Letter from Charlottesville to Ukraine
By David Swanson
Nazi rallies in the news in recent years have most prominently been held here in Charlottesville, Virginia, USA, and in Ukraine. I want to send thoughts of solidarity to those in Ukraine resisting fascism. And I want to let you know that some of us are urging our government in Washington, D.C., to stop supporting fascism both in the United States and in Ukraine. In addition, we are pointing to the examples being set by so many shithole countries around the world that are 100% free of fascist rallies.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Brandenberg v. Ohio in 1969 that “advocacy directed to inciting or producing imminent lawless action . . . likely to incite or produce such action” is not protected by the First Amendment. Sheriff Shithole has said these things: “If you see somebody getting ready to throw a tomato, knock the crap out of them. I promise you, I will pay for the legal fees.” “Maybe he should have been roughed up, because it was absolutely disgusting what he was doing.” “See, in the good old days this doesn’t happen, because they used to treat them very, very rough. And when they protested once, you know, they would not do it again so easily.” “You know what I hate? There’s a guy, totally disruptive, throwing punches, we’re not allowed to punch back anymore. I love the old days—you know what they used to do to guys like that when they were in a place like this? They’d be carried out on a stretcher, folks.” “See the first group, I was nice. Oh, take your time. The second group, I was pretty nice. The third group, I’ll be a little more violent. And the fourth group, I’ll say get the hell out of here!” “I’d like to punch him in the face, I tell ya.” “You see, in the good old days, law enforcement acted a lot quicker than this. A lot quicker. In the good old days, they’d rip him out of that seat so fast — but today, everybody’s politically correct.” “He was swinging, he was hitting people, and the audience hit back. That’s what we need more of.”
Numerous incidents of violence followed these comments. John Franklin McGraw punched a man in the face at a Trump event, and then told Inside Edition that “The next time we see him, we might have to kill him.” Trump said that he was considering paying McGraw’s legal bills. Since Trump’s election and inauguration, his comments appearing to incite violence have continued, as have incidents of violence in which those participating in violence have pointed to Trump as justification. On July 2, 2017, Trump tweeted a video of himself body slamming a man with an image of “CNN” superimposed on him. In August 2017, participants in a racist rally here in Charlottesville credited Trump with boosting their cause. Their violence included actions that have led to a murder charge. Trump publicly minimized the offense and sought to blame “many sides.”
Surprisingly perhaps to some Americans, though not to Ukrainians, U.S. support for Nazism in Ukraine did not begin with Trump. In fact, it is well established that in 2014 the U.S. government helped a new government come to power in Ukraine, a new government supported and armed and trained by the United States from that moment to this, a new government including and empowering Nazis. Professor Stephen Cohen’s account of the Ukrainian coup is summarized in The Nation:
“Which brings Cohen to another prevailing media myth: that what occurred on Maidan in February 2014 was a ‘democratic revolution.’ Whether it was in fact a ‘revolution’ can be left to future historians, though most of the oligarchic powers that afflicted Ukraine before 2014 remain in place four years later, along with their corrupt practices. As for ‘democratic,’ removing a legally elected president by threatening his life hardly qualifies. Nor does the peremptory way the new government was formed, the constitution changed, and pro-Yanukovych parties banned. Though the overthrow involved people in the streets, this was a coup. How much of it was spontaneous and how much directed, or inspired, by high-level actors in the West also remains unclear. But one other myth needs to be dispelled. The rush to seize Yanukovych’s residence was triggered by snipers who killed some 80 or more protesters and policemen on Maidan. It was long said that the snipers had been sent by Yanukovych, but it has now been virtually proven that the shooters were instead from the neo-fascist group Right Sector among the protesters on the square. (See, for example, the reports of the scholar Ivan Katchanovski.)
“The antidemocratic origins of today’s Kiev regime continue to afflict it. Its president, Petro Poroshenko, is intensely unpopular at home. It remains pervasively corrupt. Its Western-financed economy continues to fail, as even some of its ardent American cheerleaders now admit. And for the most part it continues to refuse to implement its obligations under the 2015 Minsk II peace accords, above all granting the rebel Donbass territories enough home rule to keep them in the Ukrainian state. Meanwhile, Kiev is semi-hostage to armed ultranationalist battalions, whose ideology and symbols include proudly neo-fascist ones, which hate Russia and today’s Western “civilizational” values almost equally. It may be said that the Donbass rebel ‘republics’ have their own ugly traits, but it should be added that they fight only in defense of their own territory against the armies of Kiev and are not sponsored by the US government.
“Adding to this explosive mix, the Trump administration now promises to supply more weapons. The official pretext is plainly contrived: to deter Putin from ‘further aggression against Ukraine,’ for which he has shown no desire or intention whatsoever. Nor does it make any geopolitical or strategic sense. Neighboring Russia can easily upgrade its weapons to the rebel provinces. Indeed, the danger is that Kiev’s failing regime will interpret the American arms as a signal from Washington for a new offensive against the Donbass in order to regain support at home—but which will end again in military disaster for Kiev while perhaps bringing neo-fascists, who may well come into possession of the American weapons, closer to power, and the new US-Russian Cold War closer to a larger, more direct war between the nuclear superpowers. (US trainers will need to be sent with the weapons, adding to the some 300 already there. If any are killed by Russian-backed rebel forces, even if unintentionally, what will be Washington’s reaction?)”
Let’s recall with Max Blumenthal what happened in 2014:
“White supremacist banners and Confederate flags were draped inside Kiev’s occupied City Hall, and demonstrators have hoisted Nazi SS and white power symbols over a toppled memorial to V.I. Lenin. After Yanukovich fled his palatial estate by helicopter, EuroMaidan protesters destroyed a memorial to Ukrainians who died battling German occupation during World War II. Sieg heil salutes and the Nazi Wolfsangel symbol have become an increasingly common site in Maidan Square, and neo-Nazi forces have established ‘autonomous zones’ in and around Kiev.
“An Anarchist group called AntiFascist Union Ukraine attempted to join the Euromaidan demonstrations but found it difficult to avoid threats of violence and imprecations from the gangs of neo-Nazis roving the square. “They called the Anarchists things like Jews, blacks, Communists,” one of its members said. ‘There weren’t even any Communists, that was just an insult.’
“‘There are lots of Nationalists here, including Nazis,’ the anti-fascist continued. ‘They came from all over Ukraine, and they make up about 30% of protesters. . . .
“. . . Svoboda’s openly pro-Nazi politics have not deterred Senator John McCain from addressing a EuroMaidan rally alongside Tyahnybok, nor did it prevent Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland from enjoying a friendly meeting with the Svoboda leader this February. . . . In a leaked phone conversation with Geoffrey Pyatt, the US ambassador to Ukraine, Nuland revealed her wish for Tyahnybok to remain ‘on the outside,’ but to consult with the US’s replacement for Yanukovich, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, ‘four times a week.’ At a December 5, 2013 US-Ukraine Foundation Conference, Nuland boasted that the US had invested $5 billion to ‘build democratic skills and institutions’ in Ukraine, though she did not offer any details. ‘The Euro-Maidan movement has come to embody the principles and values that are the cornerstones for all free democracies,’ Nuland proclaimed. Two weeks later, 15,000 Svoboda members held a torchlight ceremony in the city of Lviv in honor of Stepan Bandera, a World War II-era Nazi collaborator.”
This past November, The Hill reminded us that The reality of neo-Nazis in Ukraine is far from Kremlin propaganda:
“As the Trump administration mulls sending weapons to Ukraine, the question of far-right forces employed by the Kiev government has returned to the forefront. Some Western observers claim that there are no neo-Nazi elements in Ukraine, chalking the assertion up to propaganda from Moscow. Unfortunately, they are sadly mistaken. There are indeed neo-Nazi formations in Ukraine. This has been overwhelmingly confirmed by nearly every major Western outlet. The fact that analysts are able to dismiss it as propaganda disseminated by Moscow is profoundly disturbing. It is especially disturbing given the current surge of neo-Nazis and white supremacists across the globe.
“The most infamous neo-Nazi group in Ukraine is the 3,000-strong Azov Battalion, founded in 2014. Prior to creating Azov, its commander, Andriy Biletsky, headed the neo-Nazi group Patriot of Ukraine, members of which went on to form the core of Azov. Biletsky had stated that the mission of Ukraine is to ‘lead the White Races of the world in a final crusade for their survival … against the Semite-led Untermenschen.’ Azov’s logo is composed of two emblems — the wolfsangel and the Sonnenrad — identified as neo-Nazi symbols by the Anti-Defamation League. The wolfsangel is used by the U.S. hate group Aryan Nations, while the Sonnenrad was among the neo-Nazi symbols at this summer’s deadly march in Charlottesville. Azov’s neo-Nazi character has been covered by the New York Times, the Guardian, the BBC, the Telegraph and Reuters, among others. On-the-ground journalists from established Western media outlets have written of witnessing SS runes, swastikas, torchlight marches, and Nazi salutes. They interviewed Azov soldiers who readily acknowledged being neo-Nazis. They filed these reports under unambiguous headlines such as ‘How many neo-Nazis is the U.S. backing in Ukraine?‘ and ‘Volunteer Ukrainian unit includes Nazis.’”
That last headline is from USA Today, which tells us: “A volunteer brigade with self-proclaimed Nazis fighting alongside government troops against Russian-backed separatists is proving to be a mixed blessing to its cause. Though the 900-member Azov Brigade adds needed manpower to repulse the rebels, members who say they are Nazis are sparking controversy, and complaints of abuses against civilians have turned some residents against them.”
But don’t take it from all these media reports. Take it, if you prefer, from the U.S. House of Representatives, which voted on June 10, 2015 to approve an amendment to the Defense Appropriations Act to block U.S. training of the Azov battalion. But the U.S. has armed Azov, and is pouring more weapons into Ukraine, escalating the conflict.
Meanwhile the Nazis are marching 20,000 strong in Ukraine, and the U.S. tax payers who fund their weaponry would fiercely object if they had any idea.
The United States needs to create a policy of not providing weapons to any government that includes or encourages Nazism.