Why are we supporting this thug?

Discussion in 'Current Events' started by SLClemens, Nov 24, 2003.

  1. SLClemens

    SLClemens Guest

    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:



    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.
  2. SLClemens

    SLClemens Guest

    The following is from a British paper:


    (see also http://russia.jamestown.org/pubs/view/pri_007_012_007.htm

    US looks away as new ally tortures Islamists

    Uzbekistan's president steps up repression of opponents

    Nick Paton Walsh in Namangan
    Monday May 26, 2003
    The Guardian

    Abdulkhalil was arrested in the fields of Uzbekistan's Ferghana valley in August last year. The 28-year-old farmer was sentenced to 16 years in prison for "trying to overthrow the constitutional structures".
    Last week his father saw him for the first time since that day on a stretcher in a prison hospital. His head was battered and his tongue was so swollen that he could only say that he had "been kept in water for a long time".

    Abdulkhalil was a victim of Uzbekistan's security service, the SNB. His detention and torture were part of a crackdown on Hizb-ut-Tahrir (Party of Liberation), an Islamist group.

    Independent human rights groups estimate that there are more than 600 politically motivated arrests a year in Uzbekistan, and 6,500 political prisoners, some tortured to death. According to a forensic report commissioned by the British embassy, in August two prisoners were even boiled to death.

    The US condemned this repression for many years. But since September 11 rewrote America's strategic interests in central Asia, the government of President Islam Karimov has become Washington's new best friend in the region.

    The US is funding those it once condemned. Last year Washington gave Uzbekistan $500m (£300m) in aid. The police and intelligence services - which the state department's website says use "torture as a routine investigation technique" received $79m of this sum.

    Mr Karimov was President Bush's guest in Washington in March last year. They signed a "declaration" which gave Uzbekistan security guarantees and promised to strengthen "the material and technical base of [their] law enforcement agencies".

    The cooperation grows. On May 2 Nato said Uzbekistan may be used as a base for the alliance's peacekeeping operations in Afghanistan.

    Since the fall of the Taliban, US support for the Karimov government has changed from one guided by short-term necessity into a long-term commitment based on America's strategic requirements.

    Critics argue that the US has overlooked human rights abuses to foster a police state whose borders give the Pentagon vantage points into Afghanistan and the other neighbouring republics which are as rich in natural resources as they are in Islamist movements.

    The geographical hub of the US-Uzbek alliance is 250 miles south of the capital, Tashkent. Outside the town of Karshi lies the Khanabad military base, the platform for America's operations in Afghanistan.

    The town of Khanabad has been closed for months by the Uzbek government. Locals say the restrictions are compensated for by the highly paid work the base brings.

    Journalists are not allowed in to see its runway, logistical supply tents and troop lodgings, all set on roads named after New York avenues. One western source said: "[The Americans] expect to be here for over a decade."

    This will suit the Uzbek government, which welcomes America's change in attitude as its own security forces continue to repress the population. Uzbeks need a permit to move between towns and an exit visa to leave the country. Attendance at a mosque seems to result in arrest.

    In the city of Namangan, in the Ferghana valley, there are many accounts of the regime's brutality. A fortnight ago, Ahatkhon was beaten by police and held down while members of the Uzbek security service stuffed "incriminating evidence" into his coat pocket. They called in two "witnesses" to watch them discover two leaflets supporting Hizb-ut-Tahrir. He was forced to inform on four friends, one of whom - an ex-boxer - is still in pain from his beating. Abdulkhalil and Ahatkhon prayed regularly. This seemed to have been enough to brand them as the Islamists the Karimov government fears.

    The Ferghana valley has been a base for the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), which the US and the UK say has links with al-Qaida. But the group is thought to have been crippled by the operations in Afghanistan. Analysts dismiss US claims that the IMU is targeting American military assets in the neighbouring republic of Kyrgyzstan.

    The fight against the IMU has been used to justify the repression of Islamists. But the Islamic order advocated by Hizb-ut-Tahrir fills a void left by devastating poverty and state brutality.

    Craig Murray, the British ambassador to Uzbekistan, said: "The intense repression here combined with the inequality of wealth and absence of reform will create the Islamic fundamentalism that the regime is trying to quash."

    Another senior western official said: "People have less freedom here than under Brezhnev. The irony is that the US Republican party is supporting the remnants of Brezhnevism as part of their fight against Islamic extremism."

    The US is also funding some human rights groups in Uzbekistan. Last year it gave $26m towards democracy programmes. A state department spokesman said America's policy was "reform through engagement" and that Uzbekistan had "taken some positive steps", including "registering a human rights group and a new newspaper".

    Matilda Bogner of Human Rights Watch's office in Tashkent said: "I would deny there has been any real progress.

    "The steps taken are basically window dressing used to get the military funding through the US Congress's ethical laws. Nothing has changed on the ground."

    Hakimjon Noredinov, 68, agreed. He became a human rights activist after a morgue attendant brought him his eldest son, Nozemjon. He had been left for dead by the security service but was still alive despite having his skull fractured. Nozemjon is now 33, but screamed all night since they split his skull open. He is now in an asylum, Mr Noredinov said. "People's lives here are no better for US involvement," he said.

    "Because of the US help, Karimov is getting richer and stronger."

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