Daily archives: October 18, 2004

The Guardian – How can Britain stoop so low?

The Guardian – How can Britain stoop so low? (Press Review)

Michael Portillo Sunday Times, October 17

“‘We are selling our souls for dross.’ So wrote Craig Murray, ambassador to Uzbekistan, referring to the fact that Britain and the United States are accepting intelligence extracted from suspects under torture. Mr Murray is offended on moral grounds that the western democracies are in the market for information beaten out of prisoners. He also believes that we are being bamboozled, because terrified captives will say whatever their interrogators demand and then the nasty regime in Tashkent spices it up to make us believe that it is on the front line against al-Qaida.

“The reaction of the Foreign Office has been to defend the UK’s practice, saying that it would be irresponsible to disregard leads obtained under duress, and to dismiss Mr Murray as ambassador. How has Britain come to stoop so low? One of the things that defined us as a nation was our abhorrence of brutality. How can it be then we also encourage foreign governments to mistreat prisoners?”

Financial Times Editorial, October 16

“The Tashkent tyranny of President Islam Karimov is one of the worst in the world, with more than 5,000 political prisoners and capable of boiling men to death. Its value as a forward US base for Afghanistan operations has given it the confidence to sell a long-running campaign against internal dissidents as part of the campaign against al-Qaida. That is a confidence trick the west appears willing to fall for.

“The moral and legal case against torture should not need further argument. Unhappily, it needs to be continually restated in opposition not only to what goes on in such places as Uzbekistan, but in US-run facilities such as Guant?namo, Abu Ghraib in Iraq and Bagram in Afghanistan. As for the Foreign Office, if it sends a principled person to advance an unprincipled policy it is not only incompetent but riding for a fall – and deservedly so.”

Independent Editorial, October 16

“Over two years in Uzbekistan, Mr Murray had been outspoken about the abuse of human rights in that former Soviet republic. He might have got away with this hardly controversial view – indeed, he says he had cleared all his public speeches with the Foreign Office – had he not gone on to query the extent to which the US and Britain were turning a blind eye to human rights abuses in states such as Uzbekistan for the sake of the ‘war on terror’. Implicating a third country, let alone a close ally, is a bigger offence than merely criticising your own.

“Earlier this year, the Foreign Office produced a new mission statement, which placed combating global terrorism and weapons of mass destruction at the top of its priorities, followed by protection from illegal immigration, drug trafficking and international crime. Human rights occupied the sixth of eight places. Craig Murray was working to the old agenda. Good for him.”

Times Editorial, October 16

“As laudable as Mr Murray’s motives were, his methods were self-indulgent. As ambassador he had unique access to [the Uzbek] regime via channels closed even to the most assiduous journalists, and his duty was to use them to advance Britain’s interests, especially in security and trade, as well as those of Uzbekistan’s oppressed dissidents and moderate Muslims.

“He described himself this week as a ‘victim of conscience’. If so, the right time to salve his conscience, and the most effective time from the point of view of those he seeks to help, would have been at a post-resignation press conference. Mr Murray is guilty of naivety.”

Daily Express Editorial, October 16

“Craig Murray has accused MI6 of using information obtained by the Uzbek government through torture: the Foreign Office has responded by claiming Mr Murray arranged visas in exchange for sex with women. Mr Murray fiercely denies the claims.

“This is no way for Britain to be conducting her foreign affairs in public: both parties should pipe down. But what is most depressing is this: Mr Murray emerges as far more credible than the Foreign Office. What a sad decline in our country if we can even imagine that one of the great departments of state is capable of telling a lie.”

Daily Telegraph Editorial, October 16

“Compromises must be made during wars, of course. In the face of the Soviet menace, we propped up a number of brutal tyrants, telling ourselves, ‘He may be a son-of-a-bitch, but he’s our son-of-a-bitch.’ In this case, though, it is far from clear that such an attitude serves western interests. The fact is that there is virtually no religious fundamentalism in Uzbekistan. The traveller to central Asia sees beards or headscarves rarely, and hears few calls to prayer.

“But President Karimov’s claim that he is besieged by Muslim fanatics may eventually prove self- fulfilling. If they are offered no other outlet for their hatred of the regime, Uzbeks may indeed turn to fundamentalism. The quickest way to finish off the extremists in central Asia would be to encourage the development of property rights and political pluralism. What a pity that saying so should be a sacking offence.”

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