The West’s Hands in Ukraine as Bloody as Putin’s

Jonathan Cook confronts the demand throughout the Western press and social media to not only “condemn” the Russian president, but do so without qualification.

Ukrainian first responders in Chernihiv, Ukraine, March 6. (, CC BY 4.0, Wikimedia Commons)

By Jonathan Cook

There is a discursive nervous tic all over social media at the moment, including from prominent journalists such as Guardian columnist George Monbiot. The demand is that everyone not only “condemn” Russian President Vladimir Putin for invading Ukraine, but do so without qualification.

Any reluctance to submit is considered certain proof that the person is a Putin apologist or a Kremlin bot, and that their views on everything under the sun – especially their criticisms of equivalent Western war crimes – can be safely ignored.

How convenient for all those Western leaders who have committed war crimes at least as bad as Russia’s current ones.

I have repeatedly described Russia’s invasion as illegal; I have regularly called Putin a war criminal (you may not have noticed but I just did it again in the two preceding paragraphs); and I have consistently compared Putin’s deeds to the very worst actions taken by the West over the past two decades. But none of that is enough. More is always needed.

The demand for unequivocal denunciation is a strange, if common, one and suggests that those insisting on it are being dishonest – if only with themselves. The function of the demand is not to clarify whether any particular piece of information or an argument is credible; it is intended purely as a “gotcha” meme.

I don’t remember an insistence that anyone condemn Tony Blair or George W. Bush for the invasion of Iraq in 2003 before they could be heard or taken seriously. Or that they denounce the U.S.-backed overthrow of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi that plunged that country into murderous chaos. Or that they deplore the West’s material support for Saudi Arabia’s slaughter of Yemen’s population, including Britain’s sale of planes, bombs and training to Riyadh. Or that they criticize the West’s backing of head-chopping jihadists in Syria (who coincidentally now appear to be drifting into Ukraine to become our allies again). Or that they decry decades of Western support for Israel as it has disappeared the Palestinian people.

And those are things for which we – meaning Westerners – are directly responsible. We elected the politicians who caused this unquantifiable suffering. Those bombs were ours. We ought to be clamoring for our leaders to be dragged to The Hague to be tried for war crimes.

By contrast, we – meaning Westerners – are not responsible for Putin or his actions. I cannot vote him out of office. Nothing I say will make him alter course. And worse, anything I do say against him or Russia simply amplifies the mindless chorus of self-righteous Western commentary intended to cast stones at Russia’s warmongers while leaving our own home-grown warmongers in place.

Westerners denouncing Putin won’t make compromise and peace more likely. It will make it less likely. Russians need to be highlighting Putin’s crimes as best they can to drive him to the negotiating table, while we need to be doing the same to our leaders to push them to the same table. As long as our attention is on Putin and his crimes, it is not on our leaders and their crimes.

Fog of War

Those who insist it is quite possible to denounce both Putin and Western leaders at the same time are precisely the people who have been so half-hearted in holding our own leaders to account.

Monbiot, let us note, has not used a single one of his weekly columns at The Guardian to highlight the years-long plight of Julian Assange, locked away in a British dungeon for revealing U.S. and U.K. war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan. This is the gravest attack on a free press in living memory, and yet Monbiot used his most recent column to attack Assange supporters, such as veteran journalist John Pilger, for not being voluble enough in denouncing Putin.

Those who require unequivocal condemnation of Putin insist that now – in the midst of a war – is not the time to be sowing doubt or undermining morale in the rightness of “our” cause. (A small giveaway that they think of this as a Western, not Ukrainian, war with Russia.)

Again conveniently, that is precisely the message Western leaders want to send too – just ask Britain’s prime minister, Boris Johnson, whose “Partygate” scandal is now a distant memory as he seeks to evoke Churchillian gravitas in facing off with Russia. Instead, the parties in the British parliament put aside their very superficial differences this week as the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelensky, rallied them with a “historic address.”

What, really, is the point of demanding Westerners denounce Putin unequivocally when the entire Western media and political class is directing our gaze exclusively at Russia’s crimes precisely so Westerners don’t look at equivalent Western crimes?

The truth is that, in power politics, unequivocal denunciations are for politicians and diplomats – and virtue-signalers. Condemnations may be emotionally satisfying, but the rest of us can put our energies to far better use.

For most of us, the better course would be to blow away the immediate fog of war and instead analyze our – meaning the West’s – role in the unfolding events.

 NATO Insurance Policy

Even a cursory glance shows that the West’s hands are not clean in Ukraine. Not at all. The meddling – and hypocrisy – have occurred in two stages, first from politicians and then from the media.

It was the choices made by Western politicians that provoked the invasion. (What’s coming next is an explanation, not a justification, of those developments, for those who need such things spelled out clearly).

Russian troops are in Ukraine not because Putin is “Hitler,” “mad,” or a “megalomaniac” – though, again, the invasion makes him a war criminal in the same mold as Tony Blair and George W. Bush. Russian troops are there because he and his officials judged the West to be acting malevolently and in bad faith in their dealings with Ukraine.

The Putin as “madman” or “Hitler” script deflects attention away from the very obvious fact that Western leaders willfully played fast and loose with the security of Ukraine and the safety of its population.

The West encouraged Ukrainians to believe that they would soon fall under NATO’s security umbrella, when in fact the West had no intention of protecting them, as is now only too evident. Ukrainians were led to believe that the more Russia’s posture turned belligerent towards Ukraine the more likely NATO would be to come to Ukraine’s rescue and act as its savior.

Which, of course, incentivized the Ukrainian government to keep poking the Russian bear in the expectation that Kiev would have a NATO insurance policy up its sleeve. It didn’t. It never did, as current events show.

The reason Boris Johnson lost no time in rebuffing the emotional pressure levied by a Ukrainian journalist at a recent press conference to impose a no-fly zone over Ukraine is that even he understands that such a policy would be suicidal against a nuclear power like Russia. Shooting down Russian jets would likely plunge us into a rerun of the Cuban missile crisis of 1962.

But on the back of NATO’s deception, recent Ukrainian leaders confidently fomented ethnic nationalism at home and thereby themselves played a dangerous game of chicken with their superpower neighbor.

That included coddling anti-Russian fascists at home and stoking a related civil war in the Donbass region by its ultra-nationalist allies against the Russian ethnic community living there as a way to drag NATO directly into the conflict.

For those who accuse anyone who points out the long-running influence of ultra-nationalist groups in Ukraine of being Putin trolls, this 2017 video from The Guardian – a newspaper now reflexively dismissive of all criticism of Ukraine – showing a neo-Nazi summer camp for Ukrainian children, may make for uncomfortable viewing. The Azov Brigade fascists running it, as well as other like-minded groups, have been effortlessly incorporated into the Ukrainian military the West is arming:

Zelensky hasn’t abandoned his pre-invasion intransigence. He has entrenched, calling for Ukraine to be armed with nuclear missiles and for NATO to either impose a no-fly zone over Ukraine or give Ukraine the planes to enforce such a zone itself.

That Zelensky wants NATO to bail him out, especially after NATO was responsible for enticing him into the current confrontation with Russia, is hardly surprising. But the degree to which the Western media have pushed Zelensky’s line means a strong majority of the U.S. public now favor Kiev’s course of action, even though it would likely trigger a World War III between nuclear powers.

Suicidal Narrative

How in thrall Westerners are to this media-confected, suicidal narrative can be gauged by the number of armchair warriors in the West accusing anyone taking a more cautious approach of not only being Putin apologists but of denying the Ukrainian people their “sovereign right” to join NATO and come under its protection.

But NATO membership isn’t a sovereign right. And it shouldn’t be viewed as some kind of glorified neighborhood-watch scheme. NATO is a military club. States qualify to join if the other members agree they want to commit to protecting that state.

If NATO members don’t have the ability or will to defend another state, as is the case with Ukraine, then it is a crime to pretend they do – for the very reasons the events unfolding now demonstrate. In fact, it is not just any ordinary crime, it is a crime against humanity.

Every death in the current war – Ukrainian and Russian – could almost certainly have been averted had the U.S. and its NATO allies not led Ukraine up the garden path. Had Ukrainians not believed that with enough pressure they could force NATO’s hand in their favor, they would have had to accommodate Russian concerns well before any invasion, such as by committing to neutrality.

Russia would have had no grounds – or pretexts, depending on how you wish to look at it – to invade. The media’s “madman” and “Hitler” scripts are needed now to turn reality on its head, suggesting that Putin would have invaded whatever actions NATO and Ukraine took.

But if that is not true – and there is no evidence it is – then the blood of the victims of this war is most certainly on the West’s hands, just as it is in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria, Gaza, Yemen and elsewhere.

Media Hypocrisy

The second hypocrisy is the current one being peddled by the Western media. They want to flaunt a bogus moral concern about the suffering of Ukrainians under attack from Russia that they never show towards the victims of Western bombs and missiles.

Terrible as the suffering of Ukrainians is, two weeks into the invasion, it is still a pale shadow of the decades of suffering of Palestinians in Gaza or of Yemenis under Saudi planes and bombs supplied by the West. The prioritization of one over the other needs explaining.

Social media warriors – much less sophisticated than the corporate media – readily rationalize this lack of interest in the West’s victims by dismissing them as “terrorists” or by blaming them for living under “terrorist regimes,” or by simply insisting that they are further removed from us, as though Britons and Americans somehow feel more of a natural affinity with Ukrainians than with Syrians or Palestinians, or with Russians. (We don’t unless the corporate media keeps insisting such a bond exists.)

If that tactic fails, it is on to the next one, arguing that any effort to point out the utter hypocrisy of the Western media and its entirely hollow concern for Ukrainians – rather than for Ukraine, as a pawn on the West’s colonial chessboard – is so-called “whataboutery.”

It is bad enough that such reasoning is rooted in a profound racism that counts white Europeans as worthy victims and brown or Black victims as “collateral damage” of supposed Western peace-making.

But actually, the rot runs far deeper. It is not just racism at work in the special treatment of Ukraine’s suffering over that of Iraqis or Yemenis or Palestinians. That could be solved through education and awareness-raising.

No, the Western media’s identification with Ukraine – and consequently the public’s identification with its plight – is based on Ukraine’s usefulness to the Western imperial project. Which is exactly what got us into this mess in the first place.

Vicious Musical Chairs

In truth, a straight line runs between the West’s treatment of Iraq and its treatment of Ukraine.

In Iraq, the U.S. and its allies sought to reorder the chessboard by intensifying their grip over oil as Western capitalism began running up against ever-depleting stores of cheap and easily accessible fossil fuels and the climate emergency made capitalism’s endless profit-making model ever more precarious.

But though the chess analogy for Western foreign policymaking dates back to at least the 19th century, it may now be inadequate to explain what we have seen taking place over the past couple of decades.

More accurately, Washington’s planners see the world largely in terms of a high-stakes version of the children’s party game, musical chairs. As the chairs disappear, it is ever more important to make sure you, rather than your enemies, grab the last seats.

The main enemies on the global stage – if you sit in Washington – are Russia and China. The tools you need at your disposal are not just wits, as in chess, but muscle, as in a very adult, survival-of-the-fittest version of musical chairs.

That has required the U.S. and its allies to ever more aggressively isolate Russia and China, trying to sow divisions, and make each feel threatened and isolated. Which, as Moscow and Beijing more clearly understand Washington’s strategy, has driven these two unlikely partners into each other’s arms.

The rest of us have to decide which of the biggest children we want to ally with as the chairs keep disappearing and the game gets ever more vicious.

Proxy War of Attrition

Back in Ukraine, meanwhile, the U.S. and its NATO allies appear to be doing what they can to drag out the war for as long as possible.

Russia appeared initially to want a relatively short war of attrition to pacify Ukraine, forcing its nationalist government to drop aspirations to become a launch-pad for NATO weapons and impose on it instead neutrality. (Now that Russia has committed treasure and lives to the war, it will likely get greedier and want more. Reports suggest it is already demanding independence rather than autonomy for the Donbass region.)

Of course, the conclusion even Westerners would draw, if we weren’t so propagandized by the media, is that neutrality for Ukraine is inevitable – unless we are willing to risk the alternative of a World War III. Any delay in achieving neutrality for Ukraine as an outcome simply causes unnecessary death and suffering.

The U.S., by contrast, wants a long, proxy war of attrition, openly and covertly supplying Ukrainian forces – indifferent as to whether they are “nice ones” or neo-Nazis – to bog Russia down in years of difficult guerrilla warfare and counter-insurgency. The bloodshed will feed the hostility (and unthinking racism) of Western publics towards Russia and Russians, providing the pretext for Washington to sustain the West’s parallel economic war on Russia.

Ukrainians will pay the price as the U.S. tries to wear down Russia, just as Syrians, Libyans, Iranians, Yemenis, Venezuelans and Palestinians have paid the price as the U.S. has sought elsewhere to attain the goals of its globe-spanning imperial project.

Washington understands that a weakened Russia might not have been able to save Bashar Assad’s government from the takeover of Syria by the West’s Islamic State and Al-Qaeda allies there. And in the future, it is hoped, Moscow will be in no position to support others who resist Western hegemony, especially the “pariah” states of Venezuela, Iran and China.

It is a huge ambition for a tiny elite headquartered in the U.S. committed to the endless enrichment of itself by enforcing a binary thinking among Western publics that obscures the real reasons for the planet-wide crises we face.

If it succeeds, the West’s war machine will continue trundling over the bodies of the poor and marginalized as it drives us ever faster towards ecological collapse.

Jonathan Cook is a former Guardian journalist (1994-2001) and winner of the Martha Gellhorn Special Prize for Journalism. He is a freelance journalist based in Nazareth. If you appreciate his articles, please consider offering your financial support.

This article is from the author’s blog Jonathan 

The views expressed are solely those of the author and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.

39 comments for “The West’s Hands in Ukraine as Bloody as Putin’s

  1. Ernest Martinson
    March 15, 2022 at 07:19

    Entangling alliances like NATO make us more susceptible to war which must delight the military-industrial complex. The war on drugs, terrorism, etc. just doesn’t justify the spending on military hardware that another evil empire does.

  2. Richard Graham
    March 15, 2022 at 05:26

    I agree with every word: Zelenskiy pushed the start button on this war with his incredibly stupid boast Ukraine would obtain Nuclear weapons. Russia won’t leave a single nuclear power plant under Ukrainian control. This war will proceed cautiously until the Nazis are cornered and all the power plants and pipelines are secured. The first strategic goal was achieved with the complete destruction of Ukraine’s air and sea power. It’s amusing to hear Zelenskiy demand a no-fly zone. Ukraine has a no-fly zone; it’s owned and operated by Russia. The second strategic goal is in sight: cutting Ukraine off from the sea. Number #3: surrounding Ukraine’s cities east of the Dnieper River. Number #4: cutting Ukraine in two by driving north and south along both banks of the Dnieper.

    Napoleon: ‘The army marches on its stomach.’

    As for untrained volunteers flooding into the war: great. Thank you for providing a target rich environment. These violent racists won’t be killing anyone elsewhere. The lies currently filling their mouths will be replaced by earth and worms. The idea the most corrupt failed nation on Earth could manage a war is laughable. Wars are fought and won based on logistics: on supply, training, and timely movement of troops. Ukrainian defence is designed to protect Swiss bank accounts. The Russian offensive is designed to interrupt all three of these absolutely necessary military acts.

    Bertrand Russell: “The trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent are full of doubt.”

    Western ‘pundits’ still claim Ukraine isn’t controlled by Nazis. That Zelenskiy is as Jewish as the Warsaw Ghetto Judenrat (administrative agency imposed by Nazi Germany on Jewish communities across occupied Europe, principally within the Nazi ghettos) doesn’t mean Azov, Right Sector and the rest aren’t goose-stepping morons. Putin has heard all the promises and watched the treaties being signed, and quickly ignored. So it will be blunt demands and brutal facts on the ground that spell public surrender.

    Joseph Schumpeter: [Ukrainian] “Politicians are like bad horsemen who are so preoccupied with staying in the saddle that they can’t bother about where they’re going.”

  3. Em
    March 14, 2022 at 18:53

    More food for thought! A little belated perhaps, but the war is still on and the internal fires are only just beginning to rage out of control. Too dramatic?

    Zelensky, the well-connected, Ukrainian President, billionaire, actor/comedian, puppet.
    Biden my time browsing through the day’s YouTube pieces, forwarded to my mailbox, by algorithmic data distribution, I came across this conspiracy piece of news; obviously too fake to be true.
    Ever wonder why the Ukraine is too big to be permitted to fail?


  4. vinnieoh
    March 13, 2022 at 12:24

    I’ll repeat several statements I’ve made recently. The US is relentless, single-minded, and largely unconstrained in its pursuit of total global domination. None of this will ever change until the US suffers a catastrophic economic and military collapse. Though I doubt that Russia intended to test the possibility of causing such a collapse, such a possibility – at least the economic one – is now not in the category of “impossible.” As for a catastrophic military collapse: also posited within the last year the suspicion that the US military procurement industry is so riddled with fraud, waste, and complexity that should the US be forced into a conflict with a “near-peer” that the whole system might collapse.

    I don’t say those things lightly or with hopeful anticipation. I’m a US citizen, and the eyes of this aging man tell him that we could easily devolve into a third-world abattoir, the result of decades of ethical and intellectual draught.

    Jonathan Cook argues a false equivalency – others here have noted the particulars. I have to believe he does so as to avoid getting de-platformed – or outright banned. The more hysterical and divorced from reality the US et. al. becomes, the closer Russia is getting to finishing this, whatever shape that takes.

  5. Eddie S
    March 13, 2022 at 00:22

    Excellent article. As a US citizen, I can’t help feeling stunned and ashamed over my fellow US citizens juvenile reactions to US imperial adventures starting in the 1980’s, with the MAJOR jaw-droppingly wrong/criminal one being the 2003 Iraq War. Even the simplest comparison between that and the Ukraine invasion quickly demonstrates that the US invasion of Iraq was worse by magnitudes. The death toll in Iraq was conservatively put at 100,000, with some estimates being as high as 1,000,000. The bombing in Iraq was relentless, with cities like Fallujah being literally flattened. And underlying all of it was the flimsy pretext that Saddam might be developing a nuclear weapon, (which — even IF he had-been — wasn’t a direct threat to us) that was discovered to have been a fabrication brought about by Cheney & company finding non-credible sources to tell them what they wanted to hear and then aggressively presenting it as indisputable truth. Also, Iraq is on the other side of the world from the US, whereas Ukraine borders Russia, so the proximities are inversely related to the violence done, at least so-far…
    Realistically speaking, my only hope now is that Biden continues to resist the crazy calls from the ever-macho conservatives to get the US even more deeply involved..

  6. Ed Rickert
    March 12, 2022 at 14:15

    There is a difference between preventive war which the US and its vassals commit and engage in and preemptive war that one would argue is what the Russian invasion is about. Thus, Cook is wrong to conclude that Putin resides in the same circle of hell reserved for Bush and Blair.

  7. Sam F
    March 12, 2022 at 12:31

    Yes, the ambition for enrichment of “a tiny elite headquartered in the U.S.” is only to profit from the US war machine “trundling over the bodies of the poor and marginalized.” The question is how Russia plans to avoid a quagmire:
    1. They are fully aware of their fiasco in Afghanistan and have specifically stated goals to avoid that;
    2. They stated that initial goals were to disable the attackers of Donbass who have killed 14,000 there;
    3. They may have to control the coast and continue destroying all detectable weapons systems to pacify Ukraine.
    There seems to be little value in gaining diplomatic concessions from Ukraine, which the US will violate immediately.
    Perhaps they think that negotiated constitutional concessions would be more stable than a peace treaty alone.
    When they pull back to the coast and Donbass, declare victory, and destroy new weapons, stability will become clear.
    Where is the UN in this, and why have we not had a DMZ? Perhaps now is the time, if the UN has any value at all.

  8. Vera Gottlieb
    March 12, 2022 at 11:52

    How about condemning the US for all its nefarious activities all over our world??? How about imposing sanctions on the US? Has the West grown so dumb, so blind, so deaf not to see what the US is up to? Not to see where all this is leading?

  9. Frank Lambert
    March 12, 2022 at 10:58

    Drew Hunkins and alley cat, You said it well and I totally agree!


  10. renate
    March 12, 2022 at 10:50

    Maybe I am just gaslighted, but I do believe the CIA was grooming Nawalny to replace Putin. I can’t get it out of my head. A regime change would take longer but would be cheaper than an outright US/NATO v. Russia military confrontation to put an end to Russia.

  11. Vincent ANDERSON
    March 12, 2022 at 08:35

    I’ll avoid the internecine fight RE whether/how Putin is to be condemned. WaPo recently (3/10/22) printed “‘No off-ramps’: U.S. and European officials don’t see a clear endgame in Ukraine,” to which I posted this Comment:
    Understatement, or sheer stupidity? “…And despite repeatedly engaging in diplomatic efforts with Russia in the run-up to the invasion, Biden officials have largely not pursued diplomacy with Putin since the conflict began, citing the Kremlin’s lack of seriousness….’

    This is at least Tony Blinken’s fourth Dirty war: Honduras (Zelaya), Libya (Kaddafi), Ukraine 2014 (‘F**k the EU’ – see Robert Parry, hxxps:// ),
    and now This. hxxps://

    It was auto-rejected as a violation of their policy, sc. [a] not to insult other readers, and [b] not to use profanity. I did neither: ‘stupidity’ was about their own [quoted] coverage, while the f-word was a quote from Victoria Nuland. But maybe their real auto-rejection rule was the use(s) of term ‘’

  12. Jeff Harrison
    March 12, 2022 at 00:39

    There’s a few things you have failed to mention. One it the 14,000 Ukrainian civilians that the regime in Kiev has killed in two unsuccessful attempts at crushing the legitimate aspirations of the people of the Donbass. There are several things about this. Ever since the horror of the Rwandan massacre every war monger in town is pumping for R2P (responsibility to protect). It was the excuse used to bomb the crap out of Serbia (where the US killed 2 Chinese diplomats) and Libya. Why shouldn’t Putin use the same excuse to protect the ethnic Russians in the Ukraine? The correct answer is he should. The biblical injunction to let he who is without sin cast the first stone cuts two ways. Either (a) the US’s actions in Serbia and Libya are legitimate (i.e. not sin) in which case The West needs to shuttup already about the Ukraine or (b) Russia’s actions are unacceptable in which case, so were the actions of The West which means that they should be cut off from SWIFT, have their banks black listed etc etc. The days of The West being able to play by Calvinball rules are over.

      March 12, 2022 at 01:21

      Russia would need a UN Security Council operation to launch a responsibility to protect operation and the US and UK would veto it.

      • rosemerry
        March 12, 2022 at 05:55

        True, but in moral terms the Russian response is not a war crime! We seem to have accepted all the US unprovoked,destructive wars on distant countries this century and the USA makes no attempt to follow international law, only its own “rules-based” variety. All the thousands of deaths in the Donbass over 8 years after the coup, when Putin tried without any success or help from “allies” France and Germany to follow the Minsk accords to solve the problems of separatist republics, made any other reaction impossible. The operation has been declared “Putin’s war on Ukraine” , while it has avoided civilian deaths, kept to its “denazify, demilitarise” plan, knowing that it has to remain next door to Ukraine, a brother state for decades, not destroy or occupy the poorest country in Europe. The complete takeover of the media by the “West” and the refusal to allow any word of opposition to the “evil Putin” line from anyone, has warped the whole terrible debacle.

      • Jeff Harrison
        March 12, 2022 at 10:05

        Really? Did we have one when we attacked Serbia or Libya? I think not. We just did it. The UN had done nothing, zero, zip, nada to stop American or Western wars of aggression or military operations which is why the Ukrainians have been able to slaughter 14,000 of their citizens without a peep from the UN.

          March 12, 2022 at 11:53

          NATO did have a UN Security Council resolution authorizing a no-fly zone in Libya, but NATO exceeded the mandate by conducting a regime change operation. NATO did not have a resolution for its operation against Serbia. Russia tabled a resolution to stop the operation but it failed to gain the necessary 8 votes and no vetoes. Our comment was not a value judgment but a simple statement of fact: a responsibility to protect operation needs Security Council authorization, even if NATO did not have it in Serbia.

      • renate
        March 12, 2022 at 10:30

        The UN has become a politically compromised institution, and no nation did more than the USA to do it.
        Even NGOs can’t be trusted anymore, a scientific report by UN rapporteurs about the use of chemical weapons was “EDITED”, there could be more.

    • Peter G
      March 12, 2022 at 15:44

      Is it true that in Syria, Libya, Iraq etc there were 2 groups actively fighting each other, equally determined to rule over the other one, and one group asked the USA or NATO to help? Whereas in Ukraine there was no fighting between the two groups for many years, many voting elections had been held, but suddenly Russia decided to invade and attack everyone (everyone is in one group – Ukrainians). It would have been easier to understand if the invasion had just focused on helping the Donbas Republics (because here there clearly was a conflict of 2 groups) but attacking the whole of Ukraine proves Putin had a different objective, not just helping the Donbas. He wants control of Ukraine resources – either to own them (ideally) or destroy them so Russia’s own resources are worth more to everyone.

  13. Brendan James
    March 12, 2022 at 00:36

    “I have consistently compared Putin’s deeds to the very worst actions taken by the West over the past two decades.”
    I can only assume that you wrote this to appease some people. Because you cant be serious. If you are, then why should I continue reading and take your other points of view seriously? (serious question)

    Go ahead Jonathan, enlighten me as to anything Putin has done that has come close to…. lets start with… the murdering of 500,000 plus Iraqis? Maybe wander down the path of Afghanistan for a minute too.
    We can continue the comparison after you respond to this. Which I am sure you wont, because it was a very naïve and stupid point you made.

    • Mary Leveson
      March 12, 2022 at 07:45

      Correct Brendan James. Putin’s deeds are in no way comparable to ‘the very worst actions taken by the West over the past two decades’ as Jonathan Cook asserts they are. There is no factual basis for Cook to assert this. I too can only assume he wrote it to appease the mainstream Western consensus. And that does indeed undermine Cook’s credibility.

    • renate
      March 12, 2022 at 10:37

      That does explain why the conservatives hate whataboutism.
      There is no need to split hair, US officials are up to their elbows in blood. A Nuernberg kind of Tribunal of American war crimes is long overdue

    • UncleDoug
      March 12, 2022 at 13:49

      Absolutely correct, Brendan.

      I have no patience with the “Putin is an evil war criminal” condemnations that are included as if by rote in the vast majority of commentaries and analyses challenging the US/NATO/West behavior that has provoked this catastrophe. What would these authors suggest Russia might have done other than take military action, after two decades of relentless aggressive encroachment and cornering by the US-led coalition and an absolute refusal of the coalition to response to requests and demands for a solution ensuring mutual security?

      Great powers simply do not surrender to such provocation. Eventually, faced with no other choice, they attack. That’s how it works in the real world and the provocateurs know it. So what did they expect? And what, what exactly, did they *want*?

    • Sailab
      March 13, 2022 at 22:46

      “I can only assume that you wrote this to appease some people.”

      A model that never fails you: first acknowledge your loyalty by denouncing the perceived bad guy (as being equivalent or worse, even if it is false) then start criticizing.

  14. Piotr Berman
    March 11, 2022 at 20:14

    NYT, quoted by Lawfare on the public side of the paywall:

    [In 2017] A U.S. special operations task force ground commander radioed to a fighter jet and had it drop three 500-pound bombs on what were claimed to be Islamic State fighters. In the strike against the Tabqa Dam, special forces operators coordinated directly with a bomber jet overhead, which dropped three 2,000-pound bombs on the 18-story structure to deny the Islamic State its use as a staging area.
    Would the bomb explode, the concrete wall surrounding control rooms of electricity producing turbine would crumble, the dam would burst and the resulting wave could wash ca. 100,000 Syrians, rivaling the lethality of Hiroshima bomb. It did not, perhaps luck, perhaps a munition soldiers was sane enough not to enable the fuze. Nevertheless, it was an attempted war crime of horrific proportions, justifying the maximum penalty, 20 years in prison in USA. Thus the liberal worrywarts postulate

    “Biden administration’s review of targeting policy should also include a reassessment of the extent to which significant decision-making authority was both subdelegated and fragmented during the Trump administration.”

    If murderous “mistakes” were subject of proportional criminal penalties, 20 years for unsuccessful murder and 40 years for successful murder, one may surmise that “subdelegation” would not be so perilous. Deterrence is most effective for calculated crimes. Characteristically, the thought that our men in uniform (civilians in charge) could be subjected to criminal justice is absent or hidden in all “responsible publications”.

  15. irina
    March 11, 2022 at 19:26

    I watched on TV as the Kurdish peoples desperately fled into the mountains at the end of Gulf War 1.
    They thought GHW Bush would protect them from Saddam. He didn’t. One father begged reporters
    to ‘come see the triplets’ which his wife had just given birth to. In a cave. Very premature, they would
    not survive and his wife was in a critical state as well. I saw the reports of the United States bombing
    Iraqi water treatment plants during the 1990’s and then sanctioning the parts and chemicals needed
    to repair them, leading to the death of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children. Madeline Albright
    said, in reference to those deaths, “It was a very hard choice, but we think it was worth it.”

    Millions of people marched in the streets to protest the impending Gulf War 2 in 2003. To no avail.
    TV stations showed images of “Shock and Awe” over Baghdad as if the falling bombs were fireworks.
    We never saw what was happening on the ground. Six weeks later, Dubya stuffed a sock into the harness
    of a flight suit, landed on an aircraft carrier, and declared ‘Mission Accomplished’. With the banner to
    prove it. As if.

    So much hubris. I am shocked and saddened at what is happening in Ukraine, but also horrified at the
    mind control being imposed on the ‘free’ world. No dissent or nuanced perspective is allowed. And of
    course the ongoing, accelerating humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan is now completely off our radar . . .

  16. Sean Breathnach
    March 11, 2022 at 18:59

    Excellent article Jonathan. I appreciate and support Jonathan financially.

  17. Drew Hunkins
    March 11, 2022 at 18:01

    Putin, Shoigu and the Russian military are doing everything they can to minimize civilian casualties. Otherwise this campaign would’ve taken 12 hours instead of going on two weeks now. Putin is staving off a nuclear war by putting up a clear red-line against NATO. This has been long overdue.

    Russia had its back against the wall with nowhere to retreat to. Allowing NATO to colonize Ukraine would have been a death sentence when Pu ssy Riot and Soros foment velvet dissension in Moscow and the military hardware to carry through with a coup is only minutes away in Washington controlled Ukraine.

    This is a righteous mission that Russia has embarked on. Hopefully the rest of the world can figure out how to live outside the Wall Street-Zionist-Washington militarist paradigm. China, Russia, Iran, the BRI and Eurasian integration are showing the way.

    Israel and Washington can go take their ball and cry on their walk home from the playground. Russia has finally stood up to the global bully.

    Now, we only have to get the Ukies and their fascist militias from putting anti aircraft and other military equipment in the middle of civilian areas.

    • James Simpson
      March 12, 2022 at 03:21

      “This is a righteous mission that Russia has embarked on” is a blind refusal to accept that Putin, no matter how provoked he was, did not have to invade Ukraine. There is no righteousness in his onslaught against the ordinary men, women and children of Ukraine any more than there was in the USUK’s invasion of Iraq or any of the other great crimes of Western governments.

      • Joe B
        March 12, 2022 at 12:37

        Do you have any evidence of any “onslaught” against civilians? All evidence so far suggests the opposite intent.
        Any argument that Ukraine’s murder of 2,000 Donbass civilians annually did not require an invasion to end?

      • Realist
        March 12, 2022 at 16:24

        Except that innocent civilians and children in the Donbas were being shot and blown up every day for eight years by the Ukie Army and Ukie militias who had signed an agreement (Minsk2) promising, among other things, to stop that carnage. Why the blind eye to those 14-16,000 estimated murders? The Donbas republics INVITED Russia into their territory, as Assad did in Syria, to protect themselves from American-sponsored Ukrainian aggression. A country, a people, a society are entitled to self defense wherever they can find it when aggressed upon the way Donbas had been for eight solid years. When do YOU give your permission for them to live? In my book, that right is innate and Russia is providing an act of justice and charity not a war crime. The war crimes were committed by Uncle Sam who acted only on the basis of empty unproven accusations in Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan, Syria and elsewhere.

  18. Moses
    March 11, 2022 at 17:55

    Interesting where we are today, because even this author has to qualify himself to speak by declaring Putin a war criminal without any further clarification or qualification as to what this charge would be based on in international law.

    There is in fact very little if anything in international law to base this charge on. As common with the West (eg., Julian Assange), it declares as outlaw and criminal anyone who dares expose or oppose its criminal imperial enterprises.

    • rosemerry
      March 12, 2022 at 05:58

      I too was sad to see Jonathan falling into this trap.

    • Realist
      March 12, 2022 at 16:37

      In American media only American politicians and war profiteers controlling those politicians are exempt from any and all war crimes. Anybody else who dares defend themselves against or aids in the struggle against American aggression are intrinsically guilty of whatever charges are needed to smear them beyond all reality in the eyes of the American public. Not all that usual for a fascist dictatorship desperately trying to expand its control to the whole planet. If there were such a thing as cosmic justice we’d be living in the “land of the damned and the home of the deceivers,” not the “land of the free and home of the brave.”

  19. firstpersoninfinite
    March 11, 2022 at 17:52

    Excellent, in-depth reporting! Thanks for clear thinking laid out properly concerning this ongoing situation.

  20. alley cat
    March 11, 2022 at 17:50

    “…the invasion makes him [Putin] a war criminal in the same mold as Tony Blair and George W. Bush.”

    Like Chris Hedges, Jonathan Cook equates the invasion of Iraq with the invasion of Ukraine. Both are invasions, yes, but there the similarity ends.

    Hedges and Cook are among the finest of America’s and Britain’s independent journalists, yet they both make the same obligatory, and false, concession to the official narrative that Putin is a dangerous bad guy who must be stopped.

    The U.S. invasion of Iraq was based on a lie. According to The Lancet medical journal, it resulted in the death of a million Iraqis, most of them civilians. The objective was to seize a geopolitically important piece of real estate and steal its oil.

    Russia invaded Ukraine to stop Ukrainian efforts to cleanse ethnic Russians in the Donbas as well as to stop American-led efforts to turn Ukraine into a huge, hostile nuclear missile base only a few minutes stike-time from Moscow and St. Petersburg.

    So how does the invasion of Ukraine make Putin a war criminal like Bush and Blair and what difference does it make if the comparison is invidious?

    Because calling Putin a war criminal for attacking Ukraine lends crucial support to the ongoing hysterical demonization of Putin and the Russians. And the demonization of Putin and the Russians serves as a moral imperative for war that, if unchallenged, might well turn into nuclear war.

    The empire doesn’t care whether Americans believe that Bush and Blair were also bad guys. The empire only cares whether Americans believe that Putin is a bad guy who, like Saddam Hussein, must be stopped.

    • tinder
      March 12, 2022 at 00:45

      very relevant and true comment, thank you

    • Realist
      March 12, 2022 at 16:41


  21. Carolyn L Zaremba
    March 11, 2022 at 15:07

    Thanks for this clarity. I have been appalled and sickened by the legion of people here in the US sporting yellow and blue clothes and putting the Ukraine flag on their photos on Facebook. I cannot support the Ukrainian fascist government at all. And I also condemn the Russian attack as quixotic and foolish, even though I also condemn the U.S. imperialists for their pushing for just this to occur. There are no clean hands here. As usual, it is the civilians on both sides who are paying for this deadly game of one upmanship. This is nothing new.

    • James Simpson
      March 12, 2022 at 03:34

      Ms Zaremba, I follow your comments on WSWS and they are generally both passionate and level-headed, and have helped me learn. But to describe the Ukrainian government as ‘fascist’ is to overstate what seems to be a government simply far too friendly to the fascists and neo-Nazis to which it gives support and which it ought to be prosecuting; it does not seem to be even close to a truly fascist government in itself, nor is Ukraine a fascist nation, given the extremely low election results for far-right candidates.

      Also, as the WSWS has repeatedly made clear, Putin’s invasion is not just “quixotic and foolish” but utterly deplorable and criminal; “the viciously anti-communist and xenophobic ideology that he invokes and the interests that he claims to be defending are thoroughly reactionary and incapable of appealing to the broad mass of the working class in Russia”.

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