The fact that Daily Kos has featured consistent coverage of the Russian invasion of Ukraine since before the Russian tanks actually rolled in a year ago, and that this coverage often includes encouraging the U.S. government as well as NATO allies to send additional support to Ukraine, may strike some as puzzling. So does the idea that this coverage regularly celebrates Ukrainian victories on the battlefield. There’s a good portion of the populace that seems to correlate progressive with pacifist, and who assume that anti-war means being pro-surrender. Those people are wrong.
There’s also a thankfully small proportion of those once on the left who somehow believe that, having once been fooled over the idea of the Soviet Union as a worker’s paradise, they are now contractually obligated to support Russia in all its actions. How these Corbynites, Greenwaldians, and Hershists manage to convince themselves that the cause of justice lies with a brutal autocratic dictatorship destroying whole cities, creating torture chambers, and kidnapping children by the thousands to support a racist, homophobic, neo-fascist agenda is something I do not want to understand. These people are sick.
Instead, I’ll say that Daily Kos holds to the same position it had at its founding: We are against illegal, unprovoked invasions. We’re against the loss of life. We’re against the displacement and trauma. We’re against the the destruction and disruption that every such invasion brings, and how any war brings the possibility of even greater war.
We follow Ukraine day by day, and we do everything we can to support the Ukrainian cause, because we believe now as we did 20 years ago, when this site was founded in the run-up to another invasion, that peace is not a state of idleness, or something achieved through ignoring wrongdoing. Peace is something active, something that must be sought and must be protected—even when the price seems very dear.
Here are a pair of stories that appeared this week. First, in The New York Times:
After Russia invaded Ukraine, the West formed what looked like an overwhelming global coalition: 141 countries supported a United Nations measure demanding that Russia unconditionally withdraw. By contrast, Russia seemed isolated. North Korea was one of only four countries that backed Russia and rejected the measure. But the West never won over as much of the world as it initially seemed. Another 47 countries abstained or missed the vote, including India and China. Many of those “neutral” nations have since provided crucial economic or diplomatic support for Russia.
If this seems frustrating or even enraging after everything Russia has done in Ukraine, hang in there. Here’s another story, this time from The Washington Post:
Clement Manyathela, who hosts a popular and influential talk show on South Africa’s Radio 702, remembers the outrage he felt when Russian troops first surged into Ukraine. He had believed Russia’s insistence that it wasn’t planning to attack and felt cheated when war broke out. But as the fighting continued, he, and many of those who call in to his show, began to ask questions: Why had President Vladimir Putin deemed it necessary to invade? Was NATO fueling the fire by sending so many weapons to Ukraine?
Again, that anyone, anywhere, could fail to see the falsity of Putin’s claims or the injustice of Russia’s actions is so baffling as to be infuriating. However, the key to understanding how many around the world feel—how millions, if not billions of people around the world feel—can be found in the next sentence of that Post story.
How could the United States expect others around the world to support its policies when it had also invaded countries?
There’s no doubt that some of the leaders in these countries—whether it’s Brazil or India or China—are more than happy to feed public disillusionment toward the United States and other Western countries because it serves their own purposes. There’s also no doubt that when people in some of these countries look at the team that is backing Ukraine, what they see isn’t some shining constellation of justice and democracy. They see the people who had their boots at their throat in support of empire, theft, and subjugation. And it was not that long ago.
They know well enough that many of these same Western countries were making the same flowery speeches about freedom and democracy as they were driving people in Africa and Asia off their land and enforcing policies that treated the people in non-Western nations as less valuable than whatever resource was currently being stolen.
Glenn Greenwald may be nothing short of an asshole when he pretends to believe Russian conspiracy theories and champions the cause of a murderous dictator. Seymour Hersh may be simply delusional when he dismisses those who “rely on facts.” That doesn’t mean that Western colonialism was any less than horrible, that America’s “overseas adventures” were not both misguided and immoral, and that the deep-seated distrust of the West felt especially by many in the southern hemisphere is anything less than real.
How do you heal that rift? By holding America and Western allies to the standards they profess to believe, and by never pretending that something is right just because we did it.
What we hope to do in our war coverage at Daily Kos is as simple as half a sentence. Where right-wing media and MAGA politicians often want to stop Carl Schurz’s 1872 statement at “My country, right or wrong,” Daily Kos tries to provide the rest. “If right, to be kept right; and if wrong, to be set right.”
As it happens, the anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine falls within a month of the 20th anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq. If you look back to the earliest days of Daily Kos, in 2002 and 2003, the biggest topic of conversation, and in fact the daily focus of that time, can be found in this page, titled “War Archives.” Take a look at Forbes in 2003, and you’ll find Daily Kos at the top of the list for “Best War Blogs.”
Daily Kos began as a blog that fought daily against the idea of a U.S. invasion of Iraq. Because that invasion was wrong. Here’s how kos put in on the night of March 21, 2003, when the bombs began to fall.
Well, since it's increasingly obvious that the Iraqis won't just roll over and surrender, the US has unleashed its "shock and awe" part of the campaign.
Once the bombing stops for the night we'll get our first look at how adept US bombing has become at avoiding civilian casualties. This is where things can get really ugly, not necessarily in Iraq, but in the rest of the Arab world.
On that first day, what kos was talking about wasn’t just how the invasion would affect Iraq, or what it would do to the U.S. internally, but how it would affect the perception of the U.S. thousands of miles from where the bombs were falling. Wars have costs, and sometimes the least of those is found on the battlefield.
For the U.S., the invasion of Iraq still generates a high cost when it comes to trying to justify actions in Ukraine or elsewhere. It’s become a handle by which enemies can drag America down from any attempt to find a moral high ground: You did it. Why can’t we?
We were wrong then. Russia is wrong now. If the idea that there should be some parallel drawn between U.S. actions in Iraq and Russian actions in Ukraine seems offensive, get over it. Yes, Saddam was a brutal dictator. Yes, the population there was divided along religious lines and subject to impossible levels of suppression and corruption. So it’s not the same at all … except to children who died in the bombing of Fallujah, or the families buried under rubble in Mosul. Brown University estimates that in the U.S. invasion of Iraq, “between 275,000 and 306,000 civilians died from direct war-related violence caused by the U.S., its allies, the Iraqi military and police.” Other estimates put that number much higher.
That’s a sin that shouldn’t be forgiven or forgotten, and we do ourselves no favors by pretending that we’re somehow pure because well, that was George W. Bush, it wasn’t us.
Daily Kos followed that war because we wanted it to end. We follow the invasion in Ukraine for the same reason. You don’t make things better by forgetting. You make them better by being better; by seeking peace. Which is not the same as surrender.
President Biden’s surprise visit to Kyiv, Ukraine, on Presidents’ Day was an important moment in American foreign policy, and also an equally important moment in public relations for the Democratic Party. It showed America’s support for a free and independent Ukraine, but not from an imperialistic position. Republicans haven’t had a coherent foreign policy platform besides U.S. imperialism, and now find themselves pulled in various directions as potential conservative presidential candidates try to figure out what exactly they want to pretend to believe in.