The history of war and conflict is replete with examples of individual heroism and courage that serve to bring clarity to the momentous stakes involved in the outcome, and how they influence history and the fate of millions of human beings, up to and including generations as yet unborn.
The very nature of conflict dictates that the very best and very worst of humanity is revealed, and that the aims and objectives of either side engaged in a conflict determines whether it is the former or the latter which shines most. For example, does anyone really believe there was no difference between the soldiers of the Waffen SS who died in the brutal occupation of the Soviet Union during the Second World War, and the soldiers of the Red Army who perished in the epic struggle to defeat them? Or how about the countless thousands of Vietnamese who died while resisting the US invasion and occupation of their country in the 1960s and 70s?
When it comes to the conflict in Syria, Aleksandr Prochorenko will forever symbolize the courage of those who stood in defiance of the most barbaric and inhuman ideology the world has seen since the aforementioned Waffen SS were rampaging across the Soviet Union, murdering and slaughtering every living thing in their path in service to fascism.
The 25-year-old Russian was killed while on special operations in occupied Palmyra. In advance of the city’s liberation by the Syrian Arab Army and its allies on the ground, his role was to identify and pass on the coordinates of ISIS targets in the city for airstrikes. Consequently, his mission could not have been more dangerous. This was proved when his location was uncovered by ISIS terrorists and they began closing in on him. Realizing what was happening, and rather than allow himself to be captured, Aleksandr called in an airstrike on himself.
It is impossible to write about this young man and his courage without experiencing a massive sense of inadequacy. His death, the manner of it, is a sharp reminder that this is a brutal conflict being fought and won by young men determined to prevail no matter the odds. Their ability to do so, despite the horror and hardship, is due to the knowledge that they are fighting in the cause of humanity. It is a cause which Aleksandr Prochorenko shared with every other Russian servicemen on duty in Syria – along with the thousands of Syrian, Lebanese, Iranians, and Kurdish soldiers and volunteers. Despite seeing comrades, friends and family members killed and butchered over the past five years, they continue to fight and to risk all.
Compounding the enormity of Prochorenko’s courage are the revelations provided by former US Marine combat veteran, Gordon Duff, in a recent article. Comparing the effectiveness of Russia’s air campaign in Syria to its US counterpart, Duff writes: “What we saw in Syria was Russia set up a forward command in days at a small airstrip, move in 4 dozen aircraft, invite media to watch the whole thing, and begin combat operations with an air force that hadn’t flown against an enemy in over 25 years.”
He goes on: “We watched planes that cost nothing wipe out targets America had missed or overlooked or that, according to American pilots, they weren’t allowed to hit. American pilots can bomb, they have the experience, they have the equipment but for some reason, at least to each other and those they trust, they will tell you, against ISIS it has always been “hands off.”
“Not so for Russia.
“For day after day, Russian pilots hit command posts, training camps, wiped out convoys Americans claimed it didn’t see, ammunition storage and eventually the thousands and thousands of oil trucks American pilots had been begging to attack for months.”
Most tellingly, Duff informs us: “What isn’t reported is that the real Americans who fight wars admire their Russian counterparts and what they have done. American pilots wish they had been given the hot targets Russia destroyed instead of being forced to drop payloads of bombs on abandoned villages north of the Jordanian border as a Russian command report outlined in November 2015.
When I think of what makes American pilots angry, I think of Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina. Graham and his close friend, John McCain are good friends of “moderate Syrian rebels” which, just by accident, seems to include both ISIS and al Nusra.”
In just the few short months of Russia’s intervention in the Syrian conflict, which, it should never be forgotten, was embarked upon at huge risk given the number of countries involved, whether directly or indirectly, and the logistics and planning required, the world has been witness to the hypocrisy and double-dealing of Western governments and their allies in the region.
In this regard, Aleksandr Prochorenko gives lie to the myth that Russia’s part in the conflict has been a negative one. On the contrary, this young Russian serviceman joins the ranks of those whose very names are a testament to the power of the human spirit in defiance of injustice and tyranny.