So what’s this page all about then?
Well, like a number of other bloggers, I’ve decided to mirror a series of documents first published by Craig Murray, on his website/blog, relating to his newly released account of his time as British Ambassador to Uzbekistan, which is entitled Murder in Samarkand.
In case you’ve missed all the action, this is one of those books be a former public servant that the state is non too keen on, for reasons which should be apparent from the synopsis that appears on Amazon…
Craig Murray was the United Kingdom’s Ambassador to Uzbekistan until he was removed from his post in October 2004 after exposing appalling human rights abuses by the US-funded regime of President Islam Karimov. In this candid and at times shocking memoir, he lays bare the dark and dirty underside of the War on Terror. In Uzbekistan, the land of Alexander the Great and Tamburlaine, lurks one of the most hideous tyrannies on earth - one founded on cotton slavery and brutal torture. As neighbouring ‘liberated’ Afghanistan produces record levels of heroin, the Uzbek rulers cash in on massive trafficking. They are even involved in trafficking their own women to prostitution in the West. But this did not prevent Karimov being viewed as a key US ally in the War on Terror. When Craig Murray arrived in Uzbekistan, he was a young Ambassador with a brilliant career and a taste for whisky and women. But after hearing accounts of dissident prisoners being boiled to death and innocent people being raped and murdered by agents of the state, he started to question both his role and that of his country in so-called ‘democratising’ states. When Murray decided to go public with his shocking findings, Washington and 10 Downing Street reached the conclusion that he had to go. But Uzbekistan had changed the high-living diplomat and there was no way he was going to go quietly.
Having read that I doubt you’ll by surprised to find that the Foreign Office have done their level best over the last few months to prevent/hinder the publication of Craig’s book, from demanding textuals changes to the threat of invoking the Official Secrets Act to their latest tactic, which is demand that Craig remove a series of documents, relating to the book, from his website on the grounds that the documents in question are subject to Crown Copyright.
I’ve included the letter in which this threat of legal action is refered to below.
As for the why of this, not only do I consider that what Craig has done in publishing these documents is with the principle of ‘fair dealing’ - of ‘fair use’, as its refered to in the US - but I also do not consider it appropriate for the government to attempt use Crown Copyright to limit freedom of expression or to prevent the publication of documents that have been obtained legally - Craig obtained the majority of them using the Data Protection Act - where such publication is in the public interest and relates to questionable conduct on the part of the state.
I should note, as well, that I recent received a ‘reminder’ in much the same vein, following an FOIA request of my own, for information and a range of documents relating to public money given to a local charity for a project which, after four years, was deemed unfit for purpose. On receiving the last of 10 envelopes worth of documents, I also received a letter from the Government Office to which I had made the request, reminding me that most, if not all, of the documents were subject either to Crown Copyright or subject to the copyright of the charity in question.
Will that prevent me publishing information from those documents once my analysis of them is complete? You can bet your life it won’t, although the implied threat in that letter was on of the reason for my decision to move my blog to the US, where the First Amendment affords rather better legal protection for such acts of publication than is available under UK law.
Anyway, I digress - let’s get back to Craig’s documents, which can be downloaded from the below, with commentaries from Craig before each document…
Murder In Samarkand - Document 1 - FCO Comment
This document details feedback from the FCO requesting changes to the book in its draft form.
Murder In Samarkand - Document 2 - IMF Telegram
This is the original draft of the telegram which I sent on the IMF and economic policy. The computer in my office could not link to our communications equipment, so after I drafted it on my word processor, Jackie or Karen had to type it again into comms. While they were doing this, inspiration struck and I went down and added to the end of the telegram by hand.
Murder In Samarkand - Document 3 - Declaration
I had been in Uzbekistan exactly four weeks when I became convinced that Western policy in Central Asia was completely ill-conceived. This telegram was my first major declaration of my view to London, where it came as a nasty shock.
Murder In Samarkand - Document 4 - Speech
The Head of Eastern Department, Simon Butt, and the Head of the Diplomatic Service, Sir Michael Jay KCMG, were horrified by my questioning of US foreign policy and by my proposal to make a strong speech on human rights in Uzbekistan. This was not Sir Michael Jay’s view of diplomacy at all. In fact it is worth noting that, if you replace the word "Diplomacy" with "Duplicity" in Michael Jay’s email, it still makes perfect sense.
Murder In Samarkand - Document 5 - Hill Negotiation
My proposal to make a strong speech on Uzbek Human Rights at Freedom House was strongly opposed by Sir Michael Jay and Simon Butt. Charles Hill of Eastern Department had the job of negotiating the text with me and, after this pretty sharp correspondence, I largely got the speech I wanted.
Murder In Samarkand - Document 6 - Michael Wood memo of 13 March
After my protests at our obtaining intelligence under torture, I was astonished to be called back to London for a meeting on 8 March 2003 at which I was told that torture intelligence was legal, and that Jack Straw and Sir Richard Dearlove, Head of MI6, had decided that in the "War on Terror" we should, as a matter of policy, obtain intelligence got by torture by foreign intelligence services.
At the meeting it was agreed that Sir Michael Wood, the Foreign Office’s chief legal adviser, would put in writing his view that we were committing no offence by obtaining torture intelligence. This minute is that legal assurance.
Murder In Samarkand - Document 7 - Telegram of 18 March 2003 headed US Foreign Policy
I was horrified when the massive assault on Iraq started. I knew both that Iraq did not really possess WMDs, and that our weapons were much less precise than the news propaganda claimed; tens of thousands of civilians were dying.
Given that we were supporting the dictator Karimov, I thought it was pretty rich to be claiming to attack Hussein because he was a dictator. I was then outraged to see on BBC World TV a speech by George Bush saying we were going to war in Iraq to dimantle Hussein’s torture apparatus. I had just been informed that torture material was legitimate in the War on Terror.
I therefore sent the following telegram. This was the only protest from any British Ambassador at our entering on an illegal war, abandoning the UN Security Council, and following blindly George Bush’s violent and acquisitive foreign policy.
Murder In Samarkand - Document 8 - letter from Simon Butt dated 16 April 2003
Following my telegram on the start of the Iraq war, Simon Butt, Head of Eastern Department, was sent out from London to tell me I was now considered "Unpatriotic". On return he met with Sir Michael Jay (PUS), to discuss how to deal with me. His letter records this conversation.
Apart from the underlying political context, there are two astonishing things about this letter. The first is the libel by a government department of the anti-war Labout MP Andrew Mackinlay, who to the best of my knowledge had never been in a strip club, in Poland or anywhere else.
The second is that he notes that after dinner I went out with a young lady to a jazz club (which I did - it was my secretary Kristina, and we just went for a quick drink). But while he blows that up with much innuendo, he fails to note something much more significant.
While we were having dinner, the grandson of our host, Professor Mirsaidov, a distinguished dissident, had been abducted from outside the house by Uzbek security services. He had been tortured to death and his body dumped back on the family doorstep at 4am. It had been intended as a warning to dissidents and the British Embassy not to meet each other.
Simon Butt was fully aware of these facts when he wrote this letter, but plainly the murder of our host’s grandson - which was inconvenient for our important relationship in the War on Terror with Karimov - was much less worth mentioning than my going for a drink to a jazz bar.
Murder In Samarkand - Document 9 - Exchange of emails with Linda Duffield
With the Iraq war in full swing, I found myself marked down as not sound on the War and Terror and simply "sent to Coventry" by my London management, as I complained in this exchange of emails with Linda Duffield. This proved to be the calm before the storm.
Murder In Samarkand - Document 10 - Colin Reynolds’ report of 26 June 2003
We lost our political officer when he cracked up under the pressure and started attacking people in the street. His partner, my deputy, also left. That was all of my British political and economic resource gone.
Personnel Department sent out an officer, Colin Reynolds, ostensibly on a pastoral visit following these events. In fact he had been primed by the Foregin Office to look for excuses to remove me, and briefed on rumours originated by the US Embassy that I was an alcoholic and jkept a "Love-nest" in Tashkent - both completely untrue.
In fact Reynolds’ report was very fair. His comments that some procedures were not followed correctly were accurate - he does not note my response, that the tiny staff of our Embassy in Tashkent was not equipped to carry out the full FCO bureaucratic requirements.
Murder In Samarkand - Document 11 - Minute of my meeting with Howard Drake
I was delighted to get away on holiday to Canada with my family after an exhausting and difficult year. The personnel officer, Colin Reynolds having failed to bring back the answer they wanted, while I was on leave the FCO sent a political officer, Dominic Schroeder, to Tashkent. The excuse was a "Crisis" they had themselves produced by suspending my five most senior members of office staff.
Schroeder came back and dutifully reported he had found allegations of mismanagement, alcoholism, financial corruption and offering sex in exchange from visas.
I was summoned back immediately from holiday and arrived back to meet Howard Drake of Personnel Department. I went straight from the airport to his office after a 16 hour overnight flight from Vancouver via Chicago, having not slept for 60 hours. As I walked in the door I had no idea I was about to face a huge raft of false allegations and be asked to resign.
In the circumstances I am amazed by how well I managed to defend myself at this meeting! You should bear in mind that this is Howard Drake’s record of this meeting; it therefore puts the best possible gloss on what the FCO was doing.
Murder In Samarkand - Document 12 - Letter from British Businessmen in Tashkent
The British community in Tashkent were astonished to find their Ambassador was under attack.
Murder In Samarkand - Document 13 - Email to Kate Smith
It became plain to me that I had no hope of a fair investigation of the allegations against me. In particular I would not be allowed to call defence witnesses; indeed I was not allowed to tell anyone of the existence of the allegations. I was also banned from entering my own Embassy, and confined to my house in Tashkent.
It became too much for me, and I sent this email back from Tashkent to my union representative, Kate Smith, just before leaving to go into psychiatric care for depression. I am surprised by how articulate and clear-minded my email was.
Murder In Samarkand - Document 14 - Minute of 26 September 2003
I received many documents through an application under the Data Protection Act. These have been edited by the Foreign Office, with areas blacked out in the "interests of national security".
This is an interesting example. This minute of 26 September 2003 is addressed to Sir Michael Jay (PS/PUS) and Jack Straw (PS). By convention minutes are addressed to the Private Secretary (PS) not the Secretary of State direct.
Among the things deleted for reasons of national security is who the minute was copied to. The copy addressees would be at the top right hand corner under the date. A friend of mine in Jack Straw’s office (remember I worked in the FCO for 21 years) tells me that the copy addressees on this and scores of other documents about me going through Jack Straw’s offce, included 10 Downing Street, MI6 and the MOD. That is why they have been deleted. As detailed in the book, the instruction to get rid of me had come to the FCO from No 10 on the instigation of the Americans.
It is fascinating to consider what else the FCO felt it necessary to blank out in this minute.
Murder In Samarkand - Document 15 - Telegram
I continued to refuse to resign and in the end was found not guilty of all the allegations against me, but given a formal warning for not having kept the allegations secret. Following a parliamentary and media campaign in my favour, I returned as Ambassador to Tashkent.
In July 2004, following the Abu Ghraib revelations, I yet again went back to argue with London that we should not be receiving intelligence from the Uzbek torture chambers. We were, I said, "Selling our souls for dross". This telegram was leaked to the Financial Times, leading the FCO to tell the Uzbek government (before they told me) that I had been withdrawn as British Ambassador to Tashkent.