Uzbekistan President Islam Karimov is notorious for heading one of the world’s most oppressive regimes, and millions of U.S. taxpayer dollars are being given to a for-profit military contractor turned propaganda machine to make sure he remains a faithful and able ally in the global war on terror.
Freedom House, a D.C.-based nongovernmental organization that conducts international human rights research, gave Karimov’s Uzbekistan the lowest score possible in its Freedom in the World report. Groups such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have uncovered widespread torture and child labor practices, while other organizations say the leader has detained more political prisoners than the leaders of all other post-Soviet republics combined. Most of the imprisoned are somehow linked to Islam. —ARK
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.