It’s all the rage

I know people who actively attack and criticize the U.S. for its imperialism, racism, and interventionism and at the same time laud nation states like Russia, China, and Cuba. Generally this is just because the latter make some spurious claims to “socialism”, which I personally find laughable.
While the U.S. and its various administers are clearly culpable for oodles of crimes against humanity and all the foul stuff that nation states love to do, the idea that somehow Russia, China, and Cuba get to pass off as moral, idealistic, or without a history of mass atrocities is at best irritating and at worst deplorable.

I watched the original “Lawrence of Arabia” film last night, the one with Peter O’Toole. There is a part late in the film where some Turkish (or Ottoman, however you want to refer to them at the time) dudes catch Lawrence, and quite possibly rape him.  My understanding of what actually happened is a bit different (I do think he was raped and tortured, but the setting was different. For a really impressive book on the life of T.E. Lawrence check out Scott Anderson’s excellent book titled, “Lawrence in Arabia: War, Deceit, Imperial Folly and the Making of the Modern Middle East”) but I digress.
When first captured, the Turkish bey/commander seems slightly confused that Lawrence is so fair, and has blue eyes. He asks Lawrence, “Are you Circassian?” To which Lawrence replies, “Yes, effendi.”
You may wonder, “What the hell is a Circassian?” I’m glad you asked!
“Circassian” is a word that can describe a handful of ethnic groups that hail from just north and east of the Black Sea. The city of Sochi, where the 2014 winter Olympics were held, is in what was once a hub of Ubykh culture, a subdivision of Circassion culture. Notice that “Sochi” is not a Russian word. I’m sure you noticed that.
In 1864 the Russian empire began a mass expulsion and cleansing of Circassian and other non-Russian ethnic groups from the Caucuses. I’ve read an argument that it may be the first instance of intentional genocide within “Europe”. To make a long story short, Circassian culture and people were decimated and largely driven from what is now (and which wasn’t before) Russia. Some activists have claimed that the Sochi Olympics were actually held on top of mass graves of dead Circassians.

Anyway, after the Circassian ethnic cleansing these people were generally spread out across the middle east, Europe, and the Americas. This is why it wasn’t unthinkable that T.E. Lawrence, an Englishman, could have passed as a Circassian, and why Curt Prufer, a German spy who attempted to create a pan-Arab jihad against the western powers during world war one generally claimed he was Circassian. Being clearly not Arab or Turkish, wandering around the near east, and speaking Arabic back in the day could raise a lot of odd questions. Best to claim you were part of the disenfranchised Circassian diaspora, which wasn’t an uncommon thing.
Anyway, to this day there is a strong Circassian nationalist movement, and to this day the Russian government refuses to acknowledge the genocide, or even allow ethnic Circassians to move back to their home land in any meaningful numbers. Last I looked into it, Moscow allows 50 ethnic Circassians to return to the country a year.

Consider now, all the bullshit around eastern Ukraine and Russian claims to the sovereignty and self-rule of ethnic Russians in Crimea, the Lugansk People’s Republic, and the Republic of Donetsk. I would hope for your sake that no one has to point out the perpetual lack of moral or logical consistency of any state in human history, but I can’t help but just smile and cuddle up against my budding revulsion when I hear someone talk about ethnic Russian sovereignty in Ukraine or that Russia is some sort of check on or opponent of Western Imperialism. It’s all bullshit, man. Two wrongs don’t make a right. We aren’t even going into the genocides and Russian colonialism in east Asia. The U.S. is a monstrous imperial power, yes. But so is Russia and so is China. We need to see every state for what it is, a terrible machine rolling across history and earth. A terrible machine that uses human lives as tracks underneath.

The next time someone suggests Putin is trying to respect the ethnic sovereignty of some Ukrainians or act as a force for good in the face of American incursions into the region, knock their stupid drink out of their hands.