by Joe Courter
I’ve been thinking more about this Ukraine mess in the past weeks, and it just hit me as I contemplate 2023, that this spring will be the twenty-year anniversary of the Bush administration’s war based on lies and the invasion of Iraq, which came right on the heels of the post-9/11 invasion of Afghanistan. There was worldwide resistance to the Iraq war, demonstrations all over the world on a scale never seen before or since. Google “2/15/03 demonstrations.”
Here in 2023, it is a very different situation. It’s being seen like a distant sporting event, and there is cheering for it in this country. The U.S. is merely funding it, and is not going to be sending troops as was the case in 2003. And, regarding the cheering, imperialism kinda sucks no matter who is doing it, and support of the resistance to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is understandable. But it is still war, and the threat of wider war in Europe does exist. We are dealing with an authoritarian leader with no graceful way out. The situation is very dangerous.
As with the Russians in Ukraine, for the U.S. in Iraq and Afghanistan there were some friendlier areas, but in other areas there was really stiff defense of their country against these invading troops. The locals were motivated to fight back. Additionally the Iraqi and Afghan resistance were aided by internationals who helped kill and harass the invading U.S. forces, using smaller-scale munitions and home field advantage, and causing a lot of death and injury from these tactics. Same here for Russia in Ukraine, and things have gotten bogged down with the increased resistance. The US and Russia in their turn had discounted how much fight back they would face.
Two days ago I read the following powerful article in the New Yorker: “Trapped in the Trenches in Ukraine” (tinyurl.com/Iguana1518). It follows a number of Afghanistan and Iraq vets as they fight with the Ukrainian resistance against the Russian military. They are gruff macho guys whom combat has hardened to where war is normal. Gritty trench warfare, but with cell phones and drones (!). One featured guy, Doc, is talked about here:
“The cause for which he is fighting in Ukraine is righteous because it consists of one country resisting occupation by another. But Doc’s adversaries in Iraq and Afghanistan viewed their causes similarly — and, in Afghanistan, that galvanizing sentiment may be why the Taliban prevailed. This is a thorny topic for veterans, and Doc was not willing to concede a moral equivalence between the U.S. and Russian invasions. However, the experience of defending a country against an outside aggressor that was superior in numbers and in firepower had given him a new appreciation for his former enemies. ‘I used to think, What kind of pussy fights with mines?’ he said. ‘And here I am, laying mines.’”
Wars are about territory and resources, things that could be worked out otherwise, but the powers that be did not choose that route. Politics and negotiation, coming to agreements in written policy, take a lot of work and often require concessions. We modern humans are impatient, plus we have all these great toys … these weapons with which we think we will surely prevail. Plus, there are certain entities which make a lot of money from war, and they exert influence for their own sake. Peace is not profitable.
Carl von Clausewitz claimed almost two hundred years ago: “War is the continuation of policy with other means.” U.S. Marine Major General Smedley Butler said almost a hundred years ago, “War is a racket.” ( He had been sent to Nicaragua to win it over for U.S. corporations.)
There seems to be unlimited money to feed the war machine. And now there seems to be a willing gamesmanship, that involves a multi-tiered gamble: that Russia will collapse under internal or economic pressure, and that the conflict won’t escalate to a wider war. Someone else once wrote, “Where are we going, and why are we in this handbasket?”
Do good, be nice, organize to make things better if you can, and hope for the best in 2023. Onward.