Thursday, June 30, 2005

Beacon No. 49: The Price of Condemnation


U.S. reaction to the massacre in Andijan, Uzbekistan has been mild: It simply condemned whatever happened and has implied that certain kinds of aid to Uzbekistan could be yanked unless Islam Karimov's government conducts a "credible, transparent, independent investigation," State Dept. spokesman Sean McCormack said on June 14.

(While State is generally just repeating its independent-transparent-credible language, the European community and practically every human-rights NGO in the world is foaming.)

Considering that up to 500 people are thought to have died, the U.S. is sending relatively tame, straighten-up-and-fly-right signals to President Karimov. That's because Karimov, a mildly unstable ex-apparatchik, instantly permitted a U.S. airbase on Uzbek soil after 9/11, greatly extending U.S. reach in a hugely important part of Central Asia.

To his credit, Karimov is sending signals back. He has taken the offensive and met with Vladimir Putin in Moscow to talk Central Asian friendship. As icing, he's blaming the U.S. for plotting a rebellion, riot or whatever it was that spurred his troops to waste everyone in their line of sight, a line that's sure to play well in Russia.

Karimov's actions further complicate U.S. relations with Uzbekistan. If he just huddled in Tashkent and occasionally summoned the U.S. ambassador for a harangue, that would be one thing; but by playing for Russian favor he's telling the U.S. to back off even further, the Europeans to watch their backs, and the NGOs that they won't get into Andijan until the massacre site has been thoroughly dry-cleaned and every bullet hole spackled.

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