War is a Crime

Russian journalist Marina Ovsyannikova protested the Ukraine war on state-run TV.
Russian journalist Marina Ovsyannikova protested the Ukraine war on state-run TV.

by Jeff Klein

First published in the Dorchester People for Peace Update, March 18, 2022

 Never think that war, no matter how necessary, nor how justified, is not a crime.

Ernest Hemingway 1946

War is a crime. Every war. In Ukraine, day by day thousands of innocent people are dying, cities have become battlegrounds, buildings and infrastructure are destroyed, millions have fled their homes, untold numbers of ordinary soldiers on both sides have been killed, injured, traumatized. For this crime, the prime guilty parties are  the Russian leadership, headed by Vladimir Putin, who launched the war. But as often happens, in any great crime there are accessories both before and after the fact. This war did not have to happen, and if the Russians are the proximate aggressors, the opportunity for peace was also rejected by the US, NATO and the highly dependent government of Ukraine.

Vladimir Zelensky was elected president of Ukraine in 2019 by a big majority because he ran on a platform of making peace with Russia and ending the cruel attacks on the separatist Donbass regions of Eastern Ukraine. Instead of implementing agreements that had already been signed years before, Zelinsky was compelled by internal radical nationalists and his US patrons to turn away from negotiations and accept a flood of US and NATO weaponry. Before the war started, Ukraine had already become a de facto NATO member, a threat that the Russian leadership and the Russian people regarded as existential.

Ukrainians would benefit from remaining outside any military alliance. Non-NATO Finland, Switzerland, Sweden, Austria and Ireland are prosperous members or associates of the European Union. According to the World Happiness Report, a publication of the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network, Finland is the happiest nation of earth. Switzerland comes in fourth, Sweden seventh, Austria is eleventh, Ireland thirteenth. Hardly a fate worse than death. The US comes in at number 16.

Despite the crimes and miscalculations on all sides, the only way to stop the carnage is for the parties to agree on an immediate cease fire and open negotiations for the removal of Russian troops from Ukraine. In this endeavor to end the fighting, our allies are the Ukrainians who voted for peace, the Russians who are protesting the war, countries around the world – representing the majority of the global population — who do not support the Russian invasion but refuse to capitulate to the one-sided narrative promoted by the US and its allies, the people everywhere who are demanding an end to this war. Airport workers in Italy who refused to load planes with armaments disguised as humanitarian aid destined for Ukraine have set a noble example for us all.

Who are the enemies of peace? The ultranationalists in any country, fascist militias in Ukraine, members of the US Congress who feverishly beat the drums for war, think-tank troopers, corporate profiteers who earn billions from selling more weapons and transporting more oil, the servile war cheerleaders in the press.  Our media is flooded with dubious news and graphic images of uncertain origin but expressing only one point of view: More War. Asin other conflicts, our press refuses to allow us to hear other voices, except when they serve to reinforce the dominant narrative. Despite all our experience with “information management” in other wars, most Americans still are carried along with the tsunami of -sided war “news.”

Globe columnist Stephen Kinzer, who as a foreign correspondent for the New York Times reported first-hand on wars around the world and who has written about the long history of US aggression and regime overthrow, expressed the current mood:

In the runup to the Iraq war, patriotic hysteria enveloped the United States.  Americans gobbled up the narrative that Saddam was a savage killer — another “new Hitler” — and that destroying him and his government would help pacify the Middle East. Those who dissented were considered near-treasonous. Nonetheless some did dissent. That’s not the case today. The mass hysteria and war frenzy that is now consuming the United States is beyond anything in living memory. Nearly everyone in Washington — and in the American press — seems to believe that it’s better to risk nuclear war than to accept a non-aligned Ukraine. Those who oppose flooding Ukraine with weapons are even more systematically excluded from public discourse than were critics of the Iraq war. Lamentably this reflects a clear trend in our media. Only pro-war perspectives are tolerated. Anyone who calls for diplomacy is shut out or attacked as an enemy stooge.

The Boston Globe is among the worst. And at White House briefings, reporters regularly pile on to demand more aggressive action on Ukraine.

It is commonly asserted that Ukraine is “winning the information war.” But the reality is that it’s easy to win this when the most powerful nations and institutions, political, media and corporate interests, the US Congress and the media are united in presenting one point of view and suppressing any dissent.

Meanwhile, working-class and poor Americans are paying a price at the gas pump and in food and heating oil. Insultingly, Congress rushed to pass $14 billion in aid for Ukraine, while stripping the spending bill of funds needed to control the still dangerous Covis pandemic.

So what is the end game? However the fighting plays out, there seems to be no prospect of a Ukrainian military victory that will decisively defeat the Russian invaders or expel them from the country. But instead of pursuing opportunities to negotiate an end to the fighting, the US and its allies are continuing to fuel the war with masses of new weaponry and increasingly strident rhetoric. These interests seem to have no other goal than prolonging the war as a way of punishing Russia and reuniting the NATO alliance on an even more militarized basis. They are determined to fight the Russians to the last Ukrainian. And that is a crime against them and all of us.