Saturday :: Apr 3, 2004

Haven't We Had Enough Troubles With Repressive Regimes?

by pessimist

In an effort to further entrenchment of American power in the Central Asian region, the US is taking on support of another vile bastard ('as long as he's OUR bastard!'). This is hardly a smart move considering the consequences this may generate in Iraq, not to mention the entire Islamic world. Even the conservative Chicago Tribune is publishing some doubts about the wisdom of this move by the Bush (mis)Administration:

Why we shouldn't overlook Uzbekistan

When asked recently if the deaths of more than 500 U.S. service personnel in Iraq were "worth it," Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld exclaimed, "Oh, my goodness, yes." His reason? "Twenty-five million people being liberated is gigantic."--Fox News Channel, March 19, 2004

Because there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, the Bush administration hopes Americans will believe that the noble goals of liberation, democracy and religious freedom justify the enormous sacrifices in human life that have resulted from the Iraq war.

But the administration's tight new embrace of one of the world's most repressive regimes--in Uzbekistan--shows that this is cynical at best.

Uzbekistan is a Central Asian nation bordering Afghanistan. It's about the same size as Iraq and also has 25 million people. It lies in the center of a region with rich, untapped oil and gas reserves that U.S. energy companies are eager to exploit. Its president, Islam Karimov, is a holdover from when Uzbekistan was part of the Soviet Union, but he got on America's good side by allowing his country's bases to be used for the war in Afghanistan.

On Monday, in unprecedented violence that shook the country, bombs killed 19 people, mostly police, in Uzbek cities, including the capital Tashkent. A few days later, Uzbek authorities carried out bloody armed raids. The interior ministry released a statement saying, "Eleven male terrorists were eliminated. Five female terrorists were killed as well in one incident in the capital."

The Karimov regime blames what it calls Muslim "fundamentalists" and "Wahhabis" [the specific Muslim sect that the Saudis belong to - ed] for the violence, claiming that it is conducting a "war on terror" similar to that of the United States. The perpetrators of the bomb attacks remain unknown and some Uzbek opposition groups blame the government.

Whatever the case, the background to this violence is a concerted campaign of repression by the Karimov regime, which the United States is helping to fund. In a just-released 300-page report, Human Rights Watch states that "For the past decade, with increasing intensity, the government of Uzbekistan has persecuted independent Muslims. This campaign of religious persecution has resulted in the arrest, torture, public degradation and incarceration in grossly inhumane conditions of an estimated 7,000 people."

The report, which details appalling instances of murder, torture, brutality and the imprisonment of thousands of innocent people by the government, makes it clear that the campaign "targets non-violent believers who preach or study Islam outside the official institutions and guidelines." In other words, the victims are not, as the Uzbek government would like the world to believe, dangerous terrorists aligned with Al Qaeda.

In recent months, Amnesty International too has stepped up its campaign against routine secret executions and systematic torture of political dissidents by Uzbek authorities. While Muslims have been the main targets of the Karimov government, devout Christians have not been spared. "Imagine the police forcing a gas mask onto your head and shutting off the air supply because you're `guilty' of hosting bible studies in your home," wrote Lawrence Uzzell, president of International Religious Freedom Watch, about several documented instances of repression of Christians. His comments appeared in the Christian Science Monitor in November.

Now, if news such as this were to get out to the Christian supporters of George Warmonger Bush, how well would it play that he;s supporting a regime that does such things?

While few Americans are aware of the situation in Uzbekistan, they are helping to pay for it. In 2002, the U.S. gave more than $500 million to the Uzbek government, of which $79 million went directly to the police and intelligence services that are accused by human rights organizations of carrying out most of the abuses. This year, the Bush administration has increased direct military and economic aid to Uzbekistan.
Growing U.S. support for Uzbekistan and other human rights abusers throughout Central Asia is part of a strategic shift by the U.S. to move forces away from some longtime allies like Saudi Arabia, Germany and Japan toward new "friends" like Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan and Kyrgyzstan.

Defenders of this policy acknowledge that allies like Karimov are far from angels, but argue that in the real world you have to make compromises to look out for your interests. But this kind of thinking is short-sighted. Saddam Hussein was long a U.S. ally, personally courted by Donald Rumsfeld in the 1980s to help the U.S. combat what it saw as Iran's attempts to spread Islamic revolution. And many of Osama bin Laden's followers were U.S.-trained "freedom fighters" against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan.

For decades, the U.S. has put into practice the dictum "My enemy's enemy is my friend," and the results have often been disastrous. The blood in the streets of Tashkent is evidence that the U.S. may be repeating the dismal cycle.

Could Karimov's victims one day turn on the United States itself?

President Bush seemed to recognize this danger in a speech last November spelling out his "forward strategy" for freedom and democracy in the Middle East. "Sixty years of Western nations excusing and accommodating the lack of freedom in the Middle East did nothing to make us safe," Bush said, "because in the long run, stability cannot be purchased at the expense of liberty." [But he hasn't decided to halt economic aid, has he? - ed]

So if the president believes that, why is his administration excusing, accommodating and funding yet another brutal dictator who is robbing millions of people of their basic freedoms?

Copyright 2004, Chicago Tribune

We know why he is pursuing this ridiculous strategy, repeatedly proven to be a bad one - IT'S THE OIL, STUPID!!!

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pessimist :: 9:20 AM :: Comments (0) :: Digg It!