Daily archives: November 8, 2006

UK Iraq policy a ‘rank disaster’

From BBC Online

…the measure of success in foreign policy should be “minimisation of suffering” and “if that is your measure, our policy has been a rank disaster in the last few years in terms of blood shed. By that measure that invasion has been a much greater disaster even than Suez,”

A high ranking British diplomat, who quit over the war with Iraq, has called policy in the region a “rank disaster”. Carne Ross told MPs the intelligence presented to the public about weapons of mass destruction was “manipulated”.

He also added that “the proper legal advice from the Foreign office on the legality of the war was ignored”. Mr Blair has always defended the war’s legality and the Butler inquiry said there was no evidence of “deliberate distortion” of intelligence on WMD. During his 45-minute evidence session Mr Ross also attacked the “politicisation” of the diplomatic service, and claimed promotion depended on agreeing with Mr Blair.

Mr Ross, who said he had been a friend of weapons scientist Dr David Kelly and had a hand in drawing up one of the government’s weapons dossiers, said he accepted the prime minister was ultimately responsible for foreign policy. But he added: “Policy making in the run up to the Iraq was, I think, extremely poor in that I don’t think the proper available alternatives to war were properly considered.

“I think the presentation of intelligence to the public on weapons of mass destruction was manipulated and I think that the proper legal advice from the foreign office on the legality of the war was ignored.”

‘Creeping politicisation’

Mr Ross, who was head of strategy for the UN mission in Kosovo, and also played a leading role in devising policy on Iraq and Afghanistan, said decision-making power was concentrated in the hands of too small a group. And there was a “political element at work in promotions to the most senior levels of the foreign office”. He said he had also noticed a growing tendency for officials “to tell ministers what they wish to hear in order to advance one’s own individual prospects”.

He told MPs: “There is a kind of subtle and creeping politicisation of the diplomatic service that in order to get promoted you have to show yourself as being sympathetic in identifying with the views of ministers and, in particular, the prime minister.

“Secondly, and this was the case in the Conservative government before Labour took office, decision-making powers have become increasingly concentrated in Number 10… the Foreign Office has become subsidiary to Number 10.”

On Iraq, he said the measure of success in foreign policy should be “minimisation of suffering” and “if that is your measure, our policy has been a rank disaster in the last few years in terms of blood shed”.

By that measure that invasion has been a much greater disaster even than Suez,” he added.

Mr Ross said Foreign Office officials had been split over the invasion of Iraq.

Meanwhile, the Government hangs on to its right to declare war without parliamentary involvement. The Guardian reports that the government was accused yesterday of giving a “temporising and woolly” response to an inquiry by an all-party committee of peers into the role of parliament over the deployment of British forces overseas.

Lord Holme, chairman of the Lords constitution committee, said the government’s response to its report, Waging War: Parliament’s Role and Responsibility, demonstrated “a complete failure on the part of the government to give any real consideration to our key recommendation – that the role of parliament in the deployment of forces outside the UK should be established in a new convention”.

The government says in its response: “The ability of the executive to take decisions flexibly and quickly using prerogative powers remains an important cornerstone of our democracy”. However, it adds: “Whilst the government could in theory deploy the armed forces overseas without the support of parliament, it would be almost impossible to identify a set of circumstances which would allow the government to act without parliamentary support.”

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Review: Murder in Samarkand

From neweurasia

I know what you were thinking: ‘It’s about time for another post about Craig Murray, because we haven’t had enough of those.’ Well you are in luck, because I just read his new book, Murder in Samarkand, and am about to ‘ somewhat reluctantly ‘ share my thoughts on it.

But first I should note that, according to Mr. Murray, there are currently no plans to release the book in the States. Luckily, American readers can buy it on the UK Amazon site, although I wouldn’t recommend it as in-flight reading.

Love Murray or hate him, the book is an interesting read that anyone interested in Central Asia or the War on Terror should be familiar with. If you’ve been living in a cave, Craig Murray is the former British Ambassador to Uzbekistan during 2002-2004. He was eventually fired from his post by the Foreign Office, allegedly because of his personal indiscretion, but he argues that he was sacked because of his stance on human rights issues and opposition to the Iraq war. Murder in Samarkand is his side of the story.

The Good

For people who have not had the luxury to spend a great deal of time in Uzbekistan, this book is a wonderful way to obtain information one doesn’t necessarily get from academic journals or news reports. Murray relays the rumors and oral history directly from the mouths of people he meets, including torture victims, KGB agents, and government officials. Naturally all of this information must be taken with a grain of salt, but Murray is fairly up front about how he came by the stories he is told.

I was impressed by Murray’s defense of the accusations leveled against him. He often backs up his points with citations referencing websites on which he posts actual classified transcripts he went to pains to obtain, but was not allowed to publish for fear of legal action.

The book is obviously not a comedy, but there are parts that are hysterical. For instance, in one scene Murray repeats word-for-word Karimov’s ‘paranoid’ speech, complete with a translation from BS into English. I have heard others recount these infamous, rehashed speeches, but Murray describes it in particular detail and directly from the horse’s mouth:

[President Karimov] ‘The greatest misfortune in the history of the Uzbek people is what happened in what you call the Great Game. Unforunately, The British were never able to make any progress stowards Central Asia, and their efforts to do so met with some very historic defeats’

Subtext: your country doesn’t really cut that much ice around here.

‘ and so forth.

Finally, Murray is remarkably candid about his personal life. He seems to hold nothing back about his affair, the end of his marriage, nights spent at strip clubs, etc. There is a flip side to this honesty, however, which will be my first point in the next section.


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Whitewash revisited

The author of the Hutton Report is making a forlorn attempt to salvage his professional reputation by publishing a defence of his judgement, some 2 years after the enquiry. Blairwatch provides a useful reminder and critique of the task facing this rather shaky pillar of the establishment.

The Hutton Inquiry was convened in 2003 with the terms of reference to “…urgently to conduct an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the death of Dr Kelly.”

David Kelly had been an employee of the United Kingdom Ministry of Defence (MoD), an expert in biological warfare, and a former United Nations weapons inspector in Iraq. Kelly’s discussion with BBC journalist Andrew Gilligan about the British government’s dossier on weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in Iraq led to a major political scandal. Days after appearing before a Parliamentary committee investigating it David Kelly was found dead.

The public inquiry into the circumstances surrounding his death, ruled that he had committed suicide, and that Kelly had not said some of the quotes attributed to him by Gilligan. One of the many inconsistencies of the Hutton report is that evidence provided to the enquiry by BBC journalist Susan Watts confirmed that Kelly had indeed had serious doubts about the “45 minutes” claim published by the British government, and that he considered the Number 10 press office to be responsible for the inappropriate insertion of this claim into the published dossier on WMD.

Lord Hutton and the UK Government obviously have no problem with paradox!

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