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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Surrendering TV6 and the Iraqi Opposition

On Sept. 27, the Moscow arbitration court ruled to liquidate the broadcasting company TV6, at the request of its minority shareholder, LUKoil. I waited for a week to see what the international reaction would be and then started to re-read a book by the journalists Andrew and Patrick Cockburn, titled "Out of the Ashes -- The Resurrection of Saddam Hussein."

Among other things, the book recounts how the United States, failing to take advantage of the opportunity to rid itself of Saddam Hussein during the Desert Storm operation, tried to make up for this omission by supporting the Iraqi opposition.

These efforts all ended tragically and in failure due to disagreements within the opposition, the incompetence of the American special services, and the indecisiveness of American politicians at certain critical moments. When the punitive force of Saddam's machine came crashing down on the opposition, the United States would simply wash its hands of the whole thing. "You're asking whether some of them were killed? It is very possible that a lot of INC people were killed. But INC's an independent organization," Robert Pelletreau, assistant secretary of state for Near East Affairs, is quoted as saying. INC is the Iraqi National Congress, an organization financed by the CIA. At times, the opposition's disapointment at its American "friends" was so great that whole groups went over to Saddam's side.

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What is the connection between this episode and the situation with TV6, you may ask? Of course, I am not trying to draw non-existent analogies between Vladimir Putin and Saddam Hussein, or between TV6's general director, Yevgeny Kiselev, and the Kurdish rebels.

The point is that many journalists came over to this channel from NTV to protest the take-over of NTV by Gazprom.

Even as late as this summer, NTV's fate seemed to be just about the most important issue in U.S.-Russian relations. Demonstrative steps in support of the television company were undertaken by President Bill Clinton, and under the Republican administration both Colin Powell and Condoleeza Rice spoke out in support of the "rebellious" journalists. Some congressmen even drafted a resolution calling for Russia's exclusion from the Group of Eight. The defense of NTV was to a large extent built upon the support of Western public opinion.

In methods and aims, the recent action against TV6 directly continues the war on NTV. However, on this occasion I did not hear so much as a peep in support of the journalists from the United States, the Council of Europe or from our own home-grown champions of glasnost and freedom of speech.

Personally, I always thought that after NTV's top management joined President Boris Yeltsin's election campaign team in 1996 and then received an extremely handsome pay-off, it irretrieveably lost its independence and merit. Talk about how NTV suffered due to its criticism of Putin seemed to me to be just as hypocritical as the authorities' assertions that the whole affair was a purely business dispute. The incompetent foreign interference in a dispute between members of the disintegrating Yeltsin Family got my goat.

Nevertheless, even I start to feel uncomfortable thinking how easily the United States surrendered those who considered it their friend, following the change in the political situation post-Sept. 11. So, the lesson to be drawn is a very simple one: Be friends with America, but always have at hand a copy of the Cockburn brothers' book mentioned above.

Alexei Pankin is the editor of Sreda, a magazine for media professionals (www.internews.ru/sreda)