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The Teamsters Union, which normally supports Democratic candidates, also is all for the new drilling and is trying to swing votes in Washington. Alaska's Republican senator Ted Stevens works with the Teamsters on the issue. Alaska's other senator, Lisa Murkowski, won a tight election campaign last year. She received nearly $200,000 from oil and gas companies and is all for drilling, as is the state's sole representative, Don Young. He too draws financial support from the industry.
Democracy in hot water
George Bush's march to spread democracy across the Islamic world proceeds across the Middle East, but it comes to a halt in the Caspian Sea basin at the borders of Uzbekistan. Since the mujahideen war to expel the Soviets in the 1980s, Uzbekistan has been of great interest to U.S. policy makers and politicians, who have long viewed the former Soviet republic as the soft underbelly of the Soviet Union.
During that war it was a staging point for Soviet supply lines into Afghanistan. Under the leadership of Reagan CIA chief William Casey, the agency worked with the mujahideen to run border raids into Uzbekistan. The thrill of attacking the Soviets on their home turf exhilarated the Americans and must have seemed like just payback for the Soviets having put missiles in Cuba.
Times have changed, and now we control Uzbekistan. It has become a major base for our war efforts in Afghanistan, and when it comes to democratic institutions and their beneficent results, well, we just look the other way. "Independent human rights groups estimate that there are more than 600 politically motivated arrests a year in Uzbekistan, and 6,500 political prisoners, some tortured to death," reported The Guardian of London, which added, "According to a forensic report commissioned by the British embassy, in August two prisoners were even boiled to death."
We used to condemn such Uzbek activities as boiling prisoners to death, but since we made it a base, "the government of President Islam Karimov has become Washington's new best friend in the region."
Culled from the files of thememoryhole.org, here is a list of the U.S. officials who have visited and paid homage to Uzbekistan: Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, former secretary of state Colin Powell, former treasury secretary Paul O'Neill, then first lady Hillary Clinton, then secretary of state Madeleine Albright, General Tommy R. Franks, General Richard B. Myers, General Anthony Zinni, and numerous senators and representatives from both parties, including McCain, Lieberman, Daschle, Gramm, and Shelby. In turn, Karimov visited the U.S. in March 2002 and was warmly greeted by Bush and Rumsfeld.
Additional reporting: Nicole Duarte