After Russian President Vladimir Putin directed Russian military forces to attack Ukraine, U.S. President Joe Biden condemned the Russian attack as an act of “premeditated war.” Biden’s condemnation seems hollow when one recalls the history of “premeditated” U.S. support for aggression and violence.
Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Ahmaud Arberry, Daunte Wright, Philando Castille, Alton Sterling, Rekia Boyd, and many other Black people were slaughtered by government agents in the United States. No U.S. president — including former president Barack Obama — condemned that systemic pattern of “premeditated war.”
The United States invaded Iraq on March 3, 2003. For the next nine years, over a million U.S. military personnel occupied that nation. More than 4,500 U.S. military personnel were killed. More than 100,000 Iraqi civilians were killed. The war in Iraq was “premeditated.”
The United States invaded Vietnam to support French colonizers in 1954. Over the next twenty years, some 58,000 Americans were killed in that war. Vietnam estimates that 1.1 million North Vietnamese and Viet Cong fighters were killed, up to 250,000 South Vietnamese soldiers were killed, and more than 2 million civilians were killed on both sides of that war. The war in Vietnam was “premeditated.”
Supplying billions of dollars every year to the apartheid regime of Israel for its decades of genocide and other violence against Palestinians and other people of color is “premeditated.”
The ongoing war against Black, Indigenous, and Latinx communities that involves government agents conducting military-style operations against civilians under the guise of “law enforcement” is “premeditated.”
Voter suppression laws are “premeditated.”
Red-lining is “premeditated.”
Shutting down schools that serve Black, Latinx, and low wealth neighborhoods is “premeditated.”
Giving tax breaks to businesses that poison air, water, and soil where low wealth people live is “premeditated.”
Refusing to enact laws that require employers to pay workers a living wage is “premeditated.”
Refusing to authorize government-financed healthcare that covers every person and all health conditions — including mental health conditions — is “premeditated.”
Spending tax dollars to build new prisons rather than build new public schools is “premeditated.”
Biden hasn’t condemned any of those acts of “premeditated war.” Journalists and other politicians seldom mention those acts of “premeditated war.”
Sadly, religious leaders seldom mention those acts of “premeditated war.” They do not even call the premeditated systemic acts “violence” or “war.”
This history may explain why the average person in the United States appears unconcerned about the Russian “premeditated war” against Ukraine. Eventually, people who live with so much “premeditated” violence become numb. They lose the ability to recognize and respond to the physical, moral, ethical, social, and global violence that happens every day under the cover of empire, whatever shape or name it may assume.
That should trouble people with moral integrity. War always involves people killing other people. That makes war homicide conducted with a governmental license (remember the term “licensed to kill” from the James Bond movies).
Politicians and other leaders who oversee constant “premeditated war” operations are trafficking in murder, armed robbery, arson, kidnapping, battery, and other conduct that they claim the right and license to get away with. Across the entire span of history, every war has also included rape and other sexual assault against women and girls for whom the violation and subjugation of their bodies and lives has been discounted and mislabeled by the term “collateral damage.” Other people with moral integrity recognize the entire spectrum of such behavior by another label: organized crime.
Vladimir Putin isn’t the only such thug in the world. He isn’t even the most dangerous thug in the world. No matter how badly Putin’s thuggery may offend Biden and leaders of other thuggish nations, Putin’s wrongful conduct towards Ukraine does not excuse or erase their wrongs.
So, the next time you hear a politician, journalist, or someone else complain about violence in Black, Indigenous, and Latinx communities remind the speaker about the ongoing violence perpetrated by local, state, and national governments.
Tell them to quit talking about violence in those communities when they have refused to condemn and stop the violence Black, Indigenous, Latinx, Asian, and immigrant people have suffered.
Tell them to quit pretending to be outraged about violence when they have never been outraged about violence against women and girls, violence against LGBTQI people, violence against immigrants, and violence against people who are otherwise targets for abuse, bigotry, and discrimination.
Tell police department leaders to quit talking about violence in Black, Latinx, and Indigenous communities while they conduct “no knock” raids on sleeping people, kill the startled people who try to defend themselves, and then invite community leaders to have “honest conversations” about violence.
We should be offended about the Russian invasion of Ukraine, but we should not be impressed by what President Biden says about “premeditated war.” We should grieve violence in Black communities, but we should not be impressed or fooled by what politicians and police leaders say about “violent crime.”
Politicians and police leaders oversee violent conduct every day — locally, statewide, nationally, and globally — that people with integrity understand is criminal. Politicians and police leaders claim the legal, political, and moral right to commit “premeditated war” every day and insist that we praise them for it. Meanwhile, they pretend to care about violence and invite us to have “honest conversations” with them.
We should refuse to do so. Instead, we should talk among ourselves about how to respond to violence against any person or group by any other persons or groups, including the politicians and police leaders who head the world’s largest, deadliest, and richest organized crime syndicate.
And when politicians and police leaders ask why we refuse to talk with them about violence we should remind them of a proverbial saying.
People who live in glass houses should not throw stones.