Gregory Hood, American Renaissance, December 10, 2022
Arms dealer Viktor Bout inspired the 2005 film Lord of War. In that movie, a federal agent fanatically pursues the fictional arms dealer “Yuri Orlov,” (Nicholas Cage). In prison, the criminal confidently tells the agent who caught him that he will be released. Orlov is useful. He arms people the US government can’t afford to be seen supporting. He claims that the man at the top of his industry is the President. We are to believe that the top arms dealers in the world are the five permanent members of the UN Security Council.
This week’s events turned that on its head. The Biden Administration traded Viktor Bout, known as the “Merchant of Death,” for black WNBA player Brittney Griner. This may be the first WNBA trade most people have ever heard of.
Brittney Griner is a black lesbian and leftist activist in a league that prides itself on radical politics. She said the national anthem should not be played before games and that it “didn’t even represent all Americans when it was first made.” She refused to be on court while the anthem was played. This was to protest “police brutality.”
In February, Brittney Griner went to Russia. Customs found cannabis oil, which she claimed she packed by mistake. A Russian court sentenced her to nine years in prison.
The Biden Administration negotiated for her release for months, and now Russia got a national security asset back while we got an ingrate. Mr. Bout is almost certainly an agent for Russian intelligence. In 2014, he told The New Yorker that he’d “get back to Russia” while “your empire will collapse.” President Biden fulfilled the first part of his prophecy; we wait for the second.
CNN’s Van Jones, a onetime Obama Administration appointee ousted for his extremist views, praised the trade: “You can’t allow a black female icon to be traded like garbage and the U.S to do nothing about it.” Evidently America exists to make sure the entire world adores our black female icons.
White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, another black lesbian, said Brittney Griner represents “the best of America.” “On a personal note, Brittney is more than an athlete, more than an Olympian,” she said. “She is an important role model and inspiration to millions of Americans, particularly the LGBTQI+ Americans and women of color.” (Miss Jean-Pierre’s wife is CNN anchor Suzanne Malveaux.)
Fox News’s Peter Doocy asked whether giving up Mr. Bout for a “professional athlete” meant Russia got the “better deal.” “Our choices [were] Brittney or no one at all,” sad Mrs. Jean-Pierre. She also reminded Mr. Doocy that Brittney Griner was an American citizen. One wouldn’t expect the Biden Administration to care about that given its record on immigration.
Let us not forget another American citizen. In 2018, a Russian court convicted former-marine Paul Whelan of espionage, and sentenced him to 16 years. Mr. Whelan says he’s innocent and the trial was a “sham.” The American ambassador to Russia under President Trump agrees. “This secret trial in which no evidence was produced is an egregious violation of human rights and international legal norms,” said Ambassador Jake Sullivan in June 2020. Both the Trump and Biden Administrations failed to win Mr. Whelan’s released
“We never forgot about Brittney, and we’ve not forgotten about Paul Whelan, who has been unjustly detrained in Russia for years,” insists President Biden. National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said Mr. Whelan’s case was harder “because of the nature of the sham charges against him, which were based on espionage.” Unfortunately, said Mr. Kirby, “[W]e’re just not able to deal with him the same way.” Why not?
Mr. Whelan disagrees with Brittney Griner about many things. “He gets up every morning and sings the national anthem, I think as much to irritate the guards as to keep his own morale up,” said his brother David Whelan. David also thinks the Marine Corps taught him techniques like this as a survival strategy. Patriotism keeps Mr. Whelan going.
We shouldn’t assume Brittney Griner will now feel any differently about the national anthem. Her story may become another legend about American racism. Despite the Biden Administration’s extraordinary efforts, as an article in truthout tells us, “Journalist Dave Zirin says the sports world was slow to rally to Griner’s cause due to sexism, racism, and homophobia.” “The amount of erasure and deliberate ignoring of Brittney Griner’s case was apparent to anybody who listens to sports radio or watches sports television.”
UCLA and Columbia University law professor Kimberlé Crenshaw has helped courts, legal scholars and social scientists, and law students understand how racism, sexism, poverty, religious discrimination, homophobia, transphobia, and other social forces co-mingle to place Black women at particular vulnerability for the miscarriage of justice in legal processes.
In a separate piece for Forbes, he suggests Mr. Biden had good reason to leave Mr. Whalen behind:
[M]ore than 90% of Black women voted for Biden in the 2020 presidential election. Hence, if there was in fact a choice to make, would it have been entirely wrong of the president to demonstrate loyalty to an often taken-for-granted group who was the most loyal to him?
He has an even more convoluted argument:
But what about those who protected the U.S. through their military service? Shouldn’t they be higher priority than a Black woman who plays on a professional basketball team? These two questions could be met with this important one: What about Black women who bravely serve in the U.S. military, but are systematically denied opportunities for promotion; who aren’t believed when they report their experiences with sexual harassment and sexual assault; who are forced to hide or lie about their sexual orientations if they’re queer; and whose contributions are routinely overshadowed by those of their white male counterparts? Griner hasn’t served in the U.S. military, but perhaps putting her ahead of a man who has is one act of restorative justice on behalf of all those Black women servicemembers who’ve been mistreated over time.
Mrs. Griner never served.
No one is spinning elaborate theories to help Paul Whelan. His brother David says media influence and public sentiment don’t have the same impact in his brother’s case: “Miss Griner can bring her name and her energy to making sure the U.S. government is proactive and being more assertive to resolve these cases quickly, like they did in her case.” He adds generously that the Whelans “do not begrudge Ms. Griner her freedom.”
However, he thinks his brother Paul lost “any hope that a government will negotiate his freedom at this point” and that the federal government has “no concessions the Russian government will take for Paul Whelan.” The US shot its wad for the ball player.
Will Mrs. Griner campaign for Paul Whelan? Will we see protests during WNBA games for Mr. Whelan’s freedom? Will Brittney Griner stand for the anthem simply out of respect for a man who served the country that freed her? Don’t count on it.
Another case virtually identical to Brittney Griner’s is Marc Fogel’s. He faces 14 years for having less than an ounce of medical marijuana. His sister says she’s “disenchanted” with the federal government. His mother is too. “I really thought in my heart that they would lump the three of them together because they’re trading for a dangerous, real criminal,” she said. These three people aren’t criminals. It just doesn’t seem like an even trade to me.”
He’s not just in any jail; the court sentenced him to hard labor. The man is 61 and the reason he had the marijuana was because a doctor prescribed it for “severe spinal pain.” Hard labor for an older man who is already in severe pain could be a death sentence.
The State Department has not even classified him as “wrongfully detained,” a designation the department used to justify pressure for Mrs. Griner’s release. “I will continue to relentlessly advocate for Pittsburgh native Marc Fogel’s release and for the State Department to classify him as wrongfully detained, something they have failed to do since his detainment in August 2021,” said Rep. Guy Reschenthaler (R-PA). Former ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul said that Mr. Fogel, who taught at the American school in Moscow, is “a real patriot.”
Maybe that’s the problem. Our media look down on patriotism. If a foreign country arrested a white conservative on phony charges, right-wing media would talk about it, but it would never become a movement. Whites (liberal or conservative) don’t have the sense of moral outrage non-whites enjoy when they say the government isn’t helping them. White conservatives wouldn’t want to embarrass the country, but a black celebrity accusing the White House and America of racism is a PR disaster that must be fought with all means available.
Some have said Brittney Griner would have been freed earlier if she had been NBA star Lebron James. If that’s true, it means that celebrity is all that counts, but that’s the wrong comparison. What would happen if the White House had freed a patriotic white man instead of a black celebrity? There would probably be riots.
American patriotism means you matter less to “your” own government. A patriot doesn’t ask “what your country can do for you;” he sacrifices for it. Loyalty to a united American identity surpasses racial identities. That’s a political liability because you can’t accuse the government of discrimination. With no “racism” angle, there’s little media attention. Patriots stand for strength, unity, or victory. Our rulers cater to victimhood.
This makes Brittany Griner a custom-made political hero. She had an angry movement backing her. Whom do Marc Fogel and Paul Whelan have on their side? The United States gave Russia a victory in exchange for Brittany Grier. It wouldn’t do the same for two white men.
There are two different kinds of objection to a trade that Russia clearly won. Conservatives are angry because our country has shown weakness to an enemy. Any who is angry that “our” government will sacrifice for blacks but not for whites had better keep quiet.
Maybe this will get some Americans to wonder whether the regime in DC represents “our country” or just occupies it. When Paul Whelan sings the national anthem each morning, he honors his country. The prisoner exchange makes it clear his country, or at least the regime, doesn’t honor white men.