By Barry Sheppard
The U.S. has charged Russia of war crimes in its invasion of Ukraine and brought those charges to the International Criminal Court (ICC).
The invasion itself was criminal and a violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty. Any invasion of another country is now considered a war crime under international treaties.
One of the charges against Russia is that it has used internationally banned cluster bombs that indiscriminately kill civilians.
This has not yet been proved by physical evidence on the ground.
However, an article in the April 19 New York Times, based on one of its reporters on the ground in Ukraine, says the Ukrainian military – not Russia – used cluster bombs against its own people in villages that were under Russian occupation at the time, villages that Russia subsequently withdrew from.
Cluster bombs are contained within missiles that are dropped from aircraft that open up well above the ground, releasing tens to hundreds of bombs that saturate an area the size of several football fields. Anyone in the strike zone, be they military or civilian, will be killed or seriously injured.
The mainstream media in the West has published lurid photographs of civilians killed in those villages, charging Russia with having executed them by firing squads.
This charge was always suspicious, since Russia had already defeated Ukrainian troops in those villages and achieved its objectives of occupying them.
But the revelations that Ukraine has used cluster bombs against those villages means that many of the bodies of civilians shown in those photographs were killed by its own cluster bombs.
The NYT article said, “As the war approaches its eighth week, both sides have relied heavily on artillery and rocket fire to dislodge each other. But the Ukrainians’ decision to saturate their own village [the one the reporter visited] with a cluster munition to haphazardly to kill innocent people underscores their strategic calculation: This is what they need to do to retake their country, no matter the cost.”
That the U.S. would make the charge that Russia used cluster bombs is one example of its cynicism and hypocrisy.
The only way that Ukraine could obtain cluster bombs was from NATO arms sent into the country with the approval of the U.S.
That Biden has made the unproven charge that Putin used cluster bombs in Ukraine is likely a cover for the U.S. arming Ukraine with them and approving of their use against Ukrainian villages.
Moreover, the U.S. has maintained not only its right to use cluster bombs when it wants, it manufactures them.
The U.S., as well and Ukraine and Russia, have never signed on to the treaty prohibiting cluster bombs.
While Russia’s war against Ukraine was a violation of that country’s sovereignty, Biden’s raising of it is the height of hypocrisy.
Since the Second World War the U.S. has invaded Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan, and has backed Israel’s wars against Palestine and other Arab nations, supports Saudi Arabia’ war against Yemen, and has intervened covertly or by proxy many other times around the world, war crimes and violations of those countries’ sovereignty.
On the question of attacking civilian neighborhoods and killing civilians the U.S. stands way above any other country. In Korea, it bombed and shelled and attacked North Korea with its infantry, air and naval forces — levelling much of the country’s infrastructure and killing hundreds of thousands.
In Vietnam, its publicly avowed strategy was to attack civilians since it was waging war against a whole people. Massacres of civilians, burning of villages and cities became staples on U.S. TV. This was immortalized by one general’s comment “We had to destroy the village in order to save it.”
It bombed North Vietnam indiscriminately, and South Vietnam too against the mass peasant-based National Liberation Front.
It used napalm bombs and sprayed the forests with the deadly Agent Orange to expose people and resistance fighters from cover, which killed and permanently sickened millions of Vietnamese.
Agent Orange also has been debilitating to U.S. troops, which to Washington were cannon fodder – until the troops revolted and ended the war.
Millions of Vietnamese who resisted the invasion were killed.
In Iraq and Afghanistan over a million civilians were also killed. Washington is now inflicting widespread economic devastation against Afghanistan civilians with its freezing of funds.
The U.S. sanctions against Cuba, Venezuela, Iran and other countries are aimed at civilians.
The present sanctions against Russia are not only aimed at its civilians, they are inflicting harm throughout the world, including creating a food crisis that will increase hunger for billions, the United Nations warns.
During the Vietnam War Dr. Martin Luther King denounced the war, saying that “The greatest purveyor of violence in the world today is my own country.”
That remains true today.
The U.S. states that the ICC has no jurisdiction over it, and threatens that any country or its people that tries to bring war crimes charges against its military aggressions will face severe consequences.
The U.S. tells the ICC which countries it can charge with war crimes, and which it cannot. When war crime charges were levelled against Israel for its wars against the Palestinian people, Washington told the ICC to drop the charges, which it did.
Most people in Asia, Africa and Latin America see through the U.S. hypocrisy.
In a Democracy Now interview, Vijay Prashad, director of the Tricontinental Institute for Social Research described the U.S. sanctions against Russian wheat and fertilizer that is exacerbating a worldwide food crisis:
“Before this war and the sanctions against Russia, 2.7 billion people struggled with hunger. It’s likely that we’ll go to three billion before the month is over….
“But I want to say one thing about this, Amy, when you watch the news in the West, it looks like a world of certainty. Everybody seems clear about what is happening.
“In the rest of the world, I think people are really trying to breath in the contradictions. They understand that this is a ghastly war, but there have been ghastly wars before this. I think there is perplexity why this war is treated so different than other wars. Countries are not willing to break ties with Russia, or to cut the import of grain and fuel from Russia.
“They have their own populations to take care of, and they have to consider their needs and desires.”
Interviewer Juan Gonzalez asked, “Its not only governments of many countries, but some of the public opinion polling has shown that in many countries — in Indonesia, in Brazil, in South Africa, in many countries of the Global South, the public has a different opinion about this war [compared to the West] as well.”
Prashad answered in part,
“People are frustrated with the kind of colonial way in which the Western powers and the Western media reports things. The very fact that you know the flag coloring of Ukraine but have no idea what the flag of Yemen looks like, what the flag of Palestine looks like, what the flag of the Congo looks like, and needless to say, what the flag of Iraq looks like and this is driving public opinion.”
Noam Chomsky, in an interview with Jeremy Scahill in the Intercept, said of the US,
“We’re a rogue state, the leading rogue state by a huge dimension — nobody’s even close… And yet we can call for war crimes trials of others without batting an eyelash.”
“It’s interesting to look at the reaction to all of this in the more civilized part of the world, the Global South… They look at it; they condemn the invasion, say it’s a horrible crime. But the basis response is: What’s new? What’s the fuss about?”
“We’ve been subjected to this from you as far back as it goes. Biden calls Putin a war criminal; yeah, it takes one to know one. It’’s the basic reaction….”
“The United States doesn’t understand why most of the world doesn’t join in sanctions… Which countries join in sanctions? Take a look. The map is revealing. The English-speaking countries, Europe and those who apartheid South Africa called honorary whites: Japan, with a couple of its former colonies. That’s it.”
“The rest of the world says: yeah, terrible, but what’s new? What’s the fuss about? Why should we get involved in hypocrisy?”