The human was Enron’s Ken Lay
Uzbek dictator Islam Karimov has put the lid on a rebellion, but it’s just a matter of time before he gets burned so badly that he has to run for his life from a country that ranks in the world’s top 10 in both natural wealth and torture.
While we’re waiting for the 25 million angry and poor Uzbeks to come to a boil again, here’s evidence that George W. Bush doesn’t neglect human rights—at least when the human is one of his low friends in high places.
It’s also proof that Bush has been nothing more than a puppet, a front man, for his entire public life.
In February 2002, The Smoking Gun posted 40 pages of Bush-Lay love letters, and Slate‘s Timothy Noah and the Washington Post‘s Hanna Rosin, among others, had some fun with them.
My current favorite is Lay’s April 3, 1997, letter to Bush (then the Texas governor), instructing Dubya to lobby Uzbekistan’s U.S. ambassador, Sadyq Safaev (left). Posted by The Smoking Gun, it’s addressed “Dear Governor Bush,” but Ken crossed that out and wrote “George.” It continued:
You will be meeting with Ambassador Sadyq Safaev, Uzbekistan’s Ambassador to the United States, on April 8th. Ambassador Safaev has been Foreign Minister and the senior advisor to President Karimov before assuming his nation’s most significant foreign responsibility.
There was no pretense. Lay didn’t write, “I understand you have a meeting with … ” or “Do you have time in your schedule to … .” No, Lay instructed Bush: “You will be meeting … ” Lay’s four-paragraph letter was a script; its second paragraph contained the talking points:
Enron has established an office in Tashkent and we are negotiating a $2 billion joint venture with Neftegas of Uzbekistan and Gazprom of Russia to develop Uzbekistan’s natural gas and transport it to markets in Europe, Kazakhstan, and Turkey. This project can bring significant economic opportunities to Texas, as well as Uzbekistan. The political benefits to the United States and to Uzbekistan are important to that entire region.
The third paragraph alerted Bush to the fact that the Uzbek envoy was not only a dignitary but also a politician:
Ambassador Safaev is one of the most effective of the Washington Corps of Ambassadors, a man who has the attention of his president, and a person who works daily to bring our countries together.
Lay, who always had the attention of his future president, wrapped up the letter with boilerplate stuff:
For all these reasons, I am delighted that the two of you are meeting. I know you and Ambassador Safaev will have a productive meeting which will result in a friendship between Texas and Uzbekistan.
Anything you say, Ken. By the way, Enron got its deal with the Karimov regime. Enron eventually pulled back, and Exxon stepped in.
Not that those were the first U.S. companies to make deals with Karimov. In 1993, Dresser Industries—on whose board Dubya’s grandpa, Prescott Bush, sat for 22 years, and which gave Dubya’s pappy his first job after World War II—agreed to design and build a $200 million gas plant for the dictator’s state-owned Neftegas—the deal was helped along by $50 million from the U.S. Export-Import Bank, one of our many government agencies protecting, nourishing, and subsidizing corporate humans’ rights.
A few years later, in ’98, the CEO of Halliburton decided to acquire Dresser Industries. That CEO was Dick Cheney.