by John Pilger
Delegates to the recent Labour Party conference in the English seaside town of Brighton seemed not to notice a video playing in the main entrance. The world’s third biggest arms manufacturer, BAe Systems, supplier to Saudi Arabia, was promoting its guns, bombs, missiles, naval ships and fighter aircraft.
It seemed a perfidious symbol of a party in which millions of Britons now invest their political hopes. Once the preserve of Tony Blair, it is now led by Jeremy Corbyn, whose career has been very different and is rare in British establishment politics.
Addressing the conference, the campaigner Naomi Klein described the rise of Corbyn as “part of a global phenomenon. We saw it in Bernie Sanders’ historic campaign in the US primaries, powered by millennials who know that safe centrist politics offers them no kind of safe future.”
In fact, at the end of the US primary elections last year, Sanders led his followers into the arms of Hillary Clinton, a liberal warmonger from a long tradition in the Democratic Party.
As President Obama’s Secretary of State, Clinton presided over the invasion of Libya in 2011, which led to a stampede of refugees to Europe. She gloated at the gruesome murder of Libya’s president. Two years earlier, Clinton signed off on a coup that overthrew the democratically elected president of Honduras. That she has been invited to Wales on 14 October to be given an honorary doctorate by the University of Swansea because she is “synonymous with human rights” is unfathomable.
Like Clinton, Sanders is a cold-warrior and “anti-communist” obsessive with a proprietorial view of the world beyond the United States. He supported Bill Clinton’s and Tony Blair’s illegal assault on Yugoslavia in 1998 and the invasions of Afghanistan, Syria and Libya, as well as Barack Obama’s campaign of terrorism by drone. He backs the provocation of Russia and agrees that the whistleblower Edward Snowden should stand trial. He has called the late Hugo Chavez – a social democrat who won multiple elections – “a dead communist dictator”.
While Sanders is a familiar American liberal politician, Corbyn may be a phenomenon, with his indefatigable support for the victims of American and British imperial adventures and for popular resistance movements.
For example, in the 1960s and 70s, the Chagos islanders were expelled from their homeland, a British colony in the Indian Ocean, by a Labour government. An entire population was kidnapped. The aim was to make way for a US military base on the main island of Diego Garcia: a secret deal for which the British were “compensated” with a discount of $14 million off the price of a Polaris nuclear submarine.
I have had much to do with the Chagos islanders and have filmed them in exile in Mauritius and the Seychelles, where they suffered and some of them “died from sadness”, as I was told. They found a political champion in a Labour Member of Parliament, Jeremy Corbyn.
So did the Palestinians. So did Iraqis terrorised by a Labour prime minister’s invasion of their country in 2003. So did others struggling to break free from the web of western power. Corbyn supported the likes of Hugo Chavez, who brought more than hope to societies subverted by the US behemoth.
And yet, now Corbyn is closer to power than he might have ever imagined, his foreign policy remains a secret.
By secret, I mean there has been rhetoric and little else.
“We must put our values at the heart of our foreign policy,” he said at the Labour conference.
But what are these “values”?
Since 1945, like the Tories, British Labour has been an imperial party, obsequious to Washington: a record exemplified by the crime in the Chagos islands.
What has changed? Is Corbyn saying Labour will uncouple itself from the US war machine, and the US spying apparatus and US economic blockades that scar humanity?
His shadow Foreign Secretary, Emily Thornberry, says a Corbyn government “will put human rights back at the heart of Britain’s foreign policy”. But human rights have never been at the heart of British foreign policy — only “interests”, as Lord Palmerston declared in the 19th century: the interests of those at the apex of British society.
Thornberry quoted the late Robin Cook who, as Tony Blair’s first Foreign Secretary in 1997, pledged an “ethical foreign policy” that would “make Britain once again a force for good in the world”.
History is not kind to imperial nostalgia. The recently commemorated division of India by a Labour government in 1947 – with a border hurriedly drawn up by a London barrister, Gordon Radcliffe, who had never been to India and never returned – led to blood-letting on a genocidal scale.
Shut up in a lonely mansion, with police night and day
Patrolling the gardens to keep the assassins away,
He got down to work, to the task of settling the fate
Of millions. The maps at his disposal were out of date
And the Census Returns almost certainly incorrect,
But there was no time to check them, no time to inspect
Contested areas. The weather was frightfully hot,
And a bout of dysentery kept him constantly on the trot,
But in seven weeks it was done, the frontiers decided,
A continent for better or worse divided.
W.H. Auden, ‘Partition’
It was the same Labour government (1945-51), led by Prime Minister Clement Attlee – “radical” by today’s standards — that dispatched General Douglas Gracey’s British imperial army to Saigon with orders to re-arm the defeated Japanese in order to prevent Vietnamese nationalists from liberating their own country. Thus, the longest war of the century was ignited.
It was a Labour Foreign Secretary, Ernest Bevin, whose policy of “mutuality” and “partnership” with some of the world’s most vicious despots, especially in the Middle East, forged relationships that endure today, often sidelining and crushing the human rights of whole communities and societies. The cause was British “interests” – oil, power and wealth.
In the “radical” 1960s, Labour’s Defence Secretary, Denis Healey, set up the Defence Sales Organisation (DSO) specifically to boost the arms trade and make money from selling lethal weapons to the world. Healey told Parliament,
“While we attach the highest importance to making progress in the field of arms control and disarmament, we must also take what practical steps we can to ensure that this country does not fail to secure its rightful share of this valuable market.”
The doublethink was quintessentially Labour. When I later asked Healey about this “valuable market”, he claimed his decision made no difference to the volume of military exports. In fact, it led to an almost doubling of Britain’s share of the arms market. Today, Britain is the second biggest arms dealer on earth, selling arms and fighter planes, machine guns and “riot control” vehicles, to 22 of the 30 countries on the British Government’s own list of human rights violators.
Will this stop under a Corbyn government? The preferred model – Robin Cook’s “ethical foreign policy” – is revealing. Like Jeremy Corbyn, Cook made his name as a backbencher and critic of the arms trade.
“Wherever weapons are sold,” wrote Cook, “there is a tacit conspiracy to conceal the reality of war” and “it is a truism that every war for the past two decades has been fought by poor countries with weapons supplied by rich countries”.
Cook singled out the sale of British Hawk fighters to Indonesia as “particularly disturbing”. Indonesia “is not only repressive but actually at war on two fronts: in East Timor, where perhaps a sixth of the population has been slaughtered … and in West Papua, where it confronts an indigenous liberation movement”.
As Foreign Secretary, Cook promised “a thorough review of arms sales”. The then Nobel Peace Laureate, Bishop Carlos Belo of East Timor, appealed directly to Cook:
“Please, I beg you, do not sustain any longer a conflict which without these arms sales could never have been pursued in the first place and not for so very long.”
He was referring to Indonesia’s bombing of East Timor with British Hawks and the slaughter of his people with British machine guns. He received no reply.
The following week Cook called journalists to the Foreign Office to announce his “mission statement” for “human rights in a new century”. This PR event included the usual private briefings for selected journalists, including the BBC, in which Foreign Office officials lied that there was “no evidence” that British Hawk aircraft were deployed in East Timor.
A few days later, the Foreign Office issued the results of Cook’s “thorough review” of arms sales policy.
“It was not realistic or practical,” wrote Cook, “to revoke licences which were valid and in force at the time of Labour’s election victory”.
Suharto’s Minister for Defence, Edi Sudradjat, said that talks were already under way with Britain for the purchase of 18 more Hawk fighters.
“The political change in Britain will not affect our negotiations,” he said.
He was right.
Today, replace Indonesia with Saudi Arabia and East Timor with Yemen. British military aircraft – sold with the approval of both Tory and Labour governments and built by the firm whose promotional video had pride of place at Labour’s 2017 party conference – are bombing the life out of Yemen, one of the most impoverished countries in the world, where half the children are malnourished and there is the greatest cholera epidemic in modern times.
Hospitals and schools, weddings and funerals have been attacked. In Ryadh, British military personnel are reported to be training the Saudis in selecting targets.
In Labour’s current manifesto, Jeremy Corbyn and his party colleagues promised that
“Labour will demand a comprehensive, independent, UN-led investigation into alleged violations … in Yemen, including air strikes on civilians by the Saudi-led coalition. We will immediately suspend any further arms sales for use in the conflict until that investigation is concluded.”
But the evidence of Saudi Arabia’s crimes in Yemen is already documented by Amnesty and others, notably by the courageous reporting of the British journalist Iona Craig. The dossier is voluminous.
Labour does not promise to stop arms exports to Saudi Arabia. It does not say Britain will withdraw its support for governments responsible for the export of Islamist jihadism. There is no commitment to dismantle the arms trade.
The manifesto describes a “special relationship [with the US] based on shared values … When the current Trump administration chooses to ignore them … we will not be afraid to disagree”.
As Jeremy Corbyn knows, dealing with the US is not about merely “disagreeing”. The US is a rapacious, rogue power that ought not to be regarded as a natural ally of any state championing human rights, irrespective of whether Trump or anyone else is President.
When Emily Thornberry, in her conference speech, linked Venezuela with the Philippines as “increasingly autocratic regimes” – slogans bereft of facts and ignoring the subversive US role in Venezuela — she was consciously playing to the enemy: a tactic with which Jeremy Corbyn will be familiar.
A Corbyn government will allow the Chagos islanders the right of return. But Labour says nothing about renegotiating the 50-year renewal agreement that Britain has just signed with the US allowing it to use the base on Diego Garcia from which it has bombed Afghanistan and Iraq.
A Corbyn government will “immediately recognise the state of Palestine”. There is silence on whether Britain will continue to arm Israel, continue to acquiesce in the illegal trade in Israel’s illegal “settlements” and treat Israel merely as a warring party, rather than as an historic oppressor given immunity by Washington and London.
On Britain’s support for Nato’s current war preparations, Labour boasts that the “last Labour government spent above the benchmark of 2 per cent of GDP” on Nato. It says,
“Conservative spending cuts have put Britain’s security at risk” and promises to boost Britain’s military “obligations”.
In fact, most of the £40 billion Britain currently spends on the military is not for territorial defence of the UK but for offensive purposes to enhance British “interests” as defined by those who have tried to smear Jeremy Corbyn as unpatriotic.
If the polls are reliable, most Britons are well ahead of their politicians, Tory and Labour. They would accept higher taxes to pay for public services; they want the National Health Service restored to full health. They want decent jobs and wages and housing and schools; they do not hate foreigners but resent exploitative labour. They have no fond memory of an empire on which the sun never set.
They oppose the invasion of other countries and regard Blair as a liar. The rise of Donald Trump has reminded them what a menace the United States can be, especially with their own country in tow.
The Labour Party is the beneficiary of this mood, but many of its pledges – certainly in foreign policy – are qualified and compromised, suggesting, for many Britons, more of the same.
Jeremy Corbyn is widely and properly recognised for his integrity; he opposes the renewal of Trident nuclear weapons; the Labour Party supports it. But he has given shadow cabinet positions to pro-war MPs who support Blairism, tried to get rid of him and abused him as “unelectable”.
“We are the political mainstream now,” says Corbyn. Yes, but at what price?
The original source of this article is Global Research
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The sour tone and arachnoid approach of this disappointing article reminds me of Chris Hedges’ dissing of Bernie Sanders before the crucial runoffs with Billary. No doubt neither Sanders nor Corbyn are perfect–Sanders in particular harbors an unhealthy coziness with Israel and repeats the bog standard Democrat Evil Rooskiy meme. But, what was then and is now the alternative? Billary? Trompf? May? Erm um the Lib Dem guy? I’ll take a little of something over a whole lot of nothing any day.
Informative and well written article which engages and poses questions to it’s reader, thank you. Mr Corbyn appears to provide an alternative to a few issues that have made Tory rule so deplorable. He and his party however, are servants to a system that for centuries has subverted and undermined Britain’s parliamentary heritage. Irrespective of Mr Corbyn’s personal views he is oath bound to ensure the current system’s survival. The corrupted system we have today cannot deliver anything other than rule by the weakest for their own gain.
Whilst no-one can decry the principles of Corbyn’s campaigns for various groups around the world, it is possible to ask how an MP, paid by taxpayers not to be a global revolutionary but a representative of those who elect them, forms his campaigning priorities whilst in Parliament.
More cogently: who does he put first? Children being abused in care homes in his constituency, some sold into prostitution, some trafficked to sex parties around the country, some murdered? Or the Palestinians, the Chagossians, the IRA and any other non-constituency-related ‘constituencies’??
The evidence of 34 years as MP in Islington shows his utter timidity in campaigning for abused children in his own constituency. He was informed of the scandal by local whistleblowers, journalists etc and promised to demand a Public Enquiry around the late 1980s to early 1990s. When that was not forthcoming, did he become a close ally of Liz Davies and Eileen Fairweather, utilising their on-the-ground knowledge as a worker with at-risk children and journalistic experience respectively? No he did not. He was singularly inactive, reticent and detached. Those two women are still campaigning…..neither are MPs……
Why could this be? Here are a few possibilities.
The Islington Council, run by Margaret Hodge, had sufficient influence in the UK Labour Party to cause him career-derailing trouble, particularly if he had subsequently called for criminal charges to be brought against document-shredding council employees destroying the evidence base for negligence in the Borough’s child care programmes.
To stand up to that Council required a robust demolition of the refusal to carry out background checks on gays working with children, allowing paedophiles free entry whilst posing as homosexuals. Such a stance would have come into conflict with the trains of power imbued within the Labour Party of the 1980s. ‘All it takes for evil to flourish is for good men to do nothing’ and all that…..
To confront the Metropolitan police concerning multiple closures of child abuse investigations just prior to arrests could have brought the passive attentions of Special Branch concerning his views into a more active mode. Rather too many faked suicides the past 50 years to feel fearless in the face of that…..
He was unknowingly closely associated with some active paedophiles in Islington and to bring this to light could be detrimental to his career. This is as much a failing of the media as of Corbyn: there is no human who has made no character misjudgements in their lives, so to destroy someone for putting a mistake right is no way for a media to behave……
No-one is saying Mr Corbyn is a paedophile, has ever promoted paedophilia or has actively acted to protect paedophiles.
What is being questioned is whether his salary as MP in Islington has been more worthily spent promoting the rights of Palestinians etc rather than the highest duty of any Constituency MP, namely the protection of the weak, vulnerable and oppressed within his own relatively small community.
John Mann MP, who wrote to Mr Corbyn about this matter in 2015, made up his own mind.
The Labour Party has shown over 40 years that it is totally unfit to defend children in care, anywhere in the UK, and the Conservatives are no better.
To do this requires humiliation of the Security Services, the three major UK political parties, great swathes of the police forces of this country, the vast majority of the media, much of organised religion and significant swathes of the military, public school education and the charities sector. Some say even the Royal Court is involved….
It requires focussing funding on criminal prosecutions, not enquiry gravy trains for highly paid lawyers.
My view has always been simple: no country that treats its own children as meat to be trafficked, abused and left to die is fit to have any role leading the wider world. Of course, that may leave very few countries regarded as worthy of that.
But it might be helpful if correct prioritisation as a constituency MP was seen as a very significant portion of the decision-making process when selecting MPs for senior leadership…..
Why hasn’t the Daily Mail been onto the Corbyn-paedophile story? It’s right up their alley, and the Red Scare angle hasn’t got much traction any more.
Of one thing I’m sure: however well-meaning Corbyn may be, as PM he’ll be a disastrous disappointment, at least in foreign policy, as Pilger points out – disastrous because where can the voters turn afterwards?
Totally spot on too many of our politicians [of all parties] concern themselves with overseas issues and forget that they are paid for by the British taxpayers. Whose interests they should represent first.
I know your comment talks about child abuse and the article talks about duel standards [two faced politicians] in what they do.
My gripe as been the foreign aid budget and how it as been spent [much cheering in Westminster when in law political parties must allocate a certain % of GDP] when people in this country are in need.
Two glaring examples Pakistan proudly develop the Islamic nuclear bomb, yet millions of Pakistani’s live in poverty. yet they get a sizeable share of the UK foreign aid budget. Why oh Why?
Next I India nuclear weapons and space exploration. Not to mention owning British steel, Ford UK and Jaguar not to mention Volvo [Not the Indian government] but the largely untaxed Indian elite, whose antics make our western elites look beneficial philanthropists in comparison, yet they get a sizeable share of the UK foreign aid budget. Why oh Why?
Pilger skewers the ‘left’ in UK where it is very weak, foreign policy. Personally Corbyn may have anti imperialist credentials but he is surrounded by warmongering MPs and prominent warmonger left speakers and writers have clustered around his project… it doesn’t bode well for the rest of the world even if Corbyn leads the next UK government.
According to Guardian, a latest poll shows that majority of Brits want Corbyn to be country’s new prime minister over Theresa May.
During his speech at the annual Labour Party conference in Brighton had accused May of clinging to power by paying nearly £100m each Democratic Unionist MP.
Corbyn also criticized May government of selling arms to Saudi Arabia which is being used by Riyadh in running wars and terror in the region. However, he ignored to mention the tens of millions of arms London sell to Israel which are used to kill Palestinian-Lebanese women and children.
Jeremy Corbyn has been outspoken in the past about the sales of arms to Israel: but this was before he was leader. For instance, I remember him making a comment about the Elbit Systems (the IDF’s in house cyber-warfare and drone specialists) factory in the Midlands: and how it could be repurposed for peaceful production – without the loss of jobs. However, you must also be aware that the Party is so scared of being labelled ‘anti-semitic’; that they have curtailed their own freedom of speech to the point of being pro-Israel (which in fact, the Blairite ‘Labour Friends of Israel’ faction are). Witness the latest row at the recent Party Conference.
I fear England is just as enslaved to the ‘Deep State’ as is America. That it won’t make a difference who occupies #10 Downing, just like it doesn’t make a difference who is living in the WH.
There is only one way to take back our hijacked governments and it doesn’t involve letters to the Editor or writing you Senator or MP or raising hell in a blog.
The only way out of this mess will require an actual revolution by the people.
I fear you are correct. The track record of the Labour Party, and a fortiori, social-democratic parties – PS, PSOE, SPD, PASOK Syriza – around Europe have, when push comes to shove, been one of loyal and unstinting support to their imperial masters. NATO Socialism is a strange animal and to a large extent has been neutered, co-opted and superseded by neoliberalism and neoconservatism. The conditions for a social-democratic transformation of capitalism into some sort of caring registered charity capitalism is long gone. Tsipiras and Syriza put forward a programme for a return to classical social-democracy; this is little more than wishful thinking and a completely ahistorical reading of the present conjuncture. Social-democracy has been buried by the neoliberal transformation throughout Europe since the turn of the century. Financial and political elites throughout the region have been systematically rolling back and restructuring class relations and along with them social democratic parties and their programmes. Syriza’s call of a counter-revolution fell on deaf ears and what was left of the social-democratic parties had already capitulated to neoliberalism, or gone one step further, especially in Germany have allied themselves directly with the bankers and investors and institutions like the EC and ECB. Syriza wanted a version of the US 1930s New Deal, but this left the station 70 years ago and history was not about the repeat itself. Does Corbyn represent a militant socialist break from this tradition? Doesn’t look like it.
“Oh, Jeremy Corbyn”… I find it somewhat embarrassing that many people find the need to lionize a political leader as though he were a footballing deity: it’s one short step from populist demagoguery and cargo occultism…
I am still conflicted about Jeremy Corbyn – the messiah (or Lord Jim) he ain’t: but the man, the backbencher, and even ‘candidate’ Corbyn was/is someone I could really get behind (100% renewable energy, anti-nuclear, anti-Trident, non-interventionist, pacifist, solidarity with world wide working class movements, pro-Palestinian, anti-EU, etc). We share many of the same core beliefs (and I include John McDonnell in this): but then I watched in dismay as he had to mollify his lifelong principles on the rack of the ‘democratic’ party mechanism… so I wonder: is a commitment to NATO, the nuclear, arms, and banking industries the modern price of the realpolitik? Is that the sacrifice progressiveness will have to make on the alter of Mammon? Would a resolute and steadfast adherence to principle result in powerlessness and unelectability???
More recently I have been encouraged that, thanks largely to Momentum, Jeremy is looking to assert himself. There is still a lot I find egregiously wrong with the Labour movement: but who knows what he could do if he returns to principle – as his support is only set to increase? A popular (as opposed to populist) movement could carry the day???
Then again, there are the Tories. The other major aspect of the realpolitik is what the opposition offer: the British Dream. To paraphrase the late, great George Carlin: it’s called the British Dream – because you have to be asleep to believe it. If I were to be respectfully critical of John Pilger’s casting the pro-war spotlight on Labour: Labour doesn’t make policy in a vacuum… there is a certain conformist ‘Overton Window’ consensus common to both parties… you have to ask and contrast with what the opposition is doing: in Yemen for instance. I would refer anyone to the recent post by Dr Rossi for the answer.
Both parties are subject to corporate capture (to a greater or lesser degree). Both parties operate within a pro-war, pro-soft-power-projection interventionist framework. Both parties operate within a pro-banking and pro-business format. Both parties share a degree of economic illiteracy: for instance, sharing the economic rigidity of being ‘balance the books’ anti-deficit spending (deficit dunces I call it – the deficit isn’t the problem: debt is). As such, both parties are operating within the ideological straitjacket of a progressive (Labour) or regressive (Tory) Business As Usual (BAU) growth trajectory. That is where both parties leave me. Moving into the second half of the Age of Oil: is that were we really need to be? Wouldn’t we be better building resilience and future proofing our economy: instead of vainly clinging to the fading British Dream of a prosperity that peaked long ago??? I guess that debate will have to wait? For now it’s BAU… and adherence to the imperial war machine (as JP so admirably points out) is the realpolitik price we have to pay…
A headline currently running on theguardian.com/uk: “Now everyone can enjoy virtual reality journalism: Download our free VR app”.
Someone should point out that you don’t need the app – just read their website . . .
“I am still conflicted about Jeremy Corbyn”
I have moved away from any hope that parliamentary politics is an answer to the dire economic, social and human problems and enforced suffering in UK. I once thought Corbyn meant hope was possibly the only hope in politics…
A piece from ASH. “The Labour Party Conference 2017: Housing Policy and Estate Regeneration”
Also, Renegade inc show with Lisa Mackenzie and Paul Sng. “The Great British Housing Sell-off ”
I meant to reply to Big B seems I pressed the wrong reply button, apologies Runner77.
Thanks for the links. When I read the ASH report (and rtj1211’s comment above) you’ve got me converted: but to what? I’ve been waiting 35 years for a genuine popular uprising or mythical projection of my subconscious to end party politics – but it ain’t happenin’. We’ve even got the provision in our constitution to return power to the demos (where it belongs) – but no one cares. So we are left with a broken and binary ghost of democratic choice: and of the two – Corbyn is the least worse. Not a strong defense I know: but what practical alternative is there?
[BTW: love this quote – “…the estate regeneration programme that is at the heart of London’s transformation into a Dubai-on-Thames for the world’s dirty money,…”]
Sorry Admin. Have just reblogged from JP’s site. Many thanks for putting this article up – it certainly is an excellent piece. I don’t doubt JC’s commitment to humanitarian issues, but until the right wing war hawks and wealth grabbers are out of the LP, he literally is just representative of a handful of well intentioned and genuine politicians. Emily Thornberry’s comments misrepresenting the situation in both Philippines and Venezuela, as with her comments on NATO, makes her a liability rather than an asset. Real democracy is only being achieved by popular mass movements seen in Thornberry’s “increasingly autocratic”, Venezuela and Philippines, her choice of descriptor betrays her true colours since it better describes the opposition of fascist and far right totalitarianists, supported by the US rogue state, naturally, who are perpetrating most of the violence, which makes Thornberry a liability and a liar. So what’s new? Apparently nothing.