The US edition of Murder in Samarkand has finally hit the shops, under the title of Dirty Diplomacy. Be warned that it is basically the same book, and I do not recommend you to buy both.
Dirty Diplomacy is however a different cut from an original manuscript. So while slightly shorter than Murder in Samarkand, it includes some passages which were not in the UK version, and is less heavily censored because of the protections for freedom of speech in the US.
Here is a pre-publication review from Booklist, a library and bookseller trade magazine:
Murray, Craig (Author)
Oct 2007. 368 p. Scribner, hardcover, $26.00. (1416548017). 958.70.
Must diplomacy involve duplicity? Murray, an energetic and forthright British diplomat, moved his family to Tashkent in 2002 with high hopes for fostering progress in Uzbekistan. But he soon discovered that under the dictatorial rule of Islam Karimov, thousands of political and religious prisoners were being held without trial, many tortured and murdered. Murray sent urgent communiques to his superiors, then began speaking out. A hero to the oppressed, he was viewed as a traitor in London and Washington as both administrations courted Karimov as an ally as the war in Iraq got under way.
Forced to leave his post in 2004, Murray now boldly details Karimov’s crimes against humanity, his own wild and risky adventures, and the chilling and unconscionable actions of the UK and the U.S. Writing with brio, chagrin, and conviction, Murray admits that as a whiskey-loving, kilt-wearing skirt chaser, he is no paragon. But his determination to stand up for human rights makes him a man of conscience well worth listening to. And he is one helluva storyteller. An electrifying read; watch for the movie.
?” Donna Seaman
This one is from Publishers’ Weekly
Although the subject matter is dead serious, the picaresque subtitle reflects the defiant wit at the heart of this highly revealing memoir by the colorful and prominent former British ambassador to Uzbekistan. Murray’s brief term (2002?”2004) belies his influence as a scrupulous administrator who, whatever his personal failures (and he’s refreshingly up-front about them), proved incorruptible in pursuit of social justice in a nation suffering under a sadistic regime. In addition to competence, wit and considerable daring, Murray displayed a rare integrity in Tashkent that stood out among his counterparts, which was precisely what got him into trouble with both dictator Karimov’s brutal totalitarian state and with his own government, which eventually resorted to an eye-opening campaign to oust him. A deluge of bureaucratic and personal information occasionally blurs the focus in this book, but Murray uses the full weight of his ambassadorship to hold a key ally of the U.S. accountable for deep-seated economic corruption and human rights abuses?”including pervasive use of torture?” and runs headlong into some of the fiercest contradictions in the war on terror. (Oct.)
Those are trade reviews; since publication last week, one newspaper review so far from the New York Post
BATTLING FOR HUMAN RIGHTS, ONE MEMO AT A TIME
By STEPHEN LYNCH
October 14, 2007 — Legend has it that the road connecting Afghanistan to Uzbekistan leads the region in car accidents, as truckers emerging from burkaland catch their first glimpse of Uzbek women in miniskirts and veer off the road.
Sounds like a country America can get behind!
And indeed we have, as is illustrated tragically, and often comically, in “Dirty Diplomacy” by Craig Murray, who served as Britian’s ambassador to Uzbekistan from 2002-05.
Murray argues that because of the Uzbek administration’s support in fighting the Taliban, and providing a friendly environment for oil companies, the U.S. looks the other way when it comes to Uzbekistan’s human rights abuses and economic neglect of its own people. In short, we’re supporting a tyrant – President Islom Karimov – to battle Muslim extremists (as compared to Iraq, where we chose Muslim extremists over a tyrant).
The ambassador’s outrage peaks soon after his arrival, when he attends a dissident trial in a kangaroo court, and the witness, presented with six men from which to pick three criminals, selects the wrong three. The judge, outraged, tells him to chose again.
From that moment, Murray decides to take action, in the best way the British know how – memos. He hopes to shame the rest of the diplomatic corps, his own meager embassy staff and the Uzbekistan government into doing what he believes is right.
As a travelogue, “Diplomacy” is fascinating, serving as a good introduction to a region most Americans don’t know a lot about. Murray rightly notes that it was the Soviet Union that made a mess of things, purposely drawing lines for Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan that had little bearing on the actual ethnic makeup of those countries (as British cartographers did in the Middle East). The folly is when the U.S. – or anyone – clings to these artifices too strongly. What we learned in geography (or didn’t, considering the study of test scores) isn’t as permanent as we’d like to believe.
In Uzbekistan, rallies for reform often come in the form of Islam, which scares the West now more than Communism. But Murray argues that many innocent believers are being swept up in Karimov’s anti-terrorism efforts.
The failing of “Dirty Diplomacy” is Murray’s self-aggrandizing description of his crusades against injustice. After all, besides driving his country’s state department crazy, alienating his staffers and ending his marriage, he walks away with nothing but his righteous indignation. Uzbekistan is still run by Karimov. The crackdown goes on.
The hope, of course, is that by packaging that indigation into the story of a “Scotch Drinking, Skirt Chasing … and Thoroughly Un-repentant Ambassador,” as his subtitle states, Murray can get the U.S. to recognize how it’s hurting itself.
By supporting Karimov’s regime, we may be driving more Uzbeks into the very arms of those we hope to defeat. If his dictatorship falls, will it be replaced by Western-friendly democrats? Or will it be the disgruntled Muslim dissidents, bearing a grudge?
Blowback’s a bitch.
Which is not bad considering it’s a Murdoch tabloid. And here comes Playboy!
The Rough-and-Tumble Adventures of a Scotch-Drinking, Skirt-Chasing, Dictator-Busting and Thoroughly Unrepentant Ambassador Stuck on the Frontline of the War Against Terror
By Craig Murray
Scribner, 384 pages, Hardcover$26.00
Reviewed by Frank Marquardt
Don’t be misled by Dirty Diplomacy’s subtitle. As Britain’s ambassador to Uzbekistan from 2002 to 2004, author Craig Murray mostly drank vodka, chased only one woman and failed to bust any dictators.
On this last point, it’s not for lack of trying. Soon after taking up his post, Murray is shown pictures of a corpse of a man who, prior to being immersed in boiling liquid, was beaten around the face and had his fingernails ripped out. That event provided the inspiration for the British release of the book’s more accurate title: Murder in Samarkand: A British Ambassador’s Controversial Defiance of Tyranny in the War on Terror. Murray attempted to expose the country’s human rights record, in which people are falsely accused, imprisoned and tortured, and women are routinely raped by the police.
Unfortunately, this wasn’t the party line. British officials, standing side-by-side the Americans, seemed more intent on recognizing Uzbekistan’s progress toward freedom — of which there has been arguably little — than its transgressions in the area of human rights. America’s reasons for championing Uzbekistan, in turn, seem to have had a lot more to do with the U.S. desire to maintain an airbase in the country than any actual action by the Uzbekistan authorities to create a more democratic country or free market economy.
Defying the diplomats at home got Murray into some trouble, setting off a media storm in Britain; higher-ups tried to remove him under a set of trumped-up charges. At first, Murray prevailed, remaining in Uzbekistan, but eventually he was forced out. Dirty Diplomacy offers his side of the story. As an inside view of the work of an ambassador, it’s interesting; as an indictment of British and American hypocrisy in their so-called “War on Terror,” it’s damning. The irony, for America at least, came in May 2005, when Uzbek police killed an estimated 700 protestors, and soon after evicted the American airbase. Hardly diplomatic — but dirty, indeed.