Relocations: War is an abomination

Herbert Rothschild
March 10, 2022

We’ll never learn the truth

By Herbert Rothschild

“Putin’s invasion of Ukraine was a free choice. And whatever role U.S. policy played in determining Putin’s decision, it did not force his hand. Critics of NATO expansion would be wise to stipulate this point, since doing otherwise only renders their causal analysis easier to stigmatize.” (Eric Levitz, March 3, 2022)

The quote is the last paragraph of an article in New York magazine’s Intelligencer, to which a very intelligent friend of mine referred me. He did so because he thought that the first two columns I wrote about the international crisis over the Ukraine seemed to go beyond trying to understand Putin’s behavior and were justifying it. I assured him that I fully agreed with Levitz, and if I conveyed the impression that I condoned Putin’s behavior, that was a failure of expression, not of moral judgment.

War is an abomination. That has been a frequent theme of Relocations since I began writing the column in 2014. Beyond that, I consider it an abomination even to organize members of one society to kill members of another. Repeatedly, I have been in the streets and in the jails protesting against both. However, except for helping to end the U.S.-Soviet nuclear arms race (and even that end now appears a mere pause) and perhaps hastening the end of our war in Vietnam, my efforts have had no discernible impact. I continue them out of long habit. And I feel the need to speak my truth, as we Quakers say.

Speaking my truth about Ukraine mustn’t omit a condemnation of Putin’s invasion. My first column, however, was written before the invasion, and I hoped that our government might be convinced to pledge not to offer NATO membership to Ukraine in return for Putin’s pledge not to invade. Among my efforts to promote that course of action was to mobilize Peace House and try to mobilize other peace organizations in Oregon, to contact the White House, to seek meetings with the field directors of our two U.S. senators, and to attend Jeff Merkley’s virtual town hall on Feb. 17. What occurred at the town hall convinced me that my hope was quixotic.

I got on the stack and asked Merkley why the U.S. wouldn’t take Ukraine’s membership in NATO off the table if it would prevent an invasion. His answer was that NATO wasn’t an issue. In support of this assertion, he said that no nation that has territory occupied by foreign troops is eligible for NATO membership. Now, I’ve long been an ardent supporter of the senator, but I regarded that answer as bizarre in at least two ways. Had I thought it appropriate to follow-up, I would have asked him whether Ukraine’s ineligibility for membership wouldn’t give us even more reason to declare that we won’t offer it.

There are perhaps three U.S. senators on whom one can count to promote peace. Merkley is one of them. So, to learn that Merkley had adopted the position that no diplomacy could deter Putin because Putin’s motives were simply evil was cause for despair. My last recourse was to speak the truth as I discerned it.

But what was that truth? It wasn’t until after I published my second column, in which I accused our national security strategists of being either inexcusably shortsighted or stubborn given Putin’s 2008 invasion of Georgia, that the sickening thought came to me that they were neither. Rather, they knew he would invade Ukraine under the same circumstances. And if they knew it and still refused to offer the one thing Putin repeatedly indicated would make a difference, then they wanted him to invade. As I said when I shared that thought in my column last week, only a person thoroughly disillusioned by the blood-soaked history of Big Power politics could entertain it. It may be wrong. We’ll never know because the relevant discussions will never see the light of day.

What comes to mind now is U.S. behavior just prior to Saddam’s 1990 invasion of Kuwait. On July 25, eight days before the invasion, Saddam met with April Glaspie, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, and unbeknownst to her their conversation was recorded. When he asked her what the U.S. would think if he invaded to resolve Iraq’s longstanding grievances with its neighbor, she replied, “We have no opinion on your Arab-Arab conflicts, such as your dispute with Kuwait. Secretary [of State James] Baker has directed me to emphasize the instruction, first given to Iraq in the 1960s, that the Kuwait issue is not associated with America.” Embarrassed by the recording, some officials maintained that Glaspie had failed to make our position clear. Others argued that Saddam already knew that the U.S. opposed use of force to resolve border disputes. But the obvious question (and it was asked) is why Glaspie wasn’t instructed to make our opposition explicit, either at that meeting or in the next few days. And one possible answer is that we wanted Saddam to invade. Again, we’ll never learn the truth.

To forestall further misunderstanding of my moral judgment, of course I think Saddam was a brutal tyrant, and his invasion of Kuwait was as inexcusable as his invasion of Iran 10 years before, which this country hailed and later abetted.

Email Ashland.news board member and columnist Herbert Rothschild at herbertrothschild6839@gmail.com.

Share this article

Bert Etling

Bert Etling

Bert Etling is the executive editor of Ashland.news. Email him at betling@ashland.news.

Latest posts

SOU awards its highest honor to former Guanajuato governor and his wife

Southern Oregon University President Rick Bailey presented SOU’s highest honor on Monday in Guanajuato to two prominent supporters of the university exchange program between SOU and the University of Guanajuato. An SOU delegation and about 200 guests representing wide segments of the Guanajuato community looked on as the awards were presented to Juan Carlos Romero Hicks, holder of two master’s degrees earned at SOU before he embarked on a distinguished political career in Mexico, and his wife, Francis “Faffie” Romero Siekman, a prime mover behind a scholarship program supporting student exchanges.

Read More >

Ashland Fire & Rescue warns of intensified wildfire seasons

Ashland Fire & Rescue has warned of more intense fire seasons in years to come as local impacts of climate change become more apparent. Division Chief Chris Chambers told the City Council Tuesday, Aug. 2, that coming fire seasons could see an increase in acres burned of between 200 and 400 percent.

Read More >

Birds’-Eye View: An Ashland-based bird conservation organization

Birds’-Eye View: Ashland-based nonprofit Klamath Bird Observatory keeps on eye on bird life in the Klamath-Siskiyou Bioregion of southern Oregon and northern California. Since birds are a key indicator species and migratory paths from much of the Western Hemisphere pass through this area, KBO data helps inform natural resource management on a broad scale.

Read More >

One Hiroshima survivor nurtures seedling sprouted from another survivor

The 77th anniversary of the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima, Japan, was marked in Ashland for the 38th year on Saturday. A capacity crowd gathered at Thalden Pavilion, site of an eternal World Peace Flame, to hear remarks and celebrate the planting of a gingko tree sprouted from seeds from a tree that survived the Hiroshima inferno.

Read More >
Rogue Valley Metaphysical Library

Explore More...

SOU awards its highest honor to former Guanajuato governor and his wife

Southern Oregon University President Rick Bailey presented SOU’s highest honor on Monday in Guanajuato to two prominent supporters of the university exchange program between SOU and the University of Guanajuato. An SOU delegation and about 200 guests representing wide segments of the Guanajuato community looked on as the awards were presented to Juan Carlos Romero Hicks, holder of two master’s degrees earned at SOU before he embarked on a distinguished political career in Mexico, and his wife, Francis “Faffie” Romero Siekman, a prime mover behind a scholarship program supporting student exchanges.

Read More>
ashland.news logo

Subscribe to the newsletter and get local news sent directly to your inbox.

(It’s free)