The Invasion of Ukraine and the Dystopian American Political Landscape


A local resident walks past a pro-Russian troop tank in the besieged southern Ukrainian port city of Mariupol on March 18, 2022. Photo: Reuters


A local resident walks past a pro-Russian troop tank in the besieged southern Ukrainian port city of Mariupol on March 18, 2022. Photo: Reuters

As Russia’s invasion of Ukraine rages on, one of the weirdest sights is a slew of music videos of conservative Fox News Channel commentator and leading US cable show host Tucker Carlson appearing several times on Russian public television during prime time.

It’s about as odd a development as an Iranian Ayatollah popping up at a White House ceremony, or former US President Donald Trump showing up at a Black Lives Matter rally.

This is an extraordinary change in American policy. The domestic US reaction to the world wars – and US involvement – ​​broke down along predictable ideological lines. Those on the left were the strongest critics of US involvement in a war, while the further to the right you went on the ideological spectrum, the more unquestioned support there was for US policies, until the extreme right, you have people who turn bitterly against the internal war. critics for “blaming America first”.

From the Vietnam War to the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, the American right has blindly supported American policy. (There is a strange historical exception – in 1972, US President Richard Nixon, a vicious and longtime red-biter, visited Beijing and became close to the ultra-doctrinaire communist leader Mao Zedong, whose descriptions of the West’s government and its allies used to include choice affections like “the imperialists and their hounds.” But the exceptions only prove the rule.)

The war on Ukraine reveals a brutal new development of the American right, with its most telling manifestation in its extreme fringes.

“Why do I hate Putin so much? Has Putin ever called me a racist? Has he threatened to fire me because I disagreed with him?” Carlson said. He also called Ukraine “an obedient puppet of Biden’s State Department”, and suggested that Putin’s invasion was nothing more than a “border dispute”.

Let’s turn to a few colorful conservative lawmakers whom the late Republican Senator John McCain once memorably called “wacky birds.”

Take Madison Cawthorn, Republican congresswoman from North Carolina. I’m just going to quote one of his totally unfounded remarks and let the reader be the judge: “I went on the house floor a few weeks ago to reveal the heinous mutilation techniques that Dr. Fauci used on puppies in Africa in using YOUR tax. dollars.”

Cawthorn recently called Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky a “thug” and the Ukrainian government “incredibly evil”, criticizing the country and its leader as Russia invaded it.

Georgian MP Marjorie Taylor Greene supported him. To give you an idea of ​​where Greene is coming from, she thinks the suggestion that Trump is secretly fighting a global child sex slavery ring is “worth listening to”, that “Zionist supremacists” are secretly organizing the Muslim immigration to Europe for inbred whites, and that the California wildfires were started in conjunction with the Rothschilds, using a space laser.

Greene said she agreed with Cawthorn’s much-criticized comment that Zelensky is a “thug”.

This political development is so contrary to the republican political culture that it is enough to make you dizzy.

Carlson’s equivocation on Russian aggression is “not only confusing, it’s almost dada,” former Syracuse University media studies professor Bob Thompson told The Guardian newspaper. “You see it play out on the show when someone makes a rational argument and they’re deflected not by an alternative, but by abandoning rationality.”

What caused this remarkable shift in significant sections of the American right? Like everything in American Republican politics today, the figure that dominates the most is Trump. His love for autocrats is no secret, and he has recently publicly expressed his admiration for Putin.

But there is more than that. At the heart of the resentment in the more conservative sections of the Republican Party is fear of the prevailing multicultural ethos that threatens their sense of white nationalist and Christian identity. Putin’s muscular, macho Russian nationalism contains enough elements to resonate deeply. Russia, of course, took advantage of this with great skill on social networks.

This white nationalist resentment turned into what journalist Matt Taibbi calls “reverse chauvinism.” The resentment against what the Republican right sees as the overwhelming dominance of “woke” culture runs so deep that there is almost a Pavlovian response to castigating anything it supports. If that includes supporting the huge Putin, so be it.

It’s not just an affliction of the political right, however. The left-wing taibbi was actually referring to left-wing analysts who were hesitant to protest Russia’s attacks. Ideological preferences can cloud judgement. Over the past few decades, there have been powerful examples of this across the ideological spectrum: Stalin’s purge denial or China’s terrible famines of the last century under communist rule, and of course, history sordid of America to overthrow governments and support thugs and crooks.

Today, as we witness Russia’s attempts to bomb Ukraine into the Stone Age, with millions of its citizens fleeing the country, there is no doubt that this invasion must be condemned. in the most categorical terms.

However, it is the exaggerated claims of moral superiority of the West, led by the United States, where things get complicated. American claims about their revulsion at Russia’s barbarity ring particularly hollow. Among the innumerable examples, I will cite two. Former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, who died recently, was widely praised in US editorials, but under her leadership, according to a UN study, 500,000 Iraqi children died as a result of sanctions imposed by the Clinton administration. Or take the most recent examples of irresponsible drone attacks in the United States’ Global War on Terror. Later reports revealed that many of them had killed unarmed and innocent civilians.

The sobering lesson is that global politics is murky business. Our conscience demands that we condemn what is unacceptable, even if the company we have is not entirely wholesome. We cannot let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

Ashfaque Swapan is a writer and editor based in Atlanta, USA.


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