Monday, May 30, 2005

I'm a little surprised that the Post-Dispatch printed, albeit on the back page, an article headlined: "Forces in bloody Uzbek crackdown were U.S.-trained". As Bill Moyers pointed out in his speech at the Media Reform conference, news is whatever the powers that be want to keep hidden, and the Post doesn't print a lot of that kind of news. The AP article didn't connect any dots, though. It didn't mention that teaching foreign soldiers how to control upstart rebels is a service we've been providing countless dictators for decades.
When the Spanish empire fell apart at the turn of the twentieth century, we had a national debate about the morality of stepping into the vacuum as empire builders. Those opposed lost the battle of ideas, and we fought a bloody war to suppress Phillippine independence. Since then, however, we've opted as much as possible for more covert tactics for controlling small countries with resources we covet. The 1973 coup in Chile is a textbook example. There are still those who will argue we weren't behind Pinochet's ruthless ouster of socialist president Salvador Allende.
In any case, the right argues that such propping up of dictators (or bringing down of socialist governments) stabilizes the world. And in the present world climate, that argument is easier to make than it was in 1954, for example, when we got rid of Guatemala's president, Jacobo Arbenz, because he was standing up to United Fruit, allowing banana pickers to unionize. Today, the right can point to the growing Muslim extremist movement and justify supporting a dictator who boils people in oil, on the grounds that the rebels want to install yet another Muslim government.
The Left argues that propping up unpopular governments just helps Muslim extremists recruit suicide bombers and that we landed ourselves in our present pickle in the Middle East, in large part, because we've consistently supported corrupt governments in that region.
Anyway, the question of whether to support dictators or not has little to do, really, with stability, and more to do with empire. I did not say "our" empire because much of the looting of the goods of third world countries is done by multinationals with the aid of the IMF and the World Bank. We're a key player, but not the only one. In the case of Uzbekistan, though, we do seem to be the principal player. We're the nation President Karimov favors to help his country develop its oil resources. Since the money that flows into Uzbekistan as the oil flows out will go to whoever controls the government, Karimov will kill as many dissidents as necessary to maintain control. The failure to mention these motives is another unconnected dot in the AP article.
Our government doesn't give a rat's patootie how many rebels are killed or tortured, but it has to pretend to be offended, so our man there, General Abizaid, vowed to scale back military operations at a base in the southern part of the country. "But officers at the base told a visiting Associated Press reporter that they hadn't noticed any reduction in movement there."
Abizaid's promise is a harmless little lie, just a tactic to stonewall nosy people who ought to butt out. After all, as Abizaid's superiors proved in the last election, at least half the country prefers being lied to and spared unpleasant truths. Thus we continue down the path of supporting the bad guys, forfeiting the moral high ground that we like to claim but seldom attain.

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