Russia's Chalabi

I just read the gingerly New Yorker portrait of the old Yeltsin era crook and current fashionable Russian "dissident", Khodorkovskii. David Remnick loves Khodorkovskii, and so does the NYRB. He is their Chalabi. Of course, we have to overlook the blemishes in the past - which Joffe, his New Yorker Boswell, sketched with perhaps some trepidation (American liberals like not to dwell too much on the past of  their rich freedom fighters - a fraud here, an act of violence there, who cares?). I suppose the equation here is that since Putin is Hitler and the Devil, his opposition must be Gandhi and Solzhenitsyn rolled into one.  The problem, of course, is that the cleansing operation by which a Chalabi becomes a Charles De Gaulle and a Khodorkovskii becomes a "dissident" in a new Gulag (I do admire this - that the writers of a country, the US, that has the largest and one of the cruelest prison systems on the planet can calmly talk about the New Gulag) - the problem is that when you implant them back in their native country, the natives, puzzlingly, aren't enthusiastic. It took years for American journalists, always expecting a popular revolution in Iraq in Chalabi's favor, to get their heads around the fact that Iraqis thought he was a crook. When he received less than one percent of the vote in Iraq's 2007 presidential election, it was sort of funny, given that the vast majority of news stories about that election in the NYT and the Post had been about Chalabi. It was like some European paper betting on Dennis Kucinech being elected president in 2004. Khodorkovskii's reputation is being kept alive by the American press, with the same disregard for reality. Of course, Americans have never had a very firm grasp on the reality of any place outside of the strange American republic.  Even, it turns out, the highfliers at the New York Review of Books - who are definitely not the highfliers who used to be there. It is a funny thing - American intellectuals are more provincial, now, during the age of "globalisation", than they used to be before this vaunted time. Provincial n the sense that they could take facts and imagine how they were perceived in another society or culture. All that is dead, now, and replaced by howlers about human rights or new gulags.