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The real policy of England – apart from questions which involve her own particular interests – is to be the champion of justice and right; pursuing that course with moderation and prudence, not becoming the Quixote of the world, but giving the weight of her moral sanction and support wherever she thinks that justice is, and wherever she thinks that wrong has been done. Henry John Temple Lord Palmerston, speech House of Commons 1st March 1848
We have no eternal allies and we have no perpetual enemies. Our interests are eternal and perpetual, and those interests it is our duty to follow. ibid.
So also a British subject in whatever land he may be, shall feel confident that the watchful eye and the strong arm of England will protect him against injustice and wrong. Henry John Temple Lord Palmerston, speech House of Commons 25th June 1950
Let not England forget her precedence of teaching nations how to live. John Milton, The Doctrine and Discipline of Divorce, 1643
The most important political question on which modern times have to decide is the policy that must now be pursued, in order to maintain the security of Western Europe, against the overgrown power of Russia. John Mitchell, Thoughts on Tactics, 1838
Muddle and meddle. Edward Stanley, 14th Earl of Derby, re Lord John Russell’s foreign policy
If we believe a thing to be bad, and if we have a right to prevent it, it is our duty to prevent it and to damn the consequences. Lord Milner, speech Glasgow 26th November 1909
I believe the emperor of Germany hates me. King Edward VII
Coffee house babble. Benjamin Disraeli, re the Bulgarian atrocities 1876
Twas good for my country that I should be abroad – Anything for the good of one’s country – I’m a Roman for that. George Farquhar, The Beaux’ Stratagem
Foreign Secretary: Yes, someone must go at once to La Guardia.
Terry Thomas as civil servant: La Guardia, sir? ... Had you anyone in mind, minister?
Foreign Secretary: I suppose it’ll have to be you.
Civil servant: Oh!
Foreign Secretary: Now look, Carlton-Browne, this could be of the utmost importance. If you have any doubt at all as your ... capacity?
Civil servant: Good heavens no, sir!
Foreign Secretary: You‘ll leave at once ... Have you anything against it?
Civil Servant: Well it’ll mean I’ll miss Royal Ascot. Carlton-Browne of the F.O. aka Man in a Cocked Hat 1959 starring Terry-Thomas & Peter Sellers & Luciana Paluzzi & Ian Bannen & Thorley Walters & Raymond Huntley & Miles Malleson & John le Mesurier & Marie Lohr & Kynaston Reeves & Ronald Adam et al, directors Boulting brothers
February of 2001 when Blair travelled to Camp David to meet George Bush face to face for the first time. The Blair Decade II, BBC 2007
Blair was the only foreign leader at the emergency joint session of Congress. ibid.
In the spring of 2002 Tony Blair was telling Britain and his Cabinet that no decision had been made to invade Iraq; secretly his aides were learning from their American counterparts about plans for a pre-emptive attack. ibid.
Blair’s bridge was crumbling as Chirac led fierce European opposition to war. ibid.
The failure to get a second UN resolution would come to define the road to war and haunt Tony Blair for the rest of his premiership. ibid.
He could see no way out of the long dark tunnel that was Iraq: he considered resigning. It wasn’t just Iraq that was dragging Blair down, the Gordon Brown problem was surfacing yet again. ibid.
The Old Country must wake up if she intends to maintain her old position of pre-eminence in her Colonial trade against foreign competitors. George V, speech Guildhall 5th December 1901, cited Harold Nicolson’s King George V
So now we are at war, apparently, to root out the horror of New York. I would define that horror as reckless bombing without warning which leads to the mass murder of innocent people. As a result, every night on the television there are the familiar pictures of explosions in the night air, superannuated generals discussing tactics, endless talk about precision bombing, targeted terrorists, humanitarian missions, international law. And already we can see what it all means – reckless bombing without warning which leads to the mass murder of innocent people. Paul Foot, Stop the War: The Truth Machine
Such people are in for a shock. The first section of the Scott Report, which has been widely leaked, deals with the history of arms export control. The judge, who gleefully sequestrated the funds of the South Wales NUM during the miners’ strike, is no socialist or rebel. His attitude to government control of arms exports is that it has been far too strict.
He is disgusted that the government has used a short draconian measure passed during the wartime emergency of 1939, which effectively gave ministers complete power over all arms exports. This, the Lord Justice thinks, is an appalling interference with the inalienable right of businessmen to export what they want, including the means of slaughter. He believes that, if the government wants to control such commendable free enterprise, it must move cautiously with carefully constructed statutes which allow enormous leeway for free marketeers. Paul Foot, article May 1995, ‘Arms Dealing: Will They Get Off Scot Free?’
The advantages of arms exports are obvious. They produce a high return, and can be kept utterly secret from the public. They are in constant demand all over the world. Yet their disadvantages lead to equally obvious problems. Arms are needed most where wars are being waged – wars which ‘responsible’ democratic governments such as the British government are usually trying (at any rate in public statements at the United Nations) to stop.
The big conflicts which are the real honeypot for the arms exporting industries are almost always subject to embargoes. The Iran-Iraq war was no exception. To keep up its wholly unjustified reputation as a peacekeeper, the British government had to be seen to be discouraging arms exports to either side.
Hence the notorious ‘guidelines’ to industry, announced in parliament in 1985, which banned the export of any ‘lethal equipment’ to the warring countries. Against the guidelines were ranged all those who wanted to make money by killing Iranians or Iraqis. These exporters had considerable support in the ministry of defence and the department of trade. Alan Clark, a wild Thatcherite eccentric, served in both ministries from 1986 to 1992, and went on record as denouncing the guidelines. If there was a war between two sets of foreigners a long way away, he argued, why not make some decent foreign exchange by selling both sides as many arms as they wanted? ibid.
The Gulf War quickly tore the uneasy compromise apart. The embargo had to be imposed more fiercely than ever. All sorts of curious characters were caught up in the process. Three British directors of Matrix Churchill, a Midlands firm owned by Iraqi government supporters which had been happily exporting machine tools for use in Saddam’s artillery factories, suddenly found themselves prosecuted.
Their defence was that the government and MI6 had supported them throughout. When their defence was proved by documents wrung from a reactant civil service, the case collapsed – and the government nearly collapsed too. Major survived only by setting up the Scott inquiry and giving it more powers to wrest the facts from the government machine than had ever been given to any public inquiry in British history.
As a result, Scott found himself beavering away in the cracks of the system. Since the whole ‘solution’ to the arms for Iran-Iraq problem had been based on lying to parliament and the public, Scott was horrified to discover an enormous network of deceit. There can be no doubt that his report will be a hideous embarrassment to government ministers, law officers and the civil service.
Even if, as seems likely, he lets the merchants of death off lightly, he cannot excuse, for instance, serial deception of parliament and blatant contempt for the most basic rules of fair play to defendants. The shortcomings of the whole saga quickly fade beside the altogether exhilarating prospect of at least some official confirmation of what socialists have always propounded: that lying, cheating and double talk are not just incidental to the system. They are essential to it. ibid.
One of the reasons the ruling class in this society survive is because they keep from us what they do in spite of parliamentary institutions. The ruling class have to protect themselves against democracy and that’s what this story is about.
The Scott inquiry is the most important public inquiry ever held in the history of British politics for this reason.
It was set up in a tremendous panic. The government had their backs to the wall, and in order to convince people that it wasn’t just another whitewash they insisted all the old rules about previous inquiries would be dispensed with. Paul Foot, lecture Marxism 95 conference & article ‘What Have They Got to Hide? Tories, Arms & The Scott Report’ 19th August 1995