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Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The Author, Andrei Illarionov, and Benazir Bhutto
The Word and the Bullet
by Andrei Illarionov
Yezhednevniy Zhurnal
January 10, 2008
On December 27, 2007 Benazir Bhutto, twice the Prime Minister of Pakistan, the leader of the opposition People's Party, and the sure victor in 2008 parliamentary elections, was assassinated in a terrorist attack in Rawalpindi.
Three months before her death Benazir Bhutto appeared before a large gathering of representatives from the American political, economic and intellectual elite. Her presentation simply captivated the auditorium. No matter what the topic, she demonstrated astonishing erudition, clarity of thought and lightning speed in her responses. And all this with a surprising sense of tact, respect for her interlocutors and conviction in her own position. With what grace she carried herself! When the thin scarf that lightly covered her head slipped momentarily to her shoulders, one simply had to see it, the genuinely royal gesture with which she replaced it!
In the hall were several former U.S. Secretaries of State and Defense, along with a number of high-ranking officials from the current Administration. The topic of discussion was U.S. - Pakistan relations. Bhutto talked about the mistakes the U.S. had made in this relationship, and what heavy consequences followed from America's support for the military regime - consequences for Pakistan, for South Asia as a whole, and America itself. One of the former U.S. Secretaries of Defense tried to object. Bhutto's response was instantaneous, parrying the objection with several examples. And she did this with such conviction, so perfectly pointing out the horrible failures of the Pentagon's actions in those very years when her questioner was its leader that the latter sat back down with a gloomy expression, not daring to pose any further questions.
At the end of her presentation the entire hall rose and gave Benazir Bhutto a standing ovation. One should note that the American establishment is not easily won over. It has seen it all, and is not known for its sentimentality, especially toward those who publicly flay America for its mistakes. But all five hundred participants in the event (with a total net worth of probably several hundred billion dollars) stood and applauded this brave woman in a white Muslim headscarf, finding themselves enraptured and unable to resist the genuine miracle that had just taken place before them.
One of the U.S. presidential candidates had addressed the same audience a few hours before Benazir. Without a doubt, the possible future U.S. President did not receive one-tenth the applause, attention and praise that was lavished on this former Prime Minister of a foreign country. That same evening, under the deafening roar of applause, the organizers of the conference in almost total seriousness urged Bhutto to run for president of their own country.
I talked for awhile with Benazir Bhutto. Naturally, the discussion turned to the political situation in our two countries, Pakistan and Russia. And naturally as well, we noted more than a few parallels.
Both Pakistan and Russia are large, developing countries with diversified economies and a diversity of internal regions. In both countries the intelligence services were never brought fully under control by a civilian government. In both countries for the past eight years all power has been held by intelligence and military officers. In both countries, all the institutions of modern governance - separation of powers, independence of the legislative and judicial branches, an independent press - have been systematically destroyed. Both countries have had their epic struggles against the regime - in Pakistan from the bar association, in Russia from the Yukos oil company. In both countries the main means by which the regime interacts with is people is brute, demonstrative force. In both countries there are border regions that are poorly controlled by the central government, but which the intelligence services actively use as places to iron out their methods and recruit assassins. In both countries the victims of terrorist attacks are leaders of the press and public opinion – politicians, activists and journalists. In both countries the clients and authors of contract killings are the masters of bullet and bomb.
In Pakistan they killed Benazir's father, the former Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, two of her brothers, and thousands of pro-democracy advocates.
In Russia they killed Aleksandr Men, Larisa Yudina, Galina Starovoytova, Nikolai Girenko, Sergey Yushenkov, Yuri Shchekochikhin, Anna Politkovskaya, Aleksandr Litvinenko, Yuri Chervochkin, hundreds of residents of the apartment towers blown up in Fall 1999, members of the audience in the “Nord-Ost” theater raid, schoolchildren and parents at Beslan, and tens of thousands in the Northern Caucuses. In Ukraine they killed Vyacheslav Chornovil, the leader of parliament and leading presidential candidate in 1999, and poisoned the presidential candidate Viktor Yushchenko in 2004.
Terror is used against leaders of the press and public opinion because people listen to them and follow them by the thousands and millions. Because unlike intelligence agents, public opinion leaders are influential. And not only influential, but genuinely powerful as well -- in their words, their convictions, and the support they receive from millions of followers. In the battle of words, the secret police are doomed. The have nothing with which to oppose the leaders of public opinion except terror. Terror is the weapon of losers, of the defeated, of those who don't stand a chance in normal, peaceful, human life.
The word is the argument of the strong. The bullet - the argument of the weak. The question most frequently asked of Bhutto by participants at the event three months ago was, "Won't it be dangerous for you to return to Pakistan?" Benazir invariably replied: "I cannot not return. They are waiting for me at home." These words reflect the main difference between the leaders of public opinion and the Masters of Cloak, Dagger and Bullet. People await the first. The second need only themselves. The first are flooded with letters. But no one writes to the Colonels (intelligence officers). The first are remembered with gratitude and reverence. The second are cursed for eternity.
NOTE: In the readers' forum (Russian language) that accompanies this article on the Russian newspaper's website, several readers noted another point of deficiency when comparing Russia to Pakistan, namely that while tens of thousands of Pakistanis took to the streets to protest Bhutto's murder, only a few hundred Russians could bestir themselves to protest their own rigged parliamentary elections (and the same can be said for the murder of Anna Politkovskaya).

Menage a Trois in Putin's Russia
Filed under: Russia
You can judge a country by the company it keeps.
When you think of Russia's company, you think of Iran, Venezuela, North Korea, Syria, Hamas, Hezbollah. You think of George Bush, apparently one of the world's most hated figures, looking into Vladimir "Pooty-Poot" Putin's eyes, glimpsing his soul and finding him "trustworthy." When you think of the United States you think of NATO, Germany, France, Britain and Japan.
Where Russia's allies are not actually evil, they are the ragtag flotsam and jetsam of the world, struggling for continued relevance in a world that would simply like to put them out to pasture. In this category we can place the likes of former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and former British Premier Tony Blair, who were both in Russia this week helpfully parroting the Kremlin's propaganda line designed to get the West to drop its guard so dictatorship can achieve final consolidation.
Kissinger will be forever associated with the corrupt administration of Richard Nixon, the only U.S. president ever forced to resign from office in disgrace, and with his inability to speak the English language without a foreign accent. Accused by some of being a war criminal, he won the Nobel Peace prize, just like Yasir Arafat and Jimmy Carter. He was Time magazine's person of the year in 1972, just like Stalin was and the dictator Putin would become. Blair's Labor Party is in the throes of utter collapse in Britain. Both have long ago passed from the limelight, and seem to want it back. In Kissenger's case, senility appears to be creeping in.
Kissinger stated to Medvedev: "I have followed with great interest your becoming president and the plans you have put forward in some of your speeches. I wish you every success. It is important for Russia and important for the world." God only knows what that gibberish is supposed to mean, but the fact that Kissinger didn't say a word of public criticism about Medvedev, much less mention either the mind-blowing sham of his rigged election combined with his "predecessor" remaining in office as prime minister, and was photographed smiling and chatting with Medvedev, is being used by the Kremlin to score propaganda points and offset criticism over human rights violations recently raised by many countries' actual leaders.
Kissinger is the U.S. chair of the panel called "Russia-USA: A Look Into the Future" which was formed last year and is also co-chaired by Russia's former Prime Minister and KGB spymaster Yevgeny Primakov. While in Moscow he stated: "If supply is limited and demand increases, if countries compete for access to energy on a purely national basis, we are bound to see a repetition of the colonial conflicts of 19th century." Marshal Goldman responded: "At the present time, Russia is not in a position to worry there won't be enough for Russia. If anything, it might make Russia even more aware of the fact that they are in a very commanding position."
In other words, Kissinger is a crazy old man who is doing the Kremlin's bidding, not really so different that Germany ex-leader Gerhard Schroeder. Blair, in Moscow to attend a private investor's conference, continued this line, stating: "Power is shifting east, and it's shifting fast, not just to China and, in time, to India, but also to the Middle East and to Russia. They have a pride in Russia today they didn't have ten years ago. We, in countries like mine, have to understand that change in psyche."
Pride indeed. They've learned to be proud of the murder of Politkovskaya and the jailing of Khodorkovsky. They revel in the fact that their men don't live to reach age 60. They beam over their lack of news reporting, political opposition and local government. They strut and preen over their $4/hour average wage, their AIDS epidemic, their fatalities by fire, their smoking apocalypse. They glow with satisfaction over the exclusion from the WTO and members Georgia/Ukraine heading for NATO. And they do all this much as Germans did when Hitler restored lost German pride after World War I.
The strange thing is that Mr. Blair isn't planning to move to Russia right away! Well, he's only British, so by his own terms he's probably a bit slow on the uptake. He'll figure it out sooner or later.
A book review in the Telegraph points out that when Ronald Reagan dealt with the USSR, he ridiculed its leaders to their faces rather than enabling their victim mentality as Blair would seek to do. One could say that, since he didn't patronize, Reagan showed far more respect. The Telegraph relates:
Poor Mr Gorbachev. Every time he met Ronald Reagan at a summit, he was subjected by the American President to a stream of Russian jokes. Or rather, to be precise, Soviet jokes - the point of which was always to satirise some aspect of life under communism. What made it worse was that some of them really were very funny. I like the one, for example, about the man who goes to buy a car in Moscow, pays for it, and is told by the salesman that he can collect it on a particular date in 10 years' time. The buyer thinks for a moment and then asks: 'Morning or afternoon?' The salesman, astonished by the question, asks: 'What difference does it make?' And the buyer answers: 'Well, the plumber is coming in the morning.'
America had a foreign policy then, and a real leader to enact it. Perhaps, come November, we will again.

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