“World Tour of Wars”
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is both illegal and immoral. While Russia’s concern that Ukraine’s decision to join NATO which also included the prospect of NATO setting up a missile base in Ukraine, 100 miles from Russia’s border, is genuine, this by no means is a justification for invading Ukraine. Russia should have continued to explore other better and less violent options.
However, this article is not about Russia’s Ukraine war alone which no doubt is serious, it is also about the way Ukraine war has revived bad memories of US/West’s recent illegal wars in far-away locations and more disturbingly, how US/West’s reaction to the Ukraine has completely ignored their own wars that devasted many countries and killed many. Many regards US/West’s selective condemnation of Russia, a sign of “US/West war hypocrisies”.
Although these conversations around US/West’s “War hypocrisies” devalue and detract somewhat the attention away from a current crisis which no doubt is serious and a crisis that threatens world peace, ignoring these conversations would also be a folly as this would blur the vision and weaken the quest for viable options that may help to fix not just the Ukraine crisis but prevent all such future illegal wars.
The conversations around US/West’s war hypocrisies have been triggered by the very demented and biased way US/West’s media has reacted to the Ukraine crisis and the narratives they fed.
Furthermore, Western/US media’s reporting and analyses of the Ukraine crisis are not merely one-sided and not taken cognizance of their own illegal wars that happened not that long ago but their narratives reveal a pattern that are demonstratively racist. For example, Alan MacLeod of the MintPress News who has compiled a compendium of Western media’s coverage of the Ukraine war has included, among others, this observation by the CBS foreign correspondent Charlie D’Agata, “This [Ukraine war] isn’t Iraq or Afghanistan…This is a relatively civilized, relatively European city” – a statement, which is not just insensitive but blatantly racist.
At the same time, the contrast between Western media’s coverage of the human miseries of the Ukraine war with those the US/West’s foreign wars in non-European locations inflicted, such as the Iraq war is visibly apparent. For example, in covering the Ukraine war the Western media showed among other things, the images of suffering Ukrainian civilians (no doubt they are suffering), the picture of a little child looking puzzled and hugging a doll in a shelter and the “harrowing” scenes of Ukrainians in long que of cars, fleeing Ukraine, some with their dazed pets tucked in warm clothes (it is winter in Europe) – scenes that are indeed heart wrenching but these contrast shockingly the antipathy the Western media had shown to the non-Europeans victims of the US/West’s wars.
Let us do a memory check and reflect on the reporting of the 2003 US bombing of Iraq that mercilessly killed and maimed hundreds and thousands of Iraqi civilians including women and children and thanks to the use of bombs made of depleted uranium, many were vaporised and yet the media in the West showed little or no empathy nor did they relay ever the images of the bruised and brutalised of the war, neither on TV nor in the print media. Instead, the victims were dehumanized and lumped as “collateral damage.” However, the images of the Iraq war that most Western media fed us with on TVs were the sparks and long-tailed flames of falling US bombs that lit the Baghdad sky, a scene that looked more like the 4th of July (US Independence Day celebration) fireworks – something to cheer about and be entertained with.
The only international media, that covered the Iraq war live, from Baghdad itself, was Aljazeera. Aljazeera’s live streaming showed harrowing images of bombed and mangled bodies of men, women, and children that the West and its media cohort had happily ignored.
However, soon after Aljazeera live streaming reached the world especially in the Arab world and the images started to foment resentments against the war, Aljazeera’s Baghdad office, from which it covered the war, was bombed (“by mistake”) that put it and its coverage of the war, out of action. Aljazeera never returned to the scene of the carnage.
Picture of the US/West’s racist view of the Ukraine war vis-à-vis their non-Europe war gets somewhat pathetic if not despicable when you have the head of a European government, the Bulgaria Prime Minister, Kiril Petkov has this to say regarding the incoming Ukrainian refugees, “These are not the refugees we are used to… these people are Europeans…These people are intelligent, they are educated people…. This is not the refugee wave we have been used to, people we were not sure about their identity, people with unclear pasts, who could have been even terrorists…” A Syrian journalist has said and rightly so that the Bulgarian Prime Minister’s statement on Ukraine refugees, “mixes racism and Islamophobia.” Indeed!
Furthermore, recent claims by some in the West that the Ukraine war is the “worst war since World War II” and the US Senator Mitt Romney’s view that “Putin’s Ukraine invasion is the first time in 80 years that a great power has moved to conquer a sovereign nation” are not just evidences of opportunistic memory losses, but an affront to the victims of West’s war atrocities, the memories of which are still fresh and wounds are still raw.
Since WWII, there were at least 20 wars, 18 of which (81%) were waged by the US and its allies and all, against vastly weaker countries. These wars were/are (some are on-going) illegal and immoral, and almost all have been waged against the people of colour.
The list of countries that have been/are victims of the US/West’s illegal wars (and some are on-going) are long and include but not limited to Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan, Yemen, Lebanon, Syria, Palestine (where the war is a daily affair), and Vietnam.
In addition, America’s forever war, the so-called War on Terror (WOT) which has no expiry date, has made shooting anyone and killing anyone any time anywhere, on the excuse of fighting terrorism, a right.
According to one estimate US/West wars have so far killed more than a million people in 20 odd countries and displaced another 38 million and these do not include US/West’s regime change projects where they have used local surrogates to torture and kill, in thousands.
Indeed, ignoring these facts of US/West’s wars which both the media and governments in the West seem to do so conveniently and blatantly, confirm an uncomfortable truth that, “We are surrounded by war, but it’s somehow only an atrocity when it happens to white people.”
Let us return to the current crisis, Ukraine. This is an illegal war, and we must hold Russia responsible for its actions and at the same time, we must also unequivocally denounce and hold to account perpetrators of all such unauthorized/unilateral illegal wars – current and past – that have killed and maimed millions and devastated one country after the other.
More importantly, we must unite and make concerted efforts to challenge and dismantle the current world order – a post WWII neo-colonial white supremacist construct – that has made illegal wars a norm, and injustices an un-justiciable practice.
The rise of an assertive Russia and its close ties with another superpower, China that some regard a menace, is in fact an advantage. The duo is challenging the status quo of the US/West dictated world order and this is good news to the majority in the world, especially those that aspire for a balanced and less predatory world order.
Indeed things must change and the time for change is now. The UN General Assembly Emergency Special Session (UNGAESS) on Ukraine crisis is in session. It has begun its deliberations on February 28, 2022.
The Session may indeed, be the ideal platform to initiate the dialogue firstly, to dismantle the current predatory world order of the US/NATO nexus and secondly, replace it with a rule based “global governance architecture.”
Mr. Abdullah Shahid, the President of the UN General Assembly said in his inaugural speech at the UNGAESS, that Russia’s actions in Ukraine are inconsistent with the UN Charter that “outlines a world where countries settle disputes by peaceful means, without the threat or use of force.”
True. However, given that Russia is not the only party that flouted the UN Charter and that there are others who are equally culpable and have repeatedly disregarded the Charter, must be held to account as well.
Therefore, time is ripe for the Member States to take advantage of the UNGAESS on Ukraine and broaden the agenda, go beyond Ukraine, and include in discussions all recent unauthorized wars that were/have been/are being waged against other countries, those that were/are “inconsistent with the UN Charter,” identify the perpetrators, and hold them to account.
More importantly, the Member States must join hands and seize the opportunity of the Ukraine UNGAESS to establish a rule-based global order and a “global governance architecture” that is fair, equitable and effective, an architecture which they must also empower to enable running of a rule-based world order that serves the interest of member states – big and small – equitably and fairly!
The author is a former senior policy manager of the United Nations