07 October 2015

Squalid and horrid

Of course, I’m a not-entirely-dispassionate outside observer, and my opinions may therefore be taken with the requisite dosage of salt, in whatever form you prefer. But if the Tories want to avoid in the future being permanently marked as the ‘nasty party’, it strikes me - just a wild hunch on my part, you understand - that among the more effective ways of going about shedding that reputation would be, perhaps, to consider not saying and doing nasty, despicable and hypocritical things. And no, I am not talking about porking pork; I am talking about this:
Jon Snow: Now, you’ve been asked to intercede with the Saudis over the 17-year-old boy who was arrested when he was 14, and who faces execution and crucifixion. Have you?

David Cameron: We have raised this as a government, yes.

JS: Have you personally?

DC: I--no, the foreign secretary has raised this. The embassy has raised this. We raised this in the proper way. I’ll look to see if there’s an opportunity for me to raise it as well. But we oppose the death penalty anywhere and everywhere, and we make that clear in all our international contacts.

JS: Well, but that’s curious because we in November did a deal with the Saudis, that we would back them joining the Human Rights Council of the United Nations, providing they backed us. Now this sounds a bit squalid for one of the most human rights abusing régimes on earth.

DC: Well, Saudi Arabia is a member of the United Nations, but we completely disagree with them.

JS: Well, why did you want them inside the Human Rights--

DC: We completely disagree with them about, uh, their punishment routines, about the death penalty, about those issues.

JS: Well, why did you do this deal, then? I mean, they’re not the right sort of people to be doing any sort of a deal on human rights!

DC: We totally oppose their record in that area.

JS: Why did we do it?

DC: I said, we totally oppose their record.

JS: No, but why did we do it?

DC: Sorry, I’ve answered the question.

JS: Well, that isn’t an answer, is it? I mean, we’ve done a horrid deal. It was very well-exposed in the Financial Times!

DC: We--we have a relationship with Saudi Arabia, and if you want to know why I’ll tell you why. It’s because we receive from them important security and intelligence information that keep us safe.
Now, I tend toward the realist position over the idealist one. I would of course disagree with the assertion, because as several informed and respected realist IR theorists have stated (such as John Mearsheimer, Stephen Walt and, more forthrightly, Andrew Bacevich), neither the US nor Britain have any true interests at stake in Saudi anymore that would demand such a steady commitment or ‘relationship’ as this. But I would at least be able to respect Cameron’s position if he had come straight out and said, ‘look, we have national interests at stake in Saudi, and we ought to lay out our national resources and influence accordingly’. But what Cameron does instead makes him look, well, nasty.

I should hardly need to point out the galling hypocrisy of making a deal to let Saudi Arabia accede to the leadership of an organisation, purportedly founded to keep out egregious human-rights abusers: Saudi being a country with a ghastly human-rights record worse in some respects than North Korea’s, and a country which exports terrorism throughout the region and throughout the world. Hardly a power committed to keeping Britain safe! (Say what you will about North Korea: a state ideology like Juche, which shuns outside influence and advocates, at least in theory, total national self-reliance, understandably has very limited appeal outside its own borders.) But throwing out one’s chest about the UK’s commitment to human rights and opposition to the death penalty, and instantly following up by throwing up the chaff of ‘security and intelligence’ in defence of Saudi Arabia, indicates only one thing: that Cameron’s Conservatives truly do not deserve to be in control of any office more important than that of town dog-catcher.

One more thing: our country is equally guilty, if not more so, of nauseating and sickening levels of hypocrisy and sycophancy when the Saudis are involved. The more so since it seems to be only the realists in the room who advocate backing away from the Saudi ‘special relationship’; and the idealists, neocons and liberals (who, if they were consistent, ought to be the most thoroughly outraged by Saudi abuses) who keep fawning over them.

EDIT: And where did over three quarters of those 9/11 terrorists come from, Dave? Where did Osama bin Laden come from? Who is teaching intolerance in the Middle East, Dave? Who is funding the Wahhabi preaching of hate in Britain, Dave? Who is actively beheading your beloved ‘freedom, democracy and equality’ in the region? Here's a hint: it's that big angular-bordered country on the Arabian Peninsula with the sword-emblazoned green flag.

And who, precisely, is passively tolerating that, Dave? Not Jeremy Corbyn.

Shame on you, David William Donald Cameron. Shame. On. You.

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