Rainer SheaWithin Washington’s current disinformation campaign targeting Russia, there are a series of traits which reflect a pattern. A pattern that becomes visible when one has studied the cycle of imperialist propaganda long enough. In the 21st century, where sanctions, online narratives, and a dynamic of reignited great-power competition define how imperialism operates, this cycle revolves around exercises in marketing which use “humanitarianism” as the selling point. A network of “human rights” organizations engage in theatrics, manufacturing dramatic stories of atrocities by the targeted country, and the narrative managers portray this as the thing we should care most about.
Under our deteriorating capitalist conditions, where the American people primarily need to worry about things like whether they can get their kids baby formula or whether they can avoid dying from Covid-19, these stories are obviously detached from reality for most. But as Gramsci concluded, a cultural hegemony is hegemonic, no matter how absurd the conditions render it. So as long as the capitalist state remains in power, the imperialists can retain narrative control through getting the intellectual class to promote their propaganda. As columnist Edward Curtin has observed, these narrative managers take from the guidance of the U.S. propaganda innovator Edward Bernays, who used “the placement of convincing or confusing disingenuous ingredients into a truth sandwich – for Bernays knew that the bread of truth is essential to conceal untruth. In the following years, Bernays, [Walter] Lippman, and their ilk were joined by social ‘scientists,’ psychologists, and sundry others intent on making a sham out of the idea of democracy by developing strategies and techniques for the engineering of social consensus consonant with the wishes of the ruling classes.”
The way today’s “humanitarian” propaganda network carries out this technique, the one of inserting a piece of truth into lies so the lies appear convincing, is by seizing upon a contradiction within the countries they’re targeting and then building a fabricated narrative off of that contradiction. In its petition for Russia to stop its “war on Ukraine,” Amnesty International claims that “The Russian military’s invasion of Ukraine is a violation of the United Nations Charter, and an act of aggression that is a crime under international law. It’s been marked by indiscriminate attacks on civilian areas, striking protected areas including preschools and hospitals.” Virtually none of this is true. But because Amnesty can draw from a piece of truth—that military intervention in a country almost inevitably leads to civilians in that country losing their lives—then stretch it into the narrative the imperialists want to sell.
Upon objectively examining the situation in Ukraine prior to Russia’s actions, it’s clear Operation Z is legal under international law, namely the responsibility to protect doctrine. There was clear evidence of ethnic cleansing against Russian speakers committed by Kiev before the Donbass region broke free from Ukraine, with Kiev’s infamous enabling of neo-Nazi militias being a symptom of the racist ideology driving these cleansing policies. Kiev refused to recognize the sovereignty of the DPR and LPR, and had been consistently shelling these republics to carry out collective punishment. Russia’s actions have not been aggression, but a rescue mission, done to protect the peoples throughout the region who have been put in danger by the regime Washington installed in the 2014 coup.
And aside from how media-famous instances of supposed Russian atrocities like the Bucha massacre lack chronological evidence, whatever genuine cases of war crimes by Russians that one can find are not products of Russian policy. There’s no evidence that the Kremlin has sought to target civilians as a warfare strategy, aside from the “evidence” that’s come from the same U.S. intelligence agencies behind the Iraq WMD hoax. U.S. intelligence has claimed that there have been instructions to target civilians, coming from the highest levels of the Russian government. Which Biden has used to make his “genocide” accusation towards Russia. But this has no more basis than the claim that Russia has been paying Taliban members to kill U.S. soldiers, the claim that Russia hacked the Democratic National Committee in 2016, or the other stories we’ve heard from U.S. intelligence on Russia throughout the last decade. And as usual, there’s counter-evidence; see the inconsistencies in the timeline of the account which asserts Russia was behind the Bucha tragedy.
Those who’ve studied the U.S. empire’s propaganda in the Syrian war see another great parallel between the “humanitarian” network’s roles in that conflict and the Ukraine conflict. This is providing the appearance of truth to false flags. Like the White Helmets carried out false flags to pin chemical attacks on Assad, the Azov Nazis are staging the equivalent war propaganda theater incidents. And like how Amnesty, Human Rights Watch, and the other imperialist NGOs repeated the accounts of the White Helmets uncritically, they’re doing the same favor for the Nazis. This is why the argument that the neo-Nazi militias don’t represent Ukraine’s government fall flat; Kiev is using these militias as its pivotal war propaganda sources, and this propaganda is getting amplified by the U.S. bloc and its “human rights” groups.
For example, these state-backed Nazis have committed terrorist attacks against Ukraine’s own people, then pinned these attacks on Russia. As Roman Kononenko, a member of the Presidium of the Central Committee of Communist Party of the Russian Federation, has concluded about what truly happened in the Bucha massacre:
The Ukrainians killed those people for cooperation with Russians and whatever. As to Mariupol, and other cases, now we can see that Ukrainian armed forces are using, in fact, terrorist tactics. As it was happening in Syria, for example, they [the NATO proxy forces] are using the peaceful population as a live shield. This makes no sense, because, if we take, for example, the war against Nazi Germany, how was the Army reacting? They were building protective lines in front of the city, trying not to let the enemy army to enter the city. Now they get inside the city, among the buildings, on the roofs, in the apartments. And they don’t let the peaceful population leave the city. They want to get a picture of destruction, devastation, and they want to say that many peaceful people were killed. These are terrorist tactics. This is not classical warfare.
And how has Amnesty responded? By repeating what the Nazi terrorists have said with no reservation, stating: “We fear the violence suffered by civilians in Bucha at the hands of Russian soldiers is not unique. These incidents should be investigated as war crimes.” Human Rights Watch, after obviously saying something similar about Bucha, said “Soon after they occupied the city, Russian forces went door to door, searching residential buildings, claiming they were ‘hunting Nazis.’ In multiple locations they looked for weapons, interrogated residents, and sometimes detained the men.” When a country responds to terror that the CIA has fomented, you can expect these NGOs to only portray the perspective of the terrorists.
You can also expect them to either minimize the human rights abuses committed by Washington’s proxy regime, or implicitly say they’re acceptable by demonizing the intervention by the country Washington is targeting. Amnesty has claimed that Operation Z “cannot remotely be justified on any of the grounds that Russia has offered.” Yet both Amnesty and Human Rights Watch have reported on the war crimes and discriminatory laws that Kiev has been facilitating. Amnesty has found that throughout last year, “Impunity for torture and other ill-treatment in general remained endemic. Investigations into more recent allegations remained slow and often ineffective. The Prosecutor General’s Office (PGO) reported opening 79 new cases of alleged torture and 1,918 of alleged abuse of authority by law enforcement officers, from January to December, resulting in 51 individuals being charged with relevant crimes.” Human Rights Watch said about Ukraine’s law to promote its language that “There are concerns about whether guarantees for minority languages are sufficient. The Venice Commission, the Council of Europe’s top advisory body on constitutional matters, said that several of the law’s articles, including article 25, ‘failed to strike a fair balance’ between promoting the Ukrainian language and safeguarding minorities’ linguistic rights.”
The “humanitarian” network will at times report on Ukrainian abuses, but will never dare use terms like “ethnic cleansing,” even though Ukrainian officials have been explicitly calling for ethnic cleansing since the 2014 U.S. coup. The network’s language always diverts attention away from the reality of the Kiev regime’s support for Nazi paramilitary forces, such as when they imply Russia had no factual grounds for expecting Nazis to be hiding throughout Bucha. Everything they say is filtered through the lens of U.S. imperialist narratives. Which makes them opposed to human rights by default, as no organization that narratively defends a revival of the Third Reich truly has human rights as its priority.