The Clinton Effect 41

Bill Clinton is to be congratulated on getting the two US journalists released from North Korea. The downside, of propaganda photos for Kim-Jong-Il, is worth it.

For British people, there is a contrast with our own government’s longstanding indifferent attitude to the plight of British prisoners and hostages abroad. I recall particularly the British men who were falsely imprisoned and tortured into confession by the Saudi government, which was seeking to cover up Islamic extremist bombings. The UK not only did not help them, but acted to protect their Saudi torturers against reprisals.

But I am also reminded of other photos of Clinton with a very dubious character which appeared recently.


Just why Clinton is posing with the appalling Gulnara Karimova is unclear. But it might well relate to the continued efforts by the Obama administration to improve relations with President Karimov of Uzbekistan. As reported here in March, the US has signed new treaties with Uzbekistan, on use of the country for land transit to US forces in Afghanistan.

President Obama’s Central Asian policy will prove the disaster which undermines the achievements of his administration. The surge in Afghanistan will not bring military victory, and rhe radicalisation in Pakistan increasingly spreads into urban populations. To compound this, Obama is now repeating Bush’s error of backing the vicious regimes of Soviet elites in the “Stans”

The long term evils of the drive for short term military gain in Afghanistan will haunt the West for generations.

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41 thoughts on “The Clinton Effect

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  • Jon

    George, I think you mis-characterise Craig’s writing – I don’t think he has changed his mind at all. I think her “girlish charms” etc. are of specific interest, given how contradictorily they sit with her father’s – and perhaps her – blood-stained reputation.

    I don’t intend to have Godwin’s Law invoked when I point out that some of the top Nazis were reported to be very loving towards their grand-children. Such a trait is of great interest to writers, historians – and I dare say psychologists and criminologists too – as it points to the idea that people capable of great evil are simultaneously capable of kindness and humanity too.

  • George Laird

    Dear Jon

    Have you any evidence that she has been involved in any great evil?

    “people capable of great evil are simultaneously capable of kindness and humanity too”.

    I would have to agree 100% on that statement.

    I would be interested to know why Craig finds her so appalling.

    Yours sincerely

    George Laird

    The Campaign for Human Rights at Glasgow University

  • Charles Crawford

    George Laird (Glasgow University) asks me “Are you in the ‘I am not happy with Craig Murray because he has a better public profile as me’ (sic) club?”

    No. I happen to disagree with Craig on various issues of substance and professional diplomatic technique.

    This Gulnara issue is noteworthy because it brings out one existential dilemma for diplomats – how to get odious regimes to behave better while having to maintain close personal relationships with key regime figures?

    Craig (on the whole rightly) was pleased she attended his Queen’s Birthday Party in Tashkent. Yet she was no less ‘appalling’ then than she is now – at that point she was already flourishing at the expense of the Uzbek masses as only a Communist dictator’s favoured child can.

    A serious weakness in Craig’s general stance is (I think) that he nowhere (including in his first book) gives us a cogent explanation of how best a diplomat might get sustained positive results in the circumstances he faced in Uzbekistan. To do so would mean (I think) accepting that you have to maintain good personal and professional relations with torturers and other ghastly people – and that does not sit easily with Craig’s current main effort of lambasting anyone who now does so!

    So Gulnara is transformed by Craig from an important and rather delicious key senior contact to an appalling and odious regime creep. Why? Because Craig himself has changed roles?

    All this is quite complex in lots of ways, and goes to explain why I offered Craig a chance to debate all this publicly. The ball is in his court.



  • Duncan McFarlane

    Hi Charles,

    I’ve read ‘Murder in Samarkand’ and in it Craig points out that he got better results by being critical of Karimov than other ambassadors got by attempting to flatter him and his cronies. The Uzbek dictatorship backed down as long as they thought the British government backed Craig’s positions. If they actually had backed him on them Karimov would probably have continued to back down.

    If you doubt any of that then can you explain why every British company operating in Uzbekistan asked that Craig be kept on as ambassador when Blair and Straw decided to recall him?

    The ‘influence’ the US and British governments bought with Karimov was zero. As long as they gave him everything he wanted he let them have bases in the country.

    The moment they publicly criticised him in the media (pathetically responding to the Andijan massacre by calling for ‘greater transparency’) he went over to the Russians. The improvement they got for ordinary Uzbeks by a decade of appeasing Karimov was nil. Karimov never ‘behaved better’ unless you define ‘behaving better’ as letting the US have bases in Uzbekistan, while continuing to torture his own people to death on a whim and exploit them ruthlessly as unpaid slave labour.

  • Duncan McFarlane

    Also you selectively quote Murder in Samarkand on your blog – Craig does describe Gulnara as ‘charming’ in person and good looking etc, but also points out how she benefited from her father’s corruption and how ruthless she was. There isn’t any contradiction between saying someone is charming and attractive to speak to at a party and to say that they’re also ruthless and corrupt. Do you expect them to wear black hats and look evil maybe?

  • George Laird

    Dear Charles

    Thank you for coming back with a reply.

    This part interested me;

    “To do so would mean (I think) accepting that you have to maintain good personal and professional relations with torturers and other ghastly people – and that does not sit easily with Craig’s current main effort of lambasting anyone who now does so!”

    I would agree that you should have good professional relations, but not personal.

    People you meet during the course of your work don’t always translate into personal relationships.

    It maybe ethical in a work sense to promote good contacts but highly unethical on a personal level.

    After all who wants to hang around with murderers and torturers?

    Do you have any pals who are murderers and torturers?

    If so, why?

    Do you rationalise it by saying to yourself that they aren’t doing it to anyone you know personally?

    Yours sincerely

    George Laird

    The Campaign for Human Rights at Glasgow University

  • mary

    Ms Karimova has her own website which is good for a laugh. She is no shrinking violet – she has six dozen photos of herself with ‘famous’, ‘top’ or ‘renowned’ personages most of whom we haven’t heard of. The funniest is this. Which of the two is the most ridiculous? And what is she wearing on her feet?

    The photos are on the Moments section.

    The one with Clinton is there too – they were at some AIDS do of Elton John’s.

    She also has a longish biography. Vain? Moi?

  • Jon

    @anticant – that no-one is all of a piece is not surprising to you or I. But in mainstream culture, especially the caricatured good/evil narrative used by the media, it *is* regarded as surprising. People want murderers/dictators etc. to be humourless and bitter, awful at all their personal endeavours, unsuccessful in their private relationships, and having lived pointless and unhappy lives. In the case in point, it is therefore of interest that someone representing such a dreadful dictatorship would have several positive features that are worth commenting upon. I obviously can’t say why Craig wrote something, but I can give an analysis of how I understood it.

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