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A "Sustainability for Dictators" Initiative?

Clinton Praises the "Suharto of the Steppe"

by JEFF BALLINGER

A NY Times report of the "monster deal" for a uranium-mining concession in Kazakhstan pulled few punches. It was explicitly linked to a similarly gargantuan donation to the "William J. Clinton Foundation"–a $31 million down-payment and pledge of $100 million more. The mining hot-shot donor, Frank Giustra, says that he was merely flying Bill over to Central Asia to assess progress on the Clinton Global Initiative’s eleemosynary hoohah. Corporate records show, according to the article, that he signed a preliminary agreement two days after he and Bill shared a midnight dinner with strongman, Nursulatan Nazarbayev.

"Our kind of guy"–those were the words used by one Clinton official back in 1995 after the noxious Suharto made a "private visit" to the Oval Office. The Times’ David Sanger pressed other administration officials on why this dictator was accorded such deference (the meeting was a standing-room-only affair). He was told that there was a "different litmus test" for the butchers, thieves and oppressors seeking favors at the Treasury ATM (or the Pentagon). I’m guessing that it was something like: Show me da money!

Even worse than the tawdry deal-making was Clinton’s praise for the Kazakh’s president-for-life and his democratic credentials. After scoring a Suharto-like 91% victory in 2005, Bill buttered up Nazarbayev thusly: "Recognizing that your work has received an excellent grade is one of the most important rewards in life."

Times’ writers Jo Becker and Don Van Natta, Jr. continue: "Last September, just weeks after Kazakhstan held an election that once again failed to meet international standards, Mr. Clinton honored Mr. Nazarbayev by inviting him to his annual philanthropic conference." On top of all that, there has been support for Nazarbayev’s laughable foray into international statesmanship–he wants a key role in the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), which is a very important player in election-monitoring in the former Soviet states and Eastern Europe. It also has a highly-respected mechanism for human rights advocacy.

Several days ago when I was reading Suharto’s obit in the Wall Street Journal (by my old friend, Rick Borsuk), my thoughts immediately swung to Nazarbayev. Rick opined that the Javanese general was the last of his line – or words to that effect. No longer would there be decades-long repression overseen by one dominant figure. Nazarbayev has already lasted about twenty years in power and could easily eclipse Suharto’s mark of 32, but only with the support of foreign investment. (For an obit excoriating Gen. Suharto, see the Assoc. Press )

Infected with the rhetoric of Bill Clinton, Giustra promises to "empower consumers and workers" – tell it to Kazakhstan’s beleaguered miners! They are not likely to have full political and trade union rights until, maybe, 2020–if Nazarbayev departs the scene after a run like Suharto’s. Giustra has also named his do-gooder efforts by co-branding with Bill: The Clinton Giustra Sustainable Growth Initiative.

JEFF BALLINGER’s book, "Protests and the Corporate Response; Tiananmen to Seattle" will be published by the University of Pisa this Winter. He is a co-founder of No Sweat Apparel. He can be reached at: jeffreyd@mindspring.com