A story in Newsweek may have served as the trigger for anti-U.S. riots in Afghanistan, but the real reasons for the violence are deeply rooted in the way the U.S. security partnership with Karzai is being handled.
|An Uzbek mother in shock after the violence
UZBEK RIOTS: HARDLINE ON THE AKRAMAYA Uzbekistan has a population similar in size to Iraq, and it borders five other states in strategically critical Central Asia. The current violence has its roots in the arrest of 23 businessmen, who reportedly favored the teachings of Akramjon Yoldoshev, a mathematician, who favors promoting Islamic values in Uzbek society. Uzbekistan's president, Islam Karimov was not amused. The BBC provides background information on the Akramaya, and how the dispute began. (Paul Tumelty, BBC, May 15, 2005)
SHOOTING THE WOUNDED AND HIDING THE DEAD
Uzbek president Islam Karimov says that only nine people were killed in an operation to root out a dangerous group of Islamic radicals. On the morning of May 14, journalists together with residents who were unscathed by the previous day’s violence were able to view the full scale of the catastrophe that had struck the city... Body parts, brains and other internal organs along with personal items and children’s shoes were scattered within a radius of two to three kilometres of the square where the shooting began. There were still 30 dead bodies on the square itself, and near the monument to Babur – the local boy who invaded India and founded the Moghul dynasty – lay ten more which people had collected together. Men and women cried as they surveyed the scene...Eyewitnesses claimed that more than 1,500 people were killed by government bullets, although the nearest thing to an accurate estimate came from a local doctor who saw 500 bodies.(Galima Bukharbaeva and Matluba Azamatova in Andijan, Institute for War Peace Reporting, May 16, 2005)
BRITAIN'S FORMER AMBASSADOR CRAIG MURRAY ON U.S. SUPPORT FOR UZBEKISTAN'S ISLAM KARIMOV
Britain's former ambassador to Uzbekistan notes: "The bodies of hundreds of pro-democracy protesters in Uzbekistan are scarcely cold, and already the White House is looking for ways to dismiss them...In 2002, the US gave Uzbekistan over $500m in aid, including $120m in military aid and $80m in security aid. The level has declined - but not nearly as much as official figures seem to show (much is hidden in Pentagon budgets after criticism of the 2002 figure).The airbase opened by the US at Khanabad is not essential to operations in Afghanistan, its claimed raison d'être. It has a more crucial role as the easternmost of Donald Rumsfeld's "lily pads" - air bases surrounding the "wider Middle East", by which the Pentagon means the belt of oil and gas fields stretching from the Middle East through the Caucasus and central Asia.(Craig Murray, The Guardian, May 16, 2005)
HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH: Details of Torture in Uzbekistan
The need to prevent terrorism cannot justify persecution of religious dissent, nor can it justify policies of collective punishment that lead to the arrest of suspects’ parents, siblings, and spouses. The torture and public shaming rituals that accompany arrests, the planting of drugs and bullets in people’s homes, and trials in which evidence that a person prayed five times a day is accepted as proof of intent to overthrow the state are equally indefensible and violate fundamental principles of due process. (HRW, March 2004)
A SURGE OF ANTI-AMERICANISM FROM ISLAMIC MILITANTS IN AFGHANISTAN
Anti-United States and Afghan government sentiment beyond the "Newsweek" story were apparent from the outset of the rallies. For the first time since communists ruled the country in the 1980s or when the Taliban were in charge in the late 1990s, US flags were burned on Afghan soil. Chants of "Death to America" and "Death to Karzai" were coming from the protestors...rather than a spontaneous uprising, the riots appeared to have been specifically directed against U.S. and Pakistani installations. The timing follows a growing resistance to U.S. troops violating Afghan homes in Nangahar Province, the overly cosy relationship between Karzai and the administration and a growing debate over the establishment of U.S. bases, which Afghans are concerned may be created without deferring to the Afghan parliament. (Amir Tarzi, Eurasianet.org, May 13, 2005)
MILITANT ISLAMIC RESISTANCE REJECTS KARZAI'S SECURITY PARTNERSHIP WITH WASHINGTON
Michael Weinstein observes in the current Power and Interest News Report
that the Taliban is on the rise again in Afghanistan, and that Hekmatyar Gulbaddin, who once received substantial aid from the U.S. largely because he was favored by Pakistan, is also on an anti-American warpath. Says Weinstein, "The intensity and scope of the protests caught Washington by surprise, yet they should have been anticipated. The Newsweek report of Quran desecration, from which the magazine has backed off, was simply a trigger that released pent-up frustration with the Karzai government -- especially the slow pace of post-war reconstruction -- and hostility toward the U.S. military presence among wide segments of the Afghan population." (Michael Weinstein, PINR, May 17, 2005)
-The Independent on Karzai upset at U.S. heavy-handedness
-The Hindu on Afghan demands that the U.S. turn over interrogators for punishment
-The Italian News Agency, AKI, on the Koran flap
BLOGGING THE IRANIAN ELECTIONS
Iran's upcoming elections, in which Rafsanjani looks like a likely candidate to take over the secular side of the Teheran government, has passed largely under the radar screen. Open Democracy.com has now opened a blog site that pulls together ongoing internet and academic commentary as well as newspaper reports and background on the candidates. Click here...
THE U.S. SALE OF
F-16s TO PAKISTAN, WHILE HELPING INDIA BECOME A MAJOR POWER, MARKS A MAJOR SHIFT IN U.S. POLICY
President Bush's decision to sell F16s to Pakistan, breaking a 15-year old arms embargo, was conducted smoothly, mostly because the United States had in fact reached the decision “to help India become a major world power in the twenty-first century.” By further asserting that “we understand fully the implications, including military implications, of
that statement,” the administration effectively gave notice that it would be guided by the intrinsic importance of India and Pakistan to U.S. interests and not by fears that support for one would upset the other. (Ashley J. Tellis, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, May 2005)
CHINA'S GLOBAL EXPANSION RESTRICTED BY DOMESTIC CONSIDERATIONS
While the U.S. and Japan fret over China's future ability to compete as a global superpower, Beijing is acutely aware that its growing strength depends on keeping its economy booming. That has favored a go softly approach in international relations--at least for the time being. Adam Wolfe analyzes the situation in Power and Interest News Report (May 16, 2005).
P.R. FIRM AND SYRIA DENY CONNECTION TO IMPROVE DAMASCUS' SPIN IN WASHINGTON
Reports in Aljazeera and a Turkish news weekly that the government of Syria has contracted for pubic relations and lobbying services with a firm headed by a long-time aide to George W. Bush are untrue, according to both the firm, New Bridge Strategies, and the Syrian Embassy in the US. Liz Lara, a spokesperson for New Bridge, says that the firm “has not entered into any contract with the government of Syria,” and that the company does not do business in that country. The Syrian embassy issued a press release saying that the “Embassy of Syria in Washington, D.C. wishes to inform you that the Embassy has not entered or signed any agreement for any US company to represent Syria in the United States including New Bridge Strategies.”(Weldon Berger, BTC News, May 17, 2005)
IRAQ PLANNING TO PRIVATIZE 46 GOVERNMENT-OWNED COMPANIES
Under the former regime of Saddam Hussein, only Arab countries were allowed to invest in Iraq. But the new commercial laws established by the Coalition Provisional Authority allow foreigners to own 100 percent of Iraqi businesses - the exceptions being those dealing with natural resources such as oil... (Beirut Daily Star, May 17, 2005)
THE CURRENT INSURGENCY IN IRAQ HAS BEEN SHAPED BY ERRORS IN THE EARLY PHASES OF THE U.S. OCCUPATION
Anthony Cordesman notes in his latest report that a major reason behind Iraq's problems today is the fact that Britain's colonial "divide and rule" tactics intentionally played on divisions in Iraqi society which Saddam further exacerbated. In light of the underlying problems, the Bush administration's post-war goals were overly ambitious and impossible to realize. The most serious error at the top levels of the Pentagon were to"wish away" real world problems, to underestimate the importance of nation-building and to be taken in by a variety of ideologues. These included neocons in the Defense Department, highly politicized right-wing "think tanks" and the Office of the Secretary of Defense, which pressured the military to go in with a minimal troop force and without proper planning. The result was to give the insurgency the space and time to develop increasingly sophisticated tactics. (Anthony Cordesman, May 16, 2005 67 pages pdf)
SOLVING THE CONGO PROBLEM ONCE AND FOR ALL
The continued existence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo of 8,000 to 10,000 Hutu rebels with links to the 1994 genocide in their home country, Rwanda, is a key source of regional instability. Though too weak to imperil Rwanda's government, and though many of its members are not themselves genocidaires, the FDLR (Forces Démocratiques de Libération du Rwanda) gives Kigali justification for continued interference in the Congo and threats to invade...(ICG, MAY 12, 2005)
CHECHEN STRUGGLE SPILLING OVER INTO DAGESTAN The Dagestani insurgency manifests itself on two fronts, with subunits operating under a Dagestani command structure in Chechnya, along with a lower tier command within the republic proper. The first detailed call to jihad following the August 1999 invasion of the Botlikh region by fighters under Shamil Basaev and Emir Khattab came in a statement by the "Joint Command of the Mujahideen in Dagestan" posted to the Kavkazcenter website on January 19, 2002. Lamenting the "anti-Islamic and anti-Caucasian" role now played by Dagestan, the statement said: "the people are led by a Moscow henchman and his family clan, who are characterized by greed and moral corruption and who forget the glory of their ancestors…Nevertheless, year by year there are more and more people who have only one constitution – the Koran…A Muslim's help is needed most of all in the Caucasus in Chechnya, where the extermination of Muslims is going on." (Paul Tumelty, May 11, 2005)
As car bombings and suicide attacks continue unabated in Iraq, a man grieves for his cousin. New revelations in London have raised new questions on why the war was started in the first place.
THE NOT-SO-NOBLE LIE
Anyone still wondering whether George W. Bush engaged in a bit of presidential deception in order to drag the U.S. into the War in Iraq should read the confidential memo on Tony Blair's meeting with top advisors in July 2002--a period when Bush was still pretending that peace was an option. For British officials, the Bush White House was determined to go to war, and the only question was how to get the American public to go along. "C" the head of Britain's MI6 intelligence organization reported that: "...Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy. The NSC had no patience with the UN route, and no enthusiasm for publishing material on the Iraqi regime's record. There was little discussion in Washington of the aftermath after military action...." The memo caused shockwaves in Britain, but not enough to cost Blair the recent election. Mark Danner analyzes the memo in its implications in an essay that will run in the next issue of the New York Review of Books, and is currently on Tom Dispatch.com (Mark Danner, NYRB, June 2005)
NEWSWEEK BACKS AWAY FROM ITS STORY ON GUANTANAMO KORANS IN THE TOILET
Newsweek's editor, Mark Whitaker, expressed sincere regret at getting the story wrong on U.S. interrogators at Guantanamo Bay flushing Korans down the toilet in order to "soften up" detainees. In fact, while various detainees have reported similar stories, Newsweek thought it had confirmation from a higher source, a top ranking administration official, speaking on background. The official reportedly told Newsweek that an investigation had also turned up the information. Pressed to confirm the story, the official admitted that he could not remember which report he had read with the details on Guantanamo in it. Newsweek felt that it could not stand behind information that was that indefinite, even if it might turn out to be true. The fact that the information was used to trigger rioting in Afghanistan made the issue more painful.
NEWSWEEK EDITOR MARK WHITAKER EXPLAINS ON THE NEWSHOUR
--Newsweek's mea culpa...
--THE ORIGINAL NEWSWEEK STORY
--Newsweek on the fallout in Afghanistan and Iraq
--BBC on the fallout
--BBC on U.S. Army interrogator's account of alleged sexual innuendos at Guantanamo
NUMEROUS REPORTS FROM FORMER DETAINEES SPEAK OF DISRESPECT FOR RELIGION AT GUANTANAMO
Calgacus, a researcher in national security affairs, details an extensive history of reports from detainees of attacks against Islam and the Koran at Guantanamo.
Read Calgacus' report
ACLU'S ARCHIVE OF PHOTOCOPIED U.S. GOVT. DOCUMENTS ON ALLEGATIONS OF TORTURE AT GUANTANMO AND ELSEWHERE
BACK WHEN THE REPUBLICANS FILIBUSTERED THE SUPREME COURT
Former Presidential Counsel John Dean notes that the Republicans first set the precedent for filibustering judicial nominees when they blocked Abe Fortas' selection as Chief Justice in 1968. Writes Dean, "To make sure this fight goes their way, Republicans need to dispose of their own filibuster precedent before it starts. This explains their concerted effort to revise history to suit their agenda - even if it means utterly ignoring the facts.
" The key event occurred in 1968. That year, Republicans blocked the nomination of Associate Justice Abe Fortas to become Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. And they did so with a filibuster." (John W. Dean, FindLaw.com, May 6, 2005)
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