27 March 2023

Why I don't celebrate Russian deaths in Ukraine

It's only natural that we celebrate Ukrainian victories.  Every Russian tank or bunker destroyed, every Russian military unit wiped out or driven back, every piece of land liberated, marks another step closer to the restoration of Ukraine's full territory and the end of this ghastly spectacle of death and destruction.  But in most cases the killing of Russian soldiers is a grim necessity, and not something to celebrate.

When I look at Russian soldiers in Ukraine, I see American soldiers in Vietnam, who included many men of my own generation as unwilling participants.  Yes, some proportion of Russian troops in Ukraine truly believe in the cause (as did some Americans in Vietnam), and some have committed atrocities (as did some Americans in Vietnam).  But many of them, by now perhaps most, are conscripts -- an euphemism for temporarily enslaved -- who in many cases were literally grabbed off the streets regardless of age, infirmity, or any other condition.  Like American conscripts in Vietnam, they do not want to be where they are or to do what they are doing, but were given no choice, and face severe penalties for failing to obey whatever orders they are given.  And a disproportionate number of "Russian" casualties in Ukraine have been men from the non-Russian ethnic minorities within Russia, subject to conscription because they are Russian citizens, just as black Americans were drafted and sent to Vietnam in disproportionate numbers, to fight for a society that discriminated against and brutalized them at home.

If the Vietnam war had lasted three more years, I would have reached draft age while it was still going on; my mother once told me that if that had happened she would have taken me to Canada, but there is no guarantee that this gambit would have succeeded.  If I happened to be Russian, I would have been at risk of being pressganged into the army by Putin's thugs last year despite being 62, in poor physical condition, and suffering visible issues with stamina and mobility.  Either way I would have ended up being sent to a foreign country against my will, being forced to kill people I had no reason to harm, and ultimately dying a pointless death.

Even those Russians who go willingly mostly do so because they are deceived by the squalid lies of a criminal warmongering leadership -- as so many Americans were during Vietnam.  Propaganda and the social pressure to conform can overwhelm most individuals' judgment and conscience, regardless of nationality.  In Russia now and in the US back then, some individuals refused conscription and suffered the penalties imposed by criminals enforcing laws which were themselves a crime, but the courage needed to do so was and is not common.

Every person is first and foremost an individual, and only secondarily a member of a category such as nation or race or sex.

The Ukrainians must strive to kill as many Russian soldiers as possible, just as they strive to destroy weapons and equipment.  They are in a position where they have no alternative.  It is part of the horror of war.  But most of the dead Russian soldiers in Ukraine, like the Ukrainians they have been made to kill, are innocent victims of Putin's monstrous criminality and arrogance.


  1. Excellent. Well said. The Tao recommends to "observe the rites of mourning" for all dead instead of gloating about "victory".

  2. I agree. We need to find a way to prevent bitter old men from sending the young to the slaughter.

  3. beautifully said. a sad reality of today's world -- can't humans ever evolve?

  4. Well, it's down to the Russians really... How much are they prepared to put up with for the half-arsed glory of their pound-store Tsar? And for how long?

  5. Powerful post.

    It brought back memories of Vietnam and a dear cousin I grew up with. We, his extended family, said we'd somehow get him to Canada if need be, but that wasn't as easy as it sounded. Gerald ended up in the Marine Corps and was sent to Vietnam. Somehow he survived and came home, only to die years later of complications from Agent Orange. That's our family's legacy of that terrible war. My cousin got a military burial; is wife received the folded American flag.

    I was left with memories and a broken heart.

  6. Same as it ever was. We might want to worry if maybe humanity just likes violence.

    Feeling sick and lonely, I returned to my tent to write out my casualty report; but instead I sat on the floor and drank whisky after whisky as I gazed into a black and empty future. Edwin Campion Vaughan


  7. To me the most direct war protest song. Pertinent no matter who is doing the war.

  8. War sucks and you want the right people to win but I wouldn't celebrate anyone's death in a war.

  9. Bob: There is plenty of mourning in Russia, thanks to Putin.

    Pliny: No nation should tolerate its rulers conscripting people into the military or compulsory "national service". Those things are just forms of temporary slavery.

    Daal: Most advanced countries don't do such things any more. It's actually a sign of progress that Putin's invasion is considered shocking -- before 1945 such actions were normal international behavior.

    NickM: It takes a lot to push Russians to rebel, but it did happen once. The 1917 revolution was partly driven by the stresses of participation in World War I.

    Shaw: A terrible story, and horrifying to think how many tens of thousands suffered such losses for a pointless war built on lies.

    Spirilis. Most humans in civilized countries don't like violence. The problem is those rulers who are willing to resort to violence (suffered by others, not themselves) for the sake of increased power.

    Daniel: I definitely remember that one!

    Mary K: Neither would I, in most cases, but Putin's death will be an exception.

  10. Infidel:

    You did not miss anything we endured. Did my time, coulda stayed as they wanted me, I left to see about a woman up in NYC. The better choice 52 years later,..


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