Tears For Suffering In Ukraine

Source: “Anna Netrebko, Russian Soprano with Putin Ties, Is Out at the Met Opera” Town & Country   Photo by Jack Vartoogian/Getty Images

I’ve been criticized recently due to the perception that I am insufficiently moved by the suffering of people in Ukraine. By this my critics actually mean “the suffering of people in Ukraine since February when Russia invaded.” They do not mean the suffering of people in Ukraine during the 8 year long civil war that has seen 14,000 deaths (a combined total that includes thousands of civilians plus soldiers on both sides). 

Those consuming corporate media in the U.S. tend to know very little about what led up to (insert several perjorative terms here) Putin launching military operations and are unable to determine whether those are actually war crimes or would be considered legitimate pre-emptive actions by the United Nations.  In the face of impending attacks that the Ukranian government and its militias were  preparing to launch against Russian ethnic populations in the Donbass region, and the published plans for regime change in Russia using exactly those tactics, the UN might not come down on the side of U.S. liberals.

These people look with approval at events like the Metropolitan Opera in New York cancelling a Russian diva and replacing her with a Ukranian soprano. I, on the other hand, laugh out loud at the absurdity. A singer pressured to essentially sign a disloyalty oath will not be allowed to perform.

Yes, by all means let’s cancel the performing artists of every nationality if their nation wages war against others. (That huge whooshing sound was the careers of innumerable U.S. singers and other artists being flushed down the toilet.)

When opposing wars waged by my own nation using my tax dollars, I’ve often considered whether or how much to share gruesome pictures of people suffering.

On the one hand seeing the corpses of little children burned up in their beds by U.S. drone strikes might galvanize my fellow Americans into knowing, caring, and taking action.

On the other hand, there is my aversion to so-called “war porn” or the vicarious pleasure to be had by viewing the suffering of others. Susan Sontag’s book Regarding The Pain Of Others made a great impression on me. If you’re a long time reader of my blog, you could probably pinpoint right around when I read that book by the declining frequency of my sharing photos or videos of people suffering in wars or as refugees.

The fog of war makes it very difficult to determine which reports of atrocities and war crimes are false flags, or doctored evidence, and which are authentic.

This is true for all sides in all conflicts, but the 21st century seems to have accelerated the process of manufacturing consent by media manipulations. Game changers like digital video that is so easily created and shared are having their effect and it’s difficult to know whether they’re bringing more truth or more fiction.

For example, this reporting seems authentic to me although of course I can’t know for sure: “Exclusive: Ukrainian Refugees in Moldova Spare No Words on Zelensky Gov’t.” It was shared by a source I trust, the United National Antiwar Coalition. Conversely, am I inclined to trust war reporting that is a) cookie cutter and b) shared by corporate news outlets that have repeatedly lied us into wars with fabricated claims of war crimes and other atrocities? Not so much.

I am opposed to all wars, and I focus on holding my own nation accountable. 

The U.S. and its posse NATO are largely responsible for the current phase of the war in Ukraine (and the vast majority of wars raging on the planet right now). 

Map showing refugee movement from Ukraine. Credit: United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees’ Operational Data Portal

No doubt there is suffering in Ukraine and among Ukrainian refugees. 

My solution: disband NATO, cut the Pentagon budget by 90%, and close the 800 military bases the U.S. operates in other countries.

Not only would this reduce suffering in Ukraine, it would reduce the threat of climate collapse as the Pentagon is the biggest institutional emitter of greenhouse gasses on the planet. By a mile. 

And, it would significantly reduce the threat of nuclear war. Sabre rattling of nukes on both sides is alarming and makes me wonder if these folks read the same articles as I do, the ones that remind us that contemporary nuclear weapons are far more destructive than those dropped on Hiroshima or Nagasaki.