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Saturday, December 16, 2006

Blair, that eggbeater

There are people to whom a sense for quality is denied in the same way others are blind or deaf and dumb. Only the first type is incomparably more numerous - which is why nobody sees their condition as pathological - Kurt Heller

Far, far from the Commons of Great Britain be all manner of real vice; but ten thousand times further from them, as far as from pole to pole, be the whole tribe of false, spurious, affected, counterfeit, hypocritical virtues! These are the things which are ten times more at war with real virtue, these are the things which are ten times more at war with real duty, than any vice known by its name and distinguished by its proper character. My Lords, far from us, I will add, be that false and affected candor that is eternally in treaty with crime,—that half virtue, which, like the ambiguous animal that flies about in the twilight of a compromise between day and night, is to a just man's eye an odious and disgusting thing! There is no middle point in which the Commons of Great Britain can meet tyranny and oppression. No, we never shall (nor can we conceive that we ever should) pass from this bar, without indignation, without rage and despair, if the House of Commons should, upon such a defence as has here been made against such a charge as they have produced, be foiled, baffled, and defeated. – Edmund Burke, Speech on the Impeachment of Warren Hastings

A political crime is a most peculiar species in the animal kingdom of crimes, for its eggs are perpetually hatching its own negation. Investigation, here, tends towards the cover up, and cover ups tend to be defended as a necessary bulwark for society, which is defended as a necessary bulwark against crime. Eggs give way to eggs, and all of them are rotten.

The BAE case, which has blipped on the radar of the papers for an instant, and is already making its sucking way down the memory hole, is a case in point.

If there were ever a creature that, to the just man’s eye in Burke’s speech, had an odious and disgusting look, that creature is Tony Blair. He is at once today’s man, the kind of vacuity destined to be a second circuit celebrity, and a throwback – a throwback to the worst side of Gladstone combined with one of those Dickens villain, a Pecksniff or a Uriah Heep, in which the essential Victorian indecency that ran the empire and built oligarchy emerged undisguised. Or, no – never undisguised. It was the peculiarity of the Victorian hypocrite, as opposed to the hypocrite of the ancien regime, that the hypocrisy went all the way down. Even his worst vices were haunted by virtues. Even Jack the Ripper had interiorized the progressive urbanist view of prostitution as a riddable vice of the working classes. In Blair, there is no ripping off of the mask even in the most solitary moment. He is thoroughly spoiled, like a pound of hamburger left for a week on a counter in room temperature. He is wormy with his own virtue.

If we are ever to understand the mock world war in which we are invested, the BAE case is a wonderful place to start. But where to start? For the present BAE case is only the successor of past BAE cases. It seems that, since the eighties, the British establishment, Tory or Labour, spends a lot of time and energy trying to pry money out of the Saudis in return for a vast armament of the weapons of mass destruction. Oh, but don’t worry. As we know, the Saudi regime has merely financed Osama bin Laden, spread a militant form of Islamic belief intolerant of other Islamic beliefs throughout the world, and is at the moment bankrolling the Sunni insurgency in Iraq. Thus, they are perfectly sound.

LI rather admires the symbolic demands of the Saudis. Whenever they are in the mood to buy another 20 billion dollars worth of bugridden, obsolete weaponry from the U.K., an elaborate ritual ensues. First, the Brits take time off from the lectures about democracy and freedom with which they bore the rest of the world (following, as usual, the boss of bosses, Uncle Sam) to do a little third world repressing. In 96, as contracts were making the Brits salivate, they simply deported a Saudi dissident, a man named Mas'ari, to the Caribbean without really even finding an excuse for it. Blair has done the same, but he has covered these acts of sycophancy with the language, so dear to him, of security.

(As a side note: the language of security is all over the sale of the weapons of mass destruction – the newspapers commonly report on these as sales from ‘defense’ industries, which is a lovely devolution from the more robust Edwardian description of them as war industries. However, war is now unheard of in this world. It is never declared. It is always defense against defense.)

The first of the big BAE sales followed in the wake of the “Death of the Princess” fiasco, in which the Saudis held the British responsible for that embarrassing docu-drama and the Thatcherite cabinet ministers – led by Douglas Hurd – ritually abased themselves. In the U.S., I should say, things didn’t go much better. Mobile Oil and the State Department tried to keep the film from being shown on Public TV, and half of the locally owned Public stations refused to show it. In any case, the Thatcherites had made their peace with the Saudis to the extent that they were able to sell them 20 billion dollars worth of the weapons of mass destruction in 1984. And wasn’t Maggie’s son, Mark, fortunate! As an indispensable middle man, he seems to have made out pretty well on the deal. Alas, how well has never quite been exposed, as the investigation into that, by the House of Commons, was buried in the early nineties, with Labour pledging to dig it up as soon as they got into power. Well, Labour got into power with Maggie’s biggest fan, Tony Blair, as the grinning face of the catastrophe, and somehow Labour never did get back to the case.

Blair, of course, presided over another BAE deal, and there is one pending. As always, these deals exhibit how farcical is the conservative idea that the state and private enterprise are somehow ontologically separated. The whole point of being in the upper class is to have the ability to use the government as a sort of private club, and the governing cadre of any moment is more than happy to oblige. Thus, Blair’s numerous trips in which, after making with the sickening sermons that are solemnly reported in the Murdoch papers, he gets down to crawling on the ground for Saudi money. Or does he do his famous Bo Jangles routine? I’m not sure which it is.

So, here we are again, going through the ritual. An investigation. A Saudi threat - apparently Blair had fifteen days to shut down the investigation. And, being the kind of man he is, he has put the keebosh on it while droning on as though he were performing some act in accordance with the famous “universal laws of the enlightenment” that the Euston belligeranti so like to hear about. BAE stock is up. The money is flowing to the gangsters who support him – and all the little people can keep their jobs, hurray hurray! busy producing lethality for the Saudis. However – and this is Blair’s Dickensian side – he can’t resist moralizing over his own outrageous acts of immorality. You can’t beat the man for pure bushwa:

"Leave aside the effects on thousands of British jobs and billions worth of pounds for British industry," he said.

"Leave that to one side - our relationship with Saudi Arabia is vitally important for our country in terms of counter terrorism, in terms of the broader Middle East, in terms of helping in respect of Israel/Palestine.

"That strategic interest comes first, particularly in circumstances where if prosecutions have gone forward, all that would have happened is that we would have had months, potentially years, of ill feeling between us and a key partner and ally, and probably for no purpose."

Mr Blair said he was in no doubt the right decision had been taken in terms of the UK's interest and took "full responsibility" for the advice he gave. "I have no doubt at all that had we allowed things to go forward, we would have done immense damage to the true interests of this country, leaving aside the fact that we would have lost thousands of highly-skilled jobs and very, very important business for British industry," he added.

For more on the business side of the BAE deal, see Monbiot here.

On Mark “Thickie” Thatcher’s mosquito-like ride atop the first BAE-Saudi arms deal under Maggie Pinochet, his mom, see David Osler’s blog here. Thickie not only has in common with our current Rebel in Chief that he was the underachieving son of a country's leader, but the two knew each other when Thickie came to Texas and plunged into the world of unethical business practices with Texas companies.

And here’s some fun facts from Global Security Org. Read it for the fine, full blast of hypocrisy in the morning – like the smell, in a small airless room, of the results of a four day drunk!

"Saudi Arabia does not have weapons of mass destruction. [Editor's note: Global security defines WMD in the foreshortened terms used by the U.S. In Limited Inc terms, he who has a peashooter can be presumed to have access, sooner or later, to a pea. And he who has a delivery system for a nuclear weapon and pays for nuclear weapons to be developed in another state can be presumed to have simply outsourced WMD.] It did, however, buy long-range CSS-2 ballistic missiles from China in 1988. More recently, Saudi officials have discussed the procurement of new Pakistani intermediate-range missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads. Some concern remains that Saudi Arabia, like its neighbors, may be seeking to acquire nuclear weapons, apparently by purchase rather than indigenous development. While there is no direct evidence that Saudi Arabia has chosen a nuclear option, the Saudis have in place a foundation for building a nuclear deterrent.
Saudi Arabia first opened a nuclear research center in the desert military complex at Al-Suleiyel, near Al-Kharj, in 1975. Saudi Arabia reportedly offered to pay for reconstruction of the Osirak-reactor, destructed by Israel on 06 June 1981. By at least 1985 Iraqi and Saudi military and nuclear experts were co-operating closely. Saudi nuclear scientists were sent to Baghdad for months of training.
In late June 1994 Muhammad Khilewi, the second-in-command of the Saudi mission to the United Nations, abandoned his UN post to join the opposition. After defecting, Mr. Khilewi, who was denied federal protection, went into hiding, fearing for his life. He has tried to distribute more than 10,000 documents he obtained from the Saudi Arabian Embassy.

Khilewi produced documents for the London Sunday Times that supported his charge that the Saudi government had paid up to five billion dollars from the Saudi treasury for Saddam Hussein to build a nuclear weapon. Between 1985 and 1990, up to the time Saddam invaded Kuwait, the payments were made on condition that some of the bombs, should the project succeed, be transferred to the Saudi arsenal. Khilewi cache included transcripts of a secret desert meeting between Saudi and Iraqi military teams a year before the invasion of Kuwait. The transcrips depicts the Saudis funding the nuclear program and handing over specialised equipment that Iraq could not have obtained elsewhere.

What Khilewi did not know was that the Fahd-Saddam nuclear project was also a closely held secret in Washington. According to a former high-ranking American diplomat, the CIA was fully apprised. The funding stopped only at the outbreak of the Gulf War in 1991.


Amerigo Sciurofascista said...

Roger, I dream of being a self-made man in the defense contracting field. I would fund think tanks to inveigh against the evils of Big Gubmint, my best customer, and promote wars against my lesser customers, other people's evil Big Gubmint. In a fit of shamelessness, I would call myself a libertarian and label accusations against my customers "conspiracy theories" -- especially those bent on undermining my country's national interest.

roger said...

Ah, but one thing is missing, Mr. Scruggs. Thickie Thatcher, Christophe Mitterand - the armsdealin' son of Francois - and George Bush - all sons of 80s leaders, all terminally corrupt, all failing upward and taking that trajectory as a comment on their own genius. How absolutely pleasant to be a son of a cold war creep! And the bonus for world history is: they all know each other! It is a son's club.

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