Newsweek’s William Arkin is a prisoner of his sources, a problem that pervades Western reporting on the conflict in Ukraine.
By Scott Ritter
Special to Consortium News
Six months into Russia’s “Special Military Operation,” fact-challenged reporting that constitutes Western media’s approach to covering the conflict in Ukraine has become apparent to any discerning audience. Less understood is why anyone would sacrifice their integrity to participate in such a travesty. The story of William Arkin is a case in point.
On March 30 (a little more than a month into the war), Arkin penned an article which began with the following sentence: “Russia’s armed forces are reaching a state of exhaustion, stalemated on the battlefield and unable to make additional gains, while Ukraine is slowly pushing them back, continuing to inflict destruction on the invaders.”
Arkin went on to quote a “high-level officer of the Defense Intelligence Agency,” who spoke on condition of anonymity, who declared that “The war in Ukraine is over.”
A little less than three months later, on June 14, Arkin wrote a piece for Newsweek with the headline: “Russia Is Losing the Ukraine War. Don’t Be Fooled by What Happened in Severodonetsk.”
Apparently neither Arkin nor his editorial bosses at Newsweek felt any need to explain how Russia could be losing the war twice.
Anyone who has been following what I’ve been writing and saying since the beginning of Russia’s “Special Military Operation” in Ukraine knows I hold the exact opposite view. Russia, I maintain, is winning the Ukraine conflict, in decisive fashion.
But I don’t write for Newsweek.
William Arkin does.
Arkin proclaims that Russia is losing though it had, at the time the article was published, just taken the strategic city of Severdonetsk, killing and capturing thousands of Ukrainian forces, and rendering thousands more combat ineffective since they had to abandon their equipment to flee for their lives. (Russia has since captured all of the territory encompassing the Lugansk People’s Republic, including the city of Lysychansk, inflicting thousands of additional casualties on the Ukrainian military.)
“The Russian army’s so-called victory,” Arkin proclaimed at the time, “is the latest installment in its humiliating military display and comes with a crushing human cost.”
The humiliating display instead is Arkin’s lack of acumen in conducting an independent assessment of the military situation on the ground in Ukraine.
This was again reinforced last week when Arkin penned another article in which he helps disseminate the outlandish claims of his Pentagon sources.
“[F]rom late February through August, with only a moderate infusion of weapons from the West, some supportive declarations from Western leaders and a smattering of ‘We Stand with Ukraine’ signs on U.S. lawns,” Arkin writes, Ukraine has been able to “hold at bay the mighty Russian military,” something apparently none thought it could do.
Ignore the jaw-dropping contention by Arkin that the tens of billions of dollars in military assistance provided by the U.S. and its NATO and European allies constitutes but “a moderate infusion of weapons.” No, don’t ignore it — focus on it. This is the signature style of Arkin and his Pentagon handlers, a sort of Orwellian double-speak where one can rest assured whatever bold statement is made, the truth is the exact opposite.
Arkin quotes “U.S. intelligence officials who have been watching the war,” writing that “Russian troops have had to contend with bad battlefield leaders, inferior weapons and an unworkable supply chain.”
Anyone who has been tracking the events in Ukraine might have thought that this was the situation as it applies to the Ukrainian military. Not so, says Arkin and his source. Moreover, it is not Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky who has been interfering with his Ministry of Defense, but Russian President Vladimir Putin with his. These same Russian troops, Arkin declares, have “also been hobbled by Putin himself,” who has “ignored, overruled and fired his own generals.”
This is baseless fiction, written by a man who seems determined to cement himself in the annals of the Russian-Ukraine conflict as an unabashed Ukraine partisan and vehicle for Pentagon information warriors. Arkin’s narrative of the war to date is so far removed from the factual record it belongs in The Onion.
What Arkin writes cannot even be called propaganda, because for propaganda to be effective it needs to be both believable at the moment of consumption, and able to sustain a narrative over time. Arkin’s work fulfills neither criterion.
Like most erstwhile journalists covering the conflict for western media outlets, Arkin appears to be a prisoner to his sources, which in this case are a combination of anonymous U.S. defense intelligence personnel and pro-Ukrainian propagandists.
I used the term “erstwhile” in describing Western journalists because normal journalistic standards dictate that one seeks to report a story — any story — from a position of dispassionate neutrality, drawing on sources which reflect all sides of the story.
There is nothing wrong about drawing conclusions from such reporting, even assigning weight when it comes to which aspects of the coverage are deemed more credible than others. But before such conclusions can be made, foundational reporting needs to take place. Simply parroting what you’re being told from sources exclusively drawn from one part of the story is stenography.
In the interests of full disclosure, Arkin and I were colleagues for a brief period in late 1998-early 1999, when we were both contracted to NBC News as “on air talent” to talk about the situation in Iraq. Arkin apparently did not hold my analysis in high regard then. I have no idea what he thinks today — Consortium News has reached out for an answer, but as of publication has not received a reply.
Arkin did not respond to an invitation to debate me on Ukraine on a weekly podcast I do with Jeff Norman.
I’ll let our respective track records speak for themselves, especially when it comes to Iraq and the threat posed by weapons of mass destruction. Arkin says he is “proud to say that I also was one of the few to report that there weren’t any WMD in Iraq and remember fondly presenting that conclusion to an incredulous NBC editorial board.”
I’m pretty sure I was saying something similar to an equally incredulous Congress and to the entire mainstream U.S. media (NBC included), as well as the international press corps.
Congratulations, Bill — we once were on the same page.
But no more.
Arkin is no run-of-the mill journalist. He’s a smart guy. He got accepted to New York University, although he dropped out to join the Army, claiming NYU “wasn’t for me.” While stationed in Berlin, he completed his undergraduate studies, getting a bachelor’s degree in government and politics. After leaving the Army he got a master’s degree in National Security Studies from Georgetown University.
For the next 40 years, Arkin worked for numerous employers, specializing in nuclear issues and military affairs, before landing his current gig as Newsweeks‘ senior editor for intelligence.
For The Washington Post in 2010, after a two-year investigation, he wrote a ground-breaking story with Dana Priest about the vast and until then little-understood explosive growth of the national security state post 9/11.
Arkin then showed integrity when he resigned from MSNBC and NBC News in 2019. His reasons for leaving, spelled out here, include how he was “especially disheartened to watch NBC and much of the rest of the news media somehow become a defender of Washington and the system.”
In March this year he wrote a startling story that questioned the dominant Western reporting that Russia was committing repeated war crimes by wantonly slaughtering huge numbers of civilians just for the hell of it.
“As destructive as the Ukraine war is, Russia is causing less damage and killing fewer civilians than it could, U.S. intelligence experts say. Russia’s conduct in the brutal war tells a different story than the widely accepted view that Vladimir Putin is intent on demolishing Ukraine and inflicting maximum civilian damage,” he wrote.
The article corroborated what Russia had been saying all along, which until that point was dismissed in the West as propaganda.
So how does Arkin transition from debunking Ukrainian and Western propaganda about Moscow deliberately killing huge numbers of civilians, to embracing the fanciful notion that Russia is losing the war? (Further underscoring Arkin’s assessment of Russia’s battlefield performance is the uninterrupted string of battlefield successes by Russia in the Donbass since that June article was published, further undermining his argument.)
It’s not a lack of education that has led Arkin down the path so many of his colleagues in mainstream media have stumbled down; there is no doubting the man is not only well educated, but also innately intelligent, something that doesn’t necessarily follow the other.
Arkin can be said to be a victim of his own CV, which is light on relevant military experience for someone selling himself as an expert in military affairs based on his time in the U.S. Army.
Arkin purports to be one of the foremost military analysts of our times, a man whose track record in military affairs dates to his time as a junior enlisted soldier in the U.S. Army where, from 1974 to 1978, he served in occupied West Berlin as an intelligence analyst working for the Deputy Chief of Staff Intelligence (DCSI), U.S. Commander Berlin (USCOB).
On his WordPress page, Arkin writes that in the army he “rose to be senior intelligence analyst for the Berlin military occupation authorities and served under civilian cover as part of a number of clandestine human and technical intelligence collection efforts.”
In Berlin, Arkin adds in his LinkIn bio, “I worked on a number of clandestine projects and was an analyst of Soviet and East German activities in East Germany.”
He was not just any military analyst, mind you, but someone who, according to himself, “was once one of the world’s leading experts on two military forces that don’t even exist anymore.” I worked closely with military officers who were in fact the foremost experts on both the Soviet and East German militaries during the time Arkin served. This Newsweek senior editor has engaged in more than a little self-promotion.
That someone of the rank of specialist or sergeant (I have no idea what rank Arkin achieved, but four years’ time in service is a self-limiting reality when it comes to advancement) being the “senior intelligence analyst” in all of Berlin on matters pertaining to the Soviet military is patently absurd; Berlin was home to numerous specialized intelligence units and organizations, any one of which would have been staffed with personnel far more senior and, as such, experienced, in intelligence analysis on the Soviet and East German target than Arkin. Simply put, Arkin was not, nor has he ever been, one of the world’s leading experts on the Soviet military.
Not even close.
Arkin was never involved in combat arms, nor did he serve in combat. Without that experience he cannot understand the military realities of war — logistics, communications, maneuvering, fire support, etc. Berlin was, from everything I’ve heard, a fascinating place to serve — but it wasn’t combat.
Not even close.
As Arkin has no combat experience, his military analysis is held hostage to his sources within the Defense Intelligence Agency who pass along such cutting-edge insights as the notion that Russia is suffering ten casualties for every Ukrainian soldier lost since the Donbass offensive began in April.
Arkin seemed unaware of documents alleged to have been leaked from the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense, dated April 21, which state that Ukraine had, as of the date, suffered 191,000 combined killed and wounded. According to Arkin’s math, this would mean Russia has suffered nearly 2 million casualties of its own.
Despite the absurdity, Arkin keeps parroting what his Defense Intelligence Agency sources tell him.
He repeats, without hesitation, his intelligence source’s assessment of Ukraine’s “greater morale and motivation, better training and leadership, superior knowledge and use of the terrain, better maintained and more reliable equipment, and even greater accuracy.”
It doesn’t matter that literally every assertion made by Arkin’s intelligence source is demonstrably false. If Arkin knew about artillery (the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine is primarily an extended artillery duel), he would understand the concepts of probability of hit and probability of kill, and how the volume of artillery fired increases both.
He might then understand how absurd it is to think that an artillery duel where one side fires 6,000 rounds and the other 60,000 rounds could produce an outcome where the side firing 10 times fewer rounds achieves a 10-fold advantage in lethality.
Any expert on Soviet/Russian military affairs would have known that artillery was going to be a major factor in any large-scale combat operation involving Russian forces. By way of example, three days before the Russian operation began, I tweeted (when I could still tweet):
“If you haven’t done a schedule of fires for at least three artillery battalions in the field using live rounds while maneuvering, I’m probably not interested in your military opinion about Ukraine.”
Arkin, to the best of my knowledge, has never done a schedule of fires for multiple battalions of artillery. His apparent lack of knowledge of artillery shows when he repeats verbatim the dreck fed him by his intelligence sources.
Arkin’s has to be aware that NBC News reported about the deliberate declassification and release by the U.S. intelligence community of intelligence information that intelligence officials knew was not true. And yet, Arkin still relies on these types of sources to provide the fodder for his headline-grabbing tales. The question of Arkin’s motives in writing such stories now remains.
That someone with Arkin’s background would allow a lifetime of diligent work to be squandered by serving as little more than a shill for U.S. intelligence is one thing. That media outlets like Newsweek keep printing it is another. Together, these twin phenomena represent what I call “The Arkin Effect,” which is nothing less than the total debasement of journalism in the U.S. when it comes to Russia’s war in Ukraine.
Six months into Russia’s “Special Military Operation”, most military analysts admit that Russia enjoys the upper hand on the battlefield, despite the billions of dollars in military aid that has been sent to Ukraine by the U.S. and its European allies.
But not Bill Arkin and his employers at Newsweek. They seem to be content with serving as the Defense Intelligence Agency’s stenographers, putting out stories which have not, and will not, stand the test of time.
Scott Ritter is a former U.S. Marine Corps intelligence officer who served in the former Soviet Union implementing arms control treaties, in the Persian Gulf during Operation Desert Storm and in Iraq overseeing the disarmament of WMD. His most recent book is Disarmament in the Time of Perestroika, published by Clarity Press.
The views expressed are solely those of the author and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.
Would rather read what Ritter has to say about the war itself rather than a long and boring attempt at character assassination of another journo, good, bad or indifferent.
We make our own minds up, we are not stupid.
Worthless waste of time by Ritter to beat this dead horse. Who the hell cares about some liar at Newweek? Really, Newsweek! They’d hire the UFO specialist from the National Enquirer if they were available.
I wholehearted agree with those commenters who suggest that your article would be strengthened
without the very personalized attacks on William Arkin and your presumed superiority of your own
The piece is an excellent summary of a point of view which I agree with.
All of us must rely to some extent on MSM for information. We must always be extremely careful
to understand that it is propaganda. Without any military background at all, I agree with Scott
Ritter’s assessment. (I feel however that Putin has made some errors in judgement in some of his
statements but I applaud many of his views. I don’t, for example, take Peter the Great or Stalin as models.)
Bravo to Mr Ritter who, once again, had the courage to call a spade a spade.
I wonder if Arkin went the way of Ufkotte. Ufkotte wrote a book about being bought by the CIA, which is so subtly done you almost don’t know it’s happening. Once you are bought, articles are published under your name that you did not write. And there’s really nothing you can do about it if you want to continue having a job. I’d love to get hold of a copy of Ufkotte’s book translated into English, but the CIA has banned its publication in the U.S.
“But I don’t write for Newsweek. William Arkin does.”
I don’t read Newsweek. I have not for many years. I don’t need second hand propaganda. I just get each side direct, and consider it on its own terms without guys like this annoying me with blatant lies and distortions.
There is no place for Newsweek. The sooner it disappears, the better. And it is disappearing from the market, as people won’t pay for that.
Ritter writes that: “Arkin was never involved in combat arms, nor did he serve in combat. Without that experience he cannot understand the military realities of war — logistics, communications, maneuvering, fire support, etc. Berlin was, from everything I’ve heard, a fascinating place to serve — but it wasn’t combat.”
From what I have gleaned from his own history, Ritter has also never seen action on a battlefield and that was a conclusion I drew from watching a Zoom interview early in the war, in which, waving his hands back and forth like blades across the desk in front of him, he described with glee the manner in which Russia’s military would wipe out that of Ukraine in a matter of days. Now while I was in the US army between the Korean and Vietnam Wars and never saw combat, I know a number of men who had and I couldn’t imagine anyone who knew what war was actually like from personal experience would so cavalierly dismiss the lives of men in a war zone as Ritter did that day.
That he is STILL unwilling to call what is happening in Ukraine a war and continues to parrot Putin by calling it a “Special Military Operation,” (and from he has said in several other interviews, has led me to conclude that Ritter is as much a propagandist for Russia as apparently Arkin has become for Washington and its puppet, Zelensky.
I am satisfied with my military resume and the experience it provided me when it comes to assessing military affairs. “Seen action on a battlefield” is a curious statement; I was an intelligence officer, not an infantry officer. I do, however, have a combat fitness report that documents my service during war time. My superiors apparently thought I performed well during war.
If you want to hear real glee, listen to me describe the fate of the Republican Guard at the end of Desert Storm. I don’t lament their fate. I do lament the fate of the Ukrainian soldier—often.
I use the term “special military operation” often, but not exclusively, because it best describes the unique realities of this conflict in terms of the goals and methodologies of what Putin and the Russian military are doing in Ukraine.
Arkin has his military resume; I have mine. Arkin has his portfolio of articles on the Special Military Operation; I have mine. I’m comfortable about where I stand on both counts.
Your response to my questioning of your battlefield experience, was less than forthcoming.
That you “have a combat fitness report that documents my service during war time” and that your “superiors apparently thought I performed well during war” leads me to ask what war they were referring to and if it was “Desert Storm” what that experience provides in expertise to make anyone believe what you have to say about a war in which from the beginning, you have refused to identify as such and is nothing like Desert Storm?
Your admitted glee over the fate of Iraq’s Republican Guard does, sadly, confirm what I wrote about your lack of empathy for the poor suckers on every side who are used to fight other people’s wars,
I should note that I am not only NOT a supporter of the Washington-NATO position but back in 2014, on a public radio program that I hosted, I went out of my way to expose the neocon orchestrated coup in the Maidan and justified Russia’s annexation of Crimea (and still do) because it was home to Russia’s only Black Sea port and that it legally, by agreement with the Ukraine government, was allowed to base 25,000 troops there.
At the same time, I argued, that forcing Putin to annex Crimea was one of the goals of the coup since it was necessary to justify the rejuvenation of NATO whose continuation was being questioned in the Western media before Yanukovch became Washington’s target.
But despite all the provocations, there was no chance that there would be an attack on Russia by any combination of the US, NATO or Ukraine. Had Putin, rather than launching a war which has taken tens of thousands of lives, created millions of refugees, left much of Ukraine in rubble, and shaken up the economy of Europe when the world is in the midst of a climate crisis, demanded a special meeting of the Security Council and/or the General Assembly and presented Russia’s case to the world, this bloody war might have been averted.
That it now pits against one another the two countries capable of destroying all life on this planet and that Putin has not ruled out using nuclear weapons should make people think twice about paying heed to anyone whose aim is anything but bringing this ongoing disaster to an end.
Mr. Ritter, can you explain the strange deaths of Russians who oppose Putin’s war oops “special operation?”
Two days ago one of the Russians who spoke out against the war mysteriously fell from the sixth floor of his hospital room. Seems like opponents of Putin don’t have long lives or are locked up in prison. The great granddaughter of Nikita Kruschev spoke from Moscow on Democracy Now. She started to call the war a war but quickly shifted to calling it a special operation. I guess she didn’t want to meet an untimely death as have other Putin critics.
Newspeak = deliberately ambiguous and contradictory language use to mislead and manipulate the public. The official language of the Fascist States of America (and its media vehicles like Newsweek)
Doublethink = the ability to hold two contradictory opinions in your head at the same time and believing them both to be equally true (official mindset of the FSA)
Also known as cognitive dissonance, the penultimate stage to terminal insanity
“Mr. Blair” — many readers will only recognize your pen name, and not realize that you are quoting yourself.
I think that Scott values his military experience too much, and deprecates simple common sense. Fully understandable from his perspective, but non-military people should be able to make simple calculations.
Having ten times smaller personnel losses while fielding more people at the trench lined and firing ten times less? That would require VERY SPECIAL explanations, e.g. Pizarro facing Inkas is Peru, which are manifestly lacking. Than a bit of history: did it EVER happen that opponent’s losses were vastly exaggerated? All the time!
Therefore credulity of otherwise intelligent Arkin (forget what degree, although some literacy and knowing a bit about history should help, in other words, literacy and genuine interest in what he is doing — prompting him to read) has not-so-benign explanation. After courageous resignation in 2019, he could face some stark choices — be it mortgage, children or grandchildren in need — or not so stark, but very inconvenient, and — VERY AVOIDABLE! Just accept another good job with the understanding that the demand for “courageous writing” is gone. This is time for good troopers.
On the second thought, it takes genuine expertise to evaluate “very special explanations”, someone, somewhere has to do that hard work. But evaluating relative credibility is much simpler, something that Arkin should have experience with. Including the relative credibility of what intelligence agencies, experts on collecting and DISTORTING information, including total fabrications.
Ukrainians are cowards & their actions prove it every day again & again by murdering their own citizens & arresting oposition leaders in their parliament RADA! Thank God EU leaders are realizing how dumm it was to endorse UA criminals like Zelenski & murderous Azov peloton !
Which “EU leaders” are that? Surely not the ones still pouring billions in financial aid and arms into Kiev?
Excellent article, Scott. I have been watching your assessments of military operations in Ukraine for a long time. In deceit, unfortunately, Arkin is not alone. The Western media are full of crimes from Russia. As about the cruelty of Russian soldiers who rape women and children, and then eat babies because they are hungry, so now about the shelling of the Zaporozhye power plant. These messages are absurd in the extreme. The media has become an instrument of collusion. The Russians, unfortunately, are losing in the war, but in the information war and only in the information war.
Bravo, Mr Ritter, for, once again, having the courage to call a spade a spade. Were the consequences not so dire, Mainstream Media’s (WAPO, NYT, NEWSWEEK, CNN, even REUTERS) daily assaults on the truth can almost seem comical, especially with all the disclaimers on unverifiability one always seems to finds buried in the middle or near the end of the article proclaiming Ukraine’s great successes and Russia’s impending, imminent demise.
“The military said that its forces had broken through Russia’s first line of defense in multiple points along the front in the occupied Kherson region, but officials offered little detail and their claims could not be independently verified.” NYT
Thank you for all you are doing, and have done over many years Scott. Prayers for your protection and sustenance, and our commitment to wake up the blind leaders
The citizens of America, Europe, and Ukraine need to learn that their corporate media are owned by war criminals, and are purveying the cover story of those criminals. Their politicians are also owned by these criminals.
How the Establishment Functions
These criminals came to power in the British East India company and have historically directed their empire from banks in the City of London.
War Profiteer Story
[To use link delete all asterisks and replay XX with tt.]
These bankers care more about conquering Russia and expanding their empire than about the people of Britain, Europe, Ukraine, or America. Hence they are ravaging these people’s economies, letting the British and Germans in particular go cold and hungry this winter.
My profound thanks to Scott Ritter for deploying his skill set so courageously in standing up to this stealth empire.
Brilliant article Scott Ritter. A1 Journalism. Go up top and kiss the teacher! Appreciate all you do.
More guts than Gutterres, more time than Biden has time, never blinks (like someone else): the world has only one opportunity to save the planet. It’s not Superman. It’s Scott Ritter.
Excellent piece, I quite enjoyed it. Thanks for posting it.
LMAO! So, in 4 years he completed Basic Training, AIT, then earned a college degree while also becoming a leading expert on the USSR and East Russian military tactics? That claim by itself would make any veteran (like myself) or rational person discount anything else he has to say.
I have been following Ritter for years and continue doing so. He is correct 99% of the time.
Arkin is one of the thousands on USA payroll to promote fantasy. Just like all Europe politicians. Russia is waiting for winter. Ask Hitler & Napoleon.
Arkin is not a “prisoner” of his sources – he is a propaganda agent, careerist, and willing servant of them and the National Security State
Another good piece Mr. Ritter. Also read your article from yesterday; stay safe.
Since the MS Windows update to Edge, I’ve had the MSN “newsfeed” as default home page in that browser – never bothered to change it. What a shit show of both right and left partisan mudslinging. I note Newsweek’s daily drivel as regards Ukraine – just the headlines; I’ve long since bothered reading the nonsense written there. Newsweek has also become one of the leading media sustainers of the GOP crying/whining campaign.
But what is going on, both right and left, is just for-profit media pandering to the biases and hatreds of their partisan audiences. So, what is worse: the thought that they might actually believe the outrageous nonsense they regurgitate on a daily basis, or that it is all strictly done to retain or gain as much market share and hence advertising profit as possible?
Going down the rabbit hole of paranoia and conspiracy, is it reasonable to believe that it is instead done to keep us all hating on each other rather that jointly realizing that the real enemy is concentrated wealth and power – the oligarchy and the government(s) they fully own?
Stay safe Mr. Ritter – we need you. I was also RA, enlisted, 11B/P, ’72-’75, and qualified as expert with every weapon the Army ever put in my hands. And I remember (because of the training methods used) all those things meant to keep a fighting soldier and his unit alive and fighting. But I never had to go into combat and was never stationed in hostile territory and have never claimed publicly or privately as enlisted soldier Arkin has, to be an expert on military ANYTHING. The only thing I’m expert on is my own personal experience which was rather mundane and unexceptional – I survived, it helped me “grow-up,” and I have an appreciation (tempered, as time continues to rework the circumstances) of the realities of those that now “serve.”
Most thoughtful commentary – both the writer’s and your own. Thank you.
“Going down the rabbit hole of paranoia and conspiracy, is it reasonable to believe…”
Yes! That’s the whole point. I was painting a house with an Aussie some years ago. The conversation meandered and he related the following-
the characteristic of football clubs in England, whereby the fans periodically breakout in violent combat with rival clubs, is centuries old residual holdover of the monarchy’s manipulations of villagers against rival villagers, through the use of psy-ops. The modern football fans have no real idea why they do it. It’s just what they’ve been doing for centuries. For the monarchists (elitists) of the time, it kept the villagers and general countryside distracted and fighting their neighbors over manufactured dramas and antagonized resentments while the elite picked their pockets. The vulnerability to be divided and conquered is in our DNA. With the US media’s use of partisanship it’s so blatantly effective. I cringe every time I hear “we’re presenting both sides of the story.” Could I possibly have a morsel of a third option, please?
Thank you very much, Scott. You’re writing/reporting/analysis/experience during our Iraq debacle helped keep me sane and develop this understanding of how easily I could be manipulated.
Assuming your correct and that Arkin is not a complete moron, then the only conclusion is that:
a) he has some sort of mental illness associated with his political preferences;
b) he is being paid huge sums of money to peddle misinformation.
My money is on the latter, although Arkin does seem to have trouble with reality.
Thanks again Mr. Ritter. Another timely article. I enjoy reading your expertise.
What does Scott Ritter have against Wm. Arkin? His substantive points may all be valid here, or preponderately valid, but the tone of personal animus is inappropriate in a news article that aims to be disinterested, if not objective (the facts from the Ukraine conflict are not solid enough for an objective assessment). This article may be reliable in its view of what’s happening in Ukraine, but its making the news into an ad hominem attack on a fellow journalist weakens rather than strengthens its credibility.
Glad, at least, that you saw that and that, in a post yesterday, I questioned whether Ritter, himself, has had any combat experience. In his convoluted reply, as anyone can see, he all but directly admitted that he had none.
One aspect that Mr. Ritter seems to have omitted in his comments is that western reporters are embedded with the Ukrainian army. That means the reporter either covers the news the way Ukraine wants it covered or the reporter losses his/her press credentials. At which point they might as well go home.
A fair point and valid observation.
“Despite the absurdity, Arkin keeps parroting what his Defense Intelligence Agency sources [tell him] want him too.”
fify. As you yourself said, Arkin is an intelligent, well educated man. I’m pretty sure his collaboration in the propaganda at this point goes beyond simple stenography. Otherwise, rather than parroting nonsense, he could always simply keep quiet and not write anything.
The rewards of truth telling are fairly limited, but the rewards of telling the big lie are limitless. Witness Walter Duranty being awarded a Pulitzer Prize while writing as a NYT correspondent from Moscow. During the holodomor of 1932-3, where 10 million Ukrainians were staved to death, he said Stalin was doing a good job and no one went hungry. Stalin rewarded him with women and drugs galore.
Great analysis. The elite media have long been in bed with their “high level” sources within the Deep State. As I. F. Stone once said, “You’ve really got to wear your chastity belt to preserve your journalistic virginity. Once the Secretary of State invites you to lunch and asks your opinion, you’re sunk.”
Very interesting article. Bill Arkin will probably be the feature of one of Andrei Martyanov’s videos about the quality of US news commentators soon!!
Propaganda is an important part of any war, often making it difficult to distinguish fact from falsehood. One thing that is true is the pattern of history: that points only one way – world war three. For more on our future search:
A free ebook: The Pattern Of History and Fate of Humanity
Scott Ritter has been swimming against the tide since before the Iraq war when he challenged the existence of WMDs before the war. Because of his reporting and opinions then, he is not among those appearing in the US media on the status of the war in Ukraine. He deserves to be if only to balance the information on the war. The reporting that reaches the American public now is so slanted it leaves the public clueless on what is happening. It also delays peace talks since the Ukrainians believe we will save them and are encouraged to fight until the last Ukrainian soldier is either dead or unable to resist. We, on the other hand, are comfortable as the world’s leading arms dealer, supplying Ukraine whatever it needs and likely will be unable to use. In short, the Ukrainians are being deceived and used.
Anyone who still gets their news from mainstream corporate media is not getting anything true except possibly sports scores. The “official” news is so slanted it’s ready to tip over onto its side, where it will undoubtedly lie gasping out puffs of lies until it stops breathing. Scott Ritter knows what he is talking about and he doesn’t try to pretty it up. He undoubtedly knows more than the editors of the NY Times, WAPO, CNN, NBC, CBS, PBS, ABC, BBC and the rest of the bought-and-paid-for “news” outlets. Thanks to Scott, I have a clearer picture of what is involved in ground operations and warplans. I thank him for it.
Clueless Americans, or any group for that matter, are much easier to herd when clueless. 60 billion to Ukraine and 87,000 new IRS agents “must be willing to use deadly force” should spook some people.
Yes Herman. It is a signal achievement that the wider public can be clueless about being clueless. That they should be ignorant concerning their ignorance is a towering success for the forces of darkness. But perhaps Ukrainians are a little more astute. The “democratic” regime in Kiev that outlaws all opposition appears to be aware of “the threat within” – the citizens. It has learned that much from the USA. The threat to democracy is the voter.
Arkin, who? For me he is a nonentity – as opposed to Scott Ritter.
Scott Ritter has been spot on from the get go. I have been sharing his assessments on Ukraine with some people I know, starting March. Back then they probably thought that I was a lunatic. Even today, not a single one of them has conceded that their info is wrong. It will be fun to see their awakening. But I will not hold my breath. As of today, not a single one of them has acknowledged that my concerns about Covid-19 measures had validity.
Here, I’d like point out a few more knowledgeable analysts besides Ritter. This is neither comprehensive nor in any particular order: Col. McGregor, Larry Johnson, Martyanov, Duran, …
And who reads Newsweek anyway? Ah, the brainwashed ….
Nothing will change until the brainwashed wake up to the fraud that our “media” are.
I wasn’t even aware that Newsweek was still in circulation. I agree with you about McGregor. He is another one who knows what he’s talking about.
This piece by Scott is a devastating take-down of someone who formerly wrote with integrity on defense issues, or so I thought. Great piece. And if Arkin’s “Newsweek” journalism is now reduced to propaganda from the DIA, what does this tell us about the quality of “reporting” from the rest of our Fourth Estate regarding Ukraine? Regular readers of this site already know that answer. Larry Johnson calls them “presstitutes”. That term may be too kind.
As much as one can tell, the whole MSM covering all NATO members cooperating with formerly prestigious papers is no more than propaganda. The free press has become a joke in western Democracies. Self-censorship is censorship just the same as banning news outlets and other little tricks only they get paid for doing it. They are too smart not to know.
Mr Ritter, I am curious as to who ‘most military analysts’ are. The public tends not to see them unless they are members of organisations.
RUSI Royal United Services Institute, one might suspect would be like Newsweek. While their articles are said to be the views of the writers, this one by a former senior officer ( and a link to a previous one co-written with the Director) gives a view which doesn’t join the propaganda offensive. This is very much what one wouldn’t expect from what might be considered an establishment body.
I take articles in RUSI more seriously in their assessment, in that they can criticise the govt. or the alliance. But they are not American-or, indeed, Russian. They do make serious criticisms of the Russian military. The Russians may have ‘the upper hand’ but six months on they have not achieved the victory that their numbers might have predicted.
Regarding the “victory” of the Russians in achieving what “their numbers might have predicted”, Scott has discussed previously the fact that the American military expects the Russian tactics to be like those of the U.S., but the Russians do not share the same definition of “victory” as the Americans.
Russia did not achieve much because it would be not worth at this time. Feint or no feint, the start of the war was an impressive blitzkrieg. Pre-planned or not, there was a huge change when Putin ordered to preserve live of Russian soldiers as first priority, during the siege of Azov plant. While it looked like a purely tactical one-time decision, it seems that it became a general approach. It makes sense in terms of long term goals.
If Ukrainian army suffers unsustainable losses, sooner or later it will not be able to sustain them. Ukraine balances the lack of equal firepower with tenacity and higher tolerance of human losses, but in long term, the numbers of motivated officers and soldiers eager to fight will wane. What is the alternative? Commit more troops and resources, crash one Ukrainian defense line, and repeat again 10-20 miles deeper into Ukraine. Again and again. Russian soldiers die, Russian-speaking Ukrainian citizens die or leave their belongings to be pulverized by war, and the war drags all the same. Clobbering Ukrainian troops in the fixed front area achieves the same exhaustion effect while minimizing the losses at Russian and pro-Russian side.
In the meantime, economic crisis in Europe weakens aid to Ukraine. Come winter, Ukraine will have hard time sustaining its people at a minimal level, and Europe will have no enough resources and political will to put tens of millions of Ukrainians on some type of income maintenance — there will be huge needs within Europe too. USA always wishes Europe to pay, now collecting unseemly billions to “help with LNG” — but keeping supplies low enough to let prices exceed all historical norms. Macro-economic balancing is Putin’s strong point, as well as social balancing — convincing Russians and non-Westerners to support (or trade in a defiance to the West).
The time scale is not what we were thinking.
Thank you again for your insights. In regards to Bill Arken, I would say that it is not a matter of intelligence, but of integrity, or the lack thereof. And that certainly applies to MSN, CNN, Newsweek, NYT and every one of these corporate media outlets. There is no “fourth estate” in that crowd. And they do not purvey news, just sordid, for-profit entertainment; not reality but “reality-TV” for the masses.
Integrity. Well stated.
“There are some ideas so wrong that only a very intelligent person could believe in them.”
I have always wondered if the “journalists” in the west that rely on DIA and other dis-information sources believe any of what they write, or if they know that it is complete bunk. I have come to the conclusion that they know, but deny it to themselves in some way that I could never do to myself. They must know they are reporting incorrect information, but they also must think that it serves a cause they somehow believe in. That of course makes the idea that they are “journalists” completely absurd. “Stenographers” fits them better, but in some ways, that let’s them off easy. They are truly propagandists, where they add flare and finality to the stenography. That is the job of propagandists, who know that most people don’t have enough background information to form their own opinions about the validity of what is being “reported”.
If they were entirely aware and honest with themselves about what they are doing I think we’d see more more, in print, mea culpa tell all’s, if only posthumously. I think their addicted to and drunk on self importance, creating a cognitive disconnect.
Liars liars, Scott Ritter has set their pants on fire!
If you read the accounts from Western sources (CNN, Daily Mail, Sun, NYP, numerous Drudge headlines) you are told the Ukrainians , who purportedly trained for the operation with Nato troops, have made significant gains around Kershon. Zelensky talks of turning the tide and WHEN Ukraine drives the invaders out, never when Ukraine surrenders. The Pentagon reportedly “knows” that the Russian army has recruiting problems, is low on manpower, has low morale and is fighting amongst themselves, including fatal shootings.
When you read Eastern source material (RT, Sputnik, Saker Blog, Moon of Alabama), the description is of another rout of the Ukrainian forces, including the deaths of >1,200 fighters, the destruction of large numbers of tanks and transport vehicles. Scott’s accounts are always far more similar to the Russian press releases. Frankly, I think the Ukies hate the truth as much as they hate the Russians.
However, it does seem less than ideal, if the objective is to end the fighting ASAP to limit casualties and the opportunities for escalations in the intensity of fighting, that Russia cannot make quicker progress in their inevitable defeat of Ukraine.
Have the Ukrainians really become so proficient in warfare since twice being routed by the Donbasians alone. Is this a consequence of the flood of Nato weapons or intensive Nato training? If so, why does Russia allow these things? Perhaps they need more personnel, more destruction of infrastructure including railways and highways, and tighter surveillance, including the Polish border and the Galician oblasts, to prevent the movement of Ukie troops and heavy weapons?
If the Russians are holding back on the destruction to foster “goodwill” with the Ukies, they seem to be failing big time at that with all the car bombings, assassinations, poisonings, and deliberate targeting of Russian “generals”–some of these actions undertaken in Russia proper. I never heard of a war with so many top rank officers killed at the front. Perhaps that is all a lie? The media could tell the American public anything with no way for us to check their veracity, and I suspect the Russians would not advertise it if they were losing. Frankly before this all began, I suspected that all the action would be “classified” by both sides, but we get plenty of battle reports, with just no way to corroborate them, having no independent journalists on the scene.
The Russians could end the war much more quickly, but at the cost of thousands of innocent lives. The US could end the war instantly and save thousands of lives by stopping the flow of arms into Ukraine. (But that would hurt the profits of the arms industry.)
The US thinks that by supplying the Ukrainians with arms they are attriting Russian forces, but they are ignoring the attrition of Ukrainian forces which are far less than those of the Russians. Yes, the weapons can be replaced with more US weapons, but the Ukrainians can’t be replaced.
There is only one winner in this war and that is the US arms industry. While one might think that winning is good, it comes at the cost for American tax payers and their children and grandchildren who are and will be paying for generations to come while the profits go to the weapons makers. It is just another scheme to rob the poor and give to the rich.
> There is only one winner in this war and that is the US arms industry.
No — the EU and British arms corporations are also raking in windfall profits and their share prices are soaring.
It’s good to express this skepticism and IMV comes down to the question of how we assess the credibility of sources, meaning having or establishing an essential trust. Newsweek, the MSN feed, the New York Times, the Washington Post are by now highly dubious sources for the historical record with this demonstrated repeatedly over the past years, hence anyone who once had integrity now writing for them is going to be viewed with suspicion from the get-go. Perhaps establishing the question of how to establish that trust needs more attention. In this case, are there alternatives to being present on the battlefield in establishing credibility?
For me, Scott Ritter has been an important and inspiring reporter for many years since my becoming aware of him back in the days of W’s phony WMD claims. I also know from Scott’s essays that he consults a wide range of sources and has many contacts in the field of battle that he must rely on. His experience and connections are a large part of his expertise, and perhaps lie behind his extensive analysis of Arkin. I’m positive he does not wing along on possible conclusions versus weighing carefully what he says in terms of the kind of reporting he honors and values. For me, he’s in a class with Edward R. Murrow, William Shirer, and Eric Sevaried. And that kind of trust is built by the many articles and reports he has made over the years.
Along with your list of “eastern source material” I would also suggest ABS Military News on Telegram. Even though they are constantly hit with scammers, hackers and the like they have a good record of tossing out the scammers, and providing confirmed material and videos, and post content within the frame of their own logo. They were also booted off of Twitter, just like the author here, Scott Ritter.
The videos are often taken by Ukrainian military personnel and some are indeed gruesome in their content. But ABS often waits as long as a week or two to receive confirmation re videos or information they post. It’s not a site where any rumor is posted, as they don’t race to be first. But one can hear the Ukrainian soldiers yelling or crying out in their own tongue.
Its stunning to see videos of Uks recording their own violent war crimes for the world to see as if they are not afraid of any consequences. One can see the Bandera-followers with their Hitler tattoos, SS insignias, their WolfAngel flags, which carried over straight out of WWll. These images which the western Anglo-Saxon press will not show, but its as real as it gets over in Ukraine today. But ignored here in the U.S.A.
I found their content is filled with realtime action in Ukraine and it is not filtered by the journalist/propaganda fake-content written by people (journalists?) at watering holes in Kiev pretending to be informed about the artillery and the KIAs at the front.