At The End of History
by Chad Nagle
January 26, 2000
Belarus: Oasis In The Heart Of Europe
The independent "Nasha svaboda" on 12 January published a "medical conclusion" by Belorussian psychiatrist Dzmitry Shchyhelski stating that Belorussian President Lukashenka is suffering from a "moderately pronounced psychopathy with the prevalence of traits of a paranoid and distractive personality disorder."… Shchyhelski, who is currently on a trip in the U.S., told RFE/RL’s Belorussian Service that since 1996 doctors in virtually all psychiatric clinics in Belarus have been discussing symptoms of Lukashenka’s psychopathic "deviations."
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty Newsline
15 January 2001
[Lukashenka] has…amassed near absolute powers, permitting little dissent or private enterprise. He openly admires Hitler and has said that Belorussians want him to bring back a Stalinist state.
"A Dictator in Belarus" (Editorial)
International Herald Tribune, 3 November 2000
In a state where the president has amassed "near absolute powers," doctors in nuthouses all across the country are chatting endlessly about their chief executive’s sanity. I had no idea this sort of thing happened under Stalin or any other tyrannical despot. I guess I’m going to have to go back into my history books. There must be a case somewhere of a Soviet shrink libeling Stalin in a nationwide newspaper and then being allowed to jet off to America to spread the news. Now, if I can only find it…
Speaking from experience, Belarus is a refreshing change for someone who’s traveled extensively in the old Evil Empire. The streets of the cities are clean and peaceful, the stores are full of inexpensive goods, and the only beggars visible are small handfuls of gypsies and other nomads outside the churches (a common feature throughout central Europe). The Mafia omnipresence of other ex-Soviet capitals is strikingly absent, and the people still seem to have a spring in their step – an air of dignity as they go about their day-to-day affairs.
An American would never know this from reading the mainstream press, which has loyally toed the New World Order’s PC line for twelve years. It’s easy, safe, and probably fun for the "experts" to perpetuate the demonization of Belarus, evidently because America needs enemies, and – as Hitler said – people are more likely to believe a big lie than a small one.
Editorials like the IHT’s catch the average American eye, but who’s going to refute the content? Whenever Imperial America’s opinion-makers go anywhere, all they do is stay in Western hotels, keep lesser mortals at a distance, and attend triumphalist conferences where they’re told what they want to hear. Non-opinion-making Americans swallow the line with hook and sinker attached while they vacation in Florida and leave Belorussian reality in the hands of government mediocrities, NGO hirelings, and stringer journalists desperate to get in print. So what if NATO ally Poland has called for Kosovo-style bombing of peaceful neighbor Belarus? I’m all right, Jack, and those places are a long way from home. Besides, where exactly is Belarus anyway?
Even Westerners who do see that swathes of international reporting are essentially lies nevertheless accept other reports – from the same news agencies – as basically true. If someone were to point out that Lukashenka visited Belgrade during NATO’s bombing to show solidarity with the Serbs, many who opposed the war would likely respond: "Yeah, but he’s a Communist" (the Belorussian Red Cross also sent Serbia several truckloads of humanitarian aid, which was held up by our trusty allies the Hungarians). And many would "tsk-tsk" reports that Lukashenka was a "dictator" or hadn’t enacted "necessary reforms."
Oh, before I get accused of being a latter-day George Bernard Shaw or other Stalinist fellow traveler, let’s remember that no one has made a serious accusation that Lukashenka is operating gulags in Belarus, not even the lying Western media – not yet anyway. However, I would like to take this opportunity to accuse the Americans and other Westerners who’ve been to Belarus and reported on the "repressive" regime there of something else: Leninism – of viewing Belarus through the kind of warped spectacles that Bolsheviks Leon Trotsky and Nikolai Bukharin wore when they came to New York in 1916-17 and condemned early 20th-century America as evil. Like Trotsky and Bukharin, you see only what your "scientific" (i.e., "politically correct") ideology allows you to see. In your Western compulsion to find the "enemy" on whose face you can hatefully stamp forever, you conveniently fail to notice that in a country of 10 million people, supposedly without freedom of press, there are literally hundreds of newspapers – including several opposition ones. Then again, maybe you’re afraid that telling the world the truth would cost you spineless hacks your miserable jobs.
Fifteen years or so ago, my attitude toward Communism and Communists was similar to that of Generalissimo Francisco Franco (1892-1975) of Spain. Franco used to blame all the world’s problems on Communists and freemasons. Although I never thought much about freemasons back then, I now think the Caudillo may have had a point about them. But these days I bristle when I hear certain Americans say the word "Communist." Ten years after the end of the USSR, many posturing American armchair geopoliticians are still reflexively bleating about "CAH-mmunism" without any meaningful understanding of what they’re talking about.
What does it mean to describe Lukashenka as a Communist? Is he a Marxist ideologue? No. Is he a member of a Communist party? No. (There are two Communist parties in Belarus – the Party of Belorussian Communists and the Communist Party of Belarus – one of which is in opposition to Lukashenka.) Was he ever a member of a Communist party? Well, yes, but former Soviet Communist Party (CPSU) members describe him as having been a "corporal" in the apparatus. In fact, Lukashenka’s "reformist" opponents – so loved by America – were a lot higher up in the Party than Lukashenka was. Ex-Speaker Semyon Sharetsky was reportedly the youngest person ever to receive the Order of Lenin. So it looks like "Communist" is simply a convenient catchword the West can use to label certain foreign politicians it doesn’t like, and Lukashenka fits the bill.
The same goes for terms like "dictator" and "tyrant." Even though Lukashenka was elected president fair and square in 1994 – and not even the propagandistic Western press disputes that he won over 80% of the vote in the second round – he is a "dictator." Why? Because he hasn’t "reformed." Because he hasn’t "privatized." Because he’s used his constitutional powers – increased under a 1996 referendum – to keep the economy out of the hands of the Mafia and foreign vultures. Because by Western definitions, Belarus’s government isn’t "transparent" – i.e., not wide open to corruption and control by foreign interests (even "Transparency International" – one of US "philanthropist" George Soros’s NGOs – had to admit that Belarus was probably the least corrupt country in the CIS).
Is there private enterprise in Belarus? Plenty of it. It just isn’t as "diverse" as in the more "reformed" republics. Racketeering, for example, isn’t a major service industry. In short, thanks to Lukashenka, Belarus still manages to function more or less intact, because unlike in other ex-Soviet republics, the bottom hasn’t fallen out of the economy and the spirits of ordinary working people haven’t been completely crushed. These are things for which America and the West cannot forgive Lukashenka. But perhaps the worst of all his sins – his most grievous transgression – he’s popular. We really hate that.
Lukashenka doesn’t belong to any party. He opposed the breakup of the Soviet Union just like the vast majority of the USSR’s ordinary people, whose living standards plummeted in the decade after 1991. The West was quick to make good buddies out of the grotesque old elite when the Soviet Union was disintegrating, while it utterly ignored the plight of common people. And in a classic case of Western "doublespeak," it did it all in the name of "democracy." With plenty of help from us, the nomenklatura – the Communist Party elite – went from living high on the hog to living high on the hog. During the Cold War, some of us naively believed that our brave leaders understood a basic truth: that the Party nomenklatura were the real enemies of freedom. But it’s them that America and the West have rewarded across the former Eastern Bloc. We gave them that helping hand and the pat on the back they needed to make the ultra-smooth transition to the nomenklatura of the New World Order. Their republics were left languishing in political and economic depression.
But Lukashenka is a different story. Lukashenka embarrasses Western leaders because he’s what the old aristocracy would have called a "peasant." He used to manage a collective farm and play professional ice hockey. He enjoys kicking a soccer ball around with fellow countrymen on occasion, and he talks about the price of bread, meat and milk when he’s on TV. For standing up for common folk in Belarus, the West has pilloried him relentlessly. And it figures, really. The sordid, elitist likes of Madeleine Albright would much rather shake the manicured hand of a former Soviet Politburo member than the big proletarian mitt of Alexander Lukashenka. Maybe the Belarusian Leader should feel relieved he never had to interact personally with that little gem of Americana on a regular basis.
On the day before the Belorussian parliamentary election on October 15th, a crowd gathered outside the Academy of Sciences to protest Lukashenka’s tyrannical rule. The mass looked about 2,000 maximum, although an absurd Western news report I saw put the number at 10,000. This was the "opposition" boycotting the election (as opposed to the opposition taking part), and the West had advised these boycotters not to participate. One can only guess at the "incentive" provided, but the fact that the Belorussian Helsinki Committee had split apart in a squalid quarrel over the division of Western money was certainly illustrative.
The "Stalinist" regime had allowed the demonstrators to assemble, wave red-and-white flags, give droning speeches, and play distorted, folksy pop music through large speaker systems. A lot of Western officials appeared at the rally, including some with Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) armbands. A guy in a Timberland jacket who bore a distinct resemblance to Lee Harvey Oswald showed up defiantly wearing an anti-Lukashenka sticker on his sleeve. His eyes became increasingly fiery, mean-spirited and full of zeal despite the lackluster display. Go, Lee Harvey! I had a feeling he might be from the American Embassy and I wanted to ask him whether foreign service regulations allowed him to participate in a political demonstration in a foreign country. But he was probably the kind of "principled rebel" to flaunt such unprincipled laws.
At last, the paymasters showed up. Several Western ambassadors and NGO chiefs arrived in their limos and shivered as they listened to appointed rally participants explain what was happening. They looked a little disappointed. The crowd was sparse and unfocused. It looked like all the expensive signs, sweatshirts, banners and stickers had gone to waste.
Eventually, a spokesman for the boycotters announced through his speaker system that there had been a change in plan! The demonstration would proceed through the city to the opera house in violation of the government permit. O valiant rebels! Slowly, the motley mass of 2,000 moved together and prepared to proceed. As they spilled into the street, the wing mirror of a slowly passing car grazed one of the heroes. Though he was unhurt and had clearly stepped into the oncoming traffic, the outrage could not go unpunished. As the driver slowed to a halt to make sure there was no injury, a brave comrade stepped forward to smash one of the windows with his megaphone. The demonstration was off to a fine start.
I followed the revolutionaries to their final destination at the opera house, walking along the sidewalk on the same path the Western ambassadors took. A man I think was the Italian ambassador walked ahead of me, grinning smugly as he showed his solidarity with what Western money had managed to buy. It wasn’t much, frankly. Half the crowd were male, skinhead-type youths singing soccer hooligan chants as they trudged drunkenly down the main drag. I noticed that almost all these brave skinhead warriors wore bandannas across their faces to avoid recognition. Hard currency would evidently buy them for an afternoon of chanting and carrying signs, but couldn’t quite get them to reveal their identities before the Belorussian public (even though that public supposedly supported them wholeheartedly). "Milosevic Today, Luka Tomorrow," many of the placards said in English. Were these English-language signs meant for the consumption of Belorussians? Oh, but I forgot. Western media were there, and the right camera-angles could make this look like a "Revolution."
By the time the procession had made it three or four blocks, the street became so deserted you would have thought the city had been evacuated. A few old people crept out onto their balconies to have a look at what was making so much noise on a Saturday afternoon. One gentleman – who looked about retirement age – signaled to the demonstrators with a European gesture from very high up. He placed his left hand on his right arm just above the elbow and raised his forearm. I could only guess at what he was trying to say.
Where were all the police? Wasn’t this supposed to be a vicious police state? The demonstrators had defied their permit and marched loudly through the center of the city, diverting traffic and causing a disturbance. Yet the entire time I saw only two police officers who disappeared after a few minutes. Maybe this bold, dwindling crowd of fighters – about a third of which was made up of children – had simply frightened the police back into their lairs. In any case, the masked skinhead hooligans (the future "Otpor" of Belarus) were clearly spoiling for a fight, so it seemed strange that the psychopathic tyrant wasn’t going to give them one.
Our Group was among a small handful of Westerners to actually observe the poll. The usual Western election-monitoring organizations would not be observing because – in their infinite wisdom – they already knew the election would be unfair. Instead, the OSCE, Council of Europe, and European Parliament each sent a representative from their "parliamentary assemblies" (groups of parliamentarians from the member states), making up a "Troika" – or triumvirate. The day after the election, the Troika would present its official report of what it hadn’t observed.
Up to then, I had observed three instances of "national" votes in the ex-USSR: parliamentary elections in Armenia and Georgia in May and October 1999, and a national referendum in Ukraine in April 2000. It may not be saying much that the election in Belarus was head and shoulders above these other plebiscites, but it was. The polling stations were peaceful and clean and the usual intimidating figures weren’t hanging around all over the place. And the government didn’t try to claim that almost the entire population had turned out to vote, as in the Ukrainian referendum where you could practically hear the wind whistling through the voting booths. But the snooty Troika organizations didn’t need to see for themselves. They already knew the election was no good.
Amid the hooting and hollering of the audience of observers at the Troika press conference, OSCE Parliamentary Assembly President Adrian Severin – hands gesticulating outward in wimpy karate-chop motion during his Latin-accented speech – told the audience: "BE-LA-RUS needs Europe, and Europe needs BE-LA-RUS." Severin had of course attended the boycotters’ demonstration, at which the splendid demonstrators had carried a big European Union flag at the front of the procession. Severin was sorry so many in the audience were unhappy about the Troika’s conclusions, but said they would "have to live with it."
Interestingly, Severin had been a minister in the government of Ion Iliescu of Romania in 1990, and had publicly thanked Romanian miners for agreeing to come into Bucharest – at the government’s invitation – to put down a peaceful demonstration using picks and shovels. Several of the demonstrators were killed in the incident. What were they demonstrating for? AN ELECTION BOYCOTT! Here was a man eminently qualified to decide on the level of democracy and the rule of law in Belarus!
And then there was Hans Georg Wieck, the silver-haired German who headed up the OSCE’s "Advisory and Monitoring Group" in Minsk. Not long after the election, Lukashenka publicly stated that he wanted the OSCE mission out of Belarus and accused Wieck of being a "German spy." Western press agencies used this as evidence that Lukashenka was a paranoid Stalinist but – oddly – Reuters, AP, and the others failed to mention that Wieck had been chief of the German Secret Services (Bundesnachrichtendient). Again, the West could be truly proud that such a distinguished figure was pronouncing judgment on Belarus’s progress in the area of democracy and the rule of law. When a Gaullist member of the European Parliament stood up to accuse the Troika of lies and of having prepared its report several days before the election, Mr. Wieck showed his true colors. "SILENCE!" he screamed. "Vee vill only accept kvestions from churnalists!"
A few days after the election, Lukashenka apologized to the inhabitants of Minsk for the disturbance of October 14th, promising it wouldn’t happen again. He gave a televised press conference and answered several questions, but was most emphatic about one thing: what had happened in Serbia on October 5th would not happen in Belarus.
This was probably a safe bet, even with Western agents trying to stir up trouble under his nose. Belarus is an ethnically homogenous country with no armed conflicts on its territory, and it’s a lot closer to Russia than Yugoslavia both geographically and ethnically. More than any other ex-Soviet republic, Belarus resembles a Russian province. US efforts to foment a something like the Belgrade "Revolution" of October 2000 would probably be in vain. But that doesn’t mean Lukashenka can rest easy.
First of all, Russian President Putin has been halfhearted in his commitments to Lukashenka. He may appreciate Lukashenka’s constant attempts to consolidate the Russia-Belarus Union, but would probably rather have one of his own cronies in Minsk instead of Lukashenka, who is very likely more popular among ordinary Russians than Putin himself.
The West, meanwhile, is probably attempting to purchase officials within the Belorussian security services. America can’t lead by example, it seems, so we have to do it by skullduggery. Since the US has only one way to obtain loyalty any more – by dangling dollars in the faces of foreign politicians – Washington will try to put plenty of American money in the "right" hands in preparation for "cutting the head off" the Belorussian political system and proceeding with "reform." Reform means "privatizing" Belorussian industry – essentially shutting down enterprises so they can’t compete. Once we’ve turned the country into an economic sinkhole, the popular will – and therefore any political challenge – will be neutralized, because the mass of ordinary people will have been brought to its knees. Once we have a "modernizing elite" on our payroll with plenty of experience in crushing dissent, broken spirits will stay broken while we sing about the triumph of democracy. It’s a tried and tested formula that’s worked for us everywhere else in the ex-USSR.
It will be interesting to see how Lukashenka fares in the face of Western attacks in coming months. The persecution is sure to intensify under Bush, whose National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice – in an attempt to look authoritative, decisive and statesmanlike – has already adopted a Brzezinski-like stance with regard to Russia. Frankly, I’m not convinced that Rice has a good grasp of world affairs, but you can bet the likes of Adrian Severin and other Europhiles will be. Their salaries depend on it.
As I was leaving Belarus, the new envoy of the Hegemon – US Ambassador Michael Kozak – arrived. I watched as he and his wife waltzed into the airport terminal to meet the Embassy’s welcoming committee. Lee Harvey was there, as well as a slightly manly female US Army officer. Everybody pumped each other up. What heroes – so brave to be in Belarus to advance democracy, privatization, and reform.
For some reason, at the time of this writing, Lukashenka still hasn’t found time to accept Kozak’s diplomatic credentials. Maybe it has to do with the greaser Kozak heavily criticizing Belarus before he’d even arrived, describing it as "worse than Cuba." Very diplomatic. Anyway, Bush will almost certainly keep the Clinton appointee (who worked for Bush’s father in Panama) in order to give "continuity" to American policy in Belarus. After all, George W. Bush – our Leader – is a "uniter, not a divider."
The next test for Lukashenka will come in the presidential election later this year. Interestingly, His Excellency Kozak threw a party at the US Embassy in Minsk on November 8th, 2000, to celebrate America’s great democratic electoral achievements. Part of his speech went like this:
As we have told the authorities of Belarus, if elections are conducted in accord with … universal principles as defined more precisely by the Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe this past spring …and if the resulting government continues to respect the rights of minority parties thereafter …we will deal with the resulting government as the legitimately elected representatives of the Belorussian people. This is the way to end the impasse that has existed for the last few years, and the way to bring Belarus into the democratic mainstream of the rest of Europe. I hope that next year we will be together again to watch the results of another free and democratic election - the election of the President of Belarus.
Of course, when he said "another free and democratic election," he was a priori pronouncing the US presidential election a model of electoral procedure to be emulated throughout the world. And what a model it turned out to be! We sure know how to lecture other countries, but don’t you dare criticize how we run our own show. I know I can’t speak for other Americans, but give me a choice between Minsk on polling day and Palm Beach, Florida during a Jesse Jackson rally, and this citizen of the Republic will be in Belarus quicker than you can say "Alexander Lukashenka."
So, with that, all that’s left for this writer to say is: "Hang in there, Lukashenka – and watch your back."
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