US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton took aim at China this week, saying Asia needs greater political freedom. Democracies, she says, are more stable, reliable and innovative. She is absolutely right. So why is Washington befriending more dictators than Beijing by an order of magnitude?
Let's see. It has intensified repression of human rights in recent years, jailing dissidents, bloggers, and anti-corruption campaigners. It harasses and suppresses religious groups. Its police force is brutal and deaths during custody are common. It censors internet content and tracks its users. No, I am not talking about China, but Vietnam, about which Clinton said in 2010 it was time to take their relationship to 'the next level'.
Security forces slaughtered hundreds of protesters after many weeks of peaceful demonstrations. No, I am not referring to June 4 but the 2005 massacre in Andijan by the regime of Uzbekistan's President Islam Karimov. This thuggish dictator employs some of the world's most prolific torturers, among whose methods is boiling prisoners alive. The US has close security ties with the country, including military training.
Meles Zenawi won 99.6 per cent of the vote in the 2010 election, a figure that would make most dictators green with envy. Little wonder. The prime minister of Ethiopia systematically suppresses all opposition. But bordered by failed states like Sudan (now divided into North and South) and Somalia, Meles runs a relatively tight ship that has received more than half a billion dollars in aid from the US.
Space prevents a full list of all the bad, ugly and infamous allied with the US. But consider these random samples: King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, Ali Abdullah Saleh of Yemen, King Abdullah of Jordan, Yoweri Museveni of Uganda and Nursultan Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan. And let's not forget Hosni Mubarak. Clinton and her boss, Barack Obama, ended their support for him only when his downfall became inevitable. For decades, Egypt has been the second largest recipient of US aid and weapon sales, after Israel.
If only the US practised what it preaches!