Rubin Declares Bachmann Competent »« Geller Freaks Out About Muslim Creationism

Taxpayers Pay For Propaganda for Dictators

Foreign Policy reports that a Pentagon program is spending $120 million a year on building propaganda websites to support repressive dictators around the world, including Uzbekistan thug Islam Karimov.

When people read a news website, they don’t usually imagine that it is being run by a major producer of fighter jets and smart bombs. But when the Pentagon has its own vision of America’s foreign policy, and the funds to promote it, it can put a $23 billion defense contractor in a unique position to report on the war on terror.

Over the past three years, a subdivision of Virginia-based General Dynamics has set up and run a network of eight “influence websites” funded by the Defense Department with more than $120 million in taxpayer money. The sites, collectively known as the Trans Regional Web Initiative (TRWI) and operated by General Dynamics Information Technology, focus on geographic areas under the purview of various U.S. combatant commands, including U.S. Central Command. In its coverage of Uzbekistan, a repressive dictatorship increasingly important to U.S. military goals in Afghanistan, a TRWI website called Central Asia Online has shown a disturbing tendency to downplay the autocracy’s rights abuses and uncritically promote its claims of terrorist threats.

But since we rely on the dictator to help us move military hardware, it’s all okay:

Gas-rich Uzbekistan, the most populous of the formerly Soviet Central Asian republics, has been ruled since before independence in 1991 by strongman President Islam Karimov, who is regularly condemned in the West for running one of the world’s most repressive and corrupt regimes. Freedom House gives Uzbekistan the lowest possible score in its Freedom in the World report, while watchdog groups like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have reported on widespread torture and forced child labor. The respected Russian human rights group Memorial says Karimov holds more political prisoners than all other post-Soviet republics combined, often through an “arbitrary interpretation” of the law. The overwhelming majority of those convicted are somehow linked to Islam. Memorial has found that thousands of “Muslims whose activities pose no threat to social order and security are being sentenced on fabricated charges of terrorism and extremism.”

Nonetheless, with Pakistani-American relations at a desperate low, Washington now seems more eager than ever to make overtures to Tashkent. In the past, Karimov has responded to U.S. criticism by threatening to shut down the supply route to Afghanistan. In 2005, after Washington demanded an investigation into the massacre of hundreds of civilians in the eastern city of Andijan, he closed the American airbase at Karshi-Khanabad. So Washington’s expressions of disapproval have given way to praise. In September, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton cautiously commended Tashkent for its “progress” on political freedoms, and, more significantly, President Barack Obama moved to end restrictions on military aid, in place since 2004. Then, during an Oct. 22 visit to Tashkent, Clinton thanked the Uzbek leader in person for his cooperation. A State Department official traveling with her said he believed Karimov wants to leave a democratic legacy for “his kids and his grandchildren.”

Theoretically, with the restrictions lifted, General Dynamics stands to profit. The company has already shown interest in finding clients in Central Asia, hawking its wares at a defense exposition in Kazakhstan last year. This potential self-interest casts an unflattering light on Central Asia Online’s flattering coverage of the region’s calcified dictatorships, especially Uzbekistan.

None of this should be at all surprising. The American government constantly makes eloquent statements about about our courageous and undying support for freedom and democracy, but in practice it has long supported any dictator, no matter how brutal, as long as they do our bidding. Saddam Hussein was a well-funded and well-armed ally of the United States until he invaded Kuwait against our wishes, then he was suddenly the second coming of Adolf Hitler.

Comments

  1. naturalcynic says

    A State Department official traveling with her said he believed Karimov wants to leave a democratic legacy for “his kids and his grandchildren.”

    Just as I thought. Karimov is a goat-fucker.

  2. shouldbeworking says

    I thought the thug meant only his children would enjoy democracy because they would be living the good life in the ritzy resorts of western Europe while all the peasants slaved away for the good of the state.

  3. Michael Heath says

    One justification to combat terrorism there in a way that supports Karim is if an inventory consisting of some combination of biological, chemical, and weapons-grade nuclear material remains. I don’t claim it’s sufficient if true, just pointing out it’s a factor worthy of consideration if true. I’ll research this more carefully tonight where I’m just finishing The Dead Hand, a history of the end of the Cold War which covers mitigation efforts regarding these materials and the lax manner the USSR protected them within the context of that government ceasing to exist. Amazon’s search feature doesn’t bring up much so my point might be irrelevant. Even that test might not pass the smell test since the West was working on removing materials starting in the early-1990s where Karim’s tenure provided him with ample time to cooperate with us.

    I’m near the end of the book where I’m extremely impressed with how the ex-Soviets did the right thing and didn’t sell material to Iran in spite of their efforts, willingness to pay individuals vast sums, and in spite of the fact these ex-Soviets weren’t able to sufficiently provide the basics for their family after the USSR collapsed. A widespread tale of moral courage we never hear from the Christianists who mispresent atheism to make their dishonest case theists alone reveal objective moral truth. (Many of these heros are scientists so I assume many of them are not theists.)

  4. Aquaria says

    The American government constantly makes eloquent statements about about our courageous and undying support for freedom and democracy, but in practice it has long supported any dictator, no matter how brutal, as long as they do our bidding.

    Here’s the list I can think of:

    Pinochet in Chile
    Uribe in Colombia (ongoing!)
    Videla in Argentina
    Banzer in Bolivia
    Branco in Brazil
    Diaz in Mexico
    The Somozas in Nicaragua
    Duarte in El Salvador
    Cَrdova in Honduras
    Noriega in Panama
    Multiple dictators in Guatemala
    The Duvaliers in Haiti
    Trujillo in the Dominican Republic
    Batista in Cuba
    Suharto in Indonesia
    Marcos in The Philippines
    Pol Pot in Cambodia
    Bao Dai, Diem in South Vietnam
    Chiang Kai-shek in Formosa
    Multiple dictators in South Korea
    Hussein in Jordan
    The Sauds in Saudi Arabia
    The Shah in Iran
    Mubarak in Egypt
    Qaddafi in Libya
    Abacha in Nigeria
    Kabila in Democratic Republic of Congo
    Mobutu in Zaire
    Jonas in Angola
    Botha in South Africa
    Franco in Spain
    Kamirev in Uzbekistan

    and let’s not forget good ol’ Alfredo Stroessner in Paraguay, a guy we were all in for until it was learned that he’d listened on the phone as his secret police (los pyragüés) hacked up a Communist Party official with a chainsaw. Kinda tough to support him after that, I guess.

  5. Stevarious says

    But…but…but…. Jezusfreedomerica! It’s all one word and therefore all of it’s components are synonymous! And Jesus would NEVER support a mean ole dictator.

    Therefore it must not be true. Whew! Dodged a bullet there!

  6. shouldbeworking says

    Yeah, and no American president would sell weapons to an Islamic nation so the money could be funneled to a group of right wing terrorists in central America. Especially if congress said no.

  7. eric says

    Completely off topic, but the WashPo (and I’m sure every other major news outlet in the next hour, except perhaps Fox) is now reporting that (1) Cain is considering dropping out after a woman came forward stating she had a 13-year affair with him, and (2) Perry didn’t know the voting age was 18. In N.H. he publicly asked ‘everyone 21 and over’ to go to the polls.

    Good gracious what a train wreck.

    At this point, I find it hard to blame the actual candidates any more. I really have to blame the campaign advisory staff. Its their job to inject some realism into the rosy self-image probably every politician has of themselves. To make sure candidates are prepared to speak in public, to know about and have a plan about how to handle affairs, etc. Its like the “fool me once” adage: if your candidate makes a big gaffe, shame on him. If he makes a second, shame on you.

  8. mobius says

    This is one aspect of American history and current policy that I have always found disturbing, that we have supported so many that reject what we claim to be our core values.

    We really do need a clean sweep of people in government. The Republicans seem to be particularly bad about things like this, all in the name of patriotism. But the Democrats aren’t much better. All the Republicans have to do is claim the Democrats are being unpatriotic and the Democrats fall right in line, no matter how unAmerican the policy actually is.

    I am not holding my breath, but just maybe the OWS movement will actually get some changes made.

  9. Ichthyic says

    Pentagon program is spending $120 million a year on building propaganda websites

    Must be part of the new jobs program. Think of all the out of work web programmers and IT guys this will employ!

  10. Ichthyic says

    We really do need a clean sweep of people in government.

    what will fill that vacuum?

    Unless those of us who want change are willing to step up and take responsibility for providing it, you will end up with the same result.

    Those that WANT power are rarely utilitarian in outlook.

    Just getting rid of what’s there won’t work; it’s been tried for thousands of years.

    all of us who want change have to bite the bullet; spend the time necessary to actually PARTICIPATE in our own governance. Even if it’s just participating in regular town-hall type meetings to discuss what your community needs are. We ALL have to make sure that those who we pick to represent our interests are actually there to do just that, and that starts at the local level, and works its way up.

    It’s not the system, really, that needs changing; the representative government set up in the US constitution, for example, is entirely workable, so long as we all take personal responsibility for making it work. It’s not enough to sit on your ass and go to the voting booth every couple of years. Moreover, you can’t complain you are too busy with life or work to participate; in fact, the only way to CHANGE the amount of time devoted to work, say, IS by participating directly in the system.

    Until people realize this, nothing will change. One can review any revolution at any point in history to see this is so.

    Protesting is only a tiny first step.

  11. slc1 says

    Re Aquaria @ #4

    1. FDR was once quoted as saying that Trujillo was a son of a bitch but he was our son of a bitch.

    2. Ms. Aquaria left out our support for good old Joe Stalin during the 2nd World War. Old Joe was worse then all those other miscreants Ms. Aquaria cited put together.

    3. As I have stated previously, the Shah of Iran in no way, shape, form, or regard was worse then his successors in Iran. It remains to be seen whether the successors to Mubarak in Egypt will constitute an improvement.

    4. In terms of human rights, the successors to Fulgencio Batista in Cuba hardly constitute an improvement over him.

    5. In no way, shape, form, or regard was Chiang Kai Shek worse then his successors in China. Mao Zedong was one of the greatest mass murderers in history.

    6. Ms. Aquaria also forgot to mention Ngo Dinh Diem of South Vietnam and his comic successors Thieu and Ky. Of course, their adversary, Ho Chi Minh, was no angel either.

  12. Michael Heath says

    mobius:

    I am not holding my breath, but just maybe the OWS movement will actually get some changes made.

    That’s a relief, I’d hate for anyone to surely suffocate by relying on OWS for tangible changes.

  13. Pinky says

    Let me see if I understand this properly; the US government gives $120 million a year to defense contractor, General Dynamics, to build and operate eight web sites propping up foreign dictators. That’s equal to $15 million (taxpayer dollars) for each web site.

    I suppose it’s the customary bargain we normally expect from defense contractors.

    What a fantastic job opportunity. Even a lowly gopher, you know the person who gets the coffee and hands out the notepads, must pull down over a million dollars a year.

    Wow, $120 million. Hasn’t the Pentagon heard of free tutorials / templates for building web sites and low cost or free internet host providers? They could also save money by contracting to Fox News for the efforts of their propagandists. It would save paying the overhead for in-house liars and I understand Fox’s staff are cream-of-the-crop.

    I know there is a lot to running a web site, only millions of private citizens in the US have designed, made and operated a web site using their own paltry funds left after being gouged for health care, food, shelter and paying enough taxes to make up for the greed of the richest 1%.

    Of course most private citizens don’t hire propagandists so about $5 million can be deducted from the operation of individual sites. So each of those millions of individuals with web sites must have at least $10 million in discretionary income.

    Hey Repub ♪♫ li ♪♫ cans the American middle class and the poor are holding out on you. With that much extra income, the lumpen proletariat could be taxed to provide infrastructure for corporations and the remainder spent in big box stores buying useless plastic crap made by Chinese prisoners.

    We should be ecstatic Congress was pragmatic enough to take time away from discussing piddly stuff like education, employment and the environment to stop the tiny amount of federal dollars given to assist the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Harrumph! CPB only funds quality, commercial free, news and entertainment for free public consumption. No sense wasting a few million dollars when reality shows and Walmart commercials are good enough for the American public. After all, if Americans want news they can read the Pentagon web sites. They cost $120 million so they must be high quality honest information. No, really; a patriotic defense contractor like General Dynamics will always deliver an excellent product for a reasonable price? Right? Who is doing the laughing out there?
    Here is a suggestion; we could funnel another $20 million, taken from an unimportant budget like Science, so the eight Pentagon web sites can license a song or two from Lee Greenwood to play on the sites. Wouldn’t that be swell!? Yee-Haw!

  14. Aquaria says

    Ms. Aquaria left out our support for good old Joe Stalin during the 2nd World War. Old Joe was worse then all those other miscreants Ms. Aquaria cited put together.

    Oh for fuck’s sake! What Stalin did doesn’t negate the bad that the rest of them did! What are you too stupid to get about that?

    You want me to add Stalin to the list–Stalin who we supported for a while, then didn’t? Fine. He’s on the list. Happy now? How dare I say I’d list all the people I could think of at the time, rather than everyone you wanted me to!

    3. As I have stated previously, the Shah of Iran in no way, shape, form, or regard was worse then his successors in Iran. It remains to be seen whether the successors to Mubarak in Egypt will constitute an improvement.

    What post-Shah leaders in Iran have done does not negate what the Shah did! He was a monster! What part of that do you not get–and what part of us overthrowing a democratically elected leader there and abolishing a constitutional monarchy to give the Shah absolute power don’t you get? That’s on us–which was exactly my point.

    4. In terms of human rights, the successors to Fulgencio Batista in Cuba hardly constitute an improvement over him.

    Again, how bad the other people are now doesn’t negate how bad Batista was. You know, the dictator who wasn’t bothered at all that 90% of his citizens couldn’t read. The one who abolished the right for workers to strike. The one who negotiated with the Mafia to get a cut of their illegal activities to line his personal pockets while they exploited and preyed on his citizens. The same Batista who carried out torture and executions, who shut down the press–that scumbag? You’re actually defending garbage like that?

    5. In no way, shape, form, or regard was Chiang Kai Shek worse then his successors in China. Mao Zedong was one of the greatest mass murderers in history.

    How Mao behaved does not negate that Chiang Kai-Shek murdered at least 10 million of the Chinese, and tortured untold numbers more during his 21 year reign. How is that good?

    Do you get that just because someone else is bad that it doesn’t make a scumbag like Chiang, the Shah, Batista or any of the rest of the thugs you’re supporting good? At all?

    6. Ms. Aquaria also forgot to mention Ngo Dinh Diem of South Vietnam and his comic successors Thieu and Ky. Of course, their adversary, Ho Chi Minh, was no angel either.

    I did mention Diem, you moron. Did you miss his name following Bao Dai and the comma? Sheesh. By the way, did you also see the little note at the very beginning: THE LIST I CAN THINK OF? Doesn’t that kinda tell you that it’s not a comprehensive list? Feel free to add it if you like. I never said it was complete!

  15. Aquaria says

    And–by the way–I know what FDR said. That doesn’t make supporting Trujillo right.

    Maybe you think there are degrees of bad with world leaders and you’re okay with that, but I happen to think thugs are thugs and that it’s a good idea to criticize my government when they’re inconsistent about how they deal with thugs.

  16. Ichthyic says

    it’s a good idea to criticize my government when they’re inconsistent about how they deal with thugs.

    but… they ARE consistent.

    The US government has always supported EFFICIENT thugs; ones that have a big enough thumb to keep their citizens under control and complacent. As soon as a supported thug:

    a. Oversteps their boundaries (tries to annex other countries we have interests in already). eg: Saddam Hussein

    or

    b. Fails at being efficient in keeping their citizens complacent and quiet. eg: Gadhafi

    or

    c. Simply is no longer necessary. eg: Noriega

    THEN the US works to either kill or undermine them.

    it’s quite consistent, really, whether you look at the Middle East, Africa, or South America.

    sometimes consistency in fact is a BAD thing.

    ;)

  17. stace says

    At least now I know who the President of Uzbecki-becki-becki-stan-stan is, so I’m one up on Herman Cain.

  18. slc1 says

    Re Aquaria @ #15

    Interestingly enough, Ho Chi Minh shortly before his death gave an interview to an American reporter in which he stated that the biggest mistake the US made in the Vietnam war was throwing Nho Dinh Diem under the bus as, in his opinion, he wasn’t so bad.

Leave a Reply