Aspects of Anglo-Saxon Policies in the Middle East :
Time to try a little ‘diplomatic virtue’
New Labour’s cynicism knows no bounds:
I found reading Craig Murray’s ‘Murder in Samarkand’ extremely
disturbing. I had of course known before that to expect international
relations to be conducted on the basis of morality was absurd. However I
was not prepared for what seemed the total lack of principle that seems
to have governed New Labour in its relations with the world.
I must confess to some prejudice in this regard, for I had realized
that the British government was totally amoral in its approach to Sri
I do not mean the government as a whole, for I have the highest
regard for most British officials, and I believe the Security
establishment worked positively with us to eliminate terrorism. Yet even
the police, when dealing with demonstrations in Britain that contributed
to rousing public opinion against us, behaved with an indulgence that
suggested a lack of concern about how terrorism gains strength.
This could not have arisen from their own judgments, for I felt the
senior police officials whom I met once with our High Commissioner knew
very well the implications of their failure to deal firmly with the
demonstrations outside the House of Commons. But it was clear that they
would be allowing the organizers a free hand, and I have no doubt that
the decision in this regard was a political one.
It was obviously meant to send a conciliatory message to Tiger
sympathizers. We realized why this was being done, and we must be
grateful to Wikileaks, and to the more clearsighted Americans, for
making clear David Miliband’s desire for votes, that led him to behave
so callously towards us.
Had he succeeded in his efforts, there is no doubt that we in Sri
Lanka would still be living under the shadow of terrorism. He would have
cared nothing, not for the obvious victims of bombs, not for the poor
youngsters forced into brutality and death on a battlefield they did not
understand by a ruthless Tiger leadership.
But that he should have done this, and dared to preach to us about
human rights, while part of a government that had knowingly connived at
torture, seemed to me to have pushed cynicism beyond acceptable limits.
I should note that my comments here are based on Murray’s book, and it
is possible that he has exaggerated. I have tried to get the views of
the Foreign Office on this, as I was advised to do by Linda Duffield, a
former British High Commissioner here, but I have not as yet received a
response. This is not surprising, given that their information desk must
be occupied with disseminating information, and possibly disinformation,
about Libya, but meanwhile I can only proceed on what seems plausible in
I should add however that he does exaggerate, with regard for
instance to Linda herself. I was given the book by a Britisher, who told
me she came out very badly, having been the Head of ‘Wider Europe’ as
the area in which Murray served was called. Reading the book myself, I
felt that she was not especially sympathetic, but it struck me that she
was probably not responsible for the harsh measures meted out to him.
In fact, having then gone to the full text of one of their exchanges,
I felt that she had actually been trying to deal with him gently. What
seemed his resentment against her did not strike me as reasonable,
though I presume it was understandable given that he felt let down by an
institution he had once been proud to serve.
More worrying was the picture of David Warren, an exact contemporary
at University who had been the first in our year to become President of
the Union. He had had to act as hatchet man for Murray, having been Head
of Personnel when the decision was made to remove Murray as ambassador
and then suspend him from duty. Having seen him on television after
years, being interviewed since he is now British ambassador to Japan, I
remembered the bright young man of promise I knew, and asked another
friend, who had been a journalist, whether she knew more about what had
She did not, about the Murray affair itself, but noted that ‘My
impression, which may be totally unfair, was that he was a very
conventional man, intelligent, probably, (but no more than you are and I
am) but someone who would have an instinct to obey and conform to his
superiors.’ Interestingly, all this occurred when Warren’s superiors
were New Labour, and Warren himself had been on the conservative side of
the Labour Club in his student days, with most of his friends being
His great rival had belonged to the more radical side, and I
remembered that, when Warren was advocating or doing something I thought
improper, as part of the relentless rivalry in the Union in those days,
I remonstrated - whereupon he told me that I did not understand, the
people on the other side were evil, and needed to be dealt with firmly,
ie it was an error to have scruples in trying to best them.
I wondered then whether David had carried that outlook into the
larger world. Certainly I can see that dealing with threats on the lines
of the 9/11 attack or bombs on the underground may require stronger
methods than usual, but what Murray was objecting to was what seemed to
him systemic use of torture. He noted too that this led to faulty
intelligence, and his view indeed was that the Karimov regime happily
created evidence of Islamic fundamentalism in order to continue to be
indulged by the West.
In his account of what he found, he writes that, ‘Before drafting a
hard-hitting telegram, I wanted to make quite sure I was on firm ground
and would not be making a fool of myself. I therefore asked Karen to go
and see her US opposite number, David Appleton, to check with him that
the CIA did not have procedures in place to ensure that any material
they received from the Uzbeks could not come from torture. She returned
and reported that David was not available, so she had met another senior
member of the Mission.
He had said that, yes, come to think of it the intelligence probably
did come from torture. He had not thought of that as a problem before,
and he commented to Karen that it was an indication of how far 9/11 had
shifted moral perceptions.
So, confident I was on safe ground, I sent off my bullet. I can’t
reproduce the telegram, because it was classified Top Secret. But it
said that we were obtaining intelligence material from the Uzbek
security services. It was probably obtained through torture, which the
Americans, who supplied it to us, were not denying. We should stop
getting it on legal, practical and moral grounds.
Legally, we were in contravention of the UN Convention against
Torture, Article 4 of which banned ‘complicity’ in torture. To obtain
such intelligence on a regular basis undoubtedly made us complicit. I
said that in supplying this intelligence to ministers, I was afraid we
might be putting ministers at risk of breaking UK and international law.
Practically, I said, the information was useless. It was not just
wrong, it presented a deliberate distortion. It all had a common theme:
it aimed to exaggerate the Islamic threat to Uzbekistan with the aim of
justifying continued support to the Karimov regime.’
Having quoted at length from Murray’s book, I will need another
article to discuss his account of what happened thereafter.