Saturday, 22 March 2014

Viva YouTube: you have done what the United Nations could not

You can see here (thanks to @paulrbrennan) that last week YouTube realised that the dreadful RT.com (Russia Today) - global mouthpiece for the Putin regime - was  publishing propaganda that was, essentially, a cocktail of untruths. To their great credit, they shut down their channel, as they would anything else demonstrably "misleading".

How sad, then, that other, more weighty organisations in international affairs cannot do the same. The UN, for example, seems compelled to treat the Russian side of the Crimea story as if it were a reasonable counter-view to that taken by the rest of the world's press.

For example, that there were no Russian troops there - even though they spoke with Russian accents and gave all the impression of being so - and the militants were actually from a local, hastily-assembled Crimean militia. In other words, that the Russian narrative was anything other than a tissue of lies.
I quote:
Without an independent, objective establishment of the facts and circumstances surrounding alleged human rights violations, there is a serious risk of competing narratives (my highlighting) being manipulated for political ends and leading to divisiveness and incitement to hatred. The UN team, as an impartial player, can thus serve to de-escalate tensions and prevent such manipulation.
Competing narratives? Competing narratives? Do me a favour. No-one with half a brain can seriously think there are "competing narratives". There is one narrative being reported by all the world's serious press, that Russia has invaded a sovereign country. And there are lies.

The vital point here is that we cannot and should not pretend that all viewpoints always have equal validity. It is like saying "there is a serious risk that the difference in interpretation between The Washington Post and that of Herr Goebbels may lead to divisiveness and incitement to hatred".

Which brings me to a brilliant piece from a recent Moscow Times, which is so good I reproduce almost in full here. The author, Yulia Latynina (@yulia_latynina), asks laconically why we should not send Swiss diplomat, Heidi Tagliavini, to the Crimea to sort it all out. After all, her European Commission trip to Georgia in 2008 worked so well when Russia picked a fight with its neighbour:
"Her group produced an absolutely stunning report. For example, they boldly asked the question: Did Abkhazian aircraft have the right to bomb Georgian territory? To which they fearlessly replied, "No. It was a violation of international law."
Of course, that overlooked one small point: Abkhazia has no Air Force, just as the tiny breakaway territory of 80,000 Abkhaz people has no strategic bombers or flying saucers. The real question should have been: "Were the aircraft flying out of Abkhazia actually Russian planes using the Soviet-era airfield in Gudauta?"
If so, it invalidates Moscow's claim that it was fighting to "protect the Ossetian people from Georgian aggression" and indicates that Russia was actually implementing a well thought-out and planned military strike using two flags. But Tagliavini's brave commission never even posed that question.
But the best part of the Tagliavini commission's findings concerns the question of who started the war. It reported that, according to the Russians, the war started when Georgian militants launched an unprovoked attack against the peaceful and sleeping citizens of Tskhinvali, and that, according to the Georgians, the war began when Russian troops crossed into Georgian territory, forcing Tbilisi to retaliate. In its attempt to act objectively, without actually trying to ascertain the truth, the commission simply reported both sides of the story.
So, if the EU is wondering how to cope with the awkward situation in Crimea, it should send the Tagliavini commission there.
The Tagliavini commission will write that Ukrainians claim they did not kill or threaten any Russians and that the people who seized the administrative buildings and infrastructure in Crimea are Russian military personnel. It will also state that, according to the Russian version, Ukrainian fascists financed by the West are threatening the Russian-speaking people of Crimea with genocide and the men who seized the administrative buildings and infrastructure in Crimea are local "self-defense" forces. As an objective body, the Tagliavini commission will report both sides but ignore the question of which is true...
If the West wants to somehow influence the unpredictable and dangerous regime of a ruler who, in the words of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, lives "in a different world," it should not start with sanctions and visas.
It should start by getting rid of all the diplomats and politicians who, for whatever reason, wrote anything like the Tagliavini commission report and therefore convinced Putin that the West is run by suckers, corrupt politicians and idiots that he can buy off, pressure or blackmail in order to get out of any situation.
Tagliavini should be dismissed in disgrace from every bureaucratic post she holds.
When she retires, she will no doubt write a new history of World War II that reads something like this: "According to the Germans, World War II began when the Poles captured a German radio station in Gleiwitz, and according to the Poles, the Germans dressed as Poles and seized the station to provoke a war. It remains a mystery as to which of these versions is true."
Bravo, Ms Latynina. Bravo.

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