A Tear for Akayev

by Nathan Hamm on 3/30/2005 · 5 comments

Ted “I spent a few weeks there” Rall weeps for the death of democracy in Central Asia.

Central Asia provides a case study in the gaping chasm between our high-flying freedom-and-democracy rhetoric and a grim reality in which we cut sleazy deals with thuggish tyrants. We abandoned the democratic role model Akayev created in Kyrgyzstan because it had no direct role in America’s strategy of “total energy dominance.” We cozied up to the murderous dictators of oil- and gas-rich Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan even though we knew their citizens despised them for funneling their nations’ wealth into Swiss bank accounts while most people starved.

Now Central Asia’s only democracy is history. The dictatorships are cracking down on Muslims guilty of nothing more than wearing a beard and a skullcap.

Ted’s been to the region, which is more than many pundits can say. However, before he went, he didn’t just put on blinders, he gouged his damned eyes out. Mustn’t see any contradictions to the ideology… It would be too hard to extend some tired old canards about US foreign policy if we let silly little things like facts creep in.

Kyrgyzstan, just to make it all crystal clear, wasn’t free according to the folks who keep track of these things (PDF).

These “dominant party” states use a variety of means to preserve a façade of electoral contestation while maintaining unchallenged political power, including the financial resources of crony-capitalist oligarchic elites to back party campaigns; pro-government media dominance; use of state administrative resources in campaigns; and political harassment of independent media and opposition groups.

In each of these pseudo-democracies,* dominant parties maintain control in semi-authoritarian systems that retain the external trappings of democracy while real political power remains in the hands of an unchallenged, entrenched elite.

That is what Ted weeps for.

There’s a lot more in there that edges me towards white hot rage, but there are only so many hours in the day.

*Specifically mentioned: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, and Ukraine

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– 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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zagnut March 30, 2005 at 4:34 pm

Me thinks you might be wearing blinders as well when it comes to Freedom House. That is unless you support the neoconservatives’ view of the world.


Nathan March 30, 2005 at 4:58 pm

Why is it that so many lefties and/or conspiracy theorists feel like they have some magical fucking key with all the answers? Broadside, ray of light, never heard that before, it really did the damned trick! Gimme a break.

If you’re asking whether or not I support the spread of democracy and share the vision of Eleanor Roosevelt and Wendell Willkie, then I’m guilty as charged.

If you’re asking whether or not I believe in some caricature of a worldview, well, then no.

Tossing out some partisan links is hardly the way to tell me Freedom House is evil. They are trying to change the world. You know, supporting increasing freedoms and whatnot. And, having actually lived in a country they label “not free” and having a good deal of experience with a “partially free” one, they’re pretty damned accurate.

Are you trying to say that Kyrgyzstan was some kite-flying paradise? Cause lay ’em down brother. I’ve been there, I’ve lived in Central Asia and Freedom House is infinitely more trustworthy than the author I’m going after. Rall’s a hack.

What is it with the left and crying for authoritarianism? Are you so goddamned convinced the US is evil that you can’t recognize progress when it smacks you in the face? Why the cheerleading for autocracy? (And don’t give me “We’re not free” until you’ve lived somewhere where there genuinely isn’t freedom.)

zagnut March 30, 2005 at 6:08 pm

Yes there are different views aplenty.
snip…A key part of the media game has been the claim that Yushchenko won according to “exit polls.” What is not said is that the people doing these “exit polls” as voters left voting places, were US-trained and paid by an entity known as Freedom House, a neo-conservative operation in Washington. Freedom House trained some 1,000 poll observers, who loudly declared an 11 point lead for Yushchenko. Those claims triggered the mass marches claiming fraud. The current head of the Freedom House is former CIA director and outspoken neo-conservative, Admiral James Woolsey, who calls the Bush Administration War on Terror, “World War IV.” On the Freedom House board sits none other than Zbigniew Brzezinski. This would hardly seem to be an impartial human rights organization.

Why does Washington care so much about vote integrity next door to Russia? Is Ukraine democracy more important than Azeri or Uzbek “democracy”? There something else going on than what appears to be a vote count. We have to ask why it is that the Bush Administration suddenly is so keen on the sanctity of the democrat vote process as to risk an open break with Moscow at this time.

Robert March 30, 2005 at 6:13 pm

Ted Rall would have been pretty devasted with American democracy when we didn’t have an actual form of government for nearly 15 years!

Nathan March 30, 2005 at 7:03 pm

Christ, zagnut, you get out of Charlotte much? Also, ever have a thought you didn’t get from someone else?

Let me turn that around, why are you so concerned about Russia’s feelings? What causes your heart to go all atwitter for dictators? Why is it that you think our support for democratization and free votes should be apportioned without respect to election schedules or events on the ground?

And, by the way, nice job aping Yanukovich’s line. The most cited exit polls were actually conducted by Ukrainian polling and research agencies such as SOCIS and the Democratic Initiatives Foundation (See here). If Freedom House helped train, you’ve got an awful tall burden to prove there was a conspiracy. Then again, I bet you think you have. You seem to subscribe to the Lebowski Postulate.

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