By Joshua Arnold
President Joe Biden just declared what every red-blooded American with two eyes and a television believes: Vladimir Putin “is a war criminal.” After initially mishearing a reporter’s question and answering “no,” the president clarified that he does, in fact, believe the Russian autocrat is guilty of war crimes. This was one “Candid Joe” moment the White House could stomach. Biden was “speaking from his heart,” explained Press Secretary Jen Psaki, “and speaking from what he’s seen on television.”
Putting his words into action will be more complicated, Representative Chris Smith (R-N.J.), who has introduced a resolution to recognize Russia’s war crimes said. “We have seen every day that civilians are being targeted, schools, hospitals.” Unlike previous wars, we don’t have to sort through the rubble to uncover the facts; the world is watching this invasion in real time. The infamous World Health Organization has already documented 43 attacks on hospitals and health facilities. The State Department’s own embassy in Ukraine reported Russian troops gunned down ten people in a bread line. Not to mention a widely reported bombing of a theater in Mariupol, where hundreds of civilians, mostly women and children had taken shelter.
Yet the State Department suggests “it needs to further investigate who launched this blitzkrieg,” said Smith. We know who; this war is Vladimir Putin’s responsibility. Therefore, “an international tribunal needs to be set up immediately,” said Smith. In these situations, “delay is denial,” and swift action could deter Russian soldiers from following through on orders to attack civilians. There are paths to international justice, but they could take a while.