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US Hypocrisy Over Ukraine and Saudi Arabia

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Boris Nemtsov was a Russian politician who was shot dead in Moscow on January 27, 2015.  He was opposed to Russia’s government and its leader and therefore, according to Western dogma of these times, his murder must have been ordered by President Putin.

Police began investigating the crime promptly but there was no pause for deliberation on the part of some western leaders and much of their media : they reacted immediately and leapt to censure the Russian government and especially President Putin in terms that were not only abusive, insolent and confrontational but confirmation of the fact that there is no intention on their part to ever consider diplomacy in their dealings with Moscow.

French President Hollande described Nemtsov as a “defender of democracy” and called the death an assassination.  Britain’s prime minister Cameron declared that “Boris Nemtsov is dead. But the values he stood for will never die,” and demanded that the death be “fully, rapidly and transparently investigated.” President Obama  announced that “we call upon the Russian government to conduct a prompt, impartial, and transparent investigation into the circumstances of his murder.”

These Western heads of government knew well that their public pronouncements and peremptory demands were condemnatory insinuations against the democratically elected administration of Russia, but their intention is to cripple the country and topple President Putin and they seize any opportunity to disparage and insult him. Their line of attack is that if something unpleasant happens in Russia it is without doubt the fault of President Putin who must at once be subjected to vilification in terms that imply his personal responsibility for whatever crime has taken place.

There would have been sanctimonious uproar in the west if Putin ever commented in such a fashion about, for example, the killing by police of unarmed black people in America, but spiteful pronouncements on Russia’s domestic affairs by western leaders are considered praiseworthy by most western mainstream news outlets which have been very quiet about some strange happenings in Ukraine where, as The Economistobserves, “Dodgy economic policy, distaste for reform and endemic corruption have brought the country to its knees.”

In the three months after the killing of Nemtsov there were at least eleven mysterious deaths in Ukraine, most in the capital, Kiev:

January 29:  politician Aleksey Kolesnik, dead by hanging.

February 24 : politician Stanislav Melnik shot dead.

February 25 : mayor of Melitopol Sergey Valter dead by hanging.

February 26 : deputy chief of Melitopol police, Aleksandr Bordyuga, found dead.

February 28 : politician Mikhail Chechetov, dead by fall from apartment window.

March 9 :  politician Stanislav Melnik shot dead.

March 12 :  politician Oleksandr Peklushenko shot dead.

March 22 :  former prosecutor Serhiy Melnychuk dead by fall from apartment window.

April 13:  journalist Sergei Sukhobok shot dead .

April 15 : politician Oleg Kalashnikov shot dead.

April 16 : journalist Oles Buzyna shot dead.

By coincidence most of the dead had been critical of the Ukraine government, supportive of Russia, or possessed information that might have been embarrassing for the Ukraine’s  billionaire President Petro Poroshenko, owner of a mammoth confectionary corporation, car plants, a shipyard, and a major television station, who delivered an address to a joint session of the US Congress and continues to receive unquestioning western support for his increasingly erratic statements and behavior.

Although most western media and all western political leaders ignored these deaths, the redoubtable Newsweek scented a story and began to investigate.  It recorded  that:

In reply to a legal request by Newsweek for information on investigations into the deaths of seven other former officials, all tied to [former President] Viktor Yanukovych’s Party of Regions, the General Prosecutor’s Office responded that all the information about all the deaths was a state secret — a staggering claim to make about a series of apparently unrelated civilian deaths they told the press were suicides.

If the equivalent office in Moscow had given such a response to a western media inquiry there would have been scathing headlines in theNew York Times, the British Telegraph and all the other determinedly anti-Russian media machines of the west.  Newsweek’s informative observations on obvious corruption in official legal circles in Ukraine elicited no follow-up of any kind in the west’s media — but had there been similar revelations about Russia there would have been a blitz of self-righteous condemnation.

The end of Newsweek’s piece is especially noteworthy:

Watching the [Ukraine’s] top prosecutors leaving the General Prosecutor’s Office in sharp suits and stepping into gleaming Porsches, BMWs and Land Rovers, it’s clear that the average state prosecutor’s wage, equivalent to 400 euros [USD 430]  per month, isn’t their only source of income. Within the same building, officials are representing an array of different interests. With such great wealth at stake, the truth about these deaths is unlikely to emerge any time soon. Back in Odessa, three prosecutors laugh as they dismiss allegations that their office tried to cover up Sergei Melnychuk’s murder. They have good reason to be happy. They’re off to the Rugby World Cup in London later this year, an event where one ticket . . .  sells for the equivalent of 400 euros.

Just the sort of people you would trust to conduct legal action concerning mysterious deaths of anti-government figures.

The leader of the west’s anti-Russian campaign is President Obama who told the media on March 2 that “freedom of the press, freedom of assembly, freedom of information, basic civil rights and civil liberties inside of Russia are in much worse shape now than they were four or five, ten years ago.”  If this is so, then he was right to point it out.

But Obama’s condemnation of countries that are guilty of denying “civil liberties” is intriguingly selective. There is one particularly rich country that escapes the net of his disapproval.

The US State Department records that in Saudi Arabia its “citizens lack the right and legal means to change their government” while there are “pervasive restrictions on universal rights such as freedom of expression, including on the internet, and freedom of assembly, association, movement and religion; and a lack of equal rights for women . . .”  Saudi Arabia, a valued ally of the United States, indulges in “torture and other abuses [and] arbitrary arrest and detention,” while “freedom of religion is neither recognized nor protected under the law.”  It might be imagined that the President of the United States might feel it proper to indicate his righteous disapproval of the fact that in Saudi Arabia “civil law does not protect human rights, including freedom of the speech and of the press.”

But no.

President Obama pronounced on January 15, 2015 that “promoting religious freedom has always been a key objective of my Administration’s foreign policy” — but he seems to be selective about achieving that admirable goal.

Later in January Obama visited India in order to bond with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and promote US commercial ventures and military interests.  Modi had been forbidden entry to the United States for nine years, on the grounds that he violated a US law denying a visa to those who had committed “severe violations of religious freedom,” but this was resolved by ignoring the problem.

While Obama was hugging the person who was no longer deemed as having committed severe violations of religious freedom there came the death of the King of Saudi Arabia,  unelected ruler of the country that was noted by the US State Department as refusing to recognize or protect freedom of religion.

So the President of the United States of America cut short his visit to India and flew to Saudi Arabia to join other world leaders paying respects and offering condolences for the death of King Abdullah, in whose fiefdom “citizens lack the right and legal means to change their government.”  According to Obama, King Abdullah had “in his own fashion presented some modest reform efforts within the kingdom;” but Obama obviously forgot that last year, during the reign of the modestly reforming Abdullah, the writer and commentator Raif Badawi was sentenced to 1,000 lashes and 10 years in prison for “insulting Islam through electronic channels” and “going beyond the realm of obedience.”

Badawi suffered his first 50 lashes in front of a mosque on January 9 — six days before Obama enthusiastically declared support for religious freedom and three weeks before he offered “condolences on behalf of the American people” concerning the death of the monarch under whose authority the flogging was ordered.

On January 26 President Obama was asked if his discussions with Saudi Arabia’s new ruler, King Salman, would include mention of the kingdom’s policy concerning human rights and replied that  “Sometimes we need to balance our need to speak to them about human rights issues with immediate concerns we have in terms of counter-terrorism or dealing with regional stability.”  These were weasel words intended to deflect attention from the fact that he intended to do nothing whatever about Saudi Arabia’s violations of human dignity, and one result of his complacent inaction was the king’s sacking of Nora al-Fayez, the country’s first and only female minister “whose attempt to shift the boundaries of women’s education attracted the hostility of religious conservatives.”

The government of the United States considers that Ukraine and Saudi Arabia can do no wrong and that their rulers must be supported unconditionally.  Support for Ukraine is based solely on its opposition to Russia which the US wishes to humiliate and destroy economically.  Unqualified endorsement of the repressive Saudi regime, with its contempt for human liberty and freedom of religion, stems from motives of regional power and direct financial advantage.  But whatever the purposes of Washington’s policies, the world is presented with the unedifying spectacle of the President of the world’s greatest nation indulging in grubby hypocrisy.  It’s not a pretty sight.

Brian Cloughley writes about foreign policy and military affairs. He lives in Voutenay sur Cure, France.

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