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  • Writer's pictureThe Paladins

Fragments from a War Diary, Part #272

Last night I went to Church. However I found out when talking to other members of the Congregation that one of the High Priests in Lviv had been disparaging and offensive about the priesthood of which I am a member. Obviously this is no good at all. Anyway this is all a silly way of saying that one of the slightly less salubrious members of the international community in the frozen Saigon, who had a major and public falling-out with one of the top and extremely professionally managed Ukrainian NGO’s in Lviv, had gone round defaming them: not once, and not privately, in all sorts of crazy public ways. I really don’t like defaming people, in public or in private; it’s dirty and it’s cowardly. If you have a problem with a person then you should express it to them in person and this guy wasn’t going to do that. So I had to put him in his place and I don’t think he’s going to make the same mistake again. Let’s hope not.

I have always taken the view that there are two sorts of people in the world: those you can reason with and talk to rationally; and those who you can’t and have no time for principle or agreements but just respond to offers that will benefit them and threats or use of force. An old friend of mine from the Balkans, British special forces and passed away some years ago so I think I can talk about him without compromising anything, once told me, “there’s something you need to know about people in the Balkans: they don’t understand anything except a good hard beating.” I think I’d only been in Bosnia and Herzegovina for half an hour or so when he told me this and I was frankly horrified. But it revealed to me a sad truth about human nature that I have never forgotten. And of course this is the sort of thing we’re dealing with in the Russian invasion of Ukraine. They’re just a bunch of violent maniacs over there in Moscow and they’re not operating by any principles at all. When people don’t operate by principles you can’t trust anything they say at all, because they will just open their mouths and tell you whatever they think you want to hear that will get them the best outcome for themselves. And then their word becomes meaningless, because after the conversation has finished they’ll go back to what they were doing before. The world is useless with these sorts of people, and in my experience so much war and conflict is generated by people who think like this.

Vladimir Putin is of course a person who thinks like this. Whatever he says about Ukraine really being part of Russia culturally and historically is just total rubbish. He doesn’t believe things like this. He doesn’t have any opinions about anything. He’s an old-fashioned KGB officer who only understands pain and fear and murder and intimidation. He does have ideology or principles. He is just engaged in a naked land grab in Ukraine and a naked power grab in Moscow. Of course he can say whatever he wants to purport to justify his actions to people who think along the lines of principle; but his words are empty and meaningless. He will charm foreign government leaders if he thinks that will help him get his way and fool them; he can give erudite speeches (presumably written by someone else). He’s certainly not stupid. But ultimately he isn’t interested in any of the principles or ideologies he talks about. They are just veils for the exercise of naked power which is what he is really about. Vladimir Putin isn’t a communist or a fascist. He doesn’t believe in the Soviet Union. He doesn’t believe in anything at all. He’s more of a nihilist, and I just don’t like dealing with people who think in this unprincipled way. Anyway, the good news is that living in Ukraine amongst a community of good-spirited and well-intentioned people all of whom have a common set of principled goals in mind - protecting Ukrainian territorial and political integrity, and defeating Russian military vandalism - I don’t need to go into battle with the idiots of this world.

Sure, I am trained to. I’m a lawyer. I know how to fight; I’m a professional fighter. Litigation is nothing but daily war using paper and words, applying pressure on people in different ways until you force them to do what they don’t want to do because they’re unreasonable or selfish. As Shakespeare said, “the first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers”; but the reason you need the lawyers is because a substantial proportion of the population are unreasonable and selfish. Reasonable, rational people can work things out between themselves and are open to reasonable discussions; selfish, unprincipled people need to be dealt with using pressure and force. And that’s why we need to defeat Russia on the battlefield, using the monumental power of NATO troops with America at her helm, because there’s no point trying to agree anything with unprincipled Russia; all you can do is fight them to a halt and only then will they respect you.

In another rather more sad incident last night, the Russian-speaking chap from the East showed up in Mano’s Bar again with his crazy plan to walk into Romania through the forests. He looked quite Godforsaken and I noticed for the first time that he was emaciated. He came to thank me for my advice the other evening and I gave me a chocolate bar as a gift. I accepted it but then I realised after eating it that in all possibility he had stolen it from a shop. He asked me whether I could wash his clothes in my apartment, because he doesn’t have any money for washing powder. I sadly refused; this is one of those tragic situations where you can’t let people into the privacy of your home because you fear they might steal from you. It’s all so terribly sad. I saw him wonder off outside into the snow and ice, without a clue in the world what to do. He’ll never make it to Romania. I fear he’ll just die in the street, without food or water or a roof over his head.


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