Daily archives: October 16, 2005

Iraq envoy’s tell-all memoir blocked

By Martin Bright writing in The Observer

The Foreign Office has effectively killed the publication of a controversial fly-on-the-wall memoir of the Iraq war by one of Britain’s most senior diplomats, which would have called the conflict ‘politically illegitimate’.

In a move that brought immediate accusations of censorship from its author, The Observer can reveal that Sir Jeremy Greenstock, Britain’s ambassador to the United Nations during the preparations for war in 2003 and the Prime Minister’s envoy to Iraq following the war, has been blocked in his efforts to reveal ‘certain truths’ about the conflict. He was uniquely well-placed to provide the inside story of the conflict and its aftermath.

But this weekend his publishers in Britain and America were set to pull the plug on the book after the Foreign Office demanded drastic cuts and the removal of references to conversations between Greenstock and the major players in the conflict, including Tony Blair and the Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw.

Greenstock told The Observer he was considering other ways of getting his story out: ‘My personal view is that it might be worth saying what I want to say rather than being censored to blandness.’

He refused to elaborate on what this might entail, but opposition politicians last night demanded that Parliament be allowed to question the former ambassador about the contents of his memoirs.

Greenstock, now director of the international affairs institution, the Ditchley Foundation, said it was a pity that the government’s culture of secrecy had prevented him from putting his experiences on the historical record.

Civil service rules prevent senior public servants from writing their memoirs without first submitting them for official approval. The Observer understands that the first two-thirds of Greenstock’s work, The Costs of War, were submitted to the Foreign Office in the spring, when officials indicated that there were only likely to be minor changes.

However, when the final manuscript was delivered in the summer, Downing Street was said to be ‘deeply shocked’ by reports of private ministerial conversations and the deliberations of the UN Security Council. It is now thought the Foreign Office has gone back through the book and demanded further cuts.

The American publisher, Public Affairs, has already removed the book from its online catalogue, and Random House in Britain is now thought unlikely to publish a watered-down version.

Extracts seen by The Observer show that Greenstock saw the conflict as ‘politically illegitimate, but militarily a startling success for the US-led coalition’. He said the decisions made to remove Saddam were ‘honourable’, but that the promise of the post-war period had been ‘dissipated in poor policy analysis and narrow-minded execution’.

In the catalogue entry, now withdrawn, Greenstock wrote: ‘In the UK retired public officials do not normally write books on events still current. I am breaking that convention because the lessons drawn from the saga in Iraq are too important to leave until later.’ Liberal Democrat foreign affairs spokesman Menzies Campbell said Greenstock should be called before Parliament to discuss his book: ‘There is an opportunity here for one of the committees of the house, Foreign Affairs or Defence perhaps, to show its independence from the government by requesting Sir Jeremy to come before it.’

The new chair of the Foreign Affairs committee chair, Mike Gapes, said there had been no communication with Greenstock concerning his book.

A Foreign Office spokeswoman said: ‘The book is still under discussion in keeping with the proper procedures.’

Although Greenstock said he had not yet decided to defintively pull the plug on the book, he indicated that the cuts required by the Foreign Office would leave little substance to his memoirs.

Publishing sources said the book was highly unlikely to see the light of day while Blair was still Prime Minister

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Heroic Uzbek woman blows apart Karimov’s show trial

from BBC Online

An Uzbek woman says she saw government troops open fire on unarmed civilians during protests in Andijan in May.

Her testimony, at the trial of 15 men alleged to have led the revolt, contradicts government accounts of what happened during the unrest.

The Uzbek government says nearly 200 people, mostly “terrorist organisers”, died when security forces put down an armed Islamic uprising.

Human rights groups say 500 or more civilians may have been killed.

Makhbuba Zakirova told the court that she saw soldiers shooting at people waving a white flag.

“Even Hitler did not do such things,” she said.

Mrs Zakirova said that after speaking out in court, she feared for her life and freedom.

Correspondents say her statement undermines three weeks of testimony in what many foreign observers had dismissed as a show trial.

All 15 accused men have pleaded guilty to charges that they were trying to overthrow the Uzbek government and set up an Islamic state, and they have all given long and detailed testimonies.

‘Telling the truth’

Mrs Zakirova, 33, said she mingled with anti-government protesters in the city square while walking with her children.

She said she stayed out of curiosity when she heard Uzbek President Islam Karimov was supposed to talk with the protesters.

“There were people in helmets everywhere. I twice saw soldiers shooting from military vehicles. The shooting was intense,” she said, the Reuters news agency reported.

Mrs Zakirova was interrupted by the prosecutor, who asked: “Do you realise what you are saying? Are you sure?”

She replied: “Are you going to arrest me now? I was telling only the truth, and you yourself asked me to give a truthful testimony… I am only saying what I saw.”

Earlier this week, the Uzbek authorities denied reports that illegal methods may have been used to force confessions from the 15 men on trial.

A former Uzbek interior ministry employee told the BBC that beatings or psychotropic drugs were often used to force confessions.

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