In 1963 at the height of Cold War tensions the then President of the United States, John Fitzgerald Kennedy (1917 – 1963), addressed his audience at the American University in Washington D.C. with the following words “… if we cannot end now our differences, at least we can help make the world safe for diversity. For, in the final analysis, our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children’s future. And we are all mortal.” (“Commencement Address at American University in Washington, D.C. (232),” June 10, 1963, Public Papers of the Presidents: John F. Kennedy, 1963). Let us read Kennedy’s words in light of what Socrates taught: that few rational men deliberately seek out to do evil. Individuals, even those who perpetrate atrocities, do so in the belief that what they are doing is based on some form of ‘good’ that they are seeking for themselves. But no matter how ‘good’ they perceive an action to be – no action can be good if it does not do justice to Natural and Divine Law. Socrates would argue that those doing evil in order that good may come from it have in fact been duped – convincingly lied to. St. Thomas Aquinas would add that one may not do evil so good may come of it; the ends according to Aquinas, never justify the means. The great truths in Kennedy’s quote – that we all breathe the same air, we are all mortal and that we want the best for our children, are all lynch-pins of Natural Law, and for them to be contradicted in ‘good conscience’ pre-supposes the acceptance of Big Lies and subsequently the perversion of conscience, be it individual or national. Putin’s ‘Special Military Operation’, gives the Ukrainian people the natural right to defend themselves against the aggressor and oppressor. In turn it is the moral duty of every citizen of Russia and Belorussia, to search within themselves whether supporting Putin’s plans are in conjunction with both Natural and Divine Law. Citizens of these aggressor nations cannot be excused by way of the Nuremberg defense – that is – I was only following orders. The Russian and Belorussian people are a modern people. They have an education system – it is difficult to plead inncocence or for that matter – ignorance. We are living in an Age where ignorance can be dissolved by the mere use of the internet; and Big Lies that deceive the conscience can be razed by access to knowledge. So let us now begin un-packing and debunking Big Lies, in the hope that those who read may not lose their lives for a bad cause – sculpted by corrupt, and malevolent, individuals. ATK
Vladimir Lenin is credited with inventing the term ‘useful idiots’, an expression referring to those people who swallow a lie whole, and in good conscience, believing the lie to be true, and defend and propagate the lie even to their deaths. These people are ‘useful’ as they have become apostles spreading a falsehood, even at the risk of their lives – while the cynical creators of the lie, sit in safety. The reader should be reminded of Putin’s statement at the commencement of the ‘Operation’, that 50,000 Russian lives would be a price he was only to willing to pay for Ukraine. Those who are killed in battles, defending the lie, are awarded posthumous medals, and their parents are told that their sons and daughters have died bravely. But in reality, for want of perception – they have died for nothing; however courageously they have fought and died. That is why Lenin also determined that they were ‘idiots’ as only an ‘idiot’ would cast away the most sacred aspect of being human – life – for something that is not the Truth. Cynical as it sounds – cynical as it is – a good proportion of people who fought and died in World War II, were useful idiots. They were defending fascism and communism, two reprehensible paradigms, and their blood was spilled for the fallible paradigm, and even more, fallible leaders, leaders who now are laughed at and set to scorn. Let me explain the useful idiot, by way of dark humour: A joke told in the former Soviet Union runs as follows. A Professor at Moscow State University is asked by a student how is fascism best defined. The Professor replies: “Fascism is that form of Government where one group of people persecutes another group of people.” To the Professor’s response another student immediately puts their hand up and questions: “But how then is communism defined?” The Professor answers: “Communism is the opposite situation!” The first student scratches his head – then interjects saying: “Do you mean that the persecuted in fascism become the persecutors in communism?”
In 2010, the Yale University Professor of History, Timothy Snyder released a ground-breaking study entitled: Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin. Bloodlands is simultaneously a profound and disturbing text; in many ways it is a work that should be read by every Ukrainian within Ukraine and in the diaspora. But is though – horrific in its content.
In Bloodlands, Snyder in part, dispels a grave misnomer, promulgated by many still today that in some way the Soviets fighting alongside the Allied Forces in World War II were in fact ideologically virtuous in their opposition to Hitler’s Thrd Reich. Snyder’s thesis, in short, is that the Soviet regime of Joseph Stalin, was just as abhorrent, if not more so, than Hitler’s Germany, prior to the commencement of World War II. Snyder sets out a number of strong arguments. He writes: “In the 1930s, the Soviet Union was the only state in Europe carrying out policies of mass killing. Before the Second World War, in the first six and a half years after Hitler came to power, the Nazi regime killed no more than about ten thousand people. The Stalinist regime had already starved millions and shot the better part of a million. German policies of mass killing came to rival Soviet ones between 1939 and 1941, after Stalin allowed Hitler to begin a war. The Wehrmacht and the Red Army both attacked Poland in September 1939, German and Soviet diplomats signed a Treaty on Borders and Friendship, and German and Soviet forces occupied the country together for nearly two years.” (Snyder, 2010) The Soviet Union took umbrage to Hitler’s ideology when Hitler’s Germany decided to launch Operation Barbarossa. Up until then, the crimes against humanity being perpetrated by NAZI Germany, meant as little to the Soviets as the Holodomor meant to the Germans. The Soviets fought against the NAZI regime out of the necessity of self-preservation having previously been willing bed-fellows for many years with the Germans. For modern historians to paint an altruistic portrait of the Soviets joining the United States and its Allies to fend off the evil of fascism – is a lie. Hitler sought an expansion to the East, as Stalin sought after World War II, an Iron Curtain drawn across the West. Both regimes denigrated the value of the human person, both regimes were at their foundation – atheistic, making a mockery of God and Church. Both regimes denied the right of self-determination of millions of peoples. In the case of Ukraine, both regimes: pillaged, brutalised and killed. If one supported either the NAZI or Soviet regime it was because a particular trade-off existed – it was in one’s basic self-interest to do so. In the case of Ukraine, as Snyder continues: “For both Hitler and Stalin, Ukraine was more than a source of food. It was the place that would enable them to break the rules of traditional economics, rescue their countries from poverty and isolation, and remake the continent in their own image. Their programs and their power all depended upon their control of Ukraine’s fertile soil and its millions of agricultural laborers. In 1933, Ukrainians would die in the millions, in the greatest artificial famine in the history of world. This was the beginning of the special history of Ukraine, but not the end. In 1941 Hitler would seize Ukraine from Stalin, and attempt to realize his own colonial vision beginning with the shooting of Jews and the starvation of Soviet prisoners of war. The Stalinists colonized their own country, and the Nazis colonized occupied Soviet Ukraine: and the inhabitants of Ukraine suffered and suffered. During the years that both Stalin and Hitler were in power, more people were killed in Ukraine than anywhere else in the bloodlands, or in Europe, or in the world.” (Snyder, 2010) The Ukrainian people, meant as much or as little, as the land the Ukrainians were standing on; and that equally in the eyes of both Hitler’s fascists and Stalin’s communists. In the case of Stalin – starvation of millions, led to gifting Russia eastern Ukraine – in the case of Hitler’s Germany, the Ukrainians became massed slave labour in the design of Speer’s, Organization Todt. Lives were lost, families rent, culture destroyed, people displaced, generations exiled. My father who was a boy at the time, recalled to me a speech made by General Freitag in L’viv where the General addressed the Ukrainians of that city as: “My dear Ukrainian ‘knecktschaften’…” – a word that translates to ‘serfs’ or those in ‘bondage’. What the present generation of Ukrainians are fighting for is their self-determination – a chance to be no one’s serf, neither that of a Freitag nor a Beria, but to be free men and women, as God created them to be. Inalienable rights are worth dying for. This is why Archbishop Fulto J. Sheen wrote the following in his Wartime Prayer Book: “The great French [Dominican friar] Lacordaire once said the vocation of a soldier is next in dignity to the priesthood, not only because it commissioned him to defend justice on the field of battle and order on the field of peace, but also because it called him to the spirit and intention of sacrifice.” Nowhere is it written in Holy Scripture that the soldier must serve on the side of the demonic forces.
So how does one become convinced to serve evil?
Adolf Hitler in Mein Kampf is said to have given the dictatorships that he sculpted and those after him the notion of the ‘Big Lie’, or in German ‘‘große Lüge’. Putin’s accusation of Ukrainians being NAZI’s, ironically is the use of this NAZI technique. The Big Lie theory refers to the notion that any lie told to a people must be big enough for people to believe it. If the lie is small, it is distrusted – but a Big Lie has to be believed as the populace thinks, it is so outlandish that it is either true or our entire leadership are liars and lunatics. If they are lunatics and liars, we the populace have given them a mandate to govern, and by so doing, we are responsible. It is better therefore for the Big Lie to be believed, and therefore by accepting the Lie, maintain a semblance of self-respect; even if in time you drown in moral culpability, as did the Germans when General Patton brought them into the Concentration Camps to witness the horrors.
It is blaringly evident that the behaviour of a good majority of the Russian people in supporting Putin’s war against Ukraine is emblematic of a people – who have been brought up on a false narrative – the Big Lie. The abject level of hatred for the Ukrainians has had to have been contrived over successive generations; through their educational system and through the government sponsored media. The ‘Special Military Operation’ supported by many Russians needs a Plato ‘cave moment’ for reality to awaken a people too easily led, on the road to perdition.
By Dr. Andrew Thomas Kania