Kazakh dictator Nursultan Nazarbayev knows how to use the right man for a challenging job, thereby teaching a lesson to us all.
When you need a heart operation, go to an experienced cardiac surgeon. When you need investment advice, seek out a proven financial consultant. When you need a new transmission for your car, use a reputable garage.
And if you want someone to put a positive spin on mass murder, nobody’s CV inspires greater confidence than Tony Blair’s.
One has to be especially impressed with the boldfaced impudence Tony displayed recently when denying any responsibility for the blood-soaked chaos resulting from the criminal invasion of Iraq he and Dubya launched in 2003.
Now it turns out he was merely building on past accomplishments. For Tony’s consultancy has made millions advising Nazarbayev how to be loved by the West.
That task was made daunting on 16 December, 2011, when Nazarbayev’s police opened fire on an unarmed demonstration in the oil town of Zhanaozen, killing 15 and wounding almost 100.
This sort of thing may make anyone look bad, even a man sitting on that great exonerator, a huge wealth pumped out of oil wells.
Keep that stuff coming, and the West can close its eyes to any human rights violations, any bogus elections (Nazarbayev consistently polls over 90%), any secret funding of terrorist groups.
But start shooting peaceful demonstrators like rabbits, and some Westerners may find it hard to suppress a wince. Nazarbayev knew this, which is why he turned to his friend Tony for help.
Tony delivered. In a freshly leaked letter he advised the Kazakh dictator on how to turn a negative into a positive, a classic PR trick:
“I think it best to meet head on the Zhanaozen issue. The fact is you have made changes following it; but in any event these events, tragic though they were, should not obscure the enormous progress that Kazakhstan has made.
“[This] is the best way [to present the bloodbath] for the western media. It will also serve as a quote that can be used in the future setting out the basic case for Kazakhstan.”
In conclusion Tony laid on some well-practised PR warmth: “I look forward to seeing you in London! Yours ever, Tony Blair.”
The style of the missive is questionable, but it’s the heartfelt emotion that counts. This can only be repaid by signing on the dotted line underneath all those zeros.
So what kind of ‘enormous progress’ would offset mass murder? It must really be impressive, for many prominent Westerners have been avidly kissing various parts of Nazarbayev’s anatomy for decades.
Jonathan Aitken, whose commitment to truth was rewarded with a prison term, has upon his release written a hagiographic biography of Nazarbayev. Prince Andrew pays regular visits to Nazarbayev’s capital built to Pyongyang specifications. Western businessmen, politicians and lawyers form a beeline for Nazarbayev’s palace.
They all have a stake in Kazakhstan’s progress, which no doubt hones their objectivity to razor sharpness. Since Nazarbayev hasn’t offered me even a lousy couple of mil, I can admit openly that his accomplishments leave me cold.
Having ruled from 1989, Nazarbayev is one of only two leaders of Soviet republics whose hold on power has survived since the good old times.
He’s also part of the glorious trio, Putin and Lukashenko being the other two, named Man of the Year in 2012. They received this accolade for laying the blueprint for the Soviet Union Mark II.
Called the Eurasian Economic Community, it’s modelled on the Zollverein, a customs union that eventually unified sovereign German principalities into a single country under Prussia’s leadership.
Those principalities that didn’t see the immediate benefits, such as Schleswig-Holstein, had to be educated using such teaching aids as artillery barrages and cavalry charges – a process being exactly paralleled in the Ukraine by Nazarbayev’s co-recipient Putin.
Aitken called his panegyric Nazarbayev and the Making of Kazakhstan, but a more appropriate title would have been simply The Making of Nazarbayev.
For, in common with most other sultans, Nursultan has parlayed the country’s natural resources into a vast personal wealth, possibly second only to Putin’s.
Much of the lucre is kept in Western offshore banks – and it’s also kept in the family. The family is rather large, especially since Nursultan takes advantage of his recently acquired religion by having three wives, a fact hushed up by the truth lover Aitken but widely known to everyone in Kazakhstan.
His three official daughters have brought ambitious husbands into the family, one of whom runs Kazakhstan’s border guards. In that capacity he collects a $1,000 levy on every Chinese lorry carrying goods to Putin’s Russia. Considering that there are close to 10,000 of those every month, these transactions drip a nice drop into the family’s Swiss bucket.
But a drop it is, for most of the family’s wealth is pumped out of the ground, a shared experience that doubtless brings Nazarbayev even closer to the Russian godfather of all godfathers.
Not much of this wealth drips down to the chaps who dirty their hands getting oil out of the ground. Hence the demonstration whose negative consequences Tony Blair was hired to turn into a positive.
By using Tony, Nursultan showed he knows how to learn from the best, a commendable quality he has put to good use when learning from Putin how to deal with the press.
Yesterday yet another journalist criticising Putin was beaten within an inch of his life in Petersburg, and both Vlad and Narsultan have relied on this method of handling press relations for years.
But not exclusively – also figuring prominently are such techniques as assassinating reporters (“whacking in the shithouse” in Putin’s jargon; I don’t know what it is in Kazakh), shutting down opposition newspapers and smashing their presses, turning all broadcast media into propaganda mouthpieces, blocking dissident websites, criminalising ‘libel’ defined as criticising the leader.
The progress made under Nursultan’s leadership, something Aitken extols and Tony spins, has earned Kazakhstan recognition by international monitors. Transparency International’s league table of corruption puts it at No 105, next to Senegal; while Reporters Without Borders is less generous: Kazakhstan is a lowly No 162 on its Press Freedom Index.
There is nothing new under the sun, says Ecclesiastes. Back in the days of Lenin and Stalin, Western ‘useful idiots’ also tried to hush up massacres or, when they couldn’t, suggest they be weighed against the ‘enormous progress’ made by the Soviet Union.
The scale of the massacres was greater then, and the progress even less noticeable. This explains the much lower standards of today’s apologists: they don’t have to apologise for quite as much.
Back then their ranks drew people like G.B. Shaw, H.G. Wells and the Webbs, moral and intellectual pygmies but at least not devoid of literary ability.
Today we have Tony Blair who, in addition to the fine qualities he shares with that lot, can’t even put a decent sentence together. Horses for courses, I dare say.