Occasionally I pick up a book that holds my attention so well that it just gets read cover to cover in one sitting (fortunately my semi-retiredness means that staying awake all night isn’t a big deal). The latest such work is Craig Murray‘s Murder in Samarkand (known in its American edition as “Dirty Diplomacy“) which I thoroughly recommend to anyone with an interest in the “War on Terror”, British diplomacy and politics, or Uzbekistan. (Apparently the US version names a few more names directly since it doesn’t have to deal with the UK’s over-protective libel laws.)
Some may recall that Murray was the UK Ambassador to Uzbekistan in the period 2002 to 2004 who attracted a certain amount of media attention at the time over his forthright views on the Uzbeki regime and on the UK’s use of intelligence from people tortured by them (some after being “renditioned” there by US agencies). It was the incompatibility of these views with the UK’s policies and actions which eventually forced Murray to resign from a very promising career that had led to him being the UK’s youngest Ambassador at the time. This book is his account of those times; it is what you would expect from his reputation: direct, frank, and rather amusing in parts. It also, with brutal honesty, shows a character who, whilst forthright, persistent and brave, also suffers from what many might regard as significant shortcomings, particularly with regard to nightlife and women. Others (men at least) living the expat lifestyle may well find these very easy to relate to – I know I do: Murray and I are amongst the many who are fortunate to have ended up with gorgeous “foreign” wives significantly younger than us, although, unlike Murray, I didn’t have to break up with a previous wife & kids in order to do so.
I’ve been dipping in to Murray’s blog for a while, but the thing that triggered me to buy the book recently was his candidacy in a recent UK by-election. Regrettably, being blocked from much of the media (unable to take part in televised debates and so on), he was unable to make much of an impact, but I do hope that he finds some role in public life which enables him to keep on highlighting the situation in Central Asia and the UK & US governments’ shocking disregard of human rights there. It is a message which needs to be heard, and this book deserves a very wide audience as the basis for that.