What is Ukraine’s history?  Here is an 8 minute PBS video on the topic which is very interesting.

Several commentaries about Russian disinformation have come by recently.  I invite you to read them.  I have some personal comments at the end.  This is not a simple topic.

A couple of days ago a long-time friend sent the following to two of us.  We all generally agree on things political.  The article is here, translated from the original Russian.  The pull quote from the article is hers:

“Everything that Russia has done for the West, it has done at its own expense, by making the greatest sacrifices. The West ultimately rejected all these sacrifices, devalued Russia’s contribution to resolving the Western crisis, and decided to take revenge on Russia for the help that it had selflessly provided. From now on, Russia will follow its own way, not worrying about the fate of the West…”

A day later came another, a post in Politico, from an activist friend, about youth in Russia (if you’re 22 or less the only Russian President you’ve probably ever known is Putin, who’s been President all but four years, 2008-2012,` since 2000.)

Today, yet a third, from “The Weekly Sift”, a thought out commentary titled “Why the Russians did it”.

There are more, but let these suffice for now.

My comments:

My earlier posts on the topic are here (the first Feb. 16).

I was surprised that the Russians actually invaded Ukraine.  I have not been surprised by the atrocities and the disinformation.

In my opinion, President Biden’s administration of the horrible situation has been admirable.  Of course, there are endless opinions about that.  The presidency is a lonely place.  The restraint by the president, means we have so far avoided a broader and even deadlier war, notable after over a century of deadly wars.  [April 11: Heather Cox Richardson has an excellent column about the press and Biden, here.]

It is easy to kick around the United Nations but the assorted coalitions which have evolved with the UN over the years have done and are doing yeoman service under awful conditions, and not only with respect to Ukraine.  Without the UN and the abundance of other organizations, like WHO etc, the situation would be much worse.

My country, the United States of America, enters this conflict without clean hands – something easy to ignore when things are cast as good versus evil, and evil is always the other party.

The U.S. is given considerable credit for the perfection of propaganda, going way back to the yellow news media, Pulitzer, Hearst et al, and the campaign eliciting citizen support for World War I through the Creel Committee.   One character on that committee staff has always fascinated me: Edward Bernays.  His expertise in manipulating public opinion was copied by others, like Joseph Goebbels.  We Americans are hypnotized by advertising, which is propaganda, pure and simple.

Most of the codes of conduct for war, like the Geneva Convention, and terms like “war crimes”, are largely inventions around the 20th century.  Before 1900s, brute power ruled.  So it was considered fair game to depopulate our country of its indigenous persons.  That didn’t meet the definition of genocide, which came later.

The 20th century was the century of making war more and more deadly, especially to civilians.

We can’t avoid talking about our role in Vietnam, and later Afghanistan and Iraq.  Etc.  But these topics almost never come up in any context from any quarter these days.   But they’re in the very near background – out of sight, but not out of mind.

And, of course, the United Nations was never designed to have united power.  Five nations: the U.S., United Kingdom, France, Russia and China, have power of veto over most anything of substance.  The rules do not apply to those five, the winners of WWII.  This was intended at the start, and hard to change.

And when the 45th president of the United States took office, he clearly favored authoritarians like Putin.  He ran for reelection and got 74,000,000 votes, and while he lost by 8,000,000 he will never admit it.  And people are still covering for him.  This says too much about our own citizenry.

There are lots of valid reasons for an American to be cynical about America at this point in our history.

I am an American, and I give a damn.  I respect my country with all of its abundant faults, which I think we have to acknowledge and deal with.

I have long been active in an organization now called Citizens for Global Solutions which has a very long history.  Both the State and National work at being a voice for positive change in our world.  We are a small voice, but we are a voice.  Take a look at both state and national and consider getting involved.  see the most recent national newsletter which has some excellent commentaries.  Some food for thought.

Putin and Russia are serious problems, but ‘we, the people’ are an even larger problem, and paradoxically the only solution to our current malaise.

Be on the court as an individual.  It’s the only solution.

That’s my opinion.  What’s yours?

COMMENTS (more at end of post): 

from Carol: This is my 2 cents, and you likely won’t agree with me.  It’s long – please free to share all, part, or none at all.  I think we as a country have to get more involved – with overwhelming Ukrainian air support, not the “boots on the ground” stuff.  The Ukrainians are doing an awesome job on the ground themselves.  And I have now sent a message saying that to my senators, representative, and the White House.

You are correct that Biden did an extraordinary job of rallying our allies so far as sanctions, and donations of military equipment.  And apparently the Ukrainians are putting what the West has sent them to very good use.  Their patriotism, and determination to defend their country, are awe-inspiring.  Their president is awe-inspiring.  We cannot just continue to watch while their whole democratic nation (a democracy we encouraged) is demolished.
I say this partly because of the brutal massacres in Bucha (I’m sure the same is happening in many other cities we can’t see yet), the horrific attack on refugees at the train station (after they were specifically advised to flee the area) and, to tell the truth, partly because of that chilling article from Russia.  When I first saw the article, the poster said that the author is someone close to Putin and it would not have been published without his approval.
The article also reveals their plan of shoving the “Russia haters” into the west of the country, into a kind of non-country, subject to Russian regulations and controlled by Russia’s military.  They intend to assassinate Ukraine’s leaders, and punish or kill many of its people.  There will be no “Marshall Plan,” it says, for the former Ukraine – they will have to rely on Russia for any help.  There are references to European and U.S. culture, which they’d love to wipe out.
Putin has made no secret of the fact he wants to restore the U.S.S.R. to its former glory.  Poland, it is said, is on his list.
Biden, et al. keeps assuring everybody that Putin will not take “one inch” of NATO territory.  Well, if he’s successful in Ukraine, what’s going to stop him?  The West is sitting on its hands solely because he has nukes, and has threatened to use them.  Is that going to change?  I realize that NATO is a defensive organization.  However, individual countries do not need NATO’s permission in order to act here.
The U.S. had little problem with invading Iraq for absolutely no reason – and in getting involved elsewhere where it was hard to tell the good guys from the bad (as you pointed out).  This time it’s obvious who the villains are, but here we sit hoping that we don’t anger Putin by giving Ukraine TOO many weapons that are TOO bad.  I believe if we do not confront Putin now (at a time when his own army has taken quite a beating), we will be forced to do so down the road.  Then it will be harder – and there will have been a lot more innocent lives lost plus destruction of most everything in sight.  I don’t believe he intends to stop unless, like all bullies, he’s made to.
As far as the threat of a nuclear attack, are we all supposed to just let any nuclear-armed country now have their way with any neighbors they might choose to exterminate?  China, perhaps?  Or maybe North Korea might decide to annex South Korea.  This is a terrible precedent.  That’s a world I think none of us want to live in.  Putin knows that many of the world’s nuclear weapons are all pointing at him.  He may be a fool, but he’s not about to have his legacy be the annihilation of Russia.
Response from Dick: At the beginning, you say “you likely won’t agree with me”.  Not so.  We are witnessing evil at work; unfortunately, it is and has been at work also in our own country, since the beginning of our history.  In Putin, I see ourselves.
The solution has to be thoroughly debated, and is being debated, appropriately, even in the anti-war Left, of which I’ve been part since our response to 9-11-01, which I felt to be insane, and we proved it with a 20 year unwindable war in Iraq and Afghanistan.
So, I’ve become sort of an orphan on the left, by choice, at this moment.  I just don’t think we’ll ever be able to end war, but I hate war.  Ukraine is an example.
A few weeks ago, came a couple of local articles on a peacemaker list of which I’m part, and I’m linking them here: Facts over ideology.  Basically, I resonated with most of the “Facts Over Ideology…” piece by Terry and Andrew, and told them so.  Mike’s response seems to reflect the basic more Left position, which seems to be that anyone is more pure than the U.S. and if they said they were antiwar, so they were.
At this very moment, in our Citizens for Global Solutions group, we are working to decide how to engage in the long-going debate on ratifying the International Criminal Court, which the U.S. has never agreed to join.  (See #2 in the link above.)
What seems apparent to me, my personal opinion, is that the powers that be in the United States, which is the Senate, do not want to be bound by such statutes which may find us culpable of war crimes ourselves.  Note the comment in said #2:  “in 1998 the US was one of only seven countries – along with China, Iraq, Israel, Libya, Qatar, and Yemen – that voted against the Rome Statute. US President Bill Clinton signed the Rome Statute in 2000 but did not submit the treaty to the Senate for ratification. In 2002, President George W. Bush effectively “unsigned” the treaty, sending a note to the United Nations secretary-general that the US no longer intended to ratify the treaty and that it did not have any obligations toward it.”    Presidents cannot do such things by themselves, and “we, the people” through our representatives stand in the way.
See also Peter’s comment below as well.
We are only individuals, but this war will be fought in November at the American ballot box.  We can’t stand idly by.
Thanks much for feeding in.

from Terry and Andy to the Peacemakers group, meeting today (April 12):

A friend pointed out this article on Juan Cole’s site yesterday.  I thought it was good – it is tough for us to be on the same side as the mainstream. I’ve seen that sentiment from a number of friends.  But we have to recognize there are multiple imperialisms – the US is not the only imperial power. And sometimes the US is not the worst actor in the room.  The author has included very good background analysis on Putin, NATO, and Ukraine.  I hope you find the article useful.
Peace, Terry

The Left has to Recognize Russian Imperialism in Ukraine or it is Trapped in Americocentrism


 It is tough for leftists to be on the same side as the mainstream. We can easily feel at those times that we’re missing something, that we’re letting down the struggle, that by ganging up even on an admittedly bad actor we’re helping strengthen the nemesis at home, allowing it to appear as the good guy.
But for leftists to be more concerned with the security interests of a great power—in this case, a right-wing militarist power that supports itself almost entirely by the mining and selling of planet-killing fossil fuels—than with the desires of a small people hoping to secure their independence and not be invaded, is scandalous. Leftists never treat the peoples marginalized by western imperialism in such a dismissive way.
Almost no one on the left has supported the war. But saying “Down with the Russian invasion” and then turning immediately to blaming America, and only America, for provoking it is almost the same. Not only does it show a lack of basic understanding about Russia, it is also a stunning betrayal of the most basic internationalist principles. If we want to support the right of self-determination to America’s neighbors, we can’t deny the same to Russia’s. If we’re not able to recognize multiple imperialisms, we are guilty of the same kind of Americocentrism for which we castigate others.
from Fred:  [This link] carries information about the Russian army and its complicated recruitment issues dating back quite a ways. At the bottom of the piece, is a link about modern US and Israeli missile defenses that is also good.
from Carol: Tim Snyder commentary, Russia’s Genocide Handbook.
More from Terry, April 13: I know Terry, personally, and yesterday she was involved in a zoom meeting of an organization of which I’m a member, but I didn’t attend the meeting.  Afterwards she shared some resources you may wish to review.  She’s been involved in issues like this for years, most recently with Russian involvement Syria, which in many ways seems a companion study for what is now going on in Ukraine.
As promised, sharing with you a couple of resources I mentioned in the chat. Please let me know if you have any questions about these. And of course, this is just the tip of the iceberg, something to start with. 
1. For those interested in learning more about the history of Ukraine, I recommend checking some works of Timothy Snyder. Here are his book recommendations and here is his bio and website. There are also some lectures and videos on his website. 
2. For a very brief overview of key events that explain historical context leading up to the war, I recommend this summary done by Razom, a group of Ukrainian and Ukrainian-American activists in the US. You can also donate to their causes on their website, they are one of the largest Ukrainian activists movements in the US.”



2 replies
  1. Peter Barus
    Peter Barus says:

    I think the second worst problem we have is voter suppression. The first is shutting down carbon emissions in three years. But as to the second worst…

    There is no significant vote fraud, but hundreds of thousands of people have been disenfranchised by new state laws that will still be in effect in ’24, even if eventually adjudged unconstitutional. If the Republicans win, that is unlikely ever to be tested. Not sure about the Democrats.

    Republicans cannot win a free and fair election now, as they have said out loud and in public more than once. This is mainly because of their overt disdain for anyone who is not white, male, and obscenely rich; and the aforementioned voter suppression laws they enact when they get into offices of public trust.

    But they still have the twelfth Amendment.

    If Certification is delayed (it need not be stopped), a one-state-one-vote election in the House must be held. A simple majority will decide who moves into the White House. California will have one vote, just like Vermont, and every other state. 80% of the electorate will thus be disenfranchised.

    The January 6th Insurrection was intended to force exactly that condition. It would have succeeded if our representatives had not immediately shaken off their real terror, and climbed back up on the horse to finish their sacred work.

    That’s why all those Senatorial fanatics threw themselves so enthusiastically under the bus, long after the lynch-mob riot, beatings, attempted kidnappings, terroristic threats and mayhem had subsided. The declaimed on the House floor. They called for roll-calls. Anything to slow the process to a crawl.

    But it was not the pathetic grandstanding it was made out to be. They still hoped, as a practical matter, to delay Certification at any cost, even their own re-election. Because they know the 12th Amendment’s one-state-one-vote would take them over the top.

    This time, cooler heads—at the risk, they had reason to believe, of their very lives—resisted with decorum, courage, and extraordinary patience, to complete the peaceful transfer of power. This time. Will they be able to hold the line in 2024? There’s serious reason to doubt it.

    The fanatics have been emboldened by the almost complete lack of consequences for an actual violent insurrection.

    In 1966, as a conscientious objector, I was accused of being a Communist, by which they meant specifically: “advocating the overthrow of the U.S. Government by force and violence.” Kind of a stretch, when you think about it.

    But times have changed. Now, people filmed participating in the January 6th operation are getting elected to public office. And it’s not just a loony few: their financial backing extends deep into the fertile soil of social fragmentation, most prominently manifest in the current world war.

    And it is a world war. Dictatorships are proliferating, and finding material and financial support for violent repression of their own civil societies, on almost every continent. Ongoing conflicts are being linked into a network of horrific human disasters. Massive displacement and starvation are on the rise.

    So, yes, I agree: it is going to take responsible engagement on the part of ordinary Americans. And considering the worst problem we have, the stakes have never been this high.

    I’m an American too. And I’m not sure we’re up to the challenge. Because the challenge is to keep our American-ness, which consists of continual striving for effective democracy in the world. Just because we haven’t yet accomplished that since 1776 is no excuse to quit now.

    Franklin put it best: “Democracy… if you can keep it.”

  2. Joyce
    Joyce says:

    I truly wish we could do more to help Ukraine, but if we provide air support – a no-fly zone – we will, of necessity, engage in air battles with Russian planes. That would be an act of war, which would undoubtedly expand to a war between Russia and all of NATO; are we really ready to start WWIII? We need to supply more food, medical supplies, arms and other materiel to Ukraine, and we need to open our borders to Ukrainian refugees. We need to keep a strong military presence in Poland’s border, because Poland, the Baltic, and Balkan countries, are surely within Putin’s sight.


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