By ANNA GYORGY
Montague Reporter, Thursday, March 10, 2022
WENDELL – Bombs drop on Ukraine, and women and children flee for safety in a wave of European refugees not seen since World War II.
We all want peace, and for this horrible war to stop. It will stop eventually, and with a political settlement, but will it be on an ash heap, perhaps radioactive, that was once a world bread basket? Or can there be a peace that allows Ukraine to exist independently, while recognizing that the Russian people are not to blame for this war?
Despite official bans of civil society groups and closure of independent media, many Russians oppose this war. As international actions for peace took place worldwide – locally too – on March 5 and 6, we learned that over 13,000 Russian demonstrators have been arrested.
We hate the pain and destruction of this war. But as all eyes turn towards Ukraine, the misery in countries that suffered US and NATO bombing is ignored. What about Afghanistan? What about children dying of malnutrition in Yemen, and US support for the Saudi war?
Former reporter and Middle East expert Chris Hedges has a new article at Scheerpost.com called “Worthy and Unworthy Victims.” It’s not an easy read.
Hedges examines the way that Putin and Russia are being demonized, while “[w]hat Russia is doing militarily in Ukraine, at least up to now, was more than matched by our own savagery in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Libya and Vietnam. This is an inconvenient fact the press, awash in moral posturing, will not address.”
He closes: “The life of a Palestinian or an Iraqi child is as precious as the life of a Ukrainian child. No one should live in fear and terror. No one should be sacrificed on the altar of Mars. But until all victims are worthy, until all who wage war are held accountable and brought to justice, this hypocritical game of life and death will continue. Some human beings will be worthy of life. Others will not. Drag Putin off to the International Criminal Court and put him on trial. But make sure George W. Bush is in the cell next to him. If we can’t see ourselves, we can’t see anyone else. And this blindness leads to catastrophe.”
Northampton’s Michel Moushabeck, founder-editor of Interlink Publishing, has a similar international lens. In his “War Sets Humanity Backwards: Don’t Let Racism Divide Us” posted at traprock.org), he writes:
“I often wonder about why we choose to selectively condemn violations of international law and human rights law? How can we see clearly the bombardment of Ukraine, butcan’t see the bombardment of Yemen? How is it that we scream about the Russian occupation, but remain silent about the Israeli occupation? How can we open our borders to fleeing Ukrainian refugees, but shut them in the face of Syrian and other refugees?
“A Palestinian can’t help but wonder. How can America and Europe send weapons to the Ukraine in order to fight an occupier, while at the same time send weapons to Israel in order to support its illegal occupation of Palestinian lands? How can we call for sanctions to end Russian occupation, but we impose bans on BDS, the boycott called for by Palestinian civil society as a form of nonviolent resistance? How can the West stand up to Putin’s crimes while at the same time support Israeli crimes of Apartheid?”
Now consider deadly conflicts with other victims, not represented at the UN, but whose presence on this planet makes human lives possible.
One is the ongoing destruction of biodiversity in the 6th extinction.
Biodiversity is about more than the insects, amphibians, fish, and animals that inhabited forests leveled for commercial plantations. It’s all life; destroy the forest, ruin the watershed. Poison fields with agricultural chemicals, eliminate pollinators key to plant fertility and many food crops, not to mention birds.
The two great ecological challenges of our time – now! – as humans on this unique planet are protecting remaining biological diversity and doing all we can to prevent a planetary meltdown from climate change, global warming. That meltdown, already underway, takes various forms, seen ever more clearly. In some areas it’s fire; in others, uncontrolled flooding and ocean surges. Every region is affected, some more than others.
The Russian attack on Ukraine began early on February 24. Four days later, the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issued a new report, “The Numbers Behind the Science.”
Despite its dire message, “Urgent action required to deal with increasing risks,” the scientists’ most serious warnings yet were relegated to inside pages of local papers.
A quick summary, from www.ipcc.ch/report/ar6/wg2/resources/press:
“Increased heatwaves, droughts and floods are already exceeding plants’ and animals’tolerance thresholds, driving mass mortalities in species such as trees and corals. These weather extremes are occurring simultaneously, causing cascading impacts that are increasingly difficult to manage. They have exposed millions of people to acute food and water insecurity, especially in Africa, Asia, Central and South America, on Small Islands and in the Arctic.
“To avoid mounting loss of life, biodiversity and infrastructure, ambitious, accelerated action is required to adapt to climate change, at the same time as making rapid, deep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions. So far, progress on adaptation is uneven and there are increasing gaps between action taken and what is needed to deal with the increasing risks, the new report finds. These gaps are largest among lower-income populations.”
“Accelerated action,” adaptation, and “rapid, deep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions.”How do we do this in a world of both economic inequality and great need?
We believe that the funds are there, but only if we redefine “security” away from bombs, tanks, and drones.
We know that wars bring great profits to the military-industrial complex, well known for its revolving door for military higher-ups, massive lobbying efforts, political donations,and weapons-related facilities strategically located so keeping “local jobs” can swing Congressional votes.
Take the current 2022 military budget – even before the billions headed to Ukraine. The projected total of $768 billion, half of the nation’s discretionary budget, was the highest ever. The lead graphic on the Traprock website lists seven major public needs that could all be funded instead, with some left over: from free childcare and public universities, to guaranteed housing and 100% renewables by 2050.
World military expenditures, led by the US, feed conflicts worldwide. The 800+ US bases worldwide, the weaponization of space, training and arming of militaries in Africa and beyond: most Americans have no idea of the extent of the US war machine, or the abrogation of various treaties that could protect from nuclear war.
It’s all too much, leaving us with too little. Too little to help repair the ravages of our wars in distant lands, too little to address children’s traumas, from Gaza to Yemen to Ukraine. And here, too.
Hope comes from youth-led climate action. With the vibrant Sunrise Movement and the international Fridays for Future, young people are demanding change, from rejecting fossil fuels to rethinking “system change, not climate change.” The place where a peace movement might just have a chance of success is with a strong and united link to the climate justice movement, including indigenous peoples and groups such as the Red Black and Green New Deal.
A combined focus on demilitarization and significant shift from warfare to real security would benefit so many, from humans to those pollinators also under attack.
Now, and for the future.
Anna Gyorgy lives in Wendell and is communications coordinator for the Traprock Center for Peace & Justice