Equality in Conflicts

Writer: Nisar Ahmed Category: প্রবন্ধ (Essay) Edition: Dhaboman - Eid 2022


Our global conscience is hit by yet another meaningless war, this time directly impacting the western democratic bloc in Europe. Images of atrocities are everywhere in the news media. No matter how hard I try to selfishly shield myself from the horrors of human sufferings, I cannot. I live in a country that prides itself as the superhero that is relentlessly working to save democracy, and my society considers the Ukraine war as an assault on democracy. So, we are going to make sure that every human being in this world is reminded everyday who are the perpetrators of this carnage on democracy, and what war crimes are being committed.

 Don’t get me wrong. I am dead set against the Russian invasion of Ukraine. There was no need for this misery to unfold. Even if there was no other option open to Russia, the sufferings imposed on Ukrainian people are still unjustified. As it was unjustified for America - my adopted country - to unleash sufferings on Iraqis, Afghans, Vietnamese, Japanese, and many other people. Innocent civilians of any of these countries did nothing to invite such destruction upon themselves.

I haven’t yet heard an explanation from Russia as to the reason for invading Ukraine. Maybe they did but the western media is not telling us. Whatever reason Putin may have expressed to his countrymen or holds in his twisted brain, it will never be enough to convince me. Could it be that Russia cannot sit idle when a country on its border is about to fall in the hands of NATO which would usher in western military power at its doorstep? If that is the case, Russia would certainly feel vulnerable and act out of insecurity. I can imagine that America would also act very aggressively if it gets the wind that Mexico or Canada is working behind the scenes to invite the Russian army to deploy nuclear missiles next to the American border. We know very well how America reacts to communist or socialist governments in its neighborhood. America doesn’t waste any time in installing, or leave any stone unturned in trying to install, a friendly puppet government when it even smells such a threat. For example, America never rested in its pursuit to topple Venezuelan and Cuban governments. It is hypocritical for America and the rest of the west to talk up democratic values when it is convenient for us, and remain silent or even work against democracy when non-democratic regimes help our interests. We throw our support behind the military regime of Egypt when it illegally snatches power away from the democratically elected Islamic Brotherhood government, do nothing about the brutal murder of the dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi by the order of the autocratic Saudi crown prince Mohammad bin Salman, or not take any action when Myanmar’s military Junta wipes clean the Rohingas.

 Pictures emerging from the Ukraine war reminds me of the horrific images of Bangladesh’s independence war of 1971. The Pakistani government unleashed unimaginable atrocities on the freedom loving democratic minded civilian population of Bangladesh. Similar atrocities are likely happening in Ukraine, perpetrated by the Russian forces. In Bangladesh’s war of independence America supported the Pakistan forces who were committing crimes against humanity by systematically killing civilians inlcuding minorities and intellectuals, raping women, and torturing fredom fighters. The then Soviet Union in 1971 backed the Bangladesh freedom struggle. Roles have reversed in Ukraine. Russia, the new incarnation of the Soviet Union, is the aggressor and America is the supporter of Ukraine’s freedom struggle. I am happy that America is standing up strong in support of the Ukrainian people against the Russian invasion, and doing all it can to rally support around the world. But I am not convinced that America and the west are not manipulating the media to paint a biased grimmer picture of reality. Because I have seen how western media spreads biased news and opinions when it comes to promoting its goals in situations like Iraq and Afghan wars, ongoing Palestinian struggle with Israel, war in Yemen, isolation of Cuba and Venezuela, detainees of war against terrorism, and elsewhere.

 I would be happier if America always practiced what it preaches. We cannot expect desired results from other nations by asking them to follow when our leadership - more often than not - strays off the path we preach. Our support for democracy, freedom, and sovereignty of nations must be consistently applied around the globe. We cannot pick and choose sides only to advance our own selfish motives. We must also consistently ask for justice whenever and wherever crimes against humanity occur including when it is perpetrated by our own people. We shouldn’t expect Russia not to invade Ukraine or any other country if we invade countries like Iraq ignoring objections from the world including our own allies. If we label one’s war crimes as genocide and want perpetrators brought to justice under the purview of ICC, we must also be a state party to the ICC and submit ourselves to its purview for our own actions. We cannot threaten ICC officials with visa ban when the court decides to open an investigation of US citizens for alleged crimes in Afghanistan. We have to put all war crimes under the same lens including Vietnam, Cambodia, Bangladesh, Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Palestine - all of them.

 America has the potential to become a great nation and leader in the history of human existence. It has the technology, financial and human capital, diversity, freedom of speech and religion, etc. What it lacks is the adoption and application of equality and equity in race, gender, religion, and color, domestically and internationally. When the world can trust that America will apply its own principles of human rights equally across the globe, it will follow America’s lead without any need for NATO or such alliances.