Wednesday, February 26, 2014

A note (rant) on the Ukraine

I have to say something about the situation(s) in the Ukraine, I haven't had much time to post recently, being in the middle of moving house, so instead of a neatly constructed post this will take the form of a simple rant.

First reality: any attempt to deny Russia access to the Crimea would be similar to denying the USA access to the Panama canal... In America's case that would constitute an act of war.

There are those that even think Ukraine should join NATO. Great wars have begun on flimsier grounds than that too. Making a mortal enemy of Russia over the Ukraine would be incredibly stupid... The Poles might love that, but frankly, I don't think the Germans will go for it at all. 

I think that I've said before that I consider that George H.W. Bush's defeat by Bill Clinton was a geopolitical tragedy. The difference between the treatment that a defeated German received from Truman and the Marshall plan and what Clinton's America did to Yeltsin's Russia seem astoundingly stupid if you think about it.

Nearly 190,000 Americans died fighting Nazi Germany and a defeated Germany was treated with great generosity.  As far as I know, throughout the Cold War no Russian soldier ever killed an American soldier, we were even allies in defeating the Nazis, but when Russia was down, America led by Bill Clinton, kicked them in the teeth. and because of that the Russians have every right to be totally cynical about America's intentions and every right to consider the USA as a sinkhole of hypocrisy and Snowden's revelations only confirm that view. 

Ukraine is in a ruinous state and neither the EU or the IMF nor the US Congress, for that matter are in any shape to fill its coffers even if the money wasn't immediately drained off by Ukraine's notoriously corrupt oligarchs, who occupy the entire political spectrum. That sound familiar? Certainly there seems to be a growing consensus (even among many American conservatives) that America's policy and financial elites are "mad, bad and dangerous to know.

I think it is simply frivolous idiocy to try to "contain" Russia. This is all being cooked up by the same neocon imbeciles that invaded Iraq... Victoria Nuland is married to the fellow who wrote, "Americans are from Mars and Europeans are from Venus". Cutting to chase: anything these people touch is tainted and will lead to disaster. 

End of rant.  DS

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Don't cheapen the Holocaust by making it shopworn

Humanity has seen many genocides since our ancestors killed off all the Neanderthals... 

The Holocaust is different.

How is this genocide different from all other genocides?

There is a qualitative difference between ordinary enraged insanity and the carefully planned and managed destruction of an entire people (one of the founders of our civilization) carried out by one the most developed and cultured peoples of that same civilization.

It is the end of the idea, the hope, the faith, that material progress leads to spiritual progress.

The difference between any other genocide and the Holocaust is that in the Holocaust all the techniques of over a century of miraculous scientific and technical "progress", were applied to the task.

The Holocaust is not just another pogrom, ethnic cleansing or enraged genocide. It is the industrial scale, ice-cold destruction of an entire group of human beings using all the tools of modern logistics, recycling and information management, just as if the victims were nothing more than pigs or chickens going to market. The ultimate in depersonalization, in dehumanization: it is the summit of humanity's alienation from itself. It is the dark side of all the material progress made since the industrial revolution... All modern progress since the Enlightenment devoted to evil. 

Because of the symbolism involved the Holocaust is not the same as, for example, the Turkish genocide of Armenians, or the atrocities of Rwanda. Why not?

Germany, pre-Hitler, represented the cutting edge of technology, science and "kultur": the land of Einstein and Adorno, not "just" Bach, Beethoven, Hegel, Kant, Marx and Goethe.  The Jews themselves, of course, before anything else, wrote the Bible, which is nothing less than the founding document of our entire western civilization. 

So we are not talking about the individual suffering involved, which is not in any way different from that of Armenians or Rwandans, but rather the suicide of any moral authority our civilization could claim to possess. That loss was summed up by Gandhi when he was asked what he thought of Western civilization, "It would be a good idea", the Mahatma replied.

In many senses our modern, western civilization died in Auschwitz

I think while we are on subject, I should go on record as saying that, for all the reasons that I have stated above,  I am in total agreement with the Jewish position that the Holocaust was totally unique and cannot be compared to any other event in history

But, for the same reason of its uniqueness, I think that it is sinfully frivolous to cheapen something as unique as the Holocaust by blandishing it as moral blackmail to cover the carefully organized and methodical oppression, humiliation and displacement of the Palestinian people. DS

Friday, February 07, 2014

Nuland and Pyett's tape

David Seaton's News Links
 “Clear communication expresses clear thinking, while muddled communication reflects muddled thinking” Writing Success Program at UCLA
(The English Language) becomes ugly and inaccurate because our thoughts are foolish, but the slovenliness of our language makes it easier for us to have foolish thoughts. George Orwell
You've probably heard or heard about this conversation between  US assistant secretary of state, Victoria Nuland, and Geoffrey Pyatt, US ambassador to Ukraine before reading this post. A couple of questions naturally come up, for example, how did the Russians get access to the conversation and is this a little sample of access they have acquired from Snowden or could they have done this before he arrived on the scene? 

My answer? I haven't a clue... all I can say is that Putin seems to be very, very, lucky these days.

What really brings me to write about it is the language these people use. By this I don't mean Victoria Nuland's, now famous, "fuck the EU", for me that is about the only really simple and declarative, proper English sentence in the entire recording. Here is a sample of what I mean:
Voice thought to be Pyatt's: I think we're in play. The Klitschko [Vitaly Klitschko, one of three main opposition leaders] piece is obviously the complicated electron here. Especially the announcement of him as deputy prime minister and you've seen some of my notes on the troubles in the marriage right now so we're trying to get a read really fast on where he is on this stuff. But I think your argument to him, which you'll need to make, I think that's the next phone call you want to set up, is exactly the one you made to Yats [Arseniy Yatseniuk, another opposition leader]. And I'm glad you sort of put him on the spot on where he fits in this scenario. And I'm very glad that he said what he said in response. BBC - Transcript
 Here is the quote that has grabbed the headlines and done the most damage:
Nuland: OK. He's now gotten both Serry and [UN Secretary General] Ban Ki-moon to agree that Serry could come in Monday or Tuesday. So that would be great, I think, to help glue this thing and to have the UN help glue it and, you know, Fuck the EU. BBC - Transcript
Refreshing clarity there... In the following snippet, Ambassador Pyatt outdoes himself in mixed, muddled and mangled metaphors.
Pyatt: No, exactly. And I think we've got to do something to make it stick together because you can be pretty sure that if it does start to gain altitude, that the Russians will be working behind the scenes to try to torpedo it. And again the fact that this is out there right now, I'm still trying to figure out in my mind why Yanukovych (garbled) that. In the meantime there's a Party of Regions faction meeting going on right now and I'm sure there's a lively argument going on in that group at this point. But anyway we could land jelly side up on this one if we move fast. So let me work on Klitschko and if you can just keep... we want to try to get somebody with an international personality to come out here and help to midwife this thing. The other issue is some kind of outreach to Yanukovych but we probably regroup on that tomorrow as we see how things start to fall into place. BBC - Transcript
I think it could be seriously maintained that many if not most of the endlessly repeated and disastrous failures of American diplomacy in recent (and not so recent) years can be explained by the mental activity, or lack of it, of people who produce language like this. DS