21 January, 2005

Belarus vs. Turkmenistan : whose post is more outerly?

My PI (who is Russian) complains that Belarus is less deserving of being labelled an "outpost of tyranny"* than Turkmenistan. Mind you, both of them are guilty of being tyrannical - Lukashenka, dictator of Belarus, is trying to get himself appointed president-for-life,+ and concommitantly quashing political dissent. And he's admittedly something of a kook.

But Sapamurat Niyazov of Turkmenistan takes the cake. There is probably no "world leader" who can compete on the field of lunacy with this man. To start off small, he's renamed the month of January after himself and the month of April after his mother. He made it official (after turning 62) that old age doesn't begin until you're 85. He built a statue of himself in the capital which revolves on a turntable so that it always faces the sun. He's commissioned the world's largest handmade carpet. And then there's the not-so-nice stuff, like jailing his opposition, including civil society groups and environmental activists.

Of course, it might be that Condi Rice was trying to keep the list short, and Belarus was just one on a list of possible Outposts. The fact that the U.S. has been courting Niyazov for construction of the coveted trans-Caspian gas pipeline probably has little to do with it...

* Can I just point out what a truly ODD turn of phrase that is? "Outpost of tyranny"? Is Tyranny some sort of wilderness adventure group, like the Boy Scouts? "The next outpost is only three miles, boys - we'll have a great view from there! And we can stock up on GORP, as well."

+ This is a sure sign you're losing it. If you or a loved one are trying to become president-for-life, SEEK HELP NOW. It's only a phone-call away. It's not too late!

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