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Uzbek Then and Now

Rowan Wolf

Uzbekistan is an example of deja vu in U.S. foreign policy. Now, the U.S. considers supporting sanctions against Uzbekistan for human rights violations This is a significant shift from just four months ago when Russia and the US Blocked NATO Call for Probe into Uzbek Massacre. The Uzbek regime was a brutal regime in June, but it was "our regime." It was a regime that served U.S. "interests," and therefore deserving of the protection of the United States. Then that regime said the U.S. should move its air bases out of Uzbekistan. Now, the massacres that were supported and whitewashed by the U.S. government, are human rights violations. Then, it was despicable militants threatening to overthrow the rightful government of Uzbekistan.

The shift is instructive on a variety of levels. First, that it is U.S. "interests" that determine who our friends and enemies are - not freedom, democracy, or justice. Second, that "falling from grace" results in protection turning to attack. The "Orange Revolution" should watch this carefully. Second, that former friends can come to very bad ends.

Saddam Hussein was once such a "friend" of the United States. Today he stands as a U.S. deposed dictator on crimes against the people of Iraq. Oh how far that fall has been. In the "good old days" when Hussein was "our man" in Iraq, we supplied him with the tools of destructions, and protected him from international sanctions for the cruel use of them. I still do not quite understand the motivation of the shift on Hussein in 1991. In fact, the message to Hussein from the Bush I regime was "we won't meddle in your conflicts with your neighbors." Iraq and Kuwait had an ongoing dispute. Hussein believed that Kuwait was slant drilling into Iraq's oil reserves. Of course it was more complicated than this.

After receiving the nonintervention statement from the U.S., Hussein moved forces towards Kuwait. Suddenly, Hussein was a brutal dictator and the U.S. and Europe showed up to push him back to Iraq. Bush I sent word to the Shia that if they would rise up against Hussein, that the U.S. would stand behind them. The U.S. did not, and the Shia were brutally suppressed after the Gulf War. The U.S. betrayed the trust of the Shia and the same thing happens over and over.

Regardless, the U.S. pushed for sanctions, and not for the "removal" of Hussein - brutal dictator or not. Why? That answer is easier. It was highly profitable to keep Hussein as a Middle East treat. Profitable in terms of continued U.S. military presence in the Middle East (stationed in Saudi Arabia which became another festering sore), and the threat of Hussein drove record arms sales to Iraq's neighbors. Then came the decision ten years later that Hussein had to go. Why, mainly because the sanctions applied after the Gulf War were likely to be lightened or lifted, and also because Hussein was pushing OPEC to shift from the U.S. dollar to the Euro. Invading Iraq served a variety of ends.

Uzbekistan is now learning the cost of being aligned to the United States. Pakistan may also learn this lesson in the near future.

Articles of Interest
5/16/05 Davis, BBC, Uzbek crisis poses dilemma for US

5/17/05 Escobar, Asia Times, The US and its 'special' dictator

5/23/05 Chivers, NY Times, Toe Tags Offer Clues to Uzbeks' Uprising

6/16/05 Chivers, NY Times, Uzbek Ministries in Crackdown Received U.S. Aid

8/01/05 Osborn, Independent, Uzbekistan told US to close down airbase 'after gas deal with Russia' and get out

9/27/05 BBC, US confirms Uzbek base departure

Rowan Wolf is a columnist for Project for the Old American Century, 
 and the editor of Radical Noesis and Uncommon Thought Journal . 
Her email is [email protected]


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