From the March-April 2022 issue of News & Letters
PUTIN’S BRUTAL WAR ON UKRAINE
The editorial “No to Putin’s planned war in Ukraine” (Jan.-Feb. 2022 N&L) shows that rebellion at home, from workers, generates fear in state rulers, East and West. But the mainstream media talk only of Biden, Putin and Russia’s war machinery. The eastern Ukrainian coal miners’ struggle in 1991 helped lead to the fall of the Soviet Union and continued until crushed by Russia’s 2014 takeover of eastern Ukraine. The takeover cultivated ethnic separatism and boosted the interests of Ukraine’s oligarchs. Zelensky did not prepare the country because he was trying to appease both NATO and Russia. He too had become more authoritarian. I have the utmost admiration for the creativity, determination and courage of the Ukrainian people.
Susan Van Gelder
The deliberate starvation of Mariupol, denying over 400,000 people under siege by Russian troops electricity and water and any entry of food and medical supplies, is a haunting repeat of Stalin’s man-made famine in Ukraine during the 1930s. Stalin’s campaign to wipe out Ukrainian resistance using grain confiscations (maybe he got the idea from the British during the Irish potato famine) led to millions starved to death and depopulation. Putin must expect that evoking the Holodomor would be intimidating to any Ukrainian.
The majority leaving Ukraine are women with young children. The Russians are being repulsed by the Ukrainian Army and armed citizens. I’m amazed at the level of resistance. But the only people who can stop this are the Russian people, including the Russian army refusing to fight, and moving on to outright revolution.
What Russia is doing is wrong, and Ukraine is a victim of NATO expansion. A war almost always make things worse by helping in a militaristic way. For me, there is humanitarian aid and refuge. A no-fly zone is risky; a quick surrender and disabling resistance might be best. The media show war is horrible, but not when the U.S. is the aggressor; they don’t even use the words war or invasion, and there’s the racism underlying the response: these are real people, Europeans. The U.S. waged war on Iraq and Afghanistan and is helping the Saudis starve the people of Yemen. The Russian resistance is impressive—how can we support it?
Rural South USA
The centrist media depict the Ukraine war as “autocracy vs. democracy.” But the U.S.-led allies are hardly paragons of democracy. The 2020 defeat of Trump only obscures the march of authoritarianism in the U.S., while neofascist Hungary and Poland have aligned with Europe’s sanctions against Russia. In reality the war is whitewashing Hungary et al and intensifying militarism. After Trump pleased Putin by weakening NATO, Putin’s war has revived NATO. The European Union is rearming. Germany aims to become the world’s third biggest military spender. It is true that Putin’s war must be opposed. At the same time, two capitalist-imperialist alliances have taken the field, both of which are elevating militarism over democracy.
Your statement “Down with Putin’s war on Ukraine!” was ridiculously one-sided. Not a single word about NATO’s aggressive expansionism in Europe.
I liked the statement because it did not equivocate. It did not, as did much of the left, blame the Russian invasion on NATO expansion. NATO expansion occurred over a period of many years. Eastern European countries joined NATO because they had been occupied by Russia during and after World War II. I am not endorsing NATO but trying to explain that it is a red herring, unrelated to the reasons for the Russian invasion.
“McCarthyism” was a project of targeting Americans for their support for socialism, which happened to be associated with the Soviet Union at that time. It was NEVER an ethnic slur against Russians! While we should stand in solidarity with Russian activists taking huge risks to stand up to Putin’s aggression, and also understand applying our criticism of Putin to the citizens of Russia would be unacceptable, it is shockingly manipulative for some “leftists” to describe criticism of Putin as “McCarthyism,” and calls on Russians to join the anti-war protests as “verging on calls for genocide.” Good grief, people! You are inventing a new “oppressed Russian” identity politics out of whole cloth!
If Obama had listened to the Syrian revolutionaries and had put up some serious resistance to Bashar al-Assad—who, importantly, got help from Russia and Iran—from committing genocide in Syria against a population who only wanted freedom, that may have given Putin some pause in carrying out his war on Ukraine. News and Letters was right to repeat that Syria was a test of world politics—one that the U.S. failed in such a profound way as to show Putin that he could get away with destroying the democracy in Ukraine and turning it into another Chechnya.
Biden said, “We will hold Russia accountable.” That’s a lie. We have known since 2014, when Putin seized the Crimea and Donbass regions, that this could happen. The U.S. did nothing to dissuade Putin. For over a month before the invasion the U.S. knew the Russians were threatening Ukraine. In Syria Russian and U.S. warplanes “coordinated” with each other to bomb civilians. Recently, Biden handed the people of Afghanistan over to the Taliban. Putin remembered that Obama only slapped Assad on the wrist after he crossed the “red line” in 2013 by using chemical weapons on civilians. A nation was sacrificed for the career of one bourgeois politician.
Battle Creek, Mich.
Women and children are terribly strong. They are changing street signs and creating Molotov cocktails. Putin is desperate not to be drawn into a street war but he met mass creativity. Here, Republicans are not all following Trump. But in a meeting planned between Hungary’s Orbán and Putin the honored speaker is Donald Trump. These fascists are looking for a whole new world order against the people. It’s very scary.
Very nice support for Ukraine. What about other refugees? Are they also allowed to shop for free at Ikea? Aren’t they just as dead or maimed after a bombing? At first, the Netherlands was too small for a few hundred Afghans! Just another case of Animal Farm: “We all are equal, but some are a bit more equal than others.” An uncomfortable truth maybe, but it’s just racism and fear of another culture or religion.
WAR ON YEMEN
Yemen is far away, and everyone’s attention is on Ukraine and Europe. Does that mean the Yemeni people are disposable? In seven years of war the UN estimates that almost 400,000 people, primarily civilians, have died—60% from hunger and disease, with children being 70% of the deaths. A coalition of authoritarian regimes—Saudi Arabia and the UAE (United Arab Emirates), supported by the U.S.—continues indiscriminate bombing. The Houthis—an Islamist political movement that emerged in the 1990s—have carried out an armed insurgency for years, and are now targeting Saudi and UAE intervention. More than four and a half million people have been internally displaced in Yemen. It is said that this is a proxy war for the Saudi Arabia-Iran conflict. But what about the Yemenis? The war intensified to its most deadly level in 2022 and now mass starvation is close to reality.
Thank you for “Canadian convoy fuels fascism, not freedom” (online only, Feb. 11). It is important that people see the difference in how they were treated with kid gloves, and Sovereign Nations people were brutally treated for their just actions. It is also important that people understand the importance of Detroit to American industry and the economy. Another thing is the ridiculousness of the just-in-time policy in industry. Ordinary people end up paying for that, as N&L columnist John Allison pointed out about the Packard auto plant in Detroit that closed in the 1950s. I am glad that your article brings us something to go on to move lower and deeper, in understanding the larger picture.
Former Québec resident
Watching the trucks travel to Ottawa and other Canadian cities to demand an end to pandemic rules—and the fall of the government—reminded me of the strike of independent truck drivers in Chile in 1973. It turned out that strike had been organized and financed by the CIA as part of Henry Kissinger orchestrating the coup of Gen. Pinochet against the elected Socialist government of Salvador Allende.
Retired postal worker
TRUCKS AND TRIBES
Angry white men were shouting at the air in the Costco gas line yesterday. Be warned that U.S. culture is based on individuality and shallow tribalism. No one wants to be inconvenienced. The top selling vehicles in the past two years were trucks. One day gas is cheap, so some felt good about monster trucks. Cheap gas is gone but payments aren’t. Capitalism has no tomorrow. Cryptocurrency is a metaphor for capitalism. No product, quick profit, long-term destruction. We never get the joke.
Re: “Attack on abortion harms democracy” (Jan.-Feb. 2022 N&L), during the vice presidential debate Kamala Harris was well set up to make a definitive statement for choice, from which she could have called out Mike Pence’s lie that he defends life. She chose not to. Instead she gave an ambiguous response. Where are the House and Senate bills to codify federal abortion law and why aren’t they going to the floor?
Re: “The abortion pill is not magic” (Jan.-Feb. 2022 N&L), prior to the 1972 election I was campaigning for Michigan’s Proposal B to make abortions legal, subject only to the consent of a woman and her doctor, to replace the state law which made almost all abortions a felony. Three weeks before the election, the Catholic Church sent anti-abortion brochures with greatly enlarged gory photographs of fetuses to every household in Michigan. Proposal B was defeated. If Roe v. Wade is overturned, the old state law is still on the books and goes into effect again. I will be helping circulate petitions for replacing that law, but time is running out. I am still fighting for reproductive freedom and justice.
Women know that being able to get an abortion or birth control is, or should be, our decision. But politicians now decree that it is their right to tell women and girls what we can do with our bodies, including forced pregnancy, what we can eat and drink when pregnant, and more. They’ve set a precedent with this outrageous trampling of women’s human rights. With Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s order to declare gender-affirming care as “child abuse,” he’s extending government’s right to interfere in people’s healthcare decisions. These healthcare decisions affect only women, gender-diverse people, and the families involved. But the COVID-19 vaccine mandate, which Abbott vigorously opposed, affects the health of a whole society.