According to the media, the nuclear power plant in Ukraine is controlled by the Russian military and being bombed by artillery.
The Ukrainian state spokespersons accuse the Russians of bombing it themselves while the Russian state spokespersons blame the Ukrainian military. Both warn of the danger of a nuclear disaster.
Amidst the trading accusations, about what can we all be sure?
Well, really only of a few things about which there is (or seems to be) agreement:
The Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, although it is being maintained in operation by the Ukrainian State’s employees is within the area occupied by the Russian military very soon after the Russian invasion.
The plant is being bombed by someone.
Due to the bombing, there is a danger of nuclear disaster, initially in the Donbas region where the plant is located but quickly affecting large areas of at least the Ukrainian and of the Russian states and ultimately affecting other areas of Europe1.
The bombing of the plant should stop immediately and all possible efforts should be expended in that direction.
To go beyond that and arrive at a reasonably safe conclusion about who is doing the bombing, we need to employ critical deductive analysis and to set aside as far as we can our prejudices. We can’t help but have those but we can set them aside for a moment.
Using critical deductive analysis means looking at aspects like what is logical, who benefits from what, what other evidence is available ….
CRITICAL DEDUCTIVE ANALYSIS
Who could benefit from the bombing? In theory, either.
The Ukrainian authorities say the Russian do because they wish to blame their opponents.
Since the Ukrainians have demanded the Russians – apart from withdrawing their military entirely – remove themselves from the area of the nuclear plant, presumably the Ukrainians would benefit from blame attaching to the Russians.
Interestingly, “The US, United Nations and Ukraine have called for a withdrawal of military equipment and personnel from the nuclear complex, Europe’s largest, to ensure it is not a target.”2
The Ukrainian state already has US/NATO and the western mass media on its side but a threatened nuclear disaster would inject much greater urgency into the Ukrainian State’s regular calls for more and greater weapons.
Presumably the Russian state, if they were seen to be innocent of this bombing, could use the danger of nuclear disaster to rally greater support within its state and among its allies too.
Who faces the greatest risk in the continued bombing?
Both face a risk of a nuclear disaster, initially and later from fallout. However, initially at least, it is the Russian military in the immediate area, along with the Ukrainian staff of the plant at greatest risk.
But very close behind that in high risk come the civilian population of the Donbas, from which Luhansk militia are drawn – in other words, friends, families, relations, lovers of the Luhansk militia.
Who knows the truth?
Undoubtedly, in the immediate first instance, the Ukrainian military, the Russian military, the people of the locality including the Luhansk militia and, presumably, the staff of the nuclear plant. But also the intelligence services of US/NATO.
The mainstream western media is not publishing interviews with the people of the locality and have slanted their general reporting against Russia, which leaves the Ukrainian State side with the most impact3 in the controversy.
And the intelligence services of US/NATO, who have kept quiet on this issue.
Another accusation which the Ukrainian authorities have made against the Russian side is that they have installed artillery around the nuclear plant from which they have been firing at the Ukrainian military.
This would be against rules of conflict that military should avoid installing their personnel, weapons or material in or around civilian facilities.4
Accusing the Russian military of installing artillery around the site would also seem to provide the Ukrainian military with a reason for shelling the area themselves.
There is a strong inconsistency in the Ukrainian accusation, ignored by the media. We are asked to believe that the Russian military is shelling the facility but also firing from next to it?
Is it possible? Fire from the position, move all the weapons and personnel out, then bomb it themselves, repeat the whole operation and repeat again? Hardly.
And such movements would surely show up in intelligence reports of US/NATO but they are not confirming it. In fact, the Russian side showed their satellite photos of the site in which no artillery could be seen and also pointed out that the US had their own satelliteimages but was saying nothing.
Satellite imagery was published recently showing smoke from artillery strikes on the site and would surely be available to show alleged Russian artillery installations there and, in fact, their firing from there5.
And very clear satellite imagery was readily available and published in the media to support the Ukrainian authorities’ claim that Russian planes in the Saky airbase in the Crimea had been destroyed on 9th August.6
Another inconsistency of the allegation that the Russians are risking a nuclear disaster is in reconciling it with Russian state war aims.
The Russians say they invaded to prevent the Ukrainian state from becoming an outpost of the US/NATO offensive military alliance along their border and b) to protect the largely Russian-speaking population of the Donbas area from attacks by the Ukrainian fascists and military.
The Ukrainian State, backed up by US/NATO and the media7 say that all of it is to do with Russian imperialism and land-grabbing.
In either case, is it likely that the Russians would risk nuclear contamination of the whole area they wish to occupy or to defend? And is it likely that the Luhansk militia, drawn from the people of the area, would permit their homes and family to be put in such a terrible risk?
Having employed critical deductive analysis of the available evidence, the logical conclusion must be that
The nuclear facility is being bombed by the Ukrainian military
They are bombing it hoping to force the Russian military evacuation out of the area and/or to accuse the Russian military of doing the bombing and to employ it in propaganda against the invading Russian military
and to create a sense of environmental danger from the latter
in which they are accustomed to expect uncritical cooperation from the mainstream western media and from US/NATO
to assist in having states within NATO send them more and more weapons
WHAT SHOULD HAPPEN?
Clearly, the Ukrainian military should cease bombarding the nuclear installation immediately
and to assist in that, the western media should make clear who is responsible.
And the International Atomic Energy Agency should send as neutral a team as possible (including perhaps officials and experts from China, Iran and India) to inspect the site and publish their results8.
The USA/ NATO should break their silence on their satellite surveillance and photos of the site.
This process and conclusion will be difficult for a number of key players and for many commentators. The process will expose the Ukrainian military as having been engaged in activity with potential to cause an environmental disaster.
It will expose their political leadership as having lied while trying to blame their opponents. The US/NATO block and their allies will be put in an awkward position for having supported the Ukrainian authorities while they were engaged in that activity.
The whole affair may switch – or at least weaken — wide western public sympathy away from the Ukrainian state. Many people may have to reappraise their positions in part or even completely.
Difficult, yes – but is that any justification for collusion in the possibility of a nuclear disaster?
1Although assessments of the likely affected range of the disaster differ strongly (see Sources)
4Both sides have been accused of violating those rules but in terms of hard evidence, mostly the Ukrainian military, as was revealed in the recent report of the more usually pro-western Amnesty International.
The United States could immediately take direct actions that would de-escalate the over-arching nuclear threat that haunts Russia’s war of aggression in Ukraine. A few such actions would demonstrate good will and indicate a real intention to reduce tensions in the crisis which seems every day to grow more dangerous.
1. U.S. hydrogen bombs stationed in Europe could be withdrawn and their planned replacement cancelled.
The United States and Germany are formal states parties to the Treaty on the Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT). Articles I and II of the NPT flatly prohibit the transfer of nuclear weapons from one states party to another. Any fourth grader can understand that the NATO practice of “nuclear sharing” with Germany, Italy, Belgium, The Netherlands, and Turkey — which together have over 100 U.S. nuclear weapons — is an open violation of the clear, unambiguous, unequivocal and binding prohibitions of the NPT.
The United States stations an estimated 20 of its B61-3 and B61-4 thermonuclear gravity bombs at the German Air Force Base Büchel, 80 miles southeast of Cologne. These B61 H-bombs at Büchel are identified as “intermediate-yield strategic and tactical thermonuclear” bombs, and “the primary thermonuclear gravity bomb in the U.S.” according to the NuclearWeaponArchive.org.
Calling these weapons “intermediate” or “tactical” is shocking disinformation. The maximum yield of the B61-3 is 170 kilotons, and the maximum B61-4 yield is 50 kilotons, as reported by the Bulletin of the atomic Scientists. These H-bombs respectively produce over 11 times and 3 times the explosive blast, mass fire, and radiation of the 15-kiloton Hiroshima bomb that killed 140,000 people. (For background, see Lynn Eden’s “Whole World on Fire,” or Howard Zinn’s “The Bomb.”
The effects of detonating B61-3 or B61-4 bombs would inevitably be catastrophic mass destruction involving disproportionate, indiscriminate and long-lasting devastation. Plans to replace the current B61 with a new “model 12” could be cancelled now, and constitute a real ratcheting down of tensions in Europe.
2. The U.S. can discontinue its nuclear attack courses underway at Ramstein Air Base in Germany.
The U.S. studies and plans nuclear weapon attacks at classrooms of its Defense Nuclear Weapons School (DNWS), and the one branch school outside the U.S. is at Ramstein in Germany, the largest U.S. military base outside the country, headquarters of the U.S. Air Forces in Europe, and NATO Allied Air Command. Outlines of nuclear attack coursework can be read on the DNWS website, which boldly declares the school: “is responsible for delivering, sustaining and supporting air-delivered nuclear weapon systems for our warfighters …every day.”
One class outlined on the DNWS website is for “Theater Nuclear Operations,” described as “a 4.5-day course that provides training for planners, support staff, targeteers, and staff nuclear planners for joint operations and targeting. The course provides an overview of nuclear weapon design, capabilities, and effects as well as U.S. nuclear policy, and joint nuclear doctrine…. Objectives: … Understand the U.S. nuclear planning and execution process…; Understand the targeting effects of nuclear weapon employment….”
Dispensing with this nuclear attack planning school would reduce tensions and help eliminate Russia’s dread of the U.S./NATO nuclear posture.
3. NATO can suspend its provocative military exercises.
Attacks with U.S. nuclear weapons in Europe are regularly simulated or “rehearsed,” as is often reported. Recent headlines noted: “German Air Force training for nuclear war as part of NATO” (Kazakh Telegraph Agency 2020), “Secret nuclear weapons exercise ‘Steadfast Noon” (German Armed Forces Journal 2019), “NATO nuclear weapons exercise unusually open” (2017), and “NATO nuclear weapons exercise Steadfast Noon in Büchel” (2015).
Giant NATO war games routinely zero in on Russia. In 2018, there was “Trident Juncture” with 50,000 troops in Norway, and “Atlantic Resolve” was conducted in Eastern Europe. In 2016, some 16,000 troops gathered in Norway for “Cold Response,” and in “Anaconda 2016” another 31,000 troops from 24 countries were again in motion across Poland, Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia. In 2015, there was “Atlantic Resolve,” “Dragoon Ride,” and “Spring Storm,” all conducted across Poland, Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia. In 2014, the routine “Cold Response” game in Norway involved 16,000 troops, and “Atlantic Resolve” took place in Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia and Poland.
Beyond the annual “Steadfast Noon” simulations, complex, multinational NATO exercises in Eastern European countries just recently ballooned in number. In 2019, there was a single big exercise called “Atlantic Resolve.” In 2020 there were five. In 2021 the number leaped to eleven, and NATO that year made plans for a total of 95 exercises. Individual NATO states had plans for another 220 of their own war games. Nothing justifies Putin’s naked aggression, but the marked increase in NATO war practices would even make the Dali Lama defensive.
4. The U.S. and NATO could end their nuclear weapon “first-use” policy.
The public policy of readiness to initiate attack with nuclear weapons — not as a deterrent against being attacked with nuclear weapons, but its exact opposite — is at the heart of both U.S. and NATO “nuclear posture.” This perpetual threat to start nuclear attacks during a conventional conflict, especially in the context of routine NATO nuclear war exercises, is unnecessarily destabilizing and reckless. In view of the enormously overwhelming power of U.S. and NATO conventional military forces, the nuclear option is grossly redundant and militarily useless.
After he retired, Paul Nitze, a former Navy Secretary and personal advisor to President Ron Reagan, wrote “A Threat Mostly to Ourselves” where he observed: “In view of the fact that we can achieve our objectives with conventional weapons, there is no purpose to be gained through the use of our nuclear arsenal.”
Now that the U.S. public as a whole has been transformed into one big anti-war group, it should recognize that it can influence our own government but not Russia’s. Our demands for negotiation, cease-fire, de-escalation and a peace agreement need to be directed in a way that has some chance of success. ###
John LaForge is a Co-director of Nukewatch, a peace and environmental justice group in Wisconsin, and edits its newsletter.
We are a people – or nation – that has been invaded; we have resisted and suffered in that resistance. Naturally we tend to sympathise with other countries who have been – or are being – invaded too. Many other peoples have been invaded more often than has Ireland; the Book of Invasions and Occupations of some of those would run to many pages. Few however have been occupied for nearing a millenium by what has been essentially the same invader – as has our little nation. So the question as to whether invasions are always wrong is bound to arouse an emotional feeling of rejection in us, of hostility to the questioner, even. Still, I ask the question and turn to history for the answer, our own history and that of other places.
INVASIONS OF IRELAND
The Vikings invaded Ireland (a sovereign state or collection of states) in successive waves from Norway and Denmark areas, took people to be sold as slaves, pillaged and looted and in time occupied parts of our land. They were hardly welcome but after their defeat at the Battle of Clontarf (sic) in 1014, left little permanent damage.
The Normans, invading in 1169, were a different matter, with less pillaging but wreaking far-reaching adverse changes, especially as they became the English ruling class, a mixing of Norman and Anglo-Saxon elites. Our land was turned into a colony, competing industries destroyed, the majority population turned into second-class subjects, our produce used to fuel the British industrial revolution, followed by famine here, mass emigration, our resistance repressed ……
In our strivings to be free from the English Occupation, we invited an invasion from the Spanish Kingdom to Ireland and one arrived in 1601, which was followed by the Siege and Battle of Kinsale (2nd October 1601-3rd January 1602) between Irish clans and their Spanish allies against the English. The latter’s victory resulted in English conquest over the whole island and the destruction of the remains of the Gaelic social and legal order in Ireland.
During the Jacobite War (1689-1691), the Irish and Anglo-Irish clans invited Royal French forces to invade Ireland in order to assist them in supporting King James II his bid to regain the English Crown1 and that too ended badly for the Irish with the Limerick Treaty, the flight of the Wild Geese and the religious Penal Laws.
In the late 1790s, the United Irishmen once again invited the French forces — but this time Republican – to assist them in overthrowing English rule in Ireland in what was a semi-sovereign state. The planned French invasion failed due to adverse weather conditions in 1796 and a smaller force successfully landed in Mayo in the closing weeks of the 1798 Rising, joined with Irish insurgents and defeated English military units but was soon surrounded and, massively outnumbered, surrendered.
During WWI sovereign states in large areas of the world, in particular in Europe and in the Middle East, were invaded by the armies of many states, comprising those of the Central Powers of Germany, Austro-Hungary and Turkey on one side and those of the Entente — UK, France, USA, Turkey, Russia, Italy and Japan – on the other. The cause of the war was contention between imperial powers and no side could be said to have been justified in the alliance they joined or in invasions carried out as a result. One revealing example of the gap between justication propaganda and reality was that the UK claimed that it was waging war with Germany in defence of the little nation of Belgium, while it repressed a rising of the little nation of Ireland. Likewise, the USA, which claimed to want a post-war world of peace and security for small nations, refused to receive the delegations of a number of small or weaker nations, including that of Ireland, to the Paris Peace Conference2.
In the runup to WWII and during it, parts of Africa, Asia and most of Europe, including many sovereign states3, were invaded by the Nazis and Fascist powers of Germany, Italy or Japan4, with horrific consequences for the people who lived in the invaded lands.
Would we have countenanced an invasion of Nazi Germany to prevent what it was going to do? In any case, during the War, the counter-attack of the Allies also invaded huge parts of the world, including sovereign states that had colluded with the Nazis, as well countries totally dominated by them: the USSR invaded Eastern Europe beyond the USSR’s earlier borders, also sovereign Germany and sovereign Austria; the USA and UK invaded France (part-sovereign, part-occupied) and Italy (part-liberated by popular revolt) and all three invaded sovereign Germany and Austria too, but also North Africa; the USA invaded the Phillippines and Indo-China. Had we been alive then, most of us would have cheered those invasions – they brought down the terrible Axis forces, liberated death camps, freed people from fascist rule.
But the UK and France retook their colonies, where they had been suppressing and repressing the people for generations.5 The UK and USA prevented the Greeks from stopping the return of their monarch (their sovereign) and, combining former fascist police with their own armed forces, suppressed the Greek rising. And the USA installed themselves in the Phillippines, making them their neo-colonies. The USA also began to cultivate elites as clients in Indo-China, particularly in Korea and Vietnam.
The reoccupations of colonies and transfer of control to new masters were the cause of a wave of anti-colonial struggles and wars of repression in India and Malaya with the UK; in North Africa with the French; in Korea with the USA; in Vietnam with the French first and then with the USA; in the Middle East and West Africa with the UK and France. They also facilitated the creation of the Zionist state of Israel with horrific consequences (including invasions by it) that continue to be played out to this day.
The struggles of people resulted in the eventual national liberation of areas of the world, including part of Korea and later, Vietnam, creating states. Cambodia and Laos, having been bombed by the USA in its war with the Vietnamese people, came under new national regimes. But the new rulers of Cambodia’s sovereign state, under the Pol Pot regime, developed a new kind of horrific rule resulting in the distinction of becoming the country with most mass graves in the world6. That sovereign regime was toppled by an intervention of Vietnamese forces and those of us alive then cheered that invasion.
The Portuguese colonies in Angola and Mozambique were freed by liberation struggles but in Mozambique were assisted by Cuban troops, which also helped them resist invasion by South African troops and proxies.7
Much closer to our own time, the UK and USA/NATO, leading coalitions of other states, invaded Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya, destabilising them and destroying for years the development potential of those countries8. They attempted the same with Syria and that conflict is ongoing. The excuse given was always along the lines of countering a threat to the world (Iraq: “Weapons of mass destruction”, “Al Khaeda”) or liberating their populations (Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria).
INVASIONS GENERALLY — AND WHAT ABOUT UKRAINE?
So, reviewing the historical record, very few would say that invading another region — even a sovereign state — is wrong on every occasion. Most would say, I think, that it would depend on the motivation for the invasion, how it is conducted and what the invaders do afterwards.
Hopefully this can help us to mediate the automatic Irish sympathetic reaction to the war in the Ukraine and with regard to the Western-dominated discourse that Russia is automatically wrong – purely because its troops invaded the Ukrainian sovereign state. Russia may indeed be wrong – but not purely on the fact that it invaded.
Which then moves the evaluation on to a more productive and rational basis. Was the reason for the invasion justified? How did Russian troops conduct themselves during the invasion? What is intended as the longer-term outcome of the invasion?
Here, unfortunately we are in a marsh of propaganda, fake news, partial accounts, censorship9 ….. and the war has not yet concluded. But we can try to navigate our way across this marsh relying on the fairly firm patches we can find and hopefully avoiding getting stuck or even sucked down.
Justification for the invasion?
Russia says it invaded because it was being encircled and threatened by NATO, while the latter denies this. The evidence is however on the side of Russia in this disagreement10.
Putin also says that he did so to “de-nazify” the Ukraine. Considering the number of active fascists in Russia, this does not ring true, though the presence of nazi militia in the Azov Battalion is undeniable and the the Ukrainian regime is certainly glorifying Nazis in its past.
Conduct during the invasion
When Russia invaded it says that it fought to confront military units and to keep civilian casualties to a minimum. In the early days of the war this does seem to have been the case. As the fighting grew fiercer around Kyiv and Mariupol, it was harder to ascertain the truth, with Ukranian claim the Russians were targeting civilian structures and Russian counter-claim that, in Mariupol in particular, the Ukrainian forces were firing from civilian structures, which naturally attracted Russian return fire. And of course, bombardment of any large area is going to result, whether intended or not, in damage to civilian structures.
Another Ukrainian accusation, widely covered in the western media, is that the Russians were kidnapping civilians and transporting them back to Russia. The latter responded that they were facilitating the evacuation of civilians from danger areas. A similar Ukranian removal of civilians, on the face of it, is represented as a humanitarian action. Humanitarian evacuation or kidnapping? By one or the other, or by both?
There have been Ukranian accusations that the Russians executed captured Ukrainian soldiers and civilians and the Western media and political leaders have repeated those accusations. What appears to be bodies of civilians have been photographed in the streets of Bucha and Irpin after the Russians forces retreated, some of which appeared to have their hands tied behind their backs.
The Russians have rejected the whole story as fake news, pointing out that the Mayor of Bucha had smilingly recorded a video message after the Russian military evacuation of his town, during which he had made no mention at all of any such executions. Also that the reports of the alleged executions did not emerge until four days after they had evacuated the town.
However the Ukrainians also say that a mass grave containing 410 bodies has been uncovered outside Kyiv. Russia has said it wants the issue discussed at the UN Security Council11 but so far have been blocked by another permanent member, the UK (the latter holds the Presidency of the Security Council at the moment)12.
We must await some kind of even semi-independent investigation but if any of these allegations turn out to be true it will certainly be a powerful indictment of Russia’s conduct during the invasion.
We do not know for certain what the situtation will look like post-conflict but it looks likely that Russia will withdraw from most of the Ukraine, which will remain outside NATO and with much-reduced armament, which was part of what Russia was seeking even years before the conflict. But it also looks as though Russia will retain the Crimea and the Donbas area.
To judge whether that retention is just or not, one has to choose between two narratives (or some synthesis of both).
The Russian narrative is that after the change of government in 2014 there was a campaign against ethnic and linguistic minorities, in particular Russian-speakers, by the Ukrainian authorities, aided by fascist forces. These attacked the Russian-speaking areas, the latter mobilised to defend themselves and asked Russia to come to their defence.
The Western narrative is that Russia egged on Russian speakers to fight the Ukrainians and to secede and that the whole thing was just a Russian land grab.
But one way or another, the bare fact of Russian invasion is not sufficient to decide against them, much less to agree with what is essentially the dominant US/NATO discourse of the western media – the bigger and longer picture needs to be examined.
1Both Irish and Anglo-Irish sought an end to religious oppression of Catholics and retention of their lands; the Irish clans may have also sought recovery of some of their ancestral lands.
2More about the division of the world between victorious powers and punishing the losers, than about peace.
3The Austrian state was subverted under threat by the Nazis, as was also the Norwegian, followed quickly by invasion.
4Nazi Germany also recruited fascist units from Spain, Ukraine and Romania into their army and Japan recruited Koreans; in addition an Indian natiolal liberation army fought the English occupation in coalition with the Japanese.
5The Japanese were asked to hold on to their conquered territory in parts of SE Asia until the French could move back in, for example in Vietnam.
6Spain is the second, dating from its Civil War/ Anti-fascist War, a sovereign monarchical state evolving from a successful fascist-military coup against an elected Republican government.
7A highly simplified description, as there were civil war elements also with fighting for control between different factions of the former liberation movement.
8The UK holds the record for countries invaded, while the USA holds the record for involvement in military conflicts since WWII.
9Twitter has taken down an archive of six years of Chris Hedges’ Contact programs, Netflix has removed the Oliver Stone documentary “Ukraine Is Burning”, the US and UK has banned RT and Russia then banned BBC, China has banned BBC and Facebook, the latter has unbanned the fascist Ukrainian Azov Battallion …. And the Western Left is ignoring Naom Chomsky.
10Just Google “Map NATO states in Eastern Europe”.
11The United Nations is a body containing essentially two general decision-making bodies, the General Assemby of every full member nation — currently 193 – and the 15-member Security Council, which makes the only binding decisions. However, the decisions of the rest can be vetoed by any of the five Permanent Members of the Security Council: USA, UK, France, Russia and China.
12Any entering of the words “Russia” combined with “war-crimes” or “executions” into a search engine will bring an avalanche of western reporting of the allegations but scant treatment of the Russian response. As balance I have included only two rare more balanced western reports in the Sources section.
We are surrounded by propaganda: to favour this or that political and economic system, those products, accept this way of life and to reject that other, to emulate or aspire to be like those people or to reject others …. The propaganda is constant but perhaps most evident in times of conflict: social conflict and wars in particular. We cannot be free of it but we can attempt to navigate it, to reach that fabled destination, the port of Truth.
OUR OWN PERSONAL BIAS
Firstly, we need to be aware of our own personal bias. Are we for reasons of culture, position, location or habit likely to incline to one side rather than to the other? Of course, that might be the right (or least bad) side but ….. are we being blinded by our own bias?
Our own personal biases are formed through our familial group, our schooling, training and experiences but some are engendered through the wider society, our culture.
Our cultural bias in the western world and, in particular in the English-speaking one, is towards the USA. We watch films in which the admired characters have UStater accents and even employ UStater turns of phrase and idioms1; their life-styles are recogniseably western. These cultural products cover a range from comedy to thriller or tragedy, their situations varying from urban to rural life, their genres from romance to crime to war to science fiction. In fact, both latter genres tend to present us with war-heroes who not only speak like UStaters but evoke the armed forces of the United States, whether in past real armed conflicts or in imagined ones to come. Earlier Irish generations were familiar with the dramatised plight of European settlers in the western regions of the USA being attacked by Indigenous people, only to be saved by the arrival of the US military – in that genre, the US Cavalry.2
Another major cultural influence on the English-speaking world is the UK and, to a lesser extent3, Australia. Although in Ireland there is a certain residual historical resistance to UK acculturation, some UK cultural products gained a large enough following, particularly the Coronation Street and EastEnders series4.
In comics the characters and often their environments are identifiably Western — usually of the USA5 — and even the popular Asian-based ones tend to have their facial features shaded towards European ones. Many of the electronic games also have a Western cultural bias.
And of course, we speak English. A high proportion of the Irish population is English-monoglot and even among Irish/English bilinguals, either the English is dominant or at least easily-accessible. From childhood to adulthood we see signs in English, hear it on the street, use it daily in most places, read it, are educated and instructed through it, access the Internet through it – in fact, we mostly think in English. All of which makes the pathways for accessing US and UK cultural products easy and our acceptance of the dominant discourse more probable.
Dominant discourse is of course a fact of life, some aspects of which are necessary for our social existence but other aspects of which are laden with unhelpful cultural and even political bias. We need to be alert to those aspects and prepared to investigate and analyse them.
Sometimes it looks like just about everyone is in agreement with a particular opinion and it is also the one that accords with our own inbuilt bias. Now we need to be REALLY careful, because those are two factors working together to put us at our ease on one side of a conflict and making it very difficult for us to even investigate the fact that the dominant discourse, on at least this occasion, might be mistaken. And clearly at times in history widely-accepted views HAVE been wrong – the literal seven-day creation belief, the sun going around the earth, the divine right of monarchs, the unsuitability of women for equality, the unnatural inclination of gay and lesbian people ……
In conjunction with being aware of and taking into account our own bias and prejudices, we need to the same with our sources of information, which in industrial and post-industrial cultures – apart from educational establishments — is mostly the mass media: television, newspapers and the Internet (in particular social media).
All the owners of non-State-owned mass media that we access (and that in turn accesses us) are capitalists and not only that but monopoly capitalist. Although he has recently exited his media empire6, this was the situation six years ago: “Denis O’Brien, reputedly Ireland’s richest man, is the largest shareholder in the country’s largest newspaper publisher, Independent News & Media (INM). That company has now agreed a deal to add seven more newspaper titles to its stable by acquiring the Celtic Media Group (CMG). They include the Anglo-Celt in Cavan, the Meath Chronicle and the Connaught Telegraph in Mayo. In all, it extends INM’s footprint to five more counties.
“INM is already the major player at national level. It publishes Ireland’s two largest-selling titles, the Irish Independent and Sunday Independent, plus the Sunday World and the Dublin Herald. It also has 50% of the Irish Daily Star. O’Brien’s other media company, Communicorp, owns Ireland’s two leading commercial radio talk stations: Newstalk and Today FM. In addition, it owns Dublin’s 98FM, SPIN 1038, TXFM and SPIN South West.”7
Media companies in the USA went from 50 1984 only six conglomerates controlling 90% of the United States’s in 2011: GE/Comcast (NBC, Universal), News Corp (Fox News, Wall Street Journal, New York Post), Disney (ABC, ESPN, Pixar), Viacom (MTV, BET, Paramount Pictures), Time Warner (CNN, HBO, Warner Bros.), and CBS (Showtime, NFL.com).8
“Take the UK’s newspaper industry: in a national market of 20 daily and Sunday newspaper titles, just three companies control 90 percent of newspaper circulation. Lord Rothermere’s DMG Media—publishers of the Daily Mail, the Mail on Sunday, the Metro, and the i—accounts for almost 40 percent of all national newspapers sold each week in the UK, while Rupert Murdoch’s News UK and Reach (which publishes the Mirror and Express titles) command one-third and one-fifth of the market, respectively.
“When online readers are included, the same companies control a four-fifths market share among the major newspaper groups, giving these publishers an unparalleled influence for setting the agenda across the rest of the news media.”9
“Most of the social media we use on our laptops, Iphones or tablets is owned by five conglomerates in the USA: Meta Platforms, Inc., doing business as Meta and formerly known as Facebook, Inc., …..is the parent organization of Faecebook, Instragram and WhatsApp among other subsidiaries. Meta is one of the world’s most valuable companies. It is one of the Big Five American companies, alongside Google, Amazon, Apple and Microsoft.”10
It should not surprise us if that media exhibits a strong bias towards capitalism, for example in praising businessmen (capitalists) and businesses (exploitation operations) and in criticising or slanted reporting on strikes (workers’ resistance) or on what they might term ‘terrorism’ (but is often oppressed people’s resistance).
The State-owned media, in the UK the BBC and RTÉ in Ireland, are not of course the property of capitalists, however the states in question are capitalist states. It would be surprising therefore if such media were to take a stance in opposition to that of their state and their dominant classes and, by an large they do not. If, in times of conflict elements within the program-making sections of the State-owned media veer significantly away from the State’s line, official reprimands, cuts in funding, sackings and outright censorship may follow.11
This mass media, as well as being orientated in defence of monopoly capitalism, is also orientated towards the expansion of monopoly capitalism beyond its origins, i.e imperialism. And imperialists have their alliances, by far the largest of which is the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, or NATO in acronym. That alliance is led by what is still the largest imperialist superpower in the world, the USA.
We may note that the antithesis of capitalism is socialism but a capitalist or imperialist system of one state may be in contention with that of another such state which in fact often happens, even occasionally breaking out in war, as was the case with WWI, when the then-dominant imperialist alliance led by the UK and France was challenged by the weaker one of Germany and Turkey.
And mentioning socialism brings to a consideration of alternative media, including that of the Socialist and Irish Republican movements. Briefly we can note that just because they declare their opposition to the status quo does not mean necessarily a) that they are indeed so opposed, or b) that they have examined and challenged their own bias or c) therefore that their analysis is correct. Indeed both the Irish Socialist and Republican movements have made huge mistakes over the last hundred years or more and, in addition, during the height of the Covid19 pandemic we saw a plethora of misinformation ranging from the fascist and racist to the fantasticaly paranoid from sources opposed to the status quo12.
With the preparations and precautions entailed in the above completed, we are ready to sail, to navigate the propaganda ocean on board the MV Investigator. Let us take the stormy propaganda seas around the Ukraine conflict for our voyage.
According to the Russian Government, ethnic Russians were under attack in parts of the Ukraine after a coup overthrew the Ukrainian Government in 2014. Furthermore, it claims that US/NATO supported that coup and, in addition, has been gathering up states to its military alliance to encircle Russia, which it sees as a threat to the existence of the Russian state. In addition, Russia claims the Ukrainian government has fascist elements in its polity including a nazi battalion incorporated into its national military. Therefore it has invaded Ukraine in order to protect its own state and to “de-nazify” the Ukraine.
According to the Ukrainian Government and the USA, along with most Western governments, all of Russia’s claims are lies and just an excuse for it to grab land in the Ukraine, in order to extend its dominion further.
The Western media supports the Ukrainian Government and USA discourse on these issues and, on the rare occasion when it quotes the Russian one, negates it or casts doubt upon it.
So, to the navigation. The first thing is that we cannot trust the Western discourse but on the other hand can we totally discount it? We cannot trust it because it is part of a capitalist and imperialist bloc centred around the USA and NATO. On the other hand, Russia might be lying and the Western media might be correct on this occasion. After all, Russian troops HAVE invaded the sovereign state (something we usually see from the USA or NATO) of Ukraine.
So, let’s investigate! A look at the map will in fact show a large number of states in East Europe that have progressively become part of NATO and Ukraine, which shares a border with Russia, was heading that way, according to even non-Russian analysis.13 And Russia has been complaining about this for years. In addition, the elected neutral Ukrainian government WAS overthrown by a violent coup in 2014, one which was welcomed by western media. And fascists WERE active in that coup and the Azov Battalion IS full of fascists and nazis (even according to US and Canadian government circles along with human rights groups, including in Israel, only a few years ago).
But the Russian regime anti-fascist? That is something else. Far-Right groups including openly Nazi ones have proliferated across Russia since the collapse of the USSR and there is little evidence that the Russian regime has been trying to eliminate them. De-nazification should start in your own territory first, right?
So a reasonable conclusion on the available evidence is that Putin’s statement about de-nazification is mere propaganda for international and domestic consumption but his real and primary motive for the invasion is the security of Russia and the withdrawal of NATO from its borders.
Might there be an element of acquiring some more Ukrainian territory and stragic locations there? Of course there might. So how to test that? What about if NATO agrees to withdraw, Ukraine declares its neutrality but demands withdrawal from its recently-conquered territory? Russia would have to comply or to expose its supposed territorial ambitions.
However, NATO is currently refusing to withdraw from Russia’s borders and the Western media is supporting it ideologically as well as pouring arms into Ukraine; NATO denies Russia’s declared motivation but declines to put it to the test.
Mentioning “land-grabbing” also raises the issues of the Crimea, Donetsk and Luhansk regions. Those regions had a high proportion of ethnic Russians — the Crimea in particular nearly totally Russian-speaking — and according to numerous sources, came under attack from Ukrainian nationalist forces from 2014. The Western media says that Russia “annexed” the Crimea; however Crimea had an autonomous parliament and voted to secede from the Ukraine – it was not overthrown in a violent coup as was the neutral Ukrainian one. Subsequently Crimea asked for Russian protection from attack by the Ukrainian military (including in particular those Azov fascist fighters). Donetsk and Luhansk regions also asked for protection, according to the Russians while, according to the West, they were also annexed by Russia.
CONTINUING THE NAVIGATION
Those are the fundamental points to think about during the conflict but we will be presented with reports of “kidnapping” of thousands of civilians by the Russians from the battle-zones on the one hand, with the “rescue” of thousands by the Ukrainian military on the other. Of course, any war impacts severely upon civilians in the war zones, as we have seen in conflicts from Vietnam to ireland to the Balkans, from Palestine to Yemen. What is happening in the Ukraine is a war, with bullets and missiles being fired by both sides and, furthermore, most of the fighting is taking place in and around heavily-populated areas. But are civilians and civilian buildings really being targeted by the Russians? They may or may not be but certainly the damage and casualties would be much higher if, as a matter of course, that were the case. Are civilians being used as hostages and shields by the Ukrainian military as some have alleged? They may be but it is difficult to prove or disprove that when the battle is taking place in an urban area.
We have to seek the actual causes of the war, rather than its features, to seek a workable and hopefully long-lasting solution.
WHAT ABOUT CENSORSHIP?
The fact is that all sides are practicing censorship. While the western media was quick to tell us that Russia had banned the BBC’s news service, it took a bit of searching to find out that had occurred after the UK banned RT, the Russian broadcasting service. We now learn that China has also banned Facebook and the BBC – the latter perhaps in response to the banning of RT but Facebook perhaps for lifting its ban and Tier 1 classification14 of Azov, the neo-nazi fighters incorporated into the Ukrainian military.
Currently, as an example of Western censorship, the Oliver Stone documentary Ukraine On Fire (2016) has been taken down off Youtube and according to users, rarely lasts more than a day if posted up anew.
And Naom Chomsky, veteran US-based anti-imperialist, who would normally be widely quoted in the Socialist media, is hardly ever heard or seen. Oh, he’s talking and writing alright but his discourse does not match the dominant one in the West — nor currently in the Western Left — and therefore he is excluded from their media.
CAN WE MOVE, PROCEED, ACT?
Obviously we cannot proceed through life in a permanent doubt – that would paralyse us, make us incapable of movement in any direction. We must come to a decision, at least for the time being, to allow us to act. But while we proceed on the basis of our certainties or at least assumptions, we need to be able to keep a part of our mind alert, questioning, challenging and – at some point – ready to dissent from the ideological environment in which we find ourselves and ready to consider taking a different – even oppositional – opinion and path.
This is the way we can navigate through the sea and storms of propaganda to a the desired landing on Truth. However, we need to remember that “truth” is an approximation, that it changes shape and what was true yesterday may not be true tomorrow. It is a floating land, not necessarily where it was when last charted, even when the most recent cartographers were not dishonest. Nevertheless, we are required to act, to act in the real world and therefore must reject paralysis. We find the nearest we can to the truth, test it and act upon it – but ready to amend our understanding if necessary.
We set sail.
1The interjection of irrelevant “like” in conversations (e.g “I was like just leaving …”), the grammatically incorrect “I’m good” response to query-greetings, ‘hip’ interjections such as “dude” and even the “OK” for positive confirmation (in our lexicon since the 1950s), have all reached us from the USA.
2That film trope has led to a popular saying regarding last-minute deliveration, probably even employed by people who are unaware of its origin: “Saved by the Cavalry”. Of course, the Indigenous, who are having their lands stolen, their way of life and other parts of their culture destroyed and their resistance massacred, never have a last-minute salvation, neither in fiction nor in reality.
3Though we still hear “No worries” in reassurance, a phrase introduced by Australian soap-operas such as “Neighbours” screened on UK television channels in the 1980s and ‘90s.
4These two in particular propagated a very biased view of working class and lower-middle class people in Britain. The Coronation Street (note the monarchical tone of even the title) series, based on the Salford area near Birmingham, despite being an area settled by successive waves of migrants such as Irish (Engels even referred to them in his 1845 Condition of the Working Class in England), Caribbean and South Asian, did not include characters of migrant background for decades and it was not until 2019 that it introduced its first Black family characters. When the British soaps first provided characters of Irish background, both Coronation Street and EastEnders produced negative types without positive Irish characters to balance them.
5In the 1950s, ‘60s and ‘70s the majority of the comics bought in Ireland were English, from the younger age-orientated Dandy, Beano to the older-orientated range of Bunty, Judy and June for girls and, for boys, Eagle,Hotspur, Victor and the exclusively military Commando and War Picture Library series along with the Amazing Fantasy series. The US contributed super-hero series Marvel Comics and a range of both cartoon and realistic characters in Dell Comics. There was no competition from any Irish-focused publisher (nor is there yet to any real degree).
12It is also worth noting that censorship, misrepresentation of different views and verbal abuse towards those who challenge the views of the alternative media make using them to arrive at the truth more than problematic and this has been nowhere more evident than in the coverage and discussion of the conflict in Ukraine.
13In fact we can see a similar US-led encirclement of Russia in the Middle East too.
14 A classification that included ISIS and bars users from engaging in “praise, support, or representation” of blacklisted entities across the company’s platforms.
“Wars and rumours of wars …”1 The sabres are rattling around Eastern Europe. The mass media in our latitudes largely takes the position of the USA under the guise of democracy; however with some text and the use of a few maps I hope to show that Russia’s position is essentially defensive in this regard and that the USA is the main aggressor. I hope to do that without expressing any support for the Russian regime.
WHAT IS ACTUALLY HAPPENING?
The USA sees Russia as its main opponent or competitor in Europe and has been working since the post-WWII decades to neutralise it, earlier under the guise of stopping the spread of “communism” and defending “democracy”. Since the fall of the USSR system the talk is no longer about defeating “communism” but “defending democracy” continues to used in anti-Russian rhetoric. Russia is no democracy but the notion that the US, the world superpower, the biggest imperialist power on the planet since WWII, cares about democracy should make us laugh. It would perhaps, except that the mass media keeps feeding us the USA’s rhetoric and shaping us to support it in war.
The USA is actually squeezing Russia from two directions — from Europe and from the Middle East. NATO, the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation is a US-led military alliance which now has the membership of most states in the EU, along with the UK and nearly every state of the former USSR to the west of Russia. A look at the map of NATO states will demonstrate that2. Nearly every state in the Middle East is also formally or informally in the sphere of influence of US imperialism3.
“Russia says it wants Western guarantees that Nato will not allow Ukraine and other former Soviet countries to join as members. Moscow has also demanded the alliance halt weapons deployments to Ukraine and roll back its forces from eastern Europe – demands flatly rejected by the West.4”
So the Russian ruling class is naturally worried and feeling besieged. On or near their European borders they only have Sweden, Finland, Moldova, Belarus and Ukraine which are not formally part of NATO and Ukraine has clearly indicated an interest in that direction. Beyond those last three aforementioned, all the states through central Europe are NATO members right through to the UK: Poland, Slovakia, Hungary and Romania actually bordering on Russia, with – heading generally westward and south-westward– Czech Republic, Croatia, Slovenia, Bulgaria, Albania, Greece, Germany, Netherlands, Belgium, Italy, Spain, Portugal, France and UK. In addition, some of those states have highly-developed military power such as Germany and two of them have nuclear armament of their own — UK and France – while the US has ready-to-launch nuclear missiles on the lands of many of the NATO states — Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Turkey5.
Sweden, Austria and Switzerland may remain nominally neutral but are in general politically aligned with the EU and the USA rather than with Russia, while non-NATO Finland is definitely, for historical and geographical reasons, extremely wary of its Russian neighbour.
The smaller non-NATO states of the former Yugoslavia – Bosnia & Herzegovina, Serbia, Montenegro, Montenegro and Kosovo are in some cases friendly towards Russia (or not overly-friendly towards NATO) but they are completely surrounded by NATO states.
On its borders with the Middle East, Russia is also being squeezed. Turkey has long been a major NATO state in the region and only Georgia is located between it an Russia to the latter’s south-west, with Armenia and Azerbaijan to its south-east. Nearly all of the states in the Middle East are in formal or informal alliance with the West and therefore with the US: Cyprus, Lebanon, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Egypt, Sudan, Libya, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman, Bahrain, Qatar and United Arab Emirates. Yemen is embroiled in its own Saudi and West-proxy war, while Syria is threatened by Israel, Turkey and NATO. Only Iran is fairly safe for the moment on that part of Russia’s border, which is why Russia will take its side in any conflict with the West, despite the Russian ruling class’ dislike of and vulnerability in some regions, as in Chechnya, to militant fundamentalist Islam.
Syria is next to Iran which is also why Russia has been supporting the Assad regime and why, during the past week, it has warned Israel about its bombing raids into Syria as the latter attacks Hizbollah bases there. In fact we may see the invasions by western alliances of Iraq and Libya as part of huge US/NATO ‘domino’ plan to attack Syria with Iran next; then the pressure on Azerbaijan and Georgia on Russia’s doorstep. While on the eastern side of Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan are also allies of the West ….
Further east, there is India which has long been friendly to Russia and in tussles with Pakistan — and China, which is not openly hostile to Russia as a rule but which is not a real friend either, though its competition and contention with the US keeps it friendly enough towards Russia for the moment.
What the Russian ruling class is doing is attempting to bring a halt to its encirclement by NATO at the point of Ukraine. And the US-NATO and EU are issuing a counter-threat – an open one of sanctions and a more veiled one, in the case of US-NATO, of armed action.
This week it appears that some parts of Ukraine have sought to break away from the main part, probably instigated by Russia or at least promised support if they did – which has materialised in Russian diplomatic recognition and in troop movements. This may amount to an annexation or may not but what is clear is that Russia, in the face of what it considers a threat to its existence and NATO intransigence, has decided to take some decisive action.
WHAT IS REPORTED
The western mass media reports the situation painting a picture of big powerful Russia threatening its much smaller neighbour, by threat of invasion seeking to force it into submission to Russia’s regime, in denial of the small nation’s democratic rights. And the democratic West, through NATO, is moving troops to support the Ukraine, warning Russia of consequences.
The picture contains much truth but overall it is a lie. Russia is much bigger than the Ukraine and it is threatening it with troop movements. And NATO is moving troops up to counter-threaten. But to evaluate a situation properly, we need to know its antecedents, what led up to it. We also need to see the situation through the eyes of the participants, whether we agree with them or not. The mass media, apart from a couple of honest analysts tucked away inside a newspaper, far from the headlines, does not supply us with that information.
The Irish Times, one of Ireland’s main daily newspapers, on 12 February reported that “Russia’s military build-up near Ukraine and a surge of Russia’s military activity has fueled fears that Russia could invade the country. Russia denies having any such plans. However a US official has said that the US had picked up intelligence that Russia is looking at Wednesday as a target date for an incursion.”
So on the basis of the quoted paragraph, we were to draw the conclusion that Russia was threatening to invade Ukraine. OK, Russia denied it but then why the military buildup near Ukraine? Finally, the authority voice of the USA, quoting what we are supposed to see as excellent intelligence sources (which we cannot of course question), predicting a probable Russian invasion four days away. So which state are most people in this part of the world likely to believe, the Russians or the US?
Some weeks earlier, on 25th January, another Irish daily newspaper, the Examiner, reported on reactions to a Russian naval fleet exercise in the Atlantic. The Irish Government told the Russians the exercise was not welcome although not illegal6, because the area of the exercise is regarded as international waters. This from the same government that facilitates US military flights via Shannon airport, i.e on its own national territory. And NATO carries out at least one major exercise in European waters annualy, with the UK doing so twice yearly without complaint from the Irish Government.7
The Ukrainian Ambassador to Ireland, Ms Gerasko moved to take advantage of the situation “A plan to hold a major exercise by the Russian navy and air force in the Atlantic off the southwest coast of Ireland is yet another demonstration of the threat that Russia poses for the world,” she said, in a statement to the Irish Examiner.” 8
Attempts were made at the same time to whip up Irish offshore fishermen against the Russians and to whip up the Irish public in defence of “our fishermen”. The latter project failed miserably since the Russian Ambassador to Ireland met and negotiated with the fishermen, leading one of their leaders to comment that the Russians had treated his members better than their own (Irish) government.
We might expect an alternative discourse about the Ukraine crisis from Al Jazeera but its report on the 24th of January, although emphasising US military movements in the area, attached a number of articles which were generally relaying the western line. The Irish Independent carried a much more in-depth explanation, though based on the position of the UK through its premier, Boris Johnson; however it did list the Russian demand that NATO cease pushing towards them and that Russia considered Ukraine joining NATO “an existential threat” while in general still following the general anti-Russian pattern9.
POSITION OF THE IRISH STATE
An analysis piece in its business section by the Irish State’s national broadcaster, RTÉ, concentrated on the possible economic impact of loss or drastic reduction in gas and oil exports from Russia, either as a direct consequence of conflict or through imposition of sanctions by the West. “Russia produces 11% of global oil supplies and according to David Horgan, managing director of Petrel Resources, any significant loss of Russian energy exports would result in a further spike in prices.”10
Russia is the biggest supplier of gas in the world and the largest to Europe with a third of of its gas pipeline supply to Europe crossing Ukraine. Ireland’s electricity supply is highly dependent on gas for its generating stations so any disruption will impact heavily of prices which “have already gone from $2 to about $30 per million BTU”, according to the Petrel managing director.11
It is clear that while the USA is driving the agenda through its dominance of NATO and the the threat of sanctions on Russia, which the USA regularly insists upon when teaching other countries a lesson, its own economy would suffer little as a result. However, it is a different question for the European states, which would be obliged to bear the weight of economic impact. Mícheál Martin, the Taoiseach (Prime Minister) of the Irish State felt obliged to comment on this possibility but, rather than criticise the USA and NATO’s expansionism, spoke about the need to break from their dependence on Russian energy supplies.
Micheál Martin said the EU is unified in responding “very strongly” to any Russian invasion of Ukraine and stated that in Europe’s view the huge build-up of troops by Russia on the Ukraine border is “not justifiable” in any circumstances. While calling for “diplomacy and de-escalation” he clearly sided with the USA in the conflict as both the Irish ruling class and the EU’s would expect of him.12
Despite many criticisms to the contrary, the policy of the Irish state during WWII was essentially one of neutrality in favour of the Allied forces while the government of the Six Counties was of course wholly aligned with the UK. Nevertheless Irish commercial shipping was sunk by Nazi German action and cost many Irish seamen their lives.
So far the Irish state has remained outside NATO but over the past decade there has been discussion envisaging the creation of an EU rapid deployment force made up of personnel contributed from all member states. It would hardly be surprising if such a move appealed to some within the career personnel in the Irish armed forces, envisaging taking part in wider military action, alongside varied forces, employing advanced weapons and systems and with possibly better promotion prospects. Additionally in recent weeks there has been media discussion of greater funding for those forces.
Ireland – and not only the UK’s colony here – can be dragged into war more easily than we perhaps imagine and also into being targeted for retaliatory action. Indeed, the facilitation of US military personnel and materiel through Ireland’s airport at Shannon, along with CIA transport of secret prisoners (“rendition”) has already exposed the State (and succeeding governments) to accusations of military partisanship.
Contrary to popular belief, the Irish State’s ‘neutrality’ is in general a matter of government policy rather than a requirement of the Constitution or Statute law.13
The principal statute governing the Irish Defence Forces is the Defence Act 1954, which did not oblige members of the Irish Army to serve outside the state (members of the Air Corps and Naval Service are not so excused). A 1960 amendment intended to allow deployment in United Nations Peacekeeping missions requires three forms of authorisation, since the 1990s often described as the “triple lock”:
A UN Security Council Resolution or UN General Assembly Resolution;
A formal decision by the Irish government;
Approval by a resolution of Dáil Éireann (the lower house of the Oireachtas, to which the government is responsible).
From those last two it is clear that the 26 Counties can be put on a war footing by a decision of the Irish Government or even a majority vote in favour in the Dáil. Anyone who believes that the party with most TDs would necessarily vote against such a motion is fooling themselves since the SF party has been at pains to portray itself as a safe pair of hands for Irish capitalism and recently called for greater funding for the armed forces of the Irish state; in addition it has long had an uncritically friendly relationship with the USA, in particular – though not only – with its Democratic Party.
A resolution from the UN Security Council obliging the Irish state to go to war against Russia is impossible and though such from the General Council might be possible, albeit unlikely.14
These provisions were modified in 1993 to allow for UN Chapter VII missions and again in 2006 to allow for regionally organised UN missions.
WHAT WE CAN DO
There seems no middle way — either NATO will back down or Russia will. No doubt the Western powers think it reasonable that Russia be the one to blink but as commented earlier, for the latter NATO creep to their borders is seen as a threat to their very existence. The same people who thought it reasonable for John Kennedy as President of the US to threaten war on the Soviet Union for the location of some missiles on the Caribbean island of Cuba think Russia should accept the advance of NATO to its borders.
In practical terms there seems little we can do in Ireland except struggle to resist the state and colony in which we live being dragged into war – for which we need to mobilise the opposition we can on the street. Sadly the anti-imperialist war movement in Ireland of years ago was allowed to deteriorate — but we should work to rebuild it.
In order to assist in this it is essential that we expose the reality of what is going on in the world. Some will say that because the USA is the main aggressor in this case and the biggest bully, we should support Russia but to do so would be a big mistake. Not long ago, while joining others in anti-fascist solidarity with people in the Donbas region in SE Ukraine, I found us being increasingly nudged towards support for Russia which I did not view as being the same thing at all.
Russia has its own crimes against people and workers and calling for support for it now will cause confusion when in future we will need to condemn it. Our position should be that while neither the USA’s regime or Russia’s is to be supported, the biggest danger of war comes from the USA and therefore it will be the main target of our hostility – besides which it is the power with which the ruling classes of Ireland and the UK are aligned. It is the biggest imperialist power in the world by far along with being the biggest military power in most of the world.
Most Irish people have no wish to be dragged into an armed conflict anywhere where they do not feel threatened. On the other hand our society is conditioned not only by decades of strong cultural influences from the USA, in particular through film but also by media reporting that is biased towards the dominant western European view and that of the USA. In that paradigm, the Russians are the bad guys, the gunfighters in the black hats, while the US and the West in general are on the side of the angels.
With the 1916 Rising in the middle of WWI, Ireland became the first country to carry out an uprising against world war15, against the dominant trend throughout Europe at the time — a tradition worth upholding. As long as imperialism exists, the world will continue to suffer smaller wars and the danger of another major war. It is necessary to overthrow imperialism and we can best contribute towards that aim by coordinating our struggles with the aim of carrying out a revolution in Ireland, thereby depriving imperialism of one of its supporters in Europe.
FOOTNOTES 1“And you will begin to hear of wars and rumors of wars. Behold, do not be alarmed; for it is necessary to take place, but the end is not yet” — Christian New Testament Bible, Matthew, Chapter 24:6.
14Resolutions of the UN Security Council, the only ones binding on all member states, require unanimous agreement by all five Permanent Members: UK, France, USA, Russia and China. Forcing a vote such as this in the UN General Assembly would likely lead to the fracture of the organisation.
15The following year there were two in Russia and in 1918 another in Germany.