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Ukraine and the Deferential Press


One of the distinguishing characteristics between libertarian commentators and the mainstream statist press is, once again, on display in the latest crisis, this one between President Obama and Russian President Putin. You see the standard knee-jerk rally to the government on the part of the mainstream press  while, at the same time, you see independent, critical analysis on the part of the libertarian movement, mostly on the Internet.

When a controversy like this erupts, the mainstreamers immediately mold their mind to whatever position the US government takes in the controversy. The mainstreamers view the matter as Team America versus Team Russia. It is incumbent on Americans to come to the defense of their team, the mainstreamers feel. Anyone who fails to do so is clearly not a patriot and might even be a fifth columnist, one who needs to be watched.

In the process, there is immediate and complete deference to authority. “It’s all Putin’s fault. We were just minding our business. We’re innocent. We’re peace-loving. We love democracy. We just want to be friends. Can’t we just get along here? Putin has become assertive, aggressive, and independent. The crisis has been forced upon us. We have no choice but to respond and punish Russia until Putin recants and submits.”

That’s the official government line, and it immediately becomes the official line of the mainstream press. Who needs Operation Mockingbird when the Empire already has so many toady and deferential assets within the press corps?

Let’s look at a good example. Prior to the recent regime-change operation in Ukraine, the US government had sent some $5 billion of US taxpayer money into the country. No, not into the coffers of the government but rather into the hands of private groups. The U.S government claims that the purpose of the money was to help spread democracy.  The US mainstream press lapped it up.

There is one great big problem, however, with that reasoning, one that the mainstream press clearly is unable to see. The president of Ukraine — the president that the private groups violently ousted from office — was democratically elected. Those $5 billion of US taxpayer monies were used to destroy democracy, not fortify it.

The real objective of US meddling in Ukraine was what it always is: regime change, one in which a regime that is independent of the US Empire is ousted from power and replaced with a regime that agrees to become a puppet of the US Empire. By installing a puppet regime in Ukraine, the US Empire would gain control over Crimea and, by implication, Russia’s longtime military bases in Crimea.

In other words, US foreign policy has nothing to do with loving democracy or spreading democracy. It has everything to do with expanding US control over the globe with regimes that are subservient to the US Empire. It’s about dominion and hegemony, not democracy-spreading.

Of course, we have seen this process time and time again, but the US mainstream press simply refuses to acknowledge it, continuing to proclaim the official US line about how the US government is so committed to democracy.

We saw it in Iran in 1953, when the US Empire ousted the democratically appointed prime minister of the country, one who was independent of the US Empire, and replaced him with a brutal unelected dictator, the Shah of Iran, who was subservient to the Empire.

The same for Guatemala in 1954. The same for Chile in 1973. The same for the US partnership with Saddam Hussein in the 1980s, followed by a regime-change operation after he went independent. The same with the partnerships with countless Latin American dictators and Middle East dictators.

Here is how the US Empire works. It’s the job of the Empire to stand above the world, ruling and controlling. It calls the shots. Foreign regimes are expected to fill their role in this imperial order, following orders and doing what they’re told.

If they do that, the Empire gives them free reign to do whatever they want within their own countries, especially to maintain themselves in power. A perfect example is Egypt. It doesn’t matter to the Empire that the Egyptian national-security establishment has destroyed Egypt’s experiment with democracy and that it is enforcing one of the most brutal military crackdowns in history on the Egyptian people. That’s okay, so long as the Egyptian regime does what it is called to do when the Empire needs a favor.

Do you recall the US-Egypt rendition-torture partnership? After 9/11, the US asked a favor of the Egyptian national-security state: Would it be willing to serve as an official torturer for the US national-security state? This would presumably relieve US officials of criminal and civil liability for torture. Egyptian national-security state officials responded that of course they would be willing to serve the Empire in that way. In return, the Empire supports them with money, weaponry, and ammunition and agrees to look the other way when they are employed against the citizenry in the process of maintaining military control over the country.

Or consider Poland, which is a perfect example of what the US Empire expected in the post-Cold War era. Poland joins NATO and agrees to submit to the rule of the US Empire. After 9/11, the Empire approaches Poland and asks for a favor. It needs a location for a super-secret prison camp and torture center, far from the prying eyes of the US press and the US judiciary. Poland responds: Well, of course we will provide you with whatever you want, and yes, of course we will keep it secret. In return, the Polish regime is free to do whatever it wants to the Polish people, with the full support of the US Empire.

That’s what US officials and their acolytes in the mainstream press expected of Russia after the end of the Cold War. They expected a subservient regime — a submissive regime — a compliant regime. They wanted a regime that would acknowledge its place within a world that was ruled and controlled by the US national-security state.

Alas, Putin declined the honor of having Russia serve the Empire in that way. That’s why they’re now so angry at Putin. That’s why they’re saying he’s assertive, aggressive, and independent.

Of course, that’s what they’re also saying about China — that it too is behaving assertively, aggressively, and independently. China, like Russia, declined to play the submissive role that Egypt, Poland, Great Britain, France, Germany, Japan, and so many others have chosen to play in the post-Cold War world.

Consider Cuba, where US officials have been obsessed with regime change for some 50 years. Why is that? No, not because Cuba is ruled by a communist regime that has embraced socialism. After all, there is nothing about Cuba’s economic system that US officials disagree with — e.g. income redistribution, old-age retirement, public schooling, national health care, drug laws, income taxation, licensure, and the like.

No, what they don’t like about Cuba — what they have never liked since 1959 — is that the Castro regime has always insisted on independence for Cuba. Unlike the Cuban dictator who Fidel Castro ousted from power, Fulgencio Batista, Castro declined to play a subservient role in the Empire. If he had, the Empire would have left him alone to enforce any type of tyranny he wanted, like they have with Egypt, Iran, Chile, Guatemala, etc.

It’s the same with Venezuela. They don’t care what President Maduro or former President Chavez have done within their country. In fact, there is nothing that those two presidents have done that US presidents haven’t done — inflation, high taxation, price controls, socialist redistribution of income, a regulated economy, suppression of dissent, etc. No, their crime isn’t their socialism, economic interventionism, or political oppression, it’s their independence from the Empire.

This is what the US mainstream press cannot see. For them, it’s us versus them. It’s our team against their team. They cannot see that their mindset of deference to authority is no different from the deferential mindsets of the press in Russia, China, and elsewhere, where the press in those countries also automatically rallies to the support of their team.

Reprinted with permission from the Future of Freedom Foundation.

Flickr/Nicco Mele

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