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More ‘Fake News,’ Alas, From the New York Times

From The American Conservative via Information Clearing House

Disregarding President Trump’s insistent claim that the establishment press propagates “fake news” requires a constant effort—especially when a prestigious outlet like the New York Times allows itself to be used for blatantly fraudulent purposes.

I cherish the First Amendment. Mark me down as favoring journalism that is loud, lively, and confrontational. When members of the media snooze—falling for fictitious claims about Saddam’s WMD program or Gaddafi’s genocidal intentions, for example—we all lose.

So the recent decision by Times editors to publish an op-ed regarding Paul Manafort’s involvement in Ukraine is disturbing. That the Times is keen to bring down Donald Trump is no doubt the case. Yet if efforts to do so entail grotesque distortions of U.S. policy before Trump, then we are courting real trouble. Put simply, ousting Trump should not come at the cost of whitewashing the follies that contributed to Trump’s rise in the first place.

The offending Times op-ed, the handiwork of Evelyn N. Farkas, appears under the title “With Manafort, It Really Is About Russia, Not Ukraine.” During the Obama administration, Farkas served as Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Russia, Ukraine, Eurasia, and Mess Kit Repair. Okay, I added that last bit, but it does seem like quite an expansive charter for a mere deputy assistant secretary.

The story Farkas tells goes like this.

First, from the moment it achieved independence in 1991, Ukraine was a divided nation, “torn between Western Europe and Russia.” Ukrainians in the country’s western precincts wanted to join the European Union and NATO. Those further to east “oriented themselves toward Russia, which exerted maximum influence to keep Ukraine closely aligned.” In one camp were enlightened Ukrainians. In the other camp, the unenlightened.

Second, Manafort’s involvement in this intra-Ukrainian dispute was—shockingly—never about “advanc[ing] the interests of democracy, Western Europe or the United States.” Manafort’s motives were strictly venal. In what Farkas describes as a “standoff between democracy and autocracy,” he threw in with the autocrats, thereby raking in millions.

Third, Manafort’s efforts mattered bigly. In 2010, he helped Victor F. Yanukovych become president of Ukraine. An unquestionably nasty piece of work, Yanukovych was, according to Farkas, “Putin’s man in Kiev.” Yet like it or not, he came to power as the result of democratic election. In 2013, Yanukovych opted against joining the EU, which along with NATO, had, in Farkas’s words, “experienced a burst of membership expansion” right up to Russia’s own borders.

In response to Yanukovych’s action, “the Ukrainian people,” that is, the enlightened ones, “took to the streets,” forcing him to flee the country. Rather than bowing to the expressed will of the people, however, Russia’s Vladimir Putin “instigated a separatist movement” in eastern Ukraine, thereby triggering “a war between Russia and Ukraine that continues to this day.”

To accept Farkas’s account as truthful, one would necessarily conclude that as Manafort was hijacking history, the United States remained quietly on the sidelines, an innocent bystander sending prayers heavenward in hopes that freedom and democracy might everywhere prevail.

Such was hardly the case, however. One need not be a Putin apologist to note that the United States was itself engaged in a program of instigation, one that ultimately induced a hostile—but arguably defensive—Russian response.

In the wake of the Cold War, the EU and NATO did not experience a “burst” of expansion, a formulation suggesting joyous spontaneity. Rather, with Washington’s enthusiastic support, the West embarked upon a deliberate eastward march at the Kremlin’s expense, an undertaking made possible by (and intended to exploit) Russia’s weakened state. In football, it’s called piling on.

That this project worked to the benefit of Czechs, Poles, Hungarians, the Baltic Republics, and others is very much the case. On that score, it is to be applauded.

That at some point a resentful Russia would push back was all but certain. Indeed, more than a few Western observers had warned against such a response.

The proposed incorporation of Ukraine into NATO brought matters to a head. For Putin, this was an unacceptable prospect. He acted as would any U.S. president contemplating the absorption of a near neighbor into hostile bloc of nations. Indeed, he acted much as had Dwight D. Eisenhower and John F. Kennedy when they assessed the implications of Cuba joining the Soviet bloc.

That doesn’t justify or excuse Putin’s meddling in Ukraine. Yet it suggests an explanation for Russian behavior other than the bitterness of an ex-KGB colonel still with his shorts in a knot over losing the Cold War. Russia has an obvious and compelling interest in who controls Ukraine, even if few in Washington or in the editorial offices of the New York Times will acknowledge that reality.

Furthermore, Russia was not alone in its meddling. The United States has been equally guilty. When “the Ukrainian people took to the streets,” as Farkas puts it, the State Department and CIA were behind the scenes vigorously pulling strings. Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland believed it was incumbent upon the United States to decide who should govern Ukraine. (“Yats is the guy,” she said on a leaked call). Nuland would brook no interference from allies slow to follow Washington’s lead. (“F–k the EU,” she told the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine.)

That Ukraine is, as Farkas correctly states, a torn country, did not give Nuland pause. Since the end of the Cold War, U.S. policymakers have assigned to themselves a magical ability to repair such tears and to make broken countries whole. The results of their labors are amply on display everywhere from Somalia and Haiti to Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya. Now add Ukraine to that sorry list.

Even so, can’t we at least assume Nuland’s motives were morally superior to Putin’s? After all, President Putin is clearly a thug whereas Nuland is an estimable product of the American foreign policy establishment. She’s married to Robert Kagan, for heaven’s sake.

Persuade yourself that the United States is all about democracy promotion, as Farkas appears to believe, and the answer to that question is clearly yes. Alas, the record of American statecraft stretching over decades provides an abundance of contrary evidence. In practice, the United States supports democracy only when it finds it convenient to do so. Should circumstances require, it unhesitatingly befriends despots, especially rich ones that pay cash while purchasing American weaponry.

Yanukovych was Putin’s man, “and therefore, indirectly, so was Mr. Manafort,” Farkas concludes. All that now remains is to determine “the extent to which Mr. Manafort was Putin’s man in Washington.” For Farkas, the self-evident answer to that question cannot come too soon.

As to whether Russia—or any other great power—might have legitimate security interests that the United States would do well to respect, that’s not a matter worth bothering about. Thus does the imperative of ousting Trump eclipse the need to confront the pretensions and the hubris that helped make Trump possible.

Andrew Bacevich is writer-at-large at The American Conservative.

20 Comments

  1. Peter says

    The NYT isn’t alone – the Graun is really on the ball today (November 13). Here are two headlines from their website:

    Headline 1
    Catalan independence: EU experts detect rise in pro-Kremlin false claims
    (That’s based on “the European Union’s counter-propaganda unit” and “EU officials”, who apparently “have seen an increase in false information published in Russian and Spanish”.)

    Headline 2
    Assad regime’s starve or surrender strategy ‘a crime against humanity’
    (That one comes from “an Amnesty report examining sieges and evacuation deals published weeks after images of starving baby in Ghouta brought plight of trapped Syrians into focus”.)

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  2. eddie says

    “Alas” ? Ha-ha.. The Jew York Times; never met an Israeli atrocity which it didn’t like. Its motto: Israel 1st ! Twas ever thus.
    In spite of Trump being the prototypical New Yorker, and most of America loathing that particular brand, he got enough support because of the apparent fake news bias from such “iconic” sources as the New York Times, supporting Hillary then and pushing her fake agenda now.
    As one of the great American philosophers, General Alexander Haig once said, “it is morning in America”..

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  3. rtj1211 says

    Victoria Nuland and her hubbie could do with all their neighbours acquiring automatic weaponry and pointing it at their doors and windows. They can live daily relying on the decency and goodwill of their neighbours and hoping some paralytic student bums do not break in and start firing rounds one Saturday night……

    It might teach them what living in Belgorod is like…….

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  4. If you play with fire … The Powers That Shouldn’t Be (TPTSB) are so desperate to ensnare Putin and justify a new Cold War – that they seriously risk exposing themselves. In fact, they already have. Do they care? No: because they know they can intimidate anyone who doesn’t want to be Arkancided or Gladio B’d NOT to join the dots – or to uncover the real story. That way they keep it compartmentalised: and can keep the focus on the phoney Trump-Putin collusion baloney (they were photographed next to each other the other day – it must be true!) But if Manafort was Putins go-between: then ‘Putins’ [wo]man in Washington was Hilary Clinton – not Trump. That’s the real scandal.

    [Note to partisan Putinophiles: that is not as far fetched as it seems. Putin met with both Clintons in 2010, I believe. A large amount of money flowed into the Clinton Foundation ($148m + $500k for Bill) around the time of the Uranium One deal. Russian oligarchs do business the same way Imperial oligarchs do: shock horror! The bribery was discovered before the deal went through. Obama knew (much of his regime are implicated.) One Russian oligarch, Vadim Mikerin, pleaded guilty to the bribery and went to prison over the deal. If there is a collusion scandal: this is it.]

    It is not just real or alleged collusion: this is what Peter Dale Scott would call a “Deep State event” – the closest us serfs will ever get to glimpsing how a web of supranational dark money attempts to control events globally. Manafort is the lowest level fruit they could afford to pick. The traitor Mueller is not going to uncover anything: in fact, he is implicated. He is effectively investigating himself for treason (he sat on the CFIUS committee that approved the Uranium One deal; and hand delivered the enriched uranium sample to Russia.) He is the Deep State cabal’s man on the job: trying to keep a lid on it. But there other investigations opening up: for instance, Chief House Democrat Trey Gowdy wants to look into the deal. Can they keep the genie in the bottle???

    A diligent state investigation with subpoena power could blow open the whole Soros-Bush-Clinton-Obama criminal nexus: and expose foreign collusion and influence peddling with Saudi Arabia; Qatar; Ukraine; UK; Germany … it’s a long list. For instance: everyone is focusing on the Manafort-Yanukovych connection to smear Putin – but what about the Clinton-Pinchuk-Poroshenko connection that saw $10m ‘donated’ from the Ukraine. Are Putin and Poroshenko in collusion???

    What no one is prepared to analyse is that there are two distinct phases to the “Russian collusion” scandal. It appears TPTSB were prepared to do business with Russia from 2009-2015. Then when Russia proved less than compliant over Syria and Ukraine – the Deep State turned and the whole Brennan bullshit fakery “collusion and interference” canard was launched. And we now know that two of the key pieces of evidence (LMFAO!) – the ‘Pissgate’ Fusion GPS and the Crowdstrike dossiers were funded by the Democrats. And Julian Assange has made clear that the bulk of incriminating emails (9 out of the 10 that “lost the election”) were written AFTER the “hack” was discovered. The whole thing is unravelling and risks blowing back to expose TPTSB. When John McCain’s fellow warmongering mini-me – Lindsey Graham – is calling for Clinton to be investigated – you know they are covering their tracks and are prepared to throw Clinton under the bus.

    Will any of this come out? Trump hints: but has he got the cojones? Or will some mangled, compartmentalised half-truths continue to be pushed as the basis of an internecine war? Will they “lock her up”: or, as Sibel Edmonds maintains – are there are two sets of laws in the US: one for the Clintons, and one for everyone else???

    Liked by 1 person

    • Of course you will also recall that having installed Arseniy Yatsenyuk as PM [as predicted by Toria Nuland] that John Brennan was spotted leaving on a fake passport at Boryspil airport [Kiev] just a few days before the launch of the civil war in Ukraine which the US subsequently blamed on Russian interference.

      Hauling in Manafort is really such a sprats platter, when there are so many more bigger fish out their to fry.

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      • Big B says

        I had forgotten that detail, there is so much going on for a weekend armchair analyst to take in! Manafort is more key than the M$M commentariat would like us to know. One side (CNN, MSN, MSNBC) want us to believe that his brief tenure as campaign manager ties Trump into the “collusion and interference” canard – making Trump impeachable. But the dates don’t tally at all. The other side (mainly Fox) want us to believe that Manafort’s main contact was with the Podesta Group – making Hillary Clinton the real Russian collusion scandal (not proven – but looking increasingly certain.) It’s being portrayed in neatly partisan lines. But the criminality and influence peddling does not fall into such neat boxes. Money from the Ukraine kept flowing into the Clinton Foundation AFTER Manafort lost his influence. The Russophobic canard evaporates and we are looking at WHOLLY AMERICAN CORRUPTION! Which fake news outlet will carry that anti-US exceptionalism story?

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  5. bevin says

    “That this project worked to the benefit of Czechs, Poles, Hungarians, the Baltic Republics, and others is very much the case…”
    This is extremely debatable. As, of course is the implication -in the assertion that “Putin is a thug” – that Russia’s foreign policy is comparatively aggressive.
    Bacevich writes for an audience so marinated in Cold War propaganda that he feels obliged to reassure them of his sanity by rehearsing some of the more familiar memes from the days when the people of the US actually believed themselves to be defending the ‘Free World’ of Chiang Kai Shek, Franco and Synghman Rhee.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes he does seem to pander to people who have Cold War era propaganda engraved into their psyche (he seems too intelligent to believe the stuff himself, but that is also a possibility). Whatever the case, he is on the right track and if the Trump and his clowns followed his advice that would be a massive step in the right direction.

      The internet era has resulted in many many people only bothering to accept as valid opinions that reflect their own from people with whom they are are 100% ideologically aligned. Not everybody is coming from the same place. Perhaps you have been enlightened about a subject longer than me, or vice versa, so even though we might not be exactly on the same page if we are on the same chapter, or even reading the same book, it would be foolish to sniff derisively and dismiss the other person as a moron or not ideologically “pure” enough.

      It is well known in psychology that if your intention is to persuade someone to accept a point of view that is radically different from their own, you will have more success if you attempt to “convert” them in increments. If you try to get them to take on a radically new view all at once their resistance to it will be much stronger. Introducing them to credible, easily verifiable facts that challenge the accuracy of their false belief or, depending on the context, a reasonable argument from a source they trust that challenges their believe from a source they trust

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      • (hit send prematurely…Ignore the post above this one)

        Yes he does seem to pander to people who have Cold War era propaganda engraved into their psyche (he seems too intelligent to believe the stuff himself, but that is also a possibility). Whatever the case, he is on the right track and if the Trump and his clowns followed his advice that would be a massive step in the right direction.

        The internet era has resulted in many many people only bothering to accept as valid opinions that reflect their own from people with whom they are are 100% ideologically aligned. Not everybody is coming from the same place. Perhaps you have been enlightened about a subject longer than me, or vice versa, so even though we might not be exactly on the same page if we are on the same chapter, or even reading the same book, it would be foolish to sniff derisively and dismiss the other person as a moron or not ideologically “pure” enough.

        It is well known in psychology that if your intention is to persuade someone to accept a point of view that is radically different from their own, you will have more success if you attempt to “convert” them in increments. If you try to get them to take on a radically new view all at once their resistance to it will be much stronger. Introducing them to credible, easily verifiable facts that challenge the accuracy of their false belief or, depending on the context, a reasonable argument from a source they trust that calls the truthfulness of the belief into question, you will have sown the first seeds of doubt and they wil never much more receptive to your persuasive efforts. (If you can work can emotional angle into your efforts that is usually a better bet than relying solely on logic and reason. It depends on how devious you want to be.)

        I don’t know if Bacevich is using a variation of these tactics to convince a more conservative audience to consider they are being manipulated by the media, or if his US Military training prevents him from fully accepting the depth of the deception. But he did at one point have very typical conservative American views about other countries and considering his background he deserves some credit for using his brain. Liberals would probably call him a far-right Trump shill…

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  6. It is ironic that what most Americans and Canadians think of as “the left” (the Democratic Party in the US and the Liberal Party of Canada) are Atlanticist neoliberal liberals whose economic program is capitalist through and through. And their media “partners” would never run a story like this one from a conservative publication.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. It’s a daily occurrence and at times (almost) laughable. Tonight the BBC News site is running a story about “Iranian military bases in Southern Syria”. It learnt this from “Western Intelligence Agencies” and they produced photos taken by a drone. There is a large building, “big enough to garage 8 vehicles” although no signs of any military paraphernalia ( but those Iranians are very cunning, I couldn’t help but think).
    Israel is saying it can’t carry on like this with Iran “taking over” swathes of territory but the BBC reassures us that they intend to conduct an international diplomatic campaign before they, Er..not too clear what happens then but have No Doubt, the Iranians are coming; better check out under your bed tonight.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Joan Anthony says

      Rachel Maddow is the worst. She obviously has nightmares about Iran which she thinks are real – or maybe she was spurned by an Iranian at some stage and has never got over it.
      She is no better than Fox News.

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      • rtj1211 says

        Unfortunately for the BBC, they have made the cardinal mistakes of propagandists: being seen through by their consumers.

        Their credibility is gone, shot to pieces, destroyed. Iraq started it, Libya confirmed it, Syria puts it beyond reasonable doubt.

        It is a snake pit of intelligence stooges, anti-journalistic warmonger ideologues and shameless ignorant patsies reading autocues.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Agreed: I think the all time low was when they colluded with terrorists; broke out the moulage, and used military grade faked injuries to pervert public opinion toward war. See Robert Stuart’s blog re: “Saving Syria’s Children” propaganda.

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    • rtj1211 says

      I think Mohammed bin Salman, the Israelis and the US bombers are coming. They have a Grand Design to destroy Syria, quell the statelet monarchies and crush Iran. MbS is a 32 year old dilettante who completely misread the oil market, costing his country around $300bn in lost reserves. He may have utopian 2030 visions, but he comes across as petulant under challenge, warmongering in outlook and beholden to the US and Israel to consolidate his power. He intends spending $100bn+ on American arms which one assumes will be unleashed on Iranand her allies.

      One wonders why Israel does not see itself as worthy of the sort of destruction Syria has just experienced? I would feel nothing for ordinary innocent Israelis over and above what I feel for ordinary innocent Syrians, if their country were carpet bombed to oblivion. Any attempt by any Jew to say I should marks them down as racist…..

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