The images—the videos—are horrifying and not for the squeamish. There splashed across the TV screens by NBC, Fox News, and the totality of American media are what is called “definite proof” of Russian war crimes, perhaps even “genocide.” We are told retreating Russian army troops brutally executed civilians, many with their hands tied behind their backs, as their units departed the Kievan suburb of Bucha.
That is the unquestioned assumption which we are asked to believe. And the entirety of our establishment media, without exception, posits this “massacre” as fact and the work of those depraved Russians, under orders from that evil Vladimir Putin, holed up in the dark recesses of the Kremlin. No doubts, no questions are permitted, and certainly no dissent from this now-standard story line, lest the questioner be immediately labeled a “Putin stooge” or “engaging in treason.” Rather, journalists across the board, from MSNBC to NBC to Fox, to online scribblers for The Washington Post and The New York Times now outdo each other in speculating what mechanisms are (or will be) in place to eventually try Putin for his manifest criminality (perhaps in the Hague by the International Criminal Tribunal, like what happened to former president of Yugoslavia, Slobodan Milosevic, in 2002?). The unanimity of America’s political class, Republicans often outdoing Democrats in their unbridled rage, demands stepped-up action, more billions for sophisticated weapons systems (which are no longer “defensive”), maybe a “no-fly zone” or even troops on the ground, in other words World War II. And the Biden White House has joined the chorus in suggesting that “there must be some accounting for war crimes,” if a bit less frenzied.
Yet, there are voices, not many but some of which are substantial, that raise troubling questions about the most recent “war crimes” narrative, whether at Bucha or even more recently, the train station at Kramatorsk.
First, there is former Ambassador Jack Matlock, America’s last representative in the old Soviet Union before it collapsed in 1991, for the administrations of Reagan and George H. W. Bush. A longtime career diplomat and expert on Russian history and politics, in an interview on CNN (which appears to have been subsequently scrubbed) Matlock cautioned viewers: “Firstly, we don’t know exactly what really happened in Bucha, and secondly, there is no evidence that Moscow is to blame.”
The Russian government (via spokesman Dmitri Peskov), Foreign Minister (Sergei Lavrov), and the Ministry of Defense have all strongly denied the accusation and requested an urgent meeting of the United Nations Security Council and a full forensic investigation by a neutral party.
As investigative journalist, Ian Davis, reported in OffGuardian (April 7, 2022):
“…further investigation is certainly necessary. This appeared to be the position of the Russian government who, having strenuously denied the Bucha allegations, requested an emergency session of the UN Security Council (UNSC) to discuss the matter. For some reason, the UK government blocked Russia’s request.
“Initially it appeared that the US-led NATO alliance were less eager to discuss the evidence. However, acting as the president nation of the Security Council, the UK’s UN ambassador, Barbara Woodward, then announced that the UK would convene a session to discuss Bucha on the 5th.
“Prior to examining any of the evidence, and relying solely upon videos provided by the Ukrainians, Woodward [then] stated that the footage was evidence of war-crimes. This had in no way been established. No one knew what they were evidence of. Woodward clearly implicated Russia and predetermined the outcome of the discussions, so there wasn’t really any point in holding them.”
As Davis adds: “There is no doubt that they [the Russians] have killed many Ukrainian citizens [many of whom were armed]. However…unless Russian commanders lost control of their troops in Bucha, the indiscriminate slaughter of unarmed civilians, following an agreed withdrawal and their identification as non-combatants, makes no sense either from a military or propaganda perspective. It serves only to undermine the peace negotiations…prolonging the conflict is in the US-led NATO alliance’s interests, not Russia’s.”
That is the same question I have. If you are commanding Russian forces—if you are sitting in the Kremlin—and surely understand the immense value of international opinion and the very real history of Ukrainian disinformation (as in the case of the Mariupol Maternity Hospital bombing) and the use by the Western media of what is essentially propaganda, why would you commit such an atrocity in full and plain view, with bodies of men strewn almost symmetrically down a main street in the town [cf. the aerial photo at the beginning of this essay]?
It makes no sense. Even in the massacre in the Katyn Forest (1940), the Soviets buried the evidence of the NKVD murder of some 22,000 Polish officers and national elite. The discovery of the shallow mass graves by invading Germans in 1941 was essentially hushed up—“canceled” news, if you will—by the Americans and British, despite attempts by a few intrepid researchers. Indeed, it was only after the fall of Soviet Communism that the truth was completely unearthed for all to see. Ironically, it was President Vladimir Putin who finally and fully corrected the historical record:
“On 4 February 2010, the [then] Prime Minister of Russia, Vladimir Putin, invited his Polish counterpart, Donald Tusk, to attend a Katyn memorial service in April. The visit took place on 7 April 2010, when Tusk and Putin together commemorated the 70th anniversary of the massacre. Before the visit, the 2007 film Katyń was shown on Russian state television for the first time. The Moscow Times commented that the film’s premiere in Russia was likely a result of Putin’s intervention.”
There are far too many questions surrounding Bucha and what happened there for a quick, summary judgment as to guilt. That should govern our “chattering class” and our politicians, but it doesn’t. Yes, the images are horrifying, but all the information—the videos, the pictures—we see on our television sets and read about in our establishment press is uniformly, if not hysterically, from one viewpoint.
One of the best-informed commentaries on Bucha and what happened there (and likely will happen again) is by noted former US Marine Corps intelligence officer, Scott Ritter, who served as a former UN arms inspector for implementing the INF Treaty, and also on General Norman Schwarzkopf’s staff during the Guld War.
I pass it on here.
Reprinted with the author’s permission.