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Dictators on Parade.

Dictators on Parade.

There is much to admire about Parade magazine’s annual list of the world’s worst dictators, including the very fact of its existence. It’s a useful reminder of the oppression under which much of the world’s population still lives even as democracy is making progress in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Topping Sunday’s list of tyrants is Sudan’s Omar al Bashir, who bears responsibility for the humanitarian crisis in the Darfur region of western Sudan, where tens of thousands have died and two million have been uprooted by government-backed militias. Also ranked in descending order of awfulness are North Korea’s Kim Jong Il, Burma’s Than Shwe, Hu Jintao of China, Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, Libya’s Moammar Gadhafi, Saparmurat Niyazov of Turkmenistan, Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe and the leader of Equatorial Guinea.

Our one disagreement would be Parade’s mention of Pakistan’s Pervez Musharraf at number seven, just after Gadhafi. General Musharraf came to power in a military coup, overturning an elected government. But Pakistan remains a far freer place than any other country on the list -- and certainly freer than Cuba, whose Fidel Castro rates merely a Parade "dishonorable mention."

With occasional exceptions, Pakistan passes the test that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice laid out in her confirmation hearing last month: "The world should apply what Natan Sharansky calls the `town square test,’ " she said. "If a person cannot walk into the middle of the town square and express his or her views without fear of arrest, imprisonment, or physical harm, then that person is living in a fear society, not a free society." Pick up a newspaper in Karachi and you’ll read plenty of criticism of General Musharraf, who deserves to be replaced on next year’s list by Fidel, or Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez.

The Wall Street Journal February 15, 2005

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