The Metro – 60 Second Interview: by Kieran Meeke, May 17th, 2005
As Britain’s Ambassador to the Central Asian republic of Uzbekistan, Craig Murray spoke out against the human rights abuses of the US-funded regime long before the recent massacre. He lost his job last year and stood against Foreign Secretary Jack Straw in the General Election to protest against Western policy in the region and the war in Iraq.
You warned more than a year ago that Uzbekistan would explode. How angry are you to see it happening?
It gives me no pleasure to be proved right. It’s interesting to see the hypocrisy of Jack Straw and others claiming they are doing something. We’ve long known that this was a terrible regime and it was bound to lead to public protest. And we knew that the regime would act viciously against that protest. President Karimov has the arrogance that comes from knowing he has the support of both Washington and Moscow.
President Karimov of Uzbekistan is a brutal dictator but he’s our dictator. Discuss.
Yes, that’s very much the American line. They argue that our alliance with Karimov is a necessary evil, like our alliance with Stalin in Word War II. There is no such comparison. The only factor driving radical Islam in Central Asia is people despairing at the regime and the lack of any democratic alternative.
What happens next?
Not much. We’ll see more hypocrisy from the US and the UK, calling for everything short of actual change. Democratic elections within a year are the only thing that will defuse the situation. There is no sign we’re going to call for that, nor that we’re going to stop calling Uzbekistan ‘our ally in the war on terror’, nor that the US is going to stop giving the regime a few hundred million dollars a year. There’s no sign Jack Straw will stop using intelligence from the Uzbek security services which is extracted by torture. Coming out of the torture chambers will be people ‘admitting’ they were working for Osama Bin Laden, and Washington will give some credence to all that nonsense.
Intelligence produced through torture is bad intelligence. Why are the CIA addicted to it?
Well, it’s plainly immoral and illegal. Secondly, it’s rubbish. But while the material is untrue, that doesn’t mean it’s not useful. The US Government is delighted to have material that says the Uzbek opposition are Islamic militants. It gives them the excuse to go on backing Karimov.
Is the ‘War on Terror’ a genuine threat or a fantasy from the intelligence services?
A great deal of it is a fantasy. The intelligence about weapons of mass destruction wasn’t true, either, but it was extremely useful. The same is true of intelligence that allows former Met Police Chief John Stevens to say there are 200 Islamic terrorists active in Britain. Active Islamic terrorists, prepared to sacrifice their own lives, but they haven’t managed to kill anyone yet. Not very good terrorists, are they? It’s all complete rubbish designed to keep the population in a state of fear. Tanks at Heathrow to keep a suicide bomber off a plane? It’s plainly bollocks – hype.
We topple an evil dictator in Iraq, yet support an evil dictator in Uzbekistan. Why the paradox? You can’t believe Tony Blair and Jack Straw are evil or stupid.
There certainly are evil people in the White House and the Pentagon. The decision has been taken that, in the war on terror, Britain should be extremely close to the US. Jack Straw finds the alliance over Uzbekistan distasteful but he’s held his nose and got on with it. The Americans are cynical; their interest in Central Asia is all about oil and gas. We back a dictator in Central Asia to get access to oil and gas, and we remove a dictator in Iraq to get access to oil and gas. Explain American policy in terms of freedom and democracy and you get a contradiction. Explain it in terms of oil and gas and it’s completely consistent.
60 SECONDS EXTRA!: Well, the US is the world’s greatest economy. It’s your business to get rid of anything threatening your fuel supplies. What’s wrong with that?
Well, they want to get access to it so they can burn it up as quickly as possible in their massive gas-guzzling cars and with a total lack of concern for energy conservation. They will drive forward global warming.
60 SECONDS EXTRA!: But they don’t believe in global warming…
They claim not to. You have to tie in this political stance to their refusal to sign the Kyoto Agreement. That’s what makes it all so bloody disastrous.
60 SECONDS EXTRA!: To deny the reality sounds stupid, almost insane.
It’s not insane to the interests promoting it. They stand to make huge fortunes in oil and gas. It’s the energy companies who are the lobbyists for the non-existence of global warming. They are just pursuing a very narrow personal interest, which is typical of America. Often they are stupid and their policy in Uzbekistan is extremely stupid. They are going to create Islamic fundamentalism. But this is all in the interests of the military establishment – a bigger threat means more money, better pay, more jobs etc. I seem to have developed a very cynical world view.
What can a Metro reader do?
Write to their MP. As someone who has worked in the Foreign Office, I can tell you it has much more effect than you might think. The MP passes it on and it has to be answered within a week. Six letters and they think the electorate is fascinated by this subject. Write and demand free elections in Uzbekistan and demand we stop calling it an ally.
60 SECONDS EXTRA!: You gave the voters of Blackburn a unique opportunity to judge Jack Straw’s conduct. They rejected you. Should you now shut up?
It’s amazing that 2,000 people voted for someone with no backing, banging on about Uzbekistan. I didn’t enter the election with any thought that I might possibly win and I can think of nothing worse than sitting in Parliament with all those boring farts. I intended to make a point and I did.
60 SECONDS EXTRA!: Do you support ID cards?
Completely appalling idea. As a diplomat, I used to boast that Britain was a free country where you could walk around without a policeman demanding to know who you are. I’ll certainly refuse to carry one. What will happen with illegal immigrants? You can’t deport half-a-million people. Are you going to lock up everyone who refuses to carry them? Will terrorists who forge passports be stumped by forging an ID card or stealing one? It’s claimed to be a cure for everything short of the common cold but it’s an extraordinarily expensive non-panacea.
Craig Murray has urged the public to write to MPs calling for free elections in Uzbekistan, and demanding that Britain stops calling Karimov’s murderous regime our “ally”. Having worked in the Foreign Office, Craig has seen how much of a difference a letter to an MP can make.
To support Craig’s call, you can write to your MP via www.faxyourmp.com – it’s quick, easy and free!