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


By STEPHEN J. SNIEGOSKI

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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