Problems in the Red States

Democratic stirrings threaten Central Asian despots; no such luck regarding their U.S. brethren

Government (for now) of Uzbekistan

Petty heartbreakers: Above, from right, Kazakhstan's Nazarbayev (going), Uzbekistan's Karimov (going), and Kyrgyzstan's Akayev (gone). Below, from right, Rumsfeld (not going anywhere), Bush (not going anywhere), and Cheney (not going anywhere).

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Considering the turbulence rumbling across Central Asia, it's no surprise that Kazakhstan's parliament is cracking down on its own citizens.

Almost four times the size of Texas, Kazakhstan is a stunningly beautiful country, sparsely populated but rich in natural resources sacked and plundered for years by U.S. companies like Halliburton and Exxon. (See my July 21, 2004, Kazakhgate item.)

Speaking of sacking, Kyrgyzstan's former dictator Askar Akayev fled for his life last spring, and Uzbekistan's ruler, Islam Karimov, may not be far behind him if he keeps gunning down his citizens, as he recently did in the Andijan Massacre.

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So, with a January 2006 presidential election looming and Kazakh ruler Nursultan Nazarbayev feeling the heat, what does Kazakhstan's government do? It tightens the noose around its own citizenry. It's something that Nazarbayev's old pal Dick Cheney, a former member of the dictator's Oil Advisory Board, would approve of.

The independent Russian newspaper Kommersant reported June 10 that the Kazakh parliament is pushing through a series of laws that further throttle political parties, the media, and NGOs. Of one of the bills, Kommersant's Vladimir Solovyev wrote:

    One of the authors of that bill, Communist deputy in the lower house Yarosyl Abylkasymov told Kommersant [June 9] that the state must defend itself against the export of democracy through "orange revolutions."

    "We know those technologies. The protest electorate and democratic opposition make revolutions by pushing human rights with Western money," Abylkasymov said. "A leader who cannot influence the political life of his country and withstand external interference is a bad one."

Fuckin' right, Yarosyl. Might as well pass these laws now and hang on to power as long as you can. Fact is, life is tough in these former Red states. All the Central Asian "republics" are run by Soviet-era despots, and they're all doomed, especially with China, Russia, and the U.S. licking their chops over the gas, oil, and gold that will make this the most lucrative round of the Great Game.

Big surprise, this lackey Kazakh parliament's move. Last September, Nazarbayev was roundly criticized for staging a crooked election that "voted in" a toothless parliament. (That sounds familiar.)

Journalists were jailed, foreign observers were barred from watching the proceedings—the usual.

Speaking of repression, our own Red state leaders' Patriot Act is about to be strengthened. And a gaggle of new conservative judges is about to roost in our courthouses. That should take care of any democratic rumblings over here.

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