No Rules of Engagement

Destruction continues

It’s now Monday March 21st, 2022. Kia ora.

Well, there’re all kinds of things going on at present.  As usual, these days, my two main concerns are the conflict in Ukraine and the covid 19 war here, against the invisible enemy.

At present I’m reading a thrilling novel by Robert Harris called Archangel. It’s set in Russia after the break up of the USSR, when things are pretty crazy and chaotic, Boris Yeltsin is President (an embarrassment),, with extreme wealth, danger, violence, and distrust, and all kinds of societal dysfunction. It’s very exciting. This time is compared to that of the Weimar republic in Germany, before Hitler came to power. It’s very scary, though; although it was published in 1998, it feels very relevant, reading it alongside the current military operation being conducted by the Russians in Ukraine, and Putin acting more and more like Stalin, continuing to terrorise millions, and speak in a very Orwellian fashion.  During the Holodomor, Stalin deported two million Ukrainian kulaks to Archangel, to a nuclear site; there wasn’t much to live on in that northern area. Apparently they were locked in churches, and then they were gone. They were thought by the locals to be disease-ridden. I fear I’m seeing a pattern here. Stalin, too, had lists of people who he thought might threaten him.  Back then, Nazi-style terrorism was in vogue; someone said the mysterious “Z” painted on Russian tanks is a kind of modern swastika.  Putin claims to be ridding the Ukrainian military of Nazi elements; I suspect he learned from his most ardent US fan, Donald Trump, even more tricks of terminology and hypocrisy: accuse your opponents of doing what you plan to do yourself. Evidently Ukrainians were blamed for some assassination, I don’t remember which, and then Ukrainians were blamed for interfering in the 2020 US Presidential election.  Ukraine is a very corrupt country, claims Congressman Madison Cawthorn, while failing to acknowledge that Russia is far more corrupt than Ukraine (as exposed by Alexei Navalny). Zelensky accuses Russia of wanting a “final solution” for Ukraine, in much the same way that Hitler wanted a “final solution” for his Jewish problem. That turned out to be the Holocaust.

The US President, Joe Biden, has spent two hours on the phone with his Chinese counterpart, President Xi, trying to persuade him not to help Vladimir Putin. This was after a six hour talk between two lesser beings a day or two ago. China has termed the West’s sanctions against Russia “outrageous”, and Xi has said, enigmatically, that China will be on the right side of history (whatever he means by that).

In Covid news here, there’s also lots to say. But apparently Wellington’s water supply hasn’t been fluoridated since May last year! Lack of fluoride was initially blamed on employee sickness, but it goes further back than that. Wellington’s sewage woes continue. The mayor, Andy Foster, has a lot to answer for. 

This morning I heard that a staff member at the house where my daughter lives in Napier has diagnosed positive for Covid 19. I got an email last night saying that Hōhepa were holding it together, but under serious staffing pressure,  with some folk recovered, one resident still with Covid 19, but several staff either having covid 19 themselves or needing to isolate as close contacts. I spoke to the cluster manager, and am somewhat reassured;  they are carrying out RAT tests, and, amazingly, most residents will let them put a taper up their nose.  So far, so good; but we remain very wary. My daughter has a serious heart condition; I don’t know how she’d cope with having Covid 19. There is always the fear that it would further damage her heart.

Today’s report says there are 14,463 new cases, with a new total of 1,000 people in hospital and 9 further deaths, including a person in their 20’s. 33 of those in hospital are in Intensive Care. It’s reported that of the deaths, five were from the Auckland region, two from Waikato, one from Wairarapa and one from Bay of Plenty. One of these people was in their 20s, one in their 60s, one in their 70s, two in their 80s and four in their 90s. Five were men and four were women.

On Monday, there were new Covid-19 cases in Northland (422), Auckland (3279), Waikato (1401), Bay of Plenty (893), Lakes (457), Hawke’s Bay (796), MidCentral (657), Whanganui (209), Taranaki (473), Tairāwhiti (259), Wairarapa (222), Capital & Coast (951), Hutt Valley (583), Nelson Marlborough (404), Canterbury (2267), South Canterbury (191), Southern (950), West Coast (39); and 10 in an unknown location. The Northern region (Auckland and Northland) continued to see the majority of Covid-19 hospitalisations, comprising 627 of the 1000 hospitalisations on Monday.

Epidemiologist Rod Jackson says: “We know if you are unvaccinated you are three times more likely to transmit the virus to other people, you are more than twice as likely to have it right now, you’re more than five times likely to be in hospital right now, so there are lots and lots of good reasons to maintain our vaccine passes.” He cautions the government against dropping its Covid 19 mandates too soon.

Back to Ukraine, now.  There are, as usual, conflicting reports. I saw a video of crowds cheering as Russian tanks left Kherson. It looked authentic, but who knows?  I saw another video about Russian equipment being destroyed – gear replacing gear that had already been destroyed by Ukraine, being sent to the same place. Zelensky was said to have joked that Russia itself is demilitarising itself. The Guardian reports that Russians seek the surrender of Mariupol, having bombed it relentlessly, and deported thousands of citizens. The deportations, while shocking, have been confirmed by other reputable news agencies such as Reuters and CNBC.  This is really next level stuff – surely this can’t be allowed to continue? There’s a lot of flagellation about the West’s continued efforts to appease Putin, which, in retrospect, look terrible. I’m sure they seemed like a good, if cynical, idea at the time. But the deportations are really something else, I think; a very dangerous move.

A fifth Russian general has been killed (confirmed? David Petraeus thinks so). Street fighting is reported in Mariupol.  Zelensky confirms that the Ukrainians won’t surrender at the deadline. I listened to a podcast this morning by a New Zealand journalist who spoke about the difficulty of being somewhere to report what’s happening, and diving for cover at the sound of an air-raid siren; in any event, there’s very little sleep, or food. She also spoke about desperate refugees getting on crowded trains, and trying to keep their families together. This would be so sad if it were a natural disaster, like flooding, a tsunami, or an earthquake, but it is totally unnecessary! Totally needless!

In Europe, Germany has agreed a gas deal with Qatar to end dependency on Russian gas.  Evidently Jared Kushner has told the Saudis (MBS) not to make a deal with President Biden, (although Saudi Arabia is an ally of the US), because that might hurt his father-in-law’s chances of becoming president again. Really, honestly, this is unbelievable. President Zelensky is Jewish, and is pleading for American help! 

It’s now Tuesday March 22nd.

Last night I tried to finish Archangel, which has held me spellbound, but sadly it turned into a Hollywood blockbuster kind of story, with real excitement leading up to a crucial point; more hard-to-believe events, and we’re not quite finished yet. I have still to finish it. Starting anything else seems lame in comparison, I always need an interval between reading a book that holds my attention, and starting the next one (it’s not that I’m short of reading matter).

The news this morning is not good.  Putin is seeking to break off diplomatic relations with the US, because Biden called him a war criminal. Even during the Cold War diplomatic relations were maintained. The Russians have bombed a mall in Kyiv, killing eight people. The reports of mass deportations have not been confirmed. Ukrainians continue to destroy Russian equipment. The Russians continue bombing, making it really difficult for civilians to get away to safety – so where’s safe? It seems that the so-called rules of war are gone, they’re not being observed any more. A US commentator is calling Russian troops terrorists. There’s no medevac, no rescuing of Russian dead. I gather there’s not much in the way of information for their families, either. If you’re sent to Ukraine, you’ll be in a bad way.  People are scared on both sides. The war has reached a stalemate, where no one will surrender. It reminds me again of the Orwell novel 1984, where there is always a war on, there is always military conflict.  Russia seems to waver between being like the Weimar republic in Germany of the 1930’s, being like Hitler’s Nazis, and being Orwellian. Who is Vladimir most modelling himself on: Peter the Great, Josef Stalin, or Adolf Hitler?  Probably all of them. There are no rules, there is no guiding principle, but cruelty. Terrorism versus sabotage. But no matter how much matériel Ukraine’s brave forces destroy, there is always more bombing. Apparently Russia has slowed down internet response times in Australia, because they acted against it. How, one wonders? What is the West/the US/NATO/the EU to do to stop this aggressor?  What indeed.  As with the Freedom Protest here in Parliament’s grounds, which was eventually broken up by police, one wonders how much provocation is required before Something Is Done about it. Of course, it’s easy for me to pontificate. Slava Ukraini! Ngā mihi.

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