Embassy Row: Showering praise

Zimbabwe’s state-owned newspaper was effusive praising U.S. Ambassador David Bruce Wharton after he expressed kind words for President Robert Mugabe, the longtime authoritarian ruler who tortures opponents and brutalizes civil rights activists.

“U.S. ambassador showers President Mugabe with praises,” read The Herald headline over a story last week about Mr. Wharton’s recent visit to Zimbabwe’s famous Victoria Falls.

Mr. Wharton told reporters who accompanied him that he believes Mr. Mugabe wants peace in the strife-torn southern African nation.

“President Mugabe has been calling for peace, and I believe him,” the career diplomat said. “You can see that he is sincere.”

He insisted that the political situation has changed since Mr. Mugabe was forced to accept an opposition victory in 2008 parliamentary elections.

Mr. Wharton said the Obama administration is responding to “positive” developments: “Our change of approach to Zimbabwe is simply a reflection of changes that the people of Zimbabwe are making on their own.”

However, the State Department’s latest human rights report on Zimbabwe denounces the Mugabe regime for the “torture, abuse and harassment” of political opponents.

FUNDAMENTALS

Turkey’s prime minister might call them terrorists, but anti-government demonstrators protesting throughout the country are practicing the “fundamentals” of democracy, U.S. Ambassador Francis J. Ricciardone Jr. says.

Mr. Ricciardone expressed his support for the right to protest in a tweet posted by the U.S. Embassy in Ankara, and his dismay over the “saddening images” of police attacking demonstrators.

“But if you are asking me about U.S. foreign policy, freedom of expressing, freedom of assembly and the right to have peaceful protests are fundamentals of democracy,” he said.

APPLES OF HIS EYE

The ambassador from Kyrgyzstan cut to the core when he visited Wenatchee, Wash., the self-proclaimed “Apple Capital of the World.”

Apples from the former Soviet republic in Central Asia are much better than the fruit of the U.S. Pacific Northwest, Ambassador Muktar Djumaliev said. It may undiplomatic, but it is true, he insisted.

“When the people of Kyrgyzstan taste a [U.S.] apple, they say it doesn’t taste like anything,” Mr. Djumaliev said.

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About the Author
James Morrison

James Morrison

James Morrison joined the The Washington Times in 1983 as a local reporter covering Alexandria, Va. A year later, he was assigned to open a Times bureau in Canada. From 1987 to 1989, Mr. Morrison was The Washington Times reporter in London, covering Britain, Western Europe and NATO issues. After returning to Washington, he served as an assistant foreign editor ...

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