Arms and the money

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Some British members of our international ruling gang of thieves and thugs elites appear to have been caught running what amounts to a money-laundering scheme to channel vast sums of cash to members of the endlessly fascinating House of Saud, in exchange for lucrative purchases from British arms manufacturers.

Perish the thought, I hear you cry. You’re really surprised by that news. I can just tell.

The BAE Systems scandal has now grown so complex and tasty that I can’t do better than to refer you to the Guardian’s developing file on the full cast of scoundrels, in and outside of government. I’m only part-way through those files myself, but I can already sign on to George Monbiot’s conclusions about what we know so far:

In fairness to our craven attorney general [Lord Goldsmith], all this goes back a long way. The Defence Export Services Organisation (Deso), which allegedly oversaw these payments, has channelled money to corrupt officials in foreign governments since it was founded by the government 40 years ago. As documents unearthed by the Guardian show, this was and is its main purpose. Since the Al-Yamamah deal was signed in 1985, Britain has been supporting, financially and militarily, one of the world's most despotic regimes.

This makes a mockery of successive governments' claims to be supporting democracy around the world, and ensures our security is now entangled with that of the Saudi princes. Al-Qaida's primary complaint is directed against the Saudi monarchy and the western support it receives. Like the war in Iraq, like Blair's support for Israel's invasion of Lebanon and his uneven treatment of Israel and Palestine, this deal helps ensure Britain is a primary target for terrorism: not because our government acted on principle, but because it acted without it. Blair has invoked all the strategic threats from which he claims to defend us.

Close down Deso. Reopen the investigation. Sack the attorney general and the senior civil servants at the Ministry of Defence. Open a public inquiry to determine what Blair knew. Wage war on tax havens and secret offshore accounts. Hold BAE to account. Then lecture the rest of the world on good governance.

Shorter current state of things: it appears that the prime minister and the attorney general of the UK stepped in to stop an investigation opened by the Serious Fraud Office (in accordance with OECD regulations) because, well, y’know, the Saudis needed their payoff, and actually admitting to that in public would have been both embarrassing and costly:

Lord Goldsmith:
The Guardian has established that the attorney-general warned colleagues last year that "government complicity" in the payment of the sums was in danger of being revealed if the SFO probe was allowed to continue.

Tony Blair:
The Guardian's disclosure of British government complicity in the alleged payment of £1bn to Prince Bandar caused international concern yesterday, with Tony Blair taking a bullish position when questioned at the G8.

Standing beside George Bush, a close family friend of former US ambassador Prince Bandar, Mr Blair said it would have "wrecked" the relationship with Saudi Arabia if he had allowed investigations to go on. "This investigation, if it had gone ahead, would have involved the most serious allegations and investigation being made of the Saudi royal family," he said.

"My job is to give advice as to whether that is a sensible thing in circumstances where I don't believe the investigation would have led to anywhere except to the complete wreckage of a vital interest to our country."

Neither Mr Blair nor the Ministry of Defence made any attempt to deny the allegations revealed by the Guardian.

Which brings us to Prince Bandar, that close family friend of the Bush family, son of the current Saudi crown prince, and to Prince Turki, charming fellow, former head of Saudi intelligence and believed by many to have bankrolled some other interesting Saudis – Osama bin Laden, for one – and the major beneficiary of an earlier BAE kickback.

And to the strange mind of Tony Blair. I don’t have space or patience to lay out here all the suspect connections between the vile House of Saud and both (all?) vile sides of Bush’s surreal “war on terror,” and besides, conspiracy theories scare me. It’s not that I don’t believe that at least some of the conspiracies are there; I just don’t want to go mad trying to figure them through with too little information.

And Blair’s endless legacy tour is driving me bananas too. The Rolling Stones must be eating their hearts out – they should hire the guy if he ever does actually, y’know, go. Even when he goes, he will still leave so many wondering why – why did he do it? He became an enabler for world-historical crimes, and he did not have to. Even now, he is rationalizing what he must know are the sleaziest of crimes. If those are what take him down at the end, drown his legacy year in utter slime, then that’s good enough, I suppose. They got Al Capone on tax evasion.

War profiteering makes the world go ‘round. George Bernard Shaw tried to tell us all that a century ago. The profiteers have certainly always known it, and yet most people still refuse to stare at the truth: that we have put our governments into the hands of gangsters:

UNDERSHAFT (with a touch of brutality). The government of your country! I am the government of your country: I, and Lazarus. Do you suppose that you and half a dozen amateurs like you, sitting in a row in that foolish gabble shop, can govern Undershaft and Lazarus? No, my friend: you will do what pays us. You will make war when it suits us, and keep peace when it doesn’t. You will find out that trade requires certain measures when we have decided on those measures. When I want anything to keep my dividends up, you will discover that my want is a national need. When other people want something to keep my dividends down, you will call out the police and military. And in return you shall have the support and applause of my newspapers, and the delight of imagining that you are a great statesman. Government of your country! Be off with you, my boy, and play with your caucuses and leading articles and historic parties and great leaders and burning questions and the rest of your toys. I am going back to my counting house to pay the piper and call the tune.

– George Bernard Shaw, Major Barbara (1905)

Remind you of anyone?

... when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality--judiciously, as you will--we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors...and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.
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BAE? Ain't that the outfit that employed our own Gordon O'Connor as a lobbyist?

Wikipedia sez:

"O'Connor has also been an official lobbyist for several defense industry companies. These companies include: BAE Systems (1996 to 2004), General Dynamics (1996 to 2001), Atlas Elektronik GmbH (1999 to 2004), and Airbus Military (2001 to 2004)"


Great post skdadl. Like you, I don't have a lot of patience to sort out the possible conspiracies, but I'm sure there is one somewhere.

Thanks for this.

With all the horseshit around, there has to be a pony in there somewhere.

Nice catch on O'Connor, Jim Bobby. I mean, I knew he'd lobbied for defense companies, but it never occurred to me to check which ones (and as a result, what their interests might be). Silly me.

Yes, thank you, JimBobby. I would never have thought to look for that.

What I knew we should look for is the American angle, and that is now breaking too. I gotta do an update. Bandar may be spending a lot on his palaces, but there are signs that this may have been part of his and Cheney's private fund for their freelance foreign policy adventures. Gah.

As Jim Rootham says, there's gotta be a pony in there somewhere, and Cheney is the biggest horse's asterisk around, so ...

At the risk of driving skdadl further into banana-hood, I provide a link to Blair's recent essay in the Economist, What I've Learned.

More aptly titled "I have learned nothing," the essay is self-serving, smug, dishonest, hypocritical, historically revisionist and logically incoherent, to name a few of its flaws.

Full of insincere cant about standing up for our values against extremists, dictators and governments that would brutally deny human rights, the essay at one point falsely accuses those who dare to observe the current truth about Iraq of making the argument that "we should leave people under ... dictatorship."

Blair boldly takes such straw men, however, with a call to "stand up for our own values," going on to criticize those who say (he never identifies them, of course) that democracy and freedom are Western concepts, not to be imposed on others:

There may well be governments to whom [democracy and freedom] are alien. But not peoples. Whoever voted to get rid of democracy? Or preferred secret police to freedom of speech?

Finally returning to the subject of skdadl's post, I agree with Blair that there are governments alien to freedom and democracy: governments like Saudi Arabia, which Blair has been arming and funding for years; and governments like Libya, with whom Blair's administration recently arranged a major arms deal.

Both of these countries (others could be named) have been cited for widespread and serious human rights abuses by Amnesty International and HRW, but Blair has no problem "standing up for our values" by signing lucrative arms deals with these tyrannies.

Furthermore, despite Blair's dishonest accusation that those opposed to his disastrous foreign policy choices are in favour of leaving people to suffer under dictatorships, there is a whole range of options between Iraq-style invasions and doing nothing.

Perhaps the most obvious is the one Noam Chomsky offers whenever the question is raised of what to do about terror and oppression around the globe: "First, stop supporting it."

If Tony Blair had learned that during his years in office, he would really have learned something.

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This page contains a single entry by skdadl published on June 10, 2007 1:06 PM.

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