Sunday, May 29, 2005

Enemies Bought, Friends Sold--by John Laughland from The Guardian 19/5/05

Enemies bought, friends sold
The Uzbek upheaval is seen as a 'people power' movement but is likely to
cement US control of the region

John Laughland
Thursday May 19, 2005


In France, if not in Britain, the word "Timisoara" has become a byword for
media manipulation. A massacre was reported in that Romanian town in 1989,
setting off a series of events that led to the overthrow of Nicolae
Ceausescu. First reports spoke of "3,000 to 4,000" dead; the numbers climbed
swiftly through "12,000" to "70,000". Only when regime change had been
accomplished was the real number of dead in the clashes established at less
than 200.

Other alleged massacres in the recent past have also turned out not to have
been what had been claimed. Four years in, the prosecution in the Milosevic
trial has still not proved that there was a massacre at Racak in Kosovo in
January 1999 - one of the main pretexts for Nato's attack on Yugoslavia.
Against such a background, there has been too little scepticism about
reports from Uzbekistan, which seem to be following a well-worn propaganda

What happened in Andijan on Friday is still unclear. The Uzbek government
claims there was a violent provocation by Islamists. Western commentators
have blamed the Uzbek authorities out of hand. They have also repeated
claims that people have been boiled alive - claims unsubstantiated by the
two medical teams, from Canada and the US, that conducted the autopsies on
the alleged victims.

The twist this time is that President Karimov of Uzbekistan is presented as
a pro-US tyrant rather than a Soviet-era throwback - so anti-war left and
liberal commentators have been co-opted into baying for his blood. Yet their
support for the latest "people power" movement to shake a former Soviet
republic is naive. They seem not to have noticed that Uzbekistan is home to
precisely the same network of US-funded non-governmental organisations,
human rights activists and media outlets that helped to engineer pro-US
"revolutions" in Serbia, Georgia, Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan.

Take the source of Friday's atrocity reports from Andijan: one "opposition
journalist" from the website, which seems to be a shop window
for the Institute of War and Peace Reporting. IWPR, which has since provided
the bulk of reports in the western press, is overwhelmingly funded by
western governments and private foundations close to them: the US state
department, USAid, the National Endowment for Democracy, the US Institute
for Peace, George Soros's Open Society Foundation, the British Foreign
Office, the European commission, the OSCE, Unesco, and other European
governments, among others.

People who reason that the US supports President Karimov, and will therefore
turn a blind eye to his alleged excesses, do not understand the thrust of
current American policy, which is to try to support and control all sides in
any political equation. As in neighbouring Kyrgyzstan under former President
Akayev, Uzbekistan is home to scores of western-backed NGOs that agitate
politically for the opposition. For instance, Freedom House - a notorious
CIA front and the main architect of the orange revolution in Ukraine - has
an office in Tashkent.

Ostensible US support for a president like Islam Karimov, moreover, gives
the Americans the very proximity to a regime that they need in order to buy
off turncoats within the power structure when the time comes for regime
change; to believe that the current unrest in Uzbekistan will lead to
anything other than the consolidation of American power in this
strategically crucial region near China's border is to fail to understand
how much US foreign policy under the neocons owes to the theory of permanent
revolution. In the Soviet Union, even loyal party cadres lived under the
constant threat of purge, and this kept them on their toes. Moreover, as in
Romania, an excessive focus on a particular person, usually the head of
state, causes the appearance of regime change to mask the reality of
continued control over the system as a whole.

US dialectical reasoning is such that its "human rights activists" are happy
to indulge Hizb-ut-Tahrir, the Islamist organisation accused of being behind
violence in the Ferghana valley. This alliance should come as no surprise to
those who recall that the US supported the mujahideen against the Soviets in
1979, or those who have noted the neocons' friendliness to the rebels in
Chechnya today. Although it is banned in Germany, Russia and many central
Asian states for its alleged links to terrorism and anti-Semitism,
Hizb-ut-Tahrir, which strongly denies any involvement in violence, operates
out of head offices in South Kensington. This may be why its role is never
mentioned when Jack Straw denounces Tashkent.

Islam Karimov was bounced into accepting a US base in 2001 because, like
many heads of state, he felt unable to resist remorseless American pressure.
But since 2002 he has started to move closer to China, America's biggest
rival and, with Russia, the key to understanding the US's overall
geopolitical strategy. Washington is unforgiving towards people who think
loyalty is a two-way street, and the Uzbek president is about to learn the
lesson learned by Manuel Noriega, Saddam Hussein, Eduard Shevardnadze and
scores of others: that it is better to be an enemy of the Americans than
their friend. If you are their enemy, they might try to buy you; but if you
are their friend they will definitely sell you.

John Laughland is a trustee of and an associate of


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