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"Realism or Hypocrisy? - Western Diplomacy and Freedom of Expression"
18 March 2003
SUBJECT: US FOREIGN POLICY
1. As seen from Tashkent, US policy is not much focussed on democracy or
freedom. It is about oil, gas and hegemony. In Uzbekistan the US pursues those
ends through supporting a ruthless dictatorship. We must not close our eyes to
2. Last year the US gave half a billion dollars in aid to Uzbekistan, about a
quarter of it military aid. Bush and Powell repeatedly hail Karimov as a friend and
ally. Yet this regime has at least seven thousand prisoners of conscience; it is a
one party state without freedom of speech, without freedom of media, without
freedom of movement, without freedom of assembly, without freedom of religion.
It practices, systematically, the most hideous tortures on thousands. Most of the
population live in conditions precisely analogous with medieval serfdom.
3. Uzbekistan's geo-strategic position is crucial. It has half the population of the
whole of Central Asia. It alone borders all the other states in a region which is
important to future Western oil and gas supplies. It is the regional military power.
That is why the US is here, and here to stay. Contractors at the US military bases
are extending the design life of the buildings from ten to twenty five years.
4. Democracy and human rights are, despite their protestations to the contrary,
in practice a long way down the US agenda here. Aid this year will be slightly
less, but there is no intention to introduce any meaningful conditionality. Nobody
can believe this level of aid Ã¢â‚¬â€œ more than US aid to all of West Africa Ã¢â‚¬â€œ is related to
comparative developmental need as opposed to political support for Karimov.
While the US makes token and low-level references to human rights to appease
domestic opinion, they view Karimov's vicious regime as a bastion against
fundamentalism. He Ã¢â‚¬â€œ and they Ã¢â‚¬â€œ are in fact creating fundamentalism. When the
US gives this much support to a regime that tortures people to death for having a
beard or praying five times a day, is it any surprise that Muslims come to hate
5. I was stunned to hear that the US had pressured the EU to withdraw a motion
on Human Rights in Uzbekistan which the EU was tabling at the UN Commission
for Human Rights in Geneva. I was most unhappy to find that we are helping the
US in what I can only call this cover-up. I am saddened when the US constantly
quote fake improvements in human rights in Uzbekistan, such as the abolition of
censorship and Internet freedom, which quite simply have not happened (I see
these are quoted in the draft EBRD strategy for Uzbekistan, again I understand at
6. From Tashkent it is difficult to agree that we and the US are activated by
shared values. Here we have a brutal US sponsored dictatorship reminiscent of
Central and South American policy under previous US Republican administrations.
I watched George Bush talk today of Iraq and "dismantling the apparatus of
terrorÃ¢â‚¬Â¦ removing the torture chambers and the rape rooms". Yet when it comes
to the Karimov regime, systematic torture and rape appear to be treated as
peccadilloes, not to affect the relationship and to be downplayed in international
fora. Double standards? Yes.
7. I hope that once the present crisis is over we will make plain to the US, at
senior level, our serious concern over their policy in Uzbekistan.