May 1, 2017 at 2:05 pm PDT | by Kevin Naff
U.S. complicit in Chechnya horrors

The city of Grozny in the Russian republic of Chechnya. Authorities have sent gay men in the semi-autonomous Russian republic to secret prisons that have been described as “concentration camps.
(Photo by Alexxx1979; courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

Listening to President Trump deliver remarks on Holocaust Remembrance Day last week proved yet another galling exercise in surreal hypocrisy. 

The same president who tapped Stephen Bannon to serve as his top adviser had the nerve to criticize Holocaust deniers, adding “we must never, ever shrink away from telling the truth in our time.”

And so, let’s tell some truth. 

Truth: Bannon established Breitbart News as “the platform for the alt-right,” as he boasted last summer. While clever enough not to openly espouse anti-Semitic views himself, he deliberately cultivated Breitbart as the go-to place for expressing misogynistic, white supremacist and anti-Semitic views. Former KKK Grand Wizard David Duke praised Bannon’s White House appointment, which alone should tell you all you need to know about this dangerous figure. Alt-right lunatics are now ensconced in the White House, including among the press corps. Two fake journalists recently flashed “white power” signs inside the White House press briefing room and shamelessly posted the photos to social media. As first reported by the Independent, “Freelance journalist Mike Cernovich and Cassandra Fairbanks, a reporter for Russian news outlet Sputnik, posed for a picture behind the podium in the White House briefing room. In the photo, they are making a hand sign that can be used to signify ‘white power.’” 

Truth: According to a report from the Anti-Defamation League, anti-Semitic attacks increased by 86 percent in the first quarter of 2017. Between January and March, the ADL reports there were 541 anti-Semitic incidents in the country compared to 281 during the same period last year. Trump’s gullible supporters — who are not influenced or constrained by facts, logic or reason — will dismiss those numbers as a coincidence. But for those of us with more than three functioning brain cells, it’s obvious that America’s deplorables have heard the dog whistles emanating from this White House and are acting accordingly. The bigots are unleashed and validated after being forced to endure an America led by a black man for eight years, their worst nightmare. 

Truth: Speaking of dog whistles, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer told reporters recently that Adolf Hitler never used chemical weapons against his own people and referred to concentration camps and gas chambers as “Holocaust centers.”

Truth: As Trump belatedly and hypocritically condemned anti-Semitism — after empowering bigots and ignoring attacks on Jewish community centers and cemeteries — gay men are being rounded up, tortured and killed in secret prisons in Chechnya. Holocaust Remembrance Day sounds like an opportune time to condemn those prisons, which have been widely described in the media as “concentration camps.” But Trump didn’t mention Chechnya and hasn’t denounced the government’s actions to cleanse the country of gays. Hillary Clinton lambasted Trump over his silence on Chechnya. The State Department, which remains woefully understaffed such that it hasn’t been holding press briefings, is silent. Only Nikki Haley at the U.N. could be coaxed into denouncing Chechnya.

Why is that? Well, Chechnya is controlled by Vladimir Putin, whose own campaign against Russian gays is well known and documented. Trump’s ongoing love affair with Putin (or is our president being blackmailed by the Russian murderer?) precludes him from speaking out. 

And so, amid cries of “never forget,” we do just that in Chechnya, turning away from the well-documented horrors being committed there against gay men. America’s pledge to respect the lessons of the Holocaust is now a hollow sham, a photo op that offers the appearance of caring while masking our government’s complicity in atrocity. 

Kevin Naff is the editor and a co-owner of the Washington Blade, the nation’s oldest and most acclaimed LGBT news publication, founded in 1969.

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