The New York Times Does Government’s Bidding:
Here’s What You’re Not Being Told About U.S. Troops In Ukraine
U.S. troops are now operating openly in Ukraine. The "paper of record's"
"coverage" is an embarrassment, per usual
By Patrick L. Smith
May 10, 2015 "Information
Clearing House" - "Salon"
- As of mid-April, when a Pentagon flack announced it in Kiev, and as
barely reported in American media, U.S. troops are now operating openly in
Now there is a lead I have long dreaded writing but suspected
from the first that one day I would. Do not take a moment to think about this.
Take many moments. We all need to. We find ourselves in grave circumstances this
At first I thought I had written what newspaper people call a
double-barreled lead: American soldiers in Ukraine, American media not saying
much about it. Two facts.
Wrong. There is one fact now, and it is this: Americans are
being led blindfolded very near the brink of war with Russia.
One cannot predict there will be one. And, of course,
right-thinking people hope things will never come to one. In March, President
Obama dismissed any such idea as if to suggest it was silly. “They’re not
interested in a military confrontation with us,” Obama said of the
Russians—wisely. Then he added, unwisely: “We don’t need a war.”
Don’t need a war to get what done, Mr. President? This is our
question. Then this one: Washington is going to stop at exactly what as
it manipulates its latest set of puppets in disadvantaged countries, this time
pretending there is absolutely nothing thoughtless or miscalculated about doing
so on Russia’s historically sensitive western border?
The pose of American innocence, tatty and tiresome in the best
of times, is getting dangerous once again.
The source of worry now is that we do not have an answer to
the second question. The project is plain: Advance NATO the rest of the way
through Eastern Europe, probably with the intent of eventually destabilizing
Moscow. The stooges now installed in Kiev are getting everything ready for the
corporations eager to exploit Ukrainian resources and labor.
And our policy cliques are willing to go all the way to war
for this? As of mid-April, when the 173rd Airborne Brigade started arriving in
Ukraine, it looks as if we are on notice in this respect.
In the past there were a few vague mentions of an American
military presence in Ukraine that was to be in place by this spring, if I recall
correctly. These would have been last autumn. By then, there were also reports,
unconfirmed, that some troops and a lot of spooks were already there as advisers
but not acknowledged.
Then in mid-March President Poroshenko introduced a bill
authorizing—as required by law—foreign troops to operate on Ukrainian soil.
There was revealing detail, according to Russia Insider, a free-standing website
in Moscow founded and run by Charles Bausman, an American with an uncanny
ability to gather and publish pertinent information.
“According to the draft law, Ukraine plans three
Ukrainian-American command post exercises, Fearless Guardian 2015, Sea Breeze
2015 and Saber Guardian/Rapid Trident 2015,” the publication reported, “and two
Ukrainian-Polish exercises, Secure Skies 2015, and Law and Order 2015, for
This is a lot of dry-run maneuvering, if you ask me.
Poroshenko’s law allows for up to 1,000 American troops to participate in each
of these exercises, alongside an equal number of Ukrainian “National Guardsmen,”
and we will insist on the quotation marks when referring to this gruesome lot,
about whom more in a minute.
Take a deep breath and consider that 1,000 American folks, as
Obama will surely get around to calling them, are conducting military drills
with troops drawn partly from Nazi and crypto-Nazi paramilitary groups…. Sorry,
I cannot add anything more to this paragraph. Speechless.
It was a month to the day after Poroshenko’s bill went to
parliament that the Pentagon spokesman in Kiev announced—to a room empty of
American correspondents, we are to assume—that troops from the 173rd Airborne
were just then arriving to train none other than “National Guardsmen.” This
training includes “classes in war-fighting functions,” as the operations
officer, Maj. Jose Mendez, blandly put it at the time.
The spokesman’s number was “about 300,” and I never like
“about” when these people are describing deployments. This is how it always
begins, we will all recall. The American presence in Vietnam began with a
handful of advisers who arrived in September 1950. (Remember MAAG, the Military
Assistance Advisory Group?)
Part of me still thinks war with Russia seems a far-fetched
proposition. But here’s the thing: It is even more far-fetched to deny the
gravity of this moment for all its horrific, playing-with-fire potential.
I am getting on to apoplectic as to the American media’s
abject irresponsibility in not covering this stuff adequately. To leave these
events unreported is outright lying by omission. Nobody’s news judgment can be
so bad as to argue this is not a story.
Last December, John Pilger, the noted Australian journalist
now in London, said in a speech that the Ukraine crisis had become the most
extreme news blackout he had seen his entire career. I agree and now need no
more proof as to whether it is a matter of intent or ineptitude. (Now that I
think of it, it is both in many cases.)
To cross the “i”s and dot the “t”s, as I prefer to do, the
Times did make two mentions of the American troops. One was the day of the
announcement, a brief piece on an inside page, datelined Washington. Here we get
our code word for this caper: It will be “modest” in every mention.
The second was in an April 23 story by Michael Gordon, the
State Department correspondent. The head was, “Putin Bolsters His Forces Near
Ukraine, U.S. Says.”
Read the… thing here.
The story line is a doozy: Putin—not “the Russians” or
“Moscow,” of course—is again behaving aggressively by amassing troops—how many,
exactly where and how we know is never explained—along his border with Ukraine.
Inside his border, that is. This is the story. This is what we mean by
aggression these days.
In the sixth paragraph we get this: “Last week, Russia charged
that a modest program to train Ukraine’s national guard that 300 American troops
are carrying out in western Ukraine could ‘destabilize the situation.’”
Apoplectically speaking: Goddamn it, there is nothing
modest about U.S. troops operating on Ukrainian soil, and it is self-evidently
destabilizing. It is an obvious provocation, a point the policy cliques in
Washington cannot have missed.
At this point, I do not see how anyone can stand against the
argument—mine for some time—that Putin has shown exemplary restraint in this
crisis. In a reversal of roles and hemispheres, Washington would have a lot more
than air defense systems and troops of whatever number on the border in
The Times coverage of Ukraine, to continue briefly in this
line, starts to remind me of something I.F. Stone once said about the Washington
Post: The fun of reading it, the honored man observed, is that you never know
where you’ll find a page one story.
In the Times’ case, you never know if you will find it at all.
Have you read much about the wave of political assassinations
that erupted in Kiev in mid-April? Worry not. No one else has either—not in
American media. Not a word in the Times.
The number my sources give me, and I cannot confirm it, is a
dozen so far—12 to 13 to be precise. On the record, we have 10 who can be named
and identified as political allies of Viktor Yanukovych, the president ousted
last year, opponents of a drastic rupture in Ukraine’s historic relations to
Russia, people who favored marking the 70th anniversary of the Soviet defeat of
the Nazis—death-deserving idea, this—and critics of the new regime’s corruptions
and dependence on violent far-right extremists.
These were all highly visible politicians, parliamentarians
and journalists. They have been murdered by small groups of these extremists,
according to reports readily available in non-American media. In my read, the
killers may have the same semi-official ties to government that the paramilitary
death squads in 1970s Argentina—famously recognizable in their Ford Falcons—had
with Videla and the colonels.
The Poroshenko government contrives to assign Russia the
blame, but one can safely ignore this. Extreme right members of parliament have
been more to the point. After a prominent editor named Oles Buzyna was fatally
shot outside his home several weeks ago, a lawmaker named Boris Filatov told
colleagues, “One more piece of shit has been eliminated.” From another named
Irina Farion, this: Death will neutralize the dirt this shit has spilled. Such
people go to history’s sewers.”
Kindly place, Kiev’s parliament under this new crowd.
Washington must be proud, having backed yet another right-wing, anti-democratic,
rights-trampling regime that does what it says.
And our media must be silent, of course. It can be no other
way. Gutless hacks: You bet I am angry.
Patrick Smith is the author of “Time
No Longer: Americans After the American Century.” He was
the International Herald Tribune’s bureau chief in Hong Kong and then Tokyo from
1985 to 1992. During this time he also wrote “Letter from Tokyo” for the New
Yorker. He is the author of four previous books and has contributed frequently
to the New York Times, the Nation, the Washington Quarterly, and other
publications. Follow him on Twitter,