If there is any other person, place or organization that is at ease with dictators as I am, it would have to be the United Nations. Last week, UNESCO director-general Koichiro Matsuura awarded Uzbek dictator Islam Karimov with the organization's gold "Borobudur Award" in recognition of the Central Asian strongman's "efforts on behalf of friendship between peoples".
Neither Mr. Matsuura, nor the state controlled Uzbek press, elaborated on just which peoples, exactly, Karimov is credited with fostering friendship between. I would have to guess that "the peoples" in question are foreign energy ministers and Uzbek treasury officials, but I suppose I'm just a cynic. However, I do feel fairly confident in speculating that UNESCO did not award Karimov with a medal for Karimov's efforts on fostering friendship between the Uzbek state and, say, Uzbek political dissidents, Uzbekistan's neighbors, journalists, or even the the dictator's own unhappy subjects.
On the one hand, it's easy to be appalled with the United Nations wasting money handing out frivolous awards. On the other hand, I can't wait to see which dictator or brasshat is feted by UNESCO next. Isn't there some cultural award they can give to Robert Mugabe, or Muammar Gadaffi for their lifetime acheivements? And won't some faceless international technocrat please recognize that Kim Jong-Il and Saparmurat "Turkmenbashi" Niazov are likely to feel slighted at being left out?
I would certainly hope, at the very least, that there enough Borobudur Awards to go around until every dictator has had a chance to win.