Monthly Archives: September 2006


Mysterious Deaths of Uzbek Refugees in the US

From The Congress of Democratic Uzbekistan (CDU)

Uzbek Foreign Affairs Ministry announced that the next group of Uzbek citizens, who fled the country after the Andijan events in May 2005, made a request to the Uzbek embassy in the USA to render assistance to

return home. All of these refugees have been staying in Boyce, Idaho.

At the same time the mysterious death of two Uzbek refugees in Idaho has raised suspicion and concern.

According to Akram Mahmedov living in Idaho (1444 W Jacksnipe Dr Meridian, ID 83642 ; Ph. #:208-895-0206 ; 208-713-4659), a 29 year old Uzbek citizen Alimjan Sabirov (Olimjon Sobirov, Garden city, ID) died on August 1, 2006. Doctors announced his death as suspicious for he had mysteriously died in his sleep, especially because Mr. Sabirov was a healthy individual.

A month later on September 2, 2006 Mr. Sabirov’s close friend Zahidjan Mahmedov (1429 Siver Salmon, Meridian, ID 83642) also died in the similar suspicious manner at the age of 29.

The Uzbek government and the embassy of Uzbekistan in Washington DC have a political interest in the return of Andijan refugees. Mr. Sabirov and Mr. Mahmedov have been trying to reveal this motive to the refugees by reasoning with them to stay. They attempted to inform

the Andijan refugees that Uzbek dictatorial regime is torturing and killing innocent people.

Furthermore Mr. Mahmedov’s brother Akram Mahmedov gave several interviews to the radio Liberty/RFE/RL, wrote articles and petitions on this issue.

The Congress of Democratic Uzbekistan is urging you to cover these mysterious deaths, due to the more than 60 refugees return to Uzbekistan next week.

Sincerely Jahangir Mamatov,

Chairman of the Democratic Uzbekistan

www.uzbekcongress.org

[email protected]

571-277-0140

www.jahongir.org

The Congress of Democratic Uzbekistan (CDU), a onprofit organization, which unites hundreds of democratic activists in Uzbekistan and has thousands of supporters in the country and many dozens of members in the US and Europe, advances freedom in Uzbekistan by promoting democracy and unmasking a totalitarian regime.

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An unlikely collection

A wide variety of speakers graced the stage at the Time to Go demonstration in Manchester at the weekend. Here we post video of the speeches from:

Malcolm Kendall-Smith – A RAF officer who was imprisoned for his principled styand against the Iraq war. “Resistence is not futile

Lauren Booth – Tony Blair’s sister-in-law!

Michael Meacher – A Labour MP who dares to break with the mould.

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The Time to Go Demonstration at the Manchester Labour Party Conference

The Time to Go Demonstration - click for more photos

Thanks to Lenin’s Tomb who also has a nice write up from the ‘Peace Train’ and a review of speeches and the days events.

A video of Craig’s speech at the demonstration can be viewed here courtesy of Ady Cousins from MFAW.

Unexpected speakers included Richard Horton, editor of the prestigious medical research journal, The Lancet. In November 2004 the Lancet published the only representative survey performed, so far, to document the excess mortality arising from the invasion of Iraq. More recent surveillance data posted on this blog indicates just how catastrophic the situation has become since the survey was carried out.

However, don’t expect these inconvenient facts to get any airtime on the conference platform.

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Islamist terrorism boosted by Iraq war: Blair clings on to ridiculous denial

16 US security agencies agree with the obvious…

As, of course, does the UK Joint Intelligence Committee, MI5, Chatham House, and well, lets be honest, everyone. The remaining question is why the Labour Party tolerates its leader smearing it with the mud of increasingly incredible denial.

From The Telegraph

The war in Iraq has boosted Islamist terrorism and the threat to the West has increased since the September 11 attacks, according to leaks from a report by America’s intelligence agencies.

In the latest blow to President George W Bush’s and Tony Blair’s justification for the war, the National Intelligence Estimate has concluded that it has fuelled radicalism and spawned a new generation of terrorists.

The report, a collation of work from America’s 16 spy agencies, is the first official survey of US intelligence on global terrorism since the invasion of Iraq in March 2003.

Summaries of the study, leaked to the New York Times yesterday, were seized on by critics of the war who have long argued that it is an effective recruiting sergeant for Islamist terrorists.

A spokesman for the White House, which has persistently argued that the world is a safer place because of the war, would only say that the leaks did not give a balanced account of the report.

Called Trends in Global Terrorism: Implications for the United States, the estimate argues that Islamic radicalism has spread across the world and diversified, according to the leak.

An early chapter ‘ Indicators of the Spread of the Global Jihadist Movement ‘ highlights the Iraq war as a prime cause for the spread of the ideology of jihad.

The 30-page estimate cites the “centrality” of the US-led invasion and the ensuing insurgency as the inspiration for Islamist terror networks across the world.

“It’s a very candid assessment,” one intelligence official told the Washington Post. “It’s stating the obvious.”

(more…)

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Nearly 6,600 civilians killed in Iraq in two months: UN

The full report from the UN can be found here

Summary from Yahoo News

BAGHDAD (AFP) – At least 6,599 civilians were killed across war-torn Iraq in the months of July and August, the United Nations said.

In July at least 3,590 people were killed and in August 3,009 died in bloody attacks on civilians, according to the UN human rights report on Wednesday.

“The month of July witnessed an increase in the number of security related incidents resulting in an unprecedented number of civilians killed throughout the country,” the report said.

“Although the number of killings decreased at the beginning of August, further increases were evident towards the end of the month in Baghdad and other governorates.”

The country is in the grip of a bitter conflict between the newly empowered Shiite majority and the ousted Sunni Arab elite that has left thousands dead since February.

UN Secretary General Kofi Annan on Monday warned that Iraq was on the brink of all-out civil war.

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US ‘threatened to bomb’ Pakistan

From BBC Online

The US threatened to bomb Pakistan “back to the stone age” unless it joined the fight against al-Qaeda, President Pervez Musharraf has said. General Musharraf said the warning was delivered by former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage to Pakistan’s intelligence director.

“I think it was a very rude remark,” Mr Musharraf told CBS television.

Pakistan agreed to side with the US, but Gen Musharraf said it did so based on his country’s national interest.

“One has to think and take actions in the interest of the nation, and that’s what I did,” he said.

‘Ludicrous’ requests

The extracts from the CBS show 60 Minutes, which will run on Sunday, were released on the same day that the White House praised Pakistan for its co-operation in America’s “war on terror”.

Gen Musharraf is due to meet US President George W Bush at the White House on Friday.

He is also due to launch his autobiography next week and some analysts say the timing of the revelation may be an attempt to generate interest in the book.

The White House and US State Department declined to comment on the 60 Minutes interview.

The Pakistani president said that, following the attacks of 11 September 2001, the US made some “ludicrous” demands of Pakistan.

“The intelligence director told me that Mr Armitage said, ‘Be prepared to be bombed. Be prepared to go back to the Stone Age’,” he said.

The US envoy also insisted that Pakistan suppress domestic expression of support for attacks on the United States, he said.

“If somebody’s expressing views, we cannot curb the expression of views,” Gen Musharraf said.

Mr Armitage also allegedly demanded that Pakistan allow the US to use its border posts as staging points for the war on Afghanistan.

Pakistan’s support was considered crucial in the defeat of Afghanistan’s Taleban government, which Pakistan had helped to bring to power.

President Musharraf has proved a loyal ally though many now will question the means used to extract the co-operation, says the BBC’s US state department correspondent Jonathan Beale.

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British Army expert casts doubt on ‘liquid explosives’ threat, Al Qaeda network in UK Identified

Fromn The Raw Story

Lieutenant-Colonel (ret.) Nigel Wylde, a former senior British Army Intelligence Officer, has suggested that the police and government story about the “terror plot” revealed on 10th August was part of a “pattern of lies and deceit.”

British and American government officials have described the operation which resulting in the arrest of 24 mostly British Muslim suspects, as a resounding success. Thirteen of the suspects have been charged, and two released without charges.

According to security sources, the terror suspects were planning to board up to ten civilian airliners and detonate highly volatile liquid explosives on the planes in a spectacular terrorist operation. The liquid explosives — either TATP (Triacetone Triperoxide), DADP (diacetone diperoxide) or the less sensitive HMTD (hexamethylene triperoxide diamine) — were reportedly to be made on board the planes by mixing sports drinks with a peroxide-based household gel and then be detonated using an MP3 player or mobile phone.

But Lt. Col. Wylde, who was awarded the Queen’s Gallantry Medal for his command of the Belfast Explosive Ordnance Disposal Unit in 1974, described this scenario as a “fiction.” Creating liquid explosives is a “highly dangerous and sophisticated task,” he states, one that requires not only significant chemical expertise but also appropriate equipment.

Terror plot scenario “untenable”

“The idea that these people could sit in the plane toilet and simply mix together these normal household fluids to create a high explosive capable of blowing up the entire aircraft is untenable,” said Lt. Col. Wylde, who was trained as an ammunition technical officer responsible for terrorist bomb disposal at the Royal Army Ordnance Corps in Sandhurst.

After working as a bomb defuser in Northern Ireland, Lt. Col. Wylde became a senior officer in British Army Intelligence in 1977. During the Cold War, he collected intelligence as part of an undercover East German “liaison unit,” then went on to work in the Ministry of Defense to review its communications systems.

“So who came up with the idea that a bomb could be made on board? Not Al Qaeda for sure. It would not work. Bin Laden is interested in success not deterrence by failure,” Wylde stated.

(more…)

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MOD failures in casualty reporting

“The statistics provided just do not add up”

The failure by the British Ministry of Defence to report full and accurate information on British casualties, during the war in Iraq has been previously documented by a number of sources. It now appears that the MOD admit that even the system of reporting casualties to the next of kin did not function correctly during the Iraq invasion.

As casualties continue to rise, in both Iraq and Afghanistan, LFCM provides the latest update on their attempts to unravel this bizarre case of continuing official obfuscation.

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Military Families Peace Camp Goes Ahead

The Labour Council in Manchester had previously sought to ban the peace camp planned for this coming weekend.

From Military Families Against the War

‘Rose Gentle and Peter Brierley are pleased to announce that the Peace

Camp in Central Manchester will go ahead as planned.

The Camp will start at 3pm on Thursday 21st September and run until the beginning of the Stop the War demonstration on the 23rd. The venue for the Camp will be the Peace Gardens, St Peters Square, thanks to an agreement with Manchester City Council.

This is within sight of the Tony Blair’s luxury hotel. For over two

years now families of servicemen killed in Iraq have been seeking a

meeting with the Prime Minister. The Camp is part of their campaign.

Rose and Peter said today, ‘we would like to thank the people of

Manchester for all the support we have received from them. They have

shown to us that Manchester is truly a city of peace and we look forward to welcoming all those who wish to visit us at the Camp.’

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British soldiers tortured Iraqi civillian to death: One pleads guilty to war crimes as case continues

The court heard yesterday that captive Iraqis were beaten with iron bars, kicked, starved, and forced to drink their own urine during a catalogue of abuse which led to the death of one prisoner.

British soldier is first to admit war crime

From The Independent

A British soldier has become the first person to plead guilty to war crimes. Cpl Donald Payne admitted inhumanely treating civilians in Basra four months after the official end of the war.

But Cpl Payne, 35, formerly of the Queen’s Lancashire Regiment, now of the renamed Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment, pleaded not guilty to manslaughter and perverting the course of justice at the start of the first court martial of British troops accused of war crimes under the International Criminal Court Act (ICCA) 2001.

The court heard yesterday that captive Iraqis were beaten with iron bars, kicked, starved, and forced to drink their own urine during a catalogue of abuse which led to the death of one prisoner.

The dead man, Baha Mousa, 26, had 93 injuries to his body. Two other Iraqis were severely wounded in the “systematic mistreatment” meted out to them in 36 hours of incarceration, the hearing was told.

Cpl Payne’s six co-defendants pleaded not guilty to crimes relating to the death of Mr Mousa.

Among the seven soldiers in the dock in connection with the death and the alleged assaults is the most senior officer to face charges over Iraq war, Colonel Jorge Mendonca, who is accused of negligence in performing his duties by failing the halt the ill-treatment by his men.

The Military Court Centre, at Bulford Camp on Salisbury Plain, heard that the beating of the prisoners took place “for no apparent reason, sometimes, it seems, for the entertainment of others” among the British contingent.

Julian Bevan QC, for the prosecution, told the court that the case against the seven defendants centred on the alleged ill-treatment received by Iraqi civilians held for a period of about 36 hours at a temporary detention facility in Basra on 14 and 15 September 2003.

(more…)

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Bush War Crimes Commission: The final verdict

The final verdict of the INTERNATIONAL COMMISSION OF INQUIRY ON CRIMES AGAINST HUMANITY COMMITTED BY THE BUSH ADMINISTRATION OF THE UNITED STATES has now been published and can be downloaded from here

An extract from the introduction is posted below:

The extraordinary Commission of Inquiry convened to consider charges that the President George W. Bush and his administration have committed war crimes and crimes against humanity has now reached a verdict: Guilty.

On wars of aggression, illegal detention and torture, suppression of science and catastrophic policies on global warming, potentially genocidal abstinence-only policies imposed on HIV/AIDS prevention programs in the Third World, and the abandonment of New Orleans before, during, and after Hurricane Katrina, President George W. Bush and his administration have been found guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

This verdict comes at crucial moment. As Michael Ratner, President of the Center for Constitutional Rights, emphasized at the Commission hearings: ‘We want this trial to be a step in the building of mass resistance to war, to torture, to the destruction of earth and its people. It’s a serious moment. . . . We still have a chance, an opportunity to stop this slide into chaos. But it is up to us. We must not sit with our arms folded, and we must be as radical as the reality we are facing.’

Acts of the Bush Administration have continued to reinforce this assessment. The crimes cited in the indictments have continued. We have witnessed a continuing onslaught of horrors in Iraq from the massacres in Haditha and Mahmudiya to the exposure of rapes and murders by U.S. forces. Torture continues at secret overseas sites. New Orleans still lies in ruins, much of its Black population ‘resettled.’ New evidence concerning the deadly impact of U.S. AIDS policy in Africa has come to light. New crimes have been committed such as the destruction of Lebanon with U.S. weapons and backing. And now even more serious crimes loom with open threats to launch a new war of aggression on Iran. This administration has flouted and defied the Geneva Conventions. It has arrogated to itself the right to suspend habeas corpus, engage in mass warrantless searches, and defines the powers of the ‘commander-in-chief’ to be above the law. Bush’s Attorney General, Alberto Gonzales, has sought to legitimize torture and exempt those who employ torture from prosecution.

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Canada: Arar report exposes RCMP, government officials complicit in torture

From Amnesty International

Ottawa ‘ Justice Dennis O’Connor has confirmed the worst fears of Organizations with Intervenor Status at the Arar Inquiry: that Canadian officials were complicit in the torture of Maher Arar and other Canadian citizens.

‘Justice O’Connor has documented in astonishing detail how the very officials tasked with protecting the rights of these Canadian citizens failed to live up to that responsibility, and worse yet, were directly involved in passing on questions for interrogations where torture would be used,’ said Alex Neve, Secretary General of Amnesty International Canada.

The report details the callous disregard for the very real likelihood that government actions would directly contribute to the torture of these Canadian citizens. In particular, there is chilling reference to an October 10, 2002 memo in which a Foreign Affairs official warns that a decision to send a line of questioning about Abdullah Almalki to Syrian security agencies might ‘involve torture.’ The RCMP chose to ignore the concern and proceeded anyway:

‘The RCMP are ready to send their Syrian counterparts a request that Al Malki be asked questions posed by the RCMP, questions relating to other members of his organization. Both ISI and DMSCUS/HOM [Ambassador Pillarella] have pointed out to the RCMP that such questioning may involve torture. The RCMP are aware of this but have nonetheless decided to send their request’ (Report of the Events Relating to Maher Arar: Analysis and Recommendations, page 209).

Intervenors welcome Justice O’Connor’s recommendation that a further process of ‘independent and credible’ review into the cases of Mr. Abdullah Almalki, Mr. Ahmad El Maati and Mr. Muayyed Nureddin be instituted (Analysis and Recommendations, page 278), and urge the government to act on this recommendation without further delay. These men have waited far too long for answers and accountability.

Organizations intervening at the Arar Commission are also pleased that Justice O’Connor says that his Interim Report should remove any ‘taint or suspicion’ that Mr. Arar has committed any offence or constitutes any threat to the security of Canada (Anaylsis and Recommendations, page 59).

Justice O’Connor is also clearly of the view that Mr. Arar is entitled to compensation and has encouraged the Canadian government to be flexible in how that compensation should be assessed, recognizing the suffering he has been through, the damage of the improper and unfair leaks, his difficulty in finding employment and the impact of the inquiry itself. Justice O’Connor has also signaled that an apology might be appropriate (Analysis and Recommendations, page 362-363).

‘The report offers a staggering catalogue of deficiencies, mistakes and even deliberate wrongdoing, all of which laid the ground for the severe abuses suffered by Mr. Arar and the other three men named in this report,’ said Neve.

Those responsible should be held accountable and the reforms recommended by Justice O’Connor should be immediately implemented in order to guard against future repeats of these tragedies.

Justice O’Connor has also recommended that Canadian agencies involved in national security investigations implement written policies prohibiting racial, religious or ethnic profiling, and training to sensitize those agencies to the realities of Canada’s Muslim and Arab communities. Intervenors urge the government to prioritize the implementation of these recommendations.

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Guantanamo’s Catch-22

By Moazzem Begg in the Herald Tribune

Moazzam Begg is a British Muslim who spent three years in U.S. detention, including two years at Guantanamo before being released in 2005.

A few months ago, I was approached by U.S. military defense attorneys, something I have grown increasingly accustomed to since my release from the Guantanamo Bay prison camp.

The request wasn’t from lawyers defending Guantanamo detainees. The defendant was a soldier facing several charges, including detainee abuse at a U.S. detention facility in Bagram, Afghanistan. Some of the events surrounding these allegations coincided with my time there during 2002. I’d spoken to members of the Army’s Criminal Investigation Command and internal investigation officers who were trying to build a case against other soldiers. So it came as a surprise when lawyers asked me if I would consider being a defense witness.

The then specialist, Damien Corsetti, didn’t mistreat me. He never interrogated me and he always passed by my cage with a smile, often stopping to talk. He even gave me books at a time when they were hard to come by. One of the books, ironically, Heller’s “Catch-22,” is described as “the classic antiwar novel of our time.” I was even allowed to bring it with me to England, where it remains on my bookshelf, next to another book from U.S. soldiers: a military issue of the Bible, in full camouflage jacket.

I often found myself discussing religion with guards and interrogators, some of whom were Christian Evangelists or Southern Baptists. I thought it important to try to explain similarities between the Bible and the Koran, as well as looking at the fundamental differences in belief and perception. Perhaps, I thought, it might help some of my captors appreciate that we all held things sacred.

Last year, when Newsweek published a report alleging the desecration of the Koran by guards in Guant’namo, I was surprised – surprised that the article had materialized so late. Many former prisoners had complained about the abuse well before, including me. However, my personal analysis of the affair was simple: The Koran may be the sacred, unadulterated speech of the Almighty to me and 1.6 billion other Muslims, but to the average soldier it is paper and ink. If, in his or her mind, it was justified to redefine the rules of engagement to include the application of torture then what of a mere book?

A Saudi still in Guantanamo, Ahmed al-Darbi, told me in Bagram that Corsetti had taken out his penis, threatened to rape him and, while pointing to his manhood, screamed, “This is your God!” I have since learned that Corsetti was called “King of Torture” by his fellow soldiers.

Darbi’s allegations were not upheld in court, so my testimony was not required. Oddly enough, there was a time when I was facing my own possible military commission, in which I intended to call U.S. soldiers as defense witnesses. I encountered hundreds of them during my years in captivity. I made friends with some of them, too. Paradoxically, some of these soldiers helped me face the years of isolation and despair as my only friends. One of them was Corsetti.

In his defense, Corsetti’s lawyer is reported to have said: “The president of the United States doesn’t know what the rules are. The secretary of defense doesn’t know what the rules are. But the government expects this Pfc. [private first class] to know what the rules are?”

Corsetti cannot escape culpability by this argument. But it does suggest that responsibility stretches higher up the chain of command. Meanwhile, we continue to pay the price because nobody knows what the rules are.

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Craig Murray in Liverpool

A recording of Craig Murray’s talk, organised by Merseyside Stop the War Coalition in Liverpool on the 13th Sept, can be heard here.

“Speaking to a crowd of about 100 Craig held the room for about half an hour, talking about his time as ambassador to Uzbekistan, the use and misuse of intelligence, and the implications of that in the war on terror including WMD, the Ricin free Ricin plot, Forrest Gate and bombs made out of babymilk. All reasons why you should make the effort to get to Manchester for the ‘Time to Go‘ protest at Labour’s conference on Saturday 23rd September.

He also reveals a fondness for Angelina Jollie, that he isn’t a 911 Conspiracy Theorist, MI6’s love of good coffee, and demonstrates what he describes as Scotsmans genetic abilities to go for a pee at just the right moment.”

With thanks to Blairwatch

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Rights Groups Blast UNESCO for Awarding Uzbek President

From Mosnews.com

UNESCO’s decision to award Uzbek President Islam Karimov the “Borobudur” gold medal has caused criticism of several international rights organizations who consider Karimov a gross violator of human rights, Radio Free Europe reports.

UNESCO Director-General Koichiro Matsuura personally gave Karimov the award in Tashkent on September 8 for the Uzbek president’s contribution to “strengthening friendship and cooperation between the nations, development of cultural and religious dialogue, and supporting cultural diversity.” Rights organizations have long branded Karimov a gross violator of human rights. They say that any international award to the Uzbek leader is inappropriate and that the UNESCO decision was not only wrong but runs contrary to stated UN policies.

Freedom House and Human Rights Watch are leading the campaign against the UNESCO decision.

Veronika Szente-Goldston, Human Rights Watch’s advocacy director for Europe and Central Asia, expressed her organization’s shock at news of the award in comments to RFE/RL’s Uzbek Service. “We think that this is absolutely scandalous,” she said. “When we first saw the announcement we thought that it must be a bad joke.”

Freedom House joined Human Rights Watch in criticizing UNESCO and the UN agency’s awarding of Karimov.

Alexander Gupman, the senior program manager at Freedom House, said his group was similarly amazed at the UNESCO decision. “Freedom House strongly condemns this decision to reward the dictator Karimov in Uzbekistan who has been part of a massacre of civilians; his regime has been accused of torture as well as other human rights abuses,” he said.

UNESCO introduced this medal in 1983, naming it after the famous Buddhist temple in central Java, Indonesia, that dates from the 8th-9th centuries and was restored with UNESCO help in the 1970s. The Borobudur medals ?- gold, silver, and bronze ?- are given mainly for contributions in preserving cultural heritage sites.

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Light Matter on Murder in Samarkand

From Light Matter

Craig Murray’s Murder in Samarkand tells the story of one diplomat who fought the system and lost.

First a timeline. Way back in post 9-11 2001, when the civilized world was united by a desire to eradicate the planet of the scourge of terrorism, it seemed that global alliances were being realigned and the bad guys were on the run. The US set up airbases in Uzbekistan with Uzbekistan’s full — and Russia’s tacit — approval. So soon after the US-led NATO campaign in Kosovo, when relations between Washington and Moscow were strained to Cold War levels for the first time since the fall of the Soviet Union, such cooperation was unheard of. American boots in Russia’s near abroad at any other time would have signaled the final dissolution of the Russian homeland let alone the USSR. But these strange times made for stranger bedfellows. Putin, famously, was the first to call President Bush in the aftermath of the 9-11 attacks; Arafat showily donated blood to the victims of the towers; even Saddam tried to find the proper channels through which to express his condolences to the families of the civilian casualties while distancing himself from the blame. It seemed unsurprising that we would form an alliance with Uzbekistan or that Uzbekistan, looking to distance itself from Moscow’s influence, would agree. It was a brave new world. By mid 2002 the US was a wave of anger and the Bush administration was shooting tubes on this wave like a world class surfer.

Then the War on terror took a surprising turn and troops were cut from Afghanistan and ran to Iraq, even as public support (except among the deaf dumb and blind) lingered somewhere in the Hindu Kush. US alliances began to dwindle and the coalition of the willing became the coalition of the willing-to-be-coerced or outright duped. Our Central Asian airbases were still of strategic importance to the war on terror, even though the Afghan campaign was winding down. Islam Karimov was willing to keep the Americans on in order to reap the benefits of Washington’s munificence and keep Moscow at arm’s length as he worked out the intricacies of his own private “independence.”

Into this world of fuzzy realpolitik stepped Craig Murray in his first posting as Ambassador, though not, despite the self-presentation to the contrary, some innocent abroad. Before taking on his job in Tashkent, Murray was the British Deputy High Commissioner in Ghana, and worked for a number years in the nineties for the UK Foreign Office in Europe. Though perhaps the fact that this was Murray’s first ambassadorship is remarkable not so much because it casts Murray as a diplomatic naif (he isanythingg but), but because that seems to be what the British Foreign Office wanted for Uzbekistan at the time. Despite the sudden importance of Uzbekistan to Britain and the US and this unique opportunity to gain a foothold in Central Asia for any number of security/energy reasons, the choice of Murray by 10 Downing Street seems oddly whimsical, even perfunctory.

But step in he did, and right away began doing the work of an ambassador: setting up the office, being greeted by the political elite, meeting local business people (who apparently had gone uncourted by the previous ambassador), giving and attending parties, sending off communiques, etc. But almost before the busy-ness of work was completed, Murray saw that there was something rotten in Tashkent. The more he talked with people, the more he learned that the Karimov regime was not what it appeared to be. The “Islamic extremists” that were routinely rounded up, imprisoned and, more often than not, tortured, seemed to have no connections to the fundamentalist Islamic groups in the region. And the torture itself…of that we do have evidence…

One of the main images that haunts this book is that of a torture victim who was found boiled to death. Murray sees photographic evidence of the result. It is one of the earliest and most haunting images of brutality in the book, haunting because Murray can’t stop thinking about it, whether he is arranging the dinner seating at some embassy function or dallying with Nadira. We see it emerge at several key moments in the book and yet the only person who seems bothered by it is Murray himself, thus adding to the surreality of the situation. The foreign office knows the reports and has seen the images, but their job is to set policy and see that it gets carried out through its ambassadors, not to address individual cases of abuse or torture. And so, nothing.

Balancing personal outrage with the duties of public office is a Quixotic and thankless task. In the life of the diplomat, for whom staying on message of the government you work for is of primary, singular concern, this balancing act can come with a price. For many of the diplomats with whom Craig Murray associates or in whose footsteps he finds himself walking, this price is their own perception. The blindness required of a British diplomat comes not from the brutal Karimov regime, for example, but from the governments whose diplomats these are. And yet Murray finds he can’t remain blind and will not remain dumb, as he informs the Foreign Office time and time again of the Karimov regime’s use of torture and suppression of dissidence. He does this not out of righteousness but so that the British Government can more accurately see what is going on and set their policy accordingly. The blank silence or the curt or angry responses he gets from his superiors surprise Murray, but it doesn’t put him off. He increases his interactions with the people of Tashkent.

This method of mixing daily business with the outrage of a statesman makes for some very clunky prose at times. As, for instance, when he eyes up the sister of a torture victim before he realizes who she is. But Murray injects these awkward and unprofessional scenes as an antidote to the way in which he was villified. He does not persistently refute the charges brough against him or beg the question: he looks at the girl and then looks where he is supposed to look, at the evidence. That his superiors stopped short at the girl says more about them. Beyond the ocassionally (rarely, really) salacious, Murder in Samarkand is filled with interesting information, about people for whom the salacious, had they engaged in it, would make them seem at least human. We learn, for instance, how after the Rose Revolution in Georgia, Edward Scheverdnaze went out of his way to personally warn Karimov of the dangers of the NGOs to the stability of his government. Raised to political awareness during the years of perestroika and glasnost, I had always seen Scheverdnaze as a statesman of the first order. Sure, I had heard of the charges of government corruption, but I decided to remain blind to it, because I didn’t know enough. Another shattered illusion…

Murray calls what he as done an “experiment — I believe a successful one — in a more dynamic style of ambassadorship,” adding to the myth that this was seat-of-the-pants statesmanship; but Murray has been doing the diplomat’s job all along, don’t let him fool you. The stories that circulated about the boozing, or the Tashkent clubs, or his wandering eye, are the irrelevant salacious details put into circulation by Machiavellian, Puritan scolds. Murray went, saw and, unfortunately, was conquered. If the experiment was successful it was because he was able to show the limits of good work in a world overrun by politicians who base their decisions on nothing more tangible than gut feeling.

And perhaps that is the point: the eye of Craig Murray, as likely to look down a girl’s top or up her dress as it is to descry the blatant brutality of a corrupt dictatorship or the hypocrisies of his colleagues and superiors, is an eye that is needed. “Intelligence” after all has been one of the biggest casualties in the post-9-11 world, whether it in the halls of power in Washington or, apparently, 10 Downing Street. Policy relies on intelligence, which emerges from clear sightedness, on an accurate and clear perception of what is out there. Policy decisions can be debated, and to a degree so can “what has been seen,” but this debate must range on the evidence that is out there, not the willful and claustrophobic speculation of abstract concepts.

More than two years after Murray lost his job and more than a year after the events at Andijan, it seems that things haven’t changed a bit in Uzbekistan. Western “diplomats” are more willing than ever to be led by the nose by Karimov, and are often seen sniffing around his table. This even after Karimov kicked the US out and is back to courting Moscow. Now THAT is realpolitik!

And not a peep, not a peep…

Murray did indeed fight the system and lose: he lost the battle over the importance of accurate intelligence, he lost his job, he lost his health, he, for a time, lost his reputation, and yet with this book, this communique, one would hope that these losses are easier for him to bear; because these losses were both the result of, and met with, a bravery that is unique in these days.

I only wish Murray’s bravery had allowed him to post a picture of him wearing his kilt.

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Torturers, assassins and character assasssins

From 21st Century Vision

One theory of the peculiarity of the British state has it that its threefold origin created a democratically dysfunctional structure which is in urgent need of reform. This is nothing to do with its multi-national past as the fusion of Scottish, Irish and English/Welsh states, but instead the result of its colonial history. The triune British state grew up on the basis of the colonial states, each with its relative independence in the dominions and possessions, the island British state, with its slow advance to universal suffrage if not democracy, and – linking them all together – the imperial state. The problem was, and to some extent still is, that while the colonial states have withered away, and the British state is at least to some extent publicly accountable, the imperial state marches on unchecked and unchallenged. Exercising those “prerogative powers” which the monarchic fiction preserves from normal scrutiny, it comprises military, intelligence, diplomatic and other functions which are not normally discussed before the servants, i.e. ourselves.

Of course we like to think of the assorted officers, spooks, uniformed ambassadors and other inhabitants of this self-governing demi-monde as motivated only by patriotic concern for the good of the country, tempered these days by a sense of European values and a regard for the rule of law in general and human rights in particular. OK, they get it wrong, but Suez was a terrible lesson and the mandarins and generals saw through WMD in Iraq and were extremely unenthusiastic about following the US in its rampage through the Muslim world. Like more or less everyone else they are waiting for better political times and an end to the increasingly bizarre leadership they get from Downing Street. Our recent post of an article by Oliver Miles (see below, 3rd August ) makes the point.

It is this unthinking assumption of the basic decency of the people who run the shadowy institutions of the imperial state which takes such a body blow from Craig Murray’s Murder in Samarkand (published last month by Mainstream). No need to rehearse the whole story here of how as ambassador to Uzbekistan Murray took the UK’s human rights agenda seriously and – with great persistence and courage – drove it forward in a country where legal, political and civil freedoms were and are almost non-existent and where extreme forms of torture are normal instruments of government (see our photograph). In 2003, however, Uzbekistan was being built up by the US as a bulwark against Islamic fundamentalism and an ally in the “war on terror”, and Murray’s very public pronouncements were not welcome. Nor was his forthright rejection of the policy of using information obtained under torture.

It is by now unsurprising that Downing Street moved immediately to rid itself of the embarrassment, but what does come as an unpleasant revelation is the extent to which senior figures in the Foreign and Colonial Office engaged willingly in every form of pressure, falsehood and character assassination to give the appearance of due process. Their methods might be described as Stalinism without the Lubyanka, but when one considers that in stifling Murray they were in fact buttressing US cover for Uzbek and other torture chambers, the phrase is too kind.

The book is valuable in a number of ways. First it shows the extent to which when the Bush administration says so the UK’s human rights rhetoric is just that, rhetoric. Second, it provides material of relevance to that eternally unanswerable question of how far, like Vichy France, the British would have collaborated with a Nazi occupation in the 1940s.

Finally, it shows the need for reform in the structures of the British state, with no more reserved areas beyond the reach of open parliamentary scrutiny.

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Taliban “Ferocity” Stuns UK Troops

From Islamonline.net

British soldiers say the ferocity of the fighting and privations they face are far worse than generally known. (Reuters)

HELMAND PROVINCE ‘ British troops deployed in southern Afghanistan were stunned by the ferocity shown by die-hart Taliban fighters, while top NATO officers on Wednesday, September 13, struggled to find reinforcements.

“We did not expect the ferocity of the engagements,” a British officer who has served in the southern province of Helmand, told The Independent.

“We also expected the Taliban to carry out hit and run raids. Instead we have often been fighting toe to toe, endless close-quarters combat. It has been exhausting.”

Some 4,000 British troops make up the majority of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force deployed in the southern provinces of Helmand and Kandahar.

Captain Leo Docherty, the former aide-de-camp to the commander of the British taskforce in southern Afghanistan, has resigned in protest at the “grotesquely clumsy” and “pointless” campaign against Taliban. The criticism, the first from an officer who has served in Afghanistan, came during the worst time so far for British troops in the country. In total, 22 British troops have been killed so far in September.

More than 90 foreign troops have been killed in Afghanistan this year, and the casualties in the south have raised questions about NATO’s ability to successfully complete its mission.

Coming Back

The British troops complain that no matter how many Taliban fighters they kill, they keep coming back.

“We are flattening places we have already flattened, but the attacks have kept coming,” one soldier told the British daily.

“We have killed them by the dozens, but more keep coming, either locally or from across the border,” he added.

The solider asserted that they have used almost all their available military cards including B1 bombers, Harriers, F16s and Mirage 2000s.

“We have dropped 500lb, 1,000lb and even 2,000lb bombs. At one point our Apaches ran out of missiles they have fired so many,” he said, noting this has not prevented ambushes.

“Almost any movement on the ground gets ambushed.”

Lt Gen David Richards, ISAF commander, admitted that British forces have been involved in some of the fiercest fighting since the Korean war in 1951.

Even Afghan civilians are complaining. “We are not safe now; it is more dangerous than it was just a few months ago,” one man said in the market town of Lashkar Gar.

Reinforcements

In Brussels, top N ese worthy tasks. What the media fails to mention is that the trans-Afghan gas pipeline will eventually pass through Helmand and Kandahar, although its construction has recently been suspended due to rebel activity.

Could it be that securing this area to allow pipeline construction is the real reason British troops are fighting in Afghanistan? If so then it’s a pointless exercise, as even if the pipeline is constructed it would never be secure in a hostile country like Afghanistan.

In the nineteenth century the British lost two disastrous wars fighting Afghan tribesmen, I fear we are seeing the mistakes of history repeated.

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The battle for international law continues in the US

From CNN International

WASHINGTON (CNN) – The Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday voted 15-9 to recommend a bill – over the objections of the Bush administration – that would authorize tribunals for terror suspects in a way that it says would protect suspects’ rights.

The bill was backed by Republican Sens. John Warner of Virginia, chairman of the Armed Services Committee, Sen. John McCain of Arizona and Sen Lindsey Graham of South Carolina.

It differs from the administration’s proposal in two major ways: It would permit terror suspects to view classified evidence against them and does not include a proposal that critics say reinterprets a Geneva Conventions rule that prohibits cruel and inhuman treatment of detainees.

In a decision earlier this summer, the Supreme Court ruled that the administration must meet Article III standards in its treatment of detainees.

Article III prohibits nations engaged in combat not of “an international character” from, among other things, “violence to life and person, in particular murder of all kinds, mutilation, cruel treatment and torture” and “outrages upon personal dignity, in particular, humiliating and degrading treatment.”

(more…)

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