Sunday, May 15, 2005

our friend the torturer

The killing at the protests in Uzbekistan has put a usually unnoticed country into our mainstream media.

Uzbekistan's been ruled by dictator Islom Karimov since independence from the Soviet Union 14 years ago.

The US State Department's webpage about Uzbekistan says;

The police force and the intelligence service use torture as a routine investigation technique

What kind of torture? As George Monbiot describes;

There are over 6,000 political and religious prisoners in Uzbekistan. Every year, some of them are tortured to death. Sometimes the policemen or intelligence agents simply break their fingers, their ribs and then their skulls with hammers, or stab them with screwdrivers, or rip off bits of skin and flesh with pliers, or drive needles under their fingernails, or leave them standing for a fortnight, up to their knees in freezing water. Sometimes they are a little more inventive. The body of one prisoner was delivered to his relatives last year, with a curious red tidemark around the middle of his torso. He had been boiled to death.

Our wars are not about removing tortuous dictators from power or beinging democracy to people. If they were we'd be bombing and invading Uzbekistan.

But what are we doing? Bush has never criticised the Uzbekistani human rights record. Indeed, that same State Department page that names the systematic torture says;

Uzbekistan is an ardent supporter of U.S. military actions in Afghanistan and Iraq and of the war against terror overall. The United States, in turn, values Uzbekistan as a stable, moderate force in a turbulent region.

It's a rare moderate nation that tortures thousands of its citizens to death.

The US has granted Uzbekistan 'most-favored-nation trade status', exempting it from many US trade tariffs, in addition to the hundreds of millions of US taxpayers dollars given every year for assorted government and military projects.

They get high-level, high-profile personal support. Donald Rumsfeld has visited three times in the last two years. During Colin Powell's visit he passed Bush's personal thanks for the Karimov regime's 'support of the anti-terrorist campaign and other spheres of activity.'

The Memory Hole has a page of details entitled Senior US Officials Cozy up to Dictator Who Boils People Alive

Why would they do this? Like so many news stories, this is yet another facet of the oil story. As Colin Powell said, 'our interest in the region is not limited to the Afghan crisis only'.

The US has some enormous military bases in Afghanistan. Far more than they'd need if they were merely securing a quick changover from Taliban rule to representative democracy. The bases are there for the same reason they have large bases in Uzbekistan.

The Middle East produces around half the world's oil. In a decade or so, it will be around three-quarters. The rapidly industrialising Chinese economy will really want that oil, and there won't be enough for them and us. So if the West is to keep control, we need a lot of military presence in the land between China and the really big oilfields; Afghanistan, Iran and Uzbekistan.

In the meantime, Uzbekistan has a bit of oil of its own, and we can forgive a lot when someone's giving us oil on friendly terms.

We want those oil-producing and China-buffer countries in the hands of people we can do business with. If Karimov were to allow democracy, the 88% muslim electorate would put people in power with a great deal more sympathy for the countries the West has attacked. So the non-Islamic nation allies keep quiet. When the Uzbekistani elections six months ago only allowed candidates who supported Karimov, Russia declared the election transparent, democratic and well-organised.

As with the recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, so it is with the future plans for securing the Middle Eastern oilfields; the British government knows that if it wants second dibs on the oil then it has to back the Americans all the way. In this case, we have to allow Karimov to remain in power.

So when the Craig Murray, the British ambassador to Uzbekistan, started publicising what was happening under Karimov, he was told to shut up by the Foreign Office and publically discredited.

When he continued to expose details he was sacked and smeared again.

Murray stood against his libeller and former boss Foreign Secretary Jack Straw in the general election, getting 5% of the vote.

Murray's continued effort to draw attention to the Karimov regime's human rights abuses made the British agree to send a junior minister, Bill Rammell, to Tashkent to discuss it. The Uzbekistanis simply refused to permit the visit and that was the end of it.

Karimov continues to ruthlessly put down Islamic groups. He blamed the killing at this week's protests on 'Islamic criminals'. Uzbekistani authorities have blocked foreign news media from broadcasting, whilst failing to mention the peaceful protests in the week before the violence.

After some delay, Jack Straw has condemned this week's events. The British government has, he claims, 'long been concerned about abuse of human rights, about a lack of democracy'.

He doesn't say why they've gagged someone expressing such concern and given continuous tacit approval of the Karimov ragime.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

i was going to say, yet another reason to despise bush and his legion of idiots but it would appear the british government are their smiling bedfellows