RE: Revolution Industry, Phase 2: Ukraine's Summer of Discontent by Christopher Deliso.
Christopher Deliso deliberately did not write anything about Ukraine's "Orange Revolution" when it was going down 10 months ago. But for those of us who were writing about the Orange Revolution, or simply witnessing it, we experienced a historical event that marked a momentous change in a corrupt country struggling to shake off the post-Soviet yoke of Leonid Kuchma.
During the spontaneous protests of November 2004, the Western media unwittingly represented events in Ukraine in a black versus white dichotomy. For the most part, coverage was targeted for the American audience to simplify events in a country last covered when Oksana Bayul won an Olympic medal or when Chernobyl blew up. Events in Ukraine were portrayed through orange-colored glasses: a battle between "freedom" and "tyranny," the "pro-Western" candidate versus the "pro-Russian" one.
Instead of a domestic political issue, the 2004 presidential election in Ukraine were interpreted as a geopolitical battle on the Grand Chessboard. Ukraine was a pawn in the game between West and East. Ultimately, the electoral victory of Viktor Yushchenko in late December 2004 was interpreted as the triumph of the "free world" over the Russian autocratic order.
On the ground, things are always more complicated. Even during political upheaval (or revolution), domestic politics is not as exciting as the Clash of Civilizations. As a result of such Western (and Russian) coverage, articles occasionally crop up now and again from disgruntled commentators who continue to "challenge" the Orange Revolution—and for good measure America’s role in the events—to prop up their own ideological underpinnings. Such commentary seeks to expose undiscovered "truths" and lurid details about Ukraine’s Orange Revolution, regurgitating the same simplistic paradigms that the Western and Russian media presented. For some odd reason, Ukraine’s Orange Revolution is compared to the war in Iraq.
The new government must account for its actions and observers must keep them in check. Unwarranted cynicism, however, continues to discredit the truth about the Orange Revolution of autumn 2004. Because of gross ignorance and misunderstanding, supporters of the Orange Revolution who braved freezing temperatures for weeks are still cast as tools of the West.
Nonviolent action against mass vote fraud played out like a "bad Hollywood movie…scripted, funded and produced in America." For Ukrainians, the Orange Revolution was a socio-spiritual transformation of Ukraine; for Mr. Deliso it was a "non-event."
No one can completely deny US involvement in financially and logistically supporting Ukrainian nascent civil society and other institutions. One piece of "American propaganda" that I collected was a brochure paid for by the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America. Without mentioning any of the candidates’ names, the leaflets encourage Ukrainians to go out and vote. Not one speck of orange appeared on the leaflet. When people are in the streets, enjoying free rock concerts, supporting democracy and hoping for a better life, it could mean only one thing – America is involved. George W. Bush (or George Soros, take your pick) forced those kids to dance on Khreshchatyk.
It is so unreal it has to be planned and scripted. The plot, however, thickens into science fiction. "American intervention" evokes images of CIA agents deploying hryvnias to the tent cities while US Army commandos in full fatigues administer hot tea and food to the demonstrators. Operation Enduring Orange. Reading Mr. Deliso’s piece, I’m sure he would have agreed with Lyudmilla Yanukovych when she remarked that the Americans provided felt boots to the protesters and were being fed drugged oranges.
According to Professor Taras Kuzio of George Washington University in Washington, D.C. "Most Orange Revolutionaries traveled to Kyiv voluntarily,
although a small number of hard-core activists were paid travel expenses. This was not the case for Yanukovych voters, who were dispatched to Kyiv in
an organized operation. One indicator of the manufactured Yanukovych faction was the dried military meals that the Ministry of Defense illegally 'sold' at a cost of 300,000 hryvni ($61,000) to the Yanukovych voters who journeyed to Kyiv" (Eurasia Daily Monitor, Volume 2, Number 156). Other observers who
witnessed the Orange Revolution would unanimously agree with Dr. Kuzio’s assessment.
Even though Mr. Deliso believes that “a massive Western media and PR bombardment perpetuated the fraud,” he ironically cites speculative and poorly interpreted Western media sources of Ukrainian political and economic developments. An op-ed from the Guardian shows "proof" of American intervention in the Orange Revolution. Articles from the Telegraph and the anti-everything Antiwar.com (a publication which never once discussed the peaceful nature of the Orange Revolution protests) "prove" that Yushchenko was not poisoned. A Washington Post snippet indicates that Tymoshenko favors reprivatization of Krivorizhstal; Mr. Deliso’s assessment is that the once rabid nationalist Tymoshenko "has gone Soviet" in her economic policies.
As the media drew polarized dichotomies during the Orange Revolution, similar assessments of the current Ukrainian leadership continue. Tymoshenko’s economic policy may appear to be "Soviet," but are in reality are more populist than socialist: around 67% of Ukrainians believe that privatization of the 1990s was taken unjust manner, with only 9% believing the opposite (Ukrains’ka Pravda, 5 July 2005). An election is coming up soon, after all. For those who study Soviet-era Ukraine, comparing Tymoshenko to, say Shcherbitsky, is unbearable. In the post-Orange order, Yushchenko and Tymoshenko are suddenly bitter enemies. The actions of one spoiled brat Andriy signify a revolution betrayed for millions: "After only 8 months, Revolution Industry Phase 2 has set in, with the growing public discontent towards the government's policies, chief of all its economic ones, feeding the dialectic of endless infighting and political turmoil."
If the Orange Revolution was a "non-event," how could today’s political landscape possibly be in a state of "political turmoil?" As far as "growing public discontent towards the government’s policies," only the March 2006 parliamentary elections will adequately show that Ukrainians are committed to the Yushchenko government.
Concerning Andryi, Viktor Yushchenko's wealth was well known during the Orange Revolution; after all, he was head of the National Bank and a former
Prime Minister. At the time of the Orange Revolution, Yushchenko's financial status mattered little to voters and they did not elect him upon the basis of wealth, or a lack thereof. They chose him over twice-convicted felon Viktor Yanukovich, among other reasons.
So then why did the Orange Revolution take place?
Simple. Election fraud. In a recent survey conducted by the Kyiv-based Democratic Initiatives, 59% of Yushchenko voters pointed to election fraud as the main reason for protesting during November and December. A mere 30% took to the streets to express their support for Yushchenko's candidacy.
Misguided assessments fail to separate the Orange Revolution from the current political order of Yushchenko and Tymoshenko. Ukrainians have not been duped by an American stooge. Angry that their votes were stolen, they succeeded in sweeping away the Kuchma-Yanukovych legacy.
Observers of Ukraine, including myself, warmly welcome criticism of the Yushchenko government as long it gives credit where credit is due. The ideological subtext of Mr. Deliso’s article, however, is that the US is so big, bad, and nasty it just HAD to have manipulated the Ukrainian popular movement against fraudulent elections. The old stereotypes of the 1990s reemerge: How can a land crippled by poverty, mail order brides, prostitution, and Chernobyl possibly stand up on its own feet without America intervening?
This is not only insulting to the intellect of Americans, but it is insulting to Ukrainians who stood on Maydan, who risked their jobs for supporting Yushchenko, who faced intimidation, beatings and arrest because they believed in democracy. By trying to prove that the Orange Revolution is one more example a grand US Imperialist Conspiracy one ignores the significance of the Ukrainian Orange Revolution. If Yushchenko’s policies fail, the Orange Revolution attests to the fact that Ukraine is not beyond helping itself in the future.
By Adrian J. Erlinger Washington, D.C.
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