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US cranks up information war on Ukrainian crisis

A TOY bear sits on the desk of the Greek delegation during the UN General Assembly session in New York on March 2. Stuffed toys were displayed as symbols that the vote for Russia to withdraw from Ukraine was for the well-being of future generations. Picture: Timothy A Clary/AFP

A TOY bear sits on the desk of the Greek delegation during the UN General Assembly session in New York on March 2. Stuffed toys were displayed as symbols that the vote for Russia to withdraw from Ukraine was for the well-being of future generations. Picture: Timothy A Clary/AFP

Published Apr 3, 2022

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Social media platforms are undoubtedly inundated with content about the conflict between Russia and Ukraine. Yet aside from startling videos and images, a full-scale information war is unfolding on the digital front, with only one “initiator-in-chief” – the United States.

Under the hegemony of Western discourse, Washington is clearly not interested in spreading facts or truth. The following are common US tactics employed to mislead the global public on the Ukrainian crisis. First, stir up unrest and encourage hostility.

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At the end of last year, when tensions on the Russia-Ukraine border were ratcheting up, the US chose to fan the flames of discord. From the White House to paparazzi in the US tabloid press, self-proclaimed intelligence reports and spicy hearsay kept emerging, spreading “the fog of war”.

They preached words from an anonymous source that behind the conflict lies an intention of regime change and highlighted intelligence accusing Russia of “fabricating a pretext for invasion”.

Early in January, the State Department officials called on US civilians to evacuate Kyiv. Moreover, disclosure of a military offensive, time schedules and other details reached the public, all done by the US to pump up conflict-related conspiracies.

This suffering “could have easily been avoided if the Biden administration and Nato had simply acknowledged Russia’s legitimate security concerns regarding Ukraine becoming a member of Nato”, former US Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard tweeted.

However, the US had taken steps that worsened tensions, including sloppiness in dealing with Russia-proposed drafts on security guarantees and cold-shouldering Moscow at the latter’s request for dialogue, which consequently raised tensions.

Second, rely on double standards. Double standards were once again on display in the Ukraine crisis. While the US is busy clamouring for sanctions on Russia over “violations of international law”, it remains silent when asked about its own crimes, including promoting the Monroe Doctrine in Latin America, bombing Yugoslavia with no legal basis, and its invasions of Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria.

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Where are US repentance and due responsibility? The US has been touting its neoliberal tenets, like eliminating national boundaries in culture and sports and the inviolability of private property. But since the outbreak of the Russia-Ukraine conflict, Russia’s assets were frozen overseas and artists and athletes excluded and persecuted.

While paying lip service to Ukrainian civilians, the US turned a deaf ear to the suffering of people in the Middle East and Africa. For two decades, the US battered Afghanistan, and despite its troop withdrawal last year, the aggressor is still withholding billions of dollars of life-saving money from the Afghan people.

Third, let the rumours fly. In the era of social media, information can outrun a bullet, while the power of a story can surpass that of a tank. This is what the US propaganda machine has taken to heart and put into practice.

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US media labelled a viral video clip showing a weeping Ukrainian father saying goodbye to his daughter a “horrific glimpse into how the Eastern European conflict is tearing families apart”. But the video was later verified as recorded before the conflict. The father chose to remain behind in Donetsk to defend the region against the Armed Forces of Ukraine.

Another piece of much-shared footage is about a mysterious Ukrainian fighter pilot dubbed “the Ghost of Kyiv” shooting down a Russian aircraft. However, the video was also fake, originating from a digital combat simulator game.

On February 5, 2003, in a UN Security Council meeting on Iraq, then US Secretary of State Colin Powell presented a test tube containing washing powder, claiming that it was evidence that Iraq was developing chemical weapons.

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In 2021, with financial support from the US, the White Helmets, also known as the Syria Civil Defence, faked videos of false-flag airstrikes and chemical attacks on civilians, putting a target on the back of the Syrian government.

For some US politicians and media outlets, the truth means nothing as long as they can fabricate public opinion. Fourth, censor, suspend and silence. In January 2021, US tech giants, including Twitter, Facebook and Snapchat, suspended former president Donald Trump’s accounts, citing possible incitement of violence.

Two years later, the focus is Russia. The EU took two Russian mainstream media outlets – Sputnik and Russia Today (RT) – off the air across Europe. Meta cut off Russian user access to Facebook and Instagram but temporarily allowed users in some countries to post violent anti-Russia content.

YouTube, Netflix and Google have blocked Russian channels. Any voice slightly favouring Russia soon becomes silenced. Multiple residents in eastern Ukraine found their accounts banned by social media platforms after they posted Russia-related content.

The US selectively ignored different voices from other countries. Anti-American and anti-Nato demonstrations were launched in Bulgaria, Turkey and other countries. Serbian football fans raised banners in a stadium criticising the decades of military interventions by the US and Nato.

Don’t expect to see these stories in the US media. Fifth, bring in the performance art. Most countries are reluctant to take sides in the conflict, preferring a diplomatic solution to end the fighting. However, the US is attempting to drum up support to denounce Russia.

The country first wooed Nato member states and the Group of Seven to blame Moscow for the conflict and mobilised European nations to showcase “performance art”.

Stuffed animal toys, Ukrainian flags and slogans were on display by delegations at the emergency session of the UN General Assembly on March 2. When Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov addressed the UN Human Rights Council, dozens of diplomats walked out of the room.

The conference hall, which was supposed to be a solemn place for countries to exchange ideas on major global issues, has become a political stage for the US to ignite confrontation.

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