Saturday, May 14, 2005

Repeating the same mistakes

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.


What would you have the US say? I've been watching diplo-speak for a while now, and I've noticed it's normally phrased very mildly. It will be interesting to see how it develops.

Posted by Lucia Maria : 5/14/2005 03:22:00 PM

"Bush is making exactly the same mistake as his predecessors, excusing tyranny for stability." I wouldn't call it a mistake, I'd call it deliberate policy. The idea that Bush meant any of that bullshit he spouted at the Latvians or even had the faintest idea of the events in question would be far too generous. Current policy is to hassle the Russians, so Latvia gets some nice words. Current policy is to keep bases in Uzbekistan, therefore they can shoot all the demonstrators they want. Momentary interests of the US govt is the only thing informing presidential speeches.

Posted by Anonymous : 5/14/2005 09:08:00 PM

So cynical, psycho milt. I wouldn't call it hassling, so much as containing that which needs to be contained.

Posted by Lucia Maria : 5/15/2005 12:20:00 AM

" So cynical, psycho milt."
Thank you!

The fact that as far as Bush is concerned it's just some bullshit he needs to spout doesn't necessarily mean it's not also true, absolutely.

Posted by Anonymous : 5/15/2005 12:33:00 AM

> President Bush denounced the WWII-allies' allowing the Soviet Union..

bush like his critics is complaining about the US's lack of psycic powers to determine exactly how bad stalin was and suggesting that their tired armies turn their hand to doing unbelievable things like slaughtering their own allies.

> But the White House's response was a relatively mild call for both sides to exercise restraint. Why?

1) the US probably doesnt respond particularly harshly to anything unless it is big news on a world scale - its hte way of international politics.
2) EU and china probably didn't even say anything at all - in such company the US's mild comment is positively saintly. They seem to have no qualms dealing with the devil and mother teresa on identical terms.

Posted by Genius : 5/15/2005 12:52:00 AM

Genius: The EU has issued a strong statement condemning the masaccre and blaming the Uzbek government's lack of respect for human rights for the protests. The UK foreign secretary has followed suit. I'd say they very definitely have the moral high ground here, neh?

As for Yalta, the US didn't need to be psychic; Stalin's treatment of his own people, his mass deportations and masaccre of the Kulaks were all well-known at the time. Bush is right, Roosevelt and Churchill sold out eastern Europe. They may not have had much of a choice about it, but its certainly not one of the US or UK's better moments.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 5/15/2005 11:52:00 AM

If you dont have a choice you can't be "selling out".

Besides this "everyone knew" stuff is rather like "everyone knew" hitler was killing jews or sadam had WMD. Sure there was evidence was there but not everyone believed it or thought that what they believed was happening was all that much worse than what any of a number of other countries were doing.

this is what i read

" A violent battle with security forces erupted in the town of Andizhan after armed rebels stormed the town prison overnight, freeing more than 2,000 inmates."
" The attack by rebels on the jail led to the escape of 23 local businessmen charged of belonging to a religious group linked to Hizb-ut-Tahrir, an extremist organisation blamed for a series of bomb attacks in Uzbekistan in 2004. Rebels and some of the freed prisoners, who included other political and ordinary prisoners, then occupied a school and local government offices in the main square. Some reports suggested they were holding police hostages."

I suggest that in the light of this calling for restraint isn't exactly an evil thing to do. I would hope if someone did that in NZ someone would at least call for restraint. After-all do we really want the rebels to slaughter the police etc? And do we refuse to even ask for restraint from an organization designed to kill people just because it kills people who work for people we dont like? (sounds rather like the suport for stalin doesnt it).

Anyway as to the bigger picture of Uzbekistain - actions speak louder than words - I wait to see who puts their money and troups and so forth where their mouth is.

Posted by Genius : 5/15/2005 01:00:00 PM

Genius: the US may not have known or had a choice over Eastern Europe - but they very definitely know and have a choice over Uzbekistan. Information on the level of oppression there is widely available from human rights organisations such as HRW and Amnesty International, and their own State Department says that the Uzbeks use torture "as a routine investigation technique". What more do they need?

As for contested accounts, you may want to check out this eyewitness report from Galima Bukharbaeva of the Institute of War and Peace Reporting.

This is not a matter for troops. This is a matter for international condemnation and isolation. The US gives Uzbekistan US$80 million a year in security assistance; it should stop.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 5/15/2005 04:08:00 PM

Hmm yes probably... the US needs to be more careful where it sends its aid.

If they withdraw that aid will the government fall? I should hope so (a little consideration should be given to what will replace it of course).

Otherwise it might be better to use the influence of that $80 million to change things behind the scene.

Posted by Genius : 5/15/2005 06:41:00 PM