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February 7, 2024 45 mins

Robert and Shereen are joined by humanitarian advocate Charles McBryde to talk about the importance of continuing military aid to Ukraine and what we can do to support Ukrainian independence. 

Misson Kharkiv 

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Episode Transcript

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Speaker 1 (00:01):
Also media.

Speaker 2 (00:06):
Okay, hello, welcome to it could happen here. This is
Sharene today. I am joined by you know him, you
love him. It's Robert.

Speaker 3 (00:14):
Hi, Robert Ah. Someone knows me and loves me. That's nice.

Speaker 2 (00:18):
Robert is here today to talk with me to Charles McBride.
But I met Charles fairly recently doing just pro Palestine
stuff online, and I really liked his work. He's here
to talk about some things that I think are very
important to like Ukraine, and why helping Ukraine is not
the same thing as aid to Israel and all that
good stuff. And yeah, let's just get right into it.

I want to know your experience with Ukraine. Can you
just tell us a little bit about that first?

Speaker 3 (00:48):

Speaker 4 (00:49):
First of all, thank you Sharen so much for having
me on. This has been one of my favorite podcasts
for a while. So this is kind of a slightly
surreal moment going into my experience with Ukraine. I double
majored in history in comparative religion in college, and I
was kind of interested in sort of the post Soviet sphere,

and I worked on some kind of post Soviet issues
when I lived in Washington, d C. After school, and
also was deeply interested in Eastern Orthodox Christianity, which is
kind of why I took an interest in that region.
So I remember, in like twenty fifteen, I watched this
Vice video called Russian Roulette that popped up on my

YouTube feed, and it just completely it just put Ukraine
on the map for me in a way that I'd
never really thought about before. I thought of it as
the Ukraine. Yeah, my Muscovite Russian history professor had always
talked about it as a part of Russia, and she
had denied, you know, I was during the Midan the
Revolution of Dignity, I was in college, and she denied

that Ukraine had any autonomy. She echoed all the putinesque
sort of talking points about CIA intervention and neo Nazis
and stuff, and I didn't really know what. I didn't
know at that point. So then I, yeah, I got
I got interested in in sort of what was happening
in the lead up to the Russian invasion. And I

had been following this guy who went over to Syria
a couple of years ago named Aidan Aslin. And in
my conversations with with aid and he'd sort of told
me a little bit about kind of what stuff was
like in going on in Ukraine, and I got very
interested in I was following him and all of his
friends and what they were doing. And at that point,

I had, you know, about four or five years of
nonprofit humanitarian experience under my belt, as long as as
well as sort of a historical political understanding of the region.
And so when the when the war happened, when the
full scale invasion happened, I immediately started trying to fundraise, trying
to help out, trying to educate, and sleep to try

and cut through Russian propaganda because there were a lot
of people in my sphere who were just retweeting straight
up Russian propaganda. They were elevating you know what you
and I know who are basically Krimlin adjacent individuals in
the United States who have Sway and leftist circles, some
of whom have re emerged in the Palestine discussion, much

to my chagrin.

Speaker 5 (03:25):
Yeah, yeah, I'm sure we'll talk about that more like
I would love to.

Speaker 3 (03:30):
Get into that.

Speaker 4 (03:30):
Yeah, And so yeah, in my hope was to kind
of to do that, and as I was sort of
working with Ukrainian it's one of the things they said is, hey, man,
everything happens here. You have to be in Ukraine for
to get anything off the ground, so you need to
come here. And I'm like, are you insane? It's there's
a war going on in your country. So I said yes,
and yes, yes, I am in retrospect. So the second

week of the war, I booked a plane ticket, flew
over there, across the train and the pole, and scared
out of my mind, got in touch with the Ukrainians
I'd been talking to previously, and after a mad hustle
from the train station, was very comfortably drinking tea in
a cute little apartment in Leviv with somebody's grandmother. And
I was like, this is this is crazy experience. So

I spent two months in Ukraine. At the beginning, my
attention was to sort of identify gaps in the medical
supply chain, particularly things that were going to be initially
overlooked in the mad dash of refugees and resettlement and
all that sort of stuff. And one of the things
we identified was like prescription medication for people coming from

the East to the West. And yeah, I think it's
important that not a lot of realized that people coming
from Eastern Ukraine. A lot of them had never visited
cities like Leviv until the start of full scale invasion,
predominantly Russian speakers, and you know, for them, Leviv was
almost like going to Poland, and it was a very
new thing for them. But you know, your medical issues

don't stop just because someone invades their country. In fact,
oftentimes they get worse. And so what I was trying
to do initially was was find a way to address that,
and that led me into contact with Rostislov Philippinko, who's
one of my dear friends and the co founder of
the organization that we started together called Mission HARKV. So

that organization worked initially on prescription medications and then started
distributing high end oncology drugs, which are very difficult to transport,
very lucrative to steel, and very difficult to store because
they have to be kept at a constant temperature. So
we focused on those things while everybody else was focusing

on tints and you know, and clothes for refugees and
that sort of stuff. And as a result, we carved
out a very interesting niche in terms of the humanitarian
response and are still you know, going strong with that
today and so that was initially kind of why I
went over there for that first two months, and since

then I've been back over to film a documentary, sort
of an artistic short documentary called Note of Defiance, and
then I was involved with another documentary project which is
hopefully forthcoming in the next year.

Speaker 3 (06:21):

Speaker 5 (06:22):
Yeah, I don't think I've talked about this on the show,
but kind of my relationship with Ukraine and eventually going
over there and starting to report on what was happening
started weirdly enough as a result of the fact that
I had friends who went to the big Burning Man
event in Nevada, and I wound up traveling with one
of them in India, this Ukrainian woman who lived in

the Bay and when stuff started in late twenty thirteen,
which is when the Revolution of Dignity is kind of
the common Ukrainian name for it. You'll also hear it
referred to as like the twenty fourteen revolution of the
madn Revolution. They're all talking about the same thing, which
is when the guy who was the President of Ukraine
trying to make himself into a dictator, the stude Victor Yanikovich,

who is this incredibly wealthy oligarch who literally built a
golden palace for himself with like a fake lake that
had a boat on it, that was a restaurant for
just him, for like the level of rich oligarch asshole
we're talking about here, cracked down really brutally on a
student protest, which it kind of culminated in this kind
of escalating occupation of the Center Square in the capitol

that basically got built into an ice fortress in like
the middle of the Ukrainian winter. This very very like
pretty epic story of successful resistance because this guy is
eventually forced out the police riot unit, the bearcoot who
had done had been literally killing people by dropping them
naked in like ice drifts and stuff, are disbanded. It's

a really remarkable story, and I just kind of fell
into it because my friend connected me with a couple
of people who were on the ground there, who were
friends of hers, who were Ukrainian in the tech industry,
who traveled to the US every year or so for
burning Man, and so when this occupation of the madn started,
they were like, well, we know how to, like we're

used to making soup and food for large numbers of
people and like running little chunks of a camp. So
we'll just start, We'll just do the thing that we
do at our camp out over in Maidan. And they
were part of the thing they were part of was
the Automidon, which was this like mobile unit of resupply
where people would like basically drive supplies to and from
different areas of occupation in the city. It was a

pretty dangerous job as things escalated, but that was my
ind and I wound up talking to like, I don't know,
twenty or thirty people like actively the entire time the
occupation was going on. There's like two folks I never
was able to get back in touch with who just
kind of like dropped off at a certain point. Like
it was a really sketchy time for a lot of people.
But I wound up traveling there the year after, right

after the early part of the invasion, started to report
from Avdifka, which is, you know, was had been under
siege for a year at that point and is still
under siege today. For an idea of like that's a
decade now basically that that this this little town has
been shelled.

Speaker 2 (09:10):
Yeah, anyway, yeah, I didn't know that about burning Man.

Speaker 3 (09:14):
That's well, it was a weird way to get connected
to it. Yeah.

Speaker 5 (09:18):
I just got a message from this friend of mine
who's like, hey, somebody, someboddies from my camp are like
trying to overthrow their government. Do you want to talk
to them? I was like, well, yeah, that sounds pretty dope. Yeah,
that's your mo that's wild. You know what burning Man
really does, apply It.

Speaker 4 (09:35):
Provides, It really connects all, doesn't it. I have some
weird like tangential burning I've never been.

Speaker 3 (09:40):
But I have like neither of I actually yeah.

Speaker 4 (09:42):
I have like Burning Man devotees who play a large
role in my life. And it's just very interesting.

Speaker 5 (09:47):
Yeah, yeah, the weird little connections you get. And I
was kind of disappointed, you know. To me, this was
because the whole time, especially like the late twenty thirteen
early twenty fourteen, as this was going on, I was like, well,
they're probably all going to get killed, right, like, just
you know, we were several years in the Syrian Civil
War at this point, Like I was not optimistic, and

that's not what happened. And then there was like this
counterpoint of realizing a few years later that oh, a
shocking number of people on the left think it was
a bad thing that they overthrew their government. Yeah, which, yeah,
I guess gets us into the kind of thing you
wanted to talk about, which is the difference in providing
military aid to Ukraine versus Israel.

Speaker 3 (10:31):
Yeah, which I don't know.

Speaker 5 (10:33):
I mean, from my standpoint, it's pretty obvious, right, Like,
one country is fighting a military that has a massive
industrial base, much more powerful than it and is killing
large numbers of civilians, and they have proven their ability
with military aid to react effectively to this invasion. And

the other case, I don't think I need to explain
which one, but it's Israel is a country with a
massive arms industry that is fighting people who have no
arms industry of any kind and primarily killing civilians. So
I can very easily justify one of those groups of
people getting US weapons and one of them not needing
any additional weapons.

Speaker 3 (11:15):
That's right, Yeah, you.

Speaker 4 (11:16):
See, Robert. None of that is justified because of the
existence of the Azhoh Battalion. There is no right for
any Ukrainian grandmother to get access to her insulin because
there's a couple of neo Nazis that were stationed in Mariople.
But truly, that is that is about how sophisticated. A
lot of the leftist critiques of the Ukraine, of supporting

Ukraine are. Yeah, I think a lot of it comes in.
One of the things that I talk about, and I
talked with Sharin about this when we went on Instagram
Live together, is that a lot of leftists seem to
live in kind of a weird little cinematic universe where
only the US and Israel can be the bad guys,
and by extension, France and the UK you know, and

YadA YadA. But as a result of that, they have
this just really strange view of global affairs that literally
no one in the countries they're talking about share. Somehow,
Russia and Iran and China and Cuba are all aligned
in a sort of anti imperial axis because they oppose
the interests of NATO in the United States. And I

think that's just so, that's that's patently ridiculous, but it
plays a big role in conversations like what's going on
in Palestine, yes, or people will invoke, well, why are
you giving all this money to Ukraine instead of giving
money to people the relief for the Maui fires, or
you know, doing why are we doing medical medicare for all.

So it's like it's a convenient because it's the military
industrial complex, it's the Iraq War, it's all these things
that we as leftists were taught to hate, but it's
there being used for good. It's like America is actually
being the arsenal democracy and doing the thing that we
did in World War Two that helped the Soviet Union
march into Berlin.

Speaker 5 (13:02):
Well, and it's also i think an important thing to
notice when we talk about the it's always framed as
the US is giving this amount of money to Ukraine.
What's what's happening is we are taking stockpiles of arms
we already have worth that much money, and we are
sending them there like they're not right like that that
is overwhelmingly like the the what kind of aid we

are sending over So these are extant weapons that are
sitting in the US doing nothing and being like the Bradley's.
We didn't just build a bunch of new Bradley's. We
had a shitload of them, we weren't using them anymore
because they were not very useful in the conflicts that
we were fighting, right that Bradleys.

Speaker 4 (13:43):
Yeah, the United States is like really itching to like
need high mars right now. No, Like all of this
stuff we're sending to them has been mothballed for yeah,
basically since the Goal War, and people don't understand that.

Speaker 5 (13:56):
It is funny to me to imagine, like, yeah, let's
send that stuff to Maui for the virus.

Speaker 3 (14:00):
That's what they need. They need long range artillery.

Speaker 5 (14:03):
That's really gonna that's really gonna help them heal.

Speaker 4 (14:07):
I'm in favor of sending lethal aid to the indigenous
residents of Malai, but I think that's it.

Speaker 5 (14:15):
You talked me into it, and I think we have
enough mothball tanks for both of these goss.

Speaker 2 (14:21):
I think for me, the comparisons for Ukraine and Palestine,
it started with how it was presented in the media.
It just it rought people the wrong way when the
Ukrainian struggle was presented in a certain way and the
Palestinian struggle was not. And people can draw some draw
like comparison like whiteness and all this stuff. Absolutely, and
I just it got me, really, it really irritates me

because it's not like the Oppression Olympics, Like we're not
trying to compare or demonize Ukrainians. We should demonize the
media for not representing Palestinians in the right way. But
I think that is kind of the origin of the
comparison that I saw anyway.

Speaker 5 (14:59):
Yeah, and I think that that's really worth digging into
because there's a couple of First off, it is absolutely
an injustice that Ukrainian resistance and that light is seen
as inherently just and not just Palestinian resistance is demonized
or often ignored, But like all sorts of resistance by
people who are being harmed around the world, it partially

is or in large part as a result of like
US and other Western countries policies are not seen in
the same light as Ukrainian resistance. I certainly agree with
that stance. That's not the refault of anybody in Ukraine.
Right this we are not talking about a country that
exercises power on the global stage. We are talking about
a cash poor nation that has been struggling with Russian

imperialism for most of the time that most of the
people listening this, actually all of the time that everybody
listening to this has been alive in one form or another, right,
And so I think it's perfectly fair to point out
the ways in which the media reports unequally on these conflict,
on what's happening in Palestine, what's happening on stuff like Buka,
and on the mass slaughter of civilians in Gaza.

Speaker 1 (16:05):

Speaker 5 (16:05):
I think that that is worth pointing out, but it's
also not worth blaming Ukrainians over they are not participating
in that, just by saying, hey, it's bad that our
civilians are being massacred by rockets, right and other forms
of weaponry. By the way, like that, right, that's not
on them.

Speaker 4 (16:22):
Yeah, I think to also kind of flip that on
its head. I mean, part of it is the media narrative.
You know, it's easier. Ukrainians are mostly hot white people
in the eye of the Western media, and it's easy
to cheer for the hot white people who have you know,
everyone's a lot of people have been to Ukrainian restaurant,
They're familiar with some Ukrainian maybe songs, so they have

friends if they live in a place like la or
New York. You know Ukrainians, you're familiar maybe even with
some Ukrainian media, and it's kind of like this accessible thing,
you know. And also like there's other aspects of it
to which you're even stranger, which is that Ukraines produces
like a huge amount of the world's fashion models. That's
a very accessible thing for people to get behind in

the nice liberal media. And you could see these in
these initial broadcasts being like I've never seen anything like this.
With seeing all these European looking refugees, it's like, all right.

Speaker 2 (17:13):
They're multilearly cast like that, where they're like, these are
not Arabs, like they say it with their chests, you know,
like the these are people like us.

Speaker 4 (17:21):
But for the flip side of that is that that
leftists are reluctant to be charitable to Ukrainians because they
also see them as hot white people who don't need
any help. Yeah, and they're they're unwilling to admit that
Ukrainian Ukrainians, like Gosins, also suffer from a settler colonial

state as their neighbor with a history of ethnically cleansing
and genociding them.

Speaker 3 (17:46):

Speaker 5 (17:47):
I mean part of the reason for that is that
the neighbor that ethnically cleansed in gen well one of them,
because actually they had several neighbors ethnically cleansing genocide them.
But the Soviet Union, like did a significant amount of
that during the Holy Dolmore. Now, the Germans also carried
out a massive genocide in Ukraine. Like and by the way,
a huge number of the Red Army soldiers who successfully

helped defeat the Nazis were Ukrainians. As a note is
you often see this thing where people will point out
there were a significant number of Ukrainians that fought with
the Nazis, and they tend to ignore that, like, yeah,
and there were even more Ukrainians who fought with the
Red Army. Like, both of those things happened. It was
a world war and Ukraine was right in the middle
of it. It's a very ugly situation. And it kind

of comes down to this inability of a lot of
people to not even nuanced to care about accuracy when
that accuracy is not like ideologically convenient, when it points
to some of the ugliness and messiness of war. I
find that very frustrating. Like I sympathize with because I
was reporting on the Syrian refugee crisis from the refugee

trail right after actually I was in Ukraine, and it
is unfair that like Ukrainian refugees were treated differently. But
the people to blame for that is the news media,
not refugees who have lost their homes. In fact, I
suspect that a lot of Ukrainians have a different attitude
themselves towards the suffering that they witness during that period

of time because they've now been through it. It's just
like a human thing now, you know what that's like?

Speaker 2 (19:23):
Yeah, I mean as a Syrian person who for the
past like over a decade, I really the media really
fucking got on my nerves every time I would see
them not talk about Syria, or when they did it
was not a good way. And then when they started
really embracing Ukrainian refugees or talking about them in a
different way, I'm not gonna lie, it made me mad,

but not at Ukrainians. Like I think even now, we
should have criticized the media back then, but like they're
doing the same thing now with their fucking headlines about
Israel and Palestine. It's always how it's presented versus the
people it's presenting. Like when someone when some dumb newscaster
is standing in front of a group of Ukrainian refugees
behind him and he's like, these are not Arabs, these

are white people. They didn't say that he did, so
I don't know. Yeah, And also, like.

Speaker 4 (20:12):
I encourage everyone to ask Ukrainian, particularly Eastern Ukrainian's opinions
on the Western media and like Westerners in general, because
two years into this war, they have a lot of them,
and I imagine that they would. You would find a
lot of the sentiments shared by the Ukrainians. They don't
always appreciate how they're portrayed in the Western media, as
you know, either brave defenders of their country or sook

covered refugees coming off of a railcar. You know, they
have a lot of opinions on these sorts of things.
They feel patronized, they feel babied in some senses, and
they feel like they will be ultimately abandoned by us,
which is already coming to pass. And as the attention
shifts to things like Gaza, you know, it's difficult for

them to feel like they have any friends.

Speaker 2 (20:58):
Yeah, no, I want to get into that, but let's
take our first break, and yes, we will jump back
in and we're back. Okay, we had just been talking
about how the support for Ukraine has kind of changed recently.

Can you get into that little bit.

Speaker 4 (21:26):
I'm not even necessarily sure that it changed so recently.
I remember being over there and it was wall to
wall coverage from the moment I set foot, from the
moment it started to really up until the Oscars and
the Chris rock slap. Is what we all talked about
last Oscars like this is yeah, the last Oscars and

the Chris Rocks slap and all the attention that that got.
Was the moment that a lot of the volunteers talked about,
is the moment where people started to want to forget
about Ukraine. There was still a lot of bridge, but
suddenly it was like, you don't have to be obsessed
with Ukraine. You know, Ukraine's now a second page story
instead of a first page story. That was around the

same time that the Russians withdrew from Kiev, So suddenly
there wasn't there wasn't this expectation that Kiev was going
to fall and the capital be taken in Zelensky would
be captured, and it started to slow up. Even then,
you know, the donations dried up, the attention dried up,
and by the time I went there in the winter
of twenty twenty three last year, it was like people

already wanted to forget. I mean, I live in Los Angeles,
and a lot of people here were saying things like,
oh wow, is that still going on? Really nice, well
meaning people who knew I'd been over there, they were
just like, is that you know, is that still a
war going on?

Speaker 1 (22:47):

Speaker 4 (22:47):
We are in twenty days, it's going to be two
years of this. Yeah, my friends over there are are exhausted,
and they don't They're now a page eight story.

Speaker 3 (22:57):

Speaker 5 (22:58):
And it's this comes back to like how Americans like
to think about conflict. We have an enormous appetite for
war and for you know, a particularly what we consider
a just struggle for up to a couple of months, right,
and then people were very excited when, yeah, the Russians
invade everyone. The expectation, both from like military experts in

the West and from certainly civilians, is that like Russia
is going to crush them immediately.

Speaker 3 (23:24):
And then they don't.

Speaker 5 (23:25):
There's this real upset, come from behind, underdog victory and
Americans love that. But then like it's not a total
immediate victory, and in fact, it turns into at this
point and really really brutal, ugly slow war of attrition
and maneuver, which is like what war is, right, Like,
that's that's how any sort of near peer conflict is

going to boil out. And it's not a kind of
thing that is resolved quickly, and it's not a kind
of thing that is resolved without cost. And as soon
as that became clear Americans, it didn't. It doesn't fit
into that like ninety minute Hollywood vision of how a
conflict is supposed to go right. There was no the
Ukrainians didn't blow up a death star and end it right,
like I mean, actually that's not what happens in the

movies either, but like it's still it was not the quick,
clean end that a lot of people were expecting and
hoping for. And as a result, people are like, well,
now it's a quagmire and now it's like we have
to start looking for some way out of this thing,
which by the way, has cost us very little. Like
my stance on like when is this over is like, well,

I guess when Ukraine says it's over, right, Like if
the Ukrainians want to come to the negotiating table and
negotiating into hostilities, then like that's their business. But up
until that point, I think the business of the United
States is to continue to meet our treaty obligations, which
we should. We should note like the United States and
NATO are obligated to support Ukraine in a war over

its sovereignty because they gave up their nukes. With that understanding, right,
this is what happened when we told the country, yeah, yeah,
we said you'll give up her nukes, and we got
your back like this. This was the promise we made.
And as far as I'm concerned, that's the only interest
I haven't like. My answer is like, how long should
we support them? Well, as long as they're fighting, and.

Speaker 4 (25:16):
We've been keeping that promise for the cost of five
percent of our defense budget. And like you mentioned earlier,
it's it's already stuff that's mothballed since the Gulf War,
sitting around waiting to be used, you know. I mean,
the idea of giving them F sixteen's every every country
in the world, practically, at least in the NATO Alliance.

It seems like everyone has an F sixteen. I think
we're giving them a turkey now too, Like it's not
a big deal to give a couple of F sixteens
to the Ukrainians or a couple of Bradleys or Abrams
or what have you. And I think that people especially
on the right, but also on the left, who get
obsessed over the amount of money that we're sending or

the amount of equipment in personnel, especially when they see
these worries about corruption, they don't they don't understand the
scale of how small this actually is relative to the
United States other commitments, like to Israel. And yes, they
get sort of myopically focused on this, and they use
it as a reason to dislike Ukraine. The right will
never like Ukraine because Zelensky was the guy who made

Trump look bad and got him impeached. I think it's
that simple. Yeah, it's wild that like well, also, I
mean the Russian interference and stuff. You know, the Republican
Party now resembles Russia more. But it's wild that Republicans,
you know, thirty years ago were super anti Russia and
now they Russia's best friend, and they think Ukraine are
sort of Satanists whatever.

Speaker 3 (26:36):
Yeah, to and non corrupt people.

Speaker 5 (26:39):
And it's to kind of emphasize how small five percent
of the Defense Department budget is the Pentagon. This is
from like a twenty twenty two story the Pentagon can't
account for several trillion dollars in assets, which doesn't mean
we don't fully know where they are, but it means
that like Pentagon record keeping has sort of like lost

huge amounts of assets over the years. At the moment,
like right now, the Pentagon, like as of November twenty sixteen,
had failed six audits in a row, and as far
as I can tell, I don't think they've actually ever
passed an audit of like all of their resources. Like
there's huge amounts trillions of dollars in assets that like
we can't fully document. It's it's when you think about

like the amount of money that we've actually sent over
there as a defense or as a percentage of just
like the stuff that we can't fully account for in
our militaries like Arsenal, it's it's a tiny fraction of that,
let alone a fraction of like our defense department's total assets.
And it also this gets back to when people talk
about like corruption in Ukraine, and by god, Ukraine has

a history of government corruption, which is part of what
the revolution in twenty fourteen was about, right, But it's
particularly silly to complain about that as a reason not
to send them weaponry when we know the US Defense
Department is massively corrupt, a huge amount of corruption, involving
not just like not specifically even like military officials, but

involving civilian contractors, involving like the agencies we contract to,
involving the money that we've sent over the course of
like the eight trillion dollars or so that we've spent
on the war on Terror. A huge chunk of that,
hundreds of billions of dollars of the money that we
spent on the War on Terror is just gone. Billions
of it disappeared in the form of cash pallets that

we just lost, right, Like, this is the amount of
money that it has cost us to support Ukraine in
this war. Is a rounding error of the shit we
lost just as a matter of business, like just as
like as.

Speaker 4 (28:43):
Like a rounding earrow of like what we gave to Halliburton.

Speaker 5 (28:46):
Yes, you know, yes, to build hospitals that didn't work
in Afghanistan.

Speaker 4 (28:50):
Yeah, exactly. In speaking of Afghanistan, I think a lot
of people look at you, they look at the Afghanistan withdrawal,
and they think, oh, this is what Ukraine's going to
be like but I think that brings up the point
of story, what are we getting for that five percent
of defense budget? You know, we gave a bunch to
afghan and we ended up getting the same situation that
we had when we went in there in two thousand

and one, the Taliban and control. But now they have
billions of dollars worth of America the state of the
art American military equipment.

Speaker 5 (29:17):
And hundreds of thousands of Afghan people died in the
interim exactly.

Speaker 4 (29:21):
And then you contrast that with like, well, what is
our five percent of military budget get us in Ukraine?
And you look at what this is doing to Russia.
Russia gained abou zero point one percent of Ukrainian territory
in the year twenty twenty three, second year of war,
and to do that, they lost about one hundred thousand soldiers.
Now there's a lot of people in Russia. And that's

always been the thing about Russia is that they have
this depth of recruiting that they can pull on. But
they're taking out recruiting ads in like Saint Petersburg, in
Moscow and in like the wealthy that they're going hard
on like recruiting from wealthy urban centers instead of sort
of the traditional rural areas where they bring in all

their recruits, which is evidence to me that they're suffering
from a manpower shortage in the same way that the
Ukrainians are. Yeah, and that's one of the things that
particularly frustrates me when people say that we're not what
are we getting for our money? Because that's it, Like
Russia is on the ropes. People just don't want to
admit it. People see a slight incremental Russian gain or

they feel like there's a standstill on the Ukrainian counter
offensive and they think, oh well, let's just throw in
the towel. It's like, no, you can't stop the pressure now,
and Putin is finally kind of ready to come to
the negotiating table, it seems, and the Ukrainians, you know,
need our help more than ever, And that's kind of
the frustrating aspect. I went on the Hill TV the

other day to talk with someone who said, basically, she said,
is there any hope for Ukraine? Like very already fatalistic
about the whole thing, like are they already on the ropes?
And I was like, no, they're not on the rope.
So this is a narrative that we need to change.
We need to understand that there's a very there's a
huge difference between what military aid gets us in Ukraine
versus what it gets us in Israel and Afghanistan.

Speaker 5 (31:10):
And there's it's also like a significant change and like
who is being killed by those weapons, right, because even
when we talk about the use of like the US
use of weapons in foreign countries, we are often talking
about these kind of these brush fire conflicts, these insurgencies
in which a great deal of the fighting takes place
in and around civilian populaces. And obviously there are Ukrainian

cities that have been under siege for quite a while.
But when we're talking about like the Ukrainians firing or
giving them him Our systems or giving them Bradley's, we
are talking about weaponry that is being used to break
fortifications on along a line of contact, which isn't as
zero never is a zero civilian casualty endeavor because those
don't exist in war, but is a significantly less like

involves significantly fewer civilian losses then the kind of wars
that we have fought for most of the time that
I've been alive, right, because we're simply not using the
weapons are not being used in the same way. Bombarding
a trench lion is not the same as firing a
cruise missile at what you're pretty sure is a terrorist
hideout in a city, you know, right.

Speaker 4 (32:17):
And we have been reluctant to give them any weapons
that could do that. I mean, some notable exceptions would
be like the strike on the naval command center and Sevestopol. Yes,
some other drone limited but but ansoly. Most of those
are drone strikes from drone factories where the Ukrainians create
their own stuff, and there have been some limited civilian
casualties in their incursions into Russian territory because we won't
we won't give them any weapons that go into Russian territory.

Speaker 3 (32:40):
Yeah, they've had to give is the early anything they want? Yeah, well, shit.

Speaker 4 (32:45):
Anything else, everything they want.

Speaker 5 (32:50):
I mean, we can't say that's not the case for
whoever comes up next, because a number of our advertisements
are random, but hopefully not and we're back all right.

One of the things you have to keep in mind
when you think about like is what is the US
capable of doing that is positive and what is the
US capable of doing. That's negative is that the United
States is fucking massive, right, Our budget is fucking massive.
And we talk on this show, on my other show
about a lot of horrible things our government has been
involved in, which doesn't which does not detract from the

fact that US aid and particularly food aid, is like
a survival matter for tens of millions of people around
the globe. Right, Like this is one of those things
when the Republicans are talking about wanting to cut all
foreign aid that the US gives to basically everyone but Israel.
What that means when you talk about that, you are
talking about like starving populations of people larger than most

major American cities. Because the US is massive, and the
aid that we give is you know, usually not it's
not really that significant a chunk of our budget, but
for the countries, for a lot of countries that receive it,
it's like critical to survival food aid and medical aid
that we've given over the years. And I think that
also gets into like one of the things that's important

about understanding like how what impact you might have on
what's going on in Ukraine. You don't have to if
you have too much of a bad taste in your
mouth over the idea of supporting US military aid to anywhere.
There's a lot of aid that's not military that's necessary
right as you do, Charles. People need medicine right like

you are having a positive outcome on like the people
in Ukraine, if you are helping to increase their access
to food and medicine. And that's not morally complicated. It's
always there's always some moral complexity in handing out weapons
around the world. Handing out medication is incredible simple from
an ethical standpoint, at least from where I. You're never
a bad guy for giving medicine. It doesn't even matter

who it's too, Like.

Speaker 4 (35:08):
Well, your bad gut Israel apparently.

Speaker 3 (35:11):
Yes, yes they will drone strike you. But I don't know.

Speaker 5 (35:15):
I think that like one of the nice things as
an American you don't have to. Realistically, the fight over
Ukrainian aid right now is primarily something that is happening
in Congress, and at this exact moment, in that fight,
there is very little that you or I can do,
But there is a lot, as you prove, Charles, there

is a lot that individual people can do to help
other individual people. You may not have access to a
HIMR system or any more Bradley tanks to give the Ukrainians,
although if you do, please please give them over they'll
appreciate them. But there are a number of ways in
which you can help, like the actual people suffering on
the ground. And I think that that's like, that is

right now what regular people can actually do.

Speaker 4 (36:00):
Yeah, I totally agree. I would push back a little
bit and saying that there's not a lot that we
can do in terms of the congressional fund because I
think that people do. I mean, I remember, from back
in my time working adjacent to politics, I remember someone
told me a statistic where it said it took five
phone calls to an office of a congressman for them
to rethink their stance on an issue interest. I have

received texts from aids to congressman Republican and Democrat who
sit on like House Armed Services Committee or you know,
Defense and that sort of stuff, saying like, hey, what's
with this Ukraine? Like what's your take on the Ukraine stuff?
Should we be giving them all this money? I don't
really support it, but you went over there, do you
think they're using it?

Speaker 1 (36:45):

Speaker 4 (36:46):
And I'm like, holy Holy crap, am I actually getting
this text? But yes, absolutely, Like, yeah, you need to
do that, You need to green light whatever, you need
a green light to send that over there. And I
think if more people, you know, were, especially now when
a lot of congress people don't want to engage with
the gaza issue but are looking for like good wins
with their constituencies, like get to know your local Ukrainian

constituency in your area, start a campaign to go to
the regional office of your congressmen, find out which committees
they sit on, and pressure them for sending aid to Ukraine.
I mean that is something you can do. But on
the individual level, yeah, you can still raise awareness. You

can connect the decolonial struggle of Ukrainians to that of
Palestinians and other peoples. Someone who does this extraordinarily well
is Yulia Timoshenka. Not the Ukrainian politician. She's a young
Ukrainian influencer and advocate who went to Nyu Abu Dhabi
and sort of got kind of got pilled on the
whole Palestine thing and has really eloquently tied the Palestinian

and Ukrainian struggles together. So you can point people towards
resources like that and let them know that there are
at least some people in Ukraine who see that, who
see that connection. And then you can also, of course,
you can support humanitarian initiatives in Ukraine very carefully. Please
just do so very carefully. I would say there's a

lot of there's a lot of people who went over
there and started initiatives that were more or less good,
but mostly kind of ineffective because they did not actually
engage and include Ukrainians in that process. My role with
everything involving Ukraine is just like just to ask Ukrainians
about it, Ask Ukrainians what they need, figure out what

it is that their priorities are, and make sure that
you're including them on your philanthropy and your charity. They
will understand what is most impactful. My organization has experienced
a lot of success by being entirely run by Ukrainians
and being based in Arkiv, and as everyone else is
funding and resources have dried up. Mission Arkiv is being

handed project from larger NGOs who are leaving the region.
Because we focused on a local response. It also means
that you know, donations to organizations like that go farther
because they're going to higher Ukrainians rather than paying for
the flights of some Westerner to go back and forth,

you know, and do a fundraising you know, coming in
from New York and do a fundraising pitch and go back.
It's actually going towards This was a commitment I made
to myself and my partner when I went over there.
My partner at Mission Harkive was that I was never
going to expense like a flight or a meal or
anything to Mission Harkive. So you know, all that's come

out of my own pocket. And that means that every
donation that we have gets to go pretty much directly
into our programs. So you can still do that as
an individual, you can help in that way. And the
awareness thing is a huge part people are forgetting Ukrainians
feel abandoned, like making even just the act of putting
a Ukrainian flag on your note or like tweeting about

Ukraine occasionally is seen as such a huge act of
solidarity at the stage in the game that the Ukrainians
will love you for it.

Speaker 5 (40:08):
I really love that you bring up the kind of
pitfalls of and this is this is Ukraine right now
in particular because it was such a huge international story
at the start of the expanded invasion, and that always
brings out not just grifters but also well meaning people
who are going to raise money and try to start

initiatives in that country that may not be doing it
in the most cost effective way possible. And I really
like what you said about, like the importance of verifying
that where you are supporting is not just doing the work,
but is like doing the work in the best way possible.
And one of like the really important things to look
at for is like, well, how much money are they
spending on sending Westerners to and from this place?

Speaker 3 (40:50):

Speaker 5 (40:51):
It's one thing if like it's an area that lacks
access to medical professionals and they're flying out medical professionals
to do like trauma work or whatever, Like, there's really
like that's obviously important, but this is something that like
a lot of my friends in Iraq and Syria also experienced,
like the frustration of like NGO workers staying in nice
hotels and driving you know, fancy vehicles where there were

local organizations doing things like maintaining refugee camps that needed
the support. I think that's always really important to try
to do your research so that the support you give,
the awareness you raise, and the money that you donate
actually goes where it needs to get I think.

Speaker 4 (41:29):
I mean that opens a whole broad category of maybe
this is a subset essay waiting to happen. But I've
been playing with this idea of like the idea of
conflict vultures, these people who sort of descend on a
conflict or a disaster zone for a variety of reasons.
You know, maybe it's fundraising. Maybe they work for a

big NGO and this helps get them in the news,
so they fly themselves out there. Maybe it's a war
and they want to be a hero where they want
to present themselves as a hero, and they end up
raising a bunch of money for their quick and stuff
and then stay far away from the fighting line, living
in nice hotels like you said, Or maybe it is
like you said, well, meeting people who just take up
air from the people who need it and take up

they're like sponges that just absorb all this Western energy
because they're they're a relatable face. And I've encountered all
of those people in Ukraine. The reason I went to
Ukraine is because I was like, if I'm going to
fundraise for this initiative. People are going to give more,
They're gonna be more invested if they see an English
speaking American talking to them about this stuff. But I

came in with the perspective that I can't be centering
myself on this. The idea is to deflect onto what
the Ukrainians are doing and elevate their stories rather than
saying I'm here, I'm posing with the Bakhmut entrance sign.
I just delivered seven muffins and a generator to like

a place that was cleared out by the Ukrainians, you know,
six months previously. It's more like, Okay, how do you
take Americans are very generous people, how do you take
American philanthropy, American dollars, American wallets and directed towards the
people who are actually going to change, who usually are
not Americans. These large NGOs, they serve a purpose, The

UN serves a purpose. Doctors without Borders, direct relief, you know,
World Central Kitchen. They do a great job in like
a specific thing. But a lot of times, if you're
giving to the United Nations or you're giving to one
of these big NGOs, that sets a fundraiser in the
immediate aftermath of something. Your money is going to remodel
an office in Rome or New York or Washington, DC,

and you're not really reaching the people that you're trying
to help. And I think if more Americans understood that,
they'd be more responsible with sort of how they spend
their money in a philanthropic sense.

Speaker 2 (43:53):
Yeah, Charles, you have been awesome. Thank you so much
for coming on in telling us your experience. And yeah,
where can people find you on the internet if you
want to be found?

Speaker 4 (44:05):
Some I go back and forth. Sometimes I don't want
to be found and sometimes I do. But you can
find me pretty much everywhere with at Charles McBride that's
McBride with a Y, except on Twitter at random, I
don't have that handle. And then I just launched a
sub stack, which is I guess Charles McBride dot substack
dot com, and that's where we'll be. I'm kind of

shifting towards more long form content to write about my
experiences with these things and sort of a more digestible
long form wave people engaging with important issues like this.
Oh and if you're interested in the organization I help
set up in Ukraine. It is mission dot harkive on

Instagram or missionharkive dot com.

Speaker 2 (44:52):
And I could put all the infoon in the description
for yes, listeners and everything, but yeah.

Speaker 3 (44:57):
Sweet excellent Charles. Yeah to Charlesbeth.

Speaker 4 (45:00):
Thank you guys. I appreciate it.

Speaker 1 (45:08):
It could happen here as a production of cool Zone Media.
For more podcasts from cool Zone Media, visit our website
coolzonemedia dot com, or check us out on the iHeartRadio app,
Apple Podcasts, or wherever you listen to podcasts. You can
find sources for It could Happen Here, updated monthly at
coolzonemedia dot com slash sources. Thanks for listening.

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