hatreds are deep and venomous. Though he likes to think
of himself as a great humanitarian, as a champion of "human
rights," he tosses out slurs and insults about other
nations with cheerful abandon. Since, according to his solipsistic
world-view, the measure of any people is how it stands in
relation to Israel or the United States, the intensity of
his hatred is directly proportional to the degree to which
a nation opposes current Israeli or US policy. That a nation
may have interests of its own which do not coincide with
those of Israel or the United States is inconceivable. To
suggest that a nation may be responding to US or Israeli
aggression, naturally makes one a member of the "isolationist"
or the "blame America first" crowd.
Safire has directed something bordering on barely-controlled
rage at Russia. This is hardly surprising. Over the past
year, the Russians have made it clear that they are fed
up with being pushed around by the United States. The humiliation
over Kosovo starkly demonstrated just how weak Russia had
become during the Yeltsin years. Anxious to conform to Western
diktats about "market democracy," the Russian
government fecklessly presided over the looting of a nation
in the name of "privatization." In the meantime,
Russia's armed forces went into decline. One national humiliation
followed another. The Russians were forced to accept the
expansion of NATO almost to their borders. Their ally Serbia
was pulverized. The United States was openly establishing
anti-Russian military alliances in the Caucasus. And, now,
if the Safires and Albrights have their way, the Baltic
states and even Ukraine will become members of NATO. Enough
is enough. The new leader Vladimir Putin promises that there
will be no more kowtowing to the West. It is high time for
Russians to regain their national pride.
a result Safire is barely able to control himself. Every
week he vents his spleen against the Russians at least once,
sometimes twice. "Riding a wave of war hysteria,"
he spluttered recently, "this KGB apparatchik
is likely to be elected president-to take his patient, Russia,
to the cooler of repression and autocratic rule." Putin
had "taken advantage of lawlessness in Chechnya to
launch a popular war and called a snap election to capitalize
on the war fever." This is typical Safire. He causally
tosses out the phrase "lawlessness in Chechnya"
and then never mentions it again as if it were a matter
of no consequence. Chechnya is more than lawless. It is
a gangster state. It launched an invasion of Dagestan last
year. Its main source of income comes from organized crime,
from stealing oil bound for the Black Sea, from kidnapping
and from the counterfeiting of $100 bills. In fact, kidnapping
is Chechnya's most important economic activity. Hostages,
held under terrible conditions, are frequently tortured
and dismembered. They are then bought and sold among the
Chechen clans like marketable commodities.
are the Russians supposed to do about this kind of "lawlessness"?
Ignore it? Is that what Safire would advise the US Government
to do? Of course not. He only wants Russia to be weak, not
the United States. His show of solicitude for the Russians
is so transparently dishonest it is hilarious. For some
time now Safire has championed the cause of the "reformer"
Grigory Yavlinsky. Yavlinsky is the Steve Forbes of Russian
politics-always running and always losing and always in
single digits. Sure enough, once again he is "gutsily
but his time won't come until Russians tire
of stagnation, weary of war and are no longer bamboozled
by the Kremlin-controlled media." Interestingly, neither
Safire nor anyone else complained about the "Kremlin-controlled
media" at the time of the 1993 parliamentary shoot-out
or during the 1996 presidential campaign when it saved Yeltsin
from almost certain defeat.
is intelligent enough to see that any candidate that he
or the US Government embraces would be seen by Russians
as creatures of the United States and hence to be avoided
like the plague. So he offers the following disingenuous
comment: "The irony is that a 'Putin era' would mean
an uncompetitive, economically weakened Russia no
threat to the West. A 'Yavlinsky era' would marry a free-market
system under law and Russia would soon compete as
a world power. Those fearful of resurgence of Russian power
prefer the surly stagnation of what would come to be called
Putinism. The more hopeful of us wish the Russians a better
life, but should be careful what we wish for."
obviously believes his readers are stupid. Apparently, they
will buy into the notion that Putin's Russia nationalist,
assertive, determined to improve its military poses
no threat to the West. Why? Because it is so "uncompetitive."
Why then did we spend all those years scaring ourselves
silly about the Soviet Union? After all, its VCRs and coffee-makers
could not "compete" with ours. Moreover, Safire's
argument goes against the most cherished doctrine of the
"global democracy" crowd. Democracies allegedly
do not go to war against each other. So why would a Russia,
even more completely under the sway of the West than it
ever was during the Yeltsin years pose a "threat to
the West"? Of course, it would pose no threat whatsoever
and Safire knows it. Yavlinsky's Russia would be divided
into economic zones run by the giant international corporations
for the purpose of looting the country of its natural resources.
lament for the Chechens and his show of horror at Russia's
atrocities contrasts starkly with his bellicosity last year
during the bombing spree on Yugoslavia. Then his weekly
lament was: Why so few bombs? Why so few Serb casualties?
Last April, he wrote "Punishment from the air, calibrated
to hurt but not too much, is not enough to win the war.
The way to free Kosovo is to send in men with guns to force
out the men with guns now doing the killing." And he
sneered at Clinton's pusillanimity: "Public opinion,
now supporting ground action to stop rapine and mass murder,
could turn against him [Clinton] at the first sight of body
bags. And so he waits for others to push him into taking
the military steps to save refugee lives that NATO credibility
and international morality urgently require."
May Safire had become completely hysterical. In every column
he warned of an impending sellout. His demagoguery was shameless.
The "peacekeepers" "with NATO at its
core" that would go into Kosovo would comprise,
he claimed, "Serb-favoring Russians, Ukrainians and
Argentineans, with Hungarians and Czechs to give the illusion
of 'a NATO core'. If you were an ethnic-Albanian woman whose
husband had been massacred, sister raped, children scattered
and house burned down on orders from Belgrade-would you
go back home under such featherweight protection?"
In June, he wrote, "the Western world is doing the
right thing in the wrong way
.When you decide to strike,
strike decisively. We should have turned out the lights
in Belgrade and destroyed telecommunications the first day.
Slow, steady escalation invites propaganda exploitation
of 'collateral damage', highlights mistakes like the Chinese
Embassy destruction and in the long run costs lives."
To hell with civilian casualties, to hell with war crimes
the only thing that matters is American power. Vladimir
Putin would put it a little differently the only
thing that matters is Russian power.
NATO's seizure of Kosovo, Safire has not written one column
about Yugoslavia. Not once has he addressed the issue of
the mass expulsion of the Serbs and gypsies. Not once has
he suggested that he may have been wrong to indulge in so
much hysterical hyperbole. There is a reason for that. Safire
knew perfectly well that the story of the Kosovo genocide
was a crock. Doubtless, he saw it as a necessary lie. The
Serbs had to be defeated. Israel's pal, Turkey, had to be
brought back into Europe. And the United States had to establish
its little protectorates in the Balkans. These are to be
the staging ground for subsequent expansion into the Middle
East and Central Asia. Safire is a man with a mission.