Why Democrats Demand Collective Punishment Against Russian Civilians
On July 15, 2017, Congressman Mike Quigley — Democrat of Illinois — made a fairly remarkable statement: “When you meet with any Russians,” he declared on CNN, “you’re meeting with Russian intelligence. And therefore Putin.”
Just take a moment to appreciate the implications of this logical construction. By dint of a person’s nationality, the mere act of meeting them is equivalent to meeting the highest echelons of a hostile foreign government. Or in other words — for the purposes of whom one might “meet,” there is no difference between a random person of Russian background and a Russian state agent reporting directly to Putin. Quigley thus acquired the distinction of articulating the closest one can get to an outright, explicit conflation of private citizens with their government, on the basis of nothing other than those citizens’ inborn ethnic/national characteristics. In another context and another time, a theory so crazed would have been rightly condemned as abject xenophobia, especially by such “compassionate” liberals such as Quigley. But over the past six years, these theories became utterly “normalized” as just another front in the by-any-means-necessary crusade to thwart Donald Trump.
From 2016 to 2020, it was extraordinarily common for even the most unremarkable Russian “contacts” to be decried not just as inherently sinister, but also reflective of some sprawling criminal espionage conspiracy. “There is no such thing as appropriate contact with Russia,” raged Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D-FL), also in 2017. She must have been totally shocked by the subsequent deterioration of US-Russia relations, given that “contacts” once considered normal diplomatic protocol were suddenly rendered an extreme political taboo. If you could be accused of having suspicious “ties” to Russia, or an excess of “Russian contacts” — with the precise definition of those terms always in flux — you could be automatically placed under a cloud of damning suspicion, no matter how innocuous those “ties” or “contacts” might have genuinely been.
In that frenetic 2017 period, Jeff Sessions, the beleaguered Attorney General under Trump, was brutally castigated for devious undisclosed “meetings” he was alleged to have conducted with Russians. This led to his eventual recusal from the Department of Justice’s infamous “Russian interference” investigation, and soon after, to the appointment of Special Counsel Robert Mueller. But the damage to Sessions was already done by the time Mueller ultimately concluded that the meetings at issue were in fact ridiculously inconsequential.
So, can you guess what good old Congressman Mike Quigley is up to nowadays? Last Tuesday, he called for the US to make a “big move” militarily in Ukraine, because “we’re going to get there anyway” within a couple of weeks. Quigley thus brought the “World War III is already happening, so now it’s only a matter of when we’re going to launch our opening offensive” logic directly to the House of Representatives. Does anyone detect a possible connection between Quigley’s past comments, and his current eagerness to incinerate the Russian populace by instigating World War III? Any chance those 2017 views still inform his thinking? Another potential influence on Quigley: he represents the Ukrainian Village neighborhood in Chicago.
So here we are: the six-year-long campaign of dehumanization against Russians has set the stage for liberals to angrily demand not just punishment of the Russian government, but Russian civilians. Because — per Quigley — what’s the difference anyway, right?
Though a White House National Security Official initially pledged that the new US sanctions regime imposed on Russia would be narrowly tailored “to avoid even the appearance of targeting the average Russian civilian,” that went out the window almost immediately. The Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, quickly proceeded to clarify that the intent of US sanctions was to ensure “the Russian people will suffer the consequences of their leaders’ choices.” In the past, there has tended to at least be the pretense that US sanctions were only about punishing the allegedly malevolent behavior of adversarial governments — not the citizenry. The Obama Administration’s “National Security Strategy” in 2015 claimed that sanctions would be structured around “minimizing any unintended consequences for… civilian populations.”
Now that pretense has been dropped, and US officials are open about the real intention. Would this kind of overt sadism not just be accepted, but celebrated if not for the years-long cultivation of individualized animus against Russians?
It is the same conflating logic first trumpeted by Quigley, incubated during the manic Trump period, that now drives much of the liberal desire to inflict unbridled collective punishment on Russian civilians. Because even if a Russian civilian steadfastly opposes the war, they are still subject to collective punishment in the form of sanctions designed to collapse their economy and isolate them from the rest of the world. One example of countless: the young Russian livestreamer whose income stream via Twitch was just banished, despite her vocal opposition to the war. Clearly, this collateral damage is just dandy according to US liberals. Notwithstanding what a UN Special Rapporteur warned in 2018:
“Innocent civilians must not be exposed to “collective punishment” in disputes between two States, a United Nations human rights expert has said, calling for greater protection for ordinary people affected by punitive sanctions imposed by one country on another.”
As I wrote last week, the conservative clamor that’s increasingly building is a vital component of the emergent pro-war consensus. But it is liberals who underwent the most radical transformation since 2016, kicking to curb any residual interest they may have had in ameliorating tensions with Russia, or pretending they object to punishing civilians on the basis of where those civilians happen to have been born. Particularly with a Democratic Administration in power, their implacable lust for vengeance is the driving force behind each subsequent US escalation.
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The city of Rzeszow, Poland, about 60 miles from the Ukraine border, is currently crawling with all manner of spooks, freelance war adventurers, sketchy profiteers, and assorted others. I just overheard a top official at a Washington-based NGO, which I won’t name at the moment, bragging that their “security” operations on the front lines in Ukraine are being manned by a “former Special Ops guy” — meaning a veteran of the US Military who formerly worked in “Special Operations.” Of course, to what extent these guys can truly be characterized as “former” military, especially if they’re doing active logistics in a combat zone, is an open question.
I also heard a translator working for a notable US journalist state that he/she personally helped facilitate the entry of American “veterans” into Ukraine through Poland, en route to do God knows what exactly. Putin has said that incoming supplies of “aid,” as well as inflows of “foreign mercenaries,” will be considered legitimate military targets — and Russia’s strike Sunday on a military facility just 15 miles from Poland was said to be an example of him following through on the threat. This raises the very distinct possibility of US combat fatalities in the near future, even if the US individuals in question are not technically on active duty — or at least publicly acknowledged as such. What do you think the public response will be, if Russian missiles successfully strike a group of “American veteran volunteers” who have shown up to fight in Ukraine? Especially given the mounting predictions about the alleged imminence of chemical and/or biological attacks?
Anyone who thinks they know the true scope of US involvement in the war right now is full of crap. For one thing, the Pentagon is denying any media access to its new staging areas across Poland, including the installation near me in Rzeszow. So even the hand-picked reporters who may have otherwise been allowed to take a stage-managed PR tour are being blocked out. Why might this be the case? One possible explanation: the extent of US logistical involvement in the weapons-funneling mission is being concealed, as it could show the US to have taken a more fulsome role than military and/or political officials would care to publicly admit.
I’ve been inundated with attacks from big-name journalists at Serious outlets like Reuters who insist that the only information worth knowing about these US military installations can be gleaned from official Pentagon press releases. Really. So please understand that the US media establishment, as well as media-adjacent functionaries in the “National Security” and “professional foreign policy” sector, are actively working to obscure from you the nature of what the government is currently doing in the direct vicinity of a major warzone. I’m trying to counter that where I can, but I’m still only one schmuck.