TCS Daily

Human Shields, Ukraine Wants You!

By Kristian Karlsson - November 24, 2004 12:00 AM

The Ukraine, Europe's second largest country, is on the verge of outright dictatorship. After the presidential election on November 21, about 200,000 protesters have gathered in Kiev's Independence Square, as well as other places around the country, to protest against alleged ballot fraud.

The Russian president, Vladimir Putin, and Alexander Lukashenka of Belarus, Europe's last dictator (well, so far), have congratulated the establishment candidate, Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych, who has been pronounced the winner by a slim margin. Meanwhile, international observers say the ballot count was fraudulent. The opposition has claimed victory, and its presidential candidate Viktor Yushchenko has symbolically given himself the oath of office.

Western European leaders encourage both the regime and the opposition not to use violence. There is still hope for a peaceful, democratic solution. Just like in Serbia in 2000, after the now indicted war criminal Slobodan Milosevic tried to cling to power by making up election results, people are pouring in to the huge demonstrations from the entire country. Hundreds of thousands have gathered in the Independence Square, defying the Ukrainian winter to defend their liberty. Many more are on their way.

In Serbia, the protesters achieved their goals without violence, by being resilient and many. Likewise, in Georgia a bloodless revolution overthrew president Edward Shevardnadze last fall. Again, large, peaceful protests wore down the support of the regime and led to its downfall. Hopefully, the Ukrainian crisis will be solved as peaceful. But it could also be another Tiananmen Square, where Chinese troops in June 1989 disbanded a large pro-democracy demonstration by massacring about a thousand of the protesters.

This time few in Western Europe seem to care much. Sure, the European Union issued a statement calling for the Ukrainian government to release the actual election results, and the European Council urged both sides to resolve the situation peacefully. But who doesn't remember the huge demonstrations of the last couple of years, when the United States was preparing to overthrow the terror regimes of Afghanistan and Iraq? On some days, over a million people gathered worldwide to protest the war against Saddam Hussein. In Stockholm, the demonstration was the largest since the Vietnam War. Where are those protesters today? Well, nowhere near the Ukrainian embassies and far from Kiev's Independence Square.

In 2003, however, the most hardcore anti-war westerners went to Baghdad to pose as human shields. The idea was to stake out potential bombing sites and make it untenable for the US to carry out the bombing. And there were quite a few of shields; one British organization claims to have sent 700 of them into Saddam's service.

Well, alright. I guess it's honest and decent to act instead of complaining at home, and there is something brave about going to a potential war zone to protect innocent civilians with your own body. Of course, the shields turned out to merely be pawns in Saddam Hussein's struggle to stay in power.

But where were the human shields when some 48 million Ukrainians risked being locked up in yet another post-Soviet prison? In contrast to the situation in Iraq, this is a situation where western shields could actually do some good. The more westerners on Kiev's Independence Square, the more difficult it would be for the government to resolve the situation with violence. In particular, MPs and MEPs from Western Europe would make it very difficult to use the military to disband the protesters by force. So far no one has showed up, though. Well, go figure. The Ukrainian election fraud gave no opportunity to protest against the United States.

In fact, the human shields in Iraq were but another outburst of European anti-Americanism. It had very little to do with Iraqis, and very much to do with protesting against the USA. That's why we've seen human shields in Iraq, Israel and Serbia (when NATO protected the Albanian minority by bombing Serbian strongholds in 1999, leading to the fall of Milosevic's long terror), but not in the Ukraine, Rwanda, East Timor, Congo or in any other conflict in recent memory.

Apparently, releasing 25 million Iraqis from the prison that Saddam Hussein built around them is a worse offense than trampling the democratic rights of 48 million Ukrainians. Defending democracy just ain't any fun when there's no Dubya to mock.

The author is a writer for the Swedish free-market think tank Timbro.


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