The Covert War on Syria: how the West cynically wages war indirectly against nations targeted for regime change

Carlton Meyer, “The Covert War on Syria” (Tales of the American Empire, 27 November 2020)

Sequel to an earlier installment “The Plot to Destroy Syria” on Carlton Meyer’s Tales of the American Empire Youtube channel, this episode may not be an exhaustive account of the seven-year war that the US and its allies waged indirectly against Syria but it is a good introduction into the type of secret war of regime change that the West currently conducts against nations it disapproves of and the role that Western news media propaganda play to capture and maintain the support of the Western general public behind such wars.

After the successful overthrow of Colonel Muammar Gaddhafi’s government in Libya in 2011 (actually, even while NATO was attacking Libya, the US government was already moving terrorists and weapons from Benghazi in eastern Libya to Syria), the US turned its attention to Syria to incite violence in parts of Syria that could be escalated into all-out war. Getting public support for an invasion of Syria however was going to be difficult; Western publics were shocked at NATO’s use of a no-fly zone over Libya to start bombing the country and the Russians and Chinese on the UN Security Council were not to be fooled twice into supporting a no-fly zone over Syria. Under the then Obama administration, the US began encouraging foreigners through social media platforms and propaganda demonising the Syrian government as a repressive dictatorship to travel to Syria and support various disaffected groups (unemployed farmers made so by privatisation of land and utilities, Iraqi war refugees) in fighting Damascus. Saudi Arabia, Qatar and other Middle Eastern nations in Syria’s immediate neighbourhood began arming and funding such mercenaries, and introduced them to extremist Wahhabi and Salafi ideologies, with the result that groups preaching extreme forms of Islam and glorying in the executions of even other Muslims in addition to non-Muslims grew up in the region.

The episode is rather selective in what it emphasises during the West’s cynical conduct of the war from 2011 to 2018. Very little is said about Israel’s involvement in the war, in providing medical aid and patching up wounded terrorists in hospital, even though that country had an interest in retaining and annexing the Golan Heights. On the other hand, Meyer draws a fairly detailed link from Turkey’s support for oil tankers illegally taking Syrian oil and transporting it to Turkey to the shoot-down of a Russian jet fighter by jihadists in late 2015 (not long after Russia began assisting the Syrian Arab Army at Damascus’ request), the subsequent Russian wreckage of the Turkish economy, Turkey’s refusal to accept any more refugees fleeing the conflict and the aborted July 2016 coup against Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The episode takes a detour to explain the rise of the White Helmets as a fake humanitarian aid organisation and supports its explanation with an excerpt of a Q&A session in which Canadian journalist Eva Bartlett sets a questioner right by detailing Western news media’s failure to adequately cover the Middle East by putting correspondents on the ground to get first-hand evidence.

Maps, photographs and excerpts of interviews are used to illustrate Meyer’s narration and the result is a detailed work that should be viewed as both an introduction into the current way Western nations try to overthrow governments of sovereign nations, preferring stealth and the cynical use of these nations’ citizens and foreign mercenaries to do the fighting; and the role propaganda has to play in convincing even educated people capable of knowing better to believe in false narratives about Syrian President Bashar al Assad being a dictator and about the Syrian public wanting to get rid of him. At the end of the episode, using economist / academic / analyst Jeffrey Sachs as a sort of mouthpiece (though what Sachs says is very much his own opinion), Meyer makes a case for the US to get all its troops out of Syria, give up trying to overthrow Assad and leave Syria and Syrians alone to deal with their problems and start reconstructing the country.

Viewers need to do their own research if they want to learn more. A 14-minute film, good and detailed as it is, can only be the start of the journey into understanding Syria and recent Syrian history.

Manufacturing State Propaganda at the BBC: “The Corbett Report (Interview 1587: Vanessa Beeley Debunks a BBC Hit Piece)”

James Corbett, “The Corbett Report (Interview 1587: Vanessa Beeley Debunks a BBC Hit Piece)” (20 October 2020)

Recorded 16 October 2020, this conversation between James Corbett and investigative British journalist Vanessa Beeley can be viewed online or heard as an audio-only version. This interview comes on the eve of a BBC Radio 4 series lasting some 10 weeks on James le Mesurier and the White Helmets, the supposed Syrian civil defence organisation (in reality, a fake humanitarian front supporting regime-change terrorists in Syria) he founded. Beeley had been approached by BBC reporter Chloe Hadjimatheou for an interview that would be broadcast during the radio series but declined the offer when she realised the questions to be put to her were a trap to discredit her.

The interview ranges over a number of related issues: the radio series is intended as a retrospective damage exercise by the BBC to whitewash the White Helmets; the targeting of Beeley by the BBC and the UK government by insinuating that legal action may be taken against her for stating that the White Helmets are a “legitimate target” for retaliation by the Syrian government due to the organisation’s association and embedment with terrorists, its involvement in child abductions and killings and other atrocities, and its travels with terrorist groups; and the ridiculous way in which the mainstream news media portrays Beeley as a lone-wolf blogger / “non-journalist” on the one hand and on the other a significant influence on Syrian government policy! The interview also covers how the White Helmets is part of a drive by a project known as the Integrity Initiative (an initiative of Scottish-based thinktank the Institute for Statecraft), ostensibly established to combat disinformation and support British foreign policy, but which in fact aims to destabilise nations like Syria by supporting groups like the White Helmets which give terrorists and other regime-change groups and organisations a favourable public image. The White Helmets give terrorists a positive humanitarian touch and support a drive for Western military intervention in Syria, supposedly based on “Responsibility to Protect” principles, which has as its ulterior aim the overthrow of the Syrian government and its replacement by a government favourable to Western political, military and corporate interests. Significantly Corbett and Beeley mention that the Red Cross / Red Cresent in Syria does not recognise the White Helmets as Syria’s legitimate civil defence organisation.

On a positive note, Beeley explains her plan to counter this series by researching the backgrounds of the series producer and others involved in its making, and the sources used, and making her research known publicly. Beeley notes that the BBC’s reputation has been falling rapidly, especially since the COVID-19 pandemic began, and that the general public in Britain and beyond increasingly recognise that the BBC is the propaganda outlet for the UK state, itself becoming a more openly repressive police state with no regard for free speech, democracy or the rule of law.

The BBC’s targeting of Beeley and other independent reporters and organisations, such as the Working Group on Syria, Propaganda and Media, that question how Syria and its war against Western invasion (with terrorist groups like ISIS and Jabhat al Nustra among others acting as a de facto army of mercenaries0 are portrayed in mainstream media, to the extent that it would produce a 10-week (!) series lionising James le Mesurier (who even stole money intended for the organisation he founded) and the White Helmets, demonstrates just how squalid this British institution has become, and by implication, how Britain itself has declined culturally and intellectually in concert with its political and economic decline. By going after Beeley, the BBC shows how its values now mirror those of the UK state itself, and these values surely include cowardice and mean-spiritedness.

Hillary (Episode 4: Be Our Champion, Go Away): concluding episode delving into outright fantasy and falsehood

Nanette Burstein, “Hillary (Episode 4: Be Our Champion, Go Away)” (2020)

If the first three episodes of this series on Hillary Rodham Clinton are essentially worshipful hagiography, the fourth and concluding episode descends into outright fantasy. Viewers learn very little new about HRC and especially about her years as Senator for New York and then as Secretary of State during Barack Obama’s first term as US President (2009 – 2013). The episode brushes aside HRC’s voting record as Senator on the wars initiated by President George W Bush (2001 – 2009) in Afghanistan in late 2001, soon after the World Trade Center attacks, and then in Iraq in 2003. The not so little incident of US Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens being ambushed and killed along with three other Americans in the consulate in Benghazi, eastern Libya, by terrorists is also treated quite cavalierly. Nothing is said about HRC’s role in allowing a context to exist in which four American citizens end up being killed in a small building in a city where one of them, a US Ambassador, is not expected to be. What was Stevens doing in Benghazi anyway – surely not running guns and jihadi fighters to Syria? Similarly nothing is made of the overthrow of a legitimately elected government in Honduras in 2010 or in Libya in 2011, the latter to which HRC, while being interviewed, cackled and said, “We came, we saw, he [Libyan leader Colonel Muammar Gaddhafi] died!” On top of this inattention to the issues that Americans are most concerned about – issues about public servants being accountable for their decisions and behaviours, and upholding the law – is the breezy dismissal of HRC’s use of a private email server with poor cyber-security to transact government business, of which much was in the public interest.

The episode brings viewers up to date with HRC’s decision to campaign for the US Presidency in 2016 and her campaign’s emphasis on gender politics, portraying HRC as a champion for feminism and a victim of institutional misogyny, and especially of her Republican rival Donald Trump (with whom the Clintons had previously been friendly), while saying nothing about what her campaign actually stood for in the eyes of the voting public. This narrative is pounded again and again in each of the episodes in this series. As might be expected, nothing is said about the women harmed by Bill Clinton while he was Governor of Arkansas and then US President by his actions toward them, or about his frequent trips to notorious financier Jeffrey Epstein’s private island for trysts with underage teenage women.

The breathless format of the series, in which viewers are forced to sit through constant swinging from HRC’s 2016 Presidential campaign to particular episodes of her earlier life and back again, might be designed deliberately to sweep viewers off their feet into a rollercoaster ride through HRC’s life, not allowing them to step back and have the distance to view HRC’s life, decisions and actions more dispassionately and critically. HRC is constantly portrayed as a fighter and battler to get where she is when in fact it would seem much has actually been handed to her through her husband’s associations and past career. Significantly the series ignores much of her career as New York state senator or US Secretary of State – because the truth is, she achieved nothing worth celebrating that fits in with a paradigm that sees her as a feminist champion and achiever. Her major achievements have actually brought ruin, chaos, violence and death to many millions of people around the world.

The attempts to smear Donald Trump with accusations of Russian collusion to gain the US Presidency and Russian President Vladimir Putin as a soulless character who will always be nothing more than a KGB man, with no evidence to back up such insults, demonstrate the shallowness of Burstein’s subject. That Burstein simply agrees with HRC and follows along, instead of probing these issues and challenging HRC, reveals the series as essentially propaganda of a very mediocre standard. HRC herself is an uninteresting subject for a documentary: smug, self-serving and expecting the world to revolve around her.

The Plot to Destroy Syria: a good overview of the agendas aiming at Syria’s collapse and extinction

Carlton Meyer, “The Plot to Destroy Syria” (Tales of the American Empire, 2 October 2020)

In just over 10 minutes, director / narrator Carlton Meyer lays out quite a detailed context of antagonists and their agendas behind the US-led war against their common protagonist target Syria. This war has been portrayed incorrectly (but deliberately) in the Western mainstream news media as a “Syrian civil war” waged between so-called anti-government opposition groups supposedly fighting for democracy and freedom on the one hand and on the other Syrian government forces loyal to President Bashar al Assad who is always painted as dictatorial. Meyer’s explanation of the background to the war that began in Dar’aa in southern Syria in 2011 is succinct and accurate, and viewers do not really need to know very much more beyond what Meyer states in the video, though a general knowledge of Syrian history since the country became independent of France in the 1940s, with the rise of Hafez al Assad to the Presidency in particular, would certainly help.

Meyer points out that quite a few nations in Syria’s neighbourhood want Assad gone: Israel for one wants to grab territory where Jewish people lived in Biblical times, and this territory happens to stretch from the Nile River in Egypt as far east as Baghdad in Iraq, and from northern Saudi Arabia in the south to Cyprus and much of Syria in the north under the notorious Yinon Plan; Saudi Arabia and the Gulf kingdoms, all Sunni-dominated, do not want an example of a country whose institutions are based on socialist principles and values so close to their own oppressed Shia-majority publics, and their plan for a gas pipeline running through Sunni Muslim territory from the Persian Gulf to Turkey and Europe was nixed by Syria; and Turkey under current President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is keen on taking over Syria’s northern border areas as part of a resurgent neo-Ottoman empire. In addition, The United States has long had ambitions to invade Syria as part of a long-term plan under the Project for the New American Century to invade seven countries in the Middle East and northern Africa and seize their energy wealth and mineral resources. Meyer could have noted that all these nations’ ambitions overlap considerably although viewers should be able to see this overlap and realise it will lead to a situation where Syria’s enemies will co-operate to a certain extent where their interests coincide and clash where their interests conflict – with Syrian cities, towns, villages and the countryside as the battleground. Wisely Meyer does not discuss ISIS or Jabhat al Nusra, both of which need their own videos to explain how these groups arose in Syria and how they are funded and supported by Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Israel, Turkey, the US, the UK and France.

Maps showing Israel’s Yinon Plan and its designs on the Golan Heights and surrounding areas in Syria and Lebanon, the Sunni gas pipeline (and the pipeline running through Iran, Iraq and Syria that replaced it), Turkey with Syria’s northern border areas added to it, and others make for a very visual history lesson. There are not many live-action films referenced in the video and what there are, are of US politicians during discussion and debate. For the most part the video is well-paced but it does get faster and quite breathless in discussing Bashar al Assad near the end. Assad is portrayed as an intelligent and socially progressive leader who is popular with his people. Ultimately it is due to Assad’s character as a man of integrity that he continues to be President of Syria and to attract the public support that holds the country together and stops it from succumbing to a de facto coalition of invading forces from all around the planet.

The video is worth replaying to get a full picture and understanding of what was originally at stake for Syria and still is, even though the country has defeated ISIS and other invaders and is in the process of steadily reclaiming territory (though the US still holds parts of eastern Syria) and driving terrorists out of Syria through Idlib province. The major stumbling block is Turkey which continues to drag its heels in repatriating the terrorists remaining in Idlib and to harass Syria’s northern border areas. Meyer promises more short films about Syria and the recent war there.

Hillary (Episode 3: The Hardest Decision): more fawning over a despicable subject

Nanette Burstein, “Hillary (Episode 3: The Hardest Decision)” (2020)

Purporting to show how Hillary Rodham Clinton became a feminist icon to millions of women (and quite a few men) around the world, this episode in the four-part hagiography by Nanette Burstein does little more than portray its uninteresting subject as a victim of reactionary politics and malign forces in US politics. The hardest decision of the episode’s title that HRC makes turns out to one facing most women at some point in their marriages or equivalent unions: when a partner has been unfaithful, and moreover dallied with a number of women over the years of married life, should the cuckolded partner forgive the errant one, and stay together, or should the cuckold leave the one who did wrong? Even when HRC does make that decision, seeing how it benefits both HRC and Bubba is hard: neither HRC nor any of her 2016 Presidential campaign staff is asked any hard questions as to whether HRC’s forgiveness of her husband was a good idea to have undertaken in the past 20 or so years.

The episode sketchily yet smoothly covers the period of Bubba’s involvement with White House intern Monica Lewinsky in its coverage of the political events, bombshells and scandals that pushed HRC out in front before blinking audiences. Nothing is said about how sex scandals and other related activities might have affected HRC’s rise to a position and influence during the mid to late 1990s. In-between significant events and trends during her husband’s years in the US Presidency, one might have expected to see how HRC learned to stand on her own feet away from the shadow of Bubba’s Presidency and the scandals associated with it. What happens here instead is that HRC exploits gender-based identity politics to elevate her own position and launch her campaign for the US Presidency in 2016 with the help of starry-eyed acolytes and advisors whose interviews here are little more than gushing praise for the woman.

A more sober, objective and energetic documentary portraying HRC and her influence on US politics and foreign policy will have to wait many more years. How she manipulated and exploited identity politics for her benefit, the role that mainstream news media in the US and elsewhere played in colluding with her in that manipulation, allowing her to escape prosecution for various crimes, and the malign effect such manipulation had on the American electorate and the feminist movement in the US, to the extent that huge numbers of people were prepared to vote for her simply because she was a woman, ignoring her lack of policies that would actually help the poor and disadvantaged sections of the US population, is an issue Burstein is blind to. Above all, in spite of her attempts to sanctify HRC by denigrating her campaign opponent Donald Trump during the 2016 campaign debates, odious as he was then (and still is), Burstein still is unable to show how and why HRC lost what should have been a winnable election against a politically inexperienced outsider.

Hillary (Episode 2: Becoming a Lady): on the road to smug notoriety

Nanette Burstein, “Hillary (Episode 2: Becoming a Lady)” (2020)

This episode continues to cover Hillary Rodham Clinton’s life from the time hubby Bubba Bill decides to campaign for the US Presidency in 1992 after serving five terms as Governor of Arkansas to the Whitewater real estate investment controversy that dogged the couple during Bubba’s first term as President. As in the first episode, the events of the early to mid-1990s are interspersed with the events of HRC’s 2016 Presidential campaign during its early run from when HRC bad-mouths Democrat rival Bernie Sanders to Super Tuesday in early March and a bit beyond that. These events are recounted by HRC herself and her campaign aides in a narrative that flatters the woman and paints her as a victim of bullying by the Republican Party and forces in US society antagonistic to the idea of a First Lady who is anything but submissive and content to stay at home in the White House supervising interior decorations and the garden design. Director Burstein rarely if ever challenges her subject on any aspect of what they discuss that does not only conform to a pre-arranged script of HRC as a righteous saintly type badly treated by reactionary forces in US society but is significant in its own right because of the light it casts on HRC’s behaviour then when the issue was current and on her behaviour since that time.

By presenting herself as a victim of malign misogynistic individuals and groups, and portraying herself as a feminist champion and pioneer, HRC comes off as self-absorbed and smug. Her aides are worshipful and adoring. Few of director Burstein’s interviewees ever stop to wonder whether HRC’s own personality and behaviour might be factors contributing to her unpopularity, the constant put-downs and smears against her reputation. As a result, Burstein’s film is less documentary, and more fawning hagiography. I hazard that many years, perhaps even decades, will have to pass before a more balanced and sober account of HRC’s life and the damage she has inflicted on US politics and society since she became a Senator for New York state in 2001 can be done.

Hillary (Episode 1: The Golden Girl): early years of Hillary Rodham Clinton’s life receive glowing treatment

Nannette Burstein, “Hillary (Episode 1: The Golden Girl)” (2020)

Ostensibly a four-part series on the life and career of Hillary Rodham Clinton, this work is never more than a worshipful hagiography of the woman who, after nearly a complete Presidential four-year cycle, has still never accepted that she was and will always be the least favoured of two unlikeable candidates for the US Presidency in late 2016. The series takes the form of interviews conducted by Burstein (never seen, though her voice can be heard) of HRC and various aides who have worked for her over the decades, including those aides who worked for her 2016 Presidential campaign.

Episode 1 “The Golden Girl” follows HRC’s life from her childhood growing up in a staunch Republican family in a comfortable middle class neighbourhood through her college years in the 1960s, during which she worked as a volunteer for Republican presidential candidate Barry Goldwater’s campaign in 1964, to postgraduate studies at Yale University Law School where she met Bill Clinton, whom she married and followed to Arkansas where she taught in the law faculty at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville. The episode then runs through Bill Clinton’s early political career, starting with his tenure as Attorney General for Arkansas and then his time as Governor of Arkansa, the latter during which HRC not only continued as a partner in Rose Law Firm (which she joined in the late 1970s) but also tackled education reform and was successful in establishing teacher testing and state standards for curricula and classroom sizes.

Inserted into the narrative of HRC’s early years are snapshots of her Presidential campaign in 2016 and the various controversies relating to her time as Secretary of State during President Barack Obama’s first term (2009 – 2012) that resurfaced during her campaign, in particular her role in the infamous 2012 incident in which US ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens and three other Americans were killed during a terrorist attack on the US consulate in Benghazi; and her use of a private server over which she conducted government business in violation of Federal laws forbidding the use of privately owned and run digital technologies to receive, send, work on and store emails containing government information. Disturbingly HRC and another interviewee breezily wave away the private server issue by saying that a previous Secretary of State, Colin Powell, also had a private server while holding the position. (Did he ever use this server to transact government business in the way HRC did?)

The constant theme throughout this episode, which HRC and other interviewees consistently bash into the TV audience’s ears and faces, is that HRC’s story parallels the rise of second-wave feminism and the fight for women’s rights from the 1960s onwards. In very many occasions HRC claims she was battling misogynistic prejudice against her for her education and achievements, and for wanting to retain her maiden name after marrying Bill. Viewers are misled into thinking HRC a significant leader in the fight for women’s rights and equality with men before the law. At the same time though, very little attention is given by Burstein or her interviewees on what the ordinary John and Jane Doe know of the Women’s Liberation Movement during the 1960s / 70s and what HRC’s role might have been in that movement, if she had ever participated in it at all.

Despite covering the life of the woman who would become a significant figure in US politics and culture in her own right, for better and for worse, the program makes its subject an uninteresting and dull figure. One would have thought that Burstein, an experienced film director, would try to encourage HRC to relax and try to project a warm personality. Instead HRC comes across as a self-absorbed woman, around whom the world supposedly rotates and does obeisance. Everything dragged into the film, whether it be the history of civil rights and rights for women, ends up revolving around HRC.

Of course, nowhere in this episode will we see much about the scandals that were to follow the Clintons like a bad smell: scandals like the Whitewater real estate investment controversy or HRC’s dabbling in the trading of cattle futures contracts while serving as First Lady of Arkansas. As a result, viewers will only get a slanted view of HRC as a dedicated feminist and a tough political fighter. The real HRC, with all her sociopathic qualities, is carefully polished to Teflon-like sheen.

The Strange Tale of the SS Mayaguez: an example of US military arrogance and bungling resulting in needless tragedy

Carlton Meyer, “The Strange Tale of the SS Mayaguez” (Tales of the American Empire, 4 September 2020)

As an example of US military arrogance and incompetence resulting in unnecessary tragedy that could have had more serious long-term consequences for the world, the May 1975 SS Mayaguez incident would have been hard to beat in the pre-9/11 world. Since the World Trade Center attacks in September 2001, this incident is increasingly becoming a minor footnote in the long and continuing history of US military, political, economic and social decline and decay.

In May 1975, the US cargo ship SS Mayaguez, travelling from Hong Kong to Thailand and having picked up classified US materials from Saigon on the way – the US having just recently evacuated all its diplomatic staff from that city in early 1975 after the Communists claimed victory in the Vietnam War – passed very close to Poulo Wai island in Cambodian territorial waters and was captured by Khmer Rouge forces. The then US President Gerald Ford was notified of the ship’s capture and the US National Security Council met to discuss the incident. The US government determined to free the SS Mayaguez by force and sent an aircraft carrier and two destroyers to Koh Tang Island where the SS Mayaguez crew were supposedly being held hostage. So began a series of actions in which US Marines invaded Koh Tang Island only to be met by tremendous Khmer Rouge gunfire. In the ensuing battle, many Americans were killed, three were captured and over 100 Cambodians were killed. The three US Marines who were captured were later executed by the Khmer Rouge.

As Carlton Meyer’s matter-of-fact voice-over narration informs viewers, the SS Mayaguez crew were actually being held away from Koh Tang Island and were released unharmed by the Khmer Rouge to one of the US destroyers sent to Cambodia. The release of the SS Mayaguez crew and the recovery of the ship were hailed by the Ford administration as a successful rescue in spite of the actual bungled rescue attempt, the senseless killing and the fact that the Khmer Rouge had been planning all along to release the crew back to the Americans after checking the cargo on the SS Mayaguez.

The mini-documentary is very detailed in its retelling of the incident though it barely has much time investigating why the US government decided to invade Koh Tang Island and blast its way through to the captured ship and crew rather than use diplomacy to negotiate the release of the SS Mayaguez. The film points to the general political and military context of the time: the US had just suffered a major military defeat and humiliation by a minnow nation, and Gerald Ford had been in power as US President for a few months and needed a victory that would enhance his reputation and tenure. The film also asks what might have been in the cargo that had been picked up in Saigon: did the cargo include sensitive military recordings indicating US surveillance of Khmer Rouge and other Cambodian communications? Another issue is why the SS Mayaguez sailed so close to Poulo Wai and why it was not flying the US flag at the time. Was the captain merely incompetent or was he under orders at the time?

I’d have liked to know whether the brilliant minds who thought up the reckless rescue plan and decided to send the Marines to Koh Tang Island were reprimanded in any way and promoted horizontally rather than vertically upwards but the film does not say. The long-term impacts and consequences of the SS Mayaguez incident are not covered in the film either. One significant result was that the US was later forced by Thailand to remove all its combat troops from Thai soil in 1976 after the Thai government learned that in spite of its refusal to allow US forces to use a military base in Thailand to launch the invasion of Koh Tang Island, the US went ahead and started the invasion from the base anyway. Relations between Cambodia and the US soured to the extent that any Westerners found in Cambodia were presumed to be US spies and ended up being tortured, forced to make false confessions and then executed.

The film provides a good general survey of the Mayaguez incident. Viewers wanting a more specific understanding are directed to the Wikipedia article about the incident.

The 2014 American Coup in Ukraine: textbook example of how the US invades and makes over other nations

Carlton Meyer, “The 2014 American Coup in Ukraine” (Tales of the American Empire, 21 August 2020)

A very timely release in Carlton Meyer’s Tales of the American Empire series of short videos on US imperialism around the globe, this film reminds viewers of the history of Ukraine in the 20th century and how after independence from the Soviet Union in 1991 Ukraine became a new battleground between the West and Russia in a new Cold War as the US and NATO sought to absorb Eastern Europe and former Soviet republics into their spheres of neoliberal political and economic influence, and extend their military power right up to (and beyond) Russian borders. A very brief account of how Ukraine acquired its territory and borders in the 20th century, with Crimea being added in 1954 by Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev, supposedly to demonstrate Soviet solidarity, and a short ethno-demographic survey of Ukraine are given to set the historical context. In the 1990s, the US established various non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in Eastern European nations and Ukraine, many of them funded by US billionaire George Soros’ Open Society Foundation or by the National Endowment for Democracy among other donors. In Ukraine, these NGOs became instrumental during the Maidan Revolution that took place in late 2013 / early 2014, culminating in the overthrow of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych.

A US government official, Victoria Nuland, the Under-Secretary of State for Europe under Secretary of State John Kerry, is singled out in the video for her role in fomenting unrest, rebellion and even the violence of the Maidan Revolution. The core of the video is given over to a speech she gave at a press conference in Washington DC in December 2013 in which she happily admits that US$5 billion was spent backing the Maidan Revolution. A phone call she made to US ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt in which she expresses her preference for Arseny Yatsenyuk to be Prime Minister in a post-Yanukovych government (“Yatso is our guy”) and pours scorn on the European Union (“Fuck the EU”) later became public.

The February 2014 overthrow of Yanukovych’s government led to political and economic difficulties for Ukraine. Russian-speaking Ukrainians in the eastern regions of Donetsk and Lugansk fought for the right to use the Russian language in public forums, leading to the Ukrainian government invading their regions and starting a civil war that resulted in Kiev’s military humiliation some months later (and the shootdown of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 in July 2014). Crimea voted to become independent of Ukraine and to apply to rejoin Russia. Narrator Meyer mentions that the 23,000 Russian troops present in Crimea at the time of its referendum were there as part of a treaty signed by Russia and Ukraine in 1997 allowing up to 25,000 Russian troops to be stationed in Sevastopol and other parts of Crimea as the Crimean Parliament saw fit. Since civil war broke out in eastern Ukraine in 2014, Russia has steadily decreased the amount of natural gas transiting Ukraine to Western Europe and built alternate pipeline networks elsewhere (such as Nordstream I and II in the Baltic Sea) to supply gas to Germany; at the same time, Ukraine is being forced to pay market prices for natural gas from Russia, prices the country can ill afford to pay. Meyer could have said that under President Petro Poroshenko (2014 – 2019), political and economic corruption has increased in Ukraine at the same time that living standards have fallen to the extent that Ukraine has now become the second poorest nation in Europe.

The general information given is accurate and blame can be laid fairly and squarely on Victoria Nuland, John Kerry and others within the US government under President Barack Obama (2008 – 2016) for the instability and continuing crisis and plundering of Ukraine’s wealth by US and Ukrainian elites alike. Special mention is made of former US Senator John McCain and his role in talking up war against Russia. (Fortunate it is indeed that brain cancer finished off McCain in August 2018 before he could live to see his dream come true, even though he escaped justice for all the harm he has done to the world.)

As an introduction to the troubled history of post-1991 Ukraine, this video is good though already it is turning out quite dated: it makes no mention of Poroshenko’s presidency or of his replacement by Volodymyr Zelensky, a former actor and comedian. Curiously nothing is said about US Senator and 2020 Presidential candidate Joe Biden and his ties to Ukraine through his son Hunter who used to be a Board Director of Burisma Holdings, an energy company with a licence to drill for oil and natural gas in parts of eastern Ukraine. That perhaps is a story to be told another time. What is clear though is that, not for the first time or the last, the US has intervened in another country’s affairs to the extent of throwing out a legitimately elected (if incompetent) government and replacing it with one of its own choosing opposed by the victim country’s citizens, with the result of political instability and chaos, and economic ruin.

Los Angeles 1991: a common humanity emphasised in an almighty shootout

Miguel de Olaso, Macgregor, Bruno Zacarias, “Los Angeles 1991” (2015)

The tale seems contrived and some suspension of disbelief may be required but essentially this taut story illustrates the futility of racial hatred and emphasises our common humanity. Set in the aftermath of the riots that broke out in Los Angeles in 1991 after a video of police beating Rodney King while arresting him on drink driving charges, the film follows the individual trajectories of four men of very different ethnic backgrounds and social classes. According to the voice-over narration, delivered by Gordon Capps, Korean-American store-owner Jun Seo (Victor J Ho) is determined at all costs to defend his general store, which he has run for 15 years and built up with his own efforts, from robbers. Eladio (Zach Tellez) nurses a powerful grudge against Jun Seo for killing his brother during a robbery, swearing vengeance against the shop-owner. JD (Jah Shams) sees Eladio encroaching on his gang’s turf and decides to teach this Chicano punk that blacks won’t be pushed around. White police officer Mike (Chris Conrad) needs to buy his daughter some candy for her birthday and decides to duck into Jun Seo’s store.

The scene is set for all hell breaking loose when these four men with very different agendas converge in the one store. When the dust settles, there are no winners and all are losers. Perhaps one or two of them finally realise they all share the same humanity as they see all their lives ebbing into the same drain in the floor. The metaphor is very heavy-handed and not for the faint-hearted to watch but it is very effective in the way sledgehammers can be painful. Probably what is missing in the film is the underlying socio-economic context in which all four men are really nothing more than underlings representing communities all competing to get their shares of a fast-shrinking economic pie, the bulk of which is being stolen by a power elite that exploits people by dividing them according to arbitrary categories such as race, ethnicity and religion. Of course none of the men realise they are all being used and manipulated.

The hard-boiled pulp fiction style of narration works well in the film, creating and raising tension as the men draw closer to one another. The silent acting is good and all actors, as well as the directors and technical crew, pay close attention to detail. Viewers are not likely to have much pity for any of the characters: they clearly act in their own self-interest and don’t have time for anyone else outside their own little worlds.