Friday, December 03, 2004

Ukraine VI: Victory For Democracy

I just watched Yushchenko addressing the Orange crowd on Euronews after the Ukrainian Supreme Court annulled the second round of Presidential elections! The second round will be repeated on 26 December.

This is indeed great news. The Supreme Court's members were nominated by current President Kuchma, and they weren't famous of much independence - apparently, they sensed the changing times, or feared one step too far against public opinion. Just like the Parliament in the days earlier, first voting for a resolution declaring the elections marred by fraud and calling for the Electoral Committee's resigning, later voting down Yanukovych as responsible PM.

Now we have three weeks to watch. How will the media act? How will the Orange protesters act? How will the Yushchenko campaign attempt to reach out to voters in the Southeast and South? Will Yanukovych step back, or will the regime find a way to replace him? Does the regime plan some surprises?

President Kuchma's visit to Moscow the day before was certainly important - but what did they talk about? Did Kuchma inform him that the ship sailed away, or did they agree on some sinister action? Once the Orange protesters go home, authorities can take violent action easier - but the backlash could be huge, de-masking the regime in the eyes of Yanukovych voters, too. So I don't think Kuchma alone would be capable to pull off a coup. What should be kept a watch on is whether there will be any contact between Yushchenko and Putin.

Also, the West (or at least Europe) should act in a measured way, not offering up anything that might be made to look like threatening to the Southern and Southeastern voters.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Ukraine V: Anti-Semitism

Chief insane British liberal warkawk and Observer columnist David Aaronovich attacks the Orange Revolution-critical and possibly Russian secret service-linked British Hensinki Human Rights Group, and, personally, John Laughland, who responds with the suspicion that Aaronovich just plagiarised an article at the site of an opposition-supporting, but also virulently anti-semitic site.

I don't have much sympathy for either side, but the latter claim by Laughland points to something worth to point out.

Laughland's claim is actually true - the site in question is the Ukrainian Archive. You can find much anti-semitic idiocy and paranoia here; just one exerpt:

Simply because it has been documented on the Ukrainian Archive that inciting fear and hatred of Ukrainians is an integral part of Jewish culture. The question becomes germane then of whether this incitement is financed, at least in part, by a hidden Jewish tax upon all Canadians, and thus whether Ukrainian-Canadians are in effect subsidizing Jews to engineer such anti-Ukrainian pageants as the misnamed Deschênes Commission of Inquiry on War Criminals, or such anti-Ukrainian spectacles as the current spate of half-century-old immigration-infraction prosecutions being conducted by Canada's so-called war crimes unit.

I included this excerpt because it points to the uneasy part about Ukrainian anti-semitism, the reason it has to be seen as more than just a fringe problem: its connection to the nationalist take on own history.

By many nationalists, those Ukrainians who opposed the Soviet Union during WWII are heroised despite fighting alongside the Nazis, and there is boiling conflict with Ukrainian and outside Jews on the subject. (The Ukrainian Archive site's owner was brought to court by a Jewish group in Canada.) What the approach of Yushchenko and the parties behind him could be criticised for is not (necessarily) being anti-semites themselves, but for failing to confront this revisionist historicism and thus stop what it brews. (There was also the story of Yushchenko giving the recommendation to some historian or book on Ukrainian history who/which did some holocaust denial in the process, but I can't recall the details.)

While Le Sabot got no anti-semitic fliers, what superficial Western observers won't note at the Orange protests are symbols - songs or flags or slogans originating from or alluding to these nineteen-forties anti-communist times. Yes, such were reported.

On the other hand, I don't believe this is the main or even defining character of the Orange protesters, or even that the majority feels like that. (Above all, it is a mass democratic movement.)

But, speaking of mass democratic movements that carry some nasty undercurrents, the example of Poland and the Solidarnosc should give further reason to caution. In my impression anti-semitism is strongest in the EU in Poland[*], as politics and top clergy largely failed to confront strongly the nationalist-ultraclerical tendencies that also spout virulently anti-semitic propaganda (e.g. Radio Maryja etc.), tendencies that grew on the right of the Solidarnosc - and Polish nationalists don't even have Nazi collaborators to whitewash as national heroes.

[*] UPDATE: A bit of evidence is the 46% who openly admit to disliking Jews in a 2003 poll. This poll is conducted yearly, figures hover between 50% and 40%. Polls with similar questions usually get answers around 10% elsewhere (in Hungary for example, it declined from 15% in 1994 to 6% in 2003; in France, the most similar question in a 2002 poll stands at 11%).

Ukraine IV: Economics

Ukraine is usually talked about as an economic basket case, where cleptocracy and economic mismanagement and structures inherited from the Soviet Union cause continued misery. What this account overlooks is that there has been dramatic improvement during the PM-ship of both Yushchenko and Yanukovych. The turnaround was during the latter - see data below I took from here (which are inidcative of a general trend even if government statistics aren't to be trusted competely).

Yushchenko supporters think the economic upturn was because of Yushchenko's reforms and is in danger from fiscal irresponsibility and cleptocracy, Yanukovych supporters believe it was because of Yanukovych's calm hand and is in danger from Yushchenko's adopting of Western economic policies. (See the last quoted article in my previous Ukraine post, too.)

Real GDP
Capital Investment[*]
Real Income

[*] I note that most investment is local - that is, some oligarchs are doing something good. Regarding the oligarchs and their influence, I also note that Yushchenko made all the oligarchs richer when he pushed through a round of privatisation as PM, but now is against (most of) them - so oligarch-politician relations aren't that straightforward or permanent. (My guess is that if he succeeds, Yushchenko will curb the power of oligarchs, not out of idealism but out of fear that they will turn on him again. But foreign investors is another question.)

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Now It's Our Turn To Be Arsonists

Overshadowed by the Ukrainian and Romanian elections, there is a third European vote that should concern on-lookers. There will be a plebiscite this weekend (5 December) here in Hungary that could potentially destabilize the region.

The vote is about two issues: the less contentious is about barring the privatisation of hospitals, the troubling one is about dual citizenship.

Signatures for the former were collected by a far-left (post-communist, quasi-Stalinist) party, for the latter by the far-right-tending World Association Of Hungarians - but both themes were seized upon by the recklessly populist right-wing main opposition party, FIDESZ-MPP, while governing parties proved inept or even cowardy in confronting it. (As for the first one, disregarding its disgusting proponents, if I vote I'll vote yes - though victory won't mean hospitals get any more money, and the Constitutional Court stopped a privatisation law just after the signatures were collected.)

The dual citizenship issue is not the same as in Germany: it is not about foreign citizens living in Hungary, but ethnic Hungarians living outside Hungary. Significant Hungarian ethnic minorities live on territories that belonged to Austria-Hungary before 1919 - above all, in Southwestern Slovakia and in Transsylvania.

There is already nationalist conflict with parties (and people) of majority populations. This would be greatly enhanced: an extra-territorial constituency will increase both fears of border change demands from Hungary, and far-right demands that Hungarians 'move home' to Hungary; while money paid by the Hungarian state for its extraterritorial citizens would inspire envy, and Hungarian minorities themselves could be further radicalised.

Furthermore, the right-wing parties in Hungary most probably support this not out of any misguided concern for the survival of ethnic Hungarian communities outside Hungary, but in hopes of these ethnic Hungarians voting for them in future elections - in EP elections from abroad too, in local ones when these new citizens move from their ancestral areas to present-day Hungary.

Yet, unfortunately, EU officials indicate that they are incompetent in the issue and won't intervene.

Unfortunately, a few years ago plebiscite law was changed thus that if the "Yes" or "No" vote gets 25% of all eligible voters, the vote is valid even if participation is below 50%. (This was a preemptive action ahead of decisive votes on European integration: those were issues with such wide support that not enough people cared to go voting themselves.) And since the "Yes" camp on dual citizenship is almost certainly more than 25% of all voters, while the governing parties failed to mobilise for a "No", it will probably be passed.

(BTW, I wrote earlier about the far right in the EU.)

UPDATE: Poll results can be released until 8 days before the vote, here are the last ones:

  • (poll A) participation promised/expected 54%/35-45%, "Yes" vote 51%/60-70% => 27.5%/21-27% of eligible voters vote "Yes"
  • (poll B) participation: promised/expected 49%/40%, "Yes" vote 48%(vs. 38% "No")/54% => 23.5%/21.5% of eligible voters vote "Yes"; whole population: 40% for, 42% against.

It's hairthin, but since "Yes" voters usually tend to be more faithful to their promise of participation, I think the second pollster's expectations are off - it could be up to 26.5%. Also, we are treated to a round of heightened populism in this final week. (Myself, I haven't yet decided whether lowering the turnout or lowering the "Yes" majority is a better goal - that is, whether I should bother voting.)

Ukraine III

Less good news for today - according to the opposition media Maidan, there was a first violent encounter in Luhansk:

Barely 5 minutes had passed when a huge crowd with banners and signs reading "For Yanukovych" came out onto the square. Around 60 thugs with bats and brass-knuckles ran out from their ranks and without further ado began to pummel the attendees. Result of the slaughter: broken arms, fractured skulls, smashed noses.

The police posted nearby DID NOT REACT IN ANY WAY to what was happening. This, however, hardly comes as a suprise. According to our information, police officers have an order NOT TO NOTICE attacks of thugs on people in orange. In addition, there were eyewitnesses to personal participation of employees of the city police department in the assault.

An earlier article on events in Luhansk, mostly detailing the quasi-Sicilian nature of local authorities/mafiosis, also points out local's strong fears on the language front. Michael S (who is on site) comments to an article at A Fistful Of Euros points out that there have been Yushchenko campaign errors on the language issue:

...remarkable how Yushchenko's campaign let itself be turned into a handy scarecrow for the same constituency. Even its main slogans weren't tranlated. When people gather at pro-opposition rallies in strictly russophone cities, they can only make speeches in Russian, but their chants are all in Ukrainian. In a way, it's been remarkable to see Ukrainian make the transition (in Ukrainian-Russians' eyes) from its traditional place of a bumpkin cousin of Russian to the language of civic courage, but from a political standpoint, I think it was a big tactical mistake.

...But I think Yushchenko made himself unnecessarily vulnerable. He was taking a heavy beating from a negative ad compaign on Ukrainian TV, designed by Russian advisors (whose tactics are actually a legacy of the oligarch-sponsored Eltsin reelection.) In addition, since domestically produced programs in Russian have been banned from Ukrainian TV, many people were probably tuning in to Russian channels, whose journalistic standards are hitting lows unseen since the soviet days... I've looked over a semi-transcript of the pre-election televized debate (in which Yanukovych switched to Russian for closing statements), and the only related comment from Yushchenko I could find was his dismissal of the language question as "populism". Sounds like a bad campaign move.

Another interesting Maidan article is based on conversations three days ago, in which economic motivations of Yanukovych supporters are covered. The pro-Yushchenko author argues for taking Yushchenko supporters seriously (while involuntarily exposing some rose-tainted glasses about economic policies himself):

The fellows from Lugansk, Donetsk and the counties ... at the train station right now, and they keep on arriving. Reliable sources have given me an estimate for the expected total – about 350 thousand people.

Pretty cool guys, we had a nice chat! And, what amazed me, far from stupid. They're staunch supporters of Yanukovych and don't like Yushchenko because under Yanukovych they just began to raise their heads, get salaries, and live more or less well, while under Yushchenko there was total ruin. The thing is, they're convinced one and all that Yushchenko wanted to close all mines and import coal from Poland – by doing so, taking away their income and making their kids go hungry. Our attempts to explain to them that things aren't so simple, that Yushchenko is a knowledgeable economist, and that it was a long-term economic program, were unsuccessful. :(

I want to say that they're completely reasonable people and they argue for their choice quite articulately. Therefore, in conversations with them we shouldn'g start telling them that Yanukovych is bad, but just try to explain, in neutral terms, that the rosy prospects they're seeing aren't all that rosy at all. It can work out according to the principle "water eats even through stone", but think through all your arguments clearly. These folks are well-equiped for debate - this is not drunken rabble, as many reports said, they are in fact by and large people worthy of respect.

Via A Fistful Of Euros.

Monday, November 29, 2004

Ukraine II

I wrote earlier that the best thing is mass democratic participation from both sides, peacefully - here are some striking quotes from Neeka's backlog:

...One by one, the orange guys started coming up to the blue ones; then, more and more; until they all mixed. There were only men among the blue, while the orange had men and women of all ages in their ranks.

It was totally exciting - it was hard to believe at first that it would end peacefully, but when the orange ones started their chant, I knew it'd be okay: they were chanting "Slava shakhtaryam! Slava shakhtaryam!" ("Glory to the coalminers!" - referring to those from Donetsk region, a coal-mining region that Yanukovych used to be a governor of.) Some of the blue guys sounded indignant - "But we are from Crimea, not Donbas!" - and the orange ones standing nearby replied, laughing - "Oh, who cares now... Slava shakhtaryam!" Another chant was his: "East and West together!" (strangely, I don't remember what it sounded like in Ukrainian - I mean, I know the translation, of course, but I don't remember how to say it so it rhymes, as it did then...)

...Among other things, we saw half a dozen men standing in circle, one guy holding a torn half of Yanukovych's portrait, and another guy, orange, telling everyone around loudly that it's not right to tear the portrait, that the guy who held it had the right to vote for Yanukovych, that it's not the portrait that's to blame and not the portrait's owner, etc. We saw many groups like this, the orange and the blue together, discussing something totally peacefully, like old buddies. No one was beaten, though the blue ones were in such overwhelming minority that I'm still quite shocked nothing bad happened.

We stopped one blue guy, asked him if he thought there'd be civil war, as many people were predicting. He said, "No, Ukrainians don't fight, won't fight. East and West are together." He was a metallurgic factory worker from Kryvyi Rih, a town in Dnipropetrivsk region, who came to Kyiv to support his candidate, Yanukovych.

Brilliant Analysis

Stan Goff wrote an article about his encounter with a neocon at a campus debate. He includes the text of his 15-minute introducion (scroll down to the part in Italics) - which turns into a brilliant analysis of the changing econo-political basis of the US Empire since Nixon, and its problems. Among the issues covered:

  • We have a War for Oil, but the imperial cause is not the income from selling it, but to control a big slice of the production pie when demand outstrips production.
  • Such a move was likely even without the neocons. The Empire kind of has its own momentum, where one step follows the other whichever part of the elite is in power.
  • Increased competition from Marschall Plan-helped economies and the Vietnam War led to the exhaustion of the gold reserve.
  • Nixon's abadonment of the gold standard caused immediate harm to competing economies not only by making their exports more expensive, but also because the dollar-denominated oil price was raised: that is, to secure imports of a rising price, Europeans and Japanese had to increase their purchases of dollars.
  • The above circumstance means that oil ensured the dollar's stability - while for other countries' money, free exchange rates first enabled such collapses as Mexico 1982 and East Asia 1998.
  • The IMF loans system introduced in response to the Mexican crisis got developing nations into the IMF trap of never repayable loans that can be used to prescribe economic policy (neoliberalism, or as Goff likes to call it: debt-leverage imperialism).
  • The USA's main economic competitors are bound to the system by their fear of the devaluation of central bank holdings [plus losing an export market], should the dollar collapse - even tough the maintenance of the system dictates that money invested into US treasuries increases, that is these central bank holdings are lost money. (In practice, they are an imperial tax, not lending.)
  • The current system is bound to collapse, and if the dollar falls big, it will cause a private debt crisis for US consumers.
  • Iraq is about the new system that could replace the current system: leave the impression of military invicibility on gullible leaders and populations across the world with a theatrical power demonstration (against a weak enemy talked up), and controlling oil after Peak Oil. (Shades of Emmanuel Todt here.) But, the neocons seem to have blown it. A sign of the control slipping out of the Empire's hand is the leftward push in Southern America [see previous post].

Latin America Goes Left

In Nicaraguan local elections held on the same day the Ukrainian ones, Sandinistas won almost all cities.

And while I'm a bit late to write about it, a few weeks ago the first socialist government in Uruguay since independence was elected. Elsewhere, incumbent leftists were reinforced in local elections: in Chile and Venezuela (in the former, beyond the majority centre-leftists, almost 10% went to the strong left). In South America, if I count it right, only Paraguay and Columbia remain in the hands of the right.


Since the 21 November second round voting in the Ukrainian Presidential elections, I was struggling to just keep up with the events, reading A Fistful Of Euros and other sources;I didn't come to blog about it - so here, some thoughts.

First a bit of history. People prefer to talk about an East/West, or Northwest/Southeast division, but I think a better description is to split the first in two and describe regional differences in three parts. (Of course there are even finer gradations, Alexei of The Russian Dilettante comments about a nine-way one at A Fistful Of Euros.)

Western Ukraine is the onetime Halych (Galicia) and Volodymyr (Vladimir, Ladomeria), Slavic kingdoms which were influeced by (and sometimes occupied by) not only Kyiv or Novgorod but Western neighbours Hungary and Poland, too. They were ruined in the Mongol invasion around 1240, but in the next century briefly grew into one major kingdom in the vacuum, then collapsed under invasions from newly growing Lithuania, and was divided between Lithuania (the Volhynia region) and Poland, which later united. At the same time, after the Rus' church, which previously refused to take sides in the Great Schism, split in three stages (1299-1453-1596, more on this in the Comments), this area was catholicised under Polish rule. When Poland was carved up by Prussia, Russia and Austria in the 18h century, the area mostly fell to Austria. Between the two world wars, this part again belonged to Poland, only after did Stalin add it to Ukraine. However, in the 19th century, the Ukrainian language-nationalist movement and culture was born there.

Northern-Central Ukraine was once the centre of Rus' - Kyiv was the capital of the main Rus' principality. But the Mongols utterly destroyed this region, and its remains were conquered by Lithuania, later to be under ever weaker (and receding towards the West) Polish control. In the time of constant Tatar [remains of the Mongols] - Russian - Ottoman - Polish conflicts, in this area semi-independent Cossacks were settled, who later came under increased Russian central rule - hence the dominant religion, and after later Russian 'orthodoxisation' almost exclusive religion, was Eastern Orthodox, and people feel closer to Russia. However, the "bratstva" brotherhoods that formed to resist Polish catholisation efforts, and other movements that claimed the heritage of the Kyivian Rus' as cultural center, and thought there are too many Finno-Ugrian 'barbarian' traits of Muscovite Russia, stood for an identity separate from Russian - hence they merged with/absorbed Western Ukraine easily. With the exception of Kyiv, this is a mostly agrarian region.

Finally, the Southern and Eastern regions: in this area countless nomadic tribes passed to the West in one thousand years until the Mongols, whose remains (the Golden Horde) established an empire here. Later called Tatars, they became Ottoman vassals. After a period of constant battles, Russia started to conquer and re-settle the area, a process not fully finished until the Crimean War (1853-56). Tough also agrarian, with the ascent of the Soviet Union especially the Eastern part became an industrial center. Dominant religion is Eastern Orthodox, and people obviously feel even closer to Russia.

Now, according to not just the official results: the first region voted overwhelmingly for opposition candidate Yushchenko, the second with a majority for Yushchenko, the third overwhelmingly for government candidate Yanukovych. Tough usually portrayed as the pro-Western democratic candidate vs. the oligarch-supported autocratic candidate in the West, and the mole-of-the-West divisive nationalist candidate vs. the for-the-people guarant of ethnic peace, all four portrayals are half-truths: Yushchenko was himself part of the establishment (led the Central Bank for 8 years, then PM for two), is supported by some oligarchs (blonde businesswoman-turned-politician Tymoshenko among them), he implemented late pay handouts for miners during his PM-ship, and made some cloudy remarks about withdrawing troops from Iraq; Yanukovych certainly has popular support too, while making Russian as second official language is something his party promised earlier but didn't deliver (as Yushchenko, who also promised it, rightly criticised).

I think whatever role foreigners played in organising the opposition and its post-election protests, the mass democratic participation and its peacefulness is a good thing - even more so that the opposing side responded with a similar peaceful mass mobilisation, rather than violence, so far. A less good sign is the wavered separatism in the Southeastern oblasts - and Yushchenko's threats in response.

But the facts that (1) whoever won the elections, the opposing minority is sizeable, (2) these sides are organised and passionate, (3) there is a strong regional pattern, together mean that whoever comes out as victor (even if unfairly or violently), he must give big concessions to (the supporters of) the other side. For example, if Yushchenko wins, and wants economic reforms, he must reassure people in the East that there won't be mass closures and/or sellout of mines. While exit polls and evidence for mass fraud I saw, as well as the repressive behavior of authorities, is compelling evidence that in reality Yushchenko won, the solidifying proposal of repeated elections is what I thought to be the best idea, even before Yushchenko came up with it in his 3-point demands.

Finally, what makes things more difficult is Great Powers meddling: heavy involvement in the campaign and harsh announcements only reinforce the polarisation (by reinforcing the image of the opposing side's vassaldom to the feared foreign power). While Russian Tsar-in-practice Putin's meddling is more heavy-handed, overt and stupid, American meddling is more fine and covert but of similar importance. Some representatives of the EU can also be criticised for some unthought-through declarations - on the other hand, pro-Yanukovych people who protest European involvement forget that observers like OSCE's were officially accredited, and that Ukraine is already part of some European institutions. (Also, while for Russia and the USA, there is a clear geopolitical theme of spheres of influence, in the EU that is not at all clear-cut: while Poland is a strong advocate of Ukraine's Western binding, the larger countries are weary of subsidizing yet another new EU member, and some of them - above all Schröder's Germany - have good relations with Putin's Russia.)

UPDATE: James @ Dead Men Left, apart from quoting an article with a glaring factual error (young blonde opposition sub-leader and minor oligarch Yulia Tymoshenko [<-correct spelling] is there at the protests usually behind Yushchenko, not in a US prison!...), gives his cautioned support for the uprising, where his economy-focused prediction of disillusionment with the opposition leaders' conduct in government sounds the more convincing if I recall what happened after all the revolutions in 1989 and later here in Central-Eastern Europe.

Meanwhile, Neeka's Backlog writes:

The judges look tired, interrupt every once in while, but let the Yushchenko's team guy finish. Channel 5 interrupts the broadcast from the Supreme Court midway through the questions from Yanukovych's team guy, switching live to Yushchenko's address at Independence Square.

Well, unlike Neeka, who can undoubtedly be happy about the opposition getting coverage at last, I am not sure this is a good thing. It might mean media bias turned around 180 degrees, rather than going away.

[*] Inserted texts in italics: UPDATE 17/12.

Do You See It Coming? (aka Criminal Media Panglossianism)

('Panglossianism': derives from a literary character, Dr. Pangloss in Voltaire's political satire "Candide", who through ever worse man-made miseries always preached that we live in the best of all possible worlds.)

I have written on the fundamentalist Bush base and specifically expanding creationism and sings of fascism in the USA extensively. (Unlike most leftist American/America-watching bloggers/posters, I didn't form my opinions on the religion issue after this year's Presidential Elections but in the years before.)

The future is not set, but denying that some dire future is a possibility can just lead (through asquietescence) to its coming. And here I come to the media: Lenni Brenner criticises the New York Times's I/P conflict reporting, at the start listing such past Panglossianisms as these:

In 1922, Mussolini's Fascism was "the most interesting governmental experiment of the day.... We should all be glad that he is going at it vigorously". In 1933, the Jewish-owned paper had "qualms" about Hitler, but its editorial the day after Hitler came to power concluded that "national finances will be kept in strong and conservative hands.... There is thus no warrant for immediate alarm. It may be that we shall see the 'tamed Hitler' of whom some Germans are hopefully speaking."

Meanwhile, the religious nuts in the US Republican Party didn't rest: their latest step is a proposal that would bar federal judges from handling cases of Church-State Separation. One congressman openly advocates ignoring court rules not going their way - well, Congress leader Tom DeLay is already doing that for some time, in several cases now - while another even conjured that judges not bowing to Congress decisions should be impeached(!). While these conservative revolutionaries might be a minority among Congress Republicans, if Bush heads their way, the rest will follow (at least to the extent of some appeasement).

Colonial Carnage

The USA finally let aid enter Fallujah, where supposedly no civilians were present:

Convoys carrying food, water, medicine and blankets are moving around Falluja but there is still no running water or electricity.

According to the Red Crescent, 60 people came out to get assistance in one street alone.

The organisation's president, Dr Said Haqi, said it had now set up an office close to the city centre.

He described how one man in his mid-50s had approached them after staying in his house for the past month - apparently living on water and sugar.

In comments reported by the UN information network Irin, spokesman Muhammad al-Nuri said the Red Crescent believed more than 6,000 people may have died in the fight for Falluja.

He said it was difficult to move around the city due to the number of dead bodies.

"Bodies can be seen everywhere and people were crying when receiving the food parcels. It is very sad, it is a human disaster," Mr Nuri reportedly said.

The civilian toll of this operation alone far outstrips the civilian toll of all terror attacks and uncareful guerilla attacks by anti-occupation forces. But those who think we should decide what's best for other people will deny reality.

Nothing new here. Recently there is much talk about idiot British professor Niall Fergusson, who unabashedly advocates the USA turning into a full-blown (even more) ruthless Empire - based on a view of the onetime British Empire through a rose-tainted glass (with some twisted post-colonial economic arguments added in). Steve Gilliard's three part series on how 'peaceful' colonial rule was.

Let's look at another colonialism of our day of European-American origin elsewhere - one of the latest utter inhumanities at Israeli checkpoints reminds even some right-wing Israelis of Nazi behavior. (Never mind the argumentation by some in the article that a crime committed by Germans and other Europeans in Europe justifies land-taking from and ethnic cleansing of Arabs in Palestine - or that similar 'low points' weren't reached much earlier. But there are some who didn't forget about Deir Yassin, and some who don't accept whitewashed obituaries of Rafael Eitan - the openly racist former Chief Of Staff who led the savage invasion of Southern Lebanon in 1982 [remember Sabra & Satila; Eitan himself even wanted to bombard a football station during match] -; and even some former far-right Israeli-American settlers who saw the light. Thanks to Mark Elf for the links.)