Posted tagged ‘Secretary of State’

Primary Them

February 1, 2017

Today, the Senate voted on whether or not to confirm Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State. Senator Mark Warner (D – VA), Senator Heidi Heitkamp (D – ND), Senator Joe Manchin, III (D – WV), and Senator Angus King (I – ME) all voted in favor of Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State. This post is why I want them all to be “primaried,” with no exceptions. Get them out of the Senate.

From 2006 – 2008, I served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Ukraine. For the first three months, I trained in the town of Rokytne (Rok – it – ney), just outside of Kyiv (Ukrainian spelling here, folks). It was a wonderful place. But my heart lies in the town of Vysokopillya (Vee – so – ko – pill -yah) in the Khersonska Oblast’. Vysokopillya is where I spent the majority of my two years serving as a Youth Development Volunteer. When people as what a YD Volunteer does, I joke and say I was an over-glorified teacher. But it was more than that. After school, I ran a basketball club at my assigned school. I helped facilitate (at least for a time before the town government lost interest, which made me lose interest) a peer-led HIV/AIDS education group. I helped a little bit with the camping group, but was mostly along there to hang out with my Ukrainian friends who were the real facilitators.

But I can tell you what I did best of all while I was there: I made friends. If you know me, this should come as no surprise. But that is a rare feat for Peace Corps Volunteers, particularly when there is a language barrier. However, I was fortunate enough to find a group of people my age in my town who took me in as one of their own. Dennis, Yana, Sasha, Tanya, Ruslan, and many others. We bonded quickly and hung out a lot.

Along with my friends, there is my host family. Vova, Ira, Sasha, and Misha. My host family quickly became my second family. They sheltered me for the first three months I was in Vysokopillya and were always ready to support me whenever I needed it. When my mom, stepdad, and two sisters came over to visit, my host family embraced them and loved the hell out of them. It was a magical evening for me, having these families together. The homemade vodka (samohon) from Vova helped, of course.

With these people, I laughed, I cried, I hiked in then-Ukrainian-owned Crimea, I rode on trains, and I made friends and family for lives.

And the vote for Rex Tillerson put the lives of all of these people in immediate danger. Right now, as we talk, Russian-backed forces are shelling the Ukrainian town of Adviidka. This town is in the Donyetsk Oblast’, in the Eastern area of Ukraine. And, if you look at a map, between Vysokopillya and Adviidka, you might think, “Hey, that’s far!” Until you remembered that Ukraine is only about the size of Texas. And the distance between Avdiivka and Vysokopillya is comparable to that between Houston and Dallas. And then, if you take into account that the Khersonska Oblast’ region is immediately north of Crimea, you find it is directly in the line of an all-out Russian invasion.

It’s no secret that Putin wants Ukraine. Likewise, it’s no secret that Tillerson is a friend of Putin. And, Tillerson has said he opposes the sanctions that have been put on Russia in the past few years. For my friends and adopted family in Ukraine, this makes for a very dangerous set of circumstances.

And, I said it: none of these things were secret. Yet Warner, Heitkamp, Manchin, and King voted in favor of Tillerson. Now, I don’t pretend to think they have the same vested interest in Ukraine as I do. But, should they not have a vested interest in national and international security? Ukraine is the one of the last significant borders between Russia and Europe. If Ukraine falls, Russia has a significant launching point into the rest of the former Soviet states in the region. Belarus is already controlled by the dictator and Putin-puppet Lukashenko (though those relations might be cooling). And if we give Ukraine to Russia, which loosening of sanctions very well might do, Russia will have direct access to NATO members Bulgaria, Romania, and Poland. Significant parts of Europe will be primed to fall. Combine that with this administration’s disdain of NATO, and we have some serious concerns for national and international security.

So primary them. Get significant competitors in. We should not and cannot have Senators who would look at the facts of a Tillerson-as-Secretary of State and say, “I’ll give that a ‘Yes’ vote.” At best, Tillerson is a businessman who has little understanding of international affairs. He has spent a significant amount of his career bending and twisting the law to get his way. At worst, Secretary of State will be the fall of Europe as we know it. Whichever happens, it should be Warner, Heitkamp, Manchin, and King who take the blame.

Advertisements