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<nettime> Read it and weep, Yankees
Bruce Sterling on Wed, 6 Aug 2003 06:21:07 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> Read it and weep, Yankees

Mozhnah pahgahvareet's ahdmeenyeestrahtahrom? -- bruces

From: Dave Farber <dave {AT} farber.net>
Date: Tue Aug 05, 2003  07:54:41 PM US/Central
Subject: [IP] Tass Washington Bureau Chief:
American Becomes More Soviet as Russia Tries to Become More Like America

This article from Johnson's Russia List #7277 5 August 2003
The list is run by davidjohnson {AT} erols.com
A CDI Project www.cdi.org

From: Andrei Sitov  <WashTASS {AT} aol.com>

Date: Mon, 4 Aug 2003 Subject: AMERICA: BACK IN THE USSR?

AMERICA: BACK IN THE USSR? A specter is haunting the US.

By Andrei K. Sitov

Andrei Sitov is the Washington Bureau Chief for ITAR-TASS News Agency of 
Russia. The views expressed in the article are his own.

For the past 20 years I've been covering the US first as a Soviet and then
as a Russian reporter. Since the end of the Cold War my country has been
trying to become more like America. Meanwhile the US, especially after
9/11, increasingly resembles the old Soviet Union. Please consider:

- The US acts as if it believes it knows what's best not only for the
Americans but for the rest of the world and shows a willingness to force
this belief down other people's throats. For a while - until the terrorist
attacks - its "elite" even toyed with the ridiculous notion of an "end of
history". This is an idea common to all totalitarian regimes (some scholars
say it is rooted in the Armageddon prophecy in the Bible). At least
Fukuyama's version did not envision a blood bath.

- The US continues to define its national greatness through military
strength - as witnessed by the new National Security strategy. The Soviet
Union always used to do that; Dr. Rice told me she thought it would be a
grave mistake for Russia to act in a similar manner. To me it seems to be
an example of "do as I say, not as I do".

- The US shows a dislike for international agreements across the board -
from arms control to the International Criminal Court and from Kyoto
protocols to tobacco trade. The Soviet Union also seemed to comply only
with those international obligations that it liked. To be fair, as
Secretary Powell pointed out to me, Americans don't break agreements - they
either don't sign them or withdraw from them.

- The US now liberates other nations without being asked. The Pentagon
advisor Mr. Perle told me that "there are more important things than
national sovereignty". Of course the late Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev had
a "doctrine of limited sovereignty" named after him. Mr. Perle also said
the US always leaves the lands it occupies. I shared that opinion with a
Mexican colleague; he begged to differ.

- The US has a curious relationship with its allies. It often carries their
water for them - and gets resentment and ridicule in return. The Soviet
satellites used to pay lip service to their "unbreakable alliance" with the
USSR and sneer behind our backs. They also had a higher standard of living.

The transatlantic partners of the Americans say the US is indispensable
(Secretary    Albright was actually vain enough to repeat it publicly; when
I challenged her, she said "other countries call us that"). In the meantime
the Europeans at least once in the last decade managed to get the US
actually go to war for them - in former Yugoslavia. They also believe they
live in a much better and more civilized way than the Americans do.
Personally I think the Americans (like the Soviets in the past) have only
themselves to blame for this situation. They get what they asked for and
shouldn't complain about it.

- The US conducts a large-scale propaganda effort that may not always be
entirely truthful. It uses purely totalitarian slogans such as "Who's not
with us is against us". The government effort is directly coordinated by
the White House though a special office that sends out "Daily Messages"
with key talking points (in Soviet days this was a standard operation
procedure for the Kremlin; it is still used in some post-Soviet states).

The latest press conference of President George W. Bush was by his own
admission orchestrated (this was written before the press conference on
July 30th which was also carefully staged - AS); the White House was never
really challenged on it.

The press seems to have accepted new rules of the game which generally
conform to the so called "patriotic consensus". The coverage of the war in
Iraq by "embedded" journalists (even we at ITAR-TASS had one at an air
carrier) was a perfect example. The reporters were filing directly from the
front lines. Yet it seems nothing that the government wouldn't want to be
known made it to TV screens and newspaper pages. At least one myth - the
Jessica Lynch story in the original propagandistic version - flourished for
a surprisingly long time. There's at least one genuine taboo in American
journalism: admitting that the 9/11 hijackers were personally brave and
committed to their murderous cause.

- The US now has a new "super agency" - the Department of Homeland Security
- whose name is best translated into Russian as an equivalent of the old
KGB. It also has some of the KGB functions. A color-coded system of alerts
adds to the feeling of permanent anxiety, the expectation of new threats
from external and internal enemies.

Internal security has been tightened dramatically. Borders are being sealed
off; the rules of immigration and international travel are hardened. Spying
and informing on your neighbors - a staple of any totalitarian regime - is
encouraged. A government-run "total information awareness" system has been
created. It's reportedly designed to hold the amount of data - much of it
on private citizens - equal to all the Internet pages over the past 5 years.

- The US government seeks and receives additional powers to interfere into
people's lives both through new laws and a more restrictive application of
old ones. It runs a detention camp at a legal no-man's land in Guantanamo,
Cuba. The foreign detainees including some Russians have no legal status
and allegedly can be held indefinitely. Some of the detainees are now
nearing a trial by military tribunals potentially facing death penalty.

- As a result of all of the above the doctrine of containment created to
confront the Soviet Union is now increasingly applied by the outside world
to the US - in practical policy if not in name. On numerous occasions
people from the third world and even Europe told me they wished the USSR
was back - not for its own sake but as a counterbalance to America.

I believe the Soviet Union collapsed largely because it was not telling the
truth about itself either to its own population or to the world. The
Russians do not like to think of themselves as losers in the Cold War
(after all they peacefully rejected communism and won their freedom). But
generally speaking, from a moral standpoint, losing may actually be
preferable to winning. If you lose, you have to ask yourself why it
happened and face your own shortcomings, weaknesses and lies. Meanwhile the
illusions, propaganda and lies of the winning side are usually justified
and reinforced.

Besides, current American policies seem to give comfort to a number of less
than democratic nations around the world including some former Soviet

Americans may not recognize their own country in my description. I know for
a fact that many Russians also refuse to believe it. After all America
embodies the best values and ideals that we wanted to make our own when we
started our post-communist transition.

That is exactly why I'm worried about the seeming "Sovietization" of
America. If not yet a reality, it's a dangerous trend, a spooky "specter".
And I think the Americans would be well advised to recognize the threat and
take it seriously. They have everything they need to defeat it while
safeguarding their legitimate security interests and to win back the
confidence and admiration of their friends and partners around the world.

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