A Russian friend once said to me, “You Americans are an odd people. You love our liberals, but you don’t like your own liberals.” He added, “You should support your local liberals too.”
My friend’s words came to mind this past week as I watched the extraordinary street protests in Ukraine. Anyone who cares about citizens fighting corrupt regimes can’t help but be moved by scenes of thousands of demonstrators, many of them students, standing for hours in Kiev’s Independence Square in sub-zero temperatures–waving banners, chanting and protesting what they believe is a rigged election.
When the Bush Administration rushed to celebrate the protesters’ courage and tenacity, I thought–what rank hypocrisy. These same officials have shown no respect for American pro-democracy protesters, and, if they have their way, they’ll probably lock their political opponents out of central Washington when Inauguration Day rolls around.
On the hypocrisy meter: Consider how the Ukrainian protesters’ charges of election fraud have been treated so seriously by Bush and his team, while they dismiss such charges when they are raised here at home. And how exactly does the Bush Administration–which has said that it cannot accept the results of the Ukrainian presidential election as legitimate “because it does not meet international standards”–explain why those international standards don’t apply to the US? What right does this Administration have to lecture Ukraine when Bush came to office in a non-violent coup d’etat in 2000, and when numerous reports document that the 2004 election was marred by GOP voter suppression and intimidation tactics, flawed voting equipment and unexplained discrepancies between exit polls and official results in key swing states?
Then there’s the reality that the mass street protests in Ukraine are not as sweet or homegrown as they appear. Although it is virtually unreported in our media, the US has been closely involved in funding and training Ukraine’s youth protests, and the united opposition.
As Ian Traynor reports in The Guardian, “…while the gains of the orange-bedecked ‘chestnut revolution’ are Ukraine’s, the campaign is an American creation, a sophisticated and brilliantly conceived exercise in Western branding and mass marketing that, in four countries and four years, has been used to try to salvage rigged elections and topple unsavory regimes…Funded and organized by the US government, deploying US consultancies, pollsters, the two big American parties and US non-government organizations…the operation–engineering democracy through the ballot box and civil disobedience–is now so slick that the methods have matured into a template for winning other people’s elections.”