Civilian Targets

Western coverage of Ukraine receded in recent weeks as Russia scaled back its attacks in the East. With the loss of Sievierodonetsk over the weekend, and a Russian missile attack on Kremenchuk, eighty miles from the front line, on Monday, that’s changing.

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29 June 2022

Woe vs Rage

The 24th of the month is proving an ominous date in 2022, first with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February and now with the Trump-packed Supreme Court overturning almost fifty years of constitutionally protected nationwide access to abortion in America last Friday.

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29 June 2022

Raining Fire

The Davros-like Henry Kissinger has declared from Davos that Ukraine must give Russia territory (archived) and that the West must “stop trying to inflict a crushing defeat on Russian forces in Ukraine, [as] it would have disastrous consequences for the long term stability of Europe”.† President Zelenskyy’s response was masterly, as always:

Mr. Kissinger emerges from the deep past and says that a piece of Ukraine should be given to Russia. So that there is no alienation of Russia from Europe. It seems that Mr. Kissinger’s calendar is not 2022, but 1938, and he thought he was talking to an audience not in Davos, but in Munich of that time. By the way, in the real year 1938, when Mr. Kissinger’s family was fleeing Nazi Germany, he was 15 years old, and he understood everything perfectly. And nobody heard from him then that it was necessary to adapt to the Nazis instead of fleeing them or fighting them. … “Great geopoliticians” are always unwilling to see ordinary people. Ordinary Ukrainians. Millions of those who actually live in the territory they propose to exchange for the illusion of peace. You must always see people. And remember that values are not just a word. … We must do everything possible for the world to get a permanent habit of taking Ukraine into account. So that the interests of Ukrainians are not overlapped by the interests of those who are in a hurry for another meeting with the dictator.

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27 May 2022

Warnings From the Ages

Nobody will read this essay in 200 years.

The essay’s initial target, Jason Stanley, is right: it’s really good. It also prompted me to start reading his 2018 book How Fascism Works, and although I don’t know whether it will last 200 years, it takes a broad enough historical view that it might—and more importantly it’s very much a book for right now. I keep thinking of how many of his points apply to the last few years of Boris Johnson’s government, not to mention the last few months of Russia going off the deep end, and it’s an urgent reminder that the danger of Trumpism persists despite the change of US president.

Gawker has changed the title of McClay’s essay to “It’s Very Unlikely Anyone Will Read This in 200 Years”. Where’s the fun in that? Leave the circumspect language to academic articles that it’s very unlikely anyone will read in 200 days.

Get yer 200-year-old coincidentally relevant essay right here.

3 May 2022 · 1 Comment

Weeks Turn into Months

Russia’s genocide handbook. Russia’s genocidal identity. The words that lead to mass murder. The novel that mapped out Putin’s war plan.

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30 April 2022

The Horror

Reports on the weekend of the bodies of mutilated children left behind by retreating Russian troops in Bucha, just outside Kyiv, confirmed the worst fears of recent weeks.

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7 April 2022

Stirring Up Dust

Sometimes when a musician dies unexpectedly, an Elliott Smith or a David Bowie, I end up bingeing their back-catalogue and becoming a bigger fan than when they were alive. It feels as if the war in Ukraine has had the same effect, teaching me so much about the place that I find myself wishing I could visit places that are now gone. It’s been eye-opening to learn about its archaeological urban sites as old as Mesopotamia, its Korean community who have lived there since the 1960s, and other features of its pre-war life and culture.

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1 April 2022

The Fog of War

Has Russia’s invasion stalled? Or is the war just beginning?

“The TV is winning.”

“We’re living a nightmare.”

A century of Russian colonialism.

Arrested for holding up a blank sheet of paper.

The attack on Zaporizhzhia was more dangerous than first thought.

Debunking Russian claims of bioweapons labs.

Archivists scan documents around the clock for fear of “archivocide”.

Putin has already deployed a chemical weapon—in Salisbury.

Zelensky warned us.

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15 March 2022

Nightmare Fuel Rods

Last Wednesday was the wrong night to wake up at one a.m. and habitually check Twitter. Realising that the Russian army had started shelling the largest nuclear power plant in Europe wasn’t exactly conducive to sleep. Thoughts of Chernobyl had already been at the back of my mind during the first week of the war, even before the Russians took that notorious site over, but Zaporizhzhia seemed an even better candidate for “accidentally” turning into a giant dirty bomb. Just the fact of Russia attacking either is reason to worry very, very much.

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10 March 2022

In the Mud

The situation in Mariupol on the coast of southern Ukraine is desperate, with water supplies cut after days of Russian bombardment. But further north, there may be cause for hope. A Russian thermobaric bomb launcher got captured by Ukrainians because “it tried to go off-roading … in springtime”, when the ground hasn’t frozen as usual this winter. Meanwhile, poor Russian Army truck maintenance practices implied by a photo of a gun-missile system’s right rear pair of tyres have significant implications for Russia:

When you leave military truck tires in one place for months on end … the side walls get rotted/brittle such that using low tire pressure setting for any appreciable distance will cause the tires to fail catastrophically via rips. … The Russians simply cannot risk them off road during the Rasputitsa/Mud season. … Given the demonstrated levels of corruption in truck maintenance … their wheeled AFV/truck park is as road bound as Russian Army columns were in the 1st Russo-Finnish War.

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3 March 2022