Caitlin Johnstone: ‘Much Needed Clarity’ on Ukraine

Noam Chomsky, John Pilger and Chris Hedges made some comments recently that bring much needed clarity to the contentious subject.  

From left: John Pilger, Noam Chomsky and Chris Hedges.

By Caitlin Johnstone

Listen to a reading of this article.

John Pilger, Noam Chomsky and Chris Hedges have lent their expertise to the subject of the war in Ukraine with some recent comments that help bring some much-needed clarity to an often confusing and always contentious issue.

Here they are:

“I’ve spent my career working in the mainstream, and I’ve covered probably seven, eight, nine shooting wars; I’ve never seen coverage so utterly consumed by a tsunami of jingoism, and of manipulative jingoism as this one.” —John Pilger

This comment comes from a recent interview with the legendary Australian journalist by The South China Morning Post, and it says so much about the information ecosystem in which we now find ourselves floundering.

From the earliest days of the Russian invasion, it was clear that the Western world was being smashed with a deluge of propaganda unlike anything we’ve ever seen before. In the first full month of the conflict, American network TV stations gave more coverage to the war in Ukraine than any other war that the U.S. has been directly involved in, including Iraq and Vietnam.

Literal Iraq war architects were some of the first pundits sought out for analysis of the conflict by the mainstream press, and calls for insane escalations against Russia succeeded in pushing the Overton window of acceptable debate in the direction of warmongering extremism and away from support for diplomatic solutions.

This was all easily piped into mainstream consciousness because the way had been lubricated by years of anti-Russia hysteria resulting from the mass-scale psychological operation known as Russiagate.

America’s most dangerous confrontation in generations just so happens to have been preceded by years of media-generated panic about that very same country, despite the Ukraine invasion having ostensibly nothing whatsoever to do with the conspiracy theory that the Kremlin had infiltrated the highest levels of the U.S. government. Heck of a coincidence.

Noam Chomsky

“It’s quite interesting that in American discourse, it is almost obligatory to refer to the invasion as the ‘unprovoked invasion of Ukraine’. Look it up on Google, you will find hundreds of thousands of hits. Of course, it was provoked. Otherwise they wouldn’t refer to it all the time as an unprovoked invasion.” — Noam Chomsky

This quote, from an interview last month with Ramzy Baroud, is self-evidently true and should be pointed out more often.

People don’t go adding the same gratuitous adjectives and modifiers to something over and over again unless they’re trying to manipulate how it’s perceived. If your neighbor always referred to his wife as “my wife who I definitely never beat,” you’d immediately become suspicious because that’s not how normal people talk about normal things. We don’t say “round Earth” or “the Holocaust that totally happened,” we just say the words, because their basic nature is not seriously in dispute and we’ve got nothing invested in manipulating or obfuscating people’s understanding of them.

The need of the political/media class to continually bleat this phrase “unprovoked invasion” over and over again is itself a confession that they know they’re not telling the whole truth. It’s the imperial propaganda version of this classic tweet:

Chomsky outlines many of the provocations the U.S./NATO power structure engaged in prior to the conflict, which many Western analysts spent years warning was coming as a result of the provocative actions that were already being taken by the empire.

The invasion could easily have been prevented with a little diplomacy and some low-cost, high-reward concessions such as honoring the Minsk agreements and providing assurances of neutrality for Ukraine, but they chose provocation and escalation instead. Add to that the exponentially increased shelling of the Donbass by Kiev immediately prior to the invasion and you can understand why empire spinmeisters are working so hard to push the “unprovoked” line.

None of this is to say that Russia is blameless in this war; if I provoke someone into punching somebody, they are still morally responsible for having thrown the punch, but I am also responsible for having provoked it. Russia is responsible for its actions and the U.S./NATO/Ukraine power structure is responsible for its actions. Putin is responsible for invading, the Western empire is responsible for provoking that invasion. Not complicated.

In the same interview, Chomsky says that “censorship in the United States has reached such a level beyond anything in my lifetime” regarding this war. That assessment plus Pilger’s testimony about war propaganda unlike anything he’s ever seen shows that imperial narrative management is at an all-time high, which wouldn’t be happening unless the empire had some major agendas it wanted to roll out in the coming years.

Chris Hedges 

“At no time, including the Cuban missile crisis, have we stood closer to the precipice of nuclear war.” — Chris Hedges

Echoing the urgent warnings that Stephen Cohen was making at the end of his life, a new article by Hedges outlines the profoundly dangerous games the empire is playing with a nuclear superpower in its continually escalating proxy war against Moscow.

The observations by Pilger and Chomsky about how much effort is going in to manipulating people’s understanding of this war make sense when you realize that the agendas the empire is trying to roll out against Russia now and then China later down the road stand not only to throw the world into poverty and starvation, but to wipe us off the face of this planet.

It doesn’t have to be this way. There’s no good reason the world’s most powerful government needs to risk the life of everyone on earth in a bid to secure planetary domination. It is possible for all nations and peoples to simply get along and collaborate toward the common good together. All that would need to happen is for these agendas of total hegemony to be abandoned.

Unfortunately the managers of empire don’t seem to have any plans to abandon their goal of global conquest anytime soon, so we the ordinary people of this world may end up having to force the issue with them at some point in the interests of our very survival.

This is a hell of a time to be alive, but man they’ve been keeping it interesting.

Caitlin Johnstone’s work is entirely reader-supported, so if you enjoyed this piece please consider sharing it around, following her on FacebookTwitterSoundcloud or YouTube, or throwing some money into her tip jar on Ko-fiPatreon or Paypal. If you want to read more you can buy her books. The best way to make sure you see the stuff she publishes is to subscribe to the mailing list at her website or on Substack, which will get you an email notification for everything she publishes.  For more info on who she is, where she stands and what she’s trying to do with her platform, click here. All works are co-authored with her American husband Tim Foley.

This article is from and re-published with permission.

The views expressed are solely those of the author and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.

32 comments for “Caitlin Johnstone: ‘Much Needed Clarity’ on Ukraine

  1. Ksenia
    July 16, 2022 at 10:37

    Vynnitsia – Russia killed 24 innocent civilians, including four children, with a rocket attack on a city very far west of the Donbas. 180 wounded, 10 missing, multiple houses, stores, schools destroyed.

  2. Kev
    July 16, 2022 at 07:56

    and now, according to the western media, China is “Increasingly belligerent” as US warships pass thru the South China Sea.

  3. lachlan
    July 16, 2022 at 01:33

    President Kennedy had the intellectual ability and worldly experience to stare down the warhawks such as Curtis LeMay who were salivating for WWIII. Now the US has a figurehead in the early stages of dementia who has no idea of what is happening. Trump’s detractors should remember that when John Bolton directed a naval taskforce from the Indian Ocean to Iran that Trump countermanded the order and for his efforts h made an enemy of Bolton and other warhawks. No wonder Trump had to go.

  4. DHFabian
    July 15, 2022 at 23:33

    If you looked into the significant expansion of NATO bases in Eastern Europe, along Ukraine’s western border and along segments of Russia’s border, you would see why referring to Russia’s pushback as an “invasion” continues to be so misleading.

  5. David A.
    July 15, 2022 at 22:15

    Caitlin, your punching metaphor used to describe Russia’s military operation in Ukraine is not apt. Ukraine and NATOstan were not provoking a punch–they were punching! What do you think increased shelling is? What do you think assembling a massive army to invade the Donbas is? You must be aware of the massive effort that Russia made to negotiate before the SMO.

  6. C. Kent
    July 15, 2022 at 22:02

    I had an unemployed month Feb 2014, & enjoying some Youtube I found myself up at night following days of live RT coverage of a demonstration in central Kiev. It was shocking, super-militarized demonstrators were passing out Molotov cocktails and setting firemen and defensively positioned cops on fire. It was surreal. Of course the protesters were Azov, Svoboda, and Right Sector etc. Brownshirts, in the process of the coup that started this disaster. You had to see it to believe it, and I’ve never had a problem grasping just how bad are Azov Battalion and it’s associated groups. It was a lucky bit of unemployment for me, informationally.

    I’ve seen the earliest recordings of Ukrainian helicopters descending on the shiny & new Donetsk Airport (a cheesy civilian cellphone vid, incredulous owner asking his wife, “what are they doing”), firing off the first rockets that eventually killed something over 10K civilians. This was back before I canceled my NYT subscription (3 years ago – bye-bye after 45 years) as such I naively spent some valuable hours furiously researching then writing what I thought were “clarifying” comments to the paper’s curious articles about the situation in Ukraine. I wrote about an area called, “Donbas,” a group called “Azov,” a democratically elected President named “Yanukovytch” (I added the adjective phrase “democratically elected” to his Wikipedia page) and a problem with Neonazis.

    Eventually the NYT started pulling my comments a day or so after they first posted them, the link returning only; “The comment you are looking for is currently unavailable.” Talk about an angry ready. Best I could do was old school cancel ie not pay for that rag anymore. I don’t miss it, I do wonder how much junk they crammed into my head over 4+ decades.

    “Be very, very careful what you put into that head, because you will never, ever get it out.” – Thomas Cardinal Wolsey

  7. LeoSun
    July 15, 2022 at 19:03

    3. “Things will keep getting worse until we find a way to cut through the propaganda brain fog and rise like lions.” (Caitlin Johnstone)

    ..i.e., “A Plan to Save the Planet,”developed by Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research & The Network of Research Institutes. Best practice, Email in “A Plan to Save the Planet,” to Senators, Governors, Mayors, City Councils, etc…

  8. LeoSun
    July 15, 2022 at 18:59

    Awh, A Hat-Trick. A Triology. Third Times A Charm.

    1. “Force the Issue.” H O L L E R. Hearken us back to the start, “We stand up in the Palace. Like it’s the last of the great pioneer town bars. And, we shout out these songs against the clang of electric guitars. Well, you can see a million miles tonight. But you can’t get very far.”

    “… I think that the problem is – you know, and Karl Popper writes this in The Open Society and Its Enemies. He said the question is not how do you get good people to rule. Popper says that’s the wrong question. Most people, Popper writes, attracted to power are at best mediocre, which is Obama, or venal, which is Bush.?

    ?The question is: HOW DO YOU MAKE the power elite frightened of you? WHO WAS the last liberal president we had? It was Richard Nixon–not because he was a liberal, but because he was frightened of movements. AND, THERE’S A SCENE–I think it’s in KISSINGER’S memoirs, 1971, H U G E AntiWar demonstration surrounding the White House, and NIXON has put empty buses, city buses end-to-end as a kind of barricade, and he’s standing at the window wringing his hands, going, “HENRY! THEY’RE GOING TO BREAK THROUGH the barricades; AND, GET US.”

    And that’s just where you want power, people in power to be.” (Chris Hedges)

    • LeoSun
      July 15, 2022 at 19:01

      2. “People don’t go adding the same gratuitous adjectives and modifiers to something over and over again” (UNLESS) “unless they’re trying to manipulate how it’s perceived”

      “Oh, what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive!” (Sir Walter Scott, 1808)

      Exhibit A-Z: Nancy’s January 6 $elect Committee. Replete w/Crisis Actors’. Testimonials. Hearsay. Zero Cross-Examinations; BUT, it Answers, “Who does this? Who talks like this?”

      “There was ketchup dripping down the wall and there’s a shattered porcelain plate on the floor,” Hutchinson testified. “The valet had articulated that the president was extremely angry at the attorney general’s AP interview and had thrown his lunch against the wall, which was causing them to have to clean up. So I grabbed a towel and started wiping the ketchup off the wall to help the valet out.”

      “She added that Trump’s eruption in the dining room was not unique — that there were several times when she worked in the West Wing when Trump threw and broke his place settings.”

      For comprehension’s sake, the “adjectives and modifiers” have been rearranged, i.e., “Trump’s ERUPTION’ / “broke his place settings:”

      Back in The WH, “the Doorman,” asks Trump, “Who’s hungry? How about lunch? A little “comfort” food? No doubt working the crowd, works up an appetite.” Consequently, Orange Man, Bad, loses it!!! And, drives his lunch against the wall. He’s pissed about the AG’s AP interview. Dripping is NOT blood. It’s Heinz ketchup. Fore oh Nine it! His being pissy has nothing to do w/NOT joining his MAGAteers, on Capitol Hill. Get Real!!! DJ Trump didn’t mean it “literally” when he said he’d march w/‘em. He’s pissed about the AG’s AP interview NOT about the coup d’état that isn’t panning out as planned!

  9. Moi
    July 15, 2022 at 16:47

    NATO nations wage infowar on their own people in order to protect democracies that, apparently, only exist because of never-ending lies.

    Is a democracy worth having if it depends on propaganda for its existence?

  10. Joseph Tillotson
    July 15, 2022 at 11:45

    I maintain the belief that there are sinister forces (e.g. think tanks, powerful donors, lobbies, et Al) that have managed to steer our country’s foreign policy to that of being the All Powerful nation that has the right to dictate its will and any opposition will be met with violence of some kind. The Iraq war fever was stirred by the Neocons whose hidden agenda was to destroy Israel’s enemies/rivals to achieve Israeli hegemony in the M.E. Their underlying belief that out of death and destruction, they will be the beneficiaries who will reshape the remains into their own vision. I believe these disruptive forces are alive and well influencing our country’s direction.

  11. Peter Loeb
    July 15, 2022 at 09:04

    Chomsky’s most recent comments appear in “Truthout” (July 13) in a series entitled “RUSSIA’S
    WAR ON THE UKRAINE….” I do not accept such a view of the conflict especially as it is
    “provoked” by the West.

  12. ray Peterson
    July 15, 2022 at 06:18

    Observations by these three greats of authentic journalism
    show clearly why America’s CIA has to destroy Julian
    Assange and Wikileaks while they’re at it.
    Police state operations and mainstream corporate
    media propaganda presentations can’t survive alongside truth.
    While all the reporters without conscience go on making
    money off the lies.

  13. Henry Smith
    July 15, 2022 at 04:10

    “It is possible for all nations and peoples to simply get along and collaborate toward the common good together. All that would need to happen is for these agendas of total hegemony to be abandoned.”
    Spot on !
    The Chinese leadership recently reported that they are not looking to compete with other countries but rather to collaborate with them. Compare this with Western ambitions.
    If the planet is ever to move forward it is essential, IMO, that a model of social collaboration is adopted so that everyone can benefit. And, it appears that some governments, like Bolivia, already have adopted this model.
    Obviously, anything that resembles socialism is terrifying for the western elites.

    July 14, 2022 at 21:33

    of course no mention of the bio weapons labs producing viruses meant to kill every Russian. Puitn and Russia are saving the world from the maniac psychopaths cia and wef cabal.

  15. Billy Field
    July 14, 2022 at 17:29

    Seems to me;- Chomsky again “Runs with the foxes & hunts with the Hounds” in aiming to blame both sides is ridiculous…. Clearly it was the US/Empire that changed the “Status Quo” in Ukraine (which unacceptably threatened Russia) both in 2014 & also long before….yet again, these “interventions” are disastrous for the local victims & also disastrous for the 99.9% in West..The West always loses… but the handful of “War profiteers” win hugely…As we have seen with “regulatory capture” by Big Pharma/covid, this is the same thing, …a “Private Public Partnership” -regulatory capture- by War profiteers..It’s a swindle!

    • ray Peterson
      July 15, 2022 at 10:13

      Good Billy, it is a weakness in his otherwise so helpful insights
      (media consensus), that needs to be exposed

    • Will
      July 15, 2022 at 11:34

      Eh…USA/NATO set a trap that was pretty obvious and the policy behind it is there for anyone to see at the always helpful Rand Corporation web site and Putin still fell for it. I think we can safely blame him for that. He’s just not very smart

      • DHFabian
        July 15, 2022 at 23:39

        No, Putin didn’t fall for anything, much less for a trap. Russia is responded to the dramatic NATO expansion that is a direct threat to Russia. Once again, we see American hubris as they appear to regard Russia as a little third world country of the sort they usually invade, wildly under-estimating both Russia and China’s inevitable response.

      • Curious
        July 16, 2022 at 02:49

        Please do yourself a favor and look at Putin in Feb 10th, at the 2007 Munich Security Conference and then correct your comment afterwards, so you don’t sound so silly.

      • Nika
        July 17, 2022 at 10:42

        Putin is a very far-sighted and experienced politician. It’s not for you to talk about him. For eight years he tried to achieve peace by peaceful means, but he realized that America, with its strange concept of democracy, had gone deep into Ukraine and was trampling about with its dirty boots, preparing a war with Russia. Therefore, he took a wise step – “if a fight is inevitable, you must strike first”

  16. Humwawa
    July 14, 2022 at 16:55

    “Russia is responsible for its actions and the U.S./NATO/Ukraine power structure is responsible for its actions.”

    This is neither here nor there. The sole responsibility lies with the US/Nato/EU – in that order. That needs to be clearly affirmed.

    At the time of the Bucharest Nato summit of 2008, the majority of Ukrainians did not even want to join Nato. That’s why the US sponsored a fascist coup in 2014. Unless Russia were to be prepared to dissolve its federation and submit to the US’s dictate, Russia could not not respond to Nato expansion.

    The US’s forward stationing of US missiles in Eastern Europe together with the US’s unilateral cancellation of the ABM and INF treaties poses a substantial threat to Russia’s security and to world peace. Without a buffer between the nuclear powers, the reduction of the pre-alert time to less than 5 minutes substantially increases the chances of an accidental nuclear war.

    Besides, Russia could not have stood by idly as Nato-trained Ukrainian troops massacre the Russian speakers of the Donbass. From 8 years of wars it has become abandonly clear that the West deliberately ignores the victims of the other side.

    There is only one culprit: US imperialism. To defend one’s own country against US imperialism is not a crime but a duty.

  17. Garrett Connelly
    July 14, 2022 at 16:54

    Great article. Yes, we ordinary people need to make our own way. After reading about Hugo Chávez i decided to put my long dormant corporate experience to work and sketch the organization chart of the government structure he invented. To my surprise it is a circle and not a hierarchical pyramid. It is a seven faceted flower-like structure. I added one facet I wish Hugo was alive to discuss. Take a look, click your preferred language at hxxps://

  18. July 14, 2022 at 16:19

    Thanks Caitlin for all of this and especially for mentioning that the US government is determined to kill all planet life in its quest to be the one dominent empire on Earth, rather than considering what would be good for other people in other places on this planet. I hope you’ll find a way to mention that again – and again. Our MSM , particularly the NYT and CNN and MSNBC etc., has decided to report on a fantasy war, in order to promote the lies our government wants us to learn. So all our lives are at risk here due to climate change which we are ignoring as we read instead the lies about the fantasy war and get emotionally involved in fantasy crimes like the rape of children (that game was played to perfection in the first war against Iraq – remember? The dead babies torn from their hospital beds in Kuwait by evil Iraqis turned out to be a total lie told by one of the royal Kuwaiti cousins). We are being fed one lie after another to keep us from actually rising up about the truth that faces us daily – the increasing danger of co2 in our atmosphere that ultimately will kill all life on the planet while our president does nothing to work the problem and adds more drilling for oil ( i.e. co2) by the thousands.

  19. July 14, 2022 at 15:39

    We are guilty as charged. So now what? A comment I left for Chris Hedges yesterday:

    How about collecting you, Robert Reich, Thom Hartman, Robert Scheer, Michael Moore, Greg Palast, Noam Chomsky, Jeremy Scahill, John Perkins and whoever else would be of that ilk to join you to turn you gadflies into a force? We need a voice, and if you all deliberated on what you would do if you ran the country everybody would hear you. You could collect us into the Human Survival Party – not a political party but a people’s voice that would be huge.

    An immediate thing I’d submit, in the SUGGESTION BOX you’d create, is to deal with how separated into camps we are. Any trial or fraud conviction won’t put off Trump’s followers, where we will stay divided even if we get our pounds of flesh. Instead, how about an intervention? Get Trump to show up on some fabrication and get the Republicans who’ve been testifying against him to read him chapter and verse. For what the country needs, offer him total immunity from all prosecutions to admit he knew he lost the election early on – omg, a Trumpian mea culpa would be something. But he’d be speaking for the good of the country, to unite us. He might love being that kinky hero.

    • robert e williamson jr
      July 15, 2022 at 16:09

      Ms. Taylor I’m not sure of what it is you are cooking up here but it has a very peculiar smell to it. All by way of your second paragraph. Far too much of a reach considering the content of your first.

      Trump is little more than a living flesh and blood human example of the very debilitating symptoms of democracy gone wrong. I doubt seriously the man could communicate the truth and I truly believe he doesn’t know what it is.

      He is doing the very same thing so many before him have done he simply is not mentally up to the task of selling his lies as others before him.

      If one is to learn their lesson, when dealing with a known proven liar one does not ever believe anything they say again that is not substantiated by supporting facts. After his most recent behavior of the last few years you give him credit for, ” speaking for the good of the country to unite us”. Seriously? For the sake of DOG Suze where you been? He already loves being the “KINKY” hero.

      Wow! Friends I need a break after this. I sure as hell never saw this one coming.

      Thanks CN

    • ray Peterson
      July 15, 2022 at 18:24

      Dear Suzanne, you have made a “call of conscience” (MLK jr.),
      for all the authentic journalists to form a group to publicly protest
      the abusive CIA instigated torture of Assange. Thanks for your attention.
      And what Julian is destined for is contained in an Antiwar
      piece by Moustafa Bayoumi’s “Journey to Guantanamo,” unless
      media brings to light the American power elite’s plan to
      forget: from JFK’s assassination to 9/11.

  20. July 14, 2022 at 15:22

    No comments? All of the news provided by our media is slanted by what they cover and what they do not cover. It is not beyond imagining that the total defeat of the Ukrainians, which is more likely than not, will be met by astonishment by the American people who will cry out but you told me the Ukrainians were winning. And if that happens, the pundits who predicted victory will continue to do the same in the next war and the media will as jingoistic as before. Maybe it is unfair to judge the current behavior as worse than before, only that we have been involved in so many wars that the New York times et al and the government have just gotten better at gaslighting.

  21. jaycee
    July 14, 2022 at 15:07

    Does anyone understand why the City of New York decided to create and disseminate a PSA describing steps to take in event of a nuclear strike? The mayor claimed of the release of this video: “My understanding is that it was really taking necessary steps after what happened in Ukraine to give preparedness.”

    Necessary steps…

  22. Blanca Rose
    July 14, 2022 at 14:36

    I reject the claim that there is anything ‘contentious’ about this issue.

    Just because Liars (like CNN) say something, that does not make anything ‘contentious’ about an issue. This especially true for an older person like me who still holds the World War II belief that ‘the only good Nazi is one who’s on his way to visit his lord Satan.’ I don’t have to see too many pictures of Adolf Hitler’s face tattooed on people and various SS insignia to understand exactly what is going on. I don’t have to see that they fire their Biden Howitzers at civilians and that people are dying every day from Biden’s Howitzers to know what’s going on. When I see this level of extreme Hatred across ‘the West’, I know exactly what is going on. I came in to this theater of the absurd back when this had just been the big movie in the world, so I look at today and I know exactly what is going on.

    Add to that the firm belief that the corporate media is a bunch of liars, and have been for at least 3 decades, and that they should not even be listened to nor allowed into one’s home, and that adds up to be seeing nothing ‘contentious’ about this issue.

    I suppose I am rather rare in this surrealistic modern world, but I know which side I’m on and I know what Values I hold.

  23. Reader
    July 14, 2022 at 14:18

    For anyone who has been paying attention to the global geopolitical landscape, the statement the we are “closer to the precipice of nuclear war” or at least some form of global hot war is already passe.
    Your point that the Ukraine conflict could easily have been avoided is spot on, and it highlights why were not just at risk of global war, but it’s a near certainty. Yes, you can argue that it is avoidable, but it’s as avoidable as the Ukraine conflict, and the parties that would not make very slight concessions to avoid that conflict, are not going to make large concessions to avoid the coming global conflict.

    In a nutshell it’s theoretically very possible, but practically very improbable. So in a practical sense, it’s already in the cards. Plans are being made. Global war is coming. “Cooler heads” are not in charge, and no one with the power to take the off ramps on this road shows any signs of wanting to take them.

  24. Dfnslblty
    July 14, 2022 at 12:37

    Bravo, Caitlin!
    Even your pulling together of these three giants is a beginning to storming the palaces.
    And that is not – repeat not – like 06Jan, to illegally invalidate reality.
    Rather it is a constitutional/universal right to throw off oppression by plutocrats.

    Keep writing.

Comments are closed.