By Eve Ottenberg / CounterPunch
Tens of thousands protested against the skyrocketing cost of living and against Macron in France October 16, led by left-wing politician Jean Luc Melenchon, but there were few front page or top-of-the hour headlines in the U.S. Huge protests occurred in Rome the same day to demand an end to Italy’s involvement in NATO, but no coverage on the west side of the Atlantic. Thousands protesting in Paris October 22 against NATO, but little notice in North America. Massive protests against NATO and inflation due to sanctions on Russian energy in France, Germany and Austria in September, but little news of it here in the heart of the empire. German police beat citizens protesting energy shortages and record-high inflation, both due to Russia sanctions, the week of October 17, but that was not covered in the USA. Seventy thousand Czechs protested in Prague September 3 against NATO involvement in Ukraine, demanding gas from Russia (before some mysterious imperial somebody with means and motive blew up Nordstream 1 and 2, probably to nip the political effects of those protests in the bud) and ending the war, but that got little coverage in U.S. corporate media.
Ever get the sense there are things our media hides from us? Hmm. Ever wonder why enormous protests against the policies of the Exceptional Empire and its attack dog, NATO, seem, um, to be downplayed? Ever think our corporate news outlets behave more like the propaganda arm of our neoconservative state department and military than a free press? Well, if so, you may be onto something.
Lots of Europeans are unhappy about NATO, the Ukraine war, sanctions on Russia and the wild inflation and deindustrialization – which will result in gargantuan unemployment – those sanctions caused. As their living standards sink like stones, Europeans know who is to blame, namely their supposedly great ally across the Atlantic, and many have soured on their so-called alliance with the hegemon. But Washington doesn’t seem to care. Let the Europeans go broke and protest. The important thing is not reporting this news to the American people, who, if they heard about it, might get a subversive inkling that their government had not behaved in an entirely honorable manner.
Meanwhile lies swarm everywhere. Some unintentional, others not. Most recently we have U.S. joint chiefs of staff chairman Mark Milley claiming that if Ukraine falls, the current world order will collapse. Sadly, this is hogwash. What will collapse are the tumescent egos of U.S. and European politicos and military men. Not surprisingly, they conflate that with the world order. But there are other, far more sinister reasons to make such garishly incendiary pronouncements, namely to prepare the American population for the unthinkable – and it is unthinkable, because if the U.S. attacks Russia with nukes, both the U.S. and Russia will be annihilated. Will Biden and his generals get a nuclear war? Unclear. But what’s clear as day is that Americans travel like lemmings to their doom, thanks to the fibs of their rulers and media.
Somehow all the big news gets blacked out. Like China dumping $100 billion worth of U.S. treasuries and what that means if this becomes a trend (I’ll tell you what it means: we’re $30 trillion in debt and we can’t pay, so when we cart SUVs full of cash to the supermarket, we’ll make those Weimar wheelbarrows look petite). Or how sanctions on Russian energy backfired and caused ruinous inflation in Europe, pretty awful inflation here in the U.S. and pushed the whole west toward recession…or maybe ultimately depression. Or how Biden’s ever more reckless sanctions on China could wind up bankrupting us all. China is, after all the chief U.S. trading partner. Sanction China, as Biden recently did to its chip and semiconductor sector, and prices for everything explode upwards.
But money isn’t everything. What about Biden’s devil-may-care attitude toward continued human life on this planet, which he endangers every time he opens his mouth to bloviate that the U.S. will throw its military into the fray, should Taiwan and China go to war? True, Biden’s bellicose pronunciamentos do make the news – he is, after all, the ruler of one of the most violent empires in human history – but details of their global life-and-death implications, namely that they could kill us all? Not so much.
No, this news is not of interest to the editorial bigwigs who tell us what to think. They’re too busy stuffing our heads with bubble gum for the brain like rubbish about Tik Tok, or celebrity drivel or anything else deeply stupid enough to cretinize viewers and readers, so they won’t notice that their utility bills doubled in recent months, or their grocery bills shot up many percentage points, or the world is closer to being incinerated in a nuclear apocalypse than it has ever been.
But they notice anyway. And even though they may lack the finely tuned mental framework to fit it all together, thanks to their news consumption habits, lots of people have begun to glimpse that Washington’s idiocy could get them blown up tout de suite and meanwhile is bleeding them dry and will very soon be bleeding them drier. Hence the public’s growing reluctance to keep handing Ukraine, the most corrupt country in Europe, blank checks. The GOP even climbed onto the bandwagon and announced it won’t fund this misbegotten war if it regains congress. I, for one, will be astonished if Republicans have the backbone to keep that promise. Anyway, Biden plans to preempt this oath by forking over more billions to Kiev now. This will not, ahem, help the Dems, which is probably what Republicans count on. But then Biden gets to look like he’s a man of principle (the show must go on), while the rest of us go broke and calculate our distance from atomic ground zero. Americans struggle with utility bills, grocery and gas prices, medical and educational debt. They don’t need to fund defense contractors to the tune of billions of dollars so Ukrainians and Russians can kill each other halfway around the world. And they certainly don’t need a war that has humanity teetering on the brink of nuclear Armageddon.
In an unexpected dribble of good news, on October 24 the Washington Post reported that some 30 members of the progressive caucus urged Biden to get diplomacy to end the war rolling. The next day, they sniveled and recanted. This was the first time any Dems had the guts not to cheerlead for more bloodshed and more war on Moscow. What caused this initial sea change, I don’t know. But it was good news. Better late than never, it seemed. It appeared to mean some on the so-called left in Washington had finally come to their senses and just might not behave as disgracefully as so many European socialists did once World War I started, when they abandoned their erstwhile pacifism. For a long time, honestly, it has looked like that was the inheritance Dem progressives wanted to claim, an inheritance not just of shame and mass murder, but, were the Ukraine war to morph into World War III, human extinction.
For less than a day the sun of reason and goodness shone down. Briefly, the people who consider themselves of the left decided this danger of humanity’s mass execution was worth speaking out about and that diplomacy for peace is the only sane route out of the fiasco. But then, the next day they chickened out of bucking their party’s bloodlust. Even their timid gesture was too much to ask. These people are not leftists. They are cowards. They are a disgrace to the left. If anyone in the progressive caucus ever speaks out for diplomacy again, I’ll be very impressed.
Speaking of being impressed, how about that Washington Post actually playing this story big, about progressives calling for diplomacy, instead of burying it? That was unexpected, to say the least. Because it’s long been sickeningly obvious that our mainstream media show one side of the story: the NATO, Washington, imperial, war-mongering side. And it’s been doing that, shamelessly, for a generation. (It did that earlier too, but with a bit of actual embarrassment, whenever it got called out.) Remember Iraq’s infamous weapons of mass destruction? The editors who hyped that lie for months on end went on to bigger and better things, and so did the politicians – Biden even became president! – while an entire country, Iraq, was bombed to smithereens, based largely on mendacious reporting and political chicanery and now, decades later, has simply swirled down the drain.
And who can forget the frenzy whipped up to justify NATO’s criminal 1999 bombing of Serbia? Nowadays Biden and NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg would have you believe NATO is a “defensive” organization. What it did to Serbia should have tossed that mistake in the trash long ago. Instead, the error persists (not accidentally). When Russia reacted to the chance of Ukraine joining NATO and thus the presence of a hostile bomb-happy axis on its borders, western rulers protested that NATO is “defensive.” So also clamor our media, prevaricating just as they do every time they mention the U.S. defense department, which should ditch that moniker and return to the previous, more honest “war department.”
You know things are bad when absurd chuckleheads like former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi are the ones almost nailing reality on the head. He did that October 20 with his remarks that Ukraine provoked Russia into its invasion. It could be argued that Kiev did so by slaughtering 14,000 Russian-speakers in the Donbass since 2014 and then, last winter, massing huge numbers of troops on that region’s border, in preparation for what Moscow took to be a genocide. But actually, Ukraine’s supposed instigation had lotsa help. It would have been more accurate for Berlusconi to say that Ukraine’s puppet master, the U.S., provoked Moscow with its nonstop incitement by expanding NATO eastward since the Soviet Union’s fall, as numerous American experts and diplomats – from cold war brain-trust luminary George Kennan to former ambassador to the USSR Jack Matlock to CIA chief William Burns to great powers expert John Mearsheimer, and others – had warned, and more recently egged Moscow to attack with a 2014 Kiev coup and the eight years of violent nonsense that followed, and that Washington did so with premeditation to rupture the economic relationship between Russia and Europe; but nonetheless Berlusconi landed his verbal dart on the board with the bullseye. And when you have to go to Berlusconi for informed commentary, you’re in trouble, because he recently chose his side in the Italian government and it was the fascist one. So now things are so bad that fascists are among the people objecting to imperial propaganda. Fun times.
But we have the same disastrous mess here in the U.S., where the next presidential election could shape up to be a choice between Trump’s fascism or Biden’s nuclear war. Choice? Ho, ho. That’s no choice. That’s death on the installment plan or instant death. Either way it’s disastrous for ordinary people, because Trumpism either ends what civilization we have in America, which has a dire, global because imperial impact, or Bidenism directly ends civilization on earth.
At the start of the Ukraine war, Biden promised not to launch World War III. He broke that promise, by flooding Ukraine with weapons, CIA operatives and some special forces. To call this reckless is an understatement. Biden’s refusal to use his considerable weight to promote peace negotiations killed thousands of Ukrainians and Russians, will likely kill many more, and also endangers the lives of billions of other people, worldwide – 5.3 billion from nuclear-winter-induced starvation, who would suffer a slow, agonizing death. And I’m not talking about the canard that Russia may use a low-yield nuclear device on the battlefield. I’m talking about Moscow and Washington determining that they really are in a hot war and the long-range, high-yield nuclear missiles that could then begin to fly.
Biden’s sole task is to prevent this. His desire to be seen as the new FDR, as a friend of the unions, as some sort of social democrat, mean nothing if he can’t deescalate this war with Moscow. If Biden wants any legacy other than that of earth’s destroyer, leaving humanity a cold, charred, radioactive planet, he will stop his war-mongering garbage at once and throw his definitive, presidential heft behind peace negotiations with Moscow. And Washington must be an in-person party to those negotiations. Absent that, anything else he does goes down in history, if there even is a history, as a waste.