Belarus: pot, kettle, black

26 May

So “international opinion” castigates Belarus after this Sunday’s forced landing – without doubt a despicable and alarming act1 – of a plane carrying a wanted man, who was then arrested.

As ever it fell to Russia to point out the double standards at work here. Those not totally sense-addled by the hypocrisy and selective outrage2 of our media, and the interests they ultimately answer to, may recall a precedent for Belarus’s act. Here, auto-translated by FB, is the always impressive Maria  Zhakarova3 to remind us of what Bertie Wooster would call the “in and out running” of Western responses to the Belarus incident.

Ms Zhakarova’s third paragraph calls up an incident many will have forgotten. (It is often said the public has a dismally short memory. Maybe it does at that, but in their 24/7 manufacturing of opinion, corporate media work hard – for the most part systemically rather than through the conscious mendacity of individual journalists and editors – to guide us in what we do and what we do not forget.) Here is Thomas Knapp, writing yesterday in CounterPunch:

In July 2013, Bolivian President Evo Morales’s plane left Moscow’s Vnukovo Airport en route back to La Paz.  The Dassault Falcon 900 FAB-001 was forced to land in Austria after being refused entry into French, Italian, Portuguese, and Italian [sic] airspace.

Why? Because while in Russia, Morales had indicated (in an interview with Russian state media) his willingness to offer asylum to American whistleblower Edward Snowden.

The US government, in the words of Jen Psaki (currently White House Press Secretary, but back then a State Department spokesperson) had  “been in contact with a range of countries across the world who had any chance of having Mr. Snowden land or even transit through their countries.”

Austrian authorities claim they searched the plane for Snowden. Bolivian authorities say that Morales refused to allow a search. But either way there’s little doubt that several EU regimes, at the request (implicit or explicit) of the US regime, colluded to force a plane — and not just any old regular plane, but a diplomatically protected plane — to land in an effort to help abduct a political refugee.

Evo Morales was more recently the victim of coordinated vilification in a now familiar alliance of deep state agendas with the useful idiocy of ‘progressive’ politics. In its theme of sex crime politicised – and more specifically of police pressure on women to testify against those whom the Empire wishes to neutralise – the Bolivian leader’s treatment echoes Sweden’s fabricated proceedings against Julian Assange.4

The latter never got as far as charges and, as we should all know by now, were ditched once their true purpose5 had been served.

Ball’s shoddy error – charges never brought cannot be ‘dropped’ – was widely replicated by corporate media.

Said Caitlin Johnstone of the delightful Mr Ball:

If I had written that there was no reason to believe Assange would face extradition if he left the Ecuadorian Embassy, and that claim had proved horrifyingly wrong, I would do what any normal person would and shut the entire fuck up about Julian Assange for the rest of my life.

But back to Evo Morales, of whom Wiki tells us (my version is slightly abridged) that:

On 7 August 2020, photographs of Morales with a supposed minor began circulating on social networks. Bolivian authorities said [he] had been in a relationship with the minor since the age of 14 … In 2018, Bolivian feminist and journalist, María Galindo, criticised the then president, saying “[He] confesses that he uses his public acts to sexually hook the minors who attend those acts …”

The Ministry of Government subsequently informed Spanish newspaper Okdiario that it had opened a statutory rape investigation to determine whether a romantic and sexual relationship existed between the young woman and Morales while he was president … On 19 August 2020, the Bolivian Prosecutor’s Office began a formal investigation.

The woman was identified as 19-year-old Noemí Meneses when a statement to police was leaked. It said she had been in a romantic relationship with Morales since May 2020. Bolivian police placed her under house arrest, from which she escaped and fled to Argentina with her parents. There she wrote to the Bolivian Ombudsman saying the police had kept her from eating for two days and threatened to prosecute her for sedition and terrorism unless she said she had been in a relationship with Morales. She wrote that the police “forced [her] to testify under pressure, without a lawyer”.

Ring any bells? Or are you one of the many who sleep blissfully on?

I shouldn’t talk like this, I know. It’s rude. And bad salesmanship. As for dredging up ancient history from 2013 when …

several EU regimes, at the request of the US regime, colluded to force a plane to land in an effort to help abduct a political refugee 

… by way of response to what Lukashenka’s Belarus got up to on Sunday, well, that’s just plain whataboutery, innit? Speaking of which, here’s an exchange below a Guardian opinion piece today on the incident. I captured this screenshot around 13:30.

I’m with AlexanderSouth and udeis00 of course. On the specific question of whataboutery, I set out my view in August 2019 that it:

can show the hypocrisy of power, and that because of Situation A and Situation B, official accounts of Situation C are almost certainly bogus.

I’m also of the view that only a credulous fool could miss the wider agenda here, of a Russia once more caught in a damned-if-you-do/damned-if-you-don’t  trap framed in the spirit of that Pharisee invitation for the Nazarene to condemn Roman taxation. Or if you prefer – he being another bloke said to walk on water – of media demands, thirty-seven years ago, that Arthur Scargill one-sidedly condemn violence by miners fighting for their livelihoods.6

But there I go again: compounding whataboutery with irrefutable evidence of my true identity as a Putinbot! I’d best quit now, before the troll hunters track me down to ask what the weather is like in Moscow this afternoon.

* * *

  1. To keep this post short I don’t go into the character of the man snatched. That he was snatched at all is indeed “despicable and alarming” though the point here is that the precedent for such piracy was not set by Belarus. But even as Roman Protasevitch is being lionised, pre-emptive dismissal by corporate media of “propaganda” efforts – we don’t do propaganda in the West of course – by Putinbots and Lukashenka lovers – to paint the man as a neo-nazi inadvertently flag up, for any adults straying into the room, a more complex realpolitik in a part of the world where far right resurgence, amply aided by US backed ‘colour revolutions’, is a very real threat.
  2. On ‘hypocrisy and selective outrage’ see my post on the prosecution of Craig Murray for alleged ‘jigsaw identifying’ of protected witnesses. This summarises the case, then dissects an all too representative ‘woke’ piece in Scotland’s biggest tabloid. See also the many posts on this site – and this one by Jonathan Cook – covering the selective persecution of Julian Assange for revealing US war crimes. Meanwhile the journalists and media – Guardian especially – who benefited from his work went scot-free on the curious ground that they were ‘real’ journalists. As if being a journalist was defined, like being a doctor or priest, by paper qualification or sacred vow – and not by doing journalism. (The challenge of drafting a legally watertight distinction between ‘real’ Journalists and award-winning Julian had led Team Obama, which prosecuted more whistle blowers than any administration before or since, to concede defeat and drop its efforts to lock him up and throw away the key.) Spared US fury, those media and journalists – Guardian especially – led the trashing of this courageous man.
  3. I confess to being a Zhakarova fan. Here she is in subdued but forensic form on the Salisbury nonsense, of a piece with the Navalny nonsense a BTL commenter – I forget who, where or when – summed up brilliantly: Putin poisons water in hotel room. Navalny falls sick and is taken to a Russian state hospital. Nobody kills him there, though a hospital is an easy place to do so. Doctors find no poison, authorities approve transfer to Berlin, where medics find novichok and accuse Russia. France agrees, the EU imposes sanctions. Makes perfect sense, doesn’t it?
  4. Re “Sweden’s fabricated proceedings against Julian” I should add that in its fawning record of bending over backwards for Washington, Stockholm has some way to go in catching up with an even more fawning London. When Swedish prosecutors began to waver – and we may recall that the initial chief prosecutor (she’d soon be replaced by one more to Washington’s liking) found “no case to answer” – our Crown Prosecution Service, under the stewardship of one Kier Starmer, had written to them: “don’t you dare get cold feet“.
  5. By the “true purpose” of rape smears against Julian Assange I mean not just the legal aspects of detaining him – or enforcing his de facto imprisonment within the Ecuador Embassy – while the US shored up an extradition case as flaky as that for war on Iraq. I mean also their pivotal role, via a character assassination of unprecedented vileness and ferocity, in ensuring that the liberal intelligentsia, his natural support base, ran for cover or joined in the virtual lynching. (I have more than once noted, most recently in that Craig Murray post, #MeToo’s contempt for the presumption of innocence.)
  6. Scargill was roundly derided, with the ‘liberal’ Guardian yet again playing a vital role, for his insistence that Thatcher’s government, on behalf of a dawning neoliberalism, intended to take out scores of ‘hit-list’ pits. But a walk down the bleak streets – shops boarded up else given over to charity outfits and cash-converters, and these days the turf of smack dealer and crack house –  of any pit town in Britain shows in an instant who called it right, and who would move on with the ingrained amnesia of journalistic entitlement.

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