Ukraine and United States Hypocrisy

With the widespread condemnation of Russia, one is left wondering why so many are cool with the U.S.’s atrocities.

Russia’s barbaric invasion of Ukraine and the humanitarian crisis the war has created is horrific. The invasion must be condemned, the resistance supported, and refugees welcomed.

But, I hold general frustrations with the hypocrisy of politicians, major news media and various social media posters who decry Putin while being silent or even defending the actions of what Martin Luther King Jr. called the greatest purveyor of violence in the world, the United States government. 

While many of us in Tacoma stand in opposition to Russia’s war on Ukraine, it is important not to fall into the trap of thinking our own government is any better.

The United States played invader and mass murderer most recently in Iraq and Afghanistan. The organizers of these war-crime-filled atrocities, including George W. Bush and Barack Obama, have not been brought to justice.

Not just U.S. wars, but its foreign policy more generally is creating numerous crises that the U.S. is responsible for. 

On Refugees, Migration, and Haiti

People are rightfully worried about the people of Ukraine fleeing for safety and the welcoming of refugees is needed. But watching news coverage of Biden personally welcoming Ukrainians is enraging as this is the same man who has been overseeing a border regime of repression and criminalization. 

Just last year, Biden was forced to explain why border guards were photographed on horseback, whipping Haitian refugees.

Rather than admit the brutality at the border is simply Biden’s orders in practice, the White House condemned the violence. But such condemnation is meaningless from this government.

Let’s focus on Haiti as a case study. Migration from Haiti is a direct result of U.S. interference in the island nation. From Haiti’s revolutionary birth, the U.S. has undermined its sovereignty with debt and foreign policy.

The U.S. occupied Haiti for over 15 years in the early 20th century as part of maintaining the Caribbean in its sphere of influence. The occupation involved forced labor, a puppet regime and the seizure of the country’s assets.

Throwing away the constitution of the Haitian revolution, the U.S. replaced it with a more business-friendly document. The U.S. then backed a brutal military force after ending the occupation and backed dictatorships to maintain their sphere of influence. This continued into the 1980s.

The Haitian people momentarily threw off the yoke of the United States by electing a left-wing government in 1990; the U.S.-backed Haitian military quickly led a bloody and repressive coup. Joe Biden, a senator at the time, argued the U.S. should not intervene in this crisis with the Trump-like argument of, basically, who cares? 

U.S. intervention continued through the 90s and the 21st century by supporting another coup and using economic pressure and reforms that undermine the well-being of the Haitian people. For instance, WikiLeaks revealed the U.S. government helped factory and business leaders prevent a minimum wage increase back in 2009.

So, those fleeing Haiti and being blocked at our border, or whipped and criminalized when they do cross it, are the victims of the U.S. empire. Just as Ukrainian civilians are victims of the Russian empire and deserving of safe refuge, so are Haitian migrants deserving. 

U.S. intervention in Latin America goes far beyond Haiti. The need to welcome all migrants and refugees is generalizable. Of course, the U.S. borders themselves are tools of empire and control; they should be abolished outright. But let’s not get into that here.

On Palestine

People are rightfully in horror of Russia’s bombing campaign in Ukraine. The news coverage is extensive, and we were all disgusted by the bombing of a maternity hospital a few weeks ago.

But let’s take a moment to compare this news coverage to the response to Israel’s bombing campaign of Gaza just last year. The bombing killed multiple doctors and destroyed 19 healthcare facilities in a place where healthcare infrastructure is already spread as thin as possible, according to Shrouq Aila and Anna Therese Day with The Intercept. 

But we do not get outraged or call for sanctions from Joe Biden and his ilk, or the New York Times and other mainstream news, instead we get equivocation, misdirection, and billions of dollars in military aid to Israel every year.

While Ukrainian resistance to occupation is glamorized in the news, rocket fire from Gaza is condemned. Palestinians are expected to accept occupation and ethnic cleansing or limit resistance to nonviolent actions while memes are made of Ukrainians blowing up tanks.  

To be clear, I support Ukrainians blowing up tanks. I simply defend the right of all oppressed people to fight for their liberation by any means necessary. 

A final example, the U.S. has leveled heavy sanctions on Russia for its invasion of Ukraine. But calls for sanctions against Israel for its brutal regime of occupation and apartheid are rejected by these same politicians. In 2019, congress passed a resolution condemning calls to sanction Israel. 

Why the hypocrisy?

Of course, racism is a player in what’s going on here. It’s very easy for our government to dismiss migrants from Latin America as hordes of undeserving criminals and to dismiss the struggle for Palestine as terrorism. But it’s not simply that these people are racists.

The mainstream discourse of Russia as evil, while the U.S.’s evils are complicated, is designed to maintain a status quo. One where the U.S. acts in the interests of its own billionaire class stealing wealth from the global south, profiting from climate change, and maintaining hegemony in the middle east. 

Explaining these dynamics away as complicated prevents us from fighting for and creating a just world. Meanwhile, the other powers in the world in competition with the U.S., like Russia and China, must be otherized and made evil. In this way, the great myth of the U.S. as world police and arbiter of what’s good can continue.

Instead, we should condemn the U.S. empire and solidarize with all liberation struggles, not just those that serve U.S. economic interests.