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Radio Free Europe’s Mark Baker interviewed Timothy Garton Ash on regime change, and whether Eastern Europe could be an example. Ash thinks that top leaders should be tried abroad, but that a process of “lustrace” such as that in the Czech Republic should be enough. Under “lustrace” former Communist Party members are banned from holding high office. Of course, that hasn’t stopped them from getting rich and exerting their influence in other ways…

Carl Sandberg

Pile the bodies high at Austerlitz and Waterloo.
Shovel them under and let me work –
I am the grass; I cover all.

And pile them high at Gettysberg
And pile them high at Ypres and Verdun.
Shovel them under and let me work.
Two years, ten years, and passengers ask the conductor:
What place is this?
Where are we now?

I am the grass.
Let me work.

Today’s FS Final word draws an excellent parallel between the “regime change” in Iraq and that of former Czechoslovakia:

Today, thirteen years after the “regime change in the CR, almost all the old leaders are walking the streets, and some Czechs still argue that the same people are controlling the ministries, courts, schools and media. Whether the CR should, or shouldn’t, be used as a guide to democracy-building in post-war Iraq would make an interesting debate.

Forgive me for stating the obvious here, but…

The controversy yesterday (see stories below) about the botched shipment of gas masks to Kuwait points out a few of the problems in doing business with old-line Czech companies. First, you have to remember that the customer is always fscked. It’s pretty common to go through the excruciating process of getting a contract signed, only to have the party sitting across the table tell you that there’s no way in hell of getting it delivered when you need it. It was pretty galling to hear the Gumarny guy talk about how his deadline wasn’t missed – “hey, we’re still on schedule,” seems to be his approach.

Of course, Gumarny completely missed the point. If there’s a chemical attack before Gumarny’s gas masks get there, there may not be anyone left to sign his check.

MF Dnes, 25 Mar 03, Page 1: Prague – The Czech Republic sent Kuwait – as assistance to its threatened population – 5,000 completely unusable gas masks. DuÅ¡an Lupuljev, Commander of the Czech-Slovak anti-chemical battalion said one sentence about the shipment: “I would forbid soldiers to use these.”

The supplier, Gumárny Zubří, borrowed the masks from fire brigades’ warehouses in order to quickly meet the Kuwaitis’ request. A similar embarrassment occurred 12 years ago, when Prague supplied Saudi Arabia with completely rotten gas masks.