The Amherst Cauldron
We have been fortunate to be outside the United States for these past three months, and able to take our news unfogged by the media cabal. The parallel universe occupied by US news is especially poignant when viewing something like the situation in the Ukraine.
Lately we have been watching a rebel counteroffensive that had surrounded and slowly exterminated the NATO puppet army in the Donbass region, around the railway hub at Debaltsevo, in a military maneuver called “the cauldron.” It was executed by volunteer foot-soldiers who, armed with small arms and trophy mortars and rockets, scored a massive victory against attacking battalions of Empire’s tanks and heavy artillery backed by NATO drones and AWACs.
The Russians remember “the cauldron” all too well. In the winter of 1941-1942, during the Wehrmacht Blitz on Stalingrad, Germany’s northern offensive was stopped and surrounded in the Valdai Hills near the town of Demyansk.
There, nine of Stalin’s armies attacked Field Marshal Wilhelm Ritter von Leeb’s Heeresgruppe Nord (Army Group North) with the objective of breaking the siege at Leningrad and pushing the invaders farther west, away from Moscow. The Germans were facing a vastly superior enemy while freezing in their threadbare summer uniforms.
German POWs walking out of Stalingrad
On February 9, contact with overland supply lines was severed and the Demyansk Kessel (cauldron) was born. Fortunately for the Germans, the Luftwaffe, at the cost of 265 aircraft, was able to resupply the 100,000 troops trapped there until a breakout could be mounted in March.
Cut-off German units formed strongpoints in villages that were bypassed by Red Army assault troops, and follow-up Soviet units had to constantly siphon off forces to try and overcome them. Some of the strongpoints fell, while others held out for weeks. Hitler demanded Demyansk be held at all cost, so the German commanders were denied the freedom of action necessary to prevent a Russian flanking maneuver.
Which brings us to the present moment. We have been scratching our heads for an analogy by which to explain the war in Ukraine, which is auguring in a new Cold War between the US and Russia, to USAnians whose only sources of information are The New York Times, CNN or Fox.
It is easy enough to watch Russia Today or read blogs like Club Orlov, but most people don’t—and so absorb the sabre-rattling by senior Washington officials as if it were grounded in some actual facts.
The analogy we concocted, while imprecise and awkward, nonetheless serves a purpose, which is to expose the psychotic break with reality that has taken place in the US media.
Imagine, if you will, the region of New England plus New York in place of the Ukraine, with Albany in the role of Kiev, Maine in the role of Crimea and Canada in the role of Russia. To make the analogy work, we will have to assume that New York City will undergo a spontaneous existence failure at some point and leave that subject unexplored.
Wall Street Bankers watch warily from their penthouse eyries the power that populist movements like Occupy is gaining, especially in Albany but also in the New England States. Determined to thwart them, lest a revolt gather momentum against their interests, they decide to funnel millions of dollars to right wing rabble, to cause massive trouble… and to then wrest order out of the ensuing chaos (this part of their plan was always a bit sketchy, but they couldn’t think of anything better).
Unfortunately, the only psychologically normal right-wing rabble they can find wouldn’t pass the physical due to weight issues and is permanently glued to giant plasma TV screens with their mouths stuffed full of cheese doodles, and so they have to go with the rejects: skinheads, neo-Nazis, gun freaks and prepper wing-nuts. A State Department official is tasked with feeding and herding these rejects together.
After a sudden and severe downturn in the stock market, the economy goes into free-fall and events spin out of control. Anarchist rallies take place throughout New England. A prominent Goldman Sachs broker’s Connecticut estate is overrun and videos posted to YouTube show pearled chandeliers and gold faucets. Throughout New England, grassroots efforts drive legislators to enact sweeping reforms. A new “uniform code” of banking reforms, designed to break finance cartels and prosecute fraud, takes hold among the states, snatching the initiative away from the bureaucratic heel-draggers at the federal level.
Then comes the great day that changes everything. It starts as a small protest march in Albany, to which the State Police predictably overreact. But then a group of snipers, of unknown provenance, kill a hundred or so people, both protesters and police among them. After that incident, a group of rioters, some secretly in the pay of Wall Street and coordinated by the US State Department, seize the Capitol in Albany. Much to everyone’s surprise, the New York National Guard defects to the rebel side. Despite impassioned pleas from the Canadian Premier, Washington does not send in troops to restore order.
In the anarchy that is Albany, a slate of fresh faces wins a statewide referendum and forms a new state government. It is quickly endorsed by other parts of the emergent “New England Federation” of states, all of which want to push back against the Wall Street bankers and their corruption by enlarging the scope of the uniform code. But the federally-funded wing-nuts also move quickly to consolidate their power, pushing through a wide-reaching agenda of oppressive laws. Some states in New England try to distance themselves, while others serve as apologists. Maine surprises everyone when it decides that it wants nothing to do with any of this and votes to secede and join Canada. Washington vows to take Maine back but it is trying to walk a narrow line with Canada, whose fossil fuel resources it views as indispensable.
Instead, Washington imposes sanctions. Céline Dion is denied a visa and has to cancel her Las Vegas shows. Steven Colbert, Justin Bieber and other Canadians suffer similar indignities. Downward pressure is exerted on gold and silver prices, hurting the largest Canadian pension funds, and a speculative attack on the Canadian dollar drives down its exchange rate temporarily.
But now things get interesting. Having installed its hand-picked crazies in Albany, Washington can no longer control them. It is a textbook example of blowback. Aghast, the states to the East look on as their civil rights are revoked, non-New York residents are openly discriminated against and draconian rules and taxes are levied. All New Yorkers between the ages of 15 and 65 are conscripted into the New York Militia. Over 700,000 of them refuse to serve and flee into Canada, while another 100,000 or so flee to other states. With anyone with two legs and a brain heading for the border, Albany’s recruits can only be described as “bottom of the barrel.” Many of them turn out to be quite interested in pillaging and terrorizing the population, but when it comes to fighting they are very quick to abandon their weapons and either run away or surrender.
Massachusetts, Vermont and New Hampshire start to protest the heavy-handed Albany laws and begin withdrawing their support. Albany overreacts to this and sends its National Guard troops to take part in an “Anti-Terrorist Operation” to crush a large protest march in Boston, claiming that Massachusetts invited its help. When the tear gas and the pepper spray only enrage the crowd, the Guard escalates by going block-by-block with tanks and armored personnel carriers. When this tactic fails due to extreme hostility from the locals, the Guard withdraws to the outskirts and starts lobbing shells into the city from a safe distance.
The National Guard also digs in at Logan International Airport and from there commences a methodical shelling campaign of the city, laying waste to a number of symbolic, non-military targets such as the Boston Symphony, the Museum of Fine Arts and Faneuil Hall. This shelling campaign backfires massively: when a ballistic missile destroys Boston Latin School in the middle of the school day, entire neighborhoods of Boston line up to enlist with the Massachusetts Minutemen. The dispirited draftees and assorted wing-nut rejects fielded by Albany now face off against the entire professional class of Boston, which is determined to obliterate them.
In addition to the residents, numerous alumni of Boston’s many colleges and universities filter in to take up arms in defense of their alma mater. The MIT grads specialize in interfering with and shutting down Albany’s communications, which they can do more or less at will, while the Harvard grads launch a publicity campaign which defeats Albany’s efforts at spreading propaganda and disinformation. The graduates of Boston University’s College of General Studies work clandestinely to destroy the enemy’s ability to spell, punctuate and do sums. The graduates of Berklee School of Music do their patriotic best by “embedding” themselves with the enemy and giving them a wide assortment of venereal diseases. And that’s just four from a list of over a hundred local institutions of higher learning!
When the Minutemen finally regain control of the airport, where there is now hardly any above-ground structure left standing, they discover its numerous sub-basements and communications tunnels clogged with corpses. In addition to the usual wing-nuts from upstate New York, they identify quite a number of members of Blackwater/Academi, a few Navy Seals, some members of Homeland Defense, plus a few known Islamic terrorists. They let them rest where they lay and backfill the entrances.
When support rallies break out in Burlington and Brattleboro, Albany sends massive “anti-terrorist” strike forces there as well, clandestinely equipped by the Pentagon with missile batteries, tanks and artillery. However, not wishing the secret hand to become too obvious, operational control is left with to the Albany wing-nuts, who, not being adept at military maneuvers, get lost and find themselves encircled at Amherst, in Western Massachusetts and being slowly decimated by the Massachusetts Minutemen.
The New York National Guard now finds itself snow-bound, trapped in the cold, but killing whatever local residents they can find because that’s all there is for them to do, while Washington faces a dilemma. Does it send the 82nd Airborne to relieve them, as John McCain is demanding? Canada steps forward and brokers a ceasefire between the rebels and the encircled NY Guard, but either Albany fails to give the orders to extract its stranded force, or their orders are ignored, and so fighting in the cauldron resumes.
As the National Guardsmen eventually surrender or flee, they abandon to the Minutemen 80 or so tanks that only lack fresh batteries, mended track or diesel fuel, hundreds of armored personnel carriers in similarly serviceable condition, railroad car-loads of ammunition, lots of artillery and mortars and countless heavy machine guns. The Massachusetts Minutemen now have all the weapons they need to equip 100,000 fighting men and march all the way to Albany, but disgruntled National Guardsmen may blow it up before they can get there.
What is Washington’s response now? In what amounts to group psychosis, the Canadian Prime Minister is personally blamed for everything that has happened. The Norfolk fleet is moved to just off Halifax, where it spends its time steaming about on random headings. More stars of film and music, including Anna Paquin, Seth Rogan, Ellen Page and Mike Meyers, are singled out and denied visas. There are rumors of plans to seize the Alberta Tar Sands if Canada does not stop arming the rebels, despite zero evidence that the Massachusetts Minutemen are using anything more than what was in their own National Guard armories, plus whatever they took as trophies in the many battles they won.
Albany is portrayed as the region’s defender of freedom and rightful government, with the implication that it will bring the whole region back into Washington’s fold if given more time, money and weapons. No reporters can be bothered to interview Vermonters or to go to Maine and find out how things are going there now that it is a province of Canada. Certainly no one ventures anywhere near Amherst, which has become a heavily mined free-fire zone and a junkyard for abandoned tanks and APCs. No effort is made to find out what happened; instead, every effort is expended in presenting the Canadians as bloodthirsty criminals with imperial ambitions.
The Canadian reaction to all this remains predictably low-key. It seems that an extreme northern climate does not easily give rise to tempestuous expressions of public will. In spite of being sorely provoked, and in spite of continuous non-payment, the Canadians decline to shut off the electricity supply from HydroQuébec. After welcoming Maine into the Confederation, the Canadians limit their involvement in the conflict to provision of humanitarian aid via endless convoys of white maple leaf-emblazoned tractor-trailers, unconditional acceptance of all refugees from south of the border, and very active diplomacy with the aim of bringing about a cessation of hostilities.
|The Debaltsevo cauldron|
This is by no means a perfect analogy, but consider what the US media was saying as the Debaltsevo cauldron scenario unfolded. There was almost no mention of the cauldron, or why the latest ceasefire, which took 17 hours to negotiate, lasted just a few minutes—until the Ukrainian forces opened fire again, openly ignoring their orders.
MSNBC just read the State Department press releases and the remainder of the media mainly recycled talking points from delusional windbags like Bill O’Reilly and Rush Limbaugh.
One obvious difference between the two narratives is that it is unlikely that the twerked-out populace of US states could ever organize an effective opposition to their ruling oligarchy, so our account is likely to remain fictional. But in the Ukraine the nightmare is real, ongoing and will not end well for anyone—not even for the oligarchs who started it.
[This is a guest post by Albert.]