The Russian invasion of Ukraine has illuminated many issues that exist in Western media and attitudes regarding war and conflict. From the way that public officials speak about war in places like South America, Asia, and Africa vs. how they speak of war in places like Eruope to the welcoming of Ukrainian refugees but the discrimination of non-white refugees, the disparities are clear.
Western media has turned those who are travelling to Ukraine to fight into saviors, fighters, positive, while those fighting for resistance in their own countries – Palestinians, Kashmiris, Uyghurs – are denoted as violent, terrorist, and negative. Middle East Eye reports that Britain and other European states are fueling the fire of resistance in Ukraine by sending the country weapons. Some civilians have volunteered to fight in Ukraine as well. The Washington Post reports of different US veterans who traveled to the Ukraine-Poland border to aid in war efforts.
In Britain, a group of 10 special operatives are staging in Poland to prepare to cross into Ukraine. They are planning on taking up Ukrainian President’s offer to “join the defense of Ukraine, Europe, and the world.” The group is comprised of three British citizens, one German, and six US citizens. The group is NATO-trained. They are applauded because they are “defending Europe.”
By framing the war in Ukraine as a war against the “civilized” West, Western Europe and the US continue to create new propaganda to continue war. Those who experienced war in Iraq, Afghanistan, the former Soviet Union, Yemen, Palestine (and many, many others) understand that US and Western imperialism is not different to Russian imperialism. The West is apt at creating narratives of victimhood, of saviorhood, of promises to develop. However, these narratives are created to serve only one side’s interests – the West’s. And here is the real issue – the conceptualization of the West has always been framed by an “other.” At times, this has been Islam, at other times East Asia, and many times in history, Russia.
Hamid Dabashi says in an article published in Middle East Eye, “I don’t think Americans and Europeans are being hypocritical about Ukraine at all. In fact, they are being very consistent in their racist, white supremacism. How many times and in how many places must we see this before it finally sinks in? We must stop thinking European “values” are universal. We must learn and understand that they are exclusively European, and for Europeans alone.”
So, by pointing out this Western hypocrisy, what do we expect to gain? Acknowledgement is definitely the first step in tackling this systemic rhetoric – but how much can we acknowledge? We must also understand why the West indulges in this hypocrisy – that it is what has substantiated the idea of the West in the first place. It is not surprising anymore, but consistent. And it creates a pulsating harm in the world as countries not only fight imperialism and violence at the hands of local and bordering powers, but as Western forces indulge in the violence.