Genocide. It’s a word not to be used lightly or liberally. The United Nations defines it as “a crime committed with the intent to destroy a national, ethnic, racial or religious group, in whole or in part.” In the year since Vladimir Putin ordered Russian troops, with no provocation, to invade Ukraine, he has shown little subtly in his words and even less through his actions. He has directed his military to bomb schools, apartment buildings, hospitals, community centers, and playgrounds, and slaughter Ukrainians, young and old, in villages, tossing their bodies into mass, unmarked graves or just left in the streets.
So, it needs to be said with the same lack of subtlety and zero diplomacy: Vladimir Putin is a war criminal leading a terrorist state that is perpetrating crimes against humanity in a genocide against the people of Ukraine.
And yet, that seems so very difficult for many in the Republican Party to say. Even now. Even after the deaths or wounding of more than 100,000 troops and in excess of 30,000 civilians killed. While we’re at it, let’s remove the language that makes it easier to write about, read about, and talk about the deaths. They aren’t human assets or civilians, troops or casualties of war; they are people. Dead people who are dead for no reason other than the fact that, say it with me now: Vladimir Putin is a war criminal leading a terrorist state that is perpetrating crimes against humanity in a genocide against the people of Ukraine.
It’s important to remember that many of those people who comprise the “troops killed” number were not active-duty military at the time of Russia’s unprovoked invasion. They were farmers, shopkeepers, bakers, factory workers, and all the other normal walks of life we live here. They were sons, daughters, mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, and friends. Just regular folks doing regular things until their lives, communities, and country were shattered by Russian rockets, bombs, and gunfire beginning one year ago. Regular folks who became part of the resistance, some with little training and modestly equipped to fight an enemy, prepared for war and larger, many times over.
And the civilians…well, they were old men and women, children on playgrounds, babies in the arms of terrified parents, doctors and nurses working to put people and lives back together that Putin’s bullets and explosions had torn apart.
Tucker Carlson and so many other of the right’s media propagandists still shill for Putin and Russia. Carlson is so deep in the Russian tank that he continues to be a regular figure on Russian State television. Trump and DeSantis, the two leading fascists for GOP nominee in 2024, cannot bring themselves to condemn Putin - at least without tiptoeing and hedging.
The US Holocaust Museum has a list of “Early warning signs of fascism.” Warning bells should be going off across America because, as easy as it is to see these in full-blown horror as Russia carries out its terror campaign in Ukraine, we are lying to ourselves if we pretend these early signs aren’t all around us here at home. Try these on the GOP and see if they don’t fit pretty damned well: Disdain for human rights, identification of enemies as a unifying cause, rampant sexism, controlled mass media, corporate power protection, disdain for intellectuals & the arts, obsession with crime & punishment, rampant cronyism & corruption, and fraudulent elections. The GOP hasn’t been able to come up with a policy platform since 2016, maybe because it would look a lot like that list.
As we reach the grim one-year mark of the Russian occupation of Ukraine that began on February 24, 2022, we would do well to reflect on the imperative of full victory for Ukraine. They are fighting for their survival. They are also fighting for the survival of democracy within and outside their borders because even a compromise with Putin to end the bloodshed would embolden him. A compromise would mean handing people living in Ukraine to the country that has been murdering their fellow citizens for the past year. The problem is not that Putin’s GOP boosters of compromise here in the US fail to understand that, it’s that they fully understand it and either don’t care, or they share his fascist goals and values.
All the manufactured hate, discrimination, vilification of immigrants and the LGBTQ+ community, hypermasculinity, misogyny, racism, and Christo-fascism of the American right’s media machine mirrors the campaign of hate and dehumanization the Russian people were fed a steady diet of leading up to the invasion of Ukraine.
Russia’s reason was obvious; their leader is who he is. Everybody now!: Vladimir Putin is a war criminal leading a terrorist state that is perpetrating crimes against humanity in a genocide against the people of Ukraine.
The GOP and their media propagandists on the right have reasons of their own for spreading similar hate and fear. They are as simple as they are vile: power and greed.
Fascism prevailing in our country is not inevitable, but we have learned in the past seven years that the same is true of democracy. If we want the latter to prevail, we must acknowledge the advances of the former. What too many fail to grasp is that the next chapter of history is being written by all of us here today. We are no different from so many before us who seize even a handful of constant opportunities to stand up, speak out, get involved, call out the lies, ask the questions, push back on the policies, support the candidates, show up at the polls, and demand a better future. There are 130,000 Ukrainians whose time to shape a better future for themselves and those to come was ended by Putin and his criminals. We’re still here. Just average people shaping history. We’re way past “we still can” and are firmly in “now we must.”