Don’t Be a Useful Idiot

As Russia began its violent invasion of Ukraine, this image started making the rounds on Facebook. It’s a hit with the MAGA crowd. We need a hero, you see. Ukraine needs a hero. A strong, powerful leader who would stand up to Putin and put a stop to his aggression.

“If only Trump were still in office,” they say, “this wouldn’t be happening.” (Probably because Trump himself says this wouldn’t be happening if he were still in office. When asked what has gone wrong in Ukraine, he said, “What went wrong was a rigged election.”)

They say this of the man who took Vladimir Putin’s word over the unanimous conclusion of the entire US intelligence community. The man who stood next to Putin in front of the world and took his side against our own intelligence agencies. The man who didn’t make a peep at that conference about Putin’s annexation of Crimea.

They say this of the man who invited the Taliban to Camp David. He is their ideal leader who is tough on autocratic rulers. They say this of the man who abandoned our Kurdish allies, allowing captured ISIS fighters to escape, and driving our former allies directly into the arms of the Russians. He is the brilliant strategist who would outsmart Russia’s ex-KGB president.

In 2020, during Trump’s tenure as president, the US government suffered possibly the worst cyberattack in our history, at the hands of Russia. What, you don’t remember that? Well, it’s understandable. Our president said next to nothing about it, except to deflect blame from Russia and say, without evidence, that maybe China was behind it—once again ignoring American intelligence to defend Vladimir Putin.

I’m sure Ukraine’s President Zelensky wishes he still had an ally in the White House who tried to extort him by withholding Congressionally approved aid that his country desperately needed to defend themselves against Russia.

Maybe the most absurd thing about this notion of Trump as savior is the man’s actual response to Putin invading the sovereign nation of Ukraine. He once again heaped praise on Russia’s autocratic ruler, calling him “genius,” and saying of Putin’s justifications for the attack, “Oh, that’s wonderful,” and, “You gotta say that’s pretty savvy.”

“But Putin didn’t invade Ukraine while Trump was in office!” I’ve heard. And for all his hero-worship of Putin, Trump always was a wild card. Maybe there’s something to that argument.

Or, maybe Putin’s dearest wish is for the weakening and eventual dissolution of NATO. And from 2016-2020, he was able to sit back and enjoy the show as the President of the United States did his dirty work for him.

Back in 2016, Putin’s troll farm flooded Facebook and Twitter with propaganda intended to sow discord in America, instill doubt in our institutions, and try to get Donald Trump elected. I don’t think he had any idea how successful he’d be. Five years later, we are as divided as we’ve ever been, and millions of Americans believe the election was rigged. Putin’s preferred candidate proved he’d rather tear the country apart than face up to the fact that he lost.

And now the most popular talking head on America’s most-watched cable news network is spouting such pro-Russia, pro-Putin rhetoric that he’s being featured on the Kremlin-backed news propaganda channel, RT.

During the Cold War, we had a term for people who were easily manipulated by the Soviets, who were susceptible to communist propaganda. Who could be persuaded to blame America and argue amongst themselves instead of focusing on the real enemy. “Useful idiots.” (It’s popularly believed that Lenin coined the term, but there’s no evidence of this.)

Now is not the time—especially for our elected representatives—to be pointing fingers at the president or each other. Now is not the time to absurdly claim, contrary to all evidence, that the former president would be doing a better job. Do I wish Biden were projecting more strength? Yes, definitely. Do I wish he hadn’t utterly failed in our withdrawal from Afghanistan? Absolutely. Do I wish the US were still a respected, decisive leader on the world stage? Badly.

But Biden is not the enemy. There is war on European soil today. Ukrainians are dying in defense of their country right now. Pax Americana is unraveling before our eyes. Our enemy is not the President of the United States. It isn’t Justin Trudeau. It’s the man who poisons his political opponents, who has doctors thrown out of windows, who imprisons dissidents, and who is waging an illegal, unprovoked war on a sovereign nation who gave up their nuclear weapons in return for the promise that the US and Russia would guarantee their safety.

Encourage your Congressmen to stand with Ukraine. Tell them you expect America to stand with democracy and against tyrants.

Don’t be like Tucker Carlson. Don’t be a useful idiot.

* * * * *

If you need more inspiration to support Ukraine, see these examples of heroism.

An 80-year-old man showed up to enlist and defend Ukraine. He says he did it for his grandkids.

This Ukrainian woman offers sunflower seeds (Ukraine’s national flower) to an armed Russian soldier, urging him to put them in his pocket so “at least sunflowers will grow” when he is killed.

And here, in a story of courage for the ages, 13 Ukrainian border guards were holding tiny Snake Island in the Black Sea. A Russian battleship ordered them to lay down their weapons. Their last transmission, before all 13 were killed: “Russian warship, go f*** yourself.”

3 thoughts on “Don’t Be a Useful Idiot

  1. So excited for another wilderness dispatch! Thank you for continuing to write these Jaclyn! I love your perspective!

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