We are not naive enough to believe the institutional Left has a sense of shame, but among average, nonprofessional liberals, you'd think that the discovery of an actual living, breathing Nazi in Ukraine's ranks might have caused some cognitive dissonance for people who, until recently, imagined themselves as Marvel's Captain America punching out Adolf Hitler. In Canada, at least, that may be the case, seeing as people are now asking if maybe there shouldn't be a monument to Hunka's SS unit on Canadian soil, since the SS were, you know, in charge of the Holocaust. And if those questions keep up, maybe they'll also get around to asking just why Russia proclaimed that its mission in the invasion was to "denazify" Ukraine in the first place. Or why Ukraine's most mentally ill former spokespeople call entire races "natural slaves," or call for the execution of critics when they think no one's listening. Or why homegrown Nazi domestic terrorists try to run off to join Ukraine's infamous Azov Battalion.
All of which is to say that panic has clearly set in among the liberal foreign policy establishment, who are now desperately trying to stuff this narrative violation under the rug. Given this panic and disorientation, it was only a matter of time before some self-proclaimed "expert" tried to wave the whole thing away with an explanation that was not merely absurd, but morally grotesque, as well.
Enter British writer Keir Giles, of the Conflict Studies Research Centre. Writing at Politico, Giles offers a take which we can only describe as the equivalent of trying to douse a fire after one has mistaken gasoline for water. What was that take? We honestly can't improve on the ghoulish absurdity of Giles' willingly chosen headline: "Fighting against the USSR didn't necessarily make you a Nazi." Yes, he really wrote that, and Politico actually ran it.
And that's not all. Amidst the fetid swamp of casuistry, sophistry, and denial of literal historical atrocities (we'll get back to that) that is Giles' argument, you find this gem: "Fighting against the USSR at the time didn’t necessarily make you a Nazi, just someone who had an excruciating choice over which of these two terror regimes to resist." In other words, being a literal SS officer was fine, so long as you only joined them because you thought the commies were worse.
Not to fall into the "simple" narratives that Giles is so desperate to avoid, but by this standard, Adolf Hitler himself could arguably be let off the hook for his original attraction to fascism. After all, anyone unfortunate enough to have read Mein Kampf will know that Hitler started off as an anticommunist, who became a raging antisemite when he reached the (incorrect) conclusion that communism was somehow an extension of Judaism. Shall we now excuse Hitler for his atrocities, because at least he had the good taste to invade the evil Russians, which is apparently a moral good, because we've always been at war with Eastasia?
Actually, given the rest of Giles' piece, we're not sure we want him to answer that. Which brings us to that whole "denial of atrocities" thing. For example, Giles writes, "repeated exhaustive investigations — including by not only the Nuremberg trials but also the British, Canadian and even Soviet authorities — led to the conclusion that no war crimes or atrocities had been committed by [Hunka's] particular unit."
Someone tell that to Heinrich Himmler, who personally praised Hunka's unit, the SS Galichina unit, for their "willingness to slaughter Poles." Someone tell the between 500 and 1,000 Polish civilians murdered in the Huta Pieniacka massacre, with the assistance of SS Galichina. Someone tell the Jewish organizations that are still fighting to get monuments to SS Galichina removed not only in Canada, but here in the US.
But ah, no, you see, Giles has an answer to that last point: namely attacking Simon Wiesenthal, one of the most famous Holocaust survivors and Nazi hunters to ever live. "In fact," Giles writes, "during previous investigations of [Hunka's unit] carried out by a Canadian Commission of Inquiry, Simon Wiesenthal himself was found to have made broad accusations that were found to be 'nearly totally useless' and 'put the Canadian government to a considerable amount of purposeless work.'" Yes, that silly old Nazi hunter! Such a kidder. How long, we wonder, before some enterprising liberal hawk decides to just out and out embrace Holocaust denial?
...Okay, except for Whoopi Goldberg.
Ironically, in making this vile and morally obtuse argument, Giles is actually falling prey to a similar tendency that he actually correctly calls out. "Russia feels comfortable shouting about 'Nazis,' real or imaginary, in Ukraine or elsewhere, because unlike Nazi Germany, leaders and soldiers of the Soviet Union were never put on trial for their war crimes," Hunka writes. "Russia clings to the Nuremberg trials as a benchmark of legitimacy because as a victorious power, it was never subjected to the same reckoning." In short, because the Nuremberg trials were carried out by the victorious Allies, Stalin's own bloodthirst got a free pass.
Which, ironically, is exactly the treatment that Giles himself is now trying to extend to Ukraine. Only this time, instead of communist butchers, it's Nazi butchers who get to reap the benefits of not only excuses for their past crimes, but willful ignorance of their present-day behavior. Not because they actually are less evil, but simply because Giles and his fellow members of the foreign policy blob are determined to protect anyone who they see as aiding their post-Cold War grudge match against the great Russian enemy. And yes, the key word there is "Russian." Apparently, the liberal establishment also thinks attacks on communism are dirty lies, so long as the communists being attacked are Chinese. Just ask the Washington Post.
William F. Buckley once famously compared liberals to Don Quixote, because both, despite seeing themselves as self-appointed heroic knight errants, were actually just nuisances who tilted at windmills and attacked terrified civilians. But unfortunately, if Giles' article is any guide, even Buckley's description was too kind. Don Quixote, after all, at least tried to follow the code of chivalry, whereas today's liberals see themselves as the fons et origo of morality. "We are the good guys, and therefore what we say is good, is good, and what we say is bad, is bad." It's less a moral vision than the elevation of main character syndrome to the status of mass psychosis.
And like all political mass psychosis, including both Nazis and communism, it can only be undone once the world finally glimpses its pure, shrieking irrationality. We could not have asked for a better example of that irrationality than Keir Giles' article, because with it, the entire fake Leftist moral infrastructure comes crashing down. It's easy to sell people on the notion that a rival political party are Nazis, and we should punch Nazis. It's much harder to make anyone swallow the notion that all Republicans are Nazis, and we should punch Nazis...unless they're actual Nazis. Who may be patriots if they're fighting communists. Unless the communists are Chinese.
...or, for that matter, unless they're American. Like the people who came up with this nonsense to begin with.