Eine Kleine Nichtmusik

Witty and pertinent observations on matters of great significance OR Incoherent jottings on total irrelevancies OR Something else altogether OR All of the above

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

What kind of a world are we creating, where to be against torture is to be a hero?

I have just been listening (courtesy of BBC iPlayer) to David Tennant in David Hare's Murder In Samarkand. This is Hare's adaptation of Craig Murray's memoir of his time as the British ambassador in Uzbekistan, a job he was forced out of because he insisted on complaining about human rights abuses (President Karimov had a political opponent boiled alive while his fingernails were being torn out, to name only the worst example) at a time when Tony Blair's government was cosying up to Karimov as an ally in the "war" on "terror". After all, he allowed the Americans to operate from bases in Uzbekistan. After all, he provided evidence (which both the British and American governments knew to be obtained under torture and therefore unreliable) that some of his countrymen (strangely, they were always his political opponents) were travelling to Afghanistan to meet Osama bin Laden. Though sadly he never seemed to be able to find out where Osama was to be found despite all these people who claimed (after an encounter with the state questioners) to have sought him out and met him.

Tennant, of course, plays Craig Murray, and it is part of the charm both of Murray's book and of Hare's adaptation that he makes no excuses for himself. The guy was deeply flawed, frequenting lap-dancing clubs (where he met his currrent wife, wife number one having eventually found his womanising too much) and being a heavy drinker. However, when it came to the job he was sent there to do he was deadly serious, and put concern for human rights ahead of everything else. Not a popular stance to take when you worked for Prime Minister Blair and Foreign Secretary Jack Straw. I saw him at the Edinburgh Book Festival a couple of years back, promoting the book (see review here). His blog can be found on my blogroll, and if you search my blog for "Craig Murray" you will find links to a number of interesting posts there.

(Given his stalwart support for the torture of Binyam Mohamed and his lack of interest in the human rights even of a British resident being tortured by the Americans with British help, it comes as no shock that BlairSupporter has no time for a man who supported the rights of mere foreigners - Muslims, for heaven's sake - not to have body parts torn off to provide a fig-leaf for Blair's hopeless dreams of international significance. I quote: "I am sick of him and his personal crusade against Blair. I consider him a treacherous former diplomat with his disregard for the Official Secrets Act." He doesn't say how he considers Muslim-boiler Islam Karimov, but "strong leader" would be my guess.)

Do listen to the play while it remains available (until next Saturday). It lasts an hour and a half, and every minute is worthwhile. Not just because it's a gripping story, and not just because it's a great polemic from one of our greatest playwrights. Listen to it for those reasons, certainly, but it's also a terrific performance from David Tennant in a role he must have jumped at the chance to play.

Go! Now! Listen!

15 Comments:

At 23 February, 2010 16:06, Blogger Persephone said...

I listened to this last weekend and found it quite engrossing (also thought DT did a passable rendition of "I Am the Very Model of a Modern Major General"). Two more things that are totally irrelevant to the subject of torture, and unbelievably shallow, but I gots to know: How Scottish is Craig Murray? I read somewhere that he grew up in Norfolk. Is he really as unprepossessing as his photos portray him, or does he simply not photograph well?

 
At 28 February, 2010 22:05, Blogger Rob said...

I don't remember him as sounding particularly Scottish, and if he had a Dundonian accent I probably would have clocked it. And he looks pretty much like his pictures. Does that make him unprepossessing?

 
At 01 March, 2010 16:28, Blogger Persephone said...

Now you've made me double-check the definition of "unprepossessing".
Yes. I think that word about sums up his physical presence. He certainly doesn't look like a Don Juan, and I was mystified as to how he was able to bed so many women. He must possess a great deal of charm. Or money. Or alcohol.

 
At 01 March, 2010 20:05, Blogger Póló said...

What a load of irrelevant rubbish.

Do any of the commenters have the faintest interest in the substance of Craig Murray and the play.

No wonder the UK has become a superficial parody of its former self.

 
At 01 March, 2010 21:20, Anonymous wayupnorth said...

Does Persephone know what the word torture means?

 
At 01 March, 2010 21:26, Blogger calgacus said...

Yes he has serious flaws. Craig admits himself that he has serious flaws. Who doesn't though? If asked to choose between Blair's flaws and Murray's i'd choose Murray's every time - and definitely in a politician or civil servant or ambassador. Having spent a couple of weeks campaigning for him in the Norwich North by-election he's also a very friendly, funny and generous person. Some of his children (now grown up) came and campaigned for him and seemed like very well balanced and nice people.

He's also very devoted to his new wife and new baby son. His wife was very understandably hurt and angry from what little i know, but Craig in his books and in person says he is not proud and even ashamed of having hurt her.

 
At 01 March, 2010 21:27, Blogger calgacus said...

oops - my last sentence should obviously have begun 'His ex-wife'

 
At 01 March, 2010 21:31, Blogger calgacus said...

Persephone - he's middle aged and a bit overwieght (no criticism there from me as i'm coming up for the first and definitely the second).

If you see a picture of his son Jamie it suggests that, like most of us, Craig was probably better looking when he was younger (myself excepted - i was always pretty fugly).

I'm not a woman but he seemed pretty charming and nice and funny as a person to me.

 
At 01 March, 2010 21:57, Blogger Persephone said...

Oh dear, Rob, I seem to have annoyed a bunch of your in-the-woodwork readers! (It's nice to flush them out once in a while, though, isn't it?) As is evident from my first comment, I did listen to the play, was not familiar with Craig Murray or his story at all (being Canadian) and did point out that my questions were indeed shallow in the face of torture, a concept with which I am, alas, familiar. I was curious, as Rob had met him in person. I will withdraw from the field, but thank you, calgacus (and Rob, course) for patiently filling me in.

 
At 02 March, 2010 19:34, Blogger calgacus said...

I wouldn't worry Persephone - i'd wondered what the secret was too (but i've never asked him)

 
At 03 March, 2010 05:41, Blogger Rob said...

Persephone - you now have a starring role on Craig's own blog. Whatever his, er, physical attributes might be, I think we may assume that GSOH is one of Mr Murray's qualities. Though not, it would seem, of Messrs "Polo" or "wayupnorth".

 
At 03 March, 2010 16:03, Blogger Persephone said...

Oh crud! Next time I have a facetious question, I'll just email it to you directly, shall I?

Although I can't deny this whole experience hasn't been educational and at least I've had a hand in boosting your readership....

GSOH trumps penis size any day. That must be his secret, although I'm slightly hurt he thought my list unoriginal. Even if it is. (Like most pick-up lines, to tell you the truth...)

 
At 03 March, 2010 16:07, Anonymous wayupnorth said...

Oh indeed I do, Rob, have a GSOH. I just hope that the readers of 'Murder in Samarkand' (the book) spend a little less time laughing at the funny bits and wondering about Craig's sex appeal, and a bit more about what the UK is coming to. Obama is, after all, ignoring all breaking of US and international laws, despite serious complaints in the US. Nancy Pelosi and her ilk are not making a big deal of this either. So who stands on the moral high ground now - and how?

 
At 04 March, 2010 03:26, Blogger Rob said...

I very much doubt whether anyone could read "Murder In Samarkand" (or indeed listen to the play) any come away having ONLY taken in the trivial parts. It is precisely because of the gripping quality of the rest of it that most people, if they know anything at all about Alisher Usmanov, know that he's the guy who has political opponents boiled alive. And of course that the British Government condoned it because he was a "valued ally" in the "war on terror". The facts are beginning to leak out of Craig's book into public consciousness.

 
At 06 March, 2010 00:23, Blogger Rob said...

Craig Murray and I have something in common: BlairSupporter (aka Uncle Jimmy) doesn't like him either. Mind you, given Uncle Jimmy's political views he probably idolises Alisher Usmanov as a strong leader.

 

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