Saturday, December 16, 2006

Whatever happened to Labour's "ethical foreign policy"?

We all know that the Iraq war, and the invasion of Afghanistan before that, was started because the US wanted to control Middle East and Caspian oilfields and to this end sought to replace an unfriendly government in Iraq by a puppet regime favourable to them. We can all recall the lies put out to try to disguise this (and to try to get round the UN Charter): self-defence because Iraq was developing weapons of mass destruction. This turned out not to be true. Then they said Saddam was linked to Al Qaeda and since then Bush has denied all knowledge of ever making the claim, even though it is well documented. Then they said the occupation was all about establishing democracy in Iraq. Well, they did manage to organise some sort of elections and a sort of government emerged - which now hides 24/7 within the US fortified Green Zone - but in doing so they have plunged the country into civil war.

Now they are really worried: the predictable (and predicted) instability they have introduced into the region is itself turning out to be a threat to the security of oil supplies. So now they are talking of suing for peace with Iran and Syria, once labelled part of an 'Axis of Evil'.

Then there is Saudi Arabia, probably the most reactionary regime in the world and certainly the financer of a fundamentalist form of Islam that had never existed or had died out in the rest of the Muslim world. No talk of introducing democracy there. Just the opposite, in fact! All public criticism of the regime there by leading British politicians is banned. Blair has even just announced that it is in "the wider public interest" to drop a prosecution of the merchant-of-death company, BAE, for corruption to get a big weapons contract to arm the crooked and hypocritical princes who rule there and who live off the oil rents without having to lift a finger. Saudi Arabia, he said in justification, is Britain's main ally in the area.

Now we can see that spreading democracy in the Middle East was just a lie too -- though, to tell the truth, we knew that from the start. It was all about oil, the routes to get it to the West and strategic points to protect the oilfields and trade routes from rising economic competitors such as China and India

When Labour came to power in 1997, their then foreign secretary Robin Cook made much of his claim for Britain’s new “ethical foreign policy”. Yet within 18 months, Britain had dropped more bombs on foreign workers than the Tories had done in the previous 18 years. Since then new Labour has surpassed every preceding Labour government in its bolstering of and use of the state war machine and indeed in its promotion of the British arms trade. Just to refresh your memory, here is Cook on 12th may 1997:

“Our foreign policy must have an ethical dimension and must support the demands of other peoples for the democratic rights on which we insist on ourselves.”

That statement was utter rubbish. Labour in office have proved themselves to be as much the merchants of war as any other mainstream political party, while pedalling their noxious wares to anyone prepared to buy them.

Go back in time. On 25th January 1966, Dennis Healey said in the House of Commons: “While the government attaches the highest importance to making progress in the field of arms control and disarmament, we must also take what practical steps we can to ensure that thiscountry does not fail to secure its rightful share of this valuable commercial marker.”

Labour’s next step in 1966? To set up the Defence Sales Organisation!

Forty years later and little has changed. Only now a Labour government subverts the law to protect corrupt arms manufacturers and, worse, with the altruistric claim that it is in our interests.

Those not suffering from historical amnesia may well recall Blair’s words in September 1999. Speaking of the government’s Defence Export Sales Organisation, which was then bidding for ?3 billion worth of contracts, he described the DESO as “a force for good in the world.” That same year, the government was spending ?226 million per year promoting arms sales abroad, and only ?2 million per year on its Defence Diversification Agency (set up to look at converting military production to civilian projects).

The latest government scandal will help prove that Labour’s emblem should not be a rose – it should be a hand grenade. Where there’s profits to be had in promoting war, then regardless of the cost of life and the misery caused, you can guarantee Labour will pursue those profits no end.

1 comment:

finding part-timers who pretend they're socialists, but would rather sit around talking and playing power games said...

What a waste of these scientists and other workers time, skills and rescorces being used to create more new weapons to kill each other with.
But, as the article points out, governments and business are all about making a profit, no matter how many people die or are hurt.
In socialism these workers time and energy will be put towards projects that benefit the whole of humankind.