“Fuck Minsk II”? “Dr. Strange-(Breed)love” or: How Europe Learns to Start Worrying

"Americans are from Mars and Europeans from Venus" - the famous quote by Robert Kagan, the neocon who legitimated the post-9/11 military interventions, criticizing Europe for its allegedly “weak” and “appeasement” stance in the war on terror, is making a comeback. It dates from back in 2003/04, when the dispute over the US-led invasion of Iraq, that Germany and France had opposed, led to a prolonged period of cooling of the US-German relations (US-French relations had never been as amicable anyway, due to France's temporary refusal to participate in and greater skepticism towards the US and NATO). Now this German-American rift, that had only been patched up for a short period between Iraq and Bush jr.'s presidency and the NSA scandal(s) of the Obama era, is opening up again, as officials in Berlin are accusing the neocons of 'dangerous propaganda' in the confrontation with Russia. 

Victoria Nuland, self-declared "anti-European" (2013)

The 'Martians' are back, led by Kagan and his wife Victoria Nuland, the Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs at the Department of State. Along with their supporters and representatives in NATO, they are once again, pitted against those 'Venusians', who, led by Germany and France, have been undertaking diplomatic efforts to achieve a de-escalating peaceful solution of the Ukraine crisis. It had already gotten clear what the 'Martians' thought of a European initiative independent of US interests in Ukraine about a year ago, when Nuland uttered the now infamous expletive “fuck the EU” in a phone call to the US ambassador in Kiev.

In her view, Ukraine was already considered the newest Eastern European outpost of the American Empire as soon as the opportunity to install a pro-American government there became a realistic option in the beginning of 2014, and the US made sure that Arseni Yazenjuk (referred to by Nuland as “Yaz”, “our guy” in the same phone call) became Prime Minister in Kiev in the pro-Western government that was set up after pro-Russian president Viktor Yanukovich was toppled in February 2014. Due to that, the complete veracity of the Western narrative of the Maidan or "EwroMaidan" as a purely “peaceful people's protest for the EU and against a corrupt government” began to be questioned. Nuland apparently told Yanukovich: “No violence against protesters, or you'll fall”. Is that a sign that Nuland and her entourage were calling shots in Kiev at the time? That's not entirely clear (as is, who the snipers were that immediately triggered the overthrow of Yanukovych as a reaction - government/pro-Russian or Maidan/(pro-)US agents?). What is pretty clear by now, though, is that (direct or indirect) Russian influence on the conflict in Eastern Ukraine is countered by Academi (formerly "Blackwater") mercenaries, i.e. U.S. "private army" presence in the war zone, and that NATO is continuing to drum up the tone against Russia, in spite of the efforts by the leading European “allies” (?), France and Germany, that lead to a peace deal (or at least truce) being brokered at Minsk in February (the so-called “Minsk II” agreement).

Audio: V. Nuland's phone call to the US ambassador at Kiev, 02/2014 ("Fuck the EU")

Apparently, Nuland's 2014 motto is being amended in 2015. It is now “Fuck not only the EU, but Minsk II, too”. Last year, the expletive only met mild and still mostly veiled protest by the Europeans. Now, though, Germany apparently has had more than enough of it, and is finally calling a spade a spade. Frank-Walter Steinmeier, the German Foreign Minister, and several sources in the Bundeskanzleramt (Federal Chancellery of Angela Merkel) have accused the NATO Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR), Gen. Philipp Breedlove, of "dangerous propaganda". Steinmeier was referring to massively exaggerated or even completely fabricated NATO "reports" that were cited by Breedlove as factual information in relation to the Ukraine conflict. The general, who hails from Cincinnati, Ohio, claimed that “well over a thousand combat vehicles, Russian combat forces, some of their most sophisticated air defense, battalions of artillery” had been sent into Eastern Ukraine, contrary to the reports of Germany's foreign intelligence agency, the Bundesnachrichten-dienst (BND), that were saying that the Minks II truce was largely holding and that the agreed withdrawal of heavy weaponry by both sides was continuing. Breedlove often referred to imaginary columns of Russian tanks and although not everything he has been purporting over the last few months has been complete bogus, his “numbers have been significantly higher than those in possession of America's NATO allies in Europe.”                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  
Philipp Breedlove, NATO's "Jack D. Ripper" (with US Marine Corps Gen. Joseph F. Dunford, Kabul, September 2014) 

The main domestic counterpart of Nuland and her "General Jack D. Ripper" propagandist is Barack Obama. The president has ordered to put on hold a planned deployment of US army personnel into Western Ukraine to train members of the Ukrainian National Guard there (which would have been another step towards escalation), thus trying not to undermine the fulfilment of Minsk II agreement.


"DoubleThink" featured article: Chutzpah & Criticism. Benjamin Netanyahu's visit to Washington in perspective

Today, we are featuring an article by Scott Stelle, author of our partner blog "DoubleThink", who looks at the historical and familial precedents of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's controversial speech at the United States Congress a few days ago, especially with regard to the its context in terms of the different branches of historical Zionism and the current political climate in Israel.

There are some uncanny parallels between 
between Israeli politician Menachem Begin’s first visit to the United States during December 1948 and Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s trip to Washington [this] month [i.e. March 3, PB].

PM Netanyahu is a frequent visitor to Washington (this was at his address to a joint congressional session in 2011)
While Begin was greeted with a critical letter in the New York Times by such prominent Jews as Albert Einstein, Hannah Arendt, Sidney Hook among others, Netanyahu’s upcomming trip, due to Bibi’s breach of White House protocol and conspicuous re-election campaigning, is provoking unusual harsh criticism from American Jewish leaders as well as the mainstream media across the ideological spectrum from Fox News to the New York Times.       
The specter of 1948 overshadowing Netanyahu’s visit calls attention to Israel’s own violent and criminal birth, still viciously at work, though now largely forgotten in mainstream public discourse. The Zionist ideology’s emphasis of “restoring” an ancient Hebrew national identity and the claim of “continuity” between the Jewish people and their biblical homeland in Palestine became official orthodoxy after the foundation of the state of Israel, whose formative years also coincided with the Jewish trauma of the Holocaust, which incidentally didn’t find expression in “collective memory” until the late 1950s, after the Israeli state had securely established sovereignty over its new territory. Most American Jews’ knowledge of Israel up until the 1980s was based more on symbolic narratives, like Leon Uris’ popular novel and film Exodus, than historical facts. Yet, in light of archival research and current events is America’s blind solidarity with Israel really warranted?

Politics may be informed by history, but it is always about the present and near future. Soul-searching efforts like Germany’s critical scrutiny of Nazism or America’s attempt at understanding its ambivalent “Manifest Destiny” and racist-genocidal roots are difficult but healthy enterprises. Events ranging from Wounded Knee, My Lai and Abu Ghraib to Ferguson will continue to haunt us until we recognize our rapacious “national character.” Long before Israel’s New Historians became as committed to truth as postwar German historiography, Einstein critically appraised the 1948 Arab-Israel War without glossing over misdeeds, like the ethnic cleansing of locals who had lived in Palestine for over a thousand years.If you replace the names Begin with Benjamin and the attacks of Arab villages with the 2014 Israel-Gaza conflict, Einstein’s et al. letter here could have almost been written today:
“The current visit of Menachem Begin, leader of this party, to the United States is obviously calculated to give the impression of American support for his party in the coming Israeli elections, and to cement political ties with conservative Zionist elements in the United States. Several Americans of national repute have lent their names to welcome his visit. It is inconceivable that those who oppose fascism through out the world, if correctly informed as to Mr. Begin’s political record and perspectives, could add their names and support to the movement he represents. Before irreparable damage is done by way of financial contributions, public manifestations in Begin’s behalf, and the creation in Palestine of the impression that a large segment of America supports Fascist elements in Israel, the American public must be informed as to the record and objectives of Mr. Begin and his movement. The public avowals of Begin’s party are no guide whatever to its actual character. Today they speak of freedom, democracy and anti-imperialism, whereas until recently they openly preached the doctrine of the Fascist state. It is in its actions that the terrorist party betrays its real character; from its past actions we can judge what it may be expected to do in the future.”
The letter "New Palestine Party. Visit of Menachen Begin and Aims of Political Movement Discussed", signed by Hannah Arendt, Albert Einstein, Sidney Hook and others to the "New York Times", published in the "Books" section (p. 12), Saturday, December 4, 1948  

Historically, the politics of the Zionist Movement has generally been more socialist than fascist, yet there has nonetheless been fascist elements within the movement since the 1920s. However, they have grown more powerful since the 1970s onwards, and especially after Christian-Right Zionists, like Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell, started supporting Israel’s Likud party, the direct heirs of Revisionist Zionism. In 2014, Zeev Sternhell, Israel Prize laureate and renowned scholar of European fascism, was asked by Haaretz duringOperation Protective Edge if he had seen any signs of a budding fascism in Israel? He said most definitely, just consider the new “nationhood law” which would define Israel as the state of the Jewish people only, “the brutal and violent erosion of freedom of speech; and the various manifestations of a witch hunt here, when a journalist like [Haaretz’s] Gideon Levy needs a bodyguard.”


Abstracting and creating agitprop realities: a longue-durée view of political “storytelling” on two sides of the same post-Communist coin

Anyone who is - in a non-ideological way - trying to make sense of the major political stories of the most recent past and of the present “news” (or disinformation) content featured in the media, is having a hard time figuring what is really going on. The amount of information (mostly agitprop (=agitation and propaganda)) coming from the different corners of the boxing ring that is the arena of political ideologies is incoherent and contradictory, to put it mildly. That being said, we will still try to point out what in our view are the five most significant discrepancies of the last twenty-five years in the “political storytelling” between East and West, South and North, i.e. the periphery and core or centre of the global political order (or rather disorder) that has since been centered around the United States of America. It has, however, been an economic and political pecking order that has constantly been challenged and reshuffled ever since the end of the Cold War.

The Soviet flag being taken down on the Kremlin, Moscow, on December 26, 1991. This
marked the end of the existence of the Soviet Union sixty-nine years after its foundation (Source: YouTube)

In the first “long decade” (1988/89 to 2001) following the anti-Soviet reforms and/or protests that lead to revolutions, that started from Hungary (Miklos Németh/Gyula Horn) in November, 1988, and spread all across Central and Eastern Europe until even the Soviet Union itself was dissolved in late December, 1991, the US had its unchallegend “unipolar moment”. Washington's relations with both the now weakened Russia and the emerging China were mostly neutral or even amicable, they were seen as (second-rate) “partners”; post-Soviet Russia was in the U.S. view demoted to a regional power. The U.S.-led involvement in the war in the collapsing Yugoslavia (against a culturally Christian Orthodox, Russophile Serbia) and the first post-cold war NATO expansion into territories that just ten years earlier had been part of the Warsaw Pact, i.e. the Soviet military and political sphere of influence (Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland), didn't meet any fierce resistance at the time - although Russia did support Serbia against the Western forces, but still had to tacitly accept the negative outcome for it (most significantly the breakup of Serbia with the foundation of Kosovo, and the independence of Montenegro that followed later).

Some (ideologically challenged, naïve, or unforesightful) elites in the U.S. felt that Francis Fukuyama's “end of history” had indeed come, with the main enemy of the previous five decades demoted and, in the short-term (i.e. normal U.S.) perspective at least, no one else on the radar (Europe or the EU, as more or less even until today, couldn't be taken seriously then, except as an economic power). The end of history” story was the first discrepancy between U.S. “storytelling” or “created reality” and factual challenges of that reality outside that bubble (mind you, the U.S. was dealing with such “important” issues as the sex life of their president during those years). The ideologues in the bubble of the 1990s had dismissed or underestimated what the involvement (by economic, military and/or political, covert intelligence operations) of their own country and its Western (and some non-Western) allies in the Middle East and South Asia had created as a backlash. Muslim-majority, but mostly secularist states had turned into new challengers of the American hegemony in their region, into extremist, Islamist fundamentalist states, committing or at least supporting acts of terrorism (Iran already since back in 1979, with Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, some factions in Palestine and Egypt following suit), with other states in danger of also turning fully Islamist due to the catastrophic economic circumstances, that make a totalitarian, fundamentalist religious extremism attractive to desperate young populations. Furthermore, inequivocal and uncritical US support of Israel (and all the illegal Israeli policies) in the Israeli-Palestine conflict play(ed) its part in the trouble that had (and still has) been brewing there for decades. Those “chickens came home to roost” in a big way in what has to date been the most visible and obvious attack on and challenge of the U.S. hegemony, on that sunny New York morning on September 11, 2001 (soon abbreviated simply as “9/11”). Ironically (if we follow what has generally been presented as the narrative), most (fifteen out of nineteen) of the terrorists were not from Iran or Afghanistan, but citizens of Saudi Arabia, which officially has been (and still is) a US ally, but at the same time, the House of Saud (which is amicably linked to the “House of Bush”) has, more or less openly, financed Islamist terrorism regionally and globally.

Then Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld speaking at a press conference in the pentagon barely eight hours after the September 11, 2001, attacks.
Also at the podium: Sec. of the Army White, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Gen. Shelton, Sen. Warner (Virginia) and Sen. Levin (Michigan) 

So, this is the
second discrepancy between created reality and, at least “historical”, i.e. geopolitical, “truth”. The centre, i.e. the U.S. government, with its “friends and allies” in tow, described “9-11” mainly as “an attack on our Western values of democracy and freedom”
which had to be answered by a “crusade”, a “war on terror” (George W. Bush), that is going on to this day; the periphery, where the retaliatory action happened, had to suffer from two long and protracted wars (Afghanistan and Iraq) and their consequences. Many instances of war crimes, e.g. torture and human experimentation, have been committed by U.S. forces as part of the “war on terror”. The periphery side of the “storytelling” was done by channnels such as Al-Jazeera: founded in Doha, Qatar in 1996, it came into prominence in the West in the wake of “9/11”, with the most comprehensive coverage of what was happening as a reaction to those attacks, i.e. the war in Afghanistan. It presented the “collateral damage”, i.e. the civilian victims of the bombings or drone strikes, and aired views that were very critical of that war and of the U.S. policies in relation to it. In November of 2001, the Afghan offices of Al-Jazeera were destroyed in a U.S. bombing raid on Kabul; the following month, a reporter of the network was abducted and brought to Guantanamo. So, the views on this “war on terror” differed, just as the results did: while there hasn't been a terrorist attack on U.S. soil anymore since “9/11”, U.S. allies have been hit in the years as a result of their participation in the controversial Iraq War (Madrid 2004, London 2005).


                     George W. Bush: "CIA people [i.e. torturers] are really good people,
                               and we're lucky to have them" (Source: Young Turks)

The war on terror, dubbed “operation Enduring Freedom”, actually didn't bring freedom to many, on the contrary, it has
curbed many freedoms, for both centre and periphery: the civil rights of both U.S. and non-U.S. populations were severely infringed upon by acts such as the Patriot Act, which legalized massive surveillance (e.g. collection of all internet and phone data), basically abolished the basic legal concept of habeas corpus, i.e. the right to protest against unlawful detention, and promoted a militarization of the police force, especially in the U.S. As for (more or less covert) paramilitary or proxy operations abroad, private mercenary armies, unaccountable and “off the record”, have been hired to do the “dirty work”. Anyone can be dubbed an “illegal combatant”, and captured anywhere around the world, be it in the actual war zone or from their home, e.g. in Germany (Khaled al-Masri), and held indefinitely at camps such as Bagram or Guantanamo, where they faced “enhanced interrogation” (torture). Politicians all across the globe (but especially those of the “Five Eyes”, i.e. U.S., U.K., Canada, Australia and New Zealand) have since used the “war on terror” to massively increase the surveillance of their citizens.

The conclusion of this second discrepancy or paradox is: The
“democratic freedoms” were “defended” by getting rid of fundamental elements of democracy, i.e. civil rights. Whistle-blowers like Chelsea (formerly Bradley) Manning, Julian Assange and Edward Snowden, who have disclosed these paradoxes, i.e. the war crimes and/or mass surveillance practices mentioned above in the “name of freedom”, have paid the price of completely or at least massively losing their freedom of movement for that, as they are either already under arrest or facing arrest once they would be within reach of U.S. authorities. Those responsible for the, if not illegal, yet despicable practices, are getting away with them, scot-free.


            Trailer for the documentary "Citizenfour" by Laura Poitras, with Glenn                                   Greenwald, on the NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden (December 2014)
                                                   (Source: YouTube)

Even if we leave the morals aside and look at the results, we have to conclude that, despite all the military and intelligence efforts, the goal of reducing global terrorism has utterly failed: there has been a fivefold increase interrorist fatalities since “9/11, groups such as the Taliban and al-Qaida have not been weakened significantly, at least in the regions where they originated (Afghanistan, Middle East); others, such as the self-proclaimed “Islamic State” IS (Islamic State in Syria and Iraq) terrorists, are a new Frankenstein's monster that sprung up as a result of the Iraq War and the civil war in Syria, armed with supreme weapons that had been supplied to the post-Saddam Iraqi Army and the Syrian Free Army/opposition to President Assad by Western countries. So, a new monster has been created, and the old ones haven't really gone away. Let's leave aside the debate on how beneficial it is to certain ideologues of illiberal “security measures”, in the West and elsewhere, to keep such monsters alive as welcome enemies and distractions from other urgent problems and issues.