Friday, February 29, 2008

What Was Lost?

Obama said he would consider talking to Raul Castro "without preconditions." Good for him.

Bush was critical. What's lost by embracing a tyrant who puts his people in prison because of their political beliefs? Bush said in reference to Castro. What's lost is it will send the wrong message. It will send a discouraging message to those who wonder whether America will continue to work for the freedom of prisoners. Sitting down at the table, having your picture taken with a tyrant such as Raul Castro, for example, lends the status of the office and the status of our country to him. He gains a lot from it by saying, 'Look at me, I'm now recognized by the president of the United States.'

I wonder what was lost by Bush & Co. sitting down with the following dictators, then?

(rankings and write-ups taken from the list of the world's twenty worst dictators, by David Wallachinsky)


Number 5: Islam Karimov, Uzbekistan. Age 67. In power since 1990.
Karimov's name is synonymous with torture, and there is strong evidence that the United States outsourced the interrogation of terror suspects to Uzbekistan to take advantage of his relaxed moral standards.

Until 2005, the worst excesses of Karimov’s regime had taken place in the torture rooms of his prisons. But on May 13, he ordered a mass killing that could not be concealed. In the city of Andijan, 23 businessmen, held in prison and awaiting a verdict, were freed by their supporters, who then held an open meeting in the town square. An estimated 10,000 people gathered, expecting government officials to come and listen to their grievances. Instead, Karimov sent the army, which massacred hundreds of men, women and children. A 2003 law made Karimov and all members of his family immune from prosecution forever.
Statement by the Press Secretary, September 2002: Uzbekistan President to Visit Washington

President Bush will welcome President of Uzbekistan Islom Karimov to the Oval Office on March 12, 2002. The Presidents discussion will reflect the new relationship that is evolving between the United States and Uzbekistan. The countries unprecedented level of cooperation first became evident in the fight against terrorists in Afghanistan. The United States looks forward to deepening cooperation not only on security matters, but also on human rights and political and economic reform, all of which are essential elements of the robust and lasting relationship we hope to build with Uzbekistan and its people.
Number 6: Hu Jintao, China. Age 63. In power since 2002.
Although some Chinese have taken advantage of economic liberalization to become rich, up to 150 million Chinese live on $1 a day or less in this nation with no minimum wage. Between 250,000 and 300,000 political dissidents are held in “reeducation-through-labor” camps without trial. Less than 5% of criminal trials include witnesses, and the conviction rate is 99.7%. There are no privately owned TV or radio stations. The government opens and censors mail and monitors phone calls, faxes, e-mails and text messages. In preparation for the 2008 Olympics, at least 400,000 residents of Beijing have been forcibly evicted from their homes.

From the Office of the Press Secretary, September 2005: President Bush Meets with Chinese President Hu Jintao

THE PRESIDENT: I'm pleased to welcome President Hu back to the United States. I've been looking forward to this meeting. We've got a lot to discuss. We will, of course, discuss areas of interest, like economic matters. We will discuss North Korea and Iran. I look forward to a discussion about making sure we work together to deal with a potential pandemic in the avian flu.

We'll talk about -- I will bring up human rights. Most importantly, I view this visit as an opportunity to continue a dialogue in dealing with a very important relationship with the United States and the world.

Number 7: King Abdullah, Saudi Arabia. Age 82. In power since 1995.
Although Abdullah did not become king until 2005, he has ruled Saudi Arabia since his half-brother, Fahd, suffered a stroke 10 years earlier. In Saudi Arabia, phone calls are recorded and mobile phones with cameras are banned. It is illegal for public employees “to engage in dialogue with local and foreign media.” By law, all Saudi citizens must be Muslims. According to Amnesty International, police in Saudi Arabia routinely use torture to extract “confessions.” Saudi women may not appear in public with a man who isn’t a relative, must cover their bodies and faces in public and may not drive. The strict suppression of women is not voluntary, and Saudi women who would like to live a freer life are not allowed to do so.
From the Office of the Press Secretary, April 2005: Joint Statement by President Bush and Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah

While the United States considers that nations will create institutions that reflect the history, culture, and traditions of their societies, it does not seek to impose its own style of government on the government and people of Saudi Arabia. The United States applauds the recently held elections in the Kingdom for representatives to municipal councils and looks for even wider participation in accordance with the Kingdom's reform program.

Both nations pledge to continue their cooperation so that the oil supply from Saudi Arabia will be available and secure. The United States appreciates Saudi Arabia's strong commitment to accelerating investment and expanding its production capacity to help provide stability and adequately supply the market.

Number 10: Teodoro Obiang Nguema, Equatorial Guinea. Age 63. In power since 1979.
Obiang took power in this tiny West African nation by overthrowing his uncle more than 25 years ago. According to a United Nations inspector, torture “is the normal means of investigation” in Equatorial Guinea. There is no freedom of speech, and there are no bookstores or newsstands. The one private radio station is owned by Obiang’s son

The tiny West African nation of Equatorial Guinea was catapulted onto the international scene when major reserves of oil were discovered in 1995. Since then, U.S. oil companies have poured $5 billion into the country. The majority of Equatoguineans live on less than $1 a day because the bulk of the oil income goes directly to Obiang, who managed to transfer $700 million into personal accounts in U.S. banks. In the words of former U.S. ambassador to Equatorial Guinea John Bennett, Obiang's regime "is not really a government," but rather "an ongoing family criminal conspiracy."

from the US State Department:
Rice: Good morning. Welcome. I'm very pleased to welcome the President of Equatorial Guinea, President Obiang. We will have a full set of discussions about our bilateral relationship, about some innovative social programs that USAID is involved with and about the range of regional issues that we both confront. So thank you very much for your presence here. You are a good friend and we welcome you.
Number 13: Pervez Musharraf--Pakistan
Musharraf, supposedly an ally in the fight against Islamist terrorism, seized power in Pakistan in a military coup that overthrew an elected government. Musharraf agreed to step down as head of the military at the end of 2004, but then changed his mind, claiming that the nation needed to unify its political and military elements and that he could provide this unity. He justified his decision by stating, "I think the country is more important than democracy."

from the Office of the Press Secretary, December 2004: President Bush and President Musharraf Discuss International Relations
Bush: We talked about our own bilateral relations. The President and I are absolutely committed to fighting off the terrorists who would destroy life in Pakistan, or the United States, or anywhere else. And I appreciate very much your clear vision of the need for people of goodwill and hope to prevail over those who are willing to inflict death in order to achieve an ideology that is -- the predominance of an ideology that is just backward and dark in its view.

I -- we talked about commerce between our countries. The President is very concerned about whether or not Pakistan goods are being treated equally, fairly, as other goods coming into the United States. I listened very carefully to what he had to say. He had some constructive ideas as to how to deal with that situation.

Having brought up his economy, however, I reminded him that he's doing quite a good job of making sure that the economy grows in Pakistan so that people have got a chance to realize their dreams. And I congratulate you on the good stewardship of the Pakistan economy.

All in all, our relationships are good, they're strong, and they will remain that way. And I'm honored you're here.

Number 18: Meles Zenawi--Ethiopia
In 1991, Isaias and Meles teamed together to liberate their respective countries from the brutal Ethiopian dictatorship of Mengistu Haile Mariam. Seven years later, Isaias and Meles subjected their own people to a bloody and useless border war that claimed the lives of tens of thousands of people and served no purpose other than to distract their two citizenries from the terrible job the two dictators were doing in running Eritrea and Ethiopia.
from the Office of the Press Secretary, December 2002: President George W. Bush welcomes President Daniel arap Moi of Kenya and Prime Minister Meles Zenawi of Ethiopia to the Oval Office
Bush: First, it's an honor to welcome President Moi and Prime Minister Meles to the -- this is where we do our work, the Cabinet Room. We welcome two strong friends of America here; two leaders of countries which have joined us in the -- to fight the global war on terror; two steadfast allies, two people that the American people can count on when it comes to winning the first war of the 21st century. And I'm so pleased that the President and the Prime Minister have agreed to come and have a substantive visit. I thank their delegations for coming with them, and I look forward to a good and open discussion about how we can advance our respective interests.
19. Paul Biya--Cameroon
Every few years, Biya stages an election to justify his continuing reign, but these elections have no credibility. In fact, Biya is credited with a creative innovation in the world of phony elections. In 2004, annoyed by the criticisms of international vote-monitoring groups, he paid for his own set of international observers, six ex-U.S. congressmen, who certified his election as free and fair.
from the Office of the Press Secretary
On the eve of the war in Iraq, President Bush meets with President Paul Biya of Cameroon for a bilateral meeting and dinner at the White House Thursday, March 20, 2003. The President congratulated President Biya on Cameroon's successful record of reform, and encouraged him to continue to tackle sensitive issues, such as governance and privatization. President Bush praised Biya for his leadership to resolve the Bakassi dispute peacefully. President Biya has been supportive of U.S. effort to combat international terrorism.

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