October 26, 2003

Diplomatically Incorrect

The government of the United States wants to recall an ambassador from a foreign post. Seems simple enough, doesn't it? The only problem is that it wants to recall a British ambassador.

The US is very unhappy with the British ambassador to Uzbekistan. He keeps going around telling the truth. The US is not denying that he is telling the truth - only that it is very embarrassing. The Bush administration has been putting a lot of pressure on the Blair administration (surprise, surprise) and as a result the Foreign Office has told Craig Murray "resign or we'll sack you" according to reports in the Sunday Times.

The problems started when the US ambassador John Herbst and Mr Murray shared a platform speaking to senior Uzbek officials. Herbst said Uzbekistan had made “some progress” in the areas of “democratic reforms and the protection of human rights”. Murray followed this diplomatic song and dance routine with statements like, “Uzbekistan is not a functioning democracy, nor does it appear to be moving in the direction of democracy,” and “We believe there to be between 7,000 and 10,000 people in detention. In many cases they have been falsely convicted. The terrible case of (two men) apparently tortured to death by boiling water is not an isolated incident. Brutality is inherent in (your) system.”

The Tashkent government was not amused. After all, it was the sort of thing that could get a patriotic Uzbek cooked like a pot of potatoes. And what makes Tashkent upset makes Washington upset. Uzbekistan is, after all, an important ally in keeping Afghanistan under control. They may boil dissidents alive, but they also let the US build an base for launching airstrikes across the border.

This once again brings to light to awful hypocrisy of the US when picking and choosing which regimes to topple and which to placate. Saddam's brutality was used as an reason to invade Iraq, on the off-chance no WMD could be found. Uzbek president Islam Karimov's similar practices are ignored. I've already blogged about the treatment of Taliban prisoners by the same US government that wouldn't tolerate similar treatment by a foreign government it didn't fancy at the time and would never tolerate it if the prisoners were American.

But what is the British government to do with Mr Murray? While he was away on holiday an investigator was sent to Tashkent to look at (or create) allegations of misbehviour. He has now been accused of a string of misdemeanors, including having sex with visa applicants in his office, going out drinking in an official car, and driving a Land Rover down the steps of the embassy, though none of the allegations has been proven.

The Foreign Office will not even admit that it has investigated Murray. It is, however, using the allegations to pressure him into resigning. He is not inclined to do so. He's too busy telling the truth.

Posted by david at October 26, 2003 11:49 PM | TrackBack