Don’t get suckered into the latest US war moves against Russia. Our fight is here at home.
Many people of good will are rightly focused right now on the crisis of racist policing in the US. For Black and Brown people policing is a crisis because of the daily revelations of police violence, the seemingly endless stories of careless, indifferent, and even intentional brutality. For many white people, the crisis is the confrontation between the America that we have been taught to believe in and the one that is laid bare before our eyes. But universally It’s a crisis because the reality of systemic racism in law enforcement is being challenged by a powerful social movement.
Yet as this crisis unfolds, the world does not stand still. Indeed, the system of capitalism that feeds structural racism, keeping it alive as a tool of social control, operates 24/7 around the world. So while politicians in Washington, D.C. cynically declared that the guilty verdict against Derek Chauvin for the murder of George Floyd means that “the system works,” the Biden administration continued to escalate tensions in Eastern Europe, raising the specter of a military confrontation between Ukrain, the US regional surrogate, and Russia.
In March, the Pentagon announced a $125 million military aid package for the Ukraine. Yesterday, April 21, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee announced plans for more military support to the tune of $300 million a year until 2026. Ironically, the proposed military aid would come with “conditions” — namely, that the Ukrainian military bring its standards of operation more into line with that of NATO, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the US-dominated military coalition whose hand will be strengthened by pushing the Ukraine and Russia deeper into an armed conflict.
As usual when the US contemplates how best to raise military tensions in other parts of the globe, the Biden administration is relying on a combination of distraction, misdirection, and outright deception. It’s important that activists in the US see through the smoke and mirrors and actively oppose the drive toward war — a war between Russia and the Ukraine that could easily ignite a full on war between Russia and the US.
As the US ramps up military aid to the Ukraine, it relies on a three piece strategy to keep people here in the dark about its real goals. First and most obviously, the Biden administration and the Democratic Party leadership in Congress has been very busy in recent days pretending to do something about the problem of racist police violence. Granted, some of those efforts have been shockingly misplaced, such as Nancy Pelosi’s statement “thanking” George Floyd for “sacrificing your life for justice.” But after years of ignoring police violence and supporting the militarization of local police and the increased collaboration between federal and local law enforcement, this week Washington was awash in crocodile tears for George Floyd and his family, even as daily stories of similar police abuse in other communities spilled across social media. Given the track record of President “crime bill” Biden and Vice President “the Prosecutor” Harris, it seems reasonable to suppose that at least some of the focus on the trial in Minneapolis was intended to keep war moves in Eastern Europe out of the public eye.
Second, the US has suddenly become very deeply concerned about the right to protest and the well-being of a high profile political prisoner in Russia. As the news cycle seeks out the next big story to follow the Chauvin trial, our corporate-owned media is filling up with images of demonstrations in Russia in support of jailed opposition politician Alexie Nevelny, who is in the midst of a hunger strike.
What depth of cynical contempt must President Biden have for the people of the United States that he can threaten “consequences” against Russia if Navelny dies in prison, in the same week that a group of UN human rights experts expressed serious concerns on Tuesday over the treatment of Black political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal, who has been shackled to his hospital bed and denied visits from his family or access to lawyers? Abu-Jamal is a journalist who has been jailed for forty years on a framed-up murder charge, in spite of a world-wide campaign calling for his release. For that matter, what right does a US president have to comment on the treatment of prisoners in other countries when the United States imprisons a greater percentage of its population than any other country on the planet? What are US prisons, after all, but concentration camps for Black and Brown and poor white people?
But when has the US failed to suddenly become very concerned about human rights in a nation that it intends to attack? After all, the US used fake concerns about human rights to justify killing 100,000 Iraqis in the 1991 Gulf War, then a decade of sanctions to kill over a million Iraqi children, and then a second war beginning in 2003 that killed another million Iraqis. If anything, the American people should be asking: if the US is suddenly worried about protests and prisoners in Russia, where are the plans for war?
And that brings us to the third US narrative, in which the Ukraine is portrayed as an innocent victim of evil Russian aggression. There is, indeed, a civil war in the Ukraine. But consistently omitted from the discussion is the fact that 18% of the population are ethnic Russians, many of whom are opposed to pro-NATO policies of their government — policies that promise to make their country a military front in the battle between the US and Russia. Consider the irony of Biden being praised for promising “consequences” for Russia if a single, prominent prisoner there dies, while Putin is condemned for expressing support for the 8 million ethnic Russians in the Ukraine. One does not have to support Putin, Russia, or even the Russian nationalists in the Ukraine in order to see the way that the US is stirring the pot there, in hopes of gaining military advantage with tanks and missiles in Russia’s front yard.
These are the elements of three card monte that Biden and the Pentagon are playing. Leftists in the US need to be aware of the dangerous game that’s being played. We are doubly under a duty to consistently oppose the US drive to war. First, because the history of the US war machine in the period since World War II has been as an aggressive and destabilizing force that causes mass destruction, death, and misery for millions of working people — people just like us — in other countries. Second, because every dollar paid to the “defense” industry to build a missile to threaten Russia is a dollar taken away from our communities, where people are literally dying from lack of health care, lack of housing, lack of nutritious food, and the despair and violence that comes with poverty.