Monday, October 23, 2006

Who killed Anna Politkovskaya? -- by John Laughland from SanderResearch 11 Oct 2006

Who killed Anna Politkovskaya? -- by John Laughland from SanderResearch 11 Oct 2006

[Le Requin canadien continues to allow me to put off my own writing for this blog by sending CM/P fresh, hot articles like this latest one from our 'old friend' John Laughland (the quotes are really because just before I met Laughland for the first time at a Free Slobo conference in The Hague a couple Februaries ago (2005), he'd asked to be removed from the CM/P mailing list! Go figure, huh.), direct off the pricey web site. Laughland's a cringing conservative on many issues--I shudder to think where his formidable intelligence would do its clear-cutting on issues like Rwanda, 911 and the War on (Muslim) Terror--but I'm also way envious of his impeccable French, spoken with that singularly snooty British accent. If they were still around I'd love to see what Pete'n Dud would do with Prof Laughland. But articles like the one below make CM/P proud to know--even to have been shunned by--John Laughland. --mc]

Who killed Anna Politkovskaya?

By John Laughland

In C. S. Lewis' science fiction dystopia, That Hideous Strength, the
secretive organization which controls the state has its agents writing
in newspapers on all sides of the political spectrum, in order to
disguise its power with the appearance of plurality. In today's West,
by contrast, even the appearance of plurality seems to have been

The murder on 7th October of the Russian journalist, Anna
Politkovskaya, was greeted with the monolithic unanimity which has now
become the hallmark of the so-called free press in the West. The
right-wing Daily Telegraph devoted a leader to her murder on 9th
October, the first sentence of which was:

'People sometimes pay with their lives for saying out loud what they
think,' Anna Politkovskaya said last year of Vladimir Putin's

The same day, the left-wing Guardian also published a leader about her
murder. Its first sentence read:

'People sometimes pay with their lives for saying out loud what they
think,' Anna Politkovskaya told a conference on press freedom last

The whole of the British, American and West European press extolled
Politkovskaya as 'one of Russia's bravest and most brilliant
journalists' (The Guardian), 'one of the few voices that dared
contradict the party line' (The Daily Telegraph), 'a firebrand for
freedom' (The Independent), 'the most famous investigative
journalist in Russia' (The Times), 'one of the bravest journalists
in Russia' (The New York Times); 'a victim of rare courage' (The
Washington Post). All these quotes are from the leader articles which
each paper thought worth devoting to her death. In reality,
Politkovskaya was virtually unknown in Russia. The reaction of a
wealthy Russian businessman dining in Brussels on the night of her
murder was typical:

'Politkovskaya? Never heard of her.'

Politkovskaya in this respect resembles another murdered
Russian-speaking journalist with connections in the Caucasus, Georgiy
Gongadze, the Ukrainian citizen with a Georgian surname whose murder in
2000 was instrumentalized by the United States in an attempt to
implicate the then Ukrainian president, Leonid Kuchma. Politkvskaya was
not quite as obscure as Gongadze: he ran a mere web site (although this
meant that when he traveled to Washington DC he was received by the
Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright) while the newspaper where she
worked, Novaya Gazeta, had a circulation of 250,000. Still, that is not
much in a country of nearly 150 million inhabitants and certainly not
enough to merit the exaggerated praise heaped posthumously upon her.

The media in Britain and America also competed with one another to lay
the blame for the murder squarely at President Putin's door. The
Financial Times announced that,

'In a broad sense, Mr. Putin bears responsibility for creating,
through the Kremlin's long-standing assault on the independent media,
an atmosphere in which such killings can happen.'

The Washington Post asserted pompously that,

'It is quite possible, without performing any detective work, to say
what is ultimately responsible for these deaths: It is the climate of
brutality that has flourished under Mr. Putin.'

All papers implied that Mrs. Politkovskaya had been killed by allies of
the Russian President for reporting the truth about the war in
Chechnya. According to them, Russia is a quasi-dictatorship in which
the government brooks no dissent, and they illustrated this by
referring back - albeit in strangely vague terms - to the number of
other journalists who have been victims of similar contract killings.

It is here that we can put our fingers firmly on the page and shout,
'Liars!' Some of these articles contained glancing references to
the last journalist to have been killed in Moscow, the American editor
of Forbes magazine, Paul Klebnikov, but none of them bothered to add
the key rider that no one has ever suggested that the Russian
government had Klebnikov murdered. On the contrary:

whereas Politkovskaya was an anti-Putin militant, Klebnikov was an
anti-oligarch militant. He wrote a brilliant book about Boris
Berezovsky - one of the most informative books about Russia's
'transition' in the 1990s, in which he accused Berezovsky of murder
and of being hand in glove with Chechen drug lords and gangsters -
and he published a series of interviews with one of the Chechen
separatist leaders, which he undiplomatically entitled 'Conversations
with a barbarian'. He was rewarded for his efforts with a bullet in
the head. When he died, there were no paeans of praise for his bravery
or courage in the Western press, even though he was an American, for
Klebnikov had devoted his life to arguing that the West's policy in
Russia is based on an alliance with very serious criminals, and that
the 'businessmen' whom the West champions as freedom fighters -
Berezovsky has political asylum in Britain - are in fact a bunch of
ruthless murderers.

In contrast to both Klebnikov and Politkovskaya, the one murdered
Russian journalist whom all Russians had heard of when he died - and
whose name is virtually unknown in the West - was Vlad Listyev.

When he fell under the assassin's bullets on the night of 1st March
1995, Listyev was Russia's most popular talk show host and one of the
most trusted people in the country - a genuine TV superstar. He had
just become director of Russia's main TV channel, ORT (now First
Channel). In spite of Listyev's immense fame, the Western media never
cited his murder as an example of the lawlessness or intolerance of the
then president, Boris Yeltsin, in the way that they now attack Putin.
This is doubtless because - to use the charming euphemisms of
Wikipedia - 'When Listyev put the middlemen advertising agencies
out of business, he deprived many corrupt businessmen of a source for
enormous profits.' In plain English, this means that most Russians
believe that Listyev was murdered either by Boris Berezovsky - who
took control of ORT immediately after Listyev's murder, and in large
measure because of it - or by Vladimir Guzinski, a rival TV magnate
who, like Berezovsky, is a Yeltsin-era oligarch now in exile. The only
journalist from the West who did discuss openly whether the contract to
kill Listyev had come from Berezovsky, Guzinsky or Berezovsky's ally,
the advertising mogul, Sergei Lisovsky, was, oddly enough, Paul

Politkovskaya's colleagues on Novaya Gazeta include notorious
pro-American commentators like the 'independent Moscow-based defense
analyst,' Pavel Felgenhauer, whose also works as a columnist for the
Jamestown Foundation: the Director of that body, Glen Howard, is
Executive Director of the American Committee for Peace in Chechnya, a
neo-con outfit which campaigns for a 'political settlement' with
the terrorists in that North Caucasus province of the Russian
federation. This may explain why you can find only one opinion about
Politkovskaya in the Western media. At the same time, by contrast,
there is a huge variety of opinions about her murder in supposedly
dictatorial Russia itself. The theories now circulating in Moscow about
Politkovskaya's murder include (apart from the claim that the Russian
government or the Chechen authorities were responsible):

revenge by corrupt police who found themselves wanted or in prison as a
result of her sensationalist journalism;

a conspiracy by opponents of the Russian president and the Chechen
Prime Minister, Ramzan Kadyrov, to discredit them;

revenge by former Chechen militants;

a murder carried out by Russian nationalist opponents of Putin (her
name was on the death-lists of various neo-Nazi groups);

a political provocation designed to discredit the Chechen authorities
or trigger some movement in that troublesome province;

or a conspiracy by opponents of Russia from the former Soviet Republic
of Georgia with which Moscow is currently engaged in a fierce
diplomatic row.

Take your pick - but the sheer variety of points of view gives the
lie to the claim that Politkovskaya was fighting a monolithic media
machine controlled by the government.

Among the many points of view expressed, few were pithier than this one
from a commentator for,

Politkovskaya's murder spells unambiguous benefits for the West. The
past month saw massive unofficial clampdown on Russia. Take the
attempts to pull Ukraine into NATO. Take the alliance's "intensive
dialogue" with Georgia. Take Saakashvili's behavior the President
of Georgia, very humiliating for Russia, which has been certainly
agreed with the West. Theoretically, Politkovskaya's murder diverts
attention from Georgia and builds up western pressures on Russia,
something today's Georgia can only benefit from. Yet, I believe that
those who had ordered the crime are more global. There is no immediate
evidence somebody in the West issued direct instructions. It is beyond
doubt, though, that the West is a direct beneficiary.

One does not have to believe this conspiracy theory, or any of the
others. But at least if one is Russian, the consumer of news has a
large number of different points of view to consider, all of which are
easily accessible to the ordinary Russian by buying the newspaper or
looking at the Internet. In the West, by contrast, even the most
assiduous conspiracy theorist will have great difficulty finding
anything other than the party line that Mr. Putin did it. Now, what
does that tell you about the state of political and media pluralism in
the West?


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