The New Protege

Say goodbye to Uzbekistan, say hello to Kazakhstan.

The new US protege in Central Asia doesn’t have US military bases (yet) but it does have plenty of oil and other resources, as well as the largest economy in Central Asia (more than twice that of other Central Asian countries combined). It is also the nexus of Chinese economic inroads in the region, hence a place where US economic power in the former Soviet Union is likely to be challenged in the near future.

And Kazakhstan wants to be a tool of US power. Kazakh Foreign Affairs minister Kassymzhomart Tokaev told the Heritage Foundation in August,

…[W]e stand ready to legally and politically protect interests of the United States in Kazakhstan and the entire region…

…[W]e speak the same language on almost each and every issue in our bilateral agenda…

…[W]e stand for the continuation of operations by the antiterrorist coalition in Afghanistan…Kazakhstan [was] the only country in Central Asia and one of the very few Muslim countries to deploy a military contingent to Iraq…Kazakhstan believes that this is not the proper time for debate over the legitimacy of the military operation of the U.S. led coalition in Iraq…

So far as the United States presence in Central Asia is concerned, we view it as one of the important factors of regional stability, strengthening the independence and sovereignty of Kazakhstan as well as that of other countries in the region.[1]

That’s more like it. What more could Washington ask for?

After the Uzbekistan fiasco, nothing less than this kind of outright boot-licking will get a country exalted to America’s regional favorite. US officials bent over backwards for the Uzbek tyrant after he massacred demonstrators in Andijan in May.[2] Despite Washington’s damage control, the Uzbek government of Islam Karimov, paranoid and probably coached by Russian officials, was convinced that the United States was actually fomenting the demonstrations towards his eventual overthrow, as it had done in the Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan.[3] So he served notice on July 7 that the US airbase, heretofore the largest US base in Central Asia outside Afghanistan, would be closed. After the July 7 warning, US treatment of Uzbekistan took a much more hardline tack, supporting the UN call for an independent investigation of the Andijan massacres.[4]

Now Uzbekistan is distinguished by being the only Central Asian country not visited by Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice in her recent trip to the region. Daniel Fried, Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs told the press that the mainly military cooperation between the US and Uzbekistan was not enough to sustain the relationship. “It is clear that a one-dimensional relationship was simply unsustainable in Uzbekistan… We simply could not ignore all the problems on the democracy side.”[5] This rewrites the history of ties between the two nations where for about a decade the one-dimensional relationship was enough, and the “problems on the democracy side” were what cemented the relationship. Karimov repressed dissidents, who he called Islamist terrorists, and Washington equipped his soldiers and police to do it. Uzbekistan was a favorite destination for the CIA to render terrorist suspects for “interrogation,” since Uzbek jailers weren’t bound by the same regulations and oversight.[6]

The State Department’s Fried expressed appropriate indignation for the horrible behavior of the Uzbek government in Andijan:

We were very troubled by Andijan, and not simply the events themselves, but the reaction. But not simply Andijan and the reaction but a whole series of steps which frankly are troubling. Pressure on NGO’s, curtailment of exchange programs, a general climate of fear in the country which I did not find in any other country I went to. These are very troubling.[7]

Troubling. What about Kazakhstan, the new protege?

In a letter to Kazakh president Nursultan Nazarbaev dated October 12, Human Rights Watch expressed concern about the president’s “commitment to democracy” as the nation prepares for elections in December.

Human Rights Watch has received numerous reports of your government’s continuing harassment of the political opposition and violations of the right to freedom of assembly, legal restrictions and other repressive measures against nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), and a crackdown on independent media.[8]

None of this appears to be “troubling” to the State Department. To the contrary, Condoleeza Rice told an audience at Eurasia National University in Astana that Kazakhstan “has an unprecedented opportunity to lead Central Asia toward a future of democracy and to elevate U.S.-Kazakhstani relations to a new level.”[9] Showing the same kind of support for Nazarbayev that Washington once gave to Uzbekistan’s Karimov, Rice expressed the faith that he

is someone who can be persuaded to use his leadership, his considerable stature, his considerable popularity among his people, to move Kazakhstan to the next level, to have free and fair elections, elections that will meet international standards, and then will then lead this region, given what’s happened in Kyrgyzstan, lead this region to stronger elections.[10]

A bit of translation from State Departmentese: “democracy” here means “a US-blessed process that includes elections,” and “free and fair elections” means “elections in which the US’ favorite candidate wins.” Come December we’ll see if Kazakhstan’s elections satisfy the Human Rights Watch definitions or those of the State Department.

Suggesting Genocide

Former education secretary William Bennett said on his television show that the crime rate would be reduced if black babies were aborted:

If you wanted to reduce crime, you could, if that were your sole purpose; you could abort every black baby in this country, and your crime rate would go down. [This would be] an impossible, ridiculous and morally reprehensible thing to do, but your crime rate would go down.[1]

Besides the fact that this is a disgustingly racist (actually, genocidal) notion, it’s incorrect. Or, to be more precise, it’s only correct insofar as killing off any population will reduce the number of crimes that can potentially be committed by members of the population. Bennett could just have easily have claimed that aborting white babies would reduce the crime rate. In fact, you would get more criminals that way, since most crimes are committed by whites. (About 65% of arrestees for crimes are white, whereas 32% are black.)[2] But that isn’t what he claimed, nor is it ever something he would claim, even if he qualified it as “an impossible, ridiculous, and morally reprehensible thing to do.” Because to people like Bennett, I am sure that even mentioning abortion of white fetuses as a solution to crime is reprehensible, as it should be. Apparently this is not so for black fetuses.

In Bennett’s defense, Andrew McCarthy wrote in the National Review Online:

In the course of a free-wheeling conversation so common on talk-format programs, Bill Bennett made a minor point that was statistically and logically unassailable, but that touched a third rail — namely, the nexus between race and crime — within the highly charged context of abortion policy. He emphatically qualified his remarks from the standpoint of morality. Then he ended with the entirely valid conclusion that sweeping generalizations are unhelpful in making major policy decisions.

That he was right in this seems to matter little. Bennett is being fried by the PC police and the ethnic-grievance industry, which have disingenuously ripped his minor point out of its context in a shameful effort to paint him as a racist. He’s about as bigoted as Santa Claus.[3]

This defense rests primarily on the supposed “correctness” of Bennett’s statement, which as I’ve pointed out is not so “statistically and logically unassailable” as McCarthy would have it. McCarthy adds, “The lesson to be drawn is not that we can hypothetically conceive of the severe solutions but that we resolutely reject them because of our moral core. This is a bedrock feature of American law and life.”

As far as I can tell, the only “bedrock feature” of the American legal and social system that Bennett’s statement brings out is its systemic racism, still in place from the country’s founding. If McCarthy or Bennett wanted to conceive of a “severe solution” that they could “resolutely reject … because of our moral core,” it would be that you would save a lot more lives domestically and worldwide by genocide against white male Americans. But they didn’t, because today’s white supremacist system makes it less controversial to make the claim, however qualified, that killing black babies would reduce crime.

The truth is that white male US citizens are responsible for the deaths of people all over the world, by means of war and the withholding of food and medical supplies (sanctions), in far greater numbers than those for which black Americans are responsible. The US domestic murder rate is about 15,500.[4] In Iraq alone, white male GW Bush is responsible for at least 24,000 civilian deaths (by killing) in two years.[5] This is doesn’t count the deaths due to infrastructure destruction, poor sanitation, and the stress of war and occupation. All told, Lancet estimated in October 2004 an increase in mortality of about 100,000 in Iraq since the invasion of March 2003.[6] Then of course there are the over 500,000 deaths due to eleven years of sanctions prior to the invasion, held in place by white male Bill Clinton…

Perhaps if Bennett’s stupidity were aimed in a slightly different direction, he might suggest we kill every politician in Washington, to reduce the likelihood of so many deaths. Or, why not abort all white male fetuses, since no non-white and/or female babies have ever grown up to become US president?

Bennett said, “What I do on our show is talk about things that people are thinking.” This only makes sense if by “people” he means “racist white people,” an equivalence that “people” like Bennett have been implicitly making for centuries.