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Murder in Samarkand - A British Ambassador's Controversial Defiance of Tyranny in the War on Terror Paperback – 1 Feb 2007
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"A fearless book by a fearless man. Craig Murray tells the truth whether the "authorities" like it or not. I salute a man of integrity" (Harold Pinter)
"I enjoyed reading, between shudders . . . It really is a remarkable achievement" (Noam Chomsky)
"An amazing narrative, beautifully written, of one man's war on the war on terror. Fascinating, compelling . . . a bloody good read" (John Sweeney Literary Review)
"Heroic . . . rings horribly true. It helps explain the moral bankruptcy [of] the Blair government" (Sir Max Hastings Sunday Times)
"I thought that diplomats like Craig Murray were an extinct breed. A man of the highest principle" (John Pilger)
An incredible true story of espionage, torture, high politics, sex and murderSee all Product description
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But Uzbekistan was considered a must-have ally in terms of strategic location and resources so their actions were considered "no real problem" by the US and by proxy the UK Government whilst they suited. The British sent their ambassador to represent their view and he didn't like or agree with it much as he runs around the capital and country hearing of all sorts of horrific abuses.
The UK Foreign Office then went about their merry way to have him replaced on the back of a "stitch up" job. I am amazed he lasted as long as he did out there, or was offered the post in the first place but maybe that says more about the slow moving, slow to react civil service? In their defence I am not sure he helped himself by being a bit unconventional socially, and management style for the mandarins at Whitehall, and that's ignoring his personal stance in not following the party line.
But I like him from reading this, and I really liked the book. I can understand why some might find his humour un-PC, his eye for the ladies and liking a drink or two but he's at least self-deprecating honest about his hypocrisy (when he finds out his mistress is playing him, he states how annoyed this made him....acknowledging at the same time that he has been playing his wife). And yeah, I can't help but warm to the bloke for all his shortfalls. None of us perfect moral models.
One of his assistants at the Embassy, shortly after the author's arrival sees a detailed email the author has sent back to his bosses in London raising all his concerns and jovially says "That's the longest resignation letter I've ever seen" in a joking but not way. My exact thoughts when I read the email in the book; you know this relationship between Ambassador and his bosses at the FCO is only going to end one way eventually. The author after 20 years service must have known for this, but he is apparently not deterred from continuing to highlight the human rights record of his hosts.
Those saying he should not have complained, should have done the job he was there to do (represent the UK Government) and toed the party policy line should remember that many terrible acts and regimes in history have been able to unleash their deeds because many normally good people "just follow orders" and toe that party line.
This author couldn't, or wouldn't do so. I admire that.
As somebody who has faced the full force of the UK Civil Service as a former employee on (imvh biased opinion :) ) a stitch up, though not on his level, many of the emails, disciplinary actions, investigations of what he goes through echoes my own past experiences and took me back there.
He has my sympathy on the process, I understand a little how might have felt. Not being able to discuss the case with anyone colleague-wise to build own defence, being told not to use "emotive" language, how they must be seen to follow cold protocol whilst knifing you and ultimately no matter the right or wrongs of both side's argument your career with them being over rings very very true. They are a monster to take on. Not unlike wider UK and US policy to whatever suits at the time.
If you want a small insight in to a little known, but important to the West's agenda, brutal dictatorship from a former unconventional UK Ambassador there, written in a lads own seemingly honest way then you might just like this one.
Now, to the book itself, don't expect to have an abiding affection for Mr Murray as you read it, I didn't but he puts himself out there and he acknowledges his faults and less savoury character-traits but he writes well and passionately about his time in Uzbekistan. One or two episodes of his personal interactions with SNB agents have a touch of the 'Flemings' about them but the hard evidence of the support, good work and esteem he was held in by those he worked with as their Ambassador is very clear as is the hypocrisy of the UK Govt. especially Jack Straw. All-in-all a thoroughly riveting account of the work and life of an Ambassador doing what Ambassador's should do. Well done Mr Murray.
Aside from the grim picture of the ghastly Soviet-like regime of President Karimov, which murdered hundreds of dissidents or tossed them into modern-day gulags; our ex-man in Tashkent portrayed the strained workings of a far flung British Embassy having to work with very limited resources. There didn't appear to be a lot of glamour in this Central Asian outpost of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office: it seemed to be more steaming bowls of plov rather than platers of Ferrero Rocher.
Humorous comments pop up in some odd places in the text. The ghastly account of the kangaroo court in the first chapter is interspersed with witty, or perhaps wry, remarks. I wasn't sure what tone Mr Murray was going for. But the author's amusing similes, and indeed the soap opera of his personal life, kept me engaged for all 400 pages.
Murder in Samarkand should appeal to anyone interested in the 21st century version of The Great Game which is still being played out in Central Asia. And I would say that this book would be a must for anyone considering doing business or investing in any country with poor democratic credentials as Mr Murray's account has many examples of the pitfalls of carrying out trade in a massively corrupt state.
Apparently this boozed up randy Scott was 'a deep embarrassment to the entire Foreign Office'? I think we could do with a few more chaps like Mr Murray in the Diplomatic Corps. And this book could easily become a fine TV drama staring David Mitchell and Robert Webb.