By Ralph Nader / Nader.org
Russia’s criminal war in Ukraine intensifies as it grinds on, World War I style with heavy casualties on both sides. While President Joe Biden keeps repeating that NATO, mostly meaning the U.S., will expand military support for Ukraine “as long as it takes.” “As long as it takes,” is not a policy, it is deadly procrastination without any exit strategy.
Of course, Biden, who voted for Bush’s criminal war in Iraq as a Senator in 2003, along with hundreds of billions of dollars over the years, is experienced in “as long as it takes.” That invasion and occupation took over one million Iraqi lives, even more injuries and sicknesses and plunged Iraq into destructive chaos that persists to this day.
“As long as it takes” for a million Ukrainian lives lost and the comparable destruction of their country? For the war to escalate beyond Ukraine, into Russia and bordering countries?
Biden spends more time thinking about when he will say “Yes” to Ukrainian president Zelensky’s demand for more powerful weapons – Advanced Armored Vehicles, longer-reaching artillery, Abrams Tanks with depleted-uranium rounds. The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) warns such ammunition is “chemically and radiologically toxic heavy metal.” The Harvard International Review reports “Depleted uranium may pose a risk to both soldiers and local civilian populations. When ammunition made from depleted uranium strikes a target, the uranium turns into dust that is inhaled by soldiers near the explosion site. The wind then carries dust to surrounding areas, polluting local water and agriculture.”
Biden also supports providing Ukraine with F-16s which take many months to learn to fly and he has already sent Ukraine cluster bombs to match Russia’s cluster bombs so as to further endanger Ukrainians, including children, for years to come. The New York Times reports, “123 nations – including many of America’s allies – have agreed never to use, transfer, produce or stockpile cluster munitions.”
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The Biden Administration has no diplomatic strategies, no demand for an immediate unconditional ceasefire followed by top-level peace negotiations. This war is expanding and becoming more lethal each day. Provocations are also escalating as armed Ukrainian drones appear over Moscow and more Russian missiles target Ukrainian civilians.
Congress, ignorant of history’s lessons from wars in Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and other military boomerangs of the U.S. Empire, rubber-stamp Biden’s demands without any thorough Congressional hearings to examine where this war is heading. Congressional Democrats did, however, make sure to block a proposed Inspector General’s Office to oversee the spending of tens of billions of taxpayers’ dollars in U.S. military aid, watchdog corruption and investigate diversions of military supplies.
A culpable Congress is also going along with the Biden/NATO decision to put 300,000 soldiers “at high readiness” stationed in the countries on Russia’s borders and in Europe. Already, thousands of U.S. soldiers, modern artillery and warships are in that region.
Dictator Putin doesn’t have to stretch the truth far in his propaganda to alarm the Russian people. They remember the invasions by Germany in World War I and World War II that took more than 50 million Russian lives and that caused massive devastation in Russia, their country. They see a military alliance of Western countries, (NATO) including Germany, Finland, Poland, Hungary, Czechia, Estonia, Romania and Bulgaria. They also see moves to include Ukraine.
In 1990 several Western leaders assured Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev that NATO would not expand. In 1991, when the Soviet Union started to formally dissolve and Soviet concerns about NATO increased. U.S. experts, including long-time expert George Kennan, warned of a red-line disaster. The Guardian notes that “Putin claims that [James] Baker, [former Secretary of State] in a discussion on 9 February 1990 with the Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, made the promise that NATO would not expand to the east if Russia accepted Germany’s unification.”
President Bill Clinton infuriated Russian President Boris Yeltsin by breaking with past U.S. assurances on NATO expansion.
As pointed out in a long Harper’s June 2023 article on Ukraine, “…at NATO’s Bucharest summit in April 2008, the U.S. delegation, led by President Bush, urged the alliance to put Ukraine and Georgia on the immediate path to NATO membership. German chancellor Angela Merkel understood the implications of Washington’s proposal: “I was very sure . . . that Putin was not going to just let that happen,” she recalled in 2022. “From his perspective, that would be a declaration of war.” America’s ambassador to Moscow, William J. Burns, shared Merkel’s assessment. Burns had already warned Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice that “Ukrainian entry into NATO is the brightest of all redlines for the Russian elite (not just Putin),” concluding that “Russia will respond.” (Why Are We in Ukraine? By Benjamin Schwarz, Christopher Layne).
Imagine the shoe being on the other foot, with Russia doing all this on our borders. Look how the U.S. reacted to 3000 lives lost on 9/11.
The media also hasn’t learned its history lessons. Coverage of the Ukraine War towers over its coverage of our illegal military invasions in the Middle East. Except they avoid reporting about peace advocacy by domestic and international groups.
While the New York Times’ readers are told about how domestic pets and athletes are faring in the Ukraine conflict, this newspaper of record ignores the voyage of the Golden Rule Boat, sponsored by Veterans for Peace, docking this year at ports on the west Gulf and eastern coast. The mainstream media ignored the rally by many peace groups on July 22, 2023, at Biden’s hometown in front of (Scranton, PA) the Army Ammunition Plant run by General Dynamics (See https://worldbeyondwar.org/scranton/).
Nor does the mass media probe the U.S. policy driving Germany into larger military budgets and weapons shipments to Ukraine, and ending the Nordic countries’ traditions of neutrality by bringing them into NATO. All these expansions provide huge business for the U.S. military-industrial complex, which Eisenhower warned us about. (https://www.archives.gov/milestone-documents/president-dwight-d-eisenhowers-farewell-address).
The expansions also scare the Russian public and increase popular support for the aggressor Putin and Russian troops. Roger Cohen’s long report in the New York Times on his trip through Russia shed some light on these feelings.
Our country should lead in peacemaking, in engaging the United Nations when its charter against offensive war is violated by any member country, and in observing our own constitutional mandates which reserve for Congress, not the Presidency, the power to declare war.
Instead, we expand a vast military budget (greater than the next ten countries combined, including China and Russia), operate military bases in over 100 countries, bristle with military threats or incursions in the backyards of many of these nations – in violation of international law, the UN charter (which we most prominently drafted in 1946) and federal statutes. All done in a bipartisan fashion, with astounding hypocrisy and self-righteousness.
Whether or not you are a veteran, I urge you to virtually attend the annual Veterans for Peace Convention on August 25 through August 27, 2023, to hear the views of people who abhor all wars in favor of stopping the slaughter and deliberately waging peace. (See, Veterans for Peace Convention Registration).
Otherwise, prepare for a war of attrition on both sides, which could last for years. Unless that is, it flares into a nuclear weapons war.
That should sober all hawks, including the consistent one in the White House.
Ralph Nader is an American political activist, author, lecturer, and attorney noted for his involvement in consumer protection, environmentalism, and government reform causes. The son of Lebanese immigrants to the United States, Nader attended Princeton University and Harvard Law School.