Why did we send millions to a dictator who kicked us out?

Notes from different corners of the world.
Dec. 8 2005 12:12 PM

Base Hypocrisy

Why did the U.S. send millions to a dictator who kicked us out?

Click image to expand.
Tulkin Karaev

BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan—In a small apartment on Erkinbek Street in downtown Bishkek, the mood was downbeat.

Earlier that day, Kudrat Babadjanov and Tulkin Karaev, two Uzbek journalists, had received word that they might be granted political asylum in Sweden. Back in July, the two men fled to Kyrgyzstan from Uzbekistan. At home, they had faced threats and intimidation—and, in the case of Karaev, arrest—for reporting on events in Andijan, where Uzbek government forces killed hundreds of unarmed protesters on May 13.

Advertisement

"Living in Sweden would be like going into retirement," Babadjanov sighed. "We can't work as reporters there."

"You're the third person to congratulate me today, but I don't feel particularly happy," Karaev added gloomily.

Babadjanov and Karaev had hoped to wait things out in Kyrgyzstan. Confident the regime of Uzbek President Islam Karimov is not long for the world, they want to be in the region when it topples, even though there had been warnings it was not safe for them to stay in Bishkek.

But the men's greatest source of frustration was not Uzbekistan's dismal human rights record or even their uncertain future in exile. Why, they asked, did the United States insist on paying Karimov for the use of an Uzbek military base?

Less than a month after Sept. 11, 2001, the United States secured the rights to use Karshi Khanabad, a former Soviet aerodrome in southern Uzbekistan. Karshi Khanabad—known in the inevitable military shorthand as "K2"—became a major logistics hub for military operations; it also served as a base for Air Force search and rescue operations. The first major contingent of U.S. ground troops from the 10th Mountain Division arrived there in October 2001.

It was an arrangement of convenience. If one accepts the argument that fighting terrorism abroad requires a new network of bases, then cutting deals with some unsavory regimes is a necessary evil. And if that means turning a blind eye to the occasional show trial or ignoring reports of torture, so be it. After all, we had a war to prosecute.

"When the United States operated the base, Karimov was your No. 1 friend," Karaev said.

Click image to expand.
Kudrat Babadjanov shows a poster from an anti-Karimov rally

That logic collapsed, however, after the Andijan massacre. After calls from the United States and other countries for an independent investigation, Karimov retaliated. His government told the United States to quit K2 within six months.

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

Meet the New Bosses

How the Republicans would run the Senate.

The Government Is Giving Millions of Dollars in Electric-Car Subsidies to the Wrong Drivers

Scotland Is Just the Beginning. Expect More Political Earthquakes in Europe.

Photos of the Crowds That Took Over NYC for the People’s Climate March

Friends Was the Last Purely Pleasurable Sitcom

The Eye

This Whimsical Driverless Car Imagines Transportation in 2059

Medical Examiner

Did America Get Fat by Drinking Diet Soda?  

A high-profile study points the finger at artificial sweeteners.

I Wrote a Novel Envisioning a Nigerian Space Program. Then I Learned Nigeria Actually Has One.

A Futurama Writer on How the Vietnam War Shaped the Series

  News & Politics
Politics
Sept. 22 2014 11:13 AM Your Own Personal Rand Paul How the libertarian hero makes his foreign policy contradictions disappear.
  Business
Business Insider
Sept. 22 2014 9:39 AM Adrian Peterson Has a Terrible Contract, and Cutting Him Would Save the Vikings a Lot of Money
  Life
Atlas Obscura
Sept. 22 2014 11:15 AM Avenue of the Baobabs: Madagascar's Magical Upside-Down Trees
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 19 2014 4:58 PM Steubenville Gets the Lifetime Treatment (And a Cheerleader Erupts Into Flames)
  Slate Plus
Science
Sept. 22 2014 8:08 AM Slate Voice: “Why Is So Much Honey Clover Honey?” Mike Vuolo shares the story of your honey.
  Arts
Television
Sept. 21 2014 9:00 PM Attractive People Being Funny While Doing Amusing and Sometimes Romantic Things Don’t dismiss it. Friends was a truly great show.
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 22 2014 7:47 AM Predicting the Future for the U.S. Government The strange but satisfying work of creating the National Intelligence Council’s Global Trends report.
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 22 2014 5:30 AM MAVEN Arrives at Mars
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.