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Wagging the Dog

Show's over, folks.
Show's over, folks.
Do you remember the brilliant film "Wag The Dog"? It is a real handbook for political consultants.

The story takes place during a U.S. presidential campaign. In order to distract attention from a sex scandal involving an incumbent seeking a second term and an underage girl, the political consultants decide on a little trick -- a week before the election, they announce that a war has broken out in Albania.

Natalia Morari blogs for RFE/RL's Moldovan Service
It doesn't matter that 90 percent of Americans have no idea where Albania is or how they eat their food. It doesn't matter that Albania itself learns of the fighting from the U.S. media. The important thing is that the news takes on a life of its own and leading U.S. television networks have something to talk about for the whole week before the vote and everyone forgets about that underage girl. The goal is achieved.

Do you remember the first statements made by President Vladimir Voronin following the events of April 7? He spoke about how Romania was behind all the protests and had virtually organized a coup d'etat in Moldova. Similar statements were repeated again and again, and over the course of the last three months, they have been taken up by virtually all the "independent" media in Moldova.

I remember the main evidence for this theory was a Romanian flag that appeared on one of the government buildings during the rioting. We all now know the details of how a European Union flag appeared during those events. There's a video showing how deputy parliament speaker Vladimir Turcan negotiated with the protesters and plainly advised them to wave the EU flag; I think everyone has seen it. We still don't know about the Romanian flag, but I have no doubt that when those details emerge, they will contradict the "official" version of events.

And so on July 22 Prosecutor-General Valeriu Gurbulea announced that the state of Romania was not involved in the April protests in Chisinau.

So apparently it was for nothing that the border between Moldova and Romania was closed for a while following the protests. Or that the Romanian ambassador to Moldova was declared persona non grata. Or that Romanians were forced to apply for visas to come to Moldova (something that was unprecedented in the history of bilateral relations). None of that really mattered, because back then, in April, the authorities desperately needed the idea that Romania's interference led to the uprising.

The point was to distract public attention from domestic problems. It's always easier to cook up some external enemy who can be blamed for all ills than it is to take even a little responsibility for mistaken policies that produced unrest. We've seen that movie before.