It was only a matter of time…

by Nathan Hamm on 8/7/2005 · 15 comments

before something like this got published.

Uzbekistan is the first of the former Soviet Central Asian Republics now in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization to order the Pentagon out of its country. On July 5, the SCO—made up of China, Russia, Uzbekistan, Kyrgystan, Tajikistan and Kazakhstan, and with new observer members Iran, India, Pakistan and Mongolia—demanded that the U.S. provide a time table for militarily pulling out of Afghanistan and Central Asia.

That’s why today a front group like Freedom House, which receives funding from the U.S. government through the National Endowment for Democracy, USAID and the State Department, ranks Uzbekistan “not free,” along with Zimbabwe, Syria and North Korea—countries that have refused to surrender their sovereignty to imperialism.

What a stupid, unconvincing, and morally repugnant claim to make. It’s not just easily disproven, but clearly demonstrates that many leftist critics of US policy towards Uzbekistan were much more concerned with making the US look bad than they were with the condition of Uzbeks.

As soon as Uzbekistan told the US to vacate K2, I thought to myself that it would only be a matter of time before I would see someone on the left going to bat for Karimov claiming that he is bravely standing up to US imperialism. Workers World gets recognition as being the first publication I’ve seen borderline lauding the Uzbek government.

Another gem from the article:

The following morning, at 5:30 a.m., a Boeing 747 ostensibly arranged by the UN used the K2 base to airlift to Romania more than 440 Uzbeks who had crossed the border into Kyrgystan. Romanian Foreign Minister Mihai Razvan Ungureanu said that the Uzbeks would travel on to other countries, including the U.S., where they will undoubtedly be debriefed and some recruited by U.S. intelligence agencies.

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This post was written by...

– author of 2991 posts on 17_PersonNotFound.

Nathan is the founder and Principal Analyst for Registan, which he launched in 2003. He was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Uzbekistan 2000-2001 and received his MA in Central Asian Studies from the University of Washington in 2007. Since 2007, he has worked full-time as an analyst, consulting with private and government clients on Central Asian affairs, specializing in how socio-cultural and political factors shape risks and opportunities and how organizations can adjust their strategic and operational plans to account for these variables. More information on Registan's services can be found here, and Nathan can be contacted via Twitter or email.

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Josh Narins August 8, 2005 at 2:06 pm

Just so I’m clear…

You are saying that “Boil-em-alive” Karimov, charter member of the Coalition of the Sh^H^HWilling, would be a better man if he continued to mow down people and accept US money, US bases and troops who don’t speak Uzbek or Russian in his lands than if he kicked them out and managed his own affairs?

Exactly how would this improve anything? To have US troops around, and him getting richer from it?

Nathan August 8, 2005 at 2:28 pm

Short answer minus your commentary on how it all actually worked, “Yes, if…” Not under the current conditions.

But, just so I’m clear, are you on board with Workers World on him being heroic for giving the US the boot? That’s what I’m complaining about here.

David August 8, 2005 at 5:24 pm

Speaking as someone who’s happy to be called left wing, and who often disagrees with your take on things here, I have to say I’m totally with you on that boneheaded article. These guys seem to think that “human rights” are some kind of conspiracy perpetuated by the minions of the West against good, honourable Stalinists like Mr. Karimov.

Another highlight of the piece is the suggestion that Andijan was some kind of western-armed coup attempt gone wrong, rather than a cold-blooded massacre. Back in the 70s, these guys would doubtless have been cheering for the Khmer Rouge…

Brian August 9, 2005 at 1:20 pm

Talk about letting your ideology cloud your view on reality. The author Leslie Feinberg has a colorful background, according to a Google search, but does not seem to have any real experience on Central Asia.

Josh Narins August 9, 2005 at 3:31 pm

So, you suppressed my response?

Freedom House is long known to downgrade countries against whom US policy is focussed.

That doesn’t make Karimov any less of a dictator, but it makes him a dictator whose sovereignity isn’t trampled.

Certainly many Americans would caterwaul hidesously if some foreign power based its troops here.

Google “Freedom House” and “right-web” to get the fuller story.

Nathan August 9, 2005 at 3:40 pm

Ummm… No. I mean, if it gets you off, you can think that.

We’re going to have to agree to disagree. I don’t think sovereignty is an absolute good, and certainly do not agree with you that the right to sovereignty flows from a monopoly on force.

Moral equivocating and an inability to understand nuance are not exactly endearing qualities.

Brian August 9, 2005 at 8:46 pm

Actually, Freedom House rated Uzbekistan “not-free” before Andijan, in fact it was scored “not-free” when America and Uzbekistan were buddies.

Laura Brown August 10, 2005 at 5:05 pm

Personally, I’m just surprised that that article wasn’t by John Laughland.

Brian August 11, 2005 at 12:18 am

Sorry to beat a dead horse, but I can’t get over the fact that she brings up that Freedom House ranked Uzbekistan “not free” recently, as if it was done in retaliation for kicking the US base out. I went back and looked at Freedom House’s rankings of Freedom in The World. Uzbekistan is ranked identically from 1999 to the present, nothing has changed: Political rights – 7 (worst score possible), Civil liberties – 6, Freedom rating – Not Free.

Ok, I’m not denying what Josh Narins is saying, but certainly Leslie Feinburg is bending the truth in her article.

Josh Narins August 12, 2005 at 8:42 am

I was clearer in my first post, which dissapeared. Maybe because it contained a link and that automatically puts it a queue for moderation.

Of course it is foolish to say that Uzbekistan is anything but a tyranny, or to suggest that Freedom House, as Brian helpfully researched, changed their ratings for Uzbekistan because of the basing decision.

But it is true that Freedom House does that sort of thing. For instance, you can bet that no matter how many reforms Syria makes (and they have made progress in the last few years) Freedom House will not change.

Brian August 12, 2005 at 1:03 pm

Yeah, well I’ll definitely give you that their rankings are not ‘accurate’. Veitnam is given the same ranking (7/6/Not Free) as Uzbekistan, which is pretty silly. Anyone spending a day in both countries would see plain as day that the Veitnamese have much greater civil liberties and economic freedom.

Mila August 15, 2005 at 10:21 pm

Josh, perhaps you could provide some examples of trends in Freedom House’s reports that suggest that their position changes as US policy changes. I would really be interested to see some real examples that provide instances where there have been clear improvements in specific areas of human rights alongside deteriorating relations with the United States and a concomitant change in the Freedom House ratings on those specific areas of human rights. Brian’s post regarding Vietnam suggests that perhaps Freedom House’s ratings were too generous to Uzbekistan. If it’s the other way around, and we are currently attacking Vietnam could someone point to the deterioration of our relations with Vietnam as the catalyst for the poor score Vietnam received. Sorry to get so off point, but perhaps studying Uzbekistan for too long is making everyone see conspiracies in everything. As far as I know, Freedom House has never purported to provide ratings that are completely objective or based on in-depth social science research or statistical analysis. I would imagine that most of the inaccuracy in their reports stems from a lack of access to the information and statistics.

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