The US/NATO/Ukraine/Russia controversy is not entirely new
We have already seen the potential for serious problems in 2014, when the US and European states intervened in Ukraine’s internal affairs and secretly/covertly conspired in a coup d’état against the democratically elected Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych because he was not playing the game the West instructed him to. Of course, our media called this putsch a ‘colour revolution’ with all the trappings of democracy.
The 2021/22 crisis is a logical continuation of the expansionist policy that NATO has pursued since the collapse of the Soviet Union, as has long been said by numerous professors of international law and international relations, including Richard Falk, John Mearsheimer, Stephen Kinser and Francis Boyle. The NATO approach realises US claims to be on a “mission” to export its socio-economic model to other countries, regardless of the preferences of sovereign states and the self-determination of peoples.
Although US and NATO narratives have repeatedly proven to be inaccurate and sometimes deliberately false, the fact remains that most citizens in the Western world uncritically believe what they are told. “The quality press”, including the New York Times, Washington Post, The Times, Le Monde, El Pais, NZZ and FAZ, are effective echo chambers for the Washington consensus and enthusiastically support the PR and geopolitical propaganda offensive. I think it is safe to say, without fear of contradiction, that the only war NATO has ever won is the information war. A compliant and complicit corporate media has successfully convinced millions of Americans and Europeans that the toxic narratives of foreign ministries are indeed true. We believe in the myth of the Arab Spring and the Euromaidan, but we never hear about the right to self-determination of peoples, including the Russians of Donetsk and Luhansk, and what might well be called the “Crimean spring”.
I often ask myself how this is possible when we know that the US has deliberately lied in previous conflicts to make aggression look like “protection”. We were lied to in connection with the Gulf of Tonkin, the alleged weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. There is plenty of evidence that the CIA and M15 orchestrated “false flag” events in the Middle East and elsewhere. So why can’t the masses of educated people look away and wonder? I daresay the hypothesis that the best way to understand the NATO phenomenon is to view it as a secular religion. Then we are allowed to believe its implausible narratives because we can take them on faith.
Of course, NATO can hardly be called a religion of the Beatitudes and the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew V, 3-10), except for one typically Western Beatitude – Beati Possidetis – blessed are those who possess and occupy. What is mine is mine, what is yours is negotiable. What I occupy, I have stolen fair and square. By looking at NATO as a religion we can better understand some of the political events in Europe and the Middle East, Ukraine, Yugoslavia, Libya, Syria, Iraq.
NATO’s credo is somewhat Calvinist – a credo for the “chosen ones”. And we in the West are by definition the “chosen ones”, i.e. the “good guys”. Only we will receive salvation. All this can be taken as faith. Like every religion, the NATO religion has its dogma and lexicon. In NATO’s lexicon, “colour revolution” is a coup d’état, democracy is correlated with capitalism, humanitarian intervention entails “regime change”, “rule of law” means OUR rules, “Satan #1” – is Putin and Satan No. 2 is Xi Jinping.
Can we believe in the religion of NATO? Of course we can. As the Roman/Carthaginian philosopher Tertullian wrote in the third century AD – credo quia absurdum. I believe it because it is absurd. Worse than simply absurd – it requires constant lies to the American people, to the world, to the UN.
Examples? The WMD propaganda in 2003 was not a simple “pia fraus” – or white lie. It was well orchestrated and involved many players. The sad thing is that a million Iraqis paid for it with their lives and their country was devastated. As an American, I and many others shouted, “Not in our name.” But who was listening? UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan has repeatedly called the invasion contrary to the UN Charter, and when journalists demanded clarification, he affirmed that the invasion was an “illegal war”. Worse than just an illegal war, it was the most serious violation of the Nuremberg principles since the Nuremberg trials – a veritable revolt against international law. Not only the US, but also the so-called “coalition of the willing”, 43 states, supposedly committed to the UN Charter and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, had deliberately encroached on the international rule of law.
One would think that after one has been lied to on matters of life and death one would have a healthy scepticism, some degree of caution, that rational people would think: “Haven’t we heard this kind of propaganda before? But no, if NATO is really a religion, we take its claims on faith a priori. We do not question Jens Stoltenberg. There seems to be an unspoken agreement that lying in public affairs is “honourable” and challenging it is “unpatriotic” – again the Machiavellian principle that a supposedly good end justifies bad means.
Apostasy is one of the problems of any religion. It often happens when the leaders of a religion blatantly lie to the faithful. When people lose faith in the current leadership, they look for something else to believe in, like history, heritage, tradition. I dare to consider myself a US patriot – and an apostate from the NATO religion – because I reject the idea of “my country is right or wrong”. I want my country to be right and do right – and when the country goes wrong, I want it to return to the ideals of the Constitution, our Declaration of Independence, the Gettysburg Address – something I can still believe in.
NATO has become the perfect religion for bullies and warmongers, unlike other expansive ideologies of the past. Deep down the Romans were proud of their legions, French grenadiers were happy to die for the glory of Napoleon, infantry soldiers applauded the bombing of Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia by the thousands.
Personally, I view NATO in the tradition of the village bully. But most Americans can’t leap over their own shadows. Emotionally, most Americans lack the courage to reject our leadership. Perhaps because NATO automatically proclaims itself as a positive force for democracy and human rights. I would ask the victims of drones and depleted uranium in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Yugoslavia what they think of NATO’s pedigree.
Many religions are solipsistic, self-aggrandising, based on the premise that it and only it has the truth – and that the devil threatens that truth. NATO is a classic solipsist religion, closed-minded, self-sufficient, based on the premise that NATO is by definition a good force. The solipsist is incapable of introspection, of self-criticism, incapable of seeing others as themselves – with virtues and flaws and perhaps some truths.
NATO is based on the dogma of “exceptionalism”, which the United States has espoused for over two centuries. According to the doctrine of “exceptionalism”, both the US and NATO are above international law – even natural law. “Exceptionality” is another expression of the Roman slogan “quod licet Jovi, non licet bovi” – what Jupiter can do, of course, is not allowed to mere mortals like us – we are “Bovi”, bulls.
Moreover, we in the West are so used to our “culture of deception” that we are surprised when another country doesn’t just admit that we have deceived them. This culture of deception has become so second nature to us that we don’t even realise it when we deceive someone else. It is a form of predator behaviour that civilisation has so far failed to eradicate.
But frankly, isn’t NATO also a reflection of 21st century imperialism, akin to neocolonialism? Not only does NATO provoke and threaten geopolitical rivals, it actually robs and exploits its own member states – not for their own security, but for the benefit of the military-industrial complex. It should seem obvious to everyone – but it is not obvious at all – that the security of Europe lies in dialogue and compromise, in understanding the views of all the people living on the continent. Security has never been equated with arms race and sabre-rattling.
The conventional wisdom is that the crimes committed by NATO over the last 73 years are not crimes, but unfortunate mistakes. As a historian, not just a lawyer, I recognise that we may be losing the battle for truth. It is likely that thirty, fifty, eighty years from now, NATO propaganda will become universally accepted historical truth – firmly entrenched and repeated in history textbooks. This is partly because most historians, like lawyers, are hired guns. Forget the illusion that historical objectivity increases over time. On the contrary, all the false speculation that eyewitnesses can debunk today will eventually become the accepted historical narrative when all the experts are dead and can no longer challenge that narrative. Forget about declassified documents contradicting the narrative, because experience shows that only in very rare cases do they succeed in overthrowing an entrenched political lie. Indeed, political lies don’t die until they are no longer politically useful.
Unfortunately, many Americans and Europeans continue to buy into the NATO narrative – perhaps because it is easy and comfortable to think that we are the “good guys” and that serious dangers “out there” make NATO essential to our survival. As Julius Caesar wrote in his De bello civile – quae volumus, ea credimus libenter. What we want to believe, we believe – in other words, mundus vult decepi – the world actually wants to be deceived.
Seen objectively, NATO expansion and Russia’s relentless provocation have been and remain a dangerous geopolitical mistake, a betrayal of the trust we have placed in the Russian people and, worse still, a betrayal of the hope for peace shared by the vast majority of humanity. In 1989/91 we had the opportunity and responsibility to guarantee world peace. Arrogance and megalomania killed that hope. The military-industrial financial complex relies on perpetual war to continue making billions of dollars in profits. The year 1989 could have ushered in an era of implementation of the UN Charter, respect for international law, transformation of the war-oriented economy into a human security and human services economy, cutting useless military budgets and directing the funds freed up to eradicate poverty, malaria, pandemics, allocating more money to research and development in the health sector, improving hospitals and infrastructure, tackling climate change, maintaining roads and bridges…
Who is responsible for this massive betrayal of peace? The late President George W. Bush and the late British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, and their successors and all their neocon advisers and “exceptionalism” supporters, as well as the think tanks and experts who emboldened them.
How was this betrayal possible? Only through misinformation and propaganda. Only with the complicity of the corporate media, which applauded Fukuyama’s idea of “the end of history” and “winner takes all”. For a while NATO enjoyed the illusion of being the sole hegemon. How long has this chimera of a unipolar world lasted? And how many atrocities has NATO committed to impose its hegemony on the world – how many crimes against humanity have been committed in the name of “democracy” and “European values”?
The corporate media has dutifully played this game by declaring Russia and China our sworn enemies. Any reasonable discussion with the Russians and Chinese was and is “appeasement”. But shouldn’t we look in the mirror and admit that the only ones who should be “appeasing” ourselves are us? Indeed, we need to calm down and stop aggressing against everyone else – stopping both military and information offensives.
If there is one country that cares little about international law and order – otherwise known as “rule-based international order” by Blinken – it is, alas, my country, the United States of America.
Among the treaties the US has not ratified are the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, the ICC Statute, the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, the Open Skies Treaty, the Optional Protocol to the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, the Optional Protocol to the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Convention on Migrant Workers, the Convention on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights…
In the end, we realise that neither Huntington nor Fukuyama got the 21st century right – Orwell did.
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