Diplomacy, Dictatorship and the Uses of Torture

by craig on November 1, 2010 9:07 am in Rendition

There is a major profile of me in the latest Der Spiegel.

http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/0,1518,724471,00.html

It is slightly overdrawn in its desire to paint a contrast between Ambassador Neuen and I, but is not unfair. Where it is wrong is its easy acceptance of the false dichotomy: is it better to suck up to a dictator and gain quiet influence over him, or to take a moral high stand but have no influence?

The mistake is in believing that crawling to a dictatorial regime makes them respect you. In fact the diplomatic cringe posture only enhances the super bloated ego and confidence of power of Karimov and his minions. They perceive diplomatic circumspection as weakness, and they despise the weak.

Remember, the senior officials of the Karimov regime have not encountered a single person — except Karimov himself – who dared to speak to them roughly, for decades. Almost everyone they meet, they have the power to have killed. Let me say that again so it sinks in. Almost everyone they meet, they have the power to have killed. They do have people killed, not infrequently.

The example given in the Der Spiegel article of forcing diplomats to wait for three hours in baking 105 degree heat – quite deliberately – for a ceremony to start, is not a major thing in itself, but is a demonstration of contempt.

By taking a different, robust and forceful approach, I shocked the Karimov regime and I simultaneously gave them world exposure they really didn’t like. In consequence I had far more influence with them – they hated me, but could not ignore me. When the British government moved to remove me, every single British company in Uzbekistan wrote to Jack Straw to protest, stating in terms that I was the most effective Ambassador for British interests. You will find the letters in Murder in Samarkand.

British influence evaporated when the British government made plain to Karimov I did not have their support for a strong line. Britain has had no influence ever since. On your knees is not a position of influence.

Diplomacy is also on my mind with relation to torture. Two former British Ambassadors, Brian Barder and Charles Crawford, have both attacked my analysis of the recent speech of John Sawers, head of MI6. Sawers’ speech was a defence of torture thinly disguised as a condemnation of torture.

http://www.craigmurray.org.uk/archives/2010/10/lib_dem_ministe.html#comments

I will not waste much time on Charles Crawford, whose efforts are less of a blog and more a public exhibition of Attention Deficit Disorder. But Brian Barder is in an altogether different class, and his views merit further consideration.

http://www.barder.com/2934

Brian makes an argument that I have juxtaposed quotes from Sawers’ speech which were not actually next to each other. He claims that Sawers does not say that we receive intelligence from torture, or that Ministers have approved it.

Brian is talking total rubbish, To quash these accusations of misrepresentation, this is an unedited extract from Sawers’ speech:

“We also have a duty to do what we can to ensure that a partner service will respect human rights. That is not always straightforward.

Yet if we hold back, and don’t pass that intelligence, out of concern that a suspect terrorist may be badly treated, innocent lives may be lost that we could have saved.

These are not abstract questions for philosophy courses or searching editorials. They are real, constant, operational dilemmas.

Sometimes there is no clear way forward. The more finely-balanced judgments have to be made by Ministers themselves.”

There is no doubt that this means that we receive intelligence from torture by other security services, and that this is decided by Ministers. It can mean nothing else. Especially if you consider the background given here.

http://www.craigmurray.org.uk/archives/2010/06/proof_of_compli.html

Of course, Sawers carefully does not use the “T” word here and only uses it in a passage condemning torture, passed to and swallowed by our complacent media. That is precisely the dishonesty which so annoys me.

The curious thing is that both Brian and Charles, like Sawers, are enthusiastic supporters of the argument that we ought to get intelligence from torture by others. As Brian says:

“For the record, there is no legal, moral, ethical or practical ban on scrutinising information, and where appropriate acting on it, regardless of the way it has originally been obtained or is suspected to have been obtained.”

Let us state the points where I agree with Brian. I accept that MI6 does not torture people. I accept that MI6 does not specifically hand over people to be tortured, request that detainees are tortured, or observe torture.

But Brian completely fails to take account of the UK/US intelligence sharing agreement. Under this. MI6 and the CIA share all intelligence. The Americans do all the things in the above list. Waterboarding and other physical tortures are just one part of the American arsenal. Under extraordinary rendition, hundreds were knowingly delivered up to torture. I have received direct eye witness evidence of CIA staff physically present at torture sessions in Uzbekistan. As Brian knows, MI6 will have received every US intelligence report received from all this activity. And there are numerous examples of MI6 staff assisting the CIA in getting suspects into the extraordinary rendition system. As Brian knows, the human intelligence reports circulating Whitehall are perhaps three to one CIA not MI6 sourced – but the CIA reports in London have been processed and issued through MI6. How does this affect the “Clean Hands” claims Brian accepts from Sawers.

But the fatal flaw in Brian’s – and Sawers’ argument is the frankly pathetic notion that, by regularly and gratefully receiving intelligence from dictatorships which they obtained by torture, we do not condone or encourage torture. Brian hides behind the “ticking bomb” argument that falsely posits that intelligence from torture is rare and relates to an instant and preventable threat. Brian has simply not answered this entire section of my article:

“It is the old man I met who had his children tortured before his eyes until he admitted false family ties with al-Qaida. It is the woman raped with the broken bottle, It is the lady who lived opposite me whose father was blinded as a political prisoner, and who was held down while a truck was run over her legs. All of that and thousands more did not stop the government, despite my profound objections as Ambassador, from accepting intelligence from the Uzbek torture chambers via the CIA.

John Sawers relies on the “ticking bomb” fallacy – the idea that torture happens to real terrorists and they give precise timely information to avert an imminent threat. That is a Hollywood scenario. There has never ever been a real life example that meets the ticking bomb cliche.

We encourage torture, we create a market for it, by accepting its fruits. The regimes who pass us this intelligence know we accept it, and they feel supported and reinforced in their abuse of human rights. Why would they take Western rhetoric seriously on human rights when they know we lap up the products of their torture chamber?

Remember the torturers are not altruists but agents of very nasty regimes. The information passed to us by those regimes is not for our good, but for the good of those regimes – and normally to convince us that the opponents of those regimes are all terrorists, whether true or not. In Uzbekistan, every bit of intelligence we could verify from the Embassy, eg on terrorist training camps in named locations in the hills, turned out to be untrue. Yet the intelligence services lapped up the Uzbek information because it greatly exaggerated the strength of al-Qaida in Central Asia, thus providing a spurious justification for our support of Central Asian dictators, whose help we wanted for our Afghan policy and for access to their hydrocarbons.

Torture does not get you the truth. It gets you what the torturer wants to hear. People will say anything, as their arm is held in boiling liquid, to make the pain stop. The regimes who do this do not hold truth as a high priority.

The torture material regularly received by the UK government is from countries where the vast, overwhelming majority of the people tortured are not terrorists at all but merely dissidents from abhorrent regimes. I speak from first hand knowledge.”

PerhapsBrian would like to answer it now.

Lastly, I am genuinely very saddened to see Brian joining in the smears against me with this:

The author of this scurrilous piece is in some danger of being taken seriously, being (as he constantly reminds us all) a former British ambassador to Uzbekistan who has achieved a certain fame through having insisted, I believe wrongly, that he was sacked from the Diplomatic Service for criticising the practice of torture by the Uzbek authorities and for having repeatedly denounced his own government for receiving, and sometimes acting on, information from the Americans but originating with the Uzbeks, some of which may well have been obtained by torture. He certainly did both these things, with characteristic gusto, but he was eased out of the Diplomatic Service ?” to put it politely ?” for other reasons.

Forget politeness Brian. I have no doubt you have been fed poison from some FCO related source. The best thing with poison is to spew it up.

A final point. The main object of my original post was to start some debate within the Lib Dem blogosphere. Yet no Lib Dem blogger has come forward to defend our ministers. I am not sure many activists currently see some of them as worth defending.

If after reading Brian’s harrumphing you need an antidote, there is an excellent article on Sawers’ pro-torture diatribe here:

http://www.septicisle.info/index.php?q=/2010/10/stepping-out-of-shadows-while-wanting.html

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126 Comments

  1. And there was me thinking Der Spiegel was part of the Zionist-owned media network hyping the neo-Nazi threat and “antisemitism” in Germany.

    There was me thinking Der Spiegel has been avidly spewing Wikileaks smears against Israel’s chosen enemies.

    Lo and behold suddenly the guy who presented Julian Assange with an award for his “leaks” last month is now feted to the skies in none other than Der Spiegel!

    Maybe Der Spiegel needs reminding that Craig Murray once described Zionism as bullshit!

    I’ll just get this email off now to jog their memories!

    http://www.maskofzion.com/2010/10/wikileaks-is-zionist-poison.html

    Waiting for the scissors Mr Truth Suppressionist!

  2. Craig, tell the guys that do your website that they need to ensure that any hyperlinks open another window and keep you page open. You get what i mean.

  3. Now who said the Germans have no sense of humour?

    The Der Spiegel piece has been read as a paeon to a man of courage by Craig’s narcissism but by the rest of us ordinary mortals as one big piss-take!

    The film with its working class hero with a rebellious streak and a pronounced sense of justice will be a box office smash destined to see Craig achieve international stardom.

    Are Der Spiegel with their description of Craig as sporting blonde hair and tinted glasses trying to make our Scottish Braveheart just a little bit too German? I mean making him sound like Himmler the chicken-farmer made good is bit below the belt isn’t it?

    This piece is a film trailer isn’t it. The images in it are etched on to my memory already.

    Our “Maharaja of Whiskeypur” turning up when the sun had gone down (i.e. deliberately LATE) in his kilt at a Karimov junket in Tashkent. That is so filmic by God! It’s The Last King of Scotland all over again!

    The same protagonist trawling the bellydancing and strip-joints of Tashkent like a “macho party animal” ultimately to be tamed by Nadira.

    According to Der Spiegel there’s a real possibility that Angelina Jolie will play Nadira and the film will be produced by Brad Pitt!

    You couldn’t make it up!

    ADL says as long as Craig plays by the rules and makes no more speeches re-Zionism being “bullshit”; as long as his comment board gives no quarter to “Holocaust deniers” and “anti-semites” they have no objection to Metro Goldwyn going ahead with the project!

    LMAO!

  4. I fear that the news about Pitt and Jolie is no longer relevant – they have lost interest.

    Please keep you obnoxious and entirely irrelevant views on the holocaust out of it.

  5. @Anon:

    If you want a link to open in a new window, right-click it and choose Open In New Window.

    (Or, in a tabbed browser, click it with the middle button. Or hold shift or ctrl when you click it… Or configure your browser to open new windows by default.)

    With normal links everyone has the option of opening them how they want at the time. You just have to know how to use your web browser.

    OTOH, if all links are forced into new windows it removes that option. (I don’t want links opening new windows if I’m done reading the a page they’re on or only came back to a page to find that link I saw earlier.)

  6. the_leander

    1 Nov, 2010 - 1:26 pm

    When did the comments get like this? Before there was discussion and information sharing.

    Now it seems infested by trolls like Steelback at every new post.

  7. the-leander

    yes – it would be a relief if someone would discuss the post!

  8. Sawers declared that

    “Secrecy is not a dirty word. Secrecy is not there as a cover up. Secrecy plays a crucial part in keeping Britain safe and secure”.

    The trouble is that, ever since Tony Blair assured us all that Saddam Hussein could deploy nuclear weapons to attack us in 45 minutes – a statement he knew to be entirely untrue – I have not been able to believe anything that our government says without independent confirmation. So when they say that secrecy is vital to combat terrorism, but that they can’t give us any details, I tend to suspect that there is no terrorism and they are making the whole thing up.

    Sawers also stated, quite amazingly, that

    “There is no one reason for the terrorist phenomenon. Some blame political issues like Palestine or Kashmir or Iraq. Others cite economic disadvantage. Distortions of the Islamic faith. Male supremacy. The lack of the normal checks and balances in some countries. There are many theories”.

    It is indeed possible that some Muslims (and others) might be unreasonably upset just because we killed about 1.5 million of them, wounded and bereaved at least as many again, made several millions homeless, destroyed their nation’s infrastructure and government, and (last but not least) turned Iraq into a playground for terrorists whom Saddam never tolerated.

    Note how Sawers carefully places Iraq third and last, behind Palestine and Kashmir. Also how he hedges: “Some blame…”

    Frankly, I don’t trust this man any more than I did Blair and Bush.

  9. “The mistake is in believing that crawling to a dictatorial regime makes them respect you”.

    Precisely. It is clear that UK/US treatment of a regime depends upon what the UK/US wants from it, not how it treats its people. Compare and contrast UK/US treatment of Uzbekistan and Iraq circa 2002 for a glaring example.

  10. Craig,

    You accuse me of Attention Deficit Disorder? Excellent.

    As per the private email exchanges going on, the disagreements between us are all about some simply stated but broadly unanswerable moral/political questions:

  11. “But the fatal flaw in Brian’s – and Sawers’ argument is the frankly pathetic notion that, by regularly and gratefully receiving intelligence from dictatorships which they obtained by torture, we do not condone or encourage torture.”

    So when will you advocate termination of intelligence sharing arrangements with the US and an end to British “crawling” to an American regime that engages in kidnap, torture, criminal wars of aggression and assassination?

  12. Alfred,

    I do advocate those things. I thought that was clear.

  13. Charles Crawford,

    there is much in your posts with which I would argue, but for now I’ll just take your last point, about the Pole who was tortured. In this case, the truth and what the torturers wanted to hear happened to coincide – this cannot be determined in advance. The effective part was finding that man, not torturing him.

    The Uzbek policy of using torture to extract confessions, be they true or false, ensures that the chance of finding (and importantly, recognising) any truth by this method is vanishingly small.

  14. John Sawers relies on the “ticking bomb” fallacy – the idea that torture happens to real terrorists and they give precise timely information to avert an imminent threat. That is a Hollywood scenario. There has never ever been a real life example that meets the ticking bomb cliche.

    But that’s the whole point Hollywood IS REAL. It’s the reality which these people operate in!

  15. “Alfred,

    I do advocate those things. I thought that was clear.”

    Oh, OK. Thank you for the clarification. That makes for consistency.

  16. Clark,

    Thanks.

    Aren’t there two possibilities:

    – the torturers want X to confess to belonging to a secret group. The victim says whatever they want to hear to shut them up. All they want is a confession, true or false.

    – the torturers want to know who else is in the group or where their weapons are hidden, ie specific facts unknown to them but known to the victim. He tells them. This is new information which they did not have – and can verify independently, perhaps without using torture on others.

    Very different situations. My Polish interlocutor confessed to both. In those circs the torture ‘worked’. Not of course that this justifies it.

    It goes without saying that ‘information’ extracted from oppressive methods overseas should not be believed a priori. But there are some categories of information which can be independently verified. It’s that sort of information which the House of Lords ruled COULD be used by HMG eg for national security purposes, but COULD NOT be used in court by HMG eg to convict a terrorist who might not be convicted without that evidence.

    This is a key moral and policy distinction in the whole debate which is often overlooked, not least alas on this website.

  17. Better let Foxman,Angelina Jolie and Jon Voigt know the humourless Ubersturmfuhrer Murray has now taken down their emails.

    Still let’s hope Craig Murray has now learned his lesson and remembers to spell Holocaust with a capital “H” from now on.

    Otherwise he can kiss Hollywood’s butt goodbye!

    P.S. Mind you I think we can now take it that Mr Murray is less obsessed with celebrities like these than he was before they dumped him!

  18. Talk of “ticking time-bombs” is solely for the purpose of convincing your average more or less cowardly Daily Mail reader that if they don’t support Karimov’s practice of boiling people alive they face a terrible risk of being blown-up on the tube. But in fact the presumed value of intelligence from Uzbekistan is in its relevance to the real war in Central Asia and has nothing whatever to do with domestic security.

    So the justification for accepting intelligence from torture depends on two lies. First, that there are people in Uzbekistan or some other far-away country about which Britons know nothing who are seriously intent on blowing up London commuters. And second that the risk of being killed by terrorists is something to be really, really afraid of, and almost as great a danger as drowning in your bath tub or falling down an unguarded elevator shaft.

  19. No time to respond today in the detail that your post here demands and deserves, Craig. I’ll do so as soon as I can. Fortunately Charles Crawford’s extremely lucid comments here will save me the trouble of making the same points again. I often disagree with Charles, sometimes rather strongly, but on the questions at issue here, he’s spot on.

    Brian

    http://www.barder.com/ephems/

  20. technicolour

    1 Nov, 2010 - 7:01 pm

    Alfred: well put. Still, Daily Mail readers have consciences: they are not so easily persuaded to abandon them. What matters is that we think they are.

    Otherwise I find it almost unbearable that the story of some poor tortured soul is being used to prove that torture ‘works’, as Charles Crawford puts it. Charles, you add: ‘not that this justifies it’, but you are using this man’s agony to justify your claim that torture can extract useful information. Is that, I wonder, what he would have wanted?

    In fact, whether torture ‘works’ or not should be beside the point, I think. Many vicious crimes seem to ‘work’ – for the perpetrator: the Krays, for example, were extremely successful. Should we have applauded them, rewarded them, claimed them as partners? Should we have let them carry on, on the grounds that at some point they might be useful to us?

    ‘Yes’, say Brian Barder and Charles Crawford. ‘You, member of the public’ they continue; ‘you may personally never torture your neighbour in order to find out information which might or might not be useful or true, but let us assure you, it happens, and let us further assure you, it is necessary for us to argue that it is necessary’.

    As Clark pointed out on another thread, there is another way which doesn’t involve jesuitical inhumanity and pointless wrangling over ‘fine details’. But whether we have an FCO of the calibre to pursue it, after years of diplomacy being subordinated to apparently commercial interests (I like the fact that Craig was successful in pursuing UK commercial interests too), is another question. No, is the obvious answer. And so the slope gets slippier, until we all slide down with it.

  21. For Barder and Crawford

    ‘…..

    And nothing in life shall sever,

    The chain that is round us now,

    And nothing in life shall sever,

    The chain that is round us now.’

  22. Charles Crawford states:

    “Getting ‘information’ direct via ‘liaison’ from a government practising torture which gives you that information is one thing. Getting the same information eg from an agent working for you or by secretly intercepting that government’s communications is surely another.”

    So we are to differentiate between intelligence from torture that has been supplied by the torturer and for which some reciprocal consideration, or reward, will be expected, and intelligence obtained by bugging the bastards’ telephone lines or torture chambers without thus placing the recipient under an obligation to the torturer.

    This, it seems to me, hardly disposes of Craig’s objection to intelligence from torture since we can assume that for the most part we are talking of intelligence voluntarily supplied by torturers acting in collaboration with US government intelligence agencies or contractors and most likely also with the British SIS or Canada’s CSIS. Moreover, even if intelligence from torture is intercepted without the torturer’s knowledge, there is an incentive both to avoid actions that could bring the torture to an end and to undertake actions that promote torture — thereby creating a serious moral dilemma.

    It is not difficult to conceive of rare circumstances under which most people would agree that the application of torture was morally justified. In such circumstances, intelligent and responsible members of the police or military will usually act in accordance with the interests of society, even at grave risk to their own interest.

    The problem with legalizing torture is that it becomes a routine bureaucratic process conducted on a large scale and with little intelligence or moral judgment applied in particular cases. That’s what we saw at Abu Ghraib and what, apparently, happens in Uzbekistan.

    The West won the cold war not only because we had jeans and sneakers but because western society was judged to be morally superior to that of the communist dictators, with their torture chambers and slave labor camps. By advocating the use of intelligence from routinely employed torture, the British Government inflicts damage on the credibility (what remains of it) of Western civilization.

  23. Alfred/Technicolour,

    I mentioned the dismal issue of whether torture ‘works’ only because Craig and many others here insist that any information gained from torture is necessarily worthless/wrong.

    It’s surely exactly the other way round. It’s because torture sometimes ‘works’ (ie it sometimes produces new and accurate information) that we have a moral dilemma over using it or not!

    Alfred makes a huge and wrong logic leap, somehow assuming that somehow I am calling for ‘legalising’ torture or somehow ‘advocating it. I’m not, of course.

    All I am pointing out is that the law of the land – in a judgement praised by Craig himself – allows certain sort of ‘tainted’ information to be used for certain limited purposes but not others.

    Finally, the significance of the distinction between dealing directly (or even indirectly) with torturers and bugging their telephones is a key one as a matter of law. The first takes one down the ‘complicity’ road which Craig rightly objects to. The latter (I think) doesn’t.

    On diplomatic technique, Craig claims that he had influence with the Uzbek regime:

    “By taking a different, robust and forceful approach, I shocked the Karimov regime and I simultaneously gave them world exposure they really didn’t like. In consequence I had far more influence with them – they hated me, but could not ignore me.”

    I see what he is getting at. But I suspect that having an impact (as he did) is not the same as having influence. That’s the issue the Spiegel article rather limply tackles.

    One of the ways you get influence in places like that is working closely with torturers or the people who preside over torturers, hoping to get them slowly but surely to change course. Dirty work, and not that different from what MI6 have to do?

    Which is why Craig rightly was pleased that the ghastly President’s own daughter came to his Reception. And why it makes just no sense for him to jeer at the current Ambassador for meeting her at a fashion show she organised.

    A huge weakness in Craig’s core position is his inability to articulate how best to make and sustain influence in a place like Uzbekistan over time, including by building up alliances with other Ambassadors and key people at HQ.

    His book describes with painful accuracy how, far from doing this, he quickly fell out with almost all of them. Never his fault, of course.

    Energy and passion are really important. But just not enough?

  24. Credit to you, Charles, for an admirably level-headed analysis (@3:39pm). That one’s worth pinning on the noticeboard. Your follow-ups on diplomacy are worth noting too, and I don’t mean to distract by returning to Sawers’s speech (which I welcome, incidentally).

    The speech dealt with some uncomfortable topics, but it was replete with rhetoric and misdirection. It pays to analyse the rhetoric and understand why it was used in favour of more neutral expressions.

    He did indeed condemn torture. Hooray! However, in his moral machinations, he only alluded to idealistic torture scenarios where cruelties are inflicted on “terrorists or would-be terrorists” (devils that they are!) to force them to reveal crucial secrets which are then wired back to the Western intelligence network which passes it on to governments so that lives can be saved. Hooray again! Yet he emphasised that the UK does not command such cruelties. More hoorays!

    Do you see what’s missing? What about the dodgy information from dubious sources? What about politically-motivated human rights abuses in the name of the war on terror? The only allusion to foreign intelligence agency abuses were generic and ambiguous expressions such as “weighed alongside other information”, “placed in a wider context”. When he spoke about the JIC’s actual practical dilemmas (“Let me explain how it all works in practice”), his language changed. The torture talk was euphemistically softened (“may be treated badly”), and his descriptions of MI6 operatives’ activities built up to a crescendo of superlatives, as if they can do no wrong. The selective downplaying of authoritarian brutality by “partner” regimes and the human suffering it inflicts requires some explanation. Craig has argued that compliance with unethical regimes is strategically advantageous to the government for reasons other than security – an idea that is at least worth considering.

    […]

  25. Now those ‘idealised’ cases of torture are controversial enough; they have exercised moral philosophers for centuries. You favour a consequentialist argument, which relies on some element of quantification (how many people are tortured, how many plots foiled, how many lives saved?). But there are other crucial factors in the moral calculation. You cannot ignore the real abuses that occur as a consequence of accepting the fruits of torture. Amongst many other points, Craig is protesting that some regimes engage in a much more sinister torture strategy – in which dissidents are mutilated, raped, or executed – under the false pretext of procuring information vital to national security. I think we are agreed that he has proved that it actually happens. A responsible consequentialist can’t pick and choose which consequences to acknowledge and which to exclude. But that’s what Sawers and other establishment figures are conspicuously trying to do. The euphemisms and the fudging are giveaways.

    In his speech, Sawers focused on the idealised “ticking-bomb” scenario and reflected on the genuine moral dilemmas it entails. He denied that the UK initiates torture, but he admitted that in some cases “credible” intelligence is passively received from dubious sources. He neglected to mention the non-credible intelligence, or the transitive co-operation agreements with abusive intelligence agencies (shhh! we must have “secrecy”!). These things are protected by the “blind-eye” policy implemented by the government. Craig has witnessed the horrors it implicitly allows, and he has evidence of that the UK government is unwilling to challenge them, at least directly. What does that say for our respect for human rights?

    The idealised moral argument being touted by MI6 and the FCO excludes the consideration of consequential human rights abuses that should have a serious bearing on foreign policy decisions. If you don’t initiate abuses, don’t look at them, and don’t talk about them, you don’t have to take responsibility for any influence your actions may have on them, right? (If you are tempted to assent, please drop the utilitarian banner and enrol on an Ethics101 course. You may be a pragmatist, but you’re not a utilitarian.)

    If the government was to officially acknowledge the additional ethical complications of torture in abusive regimes, that would be a great advance of political rationality. Of course, it would probably affect the public attitude towards complicity with the CIA and other intelligence agencies, which may be embarrassed by the revelations. Sawers’s carefully crafted speech is yet another example of the absolute unwillingness to acknowledge these problematic cases in official policy statements. The evidence of rhetorical spin is there in black and white. It’s immature and insulting.

    And the LibDems appear to be signing up to it. Jeremy Browne’s speech to the LibDem conference exemplified a wilful neglect of the most appalling cases of human rights abuse. This is a hypocritical stance for a supposedly anti-authoritarian party.

    Foreign affairs are extremely complex, as are international economics, and both phenomena are resistant to manipulation by ideologues. Turning a blind eye to abuses for pragmatic reasons, while concealing the policy from the public, may work in short term, but the growing discrepancy between the idealised model and the real world soon leads to gross misjudgements, and major discrepancies start to accrue. The financial bubble has burst catastrophically, and its ethical analogue is already upon us, not just in the “toy” examples of international terrorism, but in a global political backlash which is affecting multiple domains (including domestic policy, travel and immigration). The US/UK alliance will have to progressively adapt its position or retreat, and it had better do so in a controlled manner. One hopes that the lessons of the abuses during the staggered demise of the British Empire have been noted and heeded. One is not yet optimistic that this is the case.

  26. “Alfred makes a huge and wrong logic leap, somehow assuming that somehow I am calling for ‘legalising’ torture or somehow ‘advocating it. I’m not, of course.”

    Charles, I clearly did not say that you were calling for “legalizing” torture. When I spoke of “legalizing” torture, I spoke of those regimes that routine practice torture, presumably in accordance with law, e.g., the US in Iraq and the Uzbeks in Uzbekistan.

    Thus practised, I said that torture “becomes a routine bureaucratic process conducted on a large scale and with little intelligence or moral judgment applied in particular cases. That’s what we saw at Abu Ghraib and what, apparently, happens in Uzbekistan.”

    Further, I said that by advocating the use of intelligence from routinely employed torture (i.e., legalized torture), “the British Government inflicts damage on the credibility (what remains of it) of Western civilization.”

    The reason, I suggest, that the British Government publicly justifies use of intelligence routinely obtained by torture is to validate its claim that Britain is under constant and massive terrorist threat, that is to say, a threat that can be countered only by the most extreme measures including collaboration with regimes that habitually engage in crimes against humanity.

    Perhaps you would like to address the argument; namely, that collaboration with tyrants and torturers has a down side that may exceed any derived benefits.

  27. Nextus,

    Very eloquent, if I might say so. I agree with much of the broad sense of it.

    I’m at a loss to see what else you want. You’ve just had the head of MI6 talking with unprecedented frankness about some of these dilemmas. Sure, he used some euphemisms, but we all know what he meant, at least as far as the examples he gave were concerned. He was (I gather) much praised by many journalists afterwards for his frankness, including in the ‘background’ Q&A afterwards. ‘Spin’? Or a big step forward?

    You say this: “A responsible consequentialist can’t pick and choose which consequences to acknowledge and which to exclude. But that’s what Sawers and other establishment figures are conspicuously trying to do.” Really? I don’t see it that way.

    We all know these torturous places are ghastly. Good grief, the whole point about Sir John and Craig and myself is that we have all lived as British diplomats in countries where desperate human rights abuses were perpetrated, and we have each done our best to draw honest policy conclusions about what works to make things better – and what is the best way to sustain what works. Reasonable people do differ here.

    Take it from me, this sort of work in such places is wearying and as Sir John put it even ‘draining’, in good part because we do take these issues seriously. I take strong issue with Craig in part because he leaps to denounce everyone among his former colleagues who disagrees with him as motivated by hypocrisy or bad faith, or claims that they must be ‘advocating’ torture. Not fair.

    Sir John did not I think mention a ‘ticking bomb’, let alone focus on it as you claim. He did talk about cases where we get information which may save lives – not the same thing. See this latest aircraft bombing threat for a real-life example.

    Jeering as Craig does (in effect) that that bomb was not going to go off, ergo public concern is contrived, strikes me as contemptible. Because the hard-core terrorists are under so much pressure from a wide network of governments, they often end up using amateur killers instead. All over the world these people do get lucky almost every day, mainly murdering people in poorer countries who lack the skilled services needed to thwart them.

    You drew a distinction between credible and non-credible intelligence. I don’t think that takes us far. We only know which is which by a lot of painstaking work, often done in great urgency behind the scenes as Sir John bluntly described.

    Hope that helps.

  28. Alfred,

    “Perhaps you would like to address the argument; namely, that collaboration with tyrants and torturers has a down side that may exceed any derived benefits.”

    I 100% agree with you. The whole problem arises because it is not easy to weigh up all the imponderables to work out where the right balance of action lies. Short-term v long-term. Likely modest successes against less likely larger successes. And so on.

    Isolating these places (not that everyone wants to isolate repressive regimes – see Burma) never gets quick wins and usually makes things worse. Engaging with them legitimises the regime and demoralises local reformers.

    I have written extensively on my own site and indeed within the FCO on the dilemmas our diplomats and politicians face precisely for these reasons. See indeed Craig’s pride that he was promoting UK business in Uzbekistan – some of which will have helped indirectly boost the regime’s credibility.

    None of this is easy.

  29. technicolour

    2 Nov, 2010 - 12:08 am

    Charles: Surely you know that Craig was faced with 17 false charges and effectively driven out of post. How was he supposed to ‘sustain influence’, exactly?

    As for your other points, I hear the sound of moral compasses being crushed under the boot of casuistry. It is not the FCO’s fault that they currently represent this government, admittedly. But you must remember the enthusiasm which greeted the idea of an ‘ethical foreign policy’, before New Labour quickly disabused everyone of that notion. Have you ever speculated what might happen if we adopted one, or what one would look like?

  30. “None of this is easy.”

    But one has to decide.

    One does not defend the Western tradition of respect for human rights by conniving at hideous torture routinely conducted by corrupt and brutal dictatorships, even if such torture occasionally saves a few innocent lives.

    If human rights are important, they are worth fighting for and, if necessary, dying for.

    That must be obvious to the great majority of thoughtful people. Therefore, when governments claim the right to accept intelligence routinely obtained by torture they clearly demonstrate that they are not with us, but against us.

  31. Alfred: That’s as powerful a statement as any I’ve heard. Brilliantly put.

    Technicolour, yes, Robin Cook got marginalised, I hear.

  32. In hindsight, it is obvious that the incoming government would inherit complicity in torture, as torture had already become an integral component of the system. We’ve spent years watching the evidence emerge, denied or blocked at many steps, so why should we expect it to have suddenly stopped just because there were elections?

    Sawyers’ speech is a masterpiece of rousing, emotive stuff. I felt moved, reading it. Indeed, there are worse powers than the UK, and secret service agents do risk their lives. But most people know at least something about less noble operations of the secret services, such as plots to bringing down governments or subvert pressure groups. None of this is mentioned, so the speech comes across as a marketing campaign to enhance the image of the secret services.

    It is in this context that the speech is so alarming. Sawers is presenting the secret services in the most favourable light possible, [and yet somehow] / [so of course] his speech precisely matches the contours of the system as it is currently running, just as it was inherited from the previous government. The secret services can just about do what they were discovered to be doing, without contradicting the letter of that speech. Nowhere does it say “it was wrong that we did this, and we’re never going to do it again. We’re implementing the changes right now”.

    Good on Craig for pointing it out. People shouldn’t get upset about his accusations against ministers. Rather, they should slap themselves on the forehead and say “oh yes, we should have thought of that”.

  33. “One of the ways you get influence in places like that is working closely with torturers or the people who preside over torturers, hoping to get them slowly but surely to change course.”

    The euphemism is I think “developing democracy”. The neat thing about it is that no matter how slowly things go, it is always getting better and better.

    You support state terrorism then get upset when state terrorism encourages non-state terrorism.

  34. Uzbek in the UK

    2 Nov, 2010 - 3:45 pm

    Have just read the article in Der Spiegel. It is of course very comfortable to write an article and discuss all this from very safe distance, the editorial office of Der Spiegel for example. It is very different when someone is faced with the reality of torture and constant abuse of their rights by those who hold a power.

    Putting it in other words if the one who wrote this article would have spent at least a day in any Uzbek prison or have been visited at night by Secret Uzbek Police SNB then we would have very different article and very different opinion about two approaches-Mr Murray’s and German envoy’s.

    Confronting such bustards like Karimov is the best tactics if you are to save lives of people or trying to improve something in a very difficult situation like the one in Uzbekistan. I am saying this as the one who was saved by Mr Murray’s involvement and the one who witnessed brutality of the regime towards those who dare to even think of speaking against them. But reading quite substantial amount of books about Central Asia and Western politics in general, I now have to admit that it will be very long and very problematic to change or improve situation in Uzbekistan. The West is quite clearly have chosen immediate security ?” even very short and spontaneous- over long term strategy towards Uzbekistan. Putting it in other words Western approach towards Uzbekistan is no more different then towards for example Egypt or to some respect Saudi Arabia. The West will support Karimov and his successor until they provide West with the access to their military compounds and guarantee that every kind of religious (Islamic) extremism will be suppressed (as more cruel as better). The West does not seem to understand that this strategy will ?”in the long run- turn into very catastrophic consequences. It will inevitably lead to instability in Uzbekistan and as the consequence of this to instability in whole Central Asia. Failure to influence regime to liberalise economy and politics will turn very dear to the West. Karimov and his successor will always benefit from the balancing between Russia, China and the West and will always play on the geopolitical interests of latter for their own good.

    It is very shameful, but it is very unlikely that there will be another diplomat like Mr Murray in Uzbekistan or anywhere else in the world. Those who rule the world would rather accept Karimov and allow him to place his billions to Switzerland then allow someone to criticise the catastrophe over the 27 million population. Why one need to ask the government to send an army or navy to colonise the nation when one can do so by supporting this nation’s bloodiest dictator who would be happy to colonise this nation for the one who wants to benefit from the wealth that the nation can offer?

  35. Points:

    Alfred says this: “When governments claim the right to accept intelligence routinely obtained by torture they clearly demonstrate that they are not with us, but against us.”

    Since ALL governments pretty much do this, since all governments see it as the most basic responsibility to protect their citizens, ALL governments are against their people? A pretty radical and not very helpful uber-libertarian conclusion, methinks.

    Put it this way. If a politician campaigned on the proposition that rather than accept some information possibly gleaned by way of torture, s/he would let some voters die in terrorist attacks (as the principle is ‘worth fighting for’ and they’ll be heroic losers in that fight), what are her/his election chances? I think small.

    Technicolour says that Craig lost his posting in Tashkent because of 17 false charges, so how could he ‘sustain influence’?

    In my view Craig’s own book demonstrates many striking examples of his own professional incompetence (as well as some very good work). I have explained a number of them in detail on my website, if anyone is interested in core diplomatic technique. Above all he completely failed to do the basic job of working out a plan for dealing with the Uzbek regime then getting important others at HQ and locally behind it. Read his book – simply not mentioned!

    That erratic behaviour and some personal issues primarily led to his downfall – a great pity.

    Uzbek in the UK: “I now have to admit that it will be very long and very problematic to change or improve situation in Uzbekistan.” Well, sure. All the more reason why Craig’s head-on collision with Uzbekistan and Western policy achieved next to nothing.

    I agree that snuggling up to brutal dictators is an unhappy way to proceed. But if we start toppling them (Iraq, Milosevic – where I played a significant personal diplomatic role) that does not always work out too well either?

    We did stand firm but peacefully against the Soviet Union, mainly thanks to Reagan and Thatcher who were reviled mightily at the time for being ‘hawkish’.

    Plus Craig and many people passing by this site seem to think that Western governments should mind their own damn business when it comes to dealing with (especially) brutal regimes of an Islamic tendency. What specifically does anyone here recommend by way of action against eg the regime in Uzbekistan? And if a good policy can be identified, how precisely should it be taken forward when eg Germany and some other important countries won’t agree?

    “It is very shameful, but it is very unlikely that there will be another diplomat like Mr Murray in Uzbekistan or anywhere else in the world.” At last – something we all can agree on!!

  36. I see, Charles. So please tell us, what exactly *was* the FCO doing to exert pressure on Karimov? If something was being done, why wasn’t Craig informed about it? Surely it would have been highly relevant to his position as British Ambassador there?

    It’s difficult to do take official action about a problem if you don’t acknowledge it. Who within the FCO assured Craig that there was an effective policy to tackle the human rights abuses? It seems to me they were instead exploring legal excuses for inaction, even turning a blind eye, all the while legitimising Karimov internationally by presenting him as a partner in the war against terror. The FCO (under the direction of Jack Straw) decided to continue to stifle the protest. The reason cited related to protecting the relationship with the CIA. So what exactly *was* being done about human rights in Uzbekistan, Charles?

    You accuse Craig of not having a ‘plan’. His initial plan was to inform the FCO senior management, so that diplomatic pressure could be exerted at a governmental level in accordance with the UK’s explicit policy commitments on human rights. If the FCO had informed the Karimov regime that the UK strongly disapproved of his inhumane treatment of Uzbek dissidents (and would not excuse it as a legitimate tactic in the fight against international terrorism), Karimov would be the one facing the tough decisions. But that didn’t happen. The plan was vetoed internally. Why? Well, as you have Craig’s book to hand, I won’t need to elaborate. I’m sure the problem was undoubtedly “weighed alongside other information” and “placed in a wider context” of British interests, but there didn’t seem to be much weight given to the global concern for human rights.

    I actually think Craig’s plan was very diplomatic, and if the UK government had lived up to its explicit foreign policy commitments, instead of targeting Craig on trumped-up charges to shut him up, the Uzbeks would got the message loud and clear. I conjecture that they would have had to clean up their act to protect their own international interests; Craig could have served his full term and moved on to advance British interests elsewhere.

    Where do you think this reasonable, diplomatic, plan broke down?

    Craig’s “head-on collision” as you put had negligible effect because his was the only head colliding against a formidable dictatorship. More than that. The FCO not only abandoned him, it attacked him. If the UK had stood behind him from the beginning, or even reassured him that their “operatives” were pursuing a clandestine plan to deal with Karimov’s brutality, I dare say there would have been a much better – diplomatic ?” outcome for all.

  37. So, Charles, “Since ALL governments pretty much do this [accept intelligence routinely obtained by torture ]…” we have no choice but to do the same. Is that what you are saying?

    At one time “ALL governments pretty much” practiced slavery, burnt witches and generally acted as do those Uzbek “Bustards” (as Uzbek in the UK admirably describes Boil-You-Alive Karimov’s gang). But is that much of an argument for doing likewise?

    As a justification for encouraging a vile practice of limited value that has always been illegal in England it seems weak indeed. And it takes no account of the negative consequences, such as making Britain and her allies hateful to all freedom loving citizens of Uzbekistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, etc.

    “since all governments see it as the most basic responsibility to protect their citizens …”

    Well, I’ll refrain from raising the issue of 9/11, you know the greatest terrorist attack on civilians in the history of the world, which has never been the subject of a judicial inquiry and about which the official US Government report is said to be total crap even by it’s authors (Oh, God, now I have invoked the St. Louis representative of the Greater Israel Fruit Joooz company.), but on precisely what basis are we to infer that “all governments see it as the most basic responsibility to protect their citizens” other than the babbling of politicians like Tony Blair and George Bush whose mendacity is most easily discerned by observing whether their lips are moving.

    “If a politician campaigned on the proposition that rather than accept some information possibly gleaned by way of torture, s/he would let some voters die in terrorist attacks (as the principle is ‘worth fighting for’ and they’ll be heroic losers in that fight), what are her/his election chances?”

    Interesting question. I’d probably vote for them, especially if they had a clear understanding that for the West to prevail, for it to be desirable for the West to prevail, the West must adhere to values worth fighting for and, if necessary, dying for.

    Anyway, to believe that in an age of astounding technological advancement, in an age of money-no-object wars, effective intelligence gathering depends on the use of torture, seems absurd.

  38. Cide Hamete Benengeli

    2 Nov, 2010 - 8:07 pm

    I am beginning to understand the arguments of Sawers, and his cheerleaders Barder and Crawford.

    1. The Karimov regime is bad, it tortures people.

    2. The US military is good, it does not torture (except for a few bad apples in junior positions) it outsources it.

    3. The British government is just the pinnacle of goodness, it doesn’t even outsource torture, it gets the Americans to outsource it.

  39. Uzbek in the UK

    2 Nov, 2010 - 9:04 pm

    Craig’s “head-on collision” as you put had negligible effect because his was the only head colliding against a formidable dictatorship. More than that. The FCO not only abandoned him, it attacked him. If the UK had stood behind him from the beginning, or even reassured him that their “operatives” were pursuing a clandestine plan to deal with Karimov’s brutality, I dare say there would have been a much better – diplomatic ?” outcome for all.

    Posted by: nextus at November 2, 2010 6:16 PM

    _______________________________________

    I thought the same until quite recently I understood that it is much more that needs to be done in order to improve situation in Uzbekistan and in Central Asia. ‘Head-on collision’ will not necessarily work in Uzbekistan and this was clearly demonstrated after the Andijan tragedy when karimov (it sickens me to write his name with capital letter) refused to allow independent investigation and kicked US out of the K2. Russia and China were more than happy to back bustard because of the strategic importance of Uzbekistan and Central Asia for these two regional superpowers.

    Dictator karimov and others in Central Asia have wide choice of those who will back them up and those who will tolerate their repressive policy towards their citizens. Those like karimov do not care about future of the nation and about long term security. They benefit from their power, make money, transfer bloody money to Switzerland, Dubai and other tax heavens and have their bags ready in case there is major popular uprising. They are not interested in long term projects, recommendations on how to improve situation, make economy work, liberalise political and social life of the nation. For them personal benefit is more important than anything else.

    It is very hard to work out what policy would work when it comes to satisfying greed of such bloody bustards and at the same time benefit millions of Uzbekistanis and Central Asians.

    If West pushes too hard for the Human Rights and political liberalisation, this will inevitably lead to that West being pushed out from the region by China and Russia which are not concerned with these issues at all. If West ignores these very important issues that require immediate attention then the region will end up in very serious trouble in long term.

  40. Yes, I agree ‘Uzbek in the UK’, but like any deal or relationship, political diplomacy has many dimensions, as Charles would no doubt emphasise. You can target your condemnation while still co-operating. Indeed that’s what Craig was doing before they removed him. The FCO’s policy of weighing up an overall decision about whether to engage and appease is simplistic and does not convey a strong moral message.

    A government that values human rights highly may have to offer something else the regime wants, with conditions attached, to gain leverage; or, conversely, to threaten sanctions. That’s diplomacy in a nutshell. There are always trade-offs. The disturbing fact is that in Uzbekistan the UK was offering to tolerate systematic cruelty because of other assets that were prized more highly, particularly access to military bases in Central Asia. For that reason it was not prepared to exert pressure on human rights issues. It was already part of the moral calculation, and the government must take responsibility for. It chose to appease Karimov for its own strategic military interests. This strengthened Karimov’s international confidence – for heavens sake, the UK was even prepared to scuttle one of its own Ambassadors to stop him speaking out against them. Andijan was one of the tragic consequences that followed. Those protesters had already been abandoned by the international community. That would not have been Craig’s way.

    It could have been handled so much better.

  41. Before any frenzied critics jump in, I’m not suggesting something ludicrous like Craig’s removal being the sole or main cause of the Andijan massacre. My point is that Karimov’s open defiance of international opinion signalled a huge swell in arrogance on the international stage, which I believe was fed by the continued policy of appeasement – of which Craig’s episode was perhaps the most conspicuous example.

    Russia and China of course hardly set shining ethical standards. But someone needs to.

  42. technicolour

    2 Nov, 2010 - 10:30 pm

    Yes, very interesting discussion, thanks.

    Uzbek in the UK: would you not think it more likely that Karimov decided to change backers before he carried out the Andijan massacre? I’m not sure how the US expulsion relates to the nuances of diplomacy, or to the effectiveness of ‘head on collision’ in any event: they weren’t starting to be critical of Karimov, were they?

    Charles: standing ‘firm but peacefully against’ does sound like the sensible middle ground between toppling brutal dictators, or snuggling up to them, I agree.

  43. technicolour

    2 Nov, 2010 - 10:55 pm

    sorry, belated google:

    “Undersecretary of State R. Nicholas Burns was going to pressure Tashkent to allow an international investigation into the Andijan protests..Burns was also going to warn the government, one of the most authoritarian in the Islamic world, to open up politically — or risk the kind of upheavals witnessed recently in Ukraine, Georgia and Kyrgyzstan, U.S. officials said.”

    They didn’t carry out their threat, I notice.

  44. Mi Se

  45. UzbUk: “Dictator karimov and others in Central Asia have wide choice of those who will back them up and those who will tolerate their repressive policy towards their citizens. Those like karimov do not care about future of the nation and about long term security.”

    Indeed. The holistic dynamics of international politics add further dimensions of complexity. This doesn’t mean that we should stop objecting to moral atrocities for the sake of pragmatism, however; it means the issue should be incorporated into negotiations with the other interested parties. Any acceptance of information from the CIA should be accompanied by strong condemnation of the atrocities, not a secret resignation that they are a necessary evil to ‘protect the relationship’. It’s a complex web that incorporates diplomatic efforts in Russia, China and neighbouring states, not to mention the UN. But if the FCO, CIA and other agencies are systematically quashing reports of torture and extraordinary rendition to protect their own cosy intelligence channels, the diplomats are making international decisions on the basis of false information.

    Yes, there may be a Panglossian optimism in this push for transparency. There is no simple solution, or guaranteed path to progress. Rogue states do not always act rationally. I accept that actual diplomatic efforts are always complex and involve unwelcome compromises. But I contend they should not also be murky. The compromises should not be covered up.

    The compromise over torture in Uzbekistan (like other places) *was* covered up. Craig was one of the people who exposed the cover-up. I believe that particular compromise is unacceptable by the moral standards on which international law is constructed. Of course, that’s *why* it was being covered up. The ideologues wanted to protect their synthetic political equilibrium.

    Diplomatic relations, in my view, should reflect the genuine condemnation of moral atrocities, not gloss over them. The system could then adjust towards some other set of international compromises (no doubt with their own sets of moral dilemmas). But at least in this case we would be standing up for what we purport to believe in. I think that would be an ethical advance.

  46. I actually thought the article was rather good.

  47. Uzbek in the UK

    3 Nov, 2010 - 10:59 am

    sorry, belated google:

    “Undersecretary of State R. Nicholas Burns was going to pressure Tashkent to allow an international investigation into the Andijan protests..Burns was also going to warn the government, one of the most authoritarian in the Islamic world, to open up politically — or risk the kind of upheavals witnessed recently in Ukraine, Georgia and Kyrgyzstan, U.S. officials said.”

    They didn’t carry out their threat, I notice.

    Posted by: technicolour at November 2, 2010 10:55 PM

    ________________________________________

    Yes, they did not and the BIG question is WHY? It seems that facing the reality and analysing the situation in Uzbekistan clearly (as clearly as US can analyse, obviously from the prism of their hegemonic dominance in the region) US department of state decided not to go ahead. The most obvious reason is that in Ukraine, Georgia and even in Kyrgyzstan, there was an opposition and what is even more important organised opposition to the government. There were leaders or potential leaders who could have been supported and could have been brought to power. I see no such forces in Uzbekistan. Years of brutal political cleansing, repressions towards any organised local NGOs left karimov the only available leader. Whether US want him or not they at that time (and even today) do not have anyone who could potentially ‘lead’ the nation without risking civil unrest that is potentially dangerous to whole region. This is in short term of course.

    In long term karimov’s policy will lead to very serious disturbances in Uzbekistan and in whole Central Asia. Even if he manages (and I see no reason of why not) to ‘lead’ the nation till his last day (of life I mean) there is great uncertainty of what is going to happen when he is gone (to hell I hope). My gut feeling is that now US is working out the strategy of after-karimov relationship with Uzbekistan. US do not want to be excluded from Uzbekistan in the time when karimov is gone which ultimately allows Russia to influence the course of actions and place their own pro-Russian president-dictator.

  48. Uzbek in the UK

    3 Nov, 2010 - 2:25 pm

    Yes, very interesting discussion, thanks.

    Uzbek in the UK: would you not think it more likely that Karimov decided to change backers before he carried out the Andijan massacre? I’m not sure how the US expulsion relates to the nuances of diplomacy, or to the effectiveness of ‘head on collision’ in any event: they weren’t starting to be critical of Karimov, were they?

    Charles: standing ‘firm but peacefully against’ does sound like the sensible middle ground between toppling brutal dictators, or snuggling up to them, I agree.

    Posted by: technicolour at November 2, 2010 10:30 PM

    ________________________________________

    Yes, karimov was thinking about changing backers before the Andijan, but he did break up with the US only after they supported demands of the independent investigation. Only after the US has clearly demanded investigation karimov ordered ministry of foreign affairs to notify US ambassador that Uzbekistan demands US forces to leave K2.

    There are of course number of theories about the Andijan Tragedy itself. Some think it was US orchestrated attempt to topple karimov, others think it was Russian attempt to force karimov to accept Russian patronage, and I think that it was karimov himself who was a reason of the Andijan Tragedy has happened. Ferghana Valley itself is a very difficult and controversial sub region with its economic and interethnic tensions. If any upraising could have happened in Uzbekistan it certainly had to be in Ferghana Valley where people experience the most tragic consequences of karimov’s failure of economic and social reforms.

    US started to criticise karimov even before the Andijan with the Congress refusing to approve some of the financial support that karimov was receiving from Washington, while providing support to Nazarbaev. For karimov this was a huge blow that despite all his support to Washington he was being refused what he thought was payment for his loyalty. Also, one needs to look at the facts that karimov had more friends and understanding in Pentagon and department of state was always more critical towards karimov’s policy.

    Russia on the other hand played were well. They were aware that it will be hard for Washington to swallow the execution of hundreds of women and children in Andijan and assured karimov that they will provide him necessary support and will insure that Washington will not take any further actions against the regime. China was also more than happy to support karimov as it was a great pleasure for Beijing to see US getting a boot from K2.

    Andijan, therefore, clearly demonstrated that when it comes to karimov and Central Asia in general one must choose between Human Rights and civil liberties and influence over the regimes. The only way to obtain such influence is by supporting regimes and insuring their security. When even such powerful and almighty state as US ignores this ‘simple’ formula it is faced with the harsh reality of being kicked out and loosing influence over the region.

  49. “I’d probably vote for them, especially if they had a clear understanding that for the West to prevail, for it to be desirable for the West to prevail, the West must adhere to values worth fighting for and, if necessary, dying for.”

    –Alfred

    I’d probably vote for them too, Alfred, without expressing it quite in your terms (“for the West to prevail”.) I deplore the hypocrisy of even *attempting* to stand on the moral high ground while practising, justifying, or creating a market for torture — and wiggling around the legalities of it, as the Bush admin did.

    “the West must adhere to values worth fighting for and, if necessary, dying for”

    Yes, if only so we can look in the mirror and not be disgusted by what we see. And that includes, for me, not accepting material that one knows (or is 99% sure) has been acquired through torture. If that meant that a bomb went off in Dublin, I’d take my chances.

    I’ve probably said here before that one of the Dublin bombs of 17 May 1974 went off less than 50 yards from my office.

    “Three exploded in Dublin during rush hour (killing 26 people and an unborn child) and one exploded in Monaghan ninety minutes later (killing 7 people). Most of the victims were young women, although the ages of the dead ranged from five months to 80 years.

    “No-one has ever been charged with the attacks, which have been described by the Oireachtas Committee on Justice as an act of international terrorism with allegations of the involvement of British security forces.[1]”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dublin_and_Monaghan_bombings

    I have asked Charles Crawford here if he believes MI5 were concerned about human rights in the North of Ireland. The reason I asked is that if he accepts that they were not (overly concerned) I’d like to know why we should believe that MI6 has been, or now is.

  50. Uzbek in the UK: Thank you for this valuable insight. I’ve met many Uzbeks, but they don’t tend to talk about the politics in such an enlightened manner.

    The US/UK does seem to be faced with a very ‘simple’ formula: turn a blind eye or be kicked out. But that’s precisely the way Karimov wants to cast it. It’s a bully’s technique, and Karimov is one of the world’s most powerful bullies.

    This is just like the simple bivalent formula that US hawks like Bush, Cheney and Bolton apply to their moral decisions – because it saves all the messy evaluation of interethnic dynamics, understanding interlinked foreign interests, sympathising with oppressed peoples and frustrating efforts at careful diplomacy.

    The dictator’s selfish interests may be simple, but they are embedded within a complex network of international relations. The diplomats of Russia and China are well practiced in exploiting these complex relations for their own ends. The US hawks, however, tend to opt for the simple bully mentality. The fact that the US was ejected from Uzbekistan I think had much more to do with their overall foreign policy and attitude in economic and military negotiations than a moral condemnation of the Andijan massacre; perhaps Andijan was a trigger.

    We should be careful not to polarise the diplomatic options as simple compliance vs condemnation. The “head-on” collision metaphor is misleading. Craig tried to make the UK government aware of the massive human suffering and cruelty, through confidential channels. He also tried to use his public position to make the Karimov regime well aware of the fact that the torture had now been exposed internationally. Was he too blunt and naive? We’re talking about an astute and skilled diplomat who brokered complex deals in West Africa and Eastern Europe (which is why he was promoted so quickly). I wouldn’t certainly characterise him as a hawk.

    The simple alternative is to yield to the dictator’s demands because we want something from him: in other words, to tolerate torture for ends that are deemed more “valuable” than the human rights of dissidents. Of course, this is a caricature too. Charles is advocating more sophisticated methods of applying pressure, and stressing the need to keep your own government onside. Craig witnessed the human horror of the situation and was not willing to accept the government’s appeasement policy.

    Personally, I’m morally in step with Craig’s indignation; though ideally I would be strategically aligned with Charles’s cautious backroom diplomacy. But I think the ignorant and evasive manner in which Craig was rebuffed by the FCO, and by Jack Straw in particular, meant that the backroom approach would be entirely ineffective. The FCO chose to obscure and fudge the issue, and refused to be open and honest with one of its senior officials (for “security” reasons). A principled manager in any organisation would see that kind of exclusion as a resignation issue. Craig could not tolerate the rebuff and chose to fight it. We’re all familiar with what happened as a result. Whistleblowers get treated in a similar way in the business world too. It’s a major failure of institutional ethics.

    So I think the US misjudged Uzbekistan, the FCO misjudged Craig’s moral passion, and Craig misjudged the government’s willingness to abide by its own ethical foreign policy commitments. A nasty business, all round. Well deserving of the title “Dirty Diplomacy”.

  51. Nextus,

    You seem to confuse two issues. One is the acceptance of intelligence gained through the routine use of torture, the other is whether you collaborate in other spheres with a torturer.

    Almost certainly, if you wished to end the use of torture in Uzbekistan you’d have to work for the overthrow of the regime, which would mean avoiding all collaboration with it. However, that is not, so far as I understand it, what Craig’s argument with the FCO was about. Rather, his aim was simply to end Britain’s use of intelligence from torture.

    If, in fact, Craig was working to undermine the Uzbek regime, then admirable though this would have been, his ouster from the government service would have to be viewed in a different light.

    The question of collaboration with torturers and tyrants in Central Asia cannot be separated from the justification for US/NATO invasion and occupation in the region. If western intervention in Central Asia is a matter of vital national interest to the western states involved, then we must accept what allies we can find. Or as Churchill put it in defense of the alliance with the tyrant and torturer Joe Stalin following Germany’s invasion of Russia: “If Hitler invaded Hell, I would at least make a favourable reference to the Devil in the House of Commons”.

  52. Alfred, I don’t think I am confusing two issues; I think I’m linking them together (as you go on to do yourself).

    Craig was not simply aiming to end Britain’s use of dodgy intelligence. He was protesting against turning a blind eye to their atrocities to protect the US/Uzbek relationship. Recall his famous quote that we were “selling our souls for dross”. And also his speech to Freedom House, when he contradicted the US ambassador by declaring the Uzbekistan was not a functioning democracy. Clearly, he wasn’t just asking the FCO to ignore dodgy tip-offs from the CIA. He was concerned about the plight of the Uzbeks. But that’s a long way from suggesting he was “working to undermine the Uzbek regime”.

    The point where I have qualms is where you say “we must accept whatever allies we can find”. I reiterate that it’s not a dichotomy. There are many dimensions to international relations. I refer you back to my previous post.

  53. dazed and confused

    3 Nov, 2010 - 7:23 pm

    I agree with Alfred.

    ‘If western intervention in Central Asia is a matter of vital national interest to the western states involved, then we must accept what allies we can find. Or as Churchill put it in defense of the alliance with the tyrant and torturer Joe Stalin following Germany’s invasion of Russia: “If Hitler invaded Hell, I would at least make a favourable reference to the Devil in the House of Commons”. ‘

    I have benefited from this debate, but it brings me back to this question. What is the purpose of the US stance in Asia?

    George Friedman, apparently the progenitor of a right-wing Texan think-tank, claimed several years ago in ‘America’s Secret War’ that the Iraq war was motivated by a desire to have a bunch of major US bases in the middle east as Saudi Arabia was not a reliable ally. I have always thought that this attitude, coupled with a carelessness about propogating even more enlightened interventions such as the CIA-led sponsoring of the mujahadeen against the Russians, (ie in leaving them abruptly with no follow-up) and other similar catastrophes (Somalia for example), have all tended to stimulate the development of fundamentalism.

    This is the neo-con project, and its defence is presumably to stabilise the influence of Anglo-American democracy/hegemony on the planet.

    The question is then, does this project have any merit?

    Is the problem in the project per se, or in its methodology?

    Incidentally, with regard to the discussion on Andijan, I would be interested to be pointed in the direction of any published sources Uzbek and Nextus have for their conclusions about the motivation of the Chinese and Russians in the area.

  54. Nextus,

    I accept correction on what Craig aimed to do in or about Uzbekistan when ambassador there. However, on our treatment of allies the question depends on what is at stake. “Dazed and Confused” draws the inference that I had in mind; namely, that if the war doesn’t justify playing footsie with buggers like Karimov, then in my view we should never have got into it and we should, even now, acknowledge our error and get out of it.

    Only if you argue that the war in Central Asia is of vital importance to the US and its allies can you discuss the multi-dimensionality of the question of how to treat a stinking tyrant like Karimov.

    And even on that premise, treating Karimov in any way other than that which he demands seems unlikely to yield much advantage to anyone. It’s not as if folks in Afghanistan who are being bombarded with depleted uranium and other NATO-provided forms of mutilation or violent death are going to say, “see how sharply the Brits deal with Karimov, we should therefore support the totally corrupt, drug-dealing, puppet Government that they and their allies have set up for us.”

  55. Thanks to all contributors for this exchange.

    One question if I may to Charles & Co… Do you envision a limit to what you could tolerate from a Karimov type regime ?

    I guess you would not be too much affected if, say, they would start to boil alive all newborns of some obscure mountainous Muslim tribe as long as the Afghan war logistics is not disturbed.

    But would what about using gas chambers to exterminate all Christians ? Would that be acceptable ? Where do you put the limit – assuming there is one ?

  56. technicolour

    3 Nov, 2010 - 10:49 pm

    I think this really isn’t a question of whether the torture of thousands of people on the basis that one of them might be guilty of something is OK or not: most people plainly see that it isn’t. Of course one can construct rationales for it: one can for almost anything.

    Uzbek in the UK: thank you. I’m not sure I see why Andijan proves a point about how to deal with dictators: the US may have left K2 (quite happily apparently) but they still have an embassy don’t they? And presumably, still some influence? While their support for Karimov in the years before doesn’t seem to have improved the situation either, on the contrary.

  57. technicolour

    3 Nov, 2010 - 11:08 pm

    (lost middle paragraph, apologies)

    I think the problem is that we’re gradually accepting the question as a sane one. To suggest publicly that it might be necessary to accept information gathered from the activities of the Shankill Butchers, while the Shankill Butcher were still operating, would have been inconceivable, even in the wake of an IRA attack. And yet here we are, debating something very similar, no?

  58. “I think the problem is that we’re gradually accepting the question as a sane one.”

    Exactly.

  59. technicolour

    3 Nov, 2010 - 11:32 pm

    yes, I see what you did there, Alfred. Now, how should I torture this cat?

  60. Fascinating debate and so necessarry.

    It is hard to understand what makes western Governments so desperate that they have to administer and support the murderous foibles of regimes such as that holding Uzbekistan enthralled for such a long time.

    Whoever in the western world ever questioned the longivity of a rabid regime that conducts child labour and tortured people before the end of the USSr a regime that should have been booted out by 1992.

    Todays agenda of negating human rights and encouraging just such regiomes in their torturous behaviour, for dubious evidence needed to uphold a construct of a global war on terrorism, is not something I would support.

    Torture, if we value the achievements multicultural exchanges, trade and relations bring, has no place.

    Torture undermines relationship we have fostered, sows mistrust and ambiguity, it encourages all the inherent instability we are trying to avoid in the first place, its like one is begatting oneself, dare I use this analogy.

    I fully agree with Uzbek, Clark and other making the point that the resulting instability in Central Asia is down to the mistrust of Governments and their insecurity, fostered and protected by us.

    Torture does encourage more of the same, to deny this and bellittle human rights abuse by attending fashion shows and pampering some rich child does not strike me as a viable solution to curb the drugs trade that uses Uzbekistan as a transit.

    Our conduct in central Asia is purporting to encourage safety at home, but it is spreading violence and terror, by indulging torture and using its useless info, a self perpetuating policy. Our resolve to support such regimes creates enemies we do not need.

    I do not trust the statement given by John Sawers, it leaves room to go both ways.

    How can I trust a man who was involved in shaping the decisions that carried war to Iraq under false pretences?

    After the exposee on Wikileaks, frankly, how can we trust any of those who were cheerleading us on, who are now clambering for dull excuses to justify a continuing agenda of torture in third countries, as well as state terror.

    I question special relationships and would not want a entente frugale, i’d rather prefer a European peace and defence force. Why would one want to prise France away from Europe?

  61. “The US has a history of advocating these practices. Given Britain’s close relationship with the US, Britain should be scrutinised for its complicity. This is particularly pressing in light of work by Darius Rejali which shows that numerous states, Britain and America included, have collaborated in the development and diffusion of torture practices, particularly those that leave no permanent physical marks. There are clear hints of torture being institutionally condoned by Britain, through the presence of MI5 agents in the interrogations of British citizens, later transferred to Guantanamo Bay, and the abuse of detainees in Iraq.

    “Strikingly similar techniques to those advocated in the leaked manuals were used by the British against IRA suspects in the 1970s. Known as the “five techniques”, (sleep deprivation, hooding, subjecting to noise, food and drink deprivation, and “wall standing” or stress positions), they were deemed inhuman and degrading, and therefore illegal, by the European Court of Human Rights. The British government outlawed them, declaring that “the ‘five techniques’ will not in any circumstances be reintroduced as an aid to interrogation”. Yet the new manuals show they are again a feature of British military practice. In a sleight of hand, by stating that “Torture is an absolute no no”, the manuals imply that these inhuman and degrading techniques are, somehow, legitimate. They fail to remind their staff that under British and international law, these techniques are absolutely prohibited.”

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/libertycentral/2010/nov/03/british-troops-use-torture

  62. dazed & confused: “Incidentally, with regard to the discussion on Andijan, I would be interested to be pointed in the direction of any published sources Uzbek and Nextus have for their conclusions about the motivation of the Chinese and Russians in the area.”

    “The New Great Game: Blood and Oil in Central Asia” by Lutz Kleveman (London: Atlantic books, 2003; 2nd edn 2004)

    It obviously doesn’t cover the Andijan massacre, but it does give the political background to it, in particular the historic power struggle between the superpowers for natural resources and pipeline routes. The book is essential reading, at only 7 quid. Consult Kleveman’s summary in the Guardian: http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2003/oct/20/oil

    Matteo Tacconi’s article of the same title on the ResetDoc site gives a more up-to-date analysis. (I’m sorry I can’t give direct links due to blogware restrictions.)

    For the politics surrounding the Andijan event itself, read George Monbiot’s web article “Tony Blair’s New Friend”. An excerpt:

    “Uzbekistan, as Saddam Hussein’s Iraq once was, is seen by the US government as a key western asset. Since 1999, US special forces have been training Karimov’s soldiers. [… ] Uzbekistan is in the middle of central Asia’s massive gas and oil fields. It is a nation for whose favours both Russia and China have been competing. [… ]

    “Far from seeking to isolate his regime, the US government has tripled its aid to Islam Karimov. Last year, he received $500 million, of which $79 million went to the police and intelligence services, who are responsible for most of the torture. While the US claims that its engagement with Karimov will encourage him to respect human rights, like Saddam Hussein he recognises that the protection of the world’s most powerful government permits him to do whatever he wants. Indeed, the US State Department now plays a major role in excusing his crimes.”

    For a pertinent summary of the Uzbek politics at the time of the Andijan uprising, see Angelique van Engelen’s “International Condemnation of Uzbek Killings” on Global Politician.

    Alfred said: “Only if you argue that the war in Central Asia is of vital importance to the US and its allies can you discuss the multi-dimensionality of the question of how to treat a stinking tyrant like Karimov”.

    Indeed, Alfred. Uzbekistan wasn’t merely a convenient staging post for the Iraq assault; it’s of major strategic importance for economic reasons. Karimov knows this, and thrives on playing the superpowers against each other.

  63. Uzbek in teh UK

    5 Nov, 2010 - 12:47 pm

    Uzbek in the UK: thank you. I’m not sure I see why Andijan proves a point about how to deal with dictators: the US may have left K2 (quite happily apparently) but they still have an embassy don’t they? And presumably, still some influence? While their support for Karimov in the years before doesn’t seem to have improved the situation either, on the contrary.

    Posted by: technicolour at November 3, 2010 10:49 PM

    _____________________________________

    Let me disagree with the point of US leaving K2 quite happily. It is true that US did not push karimov to reconsider his decision to kick them out of the K2, but on the other hand it left them with only one air base in Kyrgyzstan in the time when it was already being clear that the supply routes via Pakistan will be substantially more challenging than vie Central Asia.

    Yes, US and UK still have embassies in Uzbekistan and US still has some influence there. This is due to paranoiac fear of karimov to be very close to either Russia or China. He was drawn to Russian-Chinese circle of influence by the US and their position over the investigation of the Andijan tragedy. If only US backed down and accepted the official karimov’s version of the executions then I am convinced no request of leaving K2 would have taken place. The relations started cooling before the Andijan, but only after the Andijan and American demands of investigation relationship reached its lowest level since 1992.

    This is an example that karimov, and this can be also applied to other dictators in the region, would rather be drawn into the circle of influence with the enemies then allow someone to criticise his internal policy, or even more serious demand something that would question his status as the sole and the only leader of the nation. But as we see now, US is definitely is a search of more stable supply route to Afghanistan, and yet again, K2 and Uzbekistan are being viewed as the best possible areas where US could operate without facing those challenges that they are facing nowadays in Pakistan.

    It will be very important how US would behave with karimov now. Would they choose the same path as Bush’s administration or would their relationship be more like in the market, [we use your base and pay you X much and no other strings attached]. And whether such relationship would satisfy karimov who seems in a search of the possible ways to get rid of Russian-Chinese influence. Only time will show.

  64. Uzbek in the UK

    5 Nov, 2010 - 1:04 pm

    I question special relationships and would not want a entente frugale, i’d rather prefer a European peace and defence force. Why would one want to prise France away from Europe?

    Posted by: ingo at November 4, 2010 12:52 AM

    ________________________________________

    Wishing this one need to be realistic and understand that European defence force would not have any matching capability of NATO defence force dominated of course by the US. All this transatlantism was established for two main reasons: not to allow any further wars in Europe and to withstand Soviet threat. But with the collapse of the USSR it seems that the sole role of NATO have become to serve US global hegemonic policy. And this is where problem lays.

    On the other hand American defence during cold war is now being paid by the serving American interests in Iraq and Afghanistan. With regards to France we will live and see how it will work.

  65. Uzbek in the UK

    5 Nov, 2010 - 2:49 pm

    So I think the US misjudged Uzbekistan, the FCO misjudged Craig’s moral passion, and Craig misjudged the government’s willingness to abide by its own ethical foreign policy commitments. A nasty business, all round. Well deserving of the title “Dirty Diplomacy”.

    Posted by: nextus at November 3, 2010 5:38 PM

    _______________________________________

    Here I very much agree with you. One of the consequences of this is that FCO now very careful when sending Ambassador or any other key Embassy staff members to the states like Uzbekistan. The last 2 Envoys are clear evidence of this.

    Mr Murray was right when he stated that it was ‘no point of having cocktail party relationship with the fascist regime’. I am sure all the countries that have Embassies in Uzbekistan are aware of the horrible things that were/are happening there, but the difference was/is that their Envoys do not have same ‘moral passion’ that Mr Murray has.

    Overall, there will be very challenging years ahead for Central Asia. With conflict in Afghanistan entering insolvable phase, with growing influence of China and Iran’s nuclear ambitions, I am afraid there will be very much more ‘dirty diplomacy’ on its way.

  66. Torture isn’t rocket science. The results of the application of standard torture are easily discernible.

    you get the truth.

    you get lies.

    Someone who is willing to tell the truth won’t need to be tortured, the threat of torture will suffice.

    Someone who is more intractable will have to be tortured, but the chances of getting the truth out of such a person are slim. They will first tell a lie, or several, confusing the issue to the point that the torturers don’t know what is true and what is false.

    Basically, torture is a rather useless way of getting to the truth. It’s much easier to do your own homework.

    So why do the CIA/MI5-6/Mossad torture if not in the interest of truth? They torture mainly to extract false confessions from innocent (or mostly innocent) people about their involvement in “Islamic terrorism”. They then use they confessions/individuals as evidence for the existence of “Islamic terrorism” and justification for Imperial wars.

    Torture then is most useful for extracting lies from people and it is for this purpose that it has been mostly used throughout history.

  67. Earlier today I tried to post a detailed response to all the challenges to me in Craig’s post. Once again I got a message saying that it would have to be approved before it appeared. Last time this happened I believe my comment turned out to have been consigned to the spam folder.

    I hope it will turn up here soon. I wouldn’t want people to think that I had funked (or as everyone says now, ‘bottled’) the challenge.

    Brian

    http://www.barder.com/ephems/

  68. Brian Barder, hello. Perhaps you’d have more success posting here if you were to pretend to be a spambot handbag salesman.

    [Joke.]

    Ahem. Sorry for lowering the tone.

  69. dazed and confused

    5 Nov, 2010 - 5:45 pm

    Thankyou Nextus for the references.

    ‘Torture is illegal and abhorrent under any circumstances, and we have nothing whatsoever to do with it. If we know or believe action by us will lead to torture taking place, we’re required by UK and international law to avoid that action. And we do, even though that allows the terrorist activity to go ahead.’

    This is Sawers, quoted by Mr Crawford above.

    Gentlemen, may I direct you to some rather unpleasant video footage:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2010/nov/05/interrogation-techniques-iraq-inmates

    and an excellent accompanying article and blog:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/libertycentral/2010/nov/03/british-troops-use-torture

    from the Guardian today which confirms the point made by several writers here, namely that British soldiers are trained in interrogation techniques which certainly amount to torture when accompanied as they seemingly were in the instance filmed, with sleep and food deprivation plus violence, all for a suspect who was released without charge after seven months.

  70. “Indeed, Alfred. Uzbekistan wasn’t merely a convenient staging post for the Iraq assault; it’s of major strategic importance for economic reasons. Karimov knows this, and thrives on playing the superpowers against each other.”

    Nextus, are you saying that maintaining friendly relations with the tyrant of Uzbekistan is in Britain’s vital national interest? How can this be? Is it the cotton produced with child labor that is so vital? Or is it in Britain’s vital national interest to support the American drive for global hegemony? Please explain.

  71. “Earlier today I tried to post a detailed response to all the challenges to me in Craig’s post. Once again I got a message saying that it would have to be approved before it appeared. Last time this happened I believe my comment turned out to have been consigned to the spam folder. ”

    Brian, I am sure your comments will be of great interest to many people here, so I hope the glitch you have experienced is circumvented.

    The message you received is usually displayed if a comment contains more than one URL.

    In a previous post with which you had difficulty, I believe you had two references to http://www.barder.com. If that is the case with the new post, the solution would be to remove all but one URL, or submit the post in several sections, each with only a single URL.

    I look forward to reading your comments.

  72. dazed and confused

    5 Nov, 2010 - 6:09 pm

    Nextus, I have just been reading the Tacconi article you mention. It suggests that militant Islam has a major foothold in Uzbekistan. This is not the picture I had received from Craig’s book, which of course may now be out of date. I quote Tacconi:

    ‘In Uzbekistan the Islamist phenomenon is even stronger. The Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, that carried out a number of armed attacks ten years ago with the objective of reunifying the Uzbek people (this is why in the past members of this organisation attacked a number of villages with an Uzbek majority of inhabitants situated in Kirghiz territory), has now become far more prominent since it is capable of recruiting and demonstrating military strength. A number of its militiamen, ideologically close to the world of terrorism, have “served” with Al Qaeda, both in Iraq and in Afghanistan. Some have remained in these countries, but there are also some who returned home imparting guerrilla tactics learned in Baghdad and Kabul. They have resumed not only the objective suspended in the past, and hence the liberation of the Uzbek people, but have broadened their sphere of influence to the entire region with the aim of creating a great caliphate. If, as seems true, an increasing number of people in nearby Tajikistan are joining the Islamic Movement, then the idea really is taking hold.’

    Tacconi goes on to speculate on various unpleasant outcomes.

    I wonder if you buy this analysis Craig?

  73. Brian Barder,

    the trick to keeping your comment out of the spam trap is to include no more than two URLs in your comment, or to leave off the http:// bit at the start of quoted URLs.

  74. Uzbek in the UK

    5 Nov, 2010 - 6:57 pm

    Here I agree with Mr Murray. It is still a big question who was behind the atacks in Tashkent.

    Islamic militans’ treat is true but not as severe as some scholars (western schalrs) portray it. As longer karimov is in power and as longer people have no hope or any prospects as more serious this threat will grow.

    Torturing inocent people karimov wants the West, Russia, China and others to beleive that Uzbekistan is a hot spot of international terrorism and therefore such strong leader as karimov is requited to supress such threat.

  75. Yes, Uzbek in the UK, it’s the same everywhere in that region – the ‘Greater Middle East’ and Central Asia. These heinous regimes (or, in the case of Pakistan, the oligarchy of the military who now really control everything and who exist in a domineering toxic symbiosis with craven civilian elites) ‘justify’ themselves – their weapons, their swaggering oppresion and their Himalayan mountains of money – that way.

  76. Thanks for the tip, Clark. I have stripped out every h**p://. Here goes once again:

    [This comment was written a few days ago and sent to CM in case he had any comments on it before I posted it (it seems that he has no objection to it). That is why it takes no account of later comments on this post by others. I don’t know whether the hyperlinks will survive the transfer from Word. I’m unable to distinguish between the quotations from Craig’s post and my own responses to them, e.g. by indenting or italicising the former. So it may be rather confusing.]

    To reply adequately to the many misunderstandings and misrepresentations repeated in Craig Murray’s response to Charles Crawford’s and my criticisms of his post about the recent speech by Sir John Sawers, head of the secret Intelligence Service (MI6), it’s convenient to reproduce chunks of what Craig has written.

    CM: Sawers'[s] speech was a defence of torture thinly disguised as a condemnation of torture. … [Brian] claims that Sawers does not say that we receive intelligence from torture, or that Ministers have approved it. Brian is talking total rubbish. To quash these accusations of misrepresentation, this is an unedited extract from Sawers’ speech:

    “We also have a duty to do what we can to ensure that a partner service will respect human rights. That is not always straightforward. Yet if we hold back, and don’t pass that intelligence, out of concern that a suspect terrorist may be badly treated, innocent lives may be lost that we could have saved.

    These are not abstract questions for philosophy courses or searching editorials. They are real, constant, operational dilemmas.

    Sometimes there is no clear way forward. The more finely-balanced judgments have to be made by Ministers themselves.”

    There is no doubt that this means that we receive intelligence from torture by other security services, and that this is decided by Ministers. It can mean nothing else.

    BB: I’m afraid this is a complete misreading of what Sawers said. In the passage you quote, he is talking about the problem that the security services (and often ministers) face in deciding whether to pass to another country’s security authorities a piece of intelligence which may enable those authorities to take action that could save lives by acting on it, but which might well also involve suspects named in the intelligence in being maltreated (and even by implication tortured) as a direct result of our service handing over the original intelligence. I would have thought that you could recognise the moral dilemma inherent in this situation, which must arise quite often and to which there can be no single automatically acceptable solution. It has absolutely nothing to do with the UK receiving information which it believes may have been obtained through torture, and to claim that it implies confirmation that “we receive intelligence from torture by other security services, and that this is decided by Ministers” is seriously perverse. You should withdraw your assertion.

    CM: both Brian and Charles, like Sawers, are enthusiastic supporters of the argument that we ought to get intelligence from torture by others. As Brian says:

    “For the record, there is no legal, moral, ethical or practical ban on scrutinising information, and where appropriate acting on it, regardless of the way it has originally been obtained or is suspected to have been obtained.”

    BB: Another reckless misinterpretation. You seem not to recognise the distinction between (a) actively seeking “to get intelligence from torture by others” — you even claim that Sawers, Crawford and I argue that “we ought” to do this! — and (b) when confronted with intelligence that may originally have been got by torture, assessing its reliability, taking into account its provenance; examining it for information that might lead to the prevention of terrorist activity in the UK or elsewhere: in that case, commissioning a search for corroboration of it: and if it’s corroborated, acting to prevent that terrorist activity coming to fruition. In the case of intelligence originating with the Uzbek security services when you were ambassador to Uzbekistan, none of that intelligence was passed direct to the UK authorities by the Uzbeks: London would have received it only as a small part of the daily exchange of intelligence with the Americans and others. The Uzbeks would have had no way of knowing what if any part of the intelligence they had passed to the Americans was being passed on to London, still less what if any action the British security authorities had taken on it. The idea that by taking preventive action on such intelligence our security services were encouraging the Uzbeks to carry on torturing, or were in any way complicit in it, or were implicitly condoning it, is nonsense.

    The alternative that you seem to propose is equally absurd: that we should sift through the huge mass of intelligence material shared with us several times a day by all our intelligence partners — not just the Americans — in case any of it might appear to have been obtained by torture, coyly avert our eyes from any such information, and shred it unread, even if it might have included leads to the discovery of planning for terrorist or other criminal activity whose prevention might have saved innocent lives. Such callous behaviour could not even be defended as a kind of misguided moral purity, since there’s nothing either illegal or immoral about acting on information to save lives and prevent crime, regardless of the manner in which the information was originally obtained. Commissioning or even just implicitly condoning torture by others in order to obtain useful information is of course an entirely different matter; Sawers confirms that any such commissioning or condoning is formally forbidden and not practised. (That’s different from saying that it has never happened: but where the rule proclaimed by Sawers appears to have been breached, there’s an investigation and anyone guilty of a breach is held to account.)

    CM: But Brian completely fails to take account of the UK/US intelligence sharing agreement. Under this, MI6 and the CIA share all intelligence. … Waterboarding and other physical tortures are just one part of the American arsenal. Under extraordinary rendition, hundreds were knowingly delivered up to torture. … As Brian knows, MI6 will have received every US intelligence report received from all this activity.

    BB: On the contrary: far from my failing to take account of it, extensive intelligence sharing, not just with the CIA, is a central element in the scenarios we are discussing, as confirmed by what I have written above. Are you really suggesting that because we disapprove of some of the Americans’ past practices in extracting information we should have terminated the intelligence-sharing relationship with the US and refused either to pass to Washington or receive from Washington intelligence some of which might have enabled terrorist and other crimes to be pre-empted and lives saved? If you are, you can hardly be surprised that your recommendations were not accepted by your government.

    Breaking off the crucial intelligence partnership with Washington would hardly have been an effective way of influencing the Americans to give up the objectionable behaviour that you describe: and even if it was, that would have been a grave policy decision for ministers, not for the head of MI6.

    CM: But the fatal flaw in Brian’s – and Sawers'[s] argument is the frankly pathetic notion that, by regularly and gratefully receiving intelligence from dictatorships which they obtained by torture, we do not condone or encourage torture.

    BB: I have dealt with this above. You do not reinforce your argument by misrepresenting my position and then describing it as ‘frankly pathetic’.

    CM: Brian hides behind the “ticking bomb” argument that falsely posits that intelligence from torture is rare and relates to an instant and preventable threat. … John Sawers relies on the “ticking bomb” fallacy – the idea that torture happens to real terrorists and they give precise timely information to avert an imminent threat. That is a Hollywood scenario. There has never ever been a real life example that meets the ticking bomb cliche.

    BB: I have dealt with this in the following (edited) comment on the anonymous blog which you commend (www.septicisle.info/): ‘As to the “ticking bomb”, that refers to an imaginary situation where a suspect is believed to know how to prevent an imminent atrocity likely to kill many innocent people, where for example a bomb is timed to go off at a given time unless the secret code to stop it can be extracted from the suspect. Should we torture him to extract the information and thus save many lives, or should we let the innocents die rather than stoop to torture? This makes for good theatre or cinema, and for satisfying academic debate about the ethics of the alternative courses of action, but it’s extremely unlikely to arise in real life, and it’s certainly not the scenario discussed anywhere in Sawers’s speech.

    ‘The quite different situation that Sawers envisages is one where our security services have information, possibly or probably from tainted sources, which points to an identified group in a specified location who are said to be planning an act of terrorism, some time in the future, that could result in the deaths of innocent people. Sawers asserts, obviously correctly, that in such circumstances there is a clear duty to “act on it” — in other words, to check it out, to investigate the allegations, to ascertain whether they are independently corroborated, and in some cases to decide whether to pass it to another country’s security authorities. If the information is assessed as reliable and offers the possibilityof action to prevent a terrorist attack or other crime, the relevant authorities must clearly step in to prevent the execution of the plan and the deaths likely to result from it. Do you seriously argue that it would be a proper reaction in such circumstances to say: “This intelligence may have originated with people who are known to torture their opponents for information. It would be immoral for us even to read it — or, if we read it, to do anything about it. We will take no action, and if the information turns out to be true and innocent people die, so be it. We can’t then be accused of complicity in torture: our hands will be clean, which is all that matters”?

    Note too that this is a situation that occurs regularly and routinely in real life and has absolutely nothing to do with the implausible ticking bomb scenario.’

    CM: Torture does not get you the truth. It gets you what the torturer wants to hear. People will say anything, as their arm is held in boiling liquid, to make the pain stop. The regimes who do this do not hold truth as a high priority.

    The torture material regularly received by the UK government is from countries where the vast, overwhelming majority of the people tortured are not terrorists at all but merely dissidents from abhorrent regimes. I speak from first hand knowledge.”

    BB: To quote my comment on the septicisle blog again:

    “As I have pointed out long ago elsewhere, Craig Murray was and is in no position to assess the reliability (or lack of it) of such intelligence from Uzbek sources about the terrorist threat to the UK or elsewhere as may have been passed on privately to London by the Americans or others while he was ambassador to Uzbekistan, because in the great majority of cases he would not have seen it. (It would have been circulated on a ‘need to know’ basis, and the ambassador in Tashkent had no need to know about intelligence bearing on security in the UK unless in rare cases it also had a bearing on UK-Uzbek relations.)

    “Craig made clear to London many times his passionately held view that (a) we ought not to receive such intelligence from the Americans, and that (b) if we did receive it, we should dismiss it as invariably unreliable. That advice will undoubtedly have been given the weight it deserved by those in London responsible for assessing intelligence in the light of all factors, including Craig’s advice — along with that of many others more expert than him.”

    You are not the first person to assert that all information obtained by torture is by definition worthless because anyone being tortured will say anything to stop being tortured. This ignores the ample evidence of (e.g.) resistance fighters in occupied Europe, captured and tortured by the Gestapo, revealing accurate details of their resistance comrades’ names, whereabouts and clandestine activities — revealing what the Gestapo wanted to know in order to end the torture. Some people, mainly women, are able to withstand torture without giving away the information sought by their torturers: others, mainly men, break, and reveal all. Of course those responsible for assessing the authenticity and reliability of information that has been or might have been obtained by undue pressure or actual torture will treat it with appropriate scepticism, and stress the special need for independent corroboration before any action is taken on it. But to say that all information got by torture is ipso facto worthless is, sadly, nonsense.

    CM: I am genuinely very saddened to see Brian joining in the smears against me with this:

    ‘The author of this scurrilous piece is in some danger of being taken seriously, being (as he constantly reminds us all) a former British ambassador to Uzbekistan who has achieved a certain fame through having insisted, I believe wrongly, that he was sacked from the Diplomatic Service for criticising the practice of torture by the Uzbek authorities and for having repeatedly denounced his own government for receiving, and sometimes acting on, information from the Americans but originating with the Uzbeks, some of which may well have been obtained by torture. He certainly did both these things, with characteristic gusto, but he was eased out of the Diplomatic Service ?” to put it politely ?” for other reasons.’

    Forget politeness Brian. I have no doubt you have been fed poison from some FCO related source. The best thing with poison is to spew it up.

    BB: No, Craig, I have been fed neither poison nor anything else by any “FCO related source”. The evidence for the real causes of your involuntary departure from diplomacy is all there in your own Murder in Samarkand. It’s to your credit, in a way, that you are so appallingly candid about yourself: not just about the drinking and the womanising and the behaviour towards your first wife and your and her children — the FCO has generally been commendably tolerant in its attitude to such matters, about which you are by no means the first British head of a diplomatic mission to have dramatically over-stepped all the marks. But there is also the matter of your behaviour in Uzbekistan towards local officials, your public espousal of the causes of local victims of torture and repression and your dramatic attempts to secure justice for them by asserting authority and rights in your capacity as Britain’s ambassador that no accredited diplomat can possibly possess, however noble his motives. International diplomacy would become impossible if every accredited ambassador promoted his private conscience above his country’s interests, the internationally accepted limitations on the role of diplomats serving in foreign countries, and the instructions of his government (in your case, your instructions from ministers who, unlike you, had been democratically elected and thereby given the right to have their policies loyally carried out by their public servants, including ambassadors). No self-respecting country, however good its human rights record, would accept the appointment of a foreign ambassador who took it upon himself to act as an avenging angel representing not his government but the conscience of mankind, commissioned to right local wrongs and expose the guilty, whatever the consequences. That’s of course admirable, but it’s not what diplomats are for. If that’s what you felt compelled by your conscience to do, you should have been a freelance journalist, or the field director of some human rights ngo, or a priest — almost anything but a diplomat, and least of all an ambassador.

    I don’t think your case was cleverly or sensitively or even fairly handled by the FCO. But you really ought to stop asserting that you were sacked because of your speeches condemning human rights abuses in Uzbekistan (when your most controversial such speech had been cleared in advance by the FCO, and was later quoted with approval in parliament and the FCO’s annual report on human rights), or because you persistently proclaimed in your communications with London the supposed illegality of the UK’s practice of receiving and sometimes acting on information got by torture (when your complaints on that score were investigated more thoroughly than you had any right to expect, and when you had been formally notified that your interpretation of international law on the subject was without foundation). It was not your opinion on the matter that helped to cause your later downfall, but your apparent inability to accept the considered ruling on the subject by the government that employed you, which can only have contributed to the eventual (and apparently reluctant) decision in London that you were in the wrong job.

    This is sad, because your many talents, your energy and your exceptionally engaging personal qualities would have been a great asset to British diplomacy, as indeed they were for many years, until the challenges of an ambassador’s role, the requirement to subordinate your personal views and actions to the policies and instructions of the elected government which you represented, and the discipline and restraints that the role requires, all proved too much for you.

    I had no wish to spell all this out semi-publicly, in the harsh white light of the blogosphere, but since you accused me of ‘smearing’ you and challenged me to substantiate what I had previously written more reticently, I don’t have a choice.

    Let me make it clear once again that I applaud your quixotic moral passion, your energy and your often displayed moral and physical courage; I recognise you as a good person. I just wish you could restrain your urge to misrepresent and vilify those whom you see as the personification of wickedness in public life, however virtuous the causes that you try to serve. That is to put your prejudices above the obligation to be fair and truthful, which is unacceptable.

    As a footnote, let me remind you of a much earlier statement of my reservations about many of the crusades that you have been leading with such vigour (and with such an enthusiastic if often misguided following) for so many years. Written in January 2006, it’s still available on my blog at http://www.barder.com/422. I get no pleasure from having to go over so much of the same, often tedious ground once again here. But even Britain’s Top Spook is entitled to a fair-minded hearing.

    Brian

    2 November 2010

    http://www.barder.com/ephems/

  77. Brian Barder, thanks for your (if I may say) characteristically well-argued statement. As a simplistic person with no knowledge of such matters, I feel I need to ask you one question, somewhat unrelated to the topic, I’m afraid, and my apologies for this. I very much enjoy reading your superb blog.

    Do agencies of the UK state have any dealings or connections whatsoever (whether through third parties or whatever) in initiating, suggesting, organising, planning, outsourcing or committing ‘wet jobs’?

    I recall that John le Carre, in a recent interview, admitted that the SIS had been involved in such matters. I know that that was during the Cold War, but I am old enough to remember that during the Cold War, not only was the existence of the SIS “neither confirmed nor denied”, but assassination was meant to be something in which only the ‘other side’ engaged.

    So, if it was occuring then, is it occuring now? And if not, why not, when the threats against us are supposed to be gangantuan?

    Forgive my ignorance and naivety, both of which are oceanic.

    Thank you for your time.

  78. Suhayl Saadi, thank you for your kind remarks. I’m afraid that I can only say, in answer to your question, that I simply don’t know. The intelligence and security services certainly state categorically that they don’t do assassinations, but I can already hear some of the aficionados of this blog saying caustically, “Well, they would, wouldn’t they?”

    The only evidence one way or the other that I can think of is that (a) if they have in fact carried out assassinations in relatively recent years, it is surprising that such a sensational fact hasn’t leaked in any of the memoirs or accusatory blogs and websites, anyway to the best of my knowledge; and (b) in my very limited experience these services have been conscientious about getting political cover beforehand for their more adventurous or controversial activities, and I am 99.9 percent sure that political approval for assassination would never be forthcoming. I have no doubt that regular readers of Craig’s blog will think me hopelessly naive in holding this view, but then conspiracy theorists always think other people naive and we just have to endure it as best we may.

  79. Brian,

    You say that in his remarks about the passage of intelligence, John Sawyers meant that Britain passes intelligence to other countries, notwhithstanding that this may result in the torture of a suspect — a possibility that could include, presumably, a suspect being boiled alive in an Uzbek torture chamber. Your interpretation seems convincing, entirely consistent with Britain’s participation in a military alliance with a nation that has routinely engaged in the practice of kidnap and rendition, and rather more shocking than Craig’s assumption that SIS receives intelligence from torture, which of course they may do, although John Sawyers did not say that they do.

    Your comments on Craig’s personal behaviour in Uzbekistan seems gratuitous, since any personal idiosyncracies, however unbecoming to an ambassador, would surely have been overlooked had he served, in the diplomatic sphere, as a reliable agent of the British Government.

    The fact that, as you describe it, Craig publicly espoused “the causes of local victims of torture and repression” and made “dramatic attempts to secure justice for them by asserting authority and rights in [his] capacity as Britain’s ambassador that no accredited diplomat can possibly possess” seems rather splendid, although, as you point out, obviously a firing matter.

    The larger issue that this discussion raises is whether engagement with Central Asian tyrants in the drive for western global military hegemony is truly in Britain’s vital national interest. If it is not, then Craig’s politically motivated diplomatic insubordination constituted an honorable way of ending a career in what proved to be the service of a dishonorable cause. That Craig is perhaps a less than perfect human being and that he has expressed a marked antipathy, and perhaps a degree of unfair prejudice, toward people like Jack Straw and Tony Blair who lied Britain into war seems, under the circumstances, entirely understandable.

  80. Thank you, Brian (if I may) for replying to my query. Much appreciated.

    ‘Cheap Handbags': It is my pleasure. Keep on reading and you may find that you are able to acquire a deluxe inner lining! Incidentally, if you are a kind of on-line spambot-generating department store, how about selling some really interesting things like, say, a spaceship to Mars, a fire-hose or even some books? May I suggest a really good book, or two…?

  81. Alfred: I object to your description of my comments on the reasons for Craig’s dismissal from the diplomatic service as “gratuitous”. I was explicitly challenged, publicly, by Craig to forget politeness and to set out my reasons for believing that he consistently misrepresents the real reasons for his downfall. I responded to that challenge in the only way possible. I did Craig the courtesy of sending him beforehand what I was going to say so that he could object if he wished, but I received no reply. I wrote what I did in the most careful terms I could devise. Uncomfortable truths, when explicitly demanded, are not properly described as gratuitous. Craig constantly accuses the government that dismissed him of having done so for disreputable and illegitimate reasons: it’s not ‘gratuitous’ for someone occasionally to point out, as courteously as possible, that the truth is manifestly otherwise.

    I also reject your description of loyally representing one’s country and its democratically elected government in difficult and unpleasant places as “a dishonourable cause”. Elected ministers are entitled to the best efforts of their public servants, including diplomats, to observe and promote their policies, whether they agree with them or not. Provided that those policies don’t require illegal or immoral behaviour by those public servants, their job is to respect and advance them, not to substitute their own political opinions for those of the government that employs them. Acting on intelligence to save lives, even if the intelligence has arrived by a circuitous route from disreputable sources, is neither dishonourable nor illegal, whatever you or Craig might believe. *Failure* to act in those circumstances, with the possible consequence of innocent lives being unnecessarily lost, as you seem to advocate, would truly be scandalous and immoral.

  82. Brian Barder,

    you state that Craig Murray was sacked for exceeding his authority as an ambassador. Please explain why he faced the disciplinary charges that he did, rather than ones that would have been appropriate to such misconduct.

  83. Clark: As ministers sometimes say, that’s not a question for me. You’d have to ask the Foreign & Commonwealth Office why they acted as they did. As I said in my earlier comment, I don’t think they handled the matter sensibly or well.

  84. Brian, you say “I object to your description of my comments on the reasons for Craig’s dismissal from the diplomatic service as “gratuitous”.”

    The merit of your objection seems open to debate. Based on my admittedly slight knowledge of the case, nothing you have said pursuades me that Craig’s “womanising” and behaviour towards his wife would have much affected his career, provided that he had adhered to ministerial direction in his conduct as a diplomat. For that reason, bringing up these personal issues does not seem to me to be, let us say, called for by the circumstances.

    You say, “Elected ministers are entitled to the best efforts of their public servants, including diplomats, to observe and promote their policies, whether they agree with them or not. Provided that those policies don’t require illegal or immoral behaviour by those public servants…”

    Absolutely, but then trafficking in intelligence with the Uzbec authorities is something that many people might judge to be a highly immoral activity. When such transactions are undertaken in pursuit of what, according to the Nuremberg standard, is arguably a criminal war of agression, there is plenty of room for moral objection to the directions given of elected ministers.

    In such cases, when it comes to the crunch, the elected ministers are going to come out on top. But that hardly settles the moral and political issues raised.

  85. I object to being told that Craig Murray has not worked to his best abillity for ministers.

    Ministers are hopefully not entitled to ask/demand that servants of HMG accept habitual torture of civilians in third countries and evidence from them, a ludicrous demand

    To not rely on torture is in the publics long term interest, surely, it has to be the publics future relations that count, not that of a Government with an arguably low understanding of etics and fair play, otherwise they would not have played the WMD/45 minute lying game.

    To say that information derived from torture has a value or has ever saved anybody, is not only negating one’s diplomatic abilities, it also legitamises others to do the same.

    Please spare me the whimsy, which calamities have been prevented?

    First and foremost, each and every one of us here is responsible for their own personal health and safety.

    Now when faced with armed incidents, madmen or terrorists, it is not a good idea to keep the public in the dark, because thats when you get carnage.

    For the same reason human rights apply to all of us, human wrongs should equally be despised by all, but it is not, thats the only point I acknowledge.

    To accept information on a possible event from the torture chamber, even if its origin is unknown to us, in effect a very dodgy position to be in with one’s responsible ally and special partner, is only of value if this tallies with some other information from a different source, ideally.

    I have experienced many occaisins were public servants were guilty of the crimes committed in front of them, even when they were looking away, its called guilt by association, no wriggly words can get us out of it.

    We tortured in Iraq and we have doen it in Afghanistan and when I say we, I mean all allies, in it together.

    I feel that NATO’s mis judged policies in Afghanistan has signalled the end of this cold war pact, its time that they disengage from this torture scene and leaves those misguided nations to themselves.

  86. Uzbek in the UK

    6 Nov, 2010 - 9:18 pm

    I feel that NATO’s mis judged policies in Afghanistan has signalled the end of this cold war pact, its time that they disengage from this torture scene and leaves those misguided nations to themselves.

    Posted by: Ingo at November 6, 2010 6:18 PM

    Here I disagree with you. Leaving Afghanistan in present conditiosn will be another big mistake. It has been left on its own for over 13 years, but all this time civil war lasted there with many people fallen victims of it. It is no better now I agree. But simply pulling out and leaving Afgnanistan to Karzia would mean the same mistake as when Russians left it to Najibullah.

    West need to invest billions of money in Afghanistan, provide people thete with jobs, build schools and hospitals, colleges, invest havilly in agricalture and then they can leave without fear that Afghanistan will one again require their attention.

    But this is not being understood. Afghanistan unfortunatley, is considered as a geopolitical military component of the US hegemonic power and not as a state that need urget investment for improvment of social and economic consitions of the population.

  87. “West need to invest billions of money in Afghanistan, provide people thete with jobs”

    It’s more than our pathetic elite can do to invest billions to provide jobs for people back home. They’re taking their capital abroad and sending the jobs after it — to the plantations of Asia. Unfortunately for the Afghans, they don’t have a good reputation for docility, so the jobs will be going elsewhere.

    “But simply pulling out and leaving Afgnanistan to Karzia would mean the same mistake as when Russians left it to Najibullah.”

    Well, isn’t that why we’re in Afghanistan? To keep Karzai safe and sound while his associates run the drug trade.

  88. technicolour

    7 Nov, 2010 - 12:05 am

    Alfred, ingo, thanks: the same thoughts had occurred to me, though I wouldn’t have put it so well.

  89. Brian Barder,

    how is it that the REASON Craig was sacked IS a question that you can answer, but HOW he was sacked is not?

  90. Thank you, Brian, for such a lucid defence of your position.

    Ours is not to reason why, eh? The responsibilities of the ambassadorial post dictate that one must put one’s moral qualms aside and leave the ethical deliberations to the organ-grinders. How very noble (and authoritarian) of you.

    An ambassador who is willing to acquiesce his personal morality certainly reaps rich rewards … such as a sumptuous lifestyle, lofty social status, a comfortable pension, and (if you’ve been an especially good boy) maybe even a knighthood. Hurrah!

    You say “International diplomacy would become impossible if every accredited ambassador promoted his private conscience above his country’s interests, the internationally accepted limitations on the role of diplomats serving in foreign countries, and the instructions of his government … ”

    “His private conscience”?? Since when did an abhorrence of torture become a purely private matter? Avoidance of torture is an international obligation to which the government, the forces of state and the civil services are explicitly committed. Craig was urging the FCO to recognise its own moral responsibilities, not to impose his own idiosyncrasies.

    Article 2 of the UN Convention Against Torture states “No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat or war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture.” But you seem to be arguing that it’s vital to accept the information thus obtained because it may be operationally useful to foil terrorist plots; perhaps you should ask the UN committee to reconsider its declaration.

    I see your argument about the potential value of information extracted under torture is hypothetical. Craig was protesting about torture practices which are actual. In Uzbekistan, thousands of citizens who irritate the regime are removed from society and subjected to inhumane interrogation to force them to confess to fictions in order to justify their detainment and ill treatment. When you argue for the value of torture as interrogation technique, you’re not talking about them, are you? Craig was. They have to be factored in somehow. Your counter-arguments are based on a set of hypothetical cases that are more congruent with your pre-determined conclusion.

    The kind of authoritarian deference you advocate is a huge problem for humanity. When social injustices are committed by large institutions, it is rare to find a devil at the helm. Responsibility is usually shared amongst a contingent of bureaucratic pragmatists who each insist that they are only doing their jobs while dutifully promoting the interests of the institution. The problem is that the institution is not a person and it has no intrinsic morality. Under this system, if employees subjugate their moral integrity to other institutional objectives, they become “Little Eichmanns” and the overall organisation manifests the (a)morality of a psychopath (see the 2003 documentary film ‘The Corporation’ for a justification of this evocative metaphor).

    Institutions are implicitly dependent on the philanthropy of their employees and directors. An employee has a duty to prevent the institution going off-course; unfortunately people with an authoritarian mindset neglected this aspect of the role. In recent decades, the concept of Corporate Social Responsibility has arisen to counteract the systematic ethical abuses by large corporations. It embodies an acknowledgement that bureaucrats tend to be acquiescent, so the ethical considerations must be specified at the corporate decision-making level and communicated as strategic directives throughout the workforce.

    Who determines the morals of the FCO? The electorate? But, as you know the acceptance of intelligence sourced from the inhumane treatment of terror suspects was kept secret from the electorate. Secrecy can sometimes be used to cover up moral deviations. It’s up to our ambassadors and other public officials to ensure the foreign office respects its moral responsibilities in these areas.

  91. Of course Craig Murray is not the only ambassador to exercise his plenipotentiary powers by speaking out against undemocratic regimes.

    The British ambassador to Burma, Andrew Heyn, has sharply criticised the widespread election-rigging thus: “It seems that even the pretence of independence has been abandoned.”

    And Edward Clay lambasted the grafting in Kenya: “… evidently the practitioners now in government have the arrogance, greed and perhaps a sense of panic to lead them to eat like gluttons. They may expect we shall not see, or will forgive them, a bit of gluttony because they profess to like Oxfam lunches. But they can hardly expect us not to care when their gluttony causes them to vomit all over our shoes…”

    (Thanks to Charles Crawford for pointing these out. There is a good commentary on his blog ?” accompanied by the Monty Python fish-slapping sketch!)

  92. Nextus: And Craig Murray’s speech lambasting the human rights record of the Uzbek regime was likewise approved in advance by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and quoted with approval in the FCO’s annual published report on human rights world-wide, as well as being quoted, also with approval, in the house of commons by the then foreign and commonwealth secretary. That speech was not the problem. Our diplomats abroad often speak publicly and critically about the actions and policies of their host governments, with the authority and approval of ministers or their officials in London.

  93. technicolour

    7 Nov, 2010 - 10:10 pm

    So: a UK ambassador was not fitted up with 17 false charges because of his ‘womanising’ (for which in this case read ‘falling in love with a person he married); nor because of his ‘speeches on human rights’ (which were approved by the FCO, and credit to them). Nor indeed because of his ‘relationships with Uzbek officials'; or British interests would surely have suffered. It seems he was attacked and traduced, in Brian Barder’s words, because of “his apparent inability to accept the considered ruling on the subject by the government”.

    Well, yes. Surely this needs to faced.

  94. technicolour

    7 Nov, 2010 - 10:20 pm

    and, incidentally, why these smears should be recycled by at all. Being a diplomat is admittedly a schizophrenic role: on the one hand the FCO endures, while governments come and go; on the other, diplomats have to do what they are told by the government. It surprises me that diplomats do not have some kind of contingency plan for action under a government which is manifestly acting both illegally and immorally, and instructing them to do likewise. Ex-diplomats are surely at liberty to speculate about this, rather than to attempt retrospective or even current justification for the government actions. One could argue they have a duty to do so for the sake of the people still in the service.

  95. British Troops Accused of Abusing Iraqi Detainees

    By JOHN F. BURNS

    NY Times: November 5, 2010

    “LONDON ?” A lawyer for 200 Iraqis demanding a public inquiry into what they have described as brutal mistreatment by British soldiers in a secret detention center near Basra told the High Court in London on Friday that the abuse amounted to “Britain’s Abu Ghraib…

    “Accusations against British interrogators have also included mock executions; prolonged solitary confinement, often in cramped spaces, without heating in the bitter cold of winter or cooling in the 125-degree heat of the Iraqi summer; threats of rape of the detainees’ female relatives; simulated drowning; dog attacks; forced masturbation and other sexual acts; soldiers urinating on detainees, or giving the detainees urine to drink; rifle-butting, kicks, punches and prolonged shouting. …

    “At least nine detainees are said to have died as a result of their mistreatment. …”

    Link provided on another thread by “somebody”

    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/06/world/europe/06britain.html?_r=2&ref=john_f_burns

    It’s not hard to see why Craig was out of step with British Government policy on turture during his service in Tashkent.

    The emphasis placed by some on his personal conduct as a factor in his dismissal from the foreign service seems best understood as a distraction from the embarrassing fact that he was fired for failure to accept the Eichmann rule of public service; namely, to follow meticulously all orders, however morally contemptible, without question.

  96. Uzbek, two points you raised

    first further up you said that the cold war has presented NATo into the hands, largely, of the US.

    I would describe it as an international clearing house, a test range for the use of new weapons in real theatre’s of war.

    Every NATO engagement saw one or other new fangled bit of kit being tried out, it is an advertising tool for weapons manufacturers in the Atlantic alliance.

    NATO was conceived as a bollwerk againbst the rise of the Warsaw pact, it led us for decades of paranoia and tit for tat events and it should have long demised and make way for a European peace and defense force, assets can be shifted, so can the contributions we make to NATO.

    But this is off the radar unfder this Government which has better relations to America than it has with any of its historic european neighbours.

    Afghanistan’s problems cannot be solved by wars, it needs peacefull development efforts, multilateral action to help it find a way out.

    It does not help if NATO partners supply Karzais Government with precursor chems for their heroin labs. I does not forbode well when NATO partners get a bad name for the disgusting abuses of human rights by their partners in crime, this cannot lead to any positive resolution of Afghanistrans inmherent problems.

    You seem to have forgotten that Karzai is our puppet, that he was installed by us and that he has made sure that his family and closest partners, such as that Mazari butcher Dostum, got their interests served first, his corrupt cabinet has done damage to Afghnaistan and our societies with their drug dealing, the Taliban in this context and effort, in comparrisson, is puny, some 4% I believe.

    Nothing will be gained if Afghanistan is subsumed by war for another ten years. Pakistan is equally being destablisised by multiple agencies, not just the US. The most important concern are those nuclear weapons that lie disassembled in various parts of Pakistan, one cannot feel sure that these are save in a destabilised country.

    Our engagement in Afghanistan has destabilised the whole region, Kashmir will not come off the agenda anymore, all parts want a solutionb to the age old divisions, India and Pakistan need to come closer to each other and war does not make for a relaxed talking partner.

    Until Karzai leaves and is replaced with a person that respects minority Hazara’s, a person without a Pashtun or Tajik background, choosen in a traditional loija Jirga, nothing will ever change.

    Our war agenda does not make for peacefull development, even if we want it, because those opposing forces find it easy to interfere with our school building and civilan reconstruction. Unless we can get them to understand that we need their manual labour to help us do it, without arms present on either side, nothing will succed.

    I cannot justify anybody dying in sucha scenario, where the perpetuation of instability is seemingly more important than the democratic rights underpinning our efforts. When money is spent like water to buy favours, instead of visison shaped and planned, together with all involved, then I can’t see an end to the hostilities and perpetuation of grief. Lets get out of there and take Karzai with us,(:-) off course.

  97. A diplomat who can’t reconcile his conscience with his instructions from his government, or his government’s policies on a specific issue, or the limitations on his freedom of action inherent in his role as a diplomat, has to accept the logic of his situation and resign from the diplomatic service. To continue to receive his salary as a diplomat and to continue to carry out his other diplomatic duties while at the same time acting in ways that are plainly incompatible with a diplomat’s role is indefensible.

    I was extremely fortunate in my timing: the Suez criminal conspiracy took place just before I joined the public service, and the aggressions over Kosovo and Iraq just after I retired from it. As a civil servant and then a diplomat I often expounded the reasons and justifications for government policies with which I privately disagreed, but never knowingly lied about them and never thought them immoral or wicked, so I never had to agonise over whether I would have to resign rather than continuing to do what I could to promote the policies of my elected government, regardless of my personal views. A lawyer has a duty to make the best case he can for his client, whatever he privately thinks of it, so long as it doesn’t require him to lie. If it does, he stands down from the case. A diplomat’s job and responsibility vis-a-vis his government is similar. Diplomacy is an essential feature of relations between countries and of helping them not to deteriorate into violence, and like any such activity, occupation or profession, it has rules. Those who can’t accept the rules should move into another job whose rules they can respect.

    Several comments on what I have written here have misread what I said about Craig’s personal behaviour, as vividly described in his book (and thus a legitimate subject for discussion without incurring the accusation of ‘smear’). I said that since the FCO has generally been remarkably tolerant of such matters, this could not have been the sole reason for Craig’s downfall. But that it would have been *one* of the reasons for it seems to me pretty obvious. Craig has repeatedly given his own account of why he was eventually sacked from his post in Uzbekistan and had to leave the diplomatic service, and if that account, on the available evidence, is misleading or even just mistaken, it must be legitimate to question it, especially when publicly challenged to give details of one’s basis for doing so.

    Those who feel free to accuse others of ‘smearing’ should be a little more careful about doing the same thing themselves. A smidgin of civility goes a long way, even in the bear-pit of the blogosphere.

    Several of the comments above assume what they set out to prove — literally ‘begging the question’. For example, they take it as read that acting to prevent crime and perhaps thereby to save lives on the basis of information that may originally have been obtained by torture is always and in all circumstances wrong and immoral as well as illegal; and then go on to denounce as evil all those who regard that opinion as perverse and wrong-headed. The FCO went to remarkable lengths to explain to Craig why his view on that issue was mistaken, not necessarily to persuade him to change his mind about it but to help him to understand that it was the considered view of his government that in some circumstances acting on tainted-source information was right, necessary and perfectly legal. Craig however persisted in claiming precedence for his own opinion on the matter over that of the government that employed him. I have never suggested that this was the sole reason for his subsequent downfall, as at least one of the preceding comments wrongly asserts. But it was very obviously one of them.

    Other comments here on my remarks also rely on misinterpreting and then re-defining my position so as to attack it, a familiar and disreputable tactic. The answers to such demolitions of arguments I have not advanced are to be found in my original comment, and don’t need to be repeated here.

  98. Uzbek in the UK

    8 Nov, 2010 - 1:11 pm

    Ingo,

    Do you really think that European Defence in any way could replace NATO dominated by the US? What about current European impotence to respond to Russian energetic blackmailing or to Russian involvement to the issues in Ukraine? Do not you think that American disengagement from Europe will lead to a serious decline of Europe as a centre of power? And also even shifting assets I think it will be very hard to compensate American power projection, how many more billions will need to be spent on the Navy, Air force etc. This is harsh reality of the modern world where no but military power is respected.

    I want to sound pacifistic and say that billions of spending for the military is not worth the value we get, but current world is very uncertain and military capability will be required to defend (if not territory) but the point Europe is making.

    On the other hand of course, US will not let Europe to shift from it. This is not only because of the geopolitics. Yes, NATO was established because of European inability to defend itself from Soviets possible aggression, but this also allowed US to establish frontline in the Cold War. Meanwhile European and US economies grew and mixed up, so nowadays it is hard to find a big multinational European company without American capital and vice versa. So defending European interests is also defending American interests and vice versa. And this is particularly true for the UK and thus such close so called ‘special relationship’ between UK and US. UK also to some extend benefits from being a bridge between US and European states. This of course has its own disadvantages for UK when supporting US policy UK at the same time ignoring European agenda and in some European eyes serves as ‘fifth column’ of the US in the continent.

    All above is when I think about real state of the current affairs. But ideally of course I support NATO’s disbandment and increase of the UN’s influence. But considering that in core of the UN only 5 states have privileged status and 2 of these 5 states have no respect to the democracies and Human Rights I see no bright prospects for the UN either.

    Concluding I can say that we do not like US policy and their world order, but we have no other vision of any other order without dominance of the US. Few year from now I think that China will start challenging US more openly and my fear is that we will receive quite troubling pictures from Eurasia.

  99. Uzbek in the UK

    8 Nov, 2010 - 3:13 pm

    Ingo,

    Now Afghanistan. Yes, I totally agree with you that by war nothing can be achieved and peaceful reconstructions is absolutely necessary. However; when talking about Afghanistan I think 2 following point at least should be taken into consideration.

    1. Afghanistan was established as a buffer state between two great power of that time. It has served as such ever since. Soviet intervention was an attempt to break this status and in fact has broken Afghanistan as a state and as a functioning society. Of course there were tensions between Pashtuns and ethnic minorities as well as within Pashtun tribes before intervention, but those tensions were nothing comparing them with those after 1979.

    2. The last 30 years Afghanistan is at war with itself. Considering life expectancy in Afghanistan and without careful consideration I can presume that at least half of the population was born to the society torn by civil war.

    Thus, any attempt to decide on peace building in Afghanistan should consider these 2 point very carefully. As the result of 1st point Afghanistan as the state was not formed within its natural borders. Yes, Pushtuns are majority in Afghanistan but they themselves are still divided by the Line drawn over 100 years ago. And additional to this we have Uzbeks, Tadjiks, Hazars, Turkmens. 3 out of 4 of these ethnic groups have their own national states but why are they Afghanis? In establishing border of Afghanistan itself this very ethnic tension has been seeded. Thus, it happened that of all these irresponsible border-drawn states Afghanistan was brought to the world map by its proximity to the new Great Game in 1979.

    As the result of 2nd point Afghanistan does not have single functioning society. It does not have society at all for the last 30 years. There was not any central government for the last 30 years. Tribe leaders and warlords are the only authority for most of the population. It will be very uneasy to bring peace to such society.

    My fear is that in order to establish peace in Afghanistan it should be broken up. Being realistic I see no ways of how minorities will be able to coexist with Pushtuns. Tell me how it is possible to find a leader that is not Pushtun or Tadjik but at the same time is respected by all Afghanis and more importantly has influence over all tribes? Where is a guarantee that when NATO leaves Pushtuns will not range a war over minorities or vice versa? How withdrawal of NATO forces guarantees the peace building in Afghanistan? Yes, I agree that killing Afghanis does not help peace building and that more attention should be paid to the peace building and not to the military operations, but withdrawal of NATO forces will in my opinion leave Afghanistan solely in the power of warlords as it has been a case from 1989 till 2001. I also agree that NATO does not control whole Afghanistan territory but at least it provides security to some places and by extending investment into agriculture, road building, education and medical services something can be achieved.

    One need to understand that bringing a peace to a place torn by the 30 years long civil war will be very enormous task that will take decades. But simply ignoring Afghanistan again will not help. Majority of Afghanis are peaceful and if provided with basic satisfactoriness such as land or job, education and security will not take Kalashnikov in their hands any longer.

  100. Uzbek in the UK

    8 Nov, 2010 - 3:31 pm

    I was extremely fortunate in my timing: the Suez criminal conspiracy took place just before I joined the public service, and the aggressions over Kosovo and Iraq just after I retired from it.

    Posted by: Brian Barder at November 8, 2010 10:47 AM

    _______________________________________

    Have not there been any kind of ‘dirty diplomacy’ in between this timeframe? It hard to believe that in the height of Cold War with UK being American most reliable ally there have not been any kind of ‘dirty diplomacy’ we are witnessing nowadays? What about Uganda, Indonesia, Nigeria, Zaire, Iran etc? It is hard to believe that British diplomacy was not involved in any of these dictatorship support?

  101. “Have not there been any kind of ‘dirty diplomacy’ in between this timeframe? It hard to believe that in the height of Cold War with UK being American most reliable ally there have not been any kind of ‘dirty diplomacy’ we are witnessing nowadays?”

    The British may have been reliable US allies during the cold war but they were not always poodles. During America’s Vietnam inperialist adventure Britain, under old Labour — a party, however misguided, of both intellect and integrity, stayed firmly out of the conflict.

  102. Brian Barder’s lengthy comments seem to reduce to the following propositions.

    (1) An ambassador must always follow instructions, unless they are illegal or immoral

    (2) An ambassador receiving instructions that he considers illegal or immoral must resign

    (3) Ambassador Murray received instructions he considered illegal or immoral

    (4) Ambassador Murray should therefore have resigned

    (5) Ambassador Murray refused to resign

    (6) Ambassador Murray was, therefore, quite properly fired

    (7) And by the way, Ambassador Murray’s personal conduct was disgraceful.

    Brian Barder may not agree to this summary, but if not, I shall be glad if he will give his own more concise account of the argument.

    If the above account is approximately correct, one may infer that Craig Murray did not accept Proposition 2. If so, I support him. If an ambassador resigns rather than follow what he considers to be immoral or illegal instructions, the cause of his resignation may forever remain unknown to the public. However, if an ambassador is fired for refusing immoral or illegal instructions, he will inevitably get the sack, but the Minister responsible will get the odium. Isn’t that how it should be?

  103. ‘Alfred': You really ought to resist the temptation to re-state other contributors’ views in different and tendentious language, and then challenge them to repudiate or amend it. If you are interested in knowing what I think, please re-read what I have written, not what you or others think I ought to have written or what they think I really meant.

    ‘Uzbek': As to whether the UK was ‘involved with’ and thereby ‘supported’ dictators between Suez in 1956 and Kosovo in 1999, that depends on what you regard as ‘support’. If you interpret as ‘support’ maintaining diplomatic relations with undemocratic countries, encouraging good or less bad international behaviour by engagement rather than boycott, giving development aid focused on the relief of poverty in those countries, and maintaining the courtesies essential to the conduct of international relations in peacetime, then yes, we ‘supported’ dictators. But that’s such a weird definition of ‘support’ that the proposition is obvious nonsense. I repeat: I often disagreed with UK government policy when representing it overseas, but I never thought it wicked, illegal, or impossible for an honest person to explain and defend it. In other words, I was never put in a position where I had seriously to consider resigning on a point of principle or conscience.

    I have now spent enough time and occupied enough space on this blog post. I have answered the few serious questions about my views more than fully. Will anyone still in doubt about them please re-read with an open mind what I have written, to which I really have nothing to add?

  104. Brian, you say:

    “Alfred': You really ought to resist the temptation to re-state other contributors’ views in different and tendentious language, and then challenge them to repudiate or amend it. …”

    Well why not? I’m trying to figure out the meaning of what you said by reducing the argument to its essentials. I certainly don’t wish to misrepresent you and I don’t think my language is tendentious, with the possible exception of Point 7, with reference to which, I think it would be most helpful if you would state explicitly what role you think Craig’s personal conduct had in his firing. I think I am justified in asking for clarification on this point, since you have explicitly denied Craig’s account of his firing, which makes no reference to personal conduct.

  105. technicolour

    8 Nov, 2010 - 8:40 pm

    Dear Brian Barder; I’m sorry to have upset you with the use of the word ‘smears’. I was referring to the 17 false charges, which were indeed smears, and which I’ve seen reported without the salient fact that they were all dismissed. It seems to me that if, as you say, the ambassador’s behaviour had been so extreme as to contribute to his removal from post, they could have found a real charge to do it with.

    Re: the interesting role of the diplomat: in contrast is this review from Iain Orr, another former diplomat and an advocate, in a review of Murder in Samarkand:

    The shocking part of this story – narrated with skill and candour – is that, at heart, much of the FCO agreed with the advice Craig Murray was providing from Tashkent. Dealing with human rights abuses is never easy. Murray knew his way around Whitehall well enough to make sure that a controversial speech critical of Uzbekistan had support from the human rights desks in the FCO and in the Department for International Development. But when the Americans complained to No 10 and this was passed on to the FCO, spines crumpled – from Jack Straw down. This book makes one both proud and ashamed of British diplomacy. There is a simple lesson for Blair to learn. If you ask diplomats who are trained to report truthfully, to tell lies, the lasting problems will come from those who obey you, not the ones who stick to their professional calling

  106. Excellently put, technicolour, hits the nail right on the head.

  107. @technicolour: Succinct and very much to the point. Thanks to Iain, in turn.

    @Alfred. I think that’s a very clear and fair rendering of one of Brian’s core arguments. I re-read his text, at his insistence, and have identified statements that directly support premises (1), (2), (3), (5) & (7). Propositions (4) and (6) follow by logical entailment. (I’ll maybe post my analysis later.) I’m not entirely sure what Brian’s objecting to. I’d like to find out.

    The style of debate is perfectly valid. Collaborative discussions often involve reflecting back an argument with alternative expressions in order to draw out clarifications, test for residual misunderstandings and draw out implicit contradictions. The technique has a name (Socratic Dialogue) and even a society of professional advocates (the SCFP). It’s a common feature of intellectual dialectic. It’s not a failure of communication, it is an advancement of it. Even counsellors are careful to reflect a client’s statements back to them to ensure they have a reasonable grasp of the meaning intended. So I’m left wondering …

    @Brian: once again I welcome your clarifications ?” I really do. I was preparing a critical response, but the increasingly defensive turn has changed the nature of the discourse. As I see it, this discussion has been remarkably civil, no more tendentious than a typical academic exchange. I accept this forum is usually a bear-pit, but this particular thread has been mercifully troll-free. Looking back I do see some inflammatory rhetoric, which I think you will find equally distributed amongst your own text (especially your initial commentary, which admittedly was a commensurate response to Craig’s ranting). I also note certain unwarranted insinuations (including ‘straw man’ projections) that you levelled at some of the participants here ?” it works both ways. But that’s the nature of this forum, I suppose.

    Both you and Charles have helped to refine my appreciation of the FCO quandary. I’m genuinely interested in your opinion, and there is perhaps more consonance than you imagine. Unfortunately open blog commentaries are subject to rhetorical grandstanding. If you would prefer to make a full and considered exposition of your argument without being continually challenged or criticised, I know an appropriate publication (impartial and peer-reviewed) that would welcome a short position paper as the centrepiece of a featured debate. I hope you (and Charles) will consider it. I’m happy to facilitate.

  108. Technicolour: That telling analysis from Iain Orr paints the FCO in a rather less malevolent light than Craig’s portrayals would suggest. Jack Straw always struck me as more of an Eichmann than a Hitler: a spineless bureaucrat dutifully implementing his Fuhrer’s commands with a fanatical fervour, with little regard for moral rectitude. One is reminded of the “banality of evil”, a topic that Craig raised last year.

    (btw, the society to which I alluded in my previous post was the SFCP – Society for the Furtherance of Critical Philosophy – not the SCFP – oops)

  109. nextus, if I may say (possibly gushingly) you often infuse discussions with erudition and a measured sense of tempo and lucidity. This has the beneficial effect of elevating discussion away from the ‘bear-pit’. I watched you and (sandcrab) discourse in similar fashion on Northern Ireland and awhile back and was incredibly impressed.

    Whoever you are, I think that you’re a benificent egghead (in the best sense of that word) and I salute you.

  110. technicolour

    8 Nov, 2010 - 11:33 pm

    nextus, thanks: from the first part of Iain Orr’s review: “The FCO’s attempt to dismiss Craig Murray for invented disciplinary offences is an individual tale of injustice.”

  111. technicolour

    8 Nov, 2010 - 11:34 pm

    the whole review is on the amazon uk site

  112. Thanks, Suhayl. Constructive dialogue is more than just hobby for me; I’m specifically trained in it. When faced with a pompous pedagogue, I try to challenge them with equal and opposite vigour, dissect their fallacies, and slowly turn the heat down. The French philosophical practitioner Oscar Brenifier is a master of this powerful Socratic technique. It often involves playing devil’s advocate and requires a skill rarely taught at universities: tact. The results are always revealing and sometimes uplifting.

    Anyway, if there are any torture apologists still reading, I invite them to peruse the numerous web resources on the Myths of Torture which counterbalance the trite anecdotes of Gestapo efficacy with interviews with former interrogators and reputable empirical studies. For example:

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/12/13/AR2007121301303.html

    Then try to tell me that torture “works”. It should make for an interesting debate.

  113. Oops. I should have just “pedagogue”, in case there are any derogatory contextual implications here. (Damn my tactlessness!) Some interlocutors and clients may be dogmatic without being pompous, but they still need a robust challenge to prompt them to reflect.

    Incidentally, Iain Orr is also a perceptive philosopher in his own right (a BPhil from Oxford, no less). We could do with a few more independent thinkers in the diplomatic services.

  114. I mean “I should have *written* just ‘pedagogue'”. Dammit, I’m tired! My errata will soon exceed my meaningful output at this rate. Lights out, methinks!

  115. I knew it! I mean, I thought it. Thanks nextus, The spirit of Socrates sings beneficently through the mists of time. And the song is illuminating. I think you’d make a great negotiator and/or debater – but then, you already are these things, I guess! I’ll check out the link, thanks.

  116. Uzbek, Do you not think that Europe taking its own paid NATO assets as a basis for such a force.

    WQe have lost time since 19889 and should by now be the balance on the scale.

    I find your mindset is still with the past. Trust me there are many europeans who have thought along those lines for some time, there are ideas out there. Sadly the nature of European politics, its appearance to islanders and how they are reported here, never mind debated, is dire.

    To say that NATO is all we have is not constructive, we must get away from using NATO as our mothers skirt. Europe has everything they need to develop enough capabilites to look after its borders and sort its ethnic tenbsions within.

    Over and above that one needs to have a new look at reforming the UN and its forces, we cannot play police man for the worlds arms interest, wars are not only expensive, destructive to the planet and make no sense.

    It has to be an open alliance, ideally approaching Russia to join the EU and its defense pact, it is important, imho, that we bring it into the fold, make it part of the EU, its market, policies and regulations, its strong man politics can easily go wrong.

  117. Uzbek in the UK

    10 Nov, 2010 - 12:00 pm

    Ingo,

    Quite well said about the mother skirt, but being realistic I cannot see how Europe would defend its interests (more importantly Global Interests) without NATO. US share in NATO is around 70% both material and technical. Breaking up with NATO will mean that loosing such an important element of power projection as Navy. Yes, yes, UK, France and Italy have some Naval forces but these cannot be realistically compared with the US Naval forces and their worldwide military bases.

    I agree that NATO is mostly used by the US to defend and project American interests and power. Europeans just follow the suit. And that in the last 20 years NATO have lost its purpose. But in challenging times that are ahead breaking up Transatlantic unity is very risky gamble. Following American interests is itself serving the interest of European elite because in current global economy the most globalised economic relations are between US-Canada and EU. So, defending American interests and fighting American wars does not necessary mean that Europe is losing in this case. Most of the time it means that Europe is also defending its interests. In the last 65 years there have not been any single case when Europeans were able to solve any important geopolitical issue without American involvement. Even in Balkans decisive moment came only after US decided to support European initiative. I am not saying that Europe would have lost the war in Balkans but with indirect involvement of Russia (although economically and politically weak at that time) the course of war could have taken different path. Even at present Europe is particularly weak when it comes to dealing with Russia in terms of securing energy supplies and European initiatives in post Soviet republics. If we now add China to this picture I think that it will become quite clear that Europe will be unable to sustain its current level of power projection (both political and economic) without American involvement.

    As for UN I think its role will increase proportionally to the increase global influence of China. UN have served very well as the arena of geopolitical struggle during Cold War and since in the last 20 years none of the UN members were able to challenge US, thus US lost the need to bring issues to the UN. AS they were able to solve them by themselves with the involvement of NATO. Being realistic I would say that UN will never serve interests of all its members states. It will always be a place where some states will dominate over others and as currently 5 states have privileged status over all others.

    Russia in the EU does not really sound too realistic. Since the establishment of Russia as a state in 16th century it has always been balancing between West and East and thus developed as they called Eurasian mentality, combining both Western values that are strongly influenced by the Russian own mentality. If one think to bring Russia to the EU and thus Europeanise Russia, then one have wrong views of Russians and their elite. This is something that was not done even during liberal era of Yeltsin presidency and this is even more impossible to do now when Russia has lost its trust to the West.

  118. Uzbek in the UK: it’s quite possible that if NATO had disbanded after the collapse of the Soviet Union, things would have progressed along rather more peaceful and less paranoid lines, isn’t it?

  119. Plagiarism! Think up your own Uber-English quotes, Spam-boy Three!

  120. “I watched you and (sandcrab) discourse in similar fashion”

    Hey, Don’t make me get all “non-indigenous” on ye again :p

  121. Crab, can you summon forth a Biblical plague of… crabs to rise up from the tidal bore of Old Mother Thames and swarm all over the Terry Farrel building? A crustacean cover-up, what!

  122. Sadly, the crab nation is transfixed scrying into the cosmic background spam. It will take more than the tact of Nextus, art of Saadi, an analytic Alfred and the staunch Barder to stir them from the deep.

  123. Very well, put, crab.

    What occurs to me re. the torture matter is this. Although it is a central importance for vigorous and penetrative discourse to occur in relation to the them of receiving information through torture undertaken by other countries, what we must not miss is the fact that our own countries – USA, UK, etc. – are outsourcing torture to private armies who are even less accountable than state armies and state intelligence services.

    There are hundreds of thousands so them out there, undertaking ‘work’ that can ‘plausibly’ be denied by any state bodies/inquiries, etc. and they are subject to no trammels, no rules. Hit squads, torture chambers, everything one might imagine, and worse. It is the re-privatisation of colonialism. In some ways, then, we are returning to the days of the East India Company, except even more vicious and instrumentalised.

    And the militarised corporations, closely linked to banking cartels, who are undertaking this ‘work’ are bloated, corrupt and inefficient – but deadly. They act on behalf of themselves. As we lose our jobs and homes, we the taxpayers simultaneously are paying them billions. We are being robbed on a daily basis.

    So, just as the various full and part-time troll-teams and spambot generators we witness constantly on this blog are likely to be outsourced operations, so too is imperial war. They are simply two ends of the same wedge.

    The elephant in the sitting-room.

  124. Mixed metaphors and a plenitude of typos – sorry!

  125. Thank you for the interesting and enlightening dialogue, good peeps.

    Blessings, all.

    :-)

    Woof

  126. Uzbek, Europe has all the resolve and clout to give birth to its own peace and defensae force, the crux is in the name.

    The use of military power in an increasingly entwined world of commerce, overlapping ownerships of assets and land, as well as international inter dependecy on each, all opens up new avenues of controling each other, destructive unsustainable military engagements will be fought over resources and control over strategic energy supplies, but not for ideological reasoning.

    Just look at ouir discourse with China, our dependencies are already becoming apparent, rare earth elements hold the key to low energy futures around the world and China holds all the trumps.

    Nato, after the Afghan debacle, must disband, it has lost its aim and objectives a long time ago and is now being used as a show boat for new arms.

    I went to school with a mikolai Scvhevschenko and he had a heart as big as a barn door. bringing Russia into the EU would allow the ‘normal’Russian to come out, democratic values to thrive. It would aslo present Russia with a massive open market, not just for their energy resources, but also for other commodities. Such a move would establish Europe’s independence between two blocks, a balancing weight.

    I’d rather see Russia in Europe, applying its normsa and values and slowly changing its autocratic and oligarch classes, than letting these people get too big for their boots and kick off.

    Hyperthetically speaking. Imagine Britain ablolishes Trident, unilaterally, setting an example, European countries withdraw their resources from NATO and establish their own European peace and defense force, at the same time as to open the gates for Russia to join into the EU, gradually, step by step.

    Not only would this be the most influential and resource rich block in the world, it would change Russian society. Russias nationalism is being furthered by Putin and his strong man agenda, he is mobilising the young, but they are also interested in the rest of the world, as are the young chinese, wittling away at the communist hardliners and control freaks, eventually yearning for change, we in Europe should channel these urges, enable multilateral connective tissues, and eventually break the unhealthy tiesd with torturewrs like Karimov, it will not be acceptable to be in lieu with torturers and murder.

    Wed are being told at every possible occaision that arms wars and bigger boys toys are still making us survive the fears in this world, when reality shows us that global warming is far more important than terrorism and that we should stop kncoking down and re building, a huge environbmental effort every time a war is on.

    If stock exchanges can bankrupt countries overnight sending its citizens on to the street demanding change, then our our cudgels become increasingly useless, except for bashing our own population.

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