Speaking at the Royal Castle in Warsaw, Poland, President Joe Biden declared on March 26 that Vladimir Putin “cannot remain in power.” Recognizing the danger of those words, Secretary of State Antony Blinken swiftly tried to do damage control. “We do not have a strategy of regime change in Russia—or anywhere else, for that matter,” Blinken said the next day.
Biden himself tried to walk it back as well. “I was expressing the moral outrage that I felt toward this man,” the president insisted. “I wasn’t articulating a policy change.” But he had already said the quiet part aloud. In one truthful slip, Biden confirmed that desire of Washington’s liberal interventionists, of which Blinken is a part, for a Russian regime change. U.S. officials frankly cannot admit the truth because the “distinguishing quality of Anglo-Saxon politics,” as James Burnham wrote, “has always been hypocrisy, and hypocrisy must always be at pains to shy away from the truth.”
Here are two facts, only one of which the United States government can acknowledge: Russia invaded Ukraine, and the West—specifically Washington—provoked the invasion with the idea of using Ukraine to produce regime change in Russia. We can only admit the former because grappling with the latter would mean confronting our hypocrisy. But the world will not be better off unless we look at inconvenient facts, for this war is the result of a fateful hubris on the part of Washington. Everyday Ukrainians, Russians, and Americans are now reaping what our leaders have sown.
Believe it or not, the plight of Ukrainians is not the chief concern of the political establishment. If anything, as Douglas Macgregor, a former senior advisor at the Pentagon, has said, “it looks more and more as though Ukrainians are almost incidental to the operation, in the sense that they are there to impale themselves on the Russian army and die in great numbers.” He’s right, but that’s been the case for civilians everywhere touched by the hand of liberal interventionists, who claim the moral high ground on the world stage. Yet they are the worst species of hypocrite, guilty of worse than the accusations they hurl at others.
Biden’s suggestion that the use of chemical weapons by Russia in Ukraine would trigger intervention was met with scoffs the world over because Washington itself has supported chemical attacks in the past. Declassified CIA documents and Foreign Policy interviews with former intelligence officials leave no doubt that the U.S. government empowered Saddam Hussein to decisively deploy chemical weapons against Iranian troops in the waning days of the Iran–Iraq War. Though the CIA knew that Iraq was fielding these weapons, the Reagan administration authorized the sharing of battlefield intelligence with Hussein’s forces. With the help of the Defense Intelligence Agency, Iraq repeatedly deployed sarin, resulting in “hundreds” and “thousands” of casualties in each case. Worse yet, as U.S. intelligence flowed into Hussein’s military, Iraq unleashed nerve gas on the Kurdish village of Halabja and killed up to 5,000 civilians.
As Iran struggled to build a case against Iraq for the United Nations, Washington stayed silent, sitting on stacks of evidence, realizing of course that America would be resented by Iran (as well as the rest of the world) if our complicity with Iraq’s chemical warfare campaign were made known. Our government, in other words, was aware that it was making us less safe and more hated by facilitating the use of weapons of mass destruction—the same type of weaponry that would it cite as a justification for invading Iraq years later. Hipocrisy strikes again.
Why did Serbians laugh when Hillary Clinton tweeted during the ongoing war that if “Russian leadership would rather not be accused of committing war crimes, they should stop bombing hospitals”? Because it was the NATO bombing campaign led by the Clinton administration that demolished a hospital in Belgrade with an air strike, killing at least three patients. Why did China recently balk when NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said that, as a member of the UN Security Council, China had an obligation to support and uphold international law? Because it was NATO that obliterated the Chinese embassy in Belgrade with five U.S. Joint Direct Attack Munition precision bombs, killing three civilians. “Chinese people can fully relate to the pains and sufferings of other countries because we will never forget who had bombed our embassy in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia,” a spokesperson of the Chinese Mission to the EU replied to Stoltenberg.
But those convinced they are on “the right side of history” feel no need to reflect on these misdeeds. Indeed, the architect of the NATO bombing of former Yugoslavia, Madeleine Albright, lived an unrepentant life. On an episode of 60 Minutes, she had previously defended UN sanctions against Iraq for its invasion of Kuwait. Regarding the effects of the sanctions, Lesley Stahl said, “We have heard that half a million children have died. I mean, that’s more children than died in Hiroshima. And, you know, is the price worth it?” Albright didn’t flinch. “This is a very hard choice, but the price—we think the price is worth it,” she replied.
“Madeleine’s War” in Yugoslavia began farcically three years later, without the UN’s approval, as a humanitarian intervention. Israeli Minister of Foreign Affairs Ariel Sharon criticized it as “brutal interventionism.” Indeed, upwards of 500 civilians were killed in nearly a hundred separate incidents over 78 days of bombing. And what became of liberated Kosovo? Under Washington’s watch, Saudi Arabian money and influence turned Kosovo into a hotbed of Islamic extremism, which would serve as recruiting fodder for ISIS after yet another U.S.-led intervention toppled the Iraqi government and created a power vacuum that ISIS, among others, was happy to fill. “Between 2012 and 2015, an estimated 355 Kosovars went to Syria to join IS and other Sunni militant groups, making up the highest per capita share of foreign fighters in Syria,” according to Voice of America.
That NATO operation in 1999 turned post-Cold War Russia against the West. The year before, in an interview with The New York Times, George Kennan had chastised NATO expansionists for characterizing Russia “as a country dying to attack Western Europe” after the fall of the Soviet Communist regime. He warned that we were “turning our backs on the very people who mounted the greatest bloodless revolution in history to remove that Soviet regime.” Kennan also predicted that this would lead to a crisis. “Of course there is going to be a bad reaction from Russia, and then [the NATO expanders] will say that we always told you that is how the Russians are—but this is just wrong,” he said to deaf ears.
Russia’s eventual move to annex Crimea in 2014 was a consequence of Kennan’s unheeded warning and Washington’s provocations. Ukraine’s democratically elected, neutralist government had just been toppled in a “color revolution” and replaced with one approved by the Obama administration, triggering a civil war between government forces and pro-Russian separatists that has raged in the Donbas region ever since. In an interview with Der Spiegel, political scientist Ivan Krastev noted that Putin, in his declaration on the annexation of Crimea, cited passages virtually verbatim from the Kosovo declaration of independence, which the West supported. When asked why Putin does such things, Krastev said that it is because he wants to teach the West a lesson. “Because he wants to tell us: I have learned from you.” In other words, Western hypocrisy created Putin.
None of this is an attempt to excuse Putin’s actions. But if we do not rise above the rote cliches emanating ceaselessly from the warmongering press, we will doom ourselves and others to catastrophe. The ongoing tragedy is a symptom of a homegrown rot that masks its gangrene in moral cloth. The liberal interventionists are, in fact, hatemongers, the real threats to peace and stability. And it is they who have “lies in their mouths, blood on their hands,” as Thomas Fleming wrote in these pages, “and guilt on their consciences for the seduction of the innocent and the destruction of our civilization.” Not only here but everywhere they have gone in the name of “humanitarianism.” Our job is to hold them accountable because even if Moscow’s armies were swept out of existence, these domestic architects of disaster would remain untouched, a threat to Americans and foreigners alike.