TONY BLAIR proclaims that 'the values we believe in should shine through' in the war. A glance at the regimes Blair and Bush are courting as allies illuminates those values.
The US has won agreement to use military bases in Uzbekistan, and sent over 1,000 troops there last week. The country is the most populous of the former Soviet republics that border Afghanistan. The USSR launched its 1979 invasion of Afghanistan from there. Uzbek President Karimov was a finance minister and then secretary of the ruling Communist Party in Uzbekistan at the time.
The old Stalinist dictator stayed in power when the country became independent following the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union. He has continued exactly the same methods of rule. There are 7,000 political prisoners in Uzbek jails. The BBC describes Karimov's regime as 'the most authoritarian in the region, with no real opposition' tolerated.
Human rights activist Elena Urlaeva was arrested in April this year. She was forcibly admitted to a psychiatric hospital, in an echo of the way the USSR treated dissidents. The BBC also reports that Karimov's police 'have arrested thousands of young men, mainly the poor and the desperate,' in recent months. Karimov banned real opposition groups from fielding candidates against him in 1991.
Last year he was re-elected in a vote which all Western observers denounced as 'neither free nor fair'. The US-based Human Rights Watch organisation accused the Uzbek regime of 'widespread use of torture'.
Turkmenistan is another would-be ally, and also a former Soviet republic which borders Afghanistan. The BBC says: 'It is effectively a one-party state. The Democratic Party of Turkmenistan, which comprises mostly former Communists, faces no opposition parties. 'There are no independent media. Real power is concentrated in the hands of President Saparmyrat Niyazov, whom the parliament has granted presidency for life.
'Having forced the main opposition activists out of the country, he has developed a personality cult unrivalled in Central Asia.'
Tajikistan is the third former Soviet republic bordering Afghanistan. It too is ruled by a former Stalinist bureaucrat, Emomali Rahmonov. He presided over a savage civil war that raged through the 1990s. At least 20,000 people were killed and 600,000 displaced. In 1993 Rahmonov banned all opposition, leaving his party the only legal party.
The US has also lifted economic sanctions on Pakistan and pledged to write off billions of dollars of the country's huge debt. As Bush and Blair court Pakistan's ruler, General Musharraf, they are keen to forget why they imposed those sanctions in the first place-he is a military dictator who threatens nuclear war in the region. Sanctions were first imposed on Pakistan and its neighbour India after both countries carried out tests of nuclear weapons in 1998.
More sanctions were imposed on Pakistan when Musharraf seized power in a military coup two years ago. Last week Blair met Musharraf and told journalists that Pakistan had a major role in deciding who would form a post-Taliban government in Afghanistan. Hours after the meeting Musharraf extended his term of office 'indefinitely'.
The Indian government is headed by the chauvinist BJP Hindu party. The BJP organised the 1992 attack and demolition of the important mosque in Ayodhya, and incited anti-Muslim pogroms in Bombay in which thousands were slaughtered. The Indian government is part of the US-led coalition.