The world is coming apart at the seams

The initial rip in the fabric of civilization starts right now

By Lucian K. Truscott IV


Published October 27, 2023 10:59PM (EDT)

Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin | Ukrainian soldiers from the 63 brigade are seen leaving the trenches after military training (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images)
Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin | Ukrainian soldiers from the 63 brigade are seen leaving the trenches after military training (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images)

Over 5,000 dead.  12,000 wounded.  Millions forcibly displaced.

Tragic figures from Gaza?  Think again:  Those are the casualty figures after six months of fighting in Sudan between the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) and Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF), according to Amnesty International. In July, a mass grave was found containing the bodies of 87 civilians in Darfur in the west of Sudan.  The New York Times reported that the civilians were likely killed by RSF soldiers fighting for one of the two generals contesting control of Sudan.  Four and a half million people have been displaced.  More than a million other Sudanese citizens have sought shelter in the surrounding countries of Chad, Egypt, South Sudan and the Central African Republic.  The Wagner Group, the private Russian army that was run by Yevgeny Prigozhin, has established a base in Darfur and is advising one of the sides in the conflict.  Russia is seeking influence in Sudan so they can be permitted to station their warships at a port along Sudan’s Red Sea coastline.

How about Yemen, the country with coasts on both the Red and Arabian seas, including the Bab-el-Mandeb Strait between Yemen, Djibouti, and Eritrea?  What is happening in that incredibly strategic part of the world?  How about nearly 400,000 killed, with 11,000 of them children, nearly 60 percent of the deaths from hunger, lack of healthcare and safe water.   According to the U.N., 4.5 million Yemenis – one in seven of the country’s population – have been displaced in the eight years of fighting between Houthi rebels and Yemen’s floundering government.

In the Southeast Asian nation of Myanmar, there has been a civil war going on since a military coup d’etat in 2021.  According to Sky News, more than 6,000 civilians have been killed, with more than 3,000 of those deaths coming in the last 12 months.  The U.N. Office for Coordination of Humanitarian affairs reported that more than 1.6 million people have been internally displaced and 40,000 have fled Myanmar into neighboring countries.  As many as 55,000 civilian buildings have been destroyed in the fighting.

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Let’s not forget Ukraine.  Since Russia launched its illegal attack on Ukraine in February of 2022, nearly 10,000 civilians have been killed, according to the U.N. Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights.  Nearly 18,000 civilians have been wounded.  The Pentagon estimates that as many as 70,000 Ukrainian soldiers have been killed, and somewhere between 100,000 and 120,000 have been wounded.  The U.S. estimates that more than 120,000 Russian troops have been killed since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and as many as 180,000 have been wounded.  Ukraine is the breadbasket of Eastern Europe.  Agricultural land in the country’s east has been decimated by bombs and artillery, and grain shipments from Ukraine’s port, Odessa, have been either stopped completely by Russia’s blockade of Ukraine’s coastline in the Black Sea, or severely compromised. 

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine threw the NATO alliance of western European nations into an uproar.  Two new nations, Finland and Sweden, petitioned for membership in NATO, with Finland becoming a member in April of this year.  (Sweden’s membership has been held up by Turkey, which must assent in the NATO vote to make Sweden a member.  President Erdogan recently announced he will put Sweden’s membership to a vote of the Turkish parliament.  The measure is expected to pass, and Sweden could become a member at the next meeting of NATO foreign ministers in late November.)

Even though NATO members quickly coalesced around support for Ukraine last year, with the U.S. Congress passing emergency appropriations to support Ukraine with weapons and humanitarian assistance, the Republican coup-plotter just elected as Speaker of the House has voted against Ukraine aid in the past, and after the clusterfuck House Republicans went through to elect their Speaker, with clashes between the party’s moderate and far-right wings, it is uncertain what the fate of President Biden’s latest request for more than $100 billion in Ukraine aid will be.

The attempted coup in this country has riven the Congress with even deeper divisions than existed while Trump was president.  As a candidate for president, Trump has been all over the map about aid for Ukraine, supporting it one minute, critical of it the next.  Now Trump is calling for the Republicans in Congress to condition aid for Ukraine on the Biden Administration agreeing to somehow “support” Republican congressional investigations into Biden and his son, Hunter.

Let’s have a look at some other coups in the news besides ours. 

In July of this year, a coup in the African nation of Niger overthrew the government of President Mohammed Bazoum, with an officer in the Presidential Guard declaring himself the leader of a military junta.  Which would sound exotic, if Republicans in this country had not just elected as Speaker of the House a leader of the coup that nearly overthrew the U.S. government in 2021.  During that attempted coup, there was at least one meeting in the Oval Office in the White House during which what amounted to rule by military junta was suggested to President Trump and at least briefly considered, according to recent guilty plea from  one of the coup plotters and the indictment of another. 

Why should we worry about a coup in Niger?  Well, the U.S. has had troops stationed in that country for a number of years to counter Islamist insurgencies by A-Qaeda, ISIS, and Boko Haram.  Instability in Niger opened the door for Russia’s Wagner Group to begin exerting influence there.  In fact, that is exactly what happened in early August of this year, when the leader of the military junta asked for help from the Wagner Group to hold onto power as the junta came under threat of intervention from a coalition of Western African nations known as ECOWAS.  After the coup in the summer, supporters of the junta waved Russian flags in the streets of Niamey, the capital of Niger.  “Wagner is a recipe for disaster,” said a spokeswoman for the French Foreign Ministry after the contact between the Russian paramilitary group and the junta became known.

And now the world is watching as the tinderbox conflict between Israel and Palestinians gets closer and closer to ignition and explosion.  When Hamas militants launched a surprise attack on Israel from Gaza on October 7, firing thousands of rockets and rampaging through civilian villages and small military outposts, killing 1,400 Israelis and taking more than 200 civilian and military hostages, it set off a cascade of violence in the region.  Israel has hammered Hamas targets in Gaza with airstrikes and massed more than 300,000 of its troops on the Gaza border in contemplation of a ground assault on Hamas in its Gaza strongholds.  In northern Israel, Hezbollah fighters, with support from Iran, have launched rocket and artillery attacks on Israel.  Over the last few days, militants in Syria with strong connections to Iran have fired missiles and sent armed drones to attack U.S. military outposts in Syria and Iraq, including an airbase in western Iraq close to the Syrian border.  The U.S. has struck back with airstrikes on two militant outposts in Eastern Syria that are linked to Iran’s Revolutionary Guards. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin announced the strikes on Thursday night, saying that President Biden had ordered the retaliatory strikes “to make clear that the United States will not tolerate such attacks and will defend itself, its personnel, and its interests.”  Austin also said that the airstrikes on militant outposts in Syria were “separate and distinct” from the war between Israel and Hamas – as if the attacks on U.S. assets in Syria and Iraq were “separate and distinct” from what is going on between Israel and Hamas. 

I used the word tinderbox to describe the situation between Israel and Hamas in Gaza, but the word applies to the whole damn world right now.  Vladimir Putin has not been shy about reminding anyone critical of his invasion of Ukraine that he has enough nuclear weapons to destroy most of the world.  It was Russia’s first nuclear saber rattling since the fall of the Soviet Union.

It is turning out that the end of the Cold War has morphed into the start of hot wars all over the globe, costing the deaths of hundreds of thousands if not millions of civilians, from bullets or bombs and starvation, disease, and inexcusable neglect from the rest of the world.  Let’s not forget that the pandemic which began in 2020 was declared over in this country earlier this year, after 1.14 million of us had died from the disease.  In the parts of the world that were unable to afford COVID vaccines, or because of wars and other conflicts have not been able to organize the emergency health care procedures necessary, COVID is still rampaging.  Worldwide, there have been seven million deaths so far, and those are just the reported deaths by the World Health Organization.  There are doubtlessly more unrecorded deaths in places like Darfur and Yemen and Myanmar, and Somalia and in war zones like Ukraine.

One of those spikey microscopic COVID proteins that attacks and infects human cells does not cost a penny, but we’re not satisfied with mere death from disease.  No, we human beings are spending hundreds of billions every year on military hardware with which to kill each other, including the tens of billions spent every year in this country on firearms like the AR-15, which was used by a murderer just this week to kill another 18 innocent Americans. 

You think the civilian death tolls in Israel and Gaza and Ukraine and Sudan are bad?  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that in 2021, the last year for which complete national figures are available, 48,830 Americans died from firearm violence (homicide) or suicide.  The authoritative Gun Violence Archive reports that last year, 20,138 Americans were killed by firearms in a homicide.  The firearms we are using to kill each other or ourselves are easily available at your local gun store.  All you need is money, a driver’s license, and the lack of a criminal record, although the last two requirements are regularly avoided in so-called “private” gun sales at gun shows.

So, add the death toll from America’s compulsion to buy and use firearms into the mix.  Even countries at war or suffering coups and revolutions can’t keep up with the number of people killed in this country with guns.  If the world is coming apart at the seams, the initial rip in the fabric of civilization starts right here.

By Lucian K. Truscott IV

Lucian K. Truscott IV, a graduate of West Point, has had a 50-year career as a journalist, novelist and screenwriter. He has covered stories such as Watergate, the Stonewall riots and wars in Lebanon, Iraq and Afghanistan. He is also the author of five bestselling novels and several unsuccessful motion pictures. He has three children, lives in rural Pennsylvania and spends his time Worrying About the State of Our Nation and madly scribbling in a so-far fruitless attempt to Make Things Better. You can read his daily columns at and follow him on Twitter @LucianKTruscott and on Facebook at Lucian K. Truscott IV.

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Commentary Covid Darfur Gaza Israel Mynmar Oct. 7 Palestinians Russia Sudan Ukraine West Bank Yemen