Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. The march of the hypocrites
Source: The London Times 21 August 1997
In the Computer Age we still live by the law of the Stone Age: the
man with the bigger club is right. But we pretend this isn’t so. We
don’t notice or even suspect it — why, surely our morality progresses
together with our civilisation. Professional politicians, meanwhile,
have deftly covered certain vices with a civilised veneer.
In the 20th century we have enriched ourselves with innovations in
the field of hypocrisy. We find ever more ingenious ways to apply
double (triple? quadruple?) standards.
The bloody Yugoslav tragedy has unfolded before our eyes (and is
it over yet?). To be sure, blame for it lies with the Communist
coterie of Josip Broz Tito, which imposed an arbitrary pattern of
internal borders upon the country, trampling on ethnic common sense,
and even relocating ethnic masses by force. Yet blame lies also with
the venerable community pf Western leaders, who — with an angelic
naivete — took those false borders seriously, and then hastened at a
moment’s notice, in a day or two, to recognise the independence of
several breakaway republics whose political formation they apparently
found to be advantageous. It was these leaders, then, who nudged
Yugoslavia toward many gruelling years of civil war; and their
position, declared as neutral, was by no means such.
Yugoslavia, with its seven estranged peoples, was told to fall
apart as soon as possible. But Bosnia, with its three estranged
peoples and vivid memories of Hitlerite Croatians slaughtering up to a
million Serbs, had to remain united at all costs — the particular
insistence of the United States Government. Who can explain the
disparity of such an approach?
Another example: the Trans-Dnestr Republic and Abkhazia were
deemed illegitimate simply because they were “self-prociaimed”. But
which of the CIS countries was not “self-proclaimed’? Kazakhstan?
Ukraine? They were immediately and unconditionally recognised as
legitimate, even democratic (and the “Ukrainian Popular Self-Defence”
Brownshirts continue to march about freely, torches and all). Did not
the United States also “self-proclaim” their independence? Meanwhile,
the Kurds are not allowed even to self-proclaim. When they are not
being squashed by Iraq, with the tacit consent of the United States,
then they are being smashed by Nato member Turkey even on non-Turkish
territory, while the whole civilised world looks on with utter
indifference. Are the Kurds a “superfluous nation” on this earth?
Or take the Crimea and the port city of Sevastopol. Any sober mind
on either side would at least agree that the Crimean question is very
complex, whereas Ukraine’s claim to Sevastopol has no legal base. Yet
the US State Department, choosing not to trouble itself with the
history of the matter, has continued to assert authoritatively, for
six years running, that both the Crimea and Sevastopol are
unequivocally the property of Ukraine, end of discussion. Would it
presume to speak so categorically on, say, the future of Northern
Still another accomplishment of political hypocrisy is apparent in
the way in which we conduct “war crimes tribunals”. Wars, for
thousands of years, have always been aggravated on both sides by
crimes and injustices. In hopes that a just reason might prevail, in
order to make sense of war and to punish evil passions and evil deeds,
Russia proposed The Hague Convention of 1899.
Yet no sooner did the first war crimes trial take place — the
Nazis at Nuremberg — than we saw, elevated high upon the judges’
bench, the unblemished administrators of a justice system that during
those same years handed over to torture, execution and untimely death
tens of millions of innocent lives in its own country.
And if we continue to differentiate between the always inevitable
deaths of soldiers at war and the mass killings of undoubtedly
peaceful citizens, then by what name shall we call those who, in a
matter of minutes, burnt to death 140,000 civilians at Hiroshimaalone
— justifying the act with the astounding words, “to save the lives
of our soldiers”? That President and his entourage were never
subjected to trial, and they are remembered as worthy victors. And
how shall we name those who, with victory fully in hand, dispatched a
two-day wave of fighter bombers to reduce to ashes beautiful Dresden,
a civilian city teeming with refugees? The death toll was not far
below Hiroshima, and two orders of magnitude greater than at Coventry.
The Coventry bombing, however, was condemned in trial, while the Air
Marshal who directed the bombing of Dresden was not only spared the
brand of “war criminal”, but towers over the British capital in a
monument, as a national hero.
In an age marked by such a flourishing of jurisprudence, we ought
to see clearly that a well-considered international law is a law which
justly punishes criminals irrespective — irrespective — of their
side’s victory or defeat. No such law has yet been created, found a
firm footing, or been universally recognised. It follows, then, that
The Hague tribunal still lacks sufficient legal authority with respect
to its accused and might on occasion lack impartiality. If so, its
verdicts would constitute reprisal, not justice. For all the numerous
corpses of civilians uncovered in Bosnia, from all the warring
parties, no suspects seem to have been found from the safeguarded
Muslim side. Finally we might mention this remarkable tactic: The
Hague tribunal now hands down indictments in secret, not announcing
them publicly. Somewhere, the accused is summoned on a civil matter,
and immediately captured — a method beyond even the Inquisition, more
worthy of barbarians, circa 3,000 BC.
Perusing the world map, we find many examples of today’s
hypocritical double standard. Here is but one more. In the Euro
– American expanse, all sorts of integration and partnership are
cultivated and nurtured, stretching over lands on the periphery of
this space, like Ukraine, willing, even to incorporate faraway Central
Asia. At the same time, all sorts of political interference and
economic pressure are vigilantly applied in order to derail the very
plan of a rapprochement between Belarus and Russia.
And what of Nato expansion? Which, by the way, adds allies who
surely will remain apathetic and useless vis-a-vis the Alliance’s
global, non-European aims. It is either the traditional Cold War
hypnosis, impairing one’s ability to see the powerlessness of Russia,
beset by internal troubles. Or, on the contrary, it is extreme far
– sightedness on the part of Nato’s leaders. Should the high-tariff
strangling of Russian exports (except for coercivelycheap natural
resource exports) prove insufficient: should the implacable diktat of
Russian internal policy (bundled with loans that only enfeeble) prove
insufficient as well; there will now be, in reserve; the
“neutralisation” of Russia into a comatose state.
I have not the means to guess whether Russia’s current leaders
understand this: Most likely they do not: witness their own clumsy
participation in that elegant new phenomenon of the “peacekeeping
forces” in Bosnia or Tajikistan; or their confused, lost policies
regarding the CIS countries, or their doomed attempts to hold on to
Chechnya, with reckless disregard for the human cost; witness,
finally, their blind inability to find a reasonable and just solution
to the controversy over the Kuril Islands.
They see themselves at the helm of the ship of Russian history,
but they are not. They do not direct the course of events.
As for those who do, their plans to establish a “final worldwide
security” are ephemeral as well. Given human nature we ought never to
attain such security. It would be futile, at the very least, to march
towards this goal armed with hypocrisy and scheming short-term
calculations, as practised by a revolving door of, officials and by
the powerful financial circles that back them, Nor can security be
bought with any new technical “superinvention” — for no secret lasts.
Only if the creative and active forces of mankind dedicate
themselves to finding gradual and effective restraints against the
evil facets of human nature to an elevation of our moral
consciousness — only then will a faint, distant hope exist. To embark
upon this path, and to walk it, requires a penitent, pure heart and
the wisdom and willingiress to place constraints on one’s own side,
to limit oneself even before limiting others. But today that path only
elicits an ironic chuckle, if not open ridicule.
If so, don’t bother calling for “world security”.