The collective West has displayed a hypocrisy breath-taking in scope as it shamelessly and publicly adheres to double standards motivated entirely by utilitarian considerations and political favouritism.
All breadline massacres are equal, Orwell might have written, whilst adding that some breadline massacres are more equal than others. Such a thought comes to mind after February 4, 2024, when a Ukrainian armed forces projectile killed 28 residents in the city of Lysychansk, Lugansk region, and wounded several dozen. The civilian victims were standing in line in front of a local bakery, intending to buy bread.
Those with a memory that goes back longer than fifteen minutes (unfortunately neither the majority nor even a significant minority nowadays) may recall that a similar incident took place in Sarajevo, during the war in Bosnia, on May 27, 1992. The victims of that incident were also waiting in line to buy bread when a projectile landed nearby and killed several dozen of them.
There is a huge difference in the way the self-styled "international community" reacted to these two similar and equally lethal events. The status and identity of the victims and of the suspected perpetrators may have shaped that unequal response. In Lysychansk the victims were residents of Donbass, former citizens of Ukraine who in a referendum voted overwhelmingly to join Russia. From the standpoint of the Kiev regime and its foreign sponsors that act of disobedience made them fair game for retribution. The fact that since 2014 they have been indiscriminate targets of bombardment by the Armed Forces of Ukraine, which so far has cost at least 14,000 civilian lives, does not count as an extenuating circumstance in their favour.
The perceived human worth and political status of the preferred Sarajevo victims in May of 1992 is defined by the fact that technically they were the cannon fodder of the Sarajevo regime, the side in the Bosnian civil war that was supported by NATO and the collective West, exactly as today the same actors are supporting, and systematically exculpating, the Kiev regime.
In consequence, and in complete contrast to the treatment of Lysychansk victims in 2024, the Sarajevo 1992 victims were copiously mourned by the collective West's politicians and media machine, whilst the designated perpetrators were indignantly vilified. Threats were made to exact harsh retribution on the perpetrators, even before any investigation to establish the facts has been conducted. Those threats were promptly carried out by inducing the UN Security Council to pass Resolution 757, inflicting punishment on the neighbouring Federal Republic of Yugoslavia by imposing a total trade embargo, followed by what the New York Times called "the most sweeping sanctions in history." Yugoslavia was selected for such punishment because of its support for the Bosnian Serbs, who were accused, although firm evidence was not presented, of maliciously firing the mortar shell which resulted in the fatalities.
The killings in Lysychansk, by marked contrast, have passed virtually without comment in the Western media. No indignation was displayed and the sparse mention of the tragedy was peppered with qualifiers such as "alleged," inserted to put in doubt the incident's veracity. No urgent sessions of the UN Security Council were convened to assess what had happened in Lysychansk nor were furious calls heard to impose punitive sanctions either on the direct perpetrators or their foreign sponsors, on the latter for having supplied the lethal devices that caused the death of civilians in that particular breadline. This time, Russia did not even bother to try to convene a Security Council session, obviously realising there was no point following the recent downing of its airplane that was transporting Ukrainian prisoners of war to be exchanged, after its request for a Security Council meeting was flatly denied by the French rotating president of that body.
Nor is the 2024 Lysychansk massacre likely to have any other repercussions comparable to what followed the similar incident which took place in Sarajevo in 1992. To this day there is no conclusive proof of where the mortar shell that struck the Sarajevo breadline originated, but circumstantial evidence strongly suggests that it may have been staged by Sarajevo authorities to provide a rationale for punishing their adversaries. Nevertheless, the massacre was featured in the Hague Tribunal indictment of Bosnian Serb President Radovan Karadžić. The embarrassing inadequacy of the evidence subsequently presented by the Prosecution caused that charge to be quietly passed over in the final verdict. There is no indication that the International Court of Justice, also in the Hague, is entertaining the thought of similarly calling the political and military leadership in Kiev to account for committing a strikingly analogous crime in Lysychansk, or even of undertaking a pro forma investigation to sort out what happened.
In reacting selectively to lethal wartime incidents the collective West has displayed a hypocrisy breath-taking in scope as it shamelessly and publicly adheres to double standards motivated entirely by utilitarian considerations and political favouritism. Even-handed respect for human life or international humanitarian law does not seem to play any role. Western policy and the stance of the media have followed exactly the analytical paradigm elaborated by Edward Herman and David Peterson in their seminal study The Politics of Genocide for the classification of atrocities and the distinction between "worthy and unworthy victims":
"When we ourselves commit mass-atrocity crimes, the atrocities are Constructive, our victims are unworthy of our attention and indignation, and never suffer 'genocide' at our hands... But when the perpetrator of mass-atrocity crimes is our enemy or a state targeted by us for destabilization and attack, the converse is true. Then the atrocities are Nefarious and their victims worthy of our focus, sympathy, public displays of solidarity, and calls for inquiry and punishment." [P. 103]
The characteristic of Constructive atrocities (and presumably the mass killing of civilians in Lysychansk and more broadly in the Donbass fits that description) is that "the victims were rarely acknowledged, the crimes against them rarely punished (with only low-level personnel brought to book in well-publicised cases like My Lai)" [p. 19] because "demonization of the real victims and atrocities management remain as important as ever and keeps the citizens of the imperial powers properly misinformed and supportive of bigtime atrocities." [P. 22]
"... [W]ith civilian killings largely kept off the official books," the authors continue, "and, even when acknowledged, treated tolerantly for these unworthy victims, such killings and bloodbaths... have been thoroughly normalized." [P. 37]
That, in sum, is the moral bookkeeping of the contemporary West.