Ukraine Peace—sort of an introduction


The world has gone mad. Again.
And again voices incite—then hoarse leaders
pretend to have been polite. They did not shout
fear and hatred to explosive tension, to a thin-
wire stretched, first sounding a note then cracking,
snapping in two, each piece twisted. The world goes
mad. Again. The leaders call for calm, like arsonists
who work in the fire department. The fires burn 
in the streets at night. The checkpoints flow
with blood and tears. And most of us just want
to go to work, have coffee with friends, teach
our children something other than this craziness
in a world gone mad. Again. And most of us want
to turn away and not see the burning, the smoke,
the arsonists lining up toy soldiers at borders
ready to pounce, to attack, to burn. Again.
—Michael Dickel ©2014

Analysis of “Again” written in 2015 by Vivian Eden in Haaretz:
Poem of the Week Recycled Violence: The World Has Gone Mad Again.

The Face of War
Ukrainian artist Dariya Marchenko ©2022
Made with 5,000 bullet casings.

Something of an Introduction

I don’t think that I need to explain about Ukraine, and why I titled this Special Section “Ukraine Peace.” There are some who may raise legitimate questions about the focus on Europe, with so many countries at war in Africa, Asia, the Middle East. There are some who raise legitimate questions about supporting the US in battling Russia, given the undeniable history of and current aggressions world wide (and supporting other countries as they invade neighbors). So I will repeat below a version of the blog post that announced this special section and called for submissions.

Sunflower, digital art from photo
©2017 Kat Patton
The sunflower is Ukraine’s national flower.

Even with all of the tensions and warnings leading up to it, Russia’s all-out invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022, shocked the world. This violation of international law and Ukraine’s sovereignty could easily expand to a broader war. This puts progressives, as I think myself to be, in a position of wondering how do we wage peace? Is there a path to peace?

I don’t know. As I write this, the war continues in its third week. The images of the invasion invade our consciousness and my conscience. How do we wage peace?

Whatever the path to peace may be, the path for social justice would not allow for accepting Russia’s war on Ukraine. However, I also am aware that Western Imperialism has acted just as viciously in its own interests, and that the US and the West continue to promote wars in their interests.

Could a world-wide strike be the path, opposed to all war and demanding peace? Is such a thing possible even? How do we follow Gandhi’s path of non-violence and quickly grow it to a global scale? I can’t imagine that it could be done in time to help the people in Ukraine.

History provides warnings about where this invasion could lead. In fact, Putin followed a playbook used in 1939. One of the demands Hitler presented for negotiation just before the invasion of Poland was “safeguarding the German minority in Poland.” Putin said in his speech announcing the invasion that its “goal is to protect people who have been abused by the genocide of the Kyiv regime for eight years.” By dawn of 24 February 2022, the Russian army attacked Ukraine with a blitzkrieg, aiming for military targets. The blitzkrieg strategy was first used pre-dawn of September 1, 1939, starting the invasion of Poland. The USSR joined Germany in attacking Poland on 17 September of that year.

How do we protect peace and simultaneously prevent further expansion through military force?

And who to stand behind for justice? It is not as though the U.S. does not use military force, directly and indirectly. The shadows of Vietnam, Irag, Libya, and Afghanistan loom over this battle. Can we trust the US and NATO to do the right thing?

CUNY Professor Peter Beinart offers an apt quote from 1943 to frame his argument that this time, we need to support the US, even progressives who rightly attack the US for its hypocrisy and war-mongering:

In 1943, the Hungarian-born journalist Arthur Koestler wrote: “In this war we are fighting against a total lie in the name of a half-truth.” That’s a good motto for American progressives to adopt in the wake of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

CUNY Professor Peter Beinart, “Russia speaks total lies. That doesn’t diminish America’s half-truths” in The Guardian

Beinart acknowledges the lies of the U.S.: Saying the US stands with Ukraine because America is committed to democracy and the “rules-based international order” is at best a half-truth. The US helps dictatorships like Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates commit war crimes in Yemen, employs economic sanctions that deny people from Iran to Venezuela to Syria life-saving medicines, rips up international agreements like the Iran nuclear deal and Paris climate accords, and threatens the international criminal court if it investigates the US or Israel.

And then he goes on to explain the connection to the 1943 quote:

But this hypocrisy wouldn’t have fazed Koestler, because it’s nothing new. In 1943, the alliance that fought Hitler was led by a British prime minister who championed imperialism, an American president who presided over racial apartheid, and Joseph Stalin. Koestler’s point wasn’t that the US or Britain, let alone the USSR, were virtuous in general. It was that they were virtuous relative to Nazi Germany in the specific circumstances of the second world war, and that these sinful governments were the only ones with the geopolitical heft to stop a totalitarian takeover of Europe.

These extended quotes give the overall argument. Beinart continues to develop it with a focus on the invasion of Ukraine. He points out that there are times when Russia had been on the relatively virtuous side and the US not, with examples. And times when the US has been relatively virtuous, and Russia not. In the end, for this case, we have to think clearly and make a choice.

As Beinart writes: “But Koestler’s point was that progressives can puncture America’s pretensions to universal virtue while still recognizing that it is sometimes one of the few instruments available to combat evil.”

Peter Beinart’s essay is worth reading in full here.

While I do not support much of what the U.S. does, in this situation, I agree with Beinart that it is, relative to Putin’s invasion, the more virtuous side to support.

However, I still really want to find a non-violent path to peace for all. I recognize that, today, this seems an impossibly distant goal. The non-violent path to peace probably won’t be reached in my lifetime. Sadly, it has been made more distant, seemingly less possible, with this invasion.

And ever more urgent with the use of cluster bombs, vacuum bombs, and threats of chemical weapons or even nuclear weapons.

The creative works in the follow pages of the Special Section, Ukraine Peace, support peace, humanity, and Ukraine in this historical moment. The response to the call that an earlier version of these words made for work came with intensity, sorrow, love, and hope. We have art, poems, prose submissions. We have videos of two powerful readings done on Zoom with poets from the US and from Ukraine reading. We have videos of traditional Ukrainian music.

All of this work supports Ukraine and strives for peace. I encourage you to read and share this outflowing of creativity pouring out to support people and put out into the world declarations for peace.

My heart, thoughts, and good will goes out to the peoples of both Russia and Ukraine who are caught between the anvil and the hammer. May peace return,

May Peace Prevail on Earth.

More reading

Beauchamp, Zack. “Putin’s ‘Nazi’ rhetoric reveals his terrifying war aims in Ukraine.” Vox. 24 February 2022 [accessed: 27 February 2022]

Beinart, Peter. “Russia speaks total lies. That doesn’t diminish America’s half-truths” The Guardian online 26 February 2022 [accessed: 27 Feb 2022]

Burgis, Tom; Catriona Kelly; Oliver Bullough; Ruth Deyermond; Peter Pomerantsev. “How do we solve a problem like Putin? Five leading writers on Russia have their say.” The Observer (The Guardian) online 20 M arch 2022 [accessed 21 March 2022]

Erlanger, Steven. “Putin’s War on Ukraine Is About Ethnicity and Empire.” NYTimes online 16 March 2022 [accessed 17 March 2022]

Fisher, Max. “As Russia Digs In, What’s the Risk of Nuclear War? ‘It’s Not Zero.’” NYTimes  online 16 March 2022 [accessed 17 March 2022]

Marker, Jake. “A Prayer for Those Who Stayed: Yearning for a peace that falls like wildflowers” Tablet online 25 February 2022 [accessed: 27 February 2022]

Stanley, Jason. “The antisemitism animating Putin’s claim to ‘denazify’ Ukraine.” The Guardian online 26 February 2022 [accessed: 27 February 2022]

Varshizky, Amit. “To Understand Putin, You First Need to Get Inside Aleksandr Dugin’s Head.” Haaretz English online 17 March 2022 [accessed: 20 March 2022]

Readings updated: 21 March 2022

©2022 Michael Dickel, except for quotes
All rights reserved


Be inspired… Be creative… Be peace… Be

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