Monday, April 4, 2022

End this war....sooner than later!

 There are some mornings when the international newsfeed is so damned perplexing that one is tempted to tune out, put the head in the sand, ear plugs in the ears and a sleep mask over the eyes. Who says denial is not a necessary antidote to calamity?

Viktor Orban’s electoral victory in Hungary and Aleksandar Vucic’s victory in Serbia are both bad omens for the forces committed to the survival and victory of democracy in Ukraine. At the same time, these two elections are also a boon to the Russian tyrant. Both men are more friendly to Russia that to Ukraine, and both represent nations which are members of NATO.

This scribe is certainly not the sharpest knife in the drawer; however, it is not rocket science to envision a first sign of division among the previously touted “unified” NATO, at a time when that unity seemed to be one of the main foundational pillars of any prospect of Ukraine defeating, neutralizing and immobilizing Putin and this indefensible massacre.

Orban has refused to permit any weapons or military materiel to pass through Hungary on its way to Ukraine. He has been one of the more resistant leaders to refugee and immigrant waves regardless of their origin. A thorn in the side of the EU, Hungary continues to keep the spigot open to Russian oil, while the rest of Europe considers turning it off. And cash from those sales directly funds Putin’s invasion or Ukraine.

Regarding Serbia, Andrew Higgins writing in the New York Times, March 30, 2022, in a piece entitled, “Bound by a Sense of Victimhood, Serbia Sticks with Russia, writes this:

While Germany, Poland and several other E.U. countries display solidarity with Ukraine by flying its flag outside their Belgrade embassies, a nearby street pays tribute to Mr. Putin. A mural painted on the wall features an image of the Russian leader alongside the Serbian word for ‘brother’. Part of Mr. Putin’s allure leis in his image as a strongman, an appealing model for President Aleksandar Vucic, the increasingly authoritarian leader of Serbia and Prime Minister Viktor Orban, the belligerently illiberal leader of Hungary…..Then there is history or at least a mythologized version of the past, that., in the case of  Serbia, presents Russia, a fellow Slavic and Orthodox Christian nation, as an unwavering friend and protector down the centuries. …But perhaps most important is Mr. Putin’s role as a lodestar for nations that, no matter what their past crimes, see themselves as sufferers, not aggressors, and whose politics and psyche revolve around cults of victimhood nurtured by resentment and grievance against the West. …(Quoting Belgrade-based psychotherapist, Aurelija Djan) ‘Individuals who suffer traumas that they have never dealt with cannot feel empathy, she said. Societies, like trauma-scarred individuals, she added, ‘just repeat the same stories of their own suffering over and over again,’ a broken record that ‘deletes all responsibility’ for what they have done to others…..

Higgins continues: Hungary, allied with the losing side in two world wars, also nurses an oversize victim complex, rooted in the loss of large chunks of its territory. Mr. Orban has stoked those resentments eagerly for years, often siding with Russia over Ukraine, which controls a slice of former
Hungarian land and has featured prominently in his efforts to present himself as a defender of ethnic Hungarians living beyond the country’s border…

Is the notion of unresolved trauma, at so many different levels among so many different individuals and so many different groups/cults running amok on both sides of the Atlantic? In the United States, it is the profound and visceral expression of some various kinds of victimhood that has been the crutch that has seen some 74 million votes cast for the former U.S. president. Putin himself has framed this invasion as Ukraine’s attack on Russia, and the threat posed by an expanding NATO on the borders with Russia.

At the same time as these electoral reports were reaching North America, so too were the words and the passion of another exiled Russian businessman, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, speaking on CNN on Fareed Zakaria’s Global Public Square. Once Russia’s richest man, and later a critic of Putin, imprisoned by Putin for ten years, and now living in London. On, in a piece by Kelsey Vlamis, April 3, 2022, we read (based on his interview on CNN):’The fact that the people in Kharkiv did not meet him (Putin) with flowers, it not only just angered him, I really think it drove him literally insane. That’s when he started bombing Kharkiv and Kyiv, he said….(Khodorkovsky) said other oligarchs need to publicly declare Putin a ‘war criminal to not look like they are working for the Kremlin….

And then there is this, from, by The Associated Press, April 2, 2022, in a piece entitled, “Former UN Prosecutor calls for global arrest warrant for Putin”….The former chief prosecutor of United Nations war crimes tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda has called for an international arrest warrant to be issued for Russian President Vladimir Putin. ‘Putin is now a war criminal,’ Carla Del Ponte told the Swiss Newspaper Le Temps in an interview published Saturday…She said she was particularly shocked by the use of mass graves in Russia’s war of Ukraine, which recalls the worst of the wars in the former Yugoslavia. ‘I hoped never to see mass graves again, she told the newspaper Blick. ‘These dead people have loved ones who don’t even know what’s become of them. That’s unacceptable.

With all of these various voices, some insinuating a beginning of a divide in Europe, as well as another prophetic call for oligarchs to step up and denounce Putin, and then a formal authoritative call for an international arrest warrant for Putin, one has to wonder which voices are carrying the day in the Situation Room in the White House, and in the boardrooms in various European capitals.

“Send in the MIG’s!” is a cry that is now echoed so often everyone has heard it. Refraining to do so seems, at this stage, to be an overt act of cowardice on the part of those responsible in NATO for such a decision. Given the range of weapons and systems pouring into Ukraine, how can anyone argue that Ukraine’s allies are not already intimately engaged in this war against Putin? And it is the two-step of legalese, bureaucratese, and ‘in-the-weeds default that seems to be ensnaring those elected and appointed officials from taking that last step. Risking nuclear or chemical warfare, with Putin, is, according to the Russian tyrant already on the table. Why are we not therefore able and willing to take note of the fact, for example that nuclear fallout may already have been unleashed in Chernobyl by Russian soldiers digging in the surrounding soil. The Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant caught fire during an attack by Russian forces, as reported  by The Harvard Gazette’s Christina Pazzanese, March 7, 2022.

Are there not enough compelling pieces of both information and informed and respected opinion from so many quarters, that, should Russia prevail in this conflict, we will all have to bear the shame and the deep guilt for having turned both a deaf ear and blind eye to the historic epithet, “Never Again!” This expression, as expressed by Ukrainians themselves who, too, are unable to comprehend the west’s timidity, IS NOW….we are already in the moment when never again is taking place before our eyes.

We can no long not know what we already know. And knowing what we all know, we cannot remain silent and thereby complicit in a crippled, if valiant commitment to the Ukrainian cries for more help. They universally and ubiquitously expressed deep gratitude for all the help they have received; and evidence demonstrates both courageous and disciplined deployment of all the resources they have received.

And still, oil flows from Russia into Europe, and MIG’s lie dormant on tarmacs inside NATO; and the cries from voices far more schooled and disciplined and respected than this scribe, continue to escalate.

In a fast-moving, tragic and deplorable narrative, witnessing bodies shot in cold blood lying in the streets of Bucha, a story reversed and placed in the hands of the Ukrainians by the Russian propaganda machine, there can be very few left who do not feel the impelling and compelling tipping point that calls for a steroidal injection into the situation room.

Decisions that seem to emerge from two equally unacceptable options are the primary stuff of public debate and public responsibility. They are also at the nexus of many personal decisions if and when one is faced by a medical diagnosis leaving only one of two equally intolerable options. Simplistically, surgery or chemotherapy, for example, or surgery or radiation, or surgery or both chemo and radiation….these are not decisions anyone can or will take lightly or without torment.

Torment is, in fact, at the heart of many of the decisions facing millions of Ukrainians every hour of every day. Many of those decisions now comprise our daily newsfeed. And we all experience the torment, the ripping apart of lives, families, educations, businesses, and histories. How long can this torment, now being fed into the living rooms, offices and boardrooms across the globe, continue? And how long will we permit ourselves to be complicit in its prolongation?

Who knows?


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