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Integral World: Exploring Theories of Everything
An independent forum for a critical discussion of the integral philosophy of Ken Wilber
Ray Harris is a frequent contributor to this website. He has written articles on 9/11, boomeritis, the Iraq war and Third Way politics. Since 2007 he took to writing his novels Navaratri, Wild Child and Eden. Harris lives in Ballarat, Victoria, Australia.
A Case of Gaslighting
A Response to Dillard
Consult any of the world democracy rankings and Russia scores poorly, worse than deeply flawed Ukraine.
After reading Dillard's response I wondered if I should even bother answering. He has done such a good job of making a fool of himself that there seemed nothing I could add. I mean, who starts an article with a quote from a movie character? You see, rather than address the substance of my critique, Dillard simply chose to double down with his lies.
I'll keep it simple.
1. Russian democracy
According to Dillard:
“ While Russia indeed has a history of authoritarianism, it is a democracy and has been one for some thirty-three years now. How long does it have to hold open and free elections…”
How can he say this with a straight face? No one would agree. Consult any of the world democracy rankings and Russia scores poorly, worse than deeply flawed Ukraine.
Whilst the 1991 constitution of the new Russian Federation did indeed institute democracy, that democracy has been steadily eroded as to be almost meaningless. Putin has been in power for 23 years. To avoid the two-term limit, he served a term as Prime Minister, swapping positions with loyalist Dmitry Medvedev. He returned as president in 2012. During Medvedev's administration the constitution was changed to allow two consecutive terms of six years.
Russia's low score is due to the suppression of any effective opposition, either from a free press or a rival political party. Rather than rig election results, Putin simply intimidates his opponents, resorting to assassination if he needs to. The treatment of Alexei Navalny is a perfect case in point. He was initially indicted on fabricated charges of corruption and then when he failed to keep quiet he was poisoned. No doubt Dillard will deny this, but Navalny was able to obtain a confession from one of the FSB assassins, Konstantin Kudryavtsev. The FSB unit was implicated in the deaths of activists Timur Kuashev in 2014 and Ruslan Magomedragimov in 2015, and politician Nikita Isayev in 2019. In February, another joint investigation found that Russian opposition politician Vladimir Kara-Murza was followed by the same unit before his suspected poisonings. (1)
Russia's low score is due to the suppression of any effective opposition, either from a free press or a rival political party. Rather than rig election results, Putin simply intimidates his opponents, resorting to assassination if he needs to.
Perhaps of greater significance is the assassination, in Moscow, of Boris Nemtsov. Four bullets in the back. Nemtsov was an outspoken critic of Putin's presidency and opposed to Russian intervention in Ukraine. Elsewhere in his reply Dillard mentions the growing anti-war movement in Europe. One would expect that such a movement would seek solidarity with their Russian counterparts. Because we know what happened to the nascent anti-war movement in Putin's democratic Russia.
2. Fascist, Apartheid Ukraine
“Russia is clearly and obviously fighting fascism and apartheid in Ukraine… By fighting apartheid and fascism, Russia is also defending the interests of Westerners, as no one wants to live under a fascist government or be the object of apartheid discrimination and oppression.”
This truly is delusional. Not just fascism, but now apartheid? You only find the ridiculous accusation of apartheid in the very darkest recesses of the disinfo-net. It's not a reference to Russians being forbidden from marrying Ukrainians or being forcibly segregated with queues only for Ukrainians. Nothing at all like that. It refers to the alleged suppression of the Russian language. I explained the language laws at some length in my original essay. Dillard seems not to have understood that they are no different to the language laws passed by the Russian Duma.
What I didn't mention is that the Ukrainian culture and language has historically been suppressed by Russian domination and that these laws were designed to strengthen the Ukrainian language. The reality is that the Russian language is alive and well, with many Ukrainians speaking both. The claims of apartheid are hysterical nonsense.
3. The Nazi slander, again
“The leaders and troops of Russia and other European countries don't wear Nazi insignia and turn Third Reich collaborators into national heroes.”
Oh yes, they do. Dillard just hasn't been paying enough attention. Let's begin with the famed Wagner Group (2), the private militia lead by Chechen veteran, Dmitriy Utkin. Utkin used the call sign Wagner as an intentional reference to Hitler's favourite composer. According to The Economist, Utkin sports a number of Nazi tattoos (3). This is hardly surprising, mercenaries of all stripes are known to glorify far-right symbols. The connection goes even deeper with the Wagner Group's Rusich unit (4), founded by known Saint Petersburg neo-Nazi, Alexey Milchakov. The biography of Milchakov is alarming; in 2011 he filmed himself torturing and decapitating a puppy. Other documented posts indicate he is a sadistic psychopath. The patch of the Rusich unit contains a well known, Slavic neo-pagan symbol called the Kolovrat Swastika.
One of the insignia of the Wagner Group includes the Totenkopf, or skull symbol linked to the Nazi SS.
In his book Putin's Fascists: Russkii Obraz and the Politics of Managed Nationalism in Russia (5), Australian academic Robert Horvath has done an extensive study of the far right in Russia, including Putin's policy of 'managed nationalism' in which skinheads and soccer hooligans were organised to fight opposition groups.
“What has received less coverage is the Putin regime's own record of collaboration with far-right extremists. Even as Russian diplomats condemned “fascists” in the Baltic states and Kremlin propagandists railed against imaginary “Ukronazis” in power in Kyiv, the Russian state was cultivating its own homegrown Nazis.” (6)
Russia has certainly had no hesitation in using Russian speaking Ukrainian neo-Nazis as part of their separatist army in the Donbas. According to Nikolay Mitrokhin, who I quoted extensively in my original article (and whom Dillard seems not to have read):
“Russia armed and deployed across the border the so-called “Crimea unit,” led by Igor Girkin (alias Strelkov), a retired FSB lieutenant colonel and a specialist on “Chechen” matters before his foray into “Ukrainian” ones. The Crimea unit mostly consisted of veterans of the GRU special forces and other Russian army special combat units trained in sabotage—read terrorist—activities. Girkin was no ordinary FSB officer. He was closely connected to the militant terrorist underground of armed Russian nationalists (including, indirectly, with the neo-Nazi terrorist group BORN) and to the so-called “black diggers” of the illegal arms market, so much so that he moderated an online forum dedicated to these topics.” (7)
Hook from the Right is a Russian ultra-nationalist rock group. This video clip perfectly expresses the rage at the loss of Russia's former empire. It speaks of humiliation and revenge. Yes, Ukraine has an issues with ultra-nationalism, but Russia has a far worse problem, one Dillard is completely blind to.
4. The Coup That Wasn't
Here Dillard is caught out spreading outright lies.
“George Friedman, head of Stratfor, closely aligned with US intelligence, has called the US led coup in Ukraine “the most blatant coup in history.”
The source for this choice bit of propaganda is none other than Global Research, which I revealed as a source of Russian propaganda. Friedman explains:
“Reality is tenuous on the internet… particularly on Twitter. Managing the internet effectively has the potential to alter perceptions. All countries and corporations use the internet this way, but the Russians are masters of the craft. I was a minor player in one such event last year. On a visit to Russia, I told the business journal Kommersant that if the US were behind a coup in Kiev, it would have been the most blatant coup in history, as the US government openly supported the uprising and had provided some funding for the demonstrating groups. In other words, it was no coup. The Russian news service Sputnik published what I said, cutting out a few odds and ends, and quoted me as saying that Ukraine “was the most blatant coup in history.” The neat part is that they didn't make it up. I did say it. They just left out the words before and after the statement.” (8)
It is typical of Dillard's intellectual dishonesty—or gullibility—that he repeats the propaganda.
5. Not One Inch
This proves Dillard doesn't actually understand his sources.
“NATO didn't lie to Russia about expanding eastward. Wrong. There is a vast amount of historical documentation from major players that the West lied and deceived Russia regarding the well-documented commitments made by the US and NATO to Gorbachev and Russia not to include any Warsaw Pact countries in NATO in exchange for Russia allowing the reunification of Germany within NATO.”
Yes, there is indeed a vast amount of historical documentation and at last Dillard cites a credible source (rather than his usual pro-Russian sources). In his notes he quotes substantial slabs from an article written by Svetlana Savranskaya and Tom Blanton published by the National Security Archive (Savranskaya was the researcher, Blanton is the director of the NSA). Had Dillard done some actual research he would know that Savranskaya co-wrote another article for the NSA, this time with Mary Sarotte (who I referenced in my previous article), 'The Clinton-Yeltsin Relationship in Their Own Words' (9). Sarotte is responsible for uncovering a good part of this historical documentation from American and European archives and Savranskaya from the Russian archives. They are collaborators.
What Dillard fails to do—because it contradicts his interpretation—is report what both Savranskaya and Sarotte say in their lectures on the subject. The short answer is that whilst there were discussions about limiting the scope of NATO, there was never an absolute promise. Any assurances were contingent on both the former WP states and Russia's actions. The game changed when the former WP states expressed a strong desire to join NATO, and Russia, under Yeltsin, failed to live up to its side of the bargain.
Here is a video of Savranskaya explaining this process. At 32:00 into the video she explains how the precarious political situation inside Russia spooked the former WP nations.
6. Proxy war
“Russia is fighting a proxy war with NATO, including the US, the EU, and various other US allies, such as Australia, South Korea, and Japan. That proxy war was provoked by the West.”
Yes, Russia is indeed fighting a proxy war with NATO. And as I have argued, it was not provoked by the West. Dillard forgets that Russia invaded Crimea, sponsored an insurgency in the Donbas and then invaded Ukraine proper. The invasion is an expression of the rage and humiliation felt by the Muscovy Rus at the decline of their empire.
7. Minsk, again
“NATO countries refused to abide by international law in the form of Minsk II.”
NATO is NOT a signatory to Minsk II. It is an agreement between the separatist leaders of the DPR and LPR, Ukraine, Russia and the OSCE (as a neutral observer). This indicates Dillard's confusion about the agreements. It is also clear he did not bother to read the reports cited in my initial response pointing out that Minsk II does not conform to international law.
“…but we all know what the reaction of the US was to Russian military presence in Cuba and we know what it would be if Russia or China formed a military alliance with say, Mexico. Why the double standard? What is so difficult about understanding that Russia takes similar offense?”
Another ignorant assertion. Russia has had a long standing economic and military alliance with Cuba. The Cuban missile crisis was the result of Russia building a nuclear missile facility in Cuba. There is no double standard because NATO is not building similar missile facilities in Ukraine. In fact, Ukraine got rid of its Soviet era missiles. For there to be any true equivalence Ukraine would have to sign up to both NATO and the EU and Russia would have to place economic sanctions on Ukraine as punishment, just as the US does with Cuba. Ukraine would then be forced to trade with the EU—which is exactly what it wants.
9. The Casualties of War
“Harris wants to dismiss these deaths of women and children by Ukraine as Russian propaganda. To do so requires the dismissal and ignoring of a massive amount of on-site data: funerals of children, bombed out schools and hospitals, the maimed lying in hospitals.”
No, I don't. Civilians always suffer in war and I have no doubt whatsoever that Ukrainian civilians have died as the result of Ukrainian fire. I also fully expect that Ukrainian soldiers have committed war crimes against Russian soldiers. It happens in all wars, on BOTH sides. What Dillard cannot hide is the fact that Russia started the war and therefore bears the overwhelming majority of the responsibility for civilian deaths. They have been especially cruel in their prosecution of the war.
10. Russian colonialism
“Russia's colonial/imperial incorporation of Siberia is comparable to 500 years of Western colonialism and imperialism. Not by a long shot. Portraying equivalence is simply a transparent ruse that is meant to deflect from the vast difference in empire building between the US (and the West in general) and that of Russia. To take only one example, the brutal exploitation by Australia of its aboriginal peoples, driving them to the brink of extinction, makes Russian Siberian colonialism pale in significance.”
Again, preposterous nonsense. Dillard falls back into the false dichotomy of the 'West' versus Russia. As I have argued, Russia was and is a part of Europe and Russian colonialism was a part of the 500 years of Western colonialism.
As for the treatment of Aborigines—this is a subject I am very familiar with, and yes it was genocide. But here's the thing. The colonisation of Siberia, far from paling in significance, was every bit as brutal. Australian Aborigines lived in small groups, so the majority of massacres figure in the 5-20 range, only the largest massacres number in the range of 100-200 (Queensland was especially brutal). In contrast the upper limit estimate of the massacre of the Koniak at the hands of Russians reaches 1,000 people. The numbers of deaths in such incidents is always a crude estimate. In both cases few records were kept of deaths. It is known however, that after contact with Cossacks, the Daur tribe in Kamchatka was reduced from 20,000 to 8,000.
“After the Russian defeat in 1729 at Chukchi hands, the Russian commander Major Pavlutskiy was responsible for the Russian war against the Chukchi and the mass slaughters and enslavement of Chukchi women and children in 1730-1731, but this cruelty only made the Chukchis fight more fiercely. Cleansing of the Chukchis and Koryaks was ordered by Empress Elizabeth in 1742 to totally expel them from their native lands and erase their culture through war. The command was that the natives be "totally extirpated" with Pavlutskiy leading again in this war from 1744-1747 in which he led to the Cossacks "with the help of Almighty God and to the good fortune of Her Imperial Highness", to slaughter the Chukchi men and enslave their women and children as booty.” (10)
Dillard is simply in denial of the extent of the colonial violence at the hands of the Russians.
I don't expect to respond to Dillard after this. His response was incoherent and profoundly hypocritical. Perhaps the best summation comes ironically from Dillard himself.
“We all have faults, myself and Russia included. The place to begin is by recognizing and owning them. Until and unless we do so, on what grounds should we expect others to respect us and take our opinions seriously, regardless of how well they are documented?”
Amen to that.
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