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

Medical Examiner

Here’s Where We Stand With Ebola

Even experienced international disaster responders are shocked at how bad it’s gotten.

It Is Very, Very Stupid to Compare Hope Solo to Ray Rice

The U.S. Is So, So Far Behind Europe on Clean Energy

Even if You Don’t Like Batman, You Might Like Gotham

Friends Was the Last Purely Pleasurable Sitcom

The Eye

This Whimsical Driverless Car Imagines Transportation in 2059

Politics

Meet the New Bosses

How the Republicans would run the Senate.

A Woman Who Escaped the Extreme Babymaking Christian Fundamentalism of Quiverfull

How Moscow’s Anti-War March Revealed One of Russia’s Deepest Divides

  News & Politics
Politics
Sept. 22 2014 6:30 PM What Does It Mean to Be an American? Ted Cruz and Scott Brown think it’s about ideology. It’s really about culture.
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 22 2014 5:38 PM Apple Won't Shut Down Beats Music After All (But Will Probably Rename It)
  Life
Outward
Sept. 22 2014 4:45 PM Why Can’t the Census Count Gay Couples Accurately?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 22 2014 7:43 PM Emma Watson Threatened With Nude Photo Leak for Speaking Out About Women's Equality
  Slate Plus
Slate Plus
Sept. 22 2014 1:52 PM Tell Us What You Think About Slate Plus Help us improve our new membership program.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 22 2014 9:17 PM Trent Reznor’s Gone Girl Soundtrack Sounds Like an Eerie, Innovative Success
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 22 2014 6:27 PM Should We All Be Learning How to Type in Virtual Reality?
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Sept. 22 2014 4:34 PM Here’s Where We Stand With Ebola Even experienced international disaster responders are shocked at how bad it’s gotten.
  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.