If Orson Welles could remake Citizen Kane (Citizen Karimov?) Uzbekistan's Rosebud would be Khanabad. Khanabad embodies a graphic post-Cold War irony. It used to be the biggest Soviet airbase during the 1980s war in Afghanistan. Now it hosts the Americans — ostensively serving to help the 'war on terror' in Afghanistan.
The Washington-Tashkent 'special relationship' started as early as the mid-1990s, during the Bill Clinton administration. In 1999, Green Berets were actively training Uzbek Special Forces. Khanabad has nothing to do with Afghanistan: Bagram takes care of this. But Khanabad is crucial as one of the key bases surrounding Bush's Greater Middle East, or to put it in the relevant perspective, the Middle East/Caucasus/Central Asia heavenly arc of oil and gas. It's on a seven-year lease to the Pentagon, due to expire in late 2008.
So Karimov in Uzbekistan is as essential a piece in the great oil and gas chessboard as Hamid Karzai in Afghanistan. Inevitably, there will be more uprisings in the impoverished Ferghana Valley that has reached a boiling point. Karimov again will unleash his American-funded army. The White House will be silent. The Kremlin will be silent (or dub it 'green revolution' - by Islamic fundamentalists, as it did with Andijan). Corporate media will be silent: one imagines the furor had Andijan happened in Lebanon when Syrian troops were still in the country. Uzbeks in the Ferghana won't be valued as people legitimately fighting for freedom and democracy: they will be labeled as terrorists. And Rumsfeld will keep cultivating a 'strong relationship' with Karimov's Rosebud.
President Bush discusses freedom in Iraq and the Middle East
Sixty years of Western nations excusing and accommodating the lack of freedom in the Middle East did nothing to make us safe -- because in the long run, stability cannot be purchased at the expense of liberty. As long as the Middle East remains a place where freedom does not flourish, it will remain a place of stagnation, resentment, and violence ready for export. And with the spread of weapons that can bring catastrophic harm to our country and to our friends, it would be reckless to accept the status quo. (Applause.)
Therefore, the United States has adopted a new policy, a forward strategy of freedom in the Middle East. This strategy requires the same persistence and energy and idealism we have shown before. And it will yield the same results. As in Europe, as in Asia, as in every region of the world, the advance of freedom leads to peace. (Applause)
The Object of Torture is Torture
In January, 2004, the State Department announced that Uzbekistan had not met international human rights standards. In July the United States cut off $18 million in military and economic aid to Uzbekistan. This probably seemed harsh to Uzbekistan, coming as it did, less than two years after its president had been a guest at the White House. It was welcomed by those concerned with human rights.
Tom Malinowski who is a human rights analyst for Human Rights Watch, observed that: "This is the first time that the administration has allowed a lack of progress on human rights to have a significant impact on its relationship with a critical security partner in that part of the world."
The news is of course wonderful. We won't give Uzbekistan any more money until it quits torturing prisoners. The only thing we are presently willing to give it is people. According to a recent report in the New York Times, it is believed that the C.I.A. is sending some of the people it has captured to Uzbekistan. The people it is sending are terror suspects. Estimates are that as many as 150 suspected terrorists have been sent abroad to a number of countries, including Uzbekistan. Asked about the practice one official refused to say whether prisoners went to Uzbekistan but he did say reassuringly that: %"The United States does not engage in or condone torture." That explains why the aid was cut off. It doesn't explain why prisoners get sent there. That is probably none of our business. It should be.
Extract the Melian Dialogue:
Athenians. Since the negotiations are not to go on before the people, in order that we may not be able to speak straight on without interruption, and deceive the ears of the multitude by seductive arguments which would pass without refutation (for we know that this is the meaning of our being brought before the few), what if you who sit there were to pursue a method more cautious still? Make no set speech yourselves, but take us up at whatever you do not like, and settle that before going any farther. And first tell us if this proposition of ours suits you.
The Melian commissioners answered:
Melians. To the fairness of quietly instructing each other as you propose there is nothing to object; but your military preparations are too far advanced to agree with what you say, as we see you are come to be judges in your own cause, and that all we can reasonably expect from this negotiation is war, if we prove to have right on our side and refuse to submit, and in the contrary case, slavery.
Athenians. If you have met to reason about presentiments of the future, or for anything else than to consult for the safety of your state upon the facts that you see before you, we will give over; otherwise we will go on.
Melians. It is natural and excusable for men in our position to turn more ways than one both in thought and utterance. However, the question in this conference is, as you say, the safety of our country; and the discussion, if you please, can proceed in the way which you propose.
Athenians. For ourselves, we shall not trouble you with specious pretences- either of how we have a right to our empire because we overthrew the Mede, or are now attacking you because of wrong that you have done us- and make a long speech which would not be believed; and in return we hope that you, instead of thinking to influence us by saying that you did not join the Lacedaemonians, although their colonists, or that you have done us no wrong, will aim at what is feasible, holding in view the real sentiments of us both; since you know as well as we do that right, as the world goes, is only in question between equals in power, while the strong do what they canand the weak suffer what they must.
Apparently the Uzbek color revolution, is a horse of a different colour.