Monsters exist, but they are too few in number to be truly dangerous. More dangerous are the common men, the functionaries ready to believe and to act without asking questions. —Primo Levi

Kurtz’s final words in Heart of Darkness are, “The horror! The horror!” He was referring to the horror of what humans can do to each other when the society’s gutter guards are removed. Maybe he repeated it twice because such horrors are humanity’s most redundant storyline. Narcissistic sociopaths like the fictional Kurtz and the all too real Putin can’t do it alone. They need an army of followers whose wanton violence begets increasingly wanton violence, as its perpetrators slide down evil’s slippery slope at the pace of the Geneva Convention smashing bombs they drop on hospitals. That’s the ugliness we see from above. But when the view moves down to street level, we see the horrors up close; the looting, the torture, the executions, the mass rape, the grown men in tanks taking on unarmed grandmothers and grandchildren in the streets. This is war, or whatever we call what Putin has unleashed on Ukraine. Like Assad and his father before him, in Syria Putin learned you can mass murder with no recourse. He saw the “red line” was a myth. So now it’s happening somewhere else. Biden says Putin should face war crimes trial for Bucha killings. The West is calling for more sanctions. But the dead must wonder why full sanctions weren’t there from the start. Or how a monster like Putin was allowed, like his sociopathy, to publicly flourish for so many years.

Of course, we get that part now, don’t we? We have our own monsters and our own “functionaries ready to believe and to act without asking questions.” We’re starting with the small stuff like trying to overturn elections, dividing the public, banning books, taking away rights, squelching expertise, targeting the most vulnerable. Sure, it’s not murder or war or invasions here. But it wasn’t those things in Ukraine a few weeks ago either. Now, the Ukraine invasion is an ongoing war crime. And those don’t just stop. Like smaller crimes, they need to be stopped by those who bear witness. Primo Levi wrote, “I am constantly amazed by man’s inhumanity to man.” In the end, one must be equally amazed at our ability to see that inhumanity and do nothing.

+ AP: “Bodies with bound hands, close-range gunshot wounds and signs of torture lay scattered in a city on the outskirts of Kyiv after Russian soldiers withdrew from the area. Ukrainian authorities accused the departing forces on Sunday of committing war crimes and leaving behind a ‘scene from a horror movie.'” Ukraine accuses Russia of massacre, city strewn with bodies.

+ “Children held at knife point; an old woman forced to drink alcohol as her occupiers watched and laughed; whispers of rape and forced disappearances; and an old man found toothless, beaten in a ditch and defecated on.” NYT: ‘This Is True Barbarity’: Life and Death Under Russian Occupation.

+ “You are someone who has stolen a company in Russia. You are only rich because you’re friends with Vladimir Putin. But look. Look what you’ve got. Look where you are. This is London’s core industry. This is what we do. Transforming thugs into aristocrats 24 hours a day.” A 60 Minutes segment worth your time: Britain under pressure to crack down on corrupt russian money that’s infiltrated its economy. (Just be clear that there are plenty of oligarch-owned properties in NYC and Miami, too.)

+ And here’s a very interesting interview with Andrei Soldatov, a guy who understands Russia’s security services as well as any journalist. The Bear Breaks Down: Andrei Soldatov on Russia’s Self-Destruction.