War journalism

One of the main themes of this web site is analysing how the Western media (the “free press”) curates the narratives of Western power, how it singularly fails in one of the primary functions of journalism – to question power.

Even I was surprised to find this in the Independent: after some emotive images of injured civilians there is a direct appeal to its readers to send money to an Ukrainian organisation which “fundraises for Ukraine’s military….including ammunition, shields and food”. This seems to cross a border from journalism into something else.

Over on an outlet which still practises journalism we find a excellent high-quality news report from Al Jazeera’s correspondent in Mariupol in Eastern Ukraine. It is worth watching anyway as an example of high-quality fact based, responsible journalism. However the reason I include it here is because of this comment by the journalist: “It is important to recognise that a lot of people in this area are very sympathetic to Russia as well. They have a cultural identify, a language that they use in common, Russian.. a lot of them do identify with Russia”. This of course is letting the cat out of the bag. The secret which the Western media successfully covers up 99.9% of the time. The secret which gives the lie to the claims by the Western political class that they must act to defend “the people of Ukraine”. The truth is some of them and, more accurately, those whom it is in their interest to defend. The West is not acting in Ukraine to defend “freedom” or “democracy” or “human rights” or even the “Ukrainian people”. They are acting, as they have been since at least 2014, and as they do everywhere else, to further their own interests.

(Which doesn’t necessarily justify the Russian operation. Indeed this operation is beginning to look like something out of the ‘Western playbook’ – for example the West’s regime change operation in Libya in 2011 – also ostensibly done to protect civilians).

The big lie on Ukraine

As we would expect the Western media propaganda operation is in full swing. The Guardian gleefully announces “first casualties in full-scale invasion”. [1] “full-scale invasion” is of course how the regime in Kiev is characterising it. The extent of the operation in fact remains to be seen. As far as casualties are concerned; it is a pity that the Western press has not been reporting on casualties in Donbass for the last 7 years. (Or that they did not report on the thousands of civilians casualties in Libya in 2011 or in Afghanistan with such readiness).

The big lie the Western media tell their audiences about Ukraine is that “the Ukrainian people” are ‘with us’ – i.e. pro NATO and the EU. So today Western leaders (the US, NATO for example) are making grand statements about how they will stand with “the Ukrainian people”. As this website has frequently pointed out the Western media (which is no more than the PR arm of Western finance capital who own them) and Western political classes (the very well rewarded servants of finance capital) have for the last 7 years simply denuded the people of Donbass out of existence. It is verifiable that many people, almost certainly the majority, in Eastern Ukraine are “pro-Russian”. Many in Donbass want to be annexed by Russia. But this is not just about Eastern Ukraine. There are also people in the centre who are “pro-Russian”. Ukraine has had a long history and has been fought over by rival Empires. In both World Wars people from Ukraine fought on both sides. The country is split between people who look West and those who look to Russia. Since before Maidan the West, especially the US, has been trying to make sure that Ukraine falls within its orbit. The Western backed coup in Kiev in 2014 was a key milestone in the campaign which also saw the US pump billions of dollars into the country to sway its population towards its way of thinking, and many Western countries send in weapons and military training. The West colluded in allowing the regime in Kiev to ignore Minsk 2 which could have solved the conflict in the East peacefully. Prior to the events of Maidan Russia of course tried to bribe the country with a huge loan to Yanukovych. After Maidan the EU signed a political agreement with a junta that came to power in a coup – an absolutely extraordinary move for an organisation which claims to be the benchmark of “democracy”, especially considering that Presidential elections were due in Ukraine just a few months away from when they had the coup.

When Western leaders and their PR team tell their publics that they are standing “for freedom” and “with the Ukrainian people” they are in fact engaged in an operation to take over Ukraine for Western finance capital. Where do the Ukrainian people stand on EU membership and NATO membership? This Gallup poll from 2014 shows minimal support in the East of Ukraine for EU and NATO membership (19% and 13% respectively) rising to 84% for EU and 53% for NATO in the West. The figures for the centre are: 43% and 32% (EU and NATO). [2] The reality is miles away from the narrative of EU and US political and (liberal) media classes. The facts appear to lend some support to the Russian narrative that Ukraine has been captured by the West and some Western leaning cliques – (who are really interested only in how much money they can get out of the West).

None of which is intended to justify the Russian “special operation”. At this stage the extent of this remains to be seen. I hope they aren’t trying to do a Western style regime change operation because I think that will likely end badly. But I just want to point out that this is a story with two sides. The West has tried to grab the whole pie. Had they been willing to share it matters might have worked out differently. (Only might; I don’t know if Russia would have been capable of sharing it any more than the West).

Notes

  1. https://www.theguardian.com/world/live/2022/feb/24/russia-invades-ukraine-declares-war-latest-news-live-updates-russian-invasion-vladimir-putin-explosions-bombing-kyiv-kharkiv
  2. https://www.usagm.gov/wp-content/media/2014/06/Ukraine-slide-deck.pdf

The ‘attacks’ by the DNR and LNR – more fake news in the Guardian

Very welcome news that Macron of France seems to be trying to move the Minsk agreements along and has managed to convene a Normandy 4 format meeting. Macron is about the only Western leader who seems to manage to get through his day without insulting and threatening Russia. Diplomacy is not appeasement. Allez Macron!

It is clear there has been a substantial rise in ceasefire violations in Donbass. The West presents this as attacks by the militias in Donbass and remains silent on any violations by Kiev. Putin not surprisingly claims the escalations are from Kiev.

It is frustrating. The OSCE Monitoring Mission publishes reports but do not say who committed the violations. To work out who is committing them one has to go through a table and try and compare reports with a map – even then in some cases without detailed technical information and knowledge it is not clear. Journalists e.g. at the Guardian have huge resources including time. They could do this work and publish the truth. They don’t. They don’t in fact generally even tell their readers that such reports exist (presumably in case anyone looks at them and finds that Kiev sometimes violates the ceasefire too). They prefer producing the narrative about the militias violating the ceasefire than reporting facts based on the OSCE mission.

This is the page where the OSCE publishes their ceasefire violation reports.

I don’t have the time to do the detailed research. But I have had a look at the report for 18-2-22. It is difficult to work out – but there appears to have been an exchange of fire near a place called Stanytsia. There appears to have been substantial incoming fire to a LNR controlled area Kadiivka. There appears to have been substantial incoming fire to an area called Popasna just inside government (Kiev) controlled territory. The two locations are close so this may be an exchange of fire. Looking at the times of the explosions in this case the explosions were heard first in non-government controlled territory suggesting possibly that the exchange was started by government forces. (But I don’t in all honesty know for sure). Overall, looking at the table there are (very approximately) as many explosions heard in government controlled territory as in non-government controlled territory. This is very regrettably all I have time to do (it is hugely frustrating that salaried journalists who certainly have time to do this choose not to) – but it does seem pretty evident based on OSCE Monitoring data that both sides are firing and violating the ceasefire. The Western narrative that the increase in violations is due to the militias in DNR and LNR is false.

This is an example of the Guardian lying:

The Ukrainian defence ministry says it recorded 122 violations by Russian forces on Saturday, including 108 involving weapons prohibited by the Minsk agreements. It says two soldiers were killed. According to a statement issued late on Saturday, the ministry said artillery was fired from settlements, landing near residential buildings. “By doing so, the enemy is trying to force units of the armed forces of Ukraine to open fire in response, in order to further accuse Ukrainian defenders of shelling civilians,” the statement reads. According to the ministry, two Ukrainian servicemen died from injuries sustained from the shelling, while another four servicemen were injured and are currently receiving treatment.

[1]

By reporting only claims by Kiev relating to violations by the DNR and LNR the Guardian gives a completely false picture of events. Notice also the absurd way they simply repeat Ukrainian propaganda that the incoming fire is from “Russian forces”.

The OSCE Mission data is there and freely available. Western media largely ignore it because it shows violations by both sides and spoils the narrative.

Update

As if by magic former British diplomat and dissident journalist Craig Murry has looked in a little more detail than me at recent OSCE reports from Ukraine. I agree 100% with Craig: “These [daily reports] provide the most fantastic journalistic resource for what is actually happening on the ground – which is why Western mainstream media never use this resource, because the truth is the opposite of the picture they wish to paint”.

Notes

  1. https://www.theguardian.com/world/live/2022/feb/20/ukraine-crisis-russia-plans-biggest-war-since-1945-says-johnson-zelenskiy-calls-for-sanctions-now-live?filterKeyEvents=false&page=with:block-6211d6128f0866a40a9da515#block-6211d6128f0866a40a9da515

Deeply, frighteningly, delusional – the UK’s Foreign Secretary

This is the wildly out-of-her depth British Foreign Secretary continuing her awkward display of more or less unimaginable stupidity. In an interview with the Mail on Sunday [1] Truss asserts (asserts not even postulates);

We need to stop Putin because he will not stop at Ukraine

The Baltic States are at risk… the Western Balkans as well

Putin has said all this publicly, that he wants to create the Greater Russia, that he wants to go back to the situation as it was before where Russia had control over huge swathes of Eastern Europe

It could be Ukraine next week but then which country will it be next?

Oh my gosh. Where to start? It wasn’t Russia that had control over ‘huge swathes of Eastern Europe’; it was the USSR.

This nonsense about ‘Putin has said publicly’ is a reference to the out-of-context quote when Putin said the fall of the USSR was “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the twentieth century“. For context let’s turn to an academic:

He reiterated that view in April 2005 when he characterized the break-up of the Soviet Union as ‘the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the twentieth century’ but promptly added that it was impossible to fantasize about resurrecting the old Soviet state

Freeze, Gregory L.. Russia (p. 495). OUP Oxford. Kindle Edition.

Or again:

The view of some in the West that Putin wants to rebuild the Soviet Union is, I believe, a fantasy that a realist like Putin has himself rejected. Yes, in 2005 Putin commented that the collapse of the Soviet Union was “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the [20th] century” and “a genuine tragedy” – a sentiment he shares with a majority of Russians. But pundits in the West are less eager to reference Putin’s other pronouncement that “He who does not regret the break-up of the Soviet Union has no heart; he who wants to revive it in its previous form has no head

https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/russia-ukraine-invasion-putin-diplomacy-b2017462.html Ronald Suny, History Professor, Michigan

Ms Truss is the Foreign Secretary – shouldn’t she have informed herself on this point?

As for “the Baltic states are at risk”. This beyond stupid. All 3 Baltic States – Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia are members of NATO. If Russia were to attack any of these countries they would be at war with NATO. Russia’s entire army is barely big enough to successfully invade Ukraine – they are hardly likely (in military terms alone) to start a war with NATO. The US alone has a military budget 10 times that of Russia! She can’t have thought this one through beyond the end of the sentence.

And – why would Russia invade Ukraine, let alone Latvia or Lithuania? Can she even think to the next step of what she is saying? What would Russia do with these countries? How would they rule them with their obviously resistant populations? What military or economic reasons would Russia have to invade these countries? (But already we are in crazy-land; if Russia invaded the Baltic countries they would be at war with NATO and the question of how to rule these countries would not even arise).

If Ms Truss is stupid enough to propose that Russia is going to start a war with NATO it is unlikely that she has enough intelligence or analytical skill (in the field of international relations) to grasp that Russia is not an expansionist power. The current leadership of Russia is well aware of their limitations. All sensible commentators on modern Russia note that it is a regional power in a defensive mode, well aware of the limits of their ability to project power. (Something that Putin has also commented on publicly).

These ideas are so stupid, so obviously stupid, that one wonders how this can simply carry on. But it can and she does – which tells us something about the overall intellectual level of the British political and media elites at the moment.

Notes

  1. https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-10531241/Liz-Truss-warns-stopping-Vladimir-Putin-save-future-wars-Baltic-states.html