Putin’s Brutal Ukraine Invasion Bears Some Similarities to Bush’s Attack on Iraq

In March of 2003, George W. Bush transformed the center of Baghdad into a bowl of fire during the “Shock & Awe” phase of his doomed Iraq invasion. I lay on my back that day in my living area, horrified at the scenes on television. It was a war crime millions of people had worked for months against. More people protested that warIt was more significant than any other conflict in human history before it began, and it brought about sorrow.

Bush and his allies in government and media created a completely different reality in order to justify their plans to win the war. Iraq, according to them, was in possession of 26,000 liters of anthrax, 48,000 liters of botulinum toxin, 500 tons (which equals 1 million pounds) of sarin, mustard and VX nerve agents, 30,000 munitions to deliver these poisons, mobile biological weapons laboratories, uranium from Niger for use in a “robust” nuclear weapons program, and direct connections to al-Qaeda in Afghanistan and around the world.

None of this was true. The message was chilling in its accuracy, the perfect threat to levy on a population still reeling after the shock of September 11. Another accent in the string of lies and betrayals that lead inexorably towards war was the fact that the president used that terrible day against his people. Once begun, the war made its own gravy, in the form of easily manipulated “terror alerts” that kept everyone looking over their shoulders. Many people expected a wave retaliatory terrorist attacks to occur because of the war.

The wave didn’t arrive, at least here at home. However, the 2003 invasion in Iraq, based on smoke and fiction, set part of the precedent that we are all seeing unfold in Ukraine. Vladimir Putin, the strongman dictator who calls the Russian oligarch billionaire classTo support his desire to expand his empire, he has also constructed an alternative reality. Alleging that Ukraine is dominated by Nazis — a conjuring word for the Russian people the way 9/11 is here — the Russian president has laid claim to the moral high ground within a near-seamless media bubble that has neighbor turning against “disloyal” neighbor and students turning in teachers who speak out against the war. Although neo Nazis exist in Ukraine as in other countries too, the picture Putin painted is patently false.

Images of atrocity have been splashed across front pages and networks as the war in Ukraine has been underway for several weeks. Officials from the United States and pundits in the media speak out with unrestrained outrage. the horrors being visited upon Ukraine’s civilian population. Of course, Putin’s horrific actions deserve all our condemnation. It was almost 20 years ago that another aggressive invasion and occupation began. This leaves me with an unavoidable question.

Will the pundits and officials currently condemning Putin’s unspeakable violence also condemn the U.S.’s unspeakable violence? After Bush led us into this charnel-house, the international community didn’t sanction or punish the U.S. in any way. Both Russia and the U.S. are morally repugnant for their wars of choice.

“In the wake of so-called Shock and Awe (i.e. the mass bombing of a city full of civilians), and alongside Abu Ghraib (mass torture of people being held, without trial, by an occupying force), Fallujah was the apex of brutality by the waning US empire,” journalist Dahr Jamail, who reported for TruthoutI have known her for many years, she told me in an email. “I know because I was there before, during, and after the sieges of that city.”

Jamail continued:

The corporate media is outraged at the atrocities that they are witnessing in Ukraine. All war crimes include the intentional targeting of civilians, collective punishment, and bombing civilian targets such as apartments, train stations, and hospitals.

Finding burned bodies with their hands tied, cluster bombs, and encircling cities and intentionally starving the people within them and cutting them off from medical help — war crimes the corporate press, and presidents of the EU and US and other countries are right to call as such.

But where was the outrage at US war crimes against Iraq? After reporting from Ukraine for over a decade, it is clear that the Russians have done no worse in Ukraine than what the US military did in Iraq.

The Guardian reports: “The mayor of the Ukrainian town of Bucha, near Kyiv, said that authorities had so far found 403 bodies of people they believed were killed by Russian forces during their occupation of the area, but that the number was growing.”

Dahr Jamail: “As horrible as the [total number of]Bucha, Ukraine has fewer civilian deaths than Fallujah. The number of civilians killed in Ukraine pales in comparison to the more that 1,000,000 Iraqis who died under the brutal US occupation, which continued well into the Obama presidency. Where were the protests in corporate media for Bush and Obama being tried for war crimes? The silence was deafening.”

BBC reports: “The US and Britain say they are looking into reports that chemical weapons have been used by Russian forces attacking the Ukrainian port of Mariupol. Ukraine’s Azov regiment said three soldiers were injured by ‘a poisonous substance’ in an attack on Monday. However, no evidence has been presented to confirm the use of chemical weapons.”

Dahr Jamail on the Fallujah siege: “During the November siege of that year, the US military used massive amounts of white phosphorous, an incendiary weapon, the use of which in an area where there could be civilians, is a violation of international law. According to the US military, at least 30,000 civilians were in Fallujah during this siege. I spoke with soldiers who were told by their superiors to shoot any object that moved. This is the institution of war crimes as policy.”

Every moral person should speak out against the massacre perpetrated against Ukraine by Vladimir Putin. George W. Bush and his atrocities in Iraq were 21 years ago. Bush proved in 2003 that you can get away with a hell of a lot if you’re a global economic powerhouse bristling with nuclear weapons.

There are no heroes among the powerful invaders. As we rightly condemn Putin’s grave atrocities, we must also remember U.S. war crimes and vow to oppose future ones.