mr. zilla goes to town

Monday, May 16, 2005

Do as we say, not as we… well actually, don't do as we say

US news magazine Newsweek is currently copping in the neck over suggestions that their misreported details from a source in Guantanamo -- who alleged, but then retracted after publication, that the Koran had been placed in a toilet -- led to riots in Afghanistan and death of at least 15 people.

Setting aside the fact that there's ample precedent to indicate this kind of disrespect is very likely to be going on, let's look at a few other choice remarks on the public record lately and some of their possible consequences.

George Bush, Tblisi, May 10:

You are making many important contributions to freedom's cause, but your most important contribution is your example. In recent months, the world has marveled at the hopeful changes taking place from Baghdad to Beirut to Bishkek. But before there was a Purple Revolution in Iraq, or an Orange Revolution in Ukraine, or a Cedar Revolution in Lebanon, there was the Rose Revolution in Georgia. Your courage is inspiring democratic reformers and sending a message that echos across the world: Freedom will be the future of every nation and every people on Earth.

Now, across the Caucasus, in Central Asia and the broader Middle East, we see the same desire for liberty burning in the hearts of young people. They are demanding their freedom -- and they will have it.

Uzbekistan, May 13:

Anti-government protesters occupied the central square [of the Ferghana Valley city, Andijan] throughout the day. Some estimates put the crowd as high as 50,000. Many protesters called for Karimov's resignation, complaining that the government's economic program, including a tax policy widely viewed as confiscatory, was impoverishing the population.

Uzbek security forces killed at least dozens of people… as President Islam Karimov acted ruthlessly to crush an anti-government protest. Uzbek authorities also took steps to isolate the city from the outside world, making it difficult to determine the extent of the carnage.
So it's going to be hard to determine what's going on. Let's compare and contrast one official and one unofficial report though:

Exactly how many people were killed when security forces fired upon a crowd of several thousand protesters surrounding a seized public building in the square on 13 May is still unknown. The government puts the number of dead around 30. Uzbek President Islam Karimov said late yesterday that 10 police and troops were killed in what Tashkent described as a fight against rebels.

But witnesses and human rights group say the number may be as high as 500, and most were civilians. Gulbahor Toraeva is the head of a nongovernmental organization in Uzbekistan called Animakor, which deals with the protection of the rights of medical doctors and their patients. She told RFE/RL's Uzbek Service today that she saw with her own eyes yesterday about 500 civilian corpses that had been gathered together at School No. 15 in Andijon.

"If we speak about [yesterday's] events, I went personally to School No. 15 in Andijon [yesterday] and I saw the bodies were gathered there. I saw it with my own eyes. There were about 500 bodies or more," Toraeva said.
Now if you believe the Uzbek government on this one, then you'll believe that this is a regime in which prisoners live in mortal fear not of hard labour but the tea breaks in between:

The elderly mother of a religious prisoner allegedly boiled to death by Uzbekistan's secret police has been sentenced to six years in a maximum security jail after she made public her son's torture. Uzbek prison authorities maintain that Mr Avazov died after inmates spilled hot tea on him.

So how has the Bush administration responded to the carnage in Andijan? Washington DC, May 16:
Scott McClellan, Mr Bush's spokesman, declined to take sides when asked about Uzbek troops opening fire on unarmed civilians. "The people of Uzbekistan want to see a more representative and democratic government, but that should come through peaceful means, not through violence."

The State Department was equally unwilling to speak against the iron-fisted regime of President Karimov. Richard Boucher, a State Department spokesman, said: "We believe that everywhere people have the right to express their grievances, but that grievances should be pursued through a peaceful process."

So perhaps what George Bush should have said in Tblisi, on May 10 was:

Now, across the Caucasus, in Central Asia and the broader Middle East, we see the same desire for liberty burning in the hearts of young people. They are demanding their freedom -- and they will have it. So long as they realise full well that my administration and my government will be providing rhetorical support and international influence to support them only if I need a push in the polls. Could you talk with Scottie and maybe arrange something for the Congressional race in 06?

Freedom will be the future of every nation and every people on Earth… except if I need yours as an airbase for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and can't afford to upset the current regime. Or if they're kinda useful for me to outsource some fingernail pulling to. But everyone else, well, give it the jandal kids, and I'll be right along to join the freedom cakewalk as soon as the Secret Service has sampled the buffet!

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