Occasionally you read a review from someone who really “gets” what I am trying to do, and it gives you a lovely warm feeling inside. For me, that feeling is redoubled when that person is writing from somewhere I have never heard of. So here is a review from the Kingston Observer (that’s Kingston USA, not Jamaica). No. I don’t know where it is either. But I’m definitely going to go there one day now.
Before the torture scandals of Abu Ghraib became public, there was the matter of the prisoner who was boiled to death in Uzbekistan. Craig Murray, the former British ambassador to that country, learned of this tragedy and exposed it, urging the British government to distance itself from U.S. foreign policy. The U.S. propped up the repressive Uzbek regime with half a billion dollars yearly in exchange for the use of an air base. For his trouble, Murray was harassed mercilessly by his own government and ultimately forced out of his position.
By his own unvarnished admissions, Murray enjoys a drink or more and he is a serial adulterer now living with his Uzbek lover, Nadira, in London, but his morality is surely greater than the sum of those two parts. He’s like the Bill Clinton of the British foreign service, messy on the personal side, brilliant and compassionate on the other. He no doubt exposed his own flaws to snatch the opportunity from his political foes. Well done and bravo.
Murray traveled the Uzbek countryside, consulting with British businessmen and ordinary Uzbeks whose lives are a torment. Growing cotton is a major industry in the country, and at harvest time, university students and hospital patients who are ambulatory are sent to pick the crop.
The political and judicial issues, however, are what landed Murray in his own vat of hot water. His description of a trial he attended is horrific since even the witnesses are tortured to produce the desired testimony. According to Murray, the post 9/11 rage resulted in the practice of sending prisoners to countries like Uzbekistan where human rights is an unacknowledged concept. Muslims are tortured in the name of the war on terror. When prisoners are executed their families are charged for the bullets. The hideous irony, of course, is that the dictator Saddam Hussein received justice at the end of a rope, while Uzbek President Karimov got a fat check from the U.S. Ultimately, Karimov embraced Mother Russia and tossed us out.
By turns unbearably sad and raucously funny, this book is a must read by a man with courage in spades and an acute sense of perspective and humor. Dirty Diplomacy is an extraordinary book.