Daily archives: September 4, 2006

Banned in Britain

From the Washington Post

It was a diplomatic war of words. On one side, Britain’s outspoken envoy in Tashkent, Craig Murray, aiming to expose Uzbekistan’s human rights abuses. On the other, Murray’s superiors in Britain’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office, seeking to rein in his criticisms — and his behavior.

While writing his just-released memoir “Murder in Samarkand,” Murray tried to publish several memos and telegrams documenting the FCO’s efforts against him. However, he withdrew them after the British government threatened a lawsuit. The documents, excerpted below, are available at sites such as http://blairwatch.co.uk/ and http://dahrjamailiraq.com/ .

Shortly after reaching Tashkent in the summer of 2002, Murray voiced criticisms of human rights violations in Uzbekistan and U.S. policy in Central Asia. Simon Butt, head of the FCO’s Eastern department, sent an e-mail about Murray to Michael Jay, chief of Britain’s diplomatic services, on Oct 16, 2002:

. . . We are fast developing a problem with Craig Murray, who is using unclassified email pretty indiscriminately to fire off criticisms of the Uzbek regime, US policy etc . . . He has also sent the draft text of a speech he is shortly to give at a Freedom House meeting, which criticises the human rights situation in Uzbekistan in terms which are bound to infuriate the Uzbeks (“This country has made very little progress in moving away from the dictatorship of the Soviet period . . . no effective brake on the authority of a President who has failed to validate his position by facing genuine political opponents in anything resembling a free and fair election”).

* * *

Charles Hill of the Eastern department sought to revise the text of Murray’s Freedom House speech. He sent this letter to Murray on Oct 16:

Many thanks for sending a copy of your draft speech. It is hard-hitting, and one that (I think) Martin Luther King would have been proud of. But there are elements of it, as currently drafted, that I doubt should be delivered by an HMA [Her Majesty’s Ambassador] Tashkent. Language which is too outspoken risks antagonising the Uzbek authorities, and undermining your mission (in both senses of the word) . . .

Nowhere in the speech is there any acknowledgement of the Soviet legacy Uzbekistan needs to overcome, or the genuine extremist/terrorist challenges it has had to grapple with . . . We do not accept Uzbek arguments that these problems justify human rights abuses, but we do seek to address them in recognising that . . .

The best examples of what the FCO is on record as having said are in publications such as the Human Rights Reports . . . As you will see, on torture the Report says “Uzbekistan has a poor record of ensuring respect for human rights . . . We are concerned about reports of torture . . . etc etc”. We would be content for you to jazz up the language of the Report somewhat, but expressions like “deep shame” “outrage” etc go too far.

* * *

On the eve of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, Murray sent a telegram to the FCO accusing the Bush administration of “double standards” for deciding to dismantle “the torture chambers and the rape rooms” in Iraq while treating the “systematic torture and rape” of the Karimov regime as “peccadilloes.” Butt subsequently met with Murray in Uzbekistan and reported back to the FCO on April 16, 2003:

. . . Craig was unapologetic. What he had said needed saying. He had again received congratulatory emails from a number of other Posts which had received the telegram. These were issues about which he felt strongly, and which needed to be aired. His drafting style reflected his feelings. He was not prepared to compromise on principles to further his career. I did not dispute his right to air the issues (I myself met with the US Ambassador and queried whether US policy was too indulgent towards Uzbekistan). But he should cultivate a more measured and less emotional style, and should not seek to give the impression that he was the only person in the FCO with a conscience . . .

I ought to mention, without further comment, one further aspect of Craig’s unconventional style. After a dinner in Samarkand, the rest of the party returned to our hotel. Craig, in the company of our young female LE [locally engaged] fixer, went off in search of a jazz club. I have heard from others that he has patronised strip clubs in Warsaw . . . But during my visit his demeanour was perfectly correct, and I picked up no signs whatsoever of familial tension while staying at the Residence. It is not particularly palatable to set these tales down, but they should be recorded somewhere. . .

Craig is likely to continue to speak as he finds. But he accepts the need to broaden his functions beyond being a powerful advocate of respect for human rights (and he has got us to raise our game on this).

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Her Majesty’s Man in Tashkent

From the Washington Post

The courtroom provided a telling introduction. I had recently arrived as British ambassador in Uzbekistan’s old Silk Road capital of Tashkent, where I was watching the trial of a 22-year-old dissident named Iskander Khuderbegainov. The gaunt young man was accused with five other Muslims of several crimes, including membership in a terrorist organization linked to al-Qaeda. The six sat huddled in a cage guarded by 14 Kalashnikov-wielding soldiers. The judge made a show of not listening to the defense, haranguing the men with anti-Islamic jokes. It looked like a replay of footage I’d seen of Nazi show trials.

The next day, an envelope landed on my desk; inside were photos of the corpse of a man who had been imprisoned in Uzbekistan’s gulags. I learned that his name was Muzafar Avazov. His face was bruised, his torso and limbs livid purple. We sent the photos to the University of Glasgow. Two weeks later, a pathology report arrived. It said that the man’s fingernails had been pulled out, that he had been beaten and that the line around his torso showed he had been immersed in hot liquid. He had been boiled alive.

That was my welcome to Uzbekistan, a U.S. and British ally in the war on terror. Trying to tell the truth about the country cost me my job. Continuing to tell the truth about it dragged me into the Kafkaesque world of official censorship and gave me a taste of the kind of character assassination of which I once thought only a government like Uzbekistan’s was capable.

When I arrived in Tashkent, in the summer of 2002, I was a 43-year-old career diplomat with two decades of varied experience, which included analyzing Iraqi efforts at weapons procurement and negotiating a peace treaty with Liberian President Charles Taylor. But nothing had prepared me for Uzbekistan, a country immediately north of Afghanistan in the heart of hydrocarbon-rich Central Asia. President Islam Karimov had reigned here as the Soviet satrap since 1989; after independence two years later, he had managed to make poverty and repression even worse than in Soviet times.

In Karimov’s Uzbekistan, no dissent is allowed. Media are state-controlled, and opposition parties are banned from elections. Millions of people, including children, toil on vast state-owned cotton farms, receiving some $2 a month for working 70-hour weeks. Their labor has made Uzbekistan the world’s second-largest cotton exporter. More than 10,000 dissidents are held in Soviet-style gulags. Many are pro-democracy advocates, but anyone showing religious enthusiasm is also swept up. Most are Muslims, but Baptists and Jehovah’s Witnesses are routinely persecuted, too.

I saw this happening in a country regarded as a strategic friend by the United States, which was looking for well-placed allies after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Karimov had delivered for President Bush, allowing the United States to take over a major former Soviet airbase at Karshi-Khanabad to help wage war in neighboring Afghanistan; the several thousand U.S. forces stationed there were the first Americans permitted to serve in former Soviet territory. As a reward, Karimov had been Bush’s guest for tea in the White House in March 2002.

It was clear by the time I arrived in Tashkent a few months later that the United States was handsomely rewarding Karimov’s cooperation. Hundreds of millions of dollars in U.S. aid were flowing to the country — after the U.S. government, evidence to the contrary notwithstanding, repeatedly certified that the Uzbek government was making progress on human rights and democracy. According to a press release distributed to local media by the U.S. Embassy in Tashkent in December 2002, the Karimov regime received more than $500 million in U.S. aid that year alone. That included $120 million for the Uzbek armed forces and more than $80 million for the re-branded Uzbek security services, successor to the KGB.

In other words, when the prisoner was boiled to death that summer, U.S. taxpayers had helped heat the water.

In mid-October, I made a speech at Freedom House in Uzbekistan, in which I made plain what I had learned in my brief time there. “Uzbekistan is not a functioning democracy, nor does it appear to be moving in the direction of democracy,” I asserted, contradicting the U.S. ambassador, John Herbst, who had spoken before me. I went on to detail the political prisoners, prevalence of torture and lack of basic freedoms. I spoke out despite a written rebuke I had received from my superiors in London, chastising me for being “over-focused on human rights.” Apparently, my job was to stand beside my U.S. colleague and support our Uzbek ally.

Danish journalist Michael Andersen later wrote of conversations he had had with U.S. diplomats in Uzbekistan the day after my remarks. “Murray is a finished man here,” one told him.


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Online Database of Terrorism Arrests

This important online database is being compiled and updated by Sala@m It comprises an inventory of arrests under the Terrorism Act 2000 (TACT) and the Anti-Terrorism, Crime Security Act 2001 (ACTSA) – pre and post July 7 2005.

“According to the Islamic Human Rights Commission, since 9/11 some 950 people, the majority of them Muslims, have been arrested under the Terrorism Act 2000. Of these only 148 were charged and only 27 convicted of terrorism, defined so broadly now that a question mark hangs over some of these cases. Many thousands more have been stopped under the increased stop-and-search powers that anti-terror laws have given police. In 2003-2004 they were up by almost a third. Last year British Transport police statistics revealed that Asians were five times more likely to be stopped than whites. In the month following the London bombings, they had apprehended 2,390 Asian people. None was subsequently charged.”

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The Real Threat We Face in Britain Is Blair

From Antiwar.com

By John Pilger

If the alleged plot to attack airliners flying from London is true ‘ remember the lies that led to the invasion of Iraq, and to the raid on a “terrorist cell” in east London ‘ then one person ultimately is to blame, as he was on July 7 last year. They were Blair’s bombs then; who doesn’t believe that 52 Londoners would be alive today had the prime minister refused to join Bush in his piratical attack on Iraq? A parliamentary committee has said as much, as have MI5, the Foreign Office, Chatham House, and the polls.

A senior Metropolitan Police officer, Paul Stephenson, claims the Heathrow plot “was intended to be mass murder on an unimaginable scale.” The most reliable independent surveys put civilian deaths in Iraq, as a result of the invasion by Bush and Blair, above 100,000. The difference between the Heathrow scare and Iraq is that mass murder on an unimaginable scale has actually happened in Iraq.

By any measure of international law, from Nuremberg to the Geneva accords, Blair is a major prima facie war criminal. The charges against him grow. The latest is his collusion with the Israeli state in its deliberate, criminal attacks on civilians. While Lebanese children were being buried beneath Israeli bombs, he refused to condemn their killers or even to call on them to desist. That a cease-fire was negotiated owed nothing to him, except its disgraceful delay.

Not only is it clear that Blair knew about Israel’s plans, but he alluded approvingly to the ultimate goal: an attack on Iran. Read his neurotic speech in Los Angeles, in which he described an “arc of extremism,” stretching from Hezbollah to Iran. He gave not a hint of the arc of injustice and lawlessness of Israel’s occupation of Palestine and its devastation of Lebanon. Neither did he attempt to counter the bigotry now directed at all Arabs by the West and by the racist regime in Tel Aviv. His references to “values” are code for a crusade against Islam.

Blair’s extremism, like Bush’s, is rooted in the righteous violence of rampant Messianic power. It is completely at odds with modern, multicultural, secular Britain. He shames this society. Not so much distrusted these days as reviled, he endangers and betrays us in his vassal’s affair with the religious fanatic in Washington and the Biblo-ethnic cleansers in Israel. Unlike him, the Israelis at least are honest. Ariel Sharon said, “It is the duty of Israeli leaders to explain to public opinion ‘ that there can be no Zionism, colonization, or Jewish state without the eviction of the Arabs and the expropriation of their lands.” The current prime minister, Ehud Olmert, told the U.S. Congress: “I believe in our people’s eternal and historic right to this entire land” (his emphasis).

Blair has backed this barbarism enthusiastically. In 2001, the Israeli press disclosed that he had secretly given the “green light” to Sharon’s bloody invasion of the West Bank, whose advance plans he was shown. Palestine, Iraq, Lebanon ‘ is it any wonder the attacks of July 7 and this month’s Heathrow scare happened? The CIA calls this “blowback.” On Aug. 12, the Guardian published an editorial (“The challenge for us all”), which waffled about how “a significant number of young people have been alienated from the [Muslim] culture,” but spent not a word on how Blair’s Middle East disaster was the source of their alienation. A polite pretense is always preferred in describing British policy, elevating “misguided” and “inappropriate” and suppressing criminal behavior.

Go into Muslim areas and you will be struck by a fear reminiscent of the anti-Semitic nightmare of the Jews in the 1930s, and by an anger generated almost entirely by “a perceived double standard in the foreign policy of Western governments,” as the Home Office admits. This is felt deeply by many young Asians who, far from being “alienated from their culture,” believe they are defending it. How much longer are we all prepared to put up with the threat to our security coming from Downing Street? Or do we wait for the “unimaginable”?

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‘TIME TO GO’ UK Tour, September 2006 – Updated Schedule

During September, Craig will be speaking at a number of events leading up to the Manchester ‘Time to Go’ demonstration on the 23rd and beyond. The updated schedule/toured now looks like this and replaces the previous version posted last week:

Tuesday 5 September 7.30pm The Crossing, Walsall

Wednesday 6 September 7.30pm Didsbury Mosque

Thursday 7 September 7.30pm Labour Club, Lloyd St, Stockport

Friday 8 September 7.30pm Blue Flame Community Centre, High St, Daubhill, Bolton

Monday 11 September 7.00pm St Barnabus Church, Grove Road, Bow

Tuesday 12 September 7.30pm 123 Park Building, Guildhall Square, University of Portsmouth

Wednesday 13 September 7.15pm The Liner Hotel, Lord Nelson St, Liverpool

Thursday 14 September 7.00pm Blackfriars Hall, St Andrew’s Plain, Norwich

Friday 15 September 5.00pm University of Surrey

Monday 18 September 7.00pm St Albans

Tuesday 19 September 7.30pm Town Hall, St Aldates, Oxford

Wednesday 20 September 3.00pm Camp Democracy, National Mall, Washington DC

Saturday 23 September 1.00pm Albert Square Manchester – National Stop the War demo

Sunday 24 September 10.30am Roscoe Building, Brunswick St, University of Manchester

Saturday 30 September 7.30pm University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

Monday 2 October 1.00 pm University of Columbia, New York

Wednesday 4 October 9.00am Fringe Meeting, Conservative Party Conference, Bournemouth

Wednesday 4 October 7.00pm Hammersmith Library, Shepherd’s Bush Road

Wednesday 11 October 7.00pm Trinity College Historical Society, Dublin

Thursday 12 October 7.30pm Theatre Workshop, 34 Hamilton Place, Edinburgh

Friday 13 October 9.00pm Edinburgh Independent Radical Book Fair

Saturday 14 October 11.00am Brighton Peace Conference

Tuesday 17 October CRAIG’S BIRTHDAY!

For more info on the other ‘Time to Go‘ events being organised go here

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The freedom paradox

From The Economist print edition (Aug 31st 2006)

Liberty has been the first victim of the war fought in its name

“WE HAVE entered a new type of war. It’s a war against people who

hate freedom,” said George Bush a few days after September 11th 2001.

“We’re fighting for liberty and freedom.” But this new kind of war

seemed to need a new kind of response, one that has actually reduced


“We will change the rules,” said Donald Rumsfeld, America’s defence

secretary. “Let no one be in any doubt, the rules of the game are

changing,” echoed Tony Blair after the bombings in London last year.

“Civil-liberty arguments”, his home secretary, John Reid, added

recently, “are not so much wrong as just made for another age.”

Since 2001 many countries have pushed through repressive laws in the

name of the war on terror-but few as eagerly as America and Britain.

America first rushed through the Patriot Act. The authorities’ powers

to snoop on American citizens were vastly increased. Agents armed with

a court warrant could now eavesdrop on private telephone calls, read

e-mails, pry into library records, bank statements, medical records and suchlike without needing to show “reasonable suspicion”. At the

same time, in an apparent breach of the law, George Bush secretly

authorised his own warrantless domestic surveillance programme. He was, he said, acting in his constitutional capacity as wartime


Hundreds of foreigners, most of them Muslims, were rounded up after

September 11th and held without charge, sometimes for months. Tens of

thousands more were called in for questioning and finger-printing. Not

a single terrorist was found. Then came the creation of a detainment

camp in an American naval base in Guant’namo Bay in Cuba, which Mr

Bush argued was beyond the reach of the American courts. There hundreds more suspected terrorists, captured abroad, were interned in a legal limbo, without charge, without access to lawyers or conventional courts, and without prospect of release in a never-ending war. Others have experienced “extraordinary rendition”, that is, they have been spirited away by the CIA for harsh interrogation in secret prisons in third countries where even the International Red Cross has no access.

America has been lambasted for its record on human rights since

September 11th. So has Britain. It has introduced a slew of draconian

anti-terrorist measures over the past five years, and is planning more.

The mere “glorification” or “indirect incitement” of terrorism

is now a crime. Suspected terrorists can be held for up to 28 days

without charge-longer than in any other democratic country-a period

the government now wants to double. (In America suspected terrorists

whom Mr Bush deems to be “enemy combatants” may be held “for the

duration of hostilities”.) Those unable to be tried in court (usually

for want of evidence) may now be subjected to “control orders”,

ranging from electronic tagging to little short of house arrest,

imposed on the simple say-so of the home secretary for indefinitely

renewable periods of 12 months.

Britain’s judges have now ruled in favour of some suspected terrorists, detained pending deportation. And America’s Supreme Court has granted Guant’namo’s inmates certain protections, including the right to challenge their detention in court, the right to be treated humanely under the Geneva Conventions and, for the few that have been charged, the right to a fair trial.

The looming police state

Yet the critics remain unhappy. By abandoning the very values they are

seeking to protect, America and its allies are in danger of winning a

pyrrhic victory, civil libertarians protest. “It is the response to

terrorism, rather than terrorism itself, that does democracy most

harm,” Michael Ignatieff, a former head of Harvard’s centre for human

rights, argues. Bruce Ackerman, a professor of law at Yale, castigates

Britain in his new book, “Before the Next Attack”, for its “tragic slide to a police state”. He accuses America of moving “one step at a time toward a presidential tyranny”. But others,like John Podhoretz, a columnist for the New York Post, maintain the opposite. “What if liberal democracies have now evolved to a point

where they can no longer wage war effectively because they have

achieved a level of humanitarian concern for others that dwarfs any

really cold-eyed pursuit of their own national interests?” he asks.

For the moment those who would restrict freedom appear to have the

public on their side. Recent polls in Britain and America suggest that

most people still feel their governments are not doing enough to

counter terrorism.

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