The subtitle of Craig Murray's book Dirty Diplomacy is pretty descriptive and extremly accurate: The Rough-and -Tumble Adventures of a Scotch-Drinking, Skirt-Chasing, Dictator-Busting and Thoroughly Unrepentant Ambassador Stuck on the Frontline of the War Against Terror. It's not your usual memoir by a former ambassador.
The book was titled Murder in Samarkand in the UK.
Murray served as the UK ambassador to Uzbekistan from August 2002 to October 2004. From the beginning he proved to be a thorn in the side of the UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) and the Uzbek government, headed by dictator Islam Karimov, who's headed Uzbekistan since 1991.
Karimov's a thug, but when Murray took office, he was 'our' thug who became a strategic ally in the War on Terror. He opposed Muslim extremists, and more importantly, let us use Uzbekistan soil for an air base (we've since been kicked out).
Murray almost immediately took issue with Karmov's repressive regime, known for murder, torture, and all the usual human-rights transgressions, much to the chagrin of the UK. He naturally did not endear himself to the Americans, whose main interest was keeping Karimov happy and glossing over his 'shortcomings'. Murray was appalled by this attitude and let his displeasure be known.
In short, he was sacked because he wouldn't shut up.
Murray readily admits his foibles. Although married with two children, he was a serial philanderer and an alcoholic to boot. He finally left Fiona, his wife of 20 years, for Nadira Alieva, 23 years his junior who was dancing in a seedy Tashkent club (read about her lap-dancing exploits).
Here's a less-than-flattering account of their affair. Murray strikes me as a sad, even pathetic, figure.
I did enjoy the book and admired Murray's refusal to keep quiet and "play the game". He called them as he saw them.
He reminded me of Oskar Schindler, who rescued Jews during World War II despite nothing in his background to indicate that he would do such a thing, at great personal risk.
Murray paid the price, not just for speaking against wrongdoing, but also for making what seems to have been a very foolish personal choice.
It's a very good book. I highly recommend it.
As one reviewer put it, it's like a very funny version of a Graham Greene novel. Too bad it's nonfiction.
"The Uzbek people know only one word for Craig Murray: hero." -- Mohammad Salih, Uzbek opposition leader