Sunday, May 15, 2005

Massive death in Uzbekistan - applauded by U.S. Government

Let's start with the bloodshed:

Massacre in Uzbekistan Up to 500 protesters feared dead. Ex-ambassador accuses UK of failing democracy movement (By Stephen Khan and Francis Elliott in London and Peter Boehm in Tashkent, 15 May 2005, The Independant of London)

Hundreds of protesters are reported to have been gunned down in bloody clashes with government forces that have ravaged eastern Uzbekistan.

One human rights observer in the eastern city of Andizhan said that up to 500 people may have perished in the shootings and the gun battles that followed. A doctor spoke of "many, many dead", witnesses said 200 to 300 people were shot dead, and an AP reporter saw at least 30 bodies in Andijan. As night fell, tension was high, with armoured vehicles positioned at crossroads and trucks blocking main thoroughfares. Terrified demonstrators tried to flee the country, seen as a key ally by Britain and the US in the war on terror.

...In a severe rebuke to London and Washington's approach to the region, Britain's former ambassador to the country yesterday said the countries had swallowed Uzbek propaganda that sought to portray the democracy movement as a brand of Islamic extremism.

... "The Americans and British wouldn't do anything to help democracy in Uzbekistan," he said. Uzbekistan provides a base for US forces engaged in anti-terrorism operations in neighbouring Afghanistan.

Mr Murray added: "We didn't provide support for those who were trying to develop democratic opposition, and that includes these people in Andizhan. People are turning to violence because we ... gave them no support."

Instead, "we" (the U.S. and Britain) have been supporting the government in Uzbekistan, because that governmnet has been providing "us" with bases from which to launch the "war on terror".

Actually, I think this isn't because of any "war on terror". And it's clearly not about promoting democracy, because otherwise "we" would have supported the democratic movement there. Instead it is geopolitics and the grabbing of resources that's important. Uzbekistan is, after all, part of the proposed pipeline route to get Oil out of the land which used to be central Soviet-Union. The rest of the proposed route was Afghanistan and Pakistan, neither of which are achieving much democracy, but both of which are getting U.S. support because of their cooperation.

In the Guardian of London: Anger as US backs brutal regime Human rights concerns as troops put down uprising in Uzbekistan (Nick Paton Walsh in Moscow and Paul Harris in New York, Sunday May 15, 2005)

Heated criticism was growing last night over 'double standards' by Washington over human rights, democracy and 'freedom' as fresh evidence emerged of just how brutally Uzbekistan, a US ally in the 'war on terror', put down Friday's unrest in the east of the country.

Outrage among human rights groups followed claims by the White House on Friday that appeared designed to justify the violence of the regime of President Islam Karimov, claiming - as Karimov has - that 'terrorist groups' may have been involved in the uprising.

... Witnesses and analysts familiar with the region said most protesters were complaining about government corruption and poverty, not espousing Islamic extremism.

... Uzbekistan is believed to be one of the destination countries for the highly secretive 'renditions programme', whereby the CIA ships terrorist suspects to third-party countries where torture is used that cannot be employed in the US. Newspaper reports in America say dozens of suspects have been transferred to Uzbek jails.

The CIA has never officially commented on the programme. But flight logs obtained by the New York Times earlier this month show CIA-linked planes landing in Tashkent with the same serial numbers as jets used to transfer prisoners around the world. The logs show at least seven flights from 2002 to late 2003, originating from destinations in the Middle East and Europe.

... Critics say the US double standards are evident on the State Department website, which accuses Uzbek police and security services of using 'torture as a routine investigation technique' while giving the same law enforcement services $79 million in aid in 2002. The department says officers who receive training are vetted to ensure they have not tortured anyone.