Massacre in Uzbekistan

by John Q on May 14, 2005

The news on the massacre in Uzbekistan is sketchy, but it seems clear that troops fired on a protest meeting, killing dozens.

The massacre followed violent protests in which government buildings were taken over, and prisoners, including alleged members of Islamist groups, were set free, but it appears that the protestors were simply listening to speeches when the troops attacked them .

The best information seems to be at Registan, which I found through the relatively new system of Technorati tags

The US currently has an air base and around 1000 troops in Uzbekistan. They can’t be regarded as neutral, and their presence clearly supports the mass murdering and torturing dictator Karimov, someone who appears indistinguishable from Saddam circa 1980. A literal reading of Administration rhetoric would suggest that the US should use its power to overthrow Karimov , but there’s zero possibility that this will happen (the official US response is an appeal for restraint, directed mainly at the protestors). But the troops should be withdrawn immediately, and all ties with this evil regime broken.



mrjauk 05.14.05 at 4:57 am

Karimov may be a son-of-a-bitch, but at least he’s our son-of-a-bitch.
Did Michael Jackson really molest some young boys at his ranch?!?


RSL 05.14.05 at 6:27 am

But John, we can’t remove the base in Uzbekistan. Where else would the folks we’re flying over there to be tortured land?

Your friend Rummy . . .


Amardeep 05.14.05 at 7:30 am

I found this on the Karimov government on Counterpunch:

Specifically, the government has arrested and tortured thousands of independent Muslims, including minors. HRW and other human rights organizations estimate that there are between 7,000 and 10,000 prisoners held on religious and political charges. Most recently, forensic evidence has been revealed suggesting that Karimov’s government boiled to death two Muslim prisoners after they refused to stop praying.


abb1 05.14.05 at 7:35 am

Those boiled to death were probably terrorists and bad people all around. Maybe even the worst of the worst. And why don’t you ever mention Nick Berg’s beheading, uh?


Ancarett 05.14.05 at 8:42 am

A friend of mine is on her way back from a Peace Corps posting in Nukus. From her accounts, I would say that Karimov counts as little more than a grandstanding thug who’s learned that branding his opponents as Islamic extremists will do well to strengthen his standings in the outside world.

Uzbekistan is hopelessly impoverished, in part through the situation of the environment and resource but much more due to the policies of its current government which stifles enterprise and funnels much of what revenue is generated into the hands of a few rich relatives and hangers-on of the current regime.

Andijon doesn’t seem to be a centre of Islamic extremism, but is arguably the centre for smuggling from countries on Uzbekistan’s eastern border. The uprising there can be pegged directly to Karimov’s attempt to shut down the smuggling which is a vital lifeline for the country’s economy (look at what Uzbekistan really produces — nearly nothing!) or bully from merchants an impossible share of their revenues.

The saying is “Better the devil you know than the devil you don’t” but our ignorance of what’s really going on in Uzbekistan has robbed us of a chance of understanding what real alternatives exist to Karimov’s corrupt regime.


Tim Worstall 05.14.05 at 8:46 am

I believe the ex-UK Ambassador had something to say about this. Got fired for saying it too didn’t he?


Noah 05.14.05 at 9:08 am

It sounds like you’re anti-Uzbek. What’s happening in Sudan is much worse, and what about Tibet, damnit?


Tom Warn 05.14.05 at 9:19 am

“It sounds like you’re anti-Uzbek. What’s happening in Sudan is much worse, and what about Tibet, damnit?”

You seem to be suggesting that speaking out against Uzbekistan’s Karimov, world class fingernail extractor extrordinaire, should only be allowed if one is willing to invade the Sudan and go to war with China. Remarkable position to say the least.


Uncle Kvetch 05.14.05 at 9:48 am

Hey, Freedom can’t be On The March everywhere at once, y’know.

The always indispensable Billmon puts things in perspective.


Nathan 05.14.05 at 10:36 am

Thanks for the link, but,

But the troops should be withdrawn immediately, and all ties with this evil regime broken.

is a prescription for throwing to the wolves a lot of people and organizations — civil society groups, students, etc. — who benefit from the US presence. It may satisfy the soul, but it hangs Uzbeks out to dry.


ed_finnerty 05.14.05 at 10:45 am

When the US effort in afghanistan was bogged down mostly for lack of proximate airbases the Uzbeks allowed the US to establish an airbase. This turned the war. The US will not move against the devil they made this deal with.


Tom Warn 05.14.05 at 10:47 am

“The US will not move against the devil they made this deal with.”

Which of course makes a mockery of all Bush claims he stands for.


am 05.14.05 at 10:59 am

In 2002 a group of Chavez party thugs fired on opposition marchers killing approximately twenty and wounding approximately one hundred. Vainly have I searched for even mention of this, let alone condemnation.

Please explain?


P O'Neill 05.14.05 at 11:06 am

Now we know why Pootie-Poot and Dubya got on so well last week despite the little Yalta blow-up — Karimov may be a SOB, but he’s their SOB. It’s as if when the leaders of big nations get together to cut deals, the people of small nations are the ones who suffer.


Brendan 05.14.05 at 11:08 am

Sorry which massacre in Venezuela were you talking about?

‘Friday’s military coup came on the heels of enormous anti-government protests sponsored by a coalition of military and business forces. Thirteen people died under circumstances that still remain murky. Eyewitness sources describe a band of opposition snipers firing into a crowd of pro-Chavez demonstrators, killing at least 10.’

Was that the one you meant? Or was it this one?

‘By contrast, coup leaders describe government troops shooting into a crowd of opposition protesters. It is this version that is most often told in US newspapers.’


Amardeep 05.14.05 at 11:26 am

CNN is now putting the death toll in the hundreds… Does that change things?


Scott Martens 05.14.05 at 12:28 pm

One wonders if the next colour-coded revolution will be against a US ally? It would make the perfect follow-up to Bush’s speech in Georgia. Anybody chosen a colour yet?


Daniel 05.14.05 at 12:31 pm

In 2002 a group of Chavez party thugs fired on opposition marchers killing approximately twenty and wounding approximately one hundred. Vainly have I searched for even mention of this, let alone condemnation.

Please explain?

Possibly because none of s are Latin American experts and it is extremely difficult to piece together from local news sources an accurate and unbiased account of what happened during the coup in Venezuela.

But mainly because Crooked Timber was founded in June 2003.


Marc M 05.14.05 at 12:53 pm

This Uzbek post is kinda silly though got here from another site to this crooked timber link, the comments are not working.


Shelby 05.14.05 at 12:57 pm

Back to Uzbekistan —

As someone whose brother is there right now, flying a C-130 out of that US airbase, I’m of course concerned. I suspect the best thing the US government can do in the short term is what it’s already doing: hunker down, condemn violence on all sides, and probably try to conduct some urgent diplomacy behind the scenes. By the way, how does John Quiggin read the official US press release as “directed mainly at the protestors”? Looks pretty even-handed to me.

Longer-term, should we try to install a more democratic regime in Uzbekistan? Hell no. We should, though, try to promote the development of a civic culture that can organically give rise to democracy. We should be finding serious ways to put pressure on the current gov’t there to give up torture. While to an extent we’re stuck with Karimov, he’s also stuck with us. We need access to airbases in that neighborhood; he needs US money and legitimacy.

In the long run, the area is moving democratic, thanks largely to the current US actions. Eventually we will not need an airbase in Uzbekistan, but they will still need our money and legitimacy. This is not an overnight thing, and pulling out now will in no way help the rebels, unless they are organized, funded and armed. That is, incidentally, the description of the terrorist organization the US is worried about there.

Surely advocates of a slower, non-military approach in Iraq would support that same approach in Uzbekistan? But recognize that it really is years slower.


Shelby 05.14.05 at 1:03 pm

I should probably clarify that, if there’s a quick, reasonably secure means to help Uzbekistan establish a democratic government, I’m all for that. My impression is that that is not likely soon; if I’m wrong, so much the better.


Tom T. 05.14.05 at 1:14 pm

Obviously, the foreign policy disaster that should be on American planners’ minds is the Shah of Iran, but there have been contrary examples of a U.S. ally making the transition from an authoritarian government to a democracy while retaining close ties to the US. The Philippines, South Korea, and Greece come to mind. A revolution in a U.S. ally can thus be an opportunity for American foreign policy as well as a potential black eye. I agree with Quiggin that the U.S. response thus far seems much too tepid, and I may come around to his view entirely, but as yet I’m not convinced that disengagement is called for.


ed_finnerty 05.14.05 at 1:37 pm

The airbase in Uzbekistan was proximately obtained to fight the taleban – it is necessary for the longer term (50 years) central asian strategy of containment of china and control of chinese alliances with other central asian/middle eastern partners. That is, Iran/Pakistan etc.

Despite the outward show of neo-con idealism the underlying moves are real-politic all the way. Bush may believe otherwise but nobody else does. Think about it – is Cheney an idealist.


Tom Warn 05.14.05 at 2:04 pm


abb1 05.14.05 at 2:14 pm

With these guys idealism and realism is the same thing, as their only ideal is world domination.


Marc M 05.14.05 at 2:21 pm

When I said this Uzbek post is silly I meant the idea that a simple literal interpretation of some rhetorc makes much sense.

comments in that link still don’t work


production line 12 05.14.05 at 3:14 pm

As I mentioned over at Quiggin’s site, people seem to be forgetting that the country with the most military, diplomatic, and economic influence in the region is not the US, it is the Russian Federation. The broader consequences of a western nation trying to forcibly alter the regimes of CIS member states are not worth the lives of a few Uzbeks. If you want to spray invective around, why not spray it Putin’s way?


John Quiggin 05.14.05 at 3:23 pm

Umm, marc, the phrase “literal interpretation” is normally an indication that the actual meaning of the rhetoric differs from the apparent one.

I think (at least I hope), that Noah was joking, though I can’t be quite sure since “am” came in with an egregious example of exactly the same fallacy. But as it happens, a search of this site for “Tibet” and “Sudan” will not be in vain.


Marc M 05.14.05 at 3:59 pm

I understand what the word ‘interpretation’ means and that is exactly the point since the literal interpretation you provide in the original post is what I was dscribing.


Noah 05.14.05 at 4:04 pm


Sorry, yes, that was sarcasm. Never mind.


Steve Burton 05.14.05 at 4:56 pm

Henry Farrell:

OK, you strongly disapprove of America’s current cooperation with the government of Uzbekistan, which you campare to America’s previous cooperation with Saddam Hussein.

You also strongly disapprove of America’s more recent military overthrow of Hussein, so you would presumably feel the same way about any attempt to *overthrow* Karimov.

So what do you really want?

Pure realism? Pure neutralism? Pure pacifism?

Or just the *very* slightly different mix of realism & Democracy promotion that you would get with a Democrat administration as opposed to a Republican one?


KCinDC 05.14.05 at 5:23 pm

Are support and overthrow the only possible choices?

Would the Democratic administration be claiming that we were supporting a torturing dictator as part of an exciting new program of promoting democracy and a dramatic break from the immoral old realpolitik?


John Quiggin 05.14.05 at 5:27 pm

Steve, since Henry hasn’t posted or commented, I’ll assume this is meant for me.

I want no military co-operation or other friendly dealing with regimes like those of Karimov and Hussein. This doesn’t seem to raise any issues of neutralism or pacifism, and does imply a break with the policies of most past US administrations, though the Dems have gradually moved in the direction I favor.

There’s a question of where to draw the line here, and it seems necessary to deal with Musharraf for example. But any reasonable line would exclude Karimov.

As regards overthrowing governments, a whole post is needed for that, but, for the record, an attempt to overthrow Karimov would be a silly idea, at least in present circumstances.


John Quiggin 05.14.05 at 5:31 pm

“directed mainly at the protestors”

I was referring mainly to this point “It’s not just the violence the U.S. is expressing concern about. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said there is another worry — that among those freed in the jailbreak were members of an Islamist group designated terrorist by Washington. ”

It seems pretty clear from my reading that the administration is more concerned about the protests than about the government’s repression.


Shelby 05.14.05 at 10:20 pm


That is indeed the only line in the release that seems to refer to the protestors and not the government. Two points, though: (1) The protestors aren’t actually mentioned in it, and (2) there are certainly Islamist terrorist-designees running around in that part of the world, some of them in jail. I don’t know who’s “better” or “worse,” them or Karimov. I also don’t know how confident the State department (or CIA or whomever) is in so designating them, or whether it’s a reasonable designation. The point is, unless you’ve got remarkable access, you don’t know either. Your post slurs the US statement by indicating it’s taking sides. All it does is note a particular issue that’s of serious concern for the US government, which seems reasonable to me.


george 05.14.05 at 11:06 pm

John Q, a couple points. First, you say that the rhetoric of this Administration “would suggest that the US should use its power to overthrow Karimov.” This is mostly speculation on my part, but my guess is that American intelligence and/or other government elements have had some role in some or all of the “color coded” revolutions in recent months: Ukraine, Lebanon, etc. That probably includes helping to trigger the turmoil in Uzbekistan. Though Karimov hasn’t folded as easily as some, I’ll bet the US is, in fact, trying to use its power (in this case non-military) to overthrow Karimov. The US has a lot of tools in its foreign policy quiver, and the military is only one of them.

Second, the US did in fact withdraw all or most of its non-military aid to Karimov’s regime sometime about a year ago, after he failed to progress on any of numerous human rights issues. (Karimov promptly turned to the Russins, who happily picked up the slack.) I know that’s not good enough for you, but it does bear on the discussion here. As you say, it’s a subjective question: where do you draw the line? Bush appears to have decided that Karimov is not bad enough to end all strategic cooperation — but not good enough to merit any other help. I think that’s a defensible position. Others may differ, of course.


Marc M 05.15.05 at 12:15 am

yes the last two interpretations by george and shelby seem reasonable given the information in the report

given the information in the report could you explain how you arrived at your reading?


Steve Burton 05.15.05 at 12:24 am

John Quiggin: sorry, I can’t figure out why I thought this was an HF post.

I look forward to hearing more about the direction that you favor and in which the Dems have gradually been moving.


John Quiggin 05.15.05 at 1:31 am

Steve, the direction I refer to is refusing to deal with brutal dictators as opposed to the traditional view that “he may be an SOB but he’s our SOB”. Carter was the first to shift away from this to any significant degree, and Clinton was at least better than Reagan and Bush 1. Karimov provides a clear test for Bush 2, and he appears set to fail it.

As regards the Administration’s attitude to Karimov, I think Billmon provides enough evidence that we don’t need any further parsing of the press release.


Procrastinator 05.15.05 at 2:48 am

[i]Quoth Ancarett:[/i]

>> (look at what Uzbekistan really produces—nearly nothing!)

Oh, that’s too easy… tainted spices of course…


Darren 05.15.05 at 6:29 am

if there’s a quick, reasonably secure means to help Uzbekistan establish a democratic government, I’m all for that.

But democracy in its current form is the most powerful form of tyranny devised. It gives a voice to the majority who have nothing to say while it murders the minority who have something to say. See … Academics targeted as murder and mayhem hits Iraqi colleges by Robert Fisk.


Ancarett 05.15.05 at 6:44 am

A blog from a Peace Corps volunteer stationed in Andijon:


Uncle Kvetch 05.15.05 at 10:12 am

Doesn’t anyone who bought into the “humanitarian” argument for invading Iraq pretty much have to call for invading Uzbekistan forthwith, if in fact they’re consistent? Or are we going to start hearing about the relative evilosity of boiling political prisoners alive vs. rape rooms?


Hektor Bim 05.15.05 at 11:09 am

Uncle Kvetch,

While I agree that the US government is far too cozy with Uzbekistan, I don’t think Karimov and Hussein’s governments are comparable. As far as i know, Karimov doesn’t practice genocide or ethnically-based oppression. He also doesn’t make a habit of invading and attempting to annex portions of neighboring countries. So I think your comparison is wrong. There is no counterpart as far as I know in Uzbekistan to the mass graves of Kurds and Shiites in Iraq.

I’m glad to see this under discussion, and it is nice to see a denunciation of Karimov, but it is interesting that as far as I can tell, Karimov’s actions are far less odious than Putin’s, for example. Would you, John Quiggin, suggest a paring back of engagement with Putin, for example?

I’m for it, along with a reduction in aid to other despts, like those ruling Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, China, and Russia, but I don’t see it happening in the near future.

Another interesting place is Vietnam. They continue to torture and detain dissidents, and there have been killings in the Highlands. Should we not engage with them?


Hektor Bim 05.15.05 at 11:18 am

I’d also like to point out that torturing and killing political prisoners is relatively common in authoritarian countries. Here’s a short list of governments that currently engage in it as far as I know:

United States
Lebanon (though this may soon change)
Israel (arguable)
Palestinian Authority
Saudi Arabia
Central African Republic

and I’m sure other people can add to this.


Shelby 05.15.05 at 11:39 am


Yes, that’s why Britain, France, the US, Norway and Japan are clearly the most tyrranical countries to their own minorities.



bi 05.15.05 at 2:31 pm

Hektor Bim, I didn’t know that US has air bases in Russia, China, and Vietnam.


Marc M 05.15.05 at 3:53 pm

Steve, the direction I refer to is refusing to deal with brutal dictators as opposed to the traditional view that “he may be an SOB but he’s our SOB”. -john q

john your silliness continues since you don’t specify what you mean by dealing with

pointing to problems is easy enough but providin specific alternativs is the issue

like answern the first question only on a test and expectinv to get an ‘A’ because you get the first question right

silly and no wonder ct attracts some of the custormers they do, like darren


Matthew Mullins 05.15.05 at 4:05 pm

You can add France to the countries listed for torturing and killing political prisoners. You can verify this by checking Amnesty International’s Annual Reports. I recall hearing recently that the UK was refusing to extradite terror suspects to France due to reports of torture by Frances Anti-Terrorism units.


george 05.15.05 at 4:32 pm

Remarkable that Billmon decides to elide out, in an item about continuing US aid, the fact that the aid is for decommissioning Soviet-era WMDs. Could it have been because that fact might put the Bush White House in a slightly less-bad light? Just guessing.

Also remarkable that his exhaustive list omits this, from July of last year: Here’s an excerpt, for those who don’t have time to cut and paste the url:

“In a rare rebuke of an ally, the Bush administration announced yesterday that it will cut $18 million in military and economic aid to the authoritarian government of Uzbekistan because it has failed to take a series of promised steps to improve its human rights record. The decision will not affect funding Uzbekistan receives from the Nunn-Lugar project to secure nuclear weapons material. Programs that support democracy groups and health care will also be exempt.”

Again, it’s certainly legitimate to argue that this is not enough, that the US should end all cooperation with Karimov’s regime so as not to sully our American ideals. But neither of you (Billmon or John Q) seems prepared to argue that; rather, you simply ignored this item as weakening your case. And it’s not as if it was a hard piece of information to find. I remembered reading it in the NYT at the time, and a few minutes ago it was the 8th item on a Google search for “uzbekistan aid”.

In short, I have a hard time accepting even legitimate arguments from those with weak intellectual credibility.


John Quiggin 05.15.05 at 5:50 pm

George, my post didn’t mention US aid to Karimov, and as far as I can see, neither did Billmon’s.


george 05.15.05 at 5:57 pm

John Q, your post does not, but Billmon’s certainly does. Your comment (no. 39 above) cited Billmon’s post as “provid[ing] enough evidence” “[a]s regards the Administration’s attitude to Karimov”. Yet Billmon’s post omits, most likely deliberately, significant evidence. The most generous conclusion is that you ought not assume Billmon’s postings to be authoritative on any subject touching Bush.


John Quiggin 05.15.05 at 6:56 pm

On a more careful check, Billmon’s post contains exactly one reference to aid , in a Reuters report far down the page after the numerous quotes and photographs I was alluding to. It’s absurd to suggest that the post was “an item about continuing US aid”.

Billmon’s post shows lots of friendly contacts between the Bush Administration and the Karimov regime.


liberal 05.15.05 at 7:21 pm

george quoted, “In a rare rebuke of an ally, the Bush administration announced yesterday that it will cut $18 million in military and economic aid to the authoritarian government of Uzbekistan because it has failed to take a series of promised steps to improve its human rights record.”

That’s a pretty meaningless statement, because (a) it doesn’t express the quantity as a percentage, (b) it doesn’t describe whether the cut is to come quickly (hence harder felt), or smoothed over many years, (c) it doesn’t take into account that such cuts are often announced and then in essence circumvented.


Hektor Bim 05.15.05 at 9:11 pm


But we do have an air base in Turkey, for example.


jet 05.15.05 at 11:27 pm

It doesn’t appear that Uzbekistan qualifies for any US aid for the last two years.
That is also an interesting article in that is says Bush is worrying more about how governments treat their people rather than previous foreign policy considerations.

So we have Bush cutting off all aid to Uzbekistan, leaving US soldiers there, and actively trying to calm matters down. The two parties involved are a Old School Communist and unknowns, but probably hard core muslim revolutionaries of the not nice type. And what does John want? Apparently he wants magic fairy dust from Bush to resolve this, cause I don’t see how Bush could act differently. Uzbekistan is important to other theatres, and if the US were to pull out, exactly how would that lower hostilities there?

Between Henry’s post on the unsourced, or incredibley poorly sourced, Newsweek item and this blaiming Bush for not being God article, I’m thinking CrookedTimber had a rough weekend.


george 05.15.05 at 11:42 pm

No, Billmon’s post as a whole was not an item about continuing US aid. The post was a set of news items and quotes, one of which was about US aid, and which had been carefully edited to put the US in the poorest light possible.

The matter here is the degree to which the Administration supports the Karimov regime. It is glaringly obvious that a diplomatic rebuke and a cut in aid is relevant to that assessment; are you really saying it is irrelevant? In the context of these other quotes, it seems perfectly clear (to me, at least) that the US position on Karimov’s regime is (a) we will deal with him on matters of strategic necessity, and (b) we will upgrade our relationship if and when Karimov improves his human rights record, but not before. The US has clearly put its money where its mouth is, in a way few nations ever do. And I’ll say this again, it’s perfectly legitimate to think that the US position is not good enough. But for Billmon (who certainly must be aware of it, if he’s researched the matter to this extent) to leave such an important bit of info out of his list shows exactly what his agenda in this matter is: not anything like the truth, but just to make George W Bush look bad.

Really, John Quiggin, you have a solid reputation as an economist, so I can only assume that you are not this transparently dishonest and/or dumb in your professional work.


buermann 05.16.05 at 3:13 am

The 18 million suspended July of 04 was by the State Department over State Department funds. The Pentagon and State Department have their own foreign assistance budgets. The Pentagon has not filed its disclosure for 04 yet, but a month after the SD suspended aid the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Richard Meyers pledged $21 million in military aid to Uzbekistan. The aid suspension didn’t really phase anybody in charge in Uzbekistan, they’re probably getting more lectures than new toys from State, and it seemed to be mostly a PR exercise that didn’t phase the Uzbek foreign ministry.

On the Congressional side if you look at the congressional budget request for 2006 for Eurasia [pdf] the Foreign Military Financing aid figure (actual) is null for 04 and (estimated) 11 million for 05. The Uzbek item discusses the torture situation and how the US is spending X amount of dollars to try to stop it, while off in reality somewhere we find out the US is sending people there to be tortured. The boilerplate looks nice though.


Darren 05.16.05 at 3:25 am


Is it possible for an individual to secede from “Britain, France, the US, Norway and Japan.”



abb1 05.16.05 at 3:35 am

I’d like you to use your deflecting talents to compare our friend Karimov’s regime in Uzbekistan (6000 political prisoners, wide-spread torture, etc, according to with the terrible, absolutely intolerable regime in Cuba (75 poitical prisoners who are, arguably, foreign enemy’s agents).



MFB 05.16.05 at 5:36 am

I don’t quite get a lot of the critical posts here. Some people appear to be saying that Karimov ought to be overthrown — I suspect that this would be a big technical problem and cause immensely more problems than they are worth.

On the other hand, some people appear to be saying that US government support for the Karimov government is unimportant and/or irrelevant, and that anyone pointing out that this support exists or has existed should be dismissed. It seems to me that this is very silly, since even if US government support no longer exists, the fact that the US government has offered support for a vicious dictatorship which is now killing people in reasonably large numbers, and is decidedly qualifying its criticism of those killings, is obviously relevant in terms of (for instance) how well resistance to that dictatorship is likely to succeed.

As to those people saying that Russia should do something about Uzbekistan, I do believe that one should not try to hold the United States by the same standards by which one holds Russia, unless one really believes that the Republicans are as corrupt as Putin’s minions. However, objectively speaking, Russia may have little special interest in keeping Uzbekistan under its thumb (unlike the situation in, say, Georgia) and may be prepared to look the other way while the country goes to hell. It has happened before.


Hektor Bim 05.16.05 at 8:29 am


I’d like you to be serious for once, just once, when talking about something besides the Israel/Palestine issue.

The American position toward Cuba is ridiculous. Castro is a tin-pot dictator who does not maintain large numbers of political dissidents in prison. It’s pretty clear that the situation in Turkey is worse at this moment in terms of human rights than the system in Cuba, though the system in Turkey may rapidly improve. You seem to want to put me into a specific category, which I don’t understand. I don’t like the Castro regime, but it’s pretty clearly going to see great changes in the next few years when Castro dies and his only designated successor, his equally decrepit brother, takes power. It’s in a transitional phase right now, and the US embargo has been stupid for many years. Of course the Uzbek government is much worse than the Cuban government. Duh!

We’ll see how conditions in Uzbekistan play out, but it seems Karimov may be moving into the Chinese model of dealing with political demonstrations: “kill them all”. If that happens, then we may see a lot of bloodshed very quickly, and there may be a need for some sort of UN intervention force to prevent widespread killings.

I’m no friend of Karimov, but I don’t like this selective denunciation. Putin has been killing Chechens for years, and Chancellor Shroeder is constantly kissing up to him and describing him as a “true democrat”. It’s ridiculous.


moni 05.16.05 at 9:16 am

Hektor, everyone’s been playing Putin’s best buddies since well before 9/11 actually, and before the war-on-terror international alliances that turned a blind eye to all these little contradictions. Putin and Musharaf being the two biggest recipients of the benefits of that alliance.

The first political leader who actually welcomed Putin into the club was Tony Blair. In 2000, I think, before the summer… I recall demonstrations as he greeted Putin on a visit to London. After that, slowly but surely, there was an increasing acceptance, at least at higher political level, that Putin was an ally. More so after later terrorist attacks in Russia, the theatre siege, the Beslan siege, etc.

So it’s hardly fair to single out Schroeder as the hypocrite in regard to Putin and the Chechen issue. It’s every single European leader plus the morally irreprehensible Blair-Bush duo. Part of it ordinary real-politik and economic interests, part of it co-optation into the war-on-terror agenda, via the usual enemy of my enemy stuff.

They even get Russia get away with some spying and meddling in Iraq on behalf of the baathists during the early stage of the US intervention there, apparently…


george 05.16.05 at 12:39 pm

MFB, I don’t know if you pegged me as one of those minimizing or dismissing US support for Karimov, but if I’ve been unclear let me clarify: that is certainly not my aim. But any attempt to paint the US-Uzbek relationship as one of unadulterated support is omitting some significant facts, out of either ignorance or (at least as often) willful deceptiveness.

Incidentally, diplomacy and hypocrisy are practically synonyms. The one nation that I’d say is completely unhypocritical in their foreign affairs is North Korea. Kim Jong Il hates everybody, and says so.


abb1 05.16.05 at 1:44 pm

this has nothing whatsoever to do with Israel because Israel is in a totally different category. Neither Uzbekistan nor Cuba nor North Korea nor any other country on earth post-WWII has been holding millions of people under military occupation for several decades. That’s an enormous violation of international law, as opposed to various violations of human rights committed by many (probably all, in fact) governments.

Otherwise, where Cuba and Uzbekistan are concerned, I think I pretty much agree with you. Except, I’m not sure what you mean by ‘UN intervention force’. Diplomatic and economic pressure – sure, of course, but not military; after all Uzbekistan is a sovereign country, so they’ll probably have to fight it out among themselves somehow. This isn’t within UN jurisdiction.


Hektor Bim 05.16.05 at 2:19 pm


So what was the point about this then, anyway? Stop trolling for once.

You’re just wrong about this, unfortunately. The Israel/Palestine issue is not unique. But why this is the worst possible outcome in your view is to me strange. Would it be better in your view if Israel absorbed Palestine directly and then ethnically cleansed all of the inhabitants, like what the Soviet Union did to East Prussia and parts of the Baltic states and Poland? Or if they absorbed the West Bank and Gaza into the country and expelled and/or massacred Arabs whenever they attempted to speak up politically or follow their religious traditions, like China does in Tibet?

Why is military occupation worse than murder or expulsion worse for you? Would you prefer ethnic cleansing, since you seem to consider that an internal state matter? Invasion, annexation, followed by ethnic cleansing is ok, but military occupation is bad?

Why is international law more important to you than human rights?


John Quiggin 05.16.05 at 4:34 pm

George, we seem to be talking at cross-purposes here. I said “the troops should be withdrawn immediately, and all ties with this evil regime broken.”

You’re objecting, as far as I can see, because a news report linked in a Billmon post, linked in turn by me (though only in the comment thread), doesn’t give a full picture of US aid policy, though the post accurately documents many friendly links with the Karimov regime.

Your objection does not seem relevant to the point I was making.


george 05.16.05 at 5:11 pm

John Q, you are correct as regards your original post. (And I retract my insinuation about your intellectual credibility. That was over the top; sorry.) But my first comment came after your comment linking to Billmon. Though my main charge of bias lies with Billmon, I do think you are incorrect in stating that the Billmon post “provides enough evidence” “[a]s regards the Administration’s attitude to Karimov.” It does not; it omits, for partisan reasons, evidence that weakens Billmon’s claim.

I am no apologist for Karimov, but it irks me that Uzbekistan has become a favorite whipping boy for those who wish to be critical of Bush. See here, the narrative goes, Bush talks loftily but then supports this awful thug. Few critics mention that the US has in fact used many levers, diplomatic and financial, to express disapproval of Karimov’s regime and try to get him to progress (in vain, apparently).

Assuming that you have considered all this, your position puts you in the odd company of certain conservative Republicans in the US, who regularly denounce any ties or engagement with unsavory regimes (China in particular). If you restrict your argument to military ties only, that still leaves you in some awkward spots. What to do with our troops in the Phillipines, for instance? They’re not exactly the Netherlands either.


Hektor Bim 05.16.05 at 5:49 pm


Schroeder is the loudest and most insistent that Putin is a democrat, that Russia is a democracy, and everything there is peachy-keen. So I definitely single him out. You never see Schroeder denouncing the occupation of the Baltics during and after World War II.

I think Bush is probably the least pro-Putin major Western leader at this point, though of course at one time he “looked into his soul”. He certainly lets Condoleeza Rice say a lot of remarkably frank things about Russia that you would never see ol Joschka say.


John Quiggin 05.17.05 at 12:35 am

I’ve got no problem lining up with the conservative Republicans on this one, George. China is a great, nuclear-armed power which implies a need to keep on speaking terms, but I don’t think we should more friendly to the Chinese dictatorship than we have to be. As regards the Phillipines, I favored withdrawing US troops when the Marcos dictatorship was in power, and Karimov is far worse than Marcos.

As well as withdrawing the bases and ceasing extraordinary renditions to Uzbekistan, Bush could easily have included Karimov in his condemnation of Belarus during the recent visit to the region. The baby steps he has taken have been offset by the accompanying winks and nods.


abb1 05.17.05 at 2:03 am

Why is military occupation worse than murder or expulsion worse for you? Would you prefer ethnic cleansing, since you seem to consider that an internal state matter?

No, I would prefer none of it. What ethnic cleansing are you talking about? I am not aware of any ethnic cleansing in Uzbekistan. What’s happened so far is police/military shooting at demonstrators, not unlike, say, Kent State 1973 incident in Ohio; where is ethnic cleansing and why do you think military intervention is warranted? And besides, I don’t advocate any military intervention in Israeli/Palestinian case either.


John Quiggin 05.17.05 at 6:02 am

BTW, George, retraction accepted with no hard feelings. We all go a bit OTT from time to time.


george 05.17.05 at 8:54 am

That’s a fair position — one I disagree with, but fair. What is not fair is leaving any mention of these “baby steps” (an $18 million baby step?), which might allow the reader to make his own judgment about where to draw the line, out of the analysis.


Shelby 05.17.05 at 1:19 pm

What would be the practical effects of immediately removing all US troops and cutting all ties? The US air base supports activity in Afghanistan — is it readily replaceable, or do we write off part of that country as well? Do some of our ties to Uzbekistan help would-be democrats or promote civil society there?

It’s easy to see the harm in the current (Karimov) regime, but what side effects can we expect if the US follows John Q’s prescription? I don’t know, and am reluctant to take such dramatic steps until I do. (That doesn’t preclude stronger condemnations of Karimov and an immeidate end to most aid, though.)


e sciaroni 05.17.05 at 10:48 pm

An interesting Central Asian view is at:

Why does the US put up with this regime? We should be able to prevent such blatant slaughter. I would think we have enough influence there ($100 million per year according to a Guardian estimate}. Fiscal 2004 non-military aid of $50.6 million according to the State Department. Military aid is harder to track (I only found $32 million this year in a quick search), but it is surely more.

The American reputation of standing up for freedom is on the line here.


Shelby 05.18.05 at 1:01 am

Here’s a decent overview, which concludes near the end that “disengagement would be a poor choice. This may be morally satisfying to those outraged by Uzbek government repression, but it would sever the fragile bonds to civil society groups, students, and Uzbek citizens who benefit from western assistance and contacts.”


jaqved 05.19.05 at 1:44 am

i think what is happning in uzbkistan under the karimove regim , it is anti human . this event show that current regim dont have any affection with there citizen , only imposing the dectetership is the final goal of karimove. no doubt that these killings were suported by u s and west.i think karimove must resign immediatly. u n should call special meeting on that and should take right action .

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