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Friday, July 18, 2008

EDITORIAL: The New Adventures of the Buchanan Brigades


EDITORIAL

The New Adventures of the Buchanan Brigades


The International Herald Tribune, a subsidiary of the New York Times, has an editorial page helmed by one Serge Schmemann, a demonic individual whom La Russophobe has repeatedly taken to task for misleading statements about Vladimir Putin’s Russia that give him all the appearance of a neo-Soviet collaborator.

Schmemann, who regularly publishes diatribes about Russia in the Times itself, has written in regard to Russia’s most recent elections, comparing them to those in Soviet times: Anyone who followed the serial transitions of the final act of the Soviet Union -- Brezhnev-Andropov- Chernenko-Gorbachev -- leader ever left office voluntarily.” So Putin voluntarily left office and is to be lauded as a democrat! The minor matter of remaining in power as prime minister and making state visits to countries like France where he’s treated as if nothing had changed, because it hasn’t, means nothing.

Isn’t this exactly how we got in trouble with Hitler?

Perhaps Schmemann’s pièce de résistance, though, came on July 1, when his paper published a trilogy of editorials on Russia penned a set of the most bedraggled Russophilic scoundrels that could be imagined. First came the seething Russian nationalist and racist Dmitri Rogozin, identified for the lay reader only as “Russia's ambassador to NATO.” Then came politics professor Stephen Cohen of NYU, he who regularly spews out Chamberlain-like calls for appeasement of Russia in the rancid pages of his wife Katrina vanden Heuvel’s left-wing extremist screed The Nation (Professor Cohen, too, has been regularly roasted for his misstatements on my blog). And then to round things out the IHT offered us none other than the doddering Henry Kissenger, desperate to carve out some sort of limelight for himself in his dotage, rehabilitating himself from the Nixon taint and all those rumors about being a war criminal, by telling us he can fix up everything for us with Putin, only a few knowing whispers and smiles being needed.

All three of them screeched a chorus of conciliation with the Putin dictatorship; not a single tough critic of Putin was invited to the party. This is what passes for tolerance and diversity on the pages of the Gray Lady these days. As Kim Zigfeld reported on Pajamas a few months ago, when Putin first came to power the Times was just as full of hope for his potential as this terrifying triumvirate is about him now, and acknowledgement of wrongdoing has been conspicuously absent from its pages in recent years.

And what passes for liberalism. Not one of the three called for us to stand up for democracy or human rights in Russia. None mentioned the purge of all opposition parties from the Russian parliament and all opposition candidates from the most recent presidential race, including former Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov. None mentioned the convictions for state-sponsored murder in Chechnya or the unsolved murder of hero journalist Anna Politkovskaya or the litany of other political murders that have occurred on Putin’s watch. None could recall the show trial and Siberian exile of Mikhail Khodorkovsky. All seemed to feel that Putin’s spate of strategic bomber overflights of Western targets, his provision of weapons to Iran and Venezuela, his support of Hamas and Hezbollah were all just the temper tantrums of a neglected child who would coo and fawn if only showered with kindly attention.

And worst of all, none considered even for a moment that the proud KGB spy who rules Russia with an iron hand might possibly bear us permanent ill will for destroying the USSR, that he might believe the USSR’s condemnation of American freedom and democracy was legitimate, that he might only be biding his time until he could lash out at us in revenge. According to each of them, Putin is just a misunderstood little puppy, who only messes on the carpet and nips at our heels because he hasn’t been given enough attention and kibble. Little do they realize that Russians find this patronization far more offensive than confrontation, nor do they imagine how Putin is grinning from ear to ear as he listens to the drumbeat of appeasement.

If we had been whipped in the Cold War by Russia, is that what we would have done? Given up on freedom and democracy, and adopted totalitarian communism just so long as we received the proper amount of friendly respect from our Soviet overlords?

Not long ago, Pajamas Media contributor Sheryl Longin issued a stinging condemnation of the lunatic Pat Buchanan’s worldview aptly headlined “Buchanan Lied, People Died.” Buchanan, too, is a big fan of “being reasonable” with Putin. Buchanan says that “our next president will likely face a Russia led by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, determined to stand up to a West that Russians believe played them for fools when they sought to be friends.” He writes: “The hubris of Bill Clinton and George Bush II [Pat actually writes Bush I, but later he say that Bush I and Ronald Reagan had converted Russia into an ally, so apparently it's a typo], and the Russophobia of those they brought with them into power, has been a primary cause of the ruptured relationship. And the folly of what they did is evident today, as Putin's party, United Russia, rolls to triumph on a torrent of abuse and invective against the West.”

So the fact that Putin purged the electoral rolls of all legitimate opposition parties and rigged the subsequent vote shamelessly (in some regions, like Chechnya, United Russia scored over 99% of the ballots) means nothing. The fact that Putin is a proud KGB spy steeped in anti-democratic hostility means nothing. The only thing that counts is what Pat thinks, and Pat thinks Pooty-Poot is just swell, and the only problem is that we are provoking him.

That’s right – the New York Times and Pat Buchanan are on the same page. Can you conceive of anything more disturbing? By contrast, the Washington Post is a shining example of a genuine effort to defend so-called “liberal” values in Russia. In recent weeks, the Post has published stunning op-ed pieces by leading dissident figure Oleg Kozlovsky and firebrand journalist Yulia Latynina, the heir apparent to Politikovskaya. The Times hasn’t even run a news story about Kozlovsky’s repeated illegal, politically-motivated arrests.

The appallingly misleading character of the Cohen-Kissenger-Rogozin axis can perhaps best be seen in the fact that the Cohen column was bizarrely and inexplicably appearing in the IHT for the second time. It was published on May 2, 2008, under the headline “Russia, the Missing Debate” and then again on July 1st under the lead “Wrong on Russia.” Both columns contained the following Cohenism verbatim:

In the U.S. policy elite and media, the nearly unanimous answer is that Russian President Vladimir Putin's antidemocratic domestic policies and "neo-imperialism" destroyed that historic opportunity. You don't have to be a Putin apologist to understand that this is not an adequate explanation.

You don’t have to be an apologist, no, but it certainly does make things much simpler. How it could be possible that the paper would publish the same article twice without notifying readers defies imagination. How it could be so pathologically obsessed with rationalizing Putin’s rule is not that difficult to understand, however, not if you’ve been a regular follower of Schmemann’s own writing or the New York Times’ consistent pathology of appeasement.

We wrote to IHT to ask them about the double publication. Their curt reply: “The Cohen article was published a second time in error. The mistake was corrected in later editions of our print edition.” They apparently feel no need to make any notation of the issue on the web page that contains the second publication. Then, an act of naked dishonesty, they simply killed the July 1st link, as if it had never happened.

Isn’t this how Jayson Blair got started?

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