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

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Craig Murray and Our Man in Central Asia 

I ripped the headline from this GNN piece but mostly wanted to mention
Mark Brzezinski's (Zbig's son?) Globe editorial on the hypocrisy of the Bush administration's policy towards Uzbekistan.

As Brezizinski points out, it's not just that the US looks the other way regarding Uzbekistan's blatant violations of human rights. The US, of course, does ignore Uzbekistan's human rights record, because the country is strategically located near Afghanistan and puts up with multiple permanent US military bases, but the US does much more than simply ignore the brutality of the Karimov regime -- it actively uses that brutality for its own purposes. Brezizinski writes

It has been reported that the United States has sent terror suspects to Uzbekistan for detention and interrogation, even as Uzbekistan's treatment of its own prisoners continues to earn it international condemnation. The US government's program of ''rendition," under which the Central Intelligence Agency transfers terror suspects to foreign countries to be held and interrogated, is said to have resulted in possibly dozens of terror suspects being sent by the United States to Uzbekistan.

The primary source on the above is the testimony of Craig Murray, British ambassador to Uzbekistan, who was pushed out after publicly criticizing the US and Britain's warm relationship with the Karimov regime. Here's the Wikipedia on Murray:

In October 2002, on becoming concerned that torture and extra-judicial killings were taking place in Uzbekistan, [Craig Murray] made a controversial speech at a human rights conference in Tashkent, in which he claimed that "Uzbekistan is not a functioning democracy" and saying of the boiling to death of two men, "all of us know that this is not an isolated incident." The speech was cleared by the Foreign Office, but not before a dispute over its content. Later, Kofi Annan confronted Uzbekistan president Islam Karimov with Murray's claims.

He was summoned to London and, on 8 March 2003, he was reprimanded for writing, in a letter to his employers, in response to a speech by George W. Bush, "when it comes to the Karimov regime, systematic torture and rape appear to be treated as peccadilloes, not to affect the relationship and to be downplayed in the international fora ... I hope that once the present crisis is over we will make plain to the US, at senior level, our serious concern over their policy in Uzbekistan."

In July 2003, some of his embassy staff were sacked while he was away on holiday. They were reinstated after he expressed his outrage to his bosses in the FCO. Later during his holiday, he was recalled to London for disciplinary reasons. On 21 August 2003, he was confronted with 18 charges including "hiring dolly birds for above the usual rate" for the visa department (though he claims that it had an all-male staff) and granting UK visas in exchange for sex. He was told that discussing the charges would be a violation of the Official Secrets Act punishable by imprisonment. He claims that he was encouraged to resign.

He collapsed during a medical check in Tashkent on 2 September 2003 and was flown to St Thomas' Hospital. After an investigation by Tony Crombie, Head of the FCO's Overseas Territories Department, all but two of the charges (being drunk at work and misusing the embassy's Range Rover) were dropped. He returned to work until, in November 2003, he suffered a near fatal pulmonary embolism. In January 2004, the Foreign Office exonerated him of the 18 charges, but reprimanded him for speaking about the charges.

In February 2004, the Mail on Sunday reported his affair with Nadira Alieva. Soon after, his wife left him. In July 2004, he told The Guardian that "there is no point in having cocktail-party relationships with a fascist regime," and that "you don't have to be a pompous old fart to be an ambassador." [1]

Murray was removed from his post shortly after a leaked report in the Financial Times quoted him as claiming that MI6 used intelligence gained by the Uzbek authorities by torture. The Foreign Office denied there was any direct connection and stated that Mr Murray had been removed for "operational" reasons. It claimed that he had lost the confidence of senior officials and colleagues. Murray countered that he was a "victim of conscience".

Which is all fine and good and will be whooshed down the memory hole in a decade or so when Karimov stops following orders, suddenly becomes a vile monster, and coincidentally a great threat to the United States of America. I can almost picture the Thomas Friedman columns now ... you know, he boils his own people alive!

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