richard


A Complete Review Of Craig Murray’s Seminar or How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Hate The Left

“There is some validity in this critique, and certainly many on the left display an over-simplistic world view. But then so does this commentator, in being distracted from the truth of our illegal and aggressive foreign policy, which has killed hundreds of thousands of people – rather more important than being annoyed by a chap with a beard.”

From Semp

A Complete Review Of Craig Murray’s Seminar or How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Hate The Left

The other night, Bradford University’s Richmond Building was graced with the presence of Craig Murray, the former UK ambassador to Uzbekistan. Uzbekistan is ostensibly a great friend of the UK and the Coallition of the Willing, so dedicated to those noble values of Freedom and Democracy and Justice that when the CIA happens to drop off an individual who may or may not actually be guilty of something, in Tashkent, their security services stop at nothing to drain the suspect of every last drop of information. The standard gamut of what the US euphmeistically refers to as “hard interrogation” techniques are employed, as well as their own homegrown notoriety: the boiling of subjects alive. Either whole or limb by limb. Let Freedom Ring, baby.

So Murray came to Bradford as part of a tour supporting his new book which goes into greater detail about his discovery of this scheme of “extraordinary rendition”, and his subsequent dismissal from his post by the Home Office after he steadfastly refused to be cowed into silence on the matter. Unlike many speakers embraced by the Stop The War movement, Murray speaks with modesty and a cool head. While he does occasionally stray toward conspiracy theorist territory with some of his musings about the motivations for various wars and military strategy, he remains rooted in the overall political mainstream. This granted him a certain credibility that managed to overcome, for example, the faux-blood spattered banner of the Bradford Stop The War Coallition slung haphazardly from the whiteboard behind him. Too bad this credibility has yet to seep into the movement that supports him.

At the end of the evening, Murray opened the floor for a question and answer session. The first participant was a middle aged white man, who stood up and solemnly intoned “I’m going to say something that’s illegal.” At this point I was already thinking “Oh Christ. Here we go. ‘F*ck Tony Blair, down with capitalism. Fight the system, man'”

“You’ll say it’s glorifying terrorism. Victory to Hamas! Victory to the Insurgents in Iraq!”

When I’m angry I typically have two mental states: Quiet seething rage, and Verbose Invective. But I was so stultified by this demonstration of pure idiocy that was I stuck trotally dumb. The brutal tidal wave of deep foolishness pouring from this man’s primary oriphice seemed to knock my brain out of joint, leaving my jaw hanging, useless, totally mute. Before I even had a chance to try to organise my cluster of outraged semi-thoughts into some sort of blistering response at least half the room erupted into spontaneous applause. At that point, hell froze over, the world became a different place and a million and one shrill right-wingers were proved totally correct.

(more…)

View with comments

View with comments

The Horrors of “Extraordinary Rendition”

By Maher Arar in FPIF

Canadian citizen Maher Arar, who is barred from entering the United States, delivered his acceptance speech for the Letelier-Moffitt International Human Rights Award in a pre-recorded videotape. This is a transcript of his speech, which was viewed at the award ceremony hosted by the Institute for Policy Studies on Oct. 18, 2006 in Washington, DC.

This award means a tremendous amount to us. It means that there are still Americans out there who value our struggle for justice.

It means that there are Americans out there who are truly concerned about the future of America. We now know that my story is not a unique one. Over the past two years we have heard from many other people who were, who have been kidnapped, unlawfully detained, tortured and eventually released without being charged with any crime in any country.

Maher Arar, a Canadian citizen, was a victim of the U.S. policy known as “extraordinary rendition.” He was detained by U.S. officials in 2002, accused of terrorist links, and handed over to Syrian authorities, who tortured him. Arar is working with the Center for Constitutional Rights to appeal a case against the U.S. government that was dismissed on national security grounds.

View with comments

The British parliament is God’s gift to dictatorship

By Simon Jenkins in The Guardian

Last night’s vote against an inquiry into the Iraq war underlines parliament’s surrender of its democratic function

The British parliament is God’s gift to dictatorship. If I were an absolute ruler I would get one immediately. Last night Britons were offered the spectacle of their MPs pleading with the government to be allowed an inquiry into the Iraq war. For all the vigour of the debate, they were still humiliated by the government’s supporters. While British soldiers ram democracy down others’ throats at the point of a gun, their representatives seem incapable of performing democracy’s simplest ritual, challenging the executive.

Go here for the full article

View with comments

“Murder in Samarkand” confiscated by airport staff – again

From The Guardian

The war on terror moves in mysterious ways. Last month, not long after the allegedly planned terrorist attacks on multiple jetliners over the Atlantic were foiled, Ben Paarman turned up at Luton airport for a flight to Berlin. Having forgotten to remove toiletries from his hand luggage, he was hauled over for further inspection, and two books were discovered. A German novel passed without comment, but Murder in Samarkand, Craig Murray’s memoir of his incident-strewn stint as British ambassador to Uzbekistan, didn’t. “‘Is that about terrorism?’ asked the lady that examined my onboard luggage,” wrote Paarman on neweurasia.net, a collection of blogs by and about Central Asians. “‘Humm, well, it contains mentions of that, but it’s about your former ambassador to Uzbekistan and more about diplomacy,’ I replied politely. ‘Does it have al-Qaeda in it?’ I looked a bit confused. ‘Well, I have to check this with my manager, the rest of your stuff is fine, though.'” The manager arrived, asked Paarman where he got the book (Waterstone’s, Islington), then pronounced: “I am afraid you cannot take this onboard, Sir.” The book was duly confiscated. This much has already been mentioned, in this paper. But then it happened again.

On Monday Gillian Davison, an actress on her way to New York, reported on the blog that she had had her copy of the same book confiscated at Heathrow. Murray has offered to replace Paarman’s copy – and consulted lawyers. “The lawyers said that the first time it might have been just a mistake, not policy,” he replied this week, to an email from the Guardian asking how far this course of action had gone, “but twice at two different airports looks like a policy. We are strongly minded to go to the High Court for an injunction under the Human Rights Act.”

View with comments

BRITAIN: The mysterious case of the disappearing ‘terror’ plots

From Green Left Review

By Norm Dixon

Readers of Britain’s newspapers are regularly accosted with blood-curdling banner headlines screaming of the ‘thwarting’ of potentially catastrophic ‘terror plots’, of ‘Islamic fanatics’ being apprehended in daring midnight raids. ‘Chilling’ details, ‘revealed’ by anonymous police and government ‘sources’, underline why ‘we’ must accept a ‘trade-off’ between civil liberties and ‘security’, the editorials assure an apprehensive populace. Months or even years later, however, news that many of the ‘plots’ never actually existed is buried behind the latest sex scandal or exploitative ‘expose’ ‘ if reported at all.

On August 10, deputy commissioner of London’s Metropolitan Police Paul Stephenson declared that a plan to ’cause untold death and destruction’ and ‘mass murder on an unimaginable scale’ had been foiled with the arrest of 24 people. ‘We believe that the terrorists’ aim was to smuggle explosives onto planes in hand luggage to detonate them in flight’, Stephenson alleged. Britain’s and the world’s mass media trumpeted the claims.

However, within days the dramatic case against the detainees as told to the media by anonymous US and British government and police ‘sources’ began to unravel. The claim that an attack was ‘imminent’ was false. No reservations had been made or airline tickets purchased by the 10 charged with serious terrorism offences; several did not even have passports. Apparently, just one had used the internet to check flight schedules recently. There were no bombs.

The assertion that the detainees intended to destroy 10-12 aircraft was ‘speculative and exaggerated’, a British official admitted to the August 28 New York Times. Claims of a convoluted ‘Pakistani connection’ between the plotters and al Qaeda have disappeared. The possibility of successfully concocting ‘liquid bombs’ from household products in a plan’es toilet mid-air has been dismissed by chemical experts.

Misrepresentation

Gareth Pierce, defence lawyer for the 17-year-old in the case accused of possessing items ‘useful to a person preparing acts of terrorism’, told the August 31 Chicago Tribune how police had misrepresented what they had found at the boy’s mother’s home and twisted it to fit their grandiose claims. According to police, ‘suicide notes’, a map of Afghanistan and a bomb ‘manual’ had been found.

What was actually discovered, Pierce told the Tribune, were wills written by people who had fought in Bosnia more than 10 years earlier. The accused was just six when much of this material was placed in the box! ‘They’re not suicide notes at all. They’re really simple wills. To call these suicide notes was absolutely disgraceful’, Pierce said.

The wills were found in a box that once belonged to the boy’s father ‘ who has since divorced and moved out ‘ when he ran a now-defunct charity that helped displaced Bosnian Muslims. The box also contained a crude map drawn by the boy’s younger brother when he was a child. There was also a book of drawings of electrical circuits, which even if it was of some use in building a bomb, it would be useless for the device that police allege the group was trying to construct.

Associated Press on September 4 reported that prosecutors told a London court that the detainees will not face trial until March 2008. They will remain in prison and the key details of the prosecution’s case will be kept secret until then.

Lies and fabrication

Will the British government and mass media’s accusations stand up in court? Not if the record of British police, government and media lying, exaggeration and fabrication in recent ‘terror’ cases is anything to go by.

As Craig Murray, former British ambassador to Uzbekistan, pointed out in an August 14 article on his website

‘Of the over 1000 British Muslims arrested under anti-terrorist legislation, only 12% are ever charged with anything. That is simply harassment of Muslims on an appalling scale. Of those charged, 80% are acquitted. Most of the very few ‘ just over 2% of arrests ‘ who are convicted, are not convicted of anything to do with terrorism, but of some minor offence the police happened upon while trawling through the wreck of the lives they had shattered.’

At 4am on June 2, around 250 police, some wearing chemical suits, stormed a house in Forest Gate, east London. Police claimed that a chemical bomb was in the house. Awoken by the sound of doors being broken down, the two families living there thought they were being attacked by robbers. Mohammed Abdul Kahar was shot in the chest by police, who failed to identify themselves or give a warning, narrowly missing his heart.

Rupert Murdoch’s seedy Sun newspaper on June 3 ramped up the anti-Muslim panic, without a shred of evidence: ‘A CHEMICAL bomb held by Islamic terrorists is primed to go off at any time, police feared last night. The device is believed to have been designed to release a toxic cloud in a crowded space ‘ killing hundreds. And senior officers are convinced it has been prepared for an ‘imminent’ attack in the UK … Last night a frantic hunt was on to find the bomb before it could be activated by fanatics. One senior security source said: ‘We are absolutely certain this device exists and could be used either by a suicide bomber or in a remote-controlled explosion.”

Not to be outdone, Murdoch’s Times on June 3 reported the finding of a ‘poison suicide vest of death’. No chemical bombs or suicide vests ever existed. Kahar and his brother were detained for eight days without charge under the Terrorism Act (2000) before being released. ‘The only crime I have committed is being Asian and having a long beard’, Kahar told the BBC on June 13. ‘They haven’t had the decency to apologise.’

‘Red mercury’

In one of more bizarre examples of how the British government, police and the media work hand in glove to manufacture terror scares was provided when the notorious ‘fake sheikh’ Mazher Mahmood, a journalist for Murdoch’s tacky News of the World who regularly dresses up in Arab robes to trick celebrities and others into compromising themselves, and an undercover police agent in 2004 attempted to entrap three people in a ‘virtual’ terror plot.

Mahmood offered to sell them an imaginary nuclear substance, ‘red mercury’, telling them it could be used to make a radioactive ‘dirty bomb’. However, the three seemed to be more interested in the claim that red mercury could also wash marked money. The undercover cop then offered to buy the fake substance from them for $300,000 a kilo.

With the approval of the Labour government’s attorney-general, the three dupes were arrested by the Met’s anti-terrorist squad on September 24, 2004. They were charged with attempting to secure funding or property for terrorism and having ‘a highly dangerous mercury-based substance’ for use in terrorism. The following day, the News of the World’s front page screamed, ‘Anti-terrorist cops move in after News of the World uncovers bid to buy radioactive material’. Red mercury, the News of the World lied to its unfortunate readers, is’a deadly substance developed by cold war Russian scientists for making briefcase nuclear bombs’.

The three remained in jail until their acquittal almost two years later. During the trial, which cost more than ‘1 million, the government prosecutor declared that ‘the Crown’s position is that whether red mercury does or does not exist is irrelevant’ and urged the jury not to get ‘hung up’ on that point. Luckily, the jury did not agree.

Own goal in Manchester

Britain’s government-police-press team scored an own goal in April 2004, when 400 Greater Manchester police rounded up 10 Iraqi Kurds. Leading the lynch mob was the Sun, which ran an invented story that began: ‘A SUICIDE bomb plot to kill thousands of soccer fans at Saturday’s Manchester United-Liverpool match was dramatically foiled yesterday. Armed cops seized ten terror suspects in dawn raids. Intelligence chiefs believe al-Qaeda fanatics planned to blow themselves up amid 67,000 unsuspecting supporters. A source said: ‘The target was Old Trafford.’ The Islamic fanatics planned to sit all around the ground to cause maximum carnage. They had already bought the tickets for various positions in the stadium, cops revealed last night.’

The entire fantastic story, and the cops’ case against the Kurds, was improvised from leaked police information about the ‘discovery’ of a couple of old ticket stubs from a Manchester United soccer match in a suspect’s flat. He was indeed guilty of being a fanatic ‘ a fanatical supporter of Manchester United who had kept the stubs as a souvenir of the only game he and a friend had attended! They were bought from a scalper, which explained why the tickets were for different parts of the ground. The 10 people were released without charge.

Ricin reflux

Perhaps the most cynically exploited of the British government’s series of fabricated ‘terror scares’ was the police announcement in January 2003 that a ‘terrorist cell’s’ plans to use ricin poison in an attack had been foiled.

On January 7, British government ministers announced that ‘traces of ricin’ had been found in a flat raided by police. Prime Minister Tony Blair seized on the ‘plot’ to bolster the propaganda campaign to go to war against Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. Blair made the ludicrous claim that the discovery of ricin, which can only kill if directly injected into a person’s bloodstream, proved that ‘this danger [of weapons of mass destruction] is present and real and with us now. Its potential is huge.’

Then US Secretary of State Colin Powell also referred to the alleged ‘cell’ during his speech to the UN Security Council on February 5, 2003, arguing for war against Iraq if Hussein did not abandon his non-existent WMD. Powell claimed it was proof of a ‘sinister nexus between Iraq and the al Qaeda terrorist network’.

The truth was that there was no al Qaeda cell and no ricin. On the same day that the government proclaimed the discovery of ‘traces of ricin’ in the flat, tests by the government’s own research facility at Porton Down had found there was no ricin. That finding was kept secret by the government for more than two years.

In April 2005, four people were acquitted on charges of conspiracy to commit terrorism, while charges against four others were dropped. One person, Kamel Bourgass, was convicted on a lesser charge of ‘conspiracy to cause a public nuisance by the use of poisons and/or explosives’, based on his possession of ‘recipes’ to make ricin and evidence of attempts to do so. However, the April 20, 2005, Independent reported that ‘Professor Alistair Hay, one of Britain’s foremost authorities on toxins, said Bourgass’s attempts to construct toxic weapons from his small supplies of ingredients and ramshackle ‘laboratory’ were ‘incredibly amateurish and unlikely to succeed’.’

From Green Left Weekly, September 13, 2006.

View with comments

Mass hangings.. TV station closed .. Democracy reaches Baghdad

From Postman Patel

Al-Arabiya, is an independent Dubai based Arabic language satellite news station with offices in over 40 major cities. It was launched in 2002 in opposition to Al Jazeera. It was originally funded by Saudi-controlled pan-Arab satellite TV pioneer MBC, Lebanon’s Hariri Group, and other investors from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the Gulf states. It was set up as an all-news channel to compete directly with Qatar-based al-Jazeera TV.

The Iraqi Government have issued an order to close the station down in Baghdad. The station was able to broadcast live the entry of police to close their Baghdad city centre studios.

The order apparently was issued by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s Cabinet and said TV stations should uphold the code of media ethics (?) , or else the government would take legal action against them.

In November 2003, the U.S.-Paul Bremer’s Governing Council banned Al-Arabiya from reporting from Baghdad after it aired an audio tape, said to be from Saddam Hussein, who was still at large at the time. 46 Coalition troops had been killed that month, there had been a loss of a Chinook helicopter and Bremer had just returned from a pep talk with Cheney from Washington.(See BBC Online report at the time)This action was approved by Bremer but curiously in his book “My Year in Iraq” forgets to mention it.(see WAPO report)Charles Heatly, a spokesman with the U.S.-led administration said, “Ambassador Bremer fully agreed with and supported the Governing Council’s decision.”

Shortly after, Saddam was found and captured and they were allowed to continue, famously they interviewed the leader of the free world and Commander in Chief of the occupying forces in May 2004. (White House transcript)

Just over a year ago in August 2005 Iraq ( Prime Minister Iyad Allawi) re-introduced the death sentence. Common during Saddam’s rule, capital punishment was suspended by the occupying US authorities in 2003. “This law is to help protect the Iraqi people in the face of an onslaught of indiscriminate murder. I think it may help,” said, Minister of State Adnan al-Janabi adding that it would remain in force until the security situation was deemed more stable.

This was condemned by the UN, European states and human-rights groups. “If the Iraqi government has reintroduced the death penalty we will lobby them to abolish it as we would do with other states that have the death penalty,” a Foreign Office spokesman said at the time.(To date la Beckett remains silent on the matter)

The first 3 victims were members of Ansar al-Sunna, an insurgent group, who were executed on September 1st 2005 after confessing to their crimes in a televised trial broadcast in May from al-Kut, in southern Iraq.

The men were identified as Bayan Ahmad al-Jaf, 30, a Kurdish taxi driver, and two Sunni Arabs, Uday Dawoud al-Dulaimi, 25, a builder, and Taher Jassim Abbas, 44, a butcher. They were found guilty of kidnapping and murdering three policemen and abducting, raping and killing Iraqi women.

The Iraqi authorities took over responsibility for the overcrowded Abu Ghraib prison at the weekend where there are said to be hundreds of prisoners who have received a death sentence. There are also reports that several gallows have been recently installed. On Wednesday a mass execution of 27 people took place. (Daily Telegraph 8/8/06)

An Iraqi Justice Ministry official said two of those hanged had been convicted of terrorism charges, and the other 25 ‘ including a woman ‘ were convicted of murder and kidnapping. In confirming the hangings a spokesman called the dead prisoners, “terrorists”, a name normally reserved for insurgents who have attacked coalition or Iraqi forces.

News of the executions was made public by Prime Minister al-Maliki when attending a ceremony to hand control of Iraq’s military to the recently elected government from American control.

The verdict on Saddam Hussein is expected this month and he faces a death sentence, he has asked to face a military firing squad rather than hanging.

View with comments

Tribune reviews “Murder in Samarkand”

Murder in Samarkand, Craig Murray. Mainstream, 400 pp, ‘18.99

Paul Routledge

“How can we have come to this,” asks Craig Murray, once Our Man in Tashkent, “that integrity in public life is now so rare that some consider me a hero just for exhibiting the most basic human decency?”

You only have to read this important, and courageous, book to understand why. If you are a public servant, and you speak out about the moral cesspit into which New Labour has jumped ‘ not fallen ‘ then you will be hounded from your job, blackguarded in the media and pursued by the avenging furies of the security services and their lawyers.

Craig Murray paid this price for revealing the British government’s role in the use of information gained by torture, which in turn led to the expose of the USA’s “extraordinary rendition” flights” and infuriated Washington. He simply had to go, and once gone, further and better punished to discourage the rest.

It is amazing that this book ever appeared. The government’s censors have had a field day, cutting out damning details on pain of crippling litigation against the publisher. And Whitehall’s finest lawyers were wheeled out to threaten the author with breach of copyright if he disclosed sensitive diplomatic telegrams. But the great virtue about this awkward Scot, who looks like a bemused schoolteacher down on his luck, is that you cannot shut him up.

Murder in Samarkand is the result : a bludgeon by bludgeon account of the barbaric regime of President Karimov in Uzbekistan, and a Labour government’s complicity in his rule. Murray, a career diplomat with postings in Warsaw and west Africa behind him, was appointed Britain’s youngest ambassador in Tashkent in 2002 at the age of 43. He was Norfolk grammar school and Dundee University, rather than Eton and Oxbridge, and Liberal rather than service-orientated Conservative or career Labour. In retrospect, he looked like trouble from the beginning. Except that he did his job so well.

Murray found Tashkent a diplomatic quiet zone, with embassies unable, or unwilling, to influence Karimov’s corrupt, reborn-Communist government. His first act was to attend a dissident’s trial, where three hours of observing perversion of justice set him on his own course of dissent. He fired off a telegram to London condemning the regime that was Blair’s ally in the “war on terror” and demanding an EU protest. Within days, opponents of the regime were knocking at his door with horrific fresh evidence, including photographs of a man who had been boiled alive. The American ambassador cautioned him, claiming that the boiling man was “an isolated case.”

Contrarily, Murray upped the tempo with a public speech condemning the Uzbek regime’s human rights record, and a stream of telegrams disclosing “systemic” torture. His FCO managers were not amused, warning him that he was behaving like a politician, not a diplomat. Worse was to come. Murray, who was reading the MI6 material, denounced as hopelessly wrong information “from a friendly security service” gleaned from “detainee briefing.” He was sure this stuff was “hot out of the torture chambers.” But for Foreign Secretary Jack Straw and the head of MI6, the material was “operationally useful”, even if they both (allegedly) lost sleep over its use.

Thereon, it was downhill all the way. The story of the FCO’s persecution of Murray is told in relentless detail. He was accused of being unpatriotic, drunk on duty, unduly fond of the local women, and a host of other undiplomatic habits. He was certainly na’ve, and enjoyed the social round, such as it was in Tashkent. Murray enlivened it with Gilbert and Sullivan, a Scottish rock band and fireworks. Recalled for interview to London, he almost died from a pulmonary embolism and was probably unwise to return to his post while the campaign to destroy him reached a climax at home. He was banned from his own office, a policy specifically supported by Straw. Eventually, practically all the charges against him were dropped, except for the heinous crime of talking about them. But they sacked him all the same, ending his “experiment in a more dynamic style of ambassadorship.”

His real crime, of course, was unwitting subversion of the longstanding US-UK intelligence sharing agreement, under which everything is swapped between the CIA and MI6. Since the American spook industry is four times bigger than ours, this is an unequal swap, and part of the bargain has to be British acceptance of information wherever it comes from. If it comes from torture, “we have to accept it in order to maintain the integrity of the agreement,” Murray emphasises..

That is the nub of the issue, and he is disarmingly frank about stating it. From a simple protest against political corruption, Murray was drawn ineluctably into a power game that could only have one ending. Within days of his controversial Tashkent speech, a top US diplomat in Uzbekistan told a visiting Danish journalist “Murray is a finished man here.”

But happily, not here at home. Murder in Samarkand is not just a harrowing, dramatic story, occasionally relieved by an impish sense of humour. It is a clarion call to all those who care about justice and human rights. No wonder they wanted to shut him up, and thank heaven they failed.

View with comments

“Murder in Samarkand” confiscated by Luton airport security

From Eurasian.net

‘Is that about terrorism?’, asked the lady that examined my onboard luggage. ‘Humm, well, it contains mentions of that, but it’s about your former ambassador to Uzbekistan and more about diplomacy’, I replied politely. ‘Does it have al-Qaida in it?’ I looked a bit confused. ‘What?’ – ‘Well, I have to check this with my manager, the rest of your stuff is fine, though.’

The manager then came after a minute or two. ‘Hello Sir, can you tell me about this book?’ ‘Sure, it is about Craig Murray, former UK ambassador to Uzbekistan.’ ‘Where, if I may ask, did you buy this book?’ – ‘Well, it is available at any Waterstones here in Britain. I just bought my copy in the Angel branch yesterday.’

‘I am afraid you cannot take this onboard, Sir.’ You must be kidding me. I just spent 20 pounds on a book that, despite arousing some controversy in the UK, should not be banned onboard a flight to Germany. I understand that the terror plot (which coincidentally seems to have an Uzbek dimension) makes for some overwrought nerves.

But to ban a book widely available in book stores in the UK is just a joke. Now, cash-strapped, I have to wait for the paperback edition to be published. Already late for the flight and raging in front of the calm airport security manager, I must have overheard that they can – in exceptional cases – post confiscated material to a UK address. I recalled that onboard the plane’

View with comments

Craig Murray on Lebanon

I have just watched on television sixty bodies being buried in a mass grave in Tyre, victims of Israeli bombing. At the same time I saw the odious Kim Howells, Foreign Office minister, arguing that a ceasefire would not solve the problem.

British diplomats at the UK Mission to the United Nations in New York – people I know personally – are putting massive effort into working against a ceasefire. They have the ultimate weapon that they and the US can veto any resolution at the Security Council, but are bending their backs into heading the subject off the agenda.

I hope they are proud of their succesful efforts. For every hour they prevent a ceasefire, on average two more Lebanese children are dying. Israel claims now to have killed 100 Hizbollah fightres. Even if true, that means they are killing two children to every fighter.

Blair and Bush take an obscene joy in the killing. It is as though they have to work through their obsession with the concept of “The War on Terror” to its crazed conclusion of eternal conflict. Faced with increasing public scepticism at the hideous quagmires in Iraq and Afghanistan, I am sorry to say that I believe they both will be secretly hoping for more terrorist incidents in London and New York. By provoking, goading and humiliating the Arab world beyond reason, they can provoke a reaction and rage at us “I told you so”. Then race down the next spiral on the road to mutual destruction in their self-fulfilling warwithout end.

On Tuesday the Foreign and Commonwealth Office are holding an “Open Day” for potential recruits. How large a salary to you need to work to delay a ceasefire and secure the deaths of children? Is there really much fulfilment left in a career as a messenger for a poodle state?

Britain had a certain amount of respect in the Middle East for a consistent policy on Palestine that was broadly fair. Who remembers David Mellor as a junior Tory minister laying into an Israeli soldier for brutality against Palestinians? In his footsteps comes Kim Howells, offering to keep the way clear for the Israeli to get a better shot. We now remember the Security Council Resolution which calls for Hizbollah to disarm, but have forgotten all the other SCRs on the Middle East, most notably the Security Council’s demand that Israel returns to its 1967 borders. Our policy now is to slavishly follow the Bush line that Israel may unilaterally define its own borders.

We condemn Syria and Iran for supplying weapons to Hizbollah, while 100 times their weight of US munitions have fallen on Lebanon, and more US bombs are now being urgently dispatched to kill more children, with UK support. Britain has broken the longstanding EU concensus on Palestine and removed any counterweight to the US. Whenever you think Blair can bring us no lower in international morality, he does it. It is no longer possible for anyone to justify continued membership of the Labour Party. This government is responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands of innocents through its support for Bush’s imperialist wars. Anyone who stays in the Labour Party should be shunned as a moral pariah.

Craig

View with comments

Foreign Office legal action “unlikely to succeed”

From the Guardian: Former ambassador posts censored passages from memoir on website

The government is threatening to sue former ambassador Craig Murray for breach of copyright if he does not remove from his website intelligence material that was censored out of his newly published memoirs.

Mr Murray has posted full texts of all passages the Foreign Office ordered deleted from the book version of Murder in Samarkand, the former Tashkent ambassador’s account of alleged British complicity in torture by the despotic Uzbekistan regime. His book contains links to the website.

(more…)

View with comments

Foreign Office issues new deadline, Craig Murray replies

“We are prepared to extend the deadline for you to give an undertaking until 4pm on Thursday 13 July 2006 on condition that the documents referred to in my first letter are immediately removed from your website and not reproduced by you anywhere else…”

Click here for the full text

Craig Murray replies:

Mr Buttrill,

Thank you for this second letter. It is rather a peculiar request. You claim to be willing to extend the deadline for me to be able to take legal advice, providing that I concede the principal point in the meantime.

I cannot see the need for this haste. In copyright cases it is not my understanding that it is generally considered necessary to remove a publication from circulation pending a court decision. For example, there was a recent highly publicised copyright case over the Da Vinci code. Was it deemed necessary by the court to withdraw the Da Vinci Code from sale while the case was heard? No, it was not.

Your peremptory demands reveal the motive behind your actions in this case – the suppression of information for political purposes. I don’t believe it is right to use Crown Copyright in this way. Otherwise the government has an arbitrary power to keep secret absolutely anything that it does. Your contention in your letter of 7 July that the government can use Crown Copyright arbitrarily and politically to suppress material released under the Freedom of Information Act, would obviate the whole purpose of that Act in giving the public a “Right to know” what is being done in their name.

I have this morning contacted solicitors to take legal advice. I could not do so over the weekend as this is not a criminal matter, and copyright lawyers do not run 24 hour call out services. Unfortunately I must spend much of today at St Thomas’ Hospital for treatment of serious medical conditions. The Foreign & Commonwealth Office’s treatment of me, as detailed in the documents you are trying to suppress, was the direct cause of those medical conditions, a fact I would welcome the chance to discuss in court.

You have been free to advise me what I “Must” do. You must bear in mind what the content of the story is, that I am seeking to tell and the government is seeking to suppress.

I accept your renewed deadline as reasonable, but will not be removing the documents in the interim – until I get advice, I shall go by what I know of the law, and all I know in this matter is the Da Vinci Code precedent.

In the meantime, I should be grateful if, entirely without prejudice, you could furnish me with some practical advice. If the documents are, as you allege, Crown Copyright, where and how do I go about making a formal application for permission to reproduce them?

Also, I am copying your letters to my website. Do you allege that to be also a breach of Crown Copyright? If I remove the documents but not your letters, would you still go for an injunction? If I am served an injunction and remove the documents, but put the injunction on my website to explain why, do you allege I am breaching Crown Copyright by publishing the injunction?

Do you allege it to be a breach of Crown Copyright to reproduce on a weblog any document at all produced by government? The definition given in your letter of 7 July would plainly cover speeches given by Ministers and written by civil servants. Is it a breach of Crown Copyright to reproduce such ministerial speeches on a weblog? How long a quote could you make from a ministerial speech before breaching copyright? Does this cover, for example, letters from local authorities and health trusts, or just from central government? Does it cover parking tickets? What about quotes from the King James Bible?

If all or any of these are, in your view, matters of discretion where the government can exercise Crown Copyright if it so chooses, then the following is perhaps the most important question of all. Are there any criteria of reasonable action which the government is obliged to consider when deciding whether to enforce claimed copyright or not, or is the Crown claiming a power which is solely arbitrary?

I apologise for my confusion. You can see why I need to take legal advice. I will revert to you.

Craig Murray

View with comments

BBC parrots Police untruths over rendition protests

Having spent so much energy denying all knowledge of the procession of CIA torture flights passing through UK airports, it was perhaps only natural that the UK government would also seek to deny the existence of the protests against such flights. What’s more surprising is that the BBC seems to be faithfully toeing the party line.

“‘No show’ for rendition protests”, declares today’s BBC headline, claiming that “Demonstrations at Edinburgh and Prestwick failed to materialise.”

“Evidently I hallucinated the whole thing”, says Craig Murray, who joined yesterday’s demonstration at Edinburgh airport. As this report from Indymedia shows, the protest was highly visible, and the Police were well aware that it was going on.

UPDATE – by the magic of the memory hole, the BBC has now corrected its story, but the original has been helpfully archived here.

View with comments

Jack Straw hits the road!

Jack Straw has finally hit the road and been forced out of his job as Foreign Secretary.

Straw has been removed from his post just eighteen months after Craig Murray began his high-profile campaign to expose the Foreign Secretary’s complicity in torture, and almost exactly a year after Craig’s audacious challenge in Blackburn. The move has come as a shock to many in the media, but will be less of a surprise to those familiar with the growing scandals over extraordinary rendition and torture.

Update (08/05/06): Speculation about the reasons for Straw’s removal is spreading in the media with briefings from different quarters.

View with comments

More evidence of Foreign Office complicity in torture

From the Scotsman: Taking prisoners to the edge of drowning ‘not torture’ says FO, by James Kirkup

FORCING a prisoner’s head under water until they believe they are drowning does not necessarily constitute torture or abusive treatment, the Foreign Office has said.

The equivocal statement has fuelled suspicions that Britain is turning a blind eye to practices by its allies that many international lawyers believe are illegal.

Holding mock executions is banned in international law, yet simulated drowning is specifically intended to persuade subjects that they are about to die.

Known as “waterboarding,” forms of simulated drowning have been used to torment prisoners since the Middle Ages. Victims experience an automatic gag reflex and acute terror, quickly and inevitably pleading for the ordeal to end.

In a written parliamentary exchange, the Foreign Office was asked whether “the infliction of simulated drowning falls within the definition of torture or cruel and inhumane treatment used by the government for the purposes of international law.”

Replying, Ian Pearson, a junior Foreign Office minister, gave what some saw as a vague answer. “Whether the conduct described constitutes torture or cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment for the purposes of the UN Convention Against Torture would depend on all the circumstances of the case,” Mr Pearson wrote.

Waterboarding is one of the “Enhanced Interrogation Techniques” that US intelligence officers are said to use against suspected international terrorists.

The CIA version of the technique sees the subject strapped to a board, feet raised. Cellophane is wrapped over the nose and mouth and water is poured over the head.

The technique has since been used on senior al-Qaeda figures in US custody, intelligence sources say. US officials have never denied those claims.

There is no suggestion that British military or intelligence officers have used waterboarding directly against prisoners.

Human rights groups yesterday condemned the Foreign Office’s ambiguous legal position on simulated drowning.

James Welch, the legal director of Liberty, said Mr Pearson’s answer suggests ministers are ignoring international treaty obligations. “It is incredible that a government minister, mindful of our obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights, UN Convention Against Torture and International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, could possibly consider that holding someone under water with the intention of making them think they were going to drown was anything but torture,” he said.

Kate Allen, Amnesty International’s UK director, said the government must take a much clearer position against techniques like waterboarding.

“Instead of equivocating the government should be clearly condemning all forms of torture, including partial drowning, death threats, sensory deprivation and indeed all forms of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment,” she said.

View with comments

“Get away from me. I will not be insulted by you. This is an insult” – Charles Clarke’s words to the father of a 7/7 survivor who challenged him about the lack of a public inquiry

From Rachel North

My dad, who is a parish priest and honorary Canon, read my draft article on Forgiveness (‘The F-word’) last night, and it so happened that he was going to to a clergy meeting this morning at Norwich Cathedral where the special guest was the Home Secretary Charles Clarke.

Clarke is my father’s MP.

Clarke, in his speech to the assembled clergy, made much of the fact that he had spoken to the PM ”only yesterday” and the PM was at the time considering the problem of an angry Sedgefield constituent about the closure of a school. Clarke remarked upon this system of top executives still being MPs and responsible to their constituents, how unusual this was compared to most Parliamentary systems. You lucky people, even though I am the Home Secretary, I am still also your M.P and here to help with all your little problems and enquiries. Etc.

He didn’t actually say ‘ you lucky people”, Dad said, but that was the inference. Dad was pleased that he could finally ask his M.P, Charles Clarke, the question he has been keen to ask for some months. Dad waited eagerly to ask his question; he had already written to Clarke in December 2005 with his question. But Clarke had not replied.

Dad was therefore very keen to be part of what was advertised in the meeting notes as ”30 minutes of reflection” after Clarke spoke. (In these meetings, ”30 minutes of reflection”means ”30 minutes of debate”. But it a clergy meeting, so they all ”reflect”, rather than shout and argue. It’s more dignified and godly, see. )

Unusually, according to Dad, on this occasion there was not a debate and questions from the floor, as is usual with these meetings at which Clarke was the special guest today: there were instead only 3 questions which Clarke answered at length, the questions seemed to Dad to be pre-prepared to give Clarke an opportunity to talk about things like prisons and police in a self-congratulatory way.

Dad was not able to ask his question, the last question finished and it was announced that there would be Eucharist in 2 minutes. Dad was very angry that ”the Eucharist was being used as a filibuster.” And still he had not had a chance to ask the question that was by now burning him up inside. It was time to break bread together; people began to leave the room.

My father tells me he at this point left his seat and strode up to Clarke, because he wanted to ask his question, and he said,

”Congratulations on fixing the meeting so that nobody can ask questions! You will have heard about Rev Julie Nicholson who is so angry she cannot forgive the bombers who killed her daughter on 7th July , well, I have a question, my daughter was feet away from the 7/7 Kings Cross bomb, and she and some other surivors have said they are not angry with the bombers, but with the Government, because there was no public enquiry. Why is there no public enquiry?”

Charles Clarke looked at my father ”in a very nasty way”, and then he said to my father

” Get away from me, I will not be insulted by you, this is an insult’.

And he stormed past, and Dad was so upset he could not share Eucharist with this man,

and my father left the cathedral in despair.

Dad has cheered up a bit now, but he was almost in tears at being so insulted by Clarke when I spoke to him: he did not think he had insulted Clarke at all.

Why is it an insult when the father of a bomb survivor, a gentle man of God, who has never caused trouble in his life, asks for a public enquiry? Why is his question not answered?

View with comments

Government washes its hands of weapons sales to the Uzbek government

The British government has tried to circumvent restrictions on the supply of military vehicles to the Uzbek government by allowing the sale of land rovers to be modified for military use by a third party.

From Hansard

Q56 Richard Burden: One thing that was in your submission was the Land Rovers, the Turkish made Land Rover Defender 110 military vehicles which were used by Uzbek troops during the massacre of 2005. What you have said about that in your submission is that they were a gift from the Turkish government to the Uzbek government, and you think it is likely that they were produced under licence from the UK by Otokar, the Turkish company, although 70 per cent of the components were exported from the UK and therefore you say there is a loophole. We actually put this to the Government and said what do you say about this then, and I would like to read out to you what the Government said in response to that, and then perhaps you can give your response to that. What the Government told us was: “We understand that Land Rover sells flat-pack civilian Land Rover Defenders to the Turkish company in question, which then assembles and re-badges them for onward sale under its own name, using its own products and components, and according to designs for which that company holds the intellectual property rights. It is the Government’s understanding that these are not Land Rover approved products and it is therefore inaccurate to describe the company concerned as an overseas production facility for Land Rover. Under the EC Dual-Use Regulations … the UK has no power to control the export of civilian specification Land Rovers. To the extent that the buyer in Turkey converts the civilian vehicles using his own technology and without UK involvement, this is a matter for the Turkish authorities as regards any export from there.” That is what the Government said to us and I would be interested in your reaction to that.

(more…)

View with comments

Book review: The Railway

From the New Statesman

The Railway

Hamid Ismailov Harvill Secker, 224pp, ‘12.99

ISBN 1843431610

Reviewed by Craig Murray

Like almost all decent Uzbek literature, Hamid Ismailov’s The Railway has been banned in Uzbekistan. It is not a political work, but it presents a kaleidoscopic view of the extraordinary ethnic, cultural and political mix of Uzbek society across a period ranging from about 1880 to about 1980. It consists of a series of tales structured loosely around a remote village, Gilas, and the effect on the lives of the inhabitants of the railway built through it.

This mixture is, like Uzbekistan’s ethnic composition, so rich as to be almost indescribable. However, the two main strands are the folklore of the Asiatic peoples of the steppe, desert and mountain, and the subversive literature of communist states, with their suppressed individualism. We have mythic stories of heroic nomads performing impossible physical feats alongside the tale of Ulmas Greeneyes, nicknamed Mullah, a naIf swept along by events beyond his comprehension, who becomes a cog in both Stalin’s and Hitler’s interchangeable machines. Ismailov’s text is itself a product of Uzbekistan’s remarkable history. Discernible influences range from Omar Khayyam to Bulgakov, all overlain with the country’s cultured and tolerant version of Islam.

Indeed, Ismailov’s writing appears deeply infused with a rich heritage of Sufic thought. The translator, Robert Chandler, has brilliantly reproduced the rolling rhythms of the incan-tatory, mesmeric prose. Some of these stories could have been told by Scheherazade. Ismailov is a skilled craftsman, completely aware of the tradition on which he draws, and the book is peppered with scholarly allusion, but brilliantly done in a manner not distracting to the uninitiated. If you are familiar with central Asia and its literature, you will find the foreword masterly and will wallow in the footnotes. If not, I would advise you to ignore both and just drink in the novel.

The society Ismailov paints is recognisably still the Uzbek society of today – it made me yearn to go back. While the novel makes no direct criticism of the current regime, many of the incidents described, often casually, are features of modern Uzbekistan. In particular, The Railway details the sexual blackmail of women by the police, the huge corruption in the state cotton industry and the capriciousness – sometimes lazy, sometimes vicious – of the government (a poet is executed).

Thanks to the human-rights campaigns of the past couple of years, far more people in Britain now know something of Uzbekistan. Ismailov’s novel will further advance our understanding of this fascinating land. It is a work of rare beauty – an utterly readable, compelling book.

Craig Murray is Britain’s former ambassador to Uzbekistan

View with comments

Craig Murray to address Tower Hamlets Stop the War meeting, Wednesday 1st March

TROOPS OUT OF IRAQ – DON’T ATTACK IRAN

7.00pm, Wednesday 1 March Skeel Hall lecture theatre, People’s Palace, Queen Mary University, Mile End Rd, E1 (nearest tube: Mile End)

more info from 079 585 35231 / 079 177 96673 / [email protected]

TONY BENN

GEORGE GALLOWAY(Respect MP for Bethnal Green & Bow)

ROSE GENTLE (mother of Fusilier Gordon Gentle, killed in Basra in June ’04)

CRAIG MURRAY (Former UK ambassador to Uzbekistan)

JOHN REES (Stop the War Coalition)

SAMI RAMADANI (Iraqi exile)

View with comments