The horizon is not so far as we can see, but as far as we can imagine

Your Annual Reminder that if America Does It, It’s Not as Bad as if Russia Does It

Or anyone else.

Putin is a profoundly evil man. But the crimes he has committed are of the same class as those committed by Bush Jr and Obama, both of whom attacked nations which were of no threat to America (Iraq in Bush’s case, Libya in Obama’s).  What can be said for Putin is that his major wars were either to keep part of Russia as part of Russia (Chechnya) or were engaged in with countries that were effectively part of Russia within living memory (Georgia and Ukraine.) That doesn’t excuse them, especially the atrocities that occurred in Chechnya, but he’s done nothing of any significance that is worse than what Bush did.

This is a fundamental truth. Anyone who tries to deny it is a hypocrite, at best.

America is the only country on earth to have attacked another country with nuclear weapons. In the post-war period, it has invaded more countries than any other nation and it has been behind more coups than any other country. The sanctions it has instigated have killed millions and the economic policies it has imposed on third world countries have impoverished and killed millions more (many of whom died in Russia under the shock doctrine the West insisted on in the 90s–don’t think Russians have forgotten that).

America was built on genocide.

This doesn’t make America unique; it’s the hegemonic power of the era and hegemonic powers behave badly as a rule (if anyone can think of an exception, drop it in the comments). But it does mean Americans with an ounce of self-awareness should be careful about thinking “America is good, (enemy of the day) is bad.”  No, America is a bad actor who has done vast amounts of harm and, especially since 9/11, that harm has been egregious.

America is bad.  Russia is bad. You can argue about who is worse (and I’m sure commenters will), but both are bad. Many other nations are also bad. This isn’t a John Wayne movie and this isn’t World War II. Actual good guys are sparse.

If you enjoyed this article, and want me to write more, please DONATE or SUBSCRIBE.


Iranian Concerns About the Nuclear Deal Are Reasonable


The Decline and Fall of Post-war Liberalism and the Rise of the Right


  1. KiwiMatt

    Bang on Ian.

    We live in a brutal world and the distractions that we’ve created for ourselves in mammons kingdom blinds us to the misery, oppression and filth that suffocates us from all sides.

    Popular consciousness feels the undertones of something very wrong and waits.

  2. rkka

    Before Putin took office, there were 2.1 million deaths in Russia, and 1.2 million births. In the immortal words of Dick Cheney “Russia is finished!”

    In 2013, there were 1.872 million deaths and 1.895 million births.

    Proving Russophobes wrong about that was Putin’s job, and he did it. He also ended the open-air slave markets in Grozny. Not evil in my book, unless you want Russians bankrupt & dying, and Chechens raiding neighboring regions for slaves like the Crimean Tatars used to do.

  3. Tom

    US can’t even do intervention right either.

    Take the first Somalia foray. Yes Adid was an asshole. But his country was in a full blown fucking civil war, and he was the only one who had a chance of keeping it united and ending the violence.

    America, however, thought it could impose its own dictator with a veneer of democracy. Came in and was promptly infiltrated by double agents.

    Adid had a good intelligence system having infiltrated his tribe and the US with double agents to the point the US unwittingly took out Adid’s disloyal tribal elements for him.

    Operation Gothic Serpent immortalized in Black Hawk Down, that wasn’t a meeting for Adid, it was a meeting of Adid’s tribal elders and two of Adid’s lieutenants they had flipped to plan a coup to remove Adid the next day. The tribal fighters who attacked the lost convoy were there to help overthrow Adid the next day and following the raid joined Adid along with the tribal elders who were kidnapped and shot up in the raid. Oops!

    US still keeps fucking up in Somalia and soon al-Shaabab will be fuck it, declare we’re IS and go all out against Kenya and Ethiopia who have yet to learn their damn lessons to stay the fuck out of Somalia so we can disarm the fucking Warlords having gunbattles in the middle of the markets and the Pirates attacking our fishing boats which the Transitional Government recognized by the UN can’t and won’t put down.

    And now Kenya’s own Muslim minority is starting to say, time to join al-Shaabab and get rid of the useless Kenyan Government that is corrupt as fuck and can’t defeat a force it outnumbers 30-1.

    So more instability is resulting from our inability to stop fucking over moderates who focus solely on their own nations to solve their problems and keep their independence.

  4. Hairhead

    Here’s the thing about that “power corrupts” quote: people always leave out the last phrase. The WHOLE quote goes:

    “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men.”

    Substitute “country” for “men” and it’s clear.

  5. Pelham

    Good points. I only wish that all references to US use of nuclear weapons would also routinely note the firebombings of WWII, notably on Tokyo and other major Japanese cities.

    These were deliberate terror attacks designed to create enormous firestorms and kill as many civilians as possible as horribly as possible. They also, I believe, paved the way for the mass napalming of Vietnam. We haven’t used nukes since 1945, but we haven’t seemed to have much problem with incinerating people with sticky gasoline gel.

  6. This post shows a defective moral sense. Mr. Putin is not “a profoundly evil man,” and to say this is to confuse human fallibility and imperfection (which we all have–including Mr. Putin) with the total abandonment of moral sensibility–which is characteristic of leaders in the West. The moral life is about making distinctions, being able to discrimination–an action certainly not popular in this age of political correctness and sweeping judgments.

  7. Ian Welsh

    Do some research on the conduct of the Chechen war then get back to me. Yes, Putin is evil, and anyone who says otherwise is the one with the defective moral sense, or is stunningly ignorant.

  8. V. Arnold

    Putin’s been in office about 1 year less than the combined presidencies of Bush/Obama.
    Care to compare body counts; destroyed sovereign nations pre-emptively attacked? Women and children dead?
    I see no point to so vilify Putin as the epitome of evil in light of western, specifically the U.S.’s, conduct; no, ongoing war crimes.
    To couch your stance based on Chechnya seems a bit hyperbolic.
    A daily read of;
    The Saker
    Fort Russ
    and last, but not least RT News is the beginning of being informed.
    Oh, and don’t forget Stephen Cohen and Noam Comsky.

  9. Ian Welsh

    When you run torture camps you move into the profoundly evil category. You may continue to discuss “how many people do you have to torture to be profoundly evil” if you wish, that’s not a game I play. Once you’re running torture camps, you’re profoundly evil. We can certainly say that Bush is more evil if you wish (I agree that numbers do matter and his invasion of Iraq is worse, as I pointed out above), but they’re both in the same category. Some things, if you do them, are just fucking evil. Torture is one of those things.

    The Saker is an interesting guy, and his take is worth reading, but he is biased as hell.

  10. V. Arnold

    The Saker is an interesting guy, and his take is worth reading, but he is biased as hell.

    Of course he is; he’s Russian.
    I’m not sure the point of levels of evil; but what I do recognise are levels of aggression and the consequent results.
    What is greatly missing in the west, and again, hugely in the U.S., is a profound understanding of the culture one is engaging.
    U.S. (cough) leaders are not lacking knowledge, but rather unforgivably ignorant (same thing?) in Russian culture. I do have a clue having been married to a non-U.S. born Ukrainian. My now ex-wife, and her parents taught me many things about their culture. They (the parents) both fought in WWII and were both POW’s. Listening to their experiences left an indelible mark on my memory.
    It’s why I know, Russia will never be conquered or defeated. No North American I know could/would endure what they survived.
    All governments suck, all! Some admittedly, are better than others. Flags are evil. And allegiance to any government is the end of freedom.

  11. I don’t know why it is so difficult for so many on the left to accept that just because a world leader stands in opposition to American hegemony it does not make them admirable. Putin’s a thug who completely snuffed out Russia’s very imperfect post-Soviet democracy. Bush/Obama after 9/11 have effectively done the same thing here in the U.S. They’re two sides of the same coin, and each will kill any little people who get in their way without a second thought. That’s the reality–to argue differently is to excuse evil.

  12. V. Arnold

    Bill Hicks
    April 11, 2015
    I don’t know why it is so difficult for so many on the left to accept that just because a world leader stands in opposition to American hegemony it does not make them admirable. Putin’s a thug who completely snuffed out Russia’s very imperfect post-Soviet democracy.

    Then you do not know the facts of post Soviet Russia. Post Soviet Russia was a vassal of the U.S. neo-liberal thugs. The Chicago school. Bone up on your history; but not from western-centric view or MSM.
    Read or listen to Stephan Cohen (resident professor of Russian history).
    You might also want to avail yourself of the above references as listed by my above post.
    The only dog I have in this fight is U.S. citizenship; which I’m ashamed to possess.
    U.S. has so poisoned the well with relentless lies and mis-information, it takes diligence to find reality. Most just don’t care, or, are so brainwashed as to think they know what is what…
    If it makes you warm and fuzzy to call Putin a thug; do carry on…

  13. Hairhead

    There is a difference between Bush/Cheney and Putin. Both are corrupt, sadistic, amoral, violent thugs — but Putin is a *competent* corrupt, sadistic, amoral, violent thug.

  14. Colin

    Personally, I find labelling people “evil”, where they are “profoundly” so or not, doesn’t contribute much to the general discourse. If one wants to label certain actions “evil”, or “profoundly evil”, that’s one thing. If one wants to research a piece on Russian actions in Chechnya, or direct us to people who have, that would be helpful as well. I come to this blog for its sharp analysis, but lately the author has the tendency to pontificate, which is a shame. Moral standpoints are indispensable, but broad-brush moralising quickly gets tiring.

  15. V. Arnold

    @ Colin
    April 11, 2015

    For the most part I agree with you.

    Above, I listed 6 sources of mostly, not 100%, bias free information about Russia, Ukraine, U.S., and the EU’s relationship within the ongoing conflict.
    Further clarity is supplied by William Engdahl in an interview with Gazprom magazine.
    Engdahl covers 45 years of history regarding U.S. ME policies and more.

  16. rkka


    ” Putin’s a thug who completely snuffed out Russia’s very imperfect post-Soviet democracy. ”

    Total equine feces.

    Perhaps I should sing you the tale of how Our Guy Boris Yeltsin overcame a 6% approval rating to get reelected in 1996.

    1) Total media dominance, arranged by the oligarch-controlled media.
    2) Massive use of the ‘administrative resourse’
    3) When the above proved insufficient, outright voter fraud on a prodigious scale.

    And the man who headed the OSCE’s election monitoring team, Michael Meadowcroft, has related the heavy pressure he was subjected by his superiors in Western capitals to minimize his reporting of the above.

    Now compare that to Putin’s 2012 election campaign, won according to SecState Shilliary by massive fraud.

    Pre-election polling by Levada Center, one of the sainted NGOs that was funded by out National Endowment for Democracy, showed that 65% of Russian voters intended to vote for Putin. He actually got 62%, within the margin of error.

    Please tell me how SecState Shilliary’s accusation of “massive fraud” can be maintained when the accused perpetrator gets -less- of the vote than was indicated by polling by a US-funded NGO, not that the occupants of her office actually care about such things in view of how they hailed Yeltsin’s triumph in 1996.

    The point is, the Yeltsin regime was maintained by force and fraud, and was by no streach of the imagination an ‘imperfect democracy’. What Putin runs is actually far closer to that then what Russians had while they were dying out under Yeltsin, and Russians seem to approve of the difference.

  17. mike

    Wow, most amazing thing. Had to look up “pedantry” in the Picture Dictionary and found the posts from V. Arnold and Colin. Had thought they would only be listed under “officious” and “jejune.”

  18. Otis

    Bill Hicks nailed it. The geopolitical geniuses above sound like Putin fanboys protecting the honor of an authoritarian douchebag because he’s “their” authoritarian douchebag then resorting to the tiresome, childish pout concerning the host’s use of supposed uncivil words and helpfully proscribing unacceptable terminology & attitudes else they’ll take their mouse-click and go home.

  19. V. Arnold

    April 11, 2015

    With all that’s been said; that’s all you have to offer and an ad hom at that?
    Little man; go away to wherever you crawled out from under…

  20. V. Arnold

    Oh, mercy; the trolls do come…

  21. Otis

    “jejune” made me snigger

  22. Cvp

    It’s interesting to compare the plot of Amerika to what actually happened to Russia after the Cold War ended.

    A truly astonishing case of projection…

  23. rkka


    “Bill Hicks nailed it. ”

    Bill Hicks is plainly, factually wrong.

    “The geopolitical geniuses above…”

    There’s no geopolitics in my post. Putin’s job was to pull Russia out of the death spiral the FreeMarketDemocraticReformers put Russia in. He did it. And the Anglosphere have always been far more upset by his methods of doing so than they ever were about Russia’s demographic death spiral itself.

    And that death spiral continues whereever the FreeMarketDemocraticReformers hold sway. You will never find more enthusiastic FreeMarketDemocraticReformers than the governments of the Baltic States. Under their misrule, their combined populattions have declined from 8 million in 1991 to 6 million, and yearly deaths there still exceed yearly births by over 1.3 to 1.

  24. JustPlainDave

    In my estimation the Saker is not an analyst – he’s primarily an outlet for IW product. To the extent that he has analytical worth, it’s that he has language skills – and that’s about it. Near as I’ve been able to determine after poking at it a bit, his “real” name is Farhad Guelmov and his main claim to fame is that he was an OR in the Russian Army. Call me nuts, but that ain’t exactly high speed, low drag, likely to produce real gouge type of stuff.

    Tom, as I recall from reading some while ago there were six tier one personalities other than Aidid on the list in Somalia. Something like one or two of them were actual boners that lagged shifts in political allegiances, however I don’t recall it as any of the three guys that got snatched. All three of them were cut loose by the UN in early ’94 and conspicuously didn’t get shot in the back of the neck. That says to me they either had a remarkable degree of operational security in a pretty awesomely dynamic environment (*cough* bullshit *cough*), or someone’s been telling you tales. Given that I can verify exactly nothing of your take after having poked at it fairly intensively over the past day, I tend to lean to the latter. That said, at the risk of engaging in extravagant neologism – TIS.

  25. V. Arnold

    @ JPD

    Agree with your assessment of the Saker’s analyst abilities. But, because of his language abilities, his postings are useful to understanding what is meant by what is said/written.
    You might find this interesting;

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén