EDITORIAL: Russia is so Cute


Russia is so Cute

Film director Timur Bekmambetov (“Night Watch” and “Day Watch“) was thrilled last week to learn that his latest movie “Yolki” had become the  the most successful Russian movie over the last three years. The movie’s box office take “surpassed everyone’s expectations, including ours,” Ruslan Tatarintsev, the film’s marketing and distribution director, told The Hollywood Reporter. He added: “The main reason for the success was that we had a quality product that people wanted to watch.”

It was all lies.

“Yolki” had grossed a miniscule $26.5 million in a nation of 140 million people.  It cost $6 million to make, and $4 million of that had been spent on advertising.  “Yolki” bought its audience, and its audience was laughably — indeed, hilariously — tiny by Western standards. It featured what reports called “top local stars, such as Sergei Garmash and Artur Smolyaninov.” Ever heard of them?

Less than twenty percent of Russia’s cities and towns have even one movie theater.

It’s not hard, in other words, to be #1 at the box office in a country where people work for $3/hour and hardly anyone can afford to go to the movies, where $2 million buys you a big-budget extravaganza with “top stars.”

Isn’t Russia cute? It pretends to be a real country, deserving of a seat at such tables as the UN Security Council and the G-8, but when you lift the curtain Russia is revealed as a backwater, a silly little nation with delusions of grandeur.

What’s more, try showing “Yolki” to a Western audience.  They’d walk out before it was halfway done.  Russians, unlike Americans, have no ability to make popular entertainment that will be admired outside the country. That’s because Russians are caught up in their own delusional fantasies, like the infamous Emperor with his “new clothes.”  They cannot access universal values like democracy and pluralism, and so they cannot communicate with the outside world.  This would be one thing if Russia were a prosperous and happy country, but it is an impoverished backwater on the verge of collapse.

Come to think of it, Russia isn’t very cute at all.

63 responses to “EDITORIAL: Russia is so Cute

  1. jumped the shark with that one. The Russian film market is large by any measure, it in the top 5 of Europe and is predicted to be the largest in a few years.

    Slow news week for Russophobes?


    Talk about jumping the shark!! You offer exactly ZERO proof of your bizarre claims, which are directly refuted by the fact that this is the top-grossing movie of the last three years and it made almost nothing. Nice work, clown.

  2. With what you said about Russia not being able to make popular entertainment that will be admired outside the country, can’t the same be said for most countries? Hollywood really is the dominant international source of film entertainment. Bollywood might have an even larger audience, but it’s all domestic. Either way, foreign films (other than the Monty Python series) from any country don’t seem to have had a big effect on American audiences. There is an audience for foreign films in America, but very small compared to Hollywood’s audience. In Europe it’s probably different because there are a lot of small countries very close to each other.

    So wouldn’t a better way to measure the success of any Russian film in America be to see how it is recieved among those who enjoy foreign films?

  3. What is the topic about ? (exepts being an evidence of mess in head of the autor)… What is the connection between Hollywood products and said “Yolki”…if they are sharpened for absolutely different markets ? For example, I like Til Schweiger, but the only his european style movies (like “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door”, “Bafruss” etc)…and like noone of his movies made in USA. They are absolutely different…


    The POINT, you ignorant jackass is that they ARE for different markets. American movies are show to the world, Russian movies only to Russians. And it’s a tiny little market, that makes us laugh. That’s Russia!

    Get it, pea brain?

    • Japan doesn’t have a large market per capita for cinema…how exactly does that judge the country.

      …Hollywood…there’s something to brag about. The scourge of Cinema art throughout the world.

  4. I’ve seen two Russian films recently which were absolutely amazing and breath-taking, strangely enough both with numeric titles: 12 and 4 . Also, The Thief and The Return are quite moving and beautiful.

    For you to claim that Russian films are only for people who are Russian shows a wildly imbalanced bias on your part, and may suggest that you’re blinded by your own hatred, just as you claim Russophiles are blinded by their love.

    You are not objective, nor are you helpful to Russian people if you can’t seperate their art and their people and their culture from their government.

    • The very same “their people” from whom “their culture” emanates formed “their government.” Their dictators, both petty and grand, and corrupt functionaries came from “their people.” They are not American spies or aliens from the outer space. And those people enthusiastically support their Great Warlord and Leader for Life, every poll makes it quite clear.

      So, their “culture” and “people” and “government” are indeed inseparable. Those nice people could have risen like they some just did even in the Arab world. But you would not rise against the government, would you, if you agree with what that government is doing. Those nice “people” absolutely deserve what they have and much worse that is surely even if slowly coming.

  5. I think you like Russia. Stop denying it and come out of your closet.

  6. I’m not a fan of Russian cinema (I can’t stomach going through two hours of that horrible language anyway), but you don’t know much about non-Hollywood cinema, LR. $26.5 million is not “minuscule” at all for a non-Hollywood film, nor is $6 a small budget. For example, take a European movie like Pablo Almodovar’s highly successful La mala educacion, which reaped unanimous critical praise and was distributed all over the world: all of Europe, North America, Latin America etc. It had a budget of $5 million and revenues of $40 million. Even very well-known directors like Alfonso Cuaron have made movies on a $1.5 million budget. You know, not every movie has to be Avatar or Inception.

    It’s true that Russia’s cultural exports are pathetic and that, despite its cultural pretensions, Russian cinema has had little impact outside ex-Soviet countries. Russian cinema is not only not in the same league as French, German, British or Spanish cinema, it’s not even in the same league with Mexico, Argentina, Brazil or South Korea.

  7. It featured what reports called “top local stars, such as Sergei Garmash and Artur Smolyaninov.” Ever heard of them?

    Great question.

    Wikipedia says:

    Sergei Garmash

    Upon completion in 1984 of the Stanislavsky Moscow Art Theater School (class of Tarhanova), Garmash was accepted into the troupe of the Moscow theater “Sovremennik”. Today, Sergei Garmash, one of the leading actors of the theater with an interesting and extensive repertoire: Lopakhin in Chekhov’s “Cherry Orchard”, the older brother in “Brothers Karamazov and Hell” based on Dostoevsky’s late works, Alphonse in “Three Comrades” by Remarque, etc, etc


    So your response is that, no, you’ve never heard of them, and had to look them up. Probably what the writer meant by “local.” Russian actors, like the rest of Russian culture, don’t cross over to America, but Americans do cross over to Russia. Nuf said.

  8. Sure, I have heard of him, because I have an IQ of over 100 (actually, 159) and love theater and intelligent movies. I wrote a long description of Garmash, but for some reason your blog filter software kept on rejecting it until I reduced my post just to the paragraph above. I have no idea what in my quotes from Wikipedia and British press alarms your filters, but since you are interested in who Garmash is, I may try to re-work my full article, break it up into smaller pieces and post them. Please don’t get upset with the fractured nature of these posts.

  9. Pure madness (the topic and the chat about). “Local star” means exactly local star and nothing else. And it’s up to locals (on-demand) to decide whether is it so…or not ! So, “bla-bla-bla-lambada” about the issue is just a kind of verbal diarea and nothing else.

  10. By the way…I do not trace cinema news permanently. But, as an example, simple googling shows that russian movie “Silemnt Souls” took 3 prizes at the last Venice Festival, and that Tarnatino jumped out of his chair at the end of the screening, giving best marks to it. So ? We have Qentin Tanantino vs LR )))) Sorry LR…but are just a hamster !

  11. Andrew | January 31, 2011 at 4:48 am
    Personally I suspect you are autistic.

    Why would you come up with such an unusual and unexpected remote diagnosis, Andrew?

    Andrew // May 14, 2009 at 9:29 am
    Usually people insult others with what they fear in themselves.

    Oh, I see… It’s OK then, Andrew. A lot of talented people are autistic just like you. The only thing that separates you and them is your lack of any talent.

      • Hey Mark, are you still hurting from the factual smackdowns you keep getting on SWP’s site?

        Anyone with your opinions is retarded.

    • Oh hello sub-simian, nice to see you are incapable of any intelligence.

      BTW Ostap/Michael Tal/Voice Of Retardation/whatever, your lack of ability to relate to the real world is evidence enough of your autistic (and I am not talking high functioning here).

      Personally I am not surprised you need to keep changing your name to come back and post here.

      Must be a sad lonely little world where you come from.

      Did you like the factual slap down of your idiotic article below?

  12. “It’s not hard, in other words, to be #1 at the box office in a country where people work for $3/hour and hardly anyone can afford to go to the movies, where $2 million buys you a big-budget extravaganza with “top stars.”
    Why, it’s hardly a crime. In Mexico, right across the El Paso border , the situation is much worse in this respect let me tell you.

    “Isn’t Russia cute? It pretends to be a real country, deserving of a seat at such tables as the UN Security Council and the G-8, but when you lift the curtain Russia is revealed as a backwater, a silly little nation with delusions of grandeur.”
    The problem is Russia doesn’t have a US printing press to keep all its “delusions of grandeur” high enough. As far as I know they don’t yet cover-bomb and torture other nations “in the name of destiny and in the name of God”.
    OK. Check the Iraq-US distance in miles before your mentioning about Georgia.

    • RTS,

      You are maliciously lying. The American government doesn’t cover-bomb and torture other nations “in the name of destiny and in the name of God”. The American government cover-bombs and tortures other nations in the name of Peace, Love and Democracy. You may call it a Crusade for Democracy and the New World Order.

      And the Iraqis deserve their fate because 9-11 was perpetrated by people of the Arabic race. That will teach them.

  13. Maimonides | February 2, 2011 at 11:24 am | Reply
    “You are maliciously lying. The American government doesn’t cover-bomb and torture other nations “in the name of destiny and in the name of God”. The American government cover-bombs and tortures other nations in the name of Peace, Love and Democracy. You may call it a Crusade for Democracy and the New World Order. ”
    Mire nomás esos pinches gringos. Me tienen harto con su carne de caballo!!!

    “First create a problem via your proxis, and then offer to be part of the solution.” — Current CIA Aphorism. :-)
    911 – out of any doubt was an inside job of the American “democracy” loving nation. I think the evidence out there is overwhelming that the US government is responsible for 9/11. The mere fact that intelligence gathering pointed to September and an air piracy is proof in and of itself, but when you take in all the various anomalies of that day, the evidence is overwhelming.They (the neocons) just needed some solid pretext, kinda shock effect + some CNN/Foxnews verbal trash for their local wlag-waving gringo idiots to invade Iraq in the name of OIL and big profit in the 21th century.
    There are words like “free speech”, the “free market”, and the “free world” which have little, if anything, to do with freedom. Among the myriad of freedoms claimed by the U.S. government there are the freedom to murder, annihilate, and dominate other nations. And, most terrible of all, the freedom to commit these crimes against humanity in the name of “justice”, in the name of “righteousness”, in the name of “freedom” or whatever their think tanks might invent by the time. Sort of Goebels bluh bluh bluh primitive propaganda.

  14. We all live in America is what La Russophobe is trying to say I think

  15. RV | February 2, 2011 at 8:39 pm | Reply
    “What is “cover-bomb?” I have never heard of such an expression in the English language. Can you explain?”
    I can agree with you on this dr RV. American idiots can hardly understand what it actually means in reality.
    Thanks to the US imperialism and its Satanic nation behind it “this coverbombing” better sounds in the Vietnamese, Arabic, Spanish, Serbian, Afgani. There’s a bombing and there’s a “coverbombing” as the shortest way to freedom and democracy. The US as a nation is hated all across the the Latin America, the Middle East, Russia and China. The time has come to do away with America/Israel loving kings, princes and life-long “presidents” leaking the US boots from the Atlantic in the West and to Pakistan in the East. To put it very short American propaganda has lost the sense of reality and looks lika a baby talk for self-respecting nations.

    • No, russian retards such as yourself are unable to learn languages sufficiently to communicate with your betters.

      I think the term you are looking for is “carpet bomb(ing)”

      By the way, Russia did that quite happily in Afghanistan, Chechnya etc.

      Russian propaganda is fit only for sub simian retards such as yourself RTS

    • Oh and lets not forget all those African, middle eastern, and oriental mass murderers and despots that were (and are) supported by Russia.

      Russia = Biggest mass murderers in history after China.

    • Maybe I am an American idiot, and also the Satan twice (both an American and a Jew), but I am still a native speaker of the English language. Even if I am hated by you to the extent you have described, you will have to admit that that fact does not change a language. Even if your fondest dream should come true and you manage to destroy the West, the English language will still remain. And so I can assure you there is no such a word as “coverbomb” in the English language.

      Perhaps, your English instructors at the KGB Academy were not proficient enough, or you were a lousy student. So, keep this in mind. This is one of those little things that can betray a spy. Once one uses an expression like that, it becomes immediately apparent that he is a foreigner no matter how well he speaks otherwise.

      Now, Andrew has explained that you meant “carpet bombing.” If so, I do not recall the use of that since the Vietnam War, and even then, it is unclear whether bombardments of Hanoi in 1972 would qualify. Hanoi is still in place, it would not be had it been carpet bombed. So even that is questionable and it was almost 40 years ago at that.

      In Iraq and Afghanistan, the use of so called “smart bombs” was particularly stressed. This kind of bombing is a complete opposite to the “carpet bombing” and emphasizes a very precise targeting despite tremendous cost of these smart bombs.

      So, after Vietnam, where did any Western power use carpet bombing? You have leveled the charge, now let’s have some facts proving it.

    • RTS,

      You don’t understand RV’s point. Since he has nothing substantive to say in the defence of his country’s war policies, he is trying to assertintelelctual his own superiority by bragging that his English is a little better than that of non-English-speakers. You see, the proper English expression for what USA has been doing to civilians on the other end of the globe is “carpet-bombing” not “cover-bombing”.

  16. “What’s more, try showing “Yolki” to a Western audience. They’d walk out before it was halfway done.”

    Not surprising.
    Western audience *adores* “Borat” and “Bruno”.

    • Now come on trilirium, Russian films are pretty naff these days.

      Some of the older ones like “Father of a Soldier” were great though, oh, hold on, that was a Georgian film…..

      • True, there were a few extraordinary Soviet movies but that was a long time ago. I saw several phenomenal, highly artistic things, full of feeling and meaning and acted and directed at the highest level imaginable. A couple even got Oscars and other big awards, but I cannot recall anything of that caliber in 20 or more years. Certainly, if there was something outstanding, it would have been subtitled and released like War and Peace was, for example

        • Come on, RV, your recollections in the area of culture are hardly worthy of attention when it comes to films other than the mass culture “classics” like Bruno or Meet the Fockers or Goldmember. For example, just because you don’t know that Nikita Mikhalkov’s Burnt By the Sun won the Best Foreign Film award in 1994, it doesn’t mean that it didn’t, does it? Note that 4 other Russian films were also nominated in the last 19 years.

      • I’m just wondering, how many russian films did you see to come to this conclusion.

  17. Let me be back for a minute to both RV and Andrew.
    I’ve never been learning English systematically. I picked it up here, there and everywhere. It’s not my native tongue. As a matter of fact it’s my fourth one. Hopefully I deserve some indulgence on this point with your kind permission gentlemen.

    “Perhaps, your English instructors at the KGB Academy were not proficient enough, or you were a lousy student.”

    You are wrong, I never graduated from “the KGB Academy”.
    I kept another dear school way back in the 60’s. :-)

    And one last comment in conclusion – Let me put it as a question to RV.
    WHY don’t the gringos in Ca, TX and AZ speak Spanish well enough living side by side with Mexicans? Are they that dumb?

    • Fine, but you must be unusually gifted if you can learn a foreign language just by picking it up here and there. I realize from you writings that you are not a native English speaker. However, your English is really good, so I doubt you didn’t learn it “systematically.”

      Now, after we all agree that you meant “carpet bombing,” I repeat my question: where and when, after Vietnam, has any Western nation practiced carpet bombing?

      To your question, many non-Spanish speakers in the Southwest do speak a pretty good Spanish. I know when I go to Mexico or another Spanish-language country, I don’t need an interpreter and can get by with Spanish only, however imperfect it is. Like you, I picked it up, from frequent contacts with Mexicans. A lot of people do much better then me

  18. RV:
    “Now, after we all agree that you meant “carpet bombing,” I repeat my question: where and when, after Vietnam, has any Western nation practiced carpet bombing?”
    “The destruction of Rotterdam, Dresden, and Hiroshima are prominent examples. The Nuremberg Tribunal did not discuss area bombardment in any detail, and the practice, which flies in the face of all the civilian protections in the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949, continued into the Cold War. The U.S. aerial campaigns against North Vietnam—in particular the so-called Christmas bombing of 1972 against Hanoi and Haiphong—are believed to have been illegal area bombardments.”

    The U.S. military command has acknowledged that the bombing of the Iraqi Basra area by American B-52 bombers in 1991 was an area bombardment.
    — “As the attacks had been directed solely against the combatants of the so-called Iraqi Republican Guard, the United States believed the attacks to have been lawful.”

    — In June 1999, Milosevic gave in and allowed NATO to occupy Kosovo under threat of carpet bombing that would destroy Serbia entirely. His successors fled from a less perilous battle – the battle to inform world public opinion of the complex truth of the Balkans.

    Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland) Article date: May 1, 1999

    NATO are ready to wage a “carpet bombing” campaign against Serb forces in Yugoslavia.

    — For the first time since the air strikes began, the Allies hinted they would up the stakes against President Slobodan Milosevic’s regime.

    The United States announced yesterday they were sending 10 more B-52 bombers to the UK to boost the bombing campaign. The Pentagon said the B-52s would be used to drop unguided bombs on Serb forces hiding out in dense woodland. The same imprecise technique resulted in large numbers of civilian casualties in World War II and the Vietnam War. US defence secretary William S Cohen – who ordered in the B-52s – acknowledged the Pentagon would soon …

  19. http://cursor.org/stories/civilian_deaths.htm

    A Dossier on Civilian Victims of United States’ Aerial Bombing of Afghanistan:

    A Comprehensive Accounting [revised]

    “What causes the documented high level of civilian casualties — 3,000 – 3,400 [October 7, 2001 thru March 2002] civilian deaths — in the U.S. air war upon Afghanistan? The explanation is the apparent willingness of U.S. military strategists to fire missiles into and drop bombs upon, heavily populated areas of Afghanistan.”

    Professor Marc W. Herold
    Whittemore School of Business & Economics
    University of New Hampshire
    Durham, N.H. 03824, U.S.A.

    On November 7th, U.S heavy bombers obliterated the village of Khan Aqa in Kapisa province, located 34 miles north of Kabul, as part of the new carpet-bombing phase of the air war in the plains north of Kabul. The bombing was captured in a photo by the A.P.:

    U.S. heavy bombers obliterated the village of Khan Aqa in Kapisa province

    Smoke rises after a U.S. airstrike on the village of Khanaqa, 34 miles from Kabul. American jets dropped dozens of bombs late yesterday and today [Nov 7, 2001] on Taliban positions defending the Afghan capital. (AP photo)

    * October 11th – the farming village of 450 persons of Karam, west of Jalalabad in Nangarhar province is repeatedly bombed, 45 of the 60 mud houses destroyed, killing at least 160 civilians.77 Ms. Tur Bakai, who survived the attack, but all of whose children died in the attack, said, her voice barely audible, “I was asleep. I heard the prayers and suddenly it started. I didn’t know what it was. I was so scared…”78 ;
    * October 18th – the central market place, Sarai Shamali in the Madad district of Kandahar is bombed, killing 47 civilians;79
    * October 21st – a cluster bomb falls on the military hospital and mosque in Herat, killing possibly 100 though I have recorded only 11;80
    * October 23rd – in the early a.m. hours, low-flying AC-130 gunships repeatedly strafe the farming villages of Bori Chokar and Chowkar-Karez [Chakoor Kariz], 25 miles north of Kandahar, killing 93 civilians;81
    * November 10th the villages of Shah Aqa and a neighboring sidling, in the poppy-growing Khakrez district, 70 kilometers northwest of Kandahar are bombed, resulting in possibly over 300 civilian casualties [though I have only recorded 125]82
    * November 18th – carpet-bombing by B-52’s of frontline village near Khanabad, province of Kunduz, kills at least 100 civilians.83

    • Oh Maimonides, you should not even go there.

      Estimates of the Afghan deaths vary from 1 million to 2 million. 5-10 million Afghans fled to Pakistan and Iran, 1/3 of the prewar population of the country. Another 2 million Afghans were displaced within the country. In the 1980s, half of all refugees in the world were Afghan.
      Along with fatalities were 1.2 million Afghans disabled (mujahideen, government soldiers and noncombatants) and 3 million maimed or wounded (primarily noncombatants).
      Irrigation systems, crucial to agriculture in Afghanistan’s arid climate, were destroyed by aerial bombing and strafing by Soviet or government forces. In the worst year of the war, 1985, well over half of all the farmers who remained in Afghanistan had their fields bombed, and over one quarter had their irrigation systems destroyed and their livestock shot by Soviet or government troops, according to a survey conducted by Swedish relief experts
      The population of Afghanistan’s second largest city, Kandahar, was reduced from 200,000 before the war to no more than 25,000 inhabitants, following a months-long campaign of carpet bombing and bulldozing by the Soviets and Afghan communist soldiers in 1987. Land mines had killed 25,000 Afghans during the war and another 10–15 million land mines, most planted by Soviet and government forces, were left scattered throughout the countryside.
      A great deal of damage was done to the civilian children population by land mines. A 2005 report estimated 3–4% of the Afghan population were disabled due to Soviet and government land mines. In the city of Quetta, a survey of refugee women and children taken shortly after the Soviet withdrawal found over 80% of the children refugees unregistered and child mortality at 31%. Of children who survived, 67% were severely malnourished, with malnutrition increasing with age.
      Critics of Soviet and Afghan government forces describe their effect on Afghan culture as working in three stages: first, the center of customary Afghan culture, Islam, was pushed aside; second, Soviet patterns of life, especially amongst the young, were imported; third, shared Afghan cultural characteristics were destroyed by the emphasis on so-called nationalities, with the outcome that the country was split into different ethnic groups, with no language, religion, or culture in common.
      The Geneva Accords of 1988, which ultimately led to the withdrawal of the Soviet forces in early 1989, left the Afghan government in ruins. The accords had failed to address adequately the issue of the post-occupation period and the future governance of Afghanistan. The assumption among most Western diplomats was that the Soviet-backed government in Kabul would soon collapse; however, this was not to happen for another three years. During this time the Interim Islamic Government of Afghanistan (IIGA) was established in exile. The exclusion of key groups such as refugees and Shias, combined with major disagreements between the different mujaheddin factions, meant that the IIGA never succeeded in acting as a functional government.
      Before the war, Afghanistan was already one of the world’s poorest nations. The prolonged conflict left Afghanistan ranked 170 out of 174 in the UNDP’s Human Development Index, making Afghanistan one of the least developed countries in the world.

      Captain Tarlan Eyvazov, a soldier in the Soviet forces during the war, stated that the Afghan children’s future is destined for war. Eyvazov said, “Children born in Afghanistan at the start of the war… have been brought up in war conditions, this is their way of life.” Eyvazov’s theory was later strengthened when the Taliban movement developed and formed from orphans or refugee children who were forced by the Soviets to flee their homes and relocate their lives in Pakistan. The swift rise to power, from the young Taliban in 1996, was the result of the disorder and civil war that had warlords running wild because of the complete breakdown of law and order in Afghanistan after the departure of the Soviets


      Or this

      The Soviet occupation brought about a shift in tactics in the war as the resistance forces began to coalesce around a number of factions largely organized along ethnic lines. They did not control the cities, but moved mainly in the rural areas where they enjoyed popular support. Most of the factions maintained headquarters or political representatives in Pakistan or Iran, where they also established conduits for vast amounts of military assistance that began to flow principally from the U.S. through Pakistan. Aware that the mass arrests and executions carried out earlier by the PDPA had only fueled the resistance and nearly destroyed the Army, the Soviets employed more systematic means of intelligence gathering. The secret police, the KhAD, was modeled on the Soviet KGB. It engaged in widespread summary executions, detentions and torture of suspected mujahidin (resistance) supporters. Torture survivors from this period whom I have interviewed regularly identified Soviet personnel supervising the torture.

      In the countryside, Soviet forces bombed routinely and indiscriminately; the aim was both to demoralize the civilian population supporting the resistance and to destroy its means of providing food and shelter to the mujahidin. Thus, irrigation systems, cropland and other rural resources were bombed as well as villages. The bombing killed countless civilians and devastated the countryside. From the early 1980s on, most refugees arriving in Pakistan reported they had fled because of the bombing. In all, some five million Afghans fled the country. In addition to the bombing, Soviet and Afghan forces carried out reprisals against civilians, executing any they believed to support the resistance. Soviet forces also sowed mines throughout the country; many remain a threat to Afghans living in rural areas today.


      Soviet fighter-bombers have been employed exclusively in the air-to-ground role, since the Afghan guerrillas offer no air-to-air threat. They have been used for carpet bombing, terror bombing, and scorched-earth bombing in efforts to destroy the guerrillas or drive them from the country. Combined with helicopter attacks, Soviet fighter-bombers have pounded settlements throughout the country. Half of the city of Herat (Afghanistan’s third largest city, with a population of 150,000) was leveled in an extremely heavy, brutal, and prolonged attack

      Herat was carpet bombed by Russian aircraft early in the Soviet war in Afghanistan killing around 25,000 people.

      I see your 3000 deaths and raise them

    • A rather interesting criticism of Professor Marc W. Herold and his rather poor research.

      Opinions before facts

      While it would be absurd to expect that any argument about the war could be free of preconceptions and value commitments, it is nevertheless reasonable for readers to expect that a ‘comprehensive accounting’ will avoid hyperbole and rest upon empirical evidence. Yet even before he has begun to document his civilian death count, Herold asserts – in the manner of a premise rather than a conclusion – that the war is ‘unjust’, and that the unintentional killing of civilians is ‘simply unacceptable’ and ‘criminal’.

      Indeed he goes further. He states at the outset that there is “no difference between the attacks on the WTC whose primary goal was the destruction of a symbol, and the US-UK revenge coalition bombing of military targets located in populated urban areas. Both are criminal. Slaughter is slaughter.”

      Herold’s eagerness to assert his opinions prior to establishing the facts is revealing, as are his comments about why the US has bombed military targets in populated urban areas. One of his hypotheses is: “race enters the calculation. The sacrificed Afghan civilians are not ‘white’ whereas the overwhelming number of US pilots and elite ground troops are white.” This claim is completely unsubstantiated, and it flies in the face of two pieces of evidence noted by Herold himself.

      First, that the US was no more concerned about ‘collateral casualties’ during the NATO bombing of Serbia in 1999. Herold’s way of saving his hypothesis here is that: “the Serbs were in the view of US policymakers and the corporate media tainted (‘darkened’) by their prior Communist experience.” Herold is here playing an absurd semantic game with the concept of ‘race.’

      Second, that key military-related facilities have long been located near or in populated urban areas. Perhaps the reason why the US has bombed these areas is simply because that is where the targeted facilities are. But Herold strangely chooses to ignore this possibility. That he does so does not invalidate the factual claims he makes elsewhere. But his inclination to play such disingenuous games must give readers pause.

      Weaknesses of method

      Herold establishes his figure of 3,500 civilian deaths through an exhaustive review of media reports and first-hand testimonies. His ambition in reviewing these sources is admirable. Yet his methodology suffers from two serious weaknesses. The first is that he employs the principle of maximum credulity in evaluating his sources. As he puts it: “I have eschewed making judgments about the relative reliability of one nation’s news agencies and reporters versus another’s.” He assumes that if an editor of any newspaper or outlet considered an account to be accurate, then it is accurate.

      This strange assumption leads Herold to treat reports in the (UK) Guardian as being on par with reports from The Frontier Post of Peshawar. He cites, for example, an eyewitness account of the bombing of a commercial truck reported in Albalagh. This, it turns out, is an ‘Islamic E-Journal,’ whose motto is ‘Our Duty is to Deliver Only the Message’ (the message of Mohammed). Among the texts featured on its web page of 10 January 2002 are an article entitled ‘Islam is the Solution,’ and an essay on ‘Religious Toleration’ defending the destruction of Buddhist temples by Islamic fundamentalists. Hardly an unimpeachable media source.

      Herold’s second failing is more serious – the misleading use of citations. He cites a web article by a Harvard researcher, claiming that it ‘confirmed that civilians had been killed in Jalalabad and elsewhere.’ But the cited web address turns up an op-ed piece that confirms nothing. Similarly, Herold writes that ‘the US alternative media noted that during the first week of bombing, 400 Afghan civilians had been slaughtered.’ The cited source is an opinion piece written by an American environmental and labor activist with no evident expertise on Afghanistan. There are a number of similar citations in the article.

      Questionable conclusions

      A careful reading of Herold’s ‘comprehensive accounting’ suggests that its claim that over 3,500 Afghan civilians have been killed by US bombing cannot be considered substantiated. Yet clearly many – too many – Afghan civilians have been killed, and this has been downplayed by US officials and media. It is important to know this, and to draw the appropriate conclusions. But what are the appropriate conclusions?

      Herold concludes that the victims of US bombing are no different than the victims of the 11 September attacks, and that the war is murderous and unjust. But these claims don’t follow from factual arguments of the kind that Herold purports to make. As Richard Falk has argued in the Nation, there is a long and powerful tradition of thinking about the conditions of a just war. According to this tradition a war against Al-Qaida and its Taliban hosts is justifiable on the grounds of defense and retributive justice. Unless one is a pacifist one cannot claim, as Herold does, that ‘slaughter is slaughter. Killing civilians even if unintentional is criminal.’ For as soon as one admits that war can be just, then one must admit that – as morally terrible as it is – there can be no war in which only ‘military targets’ are hit.

      When wars are fought then people are killed, combatants but also civilians. This is unavoidable. Of course a just war must be fought justly. The magnitude of civilian death matters; civilians cannot be the intentional object of attacks, and civilian casualties must be minimized. Here Herold’s inclination is correct. If thousands of civilians are being killed, even if as a result of ‘collateral damage’, this must be taken into account. But would even 3,500 civilian casualties be proof of the war’s injustice?

      ‘Collateral benefits’?

      The answer must be no. There are two reasons for this. Neither is categorical, and both require intelligent and responsible judgment. The first is that a moral assessment of the war must consider not simply the costs of the war – including civilians killed – but also the human and moral costs of avoiding the war. The war was a response to a real assault on the lives of Americans and civilians of many other countries who stand in the way of Al-Qaida’s murderous worldview (many non-Americans, and ‘people of color,’ perished in the 11 September attacks). The costs of failing to seek to destroy this network and to bring its leaders to justice would be substantial.

      This does not mean, of course, that Afghan lives have less moral worth than American lives. But the failure to suppress Al-Qaida may well have jeopardized many more thousands of lives, of people living in Los Angeles and Paris, London and Hamburg, including Caucasians but also the Turks, Arabs, and Africans who live in these places. This must be factored into any intelligent evaluation of the war.

      The second reason, then, involves a necessary assessment of the benefits of the war. One benefit is the destruction of Al-Qaida, a benefit not only to Americans, though Americans have every reason to seek this advantage. Another benefit is distinctively relevant to the people about whom Herold purports to care most – Afghan civilians. The war has destroyed the Taliban regime, which for over six years had persecuted and ravaged the people, particularly the women, of Afghanistan. This, surely, has not been the principal goal of the war. It is what we might call the ‘collateral benefit’ of the war. But, if we are to assess ‘collateral damages’, then we must assess ‘collateral benefits’ as well. It is undeniable that a large number of Afghans are celebrating the liberation of Afghanistan, a large number were willing to fight and die for this and in fact did fight and die for this. What preceded the Taliban was no doubt terrible. There are other oppressive forces in play, some allied with the US. The war has not brought deliverance to Afghanistan. But the defeat of the Taliban has created the possibility of something approximating freedom for Afghans.

      This is ignored by Herold, as it is ignored by many who have denounced the war. Is it worth 3,500 civilian lives? To even ask the question is to enter a tragic but unavoidable domain. If we want to act as citizens, take public positions, and participate in public debate, then we must ask ourselves painful questions. If we are honest, and if we care about human rights, then we will acknowledge the costs of even the most justifiable policies. We will neither gloat nor deceive ourselves, nor will we celebrate what is a vast human tragedy. But decide we must.

      Herold denounces the war. But he says nothing about how to protect the world from terrorism or secure the freedom of Afghans. He voices concern for innocent civilians. But the alternative to the war is not the peaceful enjoyment of human rights by the Afghans. It is allowing a terror network to operate with impunity and ignoring Taliban oppression. In such a scenario many people will be murdered and many more will be terrorized and forced to live their lives in fear. This is neither peace or justice. This war, like all wars, is bloody and horrible. But it is less bad than the alternatives. That is not saying much. But right now it seems to be enough.


      • What, no response Maimonides/Ostap/Voice of Retardation?

        You really are an inferior type of scumbage Maimonides, no wonder your wife left you.

        • Forgot about me, darling? Your postings are just a big fat nothing. Also, as far as matrimony is concerned, this blog seems to serve as your wife. Quite apt match, indeed.



          • Hmmm, of course given that you are in severe need of remedial reading classes thats a bit rich.

            Never mind floppy, your opinions are worthless.

        • Andrew,

          I don’t read your cut-and-paste jobs. And when I read your own infantile words, I seldom comment, unless I have something funny to say.

          You should not consider my ignoring most of your crap as “proof” that I have nothing to respond with, just as the Pug shouldn’t take pride in the fact that the Elephant is ignoring it:

          Слон и моська/Elephant and Pug

          Along the streets Big Elephant was led,
          To show him off, most likely.
          Since Elephants are not a common thing to see
          A crowd of gapers followed on his heels.
          All of a sudden Pug springs up in front of them.
          And seeing Elephant, it raises a great rumpus,
          It lunges, barks and howls
          And does its best to pick a quarrel.
          “Hey neighbor, stop the fuss,”
          A mutt intones, “You? Deal with Elephant?
          Look at you barking yourself hoarse, and he just strolls
          And doesn’t care one bit about your noise.”
          “Ho ho!” Pug says,
          “That’s just what I enjoy,
          Since I can be a real tough guy
          Without a single blow or bruise.
          That way, the other dogs will say:
          “To bark at Elephant this Pug
          Must be a real strong mug!”

          • LOL, now voice of retardation, you have never put anything into words that was not an example of your lack of human decency, morals, and intelligence.

            Like I said, you appear to be an autistic little twit.

            Comparing Russia to the US, Russia will always stink of sewerage, while the US comes up smelling of roses by comparison.

            • You can’t read, Andrew. I wasn’t comparing Russia to US. You were. All I did was post articles about US crimes against innocent civilians. It was you who started comparing these acts to Russia’s. And calling mass murders of civilians “smelling of roses” is not very nice.

  20. Andrew | February 11, 2011 at 4:58 am | Reply
    Like I said, you appear to be an autistic little twit.

    Andrew | October 23, 2009 at 9:17 am
    Deliberately left out by the autistic Michael Tal

    Andrew | September 30, 2010
    You should stop using the internet Dtard, it is meant for normal folks, not autistic children like you.

    Andrew | January 31, 2011 at 4:48 am
    Personally I suspect you are autistic.

    Andrew | December 24, 2009
    Now “New-Sky” maybe you should take your own advice, though I suspect you are a bit too simple, or maybe auti

    Andrew | January 12, 2011 at 3:27 pm | Reply
    No Casasa, quite the opposite. However, you are obviously autistic.

    Andrew | September 22, 2009 at 4:56 am | Reply
    You are obviously an emotional cripple, and aomewhat autistic (although high funtioning to be sure).

    Why would you constantly diagnose all your opponents of being autistic, Andrew?

    Andrew | August 18, 2009 at 1:36 pm | Reply
    Calling others autistic is right up your alley, but I suggest you take a look in the mirror.

    You gave yourself a great advice, Andrew. Too bad you didn’t follow it.

    Andrew // May 14, 2009 at 9:29 am
    Usually people insult others with what they fear in themselves.

    Oh, I see… It’s OK then, Andrew. A lot of talented people are autistic just like you. The only thing that separates you and them is your lack of any talent.

    • LOL, pity you don’t put up a few of your own many insults to others Michael Tal/Phobodunce/Voice Of Retardation/Michael Tal/Ostap the Bender/Maimonides/Arthur/Manfred Stiffy etc.

      Of course, that would require some honesty on your part.

      It does amuse me that you are never able to win a factual argument, but you keep coming back to humiliate yourself in public.

      Definitely the sign of a total failure.

      Have fun

      • Andrew // May 14, 2009 at 9:29 am
        Usually people insult others with what they fear in themselves.

        Andrew | January 21, 2011 at 5:09 am | Reply
        Here we go sub-simian:

        Andrew | October 23, 2010 at 8:17 am | Reply
        Oh dear, RTS is being a sub simian again.

        Andrew | January 31, 2011 at 4:48 am | Reply
        Given the sub simian nature of your posts that is a good laugh Maimuni.

        Andrew | October 17, 2010 at 9:01 am | Reply
        But sub-simian, your Russian vermin were marching hand in hand with the Nazi scum first…..

        Andrew | October 17, 2010 at 8:57 am | Reply
        Now Dtard, we know you have a subhuman intelligence level, which is also quite possibly sub-simian, but really….

        Andrew | October 20, 2010 at 3:29 pm |
        More unsubstantiated rubbish from our resident sub-simian Dtard

        Andrew // May 14, 2009 at 9:29 am
        Usually people insult others with what they fear in themselves.


        You are man of great verbal skills in your native language, Andrew.

        • Once again Ostap Bender boy, you are as incapable of winning an argument here as you are at winning an argument on SWP.

          BTW, I am touched that you take everything I say so seriously, you really do seem to be wasting a lot of your time on recording and unsuccessfully attempting to counter my comments

          Really VOR, is your life so empty that you have to get so obsessed?

          Why don’t we look at some of your little and big lies over the years, of course unlike you I am not so obsessed to go delving through them.

          The simple fact that you have been banned at least 6 times in enough.

          BTW, surely your employer must be getting upset at all the time you are wasting trolling through the back pages of LR.

          Lucky for you your wife left you, she might get a bit upset with your obsessing about married men LOL

  21. Andrew wrote: “you really do seem to be wasting a lot of your time on recording and unsuccessfully attempting to counter my comments

    I don’t “record” your comments. Google does it for me. Nor am I “countering” your “comments”. I read fewer than 1% of them. I bet nobody reads more than 2% of them, not even Robert.

    I simply noticed your infantile and repetitive insults towards your opponents like “sub simian” and “autistic”, I quickly searched for “La Russophobe Andrew simian OR autistic”, and I posted what Google gave me. Took me all of 5 minutes.

    Why don’t we look at some of your little and big lies over the years, of course unlike you I am not so obsessed to go delving through them.

    If you can re-post my old writings that can make me look as infantile as you – do so. If you can’t – shut up.

    And BTW, I am happily married with 3 beautiful children.

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