Guess Uzbek in Town

1 February 2008

ormer Uzbek ambassador, Craig Murray was famously removed from office after speaking out about alleged human rights abuses in the US-supported Karimov administration.

His complaints highlight the growing concerns of many, who find the US government’s endorsement of interrogation methods such as “water boarding” (simulated drowning) a disturbing double standard in the fight to protect individual liberty.

Since his removal from the Foreign Office in October 2004, Murray has become a political activist – criticizing both the Iraq war and Western policy in the Middle East. He has also recently been in the public eye as the inspiration for a West-End musical, The Ambassador’s Bellydancer, written and performed by his 26 year-old Uzbek partner, Nadira Alieva.

In an interview with The Cambridge Student (TCS), Murray explained his worries about the policies that dominate Western foreign policy and his concerns for the future in the Middle East. We began by asking his opinion of the product of the Bush-Brown relationship, following the departure of Tony Blair, an issue heightened by the recent six year anniversary of the Guantanamo Bay prison.

“Sadly there doesn’t seem to be any genuine distance between the Labour government and the Bush administration since Brown came into office. I can’t see any particular sign of Labour wanting to adopt a more independent foreign policy again – which is a great loss because many of us were hoping that after Blair went we would be able to move further away from our American cousins.

“It is very difficult to talk about a British foreign policy because we do seem to have mislaid our foreign policy and become an adjunct to American foreign policy shows no signs at all of having learnt its lessons.

“It just seems to be a constant drumbeat of aggression, and the basic philosophy is effectively Imperialist. To have a Labour government buying into that seems to be very strange indeed.”

His views on the forthcoming US elections display his deep mistrust of a nation, which he believes has failed to deliver on many important world issues: “All of the Presidential candidates seem pretty awful. Certainly I think the Democrats would be a bit better than the Republicans but there doesn’t seem to be a major change in terms of consensus on Iraq or on major foreign policy.

“Nobody’s saying America should sign up to Kyoto, nobody’s saying they should sign up to the International Criminal Court – those issues seem pretty bipartisan unfortunately.”

Murray also had little positive to say about the current Labour government. His criticism is based on what he sees as the misinformation gained by the Intelligence services from torturing suspects:

“The misinformation is an ad hoc justification for the Iraq war – they say, ‘Well, we have to invade these countries because, look, these Muslims keep blowing us up.’ It’s a rather crude mechanism that justifies an aggressive foreign policy. It makes a foreign policy, which consists of invading other countries, suddenly defensive – even though no one’s actually invaded us.

“We’re in a culture now where people in the Civil service and the Intelligence service have the idea that if you tell the story that the government wants to hear, even if it’s not accurate, then that’s the way to advance your career.

Two weeks ago Jacqui Smith announced that the term ‘War in Terror’ would now be dropped from governmental rhetoric. We asked Murray whether he was convinced that it amounted to any real change in foreign policy:

“Any cooling of the rhetoric is welcome. Though while of course it helps not to use such inflammatory language it doesn’t help that at the same time, Jacqui Smith is pressing ahead with these arbitrary increases for detention without trial. So there seems to be some better rhetoric but even worse tactics.

“People always raise the argument that torture is justifiable if it saves lives, that the ends justify the means – but of course that’s a rather Hollywood scenario, because in fact most of the people who actually get tortured are completely innocent. And even those people who aren’t innocent – Khaled Sheikh Mohammed for instance, who was undoubtedly an Al Qaeda man – confessed to goodness how many things. He confessed to everything from the murder of William Rufus to, I don’t know, shoplifting from the supermarket. He confessed to every known terrorist atrocity more or less, most of which was almost certainly not true at all.

Aside from commenting on the war on Iraq, Murray has been a prominent figure in the campaign to stop Tesco from selling Uzbek cotton procured through child labour. He believes that modern technology like the internet and weblogs is crucial in tackling modern injustices:

“I think the internet has been absolutely crucial in the campaign on Uzbek cotton. It’s enabled us to spread information and to recruit activists who might otherwise might have difficulty meeting each other.

“At one stage we had sixty of seventy people blogging on the same day on the need for the boycott of Uzbek cotton. There are so many people who would have never connected up if it weren’t for the internet.

“We’re only beginning to see the very, very start of the political uses of new media – I think it’s going to be quite an important way we can help outwit the establishment and get non-traditional ideas over to the public.”

ormer Uzbek ambassador, Craig Murray was famously removed from office after speaking out about alleged human rights abuses in the US-supported Karimov administration.

His complaints highlight the growing concerns of many, who find the US government’s endorsement of interrogation methods such as “water boarding” (simulated drowning) a disturbing double standard in the fight to protect individual liberty.

Since his removal from the Foreign Office in October 2004, Murray has become a political activist – criticizing both the Iraq war and Western policy in the Middle East. He has also recently been in the public eye as the inspiration for a West-End musical, The Ambassador’s Bellydancer, written and performed by his 26 year-old Uzbek partner, Nadira Alieva.

In an interview with The Cambridge Student (TCS), Murray explained his worries about the policies that dominate Western foreign policy and his concerns for the future in the Middle East. We began by asking his opinion of the product of the Bush-Brown relationship, following the departure of Tony Blair, an issue heightened by the recent six year anniversary of the Guantanamo Bay prison.

“Sadly there doesn’t seem to be any genuine distance between the Labour government and the Bush administration since Brown came into office. I can’t see any particular sign of Labour wanting to adopt a more independent foreign policy again – which is a great loss because many of us were hoping that after Blair went we would be able to move further away from our American cousins.

“It is very difficult to talk about a British foreign policy because we do seem to have mislaid our foreign policy and become an adjunct to American foreign policy shows no signs at all of having learnt its lessons.

“It just seems to be a constant drumbeat of aggression, and the basic philosophy is effectively Imperialist. To have a Labour government buying into that seems to be very strange indeed.”

His views on the forthcoming US elections display his deep mistrust of a nation, which he believes has failed to deliver on many important world issues: “All of the Presidential candidates seem pretty awful. Certainly I think the Democrats would be a bit better than the Republicans but there doesn’t seem to be a major change in terms of consensus on Iraq or on major foreign policy.

“Nobody’s saying America should sign up to Kyoto, nobody’s saying they should sign up to the International Criminal Court – those issues seem pretty bipartisan unfortunately.”

Murray also had little positive to say about the current Labour government. His criticism is based on what he sees as the misinformation gained by the Intelligence services from torturing suspects:

“The misinformation is an ad hoc justification for the Iraq war – they say, ‘Well, we have to invade these countries because, look, these Muslims keep blowing us up.’ It’s a rather crude mechanism that justifies an aggressive foreign policy. It makes a foreign policy, which consists of invading other countries, suddenly defensive – even though no one’s actually invaded us.

“We’re in a culture now where people in the Civil service and the Intelligence service have the idea that if you tell the story that the government wants to hear, even if it’s not accurate, then that’s the way to advance your career.

Two weeks ago Jacqui Smith announced that the term ‘War in Terror’ would now be dropped from governmental rhetoric. We asked Murray whether he was convinced that it amounted to any real change in foreign policy:

“Any cooling of the rhetoric is welcome. Though while of course it helps not to use such inflammatory language it doesn’t help that at the same time, Jacqui Smith is pressing ahead with these arbitrary increases for detention without trial. So there seems to be some better rhetoric but even worse tactics.

“People always raise the argument that torture is justifiable if it saves lives, that the ends justify the means – but of course that’s a rather Hollywood scenario, because in fact most of the people who actually get tortured are completely innocent. And even those people who aren’t innocent – Khaled Sheikh Mohammed for instance, who was undoubtedly an Al Qaeda man – confessed to goodness how many things. He confessed to everything from the murder of William Rufus to, I don’t know, shoplifting from the supermarket. He confessed to every known terrorist atrocity more or less, most of which was almost certainly not true at all.

Aside from commenting on the war on Iraq, Murray has been a prominent figure in the campaign to stop Tesco from selling Uzbek cotton procured through child labour. He believes that modern technology like the internet and weblogs is crucial in tackling modern injustices:

“I think the internet has been absolutely crucial in the campaign on Uzbek cotton. It’s enabled us to spread information and to recruit activists who might otherwise might have difficulty meeting each other.

“At one stage we had sixty of seventy people blogging on the same day on the need for the boycott of Uzbek cotton. There are so many people who would have never connected up if it weren’t for the internet.

“We’re only beginning to see the very, very start of the political uses of new media – I think it’s going to be quite an important way we can help outwit the establishment and get non-traditional ideas over to the public.”