Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Crimea, Ukraine, and Western Hypocrisy. . .

I am glad that I am not the only one who is weary of the hypocrisy of Western nations in their reactions to the situation in Ukraine. Yesterday and today one of my favourite bloggers, Montreal Simon, mentioned the pattern of hypocrisy in of his postings. (Here and here) Once again the West has managed to outdo itself in its remarkable ability to say one thing and do something different.

The hypocrisy began at the beginning. The West's reaction to what was clearly a coup by a diverse group of left and extreme-right activists. They overthrew an elected president and then portrayed the president as the villain. Now I am no big fan of Viktor Yanukovych but let's face it, he was the elected president, and he was elected, I should add, with a significantly larger majority than our own prime minister and his Con-men cabal. But Harper was quick to recognize the overthrow of a legitimate president. Does it make you wonder how the Conservatives would react if tens of thousands of activists showed up on Parliament Hill, many of them armed, and demanded that Harper resign. We all know the army would quickly be called out and if the crowds fought back against their removal from the hill the way the crowds fought back in Ukraine, they would be gunned down. And if you have any doubt about that, look at the only concerted effort on the part of protesters since Harper took office - those at the G20. Thousands were corralled, beaten, arrested on no charges or trumped-up charges. And those crowds weren't even a genuine threat to Harper's power. Any real threat from the streets to Harper's status as Prime Minister would be met with swift and brutal violence.

But the West's reaction to the coup was just the tip of the hypocrisy iceberg. Hypocrisy was stepped up into high gear when Russia began to act in Crimea. Now, there is no doubt that Russia had signed an agreement to respect the territorial integrity of Ukraine. And their unilateral actions were deeply problematic. However, the claims by the West to this effect, ring entirely hollow to anyone who has been paying attention to recent history. At least Russia had a long-standing interest in, if not partial claim on Crimea. The West, on the other hand, routinely engages in or supports unilateral, self-interested, military actions in foreign nations. The West's invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq were two of the most recent examples. Russia used the tired old line that they had to protect Russians in Crimea and that justified their actions. Well this is exactly the excuse the US once used to justify their invasion of Granada in 1983 and their invasion and carpet bombing of Panama in 1989. If a school-yard bully beats kids up in the playground every day, one surely treats with suspicion their moral indignation when another bully does the exact same thing.

Then there is the West's reaction to the recent referendum in Crimea. They tell us it is illegal and that any kind of vote taken during an occupation has no democratic or moral authority. However, the West did exactly this in both Iraq and Afghanistan (again just to mention two recent examples). Apparently, if we are to judge by their actions, the West thinks that voting during occupation is a perfectly suitable route to democratic decision making. So why the blatant double-standard? Well it is clear that men like Harper are not interested in democracy, legality, sovereignty or any other high-minded principle of justice. In fact, quite the contrary, while he is busy touting such principles in Ukraine with crocodile tears, he is busy undermining them here at home. As with all such politicians, Harper only likes democracy, or revolutions when they offer the results that he favours. Thus if the Ultra-right overthrows a President in Ukraine in favour of a more pro-Western government, then we hear heart-felt appeals to the people's cause. If a vote is taken in occupied Afghanistan it is a 'step toward' democracy. But if it is taken in Crimea under Putin's watchful eye, it is illegal.

The fact is clear to anyone who knows anything about Crimea, the largely Russian population would probably have voted for secession given the events in Kiev regardless of presence of Russian troops. But interestingly, the Ukraine constitution doesn't allow for the people of any one region to vote on separation. Rather, any such issue has to be approved by the entire nation. I wonder if Harper is going to be consistent and come back to Canada and enact a similar law to wave in the face of Pauline Marois? I doubt it.

Consistency has certainly never been a trait of politicians. And the power of hypocrisy has certainly been on dramatic display in recent weeks concerning events in Ukraine. The people of Ukraine overthrew a legitimately elected President. But far be it for me to question a revolutionary moment. Maybe he needed to be overthrown, I can't say, and not being Ukrainian it is not my place to say. However, when you play the game of realpolitik you can't complain too much when others play it too. And when you turn your back on a gangster like Putin don't be surprised if you get shot from behind. But let's not buy the moral indignation of Western nations who seldom (if ever) come to the defence of democracy for anything but self-interested reasons. If anyone is expert at condemning foreign invasions and oppressions while simultaneously undermining their own democracies it is men like Harper and Obama. For them, the Russian invasion of the Crimea is aggression while the Western invasion of Afghanistan is a humanitarian mission. Those of you who are old enough will remember what the codename for the US invasion of Panama was - "Operation Just Cause." If that is not a fine moment in political irony I don't know what is.