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Volodymyr Zelensky Is Washington’s New Jonas Savimbi – Original

Posted by M. C. on February 9, 2023

Zelensky also has replicated Savimbi’s ability to tell US political elites and the American people exactly what he knew they want to hear. Savimbi’s impressive skill at doing so was highlighted by a 1986 op-ed under his byline in the Wall Street Journal, in which he hailed the virtues of capitalism and democracy and pledged to make Angola a model of both values, if the United States helped UNITA oust the pro-communist government.

by Ted Galen Carpenter

Most advocates of aiding Ukraine in its fight against Russia do not merely contend that the move is justified to repel an act of aggression that threatens to legitimize wars of conquest. Instead, they portray Ukraine as a freedom-loving democracy and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky as a heroic democratic champion, who deserves even more U.S. military and financial assistance than he has already received.

The political and media love-fest accompanying Zelensky’s address to a joint session of Congress in late December 2022 was a prime example of such hero worship. David Frum, writing in the Atlanticasserted that Zelensky “recalled us to ourselves” and our democratic values. Frum added that the Ukrainian president “came to the United States to thank us for supporting Ukraine. It is Americans who should thank him.” Others evaluated his congressional appearance in equally glowing terms.

Such fawning ignores Zelensky’s increasingly brazen violations of civil liberties and democratic norms. However, this is hardly the first time that US officials and the American news media have falsely portrayed one of Washington’s authoritarian clients as a committed democrat. The lengthy roster includes Nationalist China’s Chiang Kai-shek, South Vietnamese presidents Ngo Dinh Diem and Nguyen Van Thieu, Iraqi exile leader Ahmed Chalabi, and Afghanistan’s presidents Hamid Karzai and Ashraf Ghani.

Perhaps the closest model for the blind support American admirers are currently according Zelensky, though, was the attitude that Americans (especially conservatives) displayed toward Angolan rebel leader Jonas Savimbi. Between the mid-1970s and the early 1990s (especially throughout Ronald Reagan’s administration), numerous political and media figures advocated greater US support for Savimbi’s National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA) and its insurgency against Angola’s leftist government. In the process, they overlooked or concealed their “democratic” client’s massive flaws.

Presenting Savimbi with an award from the American Conservative Union and the Young Americans for Freedom, US Ambassador to the United Nations Jeane Kirkpatrick lauded him as “one of the few authentic heroes of our time.” Kirkpatrick’s idealized portrait of Savimbi was typical of the conservative perspective in the United States. Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) stated that “I have had the privilege of meeting Mr. Savimbi and have been extremely impressed by his honesty, integrity, religious commitment.” The conflict in Angola was, Hatch insisted, “a battle over ideologies: Soviet totalitarianism vs. freedom, self-determination, and democracy.” US aid to Savimbi would “send a strong signal to the world that we are determined to help freedom fighters” prevail. The dominant message from both the news media and the foreign policy blob today about the supposed imperative to support Zelensky and “democratic Ukraine” is eerily similar.

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