This is Iraq all over again. I’m talking about the deception of the American people about a threat that may not even exist. Iraq had its “weapons of mass destruction.” Ukraine has its alleged “invasion” by Russia and threat to the rest of Eastern Europe. I busted this myth in my book Ukraine in the Crosshairs. What I found in my research is that those trying to convince us of Putin’s dastardly role are lying.
In all honesty I don’t know whether or not Russia has played the role it’s been accused of. But I did find that those who are trying to convince us of that rely upon fabrications. I’ve got evidence of that.
Blaming the media for all this is like blaming the messenger. With Iraq, sure, many news people played along like puppy dogs. And they’re jumping through the same hoops now. It’s true that there are a handful of media commentators and a few media outlets that have made Russia bashing their forte. But that’s not what’s been propelling this story. There needs to be more focus on exposing the brains (or lack of brains!) behind the false stories about Ukraine.
In the U.S., the fabricated storyline about Russia’s role has been bipartisanly embraced. Jump back to the Council on Foreign Relations report of 2006. It was titled “Russia’s Wrong Direction: What the United States Can and Should Do.” The task force that produced it was chaired by John Edwards (D) and Jack Kemp (R). Again, bipartisan.
This is an issue on which the two parties could reasonably disagree. But we find people like John McCain and Hillary Clinton on basically the same page. But, neither they nor their comrades-in-arms can formulate a factual basis for their positions. They rely upon innuendos and allegations based on falsehoods, past and present.
Perhaps the most honest of the bunch is Senator Lindsay Graham. When asked on national TV why he favored sending lethal weaponry to Ukraine, the best he could come up with was the statement, “It will make me feel better.” That may have made him sound like a nit-wit, but at least he was honest about it and didn’t just offer fabrications a la Clinton and McCain.
But now, however, the stakes are greater than Iraq. We’re not talking about just using weapons of mass destruction on a minority population, as bad as that surely is. Now the stakes border on global thermonuclear war.
American University in Moscow president Dr. Edward Lozansky, himself a nuclear scientist, has urged that parties in the Ukrainian crisis “step back from the brink of a nuclear confrontation that would destroy the entire northern hemisphere of the earth.” According to the Telegraph, former Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev has issued his own warning that “the world is at risk of a ‘nuclear war’ because of the tensions between Russia and the West over Ukraine.”
But yet the drumbeat continues to spread fallacious stories to stimulate fear and to trick otherwise reasonable people to think the unthinkable. Make no mistake about it: sending lethal weapons to Ukraine would be like throwing gasoline on a fire. And that would be just the start of the trouble.
Many have tried to counter the specious accounts about Ukraine. One leading example is Professor Stephen F. Cohen, a long-respected historian who focuses on Russia. His efforts to set the record straight have netted him a hatchet-job attack in the venerable New York Times. For Cohen’s standing up for the truth, the Times characterized his reputation as “divisive.” Well, to that I say hooray for divisiveness and boo to the Times.
But being vocal about the truth and attempting to correct falsehoods will ultimately not be enough. The lesson of Iraq was not enough. Now it seems that the history of deception is repeating itself. It’s being enabled by the Clintons and McCains.
My own senator Chris Murphy has been suckered into the movement. Recently I wrote him and advised, “Think about what you are doing. Do you really want to create a world for your children to inherit based on a dangerous and ignorant mythology, or would you rather champion a more reality-based approach to peaceful U.S.-Russia relations?” He offered no substantive response to that.
In the midst of the Vietnam conflict, at a time when the U.S. and the Soviet Union were butting their nuclear heads, there was a popular song titled, “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?” It bemoans the buffoonish tendency of humanity to repeat a destructive cycle of history that seems impossible to break. The ending line says, “When will they ever learn, when will they ever learn.”
I suggest that Mrs. Clinton, Mr. McCain and the rest who are engaged in repeating the mistakes of history listen to that song over and over again, and think about what they are doing. Are the short term rewards they seek for themselves by misleading the country really worth it? Indeed, will they ever learn?
William Dunkerley is a media business analyst and consultant based in New Britain, Connecticut, USA. He works extensively with media organisations in Russia and other post-communist countries, and has advised government leaders on strategies for building press freedom and a healthy media sector. He is a Senior Fellow at the American University in Moscow.