Jewish World Review Dec. 24, 2004 / 12 Teves 5765
Jay D. Homnick
A prima facie case for intervention
In the type of inside drama enjoyed only by discerning journalists, a headline at Yahoo News underwent a subtle… shall we say 'face lift'? After about four hours on Dec. 20, the line reading Ukraine Candidates Face Off In Debate suddenly was altered by one word to read: Ukraine Candidates Square Off In Debate. The cub reporter who wrote the original was no doubt duly shunted off to cover the changing of the seasons in Siberia. Or to get Anna Nicole Smith's holiday reading list. Or something.
The reason why the first version was funny in a ghoulish sort of way was because one of the candidates - the Prime Minister, in fact - just took the face off the other. There were mitigating circumstances, namely that he did not do it on purpose. Then again, there were also aggravating circumstances, namely that he was trying to kill him. Not with his own hands, of course; a Prime Minister has a security service to do that while he works on his homey side. Rather than die at the hands of those oxen, Mr. Yuschenko absorbed all the dioxin in his face.
Medical science is shocked at this tale of survival; one imagines the flurry of papers soon to appear in journals contending that vodka is an antidote to dioxin (intoxication versus toxicity?). In any case, we have here an episode in modern statecraft that only hurts when we laugh. A sitting Prime Minister of a putatively democratic country in the 21st Century has just… Well, perhaps we should avoid making accusations. After all, there is one man who does not believe the Prime Minister to be guilty, and he is a man of great influence whom we should not like to offend - since he owns the deed to the Brooklyn Bridge.
What are we doing about it? Apparently, nothing. We pressed for new elections anyway, due to massive voter fraud. We are just figuring that this runoff will end with the voters kissing the frog. Am I the only one who does not like the, er… complexion of this thing?
Our commitment to the War on Terrorism and our bold agenda of promoting freedom worldwide demand that we not accept this bit of unreal politicking in the outmoded name of realpolitik. How can we pretend the Prime Minister is not part of the problem when we know that he provided the solution? Aren't we just compounding the situation by ignoring the fact that he administered the compound? Just because he is backed by Russia and we don't want to harass Putin?
The idea of going to war against terrorism is to guarantee that violence against noncombatants will not be an acceptable means of gaining political advantage in our time. Does it matter if a party takes power by blowing up a subway train or by poisoning the opposition leader? Is it a hackneyed idea to say that one assassination attempt and you're out, even if you only caused acne? Can you try arsenic one day and lace up the old sneakers for a runoff the next?
And I don't buy this young democracy stuff. Growing pains in a young democracy include some Mickey Mouse signatures on referenda, some shoving matches at pep rallies and an occasional lapse in a debate to "Your mother wears combat boots". Assassination attempts by sitting Prime Ministers are a considerably more significant blemish than a bunch of zits on a teenage phiz.
It seems clear to me that such a moment may not be allowed to pass. By our buying into the phony jive about the "ongoing investigation", we are signaling a lack of serious will about maintaining the basic threshold of Twenty-First Century governance, that of "ballots, not bullets". Can candidates in some of these newly democratic countries count on us to protect them by unseating any head of state who tries to keep a chemical imbalance of power? Sadly, the answer seems to be "No". We just pray that the guy lives and the people are outraged enough to hand him the new election as a consolation prize.
If Putin wants input, he needs to pick a boy who plays fair. There is no open season for the old comrades to come raid the new governments. The dark ages should be light years away by now. It's a long time since Chernobyl and nuke rain in Ukraine. A modern state needs to be conducted in a modern state. We cannot tolerate this type of "selektzia, not election".
Well, we blew it and did not act in a timely fashion. Now we are stuck watching them square off. Let's just pray that they don't round off the election results.
JWR contributor Jay D. Homnick is the author of many books and essays on Jewish political and religious affairs. Comment by clicking here.
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© 2003, Jay D. Homnick