‘U.S. antiwar activists have special responsibility to speak out for Donbass children’

Remarks given at “Children of Donbass Write to the World” event.

Good morning everyone. My name is Greg Butterfield. I represent the International Action Center, and I’m also the parent of two children.

Today, December 10, is International Human Rights Day. We’re here on this frosty morning, outside United Nations headquarters in New York, to stand in solidarity with the children of Donbass. For more than two and a half years, this region has been bombed, invaded and blockaded by the illegitimate government of Ukraine. The people of the region voted overwhelmingly for independence from Ukraine after the U.S.-backed coup there.

Since last spring, youth organizers in the independent Lugansk and Donetsk republics have gathered hundreds of letters from children and teenagers testifying to the ways Ukraine’s brutal war on civilians has affected their lives. These letters will be presented to United Nations representatives in Europe. 

The U.S. corporate media often repeats the fiction that Russia invaded Ukraine. But they purposefully cover up the fact that the U.S.-Ukraine war on Donbass continues to this very day. In fact, last week saw an exponential increase in Ukrainian military attacks on frontline towns and villages, where more than 10,000 violations of the Minsk ceasefire agreement were recorded.

According to a report of the UN’s own High Commissioner on Human Rights, released on Thursday, nearly 10,000 people have been killed and more than 22,000 wounded as a result of the war in Donbass.

Among the dead – as of June 2016 – were at least 101 children, with hundreds more wounded, thousands orphaned, and tens of thousands forced to flee their homes. Many children have been separated from their families for long periods or have gone missing altogether.

As opponents of war in the United States, we have a special responsibility to speak out. The February 2014 coup in Ukraine, which brought to power oligarchs, nationalist demagogues and outright neo-Nazis, received financing and bipartisan political support from Washington.

Through direct aid and international financial bodies, the U.S. has kept this bankrupt regime afloat for nearly three years. The Pentagon and U.S. police agencies train, advise and supply the Ukrainian armed forces, including fascist gangs like the Azov Battalion. The U.S. arranges for mercenaries and heavy weaponry through the NATO military alliance and third countries.

On behalf of Wall Street and Big Oil, Washington is carrying out a war on children all over the world — in Donbass, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Gaza, Afghanistan, Pakistan. And not only in other countries, but here at home – through cutbacks to crumbling schools and housing, through racist police brutality, Islamophobia, the jailing of immigrants and refugee children and families fleeing U.S. military and economic crimes in Central America.

We have no confidence in the president-elect, oligarch Donald Trump, to change things for the better. Trump and his supporters have already declared open war on children and families here in the U.S. who are immigrants, African American, Muslim, lesbian and gay, trans, or poor. In fact, Donald Trump first achieved world fame by persecuting children – the Central Park 5, Black and Brown youths here in New York City who were framed up by the police. Trump called for their executions, and even today, long after they have been exonerated, refuses to acknowledge their innocence. 

Trump speaks belligerently of building a wall on the border with Mexico — just like the coup regime in Kiev speaks of building a wall around Donbass. Trump threatens China and Iran, and has stacked his cabinet picks with Pentagon hawks.

We do not believe Trump has any intention of ending the war on children in Donbass, or Syria, or anywhere else. On the contrary, we must step up the struggle against war, racism and repression in anticipation of new wars of aggression. We remember that 8 years ago, Barack Obama campaigned as an anti-war candidate. But war, division and exploitation are built into the U.S. system of imperialism, no matter who sits in the White House. The only thing that can stop war in the power of the people and international solidarity.

We urge everyone to join us in building a powerful campaign against war and racism, starting with the mass protests to resist and disrupt the inauguration of bigoted oligarch Donald Trump on January 20, 2017 in Washington, DC. We have flyers available here and you can get more information at the website J20resist.org.

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