Susan Estrich: Why are they killing innocent civilians? | Opinions


The photos coming out of Ukraine, coupled with the eyewitness accounts, leave no doubt. Terrible things are happening. The bodies are not only those of the soldiers. Civilian casualties are skyrocketing. It is not inevitable. It’s murder.


Who gives the orders?

Of course, Russian President Vladimir Putin and his generals are responsible for the actions of the Russian military. But did they order this? Did they try to stop him?

And if they try, will it stop?

Reports of random shootings of civilians for no reason raise dire questions about the human condition. Is this how human beings treat each other when they know they’ll get away with it? The banality of evil, presented by social networks.

Ukraine is far away. We should be grateful every day that our children can play outside instead of hiding in basements, that the electricity is working, that our husbands and sons, brothers and fathers, have not left home to take up arms to defend our country. I can’t imagine the lives of mothers, trying to protect their children from things no child should face.

Babi Yar, the famous mass grave, is in Ukraine. Ukrainians are no strangers to senseless violence. But that was then – so long ago, we like to think; never again, we tell ourselves.

Yes, again, you have to admit it. ‘More murders in Ukraine’, ‘Mass graves uncovered’ read the headlines, before talking about the weather, sports, etc. Not so different from the newspapers of the 1930s, reporting on Hitler’s persecution of Jews.

We didn’t know, we think now, although that’s not quite true, not at all. We knew enough and did too little, and the very existence of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum is a guarantee that next time will be different.

Is it?

The president is asking for a lot more military help from Ukraine, and it’s one of the few things the two sides seem to agree on. We should send weapons. And we go. And there will be more killings, because this is war.

However, we must do more than send arms. Somehow, whether through international law, diplomacy, sanctions and shame, we must make it clear that Russia has overstepped its bounds, not only by invading a free people , but also by committing massacres of civilians. And for the latter, if not also for the former, they deserve the fullest condemnation the world can offer.

We try to stay out of territorial disputes. Fair enough. But can we stay out of genocide? And are more guns the only answer? How about more speeches, Elon Musk?

This is the first great war of social networks. So far, that has failed to make a big difference. Russians remain in the dark about what their country is doing, a victim of state control. National walls still block the free press.

Whether the Russian people know what their army is doing is one of the great unanswered questions; what they can do about it in a repressive society is another. Social media revolutions elsewhere seem a long way off. How do you break down these walls?

My grandfather left kyiv to escape anti-Semitism a century ago. When he could not enter this country, he went to Argentina and then managed to come to Massachusetts. So there but for the grace of God I’m going. My family managed to escape the Russians and the Germans. My good fortune weighs on me.

Shouldn’t we be doing more? But what? You tell me.

– Susan Estrich is a best-selling author, Robert Kingsley Professor of Law and Political Science at the USC Law Center and served as campaign manager for 1988 Democratic presidential candidate Michael Dukakis. Click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.


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