GUEST BLOG: Pat O’Dea – Russia must stop the war

A man for our times
Declaration of Independence from the War in Vietnam

Martin Luther King Jr.

During the first decade of the civil rights movement Martin Luther King Jr. had been hesitant to become involved in other political issues, for fear of weakening the cause for racial justice. By 1967, however, in a speech at Riverside Church in New York City, that many considered momentous, he declares his opposition to the war…..

If Martin Luther King were alive today, I think this is what he would say;
Declaration of Independence from War in Ukraine

Over most of the past four weeks, I had been moved to speak from the burnings of my own heart.
I have called for radical departure from the destruction of Ukraine. Some persons have questioned me about the wisdom of my path.

At the heart of their concerns, this query has often loomed large and loud;

‘Why are you speaking about the war?’ ‘Why are you joining the forces of dissent’, they ask. And I hear them, although I often understand the source of their concern, I am nonetheless greatly saddened, for such questions mean that the inquirers do not know the world in which they live.

In the light of such tragic misunderstanding, I deem it of signal importance to try to state clearly why I believe this war is unjust.

I wish not to speak with Washington or NATO, but rather directly to the Russian people, who with us, bear the greatest responsibility in ending this conflict that has exacted a heavy price on both Ukraine and Russia.

As I have walked among the angry, the desperate and the rejected, I have told them that violence will not solve their problems. But, they asked, ‘What about nations using violence to solve their problems?’

Their questions hit home, and I knew that I could never again raise my voice against violence, without having first spoken clearly to the greatest current purveyor of violence in the world.

Now it should be incandescently clear that no one in Russia who cares for integrity and life in their country can ignore the reality thaa a war going on in Ukraine. If their voices are silenced, if Russia’s soul becomes totally poisoned, part of the autopsy must read “Ukraine”. Russia’s soul can never be saved so long as it destroys the deepest hopes of people the world over.

And as I ponder the madness of the war in Ukraine my mind goes constantly to the people of that land.

I speak now, not of the soldiers of each side, not to the junta in Moscow, but simply of the people who have been living under the curse of war for almost almost two months.
I think of them because it is clear to me that there will be no meaningful solution until some attempt is made to know them and to hear their broken cries.
Ukraine must see the Russians as strange liberators.

In 1991 in a nationwide referendum, the people of Ukraine voted overwhelmingly for their independence. 84 percent of eligible voters turned out ,and 90 percent of them voted for independence from Russia.

Russia’s leaders have arrogantly decided that the people of Ukraine do not deserve independence. With that tragic decision, they have rejected the democratic decision of a people seeking self-determination, and an independent government established, not by America and NATO, but by clearly indigenous forces, that yes, included some far right extremists.

Less than 2% of Ukrainians voted for the far Right in their country’s 2019 elections, still some people, even in the West, insist on labeling the people of Ukraine with the blanket name “Nazi” to justify Russia’s war against them.

Based on this lie, under Russian attack millions have had to move away sadly and apathetically leaving their homeland to become refugees.
They know they must go or be destroyed by Russian bombs.

At this point I should make clear that while I have tried here to give a voice to the voiceless of Ukraine and understand the argument of those who would call them nazis. I am deeply concerned about the Russian soldiers as anything else. For it occurs to me what they are being submitting to in Ukraine is not simply the  brutalizing process that goes on in any war. But that it is for no good reason. Even some of the more astute Russian military leaders know that their government has sent their soldiers into a an unjust war

Somehow this madness must cease.

The world stands aghast.

The great initiative for this war is Russia’s.

The initiative to stop this war must be Russia’s

Pat O’Dea is a unionist and human rights activist.

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