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Alexander J. Motyl
Yanukovych: The Man Who Would Be King

Viktor Yanukovych owes African Americans an apology.

Not for permitting his Regionnaire pals to devastate Ukraine. For that he should apologize to his own people, who elected him to improve the country and not destroy it.

No, Yanukovych owes African Americans an apology for comparing himself to Martin Luther King Jr. He does that in the concluding chapter of his recently published English-language book, Opportunity Ukraine. The chapter, titled “I Have a Dream,” consists of numerous paragraphs that begin with those very words to express the Ukrainian president’s vision of Ukraine.

The choice is not accidental. As Yanukovych writes on page 288:

“I Have a Dream” was the name of a famous speech by Martin Luther King, the great American advocate of civil rights and a Nobel Peace Prize winner. I too have a dream: a strong and prosperous Ukraine. And I am going to talk about this dream of mine below. I will tell you about the dream that will, without a hint of doubt, certainly come true.

In other words, Yanukovych thinks of himself as the Ukrainian Martin Luther King.

That takes chutzpah, gall, cynicism, and ignorance.

After all, Martin Luther King and Viktor Yanukovych couldn’t be more different. King was a deeply devout man who was unconditionally committed to justice and human rights for all human beings—for blacks and for whites. King confronted prejudice and was willing to sacrifice his life for the good of humanity. King abjured power and wealth because he knew that they interfered in his quest for the good. King stood for love, not for hate.

King would never have rolled back democracy, violated human and civil rights, amassed virtually limitless power, privileged the secret police, consorted with criminal elements, appropriated an enormous estate, surrounded himself with luxury, ignored the misery of the population, promoted ethnic chauvinism, and divided the people.

King would never have abused religion. He would never have falsified elections. He would never have twisted the courts. He would never have regarded the people as chattel. He would never have discriminated against any language or culture. He would never have jailed his political opponents. He would never have aspired to be president for life.

Shame on you, Mister President, for suggesting that you and Martin Luther King have anything in common.

What’s next? A Sermon on the Mount—delivered from your helicopter?

It’s time, Mister President, to examine your conscience and take a deep look at yourself and your friends.

If you truly want to follow in Martin Luther King’s footsteps, start by apologizing to African Americans for insulting his memory. Then beg your own people to forgive you. I doubt that they will. Having been systematically pillaged and exploited by your friends, they may be rather more inclined to curse the day you seized power. Finally, tell the thugs who serve you to don sackcloth and ashes.

If Canossa isn’t where you want to go, then permit me, respectfully, to propose another destination: Porte au Prince—and a more appropriate role model: Papa Doc Duvalier. He ruled Haiti with an iron fist, let the Tontons Macoutes run roughshod over his critics, presided over Haiti’s decay, and left the Haitians with a corrupt heir—Baby Doc.

With two Baby Docs in tow, you and your sons can aspire to misrule Ukraine even longer than the Duvaliers. But at least be honest about it.

Let Ukrainians know that your dream is their nightmare.

Alexander J. Motyl's blog

Nov 22, 2011