SAY WHAT? - "VLADI GO HOME," read the sign held by a woman protester in Germany, thus succinctly summarizing - along with the hashtag #PutinIsaWarCriminal - an aghast world's response to the invasion of Ukraine by Russia's paranoid, power-mad Ivan-the-Terrible wannabe. The escalation came quickly, with much drama. Ukraine's president Volodymyr Zelensky offered an impassioned plea to the Russian people - in Russian, which he typically avoids using - to “listen to the voice of reason” and spare what would be too many lives lost. Putin gave an incendiary, rambling speech about the need to defend the "new republics" from a "nightmare (of) persecution and genocide" by the "Neo-Nazi" regime of Zelensky, who's Jewish and a descendant of Holocaust survivors. America's right-wing tools, goons and useful idiots hastened to take the wrong side, from the stunned lunacy of the former guy - man, woman, person, camera, TV - to the brownshirt bilge of Steve Bannon and Erik Prince, blathering that at least the anti-woke Putin never made your kids read about slavery, use a same-sex bathroom or wear a skirt like Harry Styles. Meanwhile, experts seeing "a preview of great brutality" pondered the surreal implications of Putins's unveiled nuclear threats, murky "endgame" and possible problematic occupation of a nation of 41 million, an act akin to "committing suicide for fear of death," all to assuage the ego and hubris and greed of a guy who may have "lost the plot." And as always, the fearsome costs are borne by the people, whose stories and images quickly began pouring out on hashtags like #Ukraine and #UkraineUnderAttack.
In Russia, thousands of protesters bravely took to the streets; by Thursday night, almost 1,800 in 53 cities were detained, about half in Moscow. What if they gave a war and nobody came, or they did but gave up: There were reports of surrenders by Russian forces who didn't want to kill former countrymen - though also chilling video of soldiers blithely stripping dead bodies. As anxious residents huddled in subway stations, moving accounts surfaced. A woman wiped tears as she stood clutching a baby, with her toddler's sign pleading, "Stop War In Ukraine." An 80-year-old man toting a bag with extra shirts/pants and sandwiches tried to sign up to fight for his grandchildren in Ukraine. A former president of Ukraine, in the streets with a barely armed civil defense group, vowed to hold out "forever." A woman railed at soldiers as occupants, fascists, shits, then furiously told them to take some sunflower seeds to grow in Ukrainian soil "after you die." A sobbing father put his tearful daughter on a bus out of Kyiv to keep her safe; the usually staid Alexander Vindman, who left Ukraine for the U.S. as a child, called the video, "Goddamn heartbreaking." After the Russians reportedly seized Chernobyl in "a collision of catastrophes," Charlie Pierce noted the horror of Russians making war in a still-radioactive wilderness, created by humans and largely "reclaimed by vegetation and the beasts of the wild," that will remain uninhabitable to humans for 20,000 years: "And many men died of the waters, because they were made bitter." And on an island in the Black Sea, 13 Ukrainian border guards stayed defiant to the end. May they rest in peace and power.
"There is no flag large enough to cover the shame of killing innocent people." - Howard Zinn