moon of alabama, going from strength to strength

Lying With Headlines
Moon of Alabama, Sep 24 2020

‘Lying With Headlines’ should be a special classification category in propaganda studies. This one, from the WaPo, is a great example: Hong Kong police arrest activist Joshua Wong for wearing a mask as repression deepens. Those 90% of the readers who only skim headlines and look at the pictures will now believe that the Hong Kong rabble rouser (and friend of the neocons) Joshua Wong was arrested for wearing a medical protection mask during the pandemic. That is however far from the truth. As the SCMP correctly headlines: Hong Kong opposition activist Joshua Wong arrested over illegal assembly and anti-mask law:

Hong Kong opposition activist Joshua Wong Chi-fung was arrested on Thursday for allegedly taking part in an illegal assembly last year. Wong said police had also accused him of breaching the anti-mask law, which banned people from covering their faces during protests.

The laws under which Wong is accused were enacted in Hong Kong before China stepped in and amended the local constitution to tighten security legislation. The arrest has therefore nothing to do with the “deepening repression” the WaPo alleges. Manipulative headlines are usual for tabloids to increase their sensationalism. Serious papers should refrain from such annoying manipulations.

The End Of The ‘Rules-Based International Order’
Moon of Alabama, Sep 23 2020

The ‘western’ countries, i.e. the US and its ‘allies,’ love to speak of a ‘rules-based international order’ which they say everyone should follow. That ‘rules-based order’ is a way more vague concept than the actual rule of law:

The G7 is united by its shared values and commitment to a rules-based international order. That order is being challenged by authoritarianism, serious violations of human rights, exclusion and discrimination, humanitarian and security crises, and the defiance of international law and standards. As members of the G7, we are convinced that our societies and the world have reaped remarkable benefits from a global order based on rules and underscore that this system must have at its heart the notions of inclusion, democracy and respect for human rights, fundamental freedoms, diversity, and the rule of law.

That the ‘rules-based international order’ is supposed to include vague concepts of ‘democracy,’ ‘human rights,’ ‘fundamental freedoms,’ ‘diversity’ and more makes it easy to claim that this or that violation of the ‘rules-based international order’ has occurred. Such violations can then be used to impose punishment in the form of sanctions or war. That the above definition was given by a minority of a few rich nations makes it already clear that it can not be a global concept for a multilateral world. That would require a set of rules that everyone has agreed to. We already had and have such a system. It is called international law. But at the end of the cold war the ‘west’ began to ignore the actual international law and to replace it with its own rules which others were then supposed to follow. That hubris has come back to bite the ‘west.’ Anatol Lieven’s recent piece, How the west lost, describes this moral defeat of the ‘west’ after its dubious ‘victory’ in the cold war:

Accompanying this overwhelmingly dominant political and economic ideology was an American geopolitical vision equally grandiose in ambition and equally blind to the lessons of history. This was summed up in the memorandum on “Defence Planning Guidance 1994-1999,” drawn up in Apr 1992 for the Bush Senior administration by Under-Sec Def Paul Wolfowitz and Lewis “Scooter” Libby, and subsequently leaked to the media. Its central message was: While that 1992 Washington paper spoke of the “legitimate interests” of other states, it clearly implied that it would be Washington that would define what interests were legitimate, and how they could be pursued. And once again, though never formally adopted, this “doctrine” became in effect the standard operating procedure of subsequent administrations. In the early 2000s, when its influence reached its most dangerous height, military and security elites would couch it in the terms of “full spectrum dominance.” As Bush 43 declared in his SOTU address in Jan 2002, which put the US on the road to the invasion of Iraq: “By the grace of God, America won the Cold War… A world once divided into two armed camps now recognises one sole and pre-eminent power, the United States of America.”

But that power has since failed in the wars on Iraq and Afghanistan, during the 2008 financial crisis and now again in the pandemic. It also created new competition to its role due to its own behavior:

On the one hand, American moves to extend NATO to the Baltics and then (abortively) on to Ukraine and Georgia, and to abolish Russian influence and destroy Russian allies in the Middle East, inevitably produced a fierce and largely successful Russian nationalist reaction. On the other hand, the benign and neglectful way in which Washington regarded the rise of China in the generation after the Cold War (for example, the blithe decision to allow China to join the WTO) was also rooted in ideological arrogance. Western triumphalism meant that most of the US elites were convinced that as a result of economic growth, the Chinese Communist state would either democratise or be overthrown; and that China would eventually have to adopt the western version of economics or fail economically. This was coupled with the belief that good relations with China could be predicated on China accepting a so-called “rules-based” international order in which the US set the rules while also being free to break them whenever it wished; something that nobody with the slightest knowledge of Chinese history should have believed.

The retired Indian ambassador M K Bhadrakumar touches on the same points in an excellent series about the new Chinese-Russian alliance:

Bhadrakumar describes how the ‘west,’ through its own behavior, created a mighty block that now opposes its dictates. He concludes:

Quintessentially, Russia and China contest a set of neoliberal practices that have evolved in the post-WW2 international order validating selective use of human rights as a universal value to legitimise western intervention in the domestic affairs of sovereign states. On the other hand, they also accept and continuously affirm their commitment to a number of fundamental precepts of the international order, in particular, the primacy of state sovereignty and territorial integrity, the importance of international law, and the centrality of the UN and the key role of the UNSC.

While the US wants a vague ‘rules-based international order’ China and Russia emphasize an international order that is based on the rule of law. Two recent comments by leaders from China and Russia underline this. In a speech in honor of the UN’s 75th anniversary China’s President Xi Jinping emphasized law based multilateralism:

China firmly supports the UN’s central role in global affairs and opposes any country acting like boss of the world, President Xi Jinping said on Monday. “No country has the right to dominate global affairs, control the destiny of others or keep advantages in development all to itself,” Xi said. Noting that the UN must stand firm for justice, Xi said that mutual respect and equality among all countries, big or small, is the foremost principle of the UN Charter. No country should be allowed to do whatever it likes and be the hegemon or bully, Xi said. “Unilateralism is a dead end,” he said. International laws should not be distorted or used as a pretext to undermine other countries’ legitimate rights and interests or world peace and stability, he added.

The Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov went even further by outright rejecting the ‘western rules’ that the ‘rules-based international order’ implies. Lavrov said in an interview with New York-based international Russian-language RTVI channel:

Ideas that Russia and China will play by sets of Western rules under any circumstances are deeply flawed. I was reading our political scientists who are well known in the West. The following idea is becoming louder and more pronounced: it is time to stop applying Western metrics to our actions and stop trying to be liked by the West at any cost. These are very reputable people and a rather serious statement. It is clear to me that the West is wittingly or unwittingly pushing us towards this analysis. It is likely to be done unwittingly. However, it is a big mistake to think that Russia will play by Western rules in any case, just like thinking this in terms of China.

As an alliance China and Russia have all the raw materials, energy, engineering and industrial capabilities, agriculture and populations needed to be completely independent from the ‘west.’ They have no need nor any desire to follow dubious rules dictated by other powers. There is no way to make them do so. As M K Bhadrakumar concludes:

The US cannot overwhelm that alliance unless it defeats both China and Russia together, simultaneously. The alliance, meanwhile, also happens to be on the right side of history. Time works in its favour, as the decline of the US in relative comprehensive national power and global influence keeps advancing and the world gets used to the “post-American century.”

A Ukrainian/CIA Plot To Incite Belarus Against Russia Unraveled: The NYT Story Thereof Is Hiding The Failure
Moon of Alabama, Sep 21 2020

Just yesterday we flogged the false and misleading reports in the NYT about Russia’s Covid-19 vaccine. Today, a different NYT report by Ivan Nechepurenko, who is also with its bureau in Moscow, proves to be of similar shoddy quality:

In Belarus, Russian Mercenaries Turned From Saboteurs to Friends. President Aleksandr G Lukashenko accused Russia of sending a group of mercenaries to disrupt his re-election. With mass protests consuming the country after the vote, he briskly changed his tune.

Diligent readers of Moon of Alabama will remember what the story is about. On Aug 7 we reported how the Ukrainian intelligence service SBU, in the guise of a private military company, hired former Russian and Ukrainian soldiers allegedly for jobs in Venezuela. All the hired men had previously fought on the ‘Russian side’ of Ukrainian civil war in the Donbass region. The men were told to go to the Belorussian capital Minsk from where they were supposed to be later flown to Venezuela to guard oil installations. The Ukrainian SBU then told the Belorussian security service KGB that the Russian mercenaries, who were then waiting in a resort near Minsk, were in Belarus to overthrow its president Lukashenko. The men were arrested and Lukashenko made a public fuss about the alleged Russian coup against him. Ukraine then asked for the extradition of the men. It had plans to indict them for their involvement in the Donbas war. But just a few days after the men were arrested the whole plan unraveled. Russian media proved without doubt that the men had been tricked to go to Belarus and that they had no plans to overthrow Lukashenko. The Belorussian president apologized and the men were returned to Russia. As the Russian broadsheet summarized:

It can be stated that the Ukrainian special services managed to create a fake project, in which they involved 180 Russian citizens, including in this group veterans from the Donbass war. At the same time, it is quite possible to admit that the entire fascinating and instructive story was brought to the Belorussian side in a very truncated form, without details about air tickets. Through this entire operation, the SBU seems to have intended to kill several birds with one stone: the ubiquitous, nightmarish and terrible PMC Wagner was supposed to implicate Rosneft, one of the largest Russian companies, but the main blow, undoubtedly, was intended to fall on the Russian-Belorussian relationships. Not to mention the possible extradition of Russian citizens to Ukraine, which Kiev would be incredibly happy about: This would be an opportunity to avenge its sailors, whom Poroshenko sent “to slaughter” in the Kerch Strait.

That version story has since been confirmed by the Ukrainian side (see below). But today’s NYT report does not tell that story at all. It makes it seem as if Lukashenko changed his mind about the ‘Russian coup’ not because he gained knowledge of the real plot, but because he was under pressure from election protests:

President Aleksandr G Lukashenko of Belarus, who was facing a presidential election in less than two weeks, convened an emergency meeting of his top security officials, saying that the Russians were mercenaries with “dirty aims.” Speaking at the meeting, Valery Vakulchik, at the time the head of the KGB, confirmed that the Russians belonged to the Wagner Group. Then, just 10 days before the Aug 9 vote, Belarusian investigators accused the Russians of plotting to disrupt the election. “Russia is afraid of losing us,” said Mr Lukashenko, accusing the Kremlin of trying to “suffocate” Belarus.

Up to that point the NYT got the story right. But it fails when it covers the unraveling of the plot:

According to this new version of what happened, the men had been lured to Belarus by Ukrainian spies, who planned to seize their plane as it flew over Ukraine and have the men arrested over their role fighting in eastern Ukraine. That Belarus has changed its story so dramatically is a measure of how swiftly the country’s strongman leader, Mr Lukashenko, has reassessed his political interests. On Aug 14, after failing to curb an initial round of street protests with a frenzy of police violence, he ordered the Wagner mercenaries released and allowed them to return to Russia. All charges against them were dropped. Upon the mercenaries’ return to Russia, several of them appeared on Russian television, claiming that they had no connection to the Wagner Group and had simply stopped off in Belarus en route to Venezuela, where they had a job lined up guarding an undisclosed Russian facility.

The NYT makes it look as if the Ukrainian intelligence service and the CIA were not involved at all and as if the revealed Ukrainian plot has not been real. The change in the ‘Russian coup’ story is attributed solely to the changing needs of Lukashenko. That is of course bollocks. The Ukrainian plot was real. We know that because officials from the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine, which is supported by the US State Dept, have officially admitted it and because the Ukrainian media have been all over the story. As the Canadian political scientist Ivan Katchanovski relayed it:

There is zero doubt that the Ukrainian plot, which was planned and executed together with the CIA, was real. There were no Wagner mercenaries at all, just former Russian and Ukrainian soldiers who were lured into a trap. The plot went bust because the Ukrainians had made some mistakes with the flight tickets which made it easy for the Russians to uncover the whole thing. It was the discovery of the Ukrainian plot which made Lukashenko change his mind, not pressure from the already dead NED financed color revolution. The NYT report, which comes nearly six weeks after Moon of Alabama published the real story, is hiding the failed CIA/SBU plot. It is attributing the whole unraveling of the plot’s cover story from late July to mid August, and Lukashenko’s change of tone as a consequence thereof,  to the election protest against him. It is not that there was too little room in the NYT to report the full story. Of the 26 paragraphs of the report, a full 11 are about the Soviet-era like resort the Russian mercenaries had rested in. Those 11 paragraphs may help to justify the travel cost of the NYT’s reporter and photographer but they are otherwise of zero value to the reader. he real story is the failed CIA/SBU operation. The NYT editors and its Moscow bureau seem to believe that the CIA’s failure is not part of “all the news that’s fit to print“. Instead of reporting what really happened, like the Ukrainian media did, they cover it up by claiming that it is somehow Lukashenko’s fantasy.

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