Friday, June 10, 2005

Guardian of us all

Craig Murray, whose article I linked to here, is a bit of a whinger, but he's always worth listening to. More Guardian-style whingeing can be found here, from George Monbiot. His father, Raymond, has also been  in the news recently - I won't hold his parentage against him. 

Similar from Nick Paton Walsh - 'The lie about liberty'. At least this reminds us of some of the things going on in Central Asia and the Caucasus:
The events in Georgia, Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan had sent shivers through the body politic of both countries, causing the Kazakh president, Nursultan Nazarbayev, to ban protests during election time, to shut opposition papers and to let his police beat youth protesters wearing orange, the colour of Ukraine's revolution. In a coup de grace for both irony and free speech in the country, yesterday an opposition figure went on trial for slander after he accused Mr Nazarbayev's daughter, Dariga, of illegally creating a media monopoly, allegations she denies.

On the other side of the Caspian, Azerbaijan's president, Ilham Aliev - his father's dynastic successor - regularly sends in riot troops to batter protesters. [..] Mr Aliev felt comfortable enough in his relationship with Washington to ban a demonstration planned for the previous Saturday - protesting for free parliamentary elections this November - so as not to spoil the atmosphere for Wednesday's ceremony [the opening of the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) pipeline]. When the protest went ahead all the same, he sent in the riot police, who hit some demonstrators with truncheons and made 100 arrests.

The Norwegian ambassador to Baku, Steinar Gil, whose vociferous criticism of human-rights abuses, despite his country's strategic investment in the BTC, is fast turning him into an Azerbaijani Craig Murray, was a lone voice among diplomats when he condemned the Aliev regime's "crude violence". The US embassy said it "regretted" that the right to assemble freely had been violated.

After Andijan, in the former Soviet Union at least, a state that shoots dead hundreds of peaceful protesters can no longer expect to become an international pariah. Its lesson will be apparent by the end of the year. When the protesters gather in November in Baku and in December in Almaty, Mr Aliev and Mr Nazarbayev could only better their Uzbek counterpart's performance by digging the mass graves before their troops take aim.
Finally, from Martin Kettle (I thought he'd retired), some sense on Europe:
The leftwing part of the no coalition should not be allowed to ignore or play down the presence of the rightwing part of their alliance. For what is striking is not the difference between the left and the right, but the identity. For right and left alike, the no vote was a vote in favour of France for the French. In this campaign, protectionism and anti-immigrant feeling were consenting bedfellows.

[..] there is a very real prospect [..] that Chirac will again draw all the wrong lessons. He could declare Sunday's no vote to be a vote against globalisation and reform that requires a "core" group of EU nations (led, inevitably, by France) to pull up the drawbridge to protect the French social and political model - a kind of ex post facto vote against enlargement. Polish plumbers, British politicians and Turkish and other Muslims will not be wanted on this voyage. But there is a danger that some weak political leaders in some other founding nations of the EU could be induced to go along with it.


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