By Glenn Greenwald
In the weeks leading up to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, those warning of the possible dangers of U.S. involvement were assured that such concerns were baseless. The prevailing line insisted that nobody in Washington is even considering let alone advocating that the U.S. become militarily involved in a conflict with Russia. That the concern was based not on the belief that the U.S. would actively seek such a war, but rather on the oft-unintended consequences of being swamped with war propaganda and the high levels of tribalism, jingoism and emotionalism that accompany it, was ignored. It did not matter how many wars one could point to in history that began unintentionally, with unchecked, dangerous tensions spiraling out of control. Anyone warning of this obviously dangerous possibility was met with the “straw man” cliché: you are arguing against a position that literally nobody in D.C. is defending.
Less than a week into this war, that can no longer be said. One of the media’s most beloved members of Congress, Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL), on Friday explicitly and emphatically urged that the U.S. military be deployed to Ukraine to establish a “no-fly zone” — i.e., American soldiers would order Russia not to enter Ukrainian airspace and would directly attack any Russian jets or other military units which disobeyed. That would, by definition and design, immediately ensure that the two countries with by far the planet’s largest nuclear stockpiles would be fighting one another, all over Ukraine.
Kinzinger’s fantasy that Russia would instantly obey U.S. orders due to rational calculations is directly at odds with all the prevailing narratives about Putin having now become an irrational madman who has taken leave of his senses — not just metaphorically but medically — and is prepared to risk everything for conquest and legacy. This was not the first time such a deranged proposal has been raised; days before Kinzinger unveiled his plan, a reporter asked Pentagon spokesman John Kirby why Biden has thus far refused this confrontational posture. The Brookings Institution’s Ben Wittes on Sunday demanded: “Regime change: Russia.” The President of the Council on Foreign Relations, Richard Haass, celebrated that “now the conversation has shifted to include the possibility of desired regime change in Russia.”
Having the U.S. risk global nuclear annihilation over Ukraine is an indescribably insane view, as one realizes upon a few seconds of sober reflection. We had a reminder of that Sunday morning when “Putin ordered his nuclear forces on high alert Sunday, reminding the world he has the power to use weapons of mass destruction, after complaining about the West’s response to his invasion of Ukraine” — but it is completely unsurprising that it is already being suggested.
There is a reason I devoted the first fifteen minutes of my live video broadcast on Thursday about Ukraine not to the history that led us here and the substance of the conflict (I discussed that in the second half), but instead to the climate that arises whenever a new war erupts, instantly creating propaganda-driven, dissent-free consensus. There is no propaganda as potent or powerful as war propaganda. It seems that one must have lived through it at least once, as an engaged adult, to understand how it functions, how it manipulates and distorts, and how one can resist being consumed by it.
As I examined in the first part of that video discussion, war propaganda stimulates the most powerful aspects of our psyche, our subconscious, our instinctive drives. It causes us, by design, to abandon reason. It provokes a surge in tribalism, jingoism, moral righteousness and emotionalism: all powerful drives embedded through millennia of evolution. The more unity that emerges in support of an overarching moral narrative, the more difficult it becomes for anyone to critically evaluate it. The more closed the propaganda system is — either because any dissent from it is excluded by brute censorship or so effectively demonized through accusations of treason and disloyalty — the more difficult it is for anyone, all of us, even to recognize one is in the middle of it.
When critical faculties are deliberately turned off based on a belief that absolute moral certainty has been attained, the parts of our brain armed with the capacity of reason are disabled. That is why the leading anti-Russia hawks such as former Obama Ambassador Michael McFaul and others are demanding that no “Putin propagandists” (meaning anyone who diverges from his views of the conflict) even be permitted a platform, and why many are angry that Facebook has not gone far enough by banning many Russian media outlets from advertising or being monetized. Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA), using the now-standard tactic of government officials dictating to social media companies which content they should and should not allow, announced on Saturday: “I’m concerned about Russian disinformation spreading online, so today I wrote to the CEOs of major tech companies to ask them to restrict the spread of Russian propaganda.” Suppressing any divergent views or at least conditioning the population to ignore them as treasonous is how propagandistic systems remain strong.
It is genuinely hard to overstate how overwhelming the unity and consensus in U.S. political and media circles is. It is as close to a unanimous and dissent-free discourse as anything in memory, certainly since the days following 9/11. Marco Rubio sounds exactly like Bernie Sanders, and Lindsay Graham has no even minimal divergence from Nancy Pelosi. Every word broadcast on CNN or printed in The New York Times about the conflict perfectly aligns with the CIA and Pentagon’s messaging. And U.S. public opinion has consequently undergone a radical and rapid change; while recent polling had shown large majorities of Americans opposed to any major U.S. role in Ukraine, a new Gallup poll released on Friday found that “52% of Americans see the conflict between Russia and Ukraine as a critical threat to U.S. vital interests” with almost no partisan division (56% of Republicans and 61% of Democrats), while “85% of Americans now view [Russia] unfavorably while 15% have a positive opinion of it.”
The purpose of these points, and indeed of this article, is not to persuade anyone that they have formed moral, geopolitical and strategic views about Russia and Ukraine that are inaccurate. It is, instead, to highlight what a radically closed and homogenized information system most Americans are consuming. No matter how convinced one is of the righteousness of one’s views on any topic, there should still be a wariness about how easily that righteousness can be exploited to ensure that no dissent is considered or even heard, an awareness of how often such overwhelming societal consensus is manipulated to lead one to believe untrue claims and embrace horribly misguided responses.
To believe that this is a conflict of pure Good versus pure Evil, that Putin bears all blame for the conflict and the U.S., the West, and Ukraine bear none, and that the only way to understand this conflict is through the prism of war criminality and aggression only takes one so far. Such beliefs have limited utility in deciding optimal U.S. behavior and sorting truth from fiction even if they are entirely correct — just as the belief that 9/11 was a moral atrocity and Saddam (or Gaddafi or Assad) was a barbaric tyrant only took one so far. Even with those moral convictions firmly in place, there are still a wide range of vital geopolitical and factual questions that must be considered and freely debated, including:
- The severe dangers of unintended escalation with greater U.S. involvement and confrontation toward Russia;
- The mammoth instability and risks that would be created by collapsing the Russian economy and/or forcing Putin from power, leaving the world’s largest or second-largest nuclear stockpile to a very uncertain fate;
- The ongoing validity of Obama’s long-standing view of Ukraine (echoed by Trump), which persisted even after Moscow annexed Crimea in 2014 following a referendum, that Ukraine is of vital interest only to Russia and not the U.S., and the U.S. should never risk war with Russia over it;
- The bizarre way in which it has become completely taboo and laughable to suggest that NATO expansion to the Russian border and threats to offer Ukraine membership is deeply and genuinely threatening not just to Putin but all Russians, even though that warning has emanated for years from top U.S. officials such as Biden’s current CIA Director William Burns as well as scholars across the political spectrum, including the right-wing realist John Mearsheimer to the leftist Noam Chomsky.
- The clearly valid questions regarding the actual U.S intentions concerning Ukraine: i.e., that a noble, selfless and benevolent American desire to protect a fledgling democracy against a despotic aggressor may not be the predominant goal. Perhaps it is instead to revitalize support for American imperialism and intervention, as well as faith in and gratitude for the U.S. security and military state (the Eurasia Group’s Ian Bremmer suggested this week that this is the principal outcome in the West of the current conflict). Or the goal is the elevation of Russia as a vital and grave threat to the U.S. (the above polling data suggests this is already happening) that will feed weapons purchases and defense and intelligence budgets for years to come. Or one might see a desire to harm Russia as vengeance for the perception that Putin helped defeat Hillary Clinton and elected Donald Trump (that the U.S. is using Ukraine to “fight Russia over there” was explicitly stated by Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA).
Or perhaps the goal is not to “save and protect” Ukraine at all, but to sacrifice it by turning it into a new Afghanistan, where the U.S. arms a Ukrainian insurgency to ensure that Russia remains stuck in Ukraine fighting and destroying it for years (this scenario was very compellingly laid out in one of the best analyses of the Russia/Ukraine conflict, by Niccolo Soldo, which I cannot recommend highly enough).
Jeff Rogg, historian of U.S. intelligence and an assistant professor in the Department of Intelligence and Security Studies at the Citadel, wrote in The LA Times that the CIA has already been training, funding and arming a Ukrainian insurgency, speculating that the model may be the CIA’s backing of the Mujahideen insurgency in Afghanistan that morphed into Al Qaeda, with the goal being “to weaken Russia over the course of a long insurgency that will undoubtedly cost as many Ukrainian lives as Russian lives, if not more.”
Again, no matter how certain one is about their moral conclusions about this war, these are urgent questions that are not resolved or even necessarily informed by the moral and emotional investment in a particular narrative. Yet when one is trapped inside a system of a complete consensus upheld by a ceaseless wave of reinforcing propaganda, and when any questioning or dissent at all is tantamount to treason or “siding with the enemy,” there is no space for such discussions to occur, especially within our minds. When one is coerced — through emotional tactics and societal inventive — to adhere only to one script, nothing that is outside of that script can be entertained. And that is all by design.
Adam Kinzinger’s fantasy also includes the idea that “America owns the skies.”
Before Joe, that might have been true.
But now fewer than 70% 0f our airplanes even fly.
Most have missing parts and/or are waiting for the few mechanics to get to them.
Kicking all the unvaxxed out of the military was some genius’s idea and, man, did it leave a state of unreadiness in its wake.
Bush stopped Putin’s encroachment into Georgia by stationing US Air Force personnel and equipment there. Putin would not risk engaging US troops for fear of igniting a war with the US, so he backed off. This is why Kizzasser’s idea is so incredibly stupid. If Russian’s didn’t back down, then we either have to retreat or shoot down Russian aircraft. How do we think that would work out?
Putin’s expansionism should be stopped. All we have to guide us is the brutal history that teaches what happens when an aggressive dictator is not stopped. Like Hitler, Putin has telegraphed his intentions and the rest of the world ignores his pronounced goals at their own peril.
That doesn’t mean we put the nation on a total war footing and begin landing troops in Ukraine or a Russian flank. But, we COULD exert punishment for aggression by not buying Putin’s oil and handing him the cash that fuels his aggression.
Of course, that would mean that idiot Biden would have to stand up to AOC and the rest of the Green New Deal advocates, dreaming of the vast amounts of corruption they can get rich off of. THAT ain’t happening because idiot Biden is a chicken-shit coward.
I am sorry bro its the WEF pulling the strings, Gates is heavily invested in artifical lab meat, how green and stuff, also GMO with built in vaccines enjoy that side salad with your bug paste. Soros is invested in getting grants from the State Dept to overthrow governments then screw over the people of those countries.
How serious is Zelensky about saving his people?
Please Germany rule us!
It took forever for the UK to disentangle themselves at a very high price tag.
Ukrainian MP Kira Rudik: “We not only fight for Ukraine, we fight for this NEW WORLD ORDER”
“I’ve been fighting Putin for the last 8 years”
There are Ukraine’s motives and then there are Russia’s. Invading other nations for no reason but to expand territory HAS to be stopped. Ideally, the UN would be kicking Russia off the Security Council but, even when Stalin was ruling the Soviet Union, no one envisioned a member of the Security Council undertaking an act of wanton aggression.
How will we blame Taiwan for China taking them over? If the world cannot stop Putin, it won’t stop Xi. Or Kim. Or Khamenei.
But it isnt the NWO encroaching and claiming territory?
Handing grannies fully auto weapons they have never handled in their lifetime giving a Russian soldier a reason to blow her blue haired head off quickly photo oped and sent to the MSM. We just need to agree to disagree.
I stand on seeing how the world all moved in lock step on pushing the bioweapon with a fake narrative, the NWO is working out great for Australia, they are praised by Gates, Soros and Schwab.
Try to find out what Putin said in Davos, I dont think Putin is a good guy, I know who the bad guys are, so do you.
The grannies don’t have to TAKE the weapons. IF they do, they want to defend their homeland. Great Briton did the same thing when Hitler was threatening invasion. I would like to think WE would do the same thing. Wouldn’t you take up arms to defend your home? I bet you would.
Yes the media is feeding mushrooms with photos as far back as 2007 with captions.
The ghost of Kiev is from a video game.
I se where Miss Ukraine has joined the resistance
She can show how sexy it is to get her pretty but quite empty NWO loving head blown off.
Long thread updated to present detailing all the misinformation and propaganda
Poland president just prevented WW3
Or assured it. Poland will be fighting the Russians eventually, and now at their own border.
Besides, doesn’t NATO work for the US? Or does the US work for NATO. I’d say the later with Biden in “office.”
Putin is proving he can steal nations and NATO will let him.
Next is Taiwan.
Nope, if Poland helped then that means NATO is now involved and then all bets are off. Poland won’t get involved. No way they allow that to happen unless they’re just total idiots.
The Former President of Poland sat on the board of Burisma.
“…if the prosecutor isn’t fired, you’re ain’t getting the money…”
Former Vice President Joseph Biden, admitting to a crime on camera.
Yup seen it, was he chatting at the puppet imposed on the country by the CIA coup?
No, I agree…Poland shouldn’t get involved. My concern is if/when Russia takes Ukraine, now they are at Poland’s border. How is that going to look long term…
This conflict is ultimately between Russia and the EU, as it always has been.
I don’t see Putin taking Ukraine. The east that is already heavily Russian yes but not the whole country. Now if NATO jumps in then that all changes. Putin ain’t stupid.
Ultimately, Putin is interested in ethnic Russian, not entire countries.
He does seem serious about wanting a buffer state between Russia and Western weapons.
IF he does “get Ukraine,” he might slaughter (or enslave or let leave) all the Ukrainians who are not ethnic Russian.
What mystifies me is how/why neighboring Muslim states (hated by Putin) are coming to Putin’s aid, fighting on his side.
Nate it hasnt always been that way Russia was an ally in WW2 lost millions while we lost 1/2 a million men. The top in Nato were ex Nazi Military, Our CIA operation paperclip.
Worst kept secrets ever.
History is fun its a how the hell did we get here map.
Look at this propaganda