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[casi-analysis] Call for a Conference on the "Special Relationship"

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Call for a Conference on the "Special Relationship"

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You are invited to participate in a project to organise a two-day Conference
on the "Special Relationship". It will be a national conference with
international dimension, with speakers from the US, the Middle East and
elsewhere. It will take place in Sheffield in early 2005, and maybe also in
Manchester and London. A book will be produced of the Conference papers.

The main themes of the Conference will include:
-    the origins of the "special relationship" in post-WW2 Middle East, in
particular the 1953 military coup in Iran and the 1956 Suez Crisis;
-    the economic relations between the US and the UK;
-    the $ vs.?, US vs. Europe
-    the "special relationship goes to war" - the invasion and military
occupation of Iraq;
-    the Israel-US-UK triangle
-    what is imperialism? (This has been included as a theme since
examination of the specific alliance between imperialist USA and UK needs to
be informed by a working concept of imperialism in general)
Please contact us via our website or discussion list for a full Conference
Prospectus, in which these themes are broken down into individual elements.
All who read this are invited to consider submitting a paper on any of these
topics - and we welcome suggestions for new topics.

The Conference Working Group invites and urges you to offer some of your
time over the next twelve months to realising this project. We need YOUR
help with many and varied tasks - from selecting articles for the website
and considering proposed papers, to designing publicity, raising funds,
translating important articles into English, organising the Conference
itself. Please volunteer to help share these tasks, and you will also share
in the overall design and direction of the event.


What is the "special relationship"?

The 1956 Suez crisis ended Britain's pretensions of being a stand-alone
imperial power. Ever since, Britain has protected its vast "interests" in
the Middle East and elsewhere by maintaining the closest of alliances with
the USA.
This "special relationship" is responsible for doz-ens of military coups and
invasions, the deaths of millions of people, and the theft of trillions of
Few phenomena are as important, yet suffer such incomprehension, as the
"special relation-ship". At the Labour Party Conference, Jeremy Corbyn asked
with amazement "why are we, a British Labour Government with a very large
Parliamentary majority, so signed up to the ul-tra-right wing George Bush?"
A review of the 50-year"special relationship" and of the Labour Party's rôle
within it would show that nothing could be more natural.

Did you know.

Question: what is the name of biggest oil com-pany within the US?
Answer: BP (British Petroleum), which has 40% of its employees in the USA.

Question: the ruling families of which country own two of the three biggest
oil companies in the world?
Answer: Britain (BP and Shell; Exxon is the big-gest). BP has major
interests from Colombia to Africa to central Asia. Along with other British
banks and multinationals, it relies on US mili-tary power to protect its
property and super-profits.

Question: which country is 2nd only to the USA in the size of its empire of
overseas wealth?
Answer: .you've guessed it; Britain. In 2001, Britain's overseas direct
investments totalled $902bn, 14.4% of the world total (compared to 21.1%
owned by US imperialists, 7.9% owned by the French, 7.8% owned by Germans,
and 4.6% owned by Japanese).


The motive for the Conference is to respond to the almost universal failure
of the anti-war movement to comprehend why Britain has joined in the US-led
war and occupation of Iraq. "Blair is Bush's poodle" sums up a widespread
view, propounded by Steve Bell cartoons, Tony Benn, the SWP and many other
influential voices critical of the Blair government's actions. It is a
notion which only makes sense if we ignore the fact that Britain is itself
an imperialist power, the home for two of the three largest oil companies in
the world, and the owner of the second-largest stock of FDI after the USA
(second to none in relation to its size).

The Conference organisers (at the moment, myself and a number of other
non-aligned activists in the anti-sanctions and anti-war movements) have a
working concept of the 'special relationship' which the Conference will test
and enrich. Central to it is the perception that the 'special relationship'
was forged in the Middle East following WW2, as the US and UK were forced
into an alliance in order to confront and roll back democratic and
nationalist movements in oil-rich and strategically important Iran and
Arabia. There is no "special relationship" (or only a weak reflection of it)
in Africa, Asia or Latin America. The rest of the world tends to be divided
into 'spheres of influence'; in the Middle East, these spheres overlap like
nowhere else. [I leave aside the very different case of West Germany during
the Cold War].

The aim of the Conference is to assemble all the relevant facts which we
need to answer the question "why did Britain go to war". It aims to put this
war and this crisis into its necessary context - this is why it might seem,
at first glance, that the history and current reality of Iraq's crisis is
just an aspect of a more general remit, when in fact it is right at the
centre of the Conference, its raison d'être, no less. "

John Smith (,
Convenor of Conference Working Group

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