Those who care to take one look through the press in the United States of America these days will find what has culminated in a feverish, hysterical, McCarthyist, witch-hunt mentality, mirroring a people and a regime living on cloud 9, where a rosy microcosm of self-righteousness defies all notions of logic. Among the hype are stabs at Russia, not in its back, but so venomous they go for the jugular.
One such example is provided by the Washington Post, where the columnist Anne Applebaum presented a diatribe called “Skip St. Petersburg, Mr. Bush”, published on March 8th. This poor attempt at political propaganda, demonstrating a total lack of respect for Russia by this renowned publication and wholesale ignorance by its author, uses the forthcoming G8 meeting in St. Petersburg to attack President Putin and his policies.
In a free press, journalists should be, and are, given the space to write the truth and if this truth goes against the policy of a government, so be it. This is called freedom of expression and this is respected in all civilised countries, which includes Russia more than many imagine. What it does not provide is freedom for a politically-motivated piece of bullshit to ram false notions down the throats of its gullible readers, already infected with a chronic dose of Bushitis – a disease which can create acute delusions of false reality, compulsive lying, political hallunications and can drive those who suffer to acts of unspeakable cruelty, as witnessed in Washington’s recent foreign policy.
For Anne Applebaum and the Washington Post, the G8 started out as being merely an old boys’ club where leaders discussed economic and political issues off the record. As time went on, she claims, “as it came to mean less and less to Americans, it meant more and more to others”, then we have a paragraph deriding the rest of the world as “The Europeans”, “African, Latin American and Middle Eastern leaders” (talk about sweeping statements) and that shambling wreck Boris Yeltsin, who joined “on muddled grounds”. Today, apparently, the G8 has “acquired ludicrous levels of significance and symbolism”.
One hopes that the people and the regime of the United States of America do not feel this way for two reasons. First, because Russia respects her obligations under international law, respects the UN Charter, the Geneva Conventions and favours using the UNSC as the forum for debate, dialogue and discussion – is short, a multilateral approach to crisis management as per all norms of international diplomacy in the year 2006, not 1450.
Secondly, because the international community today favours respect for these basic principles of democracy, which are precisely this multilateralism and respect for the law, while the Bush regime prefers a unilateral approach, based upon the corporate interests of the clique of elitists who have gravitated towards the helm of their country, dictating policy which is translated into bullying, blackmail and belligerance. The result is tens of thousands of murders in illegal wars, shocking acts which belong to the annals of medieval torture chambers and wholesale disrespect for the international community.
But the Washington Post’s article has not even left the churchyard on its procession of arrogance, bullishness and pig-headedness which so ably characterises the Bush regime and the Satanic Bible-bashing bigots who support it.
“By going to St. Petersburg,” it claims, “President Bush (and others) will in effect place their stamp of approval on the removal of political rights, the harassment of independent groups, the nationalization of energy and the censorship of the media that Putin has imposed on his country".
Then more fuel for the fire, “After Bush goes home, the denizens of the Kremlin...will sit back, laugh and agree that the leaders of the so-called West merely pay lip service to the ideals of freedom and democracy”.
A provocation such as this, however ill-informed and however ridiculous, gets the answer it deserves. We may start with the freedom and democracy which this –journalist (?) – defends. Would this be the freedom and democracy which saw the act of butchery in Iraq, based on lies, breaching international law, in which a hundred thousand civilians were murdered? Would this be the freedom and democracy which targeted civilian infrastructures with military hardware? Would this be the freedom and democracy meted out by the Great American Heroine, Lynndie England in her depraved, perverted acts of sexual debauchery? Would this be the freedom and democracy which has sent Iraqi society back three centuries in three years, imposing a regime which allows women to be beaten up for “misbehaving”? Anne Applebaum would do well to inform herself before making such ludicrous statements and she might learn that three times more Russians consider that today they have more democratic living conditions than under Yeltsin.
As for the rest, it is fitting to point out that the activities of journalism and publishing bring with them the responsibility to respect their respective deontological norms. Among these is telling the truth.
This section in the Washington Post article is a tissue of lies from beginning to end, it is an insult to this newspaper’s readers, it is an insult to President Putin’s Russia and it is an insult to journalism and journalists the world over.
The Washington Post speaks about “the removal of political rights”. Yet if the editors of this newspaper or their columnist had bothered to read through the legislation on NGOs and inform their readership correctly, they would have learnt that recent laws passed in the DUMA in December actually clarify the State’s obligations towards these organizations, removing the right of officials to close them at will and referring all related matters to the independent courts.
State interventionism is limited, not extended.
The Washington Post speaks of “the harassment of independent groups”. We have all read the words “independent”, “separatist”, “freedom fighters” and the like when the West speaks of its darlings, the Chechen terrorists, funded and equipped by Al Qaeda. Does the Washington Post say that the Bush regime “harasses” bin Laden?
If the Washington Post had a modicum of respect for its readers, it would report the facts: a democratic government in Chechnya elected by an overwhelming majority of over 90% of the electorate favouring integration in the Russian Federation and not independence, in a Constitution approved by referendum which reiterates the commitment to the Federation. In 2005, over 7.000 terrorists laid down their arms in return for an amnesty, terrorist attacks fell by 400% and Russian casualties fell from almost 1.400 in 2000 to twenty-eight while a quarter of a million Chechen refugees have returned home.
The Washington Post refers to “the censorship of the media”. Well let those who write for the Russian media tell the truth about that and here it comes, straight from the shoulder, right between the eyes: as a journalist for a Russian internet paper and collaborator with the Russian Foreign Affairs Ministry in several initiatives, I was careful to research precisely this area before I began my work. The answer I received from the Ministry and from the Kremlin itself was that there are no “guidelines” other than writing the truth and not giving away state secrets.
Any restrictions on media are there to curb irresponsible reporting which distorts facts (material such as we find in the Washington Post) or which provides terrorists with the information that are unable to find by themselves. The restrictions are there to protect, not to attack, as in any other country.
When we speak about Russia’s energy we must acknowledge the fundamental principle that Russia’s resources belong to Russians and it is for the Russian government to decide how to use them, what to do with them, where and when to supply them and what criteria it understands to adopt in pricing them. It is nothing to do with the USA, it is nothing to do with Washington and it is nothing to do with the Washington Post.
Finally, whether or not President Bush decides to attend the meeting is his choice to make. If he goes, he will be well received and shown that second-to-none, great Russian hospitality. If he decided not to go, then it will be one security headache less, because his policies are so popular that he needs ten thousand bodyguards to protect him wherever he dares to step off an aircraft. No, nobody will laugh if he goes because Russians do not find mass murder, lies and torture funny.
In short, comparing the international relations of Russia and the United States of America these days is like comparing God with the Devil.
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