In this issue:

Martín Espada: Seers Unseen: The Poets of the Vietnam War
Kerry Shawn Keys: Commentary on the recent events in Uzbekistan
Interview with Jayne Lyn Stahl Writers-at-Large: Endangered Species
Op-Ed by Sam Hamill Director of Poets Against War

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Spring 2007
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Order of The Great Vytautas Demeaned

Some people seemed shocked by recent events in Uzbekistan, but anyone who has taken a little time to inform himself about the situation under President Islam Karimov's government should have expected the massacre of civilians by this brutal dictator who has been “morally” supported not just by the United States of America and Russia, but also by Lithuania. In fact, President Karimov's campaign of terror and his longevity in office have much to do with Russia and the United States and countries such as ours turning a blind eye to the systematic use of torture in Uzbekistan. The reality is that the U.S. supports this puppet to do its dirty work, sending prisoners only suspected of terrorism to Uzbekistan for the Karimov government to interrogate – they are experts in torture, boiling in water an opponent of the regime, and so forth. Craig Murray, the former British ambassador to Uzbekistan, recently resigned because he could not in good conscience cooperate with his own government who was using “intelligence” gathered by the U.S. through its Uzbekistan cronies. The U.S. has had much practice in evading international human rights when it comes to unofficially having others do the “work” – South Korea during the Vietnam War, Honduras under Machiavellian John Negroponte during the Nicaraguan civil war, and the list could go on for several shameful pages. Since the British government cannot by law gather intelligence through torture, their vicious reasoning was that the information was merely supplied to them by a third party. As anyone knows who has studied the reliability of intelligence gathered under torture, it is true as often as it is false. Ambassador Murray was appalled, and his public stance led to his resignation. Negroponte with the dirtiest of hands, gets promoted. Contrast Murray's position with that of the former U.S. Ambassador to Uzbekistan, Joseph Presel, who as late as May 18 of this year(2005), spoke on BBC Radio of having tremendous respect for President Karimov.

Of course terror can become a habit no matter who practices it as a means to an end or for its own sake, as the world has come recently to witness. Take Iraq for example, and Guantanamo, and Israel and Palestine. Or perhaps we should take a closer look at the U.S. air base in the Karshi-Khanabad region of Uzbekistan, just 90 miles from Afghanistan. America has a geopolitical dream to dominate this region for reasons of oil and for a more nefarious reason – dominance for its own sake, the pleasure of the exercise of power as Foucault saw had come to be one of the chief activities of our time. The smokescreen that the Uzbekistan region is a hotbed for Islamic militants is merely that – a smokescreen, though as the persecution continues, militant Islamic groups like Akramia will surely grow by leaps and bounds.

All of the above could be said to be common knowledge, and of course the White House prefers not to comment on its own actions or to unequivocally condemn the current Uzbekistan government for its actions in Andijan. It meretriciously urges all parties to exercise restraint, as it, itself, exercises restraint in the field of morality. But the time has come (it came a long time ago) for Lithuania not to continue not to question America's exercise of state terrorism in countries like Uzbekistan. Pragmatic politics is no excuse. When one country takes another for granted (as the U.S. does Lithuania), the country taken for granted probably won't be given as much “token sugar” as the country which wavers and is a bit more independent. Leaders like President Karimov feel they can do most anything when no one vigorously confronts their policies. When Karimov was in Vilnius in September of 2004, unnecessary agreements were signed on inter-state matters, defense, and so forth. And according to the press release by the Karimov government, President Karimov was given Lithuania's highest order – the order of the Great Vytautas – for his work to develop relations between the two countries and to fight terrorism. Ah, the bugbear Terrorism that opened the Pearl(y) gates for Washington's gang of 4! Well, Karimov is no bugbear but the true terrorist, and it was not out of ignorance that he was given the Order of the Great Vytautas. One might respond that it's a matter of protocol to give visiting heads of state this honor. Well, a very cynical protocol, or perhaps the protocol of a country playing patsy to U.S. business and military expansionism. Whatever the case, President Karimov's brutality was well-known at the time, and so the Order of Vytautas becomes something empty, something evil, because it supports the hubris and self-glorification of a tyrant. Why not just sell the Order of Vytautas to the highest bidders – a whore-mongering citizen of Dubai might apply, or there would be a few oily Texans who might like to hang one in their game room. Moral authority can be exerted by all levels of a social order, surprisingly even from the top down. A country like Lithuania, recently arisen from the ashes of its own occupation, should be bold and truthful enough not to conflate the Realpolitik of its own survival with unnecessarily bolstering the ego of a butcher like Karimov. This only encourages his type – sometimes even a country can be guilty through association. Uzbekistan is a country of nearly 26 million people. They will not be held hostage to one 911 forever. It is the current American government's (and its satellites) “Big Stick” and greedy foreign policy that has become the true breeding ground of future 911s.

Kerry Shawn Keys is an American poet who has been living in Lithuania since 1998. He wrote the following commentary for Respublika, a leading daily newspaper.

Kerry Shawn Keys
May, 2005


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