The Israel Factor in Neocons’ Anti-Russia Warmongering over Ukraine

The Israel Factor in Neocons’ Anti-Russia Warmongering over Ukraine

The major U.S. officials stoking dangerous hostility against Russia are Israel partisans with a history of promoting U.S. policies that they believe will benefit Israel. Three articles below provide important facts on the Ukraine-Russia crisis:

(1) Robert Parry reported in 2014 that the Ukraine crisis was being stirred up by neocons furious that Russia was preventing ‘two top Israeli priorities: US military strikes on Syria & Iran. Parry reported that ‘neocons have long made it clear that their vision for the world – regime change in Middle Eastern countries opposed to Israel – overrides all other national priorities… as long as the neocons face no accountability for the havoc that they wreak, they will continue working Washington’s corridors of power…’
(2) In a recent article, James Cardin reports that neocons are ‘bent on starting another disaster in Ukraine… Part of the reason the US is at grave risk of a war with Russia is that foreign policy in Washington is conducted by a virtually closed circle. And that circle is dominated by people like the Kagans…
(3) Glenn Greenwald describes the neocons’ return to the liberal establishment: ‘The corporate media outlets consumed most voraciously by liberals are filled to the brim with war-loving neocons….. Impugning the patriotism and loyalty of one’s opponents is now the dominant theme in American liberalism precisely because liberals are now led by neocons… Those who have been smeared as supposedly unpatriotic because they oppose the neocons’ anti-Russia warmongering include Tucker Carlson, Patrick Buchanan, Bernie Sanders, Jill Stein, WikiLeaks, John Pilger, & Noam Chomsky… ‘
(In addition, the top U.S. officials in charge of U.S. foreign policy – Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman – are also Israel partisans… as is Biden’s White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain, who has “emerged as the building’s most central figure aside from the President himself.”)
[Editor’s notes in brackets and most of the photos below were added by IAK]

Pro-Israel neocons’ Ukraine-Syria-Iran gambit

Robert Kagan and Victoria Kagan, husband and wife pro-Israel neocon team, have a history of advocating militarism – like their other powerful family members. An analyst reports that regime change in Russia has been the fixed idea of the American neocons since Putin took over from Boris Yeltsin in 1999 (Putin was seen as “bad for Israel).

The Ukraine crisis – in part stirred up by U.S. neocons – has damaged prospects for peace not only on Russia’s borders but in two Middle East hotspots, Syria and Iran, which may have been exactly the point

By Robert Parry, reposted from Common Dreams, March 20, 2014

You might think that policymakers with so many bloody fiascos on their résumés as the U.S. neocons, including the catastrophic Iraq War [see this], would admit their incompetence and return home to sell insurance or maybe work in a fast-food restaurant. Anything but directing the geopolitical decisions of the world’s leading superpower.

But Official Washington’s neocons are nothing if not relentless and resilient. They are also well-funded and well-connected. So they won’t do the honorable thing and disappear. They keep hatching new schemes and strategies to keep the world stirred up and to keep their vision of world domination – and particularly “regime change” in the Middle East – alive [see this].

Now, the neocons have stoked a confrontation over Ukraine, involving two nuclear-armed states, the United States and Russia. But – even if nuclear weapons don’t come into play – the neocons have succeeded in estranging U.S. President Barack Obama from Russian President Vladimir Putin and sabotaging the pair’s crucial cooperation on Iran and Syria, which may have been the point all along.

Though the Ukraine crisis has roots going back decades, the chronology of the recent uprising — and the neocon interest in it – meshes neatly with neocon fury over Obama and Putin working together to avert a U.S. military strike against Syria last summer and then brokering an interim nuclear agreement with Iran last fall that effectively took a U.S. bombing campaign against Iran off the table.

With those two top Israeli priorities – U.S. military attacks on Syria and Iran – sidetracked, the American neocons began activating their influential media and political networks to counteract the Obama-Putin teamwork. The neocon wedge to splinter Obama away from Putin was driven into Ukraine.

Operating out of neocon enclaves in the U.S. State Department and at U.S.-funded non-governmental organizations, led by the National Endowment for Democracy, neocon operatives targeted Ukraine even before the recent political unrest began shaking apart the country’s fragile ethnic and ideological cohesion.

Neocon Carl Gershman, President of National Endowment for Democracy, gives a keynote speech at the Kyiv Jewish Forum in August 2019. (photo source)

Last September, as the prospects for a U.S. military strike against Syria were fading thanks to Putin, NED president Carl Gershman, who is something of a neocon paymaster controlling more than $100 million in congressionally approved funding each year, took to the pages of the neocon-flagship Washington Post and wrote that Ukraine was now “the biggest prize.” [see this]

But Gershman added that Ukraine was really only an interim step to an even bigger prize, the removal of the strong-willed and independent-minded Putin, who, Gershman added, “may find himself on the losing end not just in the near abroad [i.e. Ukraine] but within Russia itself.” In other words, the new hope was for “regime change” in Kiev and Moscow.

Putin had made himself a major annoyance in Neocon World, particularly with his diplomacy on Syria that defused a crisis over a Sarin attack outside Damascus on Aug. 21, 2013. Despite the attack’s mysterious origins – and the absence of any clear evidence proving the Syrian government’s guilt – the U.S. State Department and the U.S. news media rushed to the judgment that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad did it.

Politicians and pundits baited Obama with claims that Assad had brazenly crossed Obama’s “red line” by using chemical weapons and that U.S. “credibility” now demanded military retaliation. A longtime Israeli/neocon goal, “regime change” in Syria, seemed within reach.

But Putin brokered a deal in which Assad agreed to surrender Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal (even as he continued to deny any role in the Sarin attack). The arrangement was a huge letdown for the neocons and Israeli officials who had been drooling over the prospect that a U.S. bombing campaign would bring Assad to his knees and deliver a strategic blow against Iran, Israel’s current chief enemy.

Putin then further offended the neocons and the Israeli government by helping to facilitate an interim nuclear deal with Iran, making another neocon/Israeli priority, a U.S. war against Iran, less likely.

Using Ukraine to get Putin

So, the troublesome Putin had to be put in play. And, NED’s Gershman was quick to note a key Russian vulnerability, neighboring Ukraine, where a democratically elected but corrupt president, Viktor Yanukovych, was struggling with a terrible economy and weighing whether to accept a European aid offer, which came with many austerity strings attached, or work out a more generous deal with Russia.

There was already a strong U.S.-organized political/media apparatus in place for destabilizing Ukraine’s government. Gershman’s NED had 65 projects operating in the country – training “activists,” supporting “journalists” and organizing business groups, according to its latest report. (NED was created in 1983 to do in relative openness what the CIA had long done in secret, nurture pro-U.S. operatives under the umbrella of “promoting democracy.”) [see this]

Victoria Nuland, wife of Robert Kagan and a lifelong Israel partisan, supported a coup against Ukraine’s elected government. Her phone call about this, in which she said “F the EU) was leaked to the public; transcript is here.

So, when Yanukovych opted for Russia’s more generous $15 billion aid package, the roof fell in on him. In a speech to Ukrainian business leaders last December, Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs, Victoria Nuland, a neocon holdover and the wife of prominent neocon Robert Kagan, reminded the group that the U.S. had invested $5 billion in Ukraine’s “European aspirations.”

Then, urged on by Nuland and neocon Sen. John McCain, protests in the capital of Kiev turned increasingly violent with neo-Nazi militias moving to the fore. Unidentified snipers opened fire on protesters and police, touching off fiery clashes that killed some 80 people (including about a dozen police officers).

On Feb. 21, in a desperate attempt to tamp down the violence, Yanukovych signed an agreement brokered by European countries. He agreed to surrender many of his powers, to hold early elections (so he could be voted out of office), and pull back the police. That last step, however, opened the way for the neo-Nazi militias to overrun government buildings and force Yanukovych to flee for his life.

With these modern-day storm troopers controlling key buildings – and brutalizing Yanukovych supporters – a rump Ukrainian parliament voted, in an extra-constitutional fashion, to remove Yanukovych from office. This coup-installed regime, with far-right parties controlling four ministries including defense, received immediate U.S. and European Union recognition as Ukraine’s “legitimate” government.

As remarkable – and newsworthy – as it was that a government on the European continent included Nazis in the executive branch for the first time since World War II, the U.S. news media performed as it did before the Iraq War and during various other international crises. It essentially presented the neocon-preferred narrative and treated the presence of the neo-Nazis as some kind of urban legend.

Virtually across the board, from Fox News to MSNBC, from the Washington Post to the New York Times, the U.S. press corps fell in line, painting Yanukovych and Putin as the “black-hat” villains and the coup regime as the “white-hat” good guys, which required, of course, whiting out the neo-Nazi “brown shirts.”

Neocon Expediency

Some neocon defenders have challenged my reporting that U.S. neocons played a significant role in the Ukrainian putsch. One argument is that the neocons, who regard the U.S.-Israeli bond as inviolable, would not knowingly collaborate with neo-Nazis given the history of the Holocaust (and indeed the role of Ukrainian Nazi collaborators in extermination campaigns against Poles and Jews).

But the neocons have frequently struck alliances of convenience with some of the most unsavory – and indeed anti-Semitic – forces on earth, dating back to the Reagan administration and its collaboration with Latin American “death squad” regimes, including work with the World Anti-Communist League that included not only neo-Nazis but aging real Nazis.

More recently in Syria, U.S. neocons (and Israeli leaders) are so focused on ousting Assad, an ally of hated Iran, that they have cooperated with Saudi Arabia’s Sunni monarchy (known for its gross anti-Semitism). Israeli officials have even expressed a preference for Saudi-backed Sunni extremists winning in Syria if that is the only way to get rid of Assad and hurt his allies in Iran and Lebanon’s Hezbollah.

Michael Oren, former Israeli ambassador to the US (where he was born) served as Israel’s point man in dealing with the neocons. He once explained that “the greatest danger to Israel is by the strategic arc that extends from Tehran, to Damascus to Beirut. And we saw the Assad regime as the keystone in that arc. We always wanted Bashar Assad to go.” (photo source)

Last September, Israel’s Ambassador to the United States Michael Oren told the Jerusalem Post that Israel so wanted Assad out and his Iranian backers weakened, that Israel would accept al-Qaeda operatives taking power in Syria.

“The greatest danger to Israel is by the strategic arc that extends from Tehran, to Damascus to Beirut. And we saw the Assad regime as the keystone in that arc,” Oren said in the interview. “We always wanted Bashar Assad to go, we always preferred the bad guys who weren’t backed by Iran to the bad guys who were backed by Iran.”

Oren said that was Israel’s view even if the other “bad guys” were affiliated with al-Qaeda.

Oren, who was Israel’s point man in dealing with Official Washington’s neocons, is considered very close to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and reflects his views. For decades, U.S. neocons have supported Netanyahu and his hardline Likud Party, including as strategists on his 1996 campaign for prime minister when neocons such as Richard Perle and Douglas Feith developed the original “regime change” strategy. [For details, see Consortiumnews.com’s “The Mysterious Why of the Iraq War.”]

In other words, Israel and its U.S. neocon supporters have been willing to collaborate with extreme right-wing and even anti-Semitic forces if that advances their key geopolitical goals, such as maneuvering the U.S. government into military confrontations with Syria and Iran.

So, while it may be fair to assume that neocons like Nuland and McCain would have preferred that the Ukraine coup had been spearheaded by militants who weren’t neo-Nazis – or, for that matter, that the Syrian rebels were not so dominated by al-Qaeda-affiliated extremists – the neocons (and their Israeli allies) see these tactical collaborations as sometimes necessary to achieve overarching strategic priorities.

And, since their current strategic necessity is to scuttle the fragile negotiations over Syria and Iran, which otherwise might negate the possibility of U.S. military strikes against those two countries, the Putin-Obama collaboration had to go.

By spurring on the violent overthrow of Ukraine’s elected president, the neocons helped touch off a cascade of events – now including Crimea’s secession from Ukraine and its annexation by Russia – that have raised tensions and provoked Western retaliation against Russia. The crisis also has made the continued Obama-Putin teamwork on Syria and Iran extremely difficult, if not impossible.

Like other neocon-engineered schemes, there will surely be much collateral damage in this latest one. For instance, if the tit-for-tat economic retaliations escalate – and Russian gas supplies are disrupted – Europe’s fragile recovery could be tipped back into recession, with harmful consequences for the U.S. economy, too.

There’s also the certainty that congressional war hawks and neocon pundits will press for increased U.S. military spending and aggressive tactics elsewhere in the world to punish Putin, meaning even less money and attention for domestic programs or deficit reduction. Obama’s “nation-building at home” will be forgotten.

But the neocons have long made it clear that their vision for the world – one of America’s “full-spectrum dominance” and “regime change” in Middle Eastern countries opposed to Israel – overrides all other national priorities. And as long as the neocons face no accountability for the havoc that they wreak, they will continue working Washington’s corridors of power, not selling insurance or flipping hamburgers.


Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. He was awarded the George Polk Award for National Reporting in 1984 and the I.F. Stone Medal for Journalistic Independence by Harvard’s Nieman Foundation in 2015. He was the founder of Consortium News, where this report was first published.


Neocons bent on starting another disaster in Ukraine

PNAC stands for the Project for a New American Century. Its first order of business was overthrowing Iraq in order “to begin a dramatic restructuring of the Middle East political landscape along lines consistent with the neoconservatives’ vision for Israeli security, which they had outlined in numerous documents since the mid-1990s.” (photo source)

US foreign policy is evidently held hostage by a venal, avaricious and, above all, reckless claque of elites… Including the reporters and journalists who uncritically regurgitate what they are told by their “anonymous” administration sources…

‘Part of the reason the US is at grave risk of a war with Russia – and there is precious little debate about the policies that have brought us to this point – is that foreign policy in Washington is conducted by a virtually closed circle. And that circle is dominated by people like the Kagans’

By JAMES CARDEN, reposted from Asia Times, December 15, 2021

If anything, Washington’s neoconservatives have an unerring instinct for survival. Having brought about multiple disasters in the two decades since the terror attacks of September 11, 2001, from the Iraq war to the twin debacles in Libya and Syria, the neocons seem to have perfected the art of failing up.

Harvard University’s Stephen Walt once quipped  that “Being a Neocon Means Never Having to Say You’re Sorry.” And in this regard, the story of the Kagan family is instructive.

Robert Kagan, a contributing columnist for The Washington Post, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, and author of pseudo-histories such as The Jungle Grows Back, has for years been a leading advocate of American militarism.

His brother Frederick is a resident scholar at the neoconservative American Enterprise Institute. Writing in The Hill on December 7, Frederick Kagan claimed that Russian control of Ukraine “would create an existential threat to Poland and even to Romania – one that could be met only by major deployments of US and European ground and air forces to what could become a new Iron Curtain.”He and his wife Kimberly, who heads the Institute for the Study of War – another pro-war Washington think-tank – were close advisers to the disgraced general and former Central Intelligence Agency director David Petraeus. Indeed, both Frederick and his wife are frequently cited as the brains behind the surge strategy pursued by George W Bush’s administration in 2007-2008.

Kimberly Kagan (wife of Fred Kagan of the leading neocon Kagan family) speaks on Washington Journal, June 15, 2014. The day after the 9-11 attacks, the Kagans were urging the US to attack Palestinians, despite the fact that they had no connection to 9-11. Kimberly is founder and president of the Institute for the Study of War; she has opposed Syria, Iran, and Russia; and urged a prolonged war in Afghanistan. (photo source)

But the most powerful member of the Kagan clan is Victoria Nuland, who is the wife of Robert and is the US undersecretary of state for political affairs.

Under Barack Obama, Nuland served as the State Department spokeswoman, a position for which she was manifestly overqualified (and that becomes especially clear if one takes the qualifications of the current spokesman into consideration), before assuming the role of assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs.

It was in this role that Nuland helped orchestrate the overthrow of a democratically elected president of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych, in February 2014 that led to a civil war in which more than 13,000 people have died, according to the United Nations.

A soldier stands guard near buildings destroyed during the Ukrainian civil war, June 1, 2016. The war resulted from the coup Nuland helped engineer; it cost the lives of at least 13,000 people. (photo origin)

Part of the reason the US is at grave risk of a war with Russia – and there is precious little debate about the policies that have brought us to this point – is that foreign policy in Washington is conducted by a virtually closed circle.

And that circle is dominated by people like the Kagans.

Washington’s legacy media organizations play their part in perpetuating these foreign policies as well by functioning as the permanent bureaucracy’s echo chamber. For proof, look no further than the Washington Post editorial page, which from the very start of the Ukraine crisis has been cavalierly dismissing calls for diplomacy and engagement and, instead, has been calling for outright war.

An example of this is the Washington Post view published on its editorial page on August 21, 2014:

“… It is tempting to look for a ceasefire or some kind of time out that would lead to a period of diplomatic negotiation. But what would a pause and diplomacy accomplish? Any negotiations that leave this blight festering in Ukraine must be avoided. The only acceptable solution is for [Russian President Vladimir] Putin’s aggression to be reversed.”

As Jacob Heilbrunn, the editor of The National Interest, and I commented at the time, “Almost as bad as the callousness on display is the lack of candor. At no point did the [Washington] Post actually explain how it would propose to go about reversing Putin’s aggression.”

This remains the case even today. At no point do the armchair warriors braying for war with Russia over Ukraine discuss how such a “reversal” might be carried out, or, even more tellingly, what the odds might be of a successful outcome of a war between the US and Russia.

Not much has changed since the start of the Ukrainian crisis nearly eight years ago. Consider for a moment the testimony on “Update on US-Russia Policy” by Nuland made before the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC) on December 7.

Nuland testified:

“We don’t know whether Russian President Putin has made a decision to attack Ukraine or overthrow its government but we do know he is building the capacity to do so. Much of this comes right out of Putin’s 2014 playbook but this time, it is on a much larger and more lethal scale. So despite our uncertainty about exact intentions and timing, we must prepare for all contingencies, even as we push Russia to reverse course.”

Nuland went on to note that the US government has given $2.4 billion to Ukraine since 2014 “in security assistance,” which includes $450 million so far this year alone.

What, one wonders, has been the United States’ return on this massive investment?

SFRC chairman Bob Menendez seems to be under the impression that the Russians do not have the overwhelming military advantage on their own border. Likewise, Democratic Senator Ben Cardin intoned that a Russian invasion of Ukraine would “require us [the US] to escalate.”

Republican Senator Todd Young, meanwhile, pressed Nuland on “what measures are being considered by the administration to counter Russian aggression,” while Democrat Jeanne Shaheen indicated that during her conversations with members of parliament from Estonia, they spoke about the importance of “European unity with respect to Ukraine.”

Also, the MPs from Estonia along with Poland and other Eastern European countries expressed anxiousness about “whether or not to station more troops in the Baltic nations,” Shaheen said.

The most astute comment of the day came from Republican Senator Ron Johnson, who was clearly proud that the committee had achieved a rare bipartisan agreement. He further emphasized that the US stands “united” in support of Ukraine and against Russia.

And Johnson was absolutely correct: The committee was completely united in its desire for conflict over Ukraine, with which the US has no treaty obligations whatsoever.

Indeed, both Nuland and the SFRC seem to see US national interests where none exist. More worrying still, they seem to possess a kind of blind faith in America’s ability, indeed duty, to shape outcomes of conflicts that are taking place thousands of miles from our shores through a combination of sanctions and military threats.

The SFRC hearing showed, if nothing else, that American foreign policy is held hostage by a venal, avaricious and, above all, reckless claque of elites: from the members of the SFRC to the high government officials who testify before them; from the staffers who brief them to the scholars and policy hands on whom the staffers rely; right down to the reporters and journalists who uncritically regurgitate what they are told by their “anonymous” administration sources.

As such, one of the most urgent questions before us is: How do Americans of good conscience finally break their stranglehold on power before it’s too late?

[Editor’s Note: For background it’s important to be aware that Israel (see this and this) and its neocon loyalists (see this) have long planned to damage and/or buy-off Israel’s potential adversaries… Syria and Iran have largely been the remaining targets…]


The Neocons’ Primary War Tactic: Branding Opponents of U.S. Intervention as Traitors

Former Bush White House speechwriter David Frum speaks to MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough about Russia, Nov. 30, 2021. Frum is a “staunch supporter of Israel,” who has been known to purvey misinformation on Israel-Palestine. He co-wrote a book with fellow neocon Richard Perle advocating war in Iraq, Syria and Iran. Robert Novak reported: “Frum is more uncompromising in support of Israel than any other issue, raising the inescapable question of whether this was the real reason he entered the White House.” (photo source)

By rehabilitating neocons and elevating them as thought leaders, liberals live in their framework. Thus are opponents of U.S. involvement in Ukraine deemed treasonous.

By Glenn Greenwald, reposted from Substack – Listen to this report here

One of the most bizarre but important dynamics of Trump-era U.S. politics is that the most fanatical war-hungry neocons, who shaped Bush/Cheney militarism, have become the most popular pundits and thought leaders in American liberalism. They have not changed in the slightest — they are employing the same tactics they have always invoked, and for the same causes — but they have correctly perceived that their agenda is better served by migrating back to the Democratic Party which originally spawned their bloodthirsty ideology.

The excuse offered by Democrats for their embrace of neocons — we did it only as a temporary coalition of convenience to oppose Trump — is false for many reasons. This unholy alliance pre-dated Trump. In 2014 — long before anyone envisioned Trump descending down an escalator on his path to the White House — the journalist Jacob Heilbrunn wrote a New York Times op-ed entitled “The Next Act of the Neocons.” He predicted, correctly as it turned out, that “the neocons may be preparing a more brazen feat: aligning themselves with Hillary Rodham Clinton and her nascent presidential campaign, in a bid to return to the driver’s seat of American foreign policy.”

New York Times - The Next Act of the Neocons

The corporate media outlets consumed most voraciously by liberals are filled to the brim with war-loving neocons. Liberals catapult their books to the top of best-seller lists, spread their viral tweets, build their credibility into contracts with CNN and NBC News or stints as columnists for The New York Times and The Washington Post, and giddily applaud their cover stories for The Atlantic and The New Yorker.

Bill Kristol’s frequent appearances on MSNBC are due to his high levels of popularity among its liberal audience. One of the most beloved hosts on that network is the former spokesperson of the Bush/Cheney White House and 2004 Bush campaign, Nicolle Wallace. [Editor’s note: Wallace’s former husband of many years was co-founder in 2008 with Dennis Ross of a group called “the biggest active lobby against Iran.”] The Lincoln Project’s Rick Wilson and Steve Schmidt went from producing commercials in 2002 accusing War on Terror critics of being on the side of Al Qaeda to wallowing in “generational wealth” from gullible liberal donors giddy over their similar Trump-era ads accusing their enemies of being Kremlin agents and traitors. Two of The Washington Post‘s most popular-among-liberal columnists are Jennifer Rubin [longtime Israel advocate] and supreme war advocate (from a safe distance for him and his family) Max Boot [another Israel advocate]. Security state officials like former CIA Director John Brennan, former Bush CIA and NSA Director Michael Hayden, and former National Intelligence Director James Clapper became liberal TV stars with their endless accusations that various Trump supporters were unpatriotic and treasonous. And on and on and on.

David Frum, most influential in liberal life

But perhaps the most influential and beloved pundit in U.S. liberal political life now is former Bush White House speechwriter David Frum, now at The Atlantic and CNN. His cover stories for that magazine warning that Trump is an unprecedented evil (which has the convenient benefit of absolving him and the rest of the D.C. establishment of all their past sins) were passed around and celebrated as if they were this generation’s Dead Sea scrolls. He frequently appears on CNN and MSNBC to speak solemnly about matters of war, authoritarianism, and patriotism, where he is treated like an elder statesman and the moral conscience of America. He was one of seemingly millions of charlatans who cashed in with a Trump-era book warning of the unique evils of the Orange Hitler; “Trumpocalypse,” his Amazon page promised, “is both a warning of danger and a guide to reform that will be read and discussed for years to come.” He catapulted from roughly 300,000 Twitter followers at the start of the Trump presidency to close to 1 million now. His tweets accusing people of being unpatriotic and treasonous routinely go viral among liberals. Democrats cannot get enough of David Frum and his worm-like tactics.

There are many common characteristics tying these neocons together and forming a cogent ideological strain. Two of the most toxic of these have been on full display over the last month. The first is that they are always — in every case — in favor of any opportunities for the U.S. to involve itself in a new war. You wind up a neocon, and they start inventing excuses for why the U.S. must either bomb and invade other countries or enter a new proxy war to arm and fund other countries to do so for it. It is, therefore, unnecessary to point out that they are all not just in favor of U.S. involvement in a potential war between Russia and Ukraine but fanatical and giddy about it.

Neocons derive purpose, self-esteem and arousal from watching other people’s children fight and die in wars. In 1776, Adam Smith warned of this demented mindset in The Wealth of Nations:

In great empires the people who live in the capital, and in the provinces remote from the scene of action, feel, many of them, scarce any inconveniency from the war; but enjoy, at their ease, the amusement of reading in the newspapers the exploits of their own fleets and armies. To them this amusement compensates the small difference between the taxes which they pay on account of the war, and those which they had been accustomed to pay in time of peace. They are commonly dissatisfied with the return of peace, which puts an end to their amusement, and to a thousand visionary hopes of conquest and national glory from a longer continuance of the war.

Smearing opponents of their war efforts

But the other, related attribute that binds them together is the way neocons smear anyone who opposes their plots to involve the U.S. in new wars as traitors, on the side of whichever Bad Leader they want (others) to fight. Frum is the most enthusiastic purveyor of this sleazy tactic, one he has perfected over more than two decades. Back in 2003, right after he left the Bush White House where he had authored speeches advocating for an invasion of Iraq and a broader War on Terror, he wrote a National Review article accusing right-wing opponents of the Iraq War of being on the side of America’s enemies. Aptly entitled “Unpatriotic Conservatives,” Frum cited Pat Buchanan, Robert Novak, Justin Raimondo and other anti-war “paleoconservatives” who went beyond what Frum deemed permissible dissent — namely, questioning how the U.S. could best topple Saddam’s government — and into treason:

The antiwar conservatives have gone far, far beyond the advocacy of alternative strategies. They have made common cause with the left-wing and Islamist antiwar movements in this country and in Europe. They deny and excuse terror. They espouse a potentially self-fulfilling defeatism. They publicize wild conspiracy theories. And some of them explicitly yearn for the victory of their nation’s enemies.

One of the crimes committed by these unpatriotic conservatives, argued Frum, was their willingness to join with anti-war voices on the left. “Common cause: The websites of the antiwar conservatives approvingly cite and link to the writings of John Pilger, Robert Fisk, Noam Chomsky, Ted Rall, Gore Vidal, Alexander Cockburn, and other anti-Americans of the far Left,” the Canadian-immigrant-turned-Super-American-Patriot wrote.

Condemning Buchanan’s version of “America First” foreign policy — which caused the former Nixon White House aide to become one of the most vocal opponents of the new war which Frum and his neocon comrades were desperate to send mostly working-class American families to go fight — Frum condemned these anti-war conservatives of being guilty of every bigotry he could think of: racism, anti-Hispanic animus, and anti-Semitism. He concluded his lengthy accusatory screed with rhetoric that should sound very familiar to anyone who has heard Frum cast similar aspersions over the last five years toward anyone not as obsessed with Trump as he is, or more recently, not as eager as he is to send other people’s kids or American resources to fight Russia:

They began by hating the neoconservatives. They came to hate their party and this president. They have finished by hating their country.

War is a great clarifier. It forces people to take sides. The paleoconservatives have chosen — and the rest of us must choose too. In a time of danger, they have turned their backs on their country. Now we turn our backs on them.

This rhetorical tactic — impugning the patriotism and loyalty of one’s opponents — is now the dominant theme in American liberalism precisely because liberals are now led by neocons. Under this rubric, anyone (on the right or the left) who opposed Hillary Clinton and then Joe Biden during the Trump years was deemed not just wrong but treasonous: a Kremlin agent. That included Bernie Sanders, Jill Stein, WikiLeaks, leftist critics of Democrats, right-wing critics of Democrats, and in general anyone who echoed President Obama’s long-standing view that Russia did not pose a serious threat to the U.S. I cannot count the number of times I have been accused of being a Kremlin agent or asset not by random social media trolls but by prominent Democratic Party and liberal media and political figures for expressing those views.

Tucker Carlson vilified for asking how Ukraine is supposedly a US ‘vital interest’

That is now, by far, the favorite attack against anyone who believes that Ukrainian borders are not important enough to U.S. interests to involve the U.S. in a war. The most vocal media opponent of U.S. involvement in Ukraine has been Fox News’ Tucker Carlson (though, as usual these days, war skepticism is also found on many Fox shows, including Laura Ingraham’s, where I recently appeared to make that case, but almost never on CNN or MSNBC). Carlson, on an almost nightly basis, has posed the question few others in corporate media are willing to ask: why is Ukraine a sufficiently vital interest to the U.S. to risk lives, resources and potentially war with Russia in defense of it?

As punishment for arguing against the neocons’ latest plan to involve the U.S. in a new war, Carlson has been widely vilified as a Kremlin asset or, at best, a mouthpiece. “You’re going to hear a lot of lying about Putin’s War from Putin apologists on the Carlson right and the Greenwald left,” warned Frum, adding: “Putin apologists in US, UK, Germany, etc. should not be allowed to get away with hanging Putin’s War on any other neck.” A former Obama official and now-Democratic Congressman from New Jersey who is often a voice for war — Tom Malinowski (who, ironically, was a top official of Human Rights Watch before running for office) — claimed on Monday that his office is being inundated with calls demanding that he and the U.S. “side with Russia,” and Malinowski asserts that Carlson is somehow to blame for this. That insinuation of treason predictably led to an immediate appearance on CNN, where Malinowski’s claims were converted into on-screen graphics from CNN suggesting that the Fox host is not on the side of America but its enemies:

CNN’s New Day, Jan. 25, 2021
CNN’s New Day, Jan. 25, 2021

This framework is hardly new. In 2018, The Guardian published an article headlined: “Tucker Carlson says he’s rooting for Russia in conflict with Ukraine.” As usual, it was Frum who led the way in pushing this narrative of treason. “The endorsement of Russia’s aggression against Ukraine delivered tonight by Tucker Carlson is a pretty specialized form of Trump admiration,” the grizzled tough guy wrote back then, adding: “it’s not characteristic of very many of those who cast that misguided vote in 2016.” In 2019, a Media Matters employee whose job is to watch Fox News copied Frum’s tactic by writing: “Tucker Carlson defends Vladimir Putin and says American media hate the United States more than Putin.”

One could spend all day compiling examples from the last two weeks of this accusation emerging as punishment for the Fox host’s opposition to U.S. involvement in a Russia/Ukraine war. “Tucker all-in for Putin,” announced liberal icon Bill Kristol this week. Former-Trump-supporter-turned-liberal-Twitter star Congressman Joe Walsh claimed: “Trump, Tucker Carlson and the rest of the authoritarian right actually side with and root for Putin & Russia.” Former Star Trek actor and current liberal thought leader George Takei cited Carlson’s opposition to U.S. involvement in Ukraine to suggest: “Is Tucker on Putin’s payroll? Is he a foreign asset? Is there Kompromat on him?” The former boyfriend of a Chinese spy, Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA), who accuses people of being Russian spies whenever the mood strikes, said that Carlson is doing “Putin’s bidding.” MSNBC’s neo-McCarthyite host Joy Reid alleged that “the Fox News host is using his show to spread pro-Russia talking points.”

That Carlson — or anyone else of prominence — is advocating that the U.S. “take Russia’s side” in this potential war is an outright lie. Carlson posed a rhetorical question that deserves to be addressed: given that Ukraine and Russia are both foreign countries, why is it morally obligatory to support the former with U.S. taxpayer money and even lives but treasonous to support the latter? Why is one a noble patriot for siding with Ukraine but an evil traitor for siding with Russia? He was pointing out that the prevailing litmus test for proving patriotism makes no sense. Nobody is arguing that the U.S. should side with Russia; instead, the argument, repeatedly voiced by former President Obama, is that the U.S. has no vital interests in Ukraine while Russia does, and therefore should not risk confrontation and war with Moscow over it.

But what is happening here is clear. This is what neocons always do. Their only tactic is to accuse anyone who opposes their wars of being on the side of America’s enemies. Those who opposed the invasion of Iraq were thus on “Saddam’s side”; those who opposed Obama’s NATO intervention in Libya were “pro-Gadaffi”; those who questioned the justification for the CIA regime change operation in Syria were “Assadists”; and now, anyone who opposes David Frum’s latest glorious U.S. war fantasies must be pro-Putin if not a Kremlin agent. In 2011, when arguing against U.S. intervention in Libya, I responded in my Salon column to this sleazy tactic from pro-Obama writers such as John Judas of implying that anyone opposed to that war was on Gadaffi’s side:

Note how, in Judis’ moral world, there are only two possibilities: one can either support the American military action in Libya or be guilty of a “who cares?” attitude toward Gadaffi’s butchery. At least as far as this specific line of pro-war argumentation goes, this is just 2003 all over again. Back then, those opposed to the war in Iraq were deemed pro-Saddam: indifferent to the repression and brutalities suffered by the Iraqi people at his hands and willing to protect his power. Now, those opposed to U.S. involvement in the civil war in Libya are deemed indifferent to the repression and brutalities suffered by the Libyan people from Gadaffi and willing to protect his power. This rationale is as flawed logically as it is morally.

Now that neocons are so dominant in liberal discourse — they have wormed their way into and are embedded in very liberal media outlets — this tactic has become mainstream. Wind up a liberal employee of a corporate media outlet and they will accuse you of loving Putin or being a Kremlin agent reflexively. The only ground needed is that you are opposed to or even skeptical of whatever war they are excited to see the U.S. enter or that you do not agree that Trump is a singular, never-before-seen plague on American political life.

In many ways, all of this is the toxic fruit of the poisonous roots of Russiagate: convincing liberals to once again view Russia as some sort of grave threat to, even an enemy of, the U.S. Within this logic, it of course makes sense to want to militarily confront the country with the world’s largest nuclear stockpile over something like Ukraine and accuse anyone of resisting of being a Kremlin stooge. But more than anything, this is the result of rehabilitating the reputations and platforms of neocons, which had been in tatters after the dual debacles of the War on Terror and war in Iraq, and elevating them to the highest level of influence and credibility. When you follow neocons, you become them. And that means casually implying that anyone resistant to U.S. involvement in a new armed conflict is unpatriotic and harbors hidden, nefarious loyalties.


Glenn Greenwald is a journalist, former constitutional lawyer, and author of four New York Times bestselling books on politics and law. Foreign Policy magazine named Greenwald one of the top 100 Global Thinkers for 2013. He was the debut winner, along with “Democracy Now’s” Amy Goodman, of the Park Center I.F. Stone Award for Independent Journalism in 2008, and also received the 2010 Online Journalism Award for his investigative work breaking the story of the abusive detention conditions of Chelsea Manning.

For his 2013 NSA reporting, working with his source Edward Snowden, he received the George Polk Award for National Security Reporting; the Gannett Foundation Award for investigative journalism and the Gannett Foundation Watchdog Journalism Award; the Esso Premio for Excellence in Investigative Reporting in Brazil (he was the first non-Brazilian to win); and the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s Pioneer Award. The NSA reporting he led for The Guardian was also awarded the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service. A film about the work Greenwald and filmmaker Laura Poitras did with Snowden to report the NSA archive, “CitizenFour,” directed by Poitras, was awarded the 2015 Academy Award for Best Documentary…. more here

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