Politics Analysis

Putin's arrest warrant an act of political hypocrisy

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The ICC issued an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin over alleged war crimes (Image by Dan Jensen)

An arrest warrant for war crimes alleged against Vladimir Putin highlights the bias shown by the media in overlooking sins of the "good guys", writes Dr William Briggs.

A WARRANT IS OUT for Russian President Vladimir Putin. Apparently, he is a war criminal and an abductor of children. The news from the International Criminal Court (ICC) was accompanied by excited editorialising from the media and much wagging of fingers from governments.

Russia, of course, no longer recognises the ICC even though it was a signatory to the original Rome Declaration. The USA has never accepted the ICC and is not a signatory to the Declaration. Ukraine does not formally acknowledge ICC. However, the whole affair is about propaganda. Irritating little things like non-compliance by the USA need not get in the way.

Why, at this stage of the war in Ukraine, is this announcement being made? Is the war not going according to America’s plan? The alleged forced deportations of children occurred early in the fighting. No voice from the media questions the claim of child stealing. Nobody is permitted to consider that removing children from orphanages inside Donetsk and Luhansk, who remained at risk from some of the more violent Right-wing forces from the Azov brigades, might have been justifiable.

Last August, Amnesty International issued a press release stating:

‘Ukrainian forces have put civilians in harm’s way by establishing bases and operating weapons systems in populated residential areas, including in schools and hospitals.’

The fact that this passed with virtually no media comment is telling. The public must not be confronted with images that might confuse them. There are simply good guys and bad guys, white hats and black hats.

Things must be kept simple. There is a “rules-based order”. Good, decent, democratic states abide by this “order”. It is an order that comes from Washington. Follow the rules and all will be well. Refusal to comply will not be tolerated. In Russia’s case, the rot set in after the collapse of the Soviet Union. The U.S. strategy of dismantling, carving up and an enforced slide into vassal status came unstuck. Russia didn’t follow the rules and refused to tolerate the eastward march of NATO. It felt threatened by the U.S. and reacted to the threat.

China, too, failed to follow the rules. It has become a powerful economic rival to the USA and therefore an enemy. A relentless campaign to weaken China ensued and an endless propaganda campaign was unleashed against China.

What happens, then, if one of the “good guys”, one of the white hats, behaves badly? What if there are war crimes allegations, or democratic norms are simply dispensed with, or if children’s rights are trampled upon? Surely the media and the countries that observe the rules-based order would be quick to condemn. Sadly, this has not been the case. Hypocrisy and double standards to suit a political or economic agenda override international norms of good behaviour.

Victims of alleged U.S. war crimes in Afghanistan and human rights groups pinned their hopes on the ICC to bring U.S. officials and troops to justice. The Americans were having none of this. After all, they do not recognise the ICC. Arms were twisted and a decision was made to ‘deprioritise other aspects of this investigation’. The U.S. Government sees no irony in damning the Russians for a decision to get children out of the firing line and out of danger while keeping actual war criminals from facing justice.

President Macron of France has just trampled on democratic process by ruling by decree over pension rises. He had no choice because nobody in the country supports the measure he wants implemented. France, however, is a good guy and lives according to the rules-based order.

Children of those seeking to arrive in the USA from Mexico are held in detention camps. The Ukrainian children, it seems, are being well cared for and protected.

The fact that such crimes are committed should not be surprising. What should be surprising and what should ring some loud alarm bells is that the media no longer appears to be able or willing to question anything. If competing ideas are not put before people then the capacity to think is reduced. This is the work of totalitarianism.

The avalanche of demonisation of the Russian President and state allows for only one perspective. It becomes almost impossible to hold a balanced opinion when news is so gratuitously censored. It is not new and it is not confined to the Russian situation. The torrent of propaganda that has turned the Chinese into an enemy has been going on for years. There are similarities to the approach now being undertaken in relation to Russia.

Public opinion has been so manipulated as to permit government and opposition parties in Australia to act in accord. The grotesque spending on weaponry, submarines, tomahawk missiles and the rest is only possible when the state believes it has the support or at least acquiescence of the vast majority. That can only happen with tireless labour from the media. The anti-Chinese campaign has been so thorough that government ministers can say with a straight face that long-range missiles are all about preserving peace. When the same minister is questioned by nobody, then we have reached the endgame.

Public opinion about Russia has been equally manipulated. Saving children becomes a war crime. Placing weapons systems near hospitals and schools in Ukraine is not a crime but a heroic act of resistance against war criminals.

The decades since the fall of the Soviet Union and the remarkable rise of China have seen U.S. foreign policy founder. There was to be a unipolar world with one hegemon and no opposition. Pax Americana would continue ad finitum. The rules-based order had been established since the end of WWII. All that had to be done in the post-cold war era was to get on with business.

Now the world is no longer unipolar and so the hegemon must destroy enemies, real or imagined. We swim in dangerous waters.

Dr William Briggs is a political economist. His special areas of interest lie in political theory and international political economy. He has been, variously, a teacher, journalist and political activist.

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