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US Intel Confirms: The US Has Boots on the Ground in Ukraine
Yesterday's admission that highly-trained US soldiers have been deployed against Russia since February raises questions about the whole war.
Since I started writing to you, I’ve always maintained this wasn’t just a war just between Russia and Ukraine, but also a proxy war, waged on one side by the United States, first in secret, and now increasingly in public.
Yesterday, deep in an article on the CIA’s seeming miscalculations in Ukraine, journalists at The Intercept revealed that, since at least March, US special forces and intelligence agents have been conducting missions in-country:
“Yet clandestine American operations inside Ukraine are now far more extensive than they were early in the war, when U.S. intelligence officials were fearful that Russia would steamroll over the Ukrainian army. There is a much larger presence of both CIA and U.S. special operations personnel and resources in Ukraine than there were at the time of the Russian invasion in February, several current and former intelligence officials told The Intercept.”
-James Risen & Ken Klippenstein for The Intercept
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What does that mean?
This story is important because it’s the first time — as far as I know — anyone with mainstream journalistic credibility has admitted that the US military has been deployed in this war since before the Russian invasion.
In February the US Ambassador to the United Nations said the Biden administration had “made clear” that the US would not “put boots on the ground” in the country. It now seems as though at the time of that statement, US special operations forces were already there.
These revelations validate arguments that US anti-war activists as well as the Russian government has been making for months, ones dismissed as “paranoia” in more mainstream circles, that the US was making secret and provocative preparations for a larger campaign against Russia.
This story also undermines the credibility of those who argued that the US government was somehow forced by the specter of Russian imperialist aggression to to arm Ukraine. In fact, the US military and its allies were already in Ukraine, some nations like Italy training soldiers as early as 2014, in a country directly next to the Russian border.
Remind me, if not anti-imperialism, why is the US in Ukraine again?
The United States government has boots on the ground in Ukraine to serve its own interests in the region, and we don’t have to guess what those reasons are.
The US Economy Runs on War
First in secret, and now increasingly in public, the Biden administration has sent $49 billion dollars in mostly US-manufactured arms to Ukraine, Stephen Semler at Speaking Security reports.
I can’t emphasize how many weapons we’re sending there, and how much money it’s made for American weapons companies. I couldn’t wrap my head around it at first. If this keeps up, the US is set to break the record for most annual arms sales to any country in American history. You thought a $1,400 stimulus check felt good?
The US Empire Relies on Preponderant (Total) Global Power
But it’s not just money. Defense contractors have informal relationships with a US government committed to total global influence. In April, the Washington Post reported that current US Secretary of Defense and former Raytheon board member Lloyd Austin admitted, at a press conference, that the goal of our involvement in Ukraine is to weaken the Russian Federation.
The goal of these secret troops and this public arms dealing is to return Russia to the dependent position it held during the Clinton years, after the implosion of the Soviet Union. Back then, Moscow needed to rely on its US-engineered austerity plan to make public Russian wealth into private global fortunes. Brought low by the collapse of its government, a collapse midwifed by US intelligence, Russia was no longer able to challenge the US’s global military, political, and economic empire.
While putting Russia in its place was one US goal, as the historian Vijay Prashad told us in an interview earlier this year, there are others too.
US Soft Power Needs a W Really Badly
This hard power mission is quickly becoming a strategy to help restore the US’s soft power — or global image and influence — after the international embarrassments of the Trump administration.
Those within our government’s permanent military and intelligence bureaucracy, including plenty within the former president’s own party, opposed Mr. Trump’s offers to partner with Russia. While for the most part we all came to see President Trump as a racist, a sexual predator, a xenophobe, and a con artist, America’s unaccountable, unelected foreign policy deciders thought Trump had bad qualities too.
Namely, his incompetence made him a threat to our permanent influence over the future of every country on earth, including Russia and China.
The US Empire Needs to Weaken Russia to Weaken China
Finally, it’s worth mentioning, after 20 years of pretty humiliating defeats by irregular militias in Iraq and Afghanistan, part of the Ukraine strategy was to keep the US’s other official enemy, China, on its toes too. Our willingness to arm Ukraine said a lot about our willingness to arm a place like Taiwan, whose government claims, in competition with the mainland’s Communist party, to be the sole legitimate leader of a unified Chinese state.
If our government behaved aggressively, to the point of irrationality in Ukraine, China would be — and is now — unsure of how our leaders will respond if China moves ahead with plans to re-unite mainland China and Taiwan. This re-unification goal is essential to the political project of the Communist Party of China, and of its president Xi Jinping, who see it as absolutely essential to building a China that’s powerful in its neighborhood, competitive in global trade, and out from underneath two centuries of British, American, and Japanese control. I’ll cover this in more detail when I can, but in part, our government’s going after Russia now to make it easier to combat China later.
What’s all this teach us about the moral righteousness of American interests?
For most of this year, people who held the position that America wanted the war in Ukraine to be “fought to the last Ukrainian” have been pretty widely dismissed in establishment media, in academia, and in government. Online they’ve been called victim-blamers, Putin apologists, pro-authoritarian tankies, or worse.
Now, no one forces me out of bed to write this newsletter, and some verbal abuse is just the price you pay to share ideas with the public. Furthermore, all of what a writer online goes through pales in comparison to the suffering of the Ukrainian people, who, no matter whether they side with Moscow or Kiev, speak Russian or Ukrainian, deserve a country that isn’t being used as a military staging ground. We must begin with the belief that global issues of power can be handled with diplomacy and détente, and mutual respect for the equality of nations, rather than arms deals, occupations, secret special operations warfare, and nuclear saber-rattling.
Even still, as easy as I have it, I used to be afraid to write about Ukraine, because my fellow citizens all seemed to agree our arms dealing was righteous, and I didn’t want to be seen as a bad person. I’m much less afraid now. That’s because, if you’re outside of the foreign policy blob paid to say the right stuff about these issues, the meaningful consequences of opposing it are much lower than you’d think.
I mean, I don’t work for a think tank or a congressman, so I can’t get chided or disinvited to the cocktail parties. I don’t live in Oxford anymore, and let me tell ya, the pregnant silences over dinner are much fewer and further between in Wayne, Michigan, where people are generally more open to a reasonable argument.
I’ve also been wrong a lot already, in life and in writing, and so I know fear of being ridiculed for positions outside the norm gets easier with time too.
I don’t blame people for responding to that pressure, or think I’m better than them for rebuffing it. I used to be against every official US enemy I saw on TV too. Anything I read about on Reddit or saw on LiveLeak could convince me US soldiers couldn’t just… stand by, while people got hurt. Even if our country has problems, there were surely worse.
But as I get older, as I read more history, and live through a little pain and loss myself, I’ve realized that we never just stand by. And every time, every single time we’ve stood up and stepped in in the 21st century, whole nations are destroyed in our wake — even those of our supposed allies.
It never has and never will feel particularly good to oppose the political, economic and military empire of the United States while you’re living inside it. I suspect that’s one reason why so few people within it ever do. But I can’t unread the books I’ve read, or un-remember the stories of the people whose countries our own has left in splinters.
It’s like Noam Chomsky says: intellectuals — which if you’re reading this includes you — have an obligation to tell the truth and expose lies. That obligation doesn’t end where our discomfort begins.
So what do you want me to do about it?
Nothing explicitly. I want you to discuss this with friends, family, whoever.
That’s because this news probably won’t make it to your lecture hall, no less your news feed, no less still your parents’ TV screen, or (can you even imagine it) to a congressional debate. That’s why I’m sharing it with you here, in the hopes you’ll think about it critically wherever and with whomever you do your thinking.
This revelation raises SO many more questions than it answers, and further investigation is absolutely essential. Let me know down in the comments, or on social media what questions it raises for you, but here are some of mine:
Were you and I ever asked if it was worth it for our supposedly civilian-controlled military to go to war for Ukraine against a nuclear-armed Russia?
Was my congressperson allowed to vote on that decision?
If they weren’t, did even they know US Spec Ops were there?
If memory serves, at least select members of the House, if not the whole Democratic caucus, have been presented evidence by their leadership that Russia has committed war crimes in Ukraine.
These briefings, along with other claims of violence and excess by Russian soldiers — all of which must be reviewed thoroughly by independent UN investigators — form the basis of liberal and progressive support for the US arming Ukraine.
So it only follows logically that, if our political, military, and economic leaders care about the prevention of war crimes, then the presence of US special operations forces must be carefully monitored and investigated too.
In recent years, evidence of war crimes conducted by US, UK, and other allied special operations organizations has mounted so quickly that the famously discrete US Special Operations Command itself has been forced to announce it’s conducting its own internal investigations.
I wouldn’t expect much from that, but it’s telling they feel they’ve got to do it.
The big question is: Are we comfortable with these guys being secretly deployed to Ukraine without our OK, without any democratic oversight, and with no means of recalling them if we disagree with what they do?
If US special operations forces in Ukraine do something which violates your sense of moral outrage, will you trust your empire enough to tell you about it?
If they’re given orders which lead us closer to a nuclear-armed war, will you trust them to refuse?
Our government can’t answer these questions for us. That part’s up to us.