Dead Man Rioting: Try to imagine what US law enforcement would do to someone trying this in the National Mall, Washington DC. The West's exquisite hypocrisy over President Victor Yanukovych's response to what is unfolding in Ukraine is truly breath-taking.
KIEV IS BURNING. The democratically elected government of Ukraine is under attack from an armed, Western-backed minority. The extreme right-wing organisation, “Right Sector”, equipped with firearms, Molotov Cocktails, explosive devices, shields, iron bars and paving stones has shattered the painstakingly constructed peace agreement which only a few days ago seemed set to end the occupation of Kiev’s Independence Square and secure a general amnesty for all those protestors who had broken the law in their confrontation with the Ukrainian state.
This sudden escalation of violence has already cost the lives of 26 citizens – 10 of them police officers. In an even more ominous development, opponents of the government of President Yanukovych have raided police and security forces armouries in provincial Ukrainian cities and seized an unknown quantity of offensive weapons. The country teeters on the brink of Civil War.
It is worth reiterating that these deadly attacks are directed against a head of state and a government chosen by the Ukrainian people less than four years ago in free and fair elections. The ostensible cause of the protests – the Ukrainian President’s decision to look to the Russian Federation, rather than the European Union, for desperately needed economic aid – was a perfectly legitimate political decision, no different from the decision of the US Government to join NAFTA, or our own government’s decision to sign a free trade agreement with China.
Can you imagine the reaction of the US Government if in 1994 the opponents of NAFTA had marched into the heart of Washington DC carrying all manner of offensive weapons, occupied the Lincoln Memorial and demanded both the abrogation of the treaty and the resignation of President Clinton? What do you think would have happened if, as barricades went up around the National Mall and clouds of black smoke from burning tyres drifted over the White House, the FBI had then released evidence showing that a number of the protest leaders had taken part in training sessions organised and funded by an agency of the Russian Government? How do you think the US media would have reacted? Would Clinton’s Attorney General, Janet Reno, have insisted that, notwithstanding the multiple police fatalities, neither the US Army nor National Guardsmen from the adjoining states of Maryland and Virginia would be permitted to intervene?
Remember, this is the same Janet Reno who, on 19 April, 1993, ordered the militarised FBI assault on the Branch Davidian compound at Waco, Texas, resulting in the deaths of 76 men, women and children.
With images of fiery revolt filling their television screens, how do you think the American people would react to calls from the Russian Foreign Minister that the US Government “avoid the use of excessive force” against civilians?
Not much imagination is required to envisage the response of the United States (or indeed any Western nation) to the sort of provocations the Ukrainian government has to endured for the past three months. At both the state and federal levels American authorities have never hesitated to resort to deadly force against those perceived to be challenging the forces of law and order.
The example inscribed forever on my memory took place at Kent State University in Ohio on 4 May 1970. That was the day Ohio National Guardsmen opened fire on hundreds of unarmed students protesting the US invasion of Cambodia. The Canadian artist, Neil Young, immortalised the incident in his song Ohio:
Tin soldiers and Nixon coming
We’re finally on our own
This summer I hear the drumming
Four dead in Ohio
The exquisite hypocrisy of American politicians urging Ukrainian politicians to “pull back” the Riot Police so as to avoid civilian casualties is truly breath-taking.
More chilling, however, is the steady escalation of tension between the European Union and Ukraine. Robbed of its prized EU-Ukraine FTA by Yanukovych, the EU countries (with US connivance) have announced the imposition of “smart” sanctions against leading Ukrainian politicians. The response from Yanukovych's allies in the Russian Foreign Ministry has been swift:
“The Russian side demands that leaders of the [opposition] stop the bloodshed in their country, immediately resume dialogue with the lawful authorities without threats or ultimatums.
“Ukraine is a friendly brother state and a strategic partner, and we will use all our influence in order for peace and calm to reign.”
For the moment, the Russian President, Vladimir Putin, has refrained from personally adding fuel to Kiev’s raging fires. He is anxious not to jeopardise the success of the still proceeding Winter Olympics at Sochi – upon which his government has expended billions. In a few days, however, the Games will be over and Putin will be able to devote his full attention to restoring “peace and calm” to his country’s most important “brother state and strategic partner”.
At that point the West’s exquisite hypocrisy may end up ruling the fate of many.
This posting is exclusive to the Bowalley Road blogsite.