It’s remarkable how the United States spends massive amounts of money on war, supporting terrorism and fomenting coups at the same time politicians and pundits insist with a straight face that there’s no money for successful, much-needed domestic programs. Just since 2002, the US has spent trillions of dollars waging war on Iraq and Afghanistan, with absolutely no end in sight to the spending or the misery of those two countries. At the same time, Unemployment Insurance, veterans’ benefits and many other programs get shredded and shredded some more because “there’s no money.”
Meanwhile, tensions flare in the Ukraine and Venezuela largely because of vast sums of money the US has funneled to counterrevolutionaries. Corporate flacks like President Obama, Hillary Clinton and Fox News are united in insisting that US imperialism has the right to interfere in or invade any country it wants whenever it wants without having to answer or be held accountable to anyone. Noble talk of “democracy promotion” is a cover for vehement opposition to democracy and is especially devious regarding Venezuela, where there are democratic structures that greatly exceed anything we have here. As people in the global South know all too well from a long and bloody history, profits of corporations and the destruction of any movement or state that dares challenge Empire are the real objectives of US foreign policy.
Institutions of imperial power such as the CIA, USAID, the National Endowment for Democracy and Non-Governmental Organizations such as CANVAS have given tens of millions of dollars to Venezuelan elites seeking to overthrow the popularly elected government. In 2002, reactionary forces used that aid to briefly depose the late Hugo Chavez until the people rose up to repel the coup plotters. In the 12 years since, the Bolivarian Revolution has grown stronger and those who wish to return to the days when a small oligarchy enjoyed great wealth, while the majority lived in squalor, have been rebuffed again and again, both at the polls and in the streets. Because of Venezuela’s oil reserves and the hope that the revolution inspires elsewhere, however, the US fights on, fomenting sabotage and violence in the hopes of succeeding where it failed in 2002.
According to Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland, the US invested five billion dollars to overthrow the Ukrainian government. The West apparently could not abide that now-deposed President Viktor Yanukovych rejected the European Union and instead established closer ties with Russia (this coming several years after he also refused to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization). Given the destruction the European Union, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the West in general have wrought in Greece, Cyprus and throughout Eastern Europe, with outside investors earning billions in profits, that decision was perfectly reasonable. Needless to say, the West’s business class was not pleased so Yanukovych had to go.
The Ukrainian people have many legitimate grievances and it’s possible a genuine movement for greater freedom and a fair economy might have kicked out Yanukovych and the Super Rich he represents. That possibility evaporated, however, as fascists and the West hijacked the protests, and it was the fascist cause that the five billion from the US aided.
And make no mistake, Svoboda and the Right Sector – the people John McCain and Victoria Nuland pal around with, the people Obama and the punditocracy hail as “democrats,” the people driving events in the Ukraine even if they aren’t numerically a majority – are fascists. The parliamentary party Svoboda and the street thugs of the Right Sector proudly proclaim themselves to be anti-Semitic, Russian-hating, ultra-nationalist supremacists in the tradition of those who collaborated with the Nazis during the Second World War and helped kill three million Ukrainians. They have nothing but contempt for democracy and for the workers and students they demonstrated alongside in Kiev.
Armed members of the Right Sector have occupied the Central Election Commission, threatening to ensure the elections called for May go the right way. Members of Yanukovych’s political party have been shot and those holding office have resigned in fear of their lives and the lives of family members. Those appointed in their place by the new regime come primarily from the oligarchy, while the Right Sector has been busy burning synagogues and churches.
Much also has been made in the West of Yanukovych’s imprisonment of former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, whose release from jail was hailed as a victory for democracy. Rarely if ever mentioned is the fact that she is an even bigger crook than Yanukovych, as she and her cronies made billions by turning public funds into private profits. Since her release, Tymoshenko has worked in tacit alliance with the fascists.
One of the West’s goals in the Ukraine is virtually assured, as the new government will undoubtedly surrender to the EU. Another objective is the further encirclement of Russia with military bases, a continuation of a policy of aggression toward that country dating to the US-led invasion of the USSR shortly after the 1917 Revolution. NATO now includes virtually every member of the old Eastern bloc, in violation of agreements made 25 years ago with Mikhail Gorbachev, and is central to the US’s determination to isolate and, if possible, destroy Russia, just as it has destroyed Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya and is seeking to destroy Syria and Iran. Last are the interests of Chevron, Cargill, Monsanto and other corporate vultures salivating at the profits to be made from pillaging yet another country. A number of corporations dramatically increased their investments immediately prior to the coup, further indication that sectors of the ruling class elites may have known it was coming.
Lost amidst venomous jingoism from the likes of Hillary Clinton is the fact that Russia was invaded three times by the West in the 20th century, with a cost of 25 million lives, and the Russian response to the Ukrainian coup must be understood in the context of those invasions and those dead. Furthermore, intelligence leaks indicate the West most definitely had plans for a coup in and annexation of Crimea, plans that for now have been foiled by the Russian incursion. Vladimir Putin is an autocratic thug but his diplomatic work was key in preventing a US assault on Syria last summer, and he made important diplomatic proposals that prevented the US from moving toward war against Iran. He made similar proposals last fall regarding the Ukraine that might have prevented the current crisis – proposals Obama rejected. Rather than demonizing Putin and threatening more violence, the US and EU should revisit those proposals.
In the meantime, the next time you hear a millionaire Senator or MSNBC pundit babbling about how there’s no money for food stamps, remember the trillions spent on weapons of war. Remember, too, that those who run this country have no problem blowing up children in Afghanistan at the same time millions of children here are malnourished, then ponder what that says about their priorities and the tasks facing the rest of us.
Andy Piascik is a long-time activist and award-winning author who writes for Z Magazine, The Indypendent, Counterpunch and many other publications and websites. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.