For as long as I have been alive – 71 years so far – the touchstone for ‘evil’ has been Adolph Hitler. He has been the default reference point for the very worst of human beings. When gauging villainy of any kind, but particularly the murderous variety, Hitler was always the comparator. To say that something or someone is ‘worse than Hitler’ was to resort to hyperbole in an effort to describe something really bad. Crimes of great heinousness could be rendered almost socially acceptable by deploying a comparison with Hitler. The worst of totalitarian dictators could always adorn their CVs with the words ‘not as bad as Hitler’. Wee Adolph was the ultimate bad bastard. Those days may be over.
Fuhrer fans (there are more than you’d like to suppose) are in for a bit of good news. Those who pine for the days when the trains ran on time even if you couldn’t get on one because they were filled with Jews, Slavs, Gypsies and other ‘sub-humans’ headed for the countryside and nice breath of Zyklon B, may have cause to celebrate. The ugly face of Fascism is about to get a makeover. At last! It’s Springtime for Hitler!
After nearly ninety years, Adolph Hitler looks set to be toppled from the top spot in the bad-guy charts by some Russian upstart who wouldn’t know what a real genocide was supposing it dared to dream about biting his buns of steel. Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin is the new numero uno. His latest venture – provisionally titled I Invaded Ukraine And All I Got Is This Reputation As A Mad Bastard – looks like the kind of thing that might hog the number one slot longer than Wet Wet Wet. As imperialist military adventures go, the Russian invasion of Ukraine looks utterly insane. Hitler did lots of insane stuff. But mostly after he went insane. Putin has shown no signs of insanity. Or at least, no more than any other world leader. They tend to be quirky types. If he’s launched this war whilst being of sound mind, he must be aff his heid.
There’s no way to say this without it being taken the wrong way, but Hitler had his reasons. He had something to gain from his military aggression. From his perspective, invading Poland, Belgium, Netherlands etc. all made perfect sense. The Eastern Front not so much. But you take my point. Without being any kind of apologist for him, it is possible to allow that Hitler’s actions made some kind of sense. Putin’s make no sense at all. It makes no sense even from Russia’s national perspective. It makes no sense even from his own personal perspective. There is no win here. There is no outcome that can be presented as benefitting either Russia or Putin. It is ‘anti-sense’. Not only does it lack any internal logic, it actually sucks the sense out of everything it touches, like a thermobaric bomb sucking the air out of a child’s lungs. If this blog post ends up making no sense, that’s my excuse. It has come in contact with Putin’s anti-sense. It didn’t stand a chance. Just like that child suffocating in the blast zone of a vacuum bomb.
Come to think of it, those thermobaric devices work well as a metaphor for this whole episode. Made by monsters for monsters, these weapons are truly monstrous. They turn the very air that we breathe into a toxic, flammable fog – then set it alight. You may have seen a demonstration of what happens when you sieve flour in close proximity to a naked flame – say, a lighted ring on a gas cooker. When the cloud of flour particles suspended in the air meets the heat source, the entire cloud ignites in an instant. DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME!
Now, imagine that gas ring is the size of one of the statues in Freedom Square (George Square) in Glasgow and the cloud of flour is instead a mist of a gasoline-like substance big enough to cover the square. The blast area would be huge. Everyone in Freedom Square would be vaporised. And they’d be the lucky ones. When detonated, the device sucks the oxygen out of the surrounding air to feed the voracious fire. Everybody inside Queen Street Station would suffocate. A similar fate would befall people walking on any of the surrounding streets.
Delivered by rocket or artillery, three or four of these devices could completely destroy central Glasgow. That’s what they are for. Whoever uses such instruments does so from a desire to kill as many people as possible and destroy the entire built environment over a large swathe of any city. There are reliable reports of Putin’s forces using thermobaric bombs against the people of Ukraine’s main cities. There is no forgiveness for such a crime. Not ever.
There is no way back now for Putin. He is the new Hitler. The epitome of callous, malevolent immorality. He makes Pol Pot and Saddam Hussein look like good choices for childminders. He has nothing to lose. And that is the scariest thing of all. Even knowing that there is no win here, if Putin believes that all he stood to lose has already been lost then he has nothing to gain from being reasonable. If he was mad enough to launch this war in the first place then he is probably mad enough to think that the best outcome for him is the complete destruction and subjugation of Ukraine. He could hardly be despised any more. And he might even win over some of those Fuhrer fans. If you can’t be famous for your humanity, the next best thing is to be infamous for your brutality.
This is not to suggest that we should give up hope for Ukraine. It means only that finding a way to restore peace is horrendously difficult. Putin must be convinced that he does, in fact, have something of value to lose if he continues. Or people close to him might be persuaded that there’s something more that can be taken from them if Putin is not taken out of the equation. At the same time, Putin himself must be persuaded that there is something to be gained from desisting. Bearing in mind that Ukraine will settle for nothing less than total withdrawal and massive reparations, what ‘compromise’ can be offered that won’t be branded appeasement?
Nato can’t even impose a no-fly zone over Ukraine because to do so would risk direct confrontation with Russian forces. Given that confronting Russian forces is Nato’s entire job description, what is the point of the alliance?
The truth is that only Putin will decide how this proceeds and how it ends. Putin or his successor. Ken whit ah mean?
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