Ideas

I took my wife out for dinner for her birthday and my fortune cookie said the following:

Alter ideas and you alter the world

How true. This isn’t a revelation – lots of people know this. Mostly the wrong ones, it seems.

W looked into Vlad Putin’s soul and found a good person there but seems to be an error in judgment. Vlad’s apparently becoming a dictator of the worst sort, the kind who uses his position to eliminate rivals and, if perturbed, kills his opposition.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., says, “I think Bush misread his soul. I think this guy is taking Russia backward.” and “He’s a problem, not a solution, to most of the world’s problems. He could help us with Iran if he chose to. He is becoming basically a one-man dictatorship in Russia.”

Remember the years after the wall fell, when democracy swept through Russia like a wildfire? Russians had come crazy candidates to choose from and they didn’t always choose wisely. Where are Putin’s challengers now?

One, former Yukos chief Mikhail Khodorkovsky, is rotting in jail after being convicted of multiple financial crimes in a trial about which US Democrat congressman Tom Lantos said, “It seems that this political trial before a kangaroo court has come to a shameful conclusion. It is obvious that the conclusion of the trial was pre-determined politically…”

At the time there was some talk about political and economic motivations for the arrest and trial, but most of us were too busy fighting off the mini-depression of the .com bust and the fear of terrorism to worry much about Russian graft. Maybe we should have, given the unique ability of Putin and his rejects from the KGB to sabotage our foreign policy agendas, something they’re doing rather gleefully at the moment, it seems.

Vlad’s interests also directed at consolidating power and eliminating dissent at home. One wonders if he can be defeated in the next election – if there’s anyone who’s significant enough and brave enough to oppose him – and, if he happened to lose, if he would turn over power.

During the run-up to the mid-term elections, certain liberal buffoons here at home suggested that Bush wouldn’t step down at the end of his term – a rather transparent scare tactic. The possibility is much more real in Russia, given their history.

The battle of ideas there isn’t just in terms of political power, it’s also in the form of free expression and who is allowed to have it. According to CBS News, 43 Russian journalists have been killed in the last 13 years, many while investigating corruption and war crimes stories. Most recently, Anna Politkovskaya, a Russian journalist, author, and searing critic of the Kremlin and its policies in Chechnya, was executed in Moscow.

Mikhail Gorbachev said, “It is a blow to the entire democratic, independent press. It is a grave crime against the country, against all of us.” Gorby, who’s 10 times the man Putin dreams of being, must hate what Putin’s doing to the country his unique courage created out of the stagnant cesspool that was the Soviet Union.

So far there are only rumours and allegations that Politkovskaya was killed by the Russian government, no proof. Supposedly she was about to file article for the Monday paper about torturers in the government of Ramzan A. Kadyrov, the pro-Kremlin premier of Chechnya. If so, where is the story? Where is the evidence? Perhaps it was coincidence.

But then occurred the strange case of Alexander Litvinenko, an ex-KGB agent who was poisoned with a radioactive isotope, polonium-210, after beginning to investigate Politkovskaya’s murder and who accused the Russian government of killing him in his last moments.

Again there is no proof of any wrongdoing by Russian officials. Is there fire beneath the smoke? Clearly there is a trend in Russia toward the repression of individual rights and the rights of the press and public to express opposition to Putin’s regime. Vlad, after all, would like to take Russia back to the glory days of Soviet Socialism when everything was under control and working like clockwork.

Perhaps this is why he’s so eager to slip into bed with Iran – Vlad and the mullahs understand each other, even if their beliefs are diametrically opposed. One form of police state is much the same as another, whether one is on the top of the heap or the bottom. Does it matter whether your torturer is a communist dupe or an Islamic zealot? Not to me.

It’s all about ideas, really, and the ways we’d like to alter them. W understands this, too, which is how we ended up in Iraq. He wanted to give the Middle East an injection of democracy as a booster shot to generate some new ways of thinking in those countries, hence the war. What he didn’t consider was that the introduction of foreign ideas into their intolerant cultures would provoke an allergic reaction.

Why? I think it’s because Islamic fundamentalists understand that their traditional ideas are neither compatible with and or sufficiently correct to compete with the ideas of freedom of expression, individual rights, and an educated citizenry.

This is why Islamic terrorists are killing teachers in Afghanistan and in Iraq, because they are threatened by education and its disturbing tendency to produce young people who want to think for themselves rather than follow rote lines scratched in the sand by previous generations.

It is all about the ideas. America must make sure that ours are reaching the ears, eyes, and minds of everyone who has an opportunity to receive them. The Bible says that we should hold God’s word in our hearts so that we may not sin against Him. It’s more than that, though. It’s there for times of trouble and times when we don’t dare let the words cross our lips – as in Vlad’s perfect version of the Soviet Union, circa 1953.

Democracy is much the same. It’s a dream for people trapped in these countries, a germ of a seed that’s hidden in a secret place in their minds. We need to make sure we plant those seeds and water them as best we can, whenever and wherever we can.

I was recently reminded that I should be striving to be an intercessor rather than being an accuser. I’ve recently commented in a couple of discussions about Islam and wondered afterward if I was doing the right thing by saying what I thought was the truth.

After all, the vast majority of Muslims are good people. Must the entire family be tainted by the scarlet brush because of the deeds of a murderous step-brother? Not, I think, if the y acknowledge the killer’s evil-doings for what they are and denounce them. Not once and for all, but each and every time.

It is, after all, their religion that the terrorists are using as both shield from and justification for their brutality. Islam must be reclaimed by those who it belongs to if the name of their religion is to signify peace again.

Of course, the corollary to this is that the U.S. must do the same. That’s going to be a tough idea for W to swallow. He may not do it. But the next president will. She’ll have to.

Update

According to Haaretz, Russia is selling shoulder-pack missiles to Syria, weapons that Israel thinks may end up in Lebanon in the hands to Hezbollah terrorists.

While Putin emphasized that the missile Russia is selling to Syria is vehicle launched and hardly a threat to Israeli planes, Israel is particularly worried by shoulder-launched versions of the missile, which could end up in the hands of Hezbollah along the Lebanese-Israeli border and limit Israeli air force overflights into Lebanon.

Thanks, Vlad.

Author: marc

Marc is a software developer, writer, and part-time political know-it-all who currently resides in Texas in the good ol' U.S.A.

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