Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has sparked a wave of indignation throughout the West. Stories of the troops’ atrocities against civilians continue to bolster opposition to Russia, and public displays of solidarity with war refugees have become ubiquitous. But some have pointed out the hypocrisy of the United States’ selective attention. Specifically, its own participation in ongoing war crimes in Yemen, Somalia and elsewhere. A panel of experts joined Roundtable to discuss the war in Ukraine, the public discourse around it, and U.S. militarism. In this segment, the panel discusses the limits of virtue signaling and the need to acknowledge U.S. crimes without excusing Russian ones.
Dick Price notes with concern the ongoing backlash in the United States against all things Russia, from the banning of Russian cat breeds from animal shows, to the cancelation of Tchaikovsky concerts. He argues that the rage is misdirected.
“That vilifies a whole group of people who have little or nothing to do with Putin and have nothing to do with the invasion of Ukraine,” he says. “The concern I have is this is very much like what happened with Muslims. When we invaded Iraq, many Iraqis, Persians and Armenians suffered mightily for years.”
Sharon Kyle adds that those gestures reflect a tendency to deflect from the injustice inflicted by the US military itself.
“When we do that, we limit our opportunities to understand what is really going on. In the United States, we have been engaged in proxy wars in Syria and Yemen and in Libya,” she says. “There've been all kinds of atrocities that we're trying to keep undercover. This kind of shutting it down serves a couple of purposes, and one of them is to keep the American public in the dark.”
Don Via Jr. argues that condemning Russia’s aggression doesn’t have to preclude condemning the US’s own injustices.
“We should certainly be condemning what is happening in Ukraine right now. Let's also look at ourselves and condemn what our government has done, so once that Ukraine situation is addressed immediately, we can turn back and talk about what we've done,” he says. “The Saudi kingdom's genocide in Yemen is still ongoing. There's still an illegal occupation in Syria.”
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“People sort of put themselves into this echo chamber where something has to be one thing or it has to be the polar opposite. There can be no middle ground,” he adds.
“Most of the time the truth is actually found in that middle ground. We need to acknowledge what is happening and consider what we can do to stop it now, and also look at the underlying causes of why it is occurring and how we can prevent it from happening in the future.”
Watch the full discussion below:
Dick Price, Co-Founder, LA Progressive
Sharon Kyle, Co-Founder, LA Progressive
Don Via Jr., Journalist, Free Thought Project