Cross-posted from Consortium News
Western Ukraine's "anti-terrorist operation" against rebels in Eastern Ukraine has the makings of what could degenerate from scattered atrocities to ethnic cleansing to genocide. It already is a nasty war to suppress an ethnic minority through the use of military force, complete with references to the targeted population as insects and animals.
Traditionally, the U.S. government protests such violence and even intervenes militarily to stop it, such as the cases of Kosovo in the 1990s and Libya in 2011. In the Kosovo case, the U.S. government supported the arrest and trial of Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic on war crimes charges and later backed Kosovo's outright secession from Serbia. In the Libyan case, a U.S.-directed bombing campaign helped overthrow Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi who was then captured and murdered.
But the Obama administration, especially the U.S. State Department, is gung-ho in favor of Western Ukraine's military assault on Eastern Ukraine where many ethnic Russians objected to the overthrow of elected President Viktor Yanukovych in a violent Feb. 22 coup. Yanukovych came from the East, which was also his political base.
Despite the disturbing circumstances surrounding the coup, including the role of neo-Nazi militias in forcing Yanukovych and his officials to flee for their lives, the U.S. State Department immediately embraced the new authorities as "legitimate." The mainstream U.S. news media also clambered onboard the pro-coup bandwagon.
Over the ensuing months, both the State Department and the U.S. press corps have consistently presented a one-sided narrative that portrayed the coup makers as white-hatted "pro-democracy" protesters and denounced anyone opposed to the coup as black-hatted supporters of "Russian aggression."
The key role of neo-Nazi "brown shirts" was whited out of the official U.S. picture despite the fact that the interim regime gave these far-right ultranationalists -- admirers of Nazi collaborator Stepan Bandera -- at least four ministries, including national security, in recognition of their crucial contribution in overthrowing Yanukovych.
However, the propaganda role of the State Department and the mainstream U.S. press is now taking on a darker coloration as the Kiev regime vows to crush the ethnic Russian resistance in Eastern Ukraine, raising the prospect of widespread civilian deaths, ethnic cleansing and even the possibility of genocide.
Historically, propaganda has gone hand-in-hand with such barbarities. First comes the dehumanization, then the immediate rationalizations and finally the slaughter. The close ties between propaganda and atrocities have led modern international law to treat demonization of a targeted group as a contributing element in crimes against humanity.
Nazi propagandists stood in the dock at Nuremberg because they paved the way for Hitler's Holocaust, and Rwandan radio commentators were held to account for enflaming passions against the Tutsis in the 1990s.
But American propagandists, including media personalities, have traditionally escaped any accountability for contributing to serious war crimes, whether the Vietnam War in the 1960s or the Iraq War in the 2000s.
Indeed, many U.S. opinion leaders may see themselves as having immunity from any accountability for their words and actions. One of the most remarkable aspects of the years after President George W. Bush launched an illegal invasion of Iraq, which led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people, is that almost no one in Official Washington who pushed for that criminal act suffered any consequences at all.
Many of the Iraq War's proponents are still sought-after opinion leaders -- whether politicians like Sen. John McCain or pundits like the New York Times' Thomas Friedman -- called upon, endlessly, to explicate today's foreign policy crises for the American people.
At the Washington Post, editorial page editor Fred Hiatt and his deputy Jackson Diehl were important cheerleaders for the Iraq War with their editorials stating as flat-fact that Iraq's Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction. The fact that Iraq didn't have WMD had no noticeable impact on their careers. Today, they are in the same positions collecting their Post salaries and advocating for more U.S. overseas interventions.
On Wednesday, the Post, which has become the neocons' media flagship, was virtually rubbing its hands with glee at the prospect of Western Ukraine's military offensive to crush the ethnic Russians in Eastern Ukraine. In the print edition, the lead editorial had the light-hearted title: "Time's up."
The Post, of course, blamed everything on Russian President Vladimir Putin, declaring:
"As heavy fighting resumed Tuesday in eastern Ukraine, it was obvious that Russian President Vladimir Putin had disregarded the demands from the United States and European Union that Russia stop intervening.
"Rebels backed by Moscow did not hand back border posts; military supplies have not stopped flowing across the border; Mr. Putin did not compel the insurgents to observe a cease-fire, leaving the Ukrainian government with no choice but to resume military operations."