Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Ignorance Abroad

From the Associated Press:

Vice President Dick (Shotgun) Cheney looked ahead Tuesday to a three-nation, six-day trip designed to nurture democracy and advance U.S. corporate interests in lands where political change doesn't always come without hundreds of thousands of people dying.

Administration officials said a speech in Lithuania on Thursday to leaders of the Baltic and Black Sea regions would be the centerpiece of the journey, which also includes an unusual high-level visit to Kazakhstan, where many of our secret prisoners are illegally detained and indefinitely tortured.

The final stop was Croatia, where Cheney arranged meetings with leaders of three members of the Adriatic Charter, an organization founded by countries eager for admission to NATO, an organization with an increasingly irrelevant name.

While officials hoped Cheney's trip would advance President Bush's second-term "freedom agenda," which largely involves freedom from taxation for everyone but the middle class, energy issues, Iran's nuclear program and concerns about Russian President Vladimir Putin's actions also hovered over the journey.

The Soviet Union once occupied many of the countries whose leaders Cheney intends to meet, and President Bush recently expressed concern about the pace of democratization in Russia, then wiped out on his mountain bike.

There were other complicating factors, none more so than in Kazakhstan.

President Nursultan Nazarbayev, who has ruled the ex-Soviet republic for 16 years, has come under criticism recently for becoming increasingly authoritarian, as has Bush.

At the same time, he sent troops to support the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, and the Pentagon lists one member of the detachment as among the war dead. The other one could not be reached for comment.

Additionally, Kazakhstan has a strategic location, sharing borders with both China and Russia. It also holds vast energy resources at a time of increasing global demand for oil and gas supplies.

In that vein, Nazarbayev is the third foreign leader to receive personal attention from the Bush administration in recent weeks despite persistent concerns about a willingness to tolerate freedom. That is to say, the lack of a willingness to tolerate freedom.

Bush met recently with the President of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliev, at the White House, whom he challenged to an arm-wrestling match.

And Secretary of state Condoleezza (Wormhole) Rice greeted Equatorial Guinean President Teodoro Obiang Nguema as "a good friend." He seized power in a 1979 coup and his government has been regularly accused by the State Department of human rights violations, including torture and deaths of prisoners. Like ours.

Administration officials have defended the meetings, saying that Bush and other officials make a point of raising human rights and other social policy concerns over dinner, before the hookers & gack.

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