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Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Arms and the Placeman

Say what you like about Thatcher. No, really. Say what you like. I do. Often. But while she may have been venal, vindictive and callous, she was transparently so and therefore sincerely venal, vindictive and callous. She had neither the time nor aptitude for convincing artifice and we knew where we were with her, even if this was at the wrong end of her lead-lined handbag. This albeit inadvertant honesty was to prove her downfall, something David Cameron has clearly taken note of.

While our on/off/is he? isn't he?/on/off again friend, Muammar Gaddafi, is overseeing Libya’s brutal implosion – and without even having the decency to follow the West’s retrospectively-written script, recently performed in Tunisia and Egypt - our prime minister is presently on an already planned tour of fun-loving, anything-goes, liberal democracies in and around the Persian Gulf. Yesterday he was in Kuwait, ostensibly celebrating the 20th anniversary of its liberation from the hands of Saddam, another surplus psychopath whose tyrant’s license we revoked after he'd given Iran a good hammering with made in the U.K. tools. Don’t know about you but, after watching Cameron’s performance, my skin was not satisfied with mere crawling; it grew wings and flew off into the sunset. 

In our name, this champion of democracy (a word now so abused as to be almost bereft of meaning) spoke of the need for progress (see above)  and stability  (you get the drift) in the region. This while accompanied by sales reps from our favourite defence (sic) companies, the very same firms who help United Kingdom Enterprises punch above its weight as the second most prolific exporter of killing devices on the planet, after our friends across the pond. And we shouldn’t feel too disappointed at our second-best status here; we manufacture and export sodium thiopental to the U.S.A. for the purposes of apparently-not-cruel and quite usual punishment, pharmaceutical companies there now being disinclined to make the stuff.   

While still culpable, particularly in North Africa, those cheese-eating surrender monkeys across the Dover Strait – who have the cheek to call it the Calais Strait - despite outnumbering us, can’t touch us in our murderous entrepreneurial exploits. Those untrustworthy, furtive gangsters in Russia may well sell anything to anybody at any time, but they can’t hold a candle to us in the security, expedience and euphemism businesses, even though the world is littered with second-hand Kalashnikovs and Mig fighters. China and India, with two-fifths of the world’s population and massively expanding economies frivolously manufacture and export things people actually want and like. The Germans, with dull Teutonic efficiency, and those funny little Japanese johnnies, make and sell clever things people need, something we have long dismissed as passé; for some reason they seem burdened by historical hang-ups about all aspects of warfare.

The question glowers sullenly in the corner, like a hired heavy, whenever damned peaceniks and malcontents raise eyebrows at our governments' (the apostrophe is properly positioned here; turds can be different shapes and colours, but they all smell roughly the same) conscienceless, no-questions-asked pandering to whoever calls the shots in the parts of the planet that can provide us with hydrocarbons: where would our economy be without a healthy arms industry propped up by an Export Credits Guarantee Fund which means that if the despot of the month doesn’t pay up, the Royal We do? Where indeed?

This question is – please excuse the pun – our State’s defence whenever recidivist do-gooders cast aspersions on our good intentions. Intractably compromised by our eager enslavement to avarice, we let this go without seeing the insulting conceit.

The cry of “British Jobs!” now serves as an antidote to any bothersome morality. Fretting over our monthly direct debits, nobody, but nobody, asks another few questions: are the skills of people employed in this disgusting business, which we subsidise with every tax return, really only applicable to the manufacture of machines and tools designed for the expressed purposes of shooting, bombing, poisoning, torturing, executing, suppressing, enslaving and generally destroying the souls and bodies of other human beings? And should our, however inadequately appointed, Prime Minister and First Lord of the Treasury even be in the same room as, let alone nervously avoiding offending, medieval tyrants such as those in the houses of Saud and al Sabah? And where, exactly, does he get off on suddenly announcing, without even blushing, that selling arms to Gaddafi on and off for 40 years might not, with hindsight, have been such a good idea?     

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