Dear Russian Widows

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Dear Russian Widows

I grieve with you. And I grieve with you, Ukrainian widows and widowers and orphans and heartbroken lovers dropping your tears in the cold dusty blackened ruins of your invaded cities, towns and villages.

It is reported here, in the United States of America, that at least 7,000 to as many as 14,000 Russian soldiers have been killed during this first month (24 February – 24 March, 2022) of Russia’s — Vladimir Putin’s — invasion of Ukraine. So, sadly, there are now up to 14,000 more Russian families with new widows and newly heartbroken lovers grieving for their young men sacrificed in a war as the blood lubrication for the gears of the ponderous and plodding machinery tracking your would-be emperor’s ambitions of conquest and power into the fields and streets of Ukraine. And now all your young newly widowed Russian women, and newly bereft Russian mothers, are reliving the anguish and grief suffered by an older generation of Russian women whose young men were taken by the tragically disastrous Russian war in Afghanistan forty years ago, and many of those women may have been robbed of their chances to become happy grandmothers.

Who can doubt that on 24 February 2022, many Poles instantly thought of 1 September 1939, and 17 September 1939; and that many Danes, Norwegians, Belgians, Dutch and French instantly thought of April and May 1940; and that many Russians, along with Belarusians, Lithuanians, Latvians, Estonians, and Ukrainians instantly thought of 22 June 1941?

The trauma of a heartless dictator’s destructive invasion of your country to subjugate it as an exploitable colony and then carry out a campaign of continuous mass murder, is not soon dissipated from the historical memory of succeeding generations of those previously conquered nations, and the hollow feeling of seeing this happen again, two to three generations later during their young and modern 21st century lives, quickly steels the youth of those countries today into a resolve to fight off the invader and preserve their national independence, and national honor, and national pride. And such resolve can make them fight to the death because they feel sanctified by history and by the truest morality that every human of any age instinctively understands.

So your poor Russian soldiers are here at a great disadvantage, because as they awaken to any degree of the truth of their situation, they will know that they can not be justified and ennobled by any moral principles, they are just being used as expendable tools to perpetrate war crimes at the service of your Caesar, Putin’s imperial ambitions.

And I grieve with you because all the foreigners sympathetic to the plight of the Ukrainians, either because of resonant echoes of painful memories from their own national histories, or from simple emotional reactions against the outrageous injustices being inflicted on Ukraine, will contribute to efforts to resupply, rearm, fortify and accept refugees from Ukraine so it can continue, and hopefully win, its defensive war against the Russian military, and against Vladimir Putin’s inhuman ideology.

And I, too, am sympathetic to the Ukrainian cause. But this then means that my sympathy, along with many others whose sympathy is expressed as military assistance, will necessarily kill more Russian soldiers and create more Russian widows, and more bereft Russian mothers, fathers, and lovers. And I grieve that such increased pain to the Russian people is impossible to avoid with any effort to relieve the massive injustice and massive pain being inflicted on the Ukrainian people. I grieve that in being sympathetic to a people afflicted with a cruel and unjust invasive war, I am inextricably guilty of adding to the increasing grief of the Russian people whose young men are being consumed in that war.

During my youthful adult years, the United States was prosecuting its own massively unjust imperialistic war — against “communism” — in Vietnam and Laos and Cambodia. The Vietnamese simply wanted to unify their country, which was briefly liberated from both the French colonizers and Japanese imperialists during 1945, and continue as an independent nation free to use its natural resources and peasant agricultural economy for the well-being of its own people, and to be free to have their own Vietnamese rulers, both the honest ones and the pocket-lining corrupt ones as exist in every government, and to fashion their nation as a “communist” one, that is to say with some degree of beneficial collectivization, and some degree of insulated hierarchical power, which power and patronage pyramids are blemishes (or gaping sores) of every government everywhere, whether it calls itself “capitalist,” “democratic,” “socialist,” or “communist.”

My country, the United States, sent a Marine invasion in 1965 to prosecute a massive land war, and helicopter war, and aerial bombardment war in Vietnam till late 1972, which was continued by the Vietnamese troops of the South Vietnamese puppet government till it collapsed in April 1975. During the 13 years or so of direct U.S. military involvement in Vietnam (1962-1975, previously the U.S. had funded the French war to recolonize Vietnam, 1946-1954, after its liberation with the defeat of Japan in August 1945), the U.S. military sent in about 1 million soldiers, sailors, airmen, and women nurses, whose collective work resulted in perhaps 2.5-3 million Vietnamese killed, and perhaps up to 3.5-4 million people killed in Southeast Asia (Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, as sections of the latter two nations were also heavily bombarded and chemically defoliated).

Of those approximately 1 million U.S. military personnel that passed through Southeast Asia during the American war there, just over 58,000 of them were killed, and many thousands more suffered debilitating physical and psychological wounds that lasted, and are lasting, till their deaths.

The Vietnamese Communist Party, which was conducting its war of national liberation, and defensive war against American aggression against their unified communist national aspirations, was desperate to receive whatever foreign assistance it could get in the way of arms and humanitarian supplies to combat such an awesome enemy. It was “communist” Russia and “communist” China that supplied the better arms the Communist Party of Vietnam acquired to fight the Americans. The governments of Russia and China did this in part because of “communist solidarity,” but also in large part out of “superpower” — that is to say, imperialist — rivalry with the alternative capitalist empire of the Americans and their associated Western Allies.

I say “alternative capitalist empire” because both Russia and China were also basically capitalist but in the form of state-monopolized top-down command capitalism, instead of the American form of lightly regulated largely disorganized privatized capitalism that bought self-aggrandizing government influence and insulation from public responsibility and popular democracy. America’s “colonies” are foreign zones of extractive economic exploitation. The colonies of Russia’s empire — its zones of extractive economic exploitation by Kremlin leaders — were the captive nations within the U.S.S.R. (like Ukraine) as well as the captive nations within the East Bloc, behind what Winston Churchill called the “Iron Curtain.”

The Communist Party of China (its exclusive power and patronage pyramid and nomenklatura), like Russia, envisioned itself as an insular empire with internal colonies, stretching in the west from Xinjiang (with the oppressed Uyghurs, a Turkic and Islamic people) and Tibet (annexed by China in 1951, and Tibetans are a different ethnicity than the dominant Han Chinese) in Central Asia, east to the Pacific Ocean, north from what used to be called Manchuria (north of the Korean peninsula) to south with Hainan island in the South China Sea, and out to the still independent and very western-style capitalist Chinese island nation of Taiwan.

In the extremity of their situation during their thirty years of wars of national independence (1945-1975), the Communist Party of Vietnam could not concern itself with the multipolar superpower rivalries between the Chinese (whom they traditionally hated from previous centuries of conquests and oppression), the Russians who were using them as proxies to bleed the Americans in their Russian-American “Cold War,” and their own very immediate and massively destructive American invaders trying to force them to be “capitalists.” They took what arms and supplies and money they could get from sympathetic foreigners to keep their struggle for independence alive.

And such is the situation of the Ukrainians today, as it was for the Afghans during the 1980s when the United States supplied the Afghan Mujahideen with shoulder-fired anti-tank and anti-aircraft missile weapons, as the Americans sought revenge against the Russians for the very useful help (as with anti-aircraft missile systems) the Russians had rendered the Vietnamese Communists during the 1960s and early 1970s.

That United States policy for Afghanistan was initiated as a covert action by a Polish-American government official, Zbigniew Brzezinski (1928-2017), who was born in Warsaw and left Poland in 1938 as a 10 year old boy with his family when his Polish diplomat father was posted to Montreal, Canada. Brzezinski was obviously motivated by his memory of Stalin’s ravaging of his homeland, and not just by a desire to be of foreign policy service to the 1978 American government he had become a part of.

So from Stalin’s Red Army and NKVD in Poland in 1939, to Lyndon Johnson’s and Richard Nixon’s (and Henry Kissinger’s) U.S. military in Vietnam in 1962-1975, to Leonid Brezhnev’s and the Kremlin’s Russian military in Afghanistan during its war there from 1979 to 1989 (when the Berlin Wall fell), to now with the Russian-Ukrainian War, it has been tit-for-tat bleeding of each other by rival superpowers (that is to say, nuclear armed empires) using the wars of small nations struggling desperately to gain their freedom and independence. And it is the freedom and independence of those small nations that are the only morally justifiable aspects of this chained cycle of superpower vengeance by proxy, through wars of independence so cruelly destructive of and callously inflicted on the small nations that have to wage them.

While eventually the small nations, invaded and crushed by the murderous onslaughts of the huge wars prosecuted by the major world powers during the 20th century, gained varying degrees of freedom, independence, stability and prosperity, the one universal outcome of all those wars was the creation of many millions of dead, many millions of physically and mentally traumatized, and many millions of surviving widows, orphans, widowers, and bereft lovers.

That truth has been captured in many mournful songs of lament, and one that especially affects me is “High Germany” as sung by my younger daughter. Of course, it is the personal effect of hearing her lovely voice, besides just the sentiment of that Celtic ballad, that makes for such an emotional effect on me. Over a century ago, young men from Scotland, a Celtic nation conquered and absorbed by England in 1651 (and formally incorporated into the United Kingdom of Great Britain in 1707) were drafted into the English Army to go fight Germany during World War I. Young men from other Celtic territories earlier captured by the English (Wales, Cornwall, the Northern Counties of Ireland) were also sent a-soldiering for the British Crown. And 895,000 of those, mostly young men, from the United Kingdom died in WWI. As we know, there were also many wounded and traumatized veterans, and many grieving families and lovers of those lost, in fact a “Lost Generation.” It is the lingering heartbreak of such grief by the survivors of the powerless people sent to fight those wars by their imperial masters, that is the essence of that song.

High Germany
25 February 2018
https://youtu.be/2QybAQVv6jE

And today those powerless pawns sent to bleed and die for their national Caesar’s ambition to reconstitute a rump insular neo-Stalinist empire by recapturing Ukraine (independent from 1991), are Russian soldiers, who like their American counterparts today are most likely in the military because of a paucity of decent good-paying civilian jobs.

The command structure of your Russian military is more attuned to Putin’s imperialistic ambitions, because like the American military command structure during the 1960s, they are careerists and have a triumphalist attitude gained by their facility at massively bombing unarmed and barely-armed civilian populations: Vietnamese, Laotian and Cambodian for the Americans, while Chechen and Syrian for the Russians.

Stopping these predatory wars by superpowers is so difficult because the perpetrating governments are largely immune from civilian humanitarian sentiments and popular democracy (naturally, they are empires), and only military mutinies and revolutionary changes of government can really stop their nation’s wars. Was this not so with the Russian Revolution in 1917?, and with the escalating military mutinies by U.S. soldiers, sailors and airmen between about 1969 through 1972? Thoughtful Americans today are proud of their war resistors and protestors of the 1960s and 1970s, just as your thoughtful Russians will be proud in years to come of your brave war resistors and protestors today. If only such civilian resistance to their nation’s wars of choice were more effective at preventing and stopping them; and if only a greater portion of the militaries of our nations would revolt against prosecuting such wars of choice, and thus render the greatest service soldiers can render their nations’s people — the actual people.

But as with you in Russia, we here in the United States also have our thoughtless and inhuman people who define their allegiances not with humanity and its sufferings anywhere, but with their own selfish careerist ambitions couched as principled concerns for supra-human and exclusionary ideological political abstractions, which they like to imagine elevate their intellectual pretensions and ennoble their moral characters.

So among your Russians you have those who follow Vladimir Putin canard of seeking to “de-nazify” Ukraine, despite “the Putin regime’s own record of collaboration with far-right extremists. Even as Russian diplomats condemned ‘fascists’ in the Baltic states and Kremlin propagandists railed against imaginary ‘Ukronazis’ in power in Kyiv, the Russian state was cultivating its own homegrown Nazis” —

Putin’s fascists: the Russian state’s long history of cultivating homegrown neo-Nazis
Robert Horvath
(Senior Lecturer, La Trobe University)
https://theconversation.com/putins-fascists-the-russian-states-long-history-of-cultivating-homegrown-neo-nazis-178535

And we here in the United States have allies of that oligarchic-authoritarian anti-feminist, homophobic, White Supremacist ideology, and who have no sincere sympathy for Ukraine under attack, such as Donald Trump — our sociopathic narcissistic previous president who lauds Vladimir Putin whom he sees as mirroring his own ambitions — and the entirety of our Republic Party (and Abraham Lincoln would weep to see what has become of the party he was the first US president of).

But we here in the United States also have “leftists”and declared “socialists” who have no sincere sympathy with the Ukrainian people, because they are wrapped up in their self-delusions of themselves as highly enlightened anti-nazis, and “anti-imperialists,” by which they mean anti-US imperialism only, and that includes in their minds their idea of “NATO expansionism.” For them any “enemy of US imperialism and NATO expansion,” however despicable and murderously dictatorial they may be to their own people, such as Muammar Gaddafi was and Bashar al-Assad is, are worthy of their consideration and defense, because for them thwarting US imperialism (both actual and imagined) is always more important than forthrightly helping to relieve actual terrorized people of their murderous oppression by their tyrannical rulers.

Such ideological and thus effectively inhuman leftists myopically, and really narcissistically, see themselves as having a “higher purpose” like the journalist “Frank Pitcairn” who was a propaganda agent for Stalin during the Spanish Civil War and wrote dispatches for the Irish press that were pure lies intended to further Stalin’s campaign to betray the Socialist Revolution in Spain during 1937 in his effort to have his Communist cadres gain complete control of the Spanish Republican government. That cynical campaign by Stalin resulted in the tortures and murders by the NKVD of socialists and anarchists in Spain not controlled by Stalin, and thus sapped the strongest moral force fighting against Francisco Franco’s fascist revolt against the democratically elected Spanish Republican government.

Franco was backed militarily by Hitler and Mussolini, and economically by Great Britain. The Spanish proletarians who manned the most effective and motivated anti-fascist forces were organized as the Socialist and Anarchist militias fighting for proletarian dignity and economic independence within a projected Socialist Spain. Once the socialist national dream for Spain was violently quashed in May 1937 by the combined forces of Stalin’s organs of repression and Spanish Communist troops directed from the Kremlin, and the military forces of the anti-Francoist Spanish bourgeoisie, the spirit animating the defense of the Spanish Republic dissipated and the war ended in a terrible defeat in 1939, followed by almost four decades of Francoist dictatorship during which more Spanish anarchists, socialists, communists and republicans were executed than had been killed during the Civil War itself.

I had a grand-uncle who was a violinist with a pre-war Spanish symphony orchestra, who was jailed for a time by Franco after 1939 for being an opponent of the regime — a classical violinist! So, I have an animus to the “Frank Pitcairn” types, the self-declared and comfortable Western leftists who defend rather than decry tyrants who oppress, torture, disappear, gas and bomb their unarmed civilian populations seeking reforms against their government’s oligarchic corruption, and for their own democratic participation in charting their nation’s course, because those Frank Pitcairn types are consumed with approval-seeking (from Stalin in the 1930s and 1940s, and from like-minded internet audiences today) and burnishing their own self-delusions of having superior worthiness as politically advanced and thus presumably morally elevated “US-only anti-imperialists.” Their lovingly satisfying gazing into their own self-referential mirrors are not to be interrupted by any concerns for the sufferings of actual people being killed by dictators and regimes nominally opposed to “US imperialism,” and so those oppressed populations, by “anti-imperialist” ideologically necessary definition, “deserve it” because they are Nazis in Ukraine, and al-Qaeda in Libya and Syria.

All the arguments by these “anti-imperialists” boil down to a defense of how they wish to think of themselves, regardless of how many foreign civilians have to be murdered (by approved of foreign “anti-imperialist” potentates) to preserve that self-image. And Vladimir Putin’s organs of disinformation and propaganda gleefully use these Western “anti-imperialist” poseurs to help perpetrate his many war crimes since 2000, when he gained power, and most recently in Syria and Ukraine.

So I now find that I am more isolated politically than I used to believe was possible, because the “leftist community” that I identified with and once imagined was at least unified by some wonderful human-centered principles of solidarity by class — the “working class,” “the proletariate,” “the voters,” “the people,” as opposed to the wealth and power classes of oligarchs and “capitalists” and corporations and “nomenklatura type” politicians — a human-centered solidarity that cut across national boundaries and ethnic differences, has been vividly exposed by the war in Ukraine to be irredeemably fractured between Frank Pitcairn type rigid ideologues of very selective anti-imperialism and of inconsistent sympathy with oppressed populations, and George Orwell type inconsistent ideologues for anti-imperialism, with consistent sympathy for oppressed populations. The essence here is whether one identifies with one or another of the power pyramids engaged in the “multipolar” (one of Putin’s favorite words in his apologetics of his imperialism) rivalry between the major power pyramids, or “superpowers,” vying for greater control of world populations and their economics, or whether one identifies indiscriminately with “the workers” and the actual “ordinary” people of the world, who universally want safe, secure, decently prosperous and not exploited lives for themselves and their families in stable democratic non-contending nation-states.

What we really need in the world today is for NATO to expand globally to encompass EVERY country on Earth: every nation pledged to come to the immediate aid and defense of any nation that happens to experience a crisis or catastrophe, be it of political origins like a military invasion or a civil war brought on my dictatorial megalomania, or a catastrophe of natural origins like a tsunami, an earthquake, floods, crop failures and famine, or Climate Change.

Global Warming Climate Change (GWCC) is a pernicious geophysical positive feedback loop of negative consequences for planetary habitability, being a human caused and accelerated effect driven by emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases (primarily methane) exhausted from the burning of fossil fuels used to generate the heat-energy that powers so much of “our” capitalist and militarist and imperialist ambitions. The only way GWCC can be slowed and eventually stopped before it makes organized human life — human civilization — impossible because of the heat-induced onslaught of many irreversible and catastrophic environmental changes, is for an internationally cooperative and unified and permanently sustained maximum effort to quickly abandon the use of fossil fuels everywhere, and to power all human activities from naturally sustainable sources such as by solar, wind, hydrological and geothermal power.

Such an internationally integrated worldwide anti-GWCC effort would necessarily define a new reality of World Socialism: “all for one and one for all.” The transformation of one’s own country for a Post-Carbon World, along with its assistance offered to and cooperation given with other countries engaged in their own self-transformations to the post-carbon paradigm, would necessarily be leveling socialist economic revolutions nationally and globally. Both the “communist” labeled command-capitalist oligarchies and the “capitalist” labeled corporate “free market” oligarchies would have had to fall away in favor of a broad socialism centered on meeting the human needs of Earth’s people, for a planetary anti-GWCC effort to be able to be mounted and to succeed.

And it is because I now see the emergence of such a planetary anti-GWCC world socialism as impossible that I also grieve. That “impossibility” solely exists because of the obduracy and pettiness of a vast portion of humanity’s minds, even among minds in our communities of supposedly most politically enlightened people (according to themselves): our socialists, and safely comfortable Western recreational “leftists,” people who cannot bring themselves to support the assistance — from whatever quarter possible even NATO — to small national populations struggling desperately against murderous onslaughts from their dictatorial rulers like Bashar al-Assad in Syria, and from invasive imperialistic foreign juggernauts like Vladimir Putin in Syria and in Ukraine.

If we cannot all see the moral universality of human struggles against anti-democratic oppression and against the losing of personal freedoms, of national independence, and of life itself for so many, then we will never be able to prevent our fractious selves from destroying our planet’s habitability through our competitively myopic escalation of Anthropogenic Climate Change.

So I grieve for the human pawns being sacrificed to advance tyrannical and imperial ambitions, for the many widows, orphans, widowers and bereft lovers who survive, for a while, those human pawns sacrificed on the chess boards of ambitious narcissistic potentates, and I grieve for my lost illusions about leftist communities and socialist potentialities, and I grieve for a world I think is hopelessly beyond salvation — by choice.

Believe me, I fervently wish history would prove me wrong, and soon.

And I hope Ukraine wins its defensive war, soon.

And ideology be damned: human solidarity is everything.

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Some Notes on Ukraine, mostly, (21Feb-16Mar’22)

Photograph by Oleksii Kyrychenko, 10 March 2022. Portrait of his 12 year old daughter in Kyiv. The beauty of childhood and the tragedy of war, and admirable resoluteness in the midst of great injustice, all in one photo.

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Some Notes on Ukraine, mostly, (21Feb-16Mar’22)

Over the last 24 days, I have had many thoughts about the Russian invasion of Ukraine, or colored by that criminal tragedy. A number of these thoughts are in response to the questions, or accusations, I have received about the opinions I have so far expressed publicly about “Ukraine.” I offer this chronological string of some of my selected “notes on Ukraine” as a snapshot of this man’s state of mind at this time, primarily to share with people like my questioners. This is not a polemic (“a verbal war”) aimed at the many who disagree with my perspectives on “Ukraine,” “leftists,” “anti-imperialism,” and all that; it is just a fragmentary personal testimony, a series of reflections during a dark time.

It is my impression that for most Americans — and perhaps for most people everywhere — that their political awareness boils down to confirmation bias and witch burning.

“The lands of today’s Ukraine were the center of both Stalinist and Nazi killing policies throughout the era of mass killings. Some 3.5 million people fell victim to Stalinist killing policies between 1933 and 1938, and then another 3.5 million to German killing policies between 1941 and 1944. Perhaps three million more inhabitants of Soviet Ukraine died in combat or as an indirect consequence of the war.” —
[Timothy Snyder, ‘Bloodlands’, p404]

The 1939 population of the Ukraine was 32,425,000. So, a loss of 10 million people between 1933 and 1944 represents 30.8% (nearly 1 in 3) of the 1939 population (used here for comparative purposes). For just the 6.5 million people lost between 1941 and 1944, because of the WWII German invasion, then 20% (1 in 5) of “1939” Ukrainians were killed. If we reference the 3.5 million Ukrainians killed between 1933 and 1938 (pre WWII), by the combination of Stalin’s enforced Terror Famine (1932-1933) and Great Purge (many gunshot executions, 1937-1938) to the 1939 population, that mortality ratio is 10.8% (about 1 in 9). Ukrainians remain very conscious of their 20th century history, especially those Ukrainian people in their 80s and 90s, who lived through that history.

There is no justification for Putin’s Russian invasion of Ukraine whatsoever. None of Putin’s accusations and characterizations of Ukraine are true. All Russian military operations in Ukraine are by definition war crimes. All apologetics of Putin’s invasion are complicity by ideological denial of truth. (See: “Vladimir Putin’s Hall of Mirrors, the Russian president sees the world through the lens of maskirovka and provokatsiia,” Timothy Snyder, 21 February 2022, https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2022/02/putin-ukraine-invasion-maskirovka-provokatsiia/622874/)

Why is Volodymyr Zelensky the President of Ukraine today (since 20 May 2019)? Given the history of Ukraine, and Russian actions in that country, it is not hard to imagine why an arbitrary “Russian speaker” as a presidential candidate who “looks East” (as Viktor Yanukovych did in 2004-2005) would not get elected to lead Ukraine’s government and formulate its foreign policy. Additionally, Ukrainian voters were disgusted by political corruption in the 2010s, and Zelensky was seen as a reform candidate as well as an Atlanticist — politically and economically oriented toward Europe. It is Ukrainian history, and not US lobbying, that is the driving factor in the Ukrainian public mind setting its direction “toward the Atlantic.” Putin’s invasion only reinforces this point, and also adds to the argument in favor of Ukraine becoming a part of NATO, as an elementary matter of national self-defense.

I think that the fundamental issue has always been one of trust, not economics or energy supplies, and the lesson I am sure Ukrainians have arrived at from their history (and especially today) is that they can never trust the Russians ever, and that they should always try to acquire protective alliances to shield them from Russia — when their country can act as an independent nation. Despite the imbalance of military forces today, and perhaps a temporary ‘win’ for Putin’s military this week or next, over the long term Ukraine is lost to Russia forever as a willing subject (slave) or borderland ally. Russia can act out, and invade and destroy (as in Syrian and now Ukraine), but it has lost all moral authority and welcoming agreement from others, to expand territorially, and also enlarge its influence in defining political ideas internationally.

About “Nazis in Ukraine”: There are more neo-Nazis in Russia than Ukraine, and Putin is basically one of them. The totality of neo-Nazi ultra-right parties in Ukraine only garnered 2.5% in the last parliamentary elections, and failing to break 5% gained zero seats in the parliament. The “Ukrainian neo-Nazi” trope is Russian/Putin disinformation.

“Putin absurdly claims that he must invade Ukraine to denazify it. Zelens’kyi unlike Putin is a democratically-elected president. Zelenskyi unlike Putin does not support racists and white supremacists [and homophobes — MG,Jr.] around the world. He interprets the Second World War from a Ukrainian perspective… ‘How can you call us Nazis when we gave millions of lives in the Second World War?’ It is a fair point. Ukrainian soldiers died in terrible numbers in the Red Army: more than Americans, British, and Frenchmen combined during the Second World War. He adds: ‘Tell it to my grandfather, who fought in the Soviet infantry and died as a colonel in independent Ukraine.’ President Zelensky does not mention that his grandfather’s father and much of his family were murdered in the Holocaust.” — Timothy Snyder (24 February 2022, https://snyder.substack.com/p/do-russians-want-war).

What about Climate Change? Can the nations of the world ever stop generating an endless sequence of wars — which are always wasteful fossil fuel intensive and high CO2 emission disasters — and instead unite to cooperate on an effective socio-economic response to slow the acceleration of global warming? Today, it certainly seems not.

I think Global Warming Climate Change (GWCC) will cause many societal and political problems, and that we all will never arrive at one “perfect” solution to it all, we will always have to dance with a wide variety of interrelated and conflicting situations, and much of our dances will have to be ever-changing improvisations — forever. So, it is good for us each to keep doing the good we can do, because regardless of what Nature imposes on us, the better our personal, local and global human societies are, the better equipped they will be to face those challenges from Nature. And, really, this is true even without GWCC — but GWCC does make it more pressing.

On 1 March 2022, U.S. President Joseph Biden gave the televised “State of the Union Address” to a joint session of Congress. My abstraction of the Republican Response is as follows (and was written without any need to actually listen to the televised Republican Response): ‘Look folks, if Biden gets everything he’s asked for, the billionaires and corporations we work for will make less profit that they can stash overseas, and we will have a harder time getting elected, so we can keep our high paying government jobs working for those billionaires and corporations to keep making those tax-free profits. So don’t back any of it!, and don’t vote for anyone who will! Don’t listen to Biden when he tells you that passing his bills would lower your taxes, medical costs, daycare and grocery bills, raise your wages, and make it easier for you to vote! NONE OF THAT MATTERS! We know, because WE are the ones doing what really is important!, which is preventing all of that waste!, and keeping America PURE!” Who could doubt that there are more neo-Nazis in the U.S.A. than in Ukraine?

Ukraine in 2022 is a “great revealer” of people’s political biases and orientations, in the same way that Spain was during 1936-1939. May Ukraine’s fate be much, much happier (and that happiness occur much, much sooner) than Spain’s was from 1939 to 1975-1982 (Franco’s dictatorship). The Spanish Civil War was the prelude to WWII in Europe; would that the present Russian war in Ukraine could be the final coda of that cacophony of bloody dictatorial ambition, never to be seen or heard from again anywhere in the world, because the people have united and their oppressive regimes have been burned away.

How does it feel to be propelled through the portal of eternity into the full might and fury of God exploding into you? Feierlich, misterioso, bewegt lebhaft, schnell, langsam, feierlich. I listen once again to Bruckner’s 9th Symphony, and I think of Ukraine, Syria, Yemen, Warsaw, Spain, Wounded Knee, Gettysburg, Fort Pillow, Boudica, Spartacus, Melos, Troy, Cassandra, and so many more — too many more. And I am reminded not to live superficially, self-absorbed and uncaring, for that would be ingratitude for so far having been spared their fate, by the capricious currents of history. — BRUCKNER: Symphony No. 9 in D minor / Haitink · Concertgebouw Orchestra (https://youtu.be/K5QZrxe54gU).

“He has gone where savage indignation can lacerate his heart no more.” — Jonathan Swift (1666-1747), his epitaph for himself.

A PRIVATE WAR (2018), a very powerful movie about MARIE COLVIN, a journalist (for The Sunday Times) who covered wars in the late 20th and early 21st centuries, among them: Sri Lanka, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria. She focused on the real story: the effect of war on people: civilians, families, children. She was well aware of the “politics” behind the wars, which are pushed by the egos and ambitions of dictators and “empires,” and she went to record the truths about the desperate resistance to those murderous governmental ambitions, resistance by the people massively outgunned and fighting for their independence, dignity, and survival while living constantly with unimaginable fear because of the extreme likelihood that they would soon be visited by a very violent death. The segments on Libya and Syria were particularly good at showing the reality of what Gaddafi and Assad (later with massive help from Putin) had done and were doing to their own people to merit the revolts that rose up against them. I think back to LOUIS PROYECT in 2011, when our separate anti-dictator rage converged sympathetically, over Libya, and of his massive output of writings over the next ten years in support of the Libyans and then Syrians, despite the continuous flack he received from the idiotic “anti-imperialist” Tankies and Campists who could care less how many brown bodies were shredded by hot metal bits to be dumped and hurriedly buried in mass grave pits by their favored dictators. These comfortable Western “anti-imperialists” were merciless in their criticisms of the failings of the Western democracies but were ready to tolerate the worst crimes by their favored perpetrators as long as they are committed in the name of the “proper doctrines” (a.k.a. “anti-imperialism”). And now we have Ukraine. I wish, for our benefit, that Louis was still here to breath his righteous fire in defense of a just cause, as he was so good at doing; the only consolation I can think of to his departure last August is that maybe his generous soul can no longer be wounded by the aggravating pain of seeing another unnecessary and murderous societal catastrophe perpetrated by Vladimir Putin. What you would see in A PRIVATE WAR is not exactly like Ukraine in 2022 — but then again it really is — for the people. “A Private War Trailer #1 (2018)” (https://youtu.be/TTf0Lc5YAcc), and “Telling legendary journalist Marie Colvin’s story in ‘A Private War’” (https://youtu.be/vdOPRLykvFA).

I just started reading LIFE AND FATE, an 841+ page Russian-Jewish novel, and Vasily Grossman’s masterpiece, the 20th century’s ‘War and Peace.’ Grossman was a journalist who accompanied the Red Army (at the front) from Stalingrad (1942-1943) to Berlin (1945), was the very first to write a ‘discovery’ report about the Nazi death camps (Treblinka), and survived as a Soviet dissident author through Stalin’s antisemitic campaign (proto-purge, ~1943-1953) and Khrushchev’s spiking of too embarrassingly truthful Russian literature (1953-1964). After he submitted his typescript of L&F for publication in 1959, the KGB raided Grossman’s flat to confiscate all copies and even the carbon papers and typewriter ribbons used: “his book was arrested.” He had made copies stashed secretly with friends who did not know each other. It was eventually smuggled out (by dissidents including Andrei Sakharov — ‘Father of the Russian Nuclear Bomb’) and published in the West in 1980, after Grossman’s death (stomach cancer) in 1964; it was first published in Russia in 1988. Vasily Grossman was a Ukrainian whose mother was killed by the German Nazis there. ‘Life and Fate’ is an epic meditation on the origins and consequences of totalitarianism, Nazi and Soviet equally (an equation the Soviet authorities wanted suppressed), and told from a human experiences point of view (as was the reporting by Marie Colvin between 1985-2012, but she was writing newspaper war correspondent reports whereas Grossman’s L&F is a novel summing up all his war correspondent and postwar anti-Stalinist dissidence experiences). Through the many characters in this novel, Grossman is able to describe many types of hellish experiences people between Berlin and Moscow, the Black Sea and the Baltic Sea, and in the Gulags, were subjected to between ~1930 to ~1945.

KANAL (1957) (https://youtu.be/e0P66M4bVkI)
A company of the Polish Home Army soldiers with civilian stragglers, in September 1944, is relentlessly being decimated by the Wehrmacht during the Warsaw Uprising on the west side of the Vistula River, while the Red Army was halted on the east side waiting for it to be all over before continuing west toward Berlin — shades of the formally defunct Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. For this “free” version of this amazing classic gem of world cinema, knowing Polish or Portuguese (subtitles) would help, but neither is really needed as the story virtually tells all of itself visually. Scenes like some in this movie are becoming (and have become) more familiar again in places like Syria and Ukraine.

THE BOMBARDMENT (‘The Shadow In My Eye,’ 2022, https://youtu.be/h4jVysnRisI)
This is a deeply felt, and I would say deeply philosophical, Danish movie about the human costs of Operation Carthage, the March 1945 Royal Air Force (RAF) mission to bomb Gestapo HQ in the center of Copenhagen. The movie is entirely accurate about how that mission turned out: Gestapo HQ was destroyed, but a Catholic girls school was mistakenly destroyed as well, with 125 fatalities. In terms of the visuals, sound and pacing, the movie is top notch; the acting is all “natural” and entirely believable; and the interwoven plots of the children and their young funny and existentially anguished teacher, Sister Teresa, are how this story infuses the viewer with a feeling of what war does to the human spirit (and to bodies, as well). That dispiriting effect of anguish and dread in the adults during warfare: Danish parents and RAF pilots, is also shown quite effectively. While there is certainly a good bit of tense action in this movie (with beautiful deadly airplanes), that action is at the service of the human/psychological story, and for that reason I see this as a “philosophical” movie. Maybe Danish film-makers are all imbued with Kierkegaard and steeped in Bergman movies, so a film like this has the clarity and deep perspective of slant angle sunlight in far northern slate-gray skies. In the chaos of war even goodness and self-sacrifice are tragic. What is most important at all times, theirs and ours, is to remember the human connection. This film shows that, masterfully.

Benjamin Ferencz (age 102) on Ukraine, 2022:
“Two of the 22 Nazis he prosecuted then, high-ranking members of the Einsatzgruppen, Nazi extermination squads responsible for the deaths of around two million, were architects of the massacre of Babyn Yar in Kyiv in September 1941. When he learnt Putin’s forces had blasted the mass grave of its 33,771 largely Jewish victims on Tuesday, he was crushed. However, hearing the International Criminal Court (ICC) announce this week it was already sending war crimes investigators into Ukraine, that it would hold Russian perpetrators at the highest level to account for any war crimes committed, has given him cause for renewed hope. His voice raised, shouting at times, he said: ‘The crimes now being committed against Ukraine by Russia are a disgrace to human society, those responsible should be held accountable for aggression, crimes against humanity and plain murder. As soon as they start dragging the criminals before a court the happier we will be.’ For Putin and his circle to be tried, proven war crimes would need to be linked directly to them. To enable their arrests, potentially a whole new government would need to be in place. Russia has previously quit the ICC. But Mr Ferencz is certain Putin can be jailed – maybe here, [UK] like Bosnian Serb leader, Radovan Karadzic.” — [“Last surviving Nuremberg Trials prosecutor says Vladimir Putin should be ‘behind bars’” 4 March 2022, https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/world-news/last-surviving-nuremberg-trials-prosecutor-26389664]

“Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely”

UK Polish Leftists on Ukraine (14 March 2022, https://manuelgarciajr.com/2022/03/14/uk-polish-leftists-on-ukraine/) note:
Q: Why did Putin attack Ukraine?
A: To finish what he started when he took Crimea, and incorporate the “fake nation” of Ukraine into Russia, duh. For centuries, Russia suppressed the Ukrainian language and culture, and it’s what they are planning now. Putin’s talk about Russians and Ukrainians being ”one nation”, or about Ukraine “not being a real country” is just preparing ground for russification of Ukraine. Do you know that Ukraine used to be called Malorossiya? (Little Russia)? During Putin’s rule, he and his supporters have long peddled the idea of “ruski mir” – “Russian world” – an ideology that says Russian civilisation extends to anywhere Russians live. Do you see where this is going? Get it now??? If not, read this article that the Russian “news” outlet RIA Novosti published by mistake, that was supposed to run AFTER Russia’s “obvious” victory over Ukraine. They promptly removed it, but not quickly enough. It had already been screencapped by multiple readers, and translated into English by a Pakistani newspaper: “The new world order,” Petr Akopov (https://thefrontierpost.com/the-new-world-order/).

I FIND IT AMAZING TO HAVE TO SAY THIS, BUT:
I don’t play the “my war criminal is better than your war criminal” game. And I don’t defend any dictator, even if his purported “principles” are right (i.e., “left”). “We” (actual people) stop “them” (regimes) if we can and as we can. The inability so far to bring 20th-21st century U.S. war criminals to justice is not an excuse to allow for Putin, Assad, Gaddafi (till 2011), et. al., to continue with their crimes, if it seems possible to stop them. Lack of universal perfect justice in the world is not an excuse to accept and approve of ideologically sympathetic injustices (by ‘your’ war criminals) to compensate for the existence of ideologically antipathetic injustices (by ‘their’ war criminals). Churchill and Roosevelt (“capitalists”, “imperialists”) had no problem accepting Stalin’s Red Army (“communists”, imperialist-within-one-soviet-‘union’) fighting the larger fraction of the WWII land war in Europe against Hitler (real Nazis). And I don’t have a problem with NATO taking down dictators (like Gaddafi, Assad, Putin) who are prosecuting murderous wars today, if it is possible to take them down. Blunt weapons are far better than no weapons in catastrophic emergencies for targeted victim populations: ideology • does • not • matter — people do! “In politics, the choice is never between good and evil, but between the preferable and the detestable.”

Let me say that one main inspiration for me to express myself on politics/international relations in the way I do was historian Tony Judt’s comment in one of his later books that it was important to bring morality into political discussions, and not just let them proceed as essentially soulless exercises in gamesmanship and “realpolitik.” And that is my point of departure. My chain of logic is: people (human solidarity) –> defines morality –> thus, bend ideology (ideally leftism/socialism, though alas so far always sectarian) to fit the human-centered morality (not “interests” centered politics) –> from there construct the “politics” (the mechanics of socio-economic relations and operations). With such a “moral” outlook, it is then easy to see through ideological obfuscation (like the “my war criminal is better than your war criminal” silliness of so much self-righteous victim-ignoring virtue-signalling in the propaganda wars over “Ukraine”), and know that dictators of any stripe are bad, unprovoked military invasions are bad, bombing civilians and civilian areas is wrong and bad, and that trying to conquer, subjugate and re-colonize, and destroy the culture of, a foreign people and nation is wrong and bad. I always reference back to “the people” who are getting hammered, and so I always think the “right politics” is whatever gives them relief from that as soon as possible, and then sets them onto a safe secure national independence of a form they select by a fair and transparent process of self-determination. For me human freedom trumps (sic) ideological purity and consistency.

Political ideology is based on abstractions about national regimes, both actual and as idealized projections, without regard to human individuality. Political morality is based entirely on the realities of relations between national populations, all seen as human individuals and not as politically abstracted masses (“regimes”), and all deserving the same degree of personal experience of political freedom and human rights as described in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, published by the United Nations.

National policy guided by a consistency of political ideology will often require sacrifices of the political freedoms and human rights of individuals, domestic and foreign. National policy guided by political morality will require a continuing shifting, “dance,” and sacrifice of the preferred political ideology, in order to seek for the moral center action is to be aimed at in order to preserve a materially effective international human solidarity, in the midst of the ever changing external political conditions of human civilization.

It is more work with less profit to do what is morally right than what is politically-ideologically consistent. But unless the world’s nations can collectively learn “to do what is morally right,” we will never solve the global problems of nuclear disarmament and mounting real and permanent responses and adaptations that slow the acceleration of global warming and blunt the worst effects of climate change on biodiversity and on the habitability of Planet Earth.

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UK Polish Leftists on Ukraine

Photograph by Oleksii Kyrychenko, 10 March 2022. Portrait of his 12 year old daughter in Kyiv.

The beauty of childhood and the tragedy of war, and admirable resoluteness in the midst of great injustice, all in one photo. — MG,Jr.

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Alexander Pademelon Johnson, of Sydney, Australia, made the “swords” graphic and pointed me to the following internet posting by a group of Polish leftists in the UK. (https://www.facebook.com/LewakiUK/)

LewakiUK: Stop talking about the Azov battalion

Just stop it.
Stop posting about it, stop FOCUSING on it.
YEEEEEEEESSSSS! there are neo-nazis in Ukraine. There are nazis across the entire Europe, not just Eastern Europe, including the UK, yet somehow NO ONE organises “sPeCiaL MiLitArY oPeRaTioNs to denazify and demilitarise” sovereign countries.

Were you against military interventions in Iraq? Yes? Afghanistan? Yes? Vietnam? Yeah, so we thought. Were all the people of those countries pure good? No. Were their governments unproblematic? Hell, no. Yet somehow in this case you’re all “omg look at these Azov guys… Hm… looks like these Ukrainians aren’t that innocent after all, huh. I don’t know man, there’s a lot of nazis there, these Russians kinda have a point”.

You are literally repeating Putin’s justification for this war. slow clap
And it comes from the left, of all places on the political spectrum.
It’s Ukraine now, but do you know what Poles and other Eastern Europeans think when we hear or read this from you?

We instantly think: WHAT IF IT WAS US? What if it IS us, next? What would our British FRIENDS do, if it was us.

What if Russia suddenly decided that (and humour us here!), Poland was violating human rights through anti-LGBT policies, anti-abortion bills, and the not letting Afghan refugees through the Polish-Belarusan border due to racism. ALL ARE 100% TRUE. All are wrong, and we know it. We’re literally the left, as in, we were activists against these policies in Poland, before we moved to the UK, or are still involved fighting against them. We know about our countries’ issues, and we know we need to sort ourselves out, but what if SOMEONE decided they’d do it for us, they’d come in with their military and de-…whatever us?

And here you’d be, digging out those articles on the web that happen to be TRUE, but in your hands they would serve nothing more than to further the success of the aggressor’s propaganda, and the implied between the lines argument that “we got what was coming to us”. Some friends, indeed. “Comrades”.
Do you know why it’s not us though? Why it’s not Poland, Latvia, Slovakia?

Because they joined NATO. They joined NATO to have protection from Russia.
Think of countries like Latvia. Less than 2 million people, a tiny military, and a large minority Russian population, some exclusively Russian-speaking, many Putin-supporting.
Latvia has over the years introduced a number of language laws, in retaliation for the Russians dominating public life pre-1989. Would that be a good enough argument for a “military operation”? Of course it would. But it won’t happen, because they’re in fecking NATO. So your “stop NATO expansion” spiels are falling on deaf ears in Eastern Europe, for reasons you need to either accept or not, but just stop talking.

But, back to the main point:
A week or two ago half of you didn’t know about the Azov Battalion, and you didn’t care, because it’s far, somewhere among these savages from the East. Now there’s mentions of some nazis so you “did your research”, and you’re sudeenly experts on Eastern Europe, westsplaining (thank you for that term, Zosia Brom from @Freedom News) our politics and mutual conflicts to us like we’re children.
So let us tell you this – you will never understand us, and how the experiences of multiple occupations shaped our societies, and how that historical experience is present in our everyday conversations, and in our system of values.

In our part of Europe, everyone has had beef with each other, and we are raised with that knowledge about each other. There are CENTURIES of beef between Poland and Ukraine, centuries of bloody and painful history. We put it all aside on day ONE of the Russian invasion.

You can bet your bottom pound that there are leftists, antifascists, completely apolitical people, and, yes – the nazis, fighting side by side in Ukraine right now, because for as long as this war goes on, the enemy is only ONE, and we can go on hating each other later.

Your comments come from one place, and one place only – never having been under Russian/Soviet occupation. Never living in what is essentially the shadow of Mordor.
Western imperialism, NATO imperialism – those are your main enemies, and we get it. We don’t like them either, but for our nations they are the lesser evil.

Our enemy is Russian imperialism, and on this front, Eastern European countries choose to stick with NATO, because what comes with Russian imperialism is more than extraction of natural resources and economy, but something much worse.

What comes is the russification of culture, the rewriting of history, the banning of books and their authors, the banning of Western media, access to information, limiting civil rights, it’s the comeback of the secret police, the massive propaganda machine, the end of independent media, the censorship of arts, the unexplained disappearances of dissenting individuals, the state repressions, politicising curriculum and indoctrinating children from primary school, the surveillance of the population, the infiltration of universities and workplaces.

Romanians get it, Georgians get it, Lithuanians get it, Poles get it because we have all LIVED THROUGH IT, some of us more than once. That’s why Ukrainians are arming themselves with whatever they can, and if they can’t have weapons, they will carry Molotovs, scythes and pickle jars. Because they know what’s at stake.

They didn’t choose this and they don’t want to face the enemy unarmed and helpless. Not everyone wants to fight, but plenty do, regardless of experience.

We feel for the men who wanted to cross the borders with their families, but were stopped from leaving, separated from their families, and given arms. Most of them have had mandatory military training, so during war they are army reserves. This is why you avoid armed conflict at all cost…
And to those of you that think, or sometimes even tell us point-blank that Ukraine should surrender because they can’t win anyway – wow, that wasn’t even as quick as we thought. Gosh darned it, you stuck by us for almost two weeks now until you decided Ukraine was worth sacrificing for the peace of mind of Western Europe.

We’ve even heard that Ukrainians should protest like Gandhi, maybe stand in front of tanks with flowers and shit. You’ve obviously never seen what pacification of peaceful protests by an army looks like. But some of us have.

Should Ukraine surrender? NO. Not ever. Fuck, no. As lefties, we oppose imperialism, and fascism, which is now what the Russian state is serving their citizens with their new propaganda.
Speaking of which, what DO they say about the war in Russia?

So glad you asked. Apart from the decent folks that are getting arrested by their thousands for opposing the war, despite there being a punishment of up to 15 years in prison for using the words “war”, “aggression, “invasion”, etc., you can hear the rest repeating the version of events peddled by the state:
a) „Today Z is a symbol of the liberation operation for Donbass and liberating Ukraine from their nazi regime, it’s a symbol of protecting the fatherland”- Bikers from Ivanovo

b) „We know what we are fighting for. So that there is no fascism, weapons, so that the Ukrainian nation can live in peace. We will help them. The events of the last few days are reminiscent of June 1941. Almost the entire Europe under Hitler’s flag attacked us back then. Now they have gathered under the flag of NATO and pushed Ukrainian nazis on Russia. The president could not wait for missiles and bombs to start falling on us. If diplomacy didn’t help,we had to start a surgical military operation. – Nikolai Kruchkin, director of the Saransk Museum.

c) „As our boys are fulfilling their mission of denazification of Ukraine, residents of Russia, including KuZBass [notice the “Z”], are encountering unprecedented economic and moral pressure from other countries, and a wave of disinformation about our special operation. The Z symbol is an expression of support for our troops and the unity of our society. – Sergei Civiliev, governor of Kemerovo

Quotes translated from a post on Tomasz Piechal – Szkice Wschodnie (https://www.facebook.com/Tomasz-Piechal-Szkice-Wschodnie-101241165856934/) Thank you for that btw
Wonderful, innit? But you see, we’re familiar with that, too. Because that’s all we had on TV when we were parts of the Soviet Union. There was no ”independent media”. There was no media at all, apart from state media. Right now, Russia is organising “humanitarian convoys” with food to the bombed Ukrainian cities. AND they are bringing film crews. But Ukrainians don’t take the food from them, so they bring actors who pose as ‘deeply thankful’ Ukrainians for TV propaganda.

Alright… let’s have some FAQs

Q: “Why did Putin attack Ukraine?”
A: to finish what he started when he took Crimea, and incorporate the “fake nation” of Ukraine into Russia, duh. For centuries, Russia suppressed the Ukrainian language and culture, and it’s what they are planning now. Putin’s talk about Russians and Ukrainians being ”one nation”, or about Ukraine “not being a real country” is just preparing ground for russification of Ukraine. Do you know that Ukraine used to be called Malorossiya? (Little Russia)?
During Putin’s rule, he and his supporters have long peddled the idea of “ruski mir” – “Russian world” – an ideology that says Russian civilisation extends to anywhere Russians live.
Do you see where this is going?
Get it now???
If not, read this article that the Russian “news” outlet RIA Novosti published by mistake, that was supposed to run AFTER Russia’s “obvious” victory over Ukraine. They promptly removed it, but not quickly enough. It had already been screencapped by multiple readers, and translated into English by a Pakistani newspaper (https://thefrontierpost.com/the-new-world-order/)

Q: Is Ukraine a nazi country?
A: If you think a right wing party with 1.5% support makes a country neo-nazi, then boy, do I have news for you about the rest of Europe.

Q: But don’t you care about the Ukrainian nationalists and the history of nazi collaboration???
A: Don’t YOU care about the Russian Wagner Group and the Z campaign?
But yes, we do care about Ukrainian nationalism, and sadly we know it very well.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Massacres_of_Poles_in_Volhynia_and_Eastern_Galicia
Like we said, centuries of bloody beef between us. None of it matters now. But Ukrainian nationalists =/= Ukrainians.
And Ukraine has never been a threat to us, nor to the safety and independence of any other Eastern European countries, as opposed to You-Know-Who.

Q: Why are there so many Russians in Donbas?
A: Majority of the Russians in Donetsk and Luhansk were settled there when Ukraine was incorporated into the USSR, after Stalin-orchestrated Holodomor, the Great Famine, wiped out 4 million Ukrainians in the 1930s. Local population of Donbas was also decimated, so Russian settlers moved in. In 1991, in Ukraine’s independence referendum, most ethnic Russians in Donbas said ‘yes’ to living in free Ukraine, and for years, everything was peachy. What changed the moods? Mostly Yanukovych in 2010, but that part you should know from the news coverage.
And mind you, over 2 million ethnic Russians left Donetsk and Luhansk when separatists started taking over. What does that tell you?

Q: What do Ukrainians want?
A: They want to be left the fuck alone by Russia, and make their own choices. Those choices include joining NATO and the EU, as the second largest European country. You might dislike one or both, but it’s not you having to deal with Putin’s moods on a daily.

Q: “Isn’t fighting for the nation against leftist principles?”
A: Oh, that comment is so fucking rich coming from a country that had to fight for its independence exactly 0 times. Not aimed at you Scots, Irish, and Welsh btw. You know what we mean. fist bump
How the left wing in one of the most imperialist countries on this planet has the balls to tell us we shouldn’t resist imperialists by any means necessary is beyond us.
It’s not fighting for the nation, ya pricks. It’s fighting against being basically colonised. One would think that leftists should support it by default, kind of a low hanging fruit really… but what do we know.
Q:“Should leftists fight alongside the state army?”

A: Who the fuck cares NOW? That is such a first world problem question.
Q: “What do you say about the racism on the Polish and Ukrainian border?”

A: It’s HORRIFIC. We’re deeply ashamed, sad and angry about it. We don’t stand for any of this. Safe passage for everyone NOW! If you want to know what’s happening on the Polish-Ukrainian and the Polish-Belarusan border, please follow Grupa Granica on facebook – they are a collective project of 14 groups and orgs working with refugees in Poland, that is responding to the outrageous treatment of Afghan, Syrian and other BIPOC refugees by our government and Border Force.
Q: “Don’t you think there’s a double standard with the way how refugees from Ukraine are being treated compared to Syrians/Afghans?

A: Absolutely. We noticed it from day one, the bitter irony does not escape us. No one is asking why Ukrainians have smartphones, or nice looking clothes. People feel sorry for Ukrainian men who were forbidden from crossing the border, yet when Syrian men appeared they said they should have stayed in their country and fought. Baffling!

Q: “Was Holodomor real? Did Stalin actually starve Ukraine?”
A: Yes. Anyone who says otherwise will be banned from this page. No, it wasn’t “nazi propaganda”. Stalin’s soldiers went door to door and confiscated anything that would be edible enough to allow Ukrainians to survive the famine.
PS We take requests for informative posts. Some of us here are historians.

Q: “Should we arm Ukrainians?”
A: YES. Arm Ukraine. Arm Ukrainians. Arm the civilians who want to fight. Arm the volunteers.
UKRAINE CAN WIN THIS. But it needs support.
Even antifascist brigades are joining the Ukrainian resistance and you can’t see why because there’s some nazis there too.
You’re against volunteer legions, because defence is the job for the state.
Some of you suggested that Ukraine should surrender because they’ve been in the Soviet Union once, can’t be that bad.

And too many of you don’t understand why ordinary people are taking up arms in the first place.
Long story short, Western lefties… We’re kinda sick of you. You really eat up what you read on the Internet like Pelicans instead of talking to Eastern European comrades, of which you have plenty around you. And you don’t support us. You don’t support our unconditional right to freedom, and that is the most disappointing.

Our expectations were low, but holy fuck.
Enjoy that boot.
PS Слава Україні. смерт врогом.

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Libya, then Syria, now Ukraine

“The Arab Spring was a series of anti-government protests, uprisings, and armed rebellions that spread across much of the Arab world in the early 2010s. It began in response to corruption and economic stagnation and was first started in Tunisia. From Tunisia, the protests then spread to five other countries: Libya, Egypt, Yemen, Syria, and Bahrain.” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arab_Spring)

The First Libyan Civil War erupted on 15 February 2011 as a revolutionary insurrection against the dictatorship of Muammar Gaddafi. Protests against various injustices had occurred since August 2009, but in Benghazi on 15 February the security forces fired at the unarmed crowd, and this sparked what became known as the 17 February Revolution. Over the forty-two years of Muammar Gaddafi’s murderous reign many people had built up deep resentments against him, and these deep wounds propelled the determination of the revolutionary forces until the ending of the regime with capture and killing of Gaddafi on 20 October 2011. On 19 March 2011 UN-directed NATO forces intervened militarily, at the most perilous moment of the revolt, when Gaddafi’s motorized columns and artillery were about to overwhelm the rebel stronghold of Benghazi to implement the goal he had uttered on Libyan State Television: “those who do not love me do not deserve to live.”

There were many heated arguments that year “on the left” about the Libyan Civil War, and all their shades have reappeared eleven years later, in 2022, in the many heated arguments about the Russian War in Ukraine. The concerns behind the arguments are all as they were then:

— Isolationist: we should not spill our blood and spend our treasure to intervene in a foreign war, which would explode beyond our imaginations if we entered it, and lead to a catastrophic world war,

— Anti-imperialists, type #1: Gaddafi’s regime is an important bulwark against U.S. and NATO imperialism in Africa, and the protests against the government there were undoubtedly instigated by CIA covert operations, and are being used as a pretext for a US-NATO imperialistic invasion disguised as a “humanitarian intervention,”

— R2P interventionist: Gaddafi is a proven mass murderer, and stopping him from committing a “mass atrocity crime” in Benghazi, as defined in the “responsibility to protect” (R2P) doctrine developed in the U.N. after the Rwandan Genocide of 1994, is fully justified, and the means for doing so exist in the form of NATO military forces,

— Anti-imperialists, type #2: People who would revolt against such a bulwark against Western (U.S.) imperialism, and who has done so much to modernize his country and elevated the status of women, and liberally fund the Pan-African movement, do not deserve any sympathy, they are terrorists, criminals, Al Qaeda and foreign militants, so however Gaddafi suppresses them to defend his regime is acceptable.

As it was with the arguments for coming or not to the aid of the Libyan Revolution, those same arguments have continued to this day about coming or not to the aid of the civil society of the crushed Syrian Revolution, a civil society being relentlessly attacked, bombarded, and gassed by the Al-Assad regime with the assistance of Iran, and since 2015 with massive air-power military assistance by the Putin regime of Russia.

And now all those same arguments are applied to the war in Ukraine:

— Isolationists: if “we” go in it will explode into World War III (with nuclear weapons for sure);

— Anti-imperialists, type #1 (“campists”): The present Ukrainian government brought the Russian invasion of February 2022 onto themselves by seeking to allow NATO to expand eastward by making Ukraine a member and thus threatening the security of the Russian state, and by having been the people who in 2014 acceded to CIA and US State Department (Victoria Nuland’s) instigation to rise up against the pro-Russian Yanukovych regime and depose it in a “coup,” so the present war in Ukraine is entirely the fault of U.S. imperialism, NATO expansionism, and Russia’s invasion is a regrettable though understandable defensive reaction against encirclement by NATO;

— R2P Interventionists: “We” have a responsibility to aid the self-defense of civilian populations invaded by murderous dictators bent on conquest, as we failed to do so many times in the past (e.g., Ethiopia 1935, Spain 1936, Czechoslovakia 1938, Poland 1939, Finland 1940, Hungary 1956, Czechoslovakia 1968, and many others), and if we evade that responsibility and let Ukraine fall to Putin’s imperialism then our World Order will have collapsed to “the law of the jungle” where no lesser state can ever be assured it is safe from conquest by a stronger military power, because the concept of international mutual assistance will have been abandoned;

— Anti-imperialists, type #2 (“tankies”): Ukraine continues to harbor masses of neo-nazi militias that clashed with ethnic Russian militias in the Donbass and Crimea, and that prevent the reintegration of Ukraine into the Russian state that many ethnic Russians want and as was historically the case, Russia’s invasion is a regrettable though understandable defensive reaction against this Ukrainian nazi threat.

In 2011 I declared myself of the R2P persuasion regarding Libya, and I have remained of that persuasion since. Nothing is perfect or pure in world affairs and especially in the chaos of war, so any R2P intervention would necessarily have some faults and failures in its execution, but pursuing it intelligently would be the morally right thing to do.

In that year of 2011, Louis Proyect and I converged on this point, both being motivated by the same moral conviction. Louis then spent the last ten years of his life writing volumes in favor of the Libyan Revolution, the Syrian Revolution, the Syrian volunteer emergency workers and medics organized as the White Helmets, and against the Assad regime’s bombardments of civilian neighborhoods, hospitals, White Helmets, and journalists (e.g., Marie Colvin), and its chemical warfare against the Syrian people, which after 2014 was carried out with massive assistance by Russian air-power; and Louis wrote to expose the corruption, imperialism, homophobia and basically fascistic (or Stalinist without the socialism, if you prefer) character of the Putin oligarchy in Russia.

Louis Proyect (26 January 1945 – 25 August 2021, https://louisproyect.org) did not live long enough to see today’s war in Ukraine, but I can so easily imagine how he would be writing about it in deep detail, based on his last articles on Ukraine in 2018 (https://www.counterpunch.org/2018/06/29/ukraine-behind-the-curtain/, https://louisproyect.org/2018/06/29/two-new-books-on-ukraine/) and 2019 (https://louisproyect.org/2019/01/11/gauging-the-power-of-ukraines-neo-nazis/).

All the above prompted me to look back at my two 2011 articles on the Libyan Revolution, which were aimed at countering the comfortable Western “anti-imperialist” leftists opposed to assisting the Libyan Revolution fighting against Gaddafi: the “campists” and the “tankies.” Louis sent me a one word e-mail about my second article: “Bravo!” Given that this was from Louis, it is the greatest compliment I ever received for any of my political writings. Those two article now follow, and I leave it to you to mentally transpose them from “Libya” (2011) to “Syria” (2011-2022) to “Ukraine” (2022), to arrive at my responses to the objections by today’s isolationists, Type 1 left anti-imperialists and Type 2 left anti-imperialists to my R2P sympathies regarding Ukraine.

‘Rules Of Rebellion’ is an exercise in irony that was swallowed at face value (astonishing me), while ‘Libya 2011: The Human Right to Political Freedom’ is a direct appeal to conscience. Both articles were first drafted in February-March 2011, before 19 March (the start of the NATO intervention), and were finally published in April and May 2011 in the only “leftist” journal that would even consider them, and only after great resistance and hesitancy by that journal’s editor at the time.

Rules Of Rebellion

To the oppressed people of the world: if you want freedom, you will have to achieve it yourself. If you need help, you don’t deserve it. When you fully understand this, you will realize it is the most enlightened political principle that should govern international relations. This is humanitarian nonintervention.

If you live under a repressive government, a dictatorship, a kingship, or any form of unrepresentative and arbitrary authority, and you would like to overthrow it and punish your oppressors, and establish a government that is widely representative, that safeguards your political freedom and provides easy access to meaningful participation, then be aware that you must do this entirely on your own. There is no possibility of help from foreigners.

The reason for this is that your freedom is inconvenient to the rest of the world. The world has made its accommodations with your present regime, and any disruption of those arrangements will inconvenience the plans of your international neighbors, by disrupting their expectations. It does not matter whether your oppressive government is seen as “good” or “bad” by other states, it is simply that they are accustomed to their present protocols of interactions, and any interruption of business-as-usual costs money and time, and creates anxiety about the future.

So, if you intend to overthrow your oppressive regime you must do so quickly to minimize the period of dislocation of your foreign relations. Clearly, a quick and complete turn-over of government can only occur if your rebellion has the overwhelming support of all sectors of your society with any amount of credible power or wealth. Accumulating and consolidating overwhelming revolutionary power, stealthily, is a problem you must solve entirely on your own if you wish to successfully overthrow your tyrants, and be accepted internationally as a legitimate successor government.

Some populations believe that their oppression is so onerous that they can no longer remain passive, and so they revolt without having made the necessary preparations for a quick and decisive take-over. If they are unfortunate, their tyrants quickly isolate and eliminate them, extinguishing the revolt. If they are somewhat fortunate, they are able to carry on as guerrilla movements that shelter underground and in the hinterlands. Such guerrilla movements can be assured that the regimes they oppose will use all the powers of the state to eradicate them, and in all likelihood other nations will support their suppression as terrorist movements because their activities will inevitably cause anxiety and even collateral damage to the business-as-usual of foreign nations. The club of nations does not look favorably on unruly aspirant movements, especially if they are armed and have demonstrated violent behavior. You are not evaluated on the basis of your cause, but on the basis of your effect.

Should an unprepared population break its discipline of submission with an open revolt that draws the heavy wrath of its regime down on them, and they seek rescue by foreign intervention, then they have lost any possibility of ever being seen as having political legitimacy. They will henceforth be taken as dupes and stooges, or agents and proxies of the foreign power that aids them; and if they actually succeed at forming a successor government it would always be seen as a client state of the intervening power. The idea of a population rising up solely on the basis of its own desire for political freedom, accepting material assistance from whoever delivers it during their time of crisis, and then after a successful revolution cordially thanking and dismissing its foreign helpers, and forming a fully independent and representative national government, is taken as impossible by general agreement. Regardless of what you may think of your own particular revolution, its factual circumstances cannot be accepted as a counterargument or disproof of the impossibility of assisted untainted revolution (the AURI principle).

The AURI principle immediately identifies legitimate revolutions from attempts to disguise, as “humanitarian interventions,” imperialist plots for undermining and secretly controlling foreign states. The application is simple: if foreigners are involved, they are invaders, and the degree of their imperialist intent is easily assessed by their position in the hierarchy of world power, relative to that of the host country. So, for example, one African nation sending its troops as “peacekeepers” into another would be doing so to seek greater regional power; while the United States sending any part of its military and espionage complex into an African country under any pretext would be blatant all-out imperialism.

Any revolutions that want to retain the respect of the world will guide themselves by the AURI principle; they will overcome their regimes entirely on their own (and thus gain the right to characterize the regimes they overthrow as tyrannical, dictatorial and oppressive, for future history). Any premature revolution that includes foreign interveners is instantly unmasked by the AURI principle, and the world need not concern itself with the individuals involved in it, because they are necessarily agents of imperialism and de facto traitors. If, for whatever reason, an immature population were to have a tantrum and unwisely revolt without long and careful planning and preparation, and then find itself hard pressed by its vengeful regime, it would be well advised to quickly recognize the world view on these matters and refrain from seeking any foreign help. So long as these failed revolutionaries retain their untainted status, they can be assured that their survivors will not be disqualified from consideration as legitimate politicians in any equally untainted successor government of their country. Also, any losing revolutions that remain untainted will have performed a valuable service to humanity: they will have successfully resisted imperialism in their corner of the globe during their lifetimes.

This last point is important because the single most important political goal in the world is to prevent the capitalist imperialism spearheaded by the United States and Western Europe, enabled by the United Nations, enforced by the NATO military complex, and acceded to by the industrialized nations. Preventing the reoccurrence of “humanitarian interventions” and “color revolutions,” which undermine the national independence of target states and brings them under the shadow control of the imperial center, is too important to allow any local popular disenchantment with the nature of its government to interfere with. Thus, any population that decides, out of its own irritation, that its rulers should be deposed must realize that more important things are at stake.

First, they have to determine if their revolution would weaken a stalwart opponent of imperialism, and distract him (the usual dictator gender) from current efforts in their country and region to thwart “Washington consensus” imperialism. If their regime is a champion of anti-imperialism, then it is their humanitarian duty to set aside their selfish motives to revolt. They should be consoled for the occasional heavy-handedness with which they may be ruled, by the pride they will have of sharing solidarity with anti-imperialists worldwide. What would be the point of overthrowing an anti-imperialist leader, in the name of gaining greater political freedom, perhaps even the right to a meaningful vote, if it weakens the barrier their former leader had maintained against imperialism’s subjugating influences in their nation?

So, in order to retain their legitimacy in the eyes of the world they must not try to deny the AURI principle, and in addition, to gain the respect and comradeship of the enlightened progressive communities of the world they must also demonstrate that all their revolutionary decisions are guided by an acute awareness of the need to maximize the anti-imperialist effect of their efforts. A revolution that fails to recognize the primacy of the anti-imperialist outcome, by either undermining an authoritarian anti-imperialist stalwart or failing to replace him with an untainted government of equal or greater anti-imperialist vigor, within a matter of days, does not deserve the support and respect of the enlightened and progressive world community. Such a revolution would be a destructive self-centered tantrum that contradicts the world political prime directive.

Therefore, if you intend to have a revolution because you want relief from oppression, to gain political freedom and to introduce democracy into your country, you would be wise to learn what is required to make your freedom convenient to the world’s contented spectators.

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Originally appeared as:

Rules Of Rebellion
6 April 2011
http://dissidentvoice.org/2011/04/rules-of-rebellion/

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Libya 2011: The Human Right to Political Freedom

“You canʼt separate peace from freedom because no one can be at peace unless he has his freedom.” — Malcolm X (1925-1965)

“Whereas it is essential, if man is not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression, that human rights should be protected by the rule of law,…” — Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948)

“In politics the choice is never between good and evil but between the preferable and the detestable.” — Raymond Aron (1905-1983)

Freedom from dictatorship is a human right. A global recognition of this right in modern times is Article 21 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights:

(1) Everyone has the right to take part in the government of his country, directly or through freely chosen representatives.

(2) Everyone has the right of equal access to public service in his country.

(3) The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government; this will shall be expressed in periodic and genuine elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret vote or by equivalent free voting procedures.


Dictatorship is the captivity of a people’s political rights, and is thus an analog of slavery, which is the captivity of their personal freedom. Assisting popular rebellions against dictatorship is always a defense of human rights. Dictatorships, being inherently unjustifiable, can never claim self-defense in their efforts to cling to power; the only act they can justify is self dissolution.

Dictators hold unwilling supporters through intimidation, and willing supporters through promises of material gain and social elevation. Supporters of a dictatorship facing a popular uprising can never claim equal consideration in world opinion to the rebels opposing them, because such supporters are complicit in violating human rights by helping impose a dictatorship.

Doing what is right is not always convenient, and tolerating what is wrong is often temporally advantageous. So, despite the intrinsic illegitimacy of dictatorships, democratic nations may accept normal relations with certain of them because it is convenient politically and profitable commercially. Maintaining a foreign policy of such amoral practicality is never an honorable argument against assisting a foreign rebellion against dictatorship that has won public sympathy. Let us celebrate the few times international actions are taken because they are the humanly decent thing to do.

Later, our propagandists will easily recall the imperfections of motive and execution by our governments, and that data will then fuel the competition to define and exploit the historical record of the events. Though annoying, this is of minor importance compared to the immediate and most worthy goal: defending human lives and human rights.

The likelihood in late March of 2011 that a significant loss of life would be inflicted by Muammar Gaddafi’s jet bombers, artillery, armored troops and security forces in Benghazi was too real a prospect to ignore without then becoming complicit in the outcome, by omission. Gaddafi had vowed to “bury” the rebels, and we can be sure that after a Gaddafi victory a thorough purge of Libyan society would have occurred to ensure no embers of dissent remained to ignite another popular outburst of lèse majesté. Clearly, without outside assistance — minimally, a large infusion of heavier weapons — the lightly armed militias defending the western approaches to Benghazi would have been rolled back, and the anti-Gaddafi revolt crushed.

Opposition to intervention on behalf of the Libyan rebellion has been voiced from three perspectives:

Isolationism: it is an unnecessary national burden in possible blood and certainly treasure, with a risk of escalating into a political military quagmire;

Pan Africanism: it would undermine Pan Africanism if Muammar Gaddafi were to lose control of Libya’s wealth (which funds mercenaries from Sahelian countries, and foreign Black political groups) and political power (to compel adherence to Pan African ideals by the largely Berber and Arab native Libyan population);

Anti-imperialism: NATO action in Libya is just an excuse to mount a Washington-consensus imperialist assault on an oil-rich nation that for over forty years has opposed such imperialism.

Beyond doubt, there is some truth to each of these. Isolationism is convenient selfishness and very often wise policy. In this case it is also a vote in favor of Muammar Gaddafi. The other two objections arise from doctrinal thinking on world affairs. Despite their merits, no worthy international goals can justify the sacrifice of a nation’s freedom to a dictatorship. One has to wonder about the coldness of certain opponents of support for the Libyan revolt, who are “merciless toward the failings of the democracies but ready to tolerate the worst crimes as long as they are committed in the name of the proper doctrines,” as Raymond Aron wrote in 1955 about the French intelligentsia’s bewitchment by Stalinism.

Every individual has their particular formative experiences, which set their adult “natural reactions” to subsequent rhetorical arguments. Let me relate some of mine, to invite your imagination to “feel” my point of view.

I recall visiting my grandparents in the city of Havana during a summer vacation in 1959. The colors, warmth, sounds and odors of Cuba were all rich, pungent and sensuous. Equally impressive to a boy growing up in New York City was the flagrant poverty of many Cuban people: adults with naked rented children huddled at street intersections begging from the passing tourists.

Fulgencio Batista was Cuba’s dictator, whose regime Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. characterized this way: “The corruption of the Government, the brutality of the police, the regime’s indifference to the needs of the people for education, medical care, housing, for social justice and economic justice … is an open invitation to revolution.” Bohemia magazine — the equivalent in Cuba of Life magazine in the U.S. at that time — would print pictures of revolutionaries shot dead during gunfights with Batista’s police, lying rumpled in pools of blood on the street. I only heard the adults talk Cuban politics back in New York, when I was taken to the upper west side of Manhattan, our old barrio, for haircuts at the Cuban barbershop below the elevated train along Broadway, and in the brownstone apartments of relatives and family friends during Sunday visits. Everybody was anxious, everybody wanted a free Cuba, everybody was thinking of Fidel.

Then, on the first of January 1959, Batista fled the island and Castro’s victorious army rolled into an ecstatically jubilant Havana on the 8th. We returned again in June 1960 for a long summer vacation. Even in the Cubana de Aviación four-engine turboprop one could sense the uplift, the exhilaration of the Cuban Revolution. But the full impact hit me when I exited the airplane and walked into the lush aromatic heat of a tropical country whose people were rapt with joy. The beggar “families” were gone and barbudos — the bearded ones — were everywhere. The barbudos were revolutionaries in pristine khakis, with gunbelts holstering highly polished and uniquely detailed pistols, some silver-colored, some gold-colored, some gun-metal blue, some with very long barrels, some with artistically engraved handles. Only the beards were shaggy, all other items from boot soles to cap crests were neat, shiny and crisp. At first I was a little nervous when a barbudo would climb onto a streetcar or bus and sit near me. But I soon got used to sitting next to gold-plated long-barrel Lugers, gleaming mirror-finish silvery Colt 45s, and robust Smith & Wesson 44 caliber six-shot revolvers. Sidearms were definitely the display items of identity.

During that summer of 1960, we travelled all over the island and saw many remnants of revolutionary struggle, one being a bullet-pocked hospital in the countryside, once the scene of a battle, now happily back in service. I even met Fidel at Isla de Pinos (now Isla de la Juventud). However materially poor some Cubans could be, especially campesinos, peasants in the hinterlands, they were all just so happy: believing themselves free, life despite its burdens was now a joy. Every person, every place, every moment exuded the same sense of uplift. I was immersed in a national sense of freedom, and it soaked into my psyche and bones. This experience permanently magnetized my political compass, so that regardless of verbal arguments and logical constructs in later years, my compass always points my sympathies toward freedom for any people.

Today, I see the people of Libya, Bahrain, Syria and Yemen as similar to the Cubans I lived among when at my grandparents’ house in Batista’s Cuba. They want freedom from their dictators, and I am incapable of being unsympathetic to their desires. Perhaps if I studied their cultures and histories, I’d find good reasons to overcome my emotional impulses in their favor. I might learn that “countries don’t have friends, they have interests.” If so, I would want to make sure that I did not compromise anything I had an interest in by thoughtless support of foreign revolts.

However, I find it impossible to conceive of the individuals I see and hear on the streets of North Africa and the Middle East as being that remote from my experience, especially the “wireless” younger generation. [1] They look like my kids. Do I really prefer to make logical arguments in favor of Muammar Gaddafi because it accords with my interest to oppose Western imperialism disguised as “humanitarian intervention”? I do not. Can I really put aside any consideration of the specificity of this particular revolution at this particular time (so inconveniently timed for us), and see a greater good in opposing any help to the anti-Gaddafi rebels because their freedom is not as important in the overall scheme of things as the effort to maintain strict nonintervention by Western powers? I cannot. I am unable to forget the people.

So let me ask you, is it possible to have a bias for freedom, an opposition to dictatorship anywhere, and also oppose the capitalist-imperialist consensus that dominates U.S. and European foreign policymaking? Is it possible to support popular revolutions against tyrants and dictators — no matter how doctrinally appealing certain of them might be for some of us — even to the point of arming popular revolts so they can credibly match the firepower of their oppressors? In short, can anti-imperialists elevate freedom to a guiding principle?

For me, solidarity with basic positive human aspirations throughout the globe supersedes strict adherence to any political doctrine.

Those who agree believe it is possible to identify situations worthy of support, where a people are visibly demonstrating their desire to throw off tyranny and govern themselves democratically, and their dictatorial regime is demonstrating its utter lack of legitimacy. In popular fiction, the character of Rick Blane, played by Humphrey Bogart in the 1942 movie Casablanca, could identify and support such revolutions. The French prefect of police in the film accuses Rick Blane of being a “sentimentalist,” because “In 1935 you ran guns to Ethiopia. In 1936, you fought in Spain on the Loyalist side.” Blane replies sardonically “And got well paid for it on both occasions.” The prefect rests his case with “The winning side would have paid you much better.” [2]

So, can we be sentimentalists? Was the French fleet at Yorktown in 1781 under the command of the Comte de Grasse entirely a matter of interests and not friends, or was there some sentimentalism involved? I leave it to you to decide if this French intervention was a good thing or a failure for history. Can the Cuban-led defeat of the South African Defense Forces at the Battle of Cuito Cuanavale in 1988 during the Angolan Civil War, with the liberation of Namibia and the initiation of the subsequent fall of apartheid in South Africa, be seriously regretted? The 2289 Cubans who died during Cuba’s intervention in southwest Africa, and the 450,000 Cuban soldiers and development workers who spent time in this effort, were probably sentimentalists even if many were too young to remember Havana in 1959.

The French, British and Americans, under the guise of NATO, have chosen to intervene in Libya, initially to halt Gaddafi’s assault on Benghazi in early April. The motive for intervening was some admixture of “sentimentalism” and “humanitarian imperialism,” but the exact proportions of each is a matter of heated debate. The pace of the war against Gaddafi will be set by the level and consistency of military assistance to the anti-Gaddafi population.

If the Libyan revolt leads to a stable democratic government, then the cause of freedom will have been very well served, especially if the post-Gaddafi government is clearly independent. If the NATO nations are unable to accept the possibility of an independent post-Gaddafi Libyan government, they won’t supply the revolutionaries with sufficient arms for a quick and decisive victory. Instead, they will dribble in just enough resources to keep Gaddafi confined to his corner while they try micromanaging the gestation of the eventual post-Gaddafi government so that it emerges as a client regime. This would be like Stalin’s policy in Spain during 1936 to 1939. This attitude was captured succinctly in the film Lawrence Of Arabia, where General Allenby is asked if he intends to keep his earlier promise to T.E. Lawrence, to arm the Arab troops with artillery in addition to small arms, so their revolt against Turkish rule can advance significantly: “If you give them artillery you’ve made them independent.” But, Allenby knowing what London wants, replies: “Then I can’t give them artillery, can I?” [3]

Sentimentalists hope the Libyan revolutionaries get the “artillery” they need, and enjoy their version of 1959 Cuban euphoria, however inconvenient their freedom turns out to be, later, for the humanitarian imperialists. Sentimentalists prefer to have friends rather than just interests, and you can’t tolerate others being oppressed or enslaved if you want them as friends.

We should not let our opposition to the misdeeds, mistakes and misapplications of our governments throttle our willingness to take advantage of spontaneous events that can lead to the overthrow of tyrants, and the release of political freedom for more people.

  1. Emad Balnour (“We are clearing our country from Muammar and his gang.”), https://youtu.be/5kSs7uQ15wA, at 0:25-0:51.
  2. Casablanca 04 (“sentimentalist”), https://youtu.be/D_nzR-GPLEo, at 1:48-2:18.
  3. Lawrence of Arabia, “If you give them artillery you’ve made them independent,” https://youtu.be/sppPQogIhxs

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Originally appeared as:

Libya 2011: The Human Right To Political Freedom
3 May 2011
http://dissidentvoice.org/2011/05/libya-2011-the-human-right-to-political-freedom/

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The Thermonuclear Melian Debate Over Ukraine

“Helmet of Miltiades.” The helmet was given as an offering to the temple of Zeus at Olympia by Miltiades. Inscription on the helmet: ΜΙΛΤΙΑΔΕΣ ΑΝΕ[Θ]ΕΚΕΝ [Τ]ΟΙ ΔΙ (“Miltiades dedicates this helmet to Zeus”). [Archaeological Museum of Olympia] (wikipedia). Miltiades was the Greek general who devised the strategy and commanded the Greek troops that won the Battle of Marathon (against the invading Persians) in 490 B.C. The account of this is one of the most stirring sections of Herodotus’s history book.

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The Thermonuclear Melian Debate Over Ukraine

It is true that Neville Chamberlain’s appeasement policy (1938) held off WWII for a year — for Poland (1 September 1939) — and maybe a bit more for Norway, Denmark, and the Low Countries, and then France (May-June 1940); and then maybe up to two years for Britain directly if you count in the Phony War (1939 to before May 1940), and then close to three years for Russia/USSR when Hitler tore up the Molotov-Ribbentrop alliance (22 June 1941) that had initiated the joint German-Russian invasions of Poland in 1939.

Each of those time gaps allowed the countries enjoying them, before being swallowed up into military hostilities, to safely arm or rearm as they could in anticipation of the worst, which soon came to all of them. So it is easy to see some short-term tactical advantage to an appeasement policy prior to experiencing a military invasion.

This was certainly Hitler’s and Stalin’s view when each chose to enter into their Molotov-Ribbentrop alliance to carve up Poland (seen by both Hitler and Stalin then as Putin sees Ukraine today), and to keep from warring against each other (in the inevitable Fascist-Communist 1940s superpower war), and in Stalin’s case to appease Hitler’s eastward expansion without the USSR having been able to gain any Western European allies against Hitler/fascism and Japanese militarism.

The essence of the various interrelated appeasement policies of Chamberlain, Stalin and Hitler (the MB Pact being in part Hitler’s appeasement to USSR westward expansion) all shared one fundamental principle: the independence of or submission (even to the point of nonexistence) by smaller weaker countries was for the major powers to dispose of as they saw fit, and as served their plans for protecting their own political domains (empires) and for imposing their geopolitical/territorial schemes (colonization) beyond their existing borders. So, Czechoslovakia and Poland got “tossed under the bus” in 1938-1939 so the British Empire, the Third Reich, and the USSR could continue to have their pieces of the European and World pies. This reality of international relations is doubtless as old as humanity itself:

“…the standard of justice depends on the equality of power to compel, and that in fact the strong do what they have the power to do, and the weak accept what they have to accept.”
— [Thucydides, 416 BC].

This was how Thucydides wrote about it, in his account of the “Melian Debate” between the Athenian Empire and the leaders of the small Aegean island of Melos that Athens (the Delian League) wanted to occupy as a forward naval base against any invading Spartan (and Persian sponsored) fleet during the Peloponnesian War (431-404 BC). Ultimately, the Athenians assaulted Melos, defeating it, killing the men and enslaving the women and their children. The lands between Berlin and Moscow suffered similar fates between 1933 and 1945.

The idea of appeasing Putin’s imperialistic ambitions, as regards Ukraine, arises naturally when he threatens to resort to nuclear weapons if thwarted in his expansionist military operations. By the same logic it seems reasonable for public safety in the United States, the European Union, Russia, and even beyond as far as China, if the 194 recognized countries of the world would accept the power principle articulated by Thucydides and let the nuclear superpowers to dispose of everyone’s national independence or dependence, submission or nonexistence, as those superpowers — empires all — saw most convenient for themselves: better that the people in the smaller weaker and poorer countries suffer and die by imperial conquest than that the people in the larger stronger richer and “safer” countries expose themselves to hazards — from the inconveniences of slowed supply chains, up to the terrors of thermonuclear face-offs — by coming to the defense of the invaded “weaklings.”

This dilemma was addressed in 1945 with the formation of the United Nations (and a subsequent variety of treaties) — a far from perfect organization but a positive step to address the problem — and the formation of NATO, also far from perfect but even so a membership in which has been avidly sought by every country occupied by Nazi Germany and/or the USSR between 1939 and 1991.

The whole point of these organizations is to prevent a reoccurrence of the political-military escalations that unleashed WWII (and similarly for WWI, earlier). By that logic the UN ‘world alliance,’ the EU economic-military alliance, and the NATO military alliance exist to resolve outbreaks of destabilizing world disorder like the Russian war in Ukraine, without sacrificing the population under assault, because by sacrificing them (again; as in 1935, and 1936-1939) the glue of trust needed to maintain such structures of mutual security dissolves and they fall apart, and we are back to Melian Sacrifices before all subsequent superpower expansions: unchecked imperialism.

“The fate of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine will determine the propensity of all other countries for aggression. If it fails in turn, the effect on all global and regional powers will be one of powerful deterrence. If it succeeds, that is if Russia manages to ‘pacify’ Ukraine under Russian boots, the effect will be a major slide of the global situation toward unrestrained law of the jungle, emboldening US imperialism itself and its allies to resume their own aggressive stances.”
— [Gilbert Achcar, “A memorandum on the radical anti-imperialist position regarding the war in Ukraine,” Sunday 27 February 2022, http://www.europe-solidaire.org/spip.php?article61309]

So, in February 2022, it is time for our many political, government, parliamentary, diplomatic, military and economic leaders and officials to earn their pay by coordinating their actions to reign in the aggression into Ukraine by the Putin government of Russia, without being so clumsy as to set off a nuclear war. From their reported and escalating actions this week (21-28 February 2022) it seems quite clear that they are well aware of what is required, and even such rigidly neutral countries like Sweden and Switzerland have joined in that effort: an economic throttling of Russia’s money flows coupled with increasing amounts of sophisticated weaponry delivered to Ukrainians so they become more effective in fighting their defensive hot war against the invading Russian military (and maybe if Lukashenko is stupid, an invading Belarusian military as well).

Recall that in the multipolar nuclear weapons era (>1949) that both the USSR and China dampened US war-making campaigns in Korea (1950-1953) and Vietnam (1965-1975) by supplying North Korea and North Vietnam with advanced weapons (small arms like AK47 rifles and ammunition, artillery, fighter jets, anti-aircraft missile and radar systems), and by merely existing as nuclear weapons ’superpowers’ allied with the Communist forces in Korea and Vietnam. The US had wanted to use nuclear weapons (MacArthur in Korea, Westmoreland and LeMay in Vietnam), but Korea and Vietnam were politically and territorially too close to China and the USSR for the U.S. to take that kind of risk. So despite the awesome military might and malice of the United States, the Koreans and the Vietnamese bled profusely to fight through their anti-US wars but they managed to survive them as three independent states (a unified Vietnam and two Koreas).

Given the ongoing antiwar protests in Russia and even Belarus, where such protests are heavily penalized by their laws (no 1st Amendment there, 20 years in jail threatened), rather than the Russian and Belarusian people expressing obvious commitments to all fight and die for their leaders’s Ukrainian war aims, it seems reasonable to anticipate that the Putin and Lukashenko governments could be brought down by popular revolts (and military mutinies) if enough of those people became sufficiently distraught at the losses of their boys in the snows, mud and streets of Ukraine, and terrified at the possibility of themselves being subjected to American, British and French nuclear bombardment in retaliation to Putin’s most extreme possible action.

At present, I think it most likely that Putin (and Lukashenko) will be reigned in without any nuclear weapons having been used, and his ultimate military defeat will cause, or be caused by, the fall of his regime. What is to be wished is that that happen as soon as possible so as to minimize the pain, suffering, death and destruction in Ukraine. And it is important to remember that the Russian and Belarusian people are not the enemies, but the Putin (plus loyal oligarchs, and Lukashenko client regime) are.

So I do not favor an appeasement policy with regards to Putin (and too bad he was not stopped sooner as with Syria in 2014), and I also realize that the management of an internationally coordinated counter-Putin-aggression economic-military policy is a delicate matter in our nuclear superpower era of the ‘World Order.’

I think the hazy idea of a “lasting peace” in world affairs is an ‘unobtainium’ at our current level of human and societal development (unchanged for millennia, as the late -5th century Melians would no doubt say if they could see us now), and that we should see the management of “peace” as a never-ending and always imperfect effort of pragmatic political improvisations; and that we should pick as our leaders people who are honorable and astute at doing that management without sacrificing human solidarity.

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The Power Pentagon Redux

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The Power Pentagon Redux

P. Cockburn (lead foreign correspondent at Counter Punch) says Putin into Donbas is like Saddam into Kuwait (https://www.counterpunch.org/2022/02/23/putins-advance-into-ukraine-compares-with-saddam-husseins-invasion-of-kuwait-a-disaster-for-russia/). I think it more like Hitler into the Rhineland in 1936, both as re-occupation or “recovery” of “homeland” territory, and for coal, minerals and industry (I spell it out in ’The Power Pentagon’, below).

I expect the EU and NATO Allies will do as much for Ukraine (regarding Russia) as their predecessors did for Poland in 1939-1945. I’m sure Putin thinks the same. Stalin starved Ukrainians to death (~3M) between 1932-1933. Hitler, between 1941-1944, shot (mainly) and gassed (also) Ukrainian Jews (mainly), many civilians (in reprisals, or just to clear territory, often herded onto buildings set on fire with escapees machine gunned, see the movie ‘Come and See’), antifascist partisans (shot on capture), and starved Soviet war prisoners to death, for a total of at least 1.6M (battle field deaths of soldiers not included).

So neither the German Nazis nor the Communist Russians are remembered too fondly as “liberators” (the Nazis in 1941, from the Russians/NKVD; the Red Army in 1943-1945, from the Nazi SS and Order Police and Ukrainian fascist partisans). Only for Jews were the Soviets better than the Nazi’s in the Ukraine, but still far from “good” (especially if they were suspected by the NKVD of being Polish intelligentsia or having any “political” past; and some of those Ukrainian Jews of 1945+ had somehow survived both the Holodomor as well as the Holocaust-by-bullets, but there weren’t too many Jews left in Ukraine).

Since German Fascism and militarism seem to have been stamped out long ago, and Stalin/USSR ruled Ukraine from !945 to 1991, and few Ukrainian Jews remained after 1945, I suspect most Ukrainians (Orthodox Christians) “remember” their last century of history with a jaundiced eye to the USSR and now Putin’s Russia, and the most extreme of such attitudes is held by the “Ukrainian Nazis” (a legacy of the antisemitic Ukrainian collaborationists with Nazis 1941-1945), but I can’t imagine theirs is a majority bias in today’s Ukraine, who I’m guessing would have liked to be part of NATO as “insurance” against Russia, but would be happy to settle into a stance like that of Finland or Switzerland: independent and yet “safe”.

At the moment I am in the last pages of Timothy Snyder’s 2010 book, ‘Bloodlands, Europe Between Hitler and Stalin’. The history of Poland, Belarus, Ukraine between 1932 and 1945 form a very large part of this book. It was in these three countries that the overlap in mass killings by the Nazis and Stalin was most intense and massive and prolonged; between 1939 and 1941 it was cooperative (Molotov-Ribbentrop Poland), from 1941 to 1945 it was antagonistic in separate zones of control that shifted back and forth (1941-1943 Nazi advance from MB Line in Poland to Stalingrad, 1943-1945 Red Army and NKVD advance from Stalingrad-Moscow line to Berlin).

Prior to 1939, the Soviets had perpetrated the Holodomor starvation (forced collectivization of agriculture, 1932-1933) that was mostly focused in the Ukraine, and then the Great Terror purges of 1937-1938 in the USSR, which also had many Ukrainian victims.

The Baltic States (Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania) were also in the center of these “bloodlands” (like Poland, Belarus and Ukraine), and suffered relatively equally, but total numbers of victims for them were smaller because they had smaller populations.

People in those countries today are quite aware of this history, and it is not difficult to understand their politics and foreign relations as regards the West (Poland’s allies: England, France, and later the U.S., did NOT send troops into Poland and the “bloodlands” during 1939-1945), and NATO (whose nations have pledged NOT to send troops into the Ukraine), and as regards Russia. The Melian Debate (in Thucydides) remains our template of international relations and “solidarity.”

Putin, as a child of the USSR who was well placed to cash in when the game changed in 1991 (and making money and becoming a capitalist oligarch was the rage, which it still is for some), has nevertheless retained the 1930s Stalinist memory of fear of encirclement and invasion; in the 1930s by Germany, Poland and Japan, now updated by Putin to NATO and the U.S. In both cases a fear of the Soviet/Russian sphere of influence and state and economic system collapsing.

The modern “Russian” fear of encirclement and invasion has some validity in that the US-led NATO along with the EU have been moving “in” and absorbing former EAST BLOC states, which “Russia” had sought control of since the 1930s (and had from 1945 to 1989-1991) and those former satellites, borderlands, and buffer zone states have little reason to retain warm memories of the years “behind the Iron Curtain,” so might not be entirely benign neighbors so close to Moscow, as NATO states; the “buffer” would be entirely gone.

I wrote the ’The Power Pentagon’ on 22 February 2022, before the shooting stated in Ukraine itself (beyond Donbas), and I still think the analysis of Putin’s motives is accurate and useful. But, I was also aiming at other global concerns.

The Power Pentagon

Yesterday (21 February 2022), Vladimir Putin, the Russian Premier, recognized the separatist Donbas regions of Ukraine as independent states, and ordered Russian troops into them to forestall a Ukrainian invasion to reassert its sovereignty there.

Why? Putin’s action is a defensive threat display to resist the steady encroachment by the US-dominated NATO political alliance into, and diminution of, Russia’s western sphere of influence in the external borderlands and historically sought-after buffer zones against German invasions (and now “German” equates to Western European and Anglo-American); and it is a reaction driven by the fear of ultimate inaccessibility to the Baltic Sea for Russian naval forces, in the north, and the Azov Sea and Black Sea (and from there to the Mediterranean and the Levant) in the south.

The Donbas is comprised of the Luhansk and Donetsk regions of Ukraine and is the very easternmost tip of that country, lying just above the Azov Sea, which sea is to the northeast of the Crimean Peninsula that juts south into the Black Sea. The Donbas has a rich coal basin that has supported the development of heavy industry such as coal mining and metallurgy since the 19th century (the word Donbas is a portmanteau formed from Donets Basin, an abbreviation of Donets Coal Basin).

Crimea was taken from the Ottoman Empire in 1783 and annexed to the Russian Empire, later being attached to the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic during the existence of the U.S.S.R (1917-1991), and continuing as a region of independent Ukraine from 1991 to 2014, until Russia occupied and then annexed Crimea during the Ukrainian Revolution of 2014.

Both the Donbas and Crimea have large ethnic Russian and Russian-speaking populations, and those people favor annexation with the Russian state. Donbas has 57% ethnic Ukrainian and 38% ethnic Russian people, but with ~72% of them identifying as Russian-speaking. The proportion of native Russian-speakers is higher than ethnic Russians in Donbas because some ethnic Ukrainians and other nationalities also indicate Russian as their mother tongue. Crimea had 77% Russian native speakers according to a 2001 Ukrainian census, and 84% Russian native speakers according to a 2014 Russian census.

The Donbas and Crimea were major targets of sought-for permanent conquest by Hitler’s invasion of Russia (launched on 22 June 1941) precisely for their fossil fuel mineral wealth and heavy industrial infrastructure, and their maritime avenues of accessibility southwest to the Mediterranean and the Levant, and land avenues of accessibility east and southeast to the Caucasus, Central Asia, and the Persian Gulf.

What I see in Putin’s action of 21 February is another example of the geo-politics (or imperialism) that I call the Power Pentagon. A Power Pentagon is the following closed cycle of ego-driven ambition for personal power:

fossil fuel —> economic power —> military power —> political power —> war power —> fossil fuel.

The continuing existence of Power Pentagons as the foundation of our international relations is the reason that we are not making, nor will make, the socio-economic alterations to our civilization needed to effectively slow the advance of Global Warming Climate Change (GWCC), and to arrive at a stable balance between the workings of our industrialized civilization with the cycles of Nature.

Fossil fuels enable combustion-based energy-intensive industrialization that creates economic power (“prosperity,” convenience, things, “wealth”) that in turn can build up military technology and military forces, whose threat potential creates political power and thus foreign political influence, which in its sharpest form is formidable war-making capability that can be used to acquire more energy resources for its own cyclic enlargement as well as to deny access to fossil fuel and mineral resources to rival Power Pentagons, which are thus diminished and dominated.

This is the story of the rise and fall of empires old and new, and of the inflation and bursting collapse of the egos of potentates and ruling classes.

Because GWCC is a planetary complex of geo-physical phenomena it will require a globally cooperative, integrated and permanently sustained response from humanity, if it is actually to be slowed and eventually stabilized. The obvious image for this desired future state of human affairs would be World Eco-Socialism: a world socialism powered with “green” energy (infrastructure not emitting greenhouse gases, toxic wastes, and pollutants), and with both poverty and extreme wealth made history.

For any such green utopian reformulation of human civilization to occur, it will be necessary for us humans to remove the limitations we place on our own species’s societal development by remaining mired in the fractious international politics of the clashes of Power Pentagons — “the Great Game” — which has been the case since long before the days of Lawrence of Arabia.

I have no idea how the grand consensus needed for joining together globally to make that civilizational advancement can be achieved contemporaneously in the minds of “all” people worldwide. But without it I see no effective action being taken in response to GWCC, and hence a steady decay of planetary habitability and environmental purity, of international political stability, and of personal quality of life.

A first tiny step in the direction of that grand consensus would be not seeing yourself as a partisan for “our good” Power Pentagon at war with “their bad” ones, however you define “us” and “them.” All these cycles of ambition for personal power and for exclusionary economic domination are bad because they are exploitative political machinations that multiply and destructively divide human society while unavoidably merging into that one vast thermodynamic catastrophe we call Global Warming Climate Change.

It is easy to see the problem as I have stated it here to be so infinitely multi-faceted with human concerns and conflicts and obduracy, that it is insurmountable and our human species is “doomed.” But that is no excuse for stopping any of the myriad of individual efforts people are making for improving human society. Calling things by their proper names — our tiny first step — may lead to some justifiable pessimism, but more importantly it anchors the mind in realistic critical thinking, which is essential for any worthwhile human endeavor to proceed with the best chance of success.

Today it is the Donbas, perhaps next time it will be the South China Sea, or back again to the Middle East, or regions of Africa or South America, but in any case all our conflicts are rooted in our contentious joint tenancy of this single beautiful planet. We have to overcome always forgetting about the long-term essential that unites us, by continuously being distracted by the serial immediate that divides us. Willful unforced unity as our best selves, however impossible and ridiculously utopian that idea may seem, is the world paradigm we need to ensure our enduring and fulfilling survival.

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Peter Byrne on Tadeusz Borowski

Peter Byrne’s review of a new collection of newly translated stories by Tadeusz Borowski (1922-1951) is presented below. The book reviewed is ‘Here in Our Auschwitz, and Other Stories’, translated from Polish to English by Madeline G. Levine, given a historical context in an extensive Forward written by Timothy Snyder, and is published by Yale University Press.

This Way to Death
by PETER BYRNE

‘This Way for the Gas, Ladies and Gentlemen’ is a story by Tadeusz Borowski of 60 pages. It’s published followed by 80 pages that deal in long or short form with the same subject, life in concentration camps, but from a different angle. At the very last are several short pieces written from a post-war viewpoint. One of these is ‘The January Offensive’. Borowski thinks he is through with the camps and is working out what his position will be now. He and Polish friends discuss an anecdote of a tenacious Russian woman soldier who gives birth on the way to liberating Berlin.

“Then, after we had several glasses of Polish vodka to toast the Russian girl, we all agreed that the story was obviously made up”.

‘This Way for the Gas, Ladies and Gentlemen’, is also made up, but with more art. That’s why it’s so enlightening, giving us a new perspective on the concentration camps of WWII. We already have a library of testimony on the camps, some of it unforgettable. But Tadek, Borowski’s double in his story, isn’t a witness, he’s a participant. For him, the camps aren’t merely a prison. They are a whole functioning society of which he’s a hyper-active member. We see how things work in the only world Tadek has had a chance to know. Power rules, of course, as in what we think of as our world. The lines are more direct, with less clutter between life and death. Arbitrary demonstrations of power and riffs of sadism are taken for granted whereas we in our space close our eyes to them. To hold on to your own life at all costs is the goal even if, as in ‘The Supper’, it means eating the brains spilled on the pavement after an execution by bullets to the head.

That particular glimpse of horror, we feel, is made-up but, all the same, distilled from what Borowski has known. By making his experience a story, fiction, he sketches camp life’s mechanisms for us. People interact. They differ amongst themselves even though consumed by the same overriding drive for survival.

“It meant staying alive. In a concentration camp, true, but alive.”

They are never simply examples of King Lear’s “poor, bare, forked animal”. Tadek’s society is full of hierarchy and exceptions to hierarchy. Some people are cunning, some stupid, he himself, on one level, is, as it were, ‘a self-made man’ in the making.

The master storyteller, Borowski, knew better than to have Tadek wear his ideals on his sleeve. Indeed, at times we wonder where they have gone. We sense hints of them in a sarcastic aside or in his bruised silence in the face of brutality.

Tadek is asked, “And you, would you do good if you were able to?”

To his relief, it’s a rhetorical question. Balance is impossible. In the competition to survive how far can he go in helping others without spoiling his own chances? Given conditions, he can hardly take a step. The camps, among much else, are a machine to create remorse. Tadek, like a sparkling youth in a picaresque novel, skips and dances above camp life. Borowski’s poetry is instructive here. It wants to take wing, yearns for the far horizon and the measureless sky, talks of a love lived in the camps but ignoring them like insignificant flaws in the landscape. Borowski is straining all the time to keep Tadek up high, out of the blood and muck, fixed on his goal. And all the time, Tadek is adding to his unspoken remorse.

“I have kept my spirit […]”, writes Borowski to his lover while still at Auschwitz. But he was speaking for his character Tadek. No one should be surprised that Borowski, the creator of Tadek, killed himself in 1951, settling his survivor’s debt.

What did his mockery cost him in spirit to describe the camps as summer resorts? To tell us of Tadek’s game as goalkeeper when behind his back a file of arrivals trudged to the crematoria? Borowski’s story has moments of farce. Did he laugh or weep at the two bumpkins who couldn’t march in step? Someone had tied staves to their ankles to mark right from left. A dyspeptic S.S. guard sees them stumbling about. It offends his sense of decorum and he has them removed from his sight and from life. ‘This Way for the Gas, Ladies and Gentleman’ is a sacred text suitably downgraded from the spiritual heights to suit humanity as it has proven itself to be.

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Borowski’s personal experiences in German-occupied Warsaw during 1939-1942, in Auschwitz and other German concentration camps in Poland during 1942-1945, and in an American-run Displaced Persons camp near Munich in 1945, inspired his haunting, terrifying and illuminating stories, but could only capture into human memory a small part of the massive regime of evil that existed in “the bloodlands” between Berlin and Moscow, where Hitler and Stalin between them saw to the intentional murder (by shooting, gas, starvation, and worked to death) of 14 million people — all civilians or war prisoners — during the years of 1933 to 1945 (combat fatalities are a different category, but also of large numbers). The scholarly grand perspective on that regime of evil is historian Timothy Snyder’s book: ‘Bloodlands, Europe Between Hitler and Stalin,’ (2010), published by Basic Books.

My own reflections on the Borowski book that Peter Byrne reviewed, above, are given as

Borowski’s Inferno
28 January 2022
https://manuelgarciajr.com/2022/01/28/borowskis-inferno/

Tadeusz Borowski was a student of literature and a dedicated poet who was driven to prose in order to process his concentration camp experiences, and express them as literature between 1946 and 1951. While in the camps he wrote love poems to his also incarcerated fiancee. A number of Borowski’s poems, translated to English, are posted at

Poetry of Tadeusz Borowski
https://poetryoftadeuszborowski.wordpress.com/poems/

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Thirty-One Antiwar Movies

Below is a list of 31 antiwar movies that made deep impressions on me. These movies are built around the idea that war has no redeeming value whatsoever — except perhaps for instances of defending one’s own person from deadly assault, as in the incredible 1956 movie Kanal, about the Warsaw Uprising in 1944.

Some of these movies are clearcut 100% antiwar, others are more about stories of perseverance through war’s injustices, and many are combinations of these two themes.

Because there is such variation in tone between them, some having much comedy while others being entirely dour, some attempting complete realism while others including poetic and surrealistic elements, I do not see any value in ranking them from “greatest” on down to “least great.” I think their value in transmitting the antiwar sentiment to a viewer and reinforcing it is by seeing them all as a group, and viewing each with thoughtful attention. Each is a facet of that diamond of realization I call antiwar consciousness.

All Quiet on the Western Front (1930)
La Grande Illusion (1937)
The Dawn Patrol (1938)
The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951)
Kanal (1956)
The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957)
Paths of Glory (1957)
On the Beach (1959)
Hiroshima mon amour (1959)
The Americanization of Emily (1964)
Dr. Strangelove (1964)
King of Hearts (1966)
Oh! What a Lovely War (1969)
The Sorrow and the Pity (Vichy collaboration, 1969)
Catch-22 (1970)
M*A*S*H (1970)
Johnny Got His Gun (1971)
Slaughterhouse-Five (1972)
Winter Soldier (US Vietnam veterans testify, 1972)
Hearts and Minds (US Vietnam veterans testify, 1974)
Apocalypse Now (1979)
The Day After (1983)
Come and See (1985)
Full Metal Jacket (1987)
Apocalypse Now Redux (1979/2001)
Fog of War (Robert McNamara testifies, 2003)
Sir! No Sir! (US Vietnam veterans testify, 2005)
The Railway Man (2013)
The Unknown Known (Donald Rumsfeld testifies, 2013)
They Shall Not Grow Old (WWI veterans testify, 2018)
Final Account (old Nazis testify, 2020)

A much larger list of 75 antiwar films is published by wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_anti-war_films). Some of the movies on that list are in my view primarily good justifications of defensive war, as with Kanal (1956) and The Battle of Algiers (1966), and yes I agree that such good justifications for desperate defensive wars can also awaken one to an overall antiwar realization. But, my list of 31 is more “concentrated,” based on my views of the antiwar genre, and I also realize that I could easily expand my list with equally worthy antiwar movies I did not include.

For me, antiwar movies are focused on showing the harm, the physical and psychological damage and stupidity of war, and are intent to deglorify war and turn the audience against blind patriotism and war-making as solutions to political and international conflicts.

Antiwar movies can have elements of adventure, heroism, “exciting’ violence, stories of personal endurance and self-sacrifice, and comedy, but they cannot be conventionally patriotic, and the center-of-gravity of these films must be fully and overtly the antiwar intent.

All war films use war in an effort to make commercially successful mass entertainment, but true antiwar films are intentionally using film-making art to motivate a mass audience to a deeply antiwar, anti-violence, pro-peace, pro-diplomacy attitude, and to divorce patriotism from unthinking jingoism, belligerence, violence and obedience to militarism.

One epic antiwar film that is missing and I wished existed would be about the Indian Wars in the American West, and in particular about the Great Sioux War of 1876-1877 that includes Custer’s Last Stand, entirely from the American Indian point of view.

There have been many, many Indian wars across North America instigated by European colonizers, immigrants and their descendants since 1492, and all those wars were lost by the Native Americans. In the American popular imagination Custer’s Last Stand in 1876 was the greatest of the temporary victories won by American Indians in their fight against the settler-colonialism warring against them.

Most American Western movies featuring conflicts with the American Indians were produced by descendants of the victors of the Indian Wars, and are thus celebrations of white supremacy colonialism, or at best sentimental regrets about the necessary inevitability of industrial civilization’s “progress.”

I was motivated to produce this antiwar movies list and commentary by the thought that it is always important to keep reminding today’s comfortable or prosperous or privileged or indolent or ignorant denizens of capitalist paradises (particularly in the United States, where 7 December 2021 will be commemorated as the 80th anniversary of the its entry into WWII) that sapping out the lifeblood of a national economy to feed a leeching and bloated military, and the technologically amplified bigotry called militarism, is chronically suicidal for the host society. Today we are all witnessing Planet Earth’s reaction — climate change — to our self-induced and suicidal civilizational affliction.

Poets and dreamers see the antiwar attitude as a first step in arriving at a species-wide sense of family for homo sapiens, and then such a grand consensus transforming all our lives for the better, on into future generations. “You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.”

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World War Infinity

Albert Einstein is often quoted as having said:

“I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones.”

Stan Goff writes:

“There won’t be a WW4.”

I say:

It’s a continuum of war, not a sequence of episodes of war. It’s a “streaming” of war, not a stasis of “peace” episodically punctuated by temporary eruptions of violence, called “wars.”

Numbering the “wars” simply means the intervals of “peace” are just well disguised wars by the clever perpetrators, and/or the antiwar and historian observers doing the numbering have failed to properly pay attention to what is actually happening during those “peaceful” intervals.

“Full spectrum dominance,” the military doctrine of the United States, means everything — from infant formula to nuclear bombs, and everything else in between — is “weaponized” all * the * time. It is all always WW∞.

The ‘end’ isn’t a point in the future, it is the streaming ‘now’ of thoughts passing through a cloud of amnesia to be transformed into bullets — both real and metaphorical, but all truly deadly — and which streaming presents itself, among other manifestations, as global warming climate change.

It is WW∞. We are WW∞. And Earth is fighting back, and will win.

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Remembering 4 Nuns Martyred in El Salvador

“Today marks the 41st Anniversary [of 2 December 1980] of the Martyrdom in El Salvador of Maryknoll Sisters Ita Ford and Maura Clarke, Ursuline Sister Dorothy Kazel and Lay Missioner Jean Donovan. We also remember the 70,000 Salvadorans who lost their lives during the nation’s civil war.”
https://www.facebook.com/NetworkLobby/photos/a.166039868572/10159950595368573

Stan Goff, who was a Special Forces soldier for the U.S., alerted me [MG,Jr.] to this sad anniversary (weblink above), and reports:

I have a very creepy story from when I was in El Salvador (1985): we found their bloodied clothes bagged in our tool shed (the house was leased by the US Embassy). The US Embassy then was staffed mostly by people who heartily approved of their killing. God bless America.

The Embassy apparently didn’t know what to do with the clothes, so they just shunted them off to the TDY house, where someone stuffed the garbage bags in the shed. The shed sprung a leak and the stuff got damp and mildewy and began to stink. That’s how we found it. The groundskeeper telling us, “El cobertizo heule mal.”

I won’t even repeat the horrifyingly callous, hateful, and misogynistic remarks that I heard from the Embassy folk . . . about the women who were killed, and admiration for those who did it. But then we were in the Reagan era. I also saw Felix Rodriguez directing chopper traffic at Ilopango Airport while he chatted with the Ambassador (presumably about what they were shipping, weapons to Nicaragua and dope [cocaine] to the US).

The Zona Rosa massacre, the kidnapping of Inez Duarte . . . shit was kicking off then. Corr, the Ambassador, was drunk most of the time I saw him (also true of the Ambassador in Guatemala a couple of years earlier), and everyone just acted like the whole country was their own little macho playground. One of my political turns happened there . . . a little one but important later. I figured out that it was all about money.

Manuel García, Jr. responds:

The whole thing made me sick, sad and angry. By then (1980) I was ready for a full on communist revolution — and still am. But, I had a budding family to support, no power, no wealth, only a fresh Ph.D. diploma, so I took Reagan’s blood money and tested nuclear bombs for the paychecks. I wanted to help develop alternative energy: fusion, solar, “green”, conservation/energy efficiency, whatever, but there was no money in it and no public desire for it: then or even now, really. My retirement pension comes from that: nuclear bombs. I was very good at it.

I’m sorry you, Stan Goff, had to witness such cruelty, and very glad you survived to be the man you are.

This country peaked in 1977 (its year of greatest potential was 1968), and started plunging in 1978, abysmally so after November 1980. Nixon was the first Confederate president of the U.S.A. (1968-1974), and with Reagan on (1981->), the Confederacy took over all branches of the U.S.G.

Climate change will eventually defeat our Neoliberal Confederacy (white supremacy capitalism), but unfortunately, like Moby-Dick to the Pequod, climate change will see all hands (even Ishmael), regardless of their culpability or innocence, swallowed into oblivion to achieve a terminal justice.

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