sadly, again

Yesterday was Holocaust Remembrance Day, a yearly reminder of massive cruelty and death and an attempt at genocide against the Jewish people during World War II.

It is common to say “never again” but we have continued to see civil wars and government/military actions against civilians and particular groups across the world over these intervening decades, a list so long I will not attempt to compile it here.

Presently, most of the world is watching in horror as Putin’s invasion of Ukraine continues. Because of modern technology and press and residents on the ground, we see the bodies of civilians left in the streets, the cities bombed into rubble, the mass graves. We hear the first-hand accounts of survivors of what they have witnessed and endured, including rape, kidnapping, and torture.

So far, the condemnation of the the vast majority of countries in the United Nations General Assembly, wide-ranging sanctions against Russia, and supplying military and humanitarian aid to Ukraine have not stopped Putin’s aggression and escalation of atrocities. Over and over, Russia has said they will allow ceasefires and humanitarian corridors for evacuation of civilians and for aid to those who are staying but they have never followed through.

In recent days, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres met in person with Russian Federation President Vladimir Putin. Putin has agreed “in principle” to UN and International Red Cross involvement in humanitarian aid and evacuation of civilians from the besieged city of Mariupol. Talks are ongoing but there is at least hope that there will be some relief for civilians soon.

Meanwhile, Russia is continuing its saber-rattling, signaling that it wants to sweep from eastern Ukraine across the entire south along the Black Sea and into the neighboring country of Moldova. It is also threatening the countries who are aiding Ukraine and sanctioning Russia with retaliation and possible use of weapons of mass destruction. There is already massive evidence that Russia has violated many international laws and even committed war crimes, but, so far, the international community has not been able to stop the war, death, and destruction.

One tool that the UN has is action by the Security Council but Russia is a permanent member with veto power and has blocked all efforts at this. This week, there has been a resolution adopted by the General Assembly which will require any of the five permanent member states who exercises a Security Council veto to appear within ten days before the General Assembly so that all member states can scrutinize and comment on the veto. While they can’t override the veto, it’s at least a public and official action.

Here is a three-paragraph quote from the United Nations story linked above:

“Noting that all Member States had given the Council the primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security, and agreed that it acts on their behalf, he [Liechtenstein’s Ambassador, Christian Wenaweser] underscored that the veto power comes with the responsibility to work to achieve ‘the purposes and principles of the UN Charter at all times‘.

“ ‘We are, therefore, of the view that the membership as a whole should be given a voice when the Security Council is unable to act, in accordance with this Assembly’s functions and powers reflected in the Charter,’ particularly Article 10, he said.

“Article 10 spells out that the Assembly may discuss any questions or matters within the scope of the Charter or the powers and functions of any organs provided for within it, and, except as provided in Article 12, ‘may make recommendations to the Members of the United Nations or to the Security Council or to both on any such questions or matters.’ ”

Meanwhile, we are all watching and hearing about the immense suffering and death every day and trying to be supportive but realizing that we don’t have the power to end this war with a just peace. Part of the tension is not knowing what the next day or week or month will bring.

I was not alive during World War II but wonder if the feelings of apprehension and helplessness are similar to what people felt then. The difference now is that we have much greater access to accurate information in near-real time than was available then. We don’t have to wait for the liberation of concentration camps to see the full extent of the horrors as we did with the Holocaust. We can see the bodies of executed civilians in the streets; the bombed hospitals, schools, and apartment buildings; the mass graves. We can hear the stories of women who were raped by soldiers, civilians injured by Russian bullets or bombs, people who are trying to survive without food or water in besieged cities.

It’s not “never again.” It’s now. In Ukraine. In Afghanistan. In Ethiopia. In South Sudan. In Syria. In Yemen. In too many places to list them all.

Perhaps “never again” at this point is a call to never again turn away from those who are suffering, to never again say it is someone else’s problem, to never again stay silent in the face of injustice and destruction.

A call to refuse to surrender to hopelessness that there will ever be an end to war and violence. A call to make that hope into reality.

a just peace

Last weekend, after I published this post, I attended mass at St. Francis of Assisi, where we offered prayers for those suffering from the war in Ukraine and heard about the situation in the homily. There was also a lovely tribute to the people of Ukraine in the form of a framed artwork with sunflowers on a blue and gold draped table. We are also preparing to take up a special collection to assist the Ukrainians.

I have been continuing to reflect on the meaning of the “just peace” for which we hope and pray and what elements would be part of that. This post is a reflection of those hopes. I realize that it is not at all likely to be a practical course of action but I wanted to share what is in my heart and mind.

The obvious first step is the immediate cessation of all violence. This will enable desperately needed aid to flow to places that have been besieged or occupied, as well as making safe evacuation possible for the sick, injured, vulnerable, and those whose homes and communities have been destroyed.

All prisoners of war must be released so they can return home.

The Russians must withdraw from the entirety of Ukraine, taking the bodies of their dead with them. This includes Crimea which Russia invaded in 2014 when the current war began. Russia should not control any part of a sovereign nation that it took by force. Any residents of Ukraine who prefer to live under Russian control should be welcomed by Russia into its own territory. Any residents of Ukraine who were voluntarily or involuntarily evacuated into Russia or Belarus and wish to return to Ukraine should be repatriated immediately.

There is widespread devastation, suffering, and death in Ukraine for which there is no just remedy as they cannot be undone. The international community will certainly rush in with humanitarian aid but the responsibility for paying for rebuilding should fall primarily on Russia. Because so much of Russia’s wealth is held by Putin, his family, corrupt government officials, and Putin’s select circle of oligarchs, those are the funds that should be tapped to rebuild Ukraine. Some of those assets are already frozen under international sanctions, some of which should stay in place while the rebuilding process continues. I would hope, though, that the sanctions that make life difficult for the average Russian could be eased so that they don’t continue to suffer because Putin chose to break international law by invading a sovereign neighbor and extensively targeting civilians.

I believe that there will continue to be an investigation and an eventual trial for war crimes in The Hague. I also think that Russia should lose its seat on the UN Security Council or, at least, that the UN should change its policy so that a nation brought before the Security Council must abstain from voting on that issue.

There also needs to be redress for the environmental/climate justice issues highlighted by the war. Russia has long used its fossil fuels as a weapon. The best way to address this problem is to move away from fossil fuels as quickly as possible, blunting Russia’s power and moving the planet in the right direction in terms of the climate crisis. I wrote about some ideas for doing so in this post.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine also highlighted the security and environmental risks of relying on nuclear power, with Russia threatening the already contaminated site of Chernobyl as well as the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, which is the largest nuclear facility in Europe. While nuclear power does not emit carbon, the mining of uranium, the lack of secure long-term nuclear waste disposal options, and the vulnerability of the plants to natural and human-caused disaster is too great. As more and more renewable power becomes available and as efficiency gains reduce energy demands, nuclear power plants should be phased out.

The free flow of truthful information has also taken a hit in this war, especially in Russia. Putin has shut down all independent media in print, over the airwaves, and online and many journalists have fled the country. Protesters have been arrested. Apparently, some of the Russian soldiers were not even told what their mission was as they invaded. As part of a just peace, Putin must restore independent media and allow the free flow of information as well as free all prisoners, both Russians and foreign nationals who have been jailed for dissent or trumped-up charges. The Russian people should also have an independent judiciary and the rescinding of unjust laws, such as the recently passed one that can bring up to fifteen years in prison for calling the war in Ukraine a war or invasion instead of a “special military operation.”

The democratic government of Ukraine must have the freedom to choose its own path going forward. It should be able to apply for membership in the European Union, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, or any other entity it sees fit. Because the United Nations General Assembly voted overwhelmingly to condemn Russia and support Ukraine’s sovereignty, United Nations peacekeepers should be assigned after the Russian withdrawal to help give security and support as Ukraine rebuilds.

As I said at the outset, this is my own thoughts on some elements of a just peace for Ukraine. I know the reality is that Putin hasn’t really been willing to negotiate, although a swap of ten prisoners on each side is a very small beginning. My fear is that Russia will eventually force Ukraine to accept Russian control of the Donbas region of Eastern Ukraine connecting through Mariupol to Crimea in exchange for not bombing all the major cities of Ukraine into dust. If that happens, I think that all the international sanctions should remain in place. The world must let Putin and Russia know that it will not recognize or tolerate countries taking the territory of sovereign nations by force.

SoCS: Compassion

There is so much in the world right now for which I feel compassion. I’m sure many others are also joining in this sense of compassion, too.

Media is filled with the heart-breaking situation in Ukraine. So much destruction. So much death and injury and hunger and lack of shelter. The incomprehensible targeting of civilians in their homes, of food warehouses, of people who are trying to flee besieged cities. The deaths of so many soldiers on both sides, compounded by the fact that Russia is not bringing the bodies of its dead back home to their families. The millions of internally displaced people and the millions who have become refugees in other countries.

Meanwhile, the pandemic continues to cause suffering. The omicron subvariant is sending cases higher in many countries, just as most had relaxed their preventative strategies. Now into the third year of the pandemic, the accumulated losses are staggering. Millions dead, their absence felt by their families, friends, and communities. Many millions more dealing with lasting damage, some with long COVID, others with lung, heart, vascular, and/or neurological damage that they don’t discover until after recovery from the initial infection.

There are other armed conflicts, droughts leading to hunger, other disasters that cause suffering, and always the unfolding disaster of climate change.

All call for my compassion.

There are personal things, too. The neighbor who just lost his mother. Friends and relatives in medical battles. On and on.

I try not to be overwhelmed or succumb to compassion fatigue. I offer help as I can and support efforts for peace and justice. I don’t know if the people for whom I have compassion can feel that support or not. Perhaps, with so many sharing in compassion, they can and feel a little less alone in their suffering.

I hope.
*****
Linda’s prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday this week is to write about a word that contains “comp.” Join us! Find out more here: https://lindaghill.com/2022/03/18/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-march-19-2022/

SoCS: Ukraine and the rest of the world

Like much of the rest of the world, I’ve been watching coverage of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. I’m horrified at the destruction and loss of life and at the brazenness of the attack against a neighboring sovereign democracy.

I’m in awe of the courage and resolve of the Ukrainian people to defend their homeland. There are many ordinary citizens who have been given guns to defend their cities and villages. Apparently, some are making homemade bombs from instructions given on television. I don’t know that I would be able to do that myself and pray that I am never in such a terrible position that I would have to find out.

I’m also amazed at the courage of some Russian citizens who are protesting Putin’s aggression against Ukraine. There have been protests in 54 cities and many arrests. Some prominent people have spoken out publicly, including sports heroes. They are risking their careers and their freedom to speak out against the war.

I wish there was more that I could do to help the Ukrainians but I know I have no power to do so. I understand that the US as part of NATO has taken many actions to try to punish Putin and his oligarchy for this attack but they won’t directly intervene to protect the Ukrainian population. I’m worried that Russia will assassinate Ukrainian President Zelenskyy with the rest of the world looking on and unable to stop it. That they will put in place a Kremlin-backed dictator. That millions of Ukrainians will suffer from violence and deprivation for years as they try to reestablish themselves as an independent democracy.

And the rest of the world will be powerless to stop it.
*****
Linda’s prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday this week is “rest.” Join us! Find out more here: https://lindaghill.com/2022/02/25/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-feb-26-2022/

the war in Ukraine

I noted in this post that I joined in fears that Russia was about to escalate its hostilities toward Ukraine around the time of the Olympics and now it is happening.

The war there has been going on since 2014 when Russia took over the Crimean peninsula. At that time, separatists in the Donbas region in eastern Ukraine, with the backing of Russian troops, took control of the cities of Donetsk and Luhansk and some territory around them. Earlier this week, Russia recognized Donetsk and Luhansk as separate republics, including not only rebel-held territory but also land under the control of Ukraine. Putin also sent more troops into the area, calling them “peacekeepers” when they are actually invaders into Ukraine. Russia also has at least 150,000 troops with heavy weaponry just over the border on three sides of Ukraine.

I’m very afraid for the people of Ukraine. They have already lost about 14,000 people to this war but would lose many, many more if Russia launches a major offensive against them. The thirty countries of NATO are instituting economic sanctions against Russia and have increased military support to Ukraine, although they will not take part in the fighting directly. They are also preparing for possible refugees if Russia does undertake an invasion of the whole country.

It’s likely that people in Europe, and to a lesser extent in North America, will be impacted in terms of oil and gas supplies because Russia is a major producer and exporter and has used fossil fuels as a weapon before. It’s also likely that the Russian attack will include cyber warfare against Ukraine and possibly NATO countries.

President Biden has made clear that the US will keep its NATO commitments to defend member nations against attack and has moved additional troops into Europe. Because Ukraine is not a member of NATO, they only have their own armed forces to actively fight against Russia.

I hope it will be enough.

Putin has tried to claim that Ukraine was never really an independent entity, but he is mistaken. Even during the Soviet era, there were many people who proudly identified as Ukrainians, even when they were forced to flee to other countries, such as the US. Currently in Ukraine, there are even citizens who are Russian speakers who are ready to take up arms to defend Ukraine and its democracy.

Perhaps, Putin will realize that and back down before more blood is shed. I know there are diplomats still trying to avert a large-scale war but things look very grim now.

Putin does not inspire hope for peace.

20 years of war

The United States is marking the end of the nearly twenty years of war in Afghanistan, part of the wider “War on Terror” which began after the attacks of September 11, 2001.

Although there were those of us who opposed a military response at the time – I vividly recall our group standing near the perimeter of the traffic circle beside our church with signs against war and people driving by honking in agreement – the war began, followed later by the war in Iraq which took a lot of attention and resources away from Afghanistan, which is I think part of the reason the war there went on for twenty years.

I am saddened by so much loss of life, injury, and damage incurred, especially among civilians. I am grateful that many Afghans, especially ethnic minorities, women, and girls, were able to enjoy more freedom and access education, sports, and jobs due to the presence of the United States and allied forces. Unfortunately, many of those gains are being lost because the Afghan government was not strong enough to stand on its own. With the Taliban back in charge, many of the gains and protections for women and minorities have dissolved. I must admit to being perplexed with people who thought that the final withdrawal from Kabul was like the fall of Saigon at the end of the Vietnam War. I am old enough to remember that, when the military evacuated from Saigon, they did not take Vietnamese civilian partners, translators, and related personnel and their families with them. They did not even try to evacuate the children of US service members who faced hardship because there were mixed race. Over a period of years, some of these former South Vietnamese allies were able to flee the country and re-settle in the United States but it was not because they were evacuated by the US. They made their own way to refugee camps or set out to escape by boat.

In contrast, the United States was able to evacuate over 65,000 Afghan civilians with thousands more evacuated by other countries. While this is by no means all the people who were in need of evacuation, it is much better than the situation in Vietnam in 1975. The US State Department is continuing to work at getting more people out of Afghanistan, as others work on getting people processed and re-settled in the US and other countries.

We will never know what might have happened if the United States had tried to deal with the aftermath of 9/11 through diplomatic rather than military means. Perhaps so much of the weight of response would not have fallen on Afghanistan, where Osama bin Laden was thought to be hiding, and more on Saudi Arabia, whence fifteen of the nineteen hijackers came. None of the hijackers were Afghanis.

I don’t know what will become of Afghanistan. It has been a place of turmoil for centuries. I do hope that the money that has been previously used to make war will be re-allocated to peaceful purposes to help people and the planet survive and thrive.

We can hope.

Memorial Day 2020

Today, the United States observes Memorial Day. It originated as a day to honor Union soldiers who died during the Civil War, but expanded over time to include service members who died in any armed conflict.

I am also thinking today of all the civilians who lose their lives in wars. Perhaps, this is because I just finished watching World on Fire on Masterpiece, which is about people from various countries in World War II Europe.

As the country continues its struggle with the COVID-19 pandemic, we often hear politicians and media describe it as a war. The medical personnel, first responders, and caregivers are called the front line, a term that is sometimes also applied to other essential workers, such as transit, delivery, and grocery workers. I am confused, though, by the use of the term “warrior.” Sometimes, it seems that the general public are considered warriors, serving others by staying at home to avoid spreading the virus further. Others are using the term warriors to describe those who are giving up on stay-at-home orders and going back to “normal” whether or not the public health officials say it is wise.

I am extraordinarily grateful to be living in New York State, where our governor and other leaders are methodically working to expand economic activity while safeguarding public health. National news reports have shared data that twenty-four states are re-opening their economies with the rate of infection still increasing, even though the national guideline is that at least two weeks of declining infections is required first.

While I remain unsure of who the “warriors” are, I am painfully aware of who the casualties are in this war. As I write this, there are 98,000+ confirmed COVID-19 deaths in the United States. The number will surely reach 100,000 within the next two days. Over these last few months, the United States has lost more lives to coronavirus that it has service personnel in all the wars since the end of World War II combined.

Today, I am commemorating all the service members and civilians who died in war and all the pandemic victims. May their memories strengthen us to serve others.

SoCS: barbed wire

When daughter T was working in Clinton, Missouri, we visited the local museum. The collection was very eclectic with unexpected things around every corner.

One of the exhibits was a barbed wire collection. I hadn’t realized there were so many different styles.

Having grown up in rural areas, both my spouse B and I were familiar with barbed wire fences. B had grown up maintaining a barbed wire fence around the pasture. I grew up with a barbed wire fence that ran along the edge of the reservoir behind my house.

Both of those were meant for protection. It saddens me to think of barbed wire being used to keep people away, though. It especially hurts to think of people who are fleeing war and violence being encountered with barbed wire and other barriers. Instead of finding protection, they find exclusion.

Barbed wire fences never seem to have gates.
*****
Linda’s prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday this week is “wire.”  Join us! Find out more here:  https://lindaghill.com/2020/03/13/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-march-14-2020/

2019-2020 SoCS Badge by Shelley!
https://www.quaintrevival.com/

war

Last night, I put on the television before getting ready for bed, finding out the breaking news that the US had killed General Soleimani, considered the most powerful person in Iran after the Ayatollah, along with a leader of Hezbollah and several others in Iraq.

Having seen the news, I could not go to sleep, so I watched the coverage as more information was trickling in. I, along with millions of others, fear even more violence in the Middle East, including the possibility that the US and Iran may be at war.

In the United States, only Congress can declare war. It appears that there was no advance warning of this attack to the Democratic leaders in Congress. I’m not sure if Republican leaders were informed or not. No one knows what will come next. Will there be a request for authorization to use force against Iran? Will Trump believe that, as commander-in-chief, he can do whatever he wants, even without the support of Congress – or anyone else, for that matter?

Early this morning, I saw the burnt remains of the vehicles that had carried Soleimani and his entourage after the drone strikes.

Later in the day, B, T and I went to see Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.  There were plenty of battles and burnt wreckage.

I prefer wars that take place a long time ago in a (fictional) galaxy far, far away to those happening anywhere here on earth.
*****
Join us for Linda’s Just Jot It January! Find out how here:  https://lindaghill.com/2020/01/03/daily-prompt-jusjojan-the-3rd-2020/

%d bloggers like this: