Opinion: The Russian Military Has Descended into Inhumanity

“The brutal war crimes being documented in Ukraine are a warning Americans should heed.

A burnt and destroyed street in Bucha, Ukraine. (Matthew Hatcher/SOPA Images/LightRocket / Getty)

Over the past several days, reporters and social-media users have documented what appear to be some truly horrific outrages perpetrated on the Ukrainian people by occupying Russian forces. The Biden administration says that these atrocities are aligned with the broader Russian policy aim of terrorizing the Ukrainians into submission. And this may well be true.

What we are seeing is likely something much more familiar, and much more universal: These sorts of crimes occur when military organizations are committed into combat without clear, achievable objectives, and without a professional noncommissioned-officer corps to enforce discipline within the ranks. They are what happens when military organizations are not held to account for their actions; when soldiers, after seeing the deaths of their friends in the face of unforeseen resistance, resort to savagery; and when the guardrails to prevent such a descent into inhumanity are absent.

In retrospect, looking back on two decades of combat in Iraq and Afghanistan, it is remarkable how few crimes U.S. troops committed against civilian populations.” [Prior to that, Viet Nam reflects the descent reflected by the Russian Army–rmk] “Civilians in both countries suffered greatly, make no mistake, but the incidence of tactical units committing heinous crimes was lower, despite the duration of those wars, than that among Russian troops in a few weeks in Ukraine.

Possible reasons why? First, the U.S. Army and Marine Corps are mostly led, at the tactical level, by a professional noncommissioned-officer corps—something Russia’s army largely lacks. Second, the U.S. military in Iraq and Afghanistan was . . . . isolated from the populations themselves. U.S. troops lived in remote outposts, which . . . . reduced the kind of contact between occupying soldiers and civilians that has led to crimes of intimacy in Ukraine: looting on one end of the spectrum, rape and murder on the other.

But we’re lying to ourselves if we think that our troops cannot commit the same heinous crimes Russian troops are committing today. On an individual level, an American is no more morally perfect than his or her Russian counterpart. The difference is how each military organization responds to criminality. (more)

And from the Associated Press/AMNY:

Over the past few days, grisly images of what appeared to be civilian massacres carried out by Russian forces in Bucha before they withdrew from the outskirts of Kyiv have caused a global outcry and led Western nations to expel scores of Moscow’s diplomats and propose further sanctions, including a ban on coal imports from Russia.

Zelenskyy said that both those who carried out the killings and those who gave the orders “must be brought to justice immediately for war crimes” in front of a tribunal similar to what was used in postwar Germany.

Moscow’s U.N. ambassador, Vassily Nebenzia, said that while Bucha was under Russian control, “not a single local person has suffered from any violent action.” Reiterating what the Kremlin has contended for days, he said that video footage of bodies in the streets was “a crude forgery” staged by the Ukrainians.

“You only saw what they showed you,” he said. “The only ones who would fall for this are Western dilettantes.”

Source: The Atlantic

About the authorAndrew Exum is a contributing writer for The Atlantic and lives in Dallas with his family. From 2015 to 2017, he was the deputy assistant secretary of defense for Middle East policy.