We knew this was going to happen. We knew it was happening. It happens in every war. Always has, always will. Where there is war, there will be war crimes committed against civilians. It’s usually impulsive; troops who’ve been under prolonged stress and ongoing fear sometimes strike out in rage and frustration, in a desire for revenge against the situation they’re in.
But what’s taking place in Ukraine is war crime as a matter of policy. It’s war crime as a strategy. The indiscriminate shelling of civilian apartment buildings, of shelters, of hospitals has been deliberate and intentional. It’s been a conscious, calculated attempt to terrorize the populace and the government of Ukraine and sap their will to resist.
What’s happened in Bucha is different. The shelling and bombing, as horrific as it’s been, was remote, impersonal. It was done at a distance, by troops who would never witness the destruction they were causing. You drop a bomb, you fire an artillery shell, and whatever happens will happen somewhere else to people whose bodies you’ll never see.
In Bucha it was personal. Individual civilians deliberately murdered by individual Russians. Civilians with their hands tied behind their backs, executed in the street. Random civilians riding their bikes, murdered for no reason other than a desire to kill somebody. Men and women shot while sitting in their cars. At least 40 bodies of civilians were scattered along the street. Reports of nearly 300 buried–or partially buried–in two mass graves.
is was just a small quiet town. A little more than 35,000 people. There’s a nice little municipal park and an international children’s center. Or at least there used to be–now, who knows? The town began as a railway stop back in the 1890s. The station house is still the town’s main landmark. Assuming it’s still there.
Maybe that railroad was the reason Bucha was a military objective. Russia is accustomed to moving troops and materiel by rail, and Bucha is on the doorstep of Kyiv. I don’t know.
What I know is this: Russia has turned Bucha into a graveyard. You may not want to look at this video of Ukrainian troops arriving in Bucha. You may not want to look at it, but you should. It’s awful, it’s gut-wrenching, but it’s important that the world–that YOU–see what Russia under Putin has done. What Russia is continuing to do in other towns and cities in Ukraine, because this isn’t going to stop until the Russian invasion has stopped.
The video refers to Russian troops as ‘animals’. It would be easy to dismiss the men who did this as less than human. But by doing that, we also diminish their responsibility. The horrifying truth is that the people who did this are almost certainly ordinary young men who’ve been traumatized by their situation. This is what war does; what it’s always done. It ruins everything.
Michael Herr, an Esquire magazine reporter who covered the war in Vietnam, wrote this about that war:
There was such a dense concentration of energy there, American and essentially adolescent, if that energy could have been channeled into anything more than noise, waste and pain it would have lighted up Indochina for a thousand years.
That’s true of any war in any place at any time. Had the energy, the money, the materiel, the humanity pissed away in this single month been applied to “anything more than noise, waste, and pain” Ukraine would be a garden. Bucha would still be a charming town.
Now it’s a hellscape, littered with burnt out vehicles, destroyed buildings, the dead scattered like trash. And why?
We can literally lay the responsibility of all this on one man. Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin. Fuck him. Fuck him in the neck. Fuck anybody who praises him. Fuck anybody who offers an excuse for him. Putin, may he rot in hell.