “Yet, it is now Official Washington’s consensus that Putin instigated the Ukraine crisis out of a desire to reclaim territory lost after the collapse of the Soviet Union – and that he further plans to seize the Baltic states like some reincarnation of Adolf Hitler.”

    Time and circumstances will show that the only blunder Putin made with the Ukraine situation was failing to follow up on his annexation of Crimea by sending in Russian military forces to destroy the Kiev military and arrest any and all US-financed coup leaders.

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