Sincere Question From A Conservative: Are We Really Any Different/Better Than Putin?
I say no, but that doesn't make me a "Putin apologist!"
The Western elite position on the Ukraine/Russia conflict seems pretty clear: Russia is entirely wrong, Ukraine’s suffering is uniquely heartbreaking, it’s the United States’ moral duty to provide Ukraine with the support needed to fend off the attack and anyone who’s not morally outraged over Russia’s behavior is a Putin apologist.
Well, I personally find it increasingly difficult to feel any moral outrage over Ukraine, but I’m no Putin apologist. To be fair, I am however genuinely autistic, and it took me an entire decade to truly grasp the horror of Sept. 11. But on the other hand, my eyes routinely grow moist regarding the fate of the characters I encounter in books (Currently: “The Dandelion Dynasty”) and in TV shows (Currently: “The Last Kingdom”).
Nonetheless, despite not being a Putin apologist, I still find it difficult to feel moral outrage over Ukraine, which at the moment enjoys the fervent support of the entire West, in part because the Western elites who back it are attempting at this very moment to cancel/persecute all of Russia, including its innocent citizens, in the same manner which they regularly cancel/persecute their own citizens.
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Obviously, cancellation/persecution cannot compare to being blown to smithereens. But as someone accustomed to seeing fellow conservatives be deplatformed and/or banished from civilized society for the supposed crime of offending liberal pieties, I relate far more to the suffering of cancellation/persecution than the suffering of war.
I myself lost my Twitter account for the supposed crime of calling MSNBC hatemonger Joy Reid a “wench,” never mind all the genuinely hateful tweets that Twitter allows to remain up. Not that my experience compares even in the slightest to that of those conservatives who’ve lost jobs or even their bank accounts/payment processors for merely challenging liberal orthodoxy.
Regardless, when I read stories like the one below from the Kaiser Family Foundation about Western elites calling for pharmaceutical companies to stop providing Russia -- and thus Russian citizens -- with essential medicines, it hits home:
[D]rugmakers, medical device manufacturers, and health care companies, which are exempted from U.S. and European sanctions, said Russians need access to medicines and medical equipment and contend that international humanitarian law requires they keep supply chains open.
“As a health care company, we have an important purpose, which is why at this time we continue to serve people in all countries in which we operate who depend on us for essential products, some life-sustaining,” said Scott Stoffel, divisional vice president for Illinois-based Abbott Laboratories, which manufactures and sells medicines in Russia for oncology, women’s health, pancreatic insufficiency, and liver health. ...
The reluctance of drugmakers to pause operations in Russia is being met with a growing chorus of criticism.
Pharmaceutical companies that say they must continue to manufacture drugs in Russia for humanitarian reasons are “being misguided at best, cynical in the medium case, and outright deplorably misleading and deceptive,” said Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, a professor at the Yale School of Management who is tracking which companies have curtailed operations in Russia. He noted that banks and technology companies also provide essential services.
FYI, “banks and technology companies also” cancelling essential services is equally morally wrong.
So is innocent Russian citizens losing their livelihoods for the supposed crime of simply being Russian:
Do Western elites believe that imposing suffering on Putin’s citizens will stir his heart into backing down? Does he even have a heart? Or perhaps Western elites believe in fighting fire with fire? But if that’s the case, then how are they any different than Putin?
Choosing to fight evil by purposefully inflicting suffering on innocents is itself evil, no? I used to think we were better than this, but with the way Western elites act these days — and perhaps have always acted, and maybe I was just too young and naive to recognize it — I don’t know anymore.
This brings me to Rep. Ilhan Omar. While I vociferously disagree with many of her positions, I concur somewhat with the point she makes below:
Jim VandeHei @JimVandeHei🚨 🚨 scoops -> President Biden’s advisers are discussing a possible visit to Saudi Arabia this spring to help repair relations and convince the Kingdom to pump more oil, Axios has learned. https://t.co/Xfzl57agv8
If Western elites intend to base our country’s foreign policy decisions on morality, which appears to be the standard position vis-a-vis Ukraine, then how does it make sense to ban Russian oil but accept Saudi oil?
Granted, as a burgeoning libertarian-leaning conservative (versus the staunch conservative of the past few years), I say we should accept all foreign oil and also drastically ramp up domestic production so that gas prices for everyday Americans finally decline. I mean, my God, can the American people ever come first!?
But dovetailing back to the morality issue, I argue that it extends way past our denial of vital services to Russians, though to be clear, that is in itself an act of vile evil.
The morality issue specifically extends back to us. Let me explain.
Once upon a time, I believed in the notion of American/Western exceptionalism and eagerly devoured narratives about how all of our “enemies” — i.e., those who dared to challenge our global hegemony — were uniquely wicked, authoritarian, tyrannical, you name it.
I was, as Aaron Mate would say, a proud “western chauvinist”:
But then something happened.
Over the course of several years, I witnessed Western institutions and elites mistreating genuinely peaceful protesters but condoning the violent actions of their own veritable "brownshirts," threatening those who’d dare support peaceful protesters, imposing authoritarian diktats on their populaces while flagrantly violating said diktats themselves as if they’re above us, waging sweeping censorship campaigns against dissidents, embracing the most radical elements of society, adopting racial essentialism, rewriting their own history, attacking religious liberty, demonizing parents, politicizing science and lying by the second, minute and hour with endless propaganda.
The likes of Putin and Chinese dictator Xi Jingping still remain worse, I would argue, but I must ask — isn’t the authoritarian and elitist mindset undergirding Western elites’ own deplorable behavior the exact same as theirs? Isn’t it true that the establishment elite in the United States would love to silence dissidents as easily as Putin or, better yet, haul them off to education camps like Xi does to the Uyghurs?
The morality issue also extends to our decision to steal Afghanistan’s money and let their men, women and children starve to death. It also extends to our decision to invade Iraq on a false premise of “weapons of mass destruction.” It also extends to our decision to accidentally kill a family of 10 in Afghanistan and then shrug our shoulders with indifference. It also extends to every damn time we’ve interfered in places where we weren’t welcome just like Putin is currently doing in Ukraine.
Now do me a favor and scroll back up and take a closer look at Aaron Mate’s tweets. You may notice that he referred to “Ukraine's far-right." By that he meant the Azov Battalion neo-Nazis in Ukraine that the Obama administration, in conjunction with congressional Republicans, allied itself with to help overthrow the country's former government in 2014.
John McCain @SenJohnMcCainIt's about time. @WSJ: "Pentagon Offers Plan to Arm #Ukraine" https://t.co/JoOyRv5U63
The genuine Nazi element in Ukraine, its ties to the Obama administration and the current Ukrainian regime, and its own history of war crimes have been documented numerous times here, here, here, here, here, here, etc.
Yet according to the left-wing establishment press in the U.S., it’s a “myth” like Antifa. Back in the day, the Obama administration tried to claim similarly.
As noted at the time by HuffPost, of all outlets, “The Obama administration has vehemently denied charges that Ukraine's nascent regime is stock full of neo-fascists despite clear evidence suggesting otherwise.”
But it gets worse. Our government continues to work with Ukraine’s genuine neo-Nazis to this day, except that unlike in the past, our government and their Nazi allies enjoy the newfound blessing of the entire elite establishment, from the press (including Fox News) to big tech and more:
Remember, these are the same institutions and elites who treat their own dissident citizens as if they are Nazis deserving of deplatforming and cancellation.
So to recap:
Western elites are cancelling/persecuting Russians the way they cancel/persecute their own dissident Western citizens.
Western elites are burying their own war crimes while cherry-picking which war crimes of other nations deserve moral outrage.
Western elites are allying themselves with genuine neo-Nazis while smearing their own Western dissidents as Nazis.
And finally and most importantly, Western elites and their toadies are proclaiming that anyone who dares point this out is a “Putin apologist,” including me.
My response is quite simple though a tad profane: Fact-check FALSE, asshole!
Special shout-out and thank you to Glenn Greenwald for helping me with a much-needed formatting tip!