By Mike Small
Are we going back to Iraq? For how long this time? What for? To clear up the mess created by Tony Blair’s regime? It’s time to reclaim our discredited foreign policy shambles.
The low-level madness of British Foreign Policy is being unveiled daily. Philip Hammond, (Memo to No Borders crew: the first Foreign Secretary who now openly says he will take us out of Europe) is a walking disaster area.
Hammond is hubris unbound.
As drones fly over Baghdad and people are buried alive, his line as Defence Secretary is still haunting: “the extent to which we punch above our weight defines us”. Worse than this. There’s still a cold chill comes over me when I realise that if there’s a genuine emergency in Britain, a group of public school boys will meet call themselves ‘COBRA’ and someone will telephone Danny Alexander, to see what he thinks we should do. Really. Truly.
Richard Shirreff, packing few punches puts it: “Our Government’s response to events in northern Iraq has been farcical, tragic and ultimately dangerous.” He writes:
The situation is a omnishambles worthy of the Thick of It, without the laughs.
It’s not funny, it’s a disgrace, and it’s with shame that those who supported this disaster should reflect. Instead the Better Together campaign is littered with Iraq apologists and unreconstructed Blair Fan Boys. Yes we are talking to you John McTernan, Brian Wilson, Jim Murphy and countless others.
In a statement that evoked a horrible Blairite deja vu, Mr Cameron today said: “True security will only be achieved if we use all our resources – aid, diplomacy, our military prowess – to help bring about a more stable world. If we do not act to stem the onslaught of this exceptionally dangerous terrorist movement, it will only grow stronger until it can target us on the streets of Britain.”
It already has.
Douglas Alexander joined the cacophony today pleading for the security services to be involved.
And behind all of this? Oil.
In March 2003, just before Britain went to war, Shell denounced reports that it had held talks with Downing Street about Iraqi oil as “highly inaccurate”. BP denied that it had any “strategic interest” in Iraq, while Tony Blair described “the oil conspiracy theory” as “most absurd”.
Remember the cackling scribes who laughed at the idea that Britain would cover up oil interests, this time off the coast of Scotland? It’s routine.
Now it turns out that just five months before the March 2003 invasion, Baroness Symons, then the Trade Minister, told BP that the Government believed British energy firms should be given a share of Iraq’s enormous oil and gas reserves as a reward for Tony Blair’s military commitment to US plans for regime change.
The papers show that Lady Symons agreed to lobby the Bush administration on BP’s behalf because the oil giant feared it was being “locked out” of deals that Washington was quietly striking with US, French and Russian governments and their energy firms.
Minutes of a meeting with BP, Shell and BG (formerly British Gas) on 31 October 2002 read: “Baroness Symons agreed that it would be difficult to justify British companies losing out in Iraq in that way if the UK had itself been a conspicuous supporter of the US government throughout the crisis.”
And so it goes, as Kurt Vonnegut used to say.
The veteran Middle East writer and author Robert Fisk asks simply: “How do they get away with these lies? Now Tony Blair tells us that Western “inaction” in Syria has produced the Iraq crisis. But since bombing Syria would have brought to power in Damascus the very Islamists who are now threatening Baghdad, it must therefore be a mercy that Barack Obama does not listen to the likes of Blair.”
What happened to the protagonists that brought us this unmitigated foreign policy disaster? Prospects vary.
Gordon Brown is scaring pensioners in Kelty. Tony Blair, we’re told, is now advising the government of over twenty countries.
The Telegraph tells us that:
“Tony Blair has more than £13 million deposited in the bank following his most commercially successful year since quitting Downing Street. The latest accounts for a network of companies used to run his growing business empire show Mr Blair’s business interests around the world are booming. Profits at one company alone, which he owns, totalled almost £2 million while shareholder funds on two businesses total £7 million. The accounts, for the 12 months to April 2013 and which were lodged at Companies House last week, give the best indication yet of Mr Blair’s earning power. His wealth, including a London townhouse, a country estate and several other properties, is estimated at £70 million.”
Others are not quite so sure. Ken Silverstein, author of The Secret World of Oil suggests:
“No one knows for sure just how much money Blair has made, but the Financial Times estimated that in 2011 alone he raked in at least $30 million in speaking fees and for advising governments and corporations. He and his wife own seven homes, including a £40 million (approximately $64 million), seven-bedroom property once owned by Sir John Gielgud. Blair’s transformation into a human cash register has outraged many in Britain, and all the more so as he continues to collect a pension and allowance for a private office that costs taxpayers more than £122,000 (approximately $200,000) per year. Blair’s “love of money” has brought about his complete “moral decline and fall,” Nick Cohen wrote in a column in the Observer. […]”
I’m sure we should all feel “intensely relaxed about people getting filthy rich” as Peter Mandelson famously said.
This is about power, obscene wealth and ultra-hypocrisy.
Last week there was no shortage of MPs from all sides publicly calling on the Prime Minister to recall Westminster in order to discuss the worsening crisis in the Middle East.
It’s a complete irrelevance. It’s the wrong parliament.
Backbenchers have no power, the parliament itself has little. Even if it did its subject to bigger, deeper, geopolitical forces than the UK parliament. This is where ‘small’ Scotland would actually have more clout than ‘big’ Britain.
America makes British foreign policy, that and the desperate hankering for imperial power and what the Americans call ‘pork-barrel’ politics.
It doesn’t make any difference whether its’ Labour or Conservative, it’s still British Foreign Policy.
The only parliament we should be re-convening is the Scottish Parliament, with powers over what’ still coyly referred to as ‘defence’.
Seven years ago I wrote (On the Night Shift) that “What we have seen is the descent into barbarism. Where leaders rule without moral restraint, legal redress or ethical direction”.
Nothing has changed. Nothing will change while Britain remains in charge of ‘defence’.
Nor is this some cheap campaign gag.
As Seamus Milne writes:
“The most recent US academic estimate of the death toll is at least half a million, while Iraq Body Count has recorded a minimum of 190,100 violent deaths as a result of the invasion – 4 million became refugees. That wasn’t a “tragic error”, as some claim, or a problem of post-invasion planning. It was a barbarous crime whose predicted consequences Iraqis are living with today. The idea that Tony Blair – who helped launch the war on a false pretext and now says we need to “liberate ourselves from the notion that ‘we’ have caused this” – remains Middle East peace envoy is beyond parody.”
That’s not something swept away by Blair MacDougall or a spluttering Alistair Darling. That’s a record to be deeply ashamed of and a motivation to move away from as soon as we can. Let’s defend ourselves, let’s play a role where appropriate, let’s rid ourselves of this record of shame.