Hedges on Ukraine

Chris Hedges and Paul Jay discuss the Russian invasion, the threat of nuclear war, and big tech censorship.


Paul Jay

Hi, I’m Paul Jay. Welcome to theAnalysis.news. Be back in just a few seconds with Chris Hedges. We’re going to talk about Ukraine. Please don’t forget to subscribe. Especially come to the website and sign up for the email list. If you’re on YouTube, hit subscribe on YouTube. Getting on the email list is rather critical. As Chris Hedges knows, YouTube is not particularly Democratic. They wiped out all of Chris’s shows. They have been taken down from YouTube. They’ve tried to take our channel off. It looks like twice now they’ve had to back up, mostly because of an article Matt Taibbi wrote. If you want to make sure you connect with theAnalysis, get on our email list. I wouldn’t trust any of the social media platforms for continuing to deliver with any reliability. Be back in just a few seconds.

So now joining me is Chris Hedges. He’s the author of 14 books, including his latest, Our Class: Trauma and Transformation in an American Prison. He was a Pulitzer Prize, winning foreign correspondence for two decades, 15 of them with the New York Times in Latin America, the Middle East, Africa, and the Balkans.

He has taught at Columbia University, New York University, Princeton University, and the University of Toronto. That’s where I am right now, in Toronto. He also teaches college credit courses in the New Jersey prison system through Rutgers University. You can find them at chrishedges.substack.com. I will say it again, chrishedges.substack.com. The reason you can find him there is that he had a show on RT that was taken down by most of the platforms that carried it, which essentially forced it out of business. As I said, they’ve taken all the shows that were on RT down. Although I think you can still find Chris’s show that I helped him launch on Telusur, I think you can still find them on YouTube. Thanks for joining me, Chris.

Chris Hedges

Sure, Paul.

Paul Jay

So before we get into the substance of some of your recent writing about the pimps of war, I want to talk a little bit about your last days at RT. A quote from something Matt Taibbi wrote as an introduction to an interview he did with you in his column called The Censored. Here’s what Matt wrote:

EXCERPT

“Hedges denounced Putin’s invasion of Ukraine as a “criminal act of aggression” after it began, and believes that if RT had been allowed to stay on YouTube, he — along with similarly critical former RT contributors like Jesse Ventura — wouldn’t have been permitted by the Kremlin to stay on air.”

Paul Jay

So is that a correct quote and just talk a bit about that?

Chris Hedges

Yeah, so I very publicly denounced the invasion of Ukraine. RT went dark six days later. They didn’t say anything. They were certainly well aware of it, nor did they censor my show. I have a hard time believing, given the very harsh censorship that has been imposed on the Russian press domestically by [Vladimir] Putin, that they would have tolerated having someone like myself or Jesse Ventura denouncing the war in Ukraine. We should be clear that Jesse and I both were essentially blacklisted for denouncing the war in Iraq. I was pushed out of the New York Times. He had just signed a contract with MSNBC, which was in the process of getting rid of Phil Donahue because he was giving a voice to anti-war figures over the Iraq war. They just never launched Ventura’s show. They did have to pay him, so he walked away, I think, with $3 million or something.

Neither of us would stand by and remain silent when Russia carried out a pre-emptive war, which under post-Nuremberg laws is a criminal war of aggression; that would just be the height of hypocrisy. I want to be clear that the show where you were the originator of the idea to do a show with Telesur, I used to film it down in Baltimore when you ran The Real News. There was no difference between that show and the show I did for RT. Telesur lost its funding because of the collapse of the Venezuelan economy and the shift to right-wing governments. It was a consortium that had been funding the network when Argentina and other places went right-wing. My show lost funding. At that point, RT approached me about resurrecting the show and rebranding it. So there’s no difference.

Mostly, authors, I’m very conscientious about reading the book, the books of the people I interview. There wasn’t one show on Russia, but we know why they went after it. They went after it because I was giving a voice to critics of Israel, to critics of the Democratic Party, anti-imperialist and anti-capitalist. I did a lot of shows on Julian Assange. I just came back from London, and I was one of the six guests invited to his wedding. Of course, the prison authorities at [HMP] Belmarsh, with a typical institutional sadism that characterizes all prisons, denied his entire guest list entry into the prison for the wedding. A lot of shows on mass incarceration.

So with no notice, no inquiry, nothing, six years of shows disappeared from YouTube because they had been put out by RT. Not because they had anything to do with Russian propaganda. They know what the content of those shows was, and it’s that content that has been targeted. We know that from the 2017 Director of National Intelligence Report. In the report, it’s a 25-page report, seven pages are dedicated to RT. The complaints, the very specific complaints that are issued against RT have nothing to do with Russian propaganda. They have to do with giving a voice to occupy matter activists, anti-fracking activists, and third-party candidates. That’s what they don’t want. So the invasion of Ukraine really gave the security and surveillance apparatus the opening, which is, of course, bonded at the hip with Silicon Valley, the opening that it was waiting for. We’ve already been hit with algorithms; that’s not conjecture.

I was writing for a website called Truthdig, and if you go back far enough, there was an anonymous website called PropOrNot, propaganda or not. Washington Post wrote about it on the front page of their newspaper. We attempted to find out, it was an anonymous site, who was behind it. The Post said they knew but wouldn’t tell us. It attacked the sites that I worked for that reprinted my stuff as essentially serving as an agent of Russia, which is ridiculous, of course. This gave them the opening to start using algorithms.

The last year I was at Truthdig, we all went on strike when the publisher tried to fire Bob Scheer, we also wanted to form a union, and then we were all fired. The last year, the IT people did a graph based on impressions. So impressions are if you go into Google, for instance, and you type imperialism, and I had written a story on imperialism recently, it would come up with anything else. Impressions make it so that the algorithms ensure that your story doesn’t appear. You disappear, in essence. They’ve done quite an effective job in disappearing Julian and WikiLeaks. So referrals over that last twelve-month period from impressions dropped from over 700,000 to below 200,000. I’m sure they’re far more below that now. We were already experiencing this stealth censorship, shadow-banning, lack of referrals and all this kind of stuff, but then, of course, this became much more overt.

I think what’s disturbing is that the biggest cheerleaders for censorship come from the Democratic Party. You have this bizarre scene in Congress where Democratic senators were inviting the heads of Facebook, Google and Twitter, asking them to impose more censorship. You see it with Elon Musk. When I disappeared from YouTube, Elon Musk tweeted out that I don’t agree with anything he says, but I disagree with his removal from YouTube or something like that. They’re all attacking him as an oligarch, which is ridiculous because they’re all oligarchs. What they want, because they don’t want to deal with the structural issues that are creating such economic and political malaise and disenfranchisement, they want to make it magically disappear through censorship.

We saw in the build-up to the elections very overt censorship. The New York Post was locked out of its own Twitter account when it tried to expose the contents of Hunter Biden’s laptop and the discrediting of what was on that laptop out of the Russian playbook. Everyone was saying, and the New York Times called it disinformation. It wasn’t. It was true. They’ve had to admit, retrospectively, after the election that was the case. Then we saw Silicon Valley pump, well, we don’t know because it is dark money, but hundreds of millions of dollars into campaign ads for [Joe] Biden. The quid pro-quo is that the Democratic Party will not break up their monopolies. These are opaque entities. We know nothing about them. They know everything about us. They have essentially been given the power to carry out censorship.

They begin with the outliers, like Alex Jones and Trump. I was very vocal. I was on Democracy Now denouncing the removal of Trump from social media. I don’t want to read another tweet written by Trump, but I was well aware that empowering these entities to essentially make people vanish would unleash a process where critics like myself would also vanish. I didn’t expect to vanish quite so quickly, but I knew it was coming.

Paul Jay

Yeah, for people that watch theAnalysis, you know that we’ve suffered from the same targeting. You mentioned Julian Assange. When Julian was arrested in his handcuffed hands, he was carrying a book that he held up to everyone, and it was my interviews with Gore Vidal. Ellsberg told us the next day, he said, be careful, you’re really on their radar now. After I started doing an analysis of the events of January 6th, saying that the day of the sixth was not the issue, it was the process that led up to the sixth where there was an attempted coup and doing stories about Christian nationalism and how strong it is in the military and the political circles, I started getting stories taken down. They gave me strikes. I was up to, I think, two strikes. It was only because Matt Taibbi got in touch with YouTube asking them what the hell is going on did they retreat because they were afraid of Taibbi’s piece. We went from stories that were doing 50-80-90,000 views down to 2,000-3,000. I commiserate with you.

Let’s talk about Ukraine. I’ll tie this a bit together. Chris Wallace was on [Stephen] Colbert, and he said, what is Putin’s end game? I think it’s a very good question. I can’t figure out what the hell Putin’s end game is, but I have the same question for the Americans and NATO [North Atlantic Treaty Organization]. What the hell is their end game? If the thesis is correct, and a lot of people seem to think so, Putin, he’s not a puppet. He may have gotten sucked into this intervention through all the build-up in Ukraine, but he decided to do it, and he launched the illegal criminal invasion. I agree with those words. If there’s no way out of this for Putin, except to go further, that seems to be what the U.S. and NATO have created the conditions for. They got their foot on his neck now, and they want to grind him into the dirt. Where’s the end? There’s this amazing interview where NBC asks Putin, what would you do if there was a nuclear strike on Russia, and it was your choice to counter-attack, knowing it would destroy the world? He says, well, what is the point of a world without a Russia? Well, we’re heading into a no-win situation on every side. How dangerous is this moment?

Chris Hedges

It’s very dangerous. Once wars start, and I speak from personal experience, you can’t control where they go. Wars have a kind of centrifugal force of their own. You see what happened for two decades in the Middle East. It became almost absurdist. So we arm, I think, to the tune of $500 million, the quote-unquote moderate rebels, whatever they are, that reconstitutes Al-Qaeda. It creates the caliphate, which freaks us out, so we start bombing them. These are the same forces that [Bashar al-] Assad, who we’re ostensibly trying to overthrow, is attacking. In essence, we function as Assad’s Air force. If you want to get really cynical, there were thousands of Hezbollah fighters. We were functioning as Hezbollah’s air force. We had a tacit alliance with Iran, which is Shia, to essentially crush the Sunni extremists. I mean, it was all ridiculous, but that’s what happens in war. You don’t control it; it controls you. The end game is to make money for Raytheon, Lockheed Martin, and all of these defense contractors. That’s it. 

I was in Eastern Europe in 1989. I reported on the revolutions in Central and Eastern Europe and the collapse of the Soviet Union. We naively thought that NATO had been rendered obsolete. NATO was created ostensibly to prevent Soviet expansion into Eastern and Central Europe. Everybody was talking about the peace dividend. We wouldn’t have to pump staggering amounts of resources and State funds into the military that we did during the Cold War. Well, we turned out to be very naive.

The defense contractors had no intention of downsizing or creating a peace dividend. They immediately began the expansion of NATO, which was a violation of the promise that all of the Western leaders— again, I was there: Hans-Dietrich, Genscher, Margaret Thatcher, James Baker [III], Secretary of State for [Ronald Reagan], had made to [Mikhail] Gorbachev. Now there are 14 countries in Eastern and Central Europe that belong to NATO. Ukraine is a de facto NATO country, especially now. Even before the conflict, there were heavy shipments of NATO weaponry, and NATO advisors, that [Bill] Clinton promised, after, of course, lying about the violation of the agreement with Gorbachev that there wouldn’t be NATO troops stationed in Eastern and Central. Now there are thousands of NATO troops. There’s a missile base in Poland that’s 100 miles from the Russian border. We almost went to war with the Soviet Union when they attempted to place missiles in Cuba, which was 90 miles from the coast of Florida.

 It was done to enrich the arms industry. It never made any geopolitical sense. In fact, Gorbachev wanted to build a security alliance with Europe that included Russia. They were talking about giving Russia observer status of NATO and maybe even one day integrating Russia into the NATO alliance. I don’t know if they ever meant it, but that was the kind of language that was going on then. There was a deep betrayal to Gorbachev, to [Boris] Yeltsin, and to Putin; that’s real. They were baited into the war in Ukraine. This doesn’t excuse what they did; they did pull the trigger. Those are just historical facts, and they’re ones that I reported on.

Paul Jay

So what should progressive people around the world be demanding now? I think there are two camps that have emerged on the Left. The larger camp, I would say, that’s sort of on the Liberal side of the Democratic Party, but the same thing exists in Europe, which condemns Russia and is quiet about the role of NATO. Then you’ve got the flip side of that. You’ve got a section, much smaller, certainly, in North America, but it’s quite large in the global South, that’s almost primarily focused on critiquing NATO. They may give it a little bit of a concession, saying what Russia did is illegal, but there’s always a but. As if Russia doesn’t have its own agency here and isn’t itself a part of monopoly capitalism. Then you have those, which I’ve put myself more in, and I’m guessing you, too, that we’re looking at a global system of monopoly capitalism here. It’s certainly dominated and led by the United States, and no country on Earth has war crimes on its hands the way the United States does. There doesn’t need to be a but, in a sense, what Russia has done is part of that system of aggression, even if it’s regional and nothing on the scale of the United States.

All that being said, what should we be demanding now? Right now— we can have the same conversation about Yemen, but for now, we’re talking about Ukraine. In order to create public opinion to end this war, and I have to say, even more importantly, the threat of nuclear war and completely taking the climate crisis off of anyone’s agenda for conversation.

Chris Hedges

Right, I think three things. One is a moratorium on arms shipments. The Western alliance, led by Washington, has decided that they will turn Ukraine into another Chechnya. They will bog Russia down in a war they can’t win. You can go back to [Zbigniew] Brzezinski’s plan to bait the old Soviet Union into Afghanistan and then funding and arming what became the Taliban and, of course, Al Qaeda. In their parlance, they want to make Russia bleed, but of course, the people who truly bleed are the Ukrainians. A moratorium on weapons shipments, a demand, of course, and that Russia withdraws its forces from Ukraine. I think that Russia’s demand that Ukraine remains a neutral country is a legitimate demand, given Russia’s history. Twice in the last century, they were invaded by the kaiser in World War I, later by the Nazis in World War II, the century before that, by Napoleon, the Germans laid waste too much of the Soviet Union. The historical trauma is real. They don’t see NATO, nor should they, as a defensive force. Ask anyone in Afghanistan, Iraq or Syria if NATO is a defensive force. They’d find that ludicrous. It’s an expanding force that is attempting to create U.S. hegemony in the face of declining economic hegemony.

This is, of course, the great conundrum that at the end of an empire, as you lose power and influence, you begin to engage in these military acts of adventurism that are self-defeating. This goes all the way back to Vietnam. I studied classics, as you know. You saw that with the Greek Empire, where they expanded, Thucydides writes about it, and they finally attempt to invade Sicily, and their fleet is sunk, their soldiers are massacred, and the Empire disintegrates. It is the same with the late Roman Empire, where they’re fielding one million-man army that becomes like the Pentagon, a State within a State, sucking all of the resources out of Rome and totally controlling the political process. You can’t defy the military from either party. We see that in the unanimity of these massive budgets and the deification of the military by both Republicans and Democrats. In the end, the Praetorian Guard is auctioning off the emperorship to the highest bidder. This is where we’re headed.

The sinking of the Russian naval vessel, which appears to have been with missiles, Ukrainian missiles, has ratcheted it up. Putin has now made a threat towards the United States, which is giving them, I guess, 13 billion plus dollars worth of weapons. Germany has lifted its ban on the export of weapons, and instead, it will increase its defense budget by close to three times what it has been. Then we’ll spend 2% of GDP, which will make the German military the third largest military in the world after China and the United States. Go back and read Barbara Tuckman’s, The Guns of August, an incompetent global leadership, in this case, monarchies in Europe and Russia stumbled into mass suicidal slaughter. I don’t trust these people, especially given the fact that the commercial interests, the profits of the arms industry, are what drive these conflicts. It is the only reason we stayed in Afghanistan. We know from the Afghan papers that were released by the Washington Post that both the military and political leadership understood that this was a quagmire and that we were never going to dominate Afghanistan. Still, we stayed for years, as we did in Vietnam, which is, of course, what the Pentagon Papers revealed. We stayed in because war is a very lucrative business.

They have been stoking conflicts with Russia through the expansion of NATO. They stoked conflicts with China over Taiwan and provocations within the South China Sea. This keeps their profits high and the infusion of state money into their industries at Cold War levels. This is all they want. The consequences of it, they seem either ignorant of or cynically ignore.

Paul Jay

It’s an insane game of chicken. They seem so sure this won’t go nuclear and that you can take it right up to the edge of going nuclear. There’s a serious conversation about supposedly, quote-unquote, low-yield nuclear weapons, tactical nuclear weapons. The word that’s missing in all of this, and people who watch theAnalysis know, I’m working with Ellsberg doing a documentary series based on his book Doomsday Machine. That’s the word that’s missing: doomsday machine. There are legitimate real doomsday machines in Russia and the United States. No country, Russia or the United States, is going to lose a tactical nuclear war. If they think they’re losing, it goes up to the next stage. There’s no way there’s such a thing as a contained nuclear war. They are playing and talking in the press as if you could have such a thing.

Chris Hedges

Well, you have the architects of this provocation with Russia, the neo-cons, liberal interventionists people like Robert Kagan and Elliott Abrams. Remember, I dealt with these people all the way back in Central America. Elliot Abrams and Robert Kagan were two of the figures within the Reagan administration who were tasked with discrediting everything I and other reporters were reporting out of El Salvador, Nicaragua and Guatemala to back these military dictatorships. In the case of Nicaragua, the illegally funded Contras that we’re trying to topple the Sandinista government. They’re the same people. It doesn’t matter how often they’re wrong. They, of course, have complete historical amnesia. It’s always 1938 in Munich, and the new Neville Chamberlain, through appeasement, is about to sell out to the Nazis. Of course, everyone we fight, whether it’s Saddam Hussein, or Vladimir Putin, is the new Hitler. Then they just ignore the entire Cold War period, where the United States overthrew governments right and left: Indonesia, Guatemala, Iran, Chile, where the CIA [Central Intelligence Agency] orchestrated the assassination of the Army Chief of Staff and President Salvador Allende, the Bay of Pigs, and on and on and on.

Robert Kagan just wrote in Foreign Affairs a long essay that said, one, we should have attacked Russia earlier, and don’t worry about the bomb; Putin won’t use it. These people know nothing about war, of course, and very little about foreign policy. They’re lavishly funded by the arms industry. All of their think tanks: the Brookings Institute, the Project for the New American Century, the Institute for the Study of War, it’s all funded by the arms makers. They’re pimps. 

I wrote a column called The Pimps of War, that’s long been their role. This is why they never disappear from your screens, no matter how wrong they are. They’re the people who gave us Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Libya, just one fiasco after another, and yet they just pop right back up on your screens. Well, that’s because they do the bidding of the corporate elite, in particular, those corporations that profit off of war. This is why people such as myself— I spent seven years in the Middle East. I was the Middle East Bureau Chief for the New York Times, I speak Arabic. I don’t parrot back the dominant narrative, despite actually understanding the region and understanding the instrument of war, and I’m shut out.

Paul Jay

I remember Gore Vidal, who used to be on mainstream television all the time for the same reasons in the last few years of his life, was almost completely shut out of mainstream television in the United States. It may still show up in Europe, but the American media essentially sidelined them. I don’t want to get into the depth of it right now, but maybe in another interview, we will, but I do want to touch on it. The role of NATO and the United States in creating the conditions for Russia to invade Ukraine doesn’t explain not just the fact that Russia has committed crimes, but there are internal processes within Russia. The rise of the Putin-led State, the ideology of nationalism, the nostalgia for empire and such, and a legitimate not being treated with respect as a real rising power; it’s so similar to what happened with Germany in terms of the lead up to World War II. In terms of this uneven development of capitalism, the United States is going to have to accept that it’s no longer a single superpower world, but they do not want to accept it. The quote from Putin, “What good is a world without Russia?”. It’s like the Americans believe, what good is a world without the United States as a single superpower?

Chris Hedges

Yeah, well, that’s the problem. They’re already not the single superpower. You’re dealing with emergent powers like China, which economically will, I think, within a decade, I don’t remember the exact figure, will dwarf the economic power of the United States. That decline, which largely they orchestrated, of course, through deindustrialization, trade deals, austerity programs and everything else. They cannibalized the country from within, and then they’re seeking an aggressive military response to the loss of economic hegemony. This, of course, is part of the reason why they want to destroy the Russian economy. All of the sanctions are really designed, of course, to overthrow Putin.

I just want to go back. Yeltsin was a U.S. puppet. He was widely unpopular in ’96 when he ran for reelection. The Clinton administration orchestrated a $10 billion IMF [International Monetary Fund] loan, of which an estimated 1.5 billion of that went into re-electing Putin. He was, of course, a fall-down alcoholic and everything else. Then you saw the selling off of state industries at bargain-basement prices to Russian oligarchs who became obscenely wealthy. There was a kind of blowback that Putin tapped into, a kind of humiliation that Russia felt. Historical analogies are always a little difficult.

You’re right to bring up the issue of Weimar in that sense, that same kind of humiliation. There’s another analogy with Weimar. It’s 1932, Franz von Papen becomes the head of government. He’s from the old aristocratic elite. They’re frightened of the fascists. They want to bring back the Ancien Régime, but what von Papen and everyone haven’t figured out is that nobody wants the Ancien Régime back. They are beholden to the dictates of international bankers who, after the 1929 crash, had to take out tremendous loans. They actually cancelled unemployment insurance in Germany. Well, you’ve seen a very similar kind of situation here. Oh, and remember, there was heavy censorship against the Nazis, heavy censorship. I mean, they were actually outlawed as a political party.

You see the same kind of reaction by the Biden administration, that political stagnation. The inability to deal with the very distressing issues that have disenfranchised, especially the white working class, and their response is censorship. Censoring critics such as myself, wiping Donald Trump off of social media, which I opposed, of course, because they start with him, and that gives them the kind of precedent to go after the rest of us. They want to magically make the problem disappear through censorship rather than addressing the social dislocation and rupturing of social bonds that have been created. We’re about to see blowback in the midterms. Even the Democrats fully accept that they will lose control of Congress. I think it’s highly likely, I mean, even his Build Back Better Bill is gutted. He hasn’t fulfilled his most tepid campaign promises to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour. His COVID policies are actually worse than Trump’s if you can imagine. I expect that after a resounding victory by the Republican Party, which has become completely cultish around Trump, and it is very dangerous, you will see Trump or a Trump anointed figure in the White House: a [Mike] Pompeo, [Ron] DeSantis, [Tom] Cotton, I don’t know, maybe someone else. This does have a kind of historical analogy. The inability or refusal on the part of the Democratic Party to address the real issues and attempt to blame everything on a foreign power, in this case, Russia and censor their critics is ultimately extremely self-defeating and very dangerous.

Paul Jay

Other than the threat of nuclear war, and it’s funny to even say that because it’s very real. If it happens, I guess we’re going to stop analyzing things. The climate crisis is so severe, is so imminent, we are going to hit, at best case scenario, 1.5 degrees warming in what, 12-13 years, by 2033. That date, that number is not really knowable because there’s enough going on that this could be unpredictably sooner, in terms of what’s going on in the oceans. We could be hitting 1.5 degrees by the end of this decade or even sooner. The extent and depth of the climate crisis, millions and millions of people from the global South will have to head North. The decimation of agriculture in almost the entire Midwest of the United States, and maybe as soon as within 20 years. What’s needed is such a radically different posture and positioning in policy than we have. For example, if there was any rationality in this world, U.S. and China would get together and offer Russia a Marshall Plan to transition off fossil fuel.

Chris Hedges

The whole war on Russia has seen the United States ramp up the fossil fuel industry. I mean, they can’t pump it out fast enough. Biden is asking the Saudis to pump out more oil. It’s had the opposite effect. Well, we also have to recognize that in the short term, there’s going to be some pretty dark fallout from Ukraine. Ukraine is a major exporter of food. Ramping up or cutting off Russian oil, we’ve already seen it with the rising price of gas, will fuel the inflation that’s already over 8%. This is really dangerous because that kind of economic assault is something that most American families that are hanging on by their fingertips, they can’t, even, according to polls, pay a $400 emergency bill, are not going to be able to cope with. The political response, especially in a dysfunctional corporate state, is one that fuels the kind of authoritarianism and neo-fascism that is already firmly implanted within the body politic of the United States through Christian fascism. I wrote a book on it, American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War in America; I took a lot of grief at the time for the title. I think because I came out of the Church, my father was a Minister, and I graduated from Seminary, I understood, perhaps, in a way that others who were less religiously literate didn’t that this was a political movement. This replicated the so-called German Christian Church in the Nazis, which was pro-Nazi, and it fused the iconography and language of the Christian religion with the party and the state, which is, of course, what they’ve done. Jesus didn’t come to make us rich.

These mega-churches prey on the despair of their congregants in the same way that Trump preyed on the despair of people in his sham University, his casinos or anywhere else. That ideological void that Trump exhibits, he doesn’t have any ideology of his own actually, was rapidly filled by the Christian Right. I think it will come back in a more organized form through a Pompeo, Cotton or someone else. It will come back now seeking vengeance for January 6th, for the de-platforming of their chief spokespeople, including Trump. I think things could get very ugly. Then, of course, on top of this, America has within its DNA this deep violence that has just characterized our society from the inception. So, yeah, I don’t see us headed in a good place.

Paul Jay

Yeah, just to add to what you said. Now, talking to liberal Democrats, this focus on the demonization of Russia, Russian culture, Russian language, of course, attack and denounce the invasion. Yes, demand Russia get out. But what’s going on? The fascistization that’s going on inside the United States, and what that’s going to mean, not just in terms of people’s political rights, this growing strength of Christian nationalism, one looks like it’s going to take power in Congress. Two could take the White House and then say goodbye to any climate policy. For some reason, climate science denial is a big piece of Christian nationalism.

Chris Hedges

Yeah. We have to remember that the Christian Right is quite strong within the military and especially in combat units, most of which are white and within law enforcement. When they send out notices about potential right-wing terrorism, they won’t ship it out. I’m talking about Homeland Security and FBI. They won’t send it out to local police departments anymore because all of these figures that they’re targeting are tipped off by law enforcement. So there are all sorts of signs of serious cracks within the edifice and the pressure of an economic tsunami, exacerbated, of course, by the climate crisis, because crop yields inevitably will decline, making a perfect storm in terms of creating a very dangerous political environment.

Paul Jay

The corporate Democrats seem to think, as they did with law and order, that if they could be more for mass incarceration than the Republicans, they would take that card off the Republicans table. [Chuck] Schumer even talks about this openly. His biography, I think it was. Now, if they can become the strongest voice of summoning up the demons of the Cold War, then they’re going to take that card away. They don’t seem to understand that most of the working class that votes for Trump and Republicans don’t give a damn about Putin as the demon. If anything, large sections of them think of Putin as one of the defenders of Christian nationalism. He’s kind of a hero for them. So that’s not something that’s going to help them. Instead of focusing on what the hell would make people’s lives better, they want Russiagate, and now this.

Chris Hedges

Well, they can’t because they’re controlled by their wealthy donors and by their corporate backers. I mean, that’s who they work for. If you took away that money, these figures like [Nancy] Pelosi, Schumer, Clinton, they wouldn’t exist. They are creatures of the system. They are sustained by the system. Their power with both Pelosi and Schumer comes from their power to funnel money to their anointed candidates. That’s why AOC [Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez] has become so domesticated. The entire system has elevated them to a position that, if it was a functioning democracy, would not see them hold power. I think they’ve just decided that they’re going to keep their first-class cabins even if the ship goes down, and that’s it. There’s no possibility within the Democratic Party for reform. It doesn’t even function as a normal party. The base is irrelevant. It’s trotted out for the political spectacle, but it doesn’t have any say in who the candidates are. Then, of course, we saw all of the nefarious methods used to destroy [Bernie] Sanders in both of the elections: stealing caucuses, invalidating independent voters, most of whom are young and would vote for Sanders, disqualifying large numbers of people on Democratic primary election rules that potentially would vote for Sanders, using the DNC as an instrument against Sanders, forcing, as [Barrack] Obama did other candidates to drop out and throw all their weight behind Biden.

Remember, Biden was such a disastrous candidate when the primaries began that they recruited Michael Bloomberg as their savior. It didn’t really work out very well. So the system has seized up. It doesn’t function. It functions in the way it’s been designed, which is to consolidate the power and the wealth of an oligarchic elite. It doesn’t function in terms of responding to the legitimate grievances, needs and rights of the citizenry. That’s what’s so dangerous. The Democrats are as complicit in this as the Republicans. I mean, in essence, there is no Republican Party anymore. It’s a cult around Trump and the establishment of Republican figures: the Mitt Romney’s, the Liz Cheneys, the Bushes. They’ve all joined the Republican-Democratic Party against Trump. A lot of the neo-cons, too. Robert Kagan, all these figures who I mentioned before.

Paul Jay

Chris, before we end, let’s go back to Ukraine. When we’re talking about what a peace deal might look like, eventually, there’s got to be something. How much of Ukraine is destroyed, and how many lives are lost before there is some kind of deal? I guess this ends in some sort of stalemate militarily. That said, what is the solution in terms of Donbas, especially Luhansk and Donetsk?

Chris Hedges

That goes back to the overthrow of [Viktor] Yanukovych in 2014, which was led by the U.S. government. We know from a leaked phone conversation that Victoria Nuland, at the time working for the Obama administration, had been, by the way, Dick Cheney’s Senior Foreign Policy Advisor. So, again, these neo-cons just flip from party to party. They had pumped $5 million into Ukraine and supported opposition movements. In this leaked phone call, she is heard listing off who she wants, who the U.S. wants running the government. Of course, those are the people who end up running the government. This, of course, frightened, as it should, the Russian-speaking minority because of what the opposition embraces, this kind of Ukrainian nationalism. I lived in Croatia, by the way, under [Franjo] Tudjman. They resurrected all the old fascist symbols of the Ustaša State and waged war on ethnic minorities like the Serbs and Muslims who lived in Croatia, in fact, expelled through ethnic cleansing, many of them. So the Russians had every right. The Russian-speaking population in Ukraine had every right to feel threatened and worried. There’s a WikiLeaks cable from 2008 written out of Moscow that was leaked that talks about provoking Russia and describes Ukraine as being a flashpoint that would draw both the United States and Russia into a proxy conflict, which is, of course, what has happened.

So, again, there are a lot of legitimate concerns on the part of the Russian-speaking autonomous regions within Ukraine. The Ukrainian government never implemented the Minsk Agreement. So again, it’s a chronicle of a war foretold. Well, I think as long as the West keeps pushing in the quantity of weaponry that is pouring into Ukraine, as we saw with the war in Afghanistan or as we saw in Chechnya, there won’t be any incentive on the part of the Ukrainians to work out a peace agreement. The war could become quite long. I mean, Grozny was basically destroyed the same way Warsaw was by the Nazis in ’44. It was levelled. Each frustration, each military setback that Russia faces will incentivize it to become more and more brutal. That’s what happens.

Paul Jay

So one of my Russian friends suggested that there should be a legitimate referendum held in Donbas, and both the Russian and Ukrainian governments need to agree to abide by the results. The region has a right to independence and self-determination, if you will, but not through force of arms. I do want to say because I think it doesn’t get noted that from 2014 to about 2016 or so, the Ukrainian government did kill a lot of civilians in Donbas, over 3,000. From 2018 to 2021, until this Russian invasion, there were actually very few people killed. From 2018 to 2021, according to the OSCE [Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe] observers, a total of 310 civilians were killed in 2021. There was only something like 36 civilians killed prior to the invasion in the entire year of 2021.

Russia did not invade to stop a genocide in Donbas, which is what some people use as language. That being said, there’s a legitimate concern, threat and fear of Nazi militias and potential/future attacks on Donbas. Shouldn’t there be a call for a legitimate referendum, not done under Russian occupation but also not done under the occupation of Ukrainian troops either?

Chris Hedges

I think that is what the Minsk Agreement called for, isn’t it?

Paul Jay

I’m not sure if it called for a referendum, but it’s certainly called for legitimate autonomy, which the Ukrainian government—

Chris Hedges

The Ukrainian government ignored it. Again, they never implemented it. I’ve covered the war for a long time. It, unfortunately, does not bifurcate into good and evil and black and white. Oftentimes in war, each side, in their own way, is complicit. I think that’s true with Ukraine, although it’s very hard to find that kind of nuanced historical understanding.

Paul Jay

Let’s see, in the last few minutes, let’s go back to the geopolitical piece of this. Is what the United States trying to accomplish here that they couldn’t pry Russia away from China, so now the game is to see if you can destroy it and perhaps have a kind of regime change?

Chris Hedges

No, the draconian sanctions that were imposed on Russia are self-defeating. What they’ve done is overturn decades of U.S. foreign policy, which is to create a Sino-Soviet split. This was the whole China policy pushed by Nixon and [Henry] Kissinger. You want to keep them separate. You don’t want them unified. By going after Russia, you have essentially, I think Putin’s made like 36 visits or something to China. The big thing is they’re attempting to extract themselves from the tyranny of the dollar as the U.S. reserves currency. If that happens, we know what happened to the pound sterling in the 1950s when it was dropped as the world’s reserve currency. The British economy went into a tailspin. That is what’s so interesting to me. What will bring down the empire, in particular, is the collapse of the dollar. If it’s not used as the world’s reserve currency through SWIFT [The Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication], if they can’t dominate that system, it’ll lose anywhere from a third, maybe two-thirds of its value. Nobody will buy treasury bonds. Anything that the United States imports will become prohibitively expensive, and it will trigger a depression in the likes of the 1930s. Again, that is one of the self-defeating mechanisms that one sees in the late empire. Along with these catastrophic military fiascos because they’re never held accountable. There’s no self-criticism. There’s no ability to look back. I think early empires tend to use military force quite judiciously. Late empires sought to solve all of their problems caused by internal decay and a loss of hegemony by force, by violence. It always is self-defeating. I think that this is, again, another example of how the wounds that we’re inflicting on Russia will come back to haunt us in a very dramatic way.

Paul Jay

Alright, thanks very much, Chris.

Chris Hedges

Sure.

Paul Jay

Thank you for joining us on theAnalysis.news. Please don’t forget we need your donations to do what we do. Sign up on the email list, and don’t forget to look for Chris on Substack. I don’t have it in front of me, Chris. Tell me the Substack again.

Chris Hedges

chrishedges.substack.com

Paul Jay

Cool. Alright, thanks again.


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8 Comments

  1. Profoundly misleading to say there was no danger of ethnic cleansing in Donbas, even while acknowledging the obvious history of related crimes. Please explain the concentration of Ukrainian forces in the East prior to Russian invasion. Here’s one, they were about to attack like they’ve been talking about while ignoring Minsk.

      1. this might help support what joel asserts, perhaps indirectly. its an article by jacques baud, a former intelligence officer with the swiss strategic intelligence service. if u scroll down the article there is a posting of an osce map showing ceasefire violations
        observed by smm 19-20 february 2022. baud’s interpretation (if i understand him correctly) seems to be that the ukraine troops were preparing to enter donbas.
        https://www.thepostil.com/the-military-situation–in-the-ukraine/

        1. Baud claimed only 2,500 people were killed in Darfur. UN says it was 400,000. He said this after Bachir became friends with Putin. I can’t find a single critical word by Baud about Putin. He defended Putin and Assad in Syria. Of course most of what he says about NATO is true, but he is oblivious to the rapacious nature of capitalism in Russia. Baud is pro-Russian propagandist, not an impartial analyst as he pretends. He ignores the civilian death totals in Donbas reported by the UN, 310 deaths between 2018-2021, yet Baud says there was a genocide.

  2. I really appreciate the issue of climate catastrophe being mentioned. One might think that the steady advance of global migration, starvation, sickness, & death would motivate the U.S., Russia & China to ameliorate these conditions immediately. It could start by ending all wars (military is a huge polluter). Also, permanently replace fossil fuels with a world 🌎wide green new deal. Thanks for a great segment – Paul & Chris need to be listened to.

  3. (Note to the Editor: This is a reduced version of my previous submission, which you may delete.)

    The war operation in Ukraine that began in 2022 is just the most recent phase of that proxy war of aggression by the US. Mr Hedges wishes to start counting in 2022. That is an arbitrary choice. Russia did not commit aggression. It opened the defense of Russia’s border with western Europe, an opening he was forced to make.

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