The Times – Ready, steady, cook up reasons for supporting the boiling butcher:ISLAM KARIMOV, President of Uzbekistan, boils people alive. Why? For the same reason Saddam Hussein put his enemies in a shredder: because, at the time, he could.
When the West is your pal you are able, quite literally, to get away with murder. And what murder! It is a surprise Karimov has time for governing at all, once he has spent the morning formulating new ways to poach, grill, tenderise, smoke and flamb’ his citizens to death. Boiling water, electrocution, chlorine-filled gas masks, drowning, rape, shooting, savage beatings, Karimov’s Uzbekistan is the absolute market leader in torture right now. The CIA would not shop anywhere else, which is why a mysterious Gulfstream 5 executive jet routinely delivers terrorist subjects from Afghanistan there for interrogation and, perhaps, percolation. Craig Murray, the former British Ambassador, drew attention to this last year, and the noted socialist Tony Blair acted immediately. He sacked him.
Mr Murray’s warnings echo louder than ever now, on the back of hundreds of corpses in the streets of Andijan. Uzbek troops opened fire on an unarmed crowd of protesters on Friday in an act of such brutality that the world finally woke up to the wickedness of the war on terror’s new best friend. Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, called it a ‘clear abuse of human rights’ ‘ no kidding, Sherlock ‘ but struggled to make his voice heard among our American allies. Little surprise. If they had wanted his opinion, they would surely have given it to him.
Live and don’t learn would appear to be the moral to this story. Karimov may be a vicious, murdering, malevolent despot, but he is our vicious, murdering, malevolent despot so, like Saddam, he can boil, shred and gas away until we tire of uses for him. Saddam was in the right place, sharing our hostility towards Iran at the right time, and so we armed him to the teeth in the name of a cause. Karimov, a nasty member of the regional Soviet hierarchy even before independence in 1991, stands beneath another flag of convenience. He is frightened of Islam, rich in gas and oil, and within striking distance of Afghanistan. An American airbase, which Karimov allowed to be built at Khanabad, now protects the American-owned pipeline carrying Central Asia’s black treasure through Afghanistan to the sea. Is it not strange that all our pals have the same thing in common? Just as celebrities end up latching on to other celebrities, so the West always finds itself hanging out with guys who are knee-deep in four-star.
The reason only the West could set the Iraqi people free was because our military and financial support for Saddam Hussein’s corrupt Government had made it impossible for his citizens to rise up alone. So it is in Uzbekistan. When Kabuljon Parpiyev, one of the leaders of the doomed Andijan protestors, spoke to Zakir Almatov, the Uzbek Interior Minister, at the weekend, he claims that he was told: ‘We don’t care if 200, 300 or 400 people die ‘ we have the force.’ It is the backing of the coalition that makes Karimov cocksure and invincible. There are countries around the world that would choose true freedom overnight: if only the coalition’s freedom-junkies would let them.
In 2002, the United States gave Uzbekistan $500 million in aid (as opposed to $36 million four years earlier) of which $120 million went to the army and $79 million to the notorious SNB, Karimov’s secret police. It was the SNB who boiled Muzafar Avazov, an Islamist activist, to death, having already beaten him severely and ripped his fingernails out. The fate of his fellow prisoner Husnidin Alimov does not bear thinking about, considering the Government restricted viewing of his lifeless body. It was also the SNB who came to collect Avazov’s 63-year-old mother, Fatima Mukhadirova, sentenced to six years’ hard labour for the crime of telling the world about the murder of her son. (She was released the day before Donald Rumsfeld was due to visit, during which he praised ‘the wonderful co-operation we have received from the Government of Uzbekistan’ over the War on Terror.)
So the freedom our precious coalition claims to be exporting around the world is not true freedom at all. Rather, it is freedom we are giving back, having conspired with sadists to take away. What the Iraqi people enjoyed at the polling booths in January was freedom on our terms, not theirs. Considering the dreadful human toll, one would think we would then acknowledge that mistake by not repeating it, but no: there were no opposition parties in Uzbekistan’s last election and there are no arms restrictions imposed by our Government, either. Questioned on thisin Parliament in December 2003, Bill Rammell, the junior Foreign and Commonwealth Office minister, said: ‘Uzbekistan is a key player in a region of strategic importance to the UK, so defence co-operation is important. It is important to note that Uzbek armed forces are not implicated in human rights violations.’ In other words: go boil your head. Oh, sorry, you already have done.
We mould these little monsters such as Saddam, Karimov and General Manuel Noriega and they do our dirty work until such a time when it is no longer expedient, at which point we extract revenge and dress it up as a moral crusade; or enduring freedom. There are those who believe that, whatever its motives, the war in Iraq can be justified by free elections and the removal of Saddam. Yes, but only if that policy is consistent. If the coalition agenda is to spread democracy worldwide, then it cannot be in bed with a tyrant like Karimov. And if it is, then any good in Iraq is overpowered by the stench of death and hypocrisy wafting across from central Asia.
As it stands, the War on Terror finds an exalted place in its ranks for a man whose idea of government is a dissident casserole. Hey, Tony, what’s that smell? I think your freedom’s done.