- Almost four weeks after the crimes against humanity in
New York and Washington, we are playing politics on the hoof and allying
ourselves to some of the nastiest butchers around.
- Mr Blair may believe that "the values we believe
in should shine through what we do in Afghanistan" but few of our
"friends" in the region have many values, and some of them have
a lot of blood on their hands. For as we search for facilities and
points and air space and access -- and we are now creating policies by
the day -- we are being asked to forget a lot of recent history.
- First out of the memory goes Chechnya. The savage
of this Muslim republic -- complete with mass executions, mass rape and
mass graves -- was the brainchild of Vladimir Putin, the former serving
KGB officer into whose soul Mr Bush believes he peered in Slovenia.
- Mr Putin's assault on Grozny was timed to bring him the
Russian presidency, and within weeks his indisciplined troops had turned
the rubble of Chechnya into something approaching Afghanistan. Mr Putin
now seems our strongest ally in the "war against terror". And
why not, when he is himself such a master of terror?
- Second out of the memory goes the nasty little
run by the Saudi royal family whose religious "mouttawa" police
taught the Taliban how to run their Ministry for the Prevention of Vice
and Promotion of Virtue.
- We should forget that women are not even allowed to drive
a car in Saudi Arabia, we must ignore the weekly head-choppings outside
mosques, the country's disgraceful and unfair judicial system --
in fact, which might remind us of Saudi Arabia's carbon copy, the Taliban,
whose destruction we are now seeking.
- Then we must turn our attention away from the not
democratic regime of General Pervez Musharraf. Only a little while ago,
the general was the Pakistani army commander who overthrew the
elected -- though corrupt -- government of Nawaz Sharif. Indeed, General
Musharraf was rather keen to hang Mr Sharif until President Clinton dropped
by Islamabad early last year to condemn Osama bin Laden and appeal for
- Only a few weeks ago, the general appointed himself
And while the world tut-tutted then, it now respectfully accords General
Musharraf the title of "president" too.
- Fourth down the memory hole goes our new friend
whose President Islam Karimov currently holds 7,000 political prisoners
in his jails. There is no free press, no political opposition.
- Mikhail Ardzinov, one of the few human rights activists
in Uzbekistan -- who was brutally beaten by Karimov's secret police two
years ago -- now says that although America had promised not to sell out
human rights to get Karimov's friendship, "We know that the tone will
change now". Too true. Karimov has promised that his air space can
be "used in the fight against terrorism for humanitarian and security
- And this is not the moment to remind anyone that
has its own reasons to destroy the Taliban -- not just because the Taliban
has been exporting its revolution over the Afghan-Uzbek border, but because
President Karimov wants to run an oil pipeline through Afghanistan to a
Pakistani port, a project that will help to fund his bankrupt police state
(as well as a few American oil companies).
- One of Karimov's allies is the anti-Taliban war criminal
Abdul Rashid Dustum whose men went on a rampage of rape in Kabul in the
early Nineties and who, for several months, went to fight for the Taliban
after receiving a massive bribe for his change of allegiance. So it's
too for the anarchy and mass human rights abuses perpetrated when the
Alliance -- our friends in northern Afghanistan -- ruled Kabul. We must
remember with sorrow its former leader, Ahmed Shah Massoud, a genuine
murdered by Arab suicide bombers on 9 September, but we must forget his
colleague Rasoul Sayaf whose men used Shia women as sex slaves in the early
- Now it's true that Churchill, when told in 1941 that
Germany had invaded the Soviet Union and that Stalin was now his ally,
announced that if Hitler invaded Hell, he would at least make "a
reference" to the Devil in the House of Commons. But we're not making
any references at all to our "friends" in the region. We have
drawn the shining bright sword and have no time to worry if the hands we
shake are covered in blood.
- This is a war of democracy versus evil, according to
President Bush. It's just that there's not an awful lot of democracy
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