oDious

by Nathan Hamm on 1/19/2006 · 11 comments

Is it fair to dismiss an analytical article as unserious because it cites John Laughland and Jonathan Steele as credible sources? It’s very tempting…

There’s a lot to Sreeram Chaulia’s openDemocracy article on democratic revolutions, so it’s perhaps best to limit myself to a few issues. But those with an interest in Ukraine might want to take a gander at the article too.

The gist of Chaulia’s article is that “color revolutions” are merely tools of US policy to expand geopolitical influence. There’s nothing particularly novel about the argument, though it’s nice to see that one can still be paid a fairly decent chunk of change for recycling.

I know I have some readers affiliated with or formerly affiliated with some of the NGOs Chaulia deals with, so some may be interested in the characterizations of:

  • Freedom House as a neoconservative hub traditionally staffed by former high-level CIA agents.
  • NDI as being dominated by liberal hawks who bide their time waiting for foreign policy positions when the Democrats hold the White House.
  • IRI as being controlled by the far right and representatives of oil, defense, and financial corporations.
  • IFES’s leadership as being made up of CIA agents, conservative Republicans, and military intelligence officers.
  • and IREX as being staffed by “political warfare, public diplomacy and propaganda specialists from the news media, US foreign service and the US military.”

Randomly clicking around bios for high-ranking IFES staff, for example, reveals that current employees used to work at such nefarious institutions as IWPR, the United Nations, OSCE, Peace Corps, Montreal Children’s Hospital, the (former President Jimmy) Carter Center, and the World Bank. Heck, one is even from New Zealand!

Seriously though, some of these organizations most definitely do have formal political affiliations or obvious ideological biases. But that they have biases, share certain goals of US policy, or employ people with a history of going back and forth between government and NGOs is no sure sign of impropriety. It is fair to say that many of those working for these NGOs come from the same broad group of elites (which I, for clarification’s sake, use non-pejoratively) that is partially composed of foreign policy elites working for the government. Not only does that imply there will be overlap. It also implies that one would expect to find shared goals and values among government and NGO elites. It is one thing to say that these NGOs further US foreign policy because they, as independent agents, share US government goals regarding the spread of democracy. It is quite another to imply that they all sit down in some smoky chamber deep beneath the Pentagon and receive their marching orders.

But, of course, I wouldn’t bother mentioning the article at all were it not for Chaulia discussing Central Asia.

For observers of Kyrgyzstan, Chaulia’s retelling of the lead-up and aftermath of Akaev’s fall may sound odd. Chaulia pays no serious attention to the public, instead focusing his analysis on states and occasionally elites. In his narrative, the US is the orchestrator of events. It chose to do away with Akaev. It trained and selected the opposition leaders who in turn are the reason crowds of protesters were so large. After all, they sent them out in to the streets. There’s no serious consideration that those protesting in the provinces may have been doing so out of a genuine interest in the outcome of the elections.

If my memory serves me, despite the eventual provision of generators by the US embassy to keep the opposition press going (again, note that Chaulia is less concerned with the government’s silencing of opposition voices–voices he apparently views as being alien to Kyrgyzstan in the first place–than he is with the evil of US intervention), the US reaction to the political situation in Kyrgyzstan after the elections was like that of a deer caught in the headlights. The March statements on the matter are hardly inspiring and don’t indicate that the State Department had anything approaching a coherent policy. Further, all due respect to the organized opposition groups, but the heavy lifting in Akaev’s fall was not done in Bishkek but out in the regions. Organizations like Kelkel sent members from the capital to try to organize youth out in the regions, essentially taking advantage of an already existing situation.

And of course, one surely notices that the outcome of Akaev’s fall has hardly been what the US would hope for. About this, Chaulia says,

It is important to note that the clan structure of Kyrgyz society, ethnic tensions with Uzbeks, and incipient Islamism in the Ferghana valley intervened on the ground to alter the revolutionary script charted in Washington. Russia too had learnt its lessons from Ukraine and cultivated some key opposition figures, making it impossible for the US to monopolise the opposition as was the case in the previous two colour revolutions.

Interestingly, in his footnoted version (which cites other luminaries beside Laughland and Steele like the always even-handed Pepe Escobar), this assertion carries no footnote. Islamism and ethnic tension surely do exist in Kyrgyzstan. And there were even times when they flashed into visibility in the protests. But I have a hard time understanding how they altered the imagined script. If anything messed up “the plan,” it was the sudden flight of Akaev from the capital and the presidency seemingly going to whoever could sit in the big chair first.

Chaulia then goes on to briefly deal with a goal set out in the introduction of his article.

It will be argued that the comparable political convulsions of Uzbekistan (May 2005) and Azerbaijan (November 2005) did not experience “colour revolutions” due to a variation in the independent variable, US foreign-policy priorities.

In the case of Azerbaijan, I have to argue again that by claiming Aliev’s government did not fall because the US did not want him to, Chaulia fails to treat the Azeri opposition as if it has independent agency. Really, it’s quite odd if one thinks about it. In Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan, the opposition is a creation of the United States and its NGOs. In Azerbaijan, where those same NGOs operate, the opposition, if it is a US-run concern, was ordered to protest, but just enough so that it looked like it was trying and so that it would provoke a crackdown. And we are to believe that people signed up for that? On the other hand, perhaps we are to believe that the Azeri opposition is the real deal and exists in spite of US interests. Either way, I think it is much more economical to believe that the failures of the Azeri opposition to achieve its goals are to be found in the decisions of the Azeri opposition than in an imagined conspiracy.

More odd to me is how he describes Andijon.

Uzbekistan’s Stalinist strongman, Islam Karimov, brutally clamped down on a mass demonstration in Andijan against corruption and arbitrary detentions in May 2005, killing 500 and wounding 2,000, but Washington echoed the Uzbek government’s claim that it was the handiwork of “Islamic terrorists”.

The crowd in Andijon was a lot of things on May 13. There were the peaceful protesters who had been out for much of the week. There were men with guns who had seized government buildings. And there were tons of curious bystanders. People had a lot of grievances, but it is far from clear that this was a color revolution in the makign. And it should be quite apparent to any serious person with even the slightest pretense of authority on US-Uzbek relations that the US has done anything but echo Uzbekistan’s claims about Andijon. In fact, Chaulia, in drawing parallels between Andijon and protests in places like Kyrgyzstan, comes much closer to echoing Karimov’s claims.

What bothers me most about this article is the implied argument that democracy is bad if the US both supports it and has strategic interests in the state under question. In Chaulia’s case, neo-liberalism is apparently a much bigger tragedy than authoritarianism. We should thank him for at least making this clear when most critics of US support for democratization leave readers little choice but to assume that the value that motivates them is a belief that US power is the world’s chief evil. Not that that doesn’t seem to be one of Chaulia’s motivations either. It seems more than fair to me to say of him that while not an opponent of liberalization, he’s certainly not a supporter.

And in full disclosure for those who don’t know and might care about these things, openDemocracy has paid me for articles in the past. I’m much more partial to mine than their typical anti-Western fare.


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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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{ 11 comments }

qadinbakida January 19, 2006 at 11:02 pm

The author’s Azerbaijan argument is, as usual, oversimplified. While it is certainly the case that the USG prefers the devil they know to the devil they don’t and has plenty of strategic interests in AZ, one of the main reasons that there was no transition is the strength of the regime and the weakness of the opposition. Unlike Georgia, or Ukraine, the AZ government had no hesitation about using force against a mass movement post election. Aliyev is no Shevradnadze. Not only that, for both internal reasons (leadership deficit) and because they have had to operate in an increasingly repressive environment since I. Aliyev took over, the opposition in AZ is much weaker and to expect them to pull something off was unrealistic.

However, it is certainly the case that USG can barely contain its contempt for the political parties here and in many ways passively undermined their efforts (or, conversely, failed to support them in ways they did in other countries). US praise for the certification of the election results — especially given the appalling process for dealing with complaints and the well-documented poor conduct of the election — is explicable only within the framework of US strategic interests here.

And the base hasn’t even been built yet…..

Kuda January 20, 2006 at 1:27 am

Firstly, apologies. I have posted a story I read a while back that focusses more on Russia, as oppssed to Central Asia. However, the article touches on issues discussed above, specifically Freedom Hose and its links to the US government.

The article below is clearly biased against Freedom House and its activities, but, if true, does point out fairly clear links between politics and some of the NGOs operating in CA.

In general thought I would be more surprised to read an article stating that NGO are impartial.
Most are to an extent politically motivated and corrupt.

“Freedom”‘s Just Another Word For Fascism

By Mark Ames
The Putin regime’s moves to tighten controls over foreign NGOs is being portrayed in the West as yet another example of Russia’s savage authoritarianism and anti-Western paranoia. While only a drunken apologist could deny Putin’s authoritarianism, the real question is whether or not the crackdown on NGOs is a symptom of classic tyrant-paranoia, or if it has a valid basis.
If the Putin regime is being paranoid, then the case of blue-chip NGO Freedom House – an American NGO whose name seems to pop up more than any other in this part of the world, particularly when it comes to the push for democracy – provides a clear example of Henry Kissinger’s dictum that “even a paranoid has some real enemies.”
Freedom House was founded innocuously enough in 1941 by Eleanor Roosevelt, wife of the President and one of the great modern champions of human rights, and Wendell Willkie, the Republican candidate for president in 1940, uniting the mainstream American political spectrum to ensure that it would not be accused of being ideological. It was founded, according to its website, out of concern “with the mounting threats to peace and democracy…[and has been] a vigorous proponent of democratic values and a steadfast opponent of dictatorships of the far left and the far right.”
Who today is the far-left/right dictatorship that Freedom House steadfastly opposes?
James Woolsey, who chaired Freedom House for the past three years and only recently stepped aside, told Radio Free Europe in an interview in October that Russia was one of, if not the, main target. “We are really quite honored that President Putin, who is increasingly coming to head a government that is edging towards fascism in Russia, would be critical of what the NGOs, including Freedom House, were doing to help bring about a movement toward democracy in Ukraine,” he said.
He described Russia as “fascist” several times in the interview. “We had a period of time in the early 1990s when we were working cooperatively with the Russian security services, but now apparently they have decided to try and blame the security services in the West for their own movement toward fascism,” he said. “Mr. Putin and his movement toward fascism in Russia are on the wrong side of history. They are not going to succeed… ultimately they will lose.”
All of this warlike talk might be excusable, even laudable, if it came from a genuine human rights activist who paid for these words. But this is James Woolsey – one of the closest things America has to a Blackshirt (if we’re going to abuse this over-abused word as he does). Indeed it’s almost comical – in the way that so many insane-rightwing-plots are pure applied black comedy in the Bush Era – that a seemingly-heroic, do-good NGO like Freedom House could be led by one of the most nefarious vertebrates ever to befoul the halls of American power. You’d think that Woolsey, the notorious neocon goon and ex-CIA head, would have better things to do than to front organizations which would seem, on the surface, better suited for the likes of a Jimmy Carter. But then again, it’s even scarier to consider that his role there is no accident.
A little background: Woolsey, among other things, was one of the original founding members of the Project for the New American Century, the neocon vanguard which, in 1997, called for: a massive rearming of America to ensure that it had full spectrum dominance; aggressive use of American power, including military, to implement and secure American global domination; and the invasion, occupation, and democratization of Iraq. As most anti-Bush watchers know, the PNAC group famously bemoaned the fact that its imperial policies would meet resistance with the American public: “[T]he process of transformation, even if it brings revolutionary change, is likely to be a long one, absent some catastrophic and catalyzing event — like a new Pearl Harbor.” Like, as in, a 9/11. What luck!
Two of its key goals explain the nexus between Freedom House and Russia: “[T]o challenge regimes hostile to U.S. interests and values; Promoting the cause of political and economic freedom outside the U.S.”
Woolsey’s resume of evil is impressive. He helped found the notorious Iraqi National Congress, which provided “proof” about Iraqi WMDs. And he also serves on the Center for Security Policy, headed by fellow goon Frank Gaffney, who in 2004 publicly advised President Bush to level Fallujah (which Bush did), invade Iran and North Korea (which Bush can’t but yet may try), and adopt “”appropriate strategies for contending with China’s increasingly fascistic trade and military policies, Vladimir Putin’s accelerating authoritarianism at home and aggressiveness toward the former Soviet republics, the worldwide spread of Islamofascism.” Note how Gaffney, like Woolsey, equates “Islamofascism” with Putin’s Russia, making Russia a mortal enemy bent on destroying the US.
And speaking of fascism, Woolsey is also the co-chair of the Committee on the Present Danger, a far-right group (they love that word “committee,” like the Bolsheviks they are) famous for launching a three-month network TV scare-campaign in the early 1950s about the “present danger” that the US faced against the Soviet Union before the committee eventually dissovled. After the CPD was revived in 2004, its managing director, Peter Hannaford, was forced to resign when it was revealed that his firm had lobbied on behalf of Austrian fascist Joerg Haider.
Woolsey also boasted in the Wall Street Journal that the National Security Agency used its international eavesdropping network, ECHELON, to spy on European companies in order to give major US corporations a competitive advantage. His reasoning? “We have spied on you because you bribe.” As with Freedom House, Woolsey operates by abusing American power in ways once thought unimaginable, and then blaming the other side for uncivilized behavior which naturally provokes us.
This brief dossier is important because it casts the appointment of Woolsey as the chairman of Freedom House as not merely strange or comically sinister, but intentional. Freedom House is just one of the many effective tools used to implement the policies outlined in the Project for the New American Century, and that is why the cross-pollination, in which goons like Woolsey simultaneously head up “human rights” NGOs and far-right think-tanks, makes perfect sense.
Under Woolsey’s term, Freedom House played a crucial role in the pro-US revolutions in Georgia, Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan – drawing on its experience covertly supporting the first “color” revolution in Serbia in 1999. According to a Washington Post article, “US Advice Guided Milosevic Opposition” (Dec 11, 2000), “U.S.-funded consultants played a crucial role behind the scenes in virtually every facet of the anti-Milosevic drive, running tracking polls, training thousands of opposition activists and helping to organize a vitally important parallel vote count. U.S. taxpayers paid for 5,000 cans of spray paint used by student activists to scrawl anti-Milosevic graffiti on walls across Serbia, and 2.5 million stickers with the slogan ‘He’s Finished,’ which became the revolution’s catchphrase.
“…The lead role was taken by the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development, the government’s foreign assistance agency, which channeled the funds through commercial contractors and nonprofit groups such as NDI and its Republican counterpart, the International Republican Institute (IRI).”
Freedom House’s role included mass-printing Gene Sharp’s book From Dictatorship to Democracy: A Conceptual Framework for Liberation, which was used as the guidebook for the Serbian student opposition group “Otpor.” Otpor became the model for student opposition movements in every color-revolution since, including Ukraine’s Pora and Georgia’s Kmera.
In Ukraine, Freedom House helped organize the “largest civil regional election monitoring effort” in Ukraine, involving more than 1,000 trained observers. They also organized crucial exit polls showing that Yuschenko had actually won, which gave the Revolution its moral energy – as did their carefully-organized exit polls in Serbia and Georgia.
In Kyrgyzstan, Freedom House provided the printing press for the opposition newspaper My Capital News, which printed damning stories about then-President Akayev’s corrupt family. When the Kyrgyz authorities cut off electricity to MCN’s offices, Freedom House delivered emergency generators to keep it running – generators provided by the US Embassy.
The moral algebra in this tale of intrigue gets confusing because Freedom House happened to be on the side of the Good Guys in many of these fights. On the other hand, considering the way the revolutions in Kyrgyzstan and Ukraine have soured, it’s hard to say what has been won and lost – unless of course you’re measuring the spread of American power and influence.
Indeed, Freedom House is not always on the side of the good guys, as evidenced by its choice in chairmen, as well as in the makeup of its board members – a cast of cartoon-villains which includes such prime-time ogres as Jeanne Kirkpatrick and Kenneth Adelman – the same Adelman who had famously predicted that the war in Iraq would be a “cakewalk.” Freedom House’s sponsors include the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, a far-right pro-big business foundation which, among other things, took a strong stand in the 60s against affirmative action, and once supported academics who pushed the Bell Curve theory arguing that blacks were genetically less intelligent than whites. During the early years of the Vietnam War, Freedom House argued that American intervention was justified because – yup, you guessed right – it helped the spread of democracy. Why’d they do that? Becuase that’s what Freedom House does. It agitates for right-wing America’s interests, cynically deploying appeals for democracy and human rights at properly chosen times to to serve the right’s global mission.
More recently, Freedom House sided with the far-right in argueing against America joining the International Criminal Court (ironically using the exact same bogus argument that the Defense Department used, citing the possibility that rogue nations like North Korea could bring cases against American “peacekeepers” for crimes against humanity). Today, it still refuses to condemn, let alone even cite, the illegal detention camp in Guantanamo Bay, using the same rationale as the Bush Administration (the inmates are “illegal combatants” rather than POWs and therefore are not entitled to Geneva Convention protections).
One of the most suspect gigs that Freedom House helped kickstart, in 1999, is the American Committee for Peace in Chechnya, a pro-Chechen “charity” group chaired by notorious Cold War Russophobe Zbigniew Brzezinski. Freedom House has not launched any other pro-Muslim separatist causes except for this one. Among its committee members are, again, James Woolsey, the famous crusader against Islamofascism, as well as “Cakewalk” Adelman, William “Weekly Standard” Kristol, and Max Kampelman, who is also Chairman Emeritus of Freedom House and another OG on the Project for a New American Century. Why would Woolsey, Brzezinski and the rest of the far-right supergoon squad choose, among all oppressed Muslims around the world, to heart-bleed over just the Chechens and only the Chechens? Are you starting to see why the Putin regime is “paranoid”?
Freedom House also developed a soft spot for Hizb-ut-Tahrir, the radical Islamist opposition group in Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan before their respective revolutions. Freedom House’s work with HuT was one reason cited by Uzbek authorities for throwing Freedom House out of the country.
Since 2002, Freedom House’s annual “freedom reports” have been used as the basis by the White House to determine international aid, primarily through the Millennium Challenge Corporation. The reports are also regularly cited by both the American media and Congress. Since 2004, Russia has been demoted to the very bottom ranking – “Not Free” – along with genuinely tyrannical regimes like North Korea and Libya. To those of us who live here, even those of us who oppose the direction Putin has taken, this is not only surprising but nauseating, an example of the worst type of “moral relativism” that these same right-wingers constantly denounce.
Interestingly, a feudal monarchy like Kuwait gets a higher “freedom” rating than Russia, while pro-American Egypt, whose dictator-for-life Mubarak recently won another “election” with 89 percent of the vote, and then subsequently jailed his rival for five years, was praised and upgraded on the freedom scale for apparently assisting in the formation of a few women’s groups. What is the difference between Kuwait and Russia? Go back to the Project for a New American Century: one “promotes” American interests, and the other “opposes” American interests. Therefore, the other, Russia, is “Not Free” and “fascist.”
In light of this story, it’s hard to listen to all of the Bush Administration’s Orwellian bleating about “civil society” and “democracy” in the fight to keep foreign-funded NGOs operating in Russia as they have since Yelstin’s time. In fact, Russian authorities would have to be suicidal not to tighten control. Woolsey himself outlined the role he saw them play: “I think what is important is to help build up civil society, the student organizations, the NGOs and the others that the FSB and President Putin hate so much.” This isn’t about civil society; it’s about fighting for America.
In September of 2005, Woolsey gave up his post as chairman of Freedom House. The new chairman is Peter Ackerman. And, not surprisingly, Ackerman is also the chairman of the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict, an organization which helps train and supply color-coded revolutions. Its website says that the ICNC “develops and encourages the use of civilian-based, nonmilitary strategies to establish and defend democracy…provides assistance in the training and deployment of field advisors, to deepen the conceptual knowledge and practical skills of applying nonviolent strategies in conflicts throughout the world where progress toward democracy and human rights is possible.”
So the McDonald’s of NGOs is run by avowed US imperialists and who repeatedly and aggressively attack Russia as “fascist” and push to challenge and isolate Russia, which they see as much of a threat to American hegemony as Islamofascism. And then they whine about human rights when the Russian government moves to curb their activities on Russian soil.
The real tragedy in this is that genuinely admirable, courageous NGOs, like Memorial and Soldiers’ Mothers of Russia, will suffer from the aftershocks of Woolsey and Co.’s abuse of NGOs. In the end, civil society, democracy and human rights will deteriorate, allowing the Bush goons to cite it as a reason to step up the battle against Russia. And as always the Russian people will be caught in the crossfire in a cruel and savage game, where words like “freedom” and “sovereignty” are mere Trojan Horse weapons used by one elite battling for power against another.

Nathan January 20, 2006 at 1:51 am

What I don’t get though is why anyone acts surprised that these NGOs have political agendas and that their values broadly are the same as those of the foreign policy establishment. Like I said, the folks working in both broadly come from the same large group of people and they grew up in the same democratic society. I think that it’s when NGOs start wading into the political systems of foreign states with an agenda that’s hard to trace back to the political culture and values of its country of origin that eyebrows should be raised. Americans for the most part think democracy’s a very special thing and think everyone would be better off with it. Russians, as far as I know, don’t have any special thoughts on the political systems of foreign states, causing one to perhaps suspect that the few elections NGOs that have popped up recently are phony.

We do, after all, have NGOs that do political type things that are at odds with government policy. To say that because in the one instance the NGOs share values with the government they are phony but genuine in the other instance strikes me as quite absurd. Remember, correlation is not causation.

I also think it’s important to point out that, all accusations otherwise aside, these NGOs, while performing political work, do about as well as one might hope at staying nonpartisan. They work in a minefield and one does find all too often that employees of these organizations say things that they probably shouldn’t. Calling on my own experience, I was forbidden to state my personal political views as a Peace Corps Volunteer. While I couldn’t say “Uzbekistan is a dictatorship, and it should be a democracy,” I could talk about democracy, how politics works in the US, etc. In other words, I could talk about the technical aspects of democracy and liberal political systems. Similarly, the work of these NGOs is almost uniformly technical in nature. It’s little surprise that the people who tend to show interest in it are opposition figures, but that hardly means that once everyone’s in the room, the local CIA field officer interviews everyone and selects a future leader.

Kuda January 20, 2006 at 2:12 am

Nathan you wrote “I also think it’s important to point out that, all accusations otherwise aside, these NGOs, while performing political work, do about as well as one might hope at staying nonpartisan.”

No, that is the point of the argument, they don’t. They are overtly political and as you also pointed out, is that really such a surprise? No, but don’t hide it or present it as good ol’ US helping the poor ex-commies.

BTW, the views of the article I posted are not entirely mine, but I did find them interesting.
I simply get a bit tired of US intervention as it is so fickle. (Bit over the top on US there, the Europeans are just as bad, …almost)

Aris Katsaris January 20, 2006 at 4:07 am

Since 2004, Russia has been demoted to the very bottom ranking – “Not Free” – along with genuinely tyrannical regimes like North Korea and Libya.

Quite misleading. Both North Korea and Libya are 7/7 (7 being the worst, 1 the best) in rankings and are truly the “worst of a worst”. Russia is a 6/5.

What is the difference between Kuwait and Russia? Go back to the Project for a New American Century: one “promotes” American interests, and the other “opposes” American interests. Therefore, the other, Russia, is “Not Free” and “fascist.”

This is especially disingenuous, given how several nations you described as pro-American — e.g. Egypt among them, area also considered “Not Free”, likewise was Uzbekistan described at a time when everyone still saw it as an American ally, likewise with supposedly pro-American Azerbaijan, and so forth, and so forth.

Indeed, all the pro-American dictatorships of Latin America/Greece/Spain in the 1960s/1970s/etc were described as Not Free — more liberal regimes gained a Free position, even though some (just like Greece) started exhibiting a much more anti-American attitude than previously.

What is the difference between Kuwait and Russia? I’ll take a wild guess and say that perhaps even Kuwait has less room for assasinations and poisonings in determining its political life than Russia does.

Either way, Russia’s continuing worsening condition where political rights are concerned is a fact that you can’t so easily dismiss.

Kuda January 20, 2006 at 4:39 am

Aris,

Firstly, I didn’t write the article and, as I said, I don’t hold all the opinions rather just some of the angles. Yes, it is biased and skewed not only in opinion but, it would seem, in fact too.

The author of the piece tries to compare Kuwait with Russia. Is that realistic? Can you compare the two? Surely not given their widely different roles etc. But fewer assassinations could be also because there simply is no opportunity to even get into the system there. It is a closed shop. In Russia if you have the cash theoretically you can have a try – until trod on.

Maybe I misunderstood but, the thing about Free Not Free etc., who cares? These are labels. The US labels regimes as Not Free but still does work to keep them Not Free – if it suits their aim. This attitude is the thing that I think is wrong. The ‘look at all the help we give to promote freedom etc’ crap whilst simultaneously arming the government for further crackdowns.

Rustam January 20, 2006 at 5:59 am

I agree with some of Your points Kuda, such as US sometimes does work against the democracy and civil society in such countries where they perfectly know that the government is autocratic or worse dictatorship. However having said that I would like to see Uzbekistan cooperating with the US more than with Russia in the sphere of establishing democracy, simply because US usually, often, is much more democratic in its political views and foreign policy as opposed to Russia, even more so now under Putin. The US policy has more vulnerable points from which it could be attacked, I mean influenced, sitting in Uzbekistan people could appeal to US mass media and get to one of the Senators like McCain, who on his own turn can raise the question of dictator Karimov massacring people in Uzbekistan.
US did silently supported Karimov’s regime for a while although as Nathan pointed out at times expressing grave concern with the Human Rights issues, what about Russia during this time, although our nearest the most important neighbour in any sense nothing has been said about the situation in Uzbekistan, regarding the appalling HR situation, economic and political reforms, although first visit of Putin after his inauguration for the second term was to Uzbekistan, likewise in Turkmenistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan.
I do agree with Nathan in saying that what is wrong if NGOs, Freedom House in this case, have common interests with the US government. In the article that You posted Kuda it says that after the tightening of NGO’s in Russia it is the Russia genuine NGO’s and people will be the ones who will suffer. But question – what about Uzbekistan’s case. There is no domestic NGO’s and people already have and continue to suffer.
Therefore what I would like to say and wish is the fact that although I really don’t like Woolsey and his neocon pals I have to say that I admire their guts to confront dictators like ours Mr. Karimov, otherwise arguments presented in the article give no solution to the situation that we are now in Uzbekistan, i.e. US with its NGO’s are bastards, Russia under fascist Putin is no go and for people of Uzbekistan – well what can You say it is Your fate folks.

Laurence January 20, 2006 at 7:09 am

Nathan, This is an interesting discussion. Thank you for starting it–and hosting it…

Kuda January 20, 2006 at 7:59 am

Rustam,

I think your final comment about the article is very true in the fact that all it does is criticize without giving any solutions. Additionally, if I were to choose between having US gov. sponsored NGOs – doing whatever they do, good or bad depending on different poster’s opinions – in a country or having no foreign presence like say North Korea the I would clearly choose the former.

To labour a point though I just don’t think that these organizations or countries really do

“…express(ing) grave concern with the Human Rights issues”

“confront dictators like…Mr. Karimov”

And I think that they should as they are keen to go on TV or whatever and tell everyone how bloody good they are. But I being pedantic, I agree with Rustam’s points.

katy January 20, 2006 at 7:44 pm

Hot stuff! Thanks for sharing!

Kuda January 23, 2006 at 5:47 am

I know that the charges will probably be trumped up, but I did smile to myself, in light of this discussion, when I heard about the 4 British NGO workers/spies that Moscow has just named.

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