E-mail to Dick Cheney
Right after Vice President Dick Cheney’s trip to Europe and Central Asia, I wrote him an e-mail:
It’s fine with me that you give President Putin a lecture and tell him what democracy is about, and that he should not use the oil weapon against his neighbours. I think it’s appropriate that you tell him that the Russian government has “unfairly and improperly restricts the rights of her people.” and that Moscow should not use oil and gas as a tool of “intimidation and blackmail”. I also find it OK when you tell new East European and Baltic democracies in Vilnius that they are on the right track and they have the full support of the U.S.
But I have a problem when you, after that meting, move on to Kazakhstan to visit President Nursultan Nazarbaev – a mix between Ghengis Khan and a Soviet Politbureau Member without any tolerance of opposition or respect of human right, but with great patience with corruption and abuse of power. He is a leader of the same mold as Azerbaidzhan’s President Ilham Aliyev who recently was received by your boss in the White House.
It’s problem for me because it creates a lot of confusion and uncertainty about the American message. Nazarbayev and Aliyev are by no means on the right track to democracy and are even more undemocratic and despotic than President Putin and his crowd in the Kremlin. It’s obvious that this weakens the message to Moscow and causes confusion among the East European leaders you met with in Vilnius.
Nazarbayev and Aliyev both control significant oil wealth, and you have to understand that this could lead some people to think that the U.S. applies different criteria and values for who’s in and who’s out, and who should be lectured on what’s wrong and what’s right. That’s what we call double standards. When you and your boss cultivate relationships with people like Nazabayev and Aliyev one could get the impression that you distinguish between those who have and those who don’t have oil. The new breed of haves and haves not.
Some people could draw the conclusion that if you have oil it does not matter that much that you violate the rules of democracy and suppress basic human rights. The problem becomes even more conspicuous because everybody knows how close you and your boss are to the American oil industry. The relationship with Saudi Arabia – one of the most important providers of oil to the U.S. – has never suffered under the lack of democracy in the Arab kingdom.
You have to understand that there is not a very big jump from these observations to raising the question about the real motives behind the U.S. invasion of Iraq. Was it primarily a question of freedom and democracy or was it Iraq’s oil wealth that led the U.S. into the war? It’s obvious to anyone that your and President Bush’s credibility has suffered considerable damage. After Abu Graihb and Guantanamo, your lecturing about democracy and human right begins to sound hollow. After more than three years of warfare in Iraq no one can claim that the U.S. has been defeated, but the lack of results, not to speak of victories, is a defeat in its own right. That has not only undermined your status as a hyper power, but also weakened your ability to speak out about democracy and freedom on behalf of the free world – at least with the same authority as in the past.
You wound up your trip in Croatia, and in a speech to regional leaders in Dubrovnik, you again spoke about freedom and democracy. That’s a problem for me, too, because you welcomed the new countries to the EU. Listen, Dick, on whose behalf did you do that? Who gave you that mandate? Are you out of your mind, as you Americans say. Don’t you think that we have problems enough already in the EU with the timeout for the constitution debate, with our European identity and our direction.
We don’t need any good advice. We have more than enough of our own good ideas. What we need is determination and action, but right now we are confused and enervated by all the changes we have gone through with integration, expansion and one treaty after the other. We have gone into rethinking mode, and no one really knows when we will come out. Untimely interference can only make things even worse.
And don’t you actually think that you and President Bush have problems enough on your own? The Iraq war more and more looks like a dead end. The oil price in the U.S. is still half of what it is in Europe, but your voters are so angry that they are ready to start a new revolution. The trade and budget deficits look like a Hollywood horror movie. The President’s support is at a historic low, and your own ratings are lower than Michael Jackson’s. How do you feel it’s going for you, as we say in Denmark? I understand you need a breather, but I would suggest that next time you feel like getting out of there you should go back to Texas for some old fashioned hunting with your buddies.
It did not take long before I got an answer from Dick Cheney:
The hunting season in Texas has not started yet, and after that deplorable episode at my latest hunting trip, I have to go abroad to test my markmanship before I try to renew my license. Quite frankly, I think things are going just fine. It was a great trip – one of my best in a long time,