With his outrageous response to Khizr and Ghazala Khan, whose son, Capt. Humayun Khan, was killed in Iraq, Donald Trump has demonstrated once again that he is one of the nastiest and most narcissistic assholes in the known universe. His penchant for saying the perfectly offensive thing, on cue, does make one wonder if he hasn’t been put up to this whole thing by his friends, the Clintons, to split the Republicans and ensure Hillary’s victory. Then again, as a New Yorker familiar with his bloviant personality, I’m fairly certain his journey into historical ignominy is self-propelled.
But, like the proverbial clock, Donald’s unstoppable tongue is right twice a month or so. And egged on by the Clinton campaign, a lot of people are reinforcing various packs of dangerous lies in order to up the ante in trashing Trump. None of these is worse than the warmongering narrative about Russia and Ukraine that’s been reinforced by the bipartisan liberal-conservative commentariat after Trump’s recent interview with George Stephanopoulos. ThinkProgress, run by Hillary’s campaign manager John Podesta, put up a story by Aaron Rupar on this that is being passed around the internet, with the title, “Trump Appears To Be Ignorant Of A Major International Conflict.” Translation: “Trump Goes Off-Script On Ukraine. Must Be Punished.”
In this interview, Trump is, as usual, only semi-coherent. But the positions he seems to be taking, and being ridiculed for, are better than the positions of the Democrats, the Obama administration, Hillary, and ThinkProgress.
For example, Stephanopoulos challenges Trump in a “How Could You!?” tone about the GOP removing from its platform a call for the U.S. to arm Ukraine “to defend themselves” from, implicitly, Russia. Trump, however, is right when he answers that Russia is not going to invade Ukraine, saying: “He [Putin]’s not going to go into Ukraine, all right? You can mark it down.” In fact, the Obama administration may be disappointed about that, since it did its best to provoke a Russian incursion into Ukraine, in order to justify more overt and massive American military intervention – exactly what the GOP platform revision rejects. Whether Trump or the GOP will actually live up to this is another story, but good for them for taking this position. That Hillary and her surrogates respond by doubling down on her warmongering position only confirms that the Democrats have enthusiastically embraced their role as the war party.
When Stephanopoulos then says, switching from the threat of invasion to something more ambiguous, “he [Putin]’s already there, isn’t he?,” Trump again responds correctly: “Okay — well, he’s there in a certain way. But I’m not there. You have Obama there.” The Obama administration has certainly intervened heavily in Ukraine, in ways that are enormously disruptive. With Hillary’s favorite State Department neocon and possible next Secretary of State, Victoria Nuland, in the lead, the Obama administration fomented the overthrow of a democratically-elected government with an insurrection powered by fascist groups. And by “democratically-elected,” I mean chosen in an election that European and NATO observers called “a good and competitive election and very promising for the future of Ukraine's democracy”; and by “fascist,” I mean not “neo-“ but outright Hitler-loving fascists. The Obama administration thus helped bring explicit fascists into power in a European country for the first time since WWII. Those are the people the Democrats want to arm, not to “defend themselves” against Russia, but to wage more effective war against their fellow citizens in the Eastern half of the country, citizens whom those fascisst consider “beetles.” ThinkProgress acknowledges this when it talks about the GOP platform “remov[ing] references to arming Ukraine in its ongoing fight against pro-Russia rebels.” So it’s a question of arming a government of fascists and oligarchs in a civil war against its own rebellious citizens. Do you think that’s a good idea for American policy? Is Donald Trump being “ignorant” to question it?
The current rebellion by eastern Ukrainians was not the result of Russian intervention, but of an offensive by fascist groups against Ukrainian citizens who dared to protest against the coup that deposed the president they had voted for. The worst of these incidents was the massacre in Odessa, where fascists forced protestors into a building and then burned it down, roasting people alive inside. At least 38 people were killed. Eight were lucky enough to escape the fire by jumping out of the building; they were promptly set upon and beaten to death by thugs of the fascist group, Right Sector.
Didn’t know about this? Perhaps because, as Russian expert Stephen F. Cohen says, the American media “basically rewrites whatever the Kiev authorities say.” Cohen, a Professor Emeritus of Princeton and NYU, has been one of the only establishment-recognized authorities trying to challenge the ridiculous and dangerous American narrative about Russia. In a segment (video here) on CNN, he tried to introduce some sanity into the discussion of Trump and Russia. I’ve written a couple of detailed analyses of what transpired in Ukraine in 2014 (here and here), and I’m confident in saying, with Stephen Cohen, that it’s the dominant political and media narrative, promulgated by outlets like ThinkProgress, that keeps Americans ignorant about a major international conflict.
The Ukrainian government is now so dominated by the US, really a client state at this point, that it appointed an American citizen (who was quickly nationalized) as Finance Minister. No Ukrainian wants to take the job of running the country into the ground for the IMF that is going to be the price for their new “pro-Western” orientation. And Stephanopoulos and ThinkProgress complain that Putin is“there”?!
Trump is also ridiculed for saying, when asked about Crimea: “The people of Crimea, from what I’ve heard, would rather be with Russia than where they were”—though he is again right about this, and ThinkProgress knows it. Rupar’s article suggests that Crimea voted for union with Russia only because they were intimidated by “Russian troops,” but does not dare actually deny what it knows to be true: Crimeans overwhelmingly supported reunification, as Trump said. Of course the fact that the Crimea was the site of Russia’s only warm-water port, which the Kremlin was loath to surrender to eventual NATO annexation, was a factor. Still, in Crimea, Russia followed the self-determination script that the US wrote for the world in Kosovo, without the massive bombing.
What the U.S. has done, and is continuing to do, in Ukraine is the same kind of thing it has done in many other countries: divide and destroy the country in order to promote “Western” solutions—meaning IMF austerity “reforms” and American military intervention. This time, it’s upending a nation that has deep historical and economic ties to Russia, right on the Russian border. This policy has created a real risk of nuclear war. The Obama administration, the forthcoming Clinton administration, and the Democratic Party have terrible—really horrific and dangerous—policies on this. They are joined by the establishment of the Republican Party and the dramatis personae of the military-intelligence-neocon-State Department complex—all of whom are now presented by the Democratic Party as worthy of the deepest respect. That level of bipartisan consensus means a President Trump would probably be pushed into it accepting the policy also. I have no confidence that, once in office, Trump’s policies would really be any less militaristic, no matter what he says during the campaign. Indeed, within his semi-coherent discourse, he seems to suggest that Obama “lost” Crimea because of his weakness, as strongest-man-ever Trump would not have. Let no one think there is any reason to support Donald Trump.
But Trump doesn’t justify Hillary. Trump, unforgivably, insulted a Muslim family whose son died in Iraq; Hillary voted for the war that killed him. The established narrative about Russia and Ukraine (and Syria, and NATO and the Baltics) is false and dangerous – a pack of lies at least as pernicious as that which preceded and enabled the Iraq War. And the media, with MSNBC and PBS among the worst, reinforces it uncritically, without presenting any ongoing debate. It is a narrative crafted to prepare the American people for the next unforgivable war—a military conflict with Russia. That narrative is now being intensified and used by the Clinton campaign, and it’s being repeated by liberals who enjoy piling on the pummeling of Trump, and who don’t much care if they’re doing it for the wrong reasons. There is nothing more dangerous that people can do than spend the next few months promoting justifications for a war by the next president—almost certainly Hillary—just to get more kicks in against Trump, on her behalf. There are plenty of reasons to criticize Donald Trump. His stated aversion to war with Russia, his skepticism about NATO, and his more-accurate-than-the-Dems take on Ukraine and Russia, are not among them.
And please, let me know when George Stephanopoulos or any network or cable correspondent (MSNBC? I laugh.) grills Hillary about why she insisted that the Democratic platform be written to kiss the ass of Netanyahu, Israel, and the major pro-Israel donors. Which foreign country has a stronger and more pernicious influence on American political parties: Russia or Israel? Which gets talked about? Manchurian Candidate? What about the TelAvivian Candidate? (Who is proud of it!) The day I hear a grilling with the words “Netanyahu” and “Israel” used as Stephanopoulos did “Putin” and “Russia,” is the day an American correspondent, or an organization like ThinkProgress, will have some credibility.
Please stop promoting lies and war just to trash Donald Trump.