Touching Evil: Holding Hands with Uzbekistan
May 18, 2005
By Ken Sanders
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week, President Bush spoke to thousands of adoring fans in the former
Soviet republic of Georgia. He spoke of freedom, liberty and justice
and held up Georgia as an example for other nations to follow. Referring
to Georgia's progression to democracy, Bush declared, "Now, across
the Caucasus, in Central Asia and the broader Middle East, we see
the same desire for liberty burning in the hearts of young people.
They are demanding their freedom – and they shall have it."
Unless, of course, they happen to live in Uzbekistan.
Days after Bush got his ego stroked in Georgia, soldiers in Uzbekistan
killed hundreds of civilians in the city of Andijon as they protested
the arrest of several prominent business owners on charges of religious
extremism. At one point, the protesters began calling for the resignation
of Bush's "key ally" in his global war on terrorism, Uzbek President
That's when Uzbek soldiers opened fire into a crowd of women and
children, and even Uzbek police officers, who begged the soldiers
not to shoot. After the opening salvo, the soldiers walked among
the hundreds of bodies, shooting the wounded. The dead were laid
out for identification in front of a local school. On Monday, Uzbekis
began digging a mass common grave under the watch of Uzbek forces.
While denying that his soldiers opened fire on the demonstrators,
President Karimov attempted to keep reporters out of Andijon, as
well as Pakhtabad where another 200 civilians were killed by Uzbek
Over the weekend, Britain condemned the actions of the Uzbek government
as "a clear abuse of human rights." The U.S., on the other hand,
while "concerned" about the slaughter of hundreds of civilians in
Uzbekistan, was "particularly" concerned with the escape of prisoners,
"including possibly members of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan."
The claim about escaped terrorists was naturally made by the Uzbek
government. There has not been any independent confirmation that
terrorists were actually freed by the demonstrators.
Any such claims by Uzbekistan are inherently incredible anyway.
According to the State Department's Country Reports on Human Rights
Practices, Uzbek authorities frequently have political and human
rights activists declared insane and involuntarily committed to
stop their anti-government activities. Uzbekistan also has a record
of arresting protest organizers and their families in order to prevent
demonstrations. Additionally, on at least one occasion, officers
of the Uzbek Antiterrorism Department beat political activists and
threatened them with more serious harm if they engaged in protest
In other words, Uzbekistan is not known for tolerating political
Assuming for the sake of argument, however, that the demonstrations
did lead to the release of suspected terrorists, what kind of statement
is the U.S. making by de-emphasizing the deaths of hundreds of Uzbek
citizens? The statement is that the U.S. is apparently less concerned
about the reactionary slaughter of hundreds of people than it is
about the alleged escape of a handful of possible terrorists. The
U.S. is less concerned about the gross human rights abuses of the
Uzbek government than it is about keeping a heavy-handed ally in
Bush's infinite war on terror.
It is the same statement on Uzbekistan that the U.S. has made
since Bush embarked upon his crusade. The U.S. has long known that,
in the words of the State Department, "Uzbekistan is an authoritarian
state with limited civil rights." The U.S. knows that the Uzbek
government has a "very poor" human rights record and continues "to
commit numerous serious abuses," as evidenced by the fact that its
police and security service "tortured, beat, and harassed persons."
In fact, the best thing the State Department could say in its Country
Reports on Human Rights Practices about Uzbekistan was, "Unlike
past years, there were no credible reports of persons dying in custody
as a result of torture."
Talk about damning with faint praise.
Nonetheless, in spite of (or, more likely, because of) Uzbekistan's
atrocious record of torture and human rights abuses, the U.S. sends
terror suspects there for detention and interrogation. In other
words, the U.S. sends terror suspects to Uzbekistan to be tortured.
Knowing what it does about Uzbekistan's penchant for torture, particularly
of suspected Islamic extremists, the U.S. cannot plausibly deny
that it knowingly employs Uzbekistan to do its dirty work.
The U.S. has brokered a deal with the devil in its alliance with
Uzbekistan. In exchange for military bases and torture facilities,
the U.S. looks the other way as Karimov violently oppresses and
kills the Uzbek people. As a result, the blood of hundreds of dead
and thousands of wounded Uzbekis, gunned down for demanding the
freedom Bush said they would not be denied, is now on our hands.
Visit Ken Sanders' blog at www.politicsofdissent.blogspot.com.
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