Category Archives: Resistance

Ukraine: in the East, The War Turns Grim

“NOTE: The shift can be felt even here, thousands of miles away: Russia’s nonstop shelling and bombing is wearing down Ukrainian forces in its eastern regions. They are retreating, taking many casualties.  The “wise men” of Davos, and some national leaders of allied nations were talking of concessions to Moscow to get the war over with.  the almost giddy optimism of six weeks, two months ago has been crumbling like so many Ukrainian buildings. President Zelensky is defiant; but what now?

From the Washington Post: Ukraine suffers on battlefield while pleading for U.S. arms

‘They’re just raining down metal on us,’ said a soldier fresh from the front line where Russia is advancing

By Siobhán O’Grady, Paul Sonne, Max Bearak and Anastacia Galouchka

May 29, 2022 — ET
DONETSK OBLAST, Ukraine — The ambulances hurtled into the parking lot one after the other, each carrying wounded troops directly from the nearby front line. . . . . About 10 wounded soldiers arrived at this hospital in eastern Ukraine in less than an hour Sunday morning — the latest military casualties as Ukrainian forces, outgunned by Russia in the country’s east, continue to lose territory at a critical moment in the war.

Soldiers also helped one civilian woman with leg wounds out of a military ambulance.

The Washington Post is withholding the name and precise location of the hospital out of concerns from staff members that it could be targeted by Russian forces.

“Seventy people from my battalion were injured in the last week,” said a soldier and ambulance driver just outside the hospital gates who identified himself only as Vlad, 29.

“I lost too many friends; it’s hard for me. I don’t know how many. … It’s getting worse every day.”

The night before, he said, the shelling was so loud he hardly got any sleep. “It’s all artillery bombing down,” he said. “All the wounded are coming from shrapnel. Most guys in the trenches haven’t even seen the enemy face-to-face.”

They were gearing up to provide additional support for the soldiers battling the Russians head-on, preparing for a worst-case scenario in which Russian forces continue or accelerate their current advance. That would be a potential turning point on the battlefield.

It would come at a particularly desperate moment for the Ukrainians. Kyiv is already enraged that some Western voices are floating the idea of ceding territory to Moscow. And the Biden administration is taking weeks to decide whether to provide heavier weaponry that could aid Ukrainian troops at this critical juncture in the war.

“Everyone’s tired,” said Bohdan, a 30-year-old soldier and officer in the battalion who spoke on the condition that only his first name be used and his precise position not be given. “But we are ready to stand and protect until the last man.”

In recent days, Russian troops have captured the towns of Svitlodarsk and Lyman and have closed in on Severodonetsk, a large regional hub, where Russian forces have entered a hotel on the city limits. If Russian troops manage to encircle and take the city, Moscow would occupy nearly all of Ukraine’s easternmost Luhansk region, which makes up roughly half of Donbas.

“I mainly hope the boys don’t get encircled in Severodonetsk,” Bohdan said of his fellow troops. “They need more guns, they need more weapons.”

If he could send one message to Washington, he said, it would be this: “Help us with weapons. The most important is antiaircraft. Close the sky — it’s the civilians who are suffering the most.”

The situation in the country’s east marks a shift from an earlier stage of the war, when staunch Ukrainian defenses forced a broad Russian retreat in Kyiv and other areas, increasing confidence among Ukrainians and their Western backers about the prospects of all-out victory over a poorly organized and equipped Russian force.

Having now regrouped, Russian troops are making incremental but steady progress in their campaign in the east and are regularly employing heavy flamethrowers and long-range artillery that Ukrainian forces lack, leaving Kyiv on the back foot. Though Ukrainian resistance has made the fight a slog for Russian forces,

Moscow is inching closer to encircling Ukraine’s biggest strongholds in the Donbas region, while fighting on territory contiguous to Russia with easier supply lines.

In a video address early Saturday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said the situation on the battlefield in Donbas was “very difficult,” with Russian forces attacking Ukrainian positions with “maximum artillery and maximum reserves.”

“We are defending our land insofar as the defense resources we have today will allow. We’re doing everything we can to strengthen them — and we will strengthen them,” Zelensky said. “If the occupiers think Severodonetsk or Lyman will be theirs, they are mistaken. Donbas will be Ukrainian.”

For weeks, Zelensky and other top Ukrainian officials have been asking the United States to provide multiple launch rocket systems, or MLRS, which would give Kyiv the ability to strike targets from much farther away and a better chance of resisting the assault in the east.

U.S. officials and congressional staffers told The Post on Friday that the administration is preparing to send the weaponry and could announce the move as early as this week, but the White House must still make a final decision on the transfer.

Some White House officials had expressed concern that providing MLRS weaponry with a range of more than 180 miles would allow Ukrainian forces to hit targets far into Russian territory, potentially prompting an escalatory response from Moscow, but the White House is now comfortable managing that risk by withholding the longest-range ammunition for the system, a senior U.S. official told The Post.

Whether the weaponry will get to Ukrainian forces in time to stave off a significant defeat in the east is now unclear, as Russian forces unleash a wave of attacks with gruesome weaponry on Ukrainian positions, forcing an exodus of people from the country’s embattled easternmost regions.

In an Instagram post on Friday, Andriy Yermak, head of the Ukrainian presidential administration, said Ukrainian forces needed the weaponry “yesterday,” as well as other systems that have been requested, such as air defense systems and tanks. . . .

Outside the hospital Sunday, men who were recently wounded in Severodonetsk lamented the difficult conditions on the ground. “We need more Javelins,” said Lapa, 26, who spoke on the condition that he be identified only by his call sign.

On Saturday, he said, many dead soldiers slain in fighting nearby were carried out. Now, he said, “Ukrainian soldiers are pulling back.”
He was at the hospital to be treated for a fracture in his leg and a wounded arm. Another soldier in his unit, who identified himself as Adik, 41, had broken ribs. A bloody bandage covered the side of his head where he had been hit with shrapnel.

“They’re just raining down metal on us,” Lapa said. Nearby, a 25-year-old with his head wrapped in a bandage puffed on a cigarette. He goes by Koleh and had recently hit a mine, he said, although he didn’t know how exactly he ended up wounded.
 Severodonetsk, he added, “is the worst.”

Ukrainians waiting for help away from the front lines are suffering too.

On Saturday, at the train station in the eastern city of Pokrovsk, a hub where civilians have arrived to evacuate from cities across Donbas, four elderly women lay crammed side-by-side in the back of a van, a mix of dirty blankets and pillows covering their frail legs. Underneath, they wore nothing but diapers.

Hours earlier, volunteers had evacuated them from a nursing home in Chasov Yar, a small town less than 50 miles from Severodonetsk. Now, one by one, they moaned and wailed in pain as they were lifted onto pieces of tarp and carried from the van into an evacuation train heading west — a trip their caretakers hoped might save their lives.

“They’re shooting a lot, they’re bombing a lot,” said a woman named Halya, who was 73 and missing the lower half of her right leg. “Now the war has gotten to us and it’s gotten a bit scary.”

Many elderly evacuees — all with red bracelets strapped around their wrists — said they did not know exactly where they were going. One said her family was trapped nearby in occupied territory. Another couldn’t speak at all, tears streaming down her face as she grasped the hands of two reporters.

On a main road heading east from the city of Dnipro on Saturday, even a gas station attendant urgently appealed to a Washington Post reporter for more support from the United States — begging for antiaircraft weapons to help protect her two sons serving on the front line near Donetsk. At a nearby checkpoint, a Virgin Mary statue draped in a Ukrainian flag sat propped up high, another plea posted beneath her: “Pray for Ukraine.”

As Ukrainian forces seek to hold the line, officials in Kyiv have been disheartened to see suggestions from the West that Ukraine should give up part of its territory to satisfy Russian President Vladimir Putin and end the war.

For days, top Ukrainian officials have been fending off suggestions from European leaders, former secretary of state Henry Kissinger and the New York Times editorial board that Kyiv should enter talks with Russia and make concessions.
[Kissinger says Ukraine should cede territory to Russia to end war]

French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz have been pushing peace talks, and top Italian officials submitted a peace plan to the United Nations that would freeze the current front lines, leading to a significant loss of territory for Ukraine.

Ukrainian officials believe that any concessions to satisfy Putin now will only lead to Russia regrouping and launching a far more vicious war against Ukraine in the future.

Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to Zelensky, told The Post that the Ukrainian government refuses any plan other than a military loss for Russia on the battlefield.

“If Russia doesn’t lose, they won’t have any internal transformation,” Podolyak said. “A Russia that doesn’t lose will, on the contrary, be more chauvinist and have an even more revanchist outlook, because they will hate us for humiliating them in front of the rest of the world … and, accordingly, in two years they will come back and kill us even more brutally.”

Zelensky, who said Kissinger was living in 1938 — a reference to attempts to appease Adolf Hitler before World War II — chided “great geopoliticians” trying to give away parts of Ukraine in a post on Instagram on Saturday, saying they were unwilling to see the people who live in those territories as real people.
“Ordinary Ukrainians. Millions of those who actually live in the territory they propose to exchange for the illusion of peace,” Zelensky said. “You must always see people. And remember that values are not just a word.”​

Commentary: Old men at Davos

By Gwynne Dyer – May 29, 2022

‘What happens in Davos stays in Davos’, they say – or at least it should stay there, because some foolish things are said at the ‘World Economic Forum’, the annual conclave of the rich and famous. Well, the rich, the famous, and this time also the very old, because both George Soros and Henry Kissinger graced the Swiss ski resort with their presence.

Former US secretary of state Henry Kissinger, 98 years old, was playing his favourite role of wise and world-weary adviser preaching ‘realpolitik’ (political realism) to the young and naive. (Everything is relative, and the ‘young’ at Davos are somewhat older than they are elsewhere.)

Kissinger warned the United States and the West not to seek an embarrassing defeat for Russia in Ukraine, predicting that it could worsen Europe’s long-term stability. He therefore wanted the West to force Ukraine into negotiations with Russia based on the pre-invasion borders that Russia conquered in its 2014 attacks.

Gwynne Dyer

A recent poll found that 82 per cent of Ukrainians think their country should not sign any of its territory away in return for peace with Russia. Researchers at the Kyiv International Institute of Sociology found that only 10 per cent of respondents found it acceptable for Ukraine to concede territory to achieve peace.

Mykhailo Podolyak, adviser to President Volodymyr Zelensky, tweeted: “As easily as Mr Kissinger proposes to give Russia part of Ukraine to stop the war, he would allow (Moscow) to take Poland or Lithuania away. It’s good that Ukrainians in the trenches do not have time for listening to ‘Davos panickers’.”

The Ukrainians are still high on their victories against Russia around Kyiv and Kharkiv in the north. However, the war in the east is more like a scaled-down version of the trench battles of the First World War: brutal artillery wars of attrition that Zelensky recently estimated are killing a hundred Ukrainian soldiers a day. It could be more.

Zelensky also revealed that “tens of thousands of Ukrainian men and women” have been killed already, and the economy is a wreck. Fifteen per cent of the population has taken refuge abroad, and the $40 billion in military and financial aid just voted by the US Congress will last Ukraine six months at best.

So Ukraine may end up deciding for itself to accept a peace deal that restores the pre-February border and lets Russia keep its earlier conquests. However, Russia is not even making that offer yet, and it is not Kissinger’s place to suggest forcing Kyiv to make such concessions. As for ‘not embarrassing Russia’, it damn well should be embarrassed.

At the other extreme, we have George Soros, a sprightly 91, who warned the assembled masters of the universe (Earth chapter) that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine threatens to be the “beginning of the third world war” and could spell “the end of civilisation.”

Soros threw a lot of other things into the pot as well – the climate emergency, the spread of autocratic regimes, the Covid pandemic – so by the end it wasn’t clear whether he thought the Ukraine war alone could bring down civilisation. But it was a doom-laden speech, to say the least.

It must seem to Soros that his whole life’s work is collapsing, because he has spent the past three decades and most of his fortune trying to encourage open and democratic societies, especially in Eastern Europe. But it didn’t work in Hungary (where he was born), it hasn’t worked in Russia, and now Ukraine’s freedom and democracy are under attack.

I met Soros in late August of 1989 in Budapest, when everything seemed bright and new and full of promise. Communist-ruled Hungary had just opened its borders to the west, and I interviewed a radical anti-communist student leader called Viktor Orban who took me to meet his new patron, George Soros.

Soros questioned me eagerly about the Soviet Union, where I had spent most of the summer, and I told him change was on the way very soon. And it all arrived on schedule: the fall of the Berlin Wall, democracy in the ‘satellite’ countries of Eastern Europe, the collapse of the Soviet Union. He was delighted, as was I and hundreds of millions of others.

Now it’s not glad, confident morning anymore. Orban is a populist ‘soft’ dictator in Hungary, Russia has turned into a hard dictatorship, Xi will probably get his third term and become China’s permanent ruler this autumn, and Donald Trump may be back as US president in 2024.

But even a full Russian conquest of Ukraine (which is very unlikely) would not cause a ‘Third World War’. The ‘end of civilisation’ is not nigh. It’s never as good as it looks to young, hopeful men, and it’s rarely as dark as it feels to disappointed old men.

 

 

A Long, Satisfying Read: DuBois’s “Black Reconstruction”

 

The Nation: Abolition Democracy
W.E.B. Du Bois and the making of Black Reconstruction.
By Gerald Horne – MAY 3, 2022

W. E. B. Fubois

By the time his magnum opus, Black Reconstruction, was published in 1935, W.E.B. Du Bois was already a rara avis—a prominent Black activist-intellectual in the midst of Jim Crow. Dapper and diminutive, and nattily clad in suit and tie, he was renowned throughout the country.

The first African American to earn a Harvard doctorate, Du Bois cofounded the NAACP in 1909 and thereafter helped organize a pan-African movement that bedeviled European colonizers. But what distinguished his close study of slavery and Reconstruction (and does so even today) was its Marxism. Continue reading A Long, Satisfying Read: DuBois’s “Black Reconstruction”

G. W. Bush’s Accidental Moment of Truth

The “Truth Gaffe” of the Century

Excerpted from The Guardian:

The audience chuckled at George W Bush’s Iraq-Ukraine gaffe. I’m not laughing

I don’t think it’s possible to overstate the depravity and horror of the former president’s 2003 invasion of Iraq

Published: Saturday, 21 May 2022
‘There has been zero accountability for any of the architects of the Iraq war.’

George Bush accidentally confessed to being a war criminal

It was a Freudian slip for the ages: during a speech in Dallas this week, former President George W Bush condemned the “decision of one man to launch a wholly unjustified and brutal invasion of Iraq”. Whoops! “I mean of Ukraine,” he added a second later, as laughter rang out in the room.

Isn’t it funny when a former president accidentally confesses to war crimes? Ha! Ha! Ha!

Tell you what, I’m not laughing. Nor are a lot of Arabs. I don’t think it’s possible to overstate the depravity and horror of the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Iraqi prisoners of war – many of whom were innocent people who were arrested by mistake – were violently tortured by US and UKtroops.

Hundreds of thousands of civilians died. The entire country was left in ruins. And the suffering continued long after the occupying forces left. The US military’s frequent use of munitions containing depleted uranium in Iraq, along with military hardware abandoned by troops, poisoned the environment and the population. Even now babies are being born with severe birth defects linked to the invasion.

“Doctors are regularly encountering anomalies in babies that are so gruesome they cannot even find precedents for them,” the lead researcher of a 2019 study said. “The war has spread so much radiation here that, unless it is cleaned up, generations of Iraqis will continue to be affected.” So, yeah, please excuse me if I don’t find Bush’s slip-up particularly funny.

You know what’s even less funny? The fact there has been zero accountability for any of the architects of the Iraq war. Sure, some of the military personnel were convicted of crimes relating to torture of Abu Ghraib prisoners, but the people who were really in charge have faced no consequences whatsoever. Bush himself has had his reputation whitewashed in recent years; he has transformed himself into a cuddly grandpa figure who paints and pontificates about “unity”. As for his coterie of enablers, most of them went on to high-paying jobs and prestigious positions.

Before anyone starts making excuses for the architects of the Iraq war (“how could they have known?”), let me remind you that it was clear from the start that the war – and the flimsy weapons of mass destruction excuse used to justify it – was a sham. In February 2003 millions of people, including myself, in at least 650 cities around the world took to the streets to protest the US-led invasion of Iraq. It was the largest one-day global protest in history. Ordinary people could see the war was immoral and probably illegal – and yet there is a concerted effort in some quarters to rewrite the war as a deeply regrettable lapse in judgment that nobody at the time could really have been expected to get right.

Here’s a quick thought experiment for you: imagine it’s 2042 and Vladimir Putin has transformed himself from war criminal to cuddly grandpa who paints in his dotage. Imagine he slips up while making a speech and talks about the wholly unjustified and brutal invasion of Ukraine. Imagine everyone in the room laughing. That wouldn’t be terribly funny would it?

In fact, the idea that a guy like Putin could face zero accountability and spend his old age giving speeches instead of serving time for war crimes, would be horrifying. And here’s another question for anyone who thinks that a comparison between Bush and Putin is unfair: ask yourself why you think that is? Ask yourself why the Iraq war is any more justifiable than the Ukraine war? Is it because, deep down, you’ve been taught to think that Arab lives don’t matter?

For more about the unfinished business of the Iraq War, click here.

New Nordic Math: NATO+ Finland & Sweden = VLAD’s Ukraine Boomerang

Opinion: Thanks, Vladimir Putin, for greatly strengthening NATO

From Max Boot
 – May 17, 2022, in The Washington Post

. . . The unprovoked Russian invasion of Ukraine has given the [NATO] alliance a new lease on life, making it more politically united and militarily formidable than at any time since the end of the Cold War.

. . . Sweden and Finland, which have long maintained their neutrality, are declaring their desire to join the alliance. . . .

With Sweden and Finland as members, NATO will hit the strategic jackpot. Admitting them to NATO isn’t an act of charity. They are formidable military powers in their own right that can substantially contribute to deterring further Russian aggression.

Finland has a massive artillery force of 1,500 cannons along with F-18 fighter jets, multiple launch rocket systems, armored howitzers, a variety of precision-guided munitions and other high-tech systems. Helsinki is increasing its defense spending and recently finalized a deal to buy 64 F-35 fighters. Its active duty military is small (only 22,000 personnel), but it maintains conscription and can quickly mobilize 280,000 troops — a far larger force than what Russia sent into Ukraine. Continue reading New Nordic Math: NATO+ Finland & Sweden = VLAD’s Ukraine Boomerang

Warfare Is Evolving. Now Even Words Conquer. Videos too.

‘Unsettling’ Fort Bragg recruitment video ignites debate over its mysterious intent

Raleigh NC News & Observer

BY MARK PRICE — MAY 16, 2022

A recruitment video created by Fort Bragg’s 4th Psychological Operations Group has inspired growing debate on social media over its meaning. The video is being called “eerie” and “unsettling.”

It’s a stretch to link the U.S. Army to witchery, but that’s happening in response to an eerie recruitment video shared on YouTube by Fort Bragg’s 4th Psychological Operations Group-Airborne. Titled “Ghosts in the Machine,” the video feels like a movie trailer and comes with no explanation other than: “All the world’s a stage. Join us.”

The video, posted May 2, starts innocently, with benign clips of cartoons and images of empty city streets and subways. But the vibe grows increasingly disturbing, with footage of a shadowy man, anxious stares at dark skies, violent riot scenes and soldiers being deployed.

“Have you ever wondered who’s pulling the strings?” the video asks. “You’ll find us in the shadows at the tip of the spear. … Anything we touch is a weapon. We can deceive, persuade, change, influence, inspire. We come in many forms. We are everywhere.” Continue reading Warfare Is Evolving. Now Even Words Conquer. Videos too.

Reading “On Tyranny,” and Getting Ready

I picked up Timothy Snyder’s On Tyranny the other day. I had read excerpts from it; this time it was cover to cover.

It’s concise; reading only took a little over an hour. But it was more than worth it.

In fact, I’d say it was necessary for me.

I needed to read it because I’m persuaded that local and state governance in much of the United States is approaching, or even sliding off the cliff into an abyss of authoritarianism. Our runaway Supreme Court appears ready to give the whole country a major shove, starting with reproductive rights and following up with blows to many other of our remaining liberties. Continue reading Reading “On Tyranny,” and Getting Ready

Quote of the Weekend: Rep. Hakeem Jeffries vs. Clarence Thomas

Democrat Hakeem Jeffries calls out Clarence Thomas

David Badash, The New Civil Rights Movement — May 12, 2022

Democratic House Caucus Chairman Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) delivered an impassioned speech Wednesday, telling Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas he should “have a conversation” with his spouse.

The far-right activist and lobbyist Ginni Thomas reportedly had a months-long text conversation with then-White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, vehemently urging him to have the 2020 presidential election overturned.

Last Friday Justice Thomas complained in a speech to a group of judges and attorneys from the 11th Circuit, “We can’t be an institution that can be bullied into giving you just the outcomes you want.” He was referring to the majority of Americans who want the Court to uphold the 49-year-old decision in Roe v. Wade, supporting a woman’s constitutional right to abortion.

“If Justice Thomas really wants to deal with bullying in America, or this problem of people supposedly unwilling to accept outcomes that they don’t like, I’ve got some advice for Justice Thomas: start in your own home, have a conversation with Ginni Thomas,” Congressman Jeffries said.

“She refused to accept the legitimacy of the 2020 presidential election. Why? Because she didn’t like the outcome,” Jeffries reminded the House. “So instead, she tried to steal the election, overthrow the United States government, and install a tyrant. That’s bullying. That’s being unwilling to accept an outcome because you don’t like the results, because the former twice impeached so-called President of the United States of America lost legitimately to Joe Biden.”

“How did she respond? Instead, she said, the Bidens should face a military tribunal in Guantanamo Bay, on trumped-up charges of sedition. You’ve got to be kidding me.”

 

When news broke in March of the text exchanges between Thomas and Meadows, Slate’s legal expert Mark Joseph Stern, said: “Ginni Thomas urged Mark Meadows to overturn the 2020 election by any means necessary—while her husband was ruling on cases attempting to overturn the election.”

Congressman Jeffries, considered by many to be Democrats’ next Speaker of the House after Nancy Pelosi, was far from done with the Supreme Court Justice.

“And lastly, let me ask this question of brother Thomas:

Why are you such a hater?

Hate on civil rights.

Hate on women’s rights.

Hate on reproductive rights.

Hate on voting rights.

Hate on marital rights.

Hate on equal protection under the law.

Hate on liberty and justice for all.

Hate on free and fair elections.

Why are you such a hater?”

“And you think you can get away with it – escape public scrutiny. Because you think that shamelessness is your superpower? Here’s a newsflash from the House Judiciary Committee,” he said while being interrupted. “Truth pressed to the ground will rise again. And truth will be your kryptonite.”

A video version of Jeffries’ speech is here.

 

 

A Progressive Catholic Goes There: Against Abortion, But Supports Keeping Roe

I can relate to this article. I published one like it in a Boston alternative weekly in early January of 1973. Angry letters poured in for weeks, until January 22, when Roe v. Wade was issued; then my qualms & quibbles were instantly forgotten.

I wasn’t sorry. Since then, some of my views have evolved, while my general antipathy to most abortions remains. (More on my personal pilgrimage here.) But I’m still as staunchly against criminalization as I was 49 years ago.

Now I’m too old to draw much fire, so it was gratifying to see this piece by a young radical Catholic (if indeed she’ still identifies as Catholic), planting her flag in the columns of the National Catholic Reporter, the “loyal opposition” progressive American weekly.

Some pro-Roe adherents may not care about Chastain’s reasons, but only that she arrives at their preferred destination.

A blast from the Kavanaugh past; we didn’t get fooled, like Collins & other Fools on the Hill.

That’s a mistake. In the new struggle that’s upon us, the agonized ambiguity of many, Catholics and non-  will be a crucial arena of either progress or further setbacks. If not agreement, finding a basis for respectful coalition will be — and in truth, long have been — imperative.  This article is one  such new opportunity.

I’m thinking first here of my fellow liberal Quakers: to save our rights, we’ll have to learn & think and act outside our blue bubbles. But this sentiment applies more broadly too.

National Catholic Reporter: COMMENTARY

I’m an anti-abortion disability advocate. Overturning Roe isn’t the answer.

Medical instruments for a surgical abortion are seen in this photo. (CNS/Reuters/Evelyn Hockstein)

Medical instruments for a surgical abortion are seen in this photo. (CNS/Reuters/Evelyn Hockstein)

I was in high school when I first learned which of my extended family members had encouraged my mom to abort my very-much-alive disabled brother. At the time, I had just begun attending youth group, which was the first place I ever saw images of abortion. I attended my first Walk for Life. Those same youth leaders helped that same brother finally receive his sacraments of initiation, after he’d been denied them for almost a decade.

As I entered undergraduate studies at a small Catholic liberal arts school and pursued a degree in theology with an emphasis in disability, I confronted the historical reality that had galvanized me as a teenager: Abortion is implicitly eugenic. The disproportionate targeting of disabled fetuses for termination hinges on deeply violent assumptions around worthiness, rooted in capitalistic beliefs around productivity and conventional social futurity.

Put plainly? Disabled people may not learn, work, marry or procreate “normally,” and that nonnormative lifestyle will inconvenience too many people. A disabled person may experience profound pain and social exclusion.

Regardless of whether or not these things are always and everywhere true (they are not), it is equally troublesome that people who hold these beliefs around disability often don’t believe these circumstances are within their power or responsibility to change outside of abortion (they are).

Abortion was always going to be personal for me — the abortion topic always is — even when approached from different angles. One in four women will have an abortion, which includes treatments of ectopic pregnancies, tubal pregnancies and other forms of “spontaneous” abortion or miscarriage. And whether or not they personally experienced one, everyone knows someone impacted by abortion. It is this intimacy that has kindled the fire of many in the pro-life movement, including myself.

20210316T1100-NORTHERN-IRELAND-DISABILITY-1166813 resize.jpg

Pro-life supporters are pictured holding signs outside the High Court in Belfast, Northern Ireland, Jan. 30, 3019. (CNS/Reuters/Brian Lawless)

Pro-life supporters are pictured holding signs outside the High Court in Belfast, Northern Ireland, Jan. 30, 3019. (CNS/Reuters/Brian Lawless)

But then, in graduate school at a large secular research university, I began to study feminist, queer and crip histories and theories of the body. I began participating in more progressive religious spaces that emphasized Catholic social teaching and needs for social reconciliation.

Being in relationship with secular, pro-abortion feminists who were learning alongside me about the systematic underresourcing of marginalized groups — while the world’s racial and medical disparities were being aired live during the COVID-19 pandemic — moved me into the place of intense nuance where I am now and that I believe undergirds a truly consistent life ethic: I am anti-abortion, but I do not think criminalizing abortions will stop them, because having access to abortions isn’t what causes them.

Things that cause abortions: lack of comprehensive sex education, inaccessible health care, violence against women, religious shame and exclusion, familial rejection or coercion, and workplace inequalities including but not limited to barriers for advancement, disparities in pay and lack of paid parental leave or child care.

Making abortion illegal before addressing these injustices is going to kill women, because women will continue to have abortions, secretively and unsafely.

For the first time that I can recall in my years of being anti-abortion, tales of the pre-Roeworld from women who lived it are being shared on a massive scale. (Many are circulating this New York Times article from January and sharing their own stories in the captions.) Social media is a flurry of back-alley horrors.

And in a post-COVID-19 society when young people are already experiencing a catastrophic mental health crisis, making abortion illegal is going to kill women in more ways than one.

Refusal to accept the reality of these dangers is resisting a nuance that is dire. You can accept the dangers of overturning Roe v. Wade are real and still be anti-abortion. I certainly am. None of these dangers changes that abortion is a deeply ableist system used to root out genetic differences based on bigoted sociocultural values. None of these facts change that I’ve seen disability-motivated abortion rhetoric devalue people at the cornerstone of my life. It is personal, but it is also necessarily systemic.

We can recognize that abortion being legal represents a certain form of public complicity in permitting a grievous sin to happen. But are we actually permitting it any less without changing the causes of abortion? To achieve the desired society in which abortion is no longer permitted, we have to create a reality where abortion is no longer caused. We are complicit in those systems, too.

We need mandatory and comprehensive sexual education and accessible health care. We need to address income inequality and mandate paid parental leave. We need to demolish the prison industrial complex and stop criminalizing the poor and marginalized. We need robust community-based postnatal care and to crack down on violence against women. We need to revolutionize the way churches approach sexuality, that we might embrace and support sexually active women in crisis, regardless of their marital status.

I am still anti-abortion. And yet, it is amazing how quickly the solidarity comes with my pro-abortion loved ones the moment I articulate these nuanced beliefs: I am anti-abortion, and I do not want it to be illegal. This solidarity will be crucial to providing a safe haven for at-risk women, if Roe v. Wade is indeed overturned. We must all keep our eyes on the true culprits; we must shout about the real causes of abortion, together.

Madison Chastain

Madison Chastain

Madison Chastain writes about the body, faith and culture. You can find more of her work on Instagram @maddsienicole, or on theologyforeverybody.com.

Quakers & the End of Abortion Rights: A Very Mixed Bag

Some liberal pundits are predicting a tidal wave of backlash against the leaked SCOTUS decision to reverse Roe & Casey, the decisions that have made abortion a right since 1973, forty-nine years ago. (The full text of the draft decision is here.)

I’ve written that, while a Roe supporter, I’m not at all sure any such tidal wave is certain, or even likely.

Let me add here that this uncertainty seems to apply just as much to U. S. Quakers.

Why?  In sum, because

A. Americans (Quakers too) are exhausted by years of crises, from an attempted (& ongoing) coup begun at the capitol, a continuing pandemic (case numbers are rising again, fast), a new, not-exactly Cold War/World War 3, inflation, and more.

B. Americans, even American women, are and long have been divided on the issue. Furthermore the pro-Roe supporters have long been out-campaigned by the anti-abortion side. Again, Quakers too.

This last is not just my opinion. The leftist journal Dissent put it bluntly and well in 2019:

The American right is winning the battle over abortion rights. In fact, they have been winning for a long time. Since the late 1970s, conservatives have worked to build a well-funded, militant anti-abortion movement that that includes white nationalists, religious extremists, and pro-life feminists. Now, the end of the legal right to abortion appears terrifyingly imminent.

(More on my own ambivalence about a great backlash here.)

I’d be happy for Dissent and I to be wrong and the prophets of political tsunami proven right; but the evidence for it isn’t there now, and I’m not in the “wish-casting” business.

Besides, an informal survey of public Quaker sources only reinforced this impression. Continue reading Quakers & the End of Abortion Rights: A Very Mixed Bag

War Notes, Monday Threefer: Hackers Attacking Russia; Ukraine’s female minesweepers; and Sketches from Ukraine’s “International Legion”

Washington Post: Hacking Russia was off-limits. The Ukraine war made it a free-for-all.

Experts anticipated a Moscow-led cyber-assault; instead, unprecedented attacks by hacktivists and criminals have wreaked havoc in Russia.

By Joseph Menn — May 1, 2022

For more than a decade, U.S. cybersecurity experts have warned about Russian hacking that increasingly uses the labor power of financially motivated criminal gangs to achieve political goals, such as strategically leaking campaign emails.

Prolific ransomware groups in the last year and a half have shut down pandemic-battered hospitals, the key fuel conduit Colonial Pipeline and schools; published sensitive documents from corporate victims; and, in one case, pledged to step up attacks on American infrastructure if Russian technology was hobbled in retribution for the invasion of Ukraine.

Yet the third month of war finds Russia, not the United States, struggling under an unprecedented hacking wave that entwines government activity, political voluntarism and criminal action.

Digital assailants have plundered the country’s personal financial data, defaced websites and handed decades of government emails to anti-secrecy activists abroad. One recent survey showed more passwords and other sensitive data from Russia were dumped onto the open Web in March than information from any other country.
The published documents include a cache from a regional office of media regulator Roskomnadzor that revealed the topics its analysts were most concerned about on social media — including antimilitarism and drug legalization — and that it was filing reports to the FSB federal intelligence service, which has been arresting some who complain about government policies. Continue reading War Notes, Monday Threefer: Hackers Attacking Russia; Ukraine’s female minesweepers; and Sketches from Ukraine’s “International Legion”