Back to George Orwell to unravel the riddle!



by Selvam Canagaratna

"Growing nations should remember that, in nature, no tree, though placed in the best conditions of light, soil and plot, can continue to grow and spread indefinitely."

- Paul Valéry, Reflections on the

World Today (1931)

No apologies for returning to Ukraine, the geopolitical ‘hot-spot’ right now.

Thanks to the upheavals there, Sarah Palin – remember her? – got a chance on US television to parade her phenomenal idiocy once again; she now claimed that, as a vice-presidential candidate back in 2008, she had ‘predicted’ Russia’s invasion of Ukraine!

"After the Russian Army invaded Georgia, Senator Obama’s reaction was one of indecision and moral equivalence, the kind of response that would only encourage Russia’s Putin to invade Ukraine next." [It’s worth remembering that Palin, the little-known political clairvoyant, couldn’t predict her own disgraced downfall.]

It’s taken Putin aeons to capitalize on Obama’s political indecisiveness in the Oval Office. Brian Beutler, Salon’s political commentator, tongue-in-cheek, chronicled the many ‘opportunities’ Putin had failed to take advantage of until now: "Obama beat John McCain in a landslide and Russia didn’t invade Ukraine. Russia continued to not invade Ukraine through Obama’s first term, during which it ratified a new bilateral treaty with the US committing to a dramatic reduction in the size of its nuclear arsenal. After Obama’s re-election, Russia, again, didn’t invade Ukraine, and proceeded to not invade Ukraine for over a year, until internal developments (which Palin somehow omitted from her 2008 warning) gave Putin a pretext and incentive to invade Ukraine, at which point he ordered troops into Crimea."

Enough of Sarah Palin’s putrid punditry, to say nothing of her clairvoyant capabilities.

Eugene Robinson of the Washington Post asked a very pertinent question: "Does the rhetoric about the crisis in Ukraine sound as if all of Washington is suffering from amnesia? We’re supposed to be shocked – shocked! – that a great military power would cook up a pretext to invade a smaller, weaker nation? I’m sorry, but has everyone forgotten the unfortunate events in Iraq a few years ago?

"The United States, frankly, has limited standing to insist on absolute respect for the territorial integrity of sovereign states. Before Iraq there was Afghanistan, there was the Gulf War, there was Panama, there was Grenada. And even as we condemn Moscow for its outrageous aggression, we reserve the right to fire deadly missiles into Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and who knows where else." [So this is not just memory-loss, but dangerously acute – and wilful – amnesia.]

There was no credible military threat by the United States that could conceivably force Putin to back off, noted Robinson. "There are only a few nations that cannot be coerced by, say, the sudden appearance of a US aircraft carrier group on the horizon. Russia is one of them."

If the goal was to persuade Russia to give Crimea back, the first necessary step was to try to understand why Putin grabbed it [Crimea] in the first place, wrote Robinson. "When Ukraine emerged as a sovereign state from the breakup of the Soviet Union, it was agreed that the Russian navy would retain its bases on the Crimean Peninsula. After Viktor Yanukovich, Ukraine’s pro-Russian President, was deposed by a ‘people power’ revolution, it was perhaps inevitable that Putin would believe the status of those bases was in question, if not under threat."

Mark Urban, the Diplomatic and Defence Editor of the BBC’s famed Newsnight programme, shrewdly zeroed in on the real yet unacknowledged problem within the problem: "Europe’s leaders, meeting to address Russia’s takeover of Crimea, are haunted by history. The problem is that it’s a different history that preoccupies each of them and hinders the search for consensus."

For British politicians, wrote Urban, there were undercurrents of appeasement, 1930s style, "a parallel drawn directly by Sir Malcolm Rifkind earlier this week. Hillary Clinton too has invoked the comparison with Nazi Germany’s behaviour. Sir Malcolm argued that the 1938 Munich Agreement, under which Britain and France sold out the Czechs, comes to mind because it was, ‘the last time the alleged need to protect ethnic brethren was used as a justification for invasion’. The idea that the European Union is here to bury the conflicts of history remains a powerful political totem."

Certainly, for Russia, it is recent history, 1991 and the collapse of the Soviet Union that rankles most deeply and which its leaders have tried, when opportunities presented themselves, to reverse, said Urban. This is the type of action that Mr. Fredrik Reinfeldt, Sweden’s Prime Minister, alluded to, where Moscow carved out enclaves of Russian speakers in ‘independent republics’ in Moldova and Georgia.

For the Swedish leader the danger of such actions was that it left ‘frozen conflicts’, where the wider world refuses to recognize the legitimacy of these ethnic enclaves and their people remain trapped in a kind of international limbo. "The spectre of something similar happening now increased dramatically as the EU leaders sat down to talk, with news that the local parliament in Crimea had voted for union with Russia. The Kremlin says President Putin is aware of developments in the Crimean parliament."

To even begin to try and understand the byzantine problem in Ukraine, filled as it is with competing, and contradictory claims of the parties involved, one has to hark back to 1949 and then literally fast-forward to settle on George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four for the necessary enlightenment.

That is precisely what Eric Draitser, founder of the independent website, did. 

Needless to say, most politicians – including Russia’s Putin – couldn’t, or wouldn’t, bring themselves to admit having spent precious time perusing any of author Orwell’s literary works, least of all his dystopian novel Nineteen Eighty-Four.

In that work, Orwell coined the word ‘Doublethink’ and defined it thus:

"To know and not to know, to be conscious of complete truthfulness while telling carefully constructed lies, to hold simultaneously two opinions which cancelled out, knowing them to be contradictory and believing in both of them, to use logic against logic, to repudiate morality while laying claim to it, to believe that democracy was impossible and that the Party was the guardian of democracy, to forget, whatever it was necessary to forget, then to draw it back into memory again at the moment when it was needed, and then promptly to forget it again, and above all, to apply the same process to the process . . ."

Draister noted that he and many other journalists had documented throughout the Ukraine conflict the leading role that Nazi elements played, and continue to play, in the overthrow of the democratically-elected, though utterly corrupt and incompetent, Ukrainian President Yanukovich. "Consequently, the so called ‘interim government’ led by the neoliberal puppet Arseniy Yatsenyuk [handpicked by Victoria Nuland, US Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs] has been forced to cede control of the national security forces to the openly Nazi leaders."

These troubling power-sharing arrangements created a putsch government of pro-EU liberals and right wing ultra-nationalists determined to cleanse Ukraine of Jews and Russians, wrote Draister. One of its first actions was to officially repeal a previous law that guaranteed the legal right of minorities in Ukraine to conduct business and education in their own languages.

And yet on March 2nd, US Secretary of State John Kerry’s message on major US political talk shows was: "You don’t just invade another country on a phony pretext in order to assert your own interests."

[Vintage Orwellian ‘Doublethink’, but Kerry the veteran politician pretends he isn’t even aware of the irony!]


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