However, the brutal behavior of the Russian occupying troops, as well as Putin's refusal to toe Bush's line on the war in Iraq, has brought out the latent Russophobe in many a powerful journalist.
Nowhere is this Russophobia more evident than in the Washington Post's Fred Hiatt.
Hiatt's Russophobia comes from a sense of having been personally betrayed by the Russian financial collapse in August, 1998. Up till then, Hiatt was one of the most shameless and shameful cheerleaders of Yeltsin's kleptocracy.
In one of his most infamous articles in March, 1998, Hiatt wrote an unabashed blowjob on oligarch Vladimir Potanin, lovingly labeling him a "baby billionaire." He called shock therapy "necessary" and "right" and its architect, Yegor Gaidar, Russia's "most admirable reformer."
Then it happened: the 1998 crash and incontrovertible proof that the Hiatts -- that is, the entire Western press corps and think tank division -- was wrong. Hiatt's answer?
Rallying from post-crash crash humiliation, Hiatt went on the offensive in his "Who Lost Russia?" article in which he wrote that the failure in Russia was "not the failure of the U.S., but a Russian failure," and that the question of Who Lost Russia was not appropriate because "Russia was never ours to lose." Russia had outed Hiatt, shown everyone that he'd lived a lie for nearly a decade, as shill for a gang of thieves. Hiatt, and all the other chirpy neo-liberal missionaries, have never forgiven Russia for revealing them as the third-rate suckups they are.
Hiatt and his fellow neo-liberal boosters made Russia into their own pro bono patient. But when the patient didn't respond to the medicine they were force-feeding it, they blamed the patient -- indeed, hated the patient -- and haven't forgiven him since.
In 1999, Hiatt moved to Washington to take over the Post's opinion page, perhaps the single most influential newsprint job in the world, which he has turned into a grotesquely anti-Russian forum. a platform for Hiatt's spurned-love type hatred of Russia.
But I never thought that even Hiatt could write what he did in last Friday's Post. On that Friday, two days into the hostage siege, Hiatt published what must surely be the most inhuman, offensive Washington Post editorial of his career, "Chechnya in Moscow." It must be quoted at length because paraphrase would be taken for wild exaggeration. And remember again, this was published in the middle of the hostage crisis:
"Even if they prove to be real, the hostage-takers' supposed links to other fanatical groups -- and the Russian media's insistence already that 'this is our Sept. 11' -- should not be allowed to obscure the differences between America's war on terrorism and Russia's war against Chechnya. It is important to draw distinctions between Mr. Maskhadov, the mainstream Chechen commanders and the Chechen civilian population, on the one hand, and the Muslim militants, on the other. The latter have played only a peripheral role in the conflict, while the former are fighting a legitimate war against an outside invader."
This is a lie and Hiatt knows it. The top two warlords during the bulk of the conflict have been Shamil Basayev and Khattab, both radical Muslims. But more than that, notice the derision he casts not just on the idea that the "hostage takers' have links to other fanatical groups" -- and even more offensively, Hiatt, hiding behind the anonymous weight of the Washington Post editorial page, is genuinely outraged that the Russians could possibly claim to have a tragedy like America's when he includes "the Russian media's insistence that 'this is our Sept. 11'" clause as part of that which doesn't really matter, "even if it proves to be real." Who are the Russians to compare their pain to ours? They're nobodies, that's who!
Incredibly enough, with 800 innocent civilians lives on the line, Hiatt's first instinct is to say, "Your tragedy's not as big as my tragedy!" That, folks, is the level of compassion and sophistication at which America's most influential opinion-maker operates.