Thursday, November 18, 2004


"To Support Such a Vicious Dictatorship Can Never Be Right"

It's a running theme of mine that if the US is sincere about its opposition to dictators like Saddam Hussein, it ought to end its support for regimes that are its moral equivalent, like the Karimov regime in Uzbekistan. This is true on moral grounds alone, but as US support for Saddam throughout the 1980s shows, even the realpolitik argument doesn't hold up because the blowback is likely to be much greater than the benefits.

Former UK ambassador to Uzbekistan, Craig Murray, is speaking out about current US/UK support for the Karimov regime in return for Tashkent's participation in the "war on terror". Murray was relieved from his embassy post after he leaked a memo complaining that the British spy agency, MI6, was using information passed on to it by the CIA originally obtained through torture in Uzbekistan.

This interview with the UN information unit IRIN makes a pretty convincing case that the US policy of "constructive engagement" with Karimov is a fraud. Here's the key question:
Q: Do you feel the West's policy of constructive engagement with Tashkent had produced any positive results or do you feel it has stalled reform?

A: The economy of Uzbekistan is getting worse and repression gets harsher and harsher. I do not see, therefore, how the West can claim engagement has worked. I recall a meeting this year where the US Ambassador said the US had many full-time advisers in Uzbek economic ministries. I said that left two choices - either their advice was not being followed, or they were giving rubbish advice.

With its extraordinary economic policy of clamping down on private economic activity and closing its borders to trade, I think aid from the US, Japan and the ADB in particular has been essential in propping up the Karimov regime.

Equally important has been the fulsome political support for Karimov from all the senior figures in the US administration, from Bush down. To support such a vicious dictatorship can never be right and as the Tashkent regime tortures innocent Muslims, US support for him can only increase hatred for the West in the Islamic world.

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