Ukraine and the U.S. media scam

How has American media covered the conflict in Ukraine?

Abdallah Schleifer
Abdallah Schleifer
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By the time you read this column it is just possible that representatives of the Ukrainian government and the Donbass (eastern Ukraine) Rebels will be working out the finer details of a real ceasefire to the Ukrainian conflict. That ceasefire just might emerge from the meeting scheduled for Friday in Minsk, capital of Belarus by the Contact Group which also includes envoys from Moscow and from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. Also, it just may happen in part because the Obama administration – which seemed to have instigated the entire crisis back in November 2013 - is not present.

With rare exceptions, American media has bought into the narrative that Washington has been putting out for nearly a year as a cover for American financial and political support for the eventual coup d’etat that overthrew the freely elected President of Ukraine Viktor Yanukovych this past February. A coup by a violent street mob, that would bring ultra-nationalist and neo-Nazi elements into the transitional government that replaced Yanukovych, was rooted in a western Ukrainian hatred of the Russian language used by a major segment of Ukrainian society. It was also rooted in hatred of the Russian Orthodox faith, with its origins in the visionary experience of St. Vladamir in Russian Crimea centuries ago, and the Russo-Ukrainian civilization that had evolved over centuries.

One of those rare exceptions to the prevailing American media narrative is the view of Yale scholar Immanuel Wallerstein. It is significant that his fascinating analysis, published on September l in Agence Global, of Merkel and Putin’s edgy but positive diplomatic engagement over the past few months would morph over the past few days into the possibility of a serious ceasefire agreement. The brunt of confronting mainstream American media’s massive embrace of Obama’s dangerous but successful mission to start a new Cold War has been borne by The Nation, to the Left of American mainstream media, and also by the Right’s The American Conservative. Both Katrina vanden Heuvel, The Nation’s editor and publisher, and Stephen F. Cohen, a leading scholar of modern Russian history and professor emeritus of both New York University and Princeton University, have convincingly contested that narrative in a series of articles since this crisis began in the Fall of 2013. Most recently in their July 30 article, first appearing in The Nation (and then distributed by Agence Global), they quite reasonably pondered “Why is Washington Risking War with Russia?

Vanden Heuvel and Cohen ask, in that article: “Has there been any other occasion in the modern history of American democracy when such a dire possibility loomed without any public protest at high levels or debate in the establishment media?”

As for The American Conservative (TAC) – it should not be confused with the arch-enemy, Neo-Conservatives. The Neo-Cons have returned with a vengeance after a brief political exile to promote the American diplomatic and cloaked military offensive against Russia, via the war party within the Kiev government. When the Washington Post – almost the peer of the New York Times within mainstream American media - recently called for the U.S. and any other willing NATO members to provide Kiev with arms, The American Conservative responded with the article “Don’t arm Ukraine.”

With rare exceptions, American media has bought into the narrative that Washington has been putting out for nearly a year as a cover for American financial and political support for the eventual coup d’etat that overthrew the freely elected President of Ukraine Viktor Yanukovych

Abdallah Schleifer

Let us just contrast the coverage of the crisis on Sept. 3, 2014 in the New York Times with Fox News. My mention of Fox News could be mind boggling since the New York Times is, in my view, the best or at least the most comprehensive paper in mainstream American media, and Fox News could be the most crudely partisan right-wing news service and 24/7 TV channel in America.

The New York Times piece which headlines “Putin Outlines 7-Point Plan for Ukraine Cease-Fire” is a major bit of breaking news which logically should have come from the newspaper’s well-staffed Moscow bureau. Instead, it is datelined Kiev! The two correspondents who authored the report continue to refer to the Donbass Rebels as “Separatists” even though two days earlier, The Christian Science Monitor (which historically has been just about the best daily newspaper in America) correspondent Fred Weir, reporting from Moscow, correctly describes the “East Ukraine’s Russian-backed rebels” as having dropped their demand for separation from Ukraine, declaring they were ready now to remain within Ukraine as long as a political settlement “would grant sweeping autonomy to their war-torn regions of Donestsk and Luhansk.”


What is shocking about that Rebel demand? What they want is what we in America, and the Federal Republic of Germany have – a federal government. In America, we were at the beginning a confederation and then a federation of 13 individual states. So to with modern–day Russia, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. But media made a big thing out of Putin’s allusion to the need for a state as if Putin was pushing not for federation but for an independent state.

The same New York Times story quoted President Obama reacting by invoking what has become a marker of U.S. media reporting – the implication that it was the Rebels who had undermined previous offers of a ceasefire by Kiev, ignoring - as has been the case for months -that the Kiev ceasefires always had a condition that the Donbass Rebels must lay down their arms.

But Fox News got the full impact of the story in its headline – “Putin calls on rebels to stop advancing as Ukraine, Russia in agreement on steps for ceasefire.” That was big news. And Fox was alluding by “Ukraine” to President Petro Poroshenko who acknowledged having a positive conversation about a ceasefire by phone with Putin. But the New York Times correspondents found the Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseny Yatsenyuk’s fierce rejection of the Putin plan more significant. Yatsenyuk, who leads the war party in Kiev, was one of the favorites in a leaked telephone conversation between a U.S. Deputy Secretary of State and the U.S. Ambassador in Kiev discussing which Ukrainian politicians should be part of any new government with the American-funded mob in Kiev about to overthrow President Pro Yanukovych.

Although Fox News has a reputation for knee-jerk, anti-Obama partisanship, probably the very fact that Fox is not part of the “Obama Defensive Media Line” allowed it to look for news value rather than for vindication of the White House’s provocative policy pertaining to Ukraine. Both Obama and the head of NATO said all that could be said in verbal assaults against Putin the following day - a rage no doubt fueled by the stunning, significantly Russian-backed, Rebel counter-offensive this past week. The offensive inflicted heavy losses upon the Ukrainian Army as it turned the tide of battle in eastern and south eastern Ukraine. Are Russian armored units responsible for this reverse of fortune? No doubt, but who acknowledges sensitive military interventions – certainly not the Obama administration which has been embedding U.S. army officers into the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense for months as well as funding the Ukrainian Army’s assault upon Donbas; an offensive now on the verge of collapse.


Abdallah Schleifer is a veteran American journalist covering the Middle East and professor emeritus at the American University in Cairo where he founded as served as first director of the Kamal Adham Center for TV and Digital Journalism. He is chief editor of the annual publication The Muslim 500; a senior fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute (USA) and at the Royal Aal al Bayt Academy for Islamic Thought (Jordan.) Schleifer has served as Al Arabiya Washington D.C. bureau chief; NBC News Cairo bureau chief; Middle East correspondent for Jeune Afrique; as special correspondent (stringer) , New York Times and managing editor of the Jerusalem Star/Palestine News in then Jordanian Arab Jerusalem.

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.
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