Last week, in Latvia, President Bush denounced the WWII-allies' allowing the Soviet Union to occupy Eastern Europe as one of "the greatest wrongs of history", and promised that
"We will not repeat the mistakes of other generations - appeasing or excusing tyranny, and sacrificing freedom in the vain pursuit of stability"
Yesterday, in Uzbekistan, the government brutally suppressed demonstrations in the town of Andijan, killing dozens of people in the process. The demonstrations started after 23 people were imprisoned for "Islamic extremism"; an armed mob later stormed the jail where they were held and released them. They were then joined in the city's central square by up to 5000 protestors demanding better living conditions, "justice", and "freedom". The government responded by sending in troops:
Armoured vehicles carrying Uzbek troops arrived in the square, where protesters had seized the mayor's office, and opened fire.
Men, women and children fled the square in panic as protesters occupying the mayor's office reportedly returned fire.
News of casualty figures was slow to emerge, but Uzbek officials did say that nine people died and at least 34 were injured in clashes early in the day.
Eyewitnesses in the square told how protesters lay flat on the ground as troops fired into the crowds. One spoke of "indiscriminate firing", and said she saw "bloody corpses" lying in a ditch.
Hospital officials told the BBC that dozens had died and many more were wounded throughout the day.
A government which indiscriminately massacres protesters is not exactly supportive of freedom - but the White House's response was a relatively mild call for both sides to exercise restraint. Why? Because Uzbekistan is a US ally and provides some useful services in the "war on terror"... Despite his promise, Bush is making exactly the same mistake as his predecessors, excusing tyranny for stability.