Sunday, May 20, 2007

Yeltsin's lessons for America

My friend George Mellinger of Veteran-American Voices sent me this link:

People who think the Bush years have usurped freedoms and reversed decades of progress “don’t even begin to know what junta really means nor what it feels like to live in a dictatorship.” Part one of a moving first hand account of the death of the Soviet dictatorship, what came after, and what it means to us today in Iraq.

by Oleg Atbashian

...Yeltsin and his supporters resisted the putsch directly. They barricaded themselves inside the Parliament Building. A human wall made of thousands of Muscovites encircled the white multistoried structure to which they jokingly referred as the White House. I regretted I wasn’t in Moscow but it was not possible to get there. The coup leaders had had enough forethought to suspend passenger transportation in and out of the capital. If they hadn’t the human shields would count in hundreds of thousands, standing in the way of the army to protect their new freedoms. But the army was made of people too; some tank units disobeyed orders and joined the protesters.


Today’s anti-Bush rallies in the U.S. demand the very opposite of what the pro-freedom Soviets rallied for. By advocating for the government control of economy, the ideological monopoly of the Left, and massive redistribution of wealth, American leftists espouse the same ideas as the backward Soviet hardliners - same song, different verse.

These self-absorbed “progressives” don’t want to hear about the strife of the Soviet people who had learned the hard way that these ideas only result in massive poverty and loss of freedoms for everyone involved. In effect, the leftist rallies spit in the face of every victim of communist oppression, living or dead. That count is in the hundreds of millions.

There’s nothing heroic in disparaging democratic institutions, dishonoring the American flag, and carrying placards with anti-capitalist, anti-American slogans pre-printed for them by communist front groups with the money donated by corrupt foreign dictators. The protesters absurdly accuse this free country of being a fascist dictatorship, fully aware that an hour later they’ll be drinking expensive coffee at Starbucks - and not dragged to a political prison and getting their teeth knocked in - a likely prospect for dissidents in the countries whose leaders they idolize.

They may believe their protest leads to more freedom - but freedom can’t be increased by abusing and disparaging it. Objectively, they diminish freedom by providing hope and moral support to dictators, helping tyrants to brainwash their populations, and knocking the ground from under the feet of real fighters for freedom. That makes them a tool in the hands of a reactionary totalitarian ideology. As if supporting communist dictatorships were not enough, “progressive” rallies now also feature slogans backing the Iranian regime that imprisons and tortures its own dissidents.

Every immigrant in this country who had experienced political tyranny understands that true heroism is in standing for freedom and human rights against a real blood-stained dictatorship - not against an America that gives the hope of freedom to all those suffering from tyranny worldwide. Likewise, true journalistic courage is in risking imprisonment or even death for speaking against a real tyrant - not in peddling fabricated documents from a comfortable TV studio in Manhattan with the hope of swinging elections towards a “progressive” candidate.

Just like the corrupt Stalinist apparatchiks, the American leftists will justify anything by invoking the notion of “progress,” which in their Orwellian minds is the opposite of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Their utopian ideal of a benevolent government caring for the unwashed masses is nothing but a modernized version of a feudal lord caring for unwashed peasants. That’s hardly a progress by any standard.

And from Part 2:

...The anti-Yeltsin riots took 187 lives and left 437 wounded. Despite some media reports, none of the “People’s Deputies” responsible for the violence were injured. Two of their leaders were charged and imprisoned, but released in less than a year, after Yeltsin’s standing had become more secure. Another persistent myth was that Yeltsin fired at defenseless and unarmed elected legislature. But the count of weapons confiscated from the rebels included 1,132 rifles, machine guns, grenade launchers, pistols, mines, and explosive devices, as well as 196,000 rounds of ammunition.

The Americans with whom I discussed these events were surprised at hearing about the high death toll. They didn’t realize it was this bad, nor had they been informed about the anti-Semitic nature of the riots. It seems the media had failed to do its job, which is strange considering that Moscow was swarming with foreign journalists. As far as I can remember, my personal impressions at the time were that in an attempt to stay objective, the Western journalists chose some questionable middle ground - which made their coverage anything but objective.

Some of the Western journalists were even trying to see the events through the eyes of the attacking mob. They did it even after the deadly assault on the TV Center and the killing of its journalists. They continued to do so even after a rebel sniper shot and killed a British cameraman, even when several other Western reporters were wounded, including a New York Times photographer. For some inexplicable reason they refused to see the irrational nature of the extremists they tried to empathize with. All they seemed to be interested in was, feeding on people’s grievances.

Apparently, in their minds, a fascist must always have a swastika prominently displayed on the sleeve at all times - otherwise he’s just a victim working out grievances. These journalists wouldn’t recognize fascism if it smacked them over the head with a hammer and sickle, which is the Soviet version of swastika. They probably wouldn’t have believed me if I were to tell them that in the twisted minds of these ultra-nationalist maniacs, all Westerners were under the suspicion of being Zionist running dogs working to enslave and destroy Mother Russia. To appreciate just how crazy they were, consider the fact that one of their worst imaginary Zionist enemies was Bill Clinton.

I can’t help but think about this media tendency every time I see a Western journalist trying to explain the mindset of a foreign extremist. Quite predictably they end up with projecting Western biases, including the Bush derangement syndrome.

A memo to Western reporters: the extremists hate you and want to kill you just for that little uncomplicated image of you they keep in their hateful delusional minds - that’s why they are extremists, and you have absolutely no control over that. Spare them your personal struggles and complexes. Anything you say will only reinforce their conviction that you are an agent of the international Zionist conspiracy. The more believable your story is, the more cunning and dangerous agent they’ll think you are.

Read both parts.  Here is another money quote from Part 2:

Under pressure from concerned Western leaders, media, and liberal intellectuals, Yeltsin lifted the ban some weeks later. Whatever the reason for the Western concern was, the criticism was unfair because Yeltsin was known to be tolerant of opposing media opinions and never denied interviews to those journalists who he knew disapproved of his policies, as long as it was a rational and civil discourse.


About three years later, when I already lived in the States, I came across an open letter to Boris Yeltsin, written and signed by the New York Times editors and other leading liberal intellectuals. Printed in large letters across an entire page in the Sunday edition of the New York Times. The letter derided Yeltsin for allowing rabid anti-Semitic publications to exist in Russia and to spread their paranoid conspiracy theories that cultivated ethnic hatred.

Do you ever get the feeling that you don’t know whether you should laugh or find a New York Times editor and slap him silly? The letter named names, giving a list of National-Bolshevik magazines and newspapers - the same ones Yeltsin had banned after the fascist riots but was then forced to lift the ban under pressure from probably the same group of New York Times editors and leading liberal intellectuals who at the time were concerned with the rights of leftist organizations in Russia having no freedom of speech.

The bottom line: a democracy has to be able and willing to defend itself.  Otherwise it is going to be destroyed.

On a side note: Atbashian is an Armenian last name.  So, he is an ethnic Armenian who lived in Ukraine.  Could he be from Odessa, my home town?  Since the end of 19th Century Odessa had a large percentage of ethnic Armenian population, the refugees from the Ottoman Empire.  Just an interesting coincidence.

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