"Their Men in Washington" - Ken Silverstein - Harper's

"Their Men in Washington" - Ken Silverstein - Harper's

Undercover with D.C.'s lobbyists for hire

by: Ken Silverstein | publication date: July 1, 2007 | Publication: Harper's | volume: July 2007 | pages: 53-61

In March, when the U.S. State Department announced its new global survey of human rights, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice declared that the report demonstrated America’s commitment to civil liberties, the rule of law, and a free press. “We are recommitting ourselves to stand with those courageous men and women who struggle for their freedom and their rights,” she said. “And we are recommitting ourselves to call every government to account that still treats the basic rights of its citizens as options rather than, in President Bush’s words, the non-negotiable demands of human dignity.”  Flipping through the report, however, one cannot help but notice how many of the countries that flout “the non-negotiable demands of human dignity” seem to have negotiated themselves significant support from the U.S. government, whether military assistance (Egypt, Colombia), development aid (Azerbaijan, Nigeria), expanded trade opportunities (Angola, Cameroon), or official Washington visits for their leaders (Equatorial Guinea, Kazakhstan). The granting of favorable concessions to dictatorial regimes is a practice hardly limited to the current administration: Bill Clinton came into office having said that China’s access to American markets should be tied to improved human rights—specifically its willingness to “recognize the legitimacy of those kids that were carrying the Statue of Liberty” at Tiananmen Square—but left having helped Beijing attain its long-cherished goal of Permanent Most Favored Nation trade status. Jimmy Carter put the promotion of human rights at the heart of his foreign policy, yet he cut deals for South American generals and Persian Gulf monarchs in much the same fashion as his successor, Ronald Reag

Silverstein's undercover report on the ways in which lobbyists help dictatorial regimes gain favor in Washington. For the article, Silverstein posed as a representative of a firm working to improve Turkmenistan's image, and contacted and met with lobbying firms under that guise.

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