YouTube video

Michael Ratner: President Obama tries to condemn Russia’s annexation of Crimea by justifying the illegal US invasion of Iraq

Story Transcript

PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR, TRNN: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Paul Jay. And welcome to this week’s episode of The Ratner Report with Michael Ratner, who now joins us from New York City.

Michael is president emeritus at the Center for Constitutional Rights. He’s also a member of the Real News board.

Thanks for joining us.


JAY: So the Russians are accusing the Americans of facilitating a coup in the Ukraine. The United States’ President Obama is accusing the Russians of violating international law, and he seems all outraged at such a thing. What do you make of all this?

RATNER: You know, I’ve been following this story pretty closely, and from one point of view I’ve just been outraged by the propaganda in the United States against Russia, against what it’s done in Crimea, without putting any of the onus on the U.S. and the European Union and what they’ve been doing. And the headlines of the paper are outrageous. I’m looking–I look at The Times one day. It says–this one, it says, “Quiet Admission: U.S. Challenge Now Is to Stop Further Putin Moves”. Another one basically says: “Obama Answers Critics, Dismissing Russia as a ‘Regional Power’”. Everything’s painted against Russia. Then they have a huge picture of the woman who’s let out of prison who’s going to run for president of the Ukraine, Tymoshenko, who was in there for corruption, isn’t even that popular, and she’s running.

So you’re getting all this propaganda–Russia’s the evil one, Russia broke international law–when in fact if you’ve been following this for a couple of years now, the U.S. has been, in whatever way, backing the coup, wanting the coup in Ukraine, and actually ultimately succeeded.

The agreement that they tried to get the Ukraine to sign was going to require it to only trade with the West, allow E.U. troops into the Ukraine, etc., and they correctly refused to sign that.

Then we have the coup.

And then what happens is Russia says, well, this is our area of interest. And they have a referendum in the Crimea. And then Russia basically annexes the Crimea.

So you could argue both of them are violating international law because there was no authorization to have a referendum in the Crimea. But on the other hand, if you ask yourself which is the greater violation or which is–or at least to say that–one, that the coup in the Ukraine is okay while the Crimea is not okay is ridiculous.

And then when Obama gets pushed on the hypocrisy of it all and the hypocrisy of how did we overthrow the government of Iraq, how did we overthrow the government of Libya, how have we tried–and we actually did once help in overthrowing the government of Venezuela–how do we justify that and criticize Russia?

And what he says about Iraq is a particularly outrageous language. And I’ll quote it. It’s–with Iraq, he said, quote, we “sought to work within the international system.” Well, that’s not saying anything. That’s saying, yeah, we tried to get the UN to approve. But we all know the UN didn’t approve. So it went ahead anyway. So that’s a flagrant violation of international law. Then, to continue to justify Iraq, he says, well, with Iraq, we didn’t take any resources, we didn’t annex it, and we ended the war.

Now, tell me about that. We didn’t take any resources? Many would say that war was about oil. Who is in there? It’s not the Russian oil companies taking the oil. We didn’t annex it? Well, it’s not next-door to us. But let me tell you, if it had been Canada going hostile to us, we would have tried to do exactly, exactly what Russia did. So his excuses make no sense at all.

And then he’s also brought up–you know, people who have pointed out who are smart enough to say, well, what about Kosovo? Didn’t the U.S. actually intervene militarily in Kosovo and then hold a referendum? And why is that different than the Crimea? Well, he has trouble explaining it. He said, well, there were human rights violations going on in Kosovo. Assuming it’s true, does that give the U.S. the right to go in there, intervene, hold its own–hold a referendum and divide it off? It doesn’t at all.

JAY: And, under his watch, to say they worked with the international system on Libya is the same amount of hypocrisy, because, yeah, they got a UN resolution, but the UN resolution was not about regime change, which–clearly that’s what it–became what it was about.

RATNER: Right. It was about allowing overflights or something, flights over it to protect–.

JAY: It was supposed to be about the defense of Benghazi, but it was–at the time, Cameron of the U.K. and all the officials that were pro the resolution were all saying this isn’t regime change in order to get support for the resolution, and then it immediately became about regime change.

RATNER: Right. And so we overthrew a government in Libya. So the U.S. looks, you know, foolish here. And what I can’t stand about it is, as you read the papers, it’s all as if Russia is responsible for what happened, when if you read carefully, as I said, the U.S. was deeply involved in the coup in the Ukraine. And so we’re getting a completely disguised, utterly disguised piece of propaganda.

And it’s likewise on other countries in the world. You know, you pick up the paper today. I think there’s this picture of yesterday, the picture of the demonstrations going on in Venezuela, protesting in the streets of Venezuela has an eye on Cuba’s government. Well, there you go again. The U.S. already tried to do a coup in Venezuela–and they actually did for a few days–which The New York Times endorsed, I should say. After that coup happened, when Chávez was thrown out, The New York Times writes an editorial saying, we don’t normally support coups, but we did in this case.

Now what’s happening again? Who are those people on the streets? Are they the people–the Maduro supporters? Are the buildings they’re burning down, are those the buildings of their supporters? No, they’re the government buildings. So it’s again U.S. propaganda saying, we the U.S., we’re the good, we’re the side of democracy, we’re on human rights, and we engage in humanitarian intervention to protect [crosstalk]

JAY: Michael, why do you think that much of liberal America is so opposed and has been so antagonistic to the Chávez regime, now Maduro? I mean, you find, actually, even a little more sympathy for Cuba, where, you know, clearly there is not as much room for the opposition, the elections are not–in Cuba are nowhere near–I mean, you can’t compare the electoral process in Cuba to Venezuela, which is an open electoral process. There’s been all kinds of observers who say the elections are fair. And I’m in no way saying this is some model, you know, perfect democracy, although I think it’s rather hard to be a perfect democracy when you’re trying to take privileges away from the elite. But why is liberal America so against the Venezuelan government?

RATNER: Paul, you said it in the last line. You’re trying to take privileges away from the elite. And that’s never been supported by the people who really run the United States and give us the propaganda, or the newspapers. And that’s why that incredible picture–half-page of The New York Times today–of the protest in Venezuela. And what that shows and what that influences is the people who are reading The New York Times and others. So what you’ve had is this incredible onslaught against Venezuela from Chávez forward to Maduro.

Of course, the nationalization of the oil companies certainly was one reason why it got propaganda against Chávez. Its relationship to Cuba is another one. I mean, Cuba [incompr.] 50 year embargo against Cuba, and still going on. Anybody who trades or does this kind of work with Cuba–Cuba’s doctors are in Venezuela; Venezuela’s oil is in Cuba. They’re going to–this country is–or at least the elites in this country are going to hate that, until it’s been a nonstop onslaught against Maduro, against Chávez, just as it’s been in other situations when they want to bring them down, just like it’s against Putin, just like it was against Saddam Hussein–not that they’re comparable, because some are worse than others, some are better than others.

But the onslaught of U.S. propaganda, which in the name of human rights, in the name of democracy, is really hiding U.S. hegemonic interests, U.S. imperialism, that’s what’s going on. And that’s what these papers do with human rights, with words like democracy: they hide the ultimate goals of the United States, which is their hegemonic interests in the world. It’s incredibly outrageous when I read The Times every day now.

JAY: Right. Alright. Thanks for joining us, Michael.

RATNER: Thanks for having me, Paul.

JAY: Thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.


DISCLAIMER: Please note that transcripts for The Real News Network are typed from a recording of the program. TRNN cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.

Creative Commons License

Republish our articles for free, online or in print, under a Creative Commons license.

Michael Ratner is President Emeritus of the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) in New York and Chair of the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights in Berlin. He is currently a legal adviser to Wikileaks and Julian Assange. He and CCR brought the first case challenging the Guantanamo detentions and continue in their efforts to close Guantanamo. He taught at Yale Law School, and Columbia Law School, and was President of the National Lawyers Guild. His current books include Hell No: Your Right to Dissent in the Twenty-First Century America, and Who Killed Che? How the CIA Got Away With Murder.

NOTE: Mr. Ratner speaks on his own behalf and not for any organization with which he is affiliated.