By James O’Neill
There is no clearer example of the sorry state to which Australian mainstream media has descended than the column by the Sydney Morning Herald’s political editor Peter Hartcher, published on 9 February 2016.
In the course of discussing what Hartcher calls North Korea’s “ballistic missile” test last weekend, Hartcher sought to draw a parallel between South Korea’s reaction to the test and Russia’s reaction to the 2007 US statement that it would deploy a “missile defence” system in Poland and the Czech Republic.
Let’s leave to one side the absurdly strained metaphor. Hartcher says that the US decision created a “fundamental rupture with Russia.” Really? What was Russia supposed to do? The USD had already broken a fundamental promise made to Gorbachev at the time the Soviet Union was disintegrating that NATO would not advance “one inch” to the East.
That promise was soon broken and all the countries bordering Russia in Eastern Europe progressively became members of NATO. What was the official reason for that missile defence system? We were told it was to protect the US against Iranian nuclear missiles.
Reporters who repeated this nonsense without question had clearly never consulted a map. Much less had they consulted the reports of all 16 US intelligence agencies that had unanimously concluded, twice, that Iran did not have a nuclear weapons program.
Hartcher then goes on to chronicle Russia’s alleged response to this latest piece of US provocation.
“Russia’s Vladimir Putin threatened a nuclear strike on Poland. He suspended all co-operation with the US alliance bloc in Europe, NATO. And he set in train the events that culminated in the annexation of Crimea, the invasion of Ukraine and the shooting down of MH17 by Russian-backed Ukrainian rebels.”
That’s quite a reaction. There is just one little problem. Not a word of it is true.
Russia did not threaten Poland with a nuclear strike. What the Russians have repeatedly said is that any country that has nuclear weaponry based on its soil, especially when they are US missiles pointed at Russia, automatically becomes a target in the event of war.
That is hardly remarkable. Russia would be derelict in its duty to its citizens to do otherwise. It is no different from US policy (or British, French and Chinese) to program missiles to target those who might pose a serious threat. In the US case, as the Pentagon has recently revealed, that means a very large number of countries, including those officially listed as “friends and allies.” That does not rate a mention with Hartcher.
Secondly, the annexation of Crimea? Did Hartcher skip the history lessons at school? Has he not heard of the Crimean War fought between Britain and Russia? The one that among other things gave fame to the Light Brigade and Florence Nightingale.
Does he not know that Khrushchev “gifted” Crimea to Ukraine in 1954 without consulting anyone, much less the Crimeans who had been part of Russia for centuries?
Does Hartcher not know that after the American organized coup d’état that overthrew the legitimate Ukrainian government, the Crimeans held a referendum in which they voted overwhelmingly to secede from Ukraine? Does he not know that the UN Charter specifically provides for such a situation? It is called the right to self-determination.
Does Hartcher not recall that his own newspaper supported Kosovo’s right to secede from Serbia, and the American bombing used to discourage the Serbs from reacting to that?
Thirdly, Hartcher refers to the invasion of Ukraine. What invasion? By whom? When? Hartcher obviously has sources denied to the rest of us. Ordinary mortals may hunt high and low for evidence of such an “invasion” before being driven to the inevitable conclusion that it is also a figment of an imagination either overworked, or one hopelessly battered by the propaganda of CNN, Fox News and their ilk.
Fourthly, Russian-backed “rebels” shot down MH17. Mr Hartcher obviously read a different edition of the Report of the Dutch Safety Board than myself. That Report, published in October 2015, did not attribute blame to anyone. That may or may not emerge from the ongoing criminal investigation.
In fact, Appendix T of the Report specifically pointed out that there was no evidence the “rebels” had BUK missiles, much less a capacity or desire to fire them at civilian airliners.
If Hartcher and his newspaper had not long since lost the capacity for “independence” that its masthead proudly proclaims, he would know that the overwhelming weight of evidence points to Ukrainian forces being responsible.
Unfortunately, one has to assume that a newspaper that will not inform its readers about secret agreements to give the parties to the investigation (including Ukraine) the right to suppress inconvenient findings of fact is not going to be too bothered continuing its long time role as the mouthpiece of ignorant Russia haters.
Small wonder that readership of this propaganda drivel is shrinking rapidly. People who want to know what is going on no longer rely on columnists such as Hartcher. His latest column provides stunning confirmation of the reasons why.
—James O’Neill is a Barrister at Law. He may be contacted at email@example.com