Saturday 28 December 2013

A Strong Moral Compass

Neil Clark writes:

The notion that Khodorkovksy – once Russia’s richest man – is a ‘second Solzhenitsyn’ is not just absurd, it’s positively obscene. Yet it seems that certain members of the West’s elite are quite happy to promote the former oligarch as such.

Alexsandr Solzenitysn was a brave and courageous man, with a strong moral compass.

Khodorkovsky by contrast was a tax evader, embezzler and money launderer on a massive scale - one of a small number of well-connected oligarchs who enriched themselves in the days of immoral robber-baron capitalism in Russia, following the end of Communism.

Yet despite the European Court of Human Rights rejecting the claims that the charges against him were politically motivated and holding that they were grounded in ‘reasonable suspicion’, elites in the west try to portray him as someone we should all look up to.

In an interview with CNN, Khodorkovsky was described as a ‘dissident’, ignoring the fact that he would have been prosecuted and sent to prison in America, or indeed any other western country, if he had committed the same offences there.

In Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel hailed the work done by former Foreign Minister Hans Dietrich Genscher, to secure Khodorkovsky’s release.

We’ve been told by Alexander Rahr that Genscher has been on a ‘mission’ to get Khodorkvsky freed. Meanwhile, Genscher thanked the German Chancellor for lending “the greatest possible support to his efforts”. 

Some would think that Germany’s political elite seems to have a strange sense of priorities if they think that getting a convicted tax evader, embezzler and money launderer out of jail early is so important.

Wouldn’t it be better for Herr Genscher to embark on a ‘mission’ to help starving children in Africa, or people struggling to make ends meet due to austerity policies in Europe, rather than working to get an oligarch freed from jail?

The British MP, Sir Malcom Bruce, meanwhile has said of Khodorkovsky:

“I think that Mikhail Khodorkovsky has been very unjustly imprisoned by the Russian authorities. ...this is a man who has not offended against the people of Russia. I would say quite the contrary – he is a political prisoner. I have a huge admiration for what he has done.”

You’d never think he was talking about a man found guilty by a court of law of embezzlement, tax evasion and money laundering would you?

The lionizing of Khodorkovsky by members of the Western elite demonstrates to us their moral bankruptcy. Khodorkovsky is revered because he and his fellow oligarchs made Russia weak, and he is considered to be an ‘’enemy’ of President Putin.

For these elite figures, it makes no difference that the man was found guilty of financial crimes on a massive scale, and that the European Court of Human Rights has upheld the charges as valid. We’ll champion him all the same because “his interests are the same as our interests”.

For today’s morally bankrupt Western elites, it’s not so important what you do, but the views you hold. And in this neoliberal era financial crimes don’t really count for very much at all.

Yet the financial crimes committed by oligarchs like Khodorkovsky had terrible consequences for the Russian people. As publicly-owned assets were privatized under a corrupt process, a tiny few made vast fortunes, but tens of millions more were impoverished and mortality rates rose sharply as a consequence.

A 2009 study by The Lancet found “rapid mass privatization as an economic transition strategy was a crucial determinant of differences in adult mortality trends in post-communist countries’. The report found that ‘mass privatization programs were associated with an increase in short-term adult mortality rates for men of 12.8 percent.” 

The oligarchs took money and assets that belonged to the Russian people. The theft of resources from the public which took place in the Yeltsin years was surely the greatest financial crime of the 20th century. Yet we’re supposed to regard as paragons the people who took part in this great crime.

Another example of how the elite try to whitewash criminals who commit financial crimes and have the ‘right’ views, occurred earlier this week in Britain with the imprisonment of former Labour MP, Denis MacShane.

MacShane admitted to swindling almost £13,000 in expenses from the taxpayer, by means of fake invoices and fake names. 

“There was deliberate, oft-repeated, prolonged dishonesty over a period of years, involving a flagrant breach of trust and consequent damage to Parliament, reducing confidence in our democratic system,” the judge said in his summing up. He said that MacShane’s dishonesty was “considerable and repeated many times”.

The ex-MP was sentenced to six months in prison. You would have thought everyone would have welcomed the fact that such a shameless, smirking cheat, a man who sneered ‘Cheers’ at the judge and pompously said ‘Quelle Surprise’ when he was sentenced, had finally been held account for his crimes.

Yet incredibly, and obscenely, this blatant fraudster has been defended by members of the UK political and journalistic elite.

“Utterly sickened by jailing of Denis MacShane,” tweeted Labour MP Tom Harris, who describes himself as a Proud Blairite’. He later tweeted “Thoughts are with my friend and former colleague, Denis MacShane, on this awful day. A good man!”

There were also other shameful Tweets from establishment figures expressing how sorry they felt for MacShane, while former Minister Chris Mullin wrote:

“MacShane is nothing if not resilient. Nor is he without friends. The causes he has espoused and his characteristic good humor have endeared him to many. For all that he is the author of his own misfortune, I take this opportunity to salute him.” 

Again, we have to pinch ourselves to remind us that Mullin was talking about a man, who despite being in receipt of a generous MPs salary, deliberately faked invoices to swindle almost £13,000 in expenses from the hard-pressed British taxpayer. Mullin might feel like saluting MacShane, but most normal people would feel that the best gesture for him was a two-fingered one.

MacShane, like Khodorkovsky, escapes the opprobrium he deserves because his crimes are financial and he has the “right” set of views.

He’s fanatically pro-EU, a pro-war Blairite neocon who has supported every US-led intervention’ going in the last twenty-odd years, and he is an enthusiast for globalization. He was anti-Chavez, strongly pro-Israel, and anti-Russian.

He championed the cause of Georgia under Saakashvili and only last week called on Prime Minister David Cameron to boycott the Sochi Olympics. He railed against what he called manic populism’, but what others would call the wishes of ordinary people for politicians to carry out policies which the majority support.

So what if he swindled almost £13,000? So what if the judge said he was guilty of “considerable and repeated” dishonesty? Denis is “one of us,” he espouses all the “right” causes and he knows who the “enemy” is. So let’s wish him all the best and hope he gets out of prison as soon as possible to resume his “brilliant” career.

The same people who seek to whitewash MacShane, are also, by and large, the same people who want us to regard Khodorkovsky as the new Solzhenitsyn.

But fortunately ordinary people, whether in Russia, Britain or the US know a crook when they see one and they know that lionizing such people on account of the political views they hold, or the “causes” they espouse, isn’t “compassionate,” or “fighting for freedom” but morally depraved.

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