November 29, 2004
The Edumacation of the Left
I just watched a fascinating account on LinkTV's and Pacifica's leftist news program, Democracy NOW! concerning reports from sources in Central and Eastern Europe and the Caucasus. One was from a London Guardian reporter in Kiev named Ian Traynor. (Here's a link to a story he wrote on the topic.) He has been close to the pro-democracy movement there, unlike many of his colleagues sitting at their desks in London, and maintains unequivocally that you can credit the US with launching and funding many of the citizen movements in that part of the world that were able to prevent autocrats from stealing elections. He also says that the movements are not oriented toward simply producing pro-American propaganda that favors a particular candidate, but rather their mission is to produce a level playing field. (For instance, the pro-authoritarian election in Belarus recently was allowed to stand without protest, largely because it was acknowledged that the anti-US candidate did, in fact, win.)
This apparently all began in Belgrade, with formation of a student movement called "Otpor" (means "resistance").
Funded and organised by the US government, deploying US consultancies, pollsters, diplomats, the two big American parties and US non-government organisations, the campaign was first used in Europe in Belgrade in 2000 to beat Slobodan Milosevic at the ballot box.
Richard Miles, the US ambassador in Belgrade, played a key role. And by last year, as US ambassador in Tbilisi, he repeated the trick in Georgia, coaching Mikhail Saakashvili in how to bring down Eduard Shevardnadze.
Ten months after the success in Belgrade, the US ambassador in Minsk, Michael Kozak, a veteran of similar operations in central America, notably in Nicaragua, organised a near identical campaign to try to defeat the Belarus hardman, Alexander Lukashenko.
That one failed. "There will be no Kostunica in Belarus," the Belarus president declared, referring to the victory in Belgrade.
To their credit Democracy NOW didn't cut Traynor off, or attempt to censor his report. But clearly he was saying things that just didn't fit the propaganda orientation of that show. These US funded groups, with money funneled through organizations like Freedom House, use a variety of tools including satire and humor as well as exit polls, to undermine fear, intertia and disinformation. (Note, the final exit polls in the US agreed with the actual vote count. It was only the preliminaries that were skewed.)
After Ian Traynor's report they interviewed a former Newsweek reporter named Robert Parry, who made a number of startling points about US Democratic Party leadership. Parry wrote a scathing book about the Bush administration, so he's not exactly in their back pocket. But his observations are relevant to what has happened to the leadership of the Democratic Party, and (though he's unlikely to make the point himself) the overall effect of partisan operatives who have no experiential comprehension of the real opposition to liberal democracy. He observes that many of the people working for democracy in these countries of the former Evil Empire are members of the Democratic Party, and furthermore the rank and file of the Party have been mostly very concerned about the spread of democracy in former Eastern Block countries and Soviet Republics. But the leadership of the Party has been rather sanguine about the stolen election in the Ukraine, and were immediately prepared to accept the bogus results once they had been "certified" by the regime.
Now, this is all fascinating to me because I think the anti-Americanism we've been seeing, and what Bill Whittle and others have identified as an "auto-immune disorder" of western society, is founded on a pervasive lack of experience with the anti-democratic and "fear regime" forces in the world. It is based on what I call a "lust for peace" that is simply too impatient to formulate a program for peace that incorporates the notion of political and civil freedom. I know some of the people who have worked in the organizations funneling money to Otpor and similar groups, and though they are Democrats they voted for Bush.
Of course, after these reports were submitted the moderator of the show immediately launched into a long soliloquy about how the US involvement in this arena of fear was "all about the oil." One wonders if she was even listening. But I think there is a growing rift between the leadership of these western groups, and the dawning realization on the part of some of their members that possibly, just possibly, some of the people we're opposed to are, like... almost as bad as George Bush... sorta, kinda.
The US is, at least in the former Soviet Empire, "walking the walk." One could point out that they ought to be doing the same now in places like Egypt and Saudi Arabia, and even Palestine... or the whole of the Middle East for that matter. One could point that out, if one cared... and weren't overly concerned that doing so wouldn't necessarily reflect all that badly on the Bush administration.
It's difficult to tell where this will go, but there's at least a chance that part of the left is "going to school," and might eventually start a sort of counter-movement similar to the anti-soviet left that once emerged as Neoconservatism in the alcoves of the City University of New York. God forbid, huh?