Chris Hedges: The Greatest Evil

Russia was baited into war but that does not absolve its criminal act of aggression.

Display of details of Picasso’s “Guernica” outside Museum of Peace in Guernica, Basque Country, Spain, 2014. (Adam Jones/Flickr, CC BY 2.0)

By Chris Hedges

Preemptive war, whether in Iraq or Ukraine, is a war crime. It does not matter if the war is launched on the basis of lies and fabrications, as was the case in Iraq, or because of the breaking of a series of agreements with Russia, including the promise by Washington not to extend NATO beyond the borders of a unified Germany, not to deploy thousands of NATO troops in Eastern Europe, not to meddle in the internal affairs of nations on the Russia’s border and the refusal to implement the Minsk II peace agreement.

The invasion of Ukraine would, I expect, never have happened if these promises had been kept. Russia has every right to feel threatened, betrayed, and angry. But to understand is not to condone. The invasion of Ukraine, under post-Nuremberg laws, is a criminal war of aggression.

[Ed.: Russia says it intervened in the eight-year civil war in Ukraine to stop the massacre of ethnic Russians in Donbass led in part by openly neo-Nazi units.]

I know the instrument of war. War is not politics by other means. It is demonic. I spent two decades as a war correspondent in Central America, the Middle East, Africa and the Balkans, where I covered the wars in Bosnia and Kosovo. I carry within me the ghosts of dozens of those swallowed up in the violence, including my close friend, Reuters correspondent Kurt Schork, who was killed in an ambush in Sierra Leone with another friend, Miguel Gil Moreno.

I know the chaos and disorientation of war, the constant uncertainty and confusion. In a firefight you are only aware of what is happening a few feet around you. You desperately, and not always successfully, struggle to figure out where the firing is coming from in the hopes you can avoid being hit.

I have felt the helplessness and the paralyzing fear, which, years later, descend on me like a freight train in the middle of the night, leaving me wrapped in coils of terror, my heart racing, my body dripping with sweat.

I have heard the wails of those convulsed by grief as they clutch the bodies of friends and family, including children. I hear them still. It does not matter the language. Spanish. Arabic. Hebrew. Dinka. Serbo-Croatian. Albanian. Ukrainian. Russian. Death cuts through the linguistic barriers.

I know what wounds look like. Legs blown off. Heads imploded into a bloody, pulpy mass. Gaping holes in stomachs. Pools of blood. Cries of the dying, sometimes for their mothers. And the smell. The smell of death. The supreme sacrifice made for flies and maggots.

I was beaten by Iraqi and Saudi secret police. I was taken prisoner by the Contras in Nicaragua, who radioed back to their base in Honduras to see if they should kill me, and again in Basra after the first Gulf War in Iraq, never knowing if I would be executed, under constant guard and often without food, drinking out of mud puddles.

The primary lesson in war is that we as distinct individuals do not matter. We become numbers. Fodder. Objects. Life, once precious and sacred, becomes meaningless, sacrificed to the insatiable appetite of Mars. No one in wartime is exempt.

“We were expendable,” Eugene Sledge wrote of his experiences as a marine in the South Pacific in World War II. “It was difficult to accept. We come from a nation and a culture that values life and the individual. To find oneself in a situation where your life seems of little value is the ultimate in loneliness. It is a humbling experience.”

The landscape of war is hallucinogenic. It defies comprehension. You have no concept of time in a firefight. A few minutes. A few hours. War, in an instant, obliterates homes and communities, all that was once familiar, and leaves behind smoldering ruins and a trauma that you carry for the rest of your life.

You cannot comprehend what you see. I have tasted enough of war, enough of my own fear, my body turned to jelly, to know that war is always evil, the purest expression of death, dressed up in patriotic cant about liberty and democracy and sold to the naïve as a ticket to glory, honor and courage. It is a toxic and seductive elixir. Those who survive, as Kurt Vonnegut wrote, struggle afterwards to reinvent themselves and their universe which, on some level, will never make sense again.

War destroys all systems that sustain and nurture life — familial, economic, cultural, political, environmental and social. Once war begins, no one, even those nominally in charge of waging war, can guess what will happen, how the war will develop, how it can drive armies and nations towards suicidal folly. There are no good wars. None.

Dresden, Germany, in 1945 after Allied bombing destroyed most of the city’s center. (Bundesarchiv, G. Beyer, CC-BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Commons)

This includes World War II, which has been sanitized and mythologized to mendaciously celebrate American heroism, purity, and goodness. If truth is the first casualty in war, ambiguity is the second.

The bellicose rhetoric embraced and amplified by the American press, demonizing Russian President Vladimir Putin and elevating the Ukrainians to the status of demigods, demanding more robust military intervention along with the crippling sanctions meant to bring down Vladimir Putin’s government, is infantile and dangerous. The Russian media narrative is as simplistic as ours.

There were no discussions about pacifism in the basements in Sarajevo when we were being hit with hundreds of Serbian shells a day and under constant sniper fire. It made sense to defend the city. It made sense to kill or be killed.

The Bosnian Serb soldiers in the Drina Valley, Vukovar and Srebrenica had amply demonstrated their capacity for murderous rampages, including the gunning down of hundreds of soldiers and civilians and the wholesale rape of women and girls. But this did not save any of the defenders in Sarajevo from the poison of violence, the soul-destroying force that is war.

I knew a Bosnian soldier who heard a sound behind a door while patrolling on the outskirts of Sarajevo. He fired a burst from his AK-47 through the door. A delay of a few seconds in combat can mean death. When he opened the door, he found the bloody remains of a 12-year-old girl. His daughter was 12. He never recovered.

Only the autocrats and politicians who dream of empire and global hegemony, of the god-like power that comes with wielding armies, warplanes, and fleets, along with the merchants of death, whose business floods countries with weapons, profit from war.

The expansion of NATO into Eastern Europe has earned Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, General Dynamics, Boeing, Northrop Grumman, Analytic Services, Huntington Ingalls, Humana, BAE Systems, and L3Harris billions in profits. The stoking of conflict in Ukraine will earn them billions more.

The European Union has allocated hundreds of millions of euros to purchase weapons for Ukraine. Germany will almost triple its own defense budget for 2022. The Biden administration has asked Congress to provide $6.4 billion in funding to assist Ukraine, supplementing the $650 million in military aid to Ukraine over the past year.

The permanent war economy operates outside the laws of supply and demand. It is the root of the two-decade-long quagmire in the Middle East. It is the root of the conflict with Moscow. The merchants of death are Satanic. The more corpses they produce, the more their bank accounts swell. They will cash in on this conflict, one that now flirts with the nuclear holocaust that would terminate life on earth as we know it.

The dangerous and sadly predictable provocation of Russia — whose nuclear arsenal places the sword of Damocles above our heads — by expanding NATO was understood by all of us reporting in Eastern Europe in 1989 during the revolutions and the break-up of the Soviet Union.

This provocation, which includes establishing a NATO missile base 100 miles from Russia’s border, was foolish and highly irresponsible. It never made geopolitical sense.

This does not, however, excuse the invasion of Ukraine. Yes, the Russians were baited. But they reacted by pulling the trigger. This is a crime. Their crime. Let us pray for a ceasefire. Let us work for a return to diplomacy and sanity, a moratorium on arms shipments to Ukraine and the withdrawal of Russian troops from the country. Let us hope for an end to war before we stumble into a nuclear holocaust that devours us all.

Chris Hedges is a Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist who was a foreign correspondent for 15 years for The New York Times, where he served as the Middle East bureau chief and Balkan bureau chief for the paper. He previously worked overseas for The Dallas Morning NewsThe Christian Science Monitor and NPR. He is the host of the Emmy Award-nominated RT America show “On Contact.” 

This column is from Scheerpost, for which Chris Hedges writes a regular columnClick here to sign up for email alerts.

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

60 comments for “Chris Hedges: The Greatest Evil

  1. Mike
    March 6, 2022 at 07:34

    Don’t know where to begin.
    I’m new to CN but am familiar with your amazing contributors including Chris Hedges, only through having watched RT.
    War is bad. That, there is no doubt and it engenders the worst in humanity. Is there ever a ‘just war’ when to the Western military/industrial complex, it is ‘just another war’?

  2. March 3, 2022 at 17:46

    You can also look to the situation from another perspective. Putin could be just another malignant narcissist who’s goals is to dominate others and has no empathy. People’s behavior is mainly driven by emotion, rationality is just the frosting on the cake.

    • robert e williamson jr
      March 5, 2022 at 14:50

      robert, you may be onto something here that makes some sense.

      What makes no sense is that Putin would do this to create a legacy in which he is shown in a positive light. Especially since if this results in nuclear war no one will be left to examine said legacy.

      Proof does exist that many serial killers are and were very sick psychotic narcissists and we also know the lengths to which they went to create legacies of torment and suffering through diabolical murders.

      Rationality is fickle and it has been said that one can rationalize most any personal behavior. Whether the rationalization is coherent is another question entirely.

      Still in the case of the trials and tribulations of the Ukraine, the dynamics of which seem to be extremely complicated wouldn’t or shouldn’t we expect U.S. leadership to be more reserved and less confrontational. Leading by example as it were.

      If one beats a cornered dog with a stick and the dog lashes out trying to attack is that the fault of the dog?

      It’s just a thought.

      thanks CN.

  3. robert e williamson jr
    March 3, 2022 at 10:52

    Basically as I see this there is plenty enough blame to go around, so placing blame seems pointless exercise.

    What I see is a man and his country being condemned because he struck out at those who attempt to bully him.

    There is a no comparison here to those events however. The victim has nuclear weapons and is the leader of a very large country.

    What I also see is a situation that could have been handled much differently. One wold expect the leader of the US to have been more cautious and who used the event to his advantage. The opportunity was there but “Hard Ass” uncle Joe seemed to have something else to prove.

    The west has pushed Putin into a corner, needlessly in my opinion, by the off and on policy concerning NATO. I could see this much differently if the US had a totally different history of late.

    Now we have a serious problem that could have been avoided had it been handled differently.

    Once again the US is involved in a problem much of it’s creation in a foreign country far from it’s borders. More typical foreign policy from US neocons. Shameful behavior by the so called leader of the free world. Especially when we consider Biden’s rough treatment of Ukraine leadership in 2014. Treatment that seems to have originated because of Biden’s son’s involvement there in the energy business. SHAME SHAME

    mgr says it very well in his last paragraph, “It’s important because without some effective mechanism to constrain bullies . . . . .” It is very important that we get this right here. In this case the bullies have nuclear weapons! Both sides are an equal threat to the planet. The plan should be first and foremost to get rid of the Nukes!

    The US calling Putin a bully without coming clean and admitting it’s own transgressions is laughable. Or would be laughable but Nuclear Bullies bandying about nuclear threats makes in this instance a situation where very careful considerations of one’s actions are essential to the continued life of humanity on the planet.

    Hard Ass Uncle Joe needs to be reminded that his is not the only game in town. US leadership is appalling at times.

    Thanks CN

  4. Antforce62
    March 2, 2022 at 17:02

    Sorry Chris, I admire your work but you are dead wrong! Russia is committing a lesser evil to prevent a greater evil? You call the Russian Invasion a War crime but I call it a Liberation! And by who’s definition is it a War crime? America has trampled on & destroyed International Law as defined by the UN? America follow’s & expects every other Nation to abide by its “Rules based Order” in which it makes Global decisions for every other Nation & that they must obey, or else! Russia has only committed a War Crime, only if International Law exists, which it doesn’t, because if it did exist, America would be standing in front off & trialled in the Hague for the very War Crimes you state & which they accuse the Russians of committing!

  5. April Fools
    March 2, 2022 at 00:37

    I’ve just learned, that, one of the reasons the US intervened in Ukraine, is that, via NED( The National Endowment for Democracy, the US is trying to get Ukraine to privatize the state owned businesses.

  6. March 2, 2022 at 00:34

    The most objective commentary on the Ukraine are contrarian commentators Lt. Col. Daniel L. Davis and Lt. Col. Douglas Macgregor. They were right about Afghanistan but drowned out by the mainstream, and they’re right this time too. The strident media voices demanding war are a history repeat of the call to attack Iraq over Weapons of Mass Destruction. I was conned back then by someone saying they were a weapons inspector chasing uranium enrichment magnets on the back of a truck. Not this time. Fool me once…

  7. March 2, 2022 at 00:02

    Yes, I’m surprised, too. There’s been no condemnation of the way Kiev has been treating the people in Donbass. Unfortunately,
    I don’t think, Russia ( It isn’t just Putin) had a choice, given the aggression of the US and NATO. I have, recently, read about the 6 million homes destroyed by Germany in WWII. The US helped Germany recover from WWII, but, Russia has had to try to do it by itself.
    The US has never been willing to appreciate the courage and suffering Russia had. It’s a shame. I’m sure, Russia would just like to have some peace and be a “regular” world citizen. The US has to have an enemy and wants to dominate.

  8. The Missing Ink
    March 1, 2022 at 22:26

    Is that you, George W. Bush? This is the first time I’ve seen Chris Hedges’ impersonation of a neoconservative and I hope it will be his last.

    When the US invades another country, the media calls it a fight for democracy, but when Russia does it, it’s a failure of diplomacy and a “crime”.

    • March 1, 2022 at 23:50

      Yes, I’m surprised, too. There’s been no condemnation of the way Kiev has been treating the people in Donbass. Unfortunately,
      I don’t think, Russia ( It isn’t just Putin) had a choice, given the aggression of the US and NATO. I have, recently, read about the 6 million homes destroyed by Germany in WWII. The US helped Germany recover from WWII, but, Russia has had to try to do it by itself.
      The US has never been willing to appreciate the courage and suffering Russia had. It’s a shame. I’m sure, Russia would just like to have some peace and be a “regular” world citizen. The US has to have an enemy and wants to dominate.

  9. jesika
    March 1, 2022 at 21:43

    Not a preemptive war, not at all. So much misinformation, Tucker Carlson too, just can’t mention the 8 year shelling and killing of Donetsk and Lugansk ethnic Russian people by neo-Nazi Azov battalion and Right Sector. Loss of truth by omission and mass formation psychosis, as Dr Robert Malone calls it. Zelensky is no hero, putting Ukrainians in harm’s way. I just saw in a ZH comment that he has $1.2bn set up by the corrupt Ukrainian oligarch Igor Kolomoisky and has bought a posh Miami condo, probably plans to come to US. Ukrainian corruption is about top of world, but look how many useful idiots we have in US including our own corrupt Con-gress.

  10. Jan
    March 1, 2022 at 20:09

    The best perspective on Hedges’ article and response to many of the its comments is the piece by Johnstone in this same issue of Consortium News. There may be a point soon at which it does not matter who pulled the trigger in Ukraine.

  11. Don
    March 1, 2022 at 18:59

    Chris Hedges’ premise, that Russia started this war, is where his entire argument founders. The US and its allies have been working hard for this war to start, and have succeeded in provoking it with the same old tricks that they have used to start so many others.

    The US started this. The US even predicted the start date, moving it back several times, as Russian showed more forbearance, more hope for dialogue, than was assumed to be possible.

    I am certain that many, if not most, Americans firmly believe that Korea, Vietnam, Libya, Serbia, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan… all started their wars with America.

    The concerted propaganda efforts around this threatens our sanity — it is hard to remember that we in the “West” who oppose this exercise of American exceptionalism and imperialism are not alone. I don’t pray, but if I did, I too would pray for peace, Chris, but the only path I see for it is through a quick, decisive Russian victory with as little innocent blood spilled as possible.

    • Amy Hills
      March 1, 2022 at 20:46

      Absolutely. I’m in total agreement with you Don.

  12. Richard Coleman
    March 1, 2022 at 17:52

    I heard Putin in an unguarded moment, after the US responded to his December drafts (spat on is more accurate) when he thought the mike was off, mutter Popeye the Sailor’s growl,”That’s all I can stands, I can’t stands no more.” Indeed.

  13. R. Merrill
    March 1, 2022 at 17:46

    Hedges, “Preemptive war, whether in Iraq or Ukraine, is a war crime.”

    I agree with this statement but what we have here is NOT a preemptive war, not by any stretch of the imagination. In 2015, the government of Ukraine passed a series of laws relegating ethnic Russians to second class citizenship. The mostly Russian areas of eastern Ukraine voted to withdraw from Ukraine and become independent nations. The vote was overwhelming. At the same time Crimea also voted to withdraw from Ukraine.

    Following this, Ukraine began to attack the self-declared republics in the Donbas region. Nazi militias funded and armed by NATO also were making war against the Donbas. Russia helped the Donbas republics but with mostly diplomatic efforts. The result was the Minsk Agreements designed to end the civil war. For 8 years, Russia tried to get the Ukrainian government to adhere to the Minsk principles.

    In the 8 years since the putsch in Kiev, more than 13,000 ethnic Russians have been killed in the Donbas. More than 100,000 have been injured. For the ethnic Russians, the war began in 2015 and has never stopped.

    When Russia recognized the independence of the Lughants People’s Republic and the Donetz People’s Republic, Kiev escalated its attacks. The LPR and DPR asked Russia for defensive help and Russia agreed. So Russia only began to defend the Donbas republics from a war that had been going on for 8 years.

    Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is legal under international war. It was not preemptive. It is a defensive war.

  14. Topor
    March 1, 2022 at 17:23

    How disingenuous and mendacious of all the democratic fascist countries to talk of international law now. Up until a few days ago it was the International Rules Based Order. You know , as in , America makes the rules! Russia is following the law , recognizing Donbas republics, warning Ukraine stop shelling or else under R2P. Ukes intesified shelling.Russia still patient and did not move in.Schultz scoffed at Putin for saying genocide was taking place ….the brazeness coming from Germany! More patience from Putin. Zelensky at the Munich security conference declared intent to get NUKES . Coming from a comedian you could almost discount it , but all the EU countries applauded and encouraged him. That was a direct threat and declaration of war! Putin sent the military in to denazify the country . That is the truth and correct order of events.

  15. Trisha
    March 1, 2022 at 15:15

    Generally I have huge respect for Chris, but on this topic he’s off base, there is a greater evil than war. I hate war, am a Vietnam vet, but I’m no pacifist.

    Nazis are a greater evil than war.

    I’m the son and grandson of folks who were severely wounded or killed fighting against the Nazis in WWII. What alternative was there to survive against Nazis without resort to war? None.

    Since 2014 the people of the Donbas have been under attack by a Ukrainian regime infested with Nazis who openly declared their willingness to kill subhuman Russians like those living in Donbas. 14,000 are dead, more wounded. A few weeks ago Zelensky initiated intense shelling of Donbas and announced intentions to arm the Ukronazi regime with nukes.

    The people of the Donbas turned to their brothers and cousin in Russia and asked them for mutual aid and self-defense, a request that was granted. What is happening is NOT an invasion, it is a liberation, once again, by Russia, of people under direct threat of extermination by a Nazi regime.

  16. March 1, 2022 at 15:14

    Much as I respect Chris Hedges this is one time I disagree with him. Russia is in a fight for its existence after a thirty year war of attrition sponsored by NATO. This is a soft war where Russia will leave as soon as the country is stabilized. It is making an effort to minimize loss of life and property. NATO precipitated this crisis through its intransigence by arrogantly refusing Russia request for security guarantees.

    If populations want to direct their anger at this crisis, it should at NATO and Washington. NATO is simply Washington’s imperialist lackey

  17. Drew Hunkins
    March 1, 2022 at 14:34

    The Kremlin’s taking action now in Ukraine to nip in the bud an inevitable nuclear war if NATO was eventually to successfully encircle Russia militarily and then run a destabilization/Soros campaign. The world would be at a point of no return.

    Lavrov, Putin et. al. had no other choice.

  18. Ray Peterson
    March 1, 2022 at 14:24

    Guernica was bombed by a fascist Nazi government, that’s America’s coup Ukraine Chris, not Russia.
    St. Augustine’s peace is the purpose of war, so why not use your journalistic skills to
    show what the U.S. and NATO can offer Russia to have it withdraw, instead of the moralizing
    for the war industry?

  19. renate
    March 1, 2022 at 13:50

    In this case, I can’t agree with Mr. Hedges. Russia is really fighting a defensive war, they have been faced with years of economic warfare and more to come. Sanctions are on the same moral level as any war with bullets and bombs, the killing is only slower and less bloody, but to watch your children starve to death over a period of time is much crueler than bullets and bombs.

    I think we need to explain what sanctions do to people and call it what it is, it is warfare, a slow and painful death, slow-motion genocide. We can see it in Yemen, Afghanistan, Venezuela and we don’t see the brain damage malnourishment causes.
    We must get out of the grove believing that sanctions are not a real war, they are. The aim is to do harm to the people to make them oppose their government. Sanctions and regime change are wars against other nations. How much suffering did our blockade bring to Cuba? Morally it is on the same level as any war. We have manipulated ourselves to believe it is a nicer way to get what we want. It is just as evil.

  20. historicus
    March 1, 2022 at 13:10

    To both the classical Greeks and Romans, Athena and Minerva, the goddesses of war, were also the goddesses of wisdom, for, god help (or pity) us, developing better ways of killing one another is the incentive for almost all of humanity’s greatest technological advances. This is who we are; this is what we do. I think we learned from our failures in the Sixties that you cannot refuse to play the game the way it is laid out because the rules offend your sensibilities. There is simply too much at stake. And every attempt to “improve” human nature has so far resulted in worse tyranny that it hoped to abolish. For a preternaturally aggressive primate species like ours, pacifism is a kind of moral bankruptcy.

  21. jaycee
    March 1, 2022 at 11:55

    Chris is right: use of force unauthorized by the UNSC is an extreme violation of international law and must be condemned – even as it is galling to witness serial violators of these same laws assume the mantle of righteous accusers. Humanitarian laws developed through the UN system is one international understanding we humans have gotten right and its tenets must be upheld.

    International law, on the other hand, has little means to address concentrations of power which subvert the intent of these laws and seek to manipulate relations between states and peoples in self-serving and aggressive fashion. The self-appointment by the United States, followed by its NATO allies, as the hegemonic power on the planet is the root cause of massive violation of international law since the first Cold War dissipated thirty years ago. The United States and its NATO allies sought out and created the trouble by which Russia stands accused today, not least by its encouragement to Ukraine to ignore the UNSC resolution for peaceful resolution while funneling armaments into the region and training the Ukrainians for war. These malign activities demonstrate the international system as yet lacks the means to truly realize the international legal structure we seek. Therefore, personally, I understand the Russians should be accused but not condemned, and will strive even more to assist others in developing a keener consciousness and more mindful world-view.

  22. Topor
    March 1, 2022 at 11:35

    Appeasement …30 years of expansion towards Russia! “First Shot by Russia”? No ,it was the Coup d’état in 2014 and the daily bombing or civilians (18000 deaths) over a period of 8years.Again appeasement! Give peace a chance throughMinsk 1 and 2 for 8 years.Proposed treaty on indivisible security in Europe and the world ,spat on by U.S.A. With intensified shelling of civilians in Donbas . Russia effectively said no more appeasement. History informs us what happens when you try to negotiate with nazi fascists . It may be hard to swallow, but the inheritor and continuum of nazi Germany . It’s time for the yanks to take their nukes home !

  23. Llitlchfield
    March 1, 2022 at 11:30

    Sorry, Chris,

    I stopped reading at “brutal act of aggression.”
    Are you located in Ukraine?
    On the “brutal act of aggression” scale from 1 to 10, from what I am hearing from on the ground in the Ukraine, this is probably around a 3

    Have you even noticed the Kiev govt’s “brutal acts of aggression” against civilians in the Donbass over the past 8 years?
    Which is closer to the score of 10 because against a civilian population, along the lines of ethnic cleansing?
    Chris, where have you been for the past 9 years?
    Very disappointing.
    Blaming the victim—both Russia, and the Donbass.

  24. Mark Stanley
    March 1, 2022 at 11:02

    Epic article. The Picasso art is superbly chosen for the theme. Many of the commenters here have rationally disagreed with Chris, and understandably so. Yet what he is presenting is raw like the Picasso, un-buffered by rational thought. By refusing to take sides, as we are being goaded into, Chris has taken a stand outside the box—peace for the sake of peace. Therefore, my rational mind sees this as an article acceptable to a wider audience. Well done!

  25. Jeff Harrison
    March 1, 2022 at 10:37

    How about getting the Ukraine to comply with Minsk? How about getting the US/UK/EU to stop acting like masters of the universe?

  26. Carl Harris
    March 1, 2022 at 10:35

    Hedges is mistaken about the legality of Russia’s action.

    Military action by Russia against Ukraine was legally justified:

    -to defend Donetsk and Lugansk against genocide;
    -to defend itself against Ukrainian WMDs, (bio-labs and Zelensky’s announcement of intention to produce nukes); and
    -to stop NATO from continuing its advance toward Russian borders in violation of its previous commitment of “not an inch to the east” and of the principles of collective security.

    In light of those issues, Russia exercised its right of self-defense under article 51 of part 7 of the UN Charter. The Ukraine had forfeited its right to territorial integrity under the 1970 UN Declaration by refusing to honor the rights of its Russian-speaking population.

  27. onno37
    March 1, 2022 at 10:34

    You ignore the fact that these so-called endangered Ukrainians murderered 13000 citizens in Donbass & Odessa mostly women & children. And today NOBODY is talking about these ATROCITIES & neither about Babi Yar during WWO II when they MURDERED 33.000 JEWS & millions of Ukrainians by the NOW HERO of UA BANDERA!

  28. PAINE
    March 1, 2022 at 10:21

    What’s at stake is not only nukes being placed on Ukraine’s soil pointed at Russia, but Russian nukes on Ukraine soil and in Russia pointed at European countries, and European nukes remaining near Russian border pointed toward Russia.

    US nuclear policy over the years has gone from reducing nuclear armaments via treaties with Russia, to both increasing and moving them on land and probably in space closer to Russia, thus endangering the survival of our own people and that of the planet.

    This madness can only be lessened by mutual security agreements that lessen the possibility by either party.

  29. Ligeovanio
    March 1, 2022 at 10:17

    “The Russian media narrative is as simplistic as ours.”
    I stopped reading here.
    What bad luck I met him today and he already considers that the effects of the war are already more harmful as of today.
    good luck from Brazil

  30. Vera Gottlieb
    March 1, 2022 at 10:03

    How about it, Mr. Hedges…can you spare a few words about all the criminal acts of aggression the US has committed all over our planet??? Two wrongs don’t make one right – but totally ignoring and remaining silent about the US’ nefarious acts…this is criminal too.

  31. vinnieoh
    March 1, 2022 at 09:50

    As Steve earlier said Chris is trafficking in false equivalencies. Of course war is the summation of all evils and thus should be avoided at all costs. However, it is my personal conclusion, here near the end of my life, that the US is relentless, single-minded, and unconstrained in its desire to dominate the entire planet economically, militarily, and ideologically.

    Biden called this unprovoked and unjustified. It was absolutely provoked, and the primary provocateur was the US. Whether it was/is unjustified may possibly depend on the conduct and behavior of the Russian military, the treatment of defeated Ukraine, and the nature of whatever emerges when this is over.

    I disagree with Chris that this is a war crime; it is a tragedy, and one that we must ask – even through the admissions of Chris’ above – who is ultimately responsible for precipitating this tragedy?

  32. glooop
    March 1, 2022 at 09:41

    Additionally, why did you not mention NATO’s brutal treatment of Serbia? Does it not fit your narrative?
    This article doesn’t make any meaningful attempt at understanding both sides. It attempts to play the high ground when all it does is reveal your own loyalties and biases.

    • Theo
      March 1, 2022 at 10:21

      I thought that too. In Serbia there is still a high cancer rate in certain regions due to uranium ammunition which poisons food grown on these. The NATO bombs and ammo left a huge toxic waste on large parts of Serbia. And the attack on Serbia was made on a false flag. ” To prevent a genocide ” .

  33. gloooop
    March 1, 2022 at 09:32

    Yes war is bad. No kidding.
    But why do you love to uphold that “serbs are evil” without providing counterbalance. Such as by mentioning the largest episode of ethnic cleansing in Europe since WWII which was the brutal expulsion of 200 000- 300 000 Serbs from Srpska Krajina. Why? Because only your wounds matter- or rather yours matters more than others. It’s a normal human impulse. You are not above anyone.

  34. UncleDoug
    March 1, 2022 at 09:17

    “The Russian media narrative is as simplistic as ours.”

    I’ve been following Tass and RT (sometimes hard to do because of attacks on their servers), as well as a broad swath of Western media. RT’s opinion pieces are, of course, strongly pro-Russian. However, the news reporting from both outlets has been more balanced and less inflammatory than the coverage in, e.g., the Washington Post and New York Times. Strikingly so.

    • Jan
      March 1, 2022 at 19:55

      Agreed. RT has proven to be surprisingly objective, a good source of information. I expect the NYT and WaPo to be State Dept echo chambers, but it has been depressing to read the Guardian in the last week. Full to the brim with bloodlust, the token exception being Ted Carpenter?s opinion piece yesterday. What a comedown from the days of the Manchester Guardian. And even more sobering have been the ambivalent lineups offered by several other progressive sites. I?m downgrading them to liberal.

  35. BigStu
    March 1, 2022 at 08:41

    Nato is not just another club. It’s not an association among equals. Quite simply, it’s just a fig-leaf to provide cover for the permanent US military occupation of Europe. For a European country to join Nato is not to protect its sovereignty. It’s to surrender its sovereignty.
    In the present context, for Ukraine to join Nato is to allow its territory to be used as an American missile launch-pad, with a flight-time to Moscow and other Russian population centres that can be measured in seconds. This is nuclear madness.
    What Russia has concluded is that if any action is to be taken, it must be taken now, since to act after Ukraine joins Nato would automatically trigger WW III and nuclear Armageddon. Mr Putin clearly sees that he has no other choice if his country, Russia, is to survive America’s global ambitions.

    • Robert Heston
      March 1, 2022 at 12:52

      I meant to say that you make an excellent point about why Russia is doing this now. I had copied my previous post from LinkedIn but that presentation is not there. LinkedIn converts such links when you post them.

    • Gerard
      March 1, 2022 at 15:36

      “The invasion of Ukraine is a criminal act of aggression.” I am surprised by such a blatant and controversial statement in Consortium news. It does not seem to take into account that Russia has for years done everything it could to negotiate reasonable arrangements with The West (which is mainly the US) only to be met with arrogance and non-committal and a continuous pushing forward of Nato to the borders of Russia.
      Ukraine is the straw that breaks the camels back. It has been very aggressive to Russia and clearly intended to become more aggressive. (acquiring nuclear weapons).
      The internal situation in Ukraine is such that external powers can easily manipulate it, which is what US/Nato have done. It would have been irresponsible of Russia NOT to act now.

        March 1, 2022 at 19:38

        Consortium News has a disclaimer at the end of all commentaries that we do not necessarily agree with the views of the author. Our editors also inserted into this column: [“Russia says it intervened in the eight-year civil war in Ukraine to stop the massacre of ethnic Russians in Donbass led in part by openly neo-Nazi units.] Chris Hedges, a very respected journalist, is a regular contributor here with the republication of his columns in Scheer Post. We felt his views should be expressed.

  36. Antonija
    March 1, 2022 at 08:37

    “But they reacted by pulling the trigger. This is a crime. Their crime.”

    With all the respect I feel for you, Mr. Hedges, this also seems to be a simplicity. Arising from an exceptional point of view.

    • David Casso
      March 1, 2022 at 15:15

      I agree with you. From my viewpoint, the trigger of war was pulled when the US staged a coup in Ukraine, deposing the pro-Russian leader and replacing him with a pro-Western leader, creating a civil war. People have been fighting and dying for the past eight years since the coup.

    • Jiri Severa
      March 2, 2022 at 23:05

      I too hold Chris Hedges in high regard even though I rarely agree with him. Here, Antonija, you have put your finger on the problem of “higher morality” that Chris often mistakes for “reality”. Yes, wars are the ultimate horror, and should be avoided, wherever possible. But it is not possible if the two sides do not have common understanding and acceptance even of the basic principles that make us cultured, civilized people. Mr. Hedges calls for “return to diplomacy and sanity, a moratorium on arms shipments to Ukraine and the withdrawal of Russian troops from the country.” But how is that done? Does he truly believe that US/NATO would stop arming the Ukrainian fanatics if Russians now agreed to pull out of the country? Seriously ? After the USSR/Russia unilaterally withdrew from Eastern Europe and the Allies responded by pushing their bases to the former borders of Moscow Grand Duchy ? No, the Russians were not just “baited”, Mr. Hedges. They were driven to showing their ugly face by what E.P. Thompson in his time correctly called “a dangerous craziness in the American view of the world”. No, I am definitely not happy about what Russia is doing, but I do not consider anyone from where Mr.Hedges comes entitled to judge them for it.

      • Antonija
        March 3, 2022 at 07:30

        Thanks for comments. Just a note more. It is appalling how many intellectuals from all sides of the world keep answering crucial questions alikely and judgeing with such certainty. Especially in Europe. As if a fearless condemnation of the other could ever wash away our own responsibility and make us better.

  37. Moses
    March 1, 2022 at 08:01

    What would you have Russia do, Chris?

    What option did they leave unexplored over the past 8 years, and in particular in the last 3 months?

    What would it take for the US and the Anglosphere including Israel to stop training and arming right wing extremists in the Ukraine including the Azov battalions?

    What will it take for the Americans to stop over throwing government and organizing coups in other countries?

    What will it take for the media to start telling the truth?

    Comes a time when enough is enough. That time has come for the Russians.

    • Randal Marlin
      March 1, 2022 at 11:26

      The option Russia had was to be consistent with their “duty to protect” rationale and to further support areas they argued should have independence from Ukraine. By attacking Kyiv and other areas Russia clearly became an aggressor. I thought Putin was smart enough to avoid this trap.
      The courage shown by President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in defying Putin instead of “taking a ride” out of Ukraine is infectious. He is a much more charismatic figure than Putin, with great rhetoric and dance to go with his image of a decent, earnest, caring human being.
      As he inspires, costs of vanquishing Ukraine go way up in terms of Russian lives.
      I think of the expression “it was worse than immoral, it was a mistake,” applied to Putin’s out and out aggression.

      So it’s now up to Russia to cease and desist from further destruction of Ukraine, and for Western powers to make an exit possible for Putin so as to avoid a nuclear option. No doubt, the hope of the West is that Russians will rise up and depose Putin. I would say that the spirit of triumphalism is premature, and something always to be avoided, in any case. Skilful negotiation is necessary on both sides.

      I agree with much of what Moses writes, but am looking ahead, to the “least worst” of possible options.

    • Drew Hunkins
      March 1, 2022 at 14:31

      Great post Moses! Thank you for this.

  38. Sam F
    March 1, 2022 at 07:01

    Although I agree on the abhorrence of war and the difficulty of its distinction from defense, defense is another matter.

    The OSCE report on shelling at the Line of Control showed 80 percent of explosions within Donbass, apparently the provocation for the invasion two days later, for which the purpose expressed is to defeat the attackers and demilitarize Ukraine without its occupation. The Russian minimization of casualties, their pincer attack to isolate the Ukraine LOC forces, and their avoidance of urban warfare so far, appear to support their claimed purpose.

    If Russia does not stop at capturing the forces attacking Donbass and perhaps temporarily occupying southern oblasts to hold referenda on independence, or if it moves to high-casualty urban warfare, that might contradict their declared defensive purposes, unless the west forces them to stay on bases there to suppress remilitarization.

  39. Piotr Berman
    March 1, 2022 at 06:03

    ‘”Let us work for a return to diplomacy and sanity, a moratorium on arms shipments to Ukraine and the withdrawal of Russian troops from the country. Let us hope for an end to war before we stumble into a nuclear holocaust that devours us all.”

    One should add the Western diplomacy and military activities before the war were absolutely opposite of sanity. The military supplies to Ukraine kept accelerating, Zelensky announced a plan to expand the army to 350 thousands with heavily enlarged salaries, asked for multi-billion aid to arm and pay for that project, and was not rebuked, neither he was rebuked for his obstinate obstruction of negotiation with “separatists” required by Minsk agreement. The West simultaneously sabotaged agreement and sanctioned Russia for not fulfilling it. The insane idea of massively arming Ukraine looked like a runaway train that cannot be stopped.

    It is hard to tell what non-military alternatives were left for Russia, diplomacy was rejected.

  40. Steve
    March 1, 2022 at 05:57

    I have only one question for Chris Hedges: what would you do if your house was surrounded by hooligans and criminals who were intent on invading it? False equivalents do not apply in this case. If you cannot see that Russia has to do what it’s doing for its own existence, you’re not better than other wilfully blind commentators.

    • Raymond Howard
      March 1, 2022 at 09:30

      Russia lost the struggle with the West over 30 years ago whe it was in better shape than it is now. It needed reconstruction and a better social system than Bolshevism or bourgeoisie gov’t. It didn’t get it and is in no position to fight the West now. Without being able to seal the Ukraine’s land border, coastline, or airspace, Russia will face an increasing flow of weapons and ammunition (and maybe advisors) into the country. Putin will, at best, get only a vague statement of non-aggression out of this in return for a ceasefire and withdrawal. Millions of Russians will flee the Ukraine, Putin will fall, and Russia will be weaker than ever.

      • Greg
        March 2, 2022 at 04:29

        That is your opinion. Many very well informed people do not share it.

  41. Greg
    March 1, 2022 at 05:09

    I appreciate your writing greatly Chris, but in this effort you have completely lost the plot. Russia is facing an existential threat from the inexorably and voraciously driven program of US/NATO expansionism. This well documented malignancy profoundly threatens Russia’s well-being and indeed its very being.

    If you would stand, hands down and physically passive, as a known serial aggressor moved toward you with lethal intent and the weaponry to inflict it, then that is your personal choice. To command that equivalent morality upon others reflects some unknowable mix of ignorance and arrogance on your part. You have truly surprised me with this vignette of bland moral ideology. How about you sit, pour a cup tof tea, and have another think about it?

  42. alley cat
    March 1, 2022 at 04:48

    “This does not, however, excuse the invasion of Ukraine. Yes, the Russians were baited. But they reacted by pulling the trigger. This is a crime. Their crime. Let us pray for a ceasefire. Let us work for a return to diplomacy and sanity, a moratorium on arms shipments to Ukraine and the withdrawal of Russian troops from the country. Let us hope for an end to war before we stumble into a nuclear holocaust that devours us all.”

    I have a lot of respect for Hedges in general but I couldn’t disagree more.

    Urging pacifism on Russia when the US-NATO are threatening Russia’s very existence simply makes no sense. Putin was right on target when he condemned (in his Announcement of Military Action) Stalin for appeasing the Nazis in 1940: “To this end, the USSR sought not to provoke the potential aggressor until the very end by refraining or postponing the most urgent and obvious preparations it had to make to defend itself from an imminent attack. When it finally acted, it was too late.”

    Now, Biden is the aggressor and appeasement would a fatal mistake, probably resulting in the dismemberment and destruction of Russia. And yet Hedges denounces the Russians because “preemptive war… is a war crime.” Preemptive war is a war crime when the ground for preemptive war is a fabrication, but not when the enemy is camped at your gates and getting stronger by the minute.

    Russians have their backs against a wall. Now is not the time to lecture them about the virtues of non-violence.

  43. Ian Rutherford
    March 1, 2022 at 01:59

    “The Russian media narrative is as simplistic as ours.”

    Apparently not so, Chris.

    They are talking about the true causes of this war and the heartfelt desire to preserve as many lives as possible.

  44. Ian Rutherford
    March 1, 2022 at 01:46

    “The European Union has allocated hundreds of millions of euros to purchase weapons for Ukraine. Germany will almost triple its own defence budget for 2022. The Biden administration has asked Congress to provide $6.4 billion in funding to assist Ukraine, supplementing the $650 million in military aid to Ukraine over the past year.”

    All INSTEAD of asking Ukraine to abide by the Minsk agreement.

    Humans in the war with Ukraine did not become numbers for the simple reason that the war was conceived as the “demilitarization” of Ukraine. Whether it stays that way AND whether it is WINNABLE that way remains to be seen.

    • mgr
      March 1, 2022 at 07:13

      Ian: Good points. I wholeheartedly agree with Mr. Hedges that war was must always be opposed and prevented. But war has now begun because the US wanted it and the otherwise “rational” players in this stood by and watched rather than standing up together based on principles and laws. In particular, where was the EU opposition to fomenting upheaval in Ukraine from 2014 on? The EU in particular will now begin reaping the consequences of its passive acquiescence to US pathology.

      Actually, I wouldn’t be surprised to find that one trigger for the push to war by the US (whipping up the Ukrainian nationalists and nazis and encouraging their assault on Donbass) was fear of the Russia and China proposal for making a democratized UN the basis for an international laws based approach to relations between nations. This is a hugely important and much needed idea that should rightly find wide support. This is in direct contrast to the US “rules based order” (where America makes the rules and gives the orders). After spending decades undermining the rule of law represented by the UN, the US must be terrified even at the prospect.

      It’s important because without some effective mechanism to constrain bullies, as well as eliminating the arm’s trade, war is going to happen whether we like it or not. Bullies never give up their power nor seek self-control of their own volition. And until they are made to, there will be no peace.

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