While western newspapers, radio and television news programmes have been full of events in Ukraine you have to search very hard for any coverage of protests in Bosnia-Herzegovina writes Geoff Ryan. Regional assemblies have been invaded, with their erstwhile occupants chased out to the accompanying chants of ‘thieves, thieves’. Regional governments have resigned. Yet virtually the only time Bosnia has had a mention has been in relation to the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo in 1914 and the outbreak of the first world war – usually in dreadful attempts to justify British participation in the war.
Perhaps the reason for the silence is that the protests in Bosnia, in contrast to Ukraine, have been largely led by the working class, have demanded an end to privatisation, have rejected nationalist arguments and have begun to develop forms of direct, participatory democracy. ‘Take to the streets. Death to Nationalism’ proclaim slogans on the walls of towns and cities in Bosnia. All of this is, of course, anathema to the capitalist class of the European Union and the United States who would be far from happy if workers elsewhere started to follow the Bosnian example. Hence the media silence.
It is no surprise that the Bosnian revolt began in Tuzla. Tuzla is an industrial city with a mixed population of Serbs, Croats and Bosniaks along with people of other nationalities not recognised as forming the population of Bosnia-Herzegovina. During the war launched against multi-national Bosnia by then Serb leader Slobodan Milosevic and his Bosnian Serb allies Tuzla remained a bastion of working class internationalist unity. Serbs, Croats and Bosniaks fought alongside one another in the militias organised by the Tuzla miners and other trade unions. It was this opposition by the Tuzla working class to the various nationalisms that were trying to tear Bosnia apart that in 1993 led International Workers Aid to Bosnia to concentrate on raising support for the Tuzla region.
Isn’t it ironic how the architects and supporters of the illegal US invasion of Iraq are screaming the loudest against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine?
One of the most laughable denunciations came from David Frum, the neoconservative Bush speechwriter who coined the phrase “Axis of Evil” and till this day remains confident in the rightness of the Iraq war.
But the hypocrisy isn’t limited to neocons.
Lecturing Russia about its invasion of Crimea on Sunday’s Meet the Press, US Secretary of State John Kerry said, “[Y]ou just don’t invade another country on phony pretext in order to assert your interests.”
I agree. But where was this sentiment when Kerry, as a Senator in 2002, voted to authorize use of force against Iraq based on a “phony pretext”? Before you start pointing to his many criticisms of the Bush administration’s “shock and awe”, keep in mind that Kerry later admitted that in hindsight he would still vote yes.
So really, the only thing praiseworthy about Kerry’s condemnation of Russia is his ability to say it with a straight face.
In case we needed anymore proof that David Gregory, host of Meet the Press, is a hack rather than a journalist, it’s worth noting that he responded to Kerry’s brazen hypocrisy by demanding to know if the US was prepared to hit back at Russia with a “military option.”
It’s an embarrassment that no one in the mainstream media, which unquestioningly cheerled the Iraq war, has challenged Kerry on this.
At a news conference during his visit to Ukraine yesterday, Kerry proclaimed: “It is not appropriate to invade a country and at the end of a barrel of a gun dictate what you are trying to achieve. That is not 21st-century, G-8, major-nation behavior.”
Again, what about Iraq? Unless I’m mistaken, the US invaded Iraq in the 21st century to do exactly that. Still, the New York Times said nothing about this blatant contradiction in its reporting.
Keep in mind that the Iraq war—which killed upwards of a million Iraqis, leaving in its wake 5 million orphans, 2 million widows and 4.5 million refugees—isn’t over, at least not for Iraqis.
As I write this, the US-installed Iraqi government is slaughtering civilians in Fallujah, a crime that has been largely ignored in the establishment press. But who cares about US-backed atrocities in Iraq when there is an anti-US superpower to vilify, right?
Meanwhile, President Obama—a man who extra judicially executes people abroad (including American citizens) based on secret evidence—has accused Russia of violating international law.
“When it comes to preserving the principle that no country has the right to send in troops to another country unprovoked, we should be able to come up with a unified position,” said Obama on Monday.
If only he would preserve that principle in his own foreign policy, which just this morning resulted in a US drone strike that killed three “suspected militants” as they rode in a car in Yemen. (Media outlets should be required to add a disclaimer next to that phrase to make it clear to their readers that Obama labels all military-age males in a strike zone “suspected militants”)
Drone strike supporters on twitter have been quick to criticize my comparison between Obama’s drone policy and Russia in Ukraine. But war crimes are war crimes, whether they take the form of an on-the-ground or sky invasion.
More importantly, the glaring contrast between the media’s obsession with Ukraine versus its collective apathy toward nations that have their sovereignty routinely violated by the US war machine (Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, Pakistan, Somalia, etc.) reveals a colossal double standard.
On Monday, even the local evening news in my area was talking about Ukraine. But not a word was said about the US drone strike that killed three Yemenis, including a man sleeping near his car, that very morning.
That’s because outrage over Russia has nothing to do with genuine concern about violations of international law and everything to do with maintaining US hegemony.