Monthly archives: June 2005

Uzbek killers taught “markmanship” by British army

The Guardian – UK trained Uzbek troops weeks before massacre: British military advisers trained Uzbek troops in “marksmanship” shortly before a massacre in which hundreds of people were killed.

The training was part of a larger programme funded by Britain despite concerns expressed by the Foreign Office at the time over the Uzbekistan government’s human rights record.

A group of Uzbek military cadets were given a “coaching course” in marksmanship by British soldiers in February and March this year.

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UZBEKISTAN: Protestant tortured by police trying to force abandonment of Christianity

Forum 18 – UZBEKISTAN: Protestant tortured by police trying to force abandonment of Christianity: A Pentecostal Christian in the capital, Tashkent, has been tortured by police since being arrested on 14 June, and other church members have been summoned and threatened, Forum 18 News Service has learnt. 19-year-old Kural Bekjanov was tortured by both police officers and prisoners to try to force him to abandon Christianity. His mother, Gulya, saw him on 26 June, when he had lost weight, had difficulty walking and his fingers and legs were covered in blood. “His mother heard the cries of her own son and begged them to stop beating him,” Forum 18 was told. “They told her it wasn’t her son’s cries, but she said she knew the sound of her own son’s voice. Yesterday police threatened to put him on a chair wired up to the electricity ‘ believe me, all this is happening,” a church member told Forum 18. Protestants in Karakalpakstan, in north-west-Uzbekistan, the targets of a long running anti-Christian campaign by the authorities, have told Forum 18 of renewed difficulties in meeting. Elsewhere, the trial of six members of the Bethany Church in Tashkent has been fixed for 7 July, after police raided the church whilst a service was taking place.

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Italy makes a stand on ‘Extraordinary Rendition’

By VICTOR L. SIMPSON writing in the Guardian

ROME (AP) – Italy is preparing to request the extradition of 13 purported CIA officers accused of kidnapping a terrorism suspect and secretly transporting him to Egypt, a court official said Tuesday.

Prosecutors also have asked the help of Interpol in tracking down the suspects, all identified as U.S. citizens, said the official who asked that his name not be used because the investigation was still under way.

The 13 were accused of seizing Osama Moustafa Hassan Nasr, known as Abu Omar, on a Milan street on Feb. 17, 2003, and sending him to Egypt, where he reportedly was tortured, according to Milan prosecutor Manlio Claudio Minale.

The U.S. Embassy in Rome and the CIA in Washington have declined to comment.

In announcing the arrest warrants Friday, the Milan prosecutor’s office said it will ask for American and Egyptian assistance in the case.

The Egyptian preacher was spirited away in 2003, purportedly as part of the CIA’s ”extraordinary rendition” program in which terror suspects are transferred to third countries without court approval, subjecting them to possible torture.

The order for the arrests in the transfer of the cleric was a rare public objection to the practice by a close American ally. It brought renewed calls Tuesday by leftist opposition parties for Premier Silvio Berlusconi’s government to answer questions in parliament on whether Italian officials were involved.

The judge’s order explaining the need for the arrests said the suspects’ links to ”foreign intelligence services” gave them the particular ability to destroy evidence and disrupt the investigation.

Some of the 13 names listed in the order might be aliases because that’s often a practice of such operatives overseas. Several gave U.S. post office boxes as their addresses.

One of the suspects, described as playing a key role, was identified in the judge’s 213-page order as the former Milan CIA station chief, Robert Seldon Lady. It said he had been listed as a diplomat, but was retired and living near Turin.

The Milan prosecutor’s office called the imam’s disappearance a kidnapping and a blow to a terrorism investigation in Italy. The office said the imam was believed to belong to an Islamic terrorist group.

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A Bastard but Our Bastard: British Policy in Central Asia

Transcript of a Speech given by Craig Murray at the Policy Exchange 28.6.05.

Craig Murray, former British Ambassador to Uzbekistan

I will take quite a lot of background as read. If I can recommend to you my website,, you can bore yourself rigid with longer speeches of mine if you so desire, and find a lot more background.

But I’ll concentrate this evening on the remit I was given – what the West has done wrong, in my view, what we should be doing to put it right. I’ll start off with just a couple of facts. The first one comes from Human Rights Watch’s report on the Andijan massacre, which I’d recommend to you. They interviewed over fifty eye-witnesses; it’s a very good report. And it wasn’t just that the crowds were fired on, and fired on continually, and chased and fired on as they ran, on the May 13th, but afterwards Babur Square, where the main massacre happened, was sealed and the wounded were left lying, left overnight with no care, no attention, no medical treatment. And the next morning troops walked through the wounded finishing them off with shots to the head.

To anyone who knows Uzbekistan it is conceivable, though extremely unlikely, that troops could have opened fire on the 13th due to some situation that developed and got out of control locally. But it is completely inconceivable that twenty-four hours later troops would be walking through the streets shooting people without having authority right from the top of what is an extremely efficient totalitarian dictatorship.

I’ll give you another interesting fact. One of the Uzbek opposition leaders, a gentleman who’s in exile, Muhammed Salih, fought the only vaguely democratic election that President Karimov has ever faced when he opposed him in the presidential election in, I think, ’92. It wasn’t a very democratic election. The media was 100% government controlled. Salih had no access and no coverage except complete vilifications. His supporters were subject to violence and arrest and the polls were rigged in every conceivable way. He still officially got about 15% of the vote, which was quite extraordinary in the circumstances. He now lives in exile in Germany.

Last August when I was still British Ambassador I suggested that we invited him to the Foreign Office to perhaps meet a junior minister or senior officials. My suggestion was greeted with stunned horror in the Foreign Office, where I was told – Did I not know that he’d been convicted of terrorism? I said, ‘nobody, but nobody, believes Muhammed Salih is a terrorist. It’s a propaganda conviction.’ The Foreign Office checked with its research analysts, who confirmed that absolutely nobody thinks Muhammed Salih is a terrorist. I was then told that OK, he may not be a terrorist but he has been convicted of terrorism and therefore it would be awful insulting to President Karimov, were we to speak to him. And I was also told off for having even suggested it, and Muhammed Salih was not invited to meet anyone in the Foreign Office.

Subsequently last autumn, PEN, the campaign group for imprisoned writers, and the BBC World Service, invited Muhammed Salih to the UK anyway, and the government refused him a visa. They did so on the grounds that he might seek to illegally immigrate here. The facts are that he already has political asylum in Germany, he lives in Germany with his family, he speaks German and he doesn’t speak English – but it was plainly just not on to have anyone from the democratic Uzbek opposition walking around the streets of London, because it might upset our dear friend Mr Karimov. And to my knowledge still to this day, certainly since September 11th 2001, neither ministers nor senior officials in the Foreign Office have met anyone from the Uzbek opposition.

This is not typical of the way the Foreign Office works. The Foreign Office is usually very open to meeting democratic opposition figures from dictatorial states. And I give it to you as an example of the way the Foreign Office’s attitude, the British Government’s attitude to Uzbekistan does not stand up anywhere near official British Government policy on democracy and human rights.

The situation in Uzbekistan is dire. There is, I think, general agreement among academic authorities, that poverty is increasing, that the major drive behind events in Andijan, the major cause of the unrest, the reason taxi drivers are so grumbley, is that people have declining access to household goods and declining diet and yet the West fails to stand up to the reality of the situation. The IMF and the World Bank still now, today, will tell you that the economic growth rate in Uzbekistan this year is 4.4%. The IMF and the World Bank have given a positive growth rate for Uzbekistan every year since 1993 – for most of which time, and certainly for the last ten of those years, the economy has been in headlong decline. Interestingly, if you look another lot of World Bank figures they tell you that in 2003 total Uzbek GDP was $9.9 billion whereas in 1993 it was it was $13.1 billion. Which means that it had declined by 30% in the ten year period during which it had increased every year.

This is absolutely typical of the failure of the West to tackle or even acknowledge what is happening in Uzbekistan. When the Uzbek government say to the IMF delegation ‘our automotive production is up by 12%, our oil and gas production is up by 25%, our agricultural production is up by 17%’, the IMF don’t say ‘you’re lying,’ which would be the honest response. They say ‘oh yes, hmm.’ And they hum and hah and they negotiate a bit, which is much more than the UN do.

The UN this year will give you just the official Uzbek government figure, which is of economic growth of 8.9%. You’ll find that on the UNDP website. The IMF, to be fair to them, don’t agree with that. They just accept a figure, after a little bit of negotiation, that somewhere in between the truth and the Uzbek government figure – but a lot closer to the Uzbek government figure than the truth. So we have this paradise, where people are enjoying much better rates of economic growth then any of the developed world, but where at the same time everyone is getting poorer and the West doesn’t face the fact.

The same is true of our approach to the internal situation. ‘Muhammed Salih is a terrorist, so we don’t meet him.’ ‘He’s not a terrorist.’ ‘Well, OK, maybe.’ In March of 2004 there were – and you’ll find this reported in pretty well every authority including academic authorities – there were a series of suicide bombings in Tashkent. Each one, according to the Procurator General of Uzbekistan – speaking at a press conference to which the diplomatic corps and the media were invited – each one was committed using a suicide belt containing an equivalent of 2 kilos of TNT; and in each about thirty or forty people were killed.

There are some difficulties with this. I got myself to the site of each of the blasts within hours, and in one case within forty minutes, of the blast going off. One of them took place in an enclosed courtyard not that much bigger than this room. It had a tree in the middle, buildings round, and not a pane of glass was shattered, and not a twig was torn from the tree. Apparently six policemen had just died there in a bomb blast.

At one of the other places there was supposed to have been a car bomb. I was there within two hours. No sign of any blast whatsoever.

The facts did not in the least bit relate to the stories. I reported this back to London, who didn’t want to know this. It was much more convenient that it was Al Qaeda and this came, very conveniently actually, one week before Colin Powell had to make his determination on whether Uzbekistan met the Human Rights criteria for continued UN aid.

But much more interestingly we had intelligence material. We had telephone intercepts. Satellite telephone calls from known senior Al Qaeda officers in the Middle East and in Pakistan – and incidentally if anyone thinks I’m revealing a secret and they don’t know their phones are tapped, they must be extremely na?ve people. And they were saying to each other ‘what the hell is happening in Tashkent? Bombs are going off in Tashkent. Does anyone know what’s happening?’ This was Al Queda talking to each other. These were actually NSA American security intercepts.

Despite that, the next day Colin Powell stands up and says ‘Al Qaeda have launched a dastardly attack on our great ally, President Karimov. We must give more support to Uzbekistan.’ And he knew he was lying. That’s what I’m telling you. We knew that intelligence wasn’t true, because we knew Al Qaeda didn’t know what was happening in Tashkent.

The truth is that the West has got itself into bed with an absolutely appalling dictatorship, and a dictatorship which is not going to reform.

I’d only been in Tashkent for a very few weeks when I attended the opening of Freedom House in Uzbekistan. The American Ambassador got up and welcomed the abolition of censorship and welcomed the increase in private ownership of enterprises and welcomed something else, and none of those things had happened at all. They were all entirely fictitious. They were simply untrue; they were lies. I got up and I said Uzbekistan is not a functioning democracy, neither is it moving in the direction of a democracy; a fact which was actually self-evidently true but contradicted everything the American Ambassador had just said. And this capacity for delusion on the part of the West has to be tackled.

You’ll see for example claims from Uzbekistan that now 35% of GDP is in the private sector. Completely untrue. Claims about the privatisation of farming. They’re based on the sub-division of state farms into smaller state farm units, which are simply accounting transactions which actually aren’t setting up any kind of market and have no effect whatsoever. The truth is that Uzbekistan is still a country where sixty percent of the population live on state farms, on kolkhozy, where they can’t leave the farm. It’s a country which maintains not just exit visas but internal movement visas. It’s a country where you can’t go five miles on any road in the country without encountering a police road check. If you’re born on the farm you’ll die on the farm in most cases. It’s a country where an enslaved population suffers at the hand of an entirely rapacious government that has no intention of reforming: no intention of reforming.

And so far, because we decided post September 11th that Karimov was our great ally in the region against Islamic fundamentalism, we’ve maintained our support on the basis of deluding ourselves that he is reforming, that he is changing. If you’re going to continue to maintain, as this government does, that its policy is one of constructive engagement – which it calls now ‘critical engagement’ in order to avoid comparison with Mrs. Thatcher’s policy towards South Africa – you have to show progress for your critical engagement, and there isn’t any.

There is no free media in Uzbekistan: None. There is no legal opposition in Uzbekistan: None. On 26th December parliamentary elections were held in Uzbekistan in which the opposition parties were not allowed to compete. There is no religious freedom in Uzbekistan. And the last couple of weeks, it’s worth noting, have seen a renewed clampdown on Protestant churches, with a number of new arrests of Protestant ministers, so it’s not only Islamists who suffer. It’s really a disaster.

How do we make it better? Well I would say first of all we face the facts. We face the facts. We face the facts as I’ve outlined them to you. We stop hiding behind this delusion that reform is happening, Karimov is a secret reformist who’s just hidden it very well for the last fifteen years. We stop accepting the propaganda about all opposition being Islamists.

I agree absolutely about the huge potential for violence because there is no opposition, but that’s because we have done nothing to help the opposition. We’ve put all our eggs in the Karimov basket. Just as I couldn’t get Salih a visa to come and talk to our ministers, I couldn’t get any money at all to help Democratic Forum, an opposition grouping which tried to get going last year, bringing together the various democratic opposition elements in Uzbekistan. Neither the Foreign Office nor the US government was in the least bit interested. The sad thing is that this is actually going to lead to Islamic extremism in a country which has had very little of it in the past, because people have no alternative. They’re not given any kind of Western alternative. And it’s a policy which, in itself, will build a hatred of the West, because we are seen as backing and supporting a dictator who is himself hated by his own people. It’s a self-defeating policy on our side.

Let me put it to you bluntly. If someone took my brother and boiled him to death, I know what I’d do. We are creating terrorism ourselves by our foolish refusal to face up to what kind of man Karimov is, and the fact that this is not a government with which you can do business in the normal way. There are creative ways of helping democratic opposition to flourish. For example, in Bishkek [the capital of Kyrgyzstan], the Americans put in a printing press, in order to help encourage free media. No initiatives of that kind have been undertaken in Uzbekistan.

And we also have to look at what it does to international institutions, to allow in them members who simply do not agree with the basic tenets of the organisation. Uzbekistan is a member of the OSCE for example. Uzbekistan believes in none of the fundamental tents of the OSCE. It doesn’t believe in democracy, has no intention of ever becoming a democracy. It doesn’t believe in economic reform. Why is it in? It’s not in Europe anyway. Why is it in? It’s in because it’s part of the former Soviet Union. But how can the OSCE continue to have a member which actually doesn’t hold to the rules of the club or intend to hold to the rules of the club? It’s not a question of how fast it’s moving in the right direction; it’s the fact that if it’s moving in any direction, it’s the wrong direction.

The only institution that has actually faced this squarely is the EBRD – which was forced to do so because it held its AGM in Tashkent in 2003 and completely uniquely, I believe, in its history, decided to limit lending to Uzbekistan on the basis of its poor record on human rights and democracy, in line with article 1 of its charter. For once, the EBRD actually decided to follow its own charter and insist that members stick to the rules or effectively be suspended. And in effect Uzbekistan was suspended.

NATO similarly. Uzbekistan is in the Partnership for Peace. It absolutely sickens me that British troops were last year – and I don’t just mean training for officers, though we do that in the UK for Uzbek officers – British troops were last year training alongside Uzbek troops in Uzbekistan in company strength, in formation, doing NATO P4P peacekeeping exercises. British troops were quite possibly training alongside some of the soldiers who shot wounded people in the head as they lay oh the ground in Andijan.

What signals have we sent to Karimov since? Well, though Karimov has been killing people for years – he’s had lots of practice – he hasn’t generally killed 700 people at once. Today he’ll be thinking that even if you kill 700 opponents at once, nothing bad happens to you, because nothing has. Why do we treat Lukashenko and Mugabe as pariahs, subject to personal travel restrictions, to a range of targeted sanctions, but not Karimov? The answer to this, of course, is an obsession with the Karshi-Khanabad airbase, as one of the most important of Rumsfeld’s ‘lily-pads’ – bases which can be rapidly expanded, and from which massive military force can be quickly projected into any area of what they call the Wider Middle East in the Pentagon – which means the Middle East, the Caucasus and Central Asia, which is of course the great band of oil and gas reserves.

But is it worth the candle? Are we really getting such a benefit? I can tell you for certain that part of American thinking was that if you are looking at contingencies regarding Iran, it would cause enormous difficulty to use bases out of Afghanistan to attack Iran, enormous difficulty in terms of Afghan public opinion, but public opinion had never been a factor that needed to be considered in Uzbekistan.

But this is war on terrorism thinking, this idea that Karimov is on our side, that he’s an ally, that Uzbekistan is an ally, that Uzbekistan is part of the coalition of the willing. I was under instruction to refer to Uzbekistan as an ally every time I spoke in public, whatever I was saying. It didn’t matter what subject, I had to start off ‘We enormously appreciate Uzbekistan’s contribution to the coalition in Iraq; Uzbekistan our great ally in the War on Terror. Now I’m here to open this nursery school’ or whatever. That ‘you’re with us or against us’ thinking, the idea that it doesn’t matter how nasty you are, that the world is divided into two camps, there’s us, the civilised people of the universe, and there’s all those nasty rather damned Muslim people; that thinking, which dominates American policy, is what has driven Western policy towards Uzbekistan, and unless we get out of it we’re going to bring disaster both on the people of Uzbekistan and upon ourselves.

Thank you.

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George Bush’s “Man in Central Asia”

Guerilla News Network – George Bush’s “Man in Central Asia”: The massacres took place not long after an overseas trip in which President George W. Bush extolled the democratic revolutions in the former Soviet republics of Ukraine and Georgia. American NGOs which supported these pro-democracy movements, such as Freedom House and George Soros Open Society Institute, have been threatened and expelled by Uzbek authorities. The ongoing U.S. support for the repressive Karimov regime, then, stands as yet another example of the crass double-standards in U.S. policy.

Such double-standards are not new. During the Cold War, both Republican and Democratic administrations would bewail the human rights abuses of Communist and other leftist governments while sending arms and economic assistance to even more repressive right-wing allies. In Central Asia during the 1980s, the U.S. government was even willing to back extremist Islamist groups as part of its anti-Communist crusade.

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UK government under fire over aid to Uzbekistan

The Scotsman – UK government under fire over aid to Uzbekistan : MINISTERS have come under fire for increasing financial aid payments to Uzbekistan despite the massacre of pro-democracy protesters by government forces in the Central Asian republic last month.

Forces loyal to Islam Karimov, the autocratic Uzbek president, last month shot and killed more than 200 civilian demonstrators in the Uzbek city of Andizhan. The killings have been condemned by human-rights groups and Western governments, including Britain’s.

Yet despite that condemnation, and the Uzbek regime’s refusal to allow an inquiry into the killings, the UK government appears to be stepping up development work in the region.

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“Karimov has agreed, for a suitable payment from US taxpayers, for Bush to attack Iran from bases in Uzbekistan” – Bush’s War Against Iraq Ruining America:The world press sees Bush as an arrogant hypocrite who justifies his invasion of Iraq in the name of democracy, while protecting Uzbek’s murderous dictator Islam Karimov, described by Craig Murray, former UK ambassador to Uzbekistan as “very much George Bush’s man in Central Asia.” On May 13, Karimov had 500 protesters shot down in the streets of Andijan and 200 massacred in Pakhtabad. Still more civilians were massacred by Karimov while attempting to flee into neighboring Kyrgyzstan.

It was the Bush administration that blocked a call by NATO for an international investigation of the Uzbek massacre. According to news reports, Karimov has agreed, for a suitable payment from US taxpayers, for Bush to attack Iran from bases in Uzbekistan. Uzbekistan also serves as one of the Bush administration’s offshore torture centers to which suspected terrorists are sent.

Deceived American patriots dismiss such reports as leftwing fabrications. However, human rights groups have documented these abuses. Moreover, on June 24 an Italian judge ordered the arrests of 13 CIA agents, who kidnapped a Muslim in Italy and secreted him to Egypt, another offshore US torture center. The 13 CIA agents managed to stick the US taxpayers with a $144,984 hotel bill in the process.

It would be interesting to have a comparison of the hourly Uzbek and Egyptian torture rates. US taxpayers have a right to know how many of their hard-earned tax dollars, given up on pain of prison sentences, are flowing to offshore torture centers.

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“Post modernist” foreign policy

UK Watch- Promoting Democracy?:Since 2001 Britain has been using the ‘historic window of opportunity’ (to borrow a term from US Secretary of State James Baker) created by the events of September 11th, to prop up dictatorships in Central Asia. One very prescient example of this was the virtual tolerance of one of our allies in ‘the war on terror’ to commit mass-murder. Uzbekistan’s crackdown on protesters in Andijan was, according to Human Rights Watch, ‘so extensive, and its nature was so indiscriminate and disproportionate, that it can best be described as a massacre’.

Former British Ambassador to Uzbekistan, Craig Murray, criticised coalition support for Uzbekistan when the invasion of Iraq was being planned, using similar human rights abuses as justification. ‘The US will claim that they are teaching the Uzbeks less repressive interrogation techniques’ said Murray, ‘but that is basically not true. They help fund the budget of the Uzbek security services and give tens of millions of dollars in military support. It is a sweetener in the agreement over which they get their air base.’

Murray was promptly sacked for speaking out against his masters, but sometimes eminent figures are kind enough to communicate Britain’s foreign policy with some level of candour. Before the invasion of Iraq, Robert Cooper, Tony Blair’s ‘foreign policy guru’, laid out the principles at the core of Britain’s international affairs in his article ‘Why we still need empires’, where he stated: ‘when dealing with old-fashioned states outside the postmodern continent of Europe, we need to revert to the rougher methods of an earlier era ‘ force, pre-emptive attack, deception, whatever is necessary to deal with those who still live in the nineteenth century world of every state for itself.’

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Uzbek “entrepreneur” denounces “devilish plot” by “foreign-policy dinosaurs”

Monsters and Critics – Uzbek newspaper slams UK, US diplomats over Andijon: The following is the text of the article, published in the Uzbek newspaper Pravda Vostoka on 17 June under the title “The incident was certainly well organized”; subheadings have been inserted editorially; ellipses as published:

I am an entrepreneur. Like all people in Uzbekistan, I am concerned about the events in Andijon and what is going on that relates to that tragedy.

Owing to shortage of time, I did not travel to Andijon myself, so that I am judging the events from the press and from Internet web sites. I carefully watched both of the news conferences given by our country’s president, Islom Karimov, and I share the head of state’s opinion that such rebellions cannot arise just like that in our land of plenty…

Should we be surprised, though, at these Western foreign-policy dinosaurs, if they choose all kinds of impostors as ambassadors?

I had the opportunity several times to encounter, in an appropriate situation, “Her Britannic Majesty’s ambassador to Uzbekistan”, one [Craig] Murray, who looked more like a tramp than a senior diplomat from a leading Western country. Dubious legends of his adventures in the bars of Tashkent are still doing the rounds.

One can only wonder why, before interfering in our affairs with various international investigations, Mr Straw did not conduct a small internal investigation about how his ambassador was discrediting Great Britain as a citadel of democracy by his regular drinking bouts and dissipation. If these are the norms of democracy that all kinds of Straws and Rices are so concerned about, and which such Murrays “are trying to introduce in backward Asia”, may God preserve us from such democracy and such advisers.

Uzbekistan victim of “some devilish plot”

I am an Uzbek entrepreneur of Russian nationality. I was born here, and I know the language, customs and traditions. I pay my taxes properly and have neither the time nor much of a desire to dabble in politics. Let that be the preserve of those whom I pay those taxes to support.

But, as I explore the length and breadth of the Internet and read the mass of material on the events in Andijon, the more I come to realize that some devilish plot has been hatched against my country…

Numerous Western experts and political analysts discourse wisely on our affairs, reminding one of the well-known Ilf and Petrov characters in “pique waistcoats” [old men in their novel “The Golden Calf” who keenly discussed world politics, but were ignored by everyone]. Although thousands of kilometres away and without knowing exactly where Uzbekistan is on the map, they shed crocodile tears over the supposedly huge casualties and incalculable sufferings of the Uzbek people. Paid, small-town rights advocates, who are ready to sell both their Motherland and their own mothers for free grants, play up to them assiduously…

For the sake of the future, we are simply obliged to defend our Motherland and our president’s policy if we want to go on seeing Uzbekistan as an independent and prosperous country…

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Uzbekistan, Great Britain and the Ousting of Craig Murray

A posting from the Deep Blade Journal

Paying the price for defending human rights

GUEST POST by Mike Walls

In light of new findings regarding the extent to which the US has aided and abetted the Karimov regime in Uzbekistan, I feel that a reprisal of the experiences of former British diplomat to Uzbekistan, Craig Murray, is timely. Back in 2002 Murray exposed the human rights abuses going on in Uzbekistan and unwittingly revealed the Blair government’s support for such abuses.

Craig Murray’s story tells of a dedicated British diplomat who felt that by bringing to light human rights abuses on the part of the Karimov regime, his government would condemn them, sever diplomatic ties with Uzbekistan and take measures to prevent such abuses from continuing. To Murray’s stunned dismay this was not to be. In a recent documentary here in Sweden entitled ”Agenda”, aired following the alleged massacres in Uzbekistan some weeks ago, Murray spoke out about his grisly experiences in Uzbekistan. On the question of torture he reports:

We received photos of a corpse, Mr Abazov, who had been boiled to death. The corpse, in addition to having its fingernails removed, showed complete scolding damage to the skin on the lower arms, legs and lower torso.

Murray made the claim that torture was systemic in Uzbekistan and that the information being procured from victims of this torture was being used by his own British government. Murray tried in vain to bring all of this to light to foreign secretary Jack Straw, as he explains:

When I first went back in November 2002 and said, ”look, America’s supporting this really vicious dictatorship here”, and the intelligence material we’re gaining has been gained under torture, maybe I was na?ve but I actually thought that if I brought this to Jack Straw’s attention, brought it up to a high enough level, then they’d stop.

Unfortunately for Mr Murray, he was being na?ve, but his na?vet? was a sign of his own human decency which contrasted greatly, as it transpired, to that of his superiors. On discovering his own government’s complicity, Murray, in the Financial Times in 2004, openly criticised MI6 and the CIA after publishing information in a Foreign Office document. This adherence to democratic principles did not bode him well, however. Murray was called home from Uzbekistan and an investigation was carried out, after which Murray was fired from his position as Ambassador. To this injury, much insult was hurled too:

So then they [the British Government] started contacting the Media, telling people I was an alcoholic, telling people I was offering visas in exchange for sex. They brought up these amazing allegations against me as formal charges which were then dropped.

According to the UN, there are currently up to 8000 people imprisoned in Uzbekistan for no more reason than their religious and political persuasions. Very few Uzbeks dare to speak out about Karimov’s crimes in Uzbekistan, but those who do have a chilling tale to tell. For example, peace activist, Surat Akrakov, told of beatings, rape and electric shock occurring as part of the torture regime.

Unwaveringly, Craig Murray, despite his ouster, travelled back to Uzbekistan in April 2003 in order to speak with one Professor Jamal Mersajdov, an outspoken critic of the Karimov regime. Unfortunately, Murray’s visit did not go unnoticed:

I left the house that evening, at 3 o’clock the next morning the body of his [Professor Jamal] grandson was dumped on the doorstep. The right hand had been immersed in boiling water or liquid for a long period. His murder was a warning to dissidents for meeting me or perhaps a warning to me for meeting dissidents.

The usual arguments from the Karimov regime were that torture is necessary in order to curb the threat of Islamic terrorism. However, dissidents and critics, alike, claim that this is merely used as a pretext in order to continue the repression and torture that is already emblematic of the Karimov regime; war on terror or no war on terror.

Craig Murray’s tenacity is to be commended in light of the many obstacles he has had to face. The sacrifices he and his compatriots in Uzbekistan have made to bring this story to light is worthy of praise too, since their sacrifices have shone the spotlight on the corrupt and despicable policies of the Bush and Blair governments since 9/11 and prior to 9/11.

Craig Murray, himself, has begun the slow journey back into politics. He has as his goal to displace the current foreign secretary, Jack Straw, for, like many of us, Murray understands the dire and dangerous consequences of a foreign policy which reneges on human rights laws and international law. To illustrate this point, Murray leaves us with a chilling reminder:

Torture breeds hatred, ill-treatment, repression, breeds hatred. That hatred is not just directed at karimov, but at the West who are seen as his close supporters. So really, we’re creating terrorism. In the future this is going to come back and hit us.

The last two sentences are a definitive mantra for our times, unfortunately. And it is one which resonates with layman and activists alike. It is encouraging that more and more people are becoming aware of the true meaning of power in relation to the US and UK. However, it is disconcerting that those, like Murray, who were once placed at power’s political epicentre are shunned and scorned when practising their duties of office, namely, to promote democracy and protect the rights of others at home and abroad. This once again reconfirms the truism that democracy in our beloved Occident is no more than rhetorical window dressing used in order to divert our attention from our leaders’ destructive Realpolitik. –Mike Walls

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Idealistic democracy, total hypocrisy, and Israel: America’s man in Uzbekistan


Their product line has its faults, but American propaganda-hawkers have proved one thing, at least: they are a nimble bunch of peddlers. When their fables about Saddam’s link to Osama bin Laden fell flat in the marketplace, they concentrated on retailing the WMD lie; and then, when they could no longer sell that one, they promptly updated their inventory. Now, they said, the United States was fighting for democracy. And, of course, against tyranny.

In fact, as President Bush maintained in his second Inaugural Address, the fundamental goal of American democracy was spreading that sacred system throughout the world. Who could possibly criticize the liberation of Iraq and the nurturing of a nascent democracy there? And Iraq was just the beginning: the United States, the world’s good and faithful steward, would bring democracy to other benighted lands, too.

Like the earlier justifications for interventionist war, the global-democracy theme had first been promoted by the neoconservatives and then adopted by the administration. But unlike the earlier justifications that turned out to be bogus, and written off by critics as deceptive propaganda to monger war, observers have generally accepted democracy-for-export as a real, though perhaps misguided, motive for American action. Thus, “realist” critics of America’s war policy have focused on the destructive results of relying on democracy as the lodestar for U.S. foreign policy, branding the neocons as naive idealists, Wilsonians, Jacobin radicals, and Trotskyists.

Despite their rhetoric, however, there is much in the neoconservatives’ record that belies the claim that they are sincerely wedded to the democratic ideal. Obviously neocons have shown little interest in democratic majority rule in Palestine, where Israel has sought to elevate to leadership men who would accede to Israeli demands rather than try to represent the Palestinian people; nor have neocons cared much about democracy in Israel proper, as shown by their identification with the Israeli Right, which promotes an exclusivist Jewish state at the expense of its Palestinian citizens.

The neoconservatives showed little appreciation for democracy in their buildup for war against Iraq, either. They had nothing but condemnation for the European democracies ‘ especially France ‘ that opposed the war on Iraq. The overwhelming majority of the people in all of those countries fiercely opposed the war in Iraq, but the United States expected their governments to turn a deaf ear to the purportedly sacrosanct vox populi. Later, in 2004, the neocons condemned the new Spanish government for carrying out its election pledge to remove Spanish occupation troops from Iraq.

Washington even attempted to bribe the Turkish government with financial aid to back the war on Iraq, but that government actually put the decision to the vote of its parliament, which rejected the U.S. offer. Then-Deputy Secretary of State Paul Wolfowitz was enraged by the Turkish military’s failure to sufficiently pressure the government to go to war. “I think for whatever reason, they did not play the strong leadership role that we would have expected,” he complained. Leadership role! Presumably Wolfowitz would have considered a pro-war military coup preferable to the repudiation of American war policy by a democratically elected regime. [1]

Assuming democracy as a system of rule is to be taken seriously, reams could be written about the violations of democratic principles in the United States itself since September 11, 2001, especially as exemplified by the deceptive and fraudulent propaganda that the administration and its neocon supporters have relied on to gain public and congressional support for war. Obviously, under democratic ideology as commonly preached, a people can make an educated decision on any matter only if they know the truth ‘ and war is surely the most important issue for a people to decide on. But the entire effort of the Bush administration has been to use the purportedly non-partisan organs of government to spread falsehoods. Furthermore, it is remarkable that as apostles of the American Way continue to instruct us that democracy necessitates the protection of civil liberties, the Bush regime mounts serious attacks on those liberties through the USA PATRIOT Act and its looming successor.

In fact, contradicting officialdom’s Fourth of July-style speechifying, the neocons actually admit that democracy must take a back seat when it comes to fighting Islamic radicals. As David Frum and Richard Perle point out in their neocon tour de force, An End to Evil: “In the Middle East, democratization does not mean calling immediate elections and then living with whatever happens next.” [2] Since elections in any Islamic country would always risk empowering Islamic radicals, or at least enemies of the United States and Israel, the logic of Frum and Perle’s position would basically prohibit democracy in the Middle East.

The neocons themselves have plainly revealed their dislike of bona fide democracy, but the total hypocrisy of the democracy motive emerges in the starkest colors with respect to America’s Central Asian ally Uzbekistan, which has recently been in the media spotlight because of anti-government protests and the regime’s concomitant slaughter of hundreds, if not thousands, of protesters. [3] As Marc Perelman puts it in the Forward: “The recent violence in Uzbekistan has cast a spotlight on the cozy relationship between the authoritarian regime of President Islam Karimov and Israel and its American supporters.” [4]

The massacre in Uzbekistan took place on May 13, 2005, when government troops fired on a large crowd of protesters in the eastern city of Andijan. Numerous reports of gruesome atrocity have filtered out to the West; one eyewitness described “smashed brains, guts, and blood, blood, everywhere.” [5] According to some reports, military death squads hunted down and killed civilian protesters in mopping-up operations. An accurate assessment of the situation, however, is difficult since the Uzbek regime cut off all communications with Andijan and blocked access to the city. [6]

Protests and governmental killings spread to other parts of eastern Uzbekistan, with reports of thousands of civilians being killed. Thousands of refugees, including women and children, tried to flee the slaughter but were trapped on the border with Kyrgyzstan when Uzbek troops refused to let them cross. [7]

Those particular events attracted worldwide media attention, but government-induced carnage is far from being an aberration in Uzbekistan; rather, sheer brutality has long been the rule in that country, which suffers under the iron-fisted rule of Islam Karimov. This dictator simply tolerates no opposition. And he expresses his lust for blood quite openly. Of political opponents, Karimov has said, “Such people must be shot in the forehead.” And more: “If necessary, I’ll shoot them myself.” On another occasion, he averred: “I’m prepared to rip off the heads of 200 people, to sacrifice their lives, in order to save peace and calm in the republic…. If my child chose such a path, I myself would rip off his head.” [8]

Observers estimate there are more than 6,000 political and religious prisoners in Uzbekistan, many of whom have been sentenced for such non-crimes as wearing an Islamic-style beard or praying at a mosque not sanctioned by the state. In a policy reminiscent of Stalinist Russia, the regime often imprisons entire families. And those incarcerated in Uzbekistan sometimes undergo the most grisly tortures. International human-rights groups have reported that the atrocities committed by Uzbek jailers include applying electroshock to genitals, ripping off fingernails and toenails with pliers, stabbing with screwdrivers, and, perhaps the most creative, boiling prisoners to death. [9] Even the U.S. State Department, in pallid understatement, admits that “the police force and the intelligence service use torture as a routine investigation technique.” [10]

But in the eyes of the U.S. government, all of that brutality is trumped by the fact that Uzbekistan supports the “war on terror,” the full irony of which terminology we may now begin to appreciate. As the Times of London puts it: “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.” [11]

Karimov is a former Soviet Communist boss who has ruled Uzbekistan with a blood-encrusted iron grip since the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991; and he has done it all draped in the trappings of democracy. In December 1991, after banning the main opposition parties and imprisoning their leaders, Karimov unsurprisingly won rigged elections for himself and his former communist organization, renamed the People’s Democratic Party. In 1995 he extended his term in office through a “democratic” plebiscite.

In 2000 Karimov was re-elected for what was supposed to be his final five-year term. That victory was of near-Stalinist proportions: according to official records, he won more than 90 percent of the votes of the more than 95 percent of the eligible voters who participated. Impressive “democratic” numbers indeed! The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) refused to send election observers on the grounds that the entire election process was a sham. Karimov’s hand-picked opponent in the election, whose sole purpose for being on the ballot was to provide a democratic facade, admitted that he had cast his ballot for Karimov. [12]

Another referendum was held in January 2002 to extend President Karimov’s presidency to 2007, by amending Uzbekistan’s constitution to allow for seven-year presidential terms. Somehow Karimov achieved success in that exercise of democracy, too.

The Uzbek dictatorship does not rely entirely on facades, though; sometimes Karimov speaks plainly. When the OSCE refused to send observers, Karimov acknowledged that he was repudiating the very concept of democratic rights, though he did try to make that sound like a new development. “The OSCE focuses only on establishment of democracy, the protection of human rights, and the freedom of the press,” he regally intoned. “I am now questioning these values.” [13] Since Karimov not only runs a terribly brutal state but also explicitly rejects democratic freedoms as Western democrats understand them, it would be hard for the United States to justify its support for him ‘ that is, if it actually cared about democracy.

What Washington does care about is something quite different. Uzbekistan, which has Central Asia’s largest population, economy, and military, is a strategic American asset, just as Saddam Hussein’s Iraq was in the 1980s. After the 9/11 attacks, Uzbekistan granted the U.S. military permission to use its Khanbad base just north of the border of Afghanistan, providing a key location for U.S. operations in the latter country.

The strategic importance of Uzbekistan for the United States far transcends Afghanistan, for the American military presence there provides Washington with significant leverage in the vital heart of energy-rich Central Asia, with its oil and gas fields stretching eastward from the Caspian Sea to border of China.

In fact, the American military and intelligence connection with Uzbekistan predates 9/11, having begun in the 1990s. The U.S. military had trained Uzbek soldiers, and American troops had conducted exercises in Uzbekistan, as long ago as 1996. After the 9/11 attacks, it transpired that the United States and Uzbekistan had been sharing intelligence and conducting joint covert operations against the Taliban for two to three years. That well-established secret relationship helped explain the rapid emergence of the post-9/11 military partnership between the two countries, whereby Uzbekistan became an American base for launching attacks on Afghanistan. [14]

Uzbekistan currently serves Washington in a more sinister way: it is believed to be one of the destination countries for the highly secretive “renditions program,” in which the CIA ships suspected terrorists to third-party countries where abusive interrogation methods are employed that are illegal in the United States. Essentially, the “renditions program” is the conscious and deliberate outsourcing of torture.

Media reports claim that dozens of suspects have been transported to Uzbek jails. [15] Of course, if one wants to torture prisoners, Uzbekistan is the ideal place to send them. The threat of being boiled alive might loosen the lips of the hardest prisoner, encouraging him to provide any answer his captors desired. As the London Times put it: “The CIA would not shop anywhere else, which is why a mysterious Gulfstream 5 executive jet routinely delivers terrorist subjects from Afghanistan [to Uzbekistan] for interrogation and, perhaps, percolation.” [16]

In the case of renditions, Washington values the Uzbek regime not in spite of its being a brutal despotism but because of its brutality: it provides a service to American imperialism that a freer, more civilized country could not offer. Even better, if U.S. raisons d’etat should ever require the disposal of such a regime, Washington could use allegations of those very same practices to justify an American attack. One can easily imagine the sudden burst of shocked indignation that U.S. propagandists would produce.

What was the official American reaction to the recent bloodbath in Uzbekistan? While Washington has issued strident calls for regime change in the Middle East, when it came to Uzbekistan it crafted a low-key approach predicated on moral equivalency, balancing the regime’s torture and mass murder with the alleged threat of anti-government Islamic terrorism ‘ that is, it accepted as true Karimov’s claims that “terrorist groups” precipitated the protest against his rule.

As Scott McClellan, the White House spokesman, explained:

We have had concerns about human rights in Uzbekistan, but we are concerned about the outbreak of violence, particularly by some members of a terrorist organization that were freed from prison. And we urge both the government and the demonstrators to exercise restraint at this time. The people of Uzbekistan want to see a more representative and democratic government, but that should come through peaceful means, not through violence. And that’s what our message is. [17]

A similar message of moral equivalency was presented by State Department spokesman Richard Boucher, who said that the United States continues to urge the Uzbek government “to exercise restraint, stressing that violence cannot lead to long-term stability.” In a display of perverse even-handedness, Boucher also condemned armed attacks by the demonstrators on the prison and other government facilities in Andijan. It “is the kind of violence that we cannot countenance in any way,” he proclaimed. “There’s nothing that justifies acts of violence or terrorism, and we’re very concerned at reports of either the release or the escape of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan members.” [18]

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice continued this advocacy of peaceful change initiated by the Karimov government by telling reporters on her way back from her visit to Iraq: “We have been encouraging the government to make reforms, to make it possible for people to have a political life.” [19]

In short, the United States is advocating only peaceful change in Uzbekistan; anti-government violence is to be completely eschewed. But Karimov’s murderous dictatorship does not allow any peaceful outlets for reform. Presumably, in the eyes of the U.S. government, those Uzbeks who want to overthrow the Karimov regime by force are ipso facto “terrorists.” In contrast, people who violently oppose regimes the United States wants to remove, such as the one in Iran, are lionized as “freedom fighters.” It should be added that the United States only very belatedly made much noise at all about peaceful reform in Uzbekistan; it was roused to do so only when the world’s spotlight was focused on its homicidal ally.

To what extent is the violence in Uzbekistan actually caused by Islamic terrorists? Karimov claimed that the protests were organized by Hizb ut-Tahrir (“The Liberation”), an Islamic group, which his government brands as terrorist. The United States, however, does not so classify it. Hizb-ut-Tahrir preaches non-violent methods, in particular the distribution of anti-government leaflets, in an effort to bring down the Karimov regime. But the group does want to establish an Islamic state, which would undermine the current American policy. (One may recall that when the United States was opposing the Soviet Union, Washington supported those same Islamicists as allies.)

Witnesses and area experts largely dispute Karimov’s depiction of the events and contend that most protesters were not espousing Islamic extremism but instead were complaining about government brutality, corruption, economic mismanagement, and poverty. [20] The anti-government protest had been sparked by the trial and imprisonment of 23 Muslim businessmen who were accused of membership in a terrorist organization that sought to overthrow the government. Knowledgeable sources, however, maintain that the businessmen had actually been prosecuted because of the growing popularity of their free-market business practices, which had provided the people with many consumer goods otherwise unavailable in Uzbekistan’s mostly state-controlled economy. As a result, the Karimov apparat saw them as a threat to its communistic bureaucratic system, which has changed little since the Soviet era. [21]

Shedding some light on the situation, former British ambassador to Uzbekistan Craig Murray blamed the United States and Britain as being partly responsible for the bloodletting because they had habitually ignored Karimov’s horrific human-rights record. “The Americans and British wouldn’t do anything to help democracy in Uzbekistan,” Murray maintained. “People are turning to violence because we … gave them no support.” [22] Murray had been forced out of his ambassadorial post after he publicly rebuked the Karimov regime for its policy of torture, especially its boiling people to death. [23]

Before the recent massacre, the U.S. government essentially had collaborated with Karimov while remaining largely silent about his brutality. On a trip to the country in 2004, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld ignored Karimov’s human-rights violations and instead lauded Tashkent’s “stalwart support” for the American “war on terrorism” in the Middle East. He even went so far as to cite Uzbekistan as a “key member of the coalition’s global War on Terror.” [24]

In 2004, Mira Ricardel, then acting assistant secretary of defense for international security policy, defended Karimov’s regime before the House International Relations Committee, trumpeting its alleged merits: “Uzbekistan is making significant progress reforming its Soviet-style military. Indeed, in many areas it serves as a model for other countries in the region. Alone among Central Asian states, Uzbekistan has appointed a civilian defense minister and has established firm civilian control of the military.” [25] In May 2003, the State Department touted Uzbekistan’s “substantial and continuing progress” in its human-rights record. Foggy Bottom had to strain mightily to arrive at that positive assessment. For example, the “average sentencing” for members of peaceful religious organizations declined to “7-12 years,” whereas two years before, such felons were “usually sentenced to 12-19 years.” [26]

Washington backs up its words with actual financial support for the regime: to date the United States has supplied the country with some $800 million in military and humanitarian aid. [27] But it isn’t just the formal organs of government that pay honor to Karimov in the United States; he is honored by non-government neocons and many leading figures in the Jewish community as well. Perhaps the greatest American apologist for Uzbekistan’s tyrant has been Stephen Schwartz, a onetime member of the neocon Foundation for the Defense of Democracies who is most celebrated for his purple prose advocating regime change in Saudi Arabia. Neocon luminary William Kristol wrote of Schwartz: “No one has done more to expose the radical, Saudi-Wahhabi face of Islam than Stephen Schwartz.” [28]

However, from Schwartz’s standpoint Uzbekistan is the polar opposite of Saudi Arabia. As he wrote in the neocon journal The Weekly Standard in 2002, the situation in Uzbekistan was about as good as it could get. Explaining away the grisly record of the Karimov regime, Schwartz asserted that “before freedom can be established, the enemies of freedom must be defeated. The fate of democracies that do not defeat the enemies of democracy is illustrated by the histories of Germany and Italy after the First World War. Democracies can grant mercy to their enemies only from a position of unchallengeable strength.” [29]

Given the danger facing Uzbekistan, it was essential for the regime to take a hard line:

Central Asia and the neighboring areas, including Pakistan and Afghanistan, along with the Sunni zones of Iraq, are on the front lines in the battle against infiltration by agents of the extremist Wahhabi sect, which is the state religion in Saudi Arabia, and its various ideological satellites. HT [the Islamic group Hizb-ut-Tahrir] represents a mixture of Communist methodology, Wahhabi theology, and fascist rhetoric. [30]

Schwartz portrayed the government repression in Uzbekistan as a necessity under the circumstances. “Since September 11, the United States no longer accepts the claim that the free exercise of terrorist agitation, incitement, and organization outweighs the benefits of legal sanction,” Schwartz wrote. “Here [Uzbekistan], the ‘fallacy of prior restraint’ has been replaced by a reliance on the doctrines of ‘probable cause’ and ‘preemption.’ That is, extremist rhetoric provides sufficient probable cause to take preemptive action to prevent bloodshed. In addition, it was never anything but ludicrous to imagine that the domestic legal standards of the United States could be applied to Uzbekistan and other transitional states.” [31]

As is apparent, Schwartz justifies suppression of free speech because “by their radicalism, groups like HT that do not presently carry out acts of violence nonetheless prepare an environment conducive to violence.” [32] For Karimov’s regime, such logic is used to justify the suppression of any speech deemed critical of the government or its policies. Moreover, Schwartz held that the United States should not simply tolerate Karimov’s repressive actions but actually support them: “The United States, which has entered into a military alliance with Uzbekistan, must support the Uzbeks in their internal as well as their external combat, and must repudiate the blandishments of the human rights industry.” [33] In short, in Schwartz’s view the United States had to be an active partner in Karimov’s tyranny.

Another key supporter of the brutal Karimov regime has been Natan Sharansky, the noted former Soviet dissident who until recently was minister of Jerusalem and Diaspora affairs for the Israeli government. Sharansky is a well-publicized champion of democracy, and he has been very close to neoconservatives, such as Richard Perle, since his Soviet refusenik days. The ideas in his The Case for Democracy: The Power of Freedom to Overcome Tyranny and Terror provided the inspiration for Bush’s second Inaugural Address, in which the president passionately proclaimed that the fundamental goal of American foreign policy would be to spread democracy.

In his book, Sharansky stresses the need for “moral clarity” in fighting evil. Like Bush, he describes a world “divided between those who are prepared to confront evil and those who are willing to appease it.” And he writes: “I am convinced that all peoples desire to be free. I am convinced that freedom anywhere will make the world safer everywhere. And I am convinced that democratic nations, led by the United States, have a critical role to play in expanding freedom around the globe.” [34]

But how does Sharansky-style democracy apply to the Uzbek tyranny? In an August 2004 interview with the Israeli Russian-language daily Novosti Nedeli, Sharansky justified Karimov’s actions as a necessary response to terrorism. “The Uzbek government adopted such an uncompromising position because it is understood in Tashkent, in the same way as Jerusalem, that the battle against terrorism is not some sort of tribal conflict; it is a world war of the forces of democracy against international terrorism,” he pontificated.

“It goes without saying that the strengthening, development, and defense of democracy in Uzbekistan are an important part of the struggle for human rights all over the world,” Sharansky continued. “However, it would be a mistake to believe that the democratization process could be speeded up by way of slander and defaming the courageous struggle that Uzbekistan is waging against terrorism.” [35]

Despite his reputation as a crusader for human rights, Sharansky is a hard-line Likudnik who emphasizes the need for an exclusivist Jewish state that at least indirectly controls the West Bank. Israeli Leon Hadar points out that Sharansky

refuses to acknowledge that Palestinians too want freedom from foreign rule and to recognize Palestinian nationalism as legitimate. For the Israeli ideologue the notion of making the Middle East ‘ and the West Bank ‘ safe for democracy under American leadership is self-serving.

It is an attempt to draw the U.S. into a never-ending war against the Arab world in a way that would serve the interests of Mr. Sharansky’s ultra-nationalist vision of a Greater Israel ruling over the Palestinians until they would “be ready for democracy.” [36]

The fact of the matter is that Karimov’s positions mesh with those of Sharon’s Israel and its American supporters, and that those ties have been used to enhance his standing with the United States. As Marc Perelman wrote in the Forward: “Observers said that Karimov … has used the American Jewish community as a beachhead to cement relations with both Washington and Jerusalem. Israeli and American Jewish communal leaders said that their efforts to cultivate ties with Uzbekistan have been motivated primarily by the regime’s positive attitude toward the local Jewish community and Israel as well as its hawkish stand against radical Islam.” [37]

For example, legendary Wall Street investor and financier Leon Levy, then chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, once hailed Karimov’s regime as a “democracy for all the Islamic countries.” [38] The Conference is an umbrella organization made up of more than 50 Jewish groups, and it styles itself as the “voice of organized American Jewry.”

When he visited the United States in 2002, Karimov was feted by some of America’s leading Jews. In New York City, he was honored in a special ceremony in which the Be’er Hagolah Institutes, an educational organization of Soviet Jews from the former Soviet Union, presented him with an award for “international leadership.” [39]

In his speech at the ceremony, Karimov emphasized the symbolic importance of getting such an award in post-9/11 New York:

If prior to that day there were some who did not fully understand the great threat that is posed by terrorism, whose roots are intricately connected to inhumane ideology of racism, religious fanaticism, and extremism, I believe the events of September 11 opened their eyes to the danger to which this menace exposes the civilized world.

Karimov justified his tough measures as necessary to deal with terrorism. “Everyone must understand the futility of the attempts to reason with this evil; that no country can afford to stand aside from the battle against this plague of the 21st century,” he asserted. “There can be no compromise, no deals struck with this vicious monster of modern times.” [40]

Fondly recalling his trip to Israel in 1998, Karimov remarked on the “shared dream” Israel has with his country in “seeking peace and becoming united in the future.” He emphasized that Uzbekistan “has not known of a single occurrence of anti-Semitism, racial and religious intolerance” in the course of its centuries-long history. Referring to the Bukharan Jewish community, which has resided in Uzbekistan for more than a thousand years, Karimov said that their culture is “based on the richest Hebraic spiritual tradition and the comprehensive positive influence of the ancient legacy of the Central Asian peoples. We are proud of this history.” [41]

Yehuda Lancry, Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations and a participant in the fete, lauded Karimov as a leader of “vision and courage” who had taken “bold actions in order to establish peace and unity in his young republic.” Declaring that Israel and Uzbekistan had made common cause in the war against evildoing, Lancry maintained that Israel and Uzbekistan were fighting “the same battle against forces of destruction, and against terror. Through shared values and shared commitments in our two countries we will emerge victorious.” [42]

Also speaking at the ceremony was Lev Leviev, the Uzbekistan-born Israeli billionaire and diamond magnate. Leviev, who is president of the Federation of the Jewish communities of the Former Soviet Union and the World Bukharan Jewish Congress, called Karimov a “a true friend of the Jewish people.” Leviev announced that “in the last 100 years Jews in Uzbekistan have never felt so safe, so secure.” Referring to Karimov’s having grown up in the same Jewish neighborhood as Leviev’s father and grandfather, Leviev promised Karimov: “As you have been a friend to us, we will be a loyal friend to you.” [43]

Present as well at the ceremony was former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, who lauded Karimov for his “courageous” decision to support America. [44]

Israel and Uzbekistan established diplomatic relations in 1992, right after Uzbekistan’s independence, and their relations have been warm ever since. The two states have signed several cooperative agreements on investment, science, culture, education, and trade. Evidence that Israel and Uzbekistan have collaborated also in combating Islamic terrorism may lie in the fact that, in 2000, Uzbekistan requested counterterrorism equipment and training for its security forces ‘ though Israel’s response does not seem to be documented. It is on the record that about 30 Uzbek-Israeli joint ventures do business in Uzbekistan, and in early 2000 the Uzbek state gas company signed a $160 million contract with an Israeli firm. Then-Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met Karimov in Tashkent in May 1998, and Karimov went to Israel later that year. [45]

The Jewish state’s befriending of Karimov accords with Israel’s long-standing “periphery states” geostrategic doctrine, whereby it seeks counterweights to its hostile Arab neighbors by forming alliances with more remote, non-Arab states ‘ for example, Turkey and, in the past, the Shah’s Iran. Karimov, in turn, benefits not only from direct Israeli support but also from help provided by the influential pro-Israeli lobby in Washington.

Support for Karimov is one case in which Israel’s interests coincide with those of both the new-style Bush imperialists and Big Oil. The interests of the latter two groups were not in harmony in the Middle East, where Big Oil preferred the stability of peace to the instability of war. [46] In Uzbekistan, the United States is simply propping up a dictator to maintain stability ‘ a classic technique of old-style U.S. imperialism that in the past has included support for Saddam Hussein and the Shah’s Iran.

The aim is to counter instability in an energy-rich region ‘ the Caspian Basin and Central Asia ‘ where American oil and gas interests would like to reap benefits, and the United States would gain leverage over vital resources not currently in its domain. Moreover, the American support for a dictator involves limited costs in terms of military manpower and money, in contrast to the huge costs involved in waging war and occupying Iraq, which have become so great as to make it difficult for the United States to act elsewhere.

Furthermore, the American presence in central Asia helps check the power of Russia, actually exerting pressure on Moscow; and it counters the maneuverings of China as well, though to a lesser extent. In his 1997 work The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy and its Geostrategic Imperatives, old-style imperialist Zbigniew Brzezinski portrays the Eurasian landmass as the linchpin for world power, with Central Asia being key to the domination of Eurasia. [47] For the United States to maintain the global primacy that Brzezinski equates with American security, the United States must, at the very least, prevent any possible adversary or coalition of adversaries from controlling that crucial region. And, of course, the best way for the United States to prevent adversaries from controlling a region is to control it herself.

As is apparent, therefore, the American empire and Israel have important geostrategic reasons to support Karimov’s Uzbekistan. But all of that has absolutely nothing to do with democracy. It would seem that the ideology of “democracy” simply serves as a weapon to advance concrete foreign-policy goals. But democracy itself? ‘ that was totally absent in the decision to adopt this policy. Obviously, a foreign policy really based on democratic ideals as traditionally understood would preclude collaboration with a murderous dictator such as Islam Karimov. To claim otherwise is to venture into the nether depths of Orwellianism ‘ but as the justifications for U.S. foreign policy are relentlessly spun and re-spun, Americans must beware lest we all be lured unwitting into that tenebrous realm of anti-thought.

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Britain helped train Uzbek killers

The Scotsman – UK helped train massacre army: BRITISH soldiers helped to train the army of Uzbekistan, which last month slaughtered hundreds of pro-democracy protesters, The Scotsman can reveal.

The government of the central Asian republic has admitted that its troops killed 173 civilian demonstrators on 12 and 13 May in the city of Andizhan – and the true toll is believed to have been much higher. Human rights groups have condemned the massacre.

Last year, about 150 British Army veterans of the Iraq war travelled to Uzbekistan to train with the army responsible for the killings. According to one independent witness, the British soldiers “shared tactics” with the Uzbeks.

The revelations will raise fresh questions about the UK government’s support for the autocratic regime of Islam Karimov, the Uzbek president.

Craig Murray, the former British ambassador to Uzbekistan who has been critical of UK policy towards Mr Karimov, was outraged that British troops had worked so closely with Uzbek forces.

“One of the most chilling things about the massacre was that it was not a spur-of-the-moment thing,” he said yesterday. “The morning after, the soldiers searched the square, methodically killing the wounded with bullets to the head.

“The idea that British Army soldiers were training alongside people who do that is simply appalling.”

Last autumn, 150 officers and men of the Royal Regiment of Wales travelled to Uzbekistan to take part in a major army training operation that apparently included combat operations.

The Uzbeks codenamed the operation Timur Express, a reference to the 14th-century warlord known in the West as Tamburlaine. The exercise took place at the Farish training camp, 200 miles south-west of the capital, Tashkent.

Pictures of the operation obtained by The Scotsman appear to show British and Uzbek troops firing a machine-gun and engaging in combat simulations.

The Welsh soldiers are members of the Territorial Army and most of them had served at least one tour in Iraq,

“The soldiers were able to use their experience gained in Iraq and other operations to train the Uzbeks using British tactics,” said one person who observed the Farish training operation.

Previously, the Foreign Office and the Ministry of Defence have admitted offering only support and training to selected Uzbek army officers, hoping to encourage democratic reform and Uzbekistan’s participation in international peacekeeping missions.

The government has been reluctant to admit providing operational support to the Uzbek army. The last time the MoD told parliament about military support, in February 2004, ministers said Britain had provided training and advice … focused on assisting the Uzbekistan ministry of defence with its defence reform efforts”.

The United States has also faced questions about its military support for Uzbekistan, seen as a key ally in the war on terrorism. Unconfirmed reports suggest that the Uzbek army units involved in the Andizhan killings had benefited from US military training.

In a statement last night, the MoD said: “Our limited activities in Uzbekistan are designed to sow the seeds of democratic management and accountability of the military.

“The Uzbek defence minister is very forward-leaning in his desire to modernise and increase professionalism in the armed forces.”

The MoD described the Welsh troops’ presence in Uzbekistan as an “annual peacekeeping exercise”. A spokesman was unable to say whether there would be another such exercise this year.

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Pressure Uzbekistan on rights

By Mark Brzezinski in The Boston Globe

ACTUAL FIGURES on last month’s loss of life from Uzbekistan’s crushing of an antigovernment demonstration remain cloudy. The government claims 169 people were killed, including 32 troops. Opposition figures claim over 700 dead, mostly innocent protesters. Following the events in Andijon, the United States should send a clear signal that even close allies in the war on terror must adhere to human rights standards. The blatant indifference to human rights, in the name of security, undermines our strategic objectives.

For the Bush administration, Uzbekistan presents a dilemma. It remains an important ally in our efforts to consolidate peace and stability in post-Taliban Afghanistan. After 9/11, Uzbekistan granted US forces the use of a key air base near the border of Afghanistan. Even today, the US military uses bases in Uzbekistan to stage missions into remote areas of western Afghanistan. Since 9/11, to bolster regional security, the United States has given Uzbekistan more than $500 million for border control and other measures. That the United States and Uzbekistan would have a much closer relationship was clear a few months after 9/11 when President Bush welcomed Uzbek President Islam Karimov to the White House.

While President Bush has made democratization and human rights the core of his second term’s foreign policy doctrine, Uzbekistan’s human rights record has not improved and may be getting worse. State Department reports have described how police repeatedly torture prisoners. The latest State Department report, issued in February, said, ”Torture was common in prisons, pretrial facilities, and local police and security service precincts.” The State Department noted that in 2003 the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture ”concluded that torture or similar ill-treatment was systematic.”

The way the United States has reacted to Uzbek government human rights abuses has sent mixed messages. In early 2004, following a string of suicide bombings in Tashkent that killed 47 people, the Uzbek government cracked down on people on religious grounds. Three months later, the State Department said it would cut $18 million in military and economic aid to Uzbekistan because of its failure to improve its human rights record.

But the next month, Pentagon officials announced an additional $21 million to help Uzbekistan in its campaign to remove its stockpile of biological weapons. A Pentagon official on a visit to Tashkent in August of 2004 reportedly noted concern about Uzbekistan’s human rights record but said: ”In my view, we shouldn’t let any single issue drive a relationship with any single country. It doesn’t seem to be good policy to me.”

It has been reported that the United States has sent terror suspects to Uzbekistan for detention and interrogation, even as Uzbekistan’s treatment of its own prisoners continues to earn it international condemnation. The US government’s program of ”rendition,” under which the Central Intelligence Agency transfers terror suspects to foreign countries to be held and interrogated, is said to have resulted in possibly dozens of terror suspects being sent by the United States to Uzbekistan. The message received by the Uzbek regime is that as long as effective intelligence collaboration with the CIA is maintained, other priorities in the United States-Uzbekistan relationship, including improvements in human rights, can be ignored.

Not all Western officials have tolerated this unfortunate arrangement. In July 2004, the British ambassador to Uzbekistan, Craig Murray, resigned after confidentially and then publicly urging colleagues in the British Foreign Office to stop using intelligence gleaned from terror suspects because it had been elicited through torture and other coercive means. Murray reportedly said his superiors in London told him that intelligence gleaned in Uzbekistan could still be used by British officials, even if it was elicited by torture, as long as the mistreatment was not at the hands of British interrogators.

To send a clear signal to Uzbek authorities that the United States is serious about human rights, the CIA’s rendition program with Uzbekistan must end. To be sure, Uzbekistan is in a position to offer some help in tackling critical security threats, especially in remote parts of Afghanistan. But seeking Karimov’s support on these issues — and it is in Uzbekistan’s own interest to do so — does not mean the Bush administration should remain quiet about negative trends in human rights.

The Uzbek government will continue to claim that their actions in Andijon were aimed solely at terrorist extremists and not at the political opposition, and as such are part and parcel of the global fight against terrorism.

And this is where the United States must convey a clear message to both Uzbekistan and other international partners with poor human rights records: ”Join us in the war on terror; don’t exploit the war on terror to crush political opposition and activists pressing for social change.”

Mark Brzezinski, an attorney, served as director for Russia/Eurasia on the National Security Council staff in the Clinton administration.

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Straw accused of currying favour

The Times- Straw accused of currying favour

:THE ancient electoral offence of ‘treating’, which bans candidates from bribing voters, is being dusted down by prosecutors after lying unused in law books for a century.

The first allegations of treating to be investigated by the Crown Prosecution Service involve the UK Independence Party (UKIP) providing hot beverages to electors and Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, giving curry to Muslims.

The Representation of the People Act forbids ‘providing meat, drink, entertainment or provision to any person’ for the purpose of corruptly influencing them to vote.

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Uzbek Ministries in Crackdown Received U.S. Aid

New York Times- Uzbek Ministries in Crackdown Received U.S. Aid: The United States has worked closely with Uzbekistan, a corrupt and autocratic state with a chilling human rights record, in the fight against international terrorism. It has also tried to professionalize the Uzbek military, improve its border security and help secure materials that could be used in nuclear, chemical or biological weapons – areas of engagement that American officials say are of clear national interest.

But such policies can backfire, improving the martial abilities of units that commit crimes against Uzbek citizens, and associating the United States with repression in the eyes of Uzbek people and the Islamic world.

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Human Rights Team Reported Missing in Uzbekistan

Human Rights Watch is concerned for the safety of a four-person delegation from the International Helsinki Federation who were visiting Andijan and were last heard from at 2 a.m., Tashkent time, on June 16th.

“Taking an international delegation into custody is a clumsy attempt to intimidate all human rights defenders,” said Holly Cartner, Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch.

The four human rights defenders were in Andijan province to document the post May 13 crackdown, and had been visiting the home of a human rights defender currently detained on charges related to the Andijan events.

For more details on this disturbing situation visit the HRW site.

This development follows on the heels of a report yesterday that a team from the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights(OHCHR)had found the security situation of over 400 refugees sheltered in a camp near the Kyrgyz city of Jalal Abad had greatly deteriorated following raids by a group of unidentified men.

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Balancing act on Uzbekistan: Which way will Washington lean?

International Herald Tribune- Balancing act on Uzbekistan: Which way will Washington lean? : …congressional critics of continued U.S. support for President Islam Karimov have called for a reassessment of the relationship with Uzbekistan. The most concrete action thus far has been the decision to withhold $11 million in assistance until Uzbekistan agrees to an outside investigation of the shooting.

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“We cannot remain idle while a government with which we have close ties so blatantly contravenes the ideal of freedom” – Senator John McCain

Financial Times – When decency and expediency clash: In the wake of a brutal crackdown last month in the eastern Uzbek city of Andijan, American policymakers seem to face a dilemma. On the one hand, the US must vigorously protest against the killing of hundreds of unarmed demonstrators and reaffirm that we stand for freedom, not repression. But on the other hand, the US has important military interests in Uzbekistan, including the use of a regional base that assists our efforts in Afghanistan. What is to be done?

While many commentators have described this as a complex problem, I believe the solution is simple. Either the government of Uzbekistan must make immediate, fundamental changes in the way it operates, or America’s relations with it must change fundamentally.

First, a few facts. Last month the security services of Islam Karimov, Uzbek president, fired on demonstrators after protesters stormed a prison and local government headquarters. The government contends that fewer than 200 people were killed by the troops, all of them armed Islamic militants. Eyewitnesses, journalists and independent groups tell a darker, much different, story. They estimate the dead at somewhere between 500 and 1,000, and say the vast majority were unarmed men, women and children protesting against the government’s corruption, lack of opportunity and continued oppression. In addition to those killed, many others were wounded, and at least 500 fled across the border into Kyrgyzstan.

Two weeks ago, senators Lindsey Graham, John Sununu and I travelled to central Asia, stopping briefly in Uzbekistan. There we saw photographs and heard other evidence that was as compelling as it was shocking, and it is clear that the Uzbek government’s account of the events in Andijan simply does not add up. It is also apparent that the killings were just the latest and most dramatic example of government repression in Uzbekistan.

In that country today there are no independent media or true opposition parties. The government’s human rights record is appalling, and political rights are virtually unknown. Often in the name of fighting Islamist terrorism, the government rounds up those opposed to its rule, sometimes subjecting prisoners to torture.

The government has provided genuine assistance to the US in the war on terror, and was particularly helpful during the height of our operations against the Taliban. But in a recent editorial in The Weekly Standard, Stephen Schwarz and William Kristol point out: “The Uzbek regime that was part of the solution in 2001 is now, with its bloody suppression of protests, part of the problem.” They are right. Uzbekistan today does have a real problem with violent Islamic extremism, but this will worsen because of the regime’s record of repression, not in spite of it. The Karimov regime must alter its governance radically, and it should begin by accepting an international inquiry into the Andijan events.

Unfortunately, the only change one sees today is movement in the wrong direction. Since Andijan the regime has rounded up opponents, refused to allow the European Union’s human rights envoy to enter the country, denied the Red Cross access to the wounded and imprisoned, and forced the termination of the American Peace Corps operation in Uzbekistan. During our brief visit two weeks ago, no government official would agree to meet us.

If this trend continues, the US has no choice but to re-evaluate all aspects of its relationship with Uzbekistan, and this includes our military relations. While we review our policy, we should suspend any talk of a long-term basing arrangement and look very critically at our continued presence at the Karshi-Khanabad air base.

To do otherwise risks damaging America’s credibility as the US puts ever greater priority on the promotion of human rights and democracy abroad. We cannot remain idle while a government with which we have close ties so blatantly contravenes the ideal of freedom. This does not mean that we simply walk away – in fact, allowing Uzbekistan to retreat into isolation poses its own dangers – but it does imply a different kind of relationship, one in which the US explicitly and publicly presses Mr Karimov to change.

Using sticks and carrots to encourage positive change may not be successful, but it would put the US on the right side of history. It would show the Uzbek people that we support their freedom, not simply our narrow security interests, and would actually strengthen our security in the long run. For if we have learnt any lesson from the attacks of September 11 2001, it is that, where repression and despair rule, extremism and violence breed.

This is a lesson that applies just as much to Mr Karimov’s government as it does to the US government. And so I hope his regime will realise that the only way to true security is to embrace fundamental freedoms and human rights. But if the US cannot induce change in Uzbekistan, we can at least avoid a close and continuing relationship with its current government. The world will expect no less of us, and we should expect no less of ourselves.

The writer is senior US senator from Arizona and a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee

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U.S. Opposed Calls at NATO for Probe of Uzbek Killings – Officials Feared Losing Air Base Access

Washington Post – U.S. Opposed Calls at NATO for Probe of Uzbek Killings: 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…

…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.

See also: “What we need in this region is an aircraft carrier in a smooth, calm sea and Uzbekistan is that aircraft carrier”

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“Bush lost no time in putting an air base in Uzbekistan, ostensibly to wage the so-called war against terror but in fact to prop up Karimov and extend the USA’s military range.”

Daily Mirror – Nailed By Mail: WONDERFUL thing, email.

I have been sent a copy of a letter from Kenneth Lay (pictured) – the ex-boss of the bankrupt Enron Corporation awaiting trial on corruption charges – to George W Bush when he was governor of Texas.

It introduces Sadyq Safaev, Uzbekistan’s ambassador to the USA and “senior foreign adviser” to the barbarous dictator Islam Karimov, to Bush in 1997.

The letter says: “Enron has established an office in Tashkent and we are negotiating a $2billion joint venture with Neftegas of Uzbekistan and Gazprom of Russia to develop Uzbekistan’s natural gas and transport it to markets in Europe, Kazakhstan and Turkey.

“This can bring significant economic opportunities to Texas as well as Uzbekistan. The political benefits to the US and Uzbekistan are important to the entire region.”

Lay is “delighted” Bush is meeting Safaev and predicts their talks will be “productive”.

So there you have it. George Dubya Bush is directly linked to tainted big business and the vile regime in Tashkent, which last month slaughtered at least 500 of its own citizens in cold blood.

Once in the White House, Bush lost no time in putting an air base in Uzbekistan, ostensibly to wage the so-called war against terror but in fact to prop up Karimov and extend the USA’s military range.

And this is the man our Prime Minister is happy to call his friend.

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