By: Cliff Kincaid
Accuracy in Media
A Special Report from the AIM Center for Investigative Journalism
Pravda, the Russian political newspaper, ran a story with the headline, “The leader of the free world: Obama or Putin?” Patrick J. Buchanan, a veteran conservative commentator who once worked for President Ronald Reagan, has made his choice.
In fact, he argues in his latest column that Putin’s military invasion of Ukraine is comparable to Sam Houston’s “Remember the Alamo” stand for Texas independence. He says, “Compare how Putin brought about the secession and annexation of Crimea, without bloodshed but with popular approval, with how Sam Houston and friends brought about the secession of Texas from Mexico, and its annexation by the United States in 1845.”
Buchanan wants people to believe the founding of Texas and the separation from Mexico is somehow akin to Putin’s brazen attempt to reconstitute the Soviet empire by seizing Crimea. But it seems mighty strange that Buchanan, a critic of illegal immigration from Mexico, would now accuse Americans of using Putin-style tactics to keep Texas free of Mexican control.
Crimea was an assault, using masked men without Russian military insignia, in order to lay the groundwork for a quickie election whose result was guaranteed in advance. This hardly constitutes “popular approval.”
NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander in Europe, General Philip M. Breedlove, writes in his article, “The Importance of Identity,” that “Many media outlets have reported claims that these troops are ‘local militias’ who are wearing Russian-style fatigues because such attire is available in army shops across the former Soviet Union. Other outlets are repeating an assertion that armed men deployed to Ukraine’s Crimea region are simply ‘self-defense forces.’” The general proceeds to debunk these reports, noting evidence that the Russian military forces are “acting on clear orders to undermine Ukraine forces in Crimea.”
In another article, “Who Are the Men Behind the Masks?,” he writes that “It’s hard to fathom that groups of armed men in masks suddenly sprang forward from the population in eastern Ukraine and systematically began to occupy government facilities. It’s hard to fathom because it’s simply not true. What is happening in eastern Ukraine is a military operation that is well planned and organized and we assess that it is being carried out at the direction of Russia.”
Buchanan fought with Reagan in the 1980s to expose Soviet disinformation and propaganda. Now he accepts Russian disinformation and propaganda.
How on earth can Putin’s illegal power grab in Ukraine, rubber-stamped by a Putin-controlled Russian legislature, compare with a deliberate process that involved a popular vote for a state constitution for Texas, accepted and ratified by the United States Congress?
Lies and More Lies
On top of the false analogies, Buchanan conveniently ignores the 1994 Budapest memorandum, signed by the Russian government, which guaranteed Ukraine’s territorial integrity, in exchange for giving its Soviet nuclear weapons back to Moscow.
Buchanan, in the same column, mocks the work of the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), a federally-funded group that tries to promote democracy abroad. But there can be no doubt that people around the world, including in Ukraine and Venezuela, can use all the help they can get from the U.S. in organizing against Marxist and authoritarian regimes. The NED basically funds civil society groups and independent media organizations.
Buchanan begins by quoting his former boss President Ronald Reagan’s comments on the Soviet “Evil Empire,” and then spends the rest of his column conspicuously failing to explain how Putin, who worked for that empire, has given up his communist ways.
This bizarre column follows another, in which the veteran conservative commentator insisted that God is on Putin’s side in the global struggle.
It is difficult to understand how Buchanan has come to embrace Putin, except as a reaction to his own loss of faith in the United States. It seems that, for Buchanan, America has become the new “Evil Empire,” something the far-left has been arguing for years, and that Putin is the savior of Christian civilization.
The biggest false assumption in this rationale is that Putin’s recent conservative rhetoric on family values is legitimate, and not propaganda and disinformation.
Yet, as analyst J.R. Nyquist points out, Putin was asked about this topic by Larry King on CNN in 2000. At the time, the Russian president rejected traditional religious belief, except to say he did have a cross and had worn it. King asked, “Do you believe there is a higher power?” Putin replied (through a translator): “I believe in human beings. I believe in his good intentions. I believe in the fact that all of us have come to this world to do good. And if we do so, and if we do so together, then success is awaiting for us. And both with regards to our relations as people to people, or inter-state relations. And most important, we will achieve the ultimate goal, comfort in our own heart.”
So Putin believes in man, rather than God. This doesn’t even qualify as Russian Orthodox Christianity, long dominated by the KGB/FSB in Russia and now advertised as the state church in Russia.
For Putin, going to church and wearing crosses—even his visit to the Vatican—is part of a show. It is sad to see Pope Francis apparently falling for it, too.
As part of the ongoing propaganda show, it has been reported by Pravda that members of Putin’s United Russia party are proposing to put former Soviet dictator Mikhail Gorbachev on trial for the collapse of the USSR. While this indicates the real intentions of Putin and his cohorts, in terms of rebuilding the old Soviet Union, the idea that the ideology of world communism ever died should be addressed.
It was Gorbachev, even while promoting the policy of “perestroika,” or the restructuring of the Soviet state, who declared, “We are moving toward a new world order, the world of communism. We shall never turn off that road.”
Robert Buchar, who wrote the book, And Reality Be Damned, and produced the documentary “The Collapse of Communism: The Untold Story,” says the Russians have had a long-term strategy of “Perestroika” deception—how to fool the West and end the Cold War under Moscow’s terms. “The West was unable to develop any counter-strategy because they refused to believe Moscow had this long-range strategy,” he says.
A political refugee from former Czechoslovakia, Buchar is not optimistic, telling this columnist, “Putin will get the Ukraine back and the West is not going to stop it.”
If this does indeed happen, it will be because Americans conservatives and libertarians like Pat Buchanan and Ron Paul, and others like them in the World Congress of Families, fall in line behind Putin.
Buchanan goes beyond the Marxist materialism and New Age humanist rhetoric of the former KGB spy on the Larry King show to actually endorse Putin’s military aggression against his neighbors.
Buchanan compares “the Russians who are taking over city centers” in eastern Ukraine, on orders from Moscow, to the Maidan Square demonstrators in Kiev, who forced a Kremlin puppet to flee, and the dozens of spontaneous demonstrations around Ukraine, which knocked down dozens of Lenin statues.
This false equivalence betrays the Reagan legacy, which always recognized the need for justice for Ukraine and other former Soviet republics, but also for those suffering under the communist/KGB comrades in Russia as well.
The Reagan Record
Buchanan, who now argues for less, not more, U.S. military engagement around the world, listed in another column, “What would Reagan do?,” several examples of Reagan intervening against dictators and despots.
For example, he discussed U.S. military involvement in the Middle East, noting, “When Gadhafi blew up a Berlin discotheque full of U.S. soldiers in retaliation for the Sixth Fleet’s downing of two Libyan warplanes, Reagan sent F-111s in a reprisal raid that almost killed Gadhafi.”
But then he adds, “On the last day of his presidency, he told aides the worst mistake he made was putting U.S. Marines into Lebanon, where 241 Americans perished in the terror bombing of the Beirut barracks.”
But Reagan made an even bigger mistake by not retaliating against the perpetrators of that bombing—the Iranians and their agents.
Buchanan doesn’t mention the Iranian connection, probably because he now opposes any kind of U.S. military action against the regime over its current nuclear weapons program. Buchanan claims, “The Ayatollah has declared a fatwa against nuclear weapons,” a statement repeated by President Obama that has no basis in fact, and which is in all likelihood a form of disinformation, taught to the Iranians by their Russian patrons.
Admiral James “Ace” Lyons was Deputy Chief of Naval Operations at the time of the Beirut bombing and says the Iranian connection was established by none other than the National Security Agency (NSA). The U.S. was prepared, he said, to take out the Iranian agents in a group known as the Islamic Amal, the forerunner to Hezbollah, but Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger vetoed the mission. “We never got the orders to strike,” Lyons said. “And of course, what was the message? The message became Osama bin Laden’s rallying cry: ‘The Americans can’t suffer casualties. They will cut and run.’”
So this was one of Reagan’s failures and missed opportunities, which Lyons notes could have changed the course of history.
Attempting a rewrite of the Reagan years, Buchanan argued in his column that Reagan “never threatened military intervention in Eastern Europe, as some bellicose Republicans do today.” In fact, Reagan did more than that, threatening to deploy nuclear weapons against the Soviets in Europe. That was a major battle of the 1980s.
Buchanan later admits this, writing, “When the Soviets deployed triple-warhead intermediate-range missiles in Eastern Europe, the SS-20, Reagan countered with nuclear-armed Pershing II and cruise missiles in Western Europe. Only when Gorbachev agreed to take down all the SS-20s, did Reagan agree to bring the Pershings and cruise missiles home.”
So Reagan was indeed “bellicose,” after all. And he won.
The Reagan Doctrine
Buchanan also notes that Reagan “provided weapons to anti-Communist guerrillas and freedom fighters in Afghanistan, Angola and Nicaragua to bleed and break the Soviet Empire at its periphery and make them pay the same price we paid in Vietnam.”
Buchanan’s critical error is thinking that the “Reagan Doctrine” policy of supporting anti-communist freedom fighters could be separated from his challenge of Soviet military power in Europe, where direct military assistance to anti-communist resistance movements was not practical at that time. What was needed in Europe, and which Reagan provided, was the political will to challenge the Soviet Union.
Buchanan has lost the will to resist. Reagan lost it only once, in response to the Beirut bombing, and we have been paying the price.
Reagan’s support for freedom fighters in Latin America and Africa, and his challenge to Soviet military power in Europe, clearly means in the current context that he would not turn his back on anti-communist regimes once they had come to power, such as in Ukraine. Reagan would not have excused Putin’s power grab in Crimea.
“Reagan was an anti-Communist to his core, having fought them in the Screen Actors Guild in the 1940s,” Buchanan notes. That is why Reagan, after exposing and challenging the Evil Empire, would have been supporting the former communist regimes seeking, with American help, their freedom and independence from the Soviet Union/Russia. If the NED is not the proper vehicle for this assistance, then let’s use the CIA. But why turn our backs on the freedom-loving peoples of Eastern Europe and rationalize the aggression of their oppressors, still wielding power in Moscow?
This thinking is not the Pat Buchanan I admired during the 1980s, when he was Reagan’s communications director.
Who Are the Neocons?
“The Gipper was no neocon,” Buchanan writes, using a term of derision that some critics of U.S. foreign policy apply to those acting on behalf of the interests of other countries, most notably Israel, rather than the United States.
But Reagan was in fact a “neocon,” if the term simply means spreading U.S.-style democracy, in the sense that he used the full military force and power of the United States against the communist challenge.
That challenge still exists in the form of Vladimir Putin, who, as veteran journalist Bill Gertz has remarked, dropped the Marxist component of Marxism-Leninism, in order to attract Western capital, but still pursues the Leninist dream of a world dominated by the KGB.
Putin may not call himself a communist, and he may wear a Christian cross and even go to church. But that is clearly part of the deception that Reagan never would have fallen for and which Buchanan has tragically, in his later years, embraced.
If there is a critique to be made, it is that U.S. efforts to promote democracy in Latin America were largely abandoned during the George W. Bush years, in favor of a campaign after 9/11 to focus on transforming the Middle East. The result is that Iraq, after liberation by U.S. military forces, has become a client state of Iran, and Obama’s embrace of the Muslim Brotherhood threw a longtime U.S. ally, Egypt, into turmoil and even into the hands of Putin and Moscow.
Many of Reagan’s gains have been reversed. On April 18, Grenada’s Prime Minister Keith Mitchell “extolled his country’s historical collaboration links with Cuba during a reception on the occasion of the 35th anniversary of bilateral relations,” as noted by communist Cuba’s publication Prensa Latina.
It was a Cuban-backed cabal in Grenada which Reagan had ordered overthrown in 1983, using U.S. military forces.
The countries of Venezuela, Bolivia, Nicaragua, and Ecuador, in addition to Russia, were publicly thanked by NSA traitor Edward Snowden for offering him asylum, as he fled the U.S.
In El Salvador, which Reagan had supported against a growing communist insurgency, a communist named Salvador Sánchez Cerén has just won the presidential election.
With NSA help in monitoring communist communications, as noted by The Washington Post, Colombia largely defeated its terrorists, after 40 years of war. But its current president, Juan Manuel Santos, is negotiating “peace” with the remaining terrorists under the auspices of Cuba, in a deal that may give the far-left a road to political power through elections.
Former President Alvaro Uribe, author of No Lost Causes, has said negotiating with the terrorists is like negotiating with al-Qaeda.
The American Foreign Policy Council argues, “The decline of U.S. influence in Latin America has presented strategic opportunities for external actors, including China, Iran, and Russia. This foreign influence, in turn, has nurtured anti-American sentiment among the countries of the region, and exposed new threats to U.S. security, from proliferation to the spread of Islamic radicalism to political processes that can dramatically reshape allied governments.”
The Venezuelan regime alone has purchased $5 billion of weapons from Russia.
In Africa, the communists got the ultimate prize—South Africa—as Nelson Mandela consolidated power while deceiving the world about his secret membership in the Communist Party. Mandela’s successors have all been communists, with the latest, Jacob Zuma, having made a minerals deal with Vladimir Putin. Indeed, Russia and South Africa have become strategic partners in the BRICS group, referring to Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.
Like Germany, Brazil has been much in the news as a “target” of NSA surveillance. But there is just as good a reason to keep Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, a former communist terrorist, under surveillance, as there is Angela Merkel, who concealed her role growing up in East Germany as an ideologist for a communist youth group.
The Snowden Operation
Writing in the Los Angeles Review of Books from a left-wing perspective, Adam Morris notes that, while Brazil “has not formally offered asylum [to Snowden], senators from both the ruling party and the opposition have campaigned on his behalf. Nor has Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff ruled out granting asylum, cautiously observing that Snowden has not yet requested her country’s aid.” Brazil is where Snowden accomplice Glenn Greenwald is usually based.
Greenwald’s recent receipt of a Pulitzer Prize from Columbia University demonstrates how disinformation and propaganda against the NSA have now become worthy of the highest journalism awards in the nation. This unprecedented development dramatizes the inability of the U.S. media, even by some on the conservative side, to understand what is happening right in front of our eyes.
Greenwald asks, “Is Angela Merkel a terrorist?,” attempting to ridicule surveillance of the German leader. Of course, historically, the NSA has been used to monitor espionage against the United States, as revealed by the Venona counter-intelligence project cracking the codes between Moscow and its agents in the U.S. during and after World War II.
Unmasking foreign agents goes hand-in-hand with exposing the “active measures” operations that have been unleashed, and which may have even enlisted Pat Buchanan as a media conduit for Russian propaganda.
Ironically, however, Buchanan had seen through Snowden, while not seeing through Putin. Snowden “broke his contract, he violated his oath, he betrayed American secrets and I think he damaged the security of the United States,” Buchanan said during a TV appearance. “I think he ought to be prosecuted.” This was the anti-communist Pat Buchanan talking. He went on to refer to the employees of the NSA as mostly patriots.
But once Putin gave Snowden asylum, Buchanan decided it really wasn’t worth a new Cold War and that the NSA was a sinister agency. Now, Buchanan proclaimed, Snowden’s computers “were full of secrets that our National Security Agency has been thieving from every country on earth, including Russia.”
It would seem that telling Putin how the NSA has been eavesdropping on Russian communications was not so heinous after all. Instead, sounding like the left-wing supporters of Snowden, Buchanan was prepared to make the NSA out to be the villain.
The about-face was another indication that Buchanan has become a slavish devotee of all things Putin. For Buchanan, Putin is the new Reagan.
Cliff Kincaid is the Director of the AIM Center for Investigative Journalism and can be contacted at [email protected]. View the complete archives from Cliff Kincaid.