We Progressives and other factions on the Left have often decried the Mainstream Media's lazy journalistic use of false equivalency to generate controversy, or in outright disseminating of disinformation. We see this in climate change, in evolution, etc. Or my personal favorite: when followers of Glen Beck try to equate socialism with national socialism (Nazis) simply because they share the term 'socialism', but in fact the two systems couldn't be more different.
So it was with great surprise that I began to read the views of some on the left equating, falsely, Putin's invasion of Ukraine with Bush's invasion of Iraq.
First, a few disclaimers. I was against the Iraq war. I wrote about my misgivings on the Washington Monthly blog when Steve Bennen ran the joint (now with Rachael Maddow).
Second disclaimer. I performed volunteer work in Ukraine a number of years ago after their peaceful separation from the Soviet Union. I have friends in Ukraine to this day, so this Russian invasion isn't some opaque, meaningless act of aggression in an unfamiliar country.
Now one may agree or disagree on whether we should act on behalf of Ukraine. Fine. But to cite Bush's Folly as a reason we should mind our business is the worst possible reason, and is an utterly false equivalent to what is happening in Ukraine.
1) The False Pretense comparison
Many are chiding, or openly deriding Secretary Kerry for his comments about Putin's blatant false pretense for invading Ukraine. They try to brand him as a hypocrite, pointing out that the US went to war with Iraq under false pretenses as well.
The problem with this comparison is that we didn't know the pretense was utterly false in Iraq until many months later. Many Democrats I respect voted for war, even though I was against it. But I was against the action because the Iraqi people didn't ask us to intervene with any huge outcry. I am to this day against pre-emptive strikes.
On the other hand, as Kerry has said, Putin's pretense to action is openly false. There was absolutely no evidence that any ethnic Russians were in danger in Crimea. The 'leader' who asked for Putin's help had only secured 4% of the popular vote in the last election. In Putin's calculation, as long as there is 1 ethnic Russian to defend, he will use it as an excuse. This is essentially what he did in Georgia as well with the break away districts.
Not only that, the "Law of Languages" that Putin also cites -- the need to preserve Russian language, is a ridiculous claim. The Ukrainian parliament had recently tried to void the so-called "law of languages" in order to allow Crimean-Tartars (12% of the population) to use their own language. This is the 'threat' to Russian language Putin talks about.
2). Illegal Invasion
Some want to compare the Iraqi invasion and Ukrainian invasion as both illegal. This could not be further from the truth. Russia is in clear violation of many treaties itself had signed.
Furthermore it attacked Ukraine without any provocation.
Russia used force as a first resort, and didn't bother to seek any diplomatic resolution through UN or any other body (this is what the chicken hawk Republicans really adore about Putin, that he didn't bow to any UN intermediaries).
Regardless of what you (or I think) of Bush, he did attempt to go through the UN first. There were attempts to use diplomacy. There were months long debate on going to war. Bush assembled a coalition (however feeble) to support the war. Whatever his faults (and they are legion) he didn't simply decide one day to go to war and have a rubber stamping Kremlin okay his dictatorial wishes. Putin decided, and he did it. Within a span of days (the chickenhawks love this too). And he might have wrestled a bear as a way to relax during those few days, I dunno.
Only after the fact did we the American People get a glimpse into how we were manipulated. But even in this case, we at least had a chance to prevent the invasion and time to debate it.
3) Ukraine is pleading for our help. Iraq did not.
The Ukrainian leaders are asking, pleading, for help from the West. They echo the voices of a very large portion of the Ukrainian people--possible half or more. Ukraine has suffered for over a century under the heal of Russia. Genocide in the East, where 10 million Ukrainians were starved to death by Stalin and the region then repopulated with ethnic Russians...Russians that claim they love Putin so much today. And Putin will use this Russian pretext of coming to the aid of ethnic Russians again and again unless something is done.
Need I remind everyone that Iraq didn't ask for our help, didn't ask for any invasion or military assistance.
So my friends, I ask that you consider these points and see that equating Putin's expansionist desires in Ukraine with Bush's revenge Folly is an utterly false comparison. My hope is that this can end peacefully. My hope is that the US and the West will use all the economic pressure they can to finally remove the boot of Russia from the neck of Ukraine once and for all.
Thanks for reading.