Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Uzbekistan: Getting Away With Mass Murder

Last month's massacre in Uzbekistan has raised no substantial outcry from the USA or Britain. Thoughtful people might be asking: "Why not?" Your lowly and nearly frozen blogger may have a few clues.

From a piece by Savanna Reid, published last Friday on GNN: Under the Radar: How did Uzbekistan get away with shooting hundreds of civilians?
Uzbekistan’s status as a U.S. ally in the “war on terror” appeared to be in jeopardy when reports that Uzbek sodliers massacred hundreds of unarmed protesters emerged just over three weeks ago. But since then, major news outlets from the Guardian to the Washington Post have repeated government claims that an Islamist uprising provoked the government’s use of extreme violence. Not everyone is buying that theory.

According to Acacia Shields of Human Rights Watch, Uzbek security forces regularly use torture to elicit false confessions tying dissidents to a supposed Islamic revolutionary movement to take over Uzbekistan. She thinks it “unlikely” that the protestors killed in Andijan were mobilizing for a religious cause at all. Shields told GNN that “economics was one of the main motivators” for the tragic march.
And so on ... We discussed this in a previous post. We even quoted Human Rights Watch as saying:
"Interviews with numerous people present at the demonstrations consistently revealed that the protesters spoke about economic conditions in Andijan, government repression, and unfair trials - and not the creation of an Islamic state. People were shouting 'Ozodliq!' ['Freedom'] and not 'Allahu Akbar' ['God is Great']," HRW said.
There's no question that we've been lied to about the underlying causes of dissent in Uzbekistan. The question is: "Why?"

Fortunately the GNN article offers some clues:
Ignoring evidence compiled by Human Rights Watch, officials in Washington, Moscow and Beijing have been eager to dish out shaky theories about Taliban, Chechen or Uighur involvement in the so-called ‘uprising’ at Andijan, to support the empty justifications that dictator Islam Karimov offers for the slaughter of Uzbek civilians. Follow the money (read: oil) to see why.
For those who would follow the money (read: oil), the remainder of the article makes compelling reading. For instance, when discussing why Washington wants us to believe lies about this tragedy, Savanna Reid offers this analysis:
The Bush administration’s reasons are probably split between attachment to our rent-free Uzbek airbase and the CIA’s habit of outsourcing suspects to Uzbek torture chambers.
There's a lot more here and I think you should read it.

Now for another point of view. This comes from R. Jeffrey Smith and Glenn Kessler, and was published in Tuesday's Washington Post: U.S. Opposed Calls at NATO for Probe of Uzbek Killings: Officials Feared Losing Air Base Access
Defense officials from Russia and the United States last week helped block a new demand for an international probe into the Uzbekistan government's shooting of hundreds of protesters last month, according to U.S. and diplomatic officials.

British and other European officials had pushed to include language calling for an independent investigation in a communique issued by defense ministers of NATO countries and Russia after a daylong meeting in Brussels on Thursday. But the joint communique merely stated that "issues of security and stability in Central Asia, including Uzbekistan," had been discussed.

The outcome obscured an internal U.S. dispute over whether NATO ministers should raise the May 13 shootings in Andijan at the risk of provoking Uzbekistan to cut off U.S. access to a military air base on its territory.
The U.S. military considers the base a vital logistics hub in its anti-terrorism efforts.
Well yes, of course it does. The U.S. military considers every foreign base vital, does it not?

Meanwhile ... see if you can detect any spin in the following paragraphs:
a senior diplomat in Washington said that "there's clearly inter-agency tension over Uzbekistan ... The State Department certainly seems to be extremely cool on Karimov," while the Pentagon wants to avoid upsetting the Uzbekistan government.

A senior State Department official, who called The Washington Post at the Defense Department's request, denied any "split of views." But other government officials depicted this week's spat over the communique as a continuation of frictions that erupted last summer, when then-Secretary of State Colin L. Powell would not certify that Uzbekistan had met its human rights obligations. The decision led to a cutoff of $18 million for U.S. training for Uzbekistan's military forces.

Weeks later, Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, visited Tashkent, the Uzbek capital, and criticized that decision as "very shortsighted"; he also announced that the United States would give $21 million for another purpose -- bioterrorism defense.
Did you catch that one? It was easy, wasn't it? I want to know why the Washington Post prints obvious bullshit from unnamed sources. Didn't they learn anything from the Newsweak debacle? I would be wary of anonymous sources. Especially sources within the administration. And most especially when the source calls the reporter. You can smell the disinformation all the way from here. And the funny thing is, the disinformation smells exactly like the stuff local farmers have been spreading on their fields. Isn't that interesting?

Interesting or not, it's only a sidebar to the real story, as is this:
There are stirrings of dissent on Capitol Hill about placing access to the air base at the center of U.S. policy, however. Six senators warned Rumsfeld and Rice in a letter last week that "in the aftermath of the Andijan massacre, America's relationship with Uzbekistan cannot remain unchanged."

The senators -- Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), Mike DeWine (R-Ohio), John McCain (R-Ariz.), John E. Sununu (R-N.H.), Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Del.) and Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) -- added that "we believe that the United States must be careful about being too closely associated with a government that has killed hundreds of demonstrators and refused international calls for a transparent investigation." They suggested that the administration explore alternative basing arrangements "in Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and elsewhere in the region" to give Washington more flexibility.

The European parliament, in a statement Thursday, went further, calling on Washington to halt negotiations with Uzbekistan over long-term access to the base and urging Uzbek authorities "to bring those responsible for the massacre in Andijan to trial."
In the long run, none of this matters, of course. Uzbeks had better watch out, and Islam Karimov can keep on boiling dissidents alive [or sending American-trained soldiers to gun them down] because the United States cares more about bases than people. Also because the so-called "War On Terror", phony though it is, consumes everything in its path.