If a Tree Falls in the Forest… (Updated)

by Nathan Hamm on 3/28/2005 · 15 comments

Promoted due to all kinds of fun updates

If the State Department issues a statement and Justin Raimondo isn’t there to hear it, did it really happen?

Read on…

In his write-up on Kyrgyzstan, which I hadn’t really paid attention to until pointed out to me, Raimondo says the following.

It was therefore not at all surprising to read the text of a purloined memo from U.S. ambassador to Kyrgyzstan Stephen Young – originally posted on the official news site of the Kyrgyzstan government – that outlines in detail the American plan to oust Akayev. Now before I go any further, I just want to comment on the authenticity of this memo: a number of people have remarked on the various grammatical errors that appear in it. These, I believe, can be explained as errors of transcription: it seems that this was posted in a very great hurry, as events in Kyrgyzstan have proceeded apace. After all, we aren’t talking about the Associated Press or Reuters here, but a news agency, albeit the “official” one, in a small and relatively impoverished Central Asian country. Secondly, we have to look at the context in which this memo appears: it was posted on a Web site that features all sorts of articles written with reasonable objectivity, and even pieces that put the Akayev government in a bad light. So the Kabar News Agency doesn’t seem to be an outlet for pro-Akayev propaganda. The memo sticks pretty closely to the thrust of U.S. policy in Kyrgyzstan, and I find the signature of the U.S. ambassador as well as the U.S. government seal reproduced at the bottom fairly convincing. The distinct possibility that this is authentic, and precisely because it hasn’t received attention anywhere else, compels me to take it seriously. If this isn’t a memo written and conceived in the U.S. embassy, then let the U.S. State Department deny it.

They did. It took me all of two minutes to find the denial. “Crude fabrication” is an understatement. I know Justin knows about this fine site you’re reading right now, so he could have also found my earlier post on the document.

The grammatical errors aren’t transcription errors done by someone in a hurry, they’re signs that the document was written by a native Russian speaker using the kind of language one might find in Russian-language political analysis. In fact, it bears mentioning that the document is not a transcription, though it appears as such on the Kabar site. It is a PDF of the “original document.” The reason why the seal and signature look legit might have something to do with how easy it is to pick these things up off of the embassy’s website (click “English” for the seal). That we are even discussing the authenticity of this document is laughable to me.

It also doesn’t fit in with the “nefarious and powerful US government toppling governments” narrative. Wouldn’t a skilled puppet master do a better job of hiding the strings?

(Thanks to Tom Palmer for getting me to read Raimondo’s article.)

UPDATE: Couldn’t have said it better.

Really, it’s kind of cute that a grown man can make a living playing so fast and loose with the facts like this. Maybe I should take a long hard think about getting into that line of work. It’s not like much actual research is needed.

No sooner had I written the words “let the U.S. State Department deny it” than they did deny it – but not very convincingly.

Well, the fact of the matter is that they were denying this at least as early as March 17th according to folks who are, you know, in Kyrgyzstan. Justin’s calls had nothing to do with the timing of the denial.

Furthermore, I don’t see what is so “crude” about this alleged “fabrication”

Well, I guess that means he’s not very familiar with how Russian is often translated into English in this fashion. As much as I hate argument from authority, I’m willing to bet I’ve read more clunky translations from Russian into English (which are, I admit, much better than my translations the other direction) than Mr. Raimondo.

The embassy alleges that Young’s signature is “forged” – but how do we know that?

How do we know it’s real?

Is Young willing to submit samples of his signature to a handwriting expert – and, if not, why not?

Well, he’s probably got more important things, but even if there’s an exact match, what’s proven? That maybe, just maybe, someone in the Kyrgyz government took a copy of an embassy document signed by Young, scanned the signature, and slapped it on a piss-poor fake of a policy statement?

One can only note, with dismay, the distinctly threatening tone of this Embassy missive. The Ambassador’s office ominously refers to the possibility that this could “damage relations between the United States and the Kyrgyz Republic” – but isn’t it a bit late for that, considering how the U.S. government is openly engaging in a campaign of “regime change” in Kyrgyzstan? How else can one explain Ambassador Young’s traipsing about the country, making speeches about the proper application of “democratic” principles and brazenly interfering in the internal affairs of a sovereign nation?

Well, Justin is obviously of the less visionary school of foreign policy that fails to see the instrumentality of freedom in far-off places to securing the US, but that’s neither here nor there. Maybe I’m going into this without trying to prove the US government is trying to conquer the world, but something about this,

I discussed all these things with President Akayev in a meeting I had with him last Wednesday. I urge the government to carefully investigate the many claims of violations during the campaign and on the election days, and try to correct these problems so that they do not mar the presidential election this fall. The United States has released a press statement on the elections that is available here and you can get a copy at the end of the press conference. The goal is not simply to criticize, but to work with the Kyrgyz government and people to improve the situation. Because the creation of a modern and mature democracy is a long-term process, and Kyrgyzstan is on the right path, thought much work remains to be done.

doesn’t strike me as something a man hell-bent on Akayev’s fall would say. In fact, at no point did the US call for Akayev to be overthrown and the embassy did express scorn for the behavior of protesters who seized government buildings in the south. I could go on, but it would be nice for Justin to put forth more than innuendo to prove that Young spearheaded a quiet coup against Akayev.

Implicit in this threatening tone is the demand that the posting on the Kabar News Agency be taken down:

“We urge the Kyrgyz authorities to denounce this forgery and take effective steps to disassociate the government from any efforts to distribute it.”

Translation: delete it or you’ll be sorry.

Was there some part about a threat he forgot to put in there?

But what happened to the U.S. government’s alleged devotion to “free speech” and an untrammeled media? We are pouring how many millions of taxpayer dollars into Kyrgyzstan, flooding the country with propaganda – but we can’t stand up to what they claim is a “crude forgery”? Get over it, guys, and stop trying to censor the brave new “democracy” of Kyrgyz. And I wouldn’t have the Kyrgyz government “denounce” the memo, either – that’s likely to convince people that it’s real.

Of course that “propaganda” money supported a printing press that provided services without regard to content of publications because Akayev and his friends were squeezing out any and all opportunities for different points of view to exist in the media.

I should also point out that the “threat” as Justin so irresponsibly calls it was directed at the former government, not the current one. The only people I’ve seen who are making an issue of the forged document are political Islamists and the BHHRG-Antiwar.com axis.

Which leads us to a fascinating bit of speculation: if it is a forgery, and a “crude” one at that, why is the U.S. government bothering to issue an official statement? Why give it that much credence – if there isn’t some truth to it?

Wait a minute. I got an awesome idea. *Unleashing my inner Raimondo* Let me just put out there that Justin Raimondo has the hallmarks of a shill for the Kremlin. I’m not saying he is or anything. Just looks that way. On the one hand, if he doesn’t deny this, there must be some truth to it (see original body of this post). On the other hand, if he gives it credence, there must be some truth to it, right? You see the damned either way evidentiary position the embassy’s in — denying the document makes the screams of “it’s true” into shouts. It’s a little better I guess.

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This post was written by...

– author of 2991 posts on 17_PersonNotFound.

Nathan is the founder and Principal Analyst for Registan, which he launched in 2003. He was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Uzbekistan 2000-2001 and received his MA in Central Asian Studies from the University of Washington in 2007. Since 2007, he has worked full-time as an analyst, consulting with private and government clients on Central Asian affairs, specializing in how socio-cultural and political factors shape risks and opportunities and how organizations can adjust their strategic and operational plans to account for these variables. More information on Registan's services can be found here, and Nathan can be contacted via Twitter or email.

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Laurence March 28, 2005 at 11:40 am

Good work, Nathan!

Daniel Wiener March 28, 2005 at 10:03 pm

As I noted on Tom Palmer’s site, I was amused by the way Justin first dares the U.S. Government to repudiate the memo (“If this isn’t a memo written and conceived in the U.S. embassy, then let the U.S. State Department deny it.”). Then, when the memo is indeed repudiated, he adds a note to his article in which he tries to spin that as discrediting the repudiation (“if it is a forgery, and a “crude” one at that, why is the U.S. government bothering to issue an official statement? Why give it that much credence – if there isn’t some truth to it?”).

So what exactly does Justin want the U.S. Government to do if the memo really is a forgery? Denounce it or not denounce it? Apparently either action helps prove that the memo is legitimate. Justin has definitely covered all his bases; he can never be proven wrong.

TallDave March 28, 2005 at 10:13 pm

Great post and great catch.

Maybe we can give Raimondo the Walter Duranty Award for Excellence in Russian Journalism.

Random Guy March 28, 2005 at 11:14 pm

Most paranoid schizophrenics make up elaborate plots that cannot be proven or disproven. The paranoid attributes any attempt at reasoning with him as evidence that someone is either in on the original plot or covering it up. I’ve spoken with Justin Raimondo before, and I can’t say that I’ve ever personally dealt with a more completely batshit insane individual in my life.

You’ve done your part, explaining to the rest of the world the obviousness of his propaganda. You’ll never convince him to admit that he was duped, so don’t hold your breath.

MattJ March 28, 2005 at 11:19 pm

In Soviet Russia, fake memo forges you!

Will Franklin March 29, 2005 at 12:56 am

Great piece. Raimondo truly is deserving of the comments on this thread.

I have some Kyrgyzstan commentary here:


“Testing the limits of ‘the blueprint'”

Impacted Wisdom Truth March 29, 2005 at 3:41 am

“No sooner had I written the words “let the U.S. State Department deny it” than they did deny it – but not very convincingly.” [emphasis added]

This is consistent with this type of troll. When answered and proven wrong by the opposition, move the goal posts.

S. Weasel March 29, 2005 at 6:16 am

Good god! Is Justin Raimondo still around?

Curzon March 29, 2005 at 11:42 am

“This fine site” indeed. Kudos.

Stephen Schwartz March 29, 2005 at 4:48 pm

It’s Dennis, not Justin Raimondo.

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