The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion What is the U.N. doing to stop the war and hold Russia responsible?

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky appears on screen at a U.N. Security Council meeting on April 5 in New York. (Peter FoleyEPA-EFE/Shutterstock)
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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s comments to the U.N. Security Council were on target. The United Nations has done relatively little to prevent or stop this assault on Ukraine. It appears powerless in the face of one of the most devastating attacks in recent history.

Unfortunately, all of the actions taken so far have not had the effect of changing Russian President Vladimir Putin’s plans. The reality of the situation is that Ukraine is being destroyed, the people are being killed or displaced, and everyone else is engaged in an academic discussion of “what we can do to help.”

Take a good look: Much of Ukraine has already been destroyed, millions are refugees, many are dead or injured and the United Nations has issued resolutions but done nothing.

This all seems like reactions to gun violence in the United States: a lot of “thoughts and prayers” and little action.

I am old enough to remember when the United Nations was looked to as the vehicle to prevent this kind of madness. Now, it appears that we are back to where we were 80 years ago. How sad.

Michael V. Cardone, Manassas

In 2006, a cadre of military and civilian lawyers undertook the investigation, prosecution and defense of a handful of soldiers who massacred an Iraqi family of four who lived just outside the small village of Yusufiyah, within the Sunni “Triangle of Death.” Those soldiers would be held criminally responsible for their unspeakable acts of violence.

Judicial hearings were not held at some remote post back in the United States; no, they were held in country. The extraordinary efforts of the United States to hold those soldiers immediately accountable were clear enough. Both government and defense attorneys met with family members of the slain family, not only to show our shared commitment for the rule of law but also to show Iraqis that the United States truly respected their country and its citizens.

Though it may have seemed unfathomable that American soldiers could commit such depraved acts of violence in 2006, as a country we did not allow for such naked aggression to go unchecked. We investigated. We prosecuted. And, yes, we even defended those soldiers despite their acts. But, as a nation, we did not shirk from our duties. We held our soldiers accountable. And, in doing so, we showed the world we were accountable.

Such action stands in such stark contrast to the permissiveness countenanced by the Russian Federation for the war crimes that have gone on unchecked in Bucha and elsewhere in Ukraine. Russia must now be held accountable. It will undoubtedly take time, but so did Nuremberg.

David P. Sheldon, Washington

The writer is a civilian defense attorney. He represented Spec. James Barker, who was convicted of murder.

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