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Jewish World Review
April 17, 2007
/ 29 Nissan, 5767
Frank J. Gaffney, Jr.
It was so, well, Soviet. This weekend's news clips showed
Russian goon squads charging courageous opponents of an authoritarian
Kremlin, truncheons flailing, roughing up the dissenters and arresting
their leaders. One of those detained on Saturday was Garry Kasparov,
the long-time World Chess Champion and a world-class champion of
Although Kasparov was subsequently released, his forcible
detention is a sign of the extent of Vladimir Putin's repression and the
master of the Kremlin's confidence that the Free World will not protest,
let alone punish, the Russian government's ever-more aggressive behavior
at home and abroad. If the Kremlin can move with impunity against the
most visible, widely admired and gutsy of its critics, no one in Russia
is safe. And the world beyond will become more dangerous, too.
Like the refuseniks of the Soviet Union - storied
individuals like Andrei Sakharov, Alexandr Solshenitsyn and Anatoly
Sharansky - Mr. Kasparov has been a formidable adversary for a
government accustomed to having its own way. He has written powerful
columns in publications like the Wall Street Journal. He has used his
stature as one of history's best practitioners of chess, the national
sport of Russia, to speak truth to power on behalf of millions of his
countrymen who have become too intimidated to challenge Putin's
systematic liquidation of what passed for democracy there.
Most recently, Garry Kasparov has entered the political fray, helping to
found Other Russia, a somewhat ungainly coalition of parties from the
Left and the Right who have joined forces to challenge Vladimir Putin's
creeping totalitarianism and offer a democratic alternative in upcoming
elections. The Kremlin has denounced Other Russia as "destabilizing."
All other things being equal, the state's violence against the
coalition's demonstrations this weekend and Kasparov's arrest will be
followed by more draconian measures.
But all other things must not be equal. The Free World and its leader,
the United States, must take steps now to help Freedom's Champions like
Garry Kasparov in at least as forceful a way as it did when President
Reagan assisted the USSR's dissidents.
For starters, Kasparov and others who are taking on the Kremlin's
repressive actions must be raised up by the Bush Administration and
Congress as test cases of the Russian government's worthiness for a
place at the table of civilized nations - to say nothing of its
inclusion in such company as the G-8 and World Trade Organization.
Today's refuseniks, like those of yesteryear, are after all canaries in
the mineshaft. If their voices are allowed to be extinguished (in some
cases, literally), their oppressors will be emboldened in their menacing
behavior towards others, including Western interests.
Even now, the Kremlin is arming to the teeth countries like Communist
China and others, notably Hugo Chavez's Venezuela. It is enabling
Iran's nuclear ambitions (despite a spat at the moment over payments due
Moscow). It is using energy as a weapon against its neighbors and
Europe. And it is threatening nuclear attacks against Poland and the
Czech Republic if they cooperate in U.S.-led missile defense
Another, particularly worrisome development is noted in a new paper just
released by the Center for Security Policy. It involves a stealthy Russian
government effort to become a major shareholder in, and influence over,
the European Aeronautics, Defense and Space (EADS) consortium. EADS is,
in turn, trying to become a major supplier of defense equipment to the
Pentagon. Even under other circumstances, such an arrangement should be
considered problematic in the extreme. In light, however, of what Putin
is doing to Freedom's Champions in Russia and to our friends and
interests elsewhere at the moment, it is completely beyond the pale.
As it happens, others who are Freedom's Champions are being badly
treated closer to home. In this space last week, I reported that a film
about what was happening to courageous anti-Islamist Muslims in the
U.S., Canada and Western Europe was being suppressed by the Public
Broadcasting Service (PBS). Unfortunately, that remains the case at
this writing - a situation being enabled by the Corporation for Public
Broadcasting (CPB), which paid $675,000 in taxpayer funds to make this
film but is now cooperating in PBS's refusal to air it unless the
documentary is reworked.
As a partner in the production company that made "Islam vs. Islamists:
Voices from the Muslim Center," I have watched with horror as techniques
out of Putin's playbook have been applied to prevent the telling of the
story of freedom-loving Muslims who are - like the Kasparovs of Russia -
warning about the ominous rise of totalitarian ideologies in their
communities, and what that portends for the rest of us.
Matters have been made worse by the replacement of our film in PBS'
"America at a Crossroads" line-up this week by a film produced by the
series' host, Robert MacNeil, as part of a sweetheart deal with PBS and
its Washington flagship, WETA. MacNeil's documentary is entitled "The
Muslim Americans." It is an appalling, politically correct but
disinforming paean to organizations like the Council on American-Islamic
Relations (CAIR), the Muslim Student Association (MSA) and others who
are part of the Islamist problem in this country, not the solution.
It is time to choose. Do we stand with those who have the courage to
risk everything to oppose the totalitarians and their ideologies? Or do
we stand with their oppressors, in the vain hope that the latter will
treat us better?
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JWR contributor Frank J. Gaffney, Jr. heads the Center for Security Policy. Comments by clicking here.
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© 2006, Frank J. Gaffney, Jr.