Ukraine: US hypocrisy over war crimes

April 26, 2022
Munitions found during bomb disposal in Mykolaiv
Cluster bombs have allegedly been used by both sides in the war in Ukraine. Photo: Wikimedia

The United States has accused Russia of war crimes in its invasion of Ukraine, and brought charges to the International Criminal Court (ICC).

The invasion itself was criminal, and a violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty. Any invasion of another country is now considered a war crime under international treaties.

One of the charges against Russia — which has not yet been proven by physical evidence on the ground — is that it has used internationally-banned cluster bombs.

Meanwhile, an article in the April 18 New York Times, based on reports by its journalists on the ground in Ukraine, alleges that the Ukrainian military is likely to have cluster bombed the village of Husarivka, while it was under Russian occupation.

Cluster bombs

Cluster bombs — which kill indiscriminately — are contained within missiles dropped from aircraft, which split apart well above the ground, releasing tens to hundreds of bombs that saturate an area the size of several football fields. Anyone in the strike zone — military or civilian — will be killed or seriously injured.

The Western mainstream media has also published lurid photographs of civilians killed in Russian-occupied villages, accusing Russia of having executed them by firing squad. Such a charge should be viewed with suspicion until proven by an investigation.

The NYT said on April 18: “As the war approaches its eighth week, both sides have relied heavily on artillery and rocket fire to dislodge each other. But the Ukrainians’ decision to saturate their own village [the one the reporter visited] with a cluster munition to haphazardly kill innocent people underscores their strategic calculation: This is what they need to do to retake their country, no matter the cost.”

That the US would selectively make the charge that Russia has used cluster bombs is one example of its cynicism and hypocrisy.

The only way that Ukraine could obtain cluster bombs is from North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) arms sent into the country with the approval of the US.

That US President Joe Biden has made the unproven charge that Russian President Vladimir Putin has used cluster bombs in Ukraine is likely a cover for the US arming Ukraine with them and approving of their use against Ukrainian villages.

Moreover, the US has maintained its right to use cluster bombs when it wants. It is also one of a handful of countries (including India, China, Brazil, South Korea and Israel) that manufactures them.

The US, Ukraine and Russia have never signed on to the 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions.


While Russia’s war against Ukraine was a violation of that country’s sovereignty, Biden’s raising of war crimes charges against Russia is the height of hypocrisy.

Since World War II the US has: Invaded Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan; backed Israel’s wars against Palestine and other Arab nations; supported Saudi Arabia’ war against Yemen; and intervened covertly or by proxy in many parts of the world, committing war crimes and violations of sovereignty.

The US stands way above any other country on the question of attacking civilian neighbourhoods and killing civilians. In Korea, it bombed, shelled and attacked North Korea with its infantry, air and naval forces — levelling much of the country’s infrastructure and killing hundreds of thousands of people.

In Vietnam, its publicly-avowed strategy was to attack civilians, since it was waging war against a whole people. Massacres of civilians, the burning of villages and cities became staples on US television coverage. This was immortalised by one US general’s comment: “We had to destroy the village in order to save it.”

It bombed North Vietnam indiscriminately, and South Vietnam, too, against the mass peasant-based National Liberation Front.

It used napalm bombs and sprayed the forests with the deadly defoliant Agent Orange. It drove civilians and resistance fighters from under cover and killed and permanently injured millions of Vietnamese.

Agent Orange was also debilitating to US troops — which Washington considered cannon fodder, until they revolted and ended the war.

In Iraq and Afghanistan, more than a million civilians were killed. The US is now inflicting widespread economic devastation on Afghan civilians by freezing Afghanistan’s sovereign wealth.

US sanctions against Cuba, Venezuela, Iran and other countries are also aimed at civilians.

The present sanctions against Russia are not only aimed at its civilians, they are inflicting harm throughout the world, including creating a food crisis that will increase hunger for billions, according to the United Nations.

Vijay Prashad, director of the Tricontinental Institute for Social Research agrees. He told DemocracyNow! on April 15: “Before this war and the sanctions against Russia, 2.7 billion people struggled with hunger. It’s likely that we’ll go to three billion before the month is over.”

“In the rest of the world, I think people are really trying to breathe in the contradictions. They understand that this is a ghastly war, but there have been ghastly wars before this. I think there is perplexity why this war is treated so different than other wars. Countries are not willing to break ties with Russia, or to cut the import of grain and fuel from Russia.

“They have their own populations to take care of, and they have to consider their needs and desires.

“People are frustrated with the kind of colonial way in which the Western powers and the Western media reports things. The very fact that you know the flag colouring of Ukraine but have no idea what the flag of Yemen looks like, what the flag of Palestine looks like, what the flag of the Congo looks like, and needless to say, what the flag of Iraq looks like and this is driving public opinion.”

Rogue state

During the Vietnam War, civil rights leader Dr Martin Luther King jnr denounced the war, saying: “The greatest purveyor of violence in the world today is my own country.” That remains true today.

The US states that the ICC has no jurisdiction over it, and threatens any country or people that tries to bring war crimes charges against it with severe consequences.

It tells the ICC which countries it can charge with war crimes, and which it cannot. When charges were leveled against Israel for its war crimes against the Palestinian people, for example, Washington told the ICC to drop the charges, which it did.

Most people in Asia, Africa and Latin America see through the US hypocrisy.

Noam Chomsky told the Intercept’s Jeremy Scahill: “We’re a rogue state, the leading rouge state by a huge dimension — nobody’s even close. … And yet we can call for war crimes trials of others without batting an eyelash.

“It’s interesting to look at the reaction to all of this in the more civilised part of the world, the Global South … They look at it; they condemn the invasion, say it’s a horrible crime. But the basis response is: What’s new? What’s the fuss about? … We’ve been subjected to this from you as far back as it goes. Biden calls Putin a war criminal; yeah, it takes one to know one. It’s the basic reaction…”

You need Green Left, and we need you!

Green Left is funded by contributions from readers and supporters. Help us reach our funding target.

Make a One-off Donation or choose from one of our Monthly Donation options.

Become a supporter to get the digital edition for $5 per month or the print edition for $10 per month. One-time payment options are available.

You can also call 1800 634 206 to make a donation or to become a supporter. Thank you.