Filed under: Eastern Europe
The Commander in Chief is making it increasingly difficult for those of us who would love to support him to do so, at least where Russia is concerned.
In 1999, Human Rights Watch documented the involvement of troops under the command of Russian Major-General Vladimir Shamanov in "at least 14 killings which amounted to extrajudicial executions in Alkhan-Yurt in Chechnya."
In, 2005, ruling in the case of Isayeva v Russia, the European Court of Human Rights found Shamanov responsible for a military operation which involved the "massive use of indiscriminate weapons" and which led to the loss of civilian lives in the village of Katyr-Yurt in February 2000.
On March 27, 2007, as HRW reported: "Shamanov, an assistant to the Russian Minister of Defense and who together with General Robert Fogelsong co-chairs the US-Russia Joint Commission on POW/MIAs was in Washington for a meeting of the Joint Commission. President Bush received him in the Oval Office and posed with him for a photograph." Here's the smiling trio (with Shumanov on Bush's left):
The Washington Post reported: "It was not clear whether Bush knew about Shamanov's background, but at least some Russia experts in the government who were not consulted on the visit did." The Associated Press reported that "a White House spokeswoman, Dana Perino, said it was 'unlikely' that Bush would have met the general and posed for pictures with him if he had known about the charges. 'The president was not aware of the allegations made against him, and was seeking to sharpen the focus on the commission's good work, and due to the information about the current Russian commission leadership, we are going to review how best to move forward with that important work, without future photo ops,' she said." A second Post report revealed that the Bush White House is now facing massive staff turnover, including the fact that "Bush's chief Russia adviser, Thomas E. Graham, who helped shape U.S. policy toward Vladimir Putin as the Kremlin cracked down on dissent, left in February." Not that this is necessarily a bad thing on its own, since Bush's policy towards Putin has been an outrage, but apparently it may have left the White House utterly blind as to Shamanov's identity.
Which would be more disturbing: that Bush didn't know who Shamanov was, or that he did know and met with him anyway? These kind of events play right into the hands of those who would portray our president as a clueless bozo at best, at worst a dangerous loose cannon. As the ultra-left-wing The Nation chided: "You don't need to be a veteran Moscow watcher to know that that Vladimir Shamanov is a suspected war criminal. Type his name into Google and the first reference is his Wikipedia entry, which starts: 'Vladimir Shamanov is a governor of the Ulyanovsk region of Russian Federation. Shamanov is a Major General in the Soviet and Russian Army, awarded with title of Hero of Russia. He has been criticized by human-rights groups for failing to control his troops in military actions during the Second Chechen War.'"
How can those who struggle for human rights and democracy in Russia be anything other than bitterly crestfallen when they see events like these take place? Put aside the question of meeting with Bush: How is it possible that this man is serving on an official U.S. commission? If our government doesn't know this, what else doesn't it know? Is it relying solely on the fact that Bush "looked into Putin's eyes" and found him trustworthy?