An apology for mass mailing in this way, but as someone who has seen the Shadow World film (http://shadowworldfilm.com/) and/or knows my work on the global arms trade, I wanted to share these thoughts with you. In terms of the issues I have devoted myself to over the past 17 years, tomorrow’s election in the UK is the most crucial for decades. For the first time in a very long time one of the leadership candidates of the main parties has a history of campaigning for a better regulated, safer, less corrupt arms trade.
The global trade in weapons is not only riddled with corruption, but it’s deadly consequences are if anything getting worse, as we witness in the slaughter of thousands of innocent civilians in Syria and Yemen. In the case of Yemen over 4,000 civilians have been killed, many of them by jets, bombs and missiles sold to Saudi Arabia by the UK government (over £3.3bn worth since March 2015 when the Saudi-led coalition bombings started). British advisers are supposed to be working with the coalition forces on targeting, but according to the UN a third of the targets hit are schools, hospitals, places of worship, residential buildings and agricultural land. Given the huge subsidies for British arms manufacturers (including BAE & Rolls Royce who are amongst the most corrupt companies on the planet) these atrocities are being committed in our name with our tax pounds.
In addition, the UK’s foreign policy, in which our corrupt arms dealings take centre stage – £115m of bribes on one contract in South Africa’s disastrous arms deal that I tried to investigate as an MP; around £6bn of bribes on the Al Yamamah deal with Saudi Arabia – is actually making us more rather than less safe. Not only are our foreign adventures in Iraq, Syria, Libya, Yemen, etc resulting in a plethora of weapons across the world’s most febrile region, creating even greater instability in countries that are worse off than they have ever been, but they are also acting as fertile breeding grounds for extremists, including those who commit unspeakable acts of terror here in the UK. Both the Manchester and London tragedies involved perpetrators who had been radicalised and trained by extremist groups covertly supported by the UK government.
The uncritical support for, and constant sale of billions of pounds of weapons to, Saudi Arabia are not only maintaining a barbarous dictatorship that beheads more people every year than any other state or group; that doesn’t allow women to drive, vote or control many aspects of their lives; but is also the greatest cause of instability in the Middle East. Saudi is engaged in overt conflicts in Yemen, Syria, Libya, soon to be followed by Qatar by all accounts. They were vehemently opposed to Obama’s peace deal with Iran, which they want to see invaded – something Trump may well do, with the UK government holding his hand. Crucially, Saudi is known to finance and supply a range of extremist groups who propagate their Wahhabi form of Islam. It is thus no surprise that some of the gargantuan BAE bribes in arms deals with Saudi, found their way through the accounts of the Saudi ambassador to the US at the time, into the accounts of two of the 9/11 hijackers.
For an analysis of these realities, see this article that my colleague, Paul Holden and I wrote in our personal capacities:
Theresa May’s response to the terror threat is, first, to try and ignore the 19,000 cuts to police personnel that she made as Home Secretary, second to tear up the UK’s commitment to human rights legislation and privacy, surely the very foundations of our societies that we seek to defend from those who do us harm, and third to continue her uncritical support for Saudi Arabia and Donald Trump, regardless of what military adventures they might engage in. Her obeisance to the awful Trump was clear for all to see in her refusal to criticise his withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accord. In the current uncertain global context, in which the terror threat is morphing and corruption is, if anything, on the rise, enabling Trump and the Saudis is the last thing we should be doing.
Talking of corruption, the Prime Minister has reiterated her determination to close down the Serious Fraud Office, thus, making it easier for British companies to continue to bribe their way around the world, especially in the post-Brexit scramble for export deals. In contrast, Labour have made a remarkable commitment that could be a huge game changer in the battle against corruption globally: to lift the veil of secrecy covering the UK’s Crown Dependencies and Overseas Territories – some of the largest tax havens and secrecy jurisdictions in the world.
Bearing in mind that the arms trade accounts for 40% of all corruption, and that the UK is the second biggest exporter of weapons, the impact of corrupt British arms deals on the world is profound and shameful, as I witnessed at first hand in South Africa, where our nascent democracy has never recovered. I am reminded that Jeremy Corbyn was campaigning against apartheid for decades while the Tories branded Nelson Mandela a terrorist, some even calling for his execution, and ensured the apartheid state had a plentiful supply of oil and weapons, despite international embargoes.
This was reflected in, amongst other things, claims that he didn’t campaign enthusiastically for a Remain vote (despite making 123 appearances in support of Remain, compared to Theresa May’s 29, and Labour delivering more of their voters than the Tories); that he is anti-semitic (for which there is not one iota of meaningful evidence let alone a quote from anything he’s said or written – he has always been opposed to every form of racism, including anti-semitism, with every fibre of his body. As the son of a holocaust survivor I believe emphatically that criticism of Israel, a country that plays an awful role in the global arms trade, is legitimate if factual and informed and is not anti-semitic); and that he supported IRA violence (in fact he spoke out against IRA bombings, including signing a cross-party motion to that effect in Parliament and was awarded the Gandhi Foundation Peace Prize for his work towards peace in numerous places including Ireland. Finally, the fact that he would not fire nuclear weapons first is seen as a total failure of leadership. Surely it is the only sane position to take when use of nuclear weapons would result in the deaths of millions and likely mutually assured destruction. To read more on these issues see a remarkable article from an Israeli Briton on Corbyn and an NME ‘myth-buster’: http://www.haaretz.com/opinion/.premium-1.793829?utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=twitterhttp://www.nme.com/blogs/nme-blogs/myth-busting-corbyn-ira-nuclear-weapons-2084114
Finally, Jeremy Corbyn is by no means perfect. He is, after all, human. Having had the enormous privilege of serving under Nelson Mandela for a few years, I will never forget his constant exhortation for politicians to be always humble and respectful of others, prepared to listen and work for the poorest and weakest in our societies, something that, in my experience, Corbyn exemplifies, in a world that frankly has gone a little crazy over the past year or so.
Should you feel there is anything of interest in these thoughts, please consider passing them on to others who might be interested. And, of course, if you’d like to discuss any of them, feel free to contact me.
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