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May 24, 2004 by AK

An ex-champion speaking

Garry Kasparov (I guess it should be ‘Harry’ but never mind), the 13th world champion in chess, has produced a piece for The Opinion Journal (i.e., WSJ). It’s pretty much the same old neocon propaganda, and as all modern propaganda goes, every reasonable person would find a few statements there that she would agree with. One would think a great chess player–possessing undoubtedly of superior mental capabilities–might invent a few original arguments instead of rehashing old, boring stuff–but never forget this world is built around specialization. And, by the way, how much would you trust Bobby Fischer’s political judgment?

I must admit to a personal bias here, though. I have always disliked Garry–‘always’ being ‘since 1984’. Instinctively so–just as I instinctively dislike George Bush, instinctively mistrust Putin, and instinctively liked Yeltsin. There are plenty of conservative and not so conservative writers on both sides of the ocean who have long refuted most of Kasparov’s points. Here’s something I particularly enjoyed.

At the same time, Al Jazeera isn’t examining Vladimir Putin’s war against Muslims in Chechnya. All of Chechnya is one big Abu Ghraib, but the Islamic world pays scant attention to the horrible crimes there because Mr. Putin shares their distaste for liberal democracy.

I don’t watch Al Jazeera, so I don’t really know; and Chechnya is a mess, or so it seems. And Putin may dislike liberal democracy–but if he does, he certainly does it in a very different way from the Muslim world; he does not share his distaste with them because his–if real–is much unlike theirs. This way or that, fighting guerrillas always leads to Abu Graibs, and Russia is proxying for the West in Chechnya, like it or not: not for the modern West, but for what it was 200 years ago. At least Russia is not pretending to be bringing ‘liberty’ to Chechnya; most Russians see the war as an attempt–futile as it may be–to bring Chechnya back under Moscow’s control: as the world recognizes, Chechnya is a legitimate member of the Russian Federation. On the contrary, the US and the UK have no lawful claims to Iraq and were been attacked by Iraq before the war; therefore ‘aggression’ and ‘occupation’ are technically valid terms for the coalition’s military action. Likewise, Iraqi guerrillas are truly resistance fighters, since their country is occupied by foreign powers. Sad but true.

Meanwhile, Iran continues to pursue a nuclear arsenal and the U.N. Secretariat, France and Russia are busily covering up their involvement in the Oil-for-Food scandal.

I don’t see Russia covering up its involvement; Russian companies have never made a secret of it, and they have nothing to be ashamed of. Iraq owed Russia a certain sum, and oil-for-food was a reasonable way to recoup some of it. No scandal there.

If we are to impress the superiority of the democratic model upon the Muslim world we must thoroughly investigate any and all allegations of abuse and clean up our act.

Whether you impress your superiority or not is totally irrelevant. Liberal democracy as we know it is a product of centuries of social development and internecine struggle that shaped modern Western societies with their complex institutions. In terms of social development, Iraq is lagging the West by 1000 years, and Russia by 200 years or so. If Americans manage to foment rapid social change in Iraq, fine (have I mentioned ‘accelerated champagnization’ before?) but something tells me it won’t be the right kind of change.

People like Kasparov should bear a degree of responsibility not only for the death of Western soldiers and workers in Iraq; not only for the death of numerous Iraqis (knowing his type, I suspect he doesn’t give a damn), but for thoroughly discrediting those American values that are indeed worth fighting for. This war has produced the deepest disillusionment with America among a huge segment of the public in the West and the East. Unfortunately, common people tend to mix together governments and nations, practices and ideas. Paradoxically, the best way out for the US would be to (pretend to) admit the truth. Stop being hypocrites, guys, and say it loudly and proudly: we are building an empire. It’s going to outshine Rome and the Holy Empire and become the true Third One. So don’t mess with us, or we’ll screw you! (I also like Governo Vargas’s slogan, “O petróleo é nosso!”)

And still, should Putin try to stay in power in 2008, I’d be with Kasparov.


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