'Intelligent discontent is the mainspring of civilization.' -- Eugene V. Debs

Monday, April 18, 2005

Uzbek Blues 

In a Village Voice editorial Nat Hentoff juxtaposes recent statements by George W. Bush and Porter Goss regarding the US's use of extraordinary rendition with information about interrogations in Uzbek prisons -- according to Hentoff the CIA's "torture express" jets made ten documented trips to Uzbekistan and according to British whistle-blower Craig Murray torture is business as usual in Uzbek prisons:

During a White House press conference on March 16, George W. Bush was asked: "Mr. President, can you explain why you've approved of and expanded the practice of what's called 'rendition'—of transferring individuals out of U.S. custody to countries where human rights groups and your own State Department say torture is common for people under custody?"

The president: "[In] the post-9-11 world, the United States must make sure we protect our people and our friends from attack. . . . One way to do so is to arrest people and send them back to their country of origin with the promise that they won't be tortured. That's the promise we receive. This country does not believe in torture."

Question: "As commander in chief, what is it that Uzbekistan can do in interrogating an individual that the United States can't?"

George W. Bush repeated his talking point: "We seek assurances that nobody will be tortured."

[ ... ]

In a segment of CBS's 60 Minutes on these CIA torture missions (March 5), former British ambassador to Uzbekistan Craig Murray told of the range of advanced techniques used by Uzbek interrogators:

"drowning and suffocation, rape was used . . . and also immersion of limbs in boiling liquid."

Two nights later on ABC's World News Tonight, Craig Murray told of photos he received of an Uzbek interrogation that ended with the prisoner actually being boiled to death!

Murray, appalled, had protested to the British Foreign Office in a confidential memorandum leaked to and printed in the Financial Times on October 11 of last year:

"Uzbek officials are torturing prisoners to extract information [about reported terrorist operations], which is supplied to the U.S. and passed through its Central Intelligence Agency to the U.K., says Mr. Murray." (Emphasis added.)

Prime Minister Tony Blair quickly reacted to this undiplomatic whistle-blowing. Craig Murray was removed as ambassador to Uzbekistan.

On the BBC (October 15), Steve Crawshaw, director of the London office of Human Rights Watch, spoke plainly about George W. Bush's continual, ardent assurances that this country would never engage in torture:

"You can't wash your hands and say we didn't torture, but we will use what comes out of torture."

I must have missed this Craig Murray story when it occurred, but, anyway, here is the Financial Times piece Hentoff cites if you're curious (the real article is now in a for-pay archive, so I've linked to an item in the archives of some email list) and here's a BBC report about Craig Murray losing his ambassadorship ... umm ... coincidentally just a couple of days after the FT article ran:

The government has withdrawn Britain's ambassador to Uzbekistan, Craig Murray, who has been an outspoken critic of the regime's human rights record.

The Foreign Office has given no reason for its decision but it comes after a UK newspaper quoted Mr Murray making claims about the Uzbek authorities.

The Financial Times said a confidential report he wrote claimed political prisoners are tortured for information.

A Foreign Office spokesman said: "It's now felt it's no longer possible Mr Murray can do his job effectively so he's been withdrawn."

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