“History doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme.”
― Mark Twain
I was talking to my kids today in the car on the way to school this morning about what is going on in the Ukraine. I asked them if they had heard anything, if any of their friends were talking about it or if they were talking about it at school. Not surprisingly they knew very little, but me asking them was enough for them ask me what was going on there.
I started by telling them that it was a pretty complicated situation – that there may be no one that understands everything that is going on. I then explained that the simple story that the main stream media is telling is that there are some people in the Ukraine that don’t like the leadership there, so they took up arms. Now Russia is getting involved because there is another group of people there that don’t agree with those that have taken up arms about the future direction of the country and Russia feels some allegiance to those people (and vice versa). Simple story: one good guy, one bad guy. They fight, someone wins (hopefully the good guy) and we go back to our lives (except of course all those that get killed…they don’t have much to go back to).
I then told them that the reality is much more complicated than that. It seems that elements of the US government are doing a little more than simply cheer leading for the group that has taken up arms because they want to be closer to the west. There is strong evidence pointing to the fact that the US us actively supporting the rebels, and may have in fact encouraged them to rebel in the first place. I told them that things very similar to this have happened before…
I’ve seen a lot of my more observant friends drawing parallels between the current events and the lead up to WWI. Some of the similarities between the events and motivations surrounding the assassination of Arch Duke Ferdinand and the deposition of President Yanukovych are interesting. However, I the series of events I think most closely mirror what we are seeing today happened in the more recent past. I think we are seeing a modern-day pay of pigs.
Leading up to the bay of pigs, Fidel Castro had taken over as the leader of Cuba (after a “people’s revolution” rather than an election) and was cozying up to the form that Russia was taking at the time (aka the Soviet Union). A variety of interests in the US couldn’t stand for there to be a communist country only 90 miles from the US, so during Eisenhower’s term a plot was hatched to train and arm anti-Castro cuban exiles to invade Cuba and get rid of Castro. Kennedy won the election in November of 1960 and was briefed on the
program plot early on, giving his uneasy approval. Publicly Kennedy said:
“I have emphasized before that this was a struggle of Cuban patriots against a Cuban dictator. While we could not be expected to hide our sympathies, we made it repeatedly clear that the armed forces of this country would not intervene in any way.”
While privately, he was approving plans for air strikes on Cuban positions, the use of US Navy ships as decoys for the invasion and the continued funding for arms and training of the cuban exile forces. The planned invasion started in April. Kennedy had a change of heart only 2 days into it, canceling promised air support, mostly because he thought that everyone would quickly figure out that the US was actually involved and that he had lied to them.
The similarities between the current situation in the Ukraine and what happened more than 50 years ago in Cuba go far beyond the fact that the major actors involved are once again the US and
the Soviet Union Russia. The most obvious one is the US involvement in the
From a Democracy Now! transcript of an interview with Stephen Cohen, a professor emeritus of Russian studies and politics at New York University and Princeton University :
“The highest-ranking State Department official, who presumably represents the Obama administration, and the American ambassador in Kiev are, to put it in blunt terms, plotting a coup d’état against the elected president of Ukraine.
Now, that said, Amy, Juan, you may say to me—neither of you would, but hypothetically—”That’s a good thing. We don’t like—we don’t care if he was elected democratically. He’s a rat. He’s corrupt.” And he is all those things. He is. “Let’s depose him. That’s what the United States should do. Then the United States should stand up and say, ’That’s what we do: We get rid of bad guys. We assassinate them, and we overthrow them.’” But in Washington and in Brussels, they lie: They’re talking about democracy now. They’re not talking about democracy now; they’re talking about a coup now.”
In this quote, Professor Cohen is referring to a recent leaked conversation amongst various high level state department officials. (Side note: Interestingly the majority of the news coverage of this leak had to do with the “fuck the EU” comments made by Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Victoria Nuland, the top foreign relations official for the US in Europe. It seems not liking the people you work with is bigger news than plotting the overthrow of a foreign government.) So there is evidence we are involved on the ground in the Ukraine. What are we saying publicly? From a Feb 28th White House Press Conference, quoting President Obama:
“It would represent a profound interference in matters that must be determined by the Ukrainian people.”
Sound familiar? Publicly its all about self-determination while behind the scenes the US government (I specifically avoided using “we”) is doing all it can to make sure those doing the determining come to the “right” conclusion. As it was in Cuba, so it is in the Ukraine.
The fallout from the bay of pigs lead to the Cuban Missile crisis, the closes that we have ever come to a modern extinction level event, and the assassination of JFK (I’m not saying who I think did it, but I think its pretty plain that whoever actually set things up in Dallas was mad about what happened in Cuba). I fear the consequences this time may be worse. Mr. Cohen might agree with me:
And the longer-term outcome may be—and I want to emphasize this, because nobody in the United States seems to want to pay attention to it—the outcome may be the construction, the emergence of a new Cold War divide between West and East, not this time, as it was for our generation, in faraway Berlin, but right on the borders of Russia, right through the heart of Slavic civilization. And if that happens, if that’s the new Cold War divide, it’s permanent instability and permanent potential for real war for decades to come. That’s what’s at stake.