|This is an archived website, which offered an opportunity for readers of Timothy Garton Ash's book Free World and his weekly columns to exchange ideas. Updated links and new forums can be found at Timothy Garton Ash's new website, www.timothygartonash.com.||
25 November 2004
Rosendo Sanchez, Mexico
Velvet Revolutions, as prefered by the European Union,
has liberated how many people in: Poland, Spain (1976 or so), Greece,
Rumania, Serbia, etc.
Military interventions, as prefered by the present administration of the US has liberated very few, and soon they revert to the old authritarian, or worse ways.
This should worth pointed out.
John Somerhausen, European (living in NY)
Dear Mr Garton Ash,
Almost all the reports on the popular reaction to the rigged elections in Ukraine seem to come from Kiev, which is in the Western part of the country that leans towards the West. Th eastern part, it seems, is Russian speaking and thus probably more inclined towards Moscow /which the Ukrainians founded about a thousand years ago...). The country seems to be split right along the middle and the only solution that might satisfy everybody might ultimately be a secession of Western Ukraine for the easteern part (or the reverse). There woulñd be no benefit to both halves of Ukraine, Russia or the EU to have an irredentist minority incorporated against its will just as there wouñld be no benefit to the EU in incorporating a Turkey that has an important irredentist Kurdish minoity
Cliona Rooney, London
I enjoyed your article on Ukraine and agreed with your
conclusions. But I'm a bit concerned about the Orwell "quote"
that you have now used more than once 'Orwell writes somewhere that "from
inside, everything looks worse"'. That sounds a bit weak for Orwell.
Are you half remembering his comment on Salvador Dali's autobiography?
"Autobiography is only to be trusted when it reveals something disgraceful. A man who gives a good account of himself is probably lying, since any life when viewed from the inside is simply a series of defeats".
Michael Wagner, Germany
Complacency among Westerners is a dangerous thing. As is being smug over what is happening in the Ukraine. This is how it goes does it not? Those poor suppressed East Europeans longing for western style democracy, crushed by despots, how we admire their pluck in winning through without violence, how good that they want to be like us.
Well, revolution is revolution by which ever means it is achieved, roses or guns. And once people get the taste for overthrowing governments in this fashion, it tends to spread. Witness the series of city revolutions in 1848 that caught fire throughout Europe.
And why did they? Because people were fed up with the kind of government they were getting. Governments run by cynics, men who feathered their own nests, ministers with policies that achieved nothing, or no real policies at all. Indeed much like the current governments of the European Union. Why will people vote for Blair again or Schroeder? because there is no alternative that seems any different. Not because either men are shining examples of principle and public service. They are quite the opposite. One does not care how much he manipulates the public the other cares little about anything.
They run administrations that are not bad in the classical sense of being dictatorial or repressive. They are actually somewhat spineless, obsessing more about news management than principles.
The point we miss in the West is that people do get fed up with such governments and when they see no hope of anything better lose hope in the democractic process. We should consider the very real scenario that all those people who don't vote, who vote without any real zest, will one day become impatient enough with the meandering directions of the European Union, that the simple thought of yet another four years of the likes of Chirac, Blair and Schroeder (or their successors) is too much to bear, that they do what East Europeans have proved is a successful formula for change - take to the streets and keep taking to the streets until these people are forced out and democracy can once again flourish.
In the past we have seen CIA sponsored 'mass protests'
in many third world countries when the rulers of those countries were
seen to be against the US/Western interests.
Is there any chance of that happening in Ukraine ??
Paul Fedenky, Russia
Can I comment on the latest comment on Ukraine, please?
The one titled "Freedom's front line".
I just want to say I wholeheartedly endorse what you said there, and I happen to come from a country whose president has done so much to install a thuggish ruler in Ukraine against the wishes of the Ukrainian people.
I mean, of course, Russia. I really wish something similar to what's happening in Ukraine would happen in Russia, but I'm not holding my breath. You are right to point to Ukraine's European aspirations, but while Ukraine may one day join the EU, Russia is unlikely ever to do so - although I wish it would. Even in Ukraine, EU membership will not come soon. Poland, whose European identity never was in doubt, applied for EU membership pretty much the moment it quit the Soviet Union - and yet it took 13 long years of hard work to achieve that goal. Ukraine has yet to make that journey - which would take ten years at the very least, probably longer. In Russia's case, you can multiply that by four at least. Then again, as I said, Russia may never qualify at all.
I remember you once wrote that Europe's outer boundary would run from Tbilisi to Vladivostok. This is a heartening prospect. However, Vladivostok is on the Pacific, thousands of kilometres away from anything remotely European. If Russia joins the EU, China, Japan, Korea (North or South?) might come knocking on the door next. Indeed, Russia's other eastern neighbours are the USA and Canada. Will the EU accept these? Will they bother to apply?
The problem is the European idea is limited as long as it is defined as European. Europe can't be made to cover the whole globe. Already, Turkey is pushing for EU membership. However, Turkey's EU bid is controversial in a way Poland's or Cyprus's never was. Many European politicians are willing to say Turkey is not European enough. Then again, the EU has still to digest the tiny Latvia and Estonia. Surely, it can't possibly handle Russia?
This is precisely the reason why Russia's democrats are so cynical. Russia probably has all the ingredients of the Ukrainian-style "revolution"; while never perfect, it was certainly no less democratic over the nineties, it should have the same sorts of people that are now staging demos on Khreshchatyk and Independence Square in Kiev. Geographically, it is probably better qualified than Georgia. Yet Russian democrats know Russia is unlikely ever to join the EU. Not even the most liberal politicians ever so much as played with the idea.
If only the European Union had the strength not to be so narrowly European, it would command much greater respect - soft power - worldwide. Otherwise, it will look like an arrogant, selfish, filthy rich bloc to the rest of the world. Make it... a global union or something? Let Congo and Burma apply one day (not now of course). Offering membership to not-quite-European countries like Turkey, Russia, Georgia etc. might be a good start.
Left out in the cold, Russia would struggle to remould itself into a democracy . This could take ages. And all through this time, the EU would have to live cheek by jowl with this monster of country, inherently unstable, unpredictable, inscrutable, occasionally violent. To avoid this prospect, the EU must prevail in Ukraine, reach out to democratically minded Russians and commit itself to democratizing Russia. One day, when Russia's authoritarianism collapses - as it inevitably will - an opportunity might present itself to truly take Europe further than anyone ever thought.
T Montgomery, West Texas, USA
Freedom's front line
Before you make the mistakes of most westerners about events in Ukraine,you should really talk to the people who are living in Ukraine. Our governments should refrain from stirring up civil unrest in Ukraine. It seems that what our US government is doing there now would be illegal in the US. Is it true, as I have heard, that the US government is providing 14 million dollars to help the the western candidate? Ten dollars a day to each protester who has no job anyway is not bad there. That is what I have heard from relatives who live in Kiev. Why do our officials make warnings and provocative statements about the politics of another nation before the election process is even finished? At least they don't have to be forced at gunpoint to have elections like Iraq. To me,it seems no different than the contentiousness of our own last two US elections. Do we really want to support a candidate whose goals seem to be the destruction of Ukrainian Jews and the destruction of the culture of the majority of the people of the eastern part of Ukraine? These are things that should not be manipulated by our governments. I must say that the direction our governments have been taking lately is not what I would like to see. Especially, now that my relatives may soon be under the gun. We would be respected in the world more and be more prosperous if we would be "A shining Beacon on the hill" as Pres. Reagan said, instead of the world "meddlers" that we have become.
Steven Boyd Saum, California, USA
Dear Mr. Ash,
Thank you for speaking out clearly and loudly on Ukraine: Yes, this is an historic moment for the nation whose national anthem proclaims "Ukraine is not dead yet." And the Ukrainians need as many voices as possible to be raised in Europe, in the United States, and around the world -- as well as in the television studios and on the streets of Ukraine, from Lutsk to Kyiv to Kharkiv -- in the name of those old-fashioned democratic ideals. And, of course, you also capture the urgency of the moment: as I write this, two days after your column, democracy's hopes in Ukraine are not dead yet -- but what about tomorrow?
You raise one important point that those who are cynical about the meaning of this democratic uprising have seized upon, including others writing for the Guardian: that the U.S. government has quietly helped encourage civic organizations that are now playing a vital role in trying to put Ukraine on the right side of history. And that the movement in Ukraine has learned from the success in Serbia and Georgia. As you of course know, there was also U.S. government money that flowed via the National Endowment for Democracy to the likes of our friends at the Jan Hus Educational Foundation in Czechoslovakia back in the 1980s. But does that mean that what the Velvet Revolution had as its mission -- freedom of speech, democracy, all the ideals Americans like to claim as the principles on which their nation was founded -- was wrong?
Nope. And what's taking place in Ukraine isn't a battle of moral equivalents, either, as some have suggested. To cast it in cold war terms is either thickheaded or just plain dishonest.
Having spent some years serving in the U.S. Peace Corps in Ukraine and directing the Fulbright program in Kyiv, I've seen too many brilliant, ambitious people thwarted by a corrupt system. Will they? And will Europeans speak out more loudly? And aside from Colin Powell and Senators Lugar and McCain, will other American statesmen take a few minutes from their Thanksgiving holiday to echo support for a nation of 48 million grasping for democracy? I hope so; and I hope the Americans who think in terms of realpolitik realize what kind of a message will be sent to those who aspire to democracy over the rest of the world.
Justin O'Conner, UK
The turn of recent events made me think that I needed to
add something to my last entry on Kiev (www.polis-web.net). Following
the reports in The Guardian some strange twists and turns have emerged.
The first reports ˆ as I wrote previously, composed under the shadow
of the Bush re-election ˆ were asides from a little known country
far away; but they grew daily from the second poll onwards. At first the
line was very much about it being a continuation of the Œvelvet revolutions‚
of 1989 ˆ indeed, before that to Solidarity and maybe the ŒPrague
Spring‚ ˆ through to recent events in Serbia, Georgia and ˆ
extrapolated ˆ to forthcoming elections in Moldavia and even the
central Asian republics.
Timothy Garton Ash (25 11 04) sees the choice as between ŒEurope, the west and liberal democracy‚ and Œauthoritarianism and Putin‚s Russia‚. Europe must move beyond Œappeasement‚ (that heavily laden word) and take its responsibility as Œa great magnet and promoter of freedom‚. Europe needs to tell its great story of a Œrolling enlargement of freedom‚ over the last 60 years; the Ukraine is currently its Œfront line‚. On the television it was also democracy and Western Europe vs. the establishment of a new Russian sphere of influence made up of repressive regimes along the lines of Belarus; it was a battle of youthfulness and energy, against the corruption of politicians and the financial and industrial elite close to them. The lines were also geographical ˆ Western (old Hapsburg possessions) and Eastern (Russian since the seventeenth century).
Within a day or so questions surfaced. Jonathon Steele (26 11 04) began to question the opposition candidate ˆ Yushchenko too was a member of the ruling elite until recently. On the feature pages in GII his charismatic ally Yulia Tymoshenko emerges as a shadowy figure in many ways similar to Kordakovsky and Abramovich ˆ people who got rich in the confusion (not them of course) surrounding the privatisation of state industries (in her case gas supplies) and the dismantling of the command economy. And the opposition groups such as Pora (which Garton Ash saw as the key transmitter of the experience and aspirations of other eastern European oppositions)? Youthful energy financed by the US, and by Soros (Open Society Institute) as part of the US‚s Œencirclement‚ strategy undiminished since the cold war. It was the US that was turning the situation into a geopolitical issue - Putin‚s concern for stability in his Œnear abroad‚ perfectly legitimate in this region of new nations and disputed territories. Russia‚s immediate border interests were at stake (and indeed the Ukraine hosts Russia‚s Black Sea fleet); why is the US getting involved? The task of the EU was to resist ŒAmerican mischief‚, press for a compromise, oppose Nato membership for the Ukraine whilst firming up its offer for membership of the EU. Telling the US to butt out is a sentiment shared by John Laughland (27 11 04); he also points to the bias of the media towards the opposition ˆ anomalous voting figures exist in their fiefdoms too (and in Œdemocratic‚ Geogia), and their Œspontaneous‚ support is equally (in fact more efficiently) as organised and directed as the Œbussed in‚ official supporters. And he throws in charges of anti-Semitism and Œthe dehumanisation of enemies‚ which have bubbled under the surface of many reports since the crisis began.
So, no more goodies and baddies then. What to make of it? I was reading Hobsbawm‚s Age of Extremes just recently. I suppose I should have read it in 1994 when it came out ˆ but then again, it makes interesting reading now. In the last section ˆ whilst disclaiming history‚s ability to prophesise - he outlines some of the challenges of the 21st century. His bits on terrorism and fundamentalism were spot on ˆ I had to remind myself that he wrote before the 9th September ˆ as were his thoughts on the absence of any international ordering agency, apart from the US (he seems sceptical about the EU even as it was at the height of its post-cold-war confidence). His section on capitalism and liberal democracy (written in the immediate aftermath of Fukiyama‚s daft book) was interesting. Capitalism looks set to grow (with all the attendant problems this brings) but liberal democracy? Harking back to his (excellent) discussion of this in the interwar years he sees little chance that this is able to solve the problems now ranging about the world ˆ and little chance that it will become the model for those countries outside the developed West. This does not mean that some kind of democracy will not be installed, it will just take different forms. He talks vaguely of Confucian traditions in the Far East (China by the way is his consistent blind spot ˆ its absence from any of his thoughts on the near future rings quite oddly now) but settles on some notion of plebiscitary democracy (on the Louis Napoleon model) as a good bet.
This is not far wrong from how things are shaping up in Russia and its sphere of influence (though at least Louis Napoleon actually did get a majority of the votes). The corruption, repression and increasing sense of despondency in the Asian republics are increasingly documented; the situation in Belarus rather frightening. Garton Ash is surely right to argue that the Ukraine situation has implications for ways in which Russia and thus the whole region of the former USSR will evolve. But to understand what is at stake we have to remember the other bit: capitalism. The conflicting sides in the Ukraine are not just reflections of some about historical-cultural traditions ˆ they are also about real concern as to what Œthe west‚ might bring with it. Garton Ash‚s plea evokes the memory of the1989 struggles ˆ and who would regret their participation in these, and the feelings of liberation, of writing ones own history that such events bring with them. But the other things, the shady deals, the precipitous reforms, the chaos and the carnage of the dismantling of the command economy ˆ who would not wish to do these differently? Nowhere is this felt more so than in Russia. Gorbachev was outmanoeuvred by a drunken populist who, to secure his power base in the Russian Federation, cut loose the (former) USSR and left Russia with less territory than since Peter the Great and a lot of loose ends and frayed edges for the everybody around to deal with. In the meantime he gave away the resources of the state to his friends, and his friends‚ friends, and some others as well. Capitalism, from the perspective of the shocked core of the old state apparatus, was a freebooter ˆ and for those who did not become freebooters (some not for want of trying) it was a source of shame, humiliation, anger and, not least, real hardship. Try telling people in Russia that capitalism will save them∑
The Œyouthful energy‚ of the opposition might be forward looking, the future represented in those fresh faces ˆ but it is not something entirely shared by all young people and certainly not the older ones with little to gain from further integration into the global economy. We have a rock and a hard place ˆ on the one side a corrupt political-financial-industrial elite which might be used to distribute gains downwards in something reminiscent of the old Soviet way; on the other side a business elite wanting to exploit new links to the global economy, especially closer connection to the EU ˆ equally linked to power and patronage but promising a redistribution through economic growth and employment in a modern business economy. This last is by no means universally welcomed - for the structures that allow Œequitable‚ capitalist development - in fact, not just Œequitable‚ but efficient ˆ are simply not present in the former eastern European countries. The EU stresses the growth of Œcivil society‚ as a key aspect of this embedded capitalism, with democracy and social justice as its essential partners. The US, also strongly promoting civil society and NGOs, has a different view of what these entail ˆ and active measures of social justice other than the rights of property, free elections and a free media do not form part of these ideals. The miners from the East all complain that if Yushchenko gets in then they will loose their jobs as cheap coal will be brought in from Poland. Who would deny their, and others‚, fears?
How countries like the Ukraine are to find a political system that deals with the complex problem of Œdemocratic‚ aspirations and the hard choices involved in creating a workable (which means compatible with some level of social justice and legitimacy) capitalist system at a time of unprecedented levels of fierce global competition is hard to say. John Laughland points to the Œenormous dysfunctions in our own so-called democratic system‚ and argues that the west‚s intervention Œas fairy godmother swooping in to save the day‚ in the Ukraine is a way to salve our conscience about our own political shortcomings. Not just the US but everybody - butt out! This is surely naive or disingenuous ˆ not just the concerned big powers nearby but the day to day transactions of commerce and culture already implicate the country in transnational connections and considerations. Butting out because our own system is not squeaky clean is ultimately useless advice for everybody concerned. Jonathon Steele is right to warn of ŒAmerican mischief‚, because this points us to the economic dimensions of the issue, which are harder to deal with than the clear political oppositions of the present crisis. Likewise, the oligarch connections of the opposition; Yulia Tymoshenko took a step into politics just as Kordakovsky sought to do (Abramovitch played safe and bought Chelsea); both can be seen as recognising the need to engage in active politics as a way of defending their economic interests, and have done so in the name of the insoluble link between capitalism and liberal democracy. In Russia Putin‚s growing assertion of the power of the state was tested on the arrest of this key oligarch. Many either welcomed this or felt little sympathy for someone how had siphoned off the wealth of the USSR‚s natural resources. Even in the UK Brown made a windfall tax on the privatised utilities. But older and more dangerous logics are at work here; the power of the state is engaged in a zero-sum game with civil society. ŒWhat is an NGO‚, Putin asked this summer, and he was not showing his ignorance of western acronyms; he concluded by stating that one thing was sure ˆ Œthey would not bite the hand that fed them‚, a reference to the civil society initiatives of the EC, OSI, Ford Foundation etc.
Steele says Putin‚s interest is in stability not in imposing an authoritarian system on the Ukraine. This might be so ˆ but the example of Belarus stands as real warning to what he might really prefer. His authoritarian instincts ˆ put in parenthesis by Steele ˆ surely tell him that only a top down controlled state is ultimately stable. And this surely is why Garton Ash is surely right in his view that Russia is also at stake in this crisis: A Russia that sees even the Ukraine moving towards the west has a chance of itself becoming, with time, a more normal, liberal, democratic nation-state‚ ˆ at the moment it is Œlaunched on a different, worse trajectory‚.
No goodies and baddies but a moment of choice which should not be avoided ˆ you have to chose in conditions not of your choosing. Yes, let‚s link capitalism with social justice in a democratic system. But this is not on offer here. It is not darkness and light but about what is understandable, attractive, safe (or less scary) for both sides. And so far the talking on both sides (on the street that is) should be a lesson to the western media Laughland berates. The sense of security, of protection (and protectionism) that the Yanukovich camp hold against the cold blasts of globalisation and US business ethos is not to be denied. It appears, in its way, as some form of workable social justice. But at this time such protection comes with a renunciation of the liberties of civil society which have been the air, the food and drink of many in the former USSR for the last decade, despite the hardships. Whatever illusions 1989 brought this was surely real. And abolishing these will in the end be in nobody‚s interest. It will be disastrous for Russia; the damage done by Yeltsin is done and cannot be undone. Laughland says a few thousands on the streets of Kiev command our attention whereas two million anti-war protesters are ignored. Yes, those fresh faced optimists in orange might be a small majority, they might be clothed and bussed by organisations financed by the US but anybody who has been there knows that these somehow represent the future. They expect somehow to make it, to deal with the new situation; they are not all Harvard MBEs ready to put all the miners out of work, they want to work within the freedoms gained in 1989 and want the state to make the legal, administrative and political conditions of their actions more transparent, rational and open to redress. This is what is singularly lacking in Russia ˆ in fact they are going backward ˆ and why, apart from its natural resources, the Russian economy is a failure. If those on the street can keep Yushchenko ˆ with all his allies interests and shady records ˆ on the path of such a programme, rather than a freebooters US capitalism, then the country will make some way towards dealing with those difficult issues of capitalism, democracy and social justice. The past is a dead end.
2 December 2004
Katie O, Houston, Texas, USA
Thanks for your insightful political coverage. I had sadly
accepted Bush's victory and moved on, but have over the last few weeks
seen very compelling statistical evidence of vote fraud and systematic
disenfranchisement of voters, particularly in African American areas in
the "swing states" Ohio and Florida.
The Soweto-like voting lines you observed were no accident. The number of voting machines placed in any given precinct polling place and the state of repair of those machines, especially in Ohio, was directly related to the anticipated vote from that precinct. Republicans got the machines in good repair, and plenty of them. Dems. got the broken machines and just enough to guarantee a several hour wait in line to vote. Greg Palast's articles on vote spoilage, which I'm sure you've seen, have been a great eye opener.
Our own domestic US press has done a miserable job in following this story, so I would urge you to help to fill in the void by doing more investigation and more reporting. Just to give you an excellent lead or two, here is an article by a professional hacker turned computer security consultant. Mr. Herrin reports, among other things, on the ease of remotely manipulating the results of an election. Very frightening. Here's the link:
http://www.chuckherrin.com/HackthevoteFAQ.htm Also, check out DemocraticUnderground.com where you can find a wealth of information on the November 2004 US election and the case for fraud. (I am "TexasLawyer" on that website). Thanks again for your reporting.
Jamil Brownson, UAE/USA
Vis-a-vis Ukraine, I'm not quite appreciateive of your
tone in the 6 questions. as a non-European I do not have a stake in being
affronted by your somewhat caustic comment on western bias. Nevertheless,
I found those aspects a bit raw and unnecessary.
Yes, there are multiple issues that divide both Ukranians and outsiders on the issue of fair elections, and yet the valid point is often made by experts, and which you repeat, that these are two political cadre both with unsavory connections and rather dismal records.
The real issue is twofold. First the intervention and meddling by the US in its continued cold-war against Russia and China, somehow frustrated that it did not get the opportunity to invade, dominate and control, which it the national ethos, character and history. If we analyse the Russian response, it is largely a continuation of the defensive position it held against American Atomic bombing of Japan in Truman's cold war......blank,
blankety lack of a save in this box ate my words, so I won't repeat them.
But a short comment about the second issue, the historical Ukraine has never been a country, only a region most of which was always externally contolled, whether by Poles, Lithuanians, Tatars, Vikings or more recently by Russian cousins. The East is part of Stalin's vast industrial network of heavy metal and mining in the Donets basin, along with the hydroelectric system, into which millions of exernal migrants were settled. They had no problem in being Ukranian within the Soviet Union, but are much less ethnically or nationally Ukranian now that the USSR is no more.
Finally there is still the issue of the Black Sea fleet and Crimea, as well as security issues along the Black Sea East coast.
In short, you treated a complex issue in a manner that chastised critics more than analysed the underlying internal and external issues.
Oleg, Ukraine, Russia, USA
Timothy Garton Ash is a liar, in my opinion. His latest
opus on present Ukrainian events, published in "Guardian" leaves
little doubt about that.
Sure, famine in Ukraine in 1930s was nothing short of horrific, but his figures -14.5 million dead - shows that there is no lie he isn't ready to resort to in order to prove his point.
First of all, there are no precise numbers of victims at all, only estimates. I encountered speculations of approximately 3 to 5 million of perished. Some go as high as 7 million. I doubt that. I grew up in Ukraine, and never heard anybody talk about it. 7 million would be etched in people's minds - there would be at least whispers. I've heard nothing.
It's rather unfortunate that Ash finds these figures insufficiently tragic. How else can one explain his need to multiply high-end estimate by 3?
Population data simply doesn't support his lie. Ukraine would be left almost empty - after two world wars, Civil War, Great Terror,emigration, etc - had his assertions be true. Yet it's one of the most populous states in former USSR.
In fact, there seems to be no limit at all for the scale of Stalinist Evil. Some Ash-like "freedom fighters" manage to come up with 100 million Soviets killed in GULAG. Never mind that so far "Memorial" has found documentated evidence for about 100 times less that that. Go figure...
For Ashes of all stripes it's simple - the more dead the better for propaganda! Sad...
Helene Haugland, Norway
Your article ‰Bitter Lemons‰ upset me a little because I had no idea West Europeans were critical to what you refer to as Ukraine‚s orange revolution. As a West European I have followed the events in the news with tears in my eyes. Considering all the conflicts in the world that seem never to be solved, what is happening in Ukraine gives me hope. Despite their sufferings under the rule of Russia the Ukrainians are still able to believe in democracy and freedom. They believe it is possible to achieve it through peaceful demonstrations and that touches me to my heart. If (and hopefully when) they win their freedom they may be able to show the world that major change is possible through perseverance and conviction rather than terror and fear. I say go Ukraine and set a good example for the rest of the world!
Rev. Dr. Francis Marsden, England
Dear Tim Garton-Ash
Many thanks for your article "Bitter Lemons" about western attitudes to Ukraine. I have friends there in the demo in Kyiv. I taught in Ukraine all through 1995 and speak both Russian and Ukrainian.
This protest isn't just about Yuschenko and Yanukovich. The main point is that people have had as much as they can take of corrupt government, bribery and fraud, the sale of state assets to the various business-Mafia clans especially in Kyiv, Donetsk and Dnipropetrovsk. The blatant frauds and falsifications in the elections has brought this to a head.
Moreover, for the west Ukrainians (Lviv and Galicia - Halychyna) any thought of going back under Moscow is diabolical. Yanukovych proposed closer confederation with Russia, which in west Ukraine is like lighting the blue touch paper - stand well back! Remember that Moscow's only title to west Ukraine is the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact of 1939: the rest of its history it was under Poland, Austria-Hungary, or the Polish-Lithuanian commonwealth.
You wouldn't expect the Jews to welcome confederation with a state run by ex-Nazis. How can you expect Ukrainians - of whom 5-10 million died in Stalin's genocidal famine, and millions more were murdered or deported to the Siberian and Arctic gulags - to welcome "closer confederation with Russia", now at last they have gained their independence.
The Ukrainian people are sick to death of struggling along on salaries of £50 per month and pensions of £20 month (optimistically estimating), while the rich oligarchs connected to the Government siphon billions of dollars off to Swiss and foreign bank accounts. The many have been impoverished and live by subsistence agriculture. I've never forgotten in 1995 seeing women pensioners in their 70's trying to sell plastic bags or small bunches of flowers, standing near the Halytsky bazar market entrance, in the ice and snow, and still there at 7 or 8 o'clock at night. These are the people who have been robbed by Kuchma and Yanukovich and their billionaire backers.
If many Ukrainians would rather risk death or injury, in conflict with riot police or the disguised Russian spetsnatz in ukrainian uniforms, I can understrand why. They want to have a future, not to go back into a semi-Soviet, Lukashenko-Belarus type of corrupt dictatorship and isolationism, with Putin pulling the strings.
You have to feel sorry too for the miners of Donetsk and the east Ukrainians. They have been fed a lot of lies about Yuschenko's intentions by the Government-controlled TV channels and the press. They see him as a fascist and an American agent because that is the propaganda they have been fed. If they can understand that he has no intentions of closing the Russian border, or banning the Russian language, and if he makes conciliatory statements towards them, perhaps they can be calmed down.
I remember going to visit some of my students in Kramatorsk, near Donetsk,for a week. Kramatorsk has a population of some 300,000, and much of the population are in outlying estates - rather like new town developments - and in the Soviet style quite well planned if you like blocks of flats.
What got me was the public transport. All bus services finished at 7 pm. No petrol, I was told. Yet plenty of private cars running around? But maybe only 1 family in 5 would have a car. So where's the petrol gone? You guess.
In the morning, people were waiting regularly 30, 40, 50 minutes for trams that were supposed to run every ten minutes. Why don't you protest, I asked my guests. Why doesn't the local paper criticise the Town Council? Well, the mayor and the newspaper editor are all in it together. Why doesn't someone found a free newspaper to criticise and counter this corruption? They wouldn't let you publish. They'd cut off your newsprint. And they would get back at you or your children somehow - the factory bosses, the school heads, the councillors - they are all in it together.
It seemed that every city needed to have its own revolution. But if all your life you've been told that protest leads you straight to a Soviet prison, or the Gulag, or death, you can see why people have this slavish mentality and are afraid to stand up against the authorities.
In east Ukraine they had 70 years under the Soviets, in the west only 45, and it partly accounts for the big psychological difference. Also many of the Donbas population are ethnic Russians brought in from the north during Stalin's industrialisation, and to replace the 7 million peasants killed in the holodomor - the death hunger of 1932-34.
You can go further back into history. On the voting maps the divide between Yuschenko and Yanukovich majority areas follows quite closely the ancient boundary between the Polish-Lithuanian rzeczpospolita dating from the Union of Lublin in 1561, and those areas reconquered by the Russian tsars from the Turks and the Mongols in the later centuries.
I would just beg all readers who are believers to pray for a just and upright Ukraine, with good leadership, and all readers to do what they can to support the protesters.
Michael Sydor, US
Timothy G. Ash, Thanks for the decent article on Ukraine. I say Here Here!
Martin Brune, UK (originally from Germany)
Although I am skeptical regarding Mr Yushchenko's credentials,
I applaud his supporters for taking to the streets in protest of a suspicious
election result. I am very impressed how both sides have demonstrated
and argued in a civilised manner so far. I also give credit to Mr Yanukovich's
comment that he would accept only the outcome of a fair election process,
a statement he made even before the official results were proclaimed.
I also agree with most of the six points or questions in your article. But I most strongly object to a specific phrase in "question no. 5". How can you honestly say, that GWB was "re-elected in a free and fair election"? I hope this is just a joke - no offence!
The 2004 US elections were anything but "free and fair" because:
- voters trying to exercise their right to vote had to queue in some cases for more than 6 hours (I watched I think it was Philippa Thomas reporting for the BBC from Ohio in front of a long line of people outside a polling station - at around 3am GMT or 10pm EST!);
- one third of votes were "cast" using touchscreen machines most of which gave no paper record of the vote and whose main manufacturer's CEO had promised to deliver the state of Ohio to President Bush;
- in many states machines were distributed unevenly, usually to the disadvantage of heavily Democratic precincts;
- the exit polls had the opposition candidate ahead by about 3%, but the vote count showed the government's candidate winning by about the same margin. Sounds familiar? - well, it should, because the same happened in the Ukraine elections. The difference is that the exit polls were deemed wrong in the US but correct in the Ukraine. The latter country's pollsters must be so much more credible!
And please, don't call me a conspiracy theorist, because all of the above are undisputed facts. Why is there no outcry against the outcome of the US elections? If you can state something silly like Mr Bush was "re-elected in a free and fair election" in an article where you (rightly) cry foul over a similar outcome in the Ukraine election, are you really that surprised that so many of us "on the left" are deeply skeptical?
J Khahra, UK
1. Can't you see the wood for the trees?
"...An election was stolen...."
The Ukranian supreme court is looking into this and will come to a conclusion one way or the other. By claimimg emphatically that it was stolen before the outcome of the enquiry Mr Ash has shown that he is biased from the start.
"...Most of the orange revolutionaries want their
country to enjoy more of the freedoms, rights and opportunities that we in western Europe enjoy, rather than being tied back closer to an increasingly authoritarian Russia...." .
How do you know that? we have seen this time and again. A strike in Chile before the coup, Disturbances in Iran at the time of Mossadeq and so on.
2. Do you think Ukrainians don't deserve democracy?
That is a very arrogant proposition that those who do not agree with the US do not want democracy and are opponents of freedom. Where have we heard this before!!
3. Are you reluctant to support the orange movement just because the Americans do?
This is one of the factors. When as an ordinary citizen with very little information about what is going on at a place one of the tests is who is supporting this? And with the US record in the third world, past and present, one has to take these proclamations of democracy with a pinch of salt unless one is completely sold to the 'US can do no wrong' school.
4. Why is Russia entitled to a sphere of influence, including Ukraine, if the United States is not entitled to a sphere of influence, including Nicaragua?
No body is entitled to sphere of influence against the interests of the people.
5. Would you rather have George Bush or Vladimir Putin?
"...But it's incredible that so many west Europeans, including Chancellor Schröder of Germany, seem to prefer as their partner an ex-KGB officer currently reimposing authoritarian rule in Russia over a man who, for all his faults, has just been re-elected in a free and fair election in one of the world's great democracies..."
That is a most silly argument I have ever heard that because a person is allegedly elected in fair elections he should be preferred to others even if he is a neo-fascist.
6. If you don't like the Americans taking the lead in Ukraine, why don't we?
We are all taking a lead - either believing and everuthing that comes from the rich and powerful or being analytical and cautious.
I find the courage of Yushchenko and the orange revolution totally inspiring.
The sour, mealy-mouthed and patronising coverage in the Guardian and elsewhere has been revealing and deeply shaming. Bitter Lemons indeed.
Thank you for your piece - it badly needed saying.
And, more importantly, Vivat Yushchenko!
Eric Dickens, Netherlands
Ukraine. I found notice of Timothy Garton Ash's Guardian
article on the very quick and informative Ukrainian www.korrespondent.net
website which is up to the hour for those who can read Russian. (Mine's
poor, but improving fast. The Ukrainian version is called www.korespondent.net
It is extremely important that we don't let the "undemocrats" pull the wool over our eyes yet again. Fraud is fraud. Now that Kuchma's gone running to mummy to ask Mother Russia what to do, while leaving his home unattended, this does look a trifle fishy.
TGA's Six Questions are admirable and concise. I am appalled at the antics of the likes of John Laughland. How do "experts" like him manage to enveigle their way into the Guardian AND the Spectator? I'd much rather see Anne Applebaum's reaction.
My modest gesture of solidarity for the Oranges was to order a book online from a Ukrainian bookshop today. Just received a reply in Ukrainian and English. Clearly not everyone is demonstrating all of the time, which is good, because the economy must go on.
Remember: Adamkus, Solana and Kwasniewski are interfering in the internal affairs of Ukraine, whilst Spetnaz Russians in Ukrainian uniforms are helping a brother nation. Pull the other one...
Cary Fraser, USA
Timothy Garton Ash poses a rather dubious question and
provides an even more dubious answer:
5. Would you rather have George Bush or Vladimir Putin?
Preferably neither. Given the choice between Bush and Putin, I choose Marilyn Monroe. But it's incredible that so many west Europeans, including Chancellor Schröder of Germany, seem to prefer as their partner an ex-KGB officer currently reimposing authoritarian rule in Russia over a man who, for all his faults, has just been re-elected in a free and fair election in one of the world's great democracies. Given the current dispute over the voting process and the vote count in Ohio, it would be useful for such fulsome declarations of Mr. Bush's legitimacy to be recast in terms that are cognizant of the continued dispute over the 2004 American presidentail election. After all, what is good for Kiev should also be good for Washington - if we are to follow Timothy Garton Ash's line of argument.
Mark Bernstein, United States
The position Timothy Garton Ash critiques calls to mind the position of the French right during the 1930s, i.e., 'Better Hitler than Blum.' Curious, though, why Timothy Garton Ash feels the need to choose Marilyn Monroe over Mr. Bush. As a leader, that is. Is this simply a sort of required 'ticket of admission' statement to be made by those who don't want to be thought to agree with Bush on anything?
Tom Rogers, USA
In regards to your article "Six questions to the critics
of Ukraine's orange revolution", you ask the question:
Are you reluctant to support the orange movement just because the Americans do?
Well, duh! I see you finally have woken up to a reality that has plagued Europe for the past 4 years. Europes bizarre hostility toward America has manifested itself in support for the Taliban and Saddam Hussein - surely nothing to be proud of. You are correct to condemn it in this case, but you have to be consistant and condemn it across the board.
Colin Stuttard, Dalhousie University, Canada
Given the number of recounts, lawsuits and hearings underway or pending in Ohio, Florida, New Hampshire and elsewhere, and the impossibility of verifying results produced by paperless electronic voting machines (see www.truthout.org), why do you assert that the Nov 2 US election was free and fair?
Edgar Amos, UK
I agreed with your assertion that an democratic Ukraine
diserves to be part of an enlarged eu.
If we are offering assurances to the Ukrainian people then we should also look to send supportive messages to the movement for democratic reform in belarus. This blighted country in its current state is an unwanted destabalising factor on europas border and should be addressed.
I am a sympathiser and supporter of the cause of the people of belarus, and I am asking you to inform the world of their plight. To do so will help protect the people of Belarus from the dictator Lukashenko and the corrosive influence of the Russian imperium. By publicising their drudgery you will help give them the impetus to protest their unjust lot in the hard times ahead.
To the people of eastern europe : Protestujecie! Wolnosc.
Robert Barnes, USA
Your entire argument in your recent Guardian piece speaking
to the "lemons" who must "despise democracy" if they
voice their suspicions of the por-Western Ukranian events relies on one
completely unsupported claim. without any evidence, you assert as gospel
fact: the "election was stolen." The problem? It likely wasn't.
If you think it was, where's the proof? Why has the proof been oddly absent from public discussion? Ask any American, and they can tell you that exit polls and voting irregularities (like unusual turnout or unusual lopsided support) are no proof of a stolen election, unless you also think George Bush has been twice elected illegally. (The exit polls are completely bogus, and those who conducted them admitted their unreliability, another fact conveniently unpublished by you and others). I fully support democracy, CIA-funded or otherwise. My suspicion originally arose from the oddly absent factual claims of this supposed fraud. So I did what others wouldn't -- actually look at the election results and the empirical evidence concerning the alleged fraud (exactly what the American media has done to rebuke claims of fraud for Bush, ironically enough).
A review of the actual returns -- which no one of those alleging "fraud" has dared to review and explain in public -- suggests that the incumbent prime minister may, indeed, have stolen votes. But here's the rub -- he would have won anyway. Take away all the "unusual turnout" and "unusual support," and he still wins!
He committed an LBJ crime -- he stole votes he didn't need. This Texas-style election in Ukraine suggests the opposition actually LOST! (No wonder they are panicking about a host of "election reforms" many of which may amount to their desire to steal the election for themselves by stacking the agency with their supporters, or, at least have some other excuse if they lose again.)
The only unusual turnout comes from the prime minister's home region (Donetsk). The opposition's claim rests on inadequate empirical evidence, with only one real basis for its claim -- supposed unusual turnout and unusual support for the Russian-aligned prime minister in the Russian-neighboring Donetsk region, where he has a long-held power base.
Here's the rub -- the opposition claims nothing unusual about 88% turnout in its stronghold (Teropil) or the pattern of unusually high turnout in more of its regional bases than that acheived by the Russian-aligned prime minister. (Again, see the results for yourself.) Moreover, the opposition claims nothing unusual about 90%+ support in more regions of the country than the supposedly anti-western prime minister.
But let us give the opposition their due. Let us assume that the prime minister should lose ALL votes in excess of the 88% turnout the opposition claims as "normal" for their region and the 94% voter support they polled in their strongholds. The result? The opposition still LOSES! And by about 300,000 votes. No other region evidenced unusual turnout or unusual support by the opposition's own standards.
That's the little secret buried in what you and others are not reporting -- your guy lost, and it is we who are stealing the election.
Bob Powelson, A Canadian in Korean
Colin: You said: "Given the number of recounts, lawsuits
and hearings underway or pending in Ohio, Florida, New Hampshire and elsewhere,
and the impossibility of verifying results produced by paperless electronic
voting machines (see www.truthout.org), why do you assert that the Nov
2 US election was free and fair?"
There is a logical fallacy built into your question.
If someone, like you, proposes that the elections in any of the states that you names is NOT free and fair it is up to you or whoever starts the law suits to prove that it was NOT free and fair.
For example Bush received 286 electoral votes. If the Ohio vote is overturned he loses 21 votes. He still has 275 and the winning number is 269.
The Democrats complained in 2000 that, when Bush lost the popular vote by about 500,000 but won the election, it was "unfair". If Kerry now took over but lost the popular vote by 3,000,000 it would be a lot more unfair.
16 December 2004
Antonio Manuel Mendonza Mendes, Finland?/Sweden
Referring to Your article of today in The Guardian THE
$65M. QUESTION, namely the principle nr.1 regarding the wrong-doing subjacent
to all the process that lead to the war against Iraque, I agree fully
with it and with all your courageous assertions in your text.
May I, however, point-out here and now that my little voice as many hundreds of thousands, all over the world, was not heard, neither by some governments NOR TRAGICALLY BY THE MEDIA WHO DELIBERATELY IGNORED TO PUBLISH THEM AT THE PROPER TIME. In my case, The Guardian and many others in Scandinavia and in other countries of central and southern Europe, have clearly been at unease to publish an objective analysis strictly within ethics and International Law on the matter.
Therefore, I send to You and to Your readers and commentators at Your website the full text of my intervention ALL AUTHORITY TO UNITED NATIONS (The SOS of the Present) published March 16th 2003 in The Independent on line (blog), the only one which managed to go through. Even so, after 2 weeks and more than 200 answers and counteranswers in the debate that followed, I was compelled, in good understanding with the lady-mediator, to close it, as the insulting comments coming from citizens of USA were going behind all limits of decency and democratic freee opinion.
May this contribution of mine make a point in the need for all the Peoples of a free world that what has been both a crime against International Law and Humanity shall not remain unpunished. Best regards for solidary for Peace all over the World
For space reasons we cannot publish the entire article here.
For a full version of the referred artilce, please see 'All Authority to United Nations', The Independent 16 March 2003, at www.independent.co.uk
See also www.globalization.bravehost.com
Bob Dog, Canada
What's the best way to create good neighbors, to promote
democracy? Certainly not invading other countries and pissing off other
For the last sixty years the USA has continued one long campaign of opposing or overthrowing governments that did not cater to its wishes. That does not mean the USA overthrows dictators, quite the contrary: the USA and the UK overthrew a legitimate democracy in Iran in order to impose the Shah on the country. Twenty five years later, Iran became the birthplace of radical islamic fundamentalism and violence (not terrorism; terrorism requires an innocent victim) aimed at the USA, and funded by the Superbill (counterfeit US$100 bills printed in Iran on presses, ink, paper and plates given to the Shah by the US government).
The number of democratically elected governments the USA has opposed is lengthy: the Sandanistas, the democratic movements in Cuba while Batista was in power (which Fidel Castro was part of, prior to his turning to the Soviet Union for help), Venezuela, Greece, Argentina, Chile, and a score of others.
The number of brutal dictators the USA has supported in the name of "American interests" (usually bank interest rather than safety and democracy) is also lengthy: Ferdinand Marcos, Manuel Noriega, Somoza, Batista, the Taliban, the Khmer Rouge, General Zia Al Haq, Saddam Hussein and dozens of others. (Who do you think sold the chemical weapons to Iraq? Donald Rumsfeld personally sold them to Hussein during the Reagan administration. "My enemy's enemy is my friend" once again came back to bite them on the ass.)
The notion that the USA is in any way a defender or promoter of democracy would be laughable were it not obscene. The USA was the greatest proponent of communism during the Cold War by backing fascists who murdered democratic opponents, and is now the greatest proponent of islamic fundamentalism by declaring war on islam and by blindly and blithely supporting Israel even when it commits terrorist acts against Palestinians or others. (The only difference between Palestinian and Israeli terrorism is the weapons, not the actions or intent.)
If the USA were truly interested in promoting democracy, it would take a good long look at countries with no long or recent history of imperialism, or who now take non-violent approaches toward other countries and are successful in doing so: Norway, Sweden, Canada, Ireland, and several others. There is a good reason airplanes were flown into New York's buildings and none into Toronto's or Dublin's.
What's the best way to create good neighbors, to promote democracy? To be a good neighbor, and to practice democracy. The United States is, and does, neither.
Martin Tisné, UK/France
I wholly support your argument that we need facts on Western
democracy promotion in order to further reflection on much needed principles
such as you laid in today's Guardian. I support it for two reasons:
1: in order to unravel the question of whether bilateral governments, foundations and the like have become more interventionist in their approach to democracy promotion over the past 3 years, compared to the 1990's.
2: in order to have a standard to measure democracy assistance on at a time where democracy work has become increasingly political.
As you know better than I do, the talk before 2001 was not of democracy "promotion" but of democracy "assistance", where the notion that we were "supporting, not manufacturing" was implicit. The talk has now changed. Whether this has led to actual changes in policy I do not know, but would be very interested to have more information on.
Moreover - It is good to bear in mind that notions such as the rule of law and government integrity, which were on the fringes of the development cooperation agenda in the 1980's, considered too political, gradually moved to the center of that agenda over the 1990's, when the World Bank and others began to focus on the value of "good governance".
There is nothing wrong with this development, on the contrary. But as donors increasingly engage in work that is more "political", standards/benchmarks are needed.
Working in an intensely political area of democracy assistance myself - anticorruption - I feel this is crucial debate that must be had.
If you have plans to take this further, I would be most grateful to learn about these. As I would of any literature that might recommend.
Vic Taylor, United Kingdom
It is important to distinguish between democracy and capitalism
- they are not the same thing. There are plenty of capitalist countries
that are not democratic - China for example. Much of what is promoted
as democracy is in fact the promotion of capitalism.
Capitalism and democracy are mutually exclusive concepts.
In an ideal democracy power is distributed equally between all the people (though this is practicable perhaps only in small groups such as families or even tribes)
However capitalism gives unequal power to the rich. My one vote every four years or so has no meaningful effect on policy or the conduct of government but a phone call to Blair by a media tycoon or the special pleadings of fat-cat businessmen or the rantings of journalists can have enormous influence.
Also our normal every day life is influenced far more by the unelected managers of the organisations we work for or the pressures to conform by clever advertisers than it is by government policy but we have virtually no power at all in these matters.
The promotion of democracy should be an important part of our political concerns but it generally features nowhere at all.
Linda Silva, Portugal
I have just read your column about promoting democracies
everywhere. Of course, I would like all the peoples in Earth living in
democracy, now. Unfortunatelly, some peoples are not yet enough spiritually
soul developed to achieve this goal, no matter how much we and their elites
desire this social arrangement for them. Being democrat, living a democracie,
is first of all a state of mind (education granted to the populations
is a major request, first. Otherwise, illiterate peolple prefer to promote
and keep on their traditional costumes and ways, as a well known path
wchich granted them survival, generation after generation. No education
means they know very litle about other ways in other countries. Sometimes,
few, are told about trough family and friends working abroad. But I'm
sure none of those tells them all about our democracies' organization.
They speak about some fancy facts, some curiosities, some similarities
or dissimilarities,; they describe them the wealth and confort we live
on, not the complete way we are organized and the complete way we think
about us and life, which allows us living in such paradise; they speak
them "the 1001 nights' Scherazade tale way". And so on. And
so on. I'm going to stop here spaeking about democratizating the world).
The matter wichich made me wright you, is the ukraniane orange candidate and his "poisoning". For me, it is very unconfortable to ear everybody speaking of poison. When I see him in the TV set I notice allways his deformations are only in his face. It poisons me to think that a dioxin will be efective all over one's body, not only just the face. The first time I noticided his hands, without traces of the disease, I've asked miself why? whow?. We can not see his whole body covered by the clothes, but I could guess, it is clean too. So I began thinking may be the problem in his face is due to Botox. Of course, a presidential candidate can not confess this kind of truth or he will loose the confidence of the voters and be the ridicule of a nation (imagine Blair telling Britain he wanted to be well looking, sexy and used Botox and one day he had had one bad reaction to the product, which caused him that awfull appearance). By the other hand, and as he could not hide his new ugly face he decided to have benefit from the fact, using it as a weapen against the govern and the opposite candidate, telling the world he had been poisoned. Brilliant. I must say that he is very smart. Too much smart to my likes, if things are as I've been saing. A liar, a dangerous man.
Donald Oddy, UK
It's a pity that before asking the $65M question "When
and how we should promote democracy?" you didn't ask the question
"What do we mean by democracy?", and who the "we"
you are speaking on behalf of?
Even within the established democracies there are wide variations in both democratic practice and how individual freedoms are protected from government and other individuals (including the artificial individuals called corporations). Each country has their own idea of what is important based on their history and traditions.
If democracy is to have any meaning these decisions must be made by the people of that country and it is completely false to imagine that encouraging, or still worse imposing, a system developed over centuries in the context of one culture on people of another culture.
Compounding this problem is the practice of using the word democracy to mean introducing economic reforms which are not supported by the majority of people of the country concerned and in practice provide cheap labour and new markets for multi-national corporations.
When "we" have an agreed definition of democracy it will then be possible to answer the question about when and how "we" should promote that to "them". However if "we" expect "them" to listen to "us" "we" should also listen to "them". After all good ideas aren't a monopoly of modern western society.
David Manning, Ireland
I've just read your latest article "The $65 Million
Question" and was left quite bemused at your logic. Your first question
"Would you rather have democracies next door, or dictatorships?"
is easy enough, democracies. "why not promote democracy in neighbouring
countries?" fair enough, although further qualification is necessary
as to what this promotion involves.
The next part of you piece at first glance might seem fair "If you consider it a matter of complete indifference whether another country's rulers oppress, torture, poison and murder political opponents or ethnic and religious groups within the boundaries of their state, then you need read no further. You will save five precious minutes of your time. Have a nice day. Oh, you're still there? Then let's get to the real question: how? We know the wrong way: Iraq. But what's the right way? Which means of promoting democracy are effective and justified?," but the obvious result of your question is forced logic. Because I am opposed to rape, torture etc (as any moral human being must be) I am, according to your logic obliged to 'promote' democracy in another country. Is there no alternative?
Taking for granted that this is the resonable thing to do in a situatioin where the leaders of a country are abusing the people of their country, shouldn't the first thing to do before promoting a new political structure is to choose one that will benefit all its people. Take for instance promoting US democracy in Iraq. The US itself a country with massive inequalities, a death penalty, racial inequalities, discrepancies in voting processes, a hugely ignored anti-war lobby etc. Is this what we hope for Iraq? There's no question that this is still better than what the Iraqi people had under Saddam, but is it the best we can strive for. Perhaps they could come up with something better?
"Which means of promoting democracy are effective and justified?"
Are you missing the point altogether? How can we promote democracy, or simpler still, independence for people? Easy, stop any involvement thats detrimental to people. That means in Haiti, in Isreal, in Libya etc. That means paying compensation to countries that have suffered due to the invovlement of western 'democracies' in the past, including Nicaragua, Afganistan, Vietnam etc.
Thats a start. Don't supply weapons to dictatorships, don't pretend genocide isn't going on. Don't support dictatorships while they slaughter hundreds and thousands of their population and don't pretend history, is just history.
You are right to say "Then let's get to the real question: how? We know the wrong way: Iraq," but this was well predicted before the invasion. How can we expect a people who know we, not 'sat idly by', but actively supported (with weapons, with handshakes, with ignorance) the death of many of their family members and fellow country men to accept us as their saviours?
So far I've imagined that the war in Iraq was for the purpose of promoting democracy in Iraq, but although this may be your objective in Iraq, you are not fighting this war, you did not wage this war. The minute group of politicians who deceided to go to war aganist their old friend chose to do so for several reasons:
"The primary goal is to make it clear to Saddam that we expect him to be a peaceful neighbour in the region and we expect him not to develop weapons of mass destruction. And if we find him doing so, there will be a consequence."
˜U.S. President George W. Bush at his first White House news conference; Feb. 22, 2001
"Our cause is just, the security of the nations we serve and the peace of the world. And our mission is clear, to disarm Iraq of weapons of mass destruction, to end Saddam Hussein's support for terrorism, and to free the Iraqi people." --George W. Bush March 22, 2003 Radio Address
"Our mission -- besides removing the regime that threatened us, besides ending a place where the terrorists could find a friend, besides getting rid of weapons of mass destruction -- our mission has been to bring a humanitarian aid and restore basic services, and put this country, Iraq, on the road to self- government. And we'll stay as long as it takes to complete our mission. And then all our forces are going to leave Iraq and come home"
-made by Bush in Ohio
Most of which have been unfounded accusations. They identify your reason as the forth aim. It is also quite obvious this aim exists only on the condition that all other aims before it are extant. Is this not reason enough to be cautious when advocating the 'promotion' of democracy?
There is no doubt that there are people around the world suffering under brutal regimes, but lets not kid ourselves that we are selflessly giving up the lives of US/UK soldiers, not to mention countless Iraq civilians (whose lives we generously forfeited too) for democratic purposes.
We are not the police of the world.
Antonio Manuel Mendonza Mendes, Finlad
December 21th 2004
Referring to the comment signed by myself above in this page of Dec.16th (Antonio Manuel Mendonza Mendes/ Finland-Sweden )and to the entry on ALL AUTHORITY TO UNITED NATIONS, I update it as follows:
Republished, toghether with a new Manifesto of mine, in Open Democracy with the following coordinates:
19TH DECEMBER 2004
SHALL THE PEOPLES FIGHT FOR INTERNATIONAL LEGALITY?
1.Go to www.opendemocracy.net
2.Click in "discussion foruns"
3.Click after in "search foruns"my 2 surnames: Mendonza Mendes
Eric Bjornlund, Democracy Direct/United States
In his December 16 column, Timothy Garton Ash says "There's a whole library on the criteria for military intervention; almost nothing on those for promoting democracy." Because I agree with that assessment, I wrote "Beyond Free and Fair: Monitoring Elections and Building Democracy," which was just published by the Wilson Center Press and the Johns Hopkins University Press. Addressing many themes mentioned in the Garton Ash column, the book explores the history and evolution of international and domestic election monitoring and offers insight into how the international community can more successfully advance democracy around the world. It draws on worldwide experience since the mid-1980s˜including case studies from Cambodia, Indonesia, Zimbabwe, and Eastern Europe and of the influential election monitoring work of former U.S. president Jimmy Carter˜to evaluate the contribution of election monitoring to democracy promotion and democratic change.