Good dictator, nice dictator, good doggie…

roll over and give Dubya yer oil. That’s a boy…

US President George W Bush has praised his Kazakh counterpart, Nursultan Nazarbayev, for transforming the former Soviet republic into a ‘free nation’.

After talks between the two leaders in Washington, Mr Bush thanked his guest for backing US-led wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and combating “extremism”.

But economic ties between the US and oil-rich Kazakhstan topped the agenda.

US concerns over Kazakhstan’s human rights record did not come up when the two leaders appeared before reporters.

In Kazakhstan, the media is controlled by the state and since the country achieved independence in December 1991 no election has been seen as free or fair.

The BBC’s Jonathan Beale in Washington says the US has been willing to overlook complaints about Mr Nazarbayev’s autocratic rule.

In a recent BBC interview, the Kazakh president agreed there may be a lack of democracy, but described political freedom as his goal and said the young country needed more time.

Kazakhstan is the closest US ally in central Asia.

Mr Bush thanked Mr Nazarbayev for his role in what Washington calls the war on terror, and its help with the post-war reconstruction of Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Kazakh leader was also praised for his “commitment to institutions that will enable liberty to flourish”, and for developing his country into “a free nation”.

Emphasis added.

Isn’t it lovely? Kazakhstan has no real freedom or democracy, but you’d never know it from the rosy picture Dubya paints. Somehow, a two-bit puppet dictator has turned into the great statesman of a “free nation”. Talk about making a silk purse from a sow’s ear. Who’s Nazarbayev’s fairy godmother, I wonder?

I’ve searched high and low for evidence that the State Dept. is funding opposition parties to the dictator, but so far, none has surfaced. Their own documents (from FY 2002, 2004) are strangely silent on the matter; they only make coy and nonspecific references to “democratic reform”, “democratic institutions” and “civil society”, but list no groups recognizable as political parties. Still, somehow, such vagueness magically qualifies for multimillion-dollar US assistance–and meanwhile from the State Dept., not a peep about doing away with a real dictator! They also finance healthcare and “economic growth” there, but not at home. For a bunch of Repugs who talk a lot about the marvels of the self-sufficient private sector, they certainly do throw a lot of taxpayer money at it. And for all their talk of promoting democracy abroad, they do a piss-poor job of actually delivering–but what the heck, that’s Kazakhstan, which most Americans couldn’t find on a map if their lives depended on it! Yes, there’ll be an unlimited supply of Scooby Snacks for Central Asian dictators while the homefolks go hungry, 40 million have no health insurance, and those living in coastal regions have to fend for themselves when hurricanes hit. Ah, democracy American style!

Compare that to Venezuela, where the State Dept. is throwing money around like confetti–but only among the opposition parties (some of them remarkably obscure), hoping in vain that enough of it will make the “problem” of that disobedient democrat Hugo Chavez go away. They’ll spend plenty on bribes to try to entice poor voters–Chavez’s base–into marking a ballot for this or that hand-picked oppositionist. But nothing for healthcare, and certainly nada for anything resembling real economic growth. That’s the last thing they want; it pisses them off mightily that Chavez is funneling petro-dollars, not back to the US where they’re supposed to go, but to his own people and their economic development, which is going like gangbusters. Someone in Washington is hoping to choke all that off so that support for Chavez falls. When that happens, they expect, Venezuela will come back under US control with its tail tucked between its legs. Just like a good doggie. Never mind if the top dog is a nasty, mangy pure-bred dictator, as long as the tag on his collar reads “US-approved”!

Seems that as long as oil flows unabated and the locals don’t actually control it, real democratic shortcomings are overlooked. It’s only when sovereignty prevails and oil–and its revenues–come under full local control, that noises get made about democratic deficits.

Especially where there are none.

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