Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Putin's 12-Step Program for Taking Over Another Country

yahoo image, www,blesk.cz
Vladimir Putin has created a 12-step program for modern conquerors, a step-by-step guide to invading, occupying and annexing another country or parts of it and to destabilizing democracies around the world.   

This "Twelve Steps to Conquer" is a good starting point for any supermen out there who would like to flex their muscles, stop being pansies, and learn to love war.  

The main purpose is to get people to admit they are powerless over invasion, that their lives have become unmanageable, and that they should turn their will and their country over to the conqueror.  It's also a good strategy for creating so much doubt and confusion, that people won't know whether they are coming or going.

The 12-steps:  
1) Take advantage of any signs of the yearning for self-determination. An example is the protests that took place in Kyiv's Maiden after the Yanukovich regime passed laws denying citizens' rights to organize and protest. This is your opportunity to exploit unrest and make it worse. Have your eyes on the prize. Step right in. Go for it. 

2) Send in provocateurs. These can be mercenaries, Cossacks, motorcycle gangs like the Night Wolves, special forces, anyone who would welcome a fight, a shot of vodka, or a few rubles to go out and create disturbances in the street, pick fights, start violent confrontations, and the like. Sudden explosions of buildings, here and there, is good. Play cyber games. Hack, hack, hack. Put out fake news as fast as you can. Keep 'em guessing. Give folks lots of your country's flags and slogans (good to wave in front of cameras). 
3) Stifle the media, by intimidation, blocking TV outlets, shutting off contacts. Silence a few journalists. Start in your own country; slowly escalate and expand. Use the internet and social media to ramp up fake news. The more lies, the more confusion, the better. 

4) Keep talking about traitors and Nazis taking over and destabilizing elected governments. It doesn't matter if these accusations are true or not. Just make them. If presidents and officials must flee their countries for their own safety, welcome them in yours. Make sure they bring their billions with them. 
A mural in Simferopol, a fine example of good PR. 

5) This is a good time to ramp up the Newspeak: Neo-fascists force out good leaders; war is peace; invasion is safety; occupation is freedom. Keep at it. 

6) Send in the troops. Don't be too obvious at first. Initial contingents should have no insignias, no overt IDs. They are simply ordinary people with dark glasses, assault weapons, and preferably dark green uniforms. This will fool the media. They will report that "There are people here with weapons but we don't know who they are." Take it from me, this works. 

7) Keep sending in more troops, until you get up to about 30,000. In addition, welcome malcontents or gangs who like guns to patrol roads. They are undisciplined and unpredictable, which is a good scare tactic. Under this cloud of confusion, aided by the media, position your troops to block roads and access routes, cut off communications, and take over government buildings. Cruise neighborhoods where known opponents live. Don't shoot.  Not at first. Intimidate. Your aim is a peaceful orchestrated change. The media will note that the place is being taken over without a shot. By then it is too late. You're in. This happened in Crimea with great success.

8) Take strong advantage of the people who are for you. They may be a minority, but you can make them look like a majority. Again, the example is Crimea, where it was easy to whip up pro-Russian sentiment. Really wind them up. Encourage public demonstrations. Have those flags and slogans ready. It will look like a Beatles concert. 

9) Now is the time to take over the local government. Install a new president and parliament.  By this time, local officials see the writing on the wall, realize the support the invaders have in their own country, and do your bidding. Here's where you script their invitation to invade their country.  

10) Now you are on a roll. The people are inviting you to come in and take over. How can you turn away? You have established a need and justification for the fait accompli, the occupation.  All this can take place in a matter of weeks, not months.
This is what a good vote looks like. 

 11) Okay. Good work.  Now you have these local puppets stage a referendum for annexation. That's right. You stage a vote. Your own Parliament approves this action, and helps design the ballot. The only option is "yes to annex." You can add another "yes" column to give the illusion of a democratic vote. Meanwhile, ensure that only supporters vote. Intimidate opposition. Mark their houses. Remind them of "the power of the state" to retaliate and deport. In Crimea this worked well against the Tatars, as well as ethnic Ukrainians. Scare the hell out of them, and the press. This won't be hard if you've done a good job with the first 10 steps. 

12) You have engineered a 100% vote for annexation. Congratulations. The people have voted, and they "welcome you with flowers." The press will report that 100% of all the people voted for annexation, when in fact it was 100% of those who voted out of the fear and confusion you created(remember, you can always tweak the facts). Ignore threats from America and other countries, by the way, because their outrage is no match for your brilliant execution of these 12 steps. 

Now you are set to take over more territory, even a whole country, city by city by city. You can strengthen this goal by ensuring your Parliament passes a law that "authorizes" your country "to annex territories of countries where central authority has collapsed and the local population expresses a desire to secede." The fact that you have orchestrated this outcome is what makes this 12-step program so successful. 

Monday, March 17, 2014

Crimea Vote Reflects Orchestrated Takeover

My friend Suz said it best: What I don't get is why the media headlines are screamng "Crimeans Vote to Join Russia," when the rest of the articles go on to say that it's all fake and illegal.  So why bury the true story? Why don't the headlines say words to the effect: Crimea Vote is Fake, Vote to Annex to Russia Orchestrated Takeover, Crimea Vote Illegal.    

Jud's sunflower weeping. . 
Right.  What a farce.  This vote does not reflect the will of the people. It reflects the will of Putin.

The media once again gives a wrong impression.  They might get to the truth eventually, but why hide it in paragraph 3 or 4, or at the bottom of the story? Why bury the main story?  Most people read only the headlines, and then form strong opinions. Someone messaged me to more or less shut up: The people have voted. Get over it.

A "vote" at the barrel of a gun. 30,000 Russian troops, militia, and thugs.  A  fake "referendum" with only yes and yes options, followed by a well-organized propaganda celebration, at which the Russians excel.

What happens next? What will happen to the people of Crimea? To the Crimean Tatars. To the ethnic Ukrainians and others who oppose Russian occupation and annexation, but whose voices were silenced?

Putin has his eyes on Ukraine, and he is executing his successful plan in other places:  Take over Ukraine city by city by city, starting in the east and south.  And oh yeah, be sure the Russian Parliament passes a law saying it's necessary to  occupy and annex territories where local governments are in disarray and the people want to join Russia.  That's supposed to happen on 21 March.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

On the Eve of Russia's Enforced Annexation of Crimea

EuroMayden image
It's the eve of the Russian-imposed "referendum" in Crimea.  Beautiful, wonderful, fantastic Crimea. I feel like a character in Samuel Beckett's "Waiting for Godot," like Vladimir and Estrogon, waiting without end, in vain, for God knows what. But an axe is about to drop, a bomb is about to explode, a tragedy is unfolding, and there's nothing we can do.  

Russia's language, action, and posturing about its take-over of Crimea, Ukraine, evokes anger and fear, memories of the mass Crimean Tatar deportation in the dead of one dark and terrifying night, and shades of surreal Cold War propaganda.   

So we have Vladimir Putin and his cronies talking about "self-determination" while sending some 30,000 troops to Crimea.  Russia has taken over Crimea's parliament, government buildings, army bases, towns, and neighborhoods; it has physically blocked Black Sea access, as well as communications and transportation into and out of the pennisula.  It is doing all of this in the name of freedom.  
"Strongman Putin Playing a "short game on Ukraine," AFP article by
Luc Perrot; photo of mural in SImferopol by Flippo Monteforte, 15 March 2014.

Russia is "allowing" Crimeans the option of voting yes or yes to join Russia.  It continues to block international monitors; meddle with the media; stifle dissent by force; and claim it is offering free elections, freedom of choice.  Putin is shamelessly using the language of democracy to justify invasion, occupation, and annexation.  

It's the Theatre of the Absurd but not on a stage, in real life. Playing with language, in a Joseph Heller "Catch 22"  and George Orwell "1984" sort of way. It turns the truth on its head, and calls it lies. It tells lies, and calls it truth.  It's "Newspeak."  It's ironic, sarcastic, ludicrous, outrageous.

The West of course is not immune to the same antics: Fighting wars for democracy when in reality we are fighting for oil, to take one example.  Putin is shoving it in our faces, rubbing it in, I think with glee.  I didn't realize how much he hated America and our current president, or how deep his vision of a Russian economic union. He's long had his eyes on Ukraine, his eyes on the prize.  And the opportunity presented itself, as it were. Putin's calculated invasion, his cold indifference to American and European opinion, his bold occupation, are having the effect he wants. He is not going to back down.   He is a master conductor. 
yahoo image.  Putin is not going to STOP.
He has brilliantly, one might say, created a situation in which violating the territorial integriy of Ukraine is justified. He invaded Ukraine in order to save it. Save it? Yes, save it from the "neo-Nazis" overunning Kyiv after Yanukovich fled to Russia. Putin the superhero is not invading anything or breaking international laws. He is saving Crimea and helping Ukraine. He doesn't say it, but Yanukovich made a mess of it.  On the other hand, Yanukovich also created the setting for Putin's latest absurdity.  Putin walked right into it, and made it his own.

Most nations, and of course most Ukrainians and Russians themselves, see right through this.  They say they won't recognize the results of a "referendum" Putin has orchestrated in Crimea, ensuring and enforcing its outcome at the point of many guns.  But Putin is playing this card for all it's worth.  And for him, it's a win. 

Crimea will turn itself over to him, in this scenario, and he will embrace it.  The consequences be damned.  
Jud's Ukrainian Sunflower made sadder.

Join this people power v. Putin campaign now!https://www.facebook.com/ppvsp 

Thursday, March 6, 2014

San Miguel Memories

Colorful San Miguel.  Streets, shops, decorative arts, Katrina shop, an outdoor cafe,
Elissa and friend Gay; with Don Quijote; in new t-shirt; beautiful carvings, wall painting 
"I love the colors!"
"Oh, look, another VW bug.  I've never seen so many in one place."  Elissa started taking pix of the old cars, once made in Mexico, still chugging along the cobble-stoned streets.
"Wow, what beautiful doors."

It was daughter Elissa's first trip to San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, and she loved everything she saw and experienced, not to mention the perfect weather.  All the sights and sounds; the hilly ancient streets, the architecture, arts and crafts,shops and restaurants, and "the best margaritas, just like Aunt Andy said!"

The Parroquia
We walked every day from El Jardin de Don Quijote, our B&B near the famed Instituto de Allende, to or through the tree-shaded Jardin, the central public square.  The sight of the iconic Parroquia de San Miguel Arcangel, a pink sandstone neo-gothic church, bowled her over, as it did me and most every other visitor the first time we saw it, and ever since.  The church bells chimed, as if in appreciation.

Always aglow and striking, it towers over the Jardin and dominates the skyline. "Follow the Parroquia and you can't get lost," I assured her. "Well, I don't have to pay much attention to directions, with my good tour guide!"  But Elissa got the geography of the town down pretty well, almost as much as her menu instructions (no gluton, no dairy).

On the food front,where there could have been some misunderstanding, there was no trouble.  No wheat, no milk, no butter, no cheese, no dairy. She gave her list, in Spanish, and waiters were happy to oblige, talk to the cook, bring out the cook, explain the food.  "I have it down," she'd say, after her stream of excellent Spanish.  We had some great meals, at Hecho en Mexico, Cafe Jardin (with some nice jazz), Cafe Monet (where we heard fabulous pianist Alejandro Mora), and Mexifran (where we plied the guitarist with tequila and had some great fun!).  There's lots of ways to cook chicken, steak and fish, with corn torilla and quacamole, steamed veggies and various fruity sauces, Elissa found out.  Food and music! "Viva Mexico!"

Talavera pottery at the Artesenias 
"Great place to shop, too"  We stopped in just about every shop we passed as we strolled the town, many in gorgeous mansions that were once private haciendas, topped off with a trip to the Artesenias Mercado (Artisans Market).  The mercado teems with vendors' stalls selling everything from tin frames and mirrrors, to puppets and toys, jewelry, rugs, and ceramics (called Talavera), hand made and hand crafted.

We took in historic sites, went into churches, visited the Biblioteca, galleries, Bellas Artes and the Instituto. The art is exquisite, from pre-historic, to colonial, to contemporary. The murals are fantastic. At the Instituto, we happened upon a great textile exhibit by weaver Elizabeth Starcevic, as well as the works of one of Mexico's (and my) favorite artists, David Leonardo. We had a nice chat with David's agent, who explained the difference between "mamacita," which Elissa calls me, and "mamita," which he calls his mom.  I told her both were acceptable, one being a voluptuous sexy woman (ooh-la-la), and the other a beloved mama, Juan said.

We happened by a brand new exhibit of Polish posters, of all things, as we walked down Zacateros to Mesa Grande, the wifi cafe. The posters were collected by Dr. Martin Rosenberg, "the largest and most complete selection of pre-war and vintage Polish cultural posters in existence."  The Rosenberg Collection is huge; the posters are noted for their originality, artistry, brilliance.  "The exceptional Polish poster is...a work of art rather than a conventional advertising placard," notes Elena Miller, a retired Curator of Posters at the Library of Congress in Washington, DC.  Their bold designs and bright colors fit into San Miguel.

Polish graphic art posters
"Serendipity," Elissa the graphic artists noted, "to come across such a fabulous graphic art collection."  Dr. Rosenberg himself was there to greet us when we walked in, drawn in by the beauty and diversity of the posters.  In Poland, he noted, the graphic arts are honored.  Elissa liked hearing that. The subjects were fantastic too, theater, music, opera, jazz, the Circus, sports and travel, politics and dance.

"Why are the posters here? Why did you open a gallery in San Miguel? she asked him.  "Because I moved here after retiring, and brought them with me!" Thousands upon thousands of them. Lucky for San Miguel.

"You never know what you might find behind a San Miguel door," I told Elissa.  We peeked behind lots of them, and walked into many former homes turned into shops and galleries: complex columns, glorious courtyards and fountains, super high ceilings carved, tiled, curved and beamed, and extravagantly tiled walls, doorways and floors.  "We're not in the US anymore," Elissa smiled, as she embraced the beauty. "Definitely in Mexico!"

Doors and decorations;  tapestry exhibit at  Instituto; 
Church of San Francisco; 
balloons and toys in Jardin, carving on a corner building. 
Elissa talked to lots of artisans and shopkeepers.  Among the most interesting was Juan at the Katrina gallery, which is packed with those colorful skeleton dolls associated with the Mexican "Day of the Dead." Mexicans have a special relationship with death, as with life; nowhere is death more openly acknowledged and celebrated as it is there.  Elissa selected a beautiful ceramic doll for her daughter Julia, and Juan regaled us with her history as he carefully wrapped her.  The history goes back to the late-nineteenth century in Europe and Spain and was popularized in Mexico by Diego Rivera's famous mural "Dream of a Sunday Afternoon along Central Alameda."  The mural beautified a large government building in central Mexico City, which was destroyed by a horrendous hurricane in 1985. It means something that the mural survived, but the building did not. From Rivera's perspective, the Katrina, as she is called in Mexico, is related to an Aztec tradition, in which she is "Keeper of Bones" in the underworld and presides over festivals honoring the dead.
"Seems to me like the Mexicans took a tradition, blended its Spanish and indigenous heritage, and made it their own," I said to Elissa.  "Yes, just like they did with the Catholic religion and the Catholic church," she noted. "Made it their own."  That's San Miguel and Mexico in a nutshell, I thought.

"Anything else you want to see?" I asked on our last day.  "I just want to get an 'I Love Mexico' T-shirt," she said with a laugh.  And sure enough, that's what we did!

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Saving What's Left of Ukraine

AP image. Crimea, Russia. Above, CNN map of Ukraine,
showing Crimean penisula and its strategic location on Black Sea. 

I'm thinking like a Ukrainian, pessimistic and dark. I'm feeling like a Cassandra, predicting the fate of Crimea as Russia occupied and took it over, just like that. All the words seem empty. All the rhetoric and platitudes. Of course the Russian-speaking parts of Ukraine, where I served as a PCV, are being whipped up against efforts to form a new unity government in Kyiv. Sure Russia moved into Crimea,with stealth. might and efficiency. Sure the Russian parliament unanimously gave Putin the okay to use military force,the military intervention already well underway. Crimea is gone, without a shot being fired.

So what if this aggression and occupation is absolutely, clearly against international law and all international agreements? Putin doesn't care.  But we should.

"So what do you want the US to do, Fran.  Send in the troops?"

No. But anything short of that will be good.  The president said there would be "costs" if Russia militarily intervenes in Ukraine. Okay. That's happened (even as he spoke). What are the "costs?" Economic sanctions against Russia? Trade restrictions? A financial package for Ukraine?  An international economic plan? Mobilization of public and private organizations to put pressure on and isolate Russia and strengthen the infrastructure of Ukraine?

I understand the "wait and see" policy.  I understand the reluctance to get involved early as the crisis unfolded in Kyiv, forcing Yanukovich out. Some of us with close ties to Ukraine could see what was happening.  We knew about the grassroots frustrations.  Social media lit up; emails flew back and forth. Still, Ukraine is not a priority in US foreign policy. Economics has always drivern our foreign policy, as William Appleman WIlliams taught, and Ukraine has not been important to us in that way. So the Obama administration watched as the repression and violence escalated without much comment or apparent public interest, without warning about the consequences.

The consequences are upon us.  The Obama administration needs to spell out the strategic importance of Ukraine in the world, to the US and Europe, build the case for support, "galvanize the international comunity," as one CNN reporter put it. Christiane Amenpour expressed outrage at Russia's violation of Ukraine's borders. European nations especially, she noted, should be on top of this; Ukraine is on their doorsteps and many of them get their oil and gas from Russia via pipelines running through Ukraine, which is being squeezed with higher prices. Deliberately squeezed. This is one of Russia's most powerful leverages against Ukraine. Russia does not hesitate to use it.

So any sanctions the western nations and international organizations impose on Russia have to hurt and the economic intervention in Ukraine has to be strong and strategic, designed to help the Ukrainian people without burdening them too much more than they are now.  Obama has been measured but he did note that the Ukrainians have a right to self-determination and to shape their own future, without fear of foreign intervention. Alas, it seems that rhetoric is the main weapon in his arsenal at this point.

Yes, it's complicated. Ukraine is complicated, as I learned while serving there. Putin has what he wants and will stand firm.  But so should America, EU and the international community as far as strengthening what's left of Ukraine. Will America take a lead in some international coalition that works together to help create the "United Ukraine" about which so many people dream?  Can we help save Ukraine?
AP image from Kyiv.

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