It should raise the question of why the United States continues to support such criminal and self-defeating policies by partnering with the very military that carried out the attack. The first step by the administration and other Western governments must be to demand, as the Bush administration and Britain did yesterday, that Mr. Karimov not only allow access to the blockaded city but that he also accept an international investigation to determine what happened.What is known so far suggests that the violence was preceded by the government's prosecution of 23 private businessmen, on charges of supporting an Islamic extremist group. For weeks there were peaceful demonstrations. On Thursday, armed militants broke into the prison, freeing the defendants as well as up to 2,000 other prisoners. They took over the government administration building. The next day a crowd numbering in the thousands gathered outside. most were there to protest political and economic conditions. Islam Karimov traveled to the city early Friday and oversaw fitful negotiations with the militants in the government building. When these failed, he ordered army units into the square, where they opened fire on the crowd from armored cars. Troops opened fire on another large crowd where some militants may have taken refuge. A respected local doctor said 500 bodies were laid out there Sunday. Other civilians were reportedly fired on and killed while trying to cross the nearby border into Kyrgyzstan. Islam Karimov depicted all of the protesters as Islamic militants, adding that "attempts to develop democracy" would only play into the hands of such extremists. Yesterday, Condoleezza Rice pointed out that the problem in Uzbekistan is the opposite: It is the lack of "pressure valves that come from a more open political system." Islam Karimov ignores such prodding from the State Department, and understandably so, since he has the Pentagon's unconditional support for a "strategic partnership" by which the United States operates at an air base outside Tashkent.