When I suggest not stealing billions of dollars from Afghanistan, and thereby not causing mass starvation and death, otherwise intelligent and informed people tell me that human rights demands that theft. Starving people to death is a means of protecting their “human rights,” in fact. How else can you (or the U.S. government) stop Taliban executions?
When I respond that you (the U.S. government) could ban capital punishment, stop arming and funding the world’s top executioners from Saudi Arabia on down, join the world’s major human rights treaties, sign onto and support the International Criminal Court, and then — from a credible position — seek to impose the rule of law in Afghanistan, sometimes people think that over as if none of it had ever occurred to them, as if basic logical steps had been literally unthinkable, whereas starving millions of little kids to death for their human rights had somehow made sense.
I also have yet to run across a single person in the United States not engaged in peace activism who doesn’t believe that the United States needs to stop “aggression” by “Putin” in Ukraine. Maybe I don’t interact enough with Fox News viewers who want a war with China or Mexico and think Russia is a less desirable war, but it’s not clear to me that such a person would dispute the spontaneous irrational Putinesque plot against Ukraine so much as just not care about it.
When I respond that if Russia had put Canada and Mexico into a military alliance, stuck missiles in Tijuana and Montreal, run giant war rehearsals in Ontario, and endlessly warned the world of a looming U.S. invasion of Prince Edward Island, and if the U.S. government had demanded that the troops and missiles and military war pacts be removed, our televisions would be telling us those were perfectly reasonable demands (which wouldn’t erase the fact that the United States has an enormous military and loves to threaten war, or the worse-than-irrelevant fact that the United States has domestic governmental flaws) — when I say all that, sometimes people act as if I’ve just revealed a mind-bending secret.
But how is that possible? How can perfectly smart people have no idea that NATO promised not to expand eastward when Russia agreed to the reunification of Germany, no idea that NATO has expanded right into the former USSR, no idea that the U.S. has missiles in Romania and Poland, no idea that Ukraine and NATO have built up a huge force on one side of Donbas (like Russia subsequently on the other), no idea that Russia would have liked to be an ally or member of NATO but was too valuable as an enemy, no idea that it takes two to tango, no idea that peace has to be carefully avoided but war diligently manufactured — and yet numerous very serious ideas to tell you regarding how to halt Putin’s invasions?
The answer is not a pleasant one, but I think it’s unavoidable. The thousands of people who’ve spent the past month giving interviews and making webinars and writing articles and blog posts and petitions and banners and teaching each other obvious facts about Ukraine and NATO exist in a different world from 99 percent of their neighbors who exist in the world created by newspapers and televisions. And this is extremely unfortunate because nobody — not even the weapons dealers already trumpeting the profits to be made in this war — wants war more badly than do newspapers and television outlets.
“Does Iraq have WMDs?” was not just a question they gave the wrong answer to. It was an absurd piece of propaganda prior to anyone answering it. You don’t get to invade and bomb a country whether or not its government possesses weapons. If you did, the world would have had the right to invade and bomb the United States which openly possessed all the weapons it falsely accused Iraq of having.
“How do you stop Putin’s invasion?” is not just a question they are giving the wrong answer to. It is an absurd piece of propaganda prior to anyone answering it. Asking it is part of a campaign to provoke just the invasion that the question pretends to be interested in preventing. Without threatening any invasion, Russia laid out two months ago what it wanted. The propaganda question “How do you stop Putin’s invasion?” or “Don’t you want to stop Putin’s invasion?” or “You aren’t in favor of Putin’s invasion, are you?” is premised on avoiding any awareness of the perfectly reasonable demands made by Russia while pretending instead that an “inscrutable” Asian monarch is inexplicably threatening irrational and unpredictable measures that can nonetheless best be forestalled by threatening, scaring, provoking, and insulting him. Because if you actually wanted to prevent a war in Donbas rather than create one, you would simply agree to the perfectly reasonable demands made by Russia in December, end this madness, and shift to addressing non-optional crises such as the Earth’s ecosystems and nuclear disarmament.