War, hate, propaganda … what’s next?

Hill Times March 14, 2022

Evidence is growing that Russia is perpetrating war crimes against the people of Ukraine. Russia is targeting civilians, hospitals, and nuclear power plants. Why would Russia threaten a nuclear accident on land they purport to want to control? Why would they target civilians, essentially their cousins? It is like there is no logic anymore, no more up or down.

There is so much propaganda pumped out of Russia to target their own people as well as others around the world who may be susceptible to lies and deceit. Facts and information are crucial to a democracy’s ability to make good decisions together, to its very existence. The world hasn’t been hit with such propaganda weapons since the lead up to World War II. Given the level of fake news spewed out by convoyers and occupiers recently in our city, one would think we would understand the power of deceit. But it still catches us off guard when a state chooses such debauchery on such an international scale as a means to control its own peoples.

Ukraine people have done some creative things to counteract the propaganda. One is to video captured soldiers of the Russian army as they call home. It’s possible there are some questions on whether they are trained soldiers, or conscripts who simply walked away from the war. Regardless, there is some serious power in those videos to counteract the propaganda that these men’s families in Russian have been fed. There is also some nervous discussion that these videos are a war crime in revealing the identity of the soldiers. It’s an interesting ethical dilemma, but I’m not sure people in Ukraine have the time for a discussion on the ethics of it.

I’m not sure people in Ukraine have time for any discussions on how to stop Russia.

More Canadians might go to fight for the people of Ukraine, as well as from Sweden and other places. The U.K. government has advised that their people should not do so, the Canadian government has said something quite confusing if Canadians would be considered soldiers. But apparently more than 500 Canadians didn’t wait for direction and simply went to fight.

Why is it that citizens are showing up and taking action, almost as if governments are caught flat-footed? Is this a time for governments to follow the lead of citizens? There are times when a government just has to follow the decisive action of its people. Is this one of those times? Or is it about the lack of information?

Much of the communication thus far is about how not to spark a world war. Nobody sane wants a world war. So what’s next? Russia’s playbook is pretty rough as evidenced in Syria—if all we have is hope that it won’t happen in Ukraine, then we don’t have a plan.

Leadership is mostly about communication, and even more so in a crisis. Propaganda thrives in a vacuum.

It would benefit this government to share more about the thinking happening behind closed doors. Obviously not the secret information that needs to be kept secret in times of war. But we need more information to prepare for what may come next. It’s time for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to start doing daily briefings with Defence Minister Anita Anand and Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland, to share as much as they can to lead this country through our next crisis.

Personally, I need something more to go on than existential dread. Give us information, give us ways to prepare for wartime prices and wartime living. Give us a reason to stand together.