Something Is Rotting at the Periphery of the Libertarian Movement…..

December 11, 2004

What’s that terrible smell? It’s coming from a hatred of the United States that has become so strong that it has overpowered any lingering attachment to the ideas of liberty on which the United States was founded. and are where the stench is strongest.

Some may wonder why I raise this issue, which is something I do in my own name only. It would be much easier to do what most of my friends do and merely ignore those who have taken up the mantle of malicious anti-Americanism and the defense of oppressive tyrannies, all in the name of “liberty.” I don’t relish getting slimed, having my personal life made an issue (Justin Raimondo and some of the lewrockwellites find my sexual orientation much more interesting than I do), or being denounced in pornographic comments and emails.

But this issue needs to be confronted. And real libertarians, people who actually value liberty, should — at the least — turn their backs on those who defend tyranny. I’ve posted on the astonishingly bitter hatred directed toward Viktor Yushchenko and the liberal opposition in Ukraine. (See the postings under “The Fever Swamp.”) I’ve discovered that that hatred of Yushchenko is not unique, but of a piece with a vigorous whitewashing of old-style Soviet tyrants generally. and have become very tight with a rather mysterious and creepy organization called the “British Helsinki Human Rights Group” (here for official web site), the only group (and a tiny one, at that) that has argued that the government-backed Soviet-style candidate in Ukraine was fairly elected and that the opposition-backed free-market candidate was the one who cheated. A little research showed that the BHHRG is not in any way affiliated with the famous International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights (click here for a contrast between them), which monitored human rights behind the Iron Curtain and still monitors rights abuses, but that does not stop the BHHRG from trading on the name and reputation of the Helsinki Committee. Mostly what the BHHRG does is to serve as a PR firm for dictatorships and to attack movements to dislodge the gangster-backed regimes of eastern European strongmen: Milosevic in Yugoslavia, Lukashenko in Belarus, Shevardnadze in Georgia, Kutschma in Ukraine, et al. The Economist, in their December 2, 2004 edition, refer to the BHHRG as “A human-rights group that defends dictators.” As the writers for the Economist put it,

The group sends observers to eastern Europe, usually to elections, who produce lengthy, annotated first-hand reports, with controversial (critics say bizarre) interpretations of events. They find plenty of evidence to back Russia’s foreign-policy grievances, for example. In Ukraine, they found numerous violations by supporters of the western-backed Viktor Yushchenko, but no significant ones by the other side.

The handful of people involved in BHHRG have flown to Belarus, Ukraine, Georgia, Serbia, and elsewhere to report that the tyrannical regimes there were (in the case of Belarus: still is) unobjectionable and that the mass movements to unseat them are nothing but stooges for the west, out to integrate those brave little authoritarian-socialist regimes into the “New World Order,” privatize their state industries, and strip them of their assets. The BHHRG website calls Viktor Yushchenko “A Candidate for the New World Order” and berates him for privatizing “to foreigners” electrical firms in western Ukraine when he was Prime Minister. They wrote warmly of the petty tyrant Aslan Abashidze, the dictator of the little police state of Ajaria, a breakaway region of Georgia. (Abashidze was overthrown by the people there and then whisked away to Moscow). They defended the genocidal regime of Slobodan Milosevic, a vicious tyranny that had plunged Yugoslavia into a series of terrible wars that killed hundreds of thousands of people. The BHHRG report characterized the revolution that overthrew Milosevic as follows:

Following the violent events in Belgrade on 5th October, especially the ransacking of the federal parliament and the seizure by force of the main state television station, the man who had dominated Yugoslav politics for a decade, Slobodan Milosevic, conceded defeat to Dr. Vojislav Kostunica, leader of the Democratic Opposition of Serbia. If Milosevic had not been forced from power in this way, his term would have ended in June 2001 even if he had lost the elections. This disruption of the constitutional order in Yugoslavia was to be only the first in a series of semi – or unconstitutional steps, by means of which the new regime in Belgrade has consolidated its power over all aspects of Serbia’s political and economic life.

Daniel McAdams (the fellow who has peppered me with abusive emails for being skeptical about the fairness of the Ukrainian election), who is a capitol hill staffer, a writer for and “honored to be associated” with BHHRG, uses scare quotes to refer to “the ‘authoritarian’ rule of current president Alexander Lukashenka”. Most commentators refer to Lukashenko as a dictator; the BBC offers a treasure trove of quotes from Lukashenko acknowledging that he is at least an authoritarian, e.g.:

“Pressure is currently being put on Belarus through weapons of mass destruction, there is no other name for them, that is, the mass media. The mass media are weapons of mass destruction today, the most powerful ones.” — June, 2003

“They tell me: you are a dictator. Am I a dictator? My position and the state will never allow me to become a dictator… But an authoritarian ruling style is characteristic of me, and I have always admitted it. Why? We could spend hours talking about this. You need to control the country, and the main thing is not to ruin people’s lives.” — August, 2003

The more I learned about the pro-dictatorship activities of the BHHRG and its connections with and with the creepier it felt. Their approach smells remarkably like the Lyndon LaRouche cult, as does their railing against the “New World Order” and their attacks on free trade, privatization, and classical liberalism generally. The language is remarkably like that associated with the more bizarre collectivist fringes of the extreme left and the extreme right. and are peddling the idea that, if you are opposed to U.S. interventionism abroad, you should therefore be opposed to anyone who might benefit from that intervention. Hence, recruits to the Iraqi police force are denounced as “quislings“, which is no less than an endorsement of the jihadist beheaders who are attacking them and U.S. and coalition troops. (Vidkun Quisling was a traitor to Norway who collaborated with the Nazi occupiers of his country; anyone who brands someone a quisling is endorsing the forces fighting against the alleged “quisling.”) Viktor Yushchenko is mocked for the disfiguring illness (widely believed in Ukraine, my friends there tell me, to be the result of deliberate poisoning) and denounced as a “neocon/CIA stooge.” That crowd also would have opposed U.S. involvement in the war against Hitler, Mussolini, and Tojo. Would they have been so eager to denounce the victims or opponents of those regimes? The vehemence with which they have attacked the beneficiaries of U.S. policy around the world suggests the answer.

Rep. Ron Paul has charged that the opposition movement in Ukraine is funded by the U.S. government (although he also seems to express horror that George Soros is funding pro-democracy groups). Yushchenko supporters deny the charge. Still, U.S. tax dollars have gone to groups that have promoted democracy in Serbia, Ukraine, Belarus, Georgia, Iraq, and many other countries. Paul asks important questions: Should the U.S. taxpayer, through USAID and the National Endowment for Democracy, be forced to contribute to more open societies, fair elections, the rule of law, privatization, and the dislodging of tyrants like Alexander Lukashenko and Aslan Abashidze? Should I be taxed for the benefit of other people? No, I shouldn’t. I am happy to contribute voluntarily, as I in fact have contributed. But it most certainly does not follow from moral objections to taxation that the people who benefit from such funds should be slimed. Being a friend of the U.S. government does not make someone my enemy, just as being an enemy of the U.S. government does not make someone my friend. To believe otherwise is to confuse being in favor of limited government and the rule of law with being simply “anti-government.” (Terrorists and criminals are “anti-government,” but they are not in favor of limited government.) To believe that anyone who has been favored by the U.S. government must be my enemy is to succumb to madness. It is horrifying to see people who claim to be friends of liberty vigorously defending the likes of Alexander Lukashenko and Slobodan Milosevic — on the grounds that they are opposed by the U.S. government — and sliming in the most extreme terms figures such as Viktor Yushchenko, Mikhel Saakasvili, Vojislav Kostunica, and Zoran Djindjic who have succeeded in ridding or tried to rid their countries of gangsters or genocidal madmen (the latter clearly applying in the case of Yugoslavia).

To be so angry at your own government that you will ally yourself with tyrants abroad is … well, words fail me. But when I become very calm, one comes to mind with perfect clarity: evil.

UPDATE: The Lewrockwellites and the are up to their usual today. Daniel McAdams rails against the world of people who oppose dictatorship (referring to my critique without mentioning me by name or offering their readers any link to the criticisms of his bizarre pro-tyranny cult) and laughs off the news that Viktor Yushchenko was indeed poisoned by dioxin by repeating the claim of Ukrainian government apologists that it was just a case of “bad sushi.”

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