Sunday, September 03, 2006

Uzbek Cooperation in "War On Terror" Detailed

Craig Murray, the British ambassador to Uzbekistan during the early days of the "war on terror," has a story to tell about the situational ethics involved in the shadowy battle against the freedom hatin' Muslims.

In a piece in today's Outlook section of the Washington Post, Murray references pissing contests between his embassy in Tashkent and the British Foreign Office over human rights violations against the Uzbek people, and the excesses in the fight against Islamic terrorist groups.

There is also the requisite description of a terrorist suspect having been boiled in oil.

And the cozy relationship between the Uzbek torturers and U.S. officials:

At the same time that I was receiving word from Uzbek citizens about the gruesome affronts to their humanity, I was also getting CIA intelligence on Uzbekistan, under the U.S.-U.K. intelligence-sharing agreement. This information -- fed to the CIA by Karimov's security services -- revealed the same pattern of information as those forced confessions.

And it was a pattern that was false, often demonstrably so. One piece of CIA intelligence named a Muslim terrorism suspect with alleged links to al-Qaeda, except I happened to know that the person in question was a Jehovah's Witness, not a Sunni Muslim extremist. Another gave a specific location for a terrorist training camp in the hills above Samarkand, a spot I knew was empty.

The CIA was apparently well aware that it was getting material drawn from torture. At my request, my deputy confirmed this with the U.S. Embassy. She reported back to me that she had been told that the United States did not see a problem "in the context of the war on terror." (I immediately reported this back to Britain in a top-secret telegram.) And both the CIA and the British intelligence service, MI6, were accepting and using this intelligence in their assessments, despite its highly questionable validity.

In November 2002 and again in January 2003, I made formal, written complaints to London, arguing that it was morally, legally and practically wrong to obtain intelligence under torture. The law was embodied in the U.N. Convention Against Torture, and in practical terms, torture pollutes intelligence. I was summoned back in early March 2003 for a meeting with Matthew Kydd, head of liaison with the British security services, and Michael Wood, legal adviser to the Foreign Office. Kydd informed me that the intelligence from Uzbekistan was "operationally useful." Wood later wrote that I was incorrect to believe it was an offense to "receive or possess information [obtained] under torture." ...

During this period, the key challenge facing then- Secretary of State Colin Powell was the need to keep certifying Uzbekistan's human rights record to Congress. By spring 2004, Congress was waking up to a human rights problem, and in July of that year, the Bush administration announced that it would cut $18 million in military and economic aid to Uzbekistan.

However, just before certification was due, the Uzbek government said that al-Qaeda suicide bombers had attacked Tashkent. I visited each of the alleged bomb sites within hours and saw virtually no damage. The evidence on the ground did not fit the official explanation. I knew al-Qaeda was not behind whatever had occurred: The British embassy had received National Security Agency intercepts of senior al-Qaeda operatives in Pakistan and the Middle East, phoning each other to find out what was going on in Tashkent. Nevertheless, Powell's subsequent claim that Tashkent was under attack by Islamic extremists helped smooth the path for continuing U.S. aid.


Blogger DrewL said...

A very interesting account of the shenanigans in Uzbekistan as well as the effort to quash Murray's story by the Brits. The U.S. and the UK do a bang up job of talking up their push for democracy, but it seems to hold little water when one looks at the "friendlies" it relies on to support that effort. Arguably, the human rights abuses taking place in Uzbekistan make Saddam Hussein look like Donny Osmond in comparison.

Murray certainly paid the price for standing up for the truth about what was taking place.

9/03/2006 10:25 PM  
Blogger Effwit said...


The "terror-fighters" of the U.S. and U.K. like to point out that one must do business with some of the worst people in order to be successful.

Very true.

But there comes a point at which we risk alienating whole societies (Uzbeks now, and the Egyptians and many others before) by our close partnerships with repressive governments who will not be in power forever. The long memory of the Iranian people is another example of this principle.

9/04/2006 7:45 AM  
Blogger DrewL said...

Surely you can't be referring to the Shah of Iran? His rule was a bastion of freedom for Iran. The people thrived under him. He was beloved by the Iranian people.

Oh, wait. That was in an alternate universe. Nevermind.

I think it's part of the reason - maybe much of the reason - why so many around the world don't trust the United States. Our government's policies are full of hypocrisy. We talk about spreading democracy yet we support some of the most authoritarian and brutal regimes around. And that says nothing about what we do under the cover of darkness within our intel agencies. So it's not wonder many hold views far different than most Americans think they should. We think everyone should love us for our freedoms and what-not. But because of what our government does and what many of our corporations do around the world, many despise us.

We as a nation need to understand that and come to grips with it. It goes back to the analogy I shared with you a while back: love your customer, not your product. We don't even understand our product, at least not in the eyes of the customer. That's bad business any way you look at it.

9/04/2006 10:19 PM  
Blogger Effwit said...


The "love your customer, not your product" approach would strongly argue that we should make some improvements to our product.

I would agree.

Maybe then whole regions of the world would not have cause to hate us for policies that make no sense anyway, but that serve the interests of influential groups in the USA.

9/05/2006 7:59 AM  

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