Some skepticism around latest war crimes stories.
Calls from the UN for an 'independent investigation.'
“If everybody always lies to you, the consequence is not that you believe the lies, but rather that nobody believes anything any longer.” — Hannah Arendt
Yes, I’m skeptical. Not only about some of the latest shocking reports of atrocities coming out of Ukraine, but about most of what I read and hear about this war in the mainstream media. Maybe it’s because I’ve lived through the fog of war so many times, a fog abetted by a compliant media that does the bidding of the warmakers.
I remember, for example, when the press complied with a Pentagon ban on photos showing the arrival of coffins carrying the military's dead back from Iraq and Afghanistan. The ban lasted 18 years. Then there were the stories about WMDs in Iraq which set the stage for the US invasion. Or the 2-year media cover-up of the My Lai Massacre in Vietnam.
I don’t doubt that atrocities and war crimes have been committed against civilians as well as against captured soldiers, ethnic minorities, and political opponents in Ukraine. The Russian invasion itself is an atrocity, especially the razing of entire cities, the bombing of civilian populations, and the displacement of millions of refugees.
The only investigation that's going on right now, to my knowledge, is by Ukrainian authorities. The United Nations Human Rights Council has opened a Commission of Inquiry into violations of the laws of war in Ukraine, and its work could provide important assistance to the ICC and other judicial authorities.
Until an independent investigation takes place, I will remain skeptical about some of the most shocking recent reports many of which which are being published without verification. I’m also critical of the way they are being used in the ongoing propaganda war as a rationale for escalating and prolonging the conflict, increasing sanctions against Russia, and funneling more arms and weapons of mass destruction into the war zone.
Immediately after some of the latest claims of war crimes emerged, President Biden announced the transfer of $110 million in Javelin missiles to Ukraine. This transfer brings the total amount of military aid from the U.S. to Ukraine to more than $2.4 billion since Biden assumed office in January 2021 and more than $1.7 billion since Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine in late February.
Russia, as you might expect, denies any misdeeds by its troops and claims that the stories and images have all been staged. But the international community isn’t buying it. Nor are they necessarily accepting the recent stories and images at face value.
António Guterres, the United Nations secretary-general, is calling for an "independent investigation" of the chilling reports of atrocities against civilians in Bucha and other places.
“It is essential that an independent investigation leads to effective accountability.”
His use of the word “independent” indicates that he and many UN members share my skepticism of media reports.
China on Wednesday said images of civilian deaths in the Ukrainian town of Bucha are “deeply disturbing” but that no blame should be apportioned until all facts are known.
The International Criminal Court is also conducting an investigation but the United States does not officially recognize the International Criminal Court, which is the main forum for prosecuting war crimes. The US has had a fraught relationship with the court and is not among its 123 member nations. Nor will it allow any Americans to be tried for war crimes in the Court. (NYT).
Those who commit war crimes need to be held accountable by the international community. In the meantime, reports of these atrocities should be investigated by independent agencies and used to pressure all sides to commit to peace talks rather than towards escalation.
A ray of hope in Yemen
There’s some good news out of Yemen where a ceasefire agreement has been signed. The atrocities and bombing of civilians perpetrated by Saudi Arabia’s military have far exceeded those in Ukraine. The Yemen war has been described as the world's worst humanitarian crisis. Seen as a proxy war between the Saudis (equipped by the US) and Iran-supported Houthi rebels, the ceasefire has been welcomed by both groups.
Hopefully, something similar is on tap for Ukraine.
Speaking of war crimes…
Reports regarding five Guantanamo Bay detainees who were victims of the Central Intelligence Agency’s illegal torture program raise new questions about the American justice system. A recent Guardian article has revealed that Ammar al-Baluchi, one of the five terror-suspect detainees currently in a decades-long pre-trial status at Guantanamo Bay, was used as a “living prop” to train CIA agents at black sites on how to use “enhanced interrogation techniques” that the public now knows were torture by another name.
You can listen to renowned journalist Robert Scheer’s interview with John Kiriakou, the CIA whistleblower who has spoken out about the intelligence agency’s torture program here.
Skepticism is a must.
The level of propaganda at times approaches comedy. The round little old lady with the well quaffed white hair in her glittering gold coat laying on her stomach practicing her rifle skills made me wonder who would help her get up after the photo shoot. Absurd propaganda such as this destroys belief and invites skepticism. The actual horrors of war are muted by propaganda as absurd as this.