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Saturday, May 25, 2024
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Oh, what a corrupt war!

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EVERYTHING else being equal, we could sit back and observe the spectacle of two of the most corrupt countries in the world knocking seven bells out of each other with indifference. The same indifference we bring to the 44 other sizeable conflicts which, according to Wikipedia, are currently going on around the world. You can have a pat on the back if you can name one of them, a gold star for five.

Everything else is not equal, however, because this is war – and war is hell.

We read voyeuristic accounts of the hell of civilian life in the Ukrainian war zones. We read much less about the dehumanising hell it is for combatants. Wolfgang Borchert, who was wounded on the Eastern Front during the last years of World War II, in the two years that were left to his wrecked body after its end, wrote of the deep psychological wounds war inflicts on the soldiery, wounds arguably just as bad as the physical damage.

The soldier’s re-entry into a postwar world now at peace, a world which now only wishes to put those horrors behind it, picks at the scabs of his mental scars. Ask any veteran soldier how quickly one goes from valiant hero to has-been once the fighting stops. Draußen vor der Tür (Shut out) was Borchert’s phrase. More than half a century before, Kipling wrote of the universal private, Tommy Atkins, fêted in war and shunned in peacetime.

One thing is sure: When the smoke of the Russia-Ukraine conflict finally lifts, both sides will have to cope not only with traumatised civilians but also with hundreds of thousands of young men and women with devastating physical and mental injuries. Both sides.

I am not a pacifist. The best guarantor of peace is a credible defensive capability with a will to survival. But war is hell and no sane person wants it. When war breaks out between other countries our duty is, in cases where we can realistically help, to mediate to restore peace as quickly as possible. Sometimes we do our duty a bit, in the majority of cases hardly at all.

But in the case of Russia and Ukraine a strange thing has happened. We haven’t ignored the conflict, we haven’t tried to end it – we have taken sides. Worse, we have taken sides for no reason, either strategic or tactical and for no discernible goal. No one has any idea how this conflict should or will end. Russia should not have invaded Ukraine, true, but the humane, farsighted response to that is not to join in the conflict and in so doing make everything much, much worse.

Not only have we taken sides, we are fuelling the continuance of the war by supplying arms, money and goods to one side and hindering the other side with sanctions. The flow of Russian propaganda has been stifled; the flow of Ukrainian propaganda has been channelled into the public address system. We have shut our ears and eyes to Russia whilst propagating whatever stories Ukraine feeds us.

We have become so deranged that when Ukraine feeds the UK media with some triumphalist war porn – armoured vehicles being blown up, aircraft and helicopters brought down or Russian soldiers running under fire for their lives – we cheer and gloat. Not a word is expended on the young Russians incinerated, blown apart, wounded dreadfully, their parents and spouses bereaved and their children orphaned.

It is ironic that a new filming of Remarque’s anti-war novel All Quiet on the Western Front is getting rave reviews for its realism. This level of irony is quite troubling: the rave reviews of the anti-war film and the rave reviews of Ukraine’s war effort seem to cause no cognitive dissonance at all.

And no, I am not a Russian apologist, paid or unpaid. The point is, surely, that if the Western powers want to exercise an ethical foreign policy, they should be deflating the conflict, not inflating it by acting as arms suppliers.

Even Switzerland, a country with a 170-year-old constitution which embodies not only the principle of neutrality but also the duty of the Swiss government to offer its ‘good offices’ in conflict resolution around the world, has been reprogrammed to get with the new reality. Not only is Switzerland in lockstep with EU sanctions against Russia, it is even delivering weapons and ammunition which will ultimately be used by the Ukrainians in the conflict.

Where has this mental reprogramming of the West come from? I don’t know – a big book with lots of footnotes would have to be written to approach that question.

In the UK there is, of course, the noisy, opportunistic boosterism of Boris Johnson, our poundshop Churchill, who now tells us that Putin threatened to have him assassinated. But the roots of the reprogramming seem to lead to the United States. We recall the crazed demonisation of Russia by the Democrats after Hillary Clinton’s loss to Donald Trump: Russian meddling had ‘hacked’ the Democratic National Committee mail server and had rigged the election for Trump through social media, or even ‘hacked’ voting machines or . . . on and on it went. As we know now, during this time there was as good as no Russian interference with anything. If anything was hacked, it was not by the Russians.

Then the Democrats tried to bring Trump down with a dossier alleging links between Trump and the Russians. It is now beyond any doubt that this, too, was a Democrat fairy story, boosted by the supportive security institutions in the US. During this crazed period there were a few wise heads who pointed out that today’s Russia was much diminished and was no longer the feared foe the Soviet Union had been. No one listened, it seemed. Russia, Russia, Russia – the handy bogeyman for the times.

We are now learning, bit by bit, of the enormous and outrageous corruption in the Biden family, with Joe Biden’s crackhead, depraved son Hunter as the principal actor. Over at least a decade the oligarchs of – where was it? Oh yes, Ukraine – paid breathtaking sums in various ways to the Biden family, usually via Hunter. Now we find President Biden and the Democrats cheering for their paymaster and the US government planning to ship some old tanks to Ukraine.

It is difficult to avoid the conclusion (Caesar’s wife and all that) that given the gung-ho adventure of the US participation and concomitant Nato involvement in the present conflict, and given that international money in dizzying amounts is now flowing back into Ukraine, that those backhanders were money well spent. 

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Richard Law
Richard Law
Richard Law is a retired businessman and software engineer, widowed, with a grown family. He lives in Switzerland.

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