- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 19, 2000

Truth is, Kazakhstan president's record is hellish

Kazakhstan Ambassador Bolat Nurgaliyev's letter ("Kazakhstan's deeds reflect the new republic's progress," Oct. 14) complaining about Amos Perlmutter's Oct. 4 Op-Ed column which criticized President Nursultan Nazarbayev's abysmal performance on human rights, economic reform, democracy building and free press ("More words than deeds on Kazakhstan?") reminds me of a story about Harry Truman.

When someone in a crowd shouted at him, "Give 'em hell, Harry," he replied, "I don't give 'em hell; I just tell the truth and they think it's hell."

Mr. Nurgaliyev's letter, although inaccurate and misleading, was entirely predictable. It is the same old line.

Every single objective assessment by recognized human rights organizations has been highly critical of the Nazarbayev record on democratic and economic reform, including his terrible record on human rights and freedom of the press.

Fortunately, the U.S. Congress has not been misled and has had the courage to address these problems. H.R. 397, sponsored by New Jersey Republican Christopher Smith and strongly supported by Nebraska Republican Doug Bereuter and Connecticut Democrat Sam Gejdenson, was recently approved by the House International Relations Committee and is putting pressure on the Clinton administration to address these violations.

I hope the upcoming meeting of the U.S.-Kazakhstan Bilateral Commission (the new name for the infamous Gore-Nazarbayev Joint Commission) will finally get it right.

A few months ago, the Committee to Protect Journalists put Mr. Nazarbayev on its annual list of the "Ten Worst Enemies of the Press," along with Yugoslavia's Slobodan Milosevic, Iran's Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Peru's Alberto K. Fujimori and Cuba's Fidel Castro. It is interesting to note that two of the dictators on that list have been driven from office. There is hope that more will follow.

If the authoritarian Kazakh regime cannot take the heat, as Truman would say, it's time to get out of the kitchen. No amount of phony diplomas, highly paid apologists or blatant lies can change the Nazarbayev record.

RINAT AKHMETSHIN

Kazakhstan 21st Century Foundation

Washington

Posterity will reject Clinton

"I had the supreme thrill, across the centuries, of feeling in sympathy with the mind of another human being, far from me in time, language, race. For an instant the gulfs were swept away; I knew what that man felt."

These were the words of Anne Morrow Lindbergh, wife of Charles, written in 1940, when she came across a poem about truth written by the ancient Roman philosopher Boethius. Her words stand as a testament to the importance of the written word and how we as humans are bound by a common thread.

Our commonality reaches across generations both past and future. This is why the actions of our political leaders and modern thinkers are so important: They will affect our posterity. I think this is the reason why President Clinton seeks a legacy.

I invoke the words of another great Roman, Cicero, that seem appropriate to Mr. Clinton and his search for legacy:

"For to suppose that any permanent reputation can be won by pretense, or empty display, or hypocritical talk, or by putting on an insincere facial expression, would be a serious misapprehension. A genuine, glorious reputation strikes deep roots and has wide ramifications."

These words from the past hold true today, as I am sure our posterity will prove that Mr. Clinton's legacy will not be "permanent."

BERNARD F. KENNETZ

Paducah, Ky.

When it comes to free trade, Cuba is no China

Stefan Halper is woefully off the mark when he suggests that Fidel Castro's Cuba has undertaken an economic reform process in any way comparable to that occurring in China ("Winds of change across Cuba," Commentary, Oct. 16). He wants that comparison to argue that the United States should unilaterally lift sanctions on the Castro regime to "engage" Cuba as we do China.

True, both countries are ruled by ideologically bankrupt despots who brutally repress political dissent, but that's where the similarity ends. In contrast to the economic liberalization under way in China, Mr. Castro has displayed no free-market impulses. Cuba remains a command economy where the state still owns and controls the means of production. Private property remains illegal. Foreign investment is strictly limited. Cuban labor is parceled out by the state. Contract sanctity is nonexistent and foreign economic activity is at the mercy of an arbitrary state.

In short, there exists in Cuba no semblance of the type of free-market, independent economic activity that advocates used to promote permanent normal trade relations with China.

Last, nowhere in Mr. Halper's piece is mentioned the name of Mr. Castro. That's like trying to build a case for trade with the Soviet Union in the 1930s and not mentioning Josef Stalin. Caveat emptor, indeed.

JOSE R. CARDENAS

Washington director

Cuban American National Foundation

Washington

Armenian genocide fact, not fiction

Bruce Fein's Oct. 13 Commentary column, "Genocide gyrations," fundamentally distorts the historical record on the genocide of the Armenian people during World War I. He also seriously misrepresents the findings in the pending House of Representatives resolution affirming the reality of that crime.

Mr. Fein mistakenly states that a key United Nations committee declined to affirm the Armenian genocide. In reality, the U.N. human rights subcommission resisted the Turkish government's threats. It rejected the revisionist claims concerning the Armenian genocide that are rehashed in Mr. Fein's column and accepted in 1985 the report from its Special Rapporteur, who concluded that the World War I Armenian deportations and massacres were, in fact, genocide.

Similarly, contrary to Mr. Fein's published claim, Adolf Hitler repeatedly referred to the Armenian genocide as an example and as a key source for his concept of racial extermination of the Jewish people. Noted American historian Gerhard L. Weinberg pointed out in "The Foreign Policy of Hitler's Germany: Starting World War II" that the relevant German archive documents establish that Hitler indeed made the well-known remark, "Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?" in his instructions on the eve of launching racial war in Poland.

Finally, Mr. Fein turns to comments by Rear Adm. Mark Bristol, who served as U.S. High Commissioner in Turkey during the United States' rapprochement with the regime of Kernal Ataturk during the 1920s. It is important to note that while Bristol was telling one story to Ataturk, declassified U.S. diplomatic archives reveal that he was reporting quite a different version of events back to Washington. At the same moment Bristol was denouncing Armenians, as Mr. Fein quotes him as doing, he was writing of Turks, "It is known that the Turks will rob, pillage, deport, and murder Christians whenever the opportunity is favorable … " Bristol's comments today smack of ethnic bigotry that any sensible person should reject, but they must be read in their historical context.

As I write, a host of recognized Turkish intellectuals and historians are raising serious questions about the failure of Turkey's entrenched political culture of denial regarding the Armenian genocide. Some even are openly decrying the revisionist "official history" promoted by the Turkish state and echoed in Mr. Fein's comments.

CHRISTOPHER SIMPSON

Washington

(Christopher Simpson is an associate professor at American University's School of Communication and author of "The Splendid Blond Beast: Money, Law and Genocide in the 20th Century")

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