Never Mind the Torture

These must be proud days for Islam Karimov, dictator

of Uzbekistan and newly-anointed defender of freedom

and democracy in Central Asia.

Indeed, in the eyes of some on the right wing, Karimov

appears to have joined the pantheon of distinguished

international freedom fighters. In his commitment to

the war on terror, the central Asian tyrant has proved

himself the equal of right-wing heroes like Angolan

warlord and conflict diamond smuggler Jonas Savimbi,

who -- with CIA backing and apartheid South Africa's

help -- prolonged his country's civil war for decades.

Or perhaps he's more like Nicaragua's thuggish

Contras, whom Ronald Reagan compared to America's

Founding Fathers. Back then, of course, our unsavory

allies abroad were fighting communism. Now they're

battling Islamic terrorists -- or in Karimov's case,

any political opposition at all, Islamic or not.

Karimov, an ex-Communist party boss, has worked

tirelessly to crush all domestic dissent in

Uzbekistan. He imprisons entire families to punish one

member. He boils opponents to death. Yes, that's as in

immersing victims in boiling water. His elections, the

State Department itself declared, are "neither free

nor fair." Even the Secretary General of NATO

criticized Karimov's habit of indiscriminately locking

people up.

But there stands Karimov, a cornerstone in the White

House's war on terror, palling around with Donald

Rumsfeld and collecting more than $500 million in US

aid last year.

All of this is as it should be, says Stephen Schwartz,

a member of the right-wing Foundation for the Defense

of Democracies (which counts among its advisors such

neoconservative luminaries as accused war-profiteer

Richard Perle, disgraced House leader Newt Gingrich,

and former CIA director James Woolsey). Writing in the

Weekly Standard, Schwartz assures us that Karimov's

sins are nothing to worry about -- just the growing

pains that all "aspiring democracies" go through.

Furthermore, Schwartz declares, human rights groups

that dare to criticize Karimov's overly broad

definition of "terrorist" are modern-day Neville


"The campaign against terrorism is undermined by

weakness, irresolution, and apologetics, not by

identifying the enemy.


The United States, which has entered into a military

alliance with Uzbekistan, must support the Uzbeks in

their internal as well as their external combat, and

must repudiate the blandishments of the human rights


America's central mission, Schwartz opines, should be

"[p]rotecting Uzbekistan's young democracy from

radical Islamists and the human rights groups who

defend them," not hemming and hawing over a few

(undoubtedly deserving) dissidents who were boiled to

death in defense of democracy.

Karimov couldn't have said it better himself. Oh wait,

he did, in 1998, in a warning to his parliament about

the dangers of Islamic extremists.

"'Such people must be shot in the forehead! If

necessary, I'll shoot them myself ... !'"


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