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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 1/31/13

Cameron's Attack On George Galloway Reflects The West's Self-Delusions

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Cross-posted from The Guardian

In an act of supreme projection, the British PM accuses a critic of lending support "wherever there is a brutal Arab dictator": the core policy of the US and UK


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British Prime Minister David Cameron, who accused MP George Galloway of supporting every "brutal dictator in the Arab world", meets with and receives a medal from Saudi King Abdullah in Jedda, November 2012. Photograph: Reuters/Saudi Press Agency

On Wednesday afternoon in the British Parliament, near the end of question time for British Prime Minister David Cameron, a short though incredibly revealing exchange occurred between Cameron and Respect Party MP George Galloway. Whatever one's preexisting views might be of either of these two polarizing figures is entirely irrelevant to the points and facts raised here about this incident.

Galloway stood to ask Cameron about a seeming contradiction in the policy of the British government (one shared by the US government). He wanted to know why it is that the British government is so intent on fighting and bombing Islamic extremists in Mali, while simultaneously arming and funding equally brutal Islamic extremists in Syria (indeed, although it was once taboo to mention, it is now widely reported in the most establishment venues such as the New York Times that while many ordinary Syrians are fighting against the savagery and tyranny of Assad, Islamic extremists, including ones loyal to al-Qaida, are playing a major role in the war against the regime). The same question could have been posed regarding Libya, where NATO-supported rebel factions were filled with fighters with all sorts of links to al-Qaida.

There certainly are reasonable answers to Galloway's point, but whatever one's views might be on those points, there's no denying it's a reasonable question. It is simply the case that the British government, along with its NATO allies including the US, were -- in both the wars in Syria and Libya -- on the same side as, and even arming and funding, the very extremists, "jihaidists," and even al-Qaida-supporting fighters they claim pose the greatest menace to world peace.

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As usual, anyone who questions the militarism of western governments is instantly smeared as a sympathizer or even supporter of tyrants. Thus, those who opposed the aggressive attack on Iraq were pro-Saddam; those who now oppose bombing Iran love the mullahs; those who oppose NATO intervention in Syria or Libya harbor affection for Assad and Ghadaffi -- just as those who opposed the Vietnam War 50 years ago or Reagan's brutal covert wars in Latin America 30 years ago were Communist sympathizers, etc., etc. Cameron's outburst was just the standard smear tactic used for decades by western leaders to try to discredit anyone who opposes their wars.

The more important point here is that of all the people on the planet, there is nobody with less authority to accuse others of supporting "brutal Arab dictators in the world" than David Cameron and his NATO allies, including those in the Obama administration. Supporting "brutal Arab dictators in the world" is a perfect summary of the west's approach to the Arab world for the last five decades, and it continues to be.

In January of last year, Cameron visited the region's most repressive dictators, the close British allies in Saudi Arabia. In Riyadh, he met King Abdullah and Crown Prince Nayef in order, he said, to "broaden and deepen" the UK-Saudi relationship. That "relationship" was already quite broad and deep, as "Saudi Arabia is the UK's largest trading partner in the Middle East with annual trade worth 15bn a year."

Moreover, "a Saudi official told the BBC the leaders would discuss sales of the latest technology and weaponry, and making Britain a major part of a massive Saudi military expansion." Indeed, as the Guardian noted in 2012, "during the third quarter of last year Britain exported arms valued at more than 1m to Saudi Arabia, including components for military combat vehicles and turrets." In June, Cameron again visited Saudi Arabia as well as the UAE, and the Huffington Post UK reported at the time: "Cameron has been open about his desire to sell arms to the Saudis, the UAE and Oman."

In November -- just two months before yesterday's attack on Galloway -- Cameron again traveled around to several tyrannical Gulf states -- including his close ally Saudi Arabia as well as the United Arab Emirates -- in order to sell British fighter jets and other military hardware to those regimes. As Amnesty International UK's head of policy and government affairs Allan Hogarth said: "Saudi Arabia has been the recipient of record-breaking arms deals involving the UK." Indeed, as the Guardian noted during this trip: "In 2009 the Saudi air force used UK-supplied Tornado fighter-bombers in attacks in Yemen which killed hundreds -- possibly thousands -- of civilians."

Then there was that charming incident in May, 2011, when -- at the height of the violent crackdown by the Bahraini regime on democratic protesters -- Cameron welcomed Bahrain's Crown Prince to 10 Downing Street and posed for photographers shaking hands with the tyrant. Former Labour foreign minister Denis MacShane protested that Cameron should not be "rolling out the red carpet for Bahrain's torturer-in-chief."

In August, Cameron met with Bahrain's King in London. While the Prime Minister's office claimed he pressed the King to implement greater political reforms, the Guardian noted that the King was "given red carpet treatment in Downing Street."


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Just last year, it was reported that -- despite a temporary suspension of licenses -- "Britain has continued to sell arms to Bahrain despite continuing political unrest in the Gulf state." Indeed, "several licences were granted for arms exports, including in February and March 2011, and during the height of the violence." Specifically:

"According to the figures the government approved the sale of military equipment valued at more than  - 1m in the months following the violent crackdown on demonstrators a year ago. They included licences for gun silencers, weapons sights, rifles, artillery and components for military training aircraft.

"Also cleared for export to Bahrain between July and September last year were naval guns and components for detecting and jamming improvised explosive devices."

As Maryam Al-Khawaja of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights said: "The US, UK and France attack Russia for providing weapons to Syria, but that's exactly what they are doing for the Bahrain government; Russia is criticised for a naval base in Syria, but the US has one here." Of course, Bahrain wasn't the only close UK ally to violently attack democratic protesters in the kingdom. "During last year's uprising, Saudi Arabia sent forces to Bahrain in British military trucks."

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[Subscribe to Glenn Greenwald] Glenn Greenwald is a journalist,former constitutional lawyer, and author of four New York Times bestselling books on politics and law. His most recent book, "No Place to Hide," is about the U.S. surveillance state and his experiences reporting on the Snowden documents around the world. His forthcoming book, to be published in April, 2021, is about Brazilian history and current politics, with a focus on his experience in reporting a series of expose's in 2019 and 2020 which exposed high-level corruption by powerful officials in the government of President Jair Bolsonaro, which subsequently attempted to prosecute him for that reporting.

Foreign Policy magazine named Greenwald one of the top 100 Global Thinkers for 2013. He was the debut winner, along with "Democracy Now's" Amy Goodman, of the Park Center I.F. Stone Award for Independent Journalism in 2008, and also received the 2010 Online Journalism Award for his investigative work breaking the story of the abusive (more...)
 

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