Only one post today. Only one reason.
One week ago, the unspeakable malignant cowardice that dwells within the walls of Moscow’s Kremlin reached out its cold bony hand and extinguished one of Russia’s last few remaining candles of patriotism and courage, Anna Politkovskaya.
I’m sorry I failed you, Anna. I started my blog six months ago and began warning the world what was happening in Russia, but I waited much too long and I should have done a lot more than start a blog. I knew what was what as soon as the Kremlin poisoned Victor Yushchenko in a pathetic attempt to stop Ukraine from turning its face, beaten to a pulp by Russian blows, to the West. But I procrastinated, and so did many others (but that doesn’t diminish my blame one tiny little bit).
Some progress is being made. Today, U.S. Secretary of State Condi Rice is in Moscow, and she will conduct a meeting with the editors of Anna’s newspaper, Novaya Gazeta, directly snubbing the Putin administration and emphasizing its catastrophic diplomatic failure in relations with the world’s most powerful country. Putin said Anna was an enemy of the state, Condi is saying she was a hero. Take that.We who now dwell beneath you are so wretched, it seems that you had to give your life to get our attention. Perhaps the words of Abraham Lincoln at Gettysburg do not come amiss on this somber day:
Four score and seven years ago, our fathers brought forth upon this continent a new nation: conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this. But, in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember, what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us; that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion; that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain; that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom; and that government of the people, by the people, and for the people shall not perish from the earth.
Perhaps now we can make this Anna’s song (maybe Celine will even dedicate it to her some day):
My Heart Will Go On
Every night in my dreams I see you, I feel you
That is how I know you go on
Far across the distance and spaces between us
You have come to show you go on
Near, far, wherever you are, I believe that the heart does go on
Once more you open the door, and you’re here in my heart
And my heart will go on and on
Love can touch us one time and last for a lifetime
And never go till we’re one
Love was when I loved you, one true time I hold to
In my life we’ll always go on
Near, far, wherever you are I believe that the heart does go on
Once more you open the door, and you’re here in my heart
And my heart will go on and on
There is some love that will not go away
You’re here, there’s nothing I fear
And I know that my heart will go on
We’ll stay forever this way
You are safe in my heart and my heart will go on and on
Anna warned the world that Russia was returning to Stalinism but the world didn’t listen, and now we will pay the price. The Cincinnati Post documents it all:
Russia’s War on Truth
After she was found brutally murdered in the hallway of her Moscow apartment building, most of Anna Politkovskaya’s obituaries identified her as a war reporter who seemed to court danger.
She was far more than that. Those who might have taken the trouble to read her book, “Putin’s Russia,” would have seen she was a chronicler of Russia’s steady decline into authoritarian rule under President Vladimir Putin and perhaps as his most bitter critic in all of Russia.
Her book should have been more widely heralded in the United States, but the diplomatic and journalistic book review establishment here sniffed at it. Foreign Affairs magazine called it “stridently indignant.” Other reviewers said she was too provocative in claiming Russia was on its way back to Stalinism. One even suggested she was a “Cassandra.”
Perhaps we all needed to be a little more indignant and provocative about Putin’s Russia after his election to a second term. The pity is that Politkovskaya didn’t get as much attention when she was alive as she’s getting now that her voice has been silenced.
Her book, written in Russian and translated into English, was for sale in St. Petersburg, the hometown of Putin. But it was not available in a Russian language edition.
“Nyet,” said a clerk, acting as if I had asked for the plans for a phased array radar system.
One of Politkovskaya’s most memorable stories was about a minor Moscow politician identified only as Tonya who was eager to have her story published in the West but not in Russia during her lifetime. “Go ahead. Let them know what our money smells of,” Tonya said.
After clawing her way to the top by selling cheap goods from Turkey in Moscow’s post-communist street market, Tonya found that she had to pay bribes to a councilman to stay in business. She also had to pay a penance unless she spoke favorably of Putin. To resolve her problem, she ran for the council herself on a pro-Putin slate and won.
Politkovskaya compared Putin to Stalin and Lenin in his ruthlessness, but she was an equal opportunity critic. She didn’t have much good to say about Western leaders, either.
Russia’s slide back to the Soviet system, she said, “happened to choruses of encouragement from the West, primarily from (Italy’s) Silvio Berlusconi, who appears to have fallen in love with Putin. He is Putin’s main European champion, but Putin also enjoys the support of (Britain’s) Blair, (Germany’s) Schroeder and (France’s) Chirac, and receives no discouragement from the transatlantic junior Bush.”
For President Bush, indeed, having a steady partner in the war on terrorism has been the steering current of his relationship with Putin. Corruption and even intimidation of its neighbors, such as is occurring right now in the former Soviet republic of Georgia, is being overlooked.
Who dared kill this feisty woman?
Politkovskaya, as a correspondent covering the war in Chechnya, uncovered a stream of abuses against Muslims. She was getting ready to bring out a big story about torture in Chechnya. The son of a slain president of Chechnya reportedly had publicly threatened to do her in.
Mikhail Gorbachev, the former Soviet leader who was part owner of the newspaper for which Politkovskaya was working, expressed doubt that her murder was connected with Chechnya. He called it nothing short of a “political homicide.”
Politkovskaya, among other things, had been heavily involved in uncovering corruption in the Yukos oil scandal, in which Putin’s cronies muscled their way into control of Russia oil conglomerate, throwing its president into jail and selling stock in world exchanges at wildly inflated profits.
Some suspect angry military officers. But Politkovskaya did a lot for the military – bringing attention to the miserable conditions that Russian officers and troops have to endure. Her work on the poor maintenance of nuclear submarines is a chilling reminder of how close to the edge that country’s safety procedures have deteriorated.
Russia is the now the third most deadly country in the world for journalists, after Iraq and Algeria, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. Politkovskaya was the 43rd journalist killed in Russia since 1993.
Call it a war on truth.
I’m sorry, Anna. As God is my witness, I’ll do everything I can not to repeat the mistakes of the past. How can I do otherwise, when I know you are watching?
Read Anna’s last article in the Independent, which ran it on the front page, God bless them.
Read RIA Novosti eulogizing Anna (yes, even they couldn’t help it).
Here’s what Elena Bonner said at the London Memorial service, with the famous actress Vanessa Redgrave reading her words:
The blame for the death of Anna Politkovskaya rests on the indifference of Russian society, the government, and the President. It also rests on the international community, the European institutions and the UN who have forgotten that in 1975, the Helsinki Agreement declared that human rights violations cannot be considered an exclusivelyintemal affair of any country. Today this community pretends to believe the official lie that Russia is engaged in the war against international terrorism, while it helps terrorists diplomatically and with arms sales. President Putin has condemned the honest, selfless, and humane position of one of Russia ‘s best journalists. Saying that, Politkovskaya’s publications have harmed Russia means admitting that honesty harms Russia . He worries about what to say to George Bush, to Angela Merkel, he knows he has to say something, and his every word gives him away. He promises an investigation of Politkovskaya’s murder to George Bush – not to Politkovskaya’s mother, her children, or her colleagues at Novaya Gazeta. A promise of investigation to George Bush is a slap in the face of Russia. Our time shows two faces: One of a person of high mind, integrity, compassion and empathy for the country, its people, every human being – this is the face of Anna Politkovskaya; The other face is beastly, cruel, and selfish – this is the face of the country whose citizens we are. Those in power hope we are cattle unable to understand all this. The tragic death of Anna Politkovskaya is Russia’s loss, and it serves those who create a life for themselves alone, at Russia’s expense.