That was a nasty flu. No idea if it was a swine flu or not, but I finally have recovered a little energy today. I feel like I’ve been punched in the face, but I can manage the stairs again.
Talking of flu, this is an interesting story which could be a great mine for conspiracy theorists:
Craig Murray, British Ambassador to Uzbekistan, stumbles across the fact that the British government is routinely receiving intelligence from torture, through the CIA. He knows that the CIA is flying people in to Uzbekistan to be tortured. He directly documents a number of false flag bombings and other devices designed to exaggerate the al-Qaida threat in Central Asia.
He dutifully reports all this back to his superiors in London. He is recalled, told that this is UK policy and he should shut up. Continuing his investigations in Tashkent, he is suddenly faced with eighteen serious disciplinary allegations. They include criminal allegations like selling visas for sex, and an accusation that he is an alcohlic.
He is told the allegations will be heard in secret and he is not allowed to tell anyone, not even to prepare a defence. He has a nervous breakdown. Downing St leaks details of the more lurid allegations to the tabloids but this backfires. Murray is known in media circles and his human rights work is respected. The accusations meet with widespread media derision, and Murray is acquitted on all counts.
Returning to Tashkent in triumph, he collapses after two days with multiple pulmonary emboli (blood clots in both lungs). He nearly dies and is in a coma for five days. There is never an explanation of the cause of so many blood clots, and doctors are suspicious. Unexpectedly he recovers, but is given six months to three years to live due to resulting pulmonary hypertension. He is dismissed as Ambassador when one of his telegrams on torture and intelligence is leaked to the Financial Times – who nonetheless do not publish the most damning bits.
Murray proves to have the extremely rare ability to regrow the arteries in his lungs, and starts to recover. He tries to make public the British government’s complicity in torture, releasing documents on the internet and publishing Murder in Samarkand, which tells the above story.
Murray stands against Foreign Secretary Jack Straw in Blackburn in the 2005 General Election. The BBC make a fly-on-the-wall documentary about Murray. Esther Oxford, the Assistant Director and cinematographer on the documentary, lives with Murray for four weeks to film it. After the election Oxford and her camera are even admitted to the operating theatre for Murray’s heart surgery.
Murray becomes good friends with Oxford and presenter John Sweeney. But when the documentary is made, The Ambassador’s Last Stand concentrates heavily on Murray’s personal eccentricities and thus discounts his allegations of British government complicity in torture. The Murrays and Oxfords remain friends, however. Murray meets Esther’s father, the virologist Professor John Oxford, and Murray’s wife Nadira dances at Esther’s wedding.
Murray gives evidence to the European Parliament on UK complicity in torture. Returning on the Eurostar, he sits with a Tory MEP, a descendant of T E Lawrence. The MEP shows Murray on the train Lawrence’s original map of proposed boundaries for the Middle East.
In researching the possible dangers from avian flu, Prof Oxford exhumes a victim of the Spanish flu of 1919, who was buried in a lead coffin. The corpse is not just anybody – it is Sir Mark Sykes. Sykes is the diplomat who negotiated the infamous Sykes-Picot map, dividing the Middle East on colonial lines between British and French puppet regimes. This is done contrary to the hopes of Lawrence for a strong Arab nation, and behind the back of Woodrow Wilson. Sykes dies on the way home from the negotiations.
Six months after Sykes is exhumed, a global flu pandemic is first identified in Mexico.
All of the above is true.
The first half of the story, as contained in Murder in Samarkand, is the tale of a genuine government conspiracy to use torture, falsify intelligence and smear an innocent man to cover it up.
In the second half I conflate my tenuous connection with John Oxford, an interesting meeting on a train and the Sykes/Lawrence link, plus the timing of Sykes’ exhumation and the outbreak of swine flu. I really don’t believe those are any more than mild coincidences. But I can see inspiration for a novel in there if they were beefed up a bit.