Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Bush in Prague: It’s beginning an important trip to Europe

Secretary of War Robert Gates said that if the “surge” is not progressing as fast as was promised, it’s because “al Qaeda and others are trying to make as much difficulty as possible for us and for the Iraqi government.” Isn’t it funny how wars go so much slower when there’s a, you know, enemy?

Irving “Scooter” Libby has been sentenced to 30 months in prison:

Bush is in the Czech Republic, or as he put it, “It’s beginning an important trip to Europe.” Is it? “Obviously, I’m off to the G8 later on this evening. I think it’s important for the people of the Czech Republic to know, however, that my first stop is here.” It’s also important that they know he had eggs for breakfast. And why does he bestow this honor on the Czech people? “People in this country took risk necessary so that the people could actually live in a free society.” “I find it inspiring to be in a country where the leadership and the people are willing to say, we listen carefully for the voices of those who have been imprisoned.” Scooter Libby?

On the stationing of Star Wars systems in the CR, which is deeply unpopular with the general public there, and even more with Vladimir Putin, he said, “Let me first talk about a general principle when it comes to relations with Russia. The Cold War is over. It ended.” See, and you didn’t think there was a general principle when it comes to relations with Russia.

“And so my attitude on missile defense is, is that this is a purely -- it’s not my attitude, it’s the truth -- it’s a purely defensive measure, aimed not at Russia, but at true threats.” You know, if there’s one thing Russia hates more than being thought of as a true threat, it’s not being thought of as a true threat.

“And my message will be, Vladimir -- I call him Vladimir -- that you shouldn’t fear a missile defense system.” Well, if being called by his first name doesn’t win him over, I don’t know what will.

Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek noted that in addition to missile defense and the visa issue that pisses off every country we’re supposed to be friendly with, “We talked about Southern Ossetia, Abkhazia, and Transdnestria conflicts.” I’m sure George had many deep insights to share on those subjects.

Bush also gave a little speech. On freedom. Which is in a war. Like that Cold War thing. The one that’s over, it ended. “Like the Cold War, it’s an ideological struggle between two fundamentally different visions of humanity. On one side are the extremists, who promise paradise, but deliver a life of public beatings and repression of women and suicide bombings.”

“The most powerful weapon in the struggle against extremism is not bullets or bombs -- it is the universal appeal of freedom.” That’s why Bush claims to like freedom so much: he thinks it’s a weapon. Also, if its appeal is universal, who are we using this weapon against?

Speaking of universal appeal, Bush says that “The communists had an imperial ideology that claimed to know the directions of history.” Bush would never be that arrogant: “Freedom is the design of our Maker, and the longing of every soul.”

So freedom is a weapon designed by God. What else is it? “Freedom is the best way to unleash the creativity and economic potential of a nation. Freedom is the only ordering of a society that leads to justice. And human freedom is the only way to achieve human rights.” Just in case you thought that human slavery was a way to achieve human rights.

He says “some” (Natan Sharansky, actually, who was in the room) have said that his goal of “ending tyranny in our world” makes him a “dissident president,” and “If standing for liberty in the world makes me a dissident, I wear that title with pride.” No it doesn’t make you a dissident. Vaclav Havel, also in the room, he was a dissident. Ask him what a real dissident experienced. In fact, you’re actually at a conference that’s lousy with real dissidents.

He has issued an order to all our ambassadors in “unfree” countries to meet with dissidents. I can’t wait to see if this policy of promoting freedom in unfree countries actually extends to issuing a list of countries we consider unfree.

He does name several, including Venezuela, where “elected leaders have resorted to shallow populism to dismantle democratic institutions and tighten their grip on power.” As I’ve mentioned before, the Bushies seem to think “populism” is a word that will make us gasp in horror. I’m not sure if shallow populism is better or worse than regular populism.

He says he will even ask “valued partners” like Egypt and Saudi Arabia and Pakistan to move toward freedom, but then praises them for their “steps to expand liberty and transparency.” He doesn’t say what these steps might be.

He says that Russian reforms have been “derailed.” He doesn’t say by whom.

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