My Point of View: Biden is on the right side of history

Published 8:45 pm Tuesday, March 22, 2022

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My Point of View by Jennifer Vogt-Erickson

If you believe the Kremlin, Russia invaded Ukraine to “denazify” its neighbor and liberate its people. This narrative is a lie, and Russian forces have met fierce resistance from Ukraine’s army, its civilians and its president Zelenskyy.

Jennifer Vogt-Erickson

Russian troops, rather than being greeted with flowers, are committing war crimes against civilians trapped in cities on a scale we haven’t seen in Europe since the Bosnian War, perhaps even World War II.

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Russian invaders have laid siege to Mariupol, a port in southeast Ukraine with a pre-war population of over 400,000. Ukrainian forces smuggled the last outside journalist, who had captured seering images of Russia’s bombing of a children’s and maternity hospital for the Associated Press, out of the city last week. The fates of hundreds of people who were sheltering in the basements of the Mariupol theater and art school that Russia bombed are still unknown. 

Ukraine has so far refused to voluntarily give up any territory, including Mariupol.

According to Olga Lautman, senior fellow at the Center for European Policy Analysis, the Russian news agency RIA Novosti has reported, “After a complete cleansing of Mariupol, the team of the DPR [supposed breakaway region of Donetsk] ombudsman, together with the law enforcement agency of the republic, will enter the city and collect evidence of all the crimes of the Ukrainian national battalions for the tribunal.”

The “cleansing” language matches lines in Russian dictator Putin’s address last week in which he promised a “necessary cleansing of the nation” to “spit out like flies” all “traitors” who don’t back his autocratic regime. Putin admires Josef Stalin, who committed merciless purges of political enemies. 

Just weeks ago, former President Trump lauded Putin’s actions. On Feb. 22, he mused, “I went in yesterday and there was a television screen, and I said, ‘This is genius.’ Putin declares a big portion of the Ukraine — of Ukraine — Putin declares it as independent. Oh, that’s wonderful … Putin is now saying, ‘It’s independent,’ a large section of Ukraine. I said, ‘How smart is that?’ And he’s gonna go in and be a peacekeeper.”

The next day at CPAC, Trump stated, “I mean, [Putin]’s taking over a country for $2 worth of sanctions. I’d say that’s pretty smart.”

Tucker Carlson, on Fox News that same week, asked, “Why do Democrats want you to hate Putin? Has Putin shipped every middle class job in your town to Russia? Did he manufacture a worldwide pandemic that wrecked your business? Is he teaching your kids to embrace racial discrimination? Is he making fentanyl? Does he eat dogs?”

Carlson’s duplicitous logic aside, a Financial Times journalist in Lviv reported on March 20 that the starving people of Mariupol are eating stray dogs, and hungry dogs are eating the remains of people who lay where they fell because it’s not safe to bury them. This is on Putin, and Trump and Carlson have openly admired him.

Russian media analyst Julia Davis has reported multiple instances of Russian state TV translating clips of Carlson’s show and airing them. According to a leaked Kremlin memo dated March 3, this is a deliberate propaganda policy: “It is essential to use as much as possible fragments of broadcasts of the popular Fox News host Tucker Carlson, who sharply criticizes the actions of the United States [and] NATO, their negative role in unleashing the conflict in Ukraine, [and] the defiantly provocative behavior from the leadership of the Western countries and NATO towards the Russian Federation and towards President Putin, personally….”

Carlson is the top-rated cable “news” show on television in the U.S., and his messaging resonates in reddish rural areas like ours. Why is he such a useful mouthpiece for the Kremlin?

Also remember that not only did Trump attempt to extort Zelenskyy by holding up defensive weapons in exchange for manufacturing dirt on Joe Biden, he used his 2019 phone call with Zelenskyy to falsely blame Ukrainians, rather than Russians, for hacking the DNC server in 2016. More Kremlin propaganda. 

Republicans in Congress, with the exception of Sen. Mitt Romney, failed to find Trump’s actions criminal. (Rep. Adam Kinzinger recently expressed regret for his nay vote.)

Trump is at the center of the Republican Party’s strange embrace of autocracy, including trying to violently overturn the results of the 2020 election on Jan. 6 last year. The party’s budding disdain for majority rule is characterized by a willingness to hand over economic and political power to an elite few in exchange for eroding equal protection under law for marginalized groups like LGBTQ people and immigrants, using coded words like “Marxist” (as in Brad Kramer’s column last week), “globalist” and “woke.”

President Biden’s administration is actively aiding Zelenskyy in Ukraine’s desperate fight for independence and democracy against a murderous dictator. The right side of history could not be clearer.

Jennifer Vogt-Erickson is  a member of the Freeborn County DFL Party.