Morning Report 5/13/05
Rider On the Storm

Meddle faster, Bush, before the rest of the world catches you

White House

A Schwinn-Schwinn situation: Bush on his mountain bike last year in Crawford

Whatever plans George W. Bush's handlers have for the rest of the world, they'd better get it in gear.

We don't know how many revolutions per minute the POTUS was spinning Wednesday on his bike ride while that Cessna, unbeknownst to him, was heading for the White House. But on the other side of the planet, it's no joke: Things are spinning out of control in the dictatorships we've embraced.

Their revolutions, in other words, may trump Bush's, and his helmet (see photo above) won't protect him when he crashes.

Anti-American rioting has spread from Afghanistan into Pakistan, as the Washington Post reports:

    The unrest was triggered by a brief report in the May 9 edition of Newsweek that interrogators at Guantánamo had placed Korans in bathrooms and "flushed a holy book down the toilet." Desecration of the Koran is punishable by death in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Pakistan protested to the U.S. government last weekend about the alleged abuse.

    Diplomats and officials have been taken aback by the intense reaction, which was exacerbated by a police crackdown on anti-U.S. protesters in the eastern Afghan city of Jalalabad on Wednesday that left four dead and more than 70 wounded.

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How in the world could they be taken aback?

Anyway, there's more. The long-oppressed people of Uzbekistan, one of the Bush regime's key allies, are starting to openly rebel against dictator Islam Karimov, whose 15 years of arresting people for practicing Islam are surely coming to an end.

Prisoners in Uzbekistan are beaten and boiled to death and their family members are raped in front of them.

Meanwhile, Karimov's strictly controlled press celebrates his reign, and he proudly shows himself off with celebrities like Don Rumsfeld.

Defense Dept.

Take a picture; it'll last longer than Karimov: Rumsfeld chats with the Uzbek dictator in November 2001, happier times for both of them.

U.S. officials have had many chances to speak out against Karimov's outrageous human-rights violations—as the U.K.'s Craig Murray courageously did when he was ambassador to Tashkent—but we pointedly haven't. Our ambassador, Jon Purnell, has barely opened his mouth.

Forget the hype from the Bush regime. When it comes to democracy, this administration is usually on the wrong side.

That's certainly true in Asia. In a February 24, 2004, press conference in Tashkent starring Rumsfeld, Karimov, and Purnell, a Reuters reporter had this exchange with Rumsfeld:

    Reuters: You spoke of this strategic framework, of the relationship between two countries. Uzbekistan said yesterday they’re going to free a 62-year-old woman from jail, who human rights activists say was jailed on trumped-up charges because she revealed that her son had been tortured to death in prison. Do you welcome this, sir, and to what extent will improvements in human rights in this country deal with continued U.S. military aid to Uzbekistan?

    Rumsfeld: Well, obviously our relationship with this country and other countries is multi-faceted. I mentioned the military-to-military relationship because I’m involved with the Department of Defense, but it’s also a political and economic relationship. Needless to say the United States and the other NATO countries are always interested in seeing reform not just in the military, but also in the political and economic areas. I’m not intimately knowledgeable about the statement you just made, but my understanding is that from the Ambassador that—that is in fact the case and that the Embassy has expressed their awareness of that and I forget what the phrase was but—the Ambassador pointed out that they were pleased that the decision was made.

No wonder we're seen by common folk the world over as a defender of human rights and democracy. The Reuters reporter pressed the issue:

    Reuters: Sir, did you discuss human rights with the President and the other officials?

    Rumsfeld: In all of our meetings, the broad range of topics were discussed, the political and human-rights issues, as well as, economic issues and military-to-military issues. Yes—

A little more than a year later, Karimov had better get on his own bicycle and pedal his way out of the country as fast as he can. Peter Finn of the Washington Post explains why:

    Resentment over a government campaign against alleged Islamic extremists exploded into violence in the Central Asian republic of Uzbekistan Friday when protesters stormed a local prison in the eastern city of Andijan, freeing thousands of inmates and triggering protests that left at least nine people dead, according to government officials and telephone interviews with local residents.

We've got a big military base in Uzbekistan—built by Halliburton, of course. If we have to start packing it up, why not hire Halliburton to do it for us?

The fact is that the enmity we've sowed in the Muslim world is just about ready for harvest.

Meanwhile, Bush pedals away, and if anyone needed more proof that he's merely a prop for Dick Cheney et al., the Cessna scare the other day in D.C. was it.

A testy press briefing by White House flack Scott McClellan yesterday reads like a "Who's on First Alert?" routine. (Thanks to colleague Syd Schanberg for the tip.) Editor & Publisher scooped it up, publishing choice excerpts and saying:

    On the day after more than 30,000 people—including the vice president, the first lady, and a former first lady—were evacuated from their offices or homes in Washington, D.C., but the president, who was biking in Maryland, was not notified until the threat passed, reporters grilled Press Secretary Scott McClellan at his daily briefing.

    For those who might have missed it on TV—that is, nearly everyone— … McClellan continually refers to "protocols" and reporters essentially ask, "Wouldn't most men like to know when their home is evacuated and their wife is hustled to a secure bunker?" They also wonder about the small matter of the president being commander in chief and the capital, theoretically, coming under attack.

What's even more bizarre is that Cheney was evacuated and taken away from the place while Laura Bush and Nancy Reagan, who was visiting the White House at the time, weren't. Meanwhile, George W. Bush, who was riding his bike outside the city, wasn't even notified about the Cessna incident until after it was over. Sure, he was riding his little bike and he had his little helmet on, but c'mon.

Now we're told there's an investigation of this "47-minute delay" in notifying the president. Can't wait for the results of that probe.

Meanwhile, here's part of the exchange between reporters and McClellan, from the White House site:

    Q: I'm just finishing up the timeline. Mrs. Bush and Mrs. Reagan were put in a secure location in the White House—so the bunker, I assume?

    McClellan: I will just leave it at that they were taken to a secure location.

    Q: In the White House?

    Q: On the grounds?

    McClellan: They were here at the White House and they were taken to a secure location.

    Q: You can't say on the grounds or off the grounds? All right. But you're saying that—but the Vice President was actually evacuated—

    McClellan: That's right.

    Q: —off the grounds?

    McClellan: That's correct.

    Q: That's correct. Why the distinction, given the history of this?

    McClellan: Well, the Secret Service has security precaution protocols that are in place. And as I mentioned at the beginning, those precautions were followed. That's what they have in place. And it was consistent with the protocols that were in place.

In other words, if Bush is pedaling his bike, don't bother the little feller. Let him play. We'll put him before the cameras when we need him. But for God's sake, protect Cheney. He's the one who made all the decisions, such as they were, on 9/11. As long as there's oil underneath other countries, protect Cheney.

In the unlikely event that Bush isn't biking but is reading—say, The Pet Goat—don't disturb him then either. The grownups have everything under control. Except for the billions of Muslims angry at us.

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