On Tuesday, President Bush was finally asked to explain his silence about the brutal massacres ordered by Uzbek dictator — and White House ally — Islam Karimov. His response was remarkable:
VAN DE HEI: Two questions about the consistency of a U.S. foreign policy that’s built on the foundation of spreading democracy and ending tyranny. One, how come you have not spoken out about the violent crackdown in Uzbekistan? …
THE PRESIDENT: …In terms of Uzbekistan — thanks for bringing it up — we’ve called for the International Red Cross to go into the Andijon region to determine what went on, and we expect all our friends — [Bush pauses here, apparently realizing what he’s just said] — as well as those who aren’t our friends, to honor human rights and protect minority rights.
This is the administration’s boiler plate response these days. As the New York Times points out, the White House claims it wants an investigation of the massacres, yet is “also making it clear that it intended to continue cooperating with Uzbekistan on counterterrorism.”
But referring to Karimov as a friend? Now that’s beyond the pale.
President Bush, here’s a tip: friends don’t let friends gun down hundreds of their own citizens “like rabbits” (in the words of one survivor), boil their prisoners alive, initiate police state round-ups of political activists, or run an oppressive dictatorship.
And here’s one more: any friend of a thug like Karimov is no friend of democracy.