Friday, 11 July 2008

The UK war regime and its merchants of death

First up, proud salutations to the courageous 'Raytheon 9', six of whom were recently acquitted of criminal damage charges following their occupation of Raytheon offices in Derry.

The action by the nine Derry Anti War Coalition members had taken place on 9 August 2006 while Israel was bombarding Lebanon with Raytheon-produced bombs, among them the infamous Bunker-Buster. Over 1000 Lebanese civilians were killed - while the countryside remains littered with deadly cluster bombs. Raytheon also list in their catalogue of death Cruise, Patriot, Sidewinder and Tomahawk missiles. The Derry activists succeeded in damaging much of the computer software and other Raytheon property, serving to highlight the company's own criminal activity. What we might call constructive destruction of destructive constructions.

Following the judgement, one of the 9, veteran writer Eamon McCann, made this admirable statement:
"The outcome of this case has profound implications.

The jury has accepted that we were reasonable in our belief that: the Israel Defence Forces were guilty of war crimes in Lebanon in the summer of 2006; that the Raytheon company, including its facility in Derry, was aiding and abetting the commission of these crimes; and that the action we took was intended to have, and did have, the effect of hampering or delaying the commission of war crimes.

We have been vindicated.

We reject entirely and with contempt the statement by Raytheon this evening suggesting that the result of the trial gives them concern about the safety of their employees. This is an abject attempt to divert attention from the significance of the outcome. Not a shed of evidence was produced that we presented the slightest danger to Raytheon workers. The charge of affray was thrown out by the court without waiting to hear defence evidence.

Our target has always been Raytheon as a corporate entity and its shareholders and directors who profit from misery and death.

There is now no hiding place for those who have said that they support the presence of Raytheon in Derry on the basis that the company is not involved in Derry in arms-related production. We have established that not only is the Derry plant involved in arms-related production, it is also, through its integration into Raytheon as a whole, involved in war crimes.

We call on all elected representatives in Derry, and on the citizens of Derry, to say now in unequivocal terms that the war criminal Raytheon is not welcome in our city.

We call on the office of the Attorney General and the Crown Prosecution Service, in light of this verdict, to institute an investigation into the activities of Raytheon at its various plants across the UK, with a view to determining whether Raytheon is, as we say it is, a criminal enterprise.

We believe that one day the world will look back on the arms trade as we look back today on the slave trade, and wonder how it came about that such evil could abound in respectable society. If we have advanced by a mere moment the day when the arms trade is put beyond the law, what we have done will have been worthwhile.

We took the action we did in the immediate aftermath of the slaughter of innocents in Qana on July 30th 2006. The people of Qana are our neighbours. Their children are the children of our neighbours. We trashed Raytheon to help protect our neighbours. The court has found that that was not a crime. This what the Raytheon case has been about.

We have not denied or apologised for what we did at the Raytheon plant in the summer of 2006. All of us believe that it was the best thing we ever did in our lives."
The trial, moved from Derry to Belfast, and subject to a gagging order preventing media coverage of Raytheon's dealings in the province, illustrates the deep sensitivities felt by the British state when the profits and interests of arms companies are threatened.

The decision of a people's jury against Raytheon is also a reminder to pliant politicians that procurers of WMD are not always welcome in one's locale - even if they are providing those 'much-needed jobs'. For those endorsing Raytheon at Glenrothes, Scotland, and other UK locations, take note: this is not just about economic livelihoods, it's about the economy of death and the taking of others' actual lives.

Ruling the waves - and the skies

On which note, by what stretch of the caring imagination should we condone the ongoing spending of vast sums on military hardware? The Ministry of Defence has just signed contracts for two new aircraft carriers worth £4 billion. The proposed HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales, so we're told by captains of industry and unions, alike, are great news for the economy and local communities.

Defence Secretary, Des Browne, said:
“This is a historic day for everyone in defense. The two aircraft carriers will provide our forces with the world-class capabilities they will need over the coming decades. They will support peace-keeping and conflict prevention, as well as our strategic operational priorities. Today’s contract signing seals the future for thousands of jobs, and ensures that we will have a Royal Navy fit for the 21st century.”
But, what motivations really apply here? Forward defence thinking and the national economy in support of a peaceful world? Or backward power and cravings of imperial grandeur? Still burdened by delusions of the latter, Britain is really a war economy state driven by corporate interests and the need to make the world a more, not less, warmongering place.

There's also the more 'mundane' question of how these pieces of high-tech flotsam help prevent a lone Al Qaeda operative leaving a bomb on a train.

It's a sobering thought when we stop to ponder what exists behind the respectable facade and language of the 'defence economy'. This is a war regime dedicated to protecting and enabling its arms masters around the globe. It's why Gordon Brown takes his eager turn in the prime ministerial arms tour to Saudi Arabia. It's why the Ministry of Defence is a revolving door to BaE and other elite arms corporations. It's why my MP, and New Labour clone, Tom Harris, blanked all efforts to explain and oppose the safe passage of US-Israeli bombs for Lebanon through Prestwick and other UK airports.

The UK was recently 'elevated' to the highest position in world arms-sales ranking following the signing of a £10 billion deal to supply the Saudis with a new 'kill' (my collective noun) of Eurofighter/Typhoon jets and other military equipment. Without a hint of irony:
"The Ministry of Defence says the terms of the contract - called Salam, Arabic for peace - and the total expenditure involved are confidential."
Meanwhile, back in ethical blighty, £76 billion will be released from the New Labour Treasury over the next 30 years to replace Trident and maintain its successor - all in breach of the Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

Alert to the 'menace'

All this while Gordon Brown, Des Browne and their war crimes syndicate ratchet-up the 'gathering menace' of Iran's 'nuclear ambitions'.

In sympathetic tones, the BBC have been eagerly repeating US 'concerns' about Tehran's "provocative" missile-testing exercise.

The BBC's own 'defence system' usually involves the claim that it's simply engaged in 'impartial' reporting of such 'worries', whereas, it's selective filtering and delineation of such stories forms a vital and offensive part of the propaganda armoury.

Likewise with 'studious' diplomatic editors across the liberal press, such as the Sunday Herald's Trevor Royle, who, for good measure, offers this gushing account of Israel's 'understandable' rationale for bombing the people of Iran:
“There is one other scenario no-one should ignore. The Israelis could act unilaterally, or at least with covert US support. They certainly have the motive. Not only has president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad made unpleasant noises about removing Israel from the map, but a nuclear-armed Iran would be a very real threat to regional stability. During its 60 years of existence, the state of Israel has always obeyed the realistic military rule that it attacks if it feels threatened - just ask Egypt, Syria or Jordan - and there is no shortage of hawks to ram home that message. When former chief of staff Shaul Mofaz said an attack on Iran is "inevitable" he meant just what he said.”
Beyond the usual "from the map" distortion, Royle is positively flowing in his admirations for Israel, a commentary, we're encouraged to believe, to be 'balanced' by 'sober' reading of the 'military realities'. His, like the BBC's, is a voice typical of the 'sensible liberal' 'new world order' in which Britain, the US and Israel still have imperial prerogatives in 'responding' to the 'provocations' of dark-hued Others.

Britain's war regime

Thankfully, we still have voices of sane humanity like John Pilger and Mark Curtis to dig-deep into Britain's real murderous activities. In a ready-reminder of its ongoing crimes around the world, Pilger writes this week about the true, dark nature of Britain's military brutalities:
"A wall of silence has always surrounded the British military, its arcane rituals, rites and practices and, above all, its contempt for the law and natural justice in its various imperial pursuits...An even more imposing wall of silence ensures that the British public remains largely unaware of the industrial killing of civilians in Britain's modern colonial wars. In his landmark work Unpeople: Britain's Secret Human Rights Abuses, the historian Mark Curtis uses three main categories: direct responsibility, indirect responsibility and active inaction. "The overall figure [since 1945] is between 8.6 and 13.5 million," Curtis writes. "Of these, Britain bears direct responsibility for between four million and six million deaths. This figure is, if anything, likely to be an underestimate. Not all British interventions have been included, because of lack of data." Since his study was published, the Iraq death toll has reached, by reliable measure, a million men, women and children."
Across the globe, the pretence of 'ethical intervention' and concern for human rights is underwritten by the real business of warmongering:
"The militarising of how the British state perceives and treats other societies is vividly demonstrated in Africa, where ten out of 14 of the most impoverished and conflict-ridden countries are seduced into buying British arms and military equipment with "soft loans". Like the British royal family, the British Prime Minister simply follows the money. Having ritually condemned a despot in Zimbabwe for "human rights abuses" - in truth, for no longer serving as the west's business agent - and having obeyed the latest US dictum on Iran and Iraq, Brown set off recently for Saudi Arabia, exporter of Wahhabi fundamentalism and wheeler of fabulous arms deals."
With complementary intent, notes Pilger:
"the Brown government is spending £11bn of taxpayers' money on a huge, privatised military academy in Wales, which will train foreign soldiers and mercenaries recruited to the bogus "war on terror". With arms companies such as Raytheon profiting, this will become Britain's "School of the Americas", a centre for counter-insurgency (terrorist) training and the design of future colonial adventures. It has had almost no publicity."
Britain's playing of the modern Great Game in Afghanistan is treated, similarly, as some kind of benign and honourable sacrifice:
"The shabby, destructive colonial war in Afghanistan is now reported almost entirely through the British army, with squaddies always doing their Kipling best, and with the Afghan resistance routinely dismissed as "outsiders" and "invaders"."
Pilger's indictment and Curtis's investigations of Britain's war regime would, in a rational and compassionate society, be the subject of shameful reflection and progressive policy debate. Instead, we're regaled, courtesy of an obedient media, by a culture of respectable militarism, serving to maintain the noble charade of Britain's enlightened interventionism around the world.

Here's to more humanitarian 'invasions' and caring interventions against Raytheon and the offices of Britain's other corporate arms despots.


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