Monthly Archives: July 2007

An Excellent Initiative from Continental Clothing

Continental Clothing has become, to my knowledge, the first large scale mainstream clothing company to ensure that none of its cotton comes from Uzbekistan. Uzbek cotton is a state monopoly, relying on slave labour and the forced labour of hundreds of thousands of children working in appalling conditions for little, or often no, pay.

Continental are to be congratulated on this initiative. We need to keep up the pressure on other manufacturers and retailers to follow suit.

View with comments

Michael Winterbottom and an Interesting Revelation

Winterbottom cites that Murray’s memoir makes for funny and riveting reading, and mentions that the first seventy pages are largely devoted to stories about all the people Mr. Murray slept with while in St. Petersburg, Russia, before going off to Uzbekistan.

Basically true, although that’s not all I did (or wrote about) in St Petersburg. Murder in Samarkand was written at 245,000 words and edited down by the publishers to 130,000 words. Michael is referring to the original manuscript. I hope the St Petersburg stuff will appear in the next volume.

View with comments

The Psychology of the Workaday Killers

“I just remember thinking to myself, I just brought terror to someone else under the American flag, and that’s just not what I joined the Army to do,” he said

The Nation has a fascinating survey of US vets returning from Iraq. It is being much quoted in the media and on the net, but it is well worth reading the original.

You may have to click botton right to get past the financial appeal first – although the financial appeal itself is pretty interesting.

View with comments

Terrorist Attack on Glasgow Asians – No Media Coverage

The estimable Osama Saeed has this post about a terrorist “car bomb” attack on an Asian shop in Glasgow.

The shop has been completely detroyed. Peculiar, is it not, that you have not heard of it on the BBC?

Osama Saeed makes a tremendously strong point:

It would be worth reflecting that if this is how out of control someone or some people in Glasgow get after the Glasgow Airport incident, then how would some in Iraq react to the destruction there, not to mention the loss of some 650,000 lives?

It should go without saying, but this kind of misplaced vengeance doesn’t get us anywhere.

View with comments

Main British Force to Withdraw from Iraq in September?

From The Guardian

Iraq troops ‘ready for UK handover’

Prime minister Nouri Maliki has told British MPs that Iraqi security forces would be ready to take over security in Basra from UK forces at the beginning of September.

Maliki told a visiting delegation from the House of Commons defence committee on Tuesday that Iraqi forces “have already begun to take principal responsibility for the security mission, with the British forces playing the role of support when needed”, according to a statement from the prime minister’s office.

He reassured them of the “readiness of the Iraqi forces to receive security duties in Basra at the beginning of September”.

Basra, Iraq’s second largest city and a major oil hub, has seen frequent violence between Shiite militias vying for power, including assassinations and frequent attacks on British bases around the city.

Britain has withdrawn hundreds of troops from Iraq, leaving a force of around 5,500 based mainly on the fringes of Basra, 340 miles south east of Baghdad.

View with comments

Afghanistan – NATO Led Forces are Killing More Civilians Than the Taliban

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (IRIN) have reported that NATO led forces are now responsible for more civilian deaths in Afghanistan than the Taliban they are fighting. Looks like the strategy of US commander, General Dan K. McNeill (Bomber McNeill) is having the expected consequences.

LFCM have more.

View with comments

David Hare and the Lost Script

I have been keeping this confidential, but now it has come out in the Sunday Telegraph’s Mandrake column, apparently sourced to David Hare.

Hare given farcical cut

There has always been a thin line between comedy and tragedy, but, as Sir David Hare knows only too well, it can sometimes become a little too blurred for comfort.

The playwright wrote a screenplay for a film about Craig Murray, the renegade former ambassador to Uzbekistan who was subjected to a Government-inspired campaign of vilification after he spoke out about British foreign policy in the region.

Hare saw it as an essentially tragic tale and wrote a completely serious script, but it swiftly became clear that the film’s director, Michael Winterbottom, did not share his vision. He wanted to turn it into a farce, starring his old chum Steve Coogan.

“Michael was horrified by what I came up with,” the dramatist tells Mandrake. “It was decided that the studio should choose. They chose Michael’s idea and I was sacked. I didn’t lose my respect for Michael, but I did walk away with bitterness. I had wasted six months of my life.”

In the past, Hare’s rocky relationships with collaborators have at least resulted in generous compensation packages. He says that when he complained to Louis Malle about Jeremy Irons’s refusal to stick to his script for Damage, the French director paid him ‘10,000 in compensation.

I have never seen the Hare script, which is the property of Paramount. David Hare certainly put a very great deal of work into it, interviewing all the key participants and even travelling out to Uzbekistan, pretending to be a tourist (as did Michael Winterbottom). When Hare finished the script he told me that he was “Thrilled” by it, and felt it was one of the finest things he had ever done.

It does seem astonishing that a major mature work by such a considerable figure as David Hare could be simply abandoned to rot on a Hollywood shelf. I was told that one of the objections to the script was that it was too “stagey” and interior bound. That led me to wonder if it could be produced eventually as a play. But it belongs to Paramount, who whould have to be convinced it was in their interest. David Hare meanwhile is in a pretty bad mood about the entire thing. That is probably an idea to return to in a few years’ time.

Meanwhile, Michael Winterbottom has produced a detailed “Treatment”, which will now form the basis of the film. I am delighted with it. Murder in Samarkand does indeed contain a good deal of quirky humour, and it is important that this vital element is retained. But that does not make it a “farce”. The humour counterpoints the tragedy and the message; which are all still there. The whole point of the book is that it can make you both laugh and cry. Only the key episodes of dialogue are fixed to date, but they are mostly lifted verbatim from the book. I think both Winterbottom and Coogan are well capable of that in the film. Their collaboration on 24 Hour Party People showed something of the potential.

Meanwhile, my next worry is how Paramount will react to the very poor US box office of A Mighty Heart. The reviews have been extremely good, with Angelina Jolie tipped by all major critics as an Oscar contender for her portrayal of Marianne Pearl. But the hard truth is that on a summer’s evening it appears not many people want to go to the cinema and watch a film about a man who dies an appalling, squalid death.

Given that this is exactly the same team as will be making our film, will Paramount’s enthusiasm for the project have waned? I am confident that this project is very commercial, and will produce a very enjoyable as well as thought-provoking film. I do hope they still see it that way.

Michael Winterbottom is very keen on authenticity. Filming is therefore currently scheduled for February to June 2008, to give the full range of extreme continental weather conditions which play a major part in the book.

View with comments

Live Earth

I am not going to be at all cynical about Live Earth. I think it is a wonderful event which will do a huge amount to raise consciousness on global warming, and lead both to support for the green movement, and improved personal energy-saving. The benefits will far outweigh the energy use of the production, and to pretend otherwise is nonsense.

Watching on TV, I am pleasantly surprised by how very much I have enjoyed pretty well all the music. Even some of the musically more dubious momemts were entertaining. I thought Paolo Nutini was a Spike Milligan impersonator until I relaised that really was supposed to be singing, but I ignored that and as a Spike Milligan impersonation it was wonderful.

The only grating note has been Jonathon Ross on the BBC. I am generally a fan, but his inability to treat any of the global warming information at all seriously is annoying. He seems to want to treat the event like the Eurovision Song Contest. By comparison, Graham Norton comes across as someone who knows how to mix comedy with a serious message.

Al Gore’s message and his pledges were very well put over. We all think so much about what a horror we got in Bush, we overlook what we lost in Gore. I still view the fraudulent election of 2000 with disbelief. The extraordinary thing is, at the time it didn’t seem that important, to me at least. What a fool I was.

I thought the Black Eyed Peas were superb, and they seemed very much connected to the message and politics of the event. They were the only thing so far that has bordered on rap. though what they sing about is very different from urban rap. It is in fact probably the lack of rap that explains why I am enjoying the music so much. My guess is that rappers are absent because it involves playing for free to help a movement to save the planet. The rappers are too busy beating up women, driving their hummers, shooting people and writing lyrics to encourage young Londoners to stab each other. There is nothing that annoys me more than trendies in Britain who refuse to accept that an ultra-materialist, violence worshipping, openly extreme misogynistic culture is a bad thing.

Ironing uses a great deal of energy for heating and is completely unnecessary. Next time you see someone in a neatly pressed garment or with a crease in their trousers, shun them. I am going to start a campaign against ironing to save the planet.

Possibly that only seems a good idea because I opened the third bottle of wine to celebrate the arrival of Spinal Tap.

View with comments

The London bombs also belong to the new Prime Minister

An excellent article here by Jon Pilger

Just as the London bombs in the summer of 2005 were Blair’s bombs, the inevitable consequence of his government’s lawless attack on Iraq, so the potential bombs in the summer of 2007 are Brown’s bombs.

Gordon Brown, Blair’s successor as prime minister, has been an unerring supporter of the unprovoked bloodbath whose victims now equal those of the Rwandan genocide, according to the American scientist who led the 2006 Johns Hopkins School of Public Health survey of civilian dead in Iraq. While Tony Blair sought to discredit this study, British government scientists secretly praised it as “tried and tested” and an “underestimation of mortality”. The “underestimation” was 655,000 men, women and children. That is now approaching a million. It is the crime of the century.

In his first day’s address outside 10 Downing Street and subsequently to Parliament, Brown paid not even lip service to those who would be alive today had his government ‘ and it was his government as much as Blair’s ‘ not joined Bush in a slaughter justified with demonstrable lies. He said nothing, not a word.

See full article

View with comments

Moments that make it worthwhile

I received this email today. It is a bit disjointed below because I have removed any detail that might help the Uzbek government identify the sender. It really cheered me up on a morning when I needed it badly!

Dear Craig,

I was going to buy your book ‘Murder in Samarkand’ on the way home in Books etc a week ago as I heard a lot about it lately but unfortunately they did not have any in their store. Today I asked my friend to find it for me and luckily he found it in Waterstones. When I came home the book was waiting for me. I started reading the book and suddenly after about 30-35 pages I noticed my friend staring at me with a really surprised expression on his face”..I was crying, I had proper tears in my eyes. I was amazed that your book is so well written that it made me go through a lot of things in the past that I had back home in Uzbekistan.

Let me tell you a little bit about myself, I come from …, my name is …, (this is my English name, the Uzbek one is hard to pronounce) and am ”. I now have been in the UK for … I live in …. …made me learn a lot of stuff including English. It is amazing place despite quite a few downsides. I did my degree back home in but never managed to find a job in this field as all political places like Ministries etc are mostly … I had a pretty good job and life back home but overall cultural, political and economical strain made me run away at least to have some break and live a stress free life for a little while.

I can not remember exactly now but I think I saw you quite a few times on the TV. I might be wrong but I think you could speak Russian pretty fluently. Things did not change a lot since you left Uzbekistan. Everything is almost the same unfortunately. I am really sorry for all bad things you had to go through in Uzbekistan. I wish it was a place that I could be proud of. All educated people were aware of what was going on when you suddenly had to leave Uzbekistan.

I would like to thank you for writing a book about this completely lost and forgotten part of the world.

Warm regards and many thanks for your wonderful book,

View with comments

Control Orders to be Challenged in the House of Lords

From BBC Online

The government’s controversial anti-terror control orders are set to be challenged in the House of Lords. Ten terror suspects placed under the measures – at least two of whom are on the run – will argue they violate their rights to liberty and a fair trial.

Five Law Lords will also consider Home Secretary Jacqui Smith’s appeal against a ruling which said orders imposed on six Iraqis breached their human rights.

Control orders place terror suspects under curfews of up to 18 hours a day. Opponents say they amount to “virtual house arrest” and are often based on evidence which is not made public.

Eric Metcalfe, of human rights and law reform organisation Justice, said: “We cannot allow the fight against terrorism to compromise basic fairness.

View with comments

Ashraf Marwan

I had not realised just what an interesting story I had picked up, when I noted on this blog that Asraf Marwan had died very suspiciously a few hundred yards from the Haymarket car bomb, some 24 hours before. The two events may well be completely unconnected, but I seem to have inspired others to some fascinating digging.

View with comments

Usual Service is Resumed

It was unedifying to watch Cameron and Brown at Prime Minster’s questions trading stupidities on security which they hoped would impress the electorate, presumably via the Murdoch press.

Cameron pressed for the banning of Hizb-ut-Tehrir, on the basis of an old quotation allegedly from a Hizb-ut-Tehrir leaflet in Germany, which HuT have always denied. Brown sensibly queried whether this was sufficient evidence.

HuT believe in the establishment of an Islamic Caliphate to unite the Muslim lands. That is a strange thing to believe in, but I can see no reason why the belief should be illegal. Certainly driving them underground would be a great deal more dangerous. HuT arguably function as a safety valve, providing a non-violent outlet for fundamentalist Muslims in the UK. To ban them is tantamount to saying that fundamentalist Muslin belief ought itself to be illegal.

Brown then decided to outdo Cameron in useless but hopefully populist proposals. He regurgitated Blair’s favourite about needing to be able to deport people to countries where they are liable to be tortured or killed (which would involve resiling from Article 3 of the UN Convention Against Torture). He also proposed identity cards. This time Cameron made the sensible response that compulsory ID cards did not stop the Madrid bombers.

In fact, there is no reason to believe that any of these daft proposals would have had the slightest effect on the events of the last few days. Predictably, nobody suggested that we stop invading other people’s countries and killing their people. Now that might make a difference.

View with comments

The Caring Face of New Labour

One of the endearing features of the British political system is that a constituent can always turn to their MP for help with any difficulties, particularly involving relationships between the individual and any organ of the State. Perhaps remarkably, in the vast majority of cases the MP does indeed do what they can to help.

Now read this reply which an astonished constituent received from their MP, Harriet Harman, Deputy Leader of New Labour:

Dear ….

I am very sorry to hear of the immigration difficulties you have been experiencing . I have today written to the Home Office on your behalf and I will contact you again as soon as I receive a response. I am not prepared to make enquires or representations on behalf of constituents with criminal convictions. I have therefore informed the Home Office that if you do have criminal convictions, my enquiry should be considered withdrawn.

If you have not previously disclosed any criminal convictions on behalf of yourself or other individuals included on the same application, please contact me and let me know.

In the meantime if I can be of any further help or assistance in this or any other matter please do not hesitate to contact me again.


Harriet Harman

The constituent in question has no criminal convictions or associations whatsoever, but even if they had, that does not cancel your civil rights for the rest of your life, despite Ms Harman. Has she never heard of rehabilitation? Or of wrongful conviction?

This was in fact the third time this constituent had written to Harman on this issue, and the third time they had received this same standard reply. The promised future contact never happens.

New Labour really cares about individuals.

View with comments

Voting with their feet

From Reuters

LONDON (Reuters) – The armed forces, stretched by deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan, are suffering shortfalls in personnel that could jeopardise their operating capability, a parliamentary committee said on Tuesday.

More staff are leaving the armed forces early, partly due to the pressures of long tours of duty overseas. Recruitment is not keeping pace, leading to a shortfall of almost 6,000 personnel or 3.2 percent in April 2007, said parliament’s Public Accounts Committee.

The Liberal Democrats, who were against the Iraq war, said the report showed personnel faced an “intolerable burden” and called for a timetable on withdrawal from Iraq.

For more go here

View with comments

Queen’s Visit to Dundee

The new Education building at Dundee University does seem an excellent facility, and I was pleased to be there today when the Queen opened it. I am a firm republican, but have had the occasion to meet the Queen (I mean individually for conversation, not in a crowded room) a few times, and she is a very pleasant and above all conscientious person. An accident of birth should not make you Head of State, but neither is an accident of birth her fault personally.

I was particularly impressed by Tayside Police. I was very worried that, after recent events, security would be a nightmare, but in fact it was very thorough and very efficient while still being friendly and helpful. It really was well done.

It was, however, simply appalling that the Queen was not introduced to any students. Three student office bearers were placed firmly on the back seat of the thanksgiving service, but that was it. The Queen hobnobbed with the Chancellor and Principal and various other bigwigs, but evidently mere students were not considered important enough to be introduced (and this may be summer, but there are still plenty around). That is certainly different from previous Royal visits here and, while it does not surprise me from the current University administration, represents a severe dereliction by whichever of the Queen’s Private Secretaries agreed the programme.

View with comments

Terror Attacks

The link between the Glasgow and London bombs now appears to be fairly convincing, particularly as much of the confirmation is coming out of Scotland rather than from the discredited Met. What we have this time appears not to be home grown discontent, but more direct blowback from our Middle Eastern policy. I make no apologies for having noted at the start of this series of events that, while this was likely to be terrorism perpetrated by Islamic extremists, there were other possiblities and we should not straightaway jump to that conclusion. Those comments caused outrage among those who like to vilify Muslims at any opportunity, as a kind of sanctioned racism.

Now it does appear that Islamic extremists were indeed responsible for both Glasgow and London.

But my question cui bono? was also helpful in pointing out that these terrorist attacks are not only callous and inhuman, but extraordinarily stupid. Islamic terrorism fills those who hate Muslims with unholy glee. You only have to surf the internet for five minutes to prove that. At the same time it sends those of us who try to improve community relations, and it sends the established Muslim communities in the UK, into deep despair. Those in the security, weapons and mercenary industries who make billions from continued War are rubbing their hands and counting the cash.

How religious faith can lead people into such a mix of depravity and counter-productive stupidity is impossible for the sane to fathom, even acknowledging the depths of despair caused by the carnage our country has caused in Iraq. I can do nothing today but issue the anguished cry of the liberal in a brutal, unlistening World.

The only comfort, and this may be wishful thinking, is that the Brown government seems to be handling this all much more sensibly than Blair and Reid, without pushing the melodrama button or making fatuous comparisons with the Second World War. Which is not to say that we do not face yet another attack on civil liberties, but the attempt to stampede people with the psychology of fear does seem less marked. Or is that a false perception?

View with comments

Monitor Update

British Casualty Monitor have released their latest updates on UK casualties in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Yet again, the upwards trend in the data shows just what an intractable situation the government has placed their armed forces in.

The Casualty Monitior project is currently working on providing a graphical anlaysis of Iraqi and Afghan casualties and, despite the immense problems and gaps with the available data, hope to update the site soon with this information.

View with comments