Caitlin Johnstone Forever Wars Russia-Ukraine

Ukraine and the Triumph of Militarism

"What [Tierney] 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."

By Caitlin Johnstone / CaitlinJohnstone.com

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.

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.

Caitlin Johnstone
Caitlin Johnstone

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.

28 comments

  1. Perhaps it is possible to “stand with Ukraine” by making every effort to get both parties to negotiate a peace, rather than sending an endless supply of armaments that spell only death and destruction. Will this world ever learn?

    1. As noted in another article on this site, that already happened both before and during this conflict, and the US told Ukraine to back out.

      The goal of Wall Street banks is to break Russia (and China, Iran, and any other holdouts that refuse to follow their orders).

  2. false–libs more supported genocide in SE Asia than conservatives—every lib politician also did—as Sennet demonstrates, it was only the so called “hard hat working class conservatives” that opposed the war in Vietnam—the hippies had no politics they only wanted to narcotized

    1. @giligan NONE OF YOUR VAGUE CLAIMS ARE TRUE

      None of your claims are historically accurate–you must be too young to remember this directly. Or not in the U.S. at the time.

      “Liberal” then did not mean a safe upper middle class centrism as it does now. It was about Ds fully committed to New Deal values and the idea of a common good, including some aspects of socialism. Proof? Look at some of the articles from Ramparts magazine edited by R. Sheer! For example, on Sen. Wm. Fulbright. Or Sen. Frank Church, et al. Many of whom were very vocal about opposing the Vietnam war.

      I was an activist with blue collar unions then. The “hard hats” (working class) were often portrayed as opposed to the protestors as privileged college kids. Mostly the resentment was because for several years, being in college meant getting a deferment. While the offspring of the workers did the fighting and dying. Since the MIC hadn’t figured out yet how to totally control the press, the American public got to see the horror. By the last couple of years, a majority in the U.S. were against it, including my career military relatives.

      The hippies did so “have politics”! Usually of an eco-consciousness type. They were certainly involved in peace movements, too. They were more aligned with a spiritual view of the world, in contrast to the young leftist radicals focussed on what we would now call social justice. Many of the radicals were Marxists of some kind.

      As for”narcotized,” WTF?! As someone who has done several varieties of psychedelics, I can testify that they sure can lead to experiences of transcendence and meaning. In no way did that deter me from left wing political and labor activism.

      1. rafi moron—-farcical idiot!……both Marxists Richard Sennet and Christopher Lasch reference numerous studies that demonstrate you are wrong…”America requires a stupefied population”. Christopher Lasch
        “amerikans live in a thicket of illusions; they demand illusions about themselves”. Daniel Boorstin
        “Americans are entirely confused about themselves”. Simone de Beauvoir
        “the men americans most admire dare to tell them the most extravagant lies; the men they most despise try to tell them the truth”. HL Menkhen
        “the least reproach offends amerikans—the slightest sharp sting of truth turns them fierce”. Tocqueville
        you people never change

      2. an amerikan cannot comprehend Marx—this is impossible since you cannot think dialectically
        “the amerikan liberal/progressive wants to preserve the essence of the past, the conservative wants more and more progress; the European radical wants to hasten the transformation of the future, the conservative the essence of the past”. Geoffrey Gorer
        “the mono lingual inevitably confuses style with content”. George Simmel
        “american radicals black and white adopted radical style without any radial content”. Christopher Lasch…………LOL. spare me your narcotized unthinking

      3. @giligan: DEMONSTRATING HOW BIGOTRY AND A SENSE OF SUPERIORITY MAKE HEGELIAN SYNTHESIS IMPOSSIBLE

        As usual, your rebuttal consists of non-sequiturs; claims or alleged sources that don’t apply to the issues at hand. Plus using ad hominems–as if name calling weren’t the first resort of someone who doesn’t have a sound counterargument. Not to mention that saying any group of people are all the same is the very definition of ugly prejudice!

        “You people.” Fine bigotry, that. Especially when I’ve made it clear in many comments that I am an actual blue collar working class person. Whose grandfather was a Wobbly, as am I. No wonder since the attitude of armchair intellectual Marxists like you is so bluntly one of an undeserved superiority over the very people you are hypothetically supposed to support.

        I’ve also made it clear that I am Native reservation raised. Yet one more reason I’m sensitive to casual bigotry tossed off without any thought about its impact. I’m also transgendered and a two-spirit. So yeah, please proceed with more of the “you people” nastiness.

        Your totally unwarranted assumptions are the antithesis of sympathetic Marxism. Your god-like assumption that only you can proclaim what isn’t or isn’t Truth bespeaks of a deep sense of entitlement ironically akin to right wing plutocrats as well as to the Lib/Dem Ivy educated elite’s self-definition as “meritocracy.” Clearly we inferiors of the lower classes should have no say.

        All of the above means no chance any synthesis will ever happen. Making YOU the enemy of Hegel, of dialectic reconciliation, and of a working Marxism.

  3. The main point of the article is correct: most progressives in Congress and elsewhere are in the wrong about the war in Ukraine. But one paragraph is repeated near the end of the article. Moreover, it doesn’t much go into the reasons why the proxy war with Russia is problematic.

  4. well, @caitlin, ye obviously are unable to see that an ethical person who strongly opposed the U.S. wars of choice against iraq, would also have to strongly oppose putin the great’s war of choice on Ukraine. it’s called ethical integrity. ye seem to lack it. sad.

    1. You make a false comparison between wars of aggression on the US part, and the Ukraine conflict which was forced upon Russia.

      Learn your history before you make personal attacks.

  5. It is discouraging in the extreme to realize the truth of this article. I lament the lack of geopolitical understanding that is now universally absent from US dissent over this war in Ukraine. I am old enough to have chanted “Ho Ho Ho Chi Minh, Ho Chi Minh is gonna win.” Why did we chant that? Because we loved Ho and socialism over the imperialists he defeated? No, not at all. It was more simple than that. He was the enemy of our imperialist war and therefor our friend. Now comes Putin. Does anyone listen to his speeches? No. The left exhaled a sigh of relief to finally jump on board of the hate Russia bandwagon after years of being covered over with the communist dupe label. Now dissenters can wrap themselves in the flag and stick their heads in the sand, no longer required to THINK about it. No longer required to break from the mainstream narrative that is now so full of lies that we can even deny supporting Nazis. It is sad sad sad. But there is an epochal ending moment at hand as the world transitions from unipolar to multipolar and the ex colonial world sets out on a new path. And sadly progressives in the US will have had nothing to do with it. Yes, we are in the belly of the beast but now the beast has digested us completely.

    1. @paulrichards: speak for yerself. i have listened to plenty of putin’s speeches, even the ones in partial german.
      if ye studied this like i have ye would be extremely disconcerted with the handful of recent and fairly recent speeches in which he described Ukrainian independence as a “mistake” and denied Ukrainians were a differrent people from russians and confirmed that in his opinion Ukraine belongs to russia. repeatedly.
      so this war really is about reconquering a colony. we have it in putin the peter’s own words.
      how come ye are totally unfamiliar with them speeches? deafness in one ear, i suppose. or – more likely – complete lack of ethical integrity…. very sad, sad, sad ideed…

      1. why is arvo ignorant and immoral? but then arvo is a nazi and opposes denazification of Ukraine where 75% speak Russian as 1st language

  6. One can condemn Putin’s invasion while also condemning the glaringly obvious U.S. provocations that helped cause it. Numerous senior U.S. diplomats, academics, journalists and commentators say that NATO expansion was unnecessarily aggressive. The U.S. would never allow similar expansion of Russian or Chinese client states along its borders. Heck, we don’t even allow a vaguely socialist country to emerge in Latin America. Hence all the CIA overthrows and proxy wars.

  7. It should be glaringly obvious that today’s “progressives” (Dem voters) have no connection with the political left.

    1. @D.H. Fabian

      You got it backwards. It is the radicalized left that had lost any connection to progressive ideals and goals, and supports totalitarian autocrats like Putin and Xi, and ultra conservatives like Bolsonaro, Modi, and Trump.

      1. chode—-don’t project—if you wish to bully join the US border patrol or your local. KKK police dept

  8. All wars are fought over interests, or power, not ideas as Dominic Tierney (and others on both sides of the debate) would argue. The most dangerous thing is, power is an illusion: it will eventually bring us to the conflict everyone needs to avoid – WW III.
    https://patternofhistory.wordpress.com/

  9. I met briefly yesterday with Rep. Pramila Jayapal at a political event in Seattle and said to her, “Many people in the Peace Movement are upset with the Progressive Caucus for its support for the proxy war with Ukraine. Yes, Putin’s invasion of Ukraine was evil, but it’s blaringly obvious that it was provoked by aggressive and unnecessary NATO expansion. Now the U.S. is funding another costly, risky war.” She listened politely with a concerned look on her face. She said that she understands my concern but I should be aware that progressives did what they could do to stop the U.S. response from being worse; there was a lot of pressure. I said, “Do you mean that you were afraid to stick your necks out and appear to be a Putin apologist?” She said, “I wouldn’t say that.” Unfortunately, the conversation ended there, since there were many people wanting to talk with her.

  10. Anna Wiener, Uncanny Valley: A Memoir: “Certain unflattering truths: I had felt unassailable behind the walls of power. Society was shifting, and I felt safer inside the empire, inside the machine. It was preferable to be on the side that did the watching than the side being watched.” …the side killing, rather than the side murdered.

    “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.”

    William Casey (CIA Director 1981-1987): “We’ll know our disinformation program is complete when everything the American public believes is false.”

    I am amused by The Atlantic, guided by David Frum, a born-again Yankee, now hiding from Reagan Tea Party monsters he helped create, by pretending to be Canadian. Dominic Tierney’s article was constructed to hide US foreign policy behind ‘right and left’, as if there existed anything remotely left wing in American politics, or anything slightly resembling informed, principled politics in US society. This rhetoric is used to conflate support for everything stupidly right-wing by suggesting that AOC, the Squad, and Bernie Saunders support MAGA moron politics at any point. The only informed debate occurs on pages like this one where left and right have no place at all, except as sick jokes.

    Voltaire: “Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.”

    John Stuart Mill (1806 – 1873): “I did not mean that Conservatives are generally stupid; I meant, that stupid persons are generally conservative.”

    Like a bad Simpsons episode featuring Mrs Lovejoy quacking, ‘Who will think of the children?’, I have friends whose lips tremble for civilian casualties. These ‘friends and family’ refuse to acknowledge the reality US-NAYOYO-Ukraine started this war by breaking every promise, every treaty signed with Russia. They refuse to accept NAZI control of Ukraine’s police, Security Service and Armed Forces was encouraged and protected by US Presidents and Congresses stretching back to Obama. They won’t mention the fact ethnic Russians, their families and communities, have been slaughtered since 2014. During the so-called Anti-Terrorist Operation (ATO) roughly 10,000 were killed to silence contempt for the Maidan Coup. Another 14,000 were killed in indiscriminate shelling of the republics. Hundreds of thousands more have been wounded and psychologically scarred by Ukrainian contempt for human rights and the laws of war. These war crimes continue with the use of banned ‘petal mines’ dropped into residential streets. AFU artillery shells the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant threatening a massive nuclear disaster. Conversely, Russia’s military uses highly accurate air, artillery, and missile strikes causing little collateral damage or civilian casualties even though AFU forces routinely hide behind civilians in residential areas.

    Alexis de Tocqueville : “I know of no country in which there is so little independence of mind and real freedom of discussion as in America.”

    Bertrand Russell: “The trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent are full of doubt.”

    John Kenneth Galbraith, “The modern Conservative is engaged in one of man’s oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness.”

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WUBvIUtL0LU
    Bruce Cockburn – Call it Democracy

  11. GFW Hegel, The Philosophy of History, “What experience and history teaches us is that people and governments have never learned anything from history, or acted on principles deduced from it.”

    Describing Russia’s actions as aggressive crime is contemptible. Westerners should get the facts correct: by 988 Kiev was the founding source of Russian Orthodox Christianity, and a seminal root of Russian identity. Catherine the Great added Crimea, and everything else north and east from Odessa to Kiev, to the Russian Empire in 1784. Since then, Crimea has been a critical, strategic military asset of the Russian nation. As we are going back to 1784, let’s see America give everything west of the Appalachians back to the First Nations, and pay reparations for slavery. Haiti recently finished paying 90 million gold francs (who knows how much this would be in 2022 francs) to France for freeing themselves from slavery in 1791. The UK won’t return looted Parthenon marbles, and made noble fortunes from piracy and slavery, so let’s not have any pious weeping for corrupt Ukrainian oligarchs.

    Homer: “Hateful to me as the gates of Hades is that man who hides one thing in his heart and speaks another.”

    Russia has suffered many abuses since 1991. Gorbachev offered Reagan drastic reductions in nuclear weapons. Reagan chose ‘Star Wars’ instead of using the negotiating table and verifiable treaties as the most reliable and safest method of destroying nuclear weapons. Not least was the generous offer to join NATO, which had it been taken would have put the Northern hemisphere under a single shared peaceful authority, with Russian influence. But of course, the US would not share power or voice with anyone. Much more than peace, NAYOYO needed to manufacture an enemy to justify their corrupt, bigoted military-industrial society.

    Henry Kissinger (Washington Post): “For the West, the demonization of Vladimir Putin is not a policy; it is an alibi for the absence of one.”

    US-NAYOYO repudiated the ‘Open Skies Treaty’ allowing recon photo overflights to confirm treaty terms were being honoured. NAYOYO sneered at SALT II, ABM, and INF treaties that reduced and removed nuclear weapons, that made the world a much safer place. Despite being warned by every respectable US Russian expert that their plans would lead to confrontation. Western pundits complain evil Rooskis threaten nuclear warfare, to disguise their complicity in catastrophe. To threaten Russia, US leadership turned their backs on decades of nuclear weapons treaties, putting the world at risk.

    Abraham Lincoln, “If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its authors.”

    After the Warsaw Pact collapse, Russia and NATO negotiated the Budapest Memorandum to remove nuclear weapons within the newly independent Ukraine. The later Treaty on Friendship, Cooperation, and Partnership, Partition Treaty on the Status and Conditions of the Black Sea Fleet, and Kharkiv Pact, secured uninterrupted Russian access and control of Sevastopol, and the ancient Russian language and cultural rights of the large Russian majority in the eastern provinces. The Minsk treaties would have been a great start to peaceful coexistence if Ukraine had ever intended to implement them. Successive Ukraine governments feared Banderite Nazis more. Not least because they were trained, armed, and politically supported by several US-NATO governments.

    Simon Bolivar: “The United States appears to be destined by Providence to plague America [and the world] with misery in the name of liberty.”

    US-NAYOYO deliberately did everything in its power to start this war with the intent of fatally weakening Russia. Every President and Congress has implemented this foreign policy since Carter and Brzezinski. It involves isolating attacks on Russia’s economy no matter how damaging to the world. It involves directly threatening legitimate Russian leadership and government. It involved training and arming Banderite Nazis, supporting their genocidal goals against every argument for peaceful settlement, even against their own government, leaders, and ‘democratic system’.

    Saladin: “I warn you against shedding blood, indulging in it and making a habit of it, for blood never sleeps.”

    The US, now and always, makes allies of the most corrupt, violent collaborators. Recently, US trained military yahoos have committed 8 coups in West Africa. Of course, military coups are cheaper than honestly negotiating Oil & Gas rights with responsible, democratically elected, popularly supported leadership. ‘Los Zetas’, Mexico’s worst narco gang were trained and armed by US ‘special forces’. Honduras, where democracy was recently restored after a US-OAS coup installed a president and family now facing decades in US prisons for drug trafficking. El Salvador, where ex-President Cristiani is facing murder charges for the executions of 6 Catholic priests, housekeeper and young daughter, that advocated for negotiations and peace. NAYOYO welcomes military coups and death squads everywhere so long as it favours corporate greed and human rights violations that terrify popular dissent. Only the most savage, racist, drug-dealing monsters are embraced as worthy NAYOYO allies because they have NO LOCAL support. These collaborators know their lives and future depend on following CIA instructions.

    John Stuart Mill (1806 – 1873): “I did not mean that Conservatives are generally stupid; I meant, that stupid persons are generally conservative.”

    The world will be a better and safer place when Russia wins this war. Putin has heard all the promises, watched the treaties signed, and quickly ignored. He knows of racist genocides committed and planned. It won’t be the vacuous excuses of White Western academics that define this war. It will be blunt demands and brutal facts on the ground that outline Ukraine’s public defeat. This war will end with Russian tanks shaking the ground at western borders.

    Max Born (November 1960, Bulletin Of The Atomic Scientist): “Should the human race not be extinguished by nuclear war it will degenerate into a flock of stupid, dumb creatures under the tyranny of dictators who rule them with the help of [socia media] and …computers. This is not a prophecy but a nightmare.”

    Born didn’t live long enough to see pundits and news media debase themselves so contemptibly, they would ’embed’ themselves with monstrous Banderite Nazis.

    John LeCarré: “God appointed America to save the world in any way that suits America. God appointed Israel [and other anti-democratic collaborators] to be the nexus of America’s [foreign] policy and anyone who wants to mess with that idea is a) anti-Semitic, b) anti-American, c) with the enemy, and d) a terrorist.”

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=251Blni2AE4&list=RDMM&index=21
    Leonard Cohen – Who by fire (Live in London)

    1. Ricardo
      “americans have always been genocidal enjoying killing from afar…the artificial sexual scarcity in america shrives from the American money neurosis”. Philip Slater
      “americans are the most prudish in western civilization—they sublimate their desire by chasing the dollar…america is gigantic a gigantic mistake”. Sigmund freud
      “americans cannot provide each other sexuall pleasure”. David Riesman
      “americans cannot feel pure pleasure”. Slovoj Zizek
      “americans are threatened by complicated feelings ” Richard Sennet
      “in america love has been reduced to romance”. Horkheimer/Adorno
      “Americans do not feel, they do not remember: americans live in a materialist dream”. Moisede Ostrogorski
      “americans have lost the capacity for spontaneous feeling”. Erich Fromm
      “americans are not at all happy. they feel themselves lacking..all the sensitiveness has dried up in americans….the crystallization of love is impossible in USA….I do not envy their kind of happiness: it is the happiness of a different and inferior species”. Stendhal

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