“If being in it [arms trade] means arming murders and terrorists we should be out of it, it’s immoral.” – Jim Hacker, Yes Minister.
With a lot of talk regarding the UK’s involvement in supplying repressive regimes with arms, the above clip from Yes Minister is an absolute must watch. It illustrates the political and economic factors involved within corrupt arm deals. There’s been a lot of hypocrisy from the West regarding the ‘ethical’ approach the Middle East regimes should take, which rather ignores the effects the current global political and economic relations have upon countries’, such as Egypt and Libya, ability for repression.
In fact, the UK Royal Family have even invited a series of corrupt Middle East leaders to their overblown, parasitic (in terms of finance, disruption etc etc. – not a criticism of the right for them to get wedded per se, despite my own reservations of marriage) wedding:
The list is thought to include the King of Jordan, the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, the Sultan of Oman, the King of Bahrain and the King of Saudi Arabia, British media said. The Queen, who undertook a state visit to Oman and Abu Dhabi in November, believes the invites will be good for diplomatic relations between the Gulf and Britain, the Daily Mail said.
Of course, silly us – the way to support democratic currents within the Middle East is to legitimise the repressive rulers of those countries and invite them to an expensively extravagant wedding. But, who is to say the rulers will even be rulers by the wedding!
The government might be starting to revoke the licensing, under extreme pressure, but with specific reference to the Yes Minister clip the selling and eventual cancellation sums up the utter hypocrisy of the underling power relations shaped primarily be neoliberal economic goals of growth, competition and wealth:
Since it came into office the Government has granted permission for weapons sales to countries across the Middle East and North Africa, including a licence for weapon-makers to sell tear gas to the Bahrain administration. The Government also sanctioned sales of crowd control ammunition to Libya, combat helicopters to Algeria and armoured personnel carriers to Saudi Arabia.A Department for Business report on weapons exports, published in the third quarter of last year, gave the green light to British arms manufacturers to sell a number of crowd control products to the Bahrain government, including “CS hand grenades, demolition charges, smoke canisters and thunderflashes”.
It wouldn’t be going too far to say that the UK have been complicit in the murder and repression of innocent democratic protesters in countries such as Libya, nor should it have taken such events of democratic resistance to highlight the damages such exports do to innocent people in other countries. Despite the banning of licensing in Libya and Bahrain, as the Independent notes, the government doesn’t look set to crack down on licenses in other parts of the Middle East – and given the situation of other Middle East countries such as Saudi Arabia, this is arrogant to say the least. Other ironies include the presence of around 100 British companies at a Middle East arms trade fair alongside:
Last week, on a tour of the Middle East, Mr Hague praised the efforts of the administration in Bahrain. In Manama, the Foreign Secretary said he had had “very productive discussions about foreign and security issues in the Middle East, where Britain and Bahrain have many common interests and indeed many common opinions and approaches”.
William Hague can go on trying to pretend there is need for ‘evidence’ to support claims that the repressive regimes have been using arms supplied from the UK but as Sarah Waldron, campaigns coordinator at the Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT), says:
“They don’t just approve the sale of this equipment – they actively promote it. There should be an immediate arms embargo – but more importantly we should be asking why these exports were ever licensed in the first place.”
One things for sure, these protests are not only examples of democratic dissent within the Middle East, but are illustrating the democratic deficit and hypocrisies of Western countries such as the UK who often are the ironic leaders of liberal interventionism crusades.