Morning Report 5/3/05
Like a Boil on Blair's Butt
Thursday's British election will cap a delightfully raucous campaign—delightful even if you forget about the underlying issues of the Bush-Blair war of terror.
No one puts this in clearer focus than Craig Murray, who was hounded out of his post as U.K. ambassador to Uzbekistan after he publicly rebuked that dictatorship for torture, including boiling people to death. Now Murray is running for Parliament in Thursday's election against his former boss, Foreign Secretary Jack Straw.
Murray's a key figure in exposing the evil practice of "rendition," in which the U.S. and Great Britain send detainees to Uzbekistan and other countries to be literally squeezed for information. The CIA, in fact, has done this.
Since the Bush regime's deadly combination of neocons and profiteers decided to use 9/11 as an excuse to launch a "war on terror," Uzbekistan's dictator, Islam Karimov, has become a big buddy of ours.
And for all the God talk by the Bush regime, it's supporting a dictator who tortures people for practicing their religion—in Karimov's case, the main religion he persecutes is Islam, so I guess it's OK. Here's how Guardian (U.K.) columnist George Monbiot wrote about it in '03:
- There are over 6,000 political and religious prisoners in Uzbekistan. Every year, some of them are tortured to death. Sometimes the policemen or intelligence agents simply break their fingers, their ribs and then their skulls with hammers, or stab them with screwdrivers, or rip off bits of skin and flesh with pliers, or drive needles under their fingernails, or leave them standing for a fortnight, up to their knees in freezing water. Sometimes they are a little more inventive. The body of one prisoner was delivered to his relatives last year, with a curious red tidemark around the middle of his torso. He had been boiled to death.
His crime, like that of many of the country's prisoners, was practising his religion.
Strictly by coincidence, Halliburton "won" a $22.1 million contract to build something called Camp Stronghold Freedom in Uzbekistan.
Karimov is a harsh, repressive schmuck, like Saddam Hussein, who, as you may recall, was once our pal. In the '80s, Don Rumsfeld traveled to Iraq to pal around with Saddam. Now he does the same thing with Karimov (see photo below).
Don Van Natta of the New York Times wrote a lengthy piece about the U.S.'s "rough ally" a couple of days ago, including this passage:
- Uzbekistan's role as a surrogate jailer for the United States was confirmed by a half-dozen current and former intelligence officials working in Europe, the Middle East and the United States. The C.I.A. declined to comment on the prisoner transfer program, but an intelligence official estimated that the number of terrorism suspects sent by the United States to Tashkent was in the dozens.
Big surprise. Murray has been talking about this for a couple of years, making headlines everywhere in the world except the U.S.
Not until the jump did Van Natta's May 1 story mention Murray:
- "If you talk to anyone there, Uzbeks know that torture is used—it's common even in run-of-the-mill criminal cases," said Allison Gill, a researcher for Human Rights Watch who is working inside Uzbekistan. "Anyone in the United States or Europe who does not know the extent of the torture problem in Uzbekistan is being willfully ignorant."
Craig Murray, a former British ambassador to Uzbekistan, said he learned during his posting to Tashkent that the C.I.A. used Uzbekistan as a place to hold foreign terrorism suspects. During 2003 and early 2004, Mr. Murray said in an interview, "C.I.A. flights flew to Tashkent often, usually twice a week."
In July 2004, Mr. Murray wrote a confidential memo to the British Foreign Office accusing the C.I.A. of violating the United Nations' Prohibition Against Torture. He urged his colleagues to stop using intelligence gleaned in Uzbekistan from terrorism suspects because it had been elicited through torture and other coercive means. Mr. Murray said he knew about the practice through his own investigation and interviews with scores of people who claimed to have been brutally treated inside Uzbekistan's jails.
"We should cease all cooperation with the Uzbek security services—they are beyond the pale," Mr. Murray wrote in the memo, which was obtained by the Times.
Well, they didn't. In fact, Murray got into trouble with his bosses. Van Natta glossed over it, writing:
- Mr. Murray, who has previously spoken publicly about prisoner transfers to Uzbekistan, said his superiors in London were furious with his questions, and he was told that the intelligence gleaned in Uzbekistan could still be used by British officials, even if it was elicited by torture, as long as the mistreatment was not at the hands of British interrogators. "I was astonished," Mr. Murray said in an interview. "It was as if the goal posts had moved. Their perspective had changed since Sept. 11."
A Foreign Office spokesman declined to address Mr. Murray's allegations. Last year, Mr. Murray resigned from the Foreign Office, which had investigated accusations that he mismanaged the embassy in Tashkent. An inquiry into those allegations was closed without any disciplinary action being taken against him.
Actually, the Foreign Office went to war on Murray. They fired his staff and then Murray was accused of sexual hijinks—selling visas for sex. He was chewed out a few times by his bosses, collapsed of a nervous breakdown, suffered a near-fatal pulmonary embolism, and finally was cleared of all allegations.
After he rested up, he traveled from his home in Scotland to Blackburn, where he's challenging Jack Straw's seat in Parliament. Could he upset Straw? Murray thinks it's possible.
He's been charting his campaign progress in a column in the Guardian (U.K.). Murray refuses to let the Blair government "move on" from its disastrous decision to tag along with the Bush regime and invade Iraq. Here's a snatch from Murray's April 21 column:
- I could actually win this election. The realization came as something of a shock. It was not really part of the original game plan. Two months ago I arrived here alone, standing forlornly with my rucksack on Blackburn railway station, in the midnight snow. I wanted to make a stand on principle against illegal war, and against Jack Straw's decision that we should use intelligence obtained under torture. I wanted to get some national publicity for these issues during the campaign, to counter Tony Blair's mantra: "Let's move on" from the war.
(Am I the only one to find this mantra insulting? I think I'll rob a bank to get some campaign funds. When the police come to take me away, I'll say, "Hey, let's move on. OK, so I robbed a bank. Whatever the rights and wrongs, that phase is over. What is important is that we all come together now and get behind the really great things I'm going to do with the money.")
Sorry, Craig, but Paul Wolfowitz got to the bank ahead of you.