“You Are So Fucked.”

I was searching desperately for a YouTube clip of the memorable climax of “Michael Clayton,” in which the soul-dead law firm fixer played by George Clooney reveals to the Machiavellian general counsel of an industrial polluter that he is wearing a wire and that she has just been recorded admitting to murder. I couldn’t find the clip , but that memorable line (The New York Times would have written, “You Are So F-worded,” which just doesn’t work as well, somehow) jumped into my head the second I saw the photos of dead Ukrainian civilians in Bucha, murdered in undeniable war crimes and thrown into ditches.

Putin and Russia are so fucked. Neither can come back from this. The only thing delaying the inevitable is the news blackout in Russia, but that can’t last too much longer. Putin is actually claiming that the bloody corpses are “actors”—Russians may have a self-destructive addiction to dictators, but they aren’t stupid. The latest horrible news from Putin’s unprovoked invasion—as if there hadn’t been too much all ready—clinches it. Russia is now globally reviled, and it won’t come back from that until Putin is dead or standing trial.

One reason ethics survives despite everything stacked against it is that human beings are hard-wired to care about what others think of them. No population wants to be hated, or have its nation seen as an international villain. This is a major reason President Reagan’s calling the Soviet Union an “evil empire” helped to break down the Iron Curtain. In this instance, however, no one has to use labels. Russia’s conduct marks it as evil for all to see, and until they openly and decisively reject Putin, Russians will not be able to think of themselves as “good people.” Good people don’t follow psychopaths like Putin once they see what they really are.

Putin has no way out. Eventually his army will turn on him and the Russian people will too. It’s just a matter of time: human nature and the essence of ethics, human nature and history tells us so.

He is so fucked.

Good.

Meanwhile, Donald Trump is a fool if he doesn’t quickly—like yesterday—issue a clear retraction of his earlier “smart” and “brilliant” comments. As I’ve written here more than once, it does not indicate “support” for one to say that a villain is smart, but Trump would do well to beware the Cognitive Dissonance Scale. His own careless rhetoric and the six-year-old Big Lie that he was Putin’s “cockholster,” in Stephen Colbert’s charming phrase, still has him linked to Putin, fairly or not. If Trump does not break that link now with the most unequivocal condemnation, beginning with “I was wrong about Vladimir Putin: he’s a deranged and dangerous fool,” then Trump is fucked.

And, like Putin, he’ll deserve it.

64 thoughts on ““You Are So Fucked.”

  1. Don’t be too, too sure. Russian patriotism makes our flag and cross patriots look lukewarm. Government inertia is strong in Russia (they only did away with serfdom in 1861) and the place has an unhealthy tolerance for dictators, partially due to the long history.of autocratic rule. I think that, like his not-so-illustrious autocratic predecessors, Putin doesn’t care if he is liked, as long as he is feared and respected. I’d also take issue with your statement that good people don’t follow psychopaths like Putin once they see what they really are. The Russians already followed Lenin and Stalin, so there’s that. The Germans followed Hitler, because they thought he’d lead them back to greatness. The Italians followed Mussolini, who made the trains run on time, and the Spanish followed Franco. Then you have folks like the Irish Americans, who stand by the IRA long after they were shown to be gangsters with brogues and the BLM folks who will show up to torch a city at one mass tweet. People will follow who they agree with, even if those people are wrong at times. Sometimes they don’t give a damn if the rest of the world thinks of them as good people. How many times have those protesting oppression been told “this is an internal matter and does not concern you?”

    We also thought, incorrectly, that the Iraqi people would rally to us, same with the Afghan people, once we booted the tyrants in charge. How’d we do there?

    Frankly, I don’t think Trump is screwed if he doesn’t disavow Putin now. Those who would reelect him don’t care, and those who wouldn’t can never be persuaded otherwise. Besides, the “Don’t Say Gay” law and Will Smith smacking Chris Rock around have pushed this stuff off the front page.

    • I think we’re all fucked, personally. We’re just now starting to feel the devastating reverberations of this, and they are likely to get so much worse. This is when being a global economy is going to look and feel like not such a great thing, and I shudder to think of the barbarism that this population will resort to when bellies start going empty.

    • Steve
      I agree 100% with your comment but I would like to add the following:

      My concern is that Putin is seeing fewer off-ramps as this war continues. Unless we are prepared to actually take him out of this world in the very near future, it is in no one’s interest to be calling anyone a war criminal at this point. Doing so ends all negotiation opportunities which leaves Putin no alternative than scorched earth tactics. Even a normally docile animal will become vicious when its cornered and its survival is threatened. We need to ask ourselves are we creating the conditions that exacerbate the carnage? War crimes are prosecuted only by the winning side. Therefore, we could be pushing Putin into a situation in which he feels he must win decisively by any means necessary to avoid criminal prosecution. This means our rhetoric regarding war crimes prosecution may simply give him a reason to use his tactical nukes in theatre.

      Another issue to consider is whether or not we can tie Putin’s orders to the events on the battlefield. If we cannot, then all our talk is merely dangerous bluster. Putin is using Chechen mercenaries who are known to be brutal as well as conscripts who may not know the difference between an illegal order and a legal one, who could very well be acting without direct orders like Lt. William Calley. Are we willing to say that even when soldiers commit wars crimes the political leadership are also guilty? That would be a very slippery slope.

    • I don’t always agree with your takes, Steve, but this one seems spot-on to me. Russia isn’t Canada or Finland. The character of the Russian psyche is different than that found in most western countries, and remarkably tolerant to autocratic abuse.

      Putin might have a harder time getting past this on the world stage than at home, but as long as the world needs Russian oil and gas, the country won’t be made into a full North-Korea-style pariah nation. We may choose to spend more to buy oil from tyrants and dictators whose accents aren’t Russian, but China and India will be happy to buy everything Putin can send them – at a deep discount that will enable them to avoid some of the lasting damage sky-high energy prices are inflicting on our economy.

      • I don’t want to go full Jack Ryan in “The Hunt for the Red October” (“Have you met him, General? I have…”), but my wife and I spend two long weeks in Russia in the process of adopting our son, and talked to many Russians. They have a culture that has resigned many of them to abusive governments, but they have the same aspirations and sensibilities as anyone else. They were angry about what they had put up with for so long in 1995 when we were there, and when they get angry enough, things happen.

        I wouldn’t underestimate the Russian people. I think Putin has, and he’ll be sorry.

  2. I’d love to think Russia and Russians will rise up and kill Putin, but I just don’t see it happening. Fifteen or so years ago I heard an American diplomat say, “We keep hoping Russia will turn into a normal country, but it never does.” I don’t understand how inhabitants of various countries get comfortable with strong men, but they do. I’ve seen it mostly in Cuban culture. A Cuban buddy says it’s because Hispanics trace their genes back through Spain to Rome and Persia. Let’s face it, there are people in the world who are just different than Europeans. Russia is NOT European. It’s eastern. It’s always wanted to be a dominant empire, but it’s never been able to pull it off. Putin wants Russian hegemony. And think of all the other dictators that are watching this. Assad in Syria, Erdogan in Turkey, the Chinese, Maduro, the Saudis, just to name a few. This is how these guys roll. They are fellow travelers. China will block any condemnation of Russia at the pathetic UN. Because they’d be next.

    • You just have to read the history of South America. Because they came from a monarchical tradition and had no democratic institutions to build on like we had here, democracy has always been weak there, and that continent is still well short of its potential. Paraguay’s history up to the time of our Civil War was that of three tyrants. Recently you had the “pink tide” of leftist populist leaders, then the “brown tide” (as in brown shirts, not the brown, stinky tide) of neo-fascist rulers. Until the countries there learn to elect honest men, they are going noplace. Russia follows the same path. I’ll post more about that tonight.

      • Agreed, Steve. I find even Europeans that still have even pro forma monarchies are more tolerant of being pushed around. For lack of a better word, they’re “obedient.” Or just lazy and prefer to leave lots of things to their betters.

  3. I would like to add some info. The claims from pro-Russian sources say that the civilians were killed by Ukrainian SBU (the Ukrainian successor to the KGB, equivalent to Russian FSB). The claim is that Ukrainians rounded up collaborators, or people suspected of cooperating with Russians. There are photos and videos of some of the deceased having white armbands, which is alleged to be what civilians wore under Russian occupation, so that they would not be mistaken for combatants. Make of that what you will. I do know there would not be these casualties, if there was no war. I am not making excuses for Russia, for starting this war.

  4. That is assuming the official narrative is true. Disinformation and propaganda are weapons of war. Truth is always the first casualty. The question to ask is always: who stands to gain? Putin has nothing to gain. This is why I’m more than skeptical about the official narrative:
    Putin’s standing orders are to avoid civilian casualties and not attack infrastructure. He has nothing to gain.
    Sure, it is possible that some Russian soldiers committed war crimes on their own. Happens in every war. If we are going to blame Putin for this, then LBJ should be held responsible for Mai Lai. Still, there are reasons to not think so:
    1) Zelensky has every reason to lie. He controls all the information going out. Russian media is censored in the West.
    2) Russia called for an independent investigation and UK is blocking it. NATO and EU supports Ukraine.
    3)The dead in the photos I saw were wearing white armbands, showing they were Russian speakers and friendly to the Russians. The claim would be believable if they were wearing blue armbands.
    4) The claims were not made immediately after Russian troops left, but after Ukrainian, specifically Neo Nazi Azov Battalion troops moved in. This is an area that the Azov have carried out ethnic cleansing campaigns and torturer of Russian speakers in this area for a decade, with and without Zelensky’s blessing.
    5) Ukraine military (and dictator Zelensky), and US media, doesn’t have a good track record for honestly.

    Reason #2 is reason enough not to buy into the official narrative. Frankly, this looks like the same demonetization propaganda Hamas and PLO use against Israel.

  5. Remember when German soldiers were hanged for the Katyn Forest massacre then 50 years later the Russians admitted it was them all along, something Churchill and Roosevelt knew along? Good times.

  6. Trump will continue to Trump. Never apologize and never back down has always been his game plan.

    Be honest though, it won’t matter even in the slightest if he took back any or everything he has ever said as in the eyes of many media folks he is already the devil and hitler no matter what.

    • Not the point. That’s certainly true, but to win the nomination, never mind an election, Trump has to avoid alienating conservatives and moderates.Being coy about Putin gets him nothing now, if it ever did. Virtually all of the country reviles him. Did you consider how cognitive dissonance works? Because he’s running into it headlong.

  7. I don’t understand the assertion that seems to be going around to the effect that Zelensky is a dictator and Ukraine is a corrupt shithole and he controls the media and has eliminated all opposition and … therefore the Russians were justified in … invading and demolishing Ukraine. Wouldn’t that justify invading and demolishing Russia, or Cuba or China or Venezuela or North Korea or Cuba or Syria? Isn’t it a red herring?

      • Absolutely, none of Ukraine’s faults justify anything Russia has done, but surely those faults might be cause to view any reports coming from there with a skeptical eye. Remember the heroic martyrs of Snake Island, the Ghost Of Kyiv, the Ukrainian Reaper, the “mobile crematoriums”, and how all of that turned out to be propaganda B.S.?

        None of us really have any way to know what’s true and what’s not coming out of Ukraine. It’s a certainty that some Russian troops have engaged in brutal conduct and war crimes. It’s also a certainty that Ukraine has lied to push their side of the story. How much is true on either side is impossible to know, since we have nothing even resembling a trustworthy, independent news media.

        The fact that the entirety of the American news media is in lockstep on the topic of Ukraine is enough to give me pause all by itself. When the liars all agree on one thing, what are the odds that thing is the truth?

        • There is a reasonable argument that Ukraine’s actions did justify Russian action. As this article states:
          “The Ukrainian artillery bombardment of the Donbass population continued, and, on 23 February, the two Republics asked for military assistance from Russia. On 24 February, Vladimir Putin invoked Article 51 of the United Nations Charter, which provides for mutual military assistance in the framework of a defensive alliance.” https://www.thepostil.com/the-military-situation-in-the-ukraine/

          Unlike those who call Putin the next Hitler, the writer can at least find the place on the map.

          Yes, all of those were lies. The cartoonish demonization of Russians as evil and Putin as insane is standard war propaganda to dehumanize. The same script has been used by every warmonger since the stone age. It still works. When I was on Okinawa, I went to Suicide Cliff and wondered how the Japanese military was able to convince young women that the advancing Americans would rape and cannibalize them. Now I know. The depressing part is that people with a lot more formal education than I do buy into that bullshit.

          • Ukraine did not attack Russia. Russia attacked Ukraine. This is the bottom line. Russia also attacked Georgia and the Crimea. This, in law, is called “a pattern of behavior.” It is amusing, or tragic, to see someone falling for a transparently false narrative (from a sociopath like Putin!) accusing everyone else of doing so. It’s inexplicable.

            Any one who regards Zalinskyy as anything better than a would-be strongman autocrat is deluded. But his behavior since the invasion is heroic. Similarly, believing Putin about anything is nuts. He makes the American media look like Demosthenes.

              • Tried to poison? Putin is both a bond villain and an incompetent assassin. Fox News is full of stupid NeoCons like Sean Hannity.

            • Both are probably sociopaths. What makes you so certain I’m the one buying into the false narrative? The people I cite are experts in the area. Everyone here seems to be repeating what they hear on CNN and Fox. I proved you wrong on the Nazis.

              • You haven’t proved anyone wrong. I’m certain because your claims are impossible and make no sense, and because the invasion isn’t a myth. At this point, you are getting dangerously close to the EA “Stupidity Rule,” and the implied “Nut Job” rule. I advise backing off.

            • Makes you so sure I’m the one falling for the false narrative? I’m not believing anything about Putin, I’m believing people who are experts that have actual experience in the area or media that lied us into various wars like Iraq twice when they aren’t trying to discredit the US military with fake stories like the Operation Tailwind hoax? Same administration/party that blames Russia for everything from losing the election to their own incompetence? Zalinsky’s behavior has been a stage performance.

              • With all due respect, and it’s not much, you sound like the people who think the moon landing was fake. The bombings are real, the refugees are real, the invasion is real, the deaths of civilians are real. Putin’s record as a human rights criminal is real. The world economic damage is real. There is no conceivable interpretation of events that doesn’t find Russia and Putin 100% at fault in Ukraine.

                The Iraq story has no relevance here (the main liar who got us into that war was Saddam). You can find wacko “experts” to support any theory, no matter how ridiculous. Ranting is not argument (it’s down the hall to the left.)

                • Yes, Jack, all of those things are real. We can all see it sort of firsthand through the cameras of independent journalists like Patrick Lancaster. They are there dodging bullets. If you have a strong stomach, you can go to Azov’s Telegram account and watch them carry out their war crimes. Yes, those “fictional nazis” put their crimes out for all the world to see. Did I say any of those things were not real? No. Implying I did is kind of bad faith on your part. I simply pointed out proven examples of media and government lying to us. All I said was let’s have an investigation before throwing the rope over the tree. That includes the Nazis I demonstrated to you that are real. The economic damage is real because the EU and Biden are incompetent and sanctioned the wrong things. Yes, the invasion is on Putin. When did I say anything different? So you went to conspiracy theorists and “wacko experts”. Ad hominem much Jack? “conspiracy theory” is kind of like the Godwin rule: when you have no argument in an area you know nothing about. You don’t, and neither does Mr. West. You know ethics and law, and I get a lot of value out of your posts. Military history, information warfare, and propaganda techniques isn’t.

                  I never said believe the Russians or the comedian in Ukraine, or even Biden (who is stupid enough to get us into WW3). I don’t believe any of these people at face value.

                  One question: are you capable of having a reasoned discussion with anyone with a dissenting opinion? I tend to think not. I can tell this affected you personally, which could be why the OP is not as well-written and thoughtful as the rest of your work.

                  • You need to bone up on the topic of “irrelevance.” I have lots of discussions with rational, logical advocates who disagree with my analysis. Crazy conspiracy theorists do not fit that category, and now you’re playing the cheating “you can’t handle dissent” card. You can tell I have a personal or emotional stake in this issue? Wrong. It’s an academic issue for me; I’m concerned about the ethical implications of what’s happening and people’s reaction to it. Your reaction is at least as interesting to me as the invasion itself. How do people start going down these rabbit holes? Why?

                    You’re positing that EVERYBODY except a murderous, ruthless dictator is lying, for a reason you haven’t been able to articulate. That’s a conspiracy theory; in fact, that’s paranoia. There is virtually no topic on which conservative and left-leaning news sources, AND Congress, and government agencies, agree on, yet you think this is the exception. As I’ve said already, I don’t have to be a geopolitical expert to know what you need to know to make the ethics call here. I know Russia invaded Ukraine, and Ukraine is a much weaker country that took no provocative avtion against Russia justifying a full on invasion. I know Putin’s various excuses and rationale’s are absurd on their face. I know he has withheld the facts from his people. I know that all those refugees aren’t fleeing from dreams. I know that the Russian army had killed many and destroyed buildings and property. That’s plenty for my expertise to guide me: law (including international law) and ethics.

                    If you want a reasonable discussion, start arguing reasonably.

                    • And a tip: calling the Ukrainian “the comedian” is a tell, like the Trump-Deranged calling him “a reality star.” Zelinskyy was a comedian, but he’s a leader now, and in the very narrow but still challenging range of “leaders of nations under attack by a stronger power,” he has been effective and courageous. He may be good for nothing else—I wouldn’t be surprised—but that not relavant now.

  8. Agreed, Jack. I have to assume that Putin will get his, like Beria got his, and perhaps Stalin (who will ever know for sure?).

    Anyway, I write because there may be the issue of war crimes trials. That is a topic that will forever fascinate. At some point I would like to read the memoirs of Chris Dodd’s dad, and, if they exist, of Robert H. Jackson, on the Nuremberg trials.

    They broke ground.

    • There is a difference between supporting and calling out disinformation and demonization propaganda from warmongers. Don’t have to like Uncle Ho and point out that LBJ lied about the Gulf of Tonkin, and is public.

  9. Russia has a lot going on in its psyche. It desperately aspires to be a “normal” European country. But it sits as a buffer between Europe and the far East. It has historically been overrun by “barbarians” from the east on their way to plunder Europe and so has had to maintain a kind of backdoor paranoia for much of its history. That backdoor paranoia combined with being a *VAST* land in which internal transportation and communication has been historically problematic has led to regimes that are always top heavy and overbearing.

    This oppressive arrangement has always made it look weird and suspect to the European nations it has imagined itself as hoping to be like. Those suspicions combined with Russia’s vast population have always led to scenarios where, in addition to threats of being overrun from the east, Russia has suffered periodic and destructive invasions from the west.

    All of this occurs in the context of having a restive Muslim population to its south.

    Combined, the Russian mindset is one beset by extreme paranoia and the acceptance of miserable regimes has also added a sort of under the surface pessimism despite their best hopes on the surface of an optimistic “maybe the next ruler, while bad, will get us closer to our goal”.

    Its a self-defeating cycle and I’m not sure how you break the mold. It’s like telling the people – “you solve racism by just stop being racist”. You have to tell the Russians “you can become a normal European country by just stop being paranoid about your neighbors to the West”.

    But that’s a pretty tough ask.

    I too, lack optimism that Putin will be held accountable. He’ll lose power after this fiasco, but he won’t face a tribunal. The community of nations isn’t that resolved – it would require a military action to get Putin. I don’t think his people would give him up. No, he’s near his end. Some other cabal of oligarchs will take the helm in Russia with enough Putin loyalists around to make sure he isn’t “disappeared”.

    Knowing what we know now, the community of nations is *morally* compelled however to leave (and increase) sanctions against Russia even after the war ends. It’s sanctions must be stipulated on bringing Putin and others to account (even though this will not happen). Russians have lived with sanctions before – in a manner of speaking, the entire Cold War was a large program of sanctions.

    No, this will end when Putin dies a natural death quietly in some dacha somewhere. And the cynic in me assumes at this point (based on the current slug-footed action of nations) that eventually relations will normalize with Russia again. Such is the way of the world and geopolitics.

    Every 20 years the world is completely different world than it was.

  10. In this instance, however, no one has to use labels. Russia’s conduct marks it as evil for all to see, and until they openly and decisively reject Putin, Russians will not be able to think of themselves as “good people.”

    I beg to disagree.

    Based on various social media interviews from unofficial sources as well as official news channels showing rallies, they see themselves as morally and culturally superior to the decadence of the West.

    God is on their side, the side of Traditional Family Values and Russian culture. They are permitted to take everyone else’s stuff because they deserve it. Anyone who disagrees is a Nazi, so does not just deserve to be robbed, but killed too.

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