Freedom Spells B-A-K-U

One of our favorite targets for 1998, and for all years, is the conservative”human rights” group Freedom House. Last year, we reported onhow Freedom House was lauding the supposed gains for human rights in theUkraine at just about the same time that a major Freedom House executive,Mark Palmer, was entering into lucrative business deals in that country.

Now, it seems a similar charade is taking place in Azerbaijan, whereU.S. oil companies are slavering over vast oil and gas reserves. A wholehost of former government officials are helping the oil companies get afoot in the door in Azerbaijan, including former national security adviserZbigniew Brzezinski. Zbig is on the payroll of Amoco, the largest US investorin Azerbaijan’s oil fields, which could produce 3 million barrels per dayby 2010.

One of Brzezinski’s tasks for Amoco is to improve the image of Azerbaijanand its president, Geidar Aliyev. This is no easy feat as Aliyev’s regimeis guilty of terrible human rights violations. Furthermore, Congress hasbeen much more sympathetic to Armenia, with which Azerbaijan fought a bloodywar a few years back.

But Brzezinski has fallen to his task with relish. The New York Timesinterviewed him last year when it was preparing a major story on Azerbaijanand he told the newspaper that Aliyev is “a real cool cat”. LastJuly, Brzezinski testified before Congress that Azerbaijan and other formerSoviet republics had lived under communist rule for seven decades and shouldnot be expected to establish democracies in a short period of time. (Brzezinskiexpressed far less understanding about the need to transition to democracyafter the Sandinistas overthrew the Somoza regime in Nicaragua.)

Zbig also sits on the board of Freedom House, which has become one ofAliyev’s most fervent supporters. Last year, Azerbaijan was one of onlytwo countries that Freedom House elevated from the category of “notfree” to “partly free”, an improvement which Azerbaijan andthe oil companies have been using on Capitol Hill to win support for Aliyev.Freedom House claims that it moved Azerbaijan up due to “the emergenceof a more vibrant civic life” in the country. Meanwhile, Freedom Housepresident Adrian “Sticky Fingers” Karatnycky money from the USAgency for International Development to travel to the capital of Baku ona fact-finding mission.

Here’s another coincidence: after resigning from his post as nationalsecurity adviser, Anthony Lake also took a position on the board of FreedomHouse. There’s only one mystery that remains. What oil company payroll isLake on? CP

Jeffrey St. Clair is editor of CounterPunch. His new book is Killing Trayvons: an Anthology of American Violence (with JoAnn Wypijewski and Kevin Alexander Gray). He can be reached at: sitka@comcast.net. Alexander Cockburn’s Guillotined! and A Colossal Wreck are available from CounterPunch.

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