If U.S. television and politicians started saying that Saudi Arabia should be bombed because it kills and tortures innocent people, within a week many millions of Americans would demand just that. And because those voices do say that about ISIS, many millions of Americans do favor a war on ISIS.
My point is not that bombs would be worse than the problem addressed and would make the problem itself worse as well, although that’s all true. Rather, my point is that most people who favor wars do so in order to blindly support a nation, and in blindly supporting that nation they allow it to dictate which wars they will favor. Although war supporters will give you reasons for the wars they favor, they actually favor whichever wars they are told to favor, and no others. And they’ll give you the reasons they are told to believe in as well.
More often than not, the U.S. public is advised to favor a war on a single individual of demonic nature, even though a war against an individual is completely nonsensical. According to nonsensical propaganda, you don’t bomb Iraqis; you bomb former-U.S.-ally Saddam Hussein. You don’t bomb Afghans; you bomb former-U.S.-ally Osama bin Laden. You don’t drone kill Pakistani and Yemeni and Somali children and women and men; you drone kill Al Qaeda Terrorist Number Three, over and over again. You don’t liberate Libya from what stability it had; you kill former-U.S.-ally Muammar Gadaffi. You don’t attack Panama; you attack former-U.S.-ally Manuel Noriega. Et cetera et cetera.
Well, it’s Vladimir Putin’s turn, which means Russia is at risk, which means the world is at risk, and yet the rough beast stumbling toward Bethlehem to be born is as oblivious to its conception as any unborn thing or television viewer.
The Washington Post has a criticism of the U.S. television show “House of Cards” as being unrealistic in its portrayal of a Putin character because the actor is too tall, the White House would never invite the Russian band Pussy Riot (jailed by Putin) to dinner with Putin, etc. If you actually watch the episode it gets a lot more unrealistic than that.
First the Putin character is made so obnoxious that you’re supposed to take the sociopathic (hands-on) murderer who’s the U.S. president for a nice reasonable guy. Then you’re supposed to accept the whole pretense that the United States wants to and can create “peace” between Israel and its victims despite giving Israel billions of dollars of weapons every year and blocking all global accountability for its crimes. Then you’re supposed to imagine that Russia and the United States can and should join forces and use those forces to violently bring about a state of nonviolence without ever even considering any of the grievances or injustices at the root of the problem.
Then comes a pretense that is central to the formulaic but muddy thinking that takes the U.S. into wars. When Pussy Riot protests Putin’s domestic abuses, the U.S. president declares that he will follow their example and “stand up” to Putin. This equation between protesting domestic crimes and threatening military hostility from abroad is absolutely insane but absolutely standard in war propaganda.
And why does the President feel obliged to “stand up” to Putin? Because of how the negotiations had gone earlier in the program. The U.S. asked for Putin’s help in “bringing peace” to the Middle East, and Putin said OK but I’d like you to take your missiles that are directed at Russia out of Eastern Europe. The President said he would pull out a small unspecified number but his doing so would have to be kept secret. Putin replied that such a bargain should not be secret and there would be no accountability if it were. And the U.S. President at that point freaked out, determined that Putin was an obnoxious jerk who ruined parties, imposed himself on the First Lady, and generally made everyone hate him as much as humanly possible, and therefore Russia deserved nothing and the world would be condemned to a greater likelihood of nuclear war.
You won’t find that account in the Washington Post but you will see it if you watch the program. Or if you read U.S. magazines you’ll find something similar. If you read U.S. books you’ll find the same themes. If you listen to your Congress members you’ll get the same general line. A war went from unpopular in 2013 to popular in 2014 because of some ugly videos of murders and the redirection of the war toward the murderers. Vladimir Putin is being set up as the reason for a popular war even as hostility is being provoked in Ukraine and throughout Eastern Europe.
This could be the last such set-up if we quickly learn our lesson and pull it back, or if we don’t.