Referring to the war in Ukraine as a ‘genocide’ is wrong and dangerous.
13th April 2022 SPIKED. (usa)
Bumbling Joe Biden isn’t funny anymore. It might be amusing when your crazy uncle blurts out something unexpected at a family dinner. But when the most powerful man on Earth does it? Not so much. Yesterday, ‘in passing’, as the Guardian put it, President Biden referred to Russia’s war in Ukraine as a ‘genocide’. This might just be the dumbest, most ill-advised and lethally consequential thing Biden has said since taking office.
The circumstances in which he uttered the g-word, in which he made the most serious accusation you can make against a nation state, were bizarre. He was in Iowa, at a public discussion on the use of ethanol in petrol, of all things. Then – ‘in passing’ – he said: ‘Your family budget, your ability to fill up your tank, none of it should hinge on whether a dictator declares war and commits genocide half a world away.’ And so did an announcement about the lifting of restrictions on ethanol use in order to reduce the price of fuel turn – ‘in passing’ – into the United States of America accusing the Russian Federation of committing the most heinous crime known to man.
It is unclear whether accusing Putin of genocide is White House policy now, or if Biden was just running his mumbling mouth, as is his wont. Pressed by reporters as to whether he really meant to say ‘genocide’, Biden said: ‘Yes, I called it genocide because it’s become clearer and clearer that Putin is just trying to wipe out the idea of even being Ukrainian.’ Not surprisingly, other world leaders were a tad alarmed. French president Emmanuel Macron rebuked Biden for his ‘verbal escalations’. We need to be ‘careful’ with our terminology, he said, rightly.
It remains to be seen whether this is the White House consciously upping the ante or just Biden having another senior moment. He has form, after all. At the end of March – again in passing – he called for regime change in Russia. ‘This man cannot remain in power’, he said about Putin in an ‘off the cuff’ remark at the end of March. Most of us make jokes off the cuff or express exasperation off the cuff – Biden expands America’s war aims off the cuff. The White House swiftly walked back this unscripted declaration of regime-change hostilities. Before that, Biden made a blunder that suggested US troops had been deployed to Ukraine. The White House walked that back, too. ‘[We] are not sending US troops to Ukraine’, a spokesman clarified.
Maybe the White House will walk back the ‘genocide’ thing as well. Though it might be too late. The word’s out there now. And not just from the mouths of those irritating liberal commentators and laptop bombardiers who think every war is a genocide (except the ones they support, of course, like Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya), but from the mouth of the American president himself. Make no mistake – this is incredibly dangerous war talk. It transforms Ukraine from an undoubtedly bloody conflict that has global implications into a possible site of further external intervention and fighting. Indeed, the United Nations’ policy on ‘The Responsibility to Protect’ expressly obliges the Security Council to take action – ideally diplomatic action, but if that fails, then military action – in order to ‘protect populations from genocide’. If Russia is committing genocide, then the US and its allies have a responsibility to stop it somehow. This is the dire, destabilising situation Biden has either blunderingly or consciously pushed the world towards.