Because I do not wish to be misunderstood in my opinions on the tragedy of MH17, I preface them with a quote from the father of Conservatism: Edmund Burke. Wrote Edmund Burke to Americans in 1777: “If I have the misfortune of differing with some of my fellow citizens on this great and arduous subject, it is no small consolation to me, that I do not differ from you. With you, I am perfectly united. We are heartily agreed in our detestation of a civil war. We have ever expressed the most unqualified disapprobation of all the steps which have led to it, and of all those which tend to prolong it. And I have no doubt that we feel exactly the same emotions of grief and shame on all its miserable consequences; whether they appear, on the one side or the other, in the shape of victories or defeats.”
Let us not presume that, in 1777, nor in the years leading up the American Revolution, Edmund Burke had an easy time mustering his voice against his own Crown, in favor of the causes of the far off Americans who wished to separate themselves from that Crown. All of us who understand Mr. Burke must surely find ourselves equally grieved and shamed at the miserable consequences of a Ukrainian Revolution that, had American Conservatives prevailed, would not have taken the lives of the passengers of MH17. It is not an easy task, during a war, to stand up and say: “it is my government that is wrong here”. Edmund Burke performed this task masterfully, and American Conservatives rightly honor him for it. Our task, as Americans and Europeans, is simpler.
Simpler, because we are not at war with Russia, nor with Ukraine, though if things continue this way—we just might be. We must—while we still have the time—take the bold step of not only expressing a hope for peace, a detestation of violence and revolution, but of openly speaking in favor of those who today are called “terrorists” by the Ukranian government. The United States Government should recognize that the people fighting in Donetsk are not without some just grievances, just as Edmund Burke argued to the Crown and British parliament that Britain must understand American grievances. To this end, the following article, thought impassioned and emotional, is not a “propaganda piece”, it is not “for Russia”, though it certainly is “against Ukraine”—it is against American support for the Kiev government to the same extent that Burke was against his own Crown’s support of Imperial voices in Britain who considered the American colonists unworthy of a hearing and led to the severing of friendly ties of culture and commerce for many years. I hope my fellow citizens—American and Polish—read my article and, instead of considering it “Russian propaganda”, consider it an appeal to reason. Reason is the only proper response to tragedy because only reason can end tragedy.
The Ukranian President, and many western pundits, are already calling the MH17 tragedy an act of “terrorism.” I hope the United States will not rush to such conclusions without a formal investigation. Under normal circumstances, to do so would be highly irresponsible. Under existing circumstances, with the world on the brink of war in Europe, it is catastrophically irresponsible and can only be qualified as war propaganda which serves escalation. Investigators have yet to determine whether the airplane was shot down by Ukranian Separatists or by the Ukranian Armed Forces or brought down by other causes. The question also remains open as to why, given that the airspace over Donetsk has been closed since July 8th, with the airport and control tower in Donetsk having been made nonfunctional due to heavy fighting there, and with all air traffic in the surrounding area directed by the control tower in Kiev, with all of this: why was that plane even taking that particular flight path? Malaysia Airlines official website seems to indicate that Kiev air control was to blame for directing the flight to a war zone at a dangerous altitude:
“MH17 filed a flight plan requesting to fly at 35,000 ft (10,660 meters) throughout Ukrainian airspace. This is close to the ‘optimum’ altitude. However, an aircraft’s altitude in flight is determined by air traffic control on the ground. Upon entering Ukrainian airspace, MH17 was instructed by Ukrainian air traffic control to fly at 33,000 ft (10,058 meters).”
When we hear that “pro-Russian Separatists” shot down the plane, ask yourself one question: who are the pro-Russian Separatists? The answer: they are Ukranians. I mention this because former secretary of State Hillary Clinton forgot to even say this when she opined that “Russian separatists” shot down the plane. Really? What “Russian separatists?” There are no “Russian separatists”—only Ukrainian citizens, some of whom want independence, others who want unity with Russia, all of whom likely have Russian roots, but are not formally Russian. Of course, the Kiev government has already claimed to have magically arrested “two Russian citizens” fleeing into Russia from Donetsk, who were behind the attack. Kiev knows that even if it is proven that Separatists shot down the plane, the people of the world will not forget that these Separatists were Ukrainians, thus Kiev is quick to lay the blame—traditionally—on Russia. If one wants to believe that two Russian citizens made their way to Donetsk with the premeditated intention of shooting down MH17, one is free to do so; I do not believe this, nor do I believe it would change the basic argument in this matter. I do not believe it for the same reasons I did not believe Iraq to have weapons of Mass Destruction, nor did I believe that “Russian agents” blew up the Polish President’s airplane. There is no proof, and a government spy agency claiming something in the midst of a war is not proof.
Either these Separatists who supposedly shot down MH17 were citizens of the Ukraine or, if we take their word for it, they are citizens of the self-proclaimed Peoples Republic of Donetsk. One thing they are not: They are not Russian citizens. If someone wants to blame Russia for supposedly supplying the arms to these Separatists, then why not blame the EU and the United States for starting the Maidan revolution in the first place and supplying arms to a corrupt, oligarchical government in Kiev which uses those arms against many of the twelve million citizens who voted for the former President? The war was started by the Western backed, unelected coup government of Ukraine after ousting the democratically elected President and over-turning the Constitution. MH17 would not have been shot down if not for the Maidan revolution. President Vladimir Putin is again right: “if there had been peace in that land, or if at least the cease-fire was respected”—MH17 would not have been shot down.
Morally, the deaths of the people aboard the MH17 are on the heads of every single person who supported the Maidan Revolution, because no responsible person could for one minute believe that this revolution would not lead to the outbreak of a terrible, bloody war between Southeastern and Western Ukraine, and consequentially to civilian casualties. Morally, the deaths of the passengers of MH17 are no less reprehensible a crime than the deaths of thousands of Ukrainians, both civilian and military, who have fallen over the last few months in a war fomented by Western intrigue. Morally—we, in the West, are to blame; our governments, our NGOs, our young, our Facebook communities. We blindly supported the Maidan Revolution and now, we are amazed that with Jacobin Revolution comes Jacobin Terror?
On February 25, 2014, I predicted on these pages that the Maidan Revolution would make Ukraine “the sight of a terrible, bloody civil war”. You do not fly civilian airplanes over the sight of terrible, bloody civil wars. I am not a particularly intelligent person, I do not have access to classified government intelligence. I do not spend my time in the company of generals or professors of international relations. I teach English as a foreign language to people who make computer games and play with Transforming robots. I would like to think that I know little of such things and that the men and women in the military know more. I would like to think that the President has excellent advisors; professors from the finest universities. I would like to think that I should be wrong about such things. Many people who knew that this would happen wrote about it, but we were ignored—again and again. With the barbaric tragedy of MH17 it is time for us to be clear: our political opponents are ignorant fools. They are not merely “wrong”, they do not merely have “other opinions”—they are tragically, woefully ignorant fools. Their ignorance is taking the entire world towards a horrible war. Their ignorance is unforgivable. They should hang their heads in shame and resign from public office. They should at the very least be morally ashamed of themselves.
As for the claim that the Ukranian pro-Russian separatists are “terrorists”—if one reads the legal definitions of terrorism of the Europe Union and the US Code, one concludes that terrorism is an act of violence “ with the aim of: seriously intimidating a population; or unduly compelling a Government or international organization to perform or abstain from performing any act” or, as the US code puts it—even clearer—“the term ‘terrorism’ means premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against non-combatant targets by subnational groups or clandestine agents”
Now, assuming that MH17 was shot down by Ukrainian citizens who are Separatists and likely pro-Russian, here is a simple question: Was this act—could this act—have been “premeditated”? Did they decide in the morning or during a planning session last week to shoot down a Malaysian airliner that would be flying overhead? To assume this would be ridiculous. It is impossible for them to have committed this act of aggression in a pre-meditated manner. The EU definition of terrorism is broader, and thus one could argue that the act was “aimed” at compelling a government to abstain from performing an “act” (in this case the act of killing the Separatists, which the Ukranian government has been committed to for quite some time). But is it terrorism, even according to this broad EU definition, for the citizens of Ukraine in Donetsk to act with the aim of preventing the Ukrainian government in Kiev from killing them? Is it “terrorism” for them to proclaim a Republic and ask for Russia’s help, given their historical and ethnic ties to Russia? Is it terrorism for them to severe their political bonds with Kiev after Kiev violently overthrew their elected President?
That gets to the heart of the matter, which is—do the people of Donetsk have the right to bear arms against a government that is fighting a war against them? Is this a just or unjust war? In my estimation, if one has been following the Ukraine conflict from the beginning—it is shaping up to be one of the clearest cases of justified secessionist warfare in known history. President Yanukovych, a legally and democratically elected head of state was toppled in a violent coup; there is no doubt about this. A government army and air force were sent to fight against citizens who did not agree to seeing their voting rights taken away by violent street revolution. These citizens stood their ground against that army. It is a classic case of civil war, and it is a classic case of obvious just war on the part of the Separatists. If the Donetsk Separatists are “terrorists”—then so were George Washington and Thomas Jefferson.
However, even a just war is a tragedy and usually unnecessary. As Edmund Burke pointed out, it is a cause of “shame” and “grief” because civilized men ought never go to war and political problems ought not be resolved by recourse to war. The war in Ukraine is completely unnecessary, and could have been resolved peacefully, most likely at the expense of the disintegration of the Ukrainian nation-state into smaller parts. The government in Kiev decided not to allow for this to happen. Abraham Lincoln made a similar decision; in defense of a Constitutional Union that had been around for seventy-two years. The Constitutional Union being defended by the Kiev government was established six months ago (when the old-new Ukranian constitution was jettisoned during the revolution in favor of the new-old Ukranian constitution). Thus, Kiev is not even defending a historical Union, it is defending a Banana Republic. Abraham Lincoln also defended the American Union against a Confederacy that held negro slavery to be one of its core principles. The Separatists fighting in Donetsk do not believe in human slavery; nor does Russia—which they want to join. Abraham Lincoln, in his Second Inaugural Address, blamed both North and South for the calamity and sought malice towards none. The President of Ukraine has proclaimed, like a barbarian, that he will kill a hundred Separatists for every dead Ukranian soldier. Abraham Lincoln lamented the destruction of the South, of people who “read the same Bible.” The Prime Minister of Ukraine has now publicly called for American aid in killing “those Bastards”—his own countrymen, his own citizens. Is there any greater indication that Ukraine is not a country—than this fact?
No patriot would ever dare publicly call his own citizens, his fellow countrymen “bastards”; this is not how a Union is preserved, it is how a genocide is undertaken. The people living in Ukraine are not part of one country and never have been. The Prime Minister and President of Ukraine are not Lincolnian Patriots, grieving over the heavy hand of Providence after decades of trying to grapple with the Slave question. They are members of a distinct tribe that hates the Russian roots of their Eastern citizens and ought never to have been put in one country with them. The Separatists likely also hate Western Ukranians right now; but in contradistinction to Kiev, the Separatists do not want to rule over all of Ukraine or pull all of Ukraine into Russia; they merely want their own miniscule portion of the country to be free of Western Ukranian dominance.
I realize that there are serious Americans who disagree with Mr. Lincoln’s defense of the Northern cause; my goal in citing Mr. Lincoln is not to re-open the debate over the American Civil War, but rather to demonstrate that even by the standards of Abraham Lincoln; the Ukraine Separatists are fighting in a just cause. Even Mr. Lincoln would support them, because he believed in the inalienable rights of Man laid out in the Declaration of Independence, and amongst those rights was a clear right of revolution against tyranny. The Separatist cause is a cause which is more akin to the American Revolutionary War than to the American Civil War; it is a cause that the American Founders would recognize as their own: the right of a people to throw off their government when that government becomes tyrannical. What can be more tyrannical that hearing that the President you voted for was ejected from office by a street throng three months prior to an election and replaced by a government brought to power by violence rather than by voting? What can be more tyrannical than being told by your government that you can no longer speak your own language in your own cities?
Some may reply that the recent Presidential election in Ukraine, which brought the new President to power, “re-legitimizes” the Ukranian government by making it a representative of the will of the people. This brings up the question of whether one can call a government legitimate if it held an election while bombing voters who disagreed with it after coming to power in a violent revolution only weeks earlier? How long did the candidates have to debate and prepare? How much peace and quiet did the people have, as the bombs fell on their heads, to consider their choices? How many rights were afforded to the Separatists by the law which stipulated that advocating separatism was terrorism? Could they form a peaceful political party to voice their grievances under laws that made the voicing of their grievances illegal?
The status of the Separatist political bodies in Eastern and Southern Ukraine were left unsettled during the election, and military operations were conducted against those regions throughout the election by a revolutionary coup government that had no popular mandate in democratic elections. At best, the new President could have regained legitimacy in the eyes of the East and South if he had brokered a truce and a peaceful resolution of the standoff with the Separatists, by either getting them to agree to remain part of the Ukraine or consenting to an internationally supervised referendum on secession (a mode of political expression which has a rich, peaceful history in Europe). Instead, the new President did not hesitate to escalate the military campaign against South-Eastern Ukraine. The result was predictable—the bodies of the passengers of MH17 are the result of that escalation.
To call the MH17 tragedy an act of “terrorism” on the part of the Separatists is an act of ignorance, although of course—since Ukranian law considers any citizen who wishes to advocate the separation of parts of Ukraine from the Ukranian state a “terrorist”, then formally, the Separatists are “terrorists” no matter what they did or did not do. Still, common sense should compel us to call the MH17 tragedy what it is: the logical result of the Maidan Revolution. That would mean that concrete individuals who irresponsibly fomented this revolution, both Ukranian, Polish, American, German, British, French, Belgian, Dutch—everyone who supported the Maidan—would have to take moral responsibility for setting off a chain of events that led to the death of the passengers on MH17. To do so would be an act of maturity unheard of in our times, when politicians, pundits and pompous Westerners never apologize for being wrong. After all, how long did it take for Americans to support the war in Libya or the overthrow of the President of Egypt after finding out that the “Weapons of Mass Destruction” that supposedly justified the invasion against Iraq were never there? I have little doubt that the spineless, unreflective Westerners who supported the Maidan revolution will not be shedding any tears over MH17 as being the direct result of their arrogance. It’s so much easier to blame it on the bogeyman of our age—“terrorism.”
There is one last possibility to be considered: namely that the plane was targeted and terminated by the Ukranian military; not because the Ukranian military was intent on destroying MH17, but because it may have been targeting another, similar aircraft which crossed paths with MH17 twenty minutes earlier over Warsaw: that craft was carrying Russian President Vladimir Putin back to Moscow from an overseas trip. Pray that the Ukranian government did not just try to assassinate the Russian President, for there is no more destructive, no more aggressive, no more absolute a manner of civilizational annihilation than to fight a conventional war with Russia. If Ukraine continues to push against Russia, if the West continues to blame Russia for everything, it will eventually get its’ war. And when that happens—we as human beings will not only die, but our civilization will die as well because the Russian war machine has always uprooted whatever crosses its path. Do we really want that to happen—in the name of a Billionaire chocolate tycoon and a country full of people who hate each other enough to take up arms against one another?
All of this brings us to the final point: the real blame must be laid on Ukraine—whether Ukrainians in Kiev or in Donetsk is irrelevant—the fault lies with Ukraine. The fault lies with Ukraine because Ukraine has proven itself since 1991 to be incapable of self-government. The Ukranian state, and Ukranian politicians are worse than your run-of-the-mill corrupt and inept politician. They are so terrible that their own people are now at one another’s throats and their petty and senseless war threatens the world and consumes the lives of people from around the world. Russia, Germany, Hungary, Romania, France, Great Britain, Poland, Lithuania, Belarus—all civilized (by which I merely mean peaceful) nations surrounding Ukraine—should simply abolish Ukraine as a State before the Kiev government inflicts any further death and destruction on the people of the world. Kiev cannot be allowed to maintain political responsibility for the territories making up Ukraine any longer—it has proven, time and again, broken promise after broken promise, coup after coup, that it is incapable of responsible government.
Ukraine must partition, order must be restored by a United Nations peace-keeping force consisting of soldiers from all over Europe and Asia. The political future of the country should be determined by local referendums after the restoration of peace and order. The entire region should be de-militarized and international military rule imposed so that no side can use arms against another. The Ukrainians—be they Separatists or the central government in Kiev—should be disarmed. My guess is that the Donetsk Separatists will gladly disarm if the United Nations send peacekeepers to guarantee that they will not be strafed by central government jet fighters and lets them have their independence. They will also likely gladly disarm if they become a part of Russia. Kiev will likely not disarm—but international pressure must be put on Kiev to do so. No more sanctions against Moscow when it is Kiev that is the enemy—the enemy of civilized Europe and the civilized world. Kiev, which despite all of the billions of dollars from the United States was unable to prevent the MH17 tragedy by ending the war rather than expanding it, which despite Poland risking its own future for Ukraine still continues its embargo of Polish farm products.
Kiev is the enemy of the World in this war—not Moscow. Not unless you happen to be one of the people with an interest in using Kiev to start an unnecessary war with Moscow or you are a Westerner who thinks that the results of the revolutions in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Egypt and Tunisia—bloody, chaotic, horrifying—were all cases of bad luck, and Ukraine, if we just give Kiev more money and more guns, is on the brink of becoming a liberal paradise on Earth.
The death of the passengers of MH17 should be a wake-up call to the entire world: It is time to end the policy of supporting revolutions, violent coups and military interventionism as a means to supposedly building democracy and civil society. Ukraine is not in NATO, it is not a member of the European Union; NATO is under no obligation to “defend” Kiev against enemies foreign or domestic, and Western interests do not conflict with Russian interests in this region. Rather than risk the Alliance, and risk relations with a nascent democratic and peaceful Russia, it is time to demand something from Kiev: End the war, end the bombing of Donetsk, end the escalation, end the bombastic rhetoric and bloodlust—or forfeit your dwindling statehood. What will it be: Ukraine. an artificial political experiment that has gone through two coups and three constitutions within two decades—or peace in Europe? How many more innocent people must die before we realize that the Maidan Revolution—which continues to this day—is the cause of all our troubles in this region?
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