As this blog is now read daily by tens of thousands of people who had not heard of me before, some idea of where I come from might be in order. After a diplomatic career of rapid promotion (senior civil service age 36, my first Ambassadorship in Uzbekistan age 42) my opposition to Bush/Blair’s immoral and counter-productive foreign policy got me sacked.
This telegram (diplomatic communications are called that; cable in the USA) I am with retrospect very proud to have sent. To have made at the time the observation that the Bush/Blair policy of invasion, oppression and torture would not suppress fundamentalism, but would create it, was prescient. I should say I understood very well I would be sacked. Some things are worth being sacked for.
On provenance, after being kicked out I typed this up from my handwritten draft which I had in my briefcase; hence it does not carry the identifiers it would gain when sent. I assure you it is genuine, and by now I expect it should be obtainable under a Freedom of Information request. If someone makes one I would be grateful – the date on it is the day I wrote it, it might have got sent a day or two later, so give them a range.
18 March 2003
SUBJECT: US FOREIGN POLICY
1. As seen from Tashkent, US policy is not much focused on democracy or freedom. It is
about oil, gas and hegemony. In Uzbekistan the US pursues those ends through supporting a
ruthless dictatorship. We must not close our eyes to uncomfortable truth.
2. Last year the US gave half a billion dollars in aid to Uzbekistan, about a quarter of it
military aid. Bush and Powell repeatedly hail Karimov as a friend and ally. Yet this regime
has at least seven thousand prisoners of conscience; it is a one party state without freedom of
speech, without freedom of media, without freedom of movement, without freedom of
assembly, without freedom of religion. It practices, systematically, the most hideous tortures
on thousands. Most of the population live in conditions precisely analogous with medieval
3. Uzbekistan’s geo-strategic position is crucial. It has half the population of the whole of
Central Asia. It alone borders all the other states in a region which is important to future
Western oil and gas supplies. It is the regional military power. That is why the US is here,
and here to stay. Contractors at the US military bases are extending the design life of the
buildings from ten to twenty five years.
4. Democracy and human rights are, despite their protestations to the contrary, in practice a
long way down the US agenda here. Aid this year will be slightly less, but there is no
intention to introduce any meaningful conditionality. Nobody can believe this level of aid –
more than US aid to all of West Africa – is related to comparative developmental need as
opposed to political support for Karimov. While the US makes token and low-level
references to human rights to appease domestic opinion, they view Karimov’s vicious regime
as a bastion against fundamentalism. He – and they – are in fact creating fundamentalism.
When the US gives this much support to a regime that tortures people to death for having a
beard or praying five times a day, is it any surprise that Muslims come to hate the West?
5. I was stunned to hear that the US had pressured the EU to withdraw a motion on Human
Rights in Uzbekistan which the EU was tabling at the UN Commission for Human Rights in
Geneva. I was most unhappy to find that we are helping the US in what I can only call this
cover-up. I am saddened when the US constantly quote fake improvements in human rights
in Uzbekistan, such as the abolition of censorship and Internet freedom, which quite simply
have not happened (I see these are quoted in the draft EBRD strategy for Uzbekistan, again I
understand at American urging).
6. From Tashkent it is difficult to agree that we and the US are activated by shared values.
Here we have a brutal US sponsored dictatorship reminiscent of Central and South American
policy under previous US Republican administrations. I watched George Bush talk today of
Iraq and “dismantling the apparatus of terror… removing the torture chambers and the rape
rooms”. Yet when it comes to the Karimov regime, systematic torture and rape appear to be
treated as peccadilloes, not to affect the relationship and to be downplayed in international
fora. Double standards? Yes.
7. I hope that once the present crisis is over we will make plain to the US, at senior level, our
serious concern over their policy in Uzbekistan.
For the full story, read my memoir Murder in Samarkand (Dirty Diplomacy in the US) which your local ibrary should be able to get.