Murray’s Choice

Yesterday Respect Watch brought to our attention that Craig Murray, the former ambassador to Uzbekistan, was moving close to becoming a de facto Respect candidate in Blackburn taking on Foreign Secretary Jack Straw.

The Scotsman today reports that Murray has accepted the support of Galloway’s gang:

Last night, he said he was still standing as an independent candidate, but was “grateful” for the “support” of Respect, the party of rebel MP George Galloway.

Mr Murray told The Scotsman: “Respect have said they will back me because they support my stance on the war and my human rights work.”

Its nothing new for genuine and decent campaigners for human rights to be taken in by people who have no concern for human rights and merely use the issue as a propaganda tool. During the cold war plenty of well-meaning liberals found themselves working inside all-manner of Stalinist front organisations.

What is tragic about Murray’s willingness to accept the support of Respect, which means in practise that he will have East Lancs SWP activists doing his donkey work in the campaign against Jack Straw, is that he undermines his own argument.

Although I don’t share Murray’s view on the Iraq war, his main beef was that Britain was ignoring the appalling abuses in Uzbekistan because of a strategic need to keep the regime there on side due to their role in the Afghan war and because the Uzbeki government was repressing Islamists.

Those of us on the pro-liberation left should have no time at all for arguments that human rights compromises have to be made for the good of the struggle against religious fanaticism. Torture and other abuses are wrong and should be opposed wherever they take place and regardless of the abusers position on other issues. That’s why we oppose those on the left who make excuses for Fidel Castro locking up dissidents because Cuba’s health care is better than Uruguay’s or whose excitement over the rare sound of socialistic rhetoric from Hugo Chavez leads them to be unable to condemn his censorship legislation.

The same goes for those on the right who cling to a version of the ‘Our Son of a bitch’ mentality and turn a blind eye to crimes committed in countries that are supposedly on message in the ill-named ‘war on terror’.

So Murray’s exposure of the abuses in Uzbekistan was the right thing to do and no-one who supports the expansion of democracy should have any embarassment about recognising that.

But nor should we now be afraid to ask Murray why he is willing to accept the support of people who do exactly what he accuses Jack Straw of – turn a blind to human rights abuses.

The leading organisations and individuals behind RESPECT all give their support to the ‘Iraqi resistance’. They give their support to armed movements which have beheaded innocent workers, kidnapped journalists (and executed some) murdered trade unionists in their home, massacred schoolkids and blown up Mosques and voters outside polling booths. And that is the shortened list.

Last week I asked here if John Rees, a leading figure in RESPECT’s election campaign, wished to clarify his support for the Al-Sadr movement in Iraq following the murders of the students in Basra.

To remind you Rees had met with Al-Sadr supporters in Beirut last year and then back home declared: “I don’t propose to lecture the Iraqi people on the methods they use, and neither should we”.

I doubt Jack Straw would have been so brazen as to utter a similar phrase about the human rights abuses in Uzbekistan but “not lecturing” has long been the excuse of ‘realpolitik’ foreign affairs along with the Stalinist version of “not interfering in internal affairs”.

John Rees, made those remarks before Al-Sadr’s thugs attacked students with clubs, molested women and shot unarmed civilians having a picnic, although other abuses had been widely reported before he gave his blank cheque endorsment. But still, I offered him the chance to reply and clarify his support for Al-Sadr’s movement. As yet I have had no response.

The offer is still open to Rees and I shall extend a similar offer to publish whatever Craig Murray wishes to say on this matter. Is he happy having the support in his election campaign of those who back murder and human rights abuses in Iraq?

Is he happy to share a platform next week with George Galloway who even goes as far at to deny the abuses saying “Actually, the Iraqi resistance does not target its own civilians.”

Is the help of a few SWP members delivering leaflets for you really worth compromising your stance on human rights?

UPDATE: Craig Murray has replied in the comments below.

Hello everyone. Interesting chat.

I am standing in Blackburn on the issue of legality in foreign policy, because as Jack Straw is the Foreign Secretary the voters of Blackburn have a unique opportunity to deliver a verdict on the Blair/Bush alliance.

The particular issues on which I am focussing are the use of intelligence obtained under torture, and the legality of the attack on Iraq. It appears the SWP support me on these points.

I recall in my student days I worked beside SWP members, in, for example, the anti-apartheid movement. Should I have refused to be in the AAM because the SWP were?

For the record, I am unequivocally against the use of violence in Iraq by anyone. I look forward to the early departure of coalition troops.