Sunday, September 2, 2007

Murder in Samarkand

Murray, Craig. Murder in Samarkand: A British Ambassador’s Controversial Defiance of Tyranny in the War on Terror. Edinburgh/London: Mainstream Publishing 2007 [2006].

Reviewed by T. Hatch

If there is one book that persuasively argues that the War on Terror is a morally bankrupt metaphor run amuck, this is it. Ambassador Craig Murray was the Foreign and Common-wealth Office’s man on the scene in Tashkent Uzbekistan. With a reputation for women and whiskey Murray, hardly a radical, soon grew disenchanted with the repressive regime of Islam Karimov. As the Ambassador saw it, it could hardly be about a struggle between good and evil if the Karimov government was on your side.

The US and the UK both viewed President Karimov as an essential partner in the War on Terror. Karimov who had supported the hardliners in the coup against Gorbachev in 1991 shortly thereafter adopted the stance of national independence more as a means of keeping the Soviet system rather than destroying it. Most importantly to the US and the Rumsfeld policy of a “wider Middle East” the Karimov regime provided the use of Karshi Khanabad (K2) airbase. Three squadrons of the USAF guarded by several thousand troops were deep in the heart of Uzbekistan.

Murray, who is quite open about his infidelity and his nervous breakdown, was unable to overcome his moral hang-up about receiving information through torture. Despite tremendous pressure from high levels of the Blair government Murray refused to yield. Partly because of Murray’s loudly denouncing the Karimov government and partly because Gazprom was eventually awarded the natural gas and oil contract sought by western business interests, the US was asked to vacate their prized K2 airbase in November of 2004.

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