Last week, we began getting reports of atrocities in the Kyiv suburb of Bucha and in other locations in Ukraine. The world saw video clips of civilian bodies scattered on streets, some with their hands tied behind their backs.

The timing of these civilian massacres can only be described as disastrous.

The fighting had been slowing down. Peace negotiations were underway.

Some in the West were beginning to question whether so many offensive weapons should be pouring into Ukraine.

Russian officials immediately denied that Russian troops committed the atrocities, as they previously denied massacring Border Guards on Snake Island.

The Russians claimed Ukrainian forces “staged” the whole thing, taking bodies of civilians killed during the fighting and making it look like a war crime. Some observers claimed the killings were perpetrated by Ukrainian intelligence units after the Russians left, against “collaborators.”

To counter the Russian protestations of innocence, satellite video was instantly produced that neatly correlated with the video images from Bucha.

One video released on the internet went body by body, showing the video image and then the satellite correlate.

Clearly, the atrocities were real. There were bodies everywhere. And they had been there for weeks, during the period when Russian forces occupied Bucha.

More compelling than the video evidence were the first-person reports coming from Bucha itself. These reports clearly placed the blame for the killings squarely on Russian soldiers.

Residents describe Russian soldiers dragging civilians outside their homes, forcing them to kneel, and then shooting them point-blank in the head in front of their spouses.

Yet in war, truth is the first casualty. It is axiomatic that both sides lie. In the Ukraine War, we saw this immediately.

The Russians lied from the get-go, not least by claiming that they had no intention of invading. But Ukrainian officials lied as well.

Some of the earliest reports from Ukrainian officials turned out to be outright fabrications designed to spark outrage in the West.

In the first days of the Russian invasion, the Ukrainians publicized audio clips of an attack by a Russian warship on a Ukrainian Border Patrol base on Snake Island, in the Black Sea, in which the 13 defenders told the Russian warship, “Go f*ck yourself.” The entire garrison, Ukrainian officials claimed, was wiped out.

The story went viral, with controlled western media reporting the events without question or any attempt to independently verify them.

However, the Russians denied the massacre occurred.

Later it was revealed that it was the Russians, not the Ukrainians, who were telling the truth. The soldiers had been captured unharmed and were later released in an exchange of prisoners.

What’s more, there have also been a few isolated reports of atrocities on the part of Ukrainians as well. A video posted online and verified by The New York Times appears to show a group of Ukrainian soldiers killing captured Russian soldiers in a suburb near Kyiv.

Whether Bucha was a war crime perpetrated by some Russian soldiers, as seems likely, it is already being used to ramp up military operations in Eastern Europe.

Last Wednesday, The Washington Post called the massacre a “turning point in history,” an ominous sign that America’s corporate ruling class may be gearing up for another world war.

The same day, America’s top military leader and head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Mark Milley – who only months ago was claiming that Neo-Nazis and white supremacists are among the biggest problems now facing America — began talking about creating new military bases in Eastern Europe.

Clearly, the Ukrainians are desperate. Their country is being destroyed before their very eyes. They’ll say and perhaps even do anything to get NATO to come to their defense.

The heroic Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy has been very upfront about this: He wants NATO planes shooting down Russian aircraft.

Zelenskyy wants tanks and anti-aircraft guns yesterday.

He wants the world to kick Russia out of the United Nations, or, failing that, to disband the international body altogether.

For Zelenskyy, nothing is more important than saving his country – and rightly so. He is a patriot who should be admired, but not necessarily heeded.

Whatever really happened in Bucha, the West needs to find out the truth – and fast.

Whether the Russians are responsible or not, the massacre in Bucha may be the excuse America’s national security hawks need for outright war with Russia.

In other words, a horrifying conflict may be about to get much, much worse – and for a lot more people.

Robert J. Hutchinson writes about the intersection of politics and ideas. He is the author of What...