Before Putin invaded Ukraine, my attitude toward Russia was one of rather detached disinterest.
I knew that Russia wasn't our friend, Trump had some sort of fatal attraction toward the country, Putin was an authoritarian who killed dissidents/journalists he didn't like, and it had a lot of oil and gas.
But in no way did I hate Russia. Now I do.
Not the Russian people. Just that portion of the Russian populace responsible for carrying out the invasion of Ukraine.
Vladimir Putin. The oligarchs who support him. The Russian military. Anyone else in Russia who knows about the horrendous war crimes being carried out in Ukraine and still is OK with the invasion.
War is hell. Even when war is being conducted as it should be, with battles being fought by competing armies. War is far beyond hellish the way Russia is acting in Ukraine.
Kidnapping, torturing, killing, and raping civilians. Targeting schools, hospitals, apartment buildings, and other targets with no military value. Leveling entire cities through indiscriminate bombing. Failing to allow civilians to evacuate from areas being attacked by Russia.
Knowing what I do about Russian atrocities in Ukraine, there's no way I could ever go back to feeling even neutral about Russia. For the rest of my life I'll detest Russia, even if Putin ever is replaced (which likely will be with another authoritarian ruler).
I now better understand why the United States is disliked by so many people around the world. Yes, my country does a lot of good beyond our shores. But we've also done a lot of bad.
The Vietnam War was a disaster. Ditto the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, leaving aside the justified invasion of Afghanistan after 9/11, but not the twenty-some years that followed. The United States has caused hundreds of thousands of people to be killed unnecessarily.
Those deaths have caused a lot of intense reactions. If members of your family have been killed in a drone attack aimed at an Al Qaeda leader, the death of those innocents is going to leave a gaping hole in your heart that can't be repaired.
Anger at the United States can be as justified as my anger at Russia, albeit with some important differences. The United States didn't have an official policy directing our military to commit war crimes, but it definitely appears that Russia does.
Our intentions in going to war also were more defensible, though I realize that many would disagree. As much as I disliked George W. Bush, I feel that he truly did want to see Iraq become a democracy, even thought the U.S. strategy to accomplish this was deeply flawed.
By contrast, Putin wants to conquer Ukraine just to expand the borders of Russia back into what used to be the Soviet Union. He has no lofty aim, just the exertion of raw power.
Russia's invasion of Ukraine is much more publicized than any other conflict, thanks to smart phones and the courage of journalists who report on what's going on there. I suspect that if our wars in Afghanistan and Iraq had been equally open to view, American atrocities would have been much more on display, though nowhere near to the degree of Russian war crimes in Ukraine.
Ukraine is fighting a righteous war against an unprovoked invasion by Russia. That gives them the moral high ground. I wish I could say that the United States always has occupied the same ethical territory in the wars we've fought recently, but I can't.
So while in no way do I believe that we're as guilty of war crimes as Putin's Russia is, I now can empathize more strongly with those who hate the United States for our own wartime atrocities.
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