Trump’s Watergate All About Drowning Out Russia

Trump’s Watergate All About Drowning Out Russia
FINIAN CUNNINGHAM | 20.02.2017 | OPINION

Trump’s Watergate All About Drowning Out Russia

The adage about One Man’s Terrorist is Another Man’s Freedom Fighter is aptly paraphrased for the running battle in Washington between President Trump and his intelligence agencies. Only instead of «terrorist» substitute the word «leaker».

Prominent sections of the US media are willingly acting as conduits for intelligence agencies leaking classified government information to damage the Trump White House. The media and Trump’s political enemies are thus acting as accomplices in criminal disclosure of supposedly secret government information, which at another time the same media and politicians would condemn as treasonous. Think Edward Snowden or Chelsea Manning for instance.

Trump has hit back after his National Security Advisor Michael Flynn was forced to resign over disclosed phone contacts he had with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak earlier this year. With barely contained anger, Trump described the leaks as «criminal» and «un-American» and has scorned media outlets for conspiring to destabilize his presidency – only less than one month after taking office.

In turn, media outlets like the New York Times, Washington Post and CNNhave disparaged Trump for trying to «deflect» the issue away from alleged contacts with Russian state officials to the issue of intelligence services leaking classified information. Such disclosure is a criminal offense, punishable by jail for breach of government secrecy rules.

Trump does have a point though. The practice of leaking confidential information by security services is a grave breach.

But there is something of a contradiction here on both sides of the fight.

When Donald Trump was campaigning as presidential candidate he openly reveled in the leaking of classified information by the Wikileaks whistleblower website because much of the disclosure was highly damaging to his Democrat rival Hillary Clinton, originating partly during her tenure as Secretary of State.

Now the shoe is on the other foot. President Trump is screaming about classified information being leaked and given out «like candy» to media outlets. Because now the leaks are damaging his administration with allegations that some his aides were in close contact with Russian government officials. The alleged contacts go beyond just former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. The New York Times this week reported anonymous US officials claiming that several of Trump’s aides also shared contact with Russians.

Ironically, some of these major US media outlets appear indifferent to the criminal offense of leaking classified information by intelligence agencies. They want to focus on the alleged content of the leaks, namely that Trump and his team are supposedly compromised by clandestine Russian connections. Yet, during the election campaign these same outlets showed little interest in publishing the damaging content of information leaked by Wikileaks against Hillary Clinton. Part of that indifference was feigned to be a concern over publishing leaked classified information.

Again, now the shoe is on the other foot. US media outlets that were previously shunning leaked information about their favored candidate, Clinton, are now all too willing to run with leaks damaging President Trump, whom they were decidedly opposed to becoming the White House occupant.

However, to be fair to Trump when he was a beneficiary of leaks against Clinton during the election campaign he was then a private citizen. There is no evidence that he colluded with the source of the leaks, either Wikileaks or, as is alleged, Russian hackers. Also, much of the damaging information against Clinton – her paid connections to Wall Street banks for instance – was obtained from private emails between her as a Democrat candidate and the Democratic National Committee, not when she was in office as the Secretary of State during the Obama administration. That information was not classified government correspondence, so therefore was fair game for publishing.

Whereas the current leaks against President Trump by intelligence agencies or government officials are a clear breach of secrecy laws on classified information. Those leaks are clearly intended at undermining a sitting president by insinuating that his alleged contacts with Russian officials are potentially treasonous.

The media clamor over Trump’s alleged Russian connections are fueling a growing chorus in Congress for further investigations. Media pundits and lawmakers are boldly using the word «treason» to describe Trump’s alleged contacts with Russia. Some are even referring to the infamous Watergate scandal that led to President Nixon’s ouster in 1974.

The Washington Post which famously helped uncover the Watergate scandal published an editorial this week declaring: «The nation needs answers, not deflections, on Russia and Trump».

The Post editors write: «The news [sic] that members of President Trump’s circle had repeated contacts with Russian intelligence officials in the year before the election, reported by the New York Times on Tuesday, might have been less concerning if the president had responded by explaining or condemning the contacts and accepting the need for an impartial investigation. Instead, on Wednesday morning, he dashed off a half-dozen tweets in which he curiously both denied the news [sic] and attacked the leakers who disclosed it. In so doing, he gave more cause for Republicans and Democrats to demand answers about his opaque and increasingly troubling ties with Moscow».

What the Washington Post innocuously calls «news» is actually leaked claims from anonymous US intelligence officials, which are illegal. It is also hardly «news» since the information is unverifiable claims made by anonymous sources.

Nevertheless, the Post castigates Trump for drawing attention to the illegality of the leaks. And it goes on emphatically to «demand answers about his opaque and increasingly troubling ties with Moscow».

The dubious priority here is not to question the ethics of leaking classified information, but rather to push the vapid, unverifiable hearsay that impugns the president for allegedly having private communications with the Russians. Trump has flatly denied that any such contacts were ever made during his campaign.

Ironically, the connection to Watergate is more than it might appear to be. That scandal is commonly thought of as a «high point» of American journalism, in which intrepid reporters from the Washington Post dared to help bring down a Republican president for involvement in «dirty tricks» against Democrats hatched in 1972. A more nuanced account is given by author Russ Baker, in his book Family of Secrets about the Bush dynasty and the CIA. Baker provides evidence that the Washington Post was actually led by intelligence agencies to stitch up Richard Nixon whom they had come to oppose over his shady self-serving politics. Watergate and the demise of Nixon was thus less a triumph of democracy and media righteousness and more a coup by the Deep State against Nixon in which the Washington Post served as the conduit.

The nature of today’s shenanigans with Trump may be different in the precise details. But the modus operandi appears to be the same. A sitting president is out of favor with the Deep State and the latter is orchestrating a media campaign of leaks to dislodge him. Appropriately, the Washington Post is again at the forefront of the Deep State operation to thwart the president, this time Trump, as with Nixon before.

The story of Trump being a potentially treasonous pawn being manipulated by Russia is impossibly far-fetched to be credible. Trump denies it, and Moscow denies it. Trump’s former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn appears indeed to have had contact with the Russian ambassador during Trump’s transition to the White House. But the content of the conversation has been blown out of all proportion by US intelligence and media to contrive the narrative that Trump is in cahoots with Moscow.

The upshot is that Trump’s avowed policy of restoring friendlier relations with Russia is being hampered at every turn. The president is being goaded into having to deny he is a Russian stooge and to prove that he is not soft on Moscow – by, for example, stating this week through his White House spokesman Sean Spicer that «Russian must hand back Crimea to Ukraine».

Evidently, the big purpose here is to direct Trump to adopt a harder line on Russia and to abandon any notion of developing cordial relations. Either he must tow the line, or he will be hounded by leaks, media speculation and Congressional probes until he is impeached. This is because the Deep State – primarily the military-industrial complex that is the permanent government of the US – is predicated on a strategic policy of adversity towards Russia and any other designated geopolitical rival.

Meanwhile, amid the raging war between the Trump White House and the US intelligence network, which includes sections of the media, Russia said this week that relations between the two countries were suffering.

Dmitry Peskov, spokesman for President Vladimir Putin, lamented that the turmoil in Washington was turning into a lost opportunity for the US and Russia to normalize relations and get on with bigger, far more urgent tasks of cooperation in world affairs.

And that impasse between the US and Russia, it would seem, is the whole object lesson from Trump’s war with powerful elements within his own state.

Trump may have been elected president. But other darker forces in America’s power structure are intent on over-ruling him when it comes to policy on Russia. Trump’s Watergate is all about drowning out a genuine reset with Russia.

Assad to Belgian Media: Europeans Only Follow US Master

A comment on this video from Uprooted Palestinians reads: “More sense from Assad in 3 minutes than from the West in 6 years.” I would have to concur, and I would add that Assad’s “following-the-US-master” comment would probably equally apply to Western so-called “human rights” organizations as well.

Last week I commented on a report by Amnesty International accusing the Syrian government of operating a “human slaughterhouse” at a prison near Damascus. Now comes a Human Rights Watch report alleging that the Syrians used chemical weapons in their liberation of Aleppo from terrorist control. The report, which can be found here, also implicates Russia, but relies upon information given by “journalists” from the Aleppo Media Center, the organization that produced the “boy in the ambulance” photo last year–a photo believed by some to have been staged.

The Amnesty report, published on February 7, and the HRW report, released February 13, would seem to be a one-two punch aimed at the Syrian government and coming as the Pentagon is now reportedly considering recommending that the US send “conventional ground combat forces” for the first time into Syria.

The Syrian government has responded to the HRW report in an article just published today at SANA.

***

Syria Dismisses HRW Chemical Weapons Report as Unprofessional and Non-Credible

Damascus, SANA – The Syrian government denies categorically the false allegations brought up in the report of the Human Rights Watch (HRW) that the Syrian forces and their allies used toxic substances in the operation to liberate Aleppo, an official source at the Foreign and Expatriates Ministry said on Wednesday.

“The fact that the Human Rights Watch organization relied on the terrorists’ media sources and on absolutely non-credible false witnesses proves the lack of credibility of the report,” the source said in a statement to SANA.

“This report comes to justify the terrorists’ defeat and the victories of the Syrian Arab Army and its allies,” the source added.

It dismissed the HRW report as “unprofessional” and “non-scientific” and based on distorting facts, stressing that the report will definitely lose ground when faced with any scientific study or legal evidence.

“The Syrian Arab Republic, which has met all its obligations under the Chemical Weapons Convention, strongly condemns this misleading report that came out in implementation of Western agendas before the convening of meetings in Astana and Geneva and any other meetings that might be held later on the Syrian file,” the Foreign Ministry source said.

The source reiterated Syria’s condemnation of the use of toxic chemical weapons by any part, in any place and for any reason, stressing that all these allegations will not discourage it from continuing its war against the terrorist organizations and their backers.

H. Said

Trump Declares: CNN, NYT, CBS, ABC And NBC Are “The Enemy of The American People”

Global Research, February 19, 2017
ZeroHedge 17 February 2017
Médias

If you thought yesterday’s press conference was “ranting and raving”, it appears President Trump just turned the anti-’Fake news’-media amplifier up to ’11′, declaring  CNN, NBC, ABC, CBS , The New York Times (yet not The Washington Post) as “enemies of the American people”.

The FAKE NEWS media (failing @nytimes, @NBCNews, @ABC, @CBS, @CNN) is not my enemy, it is the enemy of the American People!

 

Incidentally, this was the second tweet, after Trump removed the first version one, which some thought was deleted as it was just a little too “aggressive” but as it turned out, simply ommitted ABC and CBS.

Which begs the question, if the “media” is the enemy, what does that make its corporate owners?

As a reminder, Trump and chief White House strategist Steve Bannon have both referred to the media as the “opposition party.”

“The mainstream media has not fired or terminated anyone associated with following our campaign,” Mr. Bannon said. “Look at the Twitter feeds of those people: they were outright activists of the Clinton campaign.” (He did not name specific reporters or editors.) ”That’s why you have no power,” Mr. Bannon added. “You were humiliated.”

“You’re the opposition party,” Mr. Bannon said. “Not the Democratic Party. You’re the opposition party. The media’s the opposition party.”

And here was Trump yesterday.

Trump: I’m changing CNN from “fake news” to “very fake news.”

The media – which according to the president is now America’s enemy – had reactions, ranging from the shocked, to the defensive, to the conciliatory, to the bemused.

Only a FAKE PRESIDENT would declare the First Amendment to be the enemy of the American people. https://twitter.com/realdonaldtrump/status/832708293516632065 

I would hope that our leaders would never believe that any American desires to make another American an enemy. Let’s dial it back.

I was on the fence about this, but how can journalists go to WHCA dinner and toast somebody who has branded them an “enemy” of the state?

 

View image on Twitter

Trump attacks so-called “fake news” media and then deletes tweet. And here I thought we made progress yesterday. Sad.

 

An American president sworn to defend the Constitution wrote those words https://twitter.com/davidfrum/status/832704852731981824 

 

Written courtesy of Moscow. They sent to @realDonaldTrump this morning but it took a few hours to translate. https://twitter.com/realdonaldtrump/status/832708293516632065 

They are on recess and for the first time in weeks out of our sight line https://twitter.com/maggieNYT/status/832709713850679297 

 

Let’s be clear: “Enemy of the people” (враг народа) is pure Bolshevism. Trump is citing core Chekist slogans now.https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/832708293516632065 

Journalists, our commitment to our craft and careers just became vital. Keep fighting the good fight.

 

This is how muzzling starts: not with a boot, but with the fear of one that runs so deep that you muzzle yourself. https://nyti.ms/2lraqLu 

Rick Casey, the host of a weekly public affairs program on a small television station in Texas, recently fashioned a stinging commentary on remarks by Representative Lamar Smith that was pulled shortly before it was to air. The station later reversed itself.

In Trump Era, Censorship May Start in the Newsroom

A misfire at a PBS station showed how Trump administration attempts to intimidate the press could work, and how those attempts could be thwarted.

nytimes.com

Chilling stuff from so-called “leader of the free world”.

I used to see this sort of comment from regime when in Tehran. https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/832708293516632065 

 

He’s lashing out because he knows it’s coming closer and closer. This is actually raw fear.

I have links to Russia!

 photo russlinks_zpspkcqfpof.jpg

One wonders: what exactly does it mean to have “links” to Russia? Does a phone conversation qualify? Maybe, simply watching an RT video will get you so labeled. I guess if you’re not getting your news principally from CNN or the Washington Post then surely you must be a brainwashed dupe–one deserving of pity and who is, of course, in dire need of reeducation. Or maybe even, in the deranged minds of Trump haters, simply listening to Tchaikovsky will get you branded a Russky sympathizer. If this is the case, then I plead guilty. I have Russian “links”!

Israel seems on its way to outlawing Wagner. Maybe we’ll ban Tchaikovsky here in America. At any rate, we seem to have entered a new McCarthy era here in the US. Or perhaps more precisely we might think of it as a reverse McCarthy era. This time the witch hunts are being waged by liberals; this time the smears and false accusations are devices  employed by the left rather than the political right.

***

Trump’s National Security Adviser Forced to Resign After Lying About Being a KGB Agent

By Rudy Panko | Russia Insider

We’ve really hit rock bottom, folks.

Links?

As NBC reports, Flynn “misled Vice President Mike Pence and other senior officials about his communications with Sergei Kislyak, Russia’s ambassador to the United States.”

This is what qualifies as having “links” to Russia? A telephone conversation? We thought that a major part of being in government was “talking with people”?

Oh, but this saga of espionage and intrigue just gets better.

Our friends at NBC News claim that Flynn was forced to resign after it was learned that “the Justice Department [had] informed the White House that it believed he could be subject to blackmail”.

That’s the opening line. If you have the patience to read ten more paragraphs, you learn this:

A senior intelligence official confirmed to NBC News last week that Flynn discussed the sanctions, which the Obama administration imposed to punish Russia for its campaign to interfere in the presidential election.

The intelligence official said there had been no finding inside the government that Flynn did anything illegal.

A senior official told NBC News on Monday night the president and his top advisers had been “agonizing” over what to do about Flynn for days. The official, who was involved in the discussions, says the situation became unsustainable — not because of any issue of being compromised by Russia — but because he had lied to the president and the vice president.

So Flynn did nothing illegal. There are no “links” with Russia. He just lied to the President about a telephone call. (He probably didn’t, actually, but was forced to “take a bullet for the team.” Because apparently the media and half of America will not tolerate telephone conversations with Russians. The horror!)

Thank God we caught this KGB sleeper agent before it was too late!

Who will be exposed next? Maxine Waters?

Mother Russia is waiting for you, Comrade Flynn! It’s time to come home.


The 1812 Overture was composed by Tchaikovsky to celebrate Russia’s victory over France in 1812. Let’s keep in mind it was Napoleon who invaded Russia, not the other way around. In Russia the war is referred to as “The Patriotic War of 1812.”

Historical account of the war:

Napoleon hoped to compel Tsar Alexander I of Russia to cease trading with British merchants through proxies in an effort to pressure the United Kingdom to sue for peace.[10] The official political aim of the campaign was to liberate Poland from the threat of Russia. Napoleon named the campaign the Second Polish War to gain favor with the Poles and provide a political pretext for his actions.[11]

The Grande Armée was a very large force, numbering 680,000 soldiers (including 300,000 of French departments). Through a series of long marches Napoleon pushed the army rapidly through Western Russia in an attempt to bring the Russian army to battle, winning a number of minor engagements and a major battle at Smolensk in August. Napoleon hoped the battle would mean an end of the march into Russia, but the Russian army slipped away from the engagement and continued to retreat into Russia, while leaving Smolensk to burn.[12] Plans Napoleon had made to quarter at Smolensk were abandoned, and he pressed his army on after the Russians.[13]

As the Russian army fell back, Cossacks were given the task of burning villages, towns and crops.[10] This was intended to deny the invaders the option of living off the land. These scorched-earth tactics greatly surprised and disturbed the French, as the willingness of the Russians to destroy their own territory and harm their own people was difficult for the French to comprehend.[14] The actions forced the French to rely on a supply system that was incapable of feeding the large army in the field. Starvation and privation compelled French soldiers to leave their camps at night in search of food. These men were frequently confronted by parties of Cossacks, who captured or killed them.

The Russian army retreated into Russia for almost three months. The continual retreat and the loss of lands to the French upset the Russian nobility. They pressured Alexander I to relieve the commander of the Russian army, Field Marshal Barclay. Alexander I complied, appointing an old veteran, Prince Mikhail Kutuzov, to take over command of the army. However, for two more weeks Kutuzov continued to retreat as his predecessor had done.

On 7 September, the French caught up with the Russian army which had dug itself in on hillsides before a small town called Borodino, seventy miles west of Moscow. The battle that followed was the largest and bloodiest single-day action of the Napoleonic Wars, involving more than 250,000 soldiers and resulting in 70,000 casualties. The French gained a tactical victory, but at the cost of 49 general officers and thousands of men. The Russian army was able to extricate itself and withdrew the following day, leaving the French without the decisive victory Napoleon sought.[15]

Napoleon entered Moscow a week later. In another turn of events the French found puzzling, there was no delegation to meet the Emperor. The Russians had evacuated the city, and the city’s governor, Count Fyodor Rostopchin, ordered several strategic points in Moscow set ablaze.[16] Napoleon’s hopes had been set upon a victorious end to his campaign, but victory in the field did not yield him victory in the war. The loss of Moscow did not compel Alexander I to sue for peace, and both sides were aware that Napoleon’s position grew worse with each passing day. Napoleon stayed on in Moscow looking to negotiate a peace, his hopes fed in part by a disinformation campaign informing the Emperor of supposed discontent and fading morale in the Russian camp. After staying a month Napoleon moved his army out southwest toward Kaluga, where Kutuzov was encamped with the Russian army.

The French advance toward Kaluga was checked by a Russian corps. Napoleon tried once more to engage the Russian army for a decisive action at the Battle of Maloyaroslavets. Despite holding a superior position, the Russians retreated following a sharp engagement, confirming that the Russians would not commit themselves to a pitched battle.[17] His troops exhausted, with few rations, no winter clothing, and his remaining horses in poor condition, Napoleon was forced to retreat. He hoped to reach supplies at Smolensk and later at Vilnius. In the weeks that followed the Grande Armée starved and suffered from the onset of the Russian Winter. Lack of food and fodder for the horses, hypothermia from the bitter cold and persistent attacks upon isolated troops from Russian peasants and Cossacks led to great losses in men, and a general loss of discipline and cohesion in the army. When the remnants of Napoleon’s army crossed the Berezina River in November, only 27,000 effective soldiers remained; the Grand Armée had lost some 380,000 men dead and 100,000 captured.

One can’t help wondering if NATO troops may end up meeting the same fate.

Syria: Another failed FSA propaganda stunt

 

Asaad Hanna, a political officer for the Free Syrian Army, recently posted an image of a young girl on Twitter, claiming that she had been imprisoned 3 years ago in Syria, and has still not been released.

This little girl still in prisons since more than 3 years

Firstly, the girl in the image appears to be around 4-7 years old. Therefore, based on Asaad Hanna’s Tweet, she was imprisoned when she was 1-4 years old. If true, this would be the first report, even considering unverified reports, of a child of such young age being imprisoned in Syria.

The reason of her imprisoning is also ambiguous. For propaganda purposes, it is typically alleged that the majority of current inmates in Syrian prions were detained for opposing the government/peacefully protesting.

However, in 2014 (the year of her apparent imprisoning), there weren’t any protests occurring in Syria. Protests began in Syria in March 2011, and by mid-2012, the country was engulfed in a full-scale civil war. Therefore, it seems there is no logical explanation as to why she would imprisoned.

Attempts by members and supporters of the armed opposition to portray the Syrian authorities in a negative light are expected, but this is a particularly poor effort, as there is not only no proof, but the entire story is baseless, and doesn’t conform to the principles of logic.

Follow Reporter on Twitter for Updates: @SulimanM98

Suliman Mulhem is a British-Syrian journalist. He writes for @SputnikInt, a Russian Media Outlet, and @TheArabSource.

Video: “Saving Syria’s Children”: The Worst Case Of Fake News?

Global Research, February 17, 2017

Mike Robinson, Patrick Henningsen and campaigner Robert Stuart take a look at what is quite possibly the worst example of mainstream media fake news in history – the BBC Panorama documentary Saving Syria’s Children.

A Documentary You’ll Likely Never See

A Documentary You’ll Likely Never See
EDITOR’S CHOICE | 16.02.2017

A Documentary You’ll Likely Never See

James DiEUGENIO

It is not very often that a documentary film can set a new paradigm about a recent event, let alone, one that is still in progress. But the new film Ukraine on Fire has the potential to do so – assuming that many people get to see it.

Usually, documentaries — even good ones — repackage familiar information in a different aesthetic form. If that form is skillfully done, then the information can move us in a different way than just reading about it.

A good example of this would be Peter Davis’s powerful documentary about U.S. involvement in Vietnam, Hearts and Minds. By 1974, most Americans understood just how bad the Vietnam War was, but through the combination of sounds and images, which could only have been done through film, that documentary created a sensation, which removed the last obstacles to America leaving Indochina.

Ukraine on Fire has the same potential and could make a contribution that even goes beyond what the Davis film did because there was very little new information in Hearts and Minds. Especially for American and Western European audiences, Ukraine on Fire could be revelatory in that it offers a historical explanation for the deep divisions within Ukraine and presents information about the current crisis that challenges the mainstream media’s paradigm, which blames the conflict almost exclusively on Russia.

Key people in the film’s production are director Igor Lopatonok, editor Alex Chavez, and writer Vanessa Dean, whose screenplay contains a large amount of historical as well as current material exploring how Ukraine became such a cauldron of violence and hate. Oliver Stone served as executive producer and conducted some high-profile interviews with Russian President Vladimir Putin and ousted Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych.

The film begins with gripping images of the violence that ripped through the capital city of Kiev during both the 2004 Orange Revolution and the 2014 removal of Yanukovich. It then travels back in time to provide a perspective that has been missing from mainstream versions of these events and even in many alternative media renditions.

A Longtime Pawn

Historically, Ukraine has been treated as a pawn since the late Seventeenth Century. In 1918, Ukraine was made a German protectorate by the Treaty of Brest Litovsk. Ukraine was also a part of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact of 1939 signed between Germany and Russia, but violated by Adolf Hitler when the Nazis invaded the Soviet Union in the summer of 1941.

German dictator Adolf Hitler

The reaction of many in Ukraine to Hitler’s aggression was not the same as it was in the rest of the Soviet Union. Some Ukrainians welcomed the Nazis. The most significant Ukrainian nationalist group, Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN), had been established in 1929. Many of its members cooperated with the Nazis, some even enlisted in the Waffen SS and Ukrainian nationalists participated in the massacre of more than 33,000 Jews at Babi Yar ravine in Kiev in September 1941. According to scholar Pers Anders Rudling, the number of Ukrainian nationalists involved in the slaughter outnumbered the Germans by a factor of 4 to 1.

But it wasn’t just the Jews that the Ukrainian nationalists slaughtered. They also participated in massacres of Poles in the western Ukrainian region of Galicia from March 1943 until the end of 1944. Again, the main perpetrators were not Germans, but Ukrainians.

According to author Ryazard Szawlowksi, the Ukrainian nationalists first lulled the Poles into thinking they were their friends, then turned on them with a barbarity and ferocity that not even the Nazis could match, torturing their victims with saws and axes. The documentary places the number of dead at 36,750, but Szawlowski estimates it may be two or three times higher.

OUN members participated in these slaughters for the purpose of ethnic cleansing, wanting Ukraine to be preserved for what OUN regarded as native Ukrainians. They also expected Ukraine to be independent by the end of the war, free from both German and Russian domination. The two main leaders in OUN who participated in the Nazi collaboration were Stepan Bandera and Mykola Lebed. Bandera was a virulent anti-Semite, and Lebed was rabidly against the Poles, participating in their slaughter.

After the war, both Bandera and Lebed were protected by American intelligence, which spared them from the Nuremburg tribunals. The immediate antecedent of the CIA, Central Intelligence Group, wanted to use both men for information gathering and operations against the Soviet Union. England’s MI6 used Bandera even more than the CIA did, but the KGB eventually hunted down Bandera and assassinated him in Munich in 1959. Lebed was brought to America and addressed anti-communist Ukrainian organizations in the U.S. and Canada. The CIA protected him from immigration authorities who might otherwise have deported him as a war criminal.

The history of the Cold War was never too far in the background of Ukrainian politics, including within the diaspora that fled to the West after the Red Army defeated the Nazis and many of their Ukrainian collaborators emigrated to the United States and Canada. In the West, they formed a fierce anti-communist lobby that gained greater influence after Ronald Reagan was elected in 1980.

Important History

This history is an important part of Dean’s prologue to the main body of Ukraine on Fire and is essential for anyone trying to understand what has happened there since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. For instance, the U.S.-backed candidate for president of Ukraine in 2004 — Viktor Yushchenko — decreed both Bandera and Lebed to be Ukrainian national heroes.

Stepan Bandera, a Ukrainian ultra-nationalist and Nazi collaborator

Bandera, in particular, has become an icon for post-World War II Ukrainian nationalists. One of his followers was Dmytro Dontsov, who called for the birth of a “new man” who would mercilessly destroy Ukraine’s ethnic enemies.

Bandera’s movement was also kept alive by Yaroslav Stetsko, Bandera’s premier in exile. Stetsko fully endorsed Bandera’s anti-Semitism and also the Nazi attempt to exterminate the Jews of Europe. Stetsko, too, was used by the CIA during the Cold War and was honored by Yushchenko, who placed a plaque in his honor at the home where he died in Munich in 1986. Stetsko’s wife, Slava, returned to Ukraine in 1991 and ran for parliament in 2002 on the slate of Yushchenko’s Our Ukraine party.

Stetsko’s book, entitled Two Revolutions, has become the ideological cornerstone for the modern Ukrainian political party Svoboda, founded by Oleh Tyahnybok, who is pictured in the film calling Jews “kikes” in public, which is one reason the Simon Wiesenthal Center has ranked him as one of the most dangerous anti-Semites in the world.

Another follower of Bandera is Dymytro Yarosh, who reputedly leads the paramilitary arm of an even more powerful political organization in Ukraine called Right Sektor. Yarosh once said he controls a paramilitary force of about 7,000 men who were reportedly used in both the overthrow of Yanukovych in Kiev in February 2014 and the suppression of the rebellion in Odessa a few months later, which are both fully depicted in the film.

This historical prelude and its merging with the current civil war is eye-opening background that has been largely hidden by the mainstream Western media, which has downplayed or ignored the troubling links between these racist Ukrainian nationalists and the U.S.-backed political forces that vied for power after Ukraine became independent in 1991.

The Rise of a Violent Right

That same year, Tyahnybok formed Svoboda. Three years later, Yarosh founded Trident, an offshoot of Svoboda that eventually evolved into Right Sektor. In other words, the followers of Bandera and Lebed began organizing themselves immediately after the Soviet collapse.

The neo-Nazi Wolfsangel symbol on a banner in Ukraine

In this time period, Ukraine had two Russian-oriented leaders who were elected in 1991 and 1994, Leonid Kravchuk, and Leonid Kuchma. But the hasty transition to a “free-market” economy didn’t go well for most Ukrainians or Russians as well-connected oligarchs seized much of the wealth and came to dominate the political process through massive corruption and purchase of news media outlets. However, for average citizens, living standards went down drastically, opening the door for the far-right parties and for foreign meddling.

In 2004, Viktor Yanukovych, whose political base was strongest among ethnic Russians in the east and south, won the presidential election by three percentage points over the U.S.-favored Viktor Yushchenko, whose base was mostly in the country’s west where the Ukrainian nationalists are strongest.

Immediately, Yushchenko’s backers claimed fraud citing exit polls that had been organized by a group of eight Western nations and four non-governmental organizations or NGOs, including the Renaissance Foundation founded by billionaire financial speculator George Soros. Dick Morris, former President Bill Clinton’s political adviser, clandestinely met with Yushchenko’s team and advised them that the exit polls would not just help in accusations of fraud, but would bring protesters out into the streets. (Cambridge Review of InternationalAffairs, Vol. 19, Number 1, p. 26)

Freedom House, another prominent NGO that receives substantial financing from the U.S.-government-funded National Endowment for Democracy (NED), provided training to young activists who then rallied protesters in what became known as the Orange Revolution, one of the so-called “color revolutions” that the West’s mainstream media fell in love with. It forced an election rerun that Yushchenko won.

But Yushchenko’s presidency failed to do much to improve the lot of the Ukrainian people and he grew increasingly unpopular. In 2010, Yushchenko failed to make it out of the first round of balloting and his rival Yanukovych was elected president in balloting that outside observers judged free and fair.

Big-Power Games

If this all had occurred due to indigenous factors within Ukraine, it could have been glossed over as a young nation going through some painful growing pains. But as the film points out, this was not the case. Ukraine continued to be a pawn in big-power games with many Western officials hoping to draw the country away from Russian influence and into the orbit of NATO and the European Union.

Ousted Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych

In one of the interviews in Ukraine on Fire, journalist and author Robert Parry explains how the National Endowment for Democracy and many subsidized political NGOs emerged in the 1980s to replace or supplement what the CIA had traditionally done in terms of influencing the direction of targeted countries.

During the investigations of the Church Committee in the 1970s, the CIA’s “political action” apparatus for removing foreign leaders was exposed. So, to disguise these efforts, CIA Director William Casey, Reagan’s White House and allies in Congress created the NED to finance an array of political and media NGOs.

As Parry noted in the documentary, many traditional NGOs do valuable work in helping impoverished and developing countries, but this activist/propaganda breed of NGOs promoted U.S. geopolitical objectives abroad – and NED funded scores of such projects inside Ukraine in the run-up to the 2014 crisis.

Ukraine on Fire goes into high gear when it chronicles the events that occurred in 2014, resulting in the violent overthrow of President Yanukovych and sparking the civil war that still rages. In the 2010 election, when Yushchenko couldn’t even tally in the double-digits, Yanukovych faced off against and defeated Yulia Tymoshenko, a wealthy oligarch who had served as Yushchenko’s prime minister.

After his election, Yanukovych repealed Bandera’s title as a national hero. However, because of festering economic problems, the new president began to search for an economic partner who could provide a large loan. He first negotiated with the European Union, but these negotiations bogged down due to the usual draconian demands made by the International Monetary Fund.

So, in November 2013, Yanukovych began to negotiate with Russian President Putin who offered more generous terms. But Yanukovych’s decision to delay the association agreement with the E.U. provoked street protests in Kiev especially from the people of western Ukraine.

As Ukraine on Fire points out, other unusual occurrences also occurred, including the emergence of three new TV channels – Spilno TV, Espreso TV, and Hromadske TV – going on the air between Nov. 21 and 24, with partial funding from the U.S. Embassy and George Soros.

Nazi symbols on helmets worn by members of Ukraine’s Azov battalion. (As filmed by a Norwegian film crew and shown on German TV)

Pro-E.U. protests in the Maidan square in central Kiev also grew more violent as ultra-nationalist street fighters from Lviv and other western areas began to pour in and engage in provocations, many of which were sponsored by Yarosh’s Right Sektor. The attacks escalated from torch marches similar to Nazi days to hurling Molotov cocktails at police to driving large tractors into police lines – all visually depicted in the film. As Yanukovich tells Stone, when this escalation happened, it made it impossible for him to negotiate with the Maidan crowd.

One of the film’s most interesting interviews is with Vitaliy Zakharchenko, who was Minister of the Interior at the time responsible for law enforcement and the conduct of the police. He traces the escalation of the attacks from Nov. 24 to 30, culminating with a clash between police and protesters over the transport of a giant Christmas tree into the Maidan. Zakharchenko said he now believes this confrontation was secretly approved by Serhiy Lyovochkin, a close friend of U.S. Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt, as a pretext to escalate the violence.

At this point, the film addresses the direct involvement of U.S. politicians and diplomats. Throughout the crisis, American politicians visited Maidan, as both Republicans and Democrats, such as Senators John McCain, R-Arizona, and Chris Murphy, D-Connecticut. stirred up the crowds. Yanukovych also said he was in phone contact with Vice President Joe Biden, who he claims was misleading him about how to handle the crisis.

The film points out that the real center of American influence in the Kiev demonstrations was with Ambassador Pyatt and Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Victoria Nuland. As Parry points out, although Nuland was serving under President Obama, her allegiances were really with the neoconservative movement, most associated with the Republican Party.

Her husband is Robert Kagan, who worked as a State Department propagandist on the Central American wars in the 1980s and was the co-founder of the Project for the New American Century in the 1990s, the group that organized political and media pressure for the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003. Kagan also was McCain’s foreign policy adviser in the 2008 presidential election (although he threw his support behind Hillary Clinton in the 2016 race).

Adept Manipulators

As Parry explained, the neoconservatives have become quite adept at disguising their true aims and have powerful allies in the mainstream press. This combination has allowed them to push the foreign policy debate to such extremes that, when anyone objects, they can be branded a Putin or Yanukovych “apologist.”

Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Victoria Nuland during a press conference at the U.S. Embassy in Kiev, Ukraine, on Feb. 7, 2014. (U.S. State Department photo)

Thus, Pyatt’s frequent meetings with the demonstrators in the embassy and Nuland’s handing out cookies to protesters in the Maidan were not criticized as American interference in a sovereign state, but were praised as “promoting democracy” abroad. However, as the Maidan crisis escalated, Ukrainian ultra-nationalists moved to the front, intensifying their attacks on police. Many of these extremists were disciples of Bandera and Lebed. By February 2014, they were armed with shotguns and rapid-fire handguns.

On Feb. 20, 2014, a mysterious sniper, apparently firing from a building controlled by the Right Sektor, shot both police and protesters, touching off a day of violence that left about 14 police and some 70 protesters dead.

With Kiev slipping out of control, Yanukovich was forced to negotiate with representatives from France, Poland and Germany. On Feb. 21, he agreed to schedule early elections and to accept reduced powers. At the urging of Vice President Biden, Yanukovych also pulled back the police.

But the agreement – though guaranteed by the European nations – was quickly negated by renewed attacks from the Right Sektor and its street fighters who seized government buildings. Russian intelligence services got word that an assassination plot was in the works against Yanukovych, who fled for his life.

On Feb. 24, Yanukovych asked permission to enter Russia for his safety and the Ukrainian parliament (or Rada), effectively under the control of the armed extremists, voted to remove Yanukovych from office in an unconstitutional manner because the courts were not involved and the vote to impeach him did not reach the mandatory threshold. Despite these irregularities, the U.S. and its European allies quickly recognized the new government as “legitimate.”

Calling a Coup a Coup

But the ouster of Yanukovych had all the earmarks of a coup. An intercepted phone call, apparently in early February, between Nuland and Pyatt revealed that they were directly involved in displacing Yanukovych and choosing his successor. The pair reviewed the field of candidates with Nuland favoring Arseniy Yatsenyuk, declaring “Yats is the guy” and discussing with Pyatt how to “glue this thing.” Pyatt wondered about how to “midwife this thing.” They sounded like Gilded Age millionaires in New York deciding who should become the next U.S. president. On Feb. 27, Yatsenyuk became Prime Minister of Ukraine.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko shakes hands with U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt as U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry shakes hands with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin in Kyiv, Ukraine, on July 7, 2016.[State Department Photo)

Not everyone in Ukraine agreed with the new regime, however. Crimea, which had voted heavily for Yanukovych, decided to hold a referendum on whether to split from Ukraine and become a part of Russia. The results of the referendum were overwhelming. Some 96 percent of Crimeans voted to unite with Russia. Russian troops – previously stationed in Crimea under the Sevastopol naval base agreement – provided security against Right Sektor and other Ukrainian forces moving against the Crimean secession, but there was no evidence of Russian troops intimidating voters or controlling the elections. The Russian government then accepted the reunification with Crimea, which had historically been part of Russia dating back hundreds of years.

Two eastern provinces, Donetsk and Lugansk, also wanted to split off from Ukraine and also conducted a referendum in support of that move. But Putin would not agree to the request from the two provinces, which instead declared their own independence, a move that the new government in Kiev denounced as illegal. The Kiev regime also deemed the insurgents “terrorists” and launched an “anti-terrorism operation” to crush the resistance. Ultra-nationalist and even neo-Nazi militias, such as the Azov Battalion, took the lead in the bloody fighting.

Anti-coup demonstrations also broke out in the city of Odessa to the south. Ukrainian nationalist leader Andrei Parubiy went to Odessa, and two days later, on May 2, 2014, his street fighters attacked the demonstrators, driving them into the Trade Union building, which was then set on fire. Forty-two people were killed, some of whom jumped to their deaths.

‘Other Side of the Story’

If the film just got across this “other side of the story,” it would provide a valuable contribution since most of this information has been ignored or distorted by the West’s mainstream media, which simply blames the Ukraine crisis on Vladimir Putin. But in addition to the fine work by scenarist Vanessa Dean, the direction by Igor Lopatonok and the editing by Alexis Chavez are extraordinarily skillful and supple.

Screen shot of the fatal fire in Odessa, Ukraine, on May 2, 2014. (From RT video)

The 15-minute prologue, where the information about the Nazi collaboration by Bandera and Lebed is introduced, is an exceptional piece of filmmaking. It moves at a quick pace, utilizing rapid cutting and also split screens to depict photographs and statistics simultaneously. Lopatonok also uses interactive graphics throughout to transmit information in a visual and demonstrative manner.

Stone’s interviews with Putin and Yanukovych are also quite newsworthy, presenting a side of these demonized foreign leaders that has been absent in the propagandistic Western media.

Though about two hours long, the picture has a headlong tempo to it. If anything, it needed to slow down at points since such a large amount of information is being communicated. On the other hand, it’s a pleasure to watch a documentary that is so intelligently written, and yet so remarkably well made.

When the film ends, the enduring message is similar to those posed by the American interventions in Vietnam and Iraq. How could the State Department know so little about what it was about to unleash, given Ukraine’s deep historical divisions and the risk of an escalating conflict with nuclear-armed Russia?

In Vietnam, Americans knew little about the country’s decades-long struggle of the peasantry to be free from French and Japanese colonialism. Somehow, America was going to win their hearts and minds and create a Western-style “democracy” when many Vietnamese simply saw the extension of foreign imperialism.

In Iraq, President George W. Bush and his coterie of neocons was going to oust Saddam Hussein and create a Western-style democracy in the Middle East, except that Bush didn’t know the difference between Sunni and Shiite Moslems and how Iraq was likely to split over sectarian rivalries and screw up his expectations.

Similarly, the message of Ukraine on Fire is that short-sighted, ambitious and ideological officials – unchecked by their superiors – created something even worse than what existed. While high-level corruption persists today in Ukraine and may be even worse than before, the conditions of average Ukrainians have deteriorated.

And, the Ukraine conflict has reignited the Cold War by moving Western geopolitical forces onto Russia’s most sensitive frontier, which, as scholar Joshua Shifrinson has noted, violates a pledge made by Secretary of State James Baker in February 1990 as the Soviet Union peacefully accepted the collapse of its military influence in East Germany and eastern Europe. (Los Angeles Times, 5/30/ 2016)

This film also reminds us that what happened in Ukraine was a bipartisan effort. It was begun under George W. Bush and completed under Barack Obama. As Oliver Stone noted in the discussion that followed the film’s premiere in Los Angeles, the U.S. painfully needs some new leadership reminiscent of Franklin Roosevelt and John Kennedy, people who understand how America’s geopolitical ambitions must be tempered by on-the-ground realities and the broader needs of humanity to be freed from the dangers of all-out war.

%d bloggers like this: