Apparently, in the Bush administration, a policy of “democracy promotion” includes having top officials pose in “Hollywood Walk of Fame”-style photo shoots with dictatorial thugs.
There, on the far left, is our energy secretary, Samuel Bodman, all smiles. Next to him stands the murderous Uzbek tyrant Islam Karimov, who just two weeks ago ordered Tiananmen-style massacres of hundreds of his own citizens, and has since refused to even allow an international investigation of the matter. We’d offer our view on Karimov, but the conservative Economist magazine sums it up well:
Even on the most self-interested calculus, the reality is that Mr Karimov is an ally the West is better off without. His help in the war against terror is outweighed by the encouragement he has given to radicals of every stripe in Central Asia and beyond, and by the damage that association with him does to the West’s reputation. … Nor is Uzbekistan of real strategic importance any more. With bases in Kirgizstan and Afghanistan, America hardly needs Khanabad, the base for which it pays Mr Karimov handsomely. He should now be made a pariah, his regime stripped of all forms of aid, and all military assistance withdrawn.
Posing with them is Azerbaijan’s president Ilham Aliyev. Just a few days prior to this photo, which was taken last Wednesday, “Azerbaijani police beat pro-democracy demonstrators with truncheons when opposition parties, yelling ‘free elections,’ defied the government’s ban on protests against [Aliyev].”
So why is everyone so happy? They’re celebrating the opening of the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline, a project certain to enrich and strengthen these repressive regimes. At the ceremony, Bodman read a letter from President Bush lauding the “visionary leadership” of President Aliyev, and offering “congratulations to the people of Azerbaijan” for the pipeline, since they’ll surely see so much of the profits. Uh-huh.
In at least one way, though, this photo is useful. Just print it out and keep it in your wallet, so the next time someone asks why pro-democracy activists around the world no longer see us as a beacon of hope, you can whip it out and save your breath.