Britain’s former ambassador to Uzbekistan unloads his prodigious rage and frustration about his country’s morally compromised part in America’s dirty little war on terror.
If Murray were as awe-inspiring a person as he believes himself to be, it would make for quite an astounding package—if only. The good news for readers of his scabrous political memoir is that he’s a good hand at telling a rollicking story, even if his sizable ego often obstructs the view. Sent to represent Her Majesty’s interests in Uzbekistan from 2002 to 2004, Murray (who had spent a fair amount of time as a foreign-service officer in Soviet bloc countries) was quickly repulsed by the barbaric level of human-rights abuses committed by the government. The horrors included everything from suspected dissidents being scalded alive to serial rapes of female civilians by a police force run rampant. Meanwhile, the government appeared to be little more than a cabal of corrupt gangsters who kept Uzbekistan’s people in a state of slave-like deprivation. No matter how many telegrams Murray sent to London informing his superiors of what was happening on the ground, he was invariably given the same answer: Uzbekistan is an important ally in the war on terror, and any abuses are caused by a natural fear of Muslim extremism. Murray is no fish-eyed scold, though. He favors good booze and women and has a gift for cockeyed humor. An uncompromising Scot clearly expert at his job, he’s also given to grade-school-level sexism and supreme self-satisfaction. What sets this book apart from most score-settling tomes by former politicos is that while Murray may be a pompous, conceited windbag, that doesn’t keep him from being absolutely right in his moral convictions.
A rowdy piece of work that makes moral high-mindedness and a bacchanalian approach to life seem a great fit.