The Orange Revolution, Peeled

The color revolutions revisited

by , February 08, 2010

To recall the media hype that accompanied Ukraine’s "Orange Revolution" of 2004, which propelled Viktor Yushchenko, a former central banker and alleged liberal democrat, into power, is like remembering a fever-dream in the morning: the memory of the details are blurred, and all that really remains is the sense that something strenuous, and ultimately unreal, has been passed through. The disputed election of 2004 – eventually decided in Yushchenko’s favor on account of mass street protests – ended with the defeat of Viktor Yanukovich, the candidate of the Russian-speaking eastern section of the country – the man whose comeback in Sunday’s election represented a stunning repudiation of the Orange Revolution and the regime that was born in its wake. How that "revolution" came to be, and what it really represented, is about to undergo a major revision, one in striking contrast to the instant narrative provided by the Western media six years ago.

Back then, as Yushchenko faced off against Yanukovich, the Western mainstream media rolled out a narrative that fit neatly into US efforts to orchestrate the election in Yushchenko’s favor, a story line which depicted him as the victim of a KGB-inspired conspiracy, culminating in his alleged poisoning and facial disfigurement.

The cold war was back on again, and with a vengeance, even as some medical authorities questioned the somewhat exotic circumstances of his supposed poisoning. Yet the Western media didn’t let such bothersome details get in the way of their narrative’s flow, which streamed forth unrelentingly from major news organizations and was earnestly reported as fact. Yushchenko, we were told, was a "free market" democrat, one who would modernize his country and liberate it from the remaining shackles left over from the Soviet era. The "resurgent" Russians, with former KGB officer Vladimir Putin sitting in the Kremlin, had targeted the heroic Ukrainian patriot and pro-Western liberal, and Yushchenko’s martyrdom became the signal event that elevated him to power.

Today, the orange sheen of his revolution is long gone, as his regime turned out to be just as incompetent and rife with cronyism as his corrupt and venal predecessors, if not more so. A great deal of Western "aid" money disappeared down several rabbit holes. Worse, the economy was paralyzed by the imposition of price controls, and corrupted by brazen influence-peddling. Under Yushchenko’s power-sharing agreement with the volatile Yulia Tymoshenko, the "gas princess" and Amazonian oligarch, the country disintegrated, not only economically but socially as centrifugal forces of culture, language, and the weight of history were brought to bear on the unity of the country, and things began to come apart.

The radical decline of the economy and the ongoing scandals that became an everyday occurrence during Yushchenko’s administration led to the complete marginalization of the revered Orange Revolutionary: in the first round of the presidential election, he received a humiliating 5 percent of the vote. Out of the running, and without the need to pretend any longer, Yushchenko heaved a real bombshell into the political arena by honoring Stepan Bandera, the Ukrainian nationalist and collaborator with the Nazis, as a "Hero of Ukraine,"

John Laughland had Yushchenko’s number right from the beginning, wondering in a piece for the Guardian why a swastika-bedecked Ukrainian neo-Nazi group was rallying for Yushchenko. Now we know.

The embittered Yushchenko refused to endorse Tymoshenko, his former ally and co-leader of the Revolution, and instead urged his countrymen to cast their votes for "None of the Above," an option in Ukrainian elections and often an attractive one – and this time especially so, with a vote "against all" totaling some 6 percent. More than the difference between Yanukovich and the Gas Princess, who’s now gassing that perhaps the election was stolen and refuses to concede.

Timoshenko’s incendiary rhetoric and style were an important part of the Western narrative: a Ukrainian Joan of Arc, her long golden braid trailing Valkyrie-like down her neck, standing up against the Russian bear. As propaganda aimed at a Western audience, the imagery was priceless, but in the end it was the Ukrainians who paid the bill, and it was steep. Estrangement from Russia had deleterious economic effects, and a stand-off over gas prices led to shortages and widespread power outages during the bitter cold Ukrainian winter. Simultaneously, the imperious desire of the government to control prices led to food shortages, and neither Yushchenko nor Tymoshenko did anything to stop it: instead they fought incessantly, while the country went to pot, and the opposition gathered strength.

A major factor in Tymoshenko’s defeat, and one of the defining differences between the two camps, was the issue of NATO. Should Ukraine join? The gas princess said yes, while Yanukovich said nyet. Most Ukrainians went with Yanukovich on this one. The idea of becoming a pawn in a new version of cold war chess does not appeal to the average Ukrainian, even in the more Europeanized western section of the country.

This and the rapidly shrinking economy defeated the incumbent Tymoshenko, who nonetheless retains her office as Prime Minister until such time as Yanukovich musters a parliamentary majority and ousts her. New elections are scheduled, and yet you can count on Tymoshenko to gum up the works in a bitter struggle to retain some vestige of her former power. They won’t get her out of there except with a crowbar – and even that may fail, in the end, if she follows up on her promise to call her followers out into the streets.

The Orange Revolution’s ignominious degeneration and ultimate rejection by the Ukrainian people is yet another example of a media-driven narrative, one created by ideology and a selective perception of the facts, crashing on the rocks of reality. Just like the "liberation" of Iraq was supposed to be a "cakewalk" culminating in the spread of democracy throughout the region, the so-called color revolutions of the post-Soviet era, in some cases directly supported and funded by the US government, were held up as sterling examples of the same liberatory impulse supposedly generated by the Bushian foreign policy of perpetual war. The "global democratic revolution," as Bush dubbed it in a speech before the National Endowment for Democracy, was on the march.

Except it wasn’t. In every single case, first and foremost being Ukraine, these "revolutions" marched the affected countries off a cliff. In Georgia, the regime of Mikhail Saakashvili soon degenerated into a dictatorship, with the leader of the "Rose Revolution" accusing the opposition of high treason: there were riots in the streets as the "revolutionary" regime cracked down hard. The attempt to impose the same sort of "democracy" on Ukraine has now backfired, and the pattern has repeated itself in country after country: Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, Serbia, in all these places the "revolution" was taken over by opportunists who used their "revolutionary" credentials to make dubious fortunes and set up a "pro-Western" clique of the racketeers they replaced.

Every single one of these "revolutions" had one thing in common: they had "made in Washington" written all over them. That’s why the revolutionary leaders betrayed their followers, and why, today, these countries lay in ruins. The US government couldn’t care less about "freedom" and, least of all, "democracy" – US officials and political players cynically used their Ukrainian proxies in a geopolitical power-play, with the real target being Vladimir Putin’s Russia. When Yushchenko’s usefulness ended, his Western patrons unceremoniously dropped him – and the country was left to fend for itself.

We called this scenario way back when the Orange Revolution was at its height, and Yushchenko was the apple of the Western media’s eye. It was clear, back then, that Yushchenko and his allies were hardly democrats, and that the whole poisoning drama was a good way to create a "hero" out of a man whose feet of clay were even then all too apparent.

By the way, the investigation long promised by Yushchenko into his alleged poisoning was never concluded, and no one was ever accused of this alleged "crime" – an oversight that should point us in the direction of an alternative explanation for Yushchenko’s affliction, which is what we said in this space from the beginning. Because, you see, the whole Orange Revolution mystique was entirely a creation of the Western media, and a gigantic fraud from start to finish. As we re-examine the Orange Revolution, and the myth starts to unravel, everything about the Yushchenko mythos ought to be subjected to the most rigorous challenge – including the story of his alleged poisoning, which, as time goes on, seems ever more suspicious and downright dicey, just as we said from the get-go.

NOTES IN THE MARGIN

That’s one reason why Antiwar.com is so important: I mean, how many other places could you go on the internet that got the Ukraine crisis right from the start? We didn’t go with the flow: instead, we focused on the facts, and noted the generative role played by US government agencies as the Orange Revolution unfolded. We reported and analyzed the Ukrainian events in the context of the country’s complex history, and the often contentious relations between Russian and Ukrainian speakers. We warned that the US was using the Orange movement as a means to provoke and encircle the Russians, re-start the cold war, and put Putin in his place.

In short, we refused to accept the official story, as dictated by the US government and its semi-official court stenographers – otherwise known as the "mainstream" media. Instead, we investigated the facts independently and objectively, coming to a very different conclusion – one that turned out to be absolutely on target.

That’s one good reason why we need to keep Antiwar.com going – and why you should immediately make a contribution to our winter fundraising drive, which has started as of today (Monday). While the "mainstream" media is handing you a line of BS, you know Antiwar.com is doing its best to uncover the truth about what’s going on in the world – and what is the role of our government. What new conflicts is the War Party planning? What new schemes are they up to that will increase both their power and the likelihood of war? If you’re looking for the answers to these questions, then this is the place to visit regularly.

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