You Don’t Have To Appease Dictators 19

Western collusion with vicious dictators is a policy choice. But it is also an individual choice by those who carry out the policy. The Arab Spring has put iinto context the stand I took over our support of the Uzbek regime and our collaboration in its brutality.

With that in mind, this BBC interview I gave with John Humphrys has a new resonance now. This blog also has thousands more readers every day than it did back in 2005, so it may well be new to most of you. I think now my concerns are much more widely understood by the public than they were then.

Listen here:
On The Ropes

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19 thoughts on “You Don’t Have To Appease Dictators

  • dilan roj

    that was really interesting, I think I had heard via the media about what happened to you, but only their version of it..

    • Craig_Murray

      Thank you – it was good to be able to get the unfiltered truth over. It was also in the event a good thing that Humphrys had plainly been extensively briefed on the Forein Office positions, so I was able to reply to them. I thought Humphrys himself was impeccably fair.

      • Herbie

        Alternatively you could do your own interviews and post the video onsite which will then go to YouTube etc.

        No point in having yourself mediated. With all the new technology available, you don't have to appease dictators anymore.

        • Craig_Murray

          I prefer to write. As for interviews, I think the dialogue is helpful in explaining to a wide audience, especially if the interviewer is articulating establishment positions which you can challenge.

  • Herbie

    Interesting that Humphreys wasn't much concerned in pursuing the truth or otherwise of the allegations you'd made about the Blair regime's complicity in torture, even though he'd conceded that were it true it would be an enormous crime.

    He was keen though to stress the unfounded allegations made against you.

    That's how the BBC works, of course.

    So far as your own treatment is concerned and your shock at the brutishness of it. Weren't you aware that the Blair regime was particularly thugish and indeed some of its notable characters were notorious and indeed feted for their routine thuggery. Media certainly knew all about them and their dark arts by 2005. It wasn't a secret. They'd been talking about it since at least 1998.

    • Craig_Murray


      I took it the other way, that Humphrys in effect was presuming these things were true – which he was certainly well informed enough about from other sources. I agree the stress on me was not helpful, but it was the format of the programme, which is an interview with someone who has been through a devastating personal experience.

      That the Blair camp were bullies I knew. That they were complicit in torture and willing to frame an innocent man to cover up, no I didn't realise in time.

  • Alaric

    I think that it would be a great idea to get a few original short videos youtube, its a great way to spread information and ideas – in bitesize pieces, reaching out to a much larger audience than the blog… Perhaps something for the future Craig.

  • charlescrawford

    I have never heard you give a satisfactory explanation of how you square your robust stand on 'not appeasing dictators' with the vivid passage in your first book describing in some detail how you were so pleased that President Karimov's giggling daughter and various Ministers all rocked up to your legendary Queen's Birthday party in Tashkent.

    The significance of that episode is not only that it faithfully records British taxpayers offering snacks and drinks to assorted bloodthirsty tyrants while you as host beamed on. It also shows that in the real world democratic governments have to engage with regimes they utterly dislike, and that you played your own honourable part in making this happen in Uzbekistan, with no sign of much personal distaste when they asked for another duty-free whisky.

    I have no problem with this – it's how things work. But it surely qualifies your subsequent fury at those who are still doing the same job?

    • Craig_Murray


      The point is that I was extremely robust and public in my criticism of the regime. As a result they decided I must be powerful, and they fawned on me. It is certainly true that they came at much higher level and in greater numbers to my national day celebration than they ever went to anybody else's. including the US or Russia or their near neighbours. As you know extremely well, that was not important in itself but was a measure of the influence I gained.

      But the point is that they were fawning on me, NOT me fawning on them. I gained that influence by putting the proper British por freedom points to them very forcefully, and by stocking it to them very publicly when they committed atrocities. The second the FCO undercut me and returned to the classic FCO arse-licking cringe posture, all that influence evaporated.

      If you can't see the difference between the President's daughter wishing to be seen at my house, and the current Ambassador endorsing HER slave picked cotton fashion event, you are not very perceptive. But in fact I am quite sure that you understand what I am saying very well.

      • charlescrawford

        Fair enough, although that's not quite the way it comes over in the book.

        But even if you caught their attention by some pretty strong (and good) language in public, albeit still couched in 'diplomatic' tones, what did you do to build on this new-found senior access to take up the issues with these senior Uzbeks in private, which is where it was likely to make a real difference (if anything was)?

        Your comment above suggests that your influence evaporated 'in a second' when the FCO undercut you. But your books explains well that it took months for you and the FCO to reach the final ghastly falling out. Had that not happened, what would you have been doing to work with Uzbek Ministers through your own energetic form of 'constructive engagement' to get anything significant achieved? The trick in diplomacy is complementing public with private pressure – your book offers us no real clue on how to make that happen in a sustained way. Surely the point is that with such grim regimes an unglamorous incrementalism is the only real choice, and that for all practical purposes this amounts to 'appeasing' dictators in the way you lambast above?

        • Craig_Murray

          I did use this influence in private with senior Uzbeks in exactly the ways you would expect. The real clue is in the extraordinary letters of support from British businesses to Jack Straw quoted from in the book, sent when word got out the FCO wanted to remove me. They detail the practical results of several individual exercises of influence. But the same influence also got several human rights defenders out of jail. Pushing for reform was more difficult but I was working on it. I would say that the original book was 260,000 words long and the publisher cut 130,000 of them!

          The moment my influence vanished was when Simon But, Head of Department came out from London. In a meeting with the Uzbek foreign minister, and with me in the room, he effectively disowned me when the Uzbek foreign minister complained about the strength of my comments on human rights. Shortly thereafter a FCO minister phoned the Uzbek foreign minister and discussed policy with him, and the Uzbek foreign minister discovered that I had no idea this was happening (which as you know was inexcusable). Then of course I was suspended on disciplinary allegations. For my last year I was completely a lame duck as a result of all this (to be quite honest, I know longer remember the precise order of those events, but I am pretty sure it was as I just gave it).

          We don't have the same political ideology, but in fact our views and practice on how to be an effective diplomat were not that different in practice. I still maintain I was extraordinarily unlucky in the quality of my line management. I am still sufficiently annoyed with them to point out that their subsequent careers were a good deal less glittering than you might have expected given the positions they had achieved so far.

          But the real problem was that you were just not allowed to question the "War on Terror". My arguments that support of Muslim tyrants was counter-productive applied just as much in Cairo or Jedda. And I was right.

          • charlescrawford

            "I still maintain I was extraordinarily unlucky in the quality of my line management" Now that is absolutely something where i agree with you. Even allowing for literary flourish, the accounts of some of your encounters with SB and LD (both of whom I know) ring very true.

            Still, I believe that in some deep and mysterious way we all make our own luck, and in a closed system like the FCO (which has strengths and weaknesses from that closed-ness) it's up to each officer to calculate that very finely.

            Drink sometime?

          • Craig_Murray

            Certainly. You can pay as I hear your speechwriting line is going rather well. Unfortunately I shan't get back to the UK for a few weeks.

  • Uz Bek

    I admire your personal war with hypocrisy. I also believe one day knowledgeable uzbeks would render homage to you for your political honesty. Thank you.

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