Caitlin Johnstone: Ukraine & the Triumph of Militarism

A new piece of empire apologia in The Atlantic is also annoyingly accurate. It’s just a fact that in 2022, liberals are gaga for U.S. interventionism.

By Caitlin Johnstone

Listen to a reading of this article.

Neocon publication The Atlantic has an article out titled “The Rise of the Liberal Hawks” which is infuriating as much for its sycophantic empire apologia as for how much of it is entirely correct.

“Progressives typically see war as inherently murderous and dehumanizing — sapping progress, curtailing free expression, and channeling resources into the ‘military-industrial complex,’” says the article’s author, Dominic Tierney.

“The left led the opposition to the Vietnam War and the Iraq War and condemned American war crimes from the My Lai massacre to Abu Ghraib. Historically, progressive critics have charged the military with a litany of sins, including discrimination against LGBTQ soldiers and a reliance on recruiting in poor communities.”

“Then came Russia’s invasion of Ukraine,” writes Tierney. “No foreign conflict since the Spanish Civil War has so captured the imagination of the left.”

“Russian President Vladimir Putin is the antithesis of everything the left stands for,” Tierney adds.

“Not only did he launch an unprovoked attack on a sovereign democratic nation, but he has also disparaged LGBTQ rights, multiculturalism, and immigration, and claimed that ‘the liberal idea’ has ‘outlived its purpose.’ Zelensky, in contrast, has built bridges with the global left. He addressed the Glastonbury music festival, in the U.K., where the revelers chanted his name to the tune of The White Stripes’ ‘Seven Nation Army.’ In Germany, the Green Party led the charge to supply weapons to Kyiv, overturning decades of German wariness about intervening in foreign wars. LGBTQ protesters in Berlin also demanded that Germany step up arms shipments to Ukraine, so that a Pride parade can, one day, be held in the Russian-occupied city of Mariupol. Ukrainian liberals—artists, translators, teachers, filmmakers—have joined the struggle. As one writer put it: ‘All our hipsters in Ukraine fight.’”

Tierney concedes that “there’s a leftist fringe in the United States that still considers America the world’s evil empire and remains deeply hostile to its military power,” but says “the bulk of the left has shown remarkable solidarity with the Ukrainian cause.”

“Liberals who once protested the Iraq War now urge Washington to dispatch more rocket launchers to defeat Russian imperialism,” Tierney says. “Representative Jamaal Bowman of New York, a member of the progressive caucus, tweeted: ‘We unequivocally stand with the global Ukrainian community in the wake of Putin’s attack.’”

Again, what makes Tierney’s triumphant militarist smut so annoying isn’t how he’s wrong, it’s how he’s right. You can take issue all you like with his use of the word “left” to describe liberal supporters of capitalism and empire who just want the empire to be a bit less embarrassing and maybe forgive their student loans, but that’s the fault of the generations of psyops that have gone into sabotaging the left and destroying its memory, not Tierney’s.

What he is saying about liberals who once protested the Iraq invasion now supporting U.S. proxy warfare in Ukraine is broadly true, including throughout the Bernie Sanders/AOC “progressive” wing of the Democratic Party.

It’s just a fact that in 2022, liberals are gaga for U.S. interventionism. Because this war can be (falsely) marketed as an “unprovoked” invasion by evil Bad Guys fighting against the virtuous Good Guys of the U.S./NATO/Ukraine partnership, and because it’s not our sons and daughters getting thrown into the gears of war, people who would normally be more skeptical of militarism and interventionism have indeed jumped aboard the proxy war train.

This war has in that sense become the Gulf War of the 2020s: a “good war” that rehabilitates the image of U.S. interventionism for a war-weary public. Just as the 1990 Gulf War was used to get Americans over what warmongers called the “Vietnam syndrome” — a healthy aversion to interventionism following the horrific disaster of the Vietnam War — the war in Ukraine is being used to wear down the public’s collective immune response to interventionism built up after the 2003 Iraq invasion.

“It’s a proud day for America, and by God, we’ve kicked the Vietnam syndrome once and for all,” the elder President Bush said after winning his war/propaganda operation in the Middle East.

Of course, we all remember what happened after that, don’t we? A decade later came 9/11, and a public now re-warmed to the idea of beneficent military interventionism overwhelmingly consented to two full-scale ground invasions of two separate nations on the promise of swift victory where the troops would be greeted as liberators. What followed was some 6 million deaths — roughly 2,000 times the number killed on 9/11 — while trillions of dollars were siphoned from the American public to the war industry amid an era of unbridled military expansionism.

The public has again been won back over to the idea of military interventionism, using an unprecedented narrative management push which saw coverage of the foreign war in Ukraine eclipse wars in which the U.S. has directly participated. They used different tactics and different narratives, as they always do, but the end result in the 2020s is the same as it was in the 1990s.

And now the public is enthused about foreign interventionism once again, and we get to just wait and see what happens after the empire architects give us our next 9/11.

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.

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26 comments for “Caitlin Johnstone: Ukraine & the Triumph of Militarism

  1. paulo
    September 11, 2022 at 07:49

    On this side of the pond, the Left , both french and german, lost its soul a long time ago , by voting yes to the coming war in 1914 . The only one opposed to it, Jaurès, got shot . If ever in european history there was an unjustified war of completely imperialistic nature , it was this one, and the Left failed miserably . As it did for Yugoslavia , Libya and Syria , and now for Ukraine .
    As for Ukraine, the european “left” repeats the same language elements as their american counterpart, to sum up ” unprovoked russian agression against a free and democratic country ” ( lol ) .
    One might have a more subtle approach in the media , such as calling for peace and reminding unconfortable facts about the ukrainian responsibilty , but first one has to repeat ad nauseam that the invasion is criminal, that the russians committed war crimes ( raping children , huh ? ) and that Putin is a fascist bent on submitting poor Ukraine . Naturally, no respectable leftist in his right mind would support a fascist and find himself on the side of the extreme-right .
    This complete harmony of views on both sides of the Atlantic is a wonder . Maybe just another consequence of the complete failure of the “Left” to change/regulate the western economies for the last 40 years, and the withdrawal to societal themes

  2. mgr
    September 10, 2022 at 13:55

    Rather than cooperation, the US seeks submission and subservience from its friends and foes alike. That’s the fulcrum on which everything else rests. At this point however, around a 100+ nations are either actively or passively resisting this.

    Over the decades, the US has squandered the moral authority that it once held. All that is left now is blunt force. I have a feeling that most every aspiring empire that subsequently fell short found itself in a similar situation, with nothing to rely on but guns and money. But this time, climate change effects are preparing to pull the rug out from everyone. Starting a war after failing to respond to the challenge of a relatively benign global pandemic and soon to be facing global climate emergencies that will dwarf the current conflicts by orders of magnitude, does not bode well for the survival of America’s Western “rules based order”.

    In fact, the survival of our species on this planet depends on nothing less than cooperation on a world-wide scale, not to mention at home. Lack of cooperation, or even worse, the deliberate obstruction of cooperation, should be noted as a crime against humanity. I don’t know who can step into the current vacuum. The neocon ideology funded by astronomical wealth concentration over the last 20+ years has metastasized in the US. America is now anti-cooperation to the core. That is why “America is back” is perhaps the sickest joke in history. Nonetheless, if someone does not step up to lead the world with a cooperative ideology based on mutual respect and dialogue, I fear the next few generations of modern civilization could conceivably be the last.

  3. doris
    September 10, 2022 at 10:26

    I don’t know how anyone could be deluded that the left is anti-war in any way. Obushma didn’t prosecute any of the war criminals from the previous administration, and proceeded to drop more bombs than Bush did. He also overthrew several governments. The “left” is, and has been as militaristic as the right for a long, long time.

  4. Mike R
    September 10, 2022 at 09:21

    You might think that the LGBT community might be aware of the Azov battalion’s treatment of them before jumping on Ukraine’s side. But no. The propaganda has been thorough.

  5. len
    September 9, 2022 at 23:22

    Excellent and precise summary

  6. Edward K. Wall
    September 9, 2022 at 22:37

    What else do you expect from a nation that calls itself “America” as if the other 32 countries did not exist and for whom Bernie Sanders is considered a “socialist?”

  7. John
    September 9, 2022 at 20:27

    Whether the left supports a war depends on who is the enemy. In WW2, the US left was against going to war as long as Hitler and Stalin were buddies, with the German invasion of the SU, the party line changed, and the US left followed obediently, like the useful idiots they were. Of course the US left was against Korea and Vietnam, we were fighting communists. Fighting Muslims is more or less neutral territory, but fighting Russia once it repudiated communism is a must, of course.

    • Peter Dahu
      September 11, 2022 at 07:19

      So you apparently feel the “left” as you call them should have sided with Hitler?

      Guess what? There were a ton of right wing and centrists Nazis in tje US.

  8. Gary P. Supanich
    September 9, 2022 at 16:46

    Thank you for the wonderful article about a truly depressing topic. Unfortunately, it is reminiscent of the position of so-called “liberals/progressives” regarding American entry into WWI. But then there was an anti-war movement ( Debs, Bourne and many others) who stood up in opposition to the militarism of this country. Now? These “liberal interventionists” are in that “basket of deplorables” that threaten American democracy.

  9. Michael Perry
    September 9, 2022 at 12:47

    These are not words of war for America, but they will become a real “.. Act Of War ..” for America.

    Russian President Vladimir Putin stated at the seventh annual Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok,
    on September 7th, 2022.
    “.. Western countries have undermined the foundations of the global economic system.
    … There is a loss of confidence in the dollar, the euro and the pound sterling as currencies
    … in which to conduct transactions, hold assets and reserves…”

    “.. Step by step we are moving away from the use of these unreliable, compromised currencies.
    … And by the way, even US allies are gradually reducing their savings and payments in dollars,
    … according to statistics… I will note that yesterday Gazprom and its Chinese partners agreed
    … to pay for gas in rubles and yuan in a 50/50 split…”

  10. ks
    September 9, 2022 at 12:18

    What Tierney calls the “leftist fringe” IS the left on issues of war and peace. The rest are what used to be called Liberals – all feeling and no knowledge.

  11. Don
    September 9, 2022 at 11:29

    I have always had a problem with characterizing liberalism as being of the left, but now it enrages me. Is Hillary of the left? Biden? Obama? Trudeau? I don’t think so. Under which recent president did America kill the fewest number of non-Americans in recent memory? Don’t get me wrong, I am no Trump supporter, but I could not, would not, vote for HRC or Biden either.

    There is nothing new about liberal all-in support for war and slaughter. The Democratic party is the war party. We must stop conflating liberalism with the left.

    • September 9, 2022 at 20:00

      This is what I wanted to say. Whenever a democrat turns against imperialism and war they are abandoned, undermined, ignored or conveniently murdered: H Wallace, McGovern, P Wellstone, the Kennedys, Sanders. When Congresspeople run as leftists and are supported by the party, they are lying or soon corrupted. Both parties and every acceptable form of patriotism is about backing the continuation of economic colonialism with coups , support for police states and wars.

  12. BigStu
    September 9, 2022 at 09:47

    This unrelenting hammering-home by American propagandists of the tag “unprovoked” to any mention of the current Russian military operation in Ukraine is becoming irksome. It’s a modern version of the Big Lie. There was extreme provocation, which is twofold in nature.
    Firstly, the areas which over the years were allocated to Kiev for administrative purposes were of little consequence within the context of the Soviet Union. However in the hitherto non-existent but newly-created country of Ukraine, the borders were highly inappropriate, since they encompassed large areas which were clearly of Russian rather than Ukrainian demographics. This might not have been a serious problem with a civilized Kiev, but since the US-engineered coup in 2014, the Neo-Nazi driven government and its military engaged in an ethnic cleansing program against their own citizens in these areas. By 2022, Kiev had prepared its forces for a full-blown genocidal operation against its ethnically Russian citizens. Unprovoked, really?
    Secondly, the US, aka NATO, was clearly committed to bringing Ukraine into its fold, which would have resulted in nuclear missiles being deployed within a five-minute flight-time of Moscow. This would have presented an unlivable situation for Russia which would have necessitated the “unprovoked” removal of these missiles, which would have almost certainly resulted in World War III.
    The current Russian operation therefore, is a less dangerous alternative to what would have developed, and for which the rest of the world should be thankful.

  13. Rebecca Turner
    September 9, 2022 at 09:07

    We must not despair. The working classes of the USA, the UK, Europe and Russia must see our common interests lie together in cooperation fighting back against the war being waged against us in Ukraine as everywhere. Ms Johnstone’s analysis is spot on but we must not lose hope; there are far more of us than in the ruling elites.

  14. Ed Rickert
    September 9, 2022 at 08:25

    Caitlin, many thanks for your article describing the folly of those who without knowledge of what has occurred in Ukraine since 2014 have become cheerleaders for war. The fact that the two political parties have joined hands in support of this bloody war reminds us, once again, of Upton Sinclair’s observation that these parties are two wings of the same bird of prey.

  15. Realist
    September 9, 2022 at 05:46

    The triumph of lies, the acceptance of wholesale slaughter as legitimate American foreign policy and the denial of a people’s right to self-defense because of their ethnic identity (Russian) is absolutely stunning. Both Tierney in his thoroughly apocryphal rendition of reality and the American people in their mindless eagerness to accept both the lies and the murderous consequences leave my mind reeling at the total disconnect from reality and in absolute despair that justice can ever be served by American interference in the affairs of these two countries–all to a degree I would have never thought possible in a sane world functioning by the rules of causality in an objective reality. Tierney’s “liberal interventionists” quite conspicuously live in a universe of shared madness totally different from the one I have witnessed with my own eyes and ears over the course of approximately nine years and counting. The American public’s world, created from nearly whole cloth entirely by the government and its media lap dogs is an impeccable simulation of O’Brien’s world, straight out of the novel “1984” where 2 + 2 can effortlessly equal to 5, indeed *any* real number, if the ruling government requires that outcome. If the monsters leading America’s zombified masses can successfully sell a plan of American-sponsored mass murder at the cost of already nearly 100 billion taxpayer dollars, there is little reason to expect this same ship of liars and fools to hesitate at the ultimate step of escalating this unprovoked and unjust war on Russia to an all out nuclear exchange. Are Tierney’s useful idiots going to willingly accept their end, and that of their children, friends and home town, with a pious “It was surely worth it” as they are incinerated in a nuclear fireball seconds later? When, if ever, will these mesmerized facilitators of the unthinkable snap out of their hypnotic state and see both the truth and the consequences of taking American hubris and meddling to the absolute limit?

    • Frank Lambert
      September 11, 2022 at 08:18

      Well stated, Realist. To quote Slick willy: “I feel your pain.” Methinks the American people are dumb enough – willful ignorance -“of taking American hubris to the absolute limit,” which scares the heck out of me, as it should everyone else, and as much as I try to be optimistic about the current crisis orchestrated by the cesspool of misanthropes in Washington, D.C. who lavishly waste taxpayer dollars for perpetual war and overthrowing progressive heads of states who don’t bow to our dictates, will go on until H bombs land on American soil.

      We have the most uneducated people in the so-called industrialized world, and on an unmarked map of the planet, not too many would be able to find the Ukraine and some, even Russia, on the map, but they are “authorities” on Putin and “Russian meddling” in their unquestioning belief in what MSM propaganda feeds them, 24/7, and why quality news stations like RT America and the RT stations in subservient Europe off the air and off the internet, coupled with the “sanctions” and all, what can we expect?

  16. Greg Grant
    September 9, 2022 at 05:21

    > “No foreign conflict since the Spanish Civil War has so captured the imagination of the left.”

    Not true, Clinton’s war of aggression against Serbia was just as bad. You even had Chomsky and the Z-Magazine dittoheads buying into the propaganda about Milosevic committing genocide.

  17. Drew Hunkins
    September 9, 2022 at 02:08

    “Russian President Vladimir Putin is the antithesis of everything the left stands for,”


    He presides over a nation that takes care of its people, that’s exactly what the real left stands for.

    He presides over a nation that provides universal healthcare coverage (“Medicare-for-All”) to every single Russian citizen. Moreover, Russia currently has very lengthy full-paid maternity leave for all new mothers.

    Russia also provides subsidized housing to tens of millions of its citizens, it even has a bit (a bit) of high-speed passenger rail for Russian citizens to enjoy. Finally, it doesn’t see any young folks mired in life ruining massive student loan debt.

    Russia does not allow the parasitic financial elite to dictate every last policy decision in the Kremlin, unlike a certain country I happen to reside in. Also, over the past 22 years Putin’s presided over a country in which deaths of despair, poverty, and unemployment have all dramatically declined.

    These are all obviously life-affirming policies and govt programs that a real left has always championed.

  18. September 9, 2022 at 01:23

    The old left, and the left libertarians do not currently support this new interventionism and proxy war in Ukraine. The misplaced enthusiasm of a Matt Duss or a newby Con. Bowman for a U.S/NATO led proxy counter-offensive is just these two apple-polishing their cheerleading credentials. It’s trying to
    make sure the Nuland crowd, or the Trump crowd, doesn’t take umbrage and the skin off your back, too, in the process.
    The question is,will POTUS Biden run in 2024 and will Harris inherit all that comes with the last 4 years? This proxy battle in Ukraine may be the biggest sticking point in her lackadaisical VP showing. Biden’s too, if he chooses to continue this rush to conflict and catastrophe. In less than 90-100 days, the POTUS will tell us and the Ukraine mess
    could be resolved. We await the fall vote to see.

  19. bardamu
    September 9, 2022 at 01:02

    This poor bird has but one wing. You can call half the right wing a left, but it won’t fly.

    Cheers for Johnstone, btw–always good insights, always good reading.

  20. Jeff Harrison
    September 9, 2022 at 00:48

    “Not only did he launch an unprovoked attack on a sovereign democratic nation.”

    I realize those were The Atlantic’s words but it was hardly unprovoked and the Ukraine is hardly a democratic nation with a US installed puppet government. OTOH, the US is hardly a democratic nation any more.

    • Dan D
      September 9, 2022 at 09:19

      “…he launched an unprovoked attack against a sovereign [democratic] nation.” also “illegal, war” “brutal invasion” This was the heart of statements released immediately after Feb. 24, by self professed left entities. The source of these statements should be even more apparent from the Atlantic article. Thanks Caitlin and CN for bringing this article to our attention. I certainly would not have seen it otherwise.

  21. firstpersoninfinite
    September 9, 2022 at 00:01

    The military/industrial complex is our only industry left in the US. To question it is like asking slave ships coming to America in 1776 to leave for moral reasons when the crops are due to be picked in the state of Virginia. To not join the bandwagon is to starve oneself into empty piety. The empty sterility of late empire means that facts have no force, only force itself has any say-so. That is why it is so easy to play both sides – they both lead to the same outcome. Our government only exists to move chess pieces around a chess board while arguing that there is no chess board. However, we can at least go down shouting truth to those left to hear.

    • J Anthony
      September 10, 2022 at 04:40

      Excellent point; which speaks directly to the problem (or predicament, depending on how you look at it) we’re in.

Comments are closed.