One of the most disturbing locations of US hypocrisy has been a country condemned even by the State Department for human-rights abuses, yet we're pouring more and more money into it, and supporting its brutal dictator, Islam Karimov. What could possibly be worth doing so? Uzbekistan has got very little attention in the US press but is becoming better known around the world for its regime, one that resembles Saddam's and the Shah's in a lot of respects. This is a Human Rights Watch profile of Karimov: http://www.hrw.org/press/2002/03/karimovprof.htm Here is a copy of a frightening NYT article: http://www.muslimuzbekistan.com/eng/ennews/2001/11/ennews03112001.html LONG BEFORE WAR, GREEN BERETS BUILT MILITARY TIES TO UZBEKISTAN By C. J. CHIVERS The New York Times October 25, 2001 In 1999, teams of Green Berets arrived at former Soviet garrisons outside the capital here. They were some of the Army's finest soldiers, they traveled in small groups and in the two years that followed they came and went every few months. The mission was straightforward: to train the army of a former foe, in part to prepare its inexperienced conscripts for skirmishes with the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, a terrorist group accused of setting off bombs in Tashkent earlier that year. The long-term goal was more ambitious. The Green Berets were one element of an accelerating security arrangement in which the two nations were laying the groundwork for more extensive military cooperation. In recent weeks this relationship has blossomed into the large-scale American deployment of Special Forces units and aircraft on what was once enemy soil. Years before the United States' war against the Taliban, at a time when the State Department was worrying over the dreary human rights record of President Islam Karimov's authoritarian government, the effort at military cooperation was already expanding, according to officials and military personnel from both countries. As Green Berets were familiarizing themselves with their new Central Asian partners, officials from the United States Central Command in Florida and the American Embassy in Tashkent were meeting with Uzbek defense officials, coordinating military programs. Soon, under a military education program that began here in 1995, more Uzbek officers were admitted to military schools in the United States, officials from both countries said. More American troops were attending training exercises in Uzbekistan's mountains and steppes. The United States also helped the Uzbek military and border guards acquire nonlethal equipment, including helmets, flak jackets, Humvee transport vehicles, night-vision goggles and radiation detectors used to search for smuggled nuclear material. Two weeks ago, the two countries announced an agreement that permitted American forces greater flexibility in operating from Uzbek bases, in return for assurances to protect Uzbekistan's security. And while the agreement stops short of being a mutual defense pact, it establishes "a qualitatively new relationship" that involves a long-term military commitment. The Special Forces training sessions have typically lasted a month, people familiar with them said. After repeated visits, the Green Berets have spent enough time in Uzbekistan that strong personal relationships have developed. One official said a few United States soldiers had married Uzbek women; another said that when the American buildup began in earnest a few weeks ago there were reunion scenes hearty bearhugs and backslaps when soldiers from the two nations met at the Khanabad air base. "These things are like modern dating," said one government official familiar with the programs. "Sometimes you get married, sometimes you get a temporary restraining order. In this case, it seems like we're engaged and things are going well." Bahodir Umarov, a spokesman for Uzbekistan's Foreign Ministry, said the interchange "is proving a fruitful relationship," adding, "The future is promising because we have a good potential for cooperating in this field." The rationale for these efforts was rooted in a complicated list of security concerns. On one level, the United States sought to replace some of Uzbekistan's affinity for Russia with ties to the West, and create a reliable ally near the Caspian Sea, a region with reserves of untapped oil. More immediately, the United States hoped to help Uzbekistan resist the violent Islamic fundamentalism that had taken hold in neighboring nations, and to ensure its cooperation in programs to prevent the spread of weapons of mass destruction two goals that have become more urgent of late. In pursuit of those aims, as the State Department was pressing Mr. Karimov to liberalize his government, the military was working with people lower in the ranks, embarking on policies and exercises that promoted personal contact between armies. "The United States has been interested in that area for quite a long time, and there have been quite a few exercises," said Charles Heyman, a retired British Army major who is now editor of Jane's World Armies, a publication that analyzes the abilities and operations of armies worldwide. "Some have been publicly disclosed and some have not. The real details are very, very hard to come by." The military relationship, part of a policy the Pentagon calls engagement, has not been without risks. On one hand, the United States was nudging a undemocratic leader into accepting a more democratic model for governing. On the other, it was flirting with the patronage-riddled military and police forces that fall under his command, and whose future loyalties and ambitions have been uncertain. But after the attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center, regional experts and officials said, engagement programs in Uzbekistan emerged as a case in which cooperation, at least for the short term, appeared to have reaped a strategic benefit, allowing different political cultures to align their interests in a tense time. "This is a region where personal contact is extremely important," said P. Terrence Hopmann, a Brown University political science professor who specializes in Central Asia. "If we had just shown up last month, wanting to use Uzbekistan's bases, it would not have been possible for things to go smoothly." Some American troops were involved in exercises in Uzbekistan as long ago as August 1996, according to the Department of Defense, although Uzbek officials say those exercises did not involve Special Forces. Rather, military officials said that under Gen. Anthony C. Zinni of the Marine Corps, the regional commander who supervised the military presence in the region until retiring last year, engagement efforts and Special Forces missions took much of their current shape in 1999. They have continued under the current commander, Gen. Tommy R. Franks of the Army. Several Green Beret teams have passed through the nation this year, for instance, and during the summer a Navy SEAL team also trained here. As part of the visits, Green Beret teams of about 15 members each performed their classic mission: training potential allies in the fundamentals of martial life, United States military officials said. They instructed the Uzbek military in marksmanship, infantry patrolling, map reading and the like, hoping to make the conscripts, who serve only 18-month enlistments, more capable in operations against the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, which intelligence officials say has fielded combat veterans from the Middle East, the Balkans and Afghanistan. The Green Berets have not been used in direct action against the terrorists, according to two government officials and two members of Special Forces units who discussed the missions on condition of anonymity. The primary reason for secrecy surrounding each visit, they said, has been to protect soldiers from terrorist attack. Government and military officials also said that enrolling Uzbek officers in American military schools had also proved a productive investment. For instance, they noted that an Uzbek lieutenant colonel who attended the English-language course at the Defense Language Institute in Texas and also the Air Force's Command and Staff College has helped coordinate the United States military's latest needs in Uzbekistan. "Because of his background he knows the United States military and how it thinks, and he has been very useful," an official said. Since this program began in Uzbekistan in 1995, 30 to 40 Uzbek officers have taken part in it, and the United States has allowed more access to schools in recent years, one Uzbek official said. The engagement relationship has also helped the United States gather intelligence, analysts and officials said. Tashkent was the former command post of the Soviet Union's Turkestan regional command, and a collection point for electronic eavesdropping on China and the Indian Ocean region. Many former Soviet surveillance stations on Uzbek soil are now used by Uzbekistan, according to Jane's World Armies. Government officials said electronic information gathered about terrorism had recently been shared with the United States. Moreover, because Uzbekistan maintains an intense security apparatus over its citizens, it also has gathered intelligence on suspected Islamic terrorists or sympathizers from interrogations. That information is believed to be less valuable, however, and critics say it shows a troubling underside that can accompany allegiances with former Soviet nations, and the problems moral and practical that follow. Human rights advocates say that because the Uzbek security police torture suspects, intelligence gleaned from their interrogations is uneven, with accurate information mixed with contrived confessions from innocent detainees. Uzbek interrogations, they said, sometimes begin with beatings and end with suspects signing blank statements, to which security officers insert a scripted text.