Saturday, February 26, 2005

More prosecution

I never know whether it is better to update a post already made if there is more on the subject or just to make another post on it with the additional information. I think what normally happens is that the title of the post is seen and, since that one has already been read, the reader moves on. So my tendency is to make another post.

In the last post, an anonymous commenter takes the position opposite mine in response and makes a compelling argument—the people are for it. In a democracy, what could be more compelling? Of course, that the people are for it has come from opinion polls and they can present their own problems. What would be the answer if the question asked, for example, “Would you be for lustration if there were a possibility that it would delay or make impossible government reform?” The objection to that is that it is a bit too leading. Often though the questions that get us to what the public is supposed to want are as leading in an opposite direction. But public opinion polls are accepted as a reflection of the voice of the people and in democracies, vox populi, vox deii--the voice of the people is the voice of god.

A digression. If an opinion poll is valid, it still suffers from the problem that it is a snapshot of a person’s opinion at a given point. What would it be the next day or the next hour or even minute? Wouldn’t you need to take a sampling over an extended period of time to get the real opinion? A government would be really democratic that based its policies on what the majority of the people thought. So give them a button to register that opinion and have a computer compile it from moment to moment. Wouldn’t make government workable because the people are, what even some of the founders made the case for, fickle? That is one reason why we have an arbitrary time set for elections and a time limit to them. We get the will of the people at that set time and move on. Government would not be workable otherwise. And all this talk about elections in the US is simply trying to get to what the opposition absolutely knows to be the opinion of the people based on polls. But that is not the system. Vote, figure out who won the majority of those votes and set up office for 2 years, 4 years or 6 years. Is the vote the best way to register the will of the people? Maybe not, but it is the only workable way.

I’m finished. Now back to the issue.

But possibly the even more compelling reason for lustration as it is called here is that Yuschenko himself is for it. He made it an issue during the revolution and seems to be still making it an issue. And that may be driving opinion as much as anything.

And there is a lot to the argument that those who have committed crimes against the people through abuse of their office should be brought to justice. Or those who have used their political power to get rid of certain people like Gangadze should be brought to justice. You might say that there has been a sort of dam that has kept justice pent up for not only the years of Soviet rule but for centuries before that under the Tsars. Prosecutions of those who have perpetrated these crimes would bring some sort of release—relief-- a sense that justice has finally been served. I find that to be a compelling argument too.

And who could look at the widow of Gangadze (I believe he was married, right?) or at his mother and say that the government will delay dealing with those who killed him so brutally. Delay is what they have had to this day. To them delay would mean the same it has meant under the Kuchma regime which would make the Yuschenko government to them and to those for whom this is a significant issue, no different. That is a compelling argument to me also and I don’t think I could look at them and do it.

But even with all of these arguments, I think there is a reason not do it, at least not yet. (Don G. in the comments makes the argument that this would be better dealt with later by a successor regime. That makes a lot of sense to me.) And this reason could create more good for the Ukrainians so as to be a more moral reason to wait than to act right now. The reason is that reform of the government and dealing with corruption is a way to prevent the abuses that brought about the murder of Gangadze and the flagrant abuse of power that the Ukrainians have been subject to under the Kuchma regime. If corruption can be dealt with, and I think it can be under a man like Yuschenko, that would go a long way to prevent what resulted in taking the life of Gangadze.

So why can’t Yuschenko do both? Why can’t he proceed on two fronts, prosecuting the criminals and reforming government to deal with the source of these abuses? The short answer is that he does not have absolute power. To be frank, he is only president of Kiev and the western part of the Ukraine. He has to work to consolidate his power over the eastern part. That he will most likely be able to do this right now is because of a certain acquiescence by those in the east--maybe it’s fatalism, kind of a cultural trait?—and because the opposition has gone to ground, for now.

That opposition has not gone away though. It is still there and still powerful. They have money if they don’t have political power. Yuschenko is not in control of the Parliament either and that Parliament has been controlled by the oligarchs to a great extent for years. They still wield considerable influence there even if it is a minority.

Kuchma, as one focus of lustration, may not enjoy the support of the oligarchs anymore. I don’t think he is getting any phone calls from them today, do you? Out of office and out of favor is always the rule. But what about Pinchuk? He seemed to come out more moderate in the tail end of the revolution. That made him seem to be more of a realist than some of the others. He still has considerable power and wealth. Would his realism mean that those would not be at the disposal of Kuchma if he were to be prosecuted?

And what is Kuchma’s own personal wealth? He may not have political power but if he has money, he has power. He can still buy a lot of influence in the event he were to be prosecuted.

If I didn’t have a conscience and, as a result, were capable of defending Kuchma were he to be prosecuted and I had a virtually unlimited budget to do it, I would take on the whole incoming government and focus the light on a lot of them. None of these guys, with the possible exception of Yuschenko, is squeaky clean. You cannot look closely at a lot of these people and not come away with something that doesn’t look right. No one who participated in the free-for-all that was privatization and came away with anything is pure. And they may have even acted legally but by present lights it might not look all that good.

Tymoschenko is a most appealing target of opportunity, not so much because she has done anything—that hasn’t been shown—but because there has been so much out there and so many interested in taking her down. They could be called out to do it again very easily. But she is not alone. How did Poroshenko get his wealth, for instance?

So put the attention on these people and their histories. Set up a Maidan-like website to publicize it and get the media outlets that are friendly still to publicize it. Even the ones that are not friendly will most likely not turn down advertising money. Put together a half hour or hour expose and pay the stations to run it. They might even think it’s a public service since they may be having some pangs of journalistic integrity for having come down so whole-souled for Yuschenko in the revolution. For journalists when information comes out about one side that is not good, objectivity often means finding something bad to say about the other side.

Have an issue a day press conference to keep it in the news. And if there is any hint that the press is being muzzled by the government, howl long and loud about how the Yuschenko camp talks about freedom in public but issues its own temniki or comes down on the press in its own way in private. As part of that front of the campaign—that is what it is a war campaign—take any suspicion of government restrictions on freedom of the press to the International Court of Human Rights. (Supported by evidence of course. That can always be found.) Do they have jurisdiction for such a case? I don’t know and frankly, if I were a part of this amoral world, wouldn’t care. The thing would be to take an issue to the West on the West’s own terms in their own institutions. Frankly, for me, it might be better that they refuse to take it. The argument would be that the West is hypocritical about freedom of the press and human rights. Hit them where they are most sensitive. Then have the PR firms follow up in the West consistently—meaning daily--to keep the issue in the forefront there.

I can assure you that it will be only a short time before the stories start to show up: “The promise of the Orange Revolution started to go sour today when it was revealed that the government of Victor Yuschenko has engaged in (fill in the blank.)” Or: “The Yuschenko government has come to resemble more the government of Vladimir Putin in its treatment of the press…” At that point, the honeymoon with the West will be over.

If the Yuschenko government were confronted by daily bombardments of information about the activities of some of their leading lights, what would they do? I think Yuschenko is a man of principle but he is not the only one who would have any power that could be used to deal with this sort of thing. Wouldn’t the real temptation be to try to stop this the way it has been stopped before? A very old reflex.

And it wouldn’t matter if there was any real truth to any of it in the end. That it might be true is the only thing that matters. That would keep the people on their heels about this. And the Western outlets would begin to examine this too more closely than they did. A story about a fall is much more interesting than one about any rise. The story is the thing—just ask Dan Rather.

If this happened, Yuschenko and his government would be fighting battles that have nothing to do with the central important issue of corruption. The opposition in Parliament wouldn’t stand still. They would ask for inquiries and point fingers when they didn’t get them. They would howl that this is more of the same thing that Yuschenko pledged to do away with. They could bang away on the “this is undemocratic chord” to some pretty good effect I think in the West and here. Some will be sensitive that the revolution they gave so much for not be hijacked by those who were supposed to be its friends. They might join in in the criticism.

And the more people are exposed to this over and over, the more that they become uncertain about things. Is it true? Was (fill in the blank) really involved in these types of corrupt activities? If it is true, then he/she is no better than anyone involved with Kuchma et al. It wouldn’t necessarily cause support to change to the opposition, but it might neutralize any support of the people when that support is needed by the government.

And how would this play in the east and north of here? It would play into their very prejudices about the Yuschenko government. It would confirm them all. Would that be good? Not hardly.

And the same sort of thing could happen if any of the other oligarchs were singled out for prosecution. The Yuschenko government would spend its time putting out all the brush fires and not do what it needs to do and is absolutely crucuial to Ukrainainas that it do. And Yuschenko does not have unlimited time to do what he needs to do.

Will this happen? I don’t know. The opposition has not shown themselves to be all that clever. (Selection for leadership of the clans seems to have been on the basis of loyalty not on the basis of smarts. Maybe there was a reason for it? Promote those who are not a threat? Sounds like any other organization.) That they might do it should be enough to give the government pause for these reasons. I think the revolution could very well hang in the balance if they don't.

68 comments:

One Eyed Cat said...

I would tend to agree that the *priority* for Yuschenko should be the reformation of government. It is clear that corruption played a major role in the criminal activities now being investigated.

Lustration is going to happen. It is a moral imperative that criminal parties be brought to justice. I would argue that it be done cautiously and with great deliberation. East Ukraine *will* fall into line. They simply have a very limited amount of political activism on which to draw (in a sense fatalism) Only the most egregious cases should be dealt with. I think those oligarchs that are willing to go legitimate (and do not have blood on their hands) should be given the opportunity to do so.

OEC

alex said...

lustration? maybe i will be sucessfull... maybe not. do you really think that yushchenko will be able to rein in oligarchs. people (even presidents) are being disposed of for much less then let's say, $800 million (price of kryvorizhstal paid by pinchuk and akhmetov)... and also, you REALLY believe this government will be more honnest than the previous one?? i kinda tend to believe that yulia's involvement in corruption scandals was genuine... that'll do...

alex

p.s.
since i am (by the nature of my job) forced to live here i can say with the fair degree of certainty - i really, honnestly and deeply hate this place, despise its people and their ways... and thanks lord, in a year from now i'll be far far away. after some seven countries i lived in over last 20 years this will be the first tme i will be happy i am leaving.

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