Vlad the Instigator
By Bob Wood, TMO
For the past few weeks Iâ€™ve been asking how it has become the norm in America and elsewhere that we have come to believe things that arenâ€™t true. Opinions are like noses. We all have one. Since this is my space, allow me to delve into my on view on this.
For most of us, time is a precious thing, and we find too little time in our day once our daily obligations are met. We are forced to take short cuts when it comes to gathering information on whatâ€™s going on in the world.
We have to be as efficient as we can be, getting as much news and information as we can in a limited space of time. So we typically tune into the nightly news, our favorite business channels and maybe some cable news.
The time spent learning what weâ€™re told by these outlets leaves little left to examine the content heard and seen. Those of us on the left will choose MSNBC as our source for current events. Those on the right will tune into Fox News and get their slant on things.
For the former, weâ€™ll be assured that the Republicans, Tea Partiers and gun lovers are always in the wrong. Likewise for the latter as to the Democrats, unions, environmentalists, etc. But is any of that really educating us. Can we consider ourselves informed? Is any of it really fair and balanced?
But what of news outlets we assume are truly objective? Can we safely assume that the nightly news shows, the New York Times or the Washington Post are examining big issues objectively and giving us a worthwhile take on things?
Letâ€™s look at recent events in Ukraine. The narrative being followed by both left and right leaning news outlets has left us sure that the Russians have been the aggressors there and President Vladmir Putin is attempting a land grab in colonial fashion.
The downing of Malaysian flight MH17 was blamed on East Ukrainian fighters and their backers in The Kremlin, and Putin individually, within hours of the event. Normally it takes a lot longer than a few hours to investigate a tragedy like that and assign blame.
But august publications like those named above, and cable news shows leaning in either direction, followed along. But again, is it true? With such consistency throughout the media as to who started the conflict in Ukraine and who shot down that airliner, is there room for skepticism?
Actually, yes there is. Under the din generated by the overwhelming media coverage on these events, there is a rigorous debate going on. Iâ€™ll bet many in America were not aware of this. Many will quickly try to wave away dissenters as flakes or conspiracy theorists.
Judge for yourself. Many of us are aware of the leaked phone call from February 4th of this year between Victoria Nuland, Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs and Geoffrey Pyatt, U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine.
In it, they discussed who in the opposition movement was to assume a leadership role on the ouster of elected leader Yanukovych. And events played out exactly as they discussed. This call was widely reported on the following week. The actual coup came on February 22nd. How does the media ignore this detail?
By the way, Ms. Nuland is married to Robert Kagan, a full-throated neo-con leftover from the Bush Administration.
They also deem unimportant the December presentation made by Ms. Nuland to the Washington National Press Club, co-sponsored by Chevron, whereby she told of the $5 billion invested in the cause of Ukrainian independence over the past two decades. How does the media miss a presentation made directly to them?!
Then consider, in the interest of balance, these views;
â€˜â€™In Ukraine, Putin responded to a U.S.-backed coup, which ousted a democratically elected political ally of Russia, with a bloodless seizure of the pro-Russian Crimea where Moscow has berthed its Black Sea fleet since the 18th century. This is routine Big Power geopolitics.â€™â€™
-Former presidential candidate Pat Buchanan
â€˜â€™The latest Washington lie, this one coming from NATO, is that Russia has invaded Ukraine with 1,000 troops and self-propelled artillery.
â€˜â€™How do we know that this is a lie? Is it because we have heard nothing but lies about Russia from NATO, from US ambassador to the UN Samantha Power, from assistant secretary of state Victoria Nuland, from Obama and his entire regime of pathological liars, and from the British, German, and French governments along with the BBC and the entirety of the Western media?
-Former presidential candidate Ron Paul
Lastly there was an open memorandum to Chancellor Angela Merkel from a group calling itself Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity. The group includes seven highly experienced professionals who worked for the FBI, the U.S. Army, the NSA and the CIA.
In the memo we read;
â€˜â€™We the undersigned are longtime veterans of U.S. intelligence. We take the unusual step of writing this open letter to you to ensure that you have an opportunity to be briefed on our views prior to the NATO summit on September 4-5.
â€˜â€™You need to know, for example, that accusations of a major Russian â€œinvasionâ€ of Ukraine appear not to be supported by reliable intelligence. Rather, the â€œintelligenceâ€ seems to be of the same dubious, politically â€œfixedâ€ kind used 12 years ago to â€œjustifyâ€ the U.S.-led attack on Iraq.
â€˜â€™We saw no credible evidence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq then; we see no credible evidence of a Russian invasion now. Twelve years ago, former Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, mindful of the flimsiness of the evidence on Iraqi WMD, refused to join in the attack on Iraq.
â€˜â€™In our view, you should be appropriately suspicions of charges made by the US State Department and NATO officials alleging a Russian invasion of Ukraine.â€™â€™
So it can be established that there is a debate going on and the proof and evidence used to convince us that the situation in Ukraine is an act of aggression by the Russians is suspect. But is that reflected in public opinion polls in the U.S. today?
A recent CNN poll showed a mostly favorable and very favorable view of Russia totaling 19% vs. 81% saying they held somewhat or very unfavorable views. In 2011 the numbers were 57% vs. 40%. And 85% in the most recent polling said they thought Russia was directly or indirectly responsible for the downing of Flight MH17.
An August poll of German citizens showed that by a margin of 70% to 26%, sanctions were favored against Russia. That number rose significantly after the downing of Flight MH17.
Those are some startling numbers based on the doubts raised by those cited above. How did this happen? Is there a similarity in how public opinion is being formed with what we saw in the lead-in to the Iraq War in 2004?
After that event and later media apologies for not being more thorough or skeptical of government narrative, is there a better effort being made today to inform the public objectively?
It seems not. The things we know that ainâ€™t so have been relentlessly aired our way, and quite effectively. But why doesnâ€™t the media ask hard questions and demand evidence as to Russiaâ€™s aggression in Ukraine or who really shot down MH17?
Have you heard much attention to that incident in recent weeks after the planeâ€™s data recorders were found? Have you seen satellite or on the ground photos of Russian rocket launchers or troops in Eastern Ukraine? Given the U.S.â€™s penchant for spying and surveillance, a bottle rocket shot at a kidâ€™s birthday party in Ukraine would no doubt have been recorded, along with consideration of a retaliatory drone strike.