A Sign of Things to Come?

I’m going to resist the temptation, for now, of ranting against Bush’s “fiscally responsible” budget which would simultaneously be the largest budget ever and net the largest deficit ever.  Suffice to say it would further widen the gap between the rich and the poor while degrading the middle class by making the tax breaks for the richest permanent and attempting to balance the budget (eventually) by cutting $200 billion from programs like Medicare and Medicaid and freezing payments to hospitals.  You know, giving people who don’t need money more of it and strangling those who don’t have money under debt of any medical bills they may be unlucky enough to accrue.

You can’t blame Bush, though.  He did run under the mantra of “Passionate Conservative.”  What?  That was “Compassionate Conservative?”  Wow.  What a liar!

But there is something far more sinister brewing, especially considering the fact that we’ll be done with Bush in a year and this budget hasn’t any chance of getting passed before a new President is elected and promotes a, shall we say, sane one.  There is a sinister plot involving names I can’t pronounce, such as Giustra, Nazarbayev, Dzhakishev, and Kazatomprom.  But of all the sinister-sounding names, the most terrible might just be “Bill.”

Turns out this Nazarbayev is President of Kazakhstan, and a pretty decent guy.  He has brought stability to the country, opened up a free-market, started economic relations with Western countries, and enhanced religious tolerance.  Also, he’s the head of the Communist party, squashes political dissidents, forced through an amendment to their constitution allowing him to be re-elected as many times as he wishes (the constitution puts a two-term limit, and the amendment only applies to Mr. Nazarbayev), and expressed solidarity with Iran.  He has been called one of the “ultimate oligarchs” of post-Soviet Union Asian states, has siphoned at least one billion dollars of oil revenues into private accounts, and accepted millions of dollars in bribes from American oil intermediates.

He’s such a great guy, in fact, that he asked to head the Organization for Security and Co-Operation in Europe, which serves to “secure stability in the region, based on democratic practices and improved governance.”  Problem is, he has a reputation for being very lax on democratic practices when they could potentially have adverse effects on his power, and has revoked freedom of speech from political opponents.  Many people did not think it was such a great idea for someone like that to head such an international organization.  People such as George Bush and Hillary Clinton.

So Bush and Clinton agree on something.  He must be very bad.

Maybe I should restate that sentence . . . Bush and Hillary Clinton agree on something.  Turns out there’s another Clinton who’s not so sure he shouldn’t head the organization; former President Bill Clinton.

According to a story by the New York Times, that bastion of anti-Democrat sentiment, Bill Clinton met with President Nazarbayev in September of 2005.  The meeting was hastily arranged, with the U.S. Embassy receiving last-minute notification, and the intended purpose was to discus ways for the country to receive cheap AIDS medication with the help of the Clinton Foundation.  But in a speech to the country during the trip, Clinton commended Nazarbayev for “opening up the social and political life of your country” and said he hoped he would be given the opportunity to head OSCOE.  About this time, Nazarbayev was re-elected by 91% of the vote, in an election OSCOE itself said was full of intimidation and ballot-box stuffing.  Bill Clinton personally wrote Nazarbayev a letter of congratulations.

But believe it or not, this meeting did not seem to be about Nazarbayev’s bid to run OSCOE.  Because attending the meeting with Mr. Clinton was a certain Frank Giustra, a mining mogul who had started Lion’s Gates Entertainment.  And why would a mining mogul be concerned about AIDS medication or OSCOE you ask?  (Humor me, here.)  Giustra was interested in obtaining the rights to uranium mines in Kazakhstan through the company he just established, UrAsia (clever, I must admit), for this purpose.  Two days after the visit, he won the rights to buy three uranium mining projects from Kazakhstan’s state-owned uranium mining company, Kazatomprom.  (Dzhakishev is the president of that company, and doesn’t really play a part in this story.  But it is a hard name to pronounce.)  Nazarbayev ended up heading OSCOE for one year.

Shortly after the company bought into these mining rights, the price of Uranium skyrocketed.  Mr. Giustra knew that was coming down the pipe, which was why he wanted the rights to begin with.  The company he started just to gain these rights was sold for $3.1 billion, that’s billion with a “b”, in April 2007.

So Nazarbayev got paid for the mines and received some diplomatic clout to increase his chances at heading OSCOE.  Giustra received billions of dollars.  Bill Clinton received the satisfaction in knowing that he helped out a friend and committed a good diplomatic deed, albeit one that everybody else just happened to think wasn’t so good at all.

Oh, and he also secretly received over $30 million dollars from Giustra in the form of a donation to the Clinton Foundation, with a promise of $100 million more.  And if you think all $130 million will be spent on cheap AIDS medication, I have some property in Arkansas to sell you.

And best of all, Hillary Clinton gets to take the stated position that she opposed Nazarbayev’s induction as head of OSCOE from the start.  Which is a pretty important position since she’s running for President.

Just remember that it’s highly unlikely that Bill Clinton will receive any kind of official position in the Clinton White House, just as Hillary Clinton did not officially hold any position.  And because he won’t have an official position, he won’t have any governmental oversight forced upon him.  Also remember that Bill Clinton has no intention of ending his efforts with the Clinton Foundation, which would presumably include trips such as the one he took with Mr. Giustra.

In other words, in a Clinton White House there is a very real possibility of two foreign policies.  An official foreign policy which makes Hillary look good and allows her to claim the high road; and an unofficial, shadow foreign policy that allows the Clintons to amass large sums of personal wealth conducting business that would not be allowed by a member of Clinton’s staff, but couldn’t legally be forbidden by, let’s say, a member of her family.

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