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The rhetoric of war

Posted by Rebecca Kneen on

We in the west seem to have been taken by surprise by Russia’s terrible invasion of the Ukraine - but we shouldn’t have been. 

For one thing, we’ve been underserved by media who have been obsessed by Covid and who have elevated local acts of selfishness to news, to the exclusion of everything else happening in the world.

For another, we have once again ignored history. In the short term, we’ve forgotten that Trump spent four years emotionally propping up Putin as a leader, while sending increasing military aid to Ukraine, in a transparent effort to create conflict. We have forgotten the fascist-led coup in the Ukraine in 2014, supported by the US and UK and in the context of promises to get Ukraine into NATO. We have ignored the militarily provocative nature of that promise to expand NATO to the edge of Russia, pretending that it’s a democratic move not a military one. Joining the EU would be an economic move, but NATO is a military alliance dominated by the US, the UK and Germany, all long-term enemies of Russia. And we have ignored the propaganda coming from the US for the last 5 years at least, that Russia is a huge philosophical, moral and absolute danger to “western democracy”. (That’s in quotes because most of the folks making that claim are completely uninterested in democracy, only in their own individual wealth and power.)

Ukraine’s neutrality now seems an impossible dream, as it has become a pawn in the power struggle between the West and Russia. 

Meantime our media amps up the rhetoric, feeding the global war machine. I’ve seen even relatively intelligent media with two-page spreads showing Putin with red devil-eyes, while the Ukraine is absolutely stainless - and the west is valiantly struggling not to go to war. I’m afraid that international politics is never that black and white. Amping up the rhetoric in this way is a lead-up to full scale global war, not de-escalation.

Let us remember for a moment that more nations are currently at war than are not, and it is the wealthy “peaceful” nations who are funding those wars - and who, in many cases, caused the conflict by their colonialism and foreign policy. Whether that’s Palestine, Afghanistan, Myanmar, Yemen, Ethiopia, Somalia or so many more, the foreign policies of the west have fanned the flames and caused massive destruction and death. 

Let us at least educate ourselves and consider how to de-escalate conflict. The current model of international relations is not even remotely aimed at that. The current force of narrative and global policy is aimed squarely at increasing Putin's resistance, not finding ways to resolution. We need to be pushing politicians and media to a new model, stat.

While we seek greater understanding, let's also continue to support all those fleeing war and oppression, from the Ukraine to the Gaza Strip.
List of ongoing armed conflicts

Counterpunch: the best analysis of how US/UK foreign policy created this situation (long and completely worthwhile)

NPR on Ukrainian history (note that this is a totally pro-capitalist, pro-NATO version of history)

The Maple: a Canadian perspective on the roots of the conflict

For a different take on how neutrality is being endangered elsewhere:
Republican News (Ireland)

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