Monthly Archives: July 2005


US airbase kicked out of Uzbekistan

Craig Murray comments on the latest developments:

“Let us hope that finally the Bush administration will now recognise the true nature of the Karimov regime. It is symptomatic of the complete failure of Western policy in Central Asia that rather than withdraw with some dignity, the US has managed to hand the dictator Karimov the propaganda coup of kicking out the World’s greatest power.”

“This is not about the response to the Andizhan massacre. To the end the US was muted on human rights in Uzbekistan and still has not called for full elections including the opposition. This is about the Karimov regime’s decision to turn to Gazprom and the Russians, not the US, to develop Uzbekistan’s oil and gas fields. This deal involves Uzbekneftegas and was brokered between the President’s daughter, Gulnara Karimova, and Alisher Usmanov, the Uzbek born Russian oligarch who bought 27% of Corus (British Steel).”

“The Karimov regime are determined to keep complete control of the economy so they can continue their massive looting for personal enrichment. They were concerned that Western companies could build centres of wealth not under their direct control. They have therefore decided to turn to Russian and Chinese state companies for investment. These companies operate the system of oligarch corruption that the Karimov regime understands.”

“This is the explanation for Central Asia’s “Diplomatic Revolution” as Uzbekistan turns decisively away from the USA towards Russia and China. There will now be massive pressure by Karimov on Tajikistan and Kirghizstan – both tiny countries dependent on Uzbekistan for energy supplies – to follow suit.”

View with comments

U.S. Evicted From Air Base In Uzbekistan

By Robin Wright and Ann Scott Tyson writing in the

Washington Post

Uzbekistan formally evicted the United States yesterday from a military base that has served as a hub for combat and humanitarian missions to Afghanistan since shortly after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Pentagon and State Department officials said yesterday.

In a highly unusual move, the notice of eviction from Karshi-Khanabad air base, known as K2, was delivered by a courier from the Uzbek Foreign Ministry to the U.S. Embassy in Tashkent, said a senior U.S. administration official involved in Central Asia policy. The message did not give a reason. Uzbekistan will give the United States 180 days to move aircraft, personnel and equipment, U.S. officials said.

If Uzbekistan follows through, as Washington expects, the United States will face several logistical problems for its operations in Afghanistan. Scores of flights have used K2 monthly. It has been a landing base to transfer humanitarian goods that then are taken by road into northern Afghanistan, particularly to Mazar-e Sharif — with no alternative for a region difficult to reach in the winter. K2 is also a refueling base with a runway long enough for large military aircraft. The alternative is much costlier midair refueling.

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld returned this week from Central Asia, where he won assurances from Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan that the United States can use their bases for operations in Afghanistan. U.S. forces use Tajikistan for emergency landings and occasional refueling, but it lacks good roads into Afghanistan. Kyrgyzstan does not border Afghanistan.

“We always think ahead. We’ll be fine,” Rumsfeld said Sunday when asked how the United States would cope with losing the base in Uzbekistan.

In May, however, Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman called access to the airfield “undeniably critical in supporting our combat operations” and humanitarian deliveries. The United States has paid $15 million to Uzbek authorities for use of the airfield since 2001, he said.

Yesterday, Pentagon spokesman Lawrence T. Di Rita said that the U.S. military does not depend on one base in any part of the world. “We’ll be able to conduct our operations as we need to, regardless of how this turns out. It’s a diplomatic issue at the moment,” Di Rita said.

The eviction notice came four days before a senior State Department official was to arrive in Tashkent for talks with the government of President Islam Karimov. The relationship has been increasingly tense since bloody protests in the province of Andijan in May, the worst unrest since Uzbekistan gained independence from the Soviet Union.

Undersecretary of State R. Nicholas Burns was going to pressure Tashkent to allow an international investigation into the Andijan protests, which human rights groups and three U.S. senators who met with eyewitnesses said killed about 500 people. 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.

Karimov has balked at an international probe. As U.S. pressure mounted, he cut off U.S. night flights and some cargo flights, forcing Washington to move search-and-rescue operations and some cargo flights to Bagram air base in Afghanistan and Manas air base in Kyrgyzstan. As relations soured, the Bush administration was preparing for a further cutoff, U.S. officials said.

The United States was given the notice just hours after 439 Uzbek political refugees were flown out of neighboring Kyrgyzstan — over Uzbek objections — by the United Nations. The refugees fled after the May unrest, which Uzbek officials charged was the work of terrorists. The Bush administration had been pressuring Kyrgyzstan not to force the refugees to return to Uzbekistan.

Uzbekistan has been widely viewed as an important test for the Bush administration — and whether the anti-terrorism efforts or promotion of democracy takes priority. “We all knew basically that if we really wanted to keep access to the base, the way to do it was to shut up about democracy and turn a blind eye to the refugees,” said the senior official, on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitive diplomacy. “We could have saved the base if we had wanted.”

After the latest setback in relations, the Bush administration is going to “wait for a cooling-off period,” the administration official said. “We are assuming they mean it and want us out. We are now not sending someone to Uzbekistan.”

The next test will be whether to withhold as much as $22 million in aid to Uzbekistan if it does not comply with provisions on political and economic reforms it committed to undertake in a 2002 strategic partnership agreement with Washington. Last year, the administration withheld almost $11 million. U.S. officials expect the Uzbek government will again be ineligible for funds.

View with comments

EBRD issues new strategy for Uzbekistan

“I welcome this decision by the EBRD, which is taking a strong lead among international institutions in taking seriously questions of democracy and human rights.

This decision represents a considerable tightening of the EBRD postition; previously soem government projects were still being considered. Now not only are Uzbek government projects ruled out, so are private projects with any participation by government officials and their families. This is a strong recognition of regime corruption, and a major slap in the face for Karimov.

The EBRD are to be applauded for their stance on Uzbekistan. We are always ready to criticise IFIs. We should be equally ready to praise when they get it so right.”

Craig Murray 30/07/05

EBRD Press Release (29/07/05)

The EBRD’s new two-year strategy for Uzbekistan concludes that while some economic progress has been made since its last strategy for the Central Asian country was published in 2003, there has been no comparable political liberalisation.

The previous strategy described Uzbekistan’s political and economic progress as slow and characterised by setbacks, and emphasised the importance of the Uzbek authorities taking a number of critical steps to put the country on a path of sustained progress towards multi-party democracy and a market economy. In 2004, the Bank restricted its activity to private-sector projects as well as public-sector operations that either linked Uzbekistan economically to other countries in the region or clearly benefited ordinary citizens, such as by improving a town’s water supply.

The Bank’s new strategy notes that economic progress has been achieved in two areas since 2003 – current-account convertibility and adjustment of tariffs in public utilities – but says there has been no progress in Uzbekistan’s political environment.

As a result, the Bank has decided not to initiate any new projects in the public sector during the new country strategy period. It will focus on supporting private-sector development and entrepreneurship, particularly SMEs and micro-business, provided that there is no direct or indirect link to the government or government officials. For example, the Bank is considering the possibility of establishing a microfinance bank and expanding its leasing operation. The Bank will also continue to support trade through its Trade Facilitation Programme.

Equally, the EBRD will continue its efforts to engage in policy dialogue with the authorities, working for improvement in the investment climate and supporting reform efforts. Only reforms can unlock Uzbekistan’s significant economic potential and allow the Bank to operate on a full-fledged basis. The events in Andijan in May, resulting in the indiscriminate use of force against civilians, as documented in various reports, including this month’s report by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, were a cause of serious concern for the Bank.

The EBRD, which has invested ?509.5 million in Uzbekistan, has had a lower level of commitments in recent years as a result of the country’s unfavourable investment climate. In 2004 the Bank signed three projects for a combined ?34 million.

View with comments

Protest against government exclusion zone

Craig Murray is supporting a protest this Monday (August 1st, 2pm) against the government’s new exclusion zone.

Due to come into effect from 1 August, this exclusion zone prohibits demonstrations, even one-person demonstrations, unless the police expressly permit them. Failure to comply can lead to arrest. The zone covers a very wide area around Parliament as far as the London Eye, Charing Cross embankment and up to (although not including) Trafalgar Square.

For futher details click here. For arguements on why you should support the protest go here.

View with comments

The “war on terror” is over?

Subtle changes appear to be occurring in the language and tactics used by the US and UK governments in their so called “war on terror”. Tacit admission of strategic failure is leading to a new vocabulary of political rhetoric – but will this be reflected in a new, smarter, and legal approach to the many intractable challenges that were supposed to be addressed but were often caused or exacerbated by previous policy?

The “The ‘rebranding’ of the war on terror” is examined in a piece by Tom Regan,

while CBS thinks it might be more of a remake ‘War On Terror’ Remake?

and the Telegraph looks forward to the use of more nuanced language

Postings on two blogs also look into the changes.

Postman Patel, explores the major shift in the language of conflict while

The “war on terror” as a failed and abandoned strategy is discussed on LFCM

View with comments

PERPETUAL WAR JUSTIFIES EVERYTHING

By Craig Murray

What is most worrying about the sad death of the Brazilian Mr Jean Charles de Menezes, shot to death by police on the tube, is that it is used by the government to further ratchet up the climate of fear. While regretting the death, Jack Straw tells us that the “Shoot to kill” policy must remain, while Sir Ian Blair says that more innocent deaths cannot be ruled out. All this boosts the politics of fear, talking up the perpetual war scenario that justifies increased government authoritarianism.

Our tactics for dealing with potential suicide bombers are apparently borrowed from the Israelis. This is appalling. It is not so long ago that the UK was horrified by pictures of a fourteen year old girl being shot down at an Israeli checkpoint, and an Israeli officer emptying a magazine into her head. Now we are adopting precisely the same tactics ourselves ‘ the unarmed Mr Menezes took eight bullets to the head, not the five originally reported.

What is more, we are now adopting Israeli rhetoric. Any attempt to explain or understand the phenomenon of terrorism is dismissed as “justifying” or “excusing” it. Blair rants that Muslim anger has nothing to do with Iraq, or Guantanamo Bay, or Abu Ghraib, or our support for torturers of Muslims like Karimov. It is rather a spontaneous development, sufficient unto itself, arising in a vacuum from the evil teachings of Wahibbism.

But the truth is that Muslim hatred feeds on some very real injustices. That in no way justifies or excuses acts of terror, which are warped and evil. But the growth of that evil is not, as Blair and Bush appear to believe, the spontaneous work of the devil. There are a few masterminds of terror who are simply psychopaths. But by removing injustice we can remove their ability to recruit, and to operate within a sympathetic community milieu. Announcing a firm intention to withdraw troops soon from Iraq would be a start. Announcing an end to all government to government co-operation with the Uzbek regime would be another good move. We need to reduce the causes of tension.

What will not help is the Blair proposal to introduce detention without charge for three months for terrorist suspects. Over 1200 people have been arrested under government anti-terrorism legislation. Only 18 have actually been convicted ‘ and only a handful of them on anything to do with terrorism. Most were found to have some minor criminal involvement.

Almost all of these were Muslims. Nearly all were innocent and released after the current fourteen days. Holding large quantities of innocent Muslims now for three months is hardly going to reduce tension. Let us not forget that one of the first reactions to the 7 July bombings was to arrange the arrest by Egyptian authorities of a Leeds chemist on holiday there. This was trumpeted on the front pages by our press as a great example of international intelligence co-operation against terror. There has been much less ‘ indeed almost no ‘ coverage of the fact he was found to have no connection at all to the bombs. He just happened to be a Muslim, from Leeds, a pharmacist (Aha! Potential Bomb Maker!) and to have gone on holiday at the time of the bombings. His was one of hundreds of British Muslim names falsely publicised in the UK media in the last three years as part of Al-Qaida.

Do not forget that on the afternoon of poor Mr Menezes’ death, the Evening Standard carried the massive triumphalist headline “LONDON BOMBER SHOT DEAD”. The Standard has not apologised.

There is another point that has not been made about Mr Menezes’ death. He died because of his skin colour. As a Brazilian, his skin tone was not so different from that of the average British Muslim. Had someone with a complexion as white as mine been running around on the underground, they would not have been gunned down by the police.

Of course, Mr Menezes almost certainly died in terror having absolutely no idea who was chasing him. He was not asked to stop by uniformed police. He was suddenly chased by men in plainclothes waving guns. Is it surprising he ran? An eyewitness said that the police did not pull on Baseball caps saying “Police” until after he started running from them. At which point, chased by men with guns, he probably did not spend much time looking back and admiring his pursuers’ headgear. He jumped on a tube, tripped and they shot him dead.

It is time we pulled back from this. To declare this part of an unending war, and the new normality we should live with, shows what a failed and irresponsible government we now have.

View with comments

British government threatens legal action to block book by Craig Murray

Craig Murray is currently working on a book about his time in the diplomatic service. The book is strongly critical of British goverment policy and attacks the use of intelligence obtained under torture. It now appears the government will try and block its publication.

Foreign Office threatens action against former Uzbek envoy

By David Leigh in The Guardian

The Foreign Office is threatening action against Craig Murray, the former ambassador to Uzbekistan, if he publishes an unauthorised book attacking the use of intelligence obtained under torture. This comes after the blocking of key parts of an account of the Iraq war by another of Britain’s senior diplomats, former UN ambassador Sir Jeremy Greenstock, in which he calls the US decision to invade “politically illegitimate”.

Mr Murray has failed to submit his memoirs for clearance and the Foreign Office said yesterday there were a “range of options” open to it if he went ahead.

Although it would, in theory, be possible to prosecute him under the Official Secrets Act, the government is more likely to bring a civil action against him for breach of confidence.

Mr Murray was deprived of his ambassadorship last year after the leak of a report in which he criticised the use of torture material by MI6. He said yesterday: “I’m not surprised the government want to ban my book. It contains a lot of information they don’t want to have known. None of it concerns national security, but illegal and underhand behaviour by the British government”.

Mr Murray’s friends say he is “unlikely” to comply with a demand that he submit the manuscript for approval.

Last year, after a failed attempt by the Foreign Office to sack Mr Murray for alleged disciplinary shortcomings, a report was leaked about a London interdepartmental meeting in July 2004 on the use of intelligence from Uzbekistan, where the president, Islam Karimov, has been accused of brutality against dissidents.

In the leaked document, Mr Murray, who stood as an independent election candidate against the foreign secretary, Jack Straw, said MI6 was taking information via the CIA obtained by torture.

“Tortured dupes are forced to sign confessions showing that the Uzbek government wants the US and UK to believe – that they and we are fighting the same war against terror. This is morally, legally and practically wrong.”

His colleagues argued that they did not know for a fact whether informants had been tortured: “I will not attempt to hide my utter contempt for such casuistry, nor my shame that I work for an organisation where colleagues would resort to it to justify torture.”

The former ambassador says he was not responsible for the leak which ultimately led to his removal. He has written to the Foreign Office in response to their demand that he submit his memoirs for censorship, saying he is taking legal action over his “appalling treatment”.

The material in his book had already featured in a “host” of articles, he said: “So if you want to take action under the Official Secrets Act, I suggest you get on with it”.

View with comments

CBS republish article on ‘extraordinary rendition’

The CBS 60 Minutes programme has republished an article from earlier in the year on ‘extraordinary rendition’ and the involvement of the CIA in kidnapping foreign nationals. In the documentary Craig Murray is interviewed about the rendition of Uzbek citizens from Afghanistan to Tashkent by American plane. Once in Uzbekistan, prisoners are likely to be subjected to severe torture.

Click here to read the article.

View with comments

New attacks hit London transport system

The BBC are reporting that another series of terrorist bomb attacks have been targetted at london.

“A number of Tube stations have been evacuated and lines closed after three blasts in what Met Police chief Sir Ian Blair says is a “serious incident”. Sir Ian appealed to Londoners to stay where they were and said the transport system was effectively being shut down.”

For those wishing to follow up-to-the minute headlines from different news sources a news feed is available at the London Friends of Craig Murray Blog.

View with comments

New report from Iraq Body Count

As the UK slowly recovers and considers the reasons for the London attacks, new evidence emerged yesterday of the horror that has been visited on Iraq by the invasion, occupation, and resulting insurgency. A report published by the Iraq Body Count provides a detailed analysis of civilian casualties caused by the US/UK invasion of Iraq. “A Dossier on Civilian Casualties in Iraq, 2003-2005” (pdf format) is the first detailed account of all reported non-combatant deaths or injuries during the first two years of the continuing conflict. The report, published by Iraq Body Count in association with Oxford Research Group, claims to be based on a comprehensive analysis of over 10,000 media reports published between March 2003 and March 2005.

Some of their main findings:

– 24,865 civilians were reported killed in the first two

years of the war

– Women and children accounted for almost 20% of all

civilian deaths

– US-led forces killed 37% of civilian

victims

– Post-invasion criminal violence accounted for

36% of all deaths

– Anti-occupation forces/insurgents killed 9% of

civilian victims

– Post-invasion, the number of civilians killed was

almost twice as high in year two (11,351) as in year one (6,215

Speaking at the launch of the report in London yesterday, Professor John Sloboda, FBA, one of the reports authors said:

“The ever-mounting Iraqi death toll is the forgotten cost of the decision to go to war in Iraq. On average, 34 ordinary Iraqis have met violent deaths every day since the invasion of March 2003. ….It remains a matter of the gravest concern that, nearly two and half years on, neither the US nor the UK governments have begun to systematically measure the impact of their actions in terms of human lives destroyed.”

View with comments

Craig Murray: “It is a foreign policy of oil grab cloaked in hypocrisy, and the impact of that policy on Muslims, that has caused this hate.”

THE IRAQ WAR AND THE LONDON BOMBINGS

There is a heated discussion in progress at the moment about whether the war in Iraq caused the London bombings. Jack Straw was quoted yesterday dismissing the notion that it had anything to do with Iraq, pointing out that bombers had also struck in countries which did not have troops in Iraq. Tony Blair has made the point that on September 11 2001 Iraq had not yet been attacked. Which is true, although he and Bush had already agreed to do so.

But unlike the bombs in New York and Turkey, these involved young British Muslims. To pretend that the anger of young British Muslims is not stoked by Blair’s foreign policy is just absolute nonsense. Following along with the George Bush international agenda, including the attack on Iraq, has made us deeply unpopular with Muslims everywhere.

On 18 March 2003 I sent Jack Straw an official telegram from Tashkent about US foreign policy in Central Asia, and our support for it. An extract reads:

“4. Democracy and human rights are, despite their protestations to the contrary, in practice a long way down the US agenda here. Aid this year will be slightly less, but there is no intention to introduce any meaningful conditionality. Nobody can believe this level of aid – more than US aid to all of West Africa – is related to comparative developmental need as opposed to political support for Karimov. While the US makes token and low-level references to human rights to appease domestic opinion, they view Karimov’s vicious regime as a bastion against fundamentalism. He – and they – are in fact creating fundamentalism. When the US gives this much support to a regime that tortures people to death for having a beard or praying five times a day, is it any surprise that Muslims come to hate the West?”

It is Iraq, but not just Iraq. It is a foreign policy of oil grab cloaked in hypocrisy, and the impact of that policy on Muslims, that has caused this hate. And that is squarely the fault of Blair and Straw.

None of which justifies the terror. It is probable that most of the people who got killed and injured on 7 July were opposed to Blair and Bush. Only 23% of eligible British adults voted for New Labour. Several of the victims will have marched against the war. Violence just begets more violence.

Nor will it help to rush through yet more legislation restricting civil liberties. It is already against the law to incite someone to commit terrorism. An offence of ‘indirect incitement’, now proposed, sounds very dangerous indeed. It could be just what is needed to silence critics like us.

But perhaps most laughable is the government’s claim that the new legislation is needed to ‘prevent further terrorism’. The idea that you can do that by legislation is laughable.

It is also hard to equate with the other government line, that attacks on London are ‘inevitable’. They are not. Had we not thrown our lot in with Bush, we would not have been attacked. Terrorism is a politically motivated act by human beings. It is not a natural phenomenon like the wind.

We should certainly not change our foreign policy in response to terrorism. We should change it because it was seriously misguided in the first place, and is bringing on us consequences that many of us saw and predicted.

Craig Murray

View with comments

Riding Pillion in the US war on terror

On Friday we posted an article in which Moazzam Begg discussed possible motivations for those behind the horrific London attacks.

Today, a report from The Royal Institute of International Affairs at Chatham House lays waste to the UK governments claim that the conduct of the “war on terror” and the invasion of Iraq were not important factors in increasing the vulnerability of the UK. According to the Chatham House press release:

“there is ‘no doubt’ that the invasion of Iraq has imposed particular difficulties for the UK and for the wider coalition against terrorism. According to the paper, the situation in Iraq has ‘given a boost to the Al-Qaeda network’s propaganda, recruitment and fundraising’, whilst providing an ideal targeting and training area for Al-Qaeda-linked terrorists”.

“A key problem for the UK in preventing terrorism in Britain is the government’s position as ‘pillion passenger’ to the United States’ war on terror”.

Click here to read the report in full.

View with comments

Uzbekistan – Human Rights Violations and Government Crackdowns

As British ambassador to Uzbekistan from 2002 to 2004, Craig Murray recommended that Britain stop cooperating with Uzbek security forces and stop using intelligence gleaned through torture. Criag Murray discusses his experiences in an interview with the Worldview programme of Chicago Public Radio broadcast on the 18th July.

Click here to hear the interview

You will need RealPlayer to listen. Downloaded it free from

View with comments

Moazamm Begg talks about possible motives for the London attacks

During the British election, the Craig Murray campaign was pleased to receive the endorsement of Moazamm Begg, a British man imprisoned in Guantanamo Bay for more than two years and then relaeased without charge. In an article published today, Moazamm talks about what could have driven young British man to blow themselves apart along with so many others.

Gitmo detainee offers motives for bombings

By PAISLEY DODDS Associated Press

LONDON – Moazamm Begg spent more than two years at the prison camp in Guantanamo Bay, where some fellow detainees were British-born Muslim radicals or self-proclaimed al-Qaida operatives – the same sort police believe carried out last week’s suicide bombings in London.

During his imprisonment, Begg got to know Muslim extremists who spoke of their anger at the United States. Some talked of attacks. Many were recruited by foreign radicals.

As members of the Muslim minority agonize over how some of their own might have caused such carnage and brace for revenge attacks, Begg – who denied U.S. allegations that he was an aide to al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden – offers a glimpse at the possible motives.

Racism in Britain, non-assimilation in some communities, and anger over Iraq, Afghanistan, and the U.S. prison camp at Guantanamo Bay might have been factors, the 37-year-old of Pakistani roots tells The Associated Press, six months after being released from the camp in Cuba. Britain negotiated his release along with three other British nationals.

Like many Muslims, Begg says he grew up in Birmingham – England’s second largest city and ethnically diverse – feeling the pull between Britain and Pakistan.

“I talked to many people who were self-declared members of al-Qaida while I was in Guantanamo, and there’s definitely indoctrination taking place in a lot of communities in Britain,” Begg said in a telephone interview with the AP while in London.

Begg described racism that he encountered when he was growing up in the 1980s. Some of his Pakistani friends were beaten up by skinheads, he says. “Almost everyone back then was harassed at some point for being dark-skinned, for being Pakistani,” he said.

But the divide between Muslims and non-Muslims was more acute in regions such as West Yorkshire, which includes Leeds, the northern city where at least three of the four suicide bombers in last week’s attacks are believed to have grown up. The fourth is believed to have been Jamaican-born.

Unlike Birmingham, Begg said pockets of West Yorkshire are dominated by immigrants from specific regions. Many of the groups have not assimilated into British culture, making it easier for radical recruiters to deepen the divide and fan hatred, he said.

The neighborhood where the three suicide bombers are thought to have come in Leeds – 185 miles north of London – is predominantly Pakistani.

Begg says many Muslims living in Britain have been recruited by Pakistani groups to study and fight in Kashmir, a Himalayan border region that both India and Pakistan claim.

“Just like the military doesn’t recruit the old, these groups know to go after the young,” Begg said. “They’re stronger fighters; they’re more impressionable.”

Beyond targeting the young, however, Begg says other issues have fueled hatred in the community – particularly the issue of the U.S. prison camp in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

“That is the one issue that has unified the Muslim community recently,” says Begg, who is unemployed but working on a book about his time in Guantanamo. “Even though there are people from more than 40 countries there, most of them are Muslim and that’s what people talk about.”

More than a dozen cases of abuse and mistreatment have been documented at Guantanamo Bay, including details of a military investigation reported on Wednesday where interrogators forced a detainee to wear underwear on his head and attached a leash to his chains.

Another Briton who was jailed at Guantanamo Bay – Feroz Abbasi who grew up in the Croydon, south of London – wrote in his melancholy memoirs penned in prison that he battled shyness, loneliness and suicide attempts before discovering Islam on a backpacking trip through Europe.

Inside the biography are clues that could answer how the young bombers in last week’s London attacks could have turned violent.

Abbasi writes that he read books about Islam and jihad, or holy war, and joined an activist group – S.O.S., or Supporters of Sharia, the strict Islamic law – at Finsbury Mosque, one of London’s largest mosques. Meetings at the mosque left him with fliers describing the plights of Muslims in Chechnya. He later became interested in the Taliban’s fight in Afghanistan.

Although Abbasi admits training as a militant in Afghanistan, the Briton denies being an al-Qaida member.

“One thing is clear: they (the bombers) were motivated more by hatred than the faith of Islam,” said Inayat Bungalwala, spokesman for Muslim Council of Britain.

Begg says it doesn’t stand to reason that Muslim suicide bombers would strike Britain, a country with a high-profile Muslim population where religious and cultural freedoms have been enjoyed to a greater extent than in any other Western country.

“I was religious but it never caused me to feel like I had to carry out attacks,” says Begg. “What has happened is that it appears that the lines are being redrawn with the targeting of civilians who had no apparent loyalty to the country where they lived.”

Begg was in Afghanistan during the start of the U.S.-led war before his capture. He said he was there to start a primary school.

“What I, and what other Muslims struggle with, is the question of why any one could carry out these attacks in a country where we have so much freedom,” Begg says. “Unfortunately I think the attacks will have a profound effect on the Muslim community in Britain before that question is ever really answered.”

View with comments

British involvement in torture – Jack Straw obfuscates again

On Sunday we posted extracts from a report from the Foreign Affairs Committee describing concern that:

some British personnel have committed grave violations of human rights of persons held in detention

It also states that current British policy acts:

to condone and even to encourage torture by repressive states

and concludes that:

the Government has failed to deal with questions about extraordinary rendition with the transparency and accountability required on so serious an issue“.

So the urgent question arises as to how Jack Straw and others in government have responded to the FAC report and what is the current status of policy relating to these issues?

Jack Straw replied officially to the FAC reports accusation of “obfuscation” in June. Just for the record I ran a Google definition search for obfuscation which came up with the following “To make so confused or opaque as to be difficult to perceive or understand“. No small charge! Water of a ducks back apparently as the official reply to the charge is a prime example of clarity obstruction, leaving holes large enough for any eventuality. The FAC accusation and Straw’s reply in full.

The FAC said:

“14. We conclude that the Government has failed to deal with questions about extraordinary rendition with the transparency and accountability required on so serious an issue. If the government believes that extraordinary rendition is a valid tool in the war against terrorism, it should say so openly and transparently so that it may be held accountable. We recommend that the Government end its policy of obfuscation and that it give straight answers to the Committee’s question of 25 February.”

Jack Straw says:

“The Government’s response to the Committee’s question of 25 February did give a clear explanation of its policy towards rendition. The Government explained that its “… policy is not to deport or extradite any person to another state where there are substantial grounds to believe that the person will be subject to torture or where there is a real risk that the death penalty will be applied… The British Government is not aware of the use of its territory or airspace for the purposes of ‘extraordinary rendition’. The British Government has not received any requests, nor granted any permissions, for the use of UK territory or airspace for these purposes…” The Government has also explained that it is not in a position to respond to all of the questions posed by the Committee without reference to information Parliament has decided is a matter for the Intelligence and Security Committee”.

The last sentence with bold added makes it all too clear that we have not been given the full story and nor will we be if Mr Straw can help it.

Today we post an article from back in October 2004 entitled Spies “lap up” info from torture, reminding us just how far this government has taken us into what Amnesty International has referred to as a “creeping acceptance of the practice of torture”

View with comments

Case studies on extraordinary rendition and torture

Yesterday Craig Murray clarified exactly what he knew and did not know about extraordinary rendition and UK policy on torture based evidence during his time in Tashkent. Today we post two articles describing some of the available information on documented cases of kidnapping and extraordinary rendition by the CIA.

For those who might be thinking that immediately post-London 7/7 is not the best time to be worrying about these issues think again – the pursuit of illegal and barbaric actions such as extraordinary rendition and torture by the UK and US governments, as part of the so called “war on terror”, are major contributary factors to potential radicalisation and help faciliate a climate in which extreme acts of violence may be more easily tolerated.

First to Sweden and a look at an article drawing some together some of the documentation about a kidnapping by the CIA at Stockholm airport in 2001.

Now to Italy and Nat Hentoff writes about the case brought dramatically to light by the authorities recent decison to issue arrest warrents for the suspected CIA operatives.

View with comments

EXTRAORDINARY RENDITION

Craig Murray worked as the British Ambassador in Uzbekistan from August 2002 to October 2004. Here he clarifies exactly what he knew and did not know about ‘extraordinary rendition’ and the UK and US policy on torture during this time.

I have seen a number of references, in the media and on the internet, citing me as confirming the existence of the CIA’s extraordinary rendition programme, and that Uzbekistan was a destination for extraordinary rendition.

It seems to me some clarification is required.

As British Ambassador in Uzbekistan from August 2002 to October 2004 I saw intelligence material passed to the CIA by the Uzbek security services, and shared with MI6 by the CIA. Much of this I knew to be factually incorrect. The intention was invariably to exaggerate the Islamist threat in Uzbekistan and to link Uzbek opposition to Al Qaida.

I had learnt a great deal about the modus operandi of the Uzbek security services and their widespread use of torture. I sent my deputy, Karen Moran, to see the US Embassy in Tashkent to check if my fears about the origin of the intelligence material might be justified. The head of the CIA station confirmed to her that the material probably was obtained under torture, but added that the CIA had not seen this as a problem.

In November 2002, late January or early February 2003 and finally June 2004 I sent official telegrams to the FCO stating that I believed we were receiving material from torture, that the material was painting a false picture and that it was both illegal and immoral for us to receive it.

In March 2003 I was summoned back to the FCO and told by Sir Michael Wood, chief Legal Adviser, that it was not illegal under the UN Convention Against Torture for us to obtain or to use intelligence gained under torture, provided we did not torture ourselves or request that a named individual be tortured. That is I believe still the true British government position, whatever their public line.

I was aware from Autumn 2002 that the CIA were bringing in detainees to Tashkent from Baghram airport Afghanistan, who were handed over to the Uzbek security services (SNB). I presumed at the time that these were all Uzbek nationals – that may have been a false presumption. I knew that the CIA were obtaining intelligence from their subsequent interrogation by the SNB.

In two cases I was contacted by families trying to discover the whereabouts of individuals brought back in this way. I also had some brief connection with a third case.

I knew that a company, Premier Executive, were operating flights of executive jets including Gulfstreams bringing back these detainees, and that this was happening fairly regularly. Premier Executive had permanent ground staff in Tashkent three of whom I met socially. I understood they were civilian contractors who operated flights which supported the US military and intelligence presence in Uzbekistan in a number of ways. I believed them to be linked to Halliburton, whose subsidiary Brown and Root were involved in construction of ground facilities also to support the US military and intelligence presence. I also met socially serving US marines who were detailed to provide protection to Halliburton personnel and operations.

I did not know that Premier Executive or the CIA were bringing non-Uzbek detainees into Uzbekistan. I did not know of detainees being brought to the US base at Karshi Khanabad or any other US facility, rather than to the Uzbek authorities in Tashkent. I never heard of any interrogation with US personnel present. I had not heard the phrase “Extraordinary Rendition”.

What I have learnt since leaving Uzbekistan has come from journalistic work by inter alia Stephen Gray, Frederic Laurin, Andrew Gilligan, Jane Mayer, Scott Pellew and Don van Natta. I have spoken at length with all of these as well as reading what they have published. I have been told by more than one of the above of highly placed US official sources confirming that extraordinary rendition to Uzbekistan of non-Uzbeks does take place, but I have not met such sources myself, nor have I first hand experience of it.

So I find the evidence for extraordinary rendition credible, but am not the first hand authority on it that I am made out to be in some quarters. What I can confirm is the positive policy decision by the US and UK to use Uzbek torture material.

Craig Murray

10 July 2005

View with comments