Kidnapping the maiden

And other strained metaphors

Kidnapping the maiden
Memorial to kids killed by the Ukrainian military in the disputed territories

I’ve been avoiding talking about the crisis in Ukraine, mainly because others talk far more eloquently than I do about it. I’m also quite repulsed by the blatant double standards where people who should know better are encouraging civilians to take on armed troops.


  1. Before 2014 Ukraine had a government that didn’t want to wreck the living standards of its people by selling off state owned services to foreign financial services carpet baggers who would line their pockets by putting up prices, like they always do. The problem was, this sell off is required if you want to join the EU. In the end they put the people they represented first and wouldn’t sell to sign. The EU wouldn’t let them in without the sell off. Making your economy over onto the neoliberal model is a pre-requisite of EU membership, particularly if you want to use the Euro. Of course, ordinary people pay the price for this because that’s what we do. The EU pretend this was because of corruption in the Ukraine - but funnily enough the new regime’s ties to local oligarchs is fine.
  2. After the second world war the owning class in the West (which I sometimes also call the imperial core) were terrified that the working class would start to change the political systems in line with what they had in the Soviet Union. They bought their local working class off with things like education and health services (in the USA you had to be white too). In comparison it’s estimated that weaker countries in the global South have had approximately $152 trillion extracted from them since 1960.
  3. As part of this fear they needed to paint the communists as dangerous and scary so they created the North Atlantic Treaty Alliance (NATO) and put military bases all over Western Europe. There was a climate of fear of nuclear war that lasted for forty years. An entire paranoid industry developed around this war narrative and it was very lucrative for arms manufacturers. Anyone standing up for their rights in the global South was called a communist and often murdered or driven into becoming a partisan. The Soviet Union’s very existence helped hold things in check somewhat, at least until it collapsed.
  4. The Soviet Union collapsed and its vast resources were stolen by the local leadership who have now established themselves almost as the old tsars in all but name. The Warsaw Pact, which was set up as a counterbalance to NATO, was disbanded. NATO continues on despite the ostensible reason for its existence no longer being there. It’s now a US led anti-Russian military alliance that’s being used to try and open up the resources that sit under Russian soil for the Western powers. Despite this many, including arch conservative Henry Kissinger, warned that keeping it and extending its influence eastward was going to provoke the Russians.
  5. Lots of small L liberal types believe NATO’s PR about how it’s a peaceful organisation, but in reality signing up is part of accepting the violent US global control of a good part of the world, and letting it put military bases wherever it wants in your country. Making your country a potential target for Russian nukes seems quite a dumb thing to do, but what do I know? As one example among many the NATO bombing of Libya demonstrates where the chips fall when the organisation comes under pressure. As an aside bombing civilian water supplies is a war crime, but this one doesn’t seem to have bothered the investigators in the Hague. Neither has the ongoing destruction of the agricultural capacity of the Yemen, despite the untold starvation and suffering this has caused. Deliberate imperial core blindness to brown people suffering and blatant hypocrisy over it is not news, sadly.
  6. When the Soviet Union collapsed the Western leaders promised the Russian leaders that NATO would stay where it was and the size it was. This was a lie. In a recent press briefing Putin described this as the West spitting in the face of the Russians for the last 30 years. He seemed very calm about it. He also said that he found it difficult to believe any undertakings from the Western powers, which is hardly surprising.
  7. Ukraine couldn’t do the deal with the EU and went back to the one it had already done with Russia. The Russians wanted to keep them sweet and did far better deal than the EU pretended it could offer.
  8. The US state department couldn’t accept that the Ukrainian government had decided to put the welfare of its people first as this had the side effect of denying Western expansionism. It spent over five billion dollars organising a coup in a sovereign European nation to get the government it wanted. The US ambassador was recorded on the phone deciding who the next president was going to be. In order to overthrow the government the US got into bed with ultra nationalist neo-nazis funded by oligarchs, who have since become part of the Ukrainian military. They have been waging war on the ethnic Russians in the East of the country who broke away in fear of the nazi’s ethnic cleansing agenda. This has cost an estimated 14,000 lives before the current conflict began.
  9. After the people in the east split away and attempted to form their own region there were talks in Minsk where the rights of the ethnic Russians were guaranteed. This agreement was not honoured and the attacks and nazi-style pogroms have continued ever since.
  10. Now we have a Ukrainian government that wants to join NATO and is willing, indeed happy, to let its people pay the price of joining the EU. A government, or more likely a faction of the military, waging war on people who broke away because they didn’t want to be ethnically cleansed or discriminated against. A government paid for with US money, to support the perceived needs of the US in an attempt to control the wealth in the region and open a route where Russian natural resources might be stolen in a land war along the same lines as Iraq and many other places around the world.
  11. The Russians are a nuclear power. Just in case you had forgotten.
  12. The Russians fell into the trap made for them and went to war. The Ukrainian people are paying the price. As usual, the imperial core’s governments hypocritically wring their hands while they wait to see what they can gain from the conflict after throwing their erstwhile allies under the bus but giving them lots of weapons to make things drag on. The useful idiots in the imperial media are whipping up anti-Russian enemy du jour nonsense, even down to renaming Chicken Kiev. Sanctions will ensure that the Russian people also pay the price. Ordinary people, just like you, just like me, always pay the price for these imperial adventures.
  13. They’re all venal, paid-for, privileged bastards.

The maiden’s dress

When I shared a comment from Jonathan Cooke to the effect that planting NATO bases all over Europe was a dumb and provocative idea a Facebook acquaintance lost the plot, called me a dickhead and stopped following me. I have to be honest it was a relief not to have to deal with his starry eyed love for the imperial core and chronic inability to remember anything that happened more than a couple of weeks ago unless he was using the most rose-tinted of rose-tinted glasses, waffling on about freedom when people were experiencing the core capitalist freedom to starve if you don’t own things and the like.

I didn’t quite understand why he became so vehement. NATO seems to be a triggering issue for him - maybe he has some friends or relatives who work there or something. Despite the history discussed above he seems to think the bought and paid for government in the Ukraine are legitimate. A friend who knows him through a mailing list sent me an email he sent to the list in response to a note about attending a Stop the War rally where he carries on with this odd concept that NATO, always an arm of US foreign policy, is somehow neutral. I also saw the bizarre comment Ukraine can join whatever defensive treaties it wants, just like a woman can wear whatever damn dress she wants without being told that if she was more modest men wouldn't assault her.

This is an idiotic and ahistorical view. If you think about it a blood-stained king from far away paid five billion dollars to kidnap the woman, replace her with her more amenable sister, and then demand the sister wore a particular dress and behaved in a particular way. Almost the exact opposite of his trivialising metaphor. The purchase of a more compliant government seems to have gone completely over his head. This is very much what happens when you have small L liberal types in the mix, they always look at the surface and believe the claims to neutrality or some kind of apolitical niceness made by quintessentially bad actors. Indeed they often defend the bad actors without any sense of irony.

The USA is very fond of funding colour revolutions that put pro-imperial governments in place around the world. Whether this helps the people that live in those countries improve their lives or end up being in thrall to finance capital after those governments sell off their assets I will leave as an exercise for the reader. Historically the USA has also funded jihadist terror because they were against secular governments that were dubious about the benefits of being under the US boot. That hasn’t ended well for ordinary people, either.

You see the same kind of delusional approach when you talk to a people who, in essence, do the equivalent of following the line from the imperial corporate media - this includes the ones that pretend to take a softer line like The Guardian, BBC, CNN or even Fox. Everything is fine, there are no bad actors, wars happen for reasons no-one understands, our governments aren’t paid for and ultimately owned by plutocrats, we aren’t being robbed blind to make them ever richer, the impending ecocide is because of plastic straws rather than a concerted effort to keep hold of a system that’s killing us all. In essence the world is like the sweet ending of a particularly anodyne Teletubbies episode and bad things are outside our control. It’s pitiable. It’s dehumanising. It’s the counsel of despair. It is cognitive dissonance on a massive scale, engineered by people who are very skilled at creating it.

Also, using sanctions means people die slowly instead of quickly, the harsher guns blazing approach to international relations is more intellectually honest, even if just as repugnant.

It’s interesting to watch this YouTube video that explains what happened in Ukraine from a US establishment point of view. The colour revolutions aren’t seen as establishing economic dominance but spreading democracy. This is, when you look at how profoundly undemocratic the USA is, with its racist electoral college and rampant gerrymandering, plus the two party system that keeps out people who want change, etc. etc. an utterly hilarious view point to take. Again we’re back to the Teletubbies conclusion, but the video is still worth watching for its analysis of the different populations that make up Ukraine and at least puts the greater portion of the blame where it belongs.

The enemy is well past the gates

Strategically the Russian government wanted to weaken the EU. They wanted to weaken the EU all the way back in the days of the Soviet Union too - the old soviet-supporting parties in Europe always campaigned not to be part of the EU. In this, Brexit was a tool of their foreign policy and they were happy to fund it. They were also happy to throw a little cash at similar movements in other European countries too. Our morally absent political class were happy to cause the chaos so their other friends could cash in on the uncertainty so it was an easy sell.

Yes, everybody knows it’s a bankers club; yes, everybody knows it forces member states to run their economies on neoliberal lines; yes, the way the Greek people were treated was disgusting. But as is extremely obvious now in the UK it was also the best way of trading with the millions of people right on your doorstep with very little hindrance. We live under a capitalist oligarchy but at least had some workers’ rights, freedom of movement, and minor things like food safety standards. Now we just have our very own special blend of kakistocracy and kleptocracy with no means of even attempting to get it under control, but still sections of the left get all teary eyed because we were conned and then railroaded into shooting ourselves in the foot for a petty nationalist dream.

When Russia became a kleptocracy the British establishment soon realised it had a friend in spirit. Blair and others rushed to help Putin. The City of London and the banks behind it are masters of cleaning up and hiding money and were more than happy to offer their services to the newly wealthy Russian oligarchs. Despite the self-serving PR under the prim surface Britain is a very corrupt country, tax laws get written by tax lawyers, and no-one ever seems to face any consequences because there is no-one in to enforce the what little law there is. It was a marriage made in heaven.

We have gone from a place that was OK but not great, with a lot of problems caused by idiotic policies like Lib Dem / Conservative austerity, to a banana republic that has allowed Covid to kill nearly two hundred thousand of its citizens in the last five years on top of the thousands killed by austerity. It’s quite terrifying how easy it was for this to happen. This what happens when your political system allows any party with a majority in Parliament to do whatever the hell it likes, the constraints being based on assuming they will behave honourably and whether or not the citizenry will rise in horror at what they do. How hollow that seems now. A written constitution might have held them up a little, but we don’t have one of those, we have the assumption of honour and personal accountability, which in the current political climate is a recipe for a clown car massacre.

There is a lot of Russian money buying influence, compliance and silence. Money that has gone directly to the ruling party and its hangers on, as well as a slew of businesses and property management companies. The UK’s enforcement arm has also been cut to the bone, making the shuffling of money even easier than it already was.

Brexit has happened, despite being a very narrow majority on an advisory vote. Journalists have done a lot of work looking at how Russian money was being used to fund the campaigns to leave, but nothing was done about it. After 50 years of trying the Russians managed to meet one of their major policy goals.

So we have the really peculiar situation where we have a kakistocratic government with the most appalling record on child poverty, the worst state pension in Europe by far, the NHS being sold off to profit-seeking health companies, the contracts around Covid being used to line the pockets of their friends, incomes falling, prices rising, and a slew of Russian oligarch money buying influence and British passports, even a seat in the House of Lords. When people have been talking about how anti-war protesters in Russia face long prison terms it’s also being pointed out that new laws being introduced here could well mean us facing the same thing if we break wind too loudly in the direction of a police officer at a demo.

It may have only occurred to me recently but I have realised something. It’s the same kakistocracy - exactly the same people - screwing us here, in Europe, in the USA, in Russia, and Ukraine. The same kinds of laws, the same blatant lying, the same disregard for humanity, the same corrupt attitudes and kleptocratic tendencies. The same brutal violence, the same racist ideologies, the same lack of consequence or accountability. The same people. The owning class are playing dominance games while we suffer and pay the price. The same use of money and violence to buy the political decisions that allow their robbery and deceit.

The war in the Ukraine is about control over resources and opening a route to put Russia under the threat of land invasion. The destruction of the halfway decent bits of life in the UK is about forcing us to pay for even more of their yachts and toys with our lives. It’s the same picture all over Europe, Germany is putting billions of Euros into rearming, and the war is being used to cement NATO even more. It doesn’t matter if it’s Phillip Green, or Nigel Farage’s wealthy Russian-linked chums and backers, Reese-Mogg profiteering over the chaos, or Putin himself. We pay so they can play. Our blood, our humanity, is their coin.

We need to focus on all the breeds of parasite. It doesn’t matter what flag they wave. Underneath it’s the same old same old. They tell us to hate people exactly like we are, with the same basic human needs and dreams. We need to be implacable, and recognise them even despite their attempts to confuse us. The people we are being told are them, the dangerous other, are in fact us another guise. The people who say we when they drag us into their wars and make us complicit in their other crimes, are the true enemy of humanity.

If you can afford to make a donation to help your fellow human beings in the Yemen try here. To help the folks the imperial core has left to starve in Afghanistan try here.