Category Archives: Vietnam War

The anatomy of propaganda – a contemporary plague

For quite some years in the 1960s our main newspaper – Dagens Nyheter – asserted that the Vietnam affair was a war waged by the communists – Soviet Russia and China with North Vietnamese as mercenaries – against the people of South Vietnam. Today we would call such propaganda unbelievably stupid. How could anyone swallow that? In fact, it was a different time, and it was swallowed.

It was no secret that South Vietnam, a US vassal state, was headed by one or other dictator, appointed and dismissed (and occasionally murdered) by CIA. But such details didn’t matter; in the fight against the profoundly evil world communism none of US’s actions, no matter how grotesque, were debatable.

Now we are back on the same playing field. According to DN and the western mainstream the fighting in Ukraine is not just to blame on Russia; it’s more exactly “Putin’s war”. To achieve this level of wisdom a number of elementary facts and logical truisms have to be overlooked.

It seems first of all self evident that someone who starts a war must want that war. Russia under Putin had worked insistently for years to build friendly commercial and political relations with the western world, in order to benefit its own development. Putin had just come home from the Sochi Olympics where Russia had invested billions to enhance its good-will in the world. Around that time the President of Ukraine was presented an ultimatum from EU to turn down an economic proposition from Russia as a precondition for an agreement with EU.

It would have been suicide for Ukraine (as we can see now), with its essential economic ties with Russia, to surrender the EU ultimatum. It didn’t, and the Maidan followed, exacerbated by neo-Nazi groups opening fire and throwing Molotov cocktails, the whole scenario with an unmistakable CIA scent all over it. The coup regime immediately demonstrated its hostility towards everything Russian and the possibility of the country eventually being overtaken by NATO became an obvious threat.

That Russia reacted by annexing Crimea, protecting its large naval base from falling under NATO control, was naturally a defensive move, enhanced by the dominantly Russian population’s wishes, demonstrated with overwhelming majority in a referendum. Such was Putin’s “crime”: a correction of history which should have taken place when Soviet Union collapsed, if the West had allowed itself some rational considerations instead of just wanting to annihilate Russia as much as possible.

The right-wing and anti-Russian coup urged people in the south-east to free themselves from Kiev rule. The rebel leaders hoped for Russian military intervention which they immediately learned they were not getting (one of the leaders then calling Russia “an enemy”). Russia’s policy has stayed the same ever since, communicated in words and actions over and over again: Ukraine (Crimea excluded) must remain a sovereign state with secured borders. The war must stop, and controversies be solved by negotiations, leading to some form of autonomy for the Donbas region.

But our media still labels this “Putin’s war”! Recently our propaganda pamphlet Dagens Nyheter proudly presented “two recognized experts on Russia” (one Lilia Sjevtsova and one James Sherr). The female one (from Brookings Institution) had the superhuman capacity to creep into Putin’s head and find out what he was thinking. After the successful Crimea expedition Putin thought, according to Lilia: “Why not also take south-eastern Ukraine?” Well, he so much didn’t want to take any part of Ukraine that he infuriated some rebel leaders. Lilia must have thought: “What the heck, facts have nothing to do with this!”

Mr. Sherr feels important enough to personally overrule the Minsk agreement, which he considers incompatible with Ukraine’s sovereignty, thus obviously disavowing Mr. Poroshenko himself. On Ms. Merkel’s statement that there is no military solution he comments: “It’s an extremely stupid cliche”.

Regardless of the Russian leaders’ aversion to the war in Ukraine, it is self evident that they won’t tolerate Kiev’s massacring of their countrymen in Donbas. Russia most certainly provides every kind of voluntary assistance a non-belligerent party is allowed, and maybe some more than that. For the West to moralize over Russia’s actions is presumptuous, to say the least, considering the 25 years of intense US/EU preparations for the present explosive situation.

The kind of Orwellian propaganda we have to consume day in and day out when we read our daily paper is hard to digest. (Luckily we can get the Internet version for free, which eases the pain.)

Circle of violence – is it eternal?

One week in 1988 I happened to be in New York. This was the year of the 350th anniversary of the first Swedish colonizers landing in Wilmington, Delaware. As part of the celebrations the Swedish Royal Couple held a luncheon in Waldorf Astoria for prominent Americans with some connections to Sweden.

By coincidence I stayed at the same hotel that day, now waiting in the lobby for a friend who had attended the Royal lunch. When the doors opened a stream of celebrities walked by, among them Henry Kissinger with a newspaper stuck under his arm. He walked in a relaxed manner straight on to Park Avenue, catching a regular yellow cab. No lifeguards, no company whatsoever.

My first reflection was how things can change in politics. Kissinger was a key player in Nixon’s administration when the tensions with Sweden were the gravest ever. Olof Palme had expressed intense critique of USA regarding the Vietnam War, and had gained support from people all around the world. Now Kissinger had become a guest of honor to a country once treated almost like an enemy.

My second reflection was naturally how this man could move around without protection; he was after all by many considered one of the most culpable war criminals alive. One could expect there to be millions of people in Indochina with a fair reason to revenge the death of innocent relatives or friends. All it would take had been for a single one of those to be on Park Avenue with a gun at the right time.

Naturally this came to mind again after 9/11. USA had challenged countries and people for decades, relying on its strength for protection. At the same time it had been an open society vulnerable for all kinds of attacks. The question was rather why it had taken so many years for an atrocity like 9/11 to happen, than why it had happened at all.

Since 2001 security has been upgraded considerably in the West, but there is no ultimate protection in societies like ours. We are reminded of this by an article in New York Times yesterday, reporting about an online threat by the Islamic State to kill 100 US service members whose names, photos and purported addresses are posted on its website. Knowing that ISIS is recruiting fighters in countries all around the world, also in the West, threats like these are obviously not to take easily.

If one wants a definition of a vicious circle it must be this: Imperialist violence created violent resistance, generating even more repressive violence, boosting more counter violence etc., on an ever growing scale. When will we ever learn that the only way to break this circle is to cut it off? And that we are the once obliged to initiate the peaceful way? (Provided the masters of mankind really want the violence stopped, which regrettably can be put in question.)