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    saw Hildalgo last night, was m..., 2005-05-17 14:57:08 | Main | galloway..., 2005-05-18 02:38:13

    uzbekistan:

    for those readers who haven't heard: on May 14th in the Uzbek city of Andijan was the scene of a massacre of hundreds to thousands of peaceful protesters.

    The background for the protest is that in late summer of 2004 23 Uzbek businessmen were arrested on grounds that they belonged to a Muslim "criminal group" called "Akramiya", i.e.:

    While most agree that the businessmen sought to behave as good Muslims in their personal lives and commercial activities, it is unclear whether they were part of the Akramia or even whether such a group exists.

    Andijan resident Nurullo Maksudov, who was present at the trial, said he did not think the accused had been followers of Akrom Yuldashev, so they could hardly be described as “Akramia members”. Instead, they had probably read a book Yuldashev wrote in 1992 called the Way to Truth, and agreed with his views.

    Yuldashev is currently in prison. In 1998, he was charged with drug possession and sentenced to two and a half years in prison, though he was released under amnesty. After explosions in Tashkent in February 1999 which were blamed on Islamic radicals, he was arrested again and given a prison term of 17 years.

    According to Saidjahon Zainobuddinov, a lawyer from Andijan familiar with the case, the verdict did not find Yuldoshev guilty of the blasts but identified the Akramia as a criminal group, and depicted “The Path to Faith” as a sort of handbook for Islamic coup-plotters .

    “The Path to Faith” is in reality a work of moral philosophy focusing on the inner person rather than society, and suggesting that individuals should take responsibility for their own actions.

    Maksudov believes Yuldashev wrote the book so as to prevent young people from joining radical extremist organisations.

    The official trial started last February, shutting down the mens' businesses in the meantime. On Tuesday, May 10th thousands came out to protest their imprisonment, the BBC has a timeline of events since then, briefly: on May 11th sentences were handed down, with 20 of the men facing imprisonment and the protest continued, growing to est. 4,000. In response prosecutors lightened the sentencing. Peaceful protests continued, after the arrest of some protesters on Thursday that night reportedly 100 men drove through the prison gates, killed some 52 prison personel, and freed the ~2,000 inmates within. On Friday government forces cracked down, opening fire on peaceful protesters without any reported provacation. Over the weekend the foreign press was kicked out, the region put under lockdown, while Uzbeks started fleeing towards Kyrgyzstan. Refugee testimony puts the figure in the thousands, most other sources are reporting in the low to mid hundreds, increasing as more reports leak out.

    Per my brief comment attempting to clarify a typically confused discussion on US aid to Uzbekistan, we've been directly supporting the security and military forces of the Karimov regime since 1995 and American forces have been operating there since 1996, a fact that was officially secret until recently. The 1,000 or so troops that are there have the village next to their air base reportedly encircled with barbed wire. Levels of aid rose dramatically in 2002 to some $200 million in security and military aid. After much screaming from the human rights community over this much of the aid budget was shifted off the public radar. In 2003 State and Defense Department disclosures amount to some $34 million in arms sales, the Pentagon's disclosure - the foreign military sales figures of which make up the vast bulk of arms sales to Uzbekistan - for 2004 has not been released yet. Figures for direct military and security assistance in 2003 and 2004 aren't available via FAS except for some budget request figures, usually estimates and not including the large amounts of aid that are funnelled through other acts and appropriations, as through various anti-terrorism funds and the like. We do know that in July of 2004 the State Department suspended its 18 million in mostly military aid over human rights concerns and that a month later the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff pledged an additional $21 million in military aid via the DOD, more or less telling the State Department to stuff it.

    These figures are occasionally referred to as aid to clean up biological and nuclear weapons materials or some other noble purpose, but the WaPo report from last July stated that aid for cleanup, "democracy" (meaning USAID/NED funds, of rather debatable merit for democracy, and quite possibly funding the protesters - nothing like backing both sides of a conflict), and humanitarian purposes were not under threat of suspension by State, nor should they be. The question is of lethal aid that assists violent, authoritarian regimes in violating their population, and it's simply a matter of not supplying it as US law dictates and US policymakers consistently find ways to ignore unless it really is absolutely necessary, which in this case it most definetly is not except for hawkish nuts who think the US has valid security interests in the so-called "great game" over controlling Central Asia's energy reserves. Access would be one thing, but that's not threatened. In any case after this episode aid might be threatened again, and then quietly revved up again later after things settle down, as has already happened over the course of the past year and as fits similar situations in the past. The announcements are all boilerplate and PR and can't really be trusted to mean anything. It takes acts of congress just to restrict the executive branch to funnelling aid through allies and blackhats.

    There are of course no figures for covert assistance and likely never officially will be (we only just released the official 1963 budget for the CIA a month or two ago, the first time a CIA budget has ever been declassified?), but just two weeks ago the NYT reported that the CIA has been renditioning suspects to Uzbekistan for interogation, so you can imagine how well the State Department's multi-million dollar training programs to teach Uzbek authorities how not to torture people (you can imagine how many millions such an education requires) have been going.

    We now have over a decade of practical results from a policy of security engagement and military carrots that demonstrates that year after year of increasing military aid, nevermind economic, 'democratization', and humanitarian aid, has not resulted in any of the promised human rights and democratic reform that have been promised and undelivered year after year. Even with the economic aid here we have a crackdown on a protest fueled primarily by economic conditions. The occasional release of somebody that makes it to Amnesty's headlines and other face-saving PR stunts are what we get.

    The other possible justification for supporting the military and security services - that non-security aid has to be bribed through the regime with military supplies - doesn't seem like much of a worthwhile venture either: what you have then is what should be an international pariah attempting to blackmail you and hold its own people hostage. The proper response, if any, should be simple in that case: non-cooperation with the regime's security establishment. And in case I somehow attract the same caliber of reader as crookedtimber, until war crimes reach a scale justifying it or there is some other legitemate pretext under international law, military intervention is off the table.

    On that note, if we wanted to help these Uzbeks, who were protesting primarily against unjust economic conditions before they were cut down by a government we've been supporting for the past decade, we could do their economy a world of good just by ending our cotton subsidies. In all the discussions [e.g.] I've had with "realists" [read: idealists who think having a little classroom seminar on profesionalism and treating people nice will rehabilitate criminal, torturing thugs] who've been defending the military aid we've given to this fucking monster for the past decade I've never heard them suggest that. A free market solution, how about that?


:: posted by buermann @ 2005-05-17 19:40:34 CST | link





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