The Washington-Tashkent “special relationship” started as early as the mid-1990s, during the Bill Clinton administration. In 1999, Green Berets were actively training Uzbek Special Forces. Khanabad has nothing to do with Afghanistan: Bagram takes care of this. But Khanabad is crucial as one of the key bases surrounding Bush’s Greater Middle East, or to put it in the relevant perspective, the Middle East/Caucasus/Central Asia heavenly arc of oil and gas. It’s on a seven-year lease to the Pentagon, due to expire in late 2008.

So Karimov in Uzbekistan is as essential a piece in the great oil and gas chessboard as Hamid Karzai in Afghanistan. Inevitably, there will be more uprisings in the impoverished Ferghana Valley that has reached a boiling point. Karimov again will unleash his American-funded army. The White House will be silent. The Kremlin will be silent (or dub it “green revolution” – by Islamic fundamentalists, as it did with Andijan). Corporate media will be silent: one imagines the furor had Andijan happened in Lebanon when Syrian troops were still in the country. Uzbeks in the Ferghana won’t be valued as people legitimately fighting for freedom and democracy: they will be labeled as terrorists. And Rumsfeld will keep cultivating a “strong relationship” with Karimov’s Rosebud. ~Pepe Escobar, Asia Times

I don’t endorse Mr. Escobar’s idea that there are “peaceful jihad” groups, unless the term jihad is simply being used flippantly (which is unlikely). Jihad, even the so-called “greater jihad,” with its ostensibly purely spiritual application is simply the application to religious life of the militancy towards non-Muslims explicit in the Qur’an and symbolically aligns non-Muslims with the impure nafs (soul) to be purified. This would be the equivalent of adopting a pogrom as the image of one’s Christian spirituality. (If it be objected that jihad does not equal terrorism, it is worth remembering that the technical Qur’anic prohibitions against attacking non-combatants has often been honoured more in the breach than in the observance.)

But clearly what was happening in Andijan resembled more a large-scale jailbreak than anything resembling terrorism. The secularism of Uzbekistan does not make Islamism less likely, or less potent where it exists, but ensures that as the situation becomes more desperate increasingly extreme forms of Islam will win over those suppressed by the government. A consistently secular regime shuts off or suppresses normal religious expression, leading the religious to conclude that they cannot freely coexist in such a system, which encourages them to adopt increasingly violent rhetoric and methods. Besides, most of the Chechen rebels themselves were initially relatively secular, but as the war went on they found that there was a great deal more rhetorical value and foreign money in Islamism. But Karimov cannot hide behind anti-terrorism this time. He is a butcher, and we should cut off all support to him.

The Moscow theater hostage crisis was a terrorist attack. Beslan was a terrorist attack. Washington showed little sympathy for legitimate Russian fears then, because its favoured goons from the Caucasus were causing the mayhem. Now that the Uzbek government has slaughtered hundreds, Washington has essentially accepted the anti-terrorist explanation and committed one of the worst ‘sins’ in neocon morality, “blaming the victim.”