As the Saudi-led coalition continues to demolish Yemen, the UK’s role in fuelling the ongoing assault is becoming increasingly difficult to defend, both morally and politically. First, General Ahmed al-Asiri, spokesman for the coalition, was pelted with eggs and subjected to an attempted citizen’s arrest on a recent visit to London. Then, just recently, it was revealed that the Metropolitan police are examining allegations of Saudi war crimes in Yemen, committed with the active participation and unconditional support of the UK. As the brutality of the bombing campaign becomes harder to conceal, despite the best efforts of warmongering MPs and their lapdogs in the corporate media to do just that, the government will be forced to churn out even more propaganda than usual in order to justify its role in this unending savagery. The Bahraini government, another renowned defender of human rights and one of the UK’s chief allies in the region, condemned the attempted citizen’s arrest of al-Asiri as a “barbaric assault” committed by a “group of terrorists”, thus inadvertently but aptly summing up the Saudi-led coalition’s military campaign in Yemen.
Responding to reports of atrocities, an FCO spokesman has stated: “We regularly raise the importance of compliance with international humanitarian law with the Saudi government and other members of the military coalition and we do not shy away from raising legitimate human rights concerns with our friends”. It’s touching to see British political officials proudly and unashamedly referring to Saudi despots as their “friends”, once again illustrating how admirable our alliances are and how sincere we are in our professed commitments to ‘democracy’ and ‘freedom’. It’s a mystery how anyone could possibly accuse us of hypocrisy when we lecture other countries on the importance of protecting human rights and upholding ‘Western values’. Moreover, rather than pressuring their “friends” in Riyadh, it would be much easier for members of the Foreign Office to raise “legitimate human rights concerns” with themselves and ponder for a moment why they continue to materially and diplomatically support a campaign which has killed 10,000 civilians, displaced millions more and left an entire country on the brink of famine.
As Britain plummets away from the EU into a dark abyss of political and economic insecurity, the government is forging deeper links with yet more repressive and barbaric regimes. International Trade Minister Liam Fox has announced that the UK is already having informal conversations with twelve countries about post-Brexit trade deals; among them are Qatar, the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman, Egypt, Turkey and Israel. When members of the government announce their vision for a ‘truly global Britain’, this is what they mean; deepening our relations with tyrannical and oppressive regimes, and fuelling yet more violence and suffering around the world. During an interview with Channel 4 News prior to the EU referendum, Noam Chomsky warned that if we were to leave the EU, we could find ourselves “even more subordinated to US power”. He turned out to be correct; Defence Secretary Michael Fallon recently stated: “Our defence relationship with the US is unprecedented in its depth and scope. As we leave the EU, our bilateral relationships matter more than ever, so we’ll be enhancing our cooperation and investing more in our joint F-35 fast jet programme”.
The programme to which Fallon refers is one of the costliest military projects in history, and it’s good to see that, with the NHS in dire straits and a record number of people relying on food banks as of 2016, the government has its priorities sorted with regards to investment. This strengthening of our role as America’s leading ‘junior partner’ is an extremely dangerous development; the government recently deployed 200 out of 800 NATO troops to Estonia, and huge NATO training exercises are underway in Scotland with the obvious purpose of intimidating Russia and exhibiting NATO’s military prowess. Similarly provocative acts can be expected in future (from both sides). Growing Russia-NATO tensions could easily escalate into a potentially terminal situation. As we leave the EU and enter into a new era of uncertainty, the importance of activism and direct action on the part of the citizenry in order to protect human rights and prevent destructive policies from being enacted is especially great. Unless we band together and organise, political elites will be free to do as they please.