Outposts of tyranny" list is selective
by Amitabh Pal

January 25, 2005

Condoleezza Rice's "outposts of tyranny" may join "axis of evil" as one of the most dubiously memorable phrases to come out of the Bush Administration.

In her confirmation hearings last week, Rice listed six "outposts of tyranny" around the globe--Iran, North Korea, Cuba, Burma, Belarus, and Zimbabwe.

The list is as interesting for the countries it leaves out as for the countries it includes.

Why Iran and not Saudi Arabia, for instance? While Iran's governing system has deep flaws--in the constraints on democracy and in the Islamic rigidity that the regime imposes--it is certainly more enlightened than that of Saudi Arabia. At least there is a struggle going on for power in Iran between moderate elected officials and hard-line clerics. There is no struggle for power in Saudi Arabia between democrats and diehards. It is headed by an absolute monarchy in cahoots with the most fundamentalist clergy in the world. End of story. Perhaps it is too much to expect oil-tanker-named-after-her Rice to publicly humiliate the biggest oil producer in the world.

But Saudi Arabia is by no means alone among its neighbors in its transgressions. Don't get me going on the other monarchical dictatorships in the region, from Qatar to Kuwait to Bahrain to Oman to the United Arab Emirates--all buddies of the United States, and none of them privileged enough to be part of Rice's select club.

Moving on to Africa, why Zimbabwe and why not, say, Equatorial Guinea? The regime of Colonel Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo in this tiny West African country has a horrendous human rights record, too. "State Department reports have for years cited the regime for human-rights violations, including torture, beatings, and abuse of prisoners and suspects, sometimes resulting in death," a September 9, 2004, article in The Washington Post notes. Why would Rice ignore reports from her own Administration, even from the department she is about to head? Again, that one word answer: oil. Equatorial Guinea is sitting on a lot of it, and the United States wants some of that precious fluid. Colonel Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo would not take too kindly to his country being named an outpost of anything.

From Latin America, we have that old warhorse Fidel, who would be included on any such list since 1960. While Castro should be condemned for suppressing political freedoms and jailing dissidents, it is quite clear that politics, Floridian and otherwise, plays a big role in Cuba's membership. Besides, is Cuba worse than Haiti next door, where a U.S-imposed regime that overthrew a democracy last year has, according to Amnesty International, been guilty of several illegal arrests and extrajudicial executions?

And why only Belarus from a region that has more than its share of horrendous dictatorships? The grapevine is that the inclusion is meant to be a poke at Putin, since Belarus's Aleksandr Lukashenko is very chummy with Vladimir. Otherwise, there are a number of regimes from that corner of the planet for Rice to choose from. I could provide her a list from a piece I did for the February issue of The Progressive: Kazakhstan, with its jailed opposition figures; Azerbaijan, with its tortured political activists; Uzbekistan, with its more than 6,000 political detainees and the ghoulish practice of boiling prisoners to death; and Turkmenistan, with its cult of personality that is unrivaled outside of North Korea. (And I left out a few others, such as Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.)

Which brings us to North Korea and Burma. This has to be said--they are among the worst human rights violators on Earth. But what if they were allies of the United States? Would they still be on the list? I seriously doubt it.

For this Administration, it is all about playing politics. Whether it is President Bush's speech on spreading liberty and freedom or Rice's newly concocted list, human rights is heavily subordinate to U.S. strategic and economic interests. You are included on lists such as Rice's only if you aren't of value to the Bush Administration. Anyone who thinks otherwise needs to take a reality check.

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Forty years ago the UN General Assembly passed a resolution against "hostile environmental modification techniques...

The beauty and the tragedy of everyday life in a war zone.

By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.

Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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