Happy Birthday To Me 166

I am 54 today! That sounds really old, but I can honestly say that I feel as young and hopeful, and my mind feels as open and agile, as when I was twenty. I undoubtedly know a lot more, but I don’t confuse that with wisdom.

I am in a hotel in Ghana and sad to be apart from family today. I have been taking stock a little this morning and my greatest disappointment is that I have not been able to change things in Uzbekistan, or in Western government’s attitude to Uzbekistan.

1.4 million Uzbek children are today working in regime forced labour in the Uzbek cotton fields. They work at physically very tough labour for twelve hours a day in conditions identical to those in which black slave workers suffered in the Southern United States 200 years ago – indeed several US slaveowners would have scrupled at the wholesale use of children as young as eight in the fields, as is done by the Uzbek government. They sleep in barracks on concrete floors, live on weak vegetable soup and drink dirty water from the irrigation ditches.

Of course it is not only children who are forced into the fields, and the system requires extreme compulsion. On October 6 in Kashkadarya 18 year old Navruz Islamov was beaten to death by police for attempting to leave a cotton field when suffering from sunstroke. There are scores more such instances we do not hear about.

I have never felt so outraged as I did two years ago, when a European Commission official told me that the EU would not act on child labour in Uzbekistan as there was “no official evidence” of the preactice, only “rumour”. This year – with the active connivance of EU nation state diplomats in Tashkent, particularly the German Ambassador -the Uzbek Government for the third successive year refused a request from the International Labour Organisation (ILO) to visit Uzbekistan to monitor child labour in the cotton harvest. At the same time, the EU says it will not act without this report from the ILO.

This is also the position of the British Government, which has never made a single comment or statement on child labour in Uzbekistan (except by me while Ambassdaor). Indeed the coalition government has never made any statement on human rights in Uzbekistan at all, having no interest in the fate of its 8,000 political prisoners and ever-lengthening list of tortured and killed by the British “ally”, President Karimov.

Cuba has just announced the abolition of exit visas. Uzbekistan is now one of a tiny number of extreme regimes which still locks its people in, retaining the old Soviet exit visa system. The Cameron/Clegg government refuses to raise this with the Uzbek regime.

Britain and the EU are again selling weapons and providing military and secret service training to the Karimov regime, and the UK, US and other NATO countries are negotiating to “Gift” huge amounts of arms and military materiel to Karimov as they withdraw from Afghanistan. Nobody in the West, and particularly in the Western media, appears to have any interest at all in our collusion with the most repressive and corrupr regime in the world.

I won’t have a really happy birthday until Uzbekistan is free. The good news is that I am confident I will have a lot of happy birthdays in a free Uzbekistan in the future.

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166 thoughts on “Happy Birthday To Me

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  • OldMark

    ‘PS: With Mark Serwotka, I think the question mark should be after ‘Socialist’.’

    There’s not much doubt,after tonight’s performance on QT, that the Unionist tag that Vronsky initially gave him was misplaced.

    ‘Greg Palast is reporting that a bunch of vulture capitalists, operating together with Mitt Romney, bought control of the Delphi auto parts company, moved all the factories to China, and moved corporate headquarters to Jersey.’

    Lysias- Romney is the global overclass personified; God help us if he gets elected next month. Matt Taibbi has this excellent article in Rolling Stone about the asset stripping bastard-


    Oh, and a belated happy birthday to Craig.

  • oddie

    Number 10: Speech at Annual dinner of United Jewish Israel Appeal
    This is a written version of the speech given by David Cameron
    Yes, you can love this country, take pride in its history, celebrate its Olympics, even cry with its football fans every other year. There is no contradiction between being a proud Jew, a committed Zionist and a loyal British citizen…

  • Duncan McFarlane

    Totally off-topic (and already wished you Happy Birthday on Facebook) but some links for people who aren’t on facebook, very topical with the SNP conference vote on whether to change their policy to backing NATO membership today

    First my blog post with lots of sources and points on why an Independent Scotland joining NATO would be likely to draw it into more unwinnable (and morally dubious) wars like Afghanistan ; and on why it might force us to keep paying for Trident nuclear weapons and submarines and upgrades for them as the price of membership

  • Duncan McFarlane

    Second the No to NATO Scotland website. You can sign up to a statement opposing NATO membership for an Independent Scotland on it. Click the link below, then scroll down till you see an orange button on the right saying ‘Sign the Statement’ on it. Click the button fill in your details etc.

  • Duncan McFarlane

    p.s doesn’t matter if the conference vote’s over when you see this – still 2 years till the independence referendum anyway – and there’ll still likely be votes in the Scottish parliament on it after that, maybe even a referendum on it, if we do get a Yes vote for independence

  • Mark Golding - Children of Conflict

    The US ambassador to Turkey has revealed that Washington secretly offered Ankara to have an “anti-bin Laden” type of joint operation against a number of military leaders of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

    What this ambassador should have revealed is that America has made addition promises of military equipment and $billion aid to Turkey in exchange for support and services to bring down the Assad government of Syria. (inshallah) – they will not succeed.


  • Duncan McFarlane

    I’m pretty dubious about Press TV as a source in general , given that they’ve shown public “confessions” of dissidents to having been criticising the Iranian government because they were agents of foreign powers (with what it didn’t show being that they had been tortured into making these “confessions”).

    (and before you tell me that’s western media bias and misreporting , Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch report torture of dissidents by the Iranian government is common – and they report constantly on Israeli, US and British military and intelligence torture, war crimes , targeting civilians and ambulances etc, so they are not biased – and they’ve proven their reliability over decades)

    I could believe that the US government might well offer Turkey assistance to crush the PKK in return for aiding the FSA to overthrow Assad, but without other sources, i’m treating it as a credible sounding rumour at the moment – might well be true, but no evidence from any reliable source that it is true.

  • Komodo

    Regardless of whether PressTV is credible (sometimes is, sometimes isn’t, sometimes the shocking headline is unsupported by anything in the text), I have no trouble believing that the US is assisting Turkey against PKK leaders while simultaneously working with closely related Kurdish groups further east to destabilise Iran. The drone strikes may be a little selective as a result.

    There will obviously be a quid-pro-quo, and that may have involved the Turks inviting NATO to help defend it against the occasional artillery round coming across the border. (Who fired it? Evil Syrian Regimists, obviously. Obviously.)

  • Mark Golding - Children of Conflict

    Duncan McFarlane,

    The American main stream media will not expose a fissure in the US ‘hookup’ with Turkey. Erdogen is of course between a rock and a NATO hard place in its bargaining with American aid, certainly out of step with the Turkish people.

    Putting the pieces of the jig-saw together it was clear to me when Erdogen prepared a bill giving him war powers the day after after my source suggested the FSA insurgents captured the border crossing point Tal Abyad right next to the town Akçakale to build a supply line for their attack on the city of al-Raqqa.

    Erdogen in his grab for support failed to predict the damage to Turkey’s economy; the influx of over 100,000 refugees brought increasing problems and the resurgence of the PKK in Turkey led to several spectacular attacks. The Turkish public continues to be against Erdogan’s interventionist policy in Syria.

    Who would support America’s twisted foreign policy that smashed Iraq on lies and deceit, has left Libya in a mess and destroyed so many young lives?

    Who would support a US foreign policy that subjected the world to industrial cyber attacks, the murder of innocent scientists in Iran and false-flag attempts to subvert a sovereign nation’s election? Iran is self-centered for survival – is that a crime?

    The answer is of course no it is not.

    Translated from the Turkish media:

    “If Francis Ricciardone, the U.S. Ambassador to Ankara, had not revealed that there had been a secret offer to the Turkish government to have an “Anti-bin Laden” type joint operation against Murat Karayılan and other military leaders of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) based in the north of Iraq, it would possibly have remained a secret for many more years.

    Responding to questions from Turkish journalists, Ricciardone said on Oct. 16 that the U.S. had offered the Turkish government its state of the art military technology to hunt down the military leaders of the PKK. However, the Turkish government declined, saying it would continue fighting the PKK “on the basis of its laws and experiences.”

    English version here:


  • Komodo

    Ricciardone said on Oct. 16 that the U.S. had offered the Turkish government its state of the art military technology to hunt down the military leaders of the PKK. However, the Turkish government declined, saying it would continue fighting the PKK “on the basis of its laws and experiences.”

    This may be about drones as much as anything else. Turkey would really like some Predators. Its homegrown drone, the Anka, is still under development, and it is currently relying on its 10 Israeli drones* for extraterritorial assassinations…


    Note that Turkeys “laws and experiences” do not exclude using drones.

    *Evenly matched with the PKK’s Israeli drones, I assume:

  • Mary

    There is absolutely no mention of the voyage of this ship to Gaza in the corporate media except in the Israeli press with reports of plans by the Israeli navy to disrupt the voyage and a plea from Prosor to the UN to attack it.

    Africa to Gaza Aid Convoy

    11 minutes ago.

    ESTELLE is approaching GAZA, expected time of arrival – SATURDAY
    She’s getting closer …
    Eye on Estelle 11.55am Friday

    Via : David Mitchell
    Africa to Gaza Aid Convoy

  • Mary

    Duncan McFarlane is speaking of the old models of AI and HRW when we all invited to send postcards to political prisoners. Now they are part of the war machine.

    It took AI 8 years to get round to accuse Bush and Cheney of torture. AI is now run by Suzanne Nossel late of Clinton’s state department and have a terrible reputation for supporting the US Nato attacks on Libya and now Syria. It was described as ‘humanitarian intervention’.

    Suzanne Nossel – the capture of Amnesty International USA

    email to Independent re James Bloodworth article on Venezuela {http://members5.boardhost.com/medialens/msg/1350399468.html}

    Syria: Amnesty International, Regime Change and an Ambassador

    etc etc

  • Komodo

    That should actually be “9 Israeli drones”, above. The Kurds shot one down….maybe using an Israeli missile?

  • Uzbek in the UK

    Happy Birthday Mr Murray. I wish your really Happy Birthday come soon.
    EU/UK/US do not see things they do not want to see. As we speak over million of people in Uzbekistan are working in cotton fields. Some of those are school children as young as 10. This year cotton picking is particularly important for the government as some rumours say that karimov clan is trying to squeeze the last drop, quite possibly sensing coming end of their almighty bastard father.
    So hopefully nature will soon step in and liberate Uzbeks from this tyrant. Unfortunately he will never be tried and prosecuted.

  • Ben Franklin (Anti-intellectual Colonial American Savage version)

    The Ambassadors October 16 statement is here….http://turkey.usembassy.gov/amb_ricciardone_101612.html

    Running through it, I see no such indication of what the PTV story of a secret deal propounds.

    The Deal described is repeated in three or four outlets, using the same language cut-and-pasted without additional sourcing.

    I agree Mark, something might have been offered to Turkey, but ‘Bin Laden’ methodology is no where to be found, nor is the strange rejection of such assistance by Turkey.

  • Ben Franklin (Anti-intellectual Colonial American Savage version)

    I say ‘strange’ rejection because they regularly receive US monies; 21 billion in 2011.

  • Komodo

    A deal to sell drones to Turkey would have to go through Congress, I believe. Now Turkey is unaligned with Israel, we can take it that the AIPAC pawns would forbid this. So I wonder if the offer was of something else, perhaps access to surveillance data, instead of the drones Turkey wanted.

    There may be some pressure to reduce US military aid to Turkey in any event. Israel is playing both ends against the middle in the region, and Turkey is in the middle. Inevitably: Turkey’s regional ties are now seen as more important than its relations with the West, and this in turn is due in no small measure to its continued rejection by the EU.

  • Ben Franklin (Anti-intellectual Colonial American Savage version)

    Interesting speculations. But I think the cool relations between Barry and Bibi run contrary to the intuition. Obama is aligning with stable Islamic countries as an adjunct to drone activity against the militant factions.

    I think this trend is bolstered by events around Benghazi.

  • Ben Franklin (Anti-intellectual Colonial American Savage version)

    Although he campaigned as a symbolic revolutionary, Obama is an Authoritarian. IOW, he wears suspenders as well as a belt to keep his britches up; looks both ways before crossing a one-way street. He likes order and the Rule of Law for the above reasons, but has been hampered by an obstructionist Congress and the quagmire created by the Bush Gang.

  • Ben Franklin (Anti-intellectual Colonial American Savage version)

    Coincidentally, after my last comment I see this…

    “The Associated Press this week reported on the Obama administration’s current plans for Benghazi, plans that were “provided by three current and one former administration official, as well as an analyst who was approached by the White House for help”. The report described how the US “is readying strike forces and drones but first has to find a target”; in other words, the gun is metaphorically cocked and simply in search of someone to shoot [my emphasis]:”


    Yup. That’ll work. Take Militias who fought the Benghazi attackers and turn them into enemies.

    That’s the blowback.

  • Duncan McFarlane

    Mary wrote “Duncan McFarlane is speaking of the old models of AI and HRW when we all invited to send postcards to political prisoners. Now they are part of the war machine.

    It took AI 8 years to get round to accuse Bush and Cheney of torture. AI is now run by Suzanne Nossel late of Clinton’s state department and have a terrible reputation for supporting the US Nato attacks on Libya and now Syria. It was described as ‘humanitarian intervention’.”

    Nothing you’ve said there is true.
    Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch criticised torture and war crimes by US and Coalition / NATO forces in Afghanistan and Iraq from 2002 in the case of Afghanistan and 2003 in the case of Iraq. That’s easily verifiable by just a search on their sites or a google. e.g
    They were both writing reports saying the Bush administration had a policy of torture from 2005 and Human Rights Watch wrote comprehensive reports on torture in Afghanistan well before Abu Ghraib
    e.g see all the quotes from their listed reports on this page

    They also condemned human rights abuses and war crimes by NATO and the Libyan rebel militias , as well as those by Gadaffi’s forces – and continue to condemn crimes by the militias to date as well as by NATO forces in Afghanistan , Israeli forces in the occupied territories, both Syrian rebels and Syrian government forces etc.

    The head of Amnesty International, it’s Secretary General, is not Suzanne Nossel but Salil Shetty, who was a UN official promoting aims of reducing poverty and before that worked for the charity Action Aid.

    Suzanne Nossel became head of Amnesty International USA (not of the whole organisation) in January this year and did work at the State Department under Clinton – that’s the only fact you get even half right. That did worry me a bit when i first read it – but it doesn’t seem to stop her criticising the US government in her new role e.g when the US was one of the countries that blocked the UN arms trade treaty in July Nozzel said””This was stunning cowardice by the Obama administration, which at the last minute did an about-face and scuttled progress toward a global arms treaty, just as it reached the finish line.”

    So Nozzel is clearly not making Amnesty “part of the war machine” at all, apart from the fact that she’s only the head of Amnesty USA, not the whole of Amnesty.

    So why are you spreading these lies? Are you relying on second hand claims by people who are either dishonest or haven’t bothered checking their facts at all (when a google would have told them differently)? Or are you making these false claims up yourself? Either way please stop it.

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