The quote is from a book by Dominic Streatfeild, A History of the World since 9/11, published in February 2011 (UK) by Atlantic Books. He’s referring to the United States and Britain’s courting of President Islam Krimov. It’s a book worth (re) considering as news about British forces collusion and conduct spills out this week.
From the sheer incompetence of Blair’s war in Iraq and our ongoing inability to learn anything from it, to the emerging situation in Syria, and our predictable abject failure in Afghanistan, being tied to British foreign policy doesn’t seem something in which we truly are Better Together.
A repeated refrain of the No campaign is that – post independence – we will lie vulnerable and exposed outwith the protective wing of the British State. But what kind of state are we actually in?
Today’s ‘revelation’ that up to 90 Afghans held at Camp Bastion are set to be returned to the Afghan authorities, after it became clear that their detention could be unlawful (‘UK ‘ready to hand over Afghan detainees’) gives you a clue. Eight of the men said they had been held for up to 14 months without charge.
That we should be engaged in what is little more than State kidnapping should not come as a surprise given our enthusiasm for Guantanamo or our collusion with extraordinary rendition as revealed yesterday in Dundee, Aberdeen and Leuchars.
See here Reprieve’s report on Scottish Involvement in Extraordinary Rendition.
Few doubt that independence means ridding our country of ‘eye wateringly expensive’ WMD but what about the wider culture of violence and illegality we could move on from?
The horrific events in England last week were shocking. But they have a context and you can’t pretend that it exists. As Seamus Milne writes (‘Britain’s wars fuel terror. Denying it only feeds Islamophobia’):
Almost nobody in public life mentions the war. The reason cited by the alleged Woolwich killers – the role of British troops in Afghanistan, Iraq and the war on terror – has been mostly brushed aside as unseemly to discuss. Echoing his predecessors, the prime minister insisted the Woolwich killing was “an attack on the British way of life”. London mayor Boris Johnson declared there could be “no question” of blaming British foreign policy or “what British troops do in operations abroad”.
The reality of ongoing British adventurism and the costs we pay – not just in human sacrifice but the ‘collateral damage’ to our reputation is un-quantifiable. Theresa May’s wild enthusiasm for curtailing the civil liberties she’s vowed to protect (in order to protect the way of life you hold dear we’re going to have to destroy it) through the Communications Data Bill are a disaster. Cloud computer company iomart has warned that the £1.8 billion suggested for the project seems ‘wildly optimistic’ while Techdirt report that Danish police admit data retention hasn’t helped at all.
So a vision of a sort of blindly uselessly authoritarian state emerges, managed by Theresa and her kitten heels.
Craig Murray has written this week about the abandonment of the Gibson Inquiry:
I don’t think any single person who has considered the matter seriously, has any real doubt that Jack Straw was complicit in torture in an active and involved way, and has lied about it continually. There are some who would argue he was ethically justified, but that is a different argument. It is not worth engaging in ethical argument with anybody who maintains that the facts which are the basis of the argument, should not be known.
The Gibson Inquiry was set up by the Government precisely to get to the truth of these matters. It was then cancelled precisely in order to hide the truth of these matters, which is one Hell of a U-Turn. The real reason for the cancellation of the Gibson Inquiry was that it became evident from its initial inquiries, firstly that Gibson was not a vicious calculating placeman like Hutton, and secondly that the number of very senior ministers, diplomats, security service agents and civil servants who were directly implicated in criminal activity was very large.
The judge-led inquiry into the UK’s alleged role in the torture and rendition of detainees after the 9/11 attacks, already boycotted by most human rights groups, has been scrapped, and this is no surprise. The decision to abandon the investigation led by Sir Peter Gibson into MI5 and MI6 officers’ participation, which carried out only preparatory research, was announced by the justice secretary, Ken Clarke.
So what happens now?
The dark shadow of secret-state Britain just rumbles on, accountable. We will continue – presumably – to ‘punch above our weight’ – and Better Together and Unionist cheerleaders will continue to hold our military might as some sort of talisman, some sort of totem of what a real state looks like. This sort of macho posturing is a relic of yesteryear. We can do so much better and hold out a brighter prospect for young people and for international relations and peace-making.
The recent ‘buy-out’ of a section of Cape Wrath was hailed as a ‘victory’ for the local community. In reality it’s like protecting a tiny corner of a vast militarised zone.
The notion that an over-militarised Scotland, used as a base for all sort of British foreign policy aggression is some sort of permanent feature of our social landscape needs to be utterly challenged in the independence campaign.
Is this really all we aspire to?
We should move urgently from being defensive about gaining or retaining British defence contracts to outlining a vision where we employ people in useful industry and set out what constructive role Scotland could play in the modern world. To do that we need to take a fresh look at our War State. It’s not just drones that sanctify and abstract terror. Nor is it the lack of any prosecution or accountability – actually the whole debate about it being about ‘job’s does that too.
As Matt Char from Infernal Machine writes:
We have become seduced by a sanitised and relatively cost-free version of ‘war’, in which our governments engage in push-button violence whose victims barely appear even as statistics, in which most of us don’t even question the right of our governments to bomb, invade or occupy any country they like. We take it for granted, if we even think about it at all, that these wars are benign, ‘limited’ and ‘humanitarian’. We hear that our armed forces are engaged in ‘reconstruction’, fighting ‘terror’, or ‘the Taliban’, in order to ‘keep us safe’ or promote democracy and protect the rights of women.
We can do better than this but I can’t see how we can do it if we are still tied to the British State.