“We are often told our actions are illegitimate, but when I ask, ‘Do you think everything you do is legitimate?,’ they say ‘yes’,” President Vladimir Putin said at a press conference on Tuesday. “Then I have to recall the actions of the United States in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya, where they either acted without any U.N. sanction or completely distorted the content of such resolutions, as was the case with Libya.”
For many critics of U.S. military action over the last thirteen years, Putin’s words resonate deeply.
There’s no question that when U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry says, “You just don’t in the 21st century behave in 19th century fashion by invading another country on completely trumped up pre-text,” the hypocrisy in a top U.S. government official saying this, is glaring.
But here’s the problem: it’s starting to sound like for many of the people now chanting “Hypocrisy!”, they see hypocrisy as worse than occupation. Indeed, this insistence on focusing on the lack of integrity of Western political leaders is becoming an excuse to ignore or legitimize the Russian invasion of Crimea.
In his latest report from Crimea, Simon Ostrovsky offers a close-up view of the Russian occupation.
A Serb commander belonging to the Chetnik movement, controlling a checkpoint between Sevastopol and Simferpol and supporting the occupation, says — without a hint of irony — “it would be better to resolve this issue internally.” He sees himself and the Russians as part of this “internal” solution. (It should be noted that the Chetniks have a history of involvement in ethnic cleansing, mass murder and other war crimes.)
If a Serb, having traveled hundreds of miles to Crimea, identifies himself as part of an internal solution, this begs the question: how would he define external?
But here’s a final thought: if you think occupation is only a problem when it’s conducted by Americans or Israelis, then maybe it’s time to ask yourself whether you really understand the meaning of the word hypocrisy.