“Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych was a criminal and a crook, like Saddam Hussein!” blared the reporter on the television screen as I ate my chicken soup and tried to remain sane. This was a business program on a Polish public television network, but it didn’t sound like business news was on today’s agenda. “He had a big house and his two sons were millionaires who owned lots of cars!” I tried not to look at the screen, but couldn’t help it. I gleaned a few vintage, pre-war Fords. “Like Saddam Hussein, Gaddafi and the former President of Tunisia, Yanukovych prospered while his nation suffered grinding poverty!” I wondered whether it was a coincidence that Ukraine’s President was suddenly put in the company of men killed by American invasion or American-inspired bloody revolution in the Arab world?
The reporter droned on and on, citing an anti-Yanukovych opposition website as his source. “Ukraine is on the verge of bankruptcy, its government in debt and its people poor, but Yanukovych lived in luxury! Look at this chandelier!” No mention was made that due to the fact that the opposition parties violated the agreement brokered by Poland and Germany by illegally deposing the Ukrainian President, Russia stopped previously deferred payments of financial assistance meant to help save Ukraine from bankruptcy—money that Poland and Germany do not have and would not pay. As pictures of Yanukovych’s house flashed on the screen, I thought of the Barbara Walters interview with Ronald Reagan at his sprawling ranch. I thought of President Clinton’s lucrative post-presidential career. I thought of Tony Blair and Gherhard Shroedder’s fortunes. I thought of the posh butler I saw walking around the Polish Ministry of Defense inquiring whether anyone would like a bottle of water brought to him on a tray. I reminded myself that Western leaders have money and estates as well and one needn’t look far in the West to find vast wealth inequality.
This “business” program I happened to be watching, I knew—in my gut—was the definition of Psy-Ops. It was black propaganda. Its aim was not to convince me that Ukraine’s former President was a corrupt man; its aim was to deaden my moral conscience, to fill me with the darkest of emotions—to make sure that when Yanukovych was caught and hung by the revolution, when the revolution caught up with and shot his sons in the head; I would stand with the sheep as if in 1984, yelling “Death to Goldstein!” and telling myself that the evil Yanukovych and his evil sons got the justice they deserved. I could not believe that the content of this television report was written by Poles. It was too familiar, too obvious; it had to be written for them.
This was just about the time when my mind was scrambling to summon the facts to the forefront, before letting myself be consumed by the deluge of the two-minute hate. The day before, I had heard Yanukovych compared to Hitler. Now, he was like Saddam Hussein and Gaddafi. Funny, my brain said to me; because unlike Hitler, Saddam Hussein, or Gaddafi, Yanukovych won an election certified as fair by the EU. Prior to that election, he had won a previous election in 2004, but agreed to hold it again when his opponents questioned the results. When he lost, he stepped aside and respected his opponent’s victory. I don’t recall Hitler, Saddam Hussein, or Gaddafi behaving like that. I do recall people like Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, or Andrew Jackson, or even Al Gore behaving like that—people who, for all of their differences, understood the importance of respecting the rule of law and the results of free and fair elections. I also recall that Thomas Jefferson and George Washington had slaves and grand estates; a fact that does not prevent us from admiring their statesmanship.
In fact, unlike Hitler and Saddam Hussein, according to information I found in the memory hole, dated just two days prior to this writing, the evil Yanukovych agreed to all of the oppositions’ demands; early elections, amnesty, overturning the existing constitution in favor of a previous one—and after all of this—the opposition went on to oust him illegally, and now hunts him and his family. Meanwhile, although the evil Yanukovych is gone, the revolutionaries in Kiev stand their ground. The barricades are still up. Could it be that someone finds it beneficial to have a throng of violent revolutionaries eternally planted in Kiev, shouting down the voice of the silent majority who voted and abided by the results? Answers from revolutionary propagandists rush to the forefront of my mind: Yanukovych is a former communist, his party was tied to the Russians, all of them are former Soviet collaborators and agents, and communism is evil. It is at this moment that more information appears from the memory hole—information about how the secret to the success of Polish democracy was upholding the equal right of all people–including the communists—to participate in political life, to campaign for political office, and to vote. Recollections of 1993 spring to mind, only three years after the first free elections in Poland, when the former communist won the elections and were returned to power. No revolutions ensued; instead, their opponents fought them with rhetoric, campaigned hard, and returned to power in the next elections. And so it went; all of the country’s problems—like the problems and controversies in Western democracies—were addressed through the ballet box, through peaceful elections, not on the streets. In fact, the owner of one of the television stations spouting the propaganda about Yanukovych and communism is himself a former communist, as is just about everybody in Polish political and business life. It is hard, after fifty years of communism, to find people who were not communists at some point in their lives. Harder still, however, to find people who are independent minded and principled about things like upholding the results of free elections—even when it’s the evil Yanukovych who wins them.
My brain digs even deeper; probing the Memory hole for older news. My search recovered memories from 2012, when Poland and Ukraine co-hosted the European Football Championship; the Euro 2012. That was two years ago. If President Yanukovych was “like Saddam Hussein”, then why was Poland working closely with him to organize the Euro 2012? Why did Polish political and business elites share the profits of that endeavor? The television told me today that the evil Yanukovych was making money while his people were suffering grinding poverty. Why was it alright for Poles to be making that money along with him in 2012? Maybe, in our modern world, two years is like twenty years in the previous century. That’s how long it took Americans to forget that Saddam Hussein was an American ally in the 1980s, fighting against the Islamic revolution in Iran, guaranteeing a modern and secular Iraq. No one remembers that now; now he is the man with the Weapons of Mass Destruction that he ended up not having. The man responsible for 9/11 who ended up not being responsible for it. The man with the big palace and rich sons who was hung after a Stalinist show trial for the audacity of existing following the spilling of American blood and expansion of American treasure on the most catastrophic foreign policy blunder in American history.
The comparison is chilling; not because of who Saddam Hussein really was, but because of what came after him, and because the years of bloodletting that have swept the Middle East may just be on the verge of sweeping Eastern Europe. For in the final analysis, that is the real choice here: every country infected by the revolutionary virus of our time, the color revolutions, the Arab Springs, the “world democratic revolution”—all of them—every single country has gone up in flames. None of them have seen the development of anything like stable, democratic institutions, civil society, or the rule of law because those things cannot develop on the back of bloody coups. All of them have seen chaos and blood. Now, Ukraine follows suite. Yet Poles, who live right next to what could soon become the sight of a terrible, bloody civil war, are jubilant. They are jubilant because of the propaganda pouring forth from their television screens, and their swollen sense of self-righteous pride. They think that what is happening in Ukraine now is akin to the Solidarity movement in Poland in 1989. They are dead wrong.
Solidarity was a peaceful movement that developed within the structure of the Polish Catholic communion over the course of decades, and which opposed a government established by Stalin, which had never once faced a free election. Ukraine’s President Yanukovych won a fair and free election in a sovereign Ukraine which had a pluralistic political system. The President of Ukraine was ousted by a comparatively small group of extremely violent revolutionaries who are well-funded and well-organized. Despite these glaring, fundamental differences, the comparison of Polish Solidarity with the present revolution in Ukraine persists. Even before the final coup against Yanukovych was completed, Poles were urging Ukraine to undertake “Round Table” negotiations, a method which Solidarity used to broker a deal with Poland’ previous Communist rulers. Yet again, Poles seemed to have turned off their brains when proffering this suggestion: the Round Table negotiations in Poland were held between Solidarity and an unelected Communist government that had never stood for an election since its’ establishment in 1945. President Yanukovych was democratically elected and as such had no obligation to sit down to negotiations with demonstrators. If anything, President Yanukovych demonstrated extreme willingness to compromise by even engaging the protestors in negotiations, given that they were by no stretch of the imagination representative of the majority of people who had voted for him.
In any event, every single mature western democracy recognizes that even in times of extreme social discord, it is illegal and immoral to overthrow democratically elected governments by way of a violent street revolution. President Richard Nixon understood this and the silent majority who backed him understood it as well. President Yanukovych did not have the wisdom of President Nixon, nor were his advisors wise enough to suggest an appeal to the silent majority who voted him into office; indeed—such a course of action was likely alien to the Ukrainian mind, given that country’s short and tumultuous democratic history. Nevertheless, a second coup in the span of a decade will not bring that people closer to learning democratic habits, indeed it will only fan the flames of lawlessness, disorder, and the belief that bullets, not ballots, decide political affairs.
This brings us to a very solemn point, which none of the mindless enthusiasts of world democratic revolution in the West and in Poland seem to comprehend: order is the basic and necessary component of liberty. No one sane claims that the Arab dictators or President Yanukovych were ideal. But prudence dictates that violent revolutions not only are not ideal; they are the definition of tyranny. Violent revolution is the ultimate unraveling on all limits to the evils of human nature in a political community. Where ever violent revolution takes place, there sorrow and bloodshed follows. Violent revolution aimed at negating the result of a free and fair democratic election is the greatest of sins in a republic. In cases of civil strife or civil war, responsible statesmen always attempt to rebuild the bonds of union as quickly as possible. Abraham Lincoln famously called for “malice towards none” in his Second Inaugural Address. Yulia Timoshenko, fresh from jail, has called for Yanukovych’s head, and has told the revolutionaries to stay in Kiev, to stay in the street, to “continue” the revolution. This is not a replay of the American revolution that we are witnessing in Kiev. It is not a replay of Polish Solidarity. It is not anti-communist. It is not anything even close to legitimate revolution in accordance with the principles of the Declaration of Independence or with any level of common sense. What is happening now in Kiev is the tragic destruction of the Ukrainian nation-state; a state that has now gone through its’ second violent revolution of the twenty-first century, a state which has now voided its Constitution three times this century. It is a state impoverished, divided, manipulated by both East and West, and given no room for peaceful civil society to develop.
Most sickening of all is the fact that thousands of young Ukrainians have been manipulated into risking their lives in the fight to enter a European Union that itself is governed by an unelected body of Commissars and which was established by treatises thrust through national parliaments despite a failure to gain popular support in the polls in Ireland, France, and Denmark. The European Council President, Mr. Herman Van Rompuy, has never stood for any election—unlike Mr. Yanukovych who stood for two of them. Yet a hundred Ukrainians are dead in a revolution fighting for the adoption of “European Standards” in Ukraine. What standards? A mandatory 15% VAT? Regulations stipulating the correct size of pickles and the proper labeling of cows? Perhaps Western banking standards like the ones that led to the financial crisis in Europe and America? An EORI tax number for importers that one must apply for over the course of a month only to find out that it is your national tax ID number followed by six zeroes for everybody? Which of these fine examples of modern European Civilization was so important that they justified the deaths of the young people who were manipulated by propaganda to die in a cynical coup d’état?
As I watch the two minute hates on Polish television preparing Poles for the day when Yanukovych is found and killed or thrown in jail, I consider Lincoln’s Second Inaugural, or the Blessed martyr Father Jerzy Popieluszko who, in the dark days of Communist Martial Law, told his parishioners to take hot soup and tea to the soldiers who were oppressing them and I see none of that spirit in Ukraine, or in Poland. I wonder: how could Poles have changed? How could the Polish people support the bloody revolution in Ukraine after giving the world such a noble example of peaceful change and Christian balance between the dictates of morality and respect for law and order? How could they go against the words of their own Pope John Paul II and march blindly into Iraq? How could they ignore Pope Francis’ endeavors to work with Russia for peace in the Middle East and instead persist in Russophobia rather than work with Russia for peace in their common neighbor—Ukraine? I fear the answer is a simple one: the power of Western popular culture and Western materialism is greater than the power of Stalin’s Gulags and propaganda. For when men are enslaved by physical suffering and physical fear; their minds remain free, sober, fresh, and hungry for truth. However, when men are made ignorant, when wisdom and education are not honored in a material culture which favors fame, popularity, and money, when the body is made plump and satisfied—then the mind becomes enslaved, rotten, and mired in lies. What terrible times we live in.
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