The “fog of war” refers to the fact that, in a situation of warfare, many things become obscured. To put it simply, it is often difficult to tell exactly what is happening.
Related to this is the fact that war, once begun, has its own dynamics: things often do not go the way that the people who started a war, or became involved in it, expected them to go. This has very heavy meaning in the current war in Ukraine, which involves not just Russia and Ukraine but also the imperialist alliance (NATO), headed by the U.S., in a “war by proxy” with Russia—providing massive amounts of arms to Ukraine and waging economic warfare (in the form of “sanctions”) against Russia, while heightening the military “readiness” of NATO countries, in particular those bordering or close to Russia.
This involves the very real danger that—deliberately, or through mistakes by one or both sides—this could lead to direct warfare between Russia and the U.S./NATO, which in turn could involve the use of nuclear weapons, even on a scale that would threaten the very existence of human beings throughout the world.
This is an important reason why the Russian invasion is not only an act of unjust imperialist aggression but is highly dangerous and potentially destructive on a massive scale, even far beyond the great damage and suffering it has already imposed on Ukraine and its people. And it is why moves to escalate U.S./NATO involvement, and calls for direct military confrontation with Russian forces, greatly heightens the danger.
This underlines the importance of the orientation I have stressed from the beginning of this war:
What is called for, and urgently now, is to oppose all imperialist marauders and mass murderers, and all systems and relations of oppression and exploitation, while giving particular emphasis to opposing “our own” imperialist oppressors who commit their monstrous crimes “in our name” and seek to rally us to support them on the basis of a grotesque American chauvinism, which we must firmly reject and fiercely struggle against.1
The Farce of the So-Called “Free Press”
There is also a way that war clarifies things—including the fact that war causes people to act in ways that make very clear what their basic outlook and values are, and where they stand in relation to the major forces and relations in society and the world.
One of the most striking expressions of this is the way that this war, and the involvement of the U.S. in this war, has even more clearly revealed how the so-called “free press” in this country is nothing more than the propaganda instrument of the capitalist-imperialist ruling class. In particular, the “mainstream media” (such as CNN, MSNBC, the New York Times and the Washington Post) have shown themselves to be capable of relentlessly spewing forth propaganda every bit as crude as that of the Russian media that they are constantly denouncing. And “journalists” employed by these “mainstream” American media to do coverage and commentary on the war in Ukraine have shown themselves to be nothing more than servile and eager hirelings, hacks, puppets and parrots of the ruling class. Check out how consistently these “journalists,” in their so-called “reporting,” use phrases like “our interests,” “our allies,” “our military,” and so on, with absolutely no separation between them and the ruling class and government of this country. So much for a “free press” that is “independent of,” and not simply an instrument of, the ruling forces of the country.
And, as has been pointed to in articles at revcom.us, this question stands out sharply now: Where was this “free press” when the U.S. invaded Iraq in 2003—an international war crime “justified” with the official lie that Iraq possessed “weapons of mass destruction” and was allied with Islamic fundamentalist terrorists like Al Qaeda? I’ll tell you where this “free press” was: right with the U.S. government in constantly repeating that lie, and attacking people who exposed it as a lie.
Or, where is the constant exposure and outrage in this “free press” now regarding the terrible destruction that Saudi Arabia continues to rain down on the country of Yemen, with the resulting massive destruction and death, particularly of children in the hundreds of thousands—with continued backing and arms supplied by the U.S.? Again, I’ll tell you where: such constant exposure and outrage is nowhere in this “free press.”2
Anyone trying to figure out what actually led to the war in Ukraine, what are the deeper causes and the essential interests that are driving the forces on the opposing sides—and, in opposition to that, what are the interests of the masses of people, not just in the countries involved but in the world as a whole—will never be led to understand this, and instead will be led away from that understanding, by these media.
Once More the Ugly Self-Exposure of So Many Liberals and Progressives
The blunt truth is also that this war has revealed that far too many liberals and progressives in this country are capable of being truly despicable—shameless American chauvinists and self-righteous supporters of “their” imperialism, rallying mindlessly behind the ruling class of this country in its rivalry with Russian imperialism.
The reason why so many liberals and progressives are acting in this way can be put simply, even as a deeper analysis of this is also important. The simple reality is that these liberals and progressives are “feeding at the trough” of U.S. imperialism’s exploitation and super-exploitation of people throughout the world, especially the Third World (Latin America, Africa, the Middle East and Asia). As I have pointed to previously:
In a number of works of mine, and other materials on the website revcom.us—including important papers by Raymond Lotta—the economic “spoils” of “imperialist parasitism” are examined: the way that the predatory super-exploitation of billions of people, including more than 150 million children, throughout the world, and in particular the Third World, makes possible a certain “standard of living” and process of consumption for people in this country, even as these “spoils” are shared in an extremely unequal way.
What is also true—and also important to speak to—is the political dimension of this: the way that this imperialist plunder provides the material basis for a certain stability, at least in “normal times” in the imperialist “home country” (with the U.S. a prime example of this). This relative stability, in turn, makes it possible for the ruling class to allow a certain amount of dissent and political protest—so long as this remains within the confines of, or at least does not significantly threaten, the “law and order” that serves and enforces the fundamental interests of this ruling class....
[E]ven as this has been interrupted by times of major upheaval—and even as this is being torn apart in a major way now—this relative stability during the period after World War 2, grounded in imperialist parasitism, has fostered and encouraged the illusion, particularly among more well-off sections of the population, that this country is not ruled on the basis of oppression and repression—an illusion that is especially, and often desperately, clung to by liberals and progressives.3
This is the material basis on which so many of these liberals and progressives eagerly fall in line with the distortion that what is involved in the war in Ukraine—and more generally in the rivalry between the U.S. and Russia (or China)—is a sacred battle between “democracy” and “autocracy” (or “authoritarianism”), when in reality what is involved is “rivalry among imperialist powers, all of which are monstrous oppressors of masses of people, and none of which represent or act in the interests of humanity.”4
The conclusion, as I have emphasized before, is this:
To shake these liberals and progressives, or at least significant numbers of them, out of their despicable stand in support of “their imperialism” will require fierce and relentless ideological struggle, to force them to confront the reality of what this imperialism actually represents and what it actually does in the world. And, more than that, it will require bringing forward a powerful revolutionary movement, aiming for nothing less than overthrowing this system and replacing it with a radically different, emancipating system—a revolutionary movement that is based, not only but mainly, among masses of people who have far less of a stake in the “fortunes” of this parasitic system, whose conditions of brutal oppression under this capitalist-imperialist system far outweigh any “spoils” they might receive from its worldwide plunder.
With all this, it is crucial to recognize, and act on the recognition, that the situation in this country, and the world as whole, which is already very intense and is continually intensifying, indeed poses the prospect of something terrible—but also something truly emancipating: an actual revolution, right in this country, which will break the hold of powerful capitalist-imperialist oppressors over masses of people, weakening the death grip of this system far beyond the borders of this country, sending shockwaves of positive revolutionary inspiration throughout a world that is today still dominated by capitalism-imperialism, with all the horrors this involves.5