The following is an archived copy of a message sent to a Discussion List run by the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq.

Views expressed in this archived message are those of the author, not of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq.

[Main archive index/search] [List information] [Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq Homepage]

[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

Ethical Foreign Policy

I know there has been a huge number of messages recently, but I felt I
could not let Alan Bates praise of Blair and Cook go unanswered.

(For the record, Alan, yes, of course you are right about international
intervention being necessary. I am a socialist but a prohibition on
international intervention doesn't form any part of my conception of
socialism. I can see where it comes from - Chomsky offers perhaps the
most compelling arguments for it in his work - but it's just a logical
leap too far. The fact that international interventions have
overwhelmingly been detrimental, since WWII, doesn't mean they always
would be. I have never seen any argument that gets from one to the other -
it's just a logical leap.)

Here are some excerpts from Campaign Against Arms Trade's latest
newsletter. For the last two and a half years they have been supplying
copious evidence that this Labour Government has never, in practice, had
anything anywhere near resembling an Ethical Foreign Policy. In any case,
I've said this before, how can a government that is actively complicit in
the sanctions, not only upholding them but working in the UN for their
continuation, be described as in any way ethical? To me, it just beggars

See particularly the last paragraph of this excerpt, below.


As you are all doubtless aware, the embargo on arms to Indonesia has been
lifted. Despite the destabalisation of the whole region and the extremely
fragile democracy in Indonesia, the arms exporters have been given the
green light to carry on arming the Indonesian generals. 


Arms to Zimbabwe

On 20th January, 'The Guardian' broke the news that the Government was
licensing the export to Zimbabwe of spare parts for Hawk aircraft. The
spare parts will enable the Zimbabwean government to carry out more
bombing raids on the Congo, resulting in even more civilian deaths, and
even more misery, than at present.

Protests erupted immediately the story broke. The Liberal Democrats, the
leader writer of 'The Guardian, 'The Independent' and, of course, CAAT,
were horrified. The editor of Zimbabwes leading non-governmental
newspaper, the 'Zimbabwe Independen', felt the sale was prompted 'purely'
by economic considerations. 'The British government', he said, 'was
opposed to Zimbabwes involvement in the Congo war  and is opposed to human
rights abuses perpetrated by the Mugabe regime, but it is willing to
support the Mugabe government by selling it arms.' (Guardian, 21.1.00) 

Even from the Tories 

The Conservative Shadow Foreign Secretary, John Maples MP, said 'Zimbabwe
has an appalling record on human rights, economic mismanagement,
government corruption and abuse of aid. Tony Blairs decision to sell them
parts for Hawk fighter jets shows what a shambles Labours ethical foreign
policy is in  If there are any countries in the world to which Robin Cooks
ethical foreign policy should prevent arms sale, Zimbabwe is clearly one
of them.'

Blairs decision 

It seems that John Maples is right in describing the decision as being the
Prime Ministers. Report after report says that he is overruling Foreign
Secretary Robin Cook on arms export decisions. The arms company lobbyists
appear to have Tony Blair in their pockets. Government policy is dictated
by business. 

Leaks to the press seem to be the only recourse for those unhappy with the
decisions, while Mr Cook comes up with less than plausible explanations to
justify policies he seemingly does not agree with. Governments come into
power to make new policies and change the status quo, yet the Foreign
Secretary, nearly three years into government, said the UK had to allow
the sale the spare parts because it had permitted the export of the Hawks
in the early 1980s. This is nonsense  no Government has to issue an export
licence because its predecessor did. 

Clare Short missing? 

The press reports all say that there was a difference of opinion between
Foreign Office on the one hand, and the Ministry of Defence and Department
of Trade and Industry on the other, before Tony Blair intervened. None of
the press reports, though, mentioned the International Development
Secretary, Clare Short, even though her Department would have had the
chance to make its views known. What happened here? 

Export Credit support? Another question is whether the Hawk parts sale
will be underwritten by Export Credit Guarantees. Zimbabwe is heavily
indebted, and John Makumbe, a lecturer at the University of Zimbabwe, asks
how his government can find money for spare parts for the Congo war, when
there is no money for fuel and people are daily walking 20 km to
work. However, the Chancellor of the Exchequer Zimbabwe did not include
Zimbabwe in his list of countries where weapons purchases will not be
underwritten by Export Credits. See pages belowfor more details. 

* Write to the Rt Hon Tony Blair MP, Prime Minister, 10 Downing Street,
London SW1A 2AA expressing your dismay at his decision to sell arms to a
government embroiled in a war, with an appalling human rights record, and
disastrous economic situation. You could also say that if he changes his
mind, and backs a truly ethical foreign policy. This would be a hugely
popular move.


And Arms to Pakistan

The storm over arms for Zimbabwe may be the prelude to an even fiercer
controversy over Pakistan. On 12 January 'The Guardian' (again) revealed
that the government was considering lifting the restrictions on arms sales
which it has maintained since the military coup last year. 

This article first brought into the open a long-standing split between the
Foreign Office and the Department of International Development on the one
hand and the DTI, for which all exports are good exports, and the MoD on
the other. The Foreign Office, even without Cook and his ethics, has to
think of other things, such as the countrys international repute. But in
this case too it seems that the Prime Minister is likely to come down
against it. Tension is still acute The history of Pakistan for the last 40
years has been a difficult one. Military dictatorships have alternated
with civilian governments which have collapsed in scandal and
corruption. Its rulers are obsessed by the quarrel with India over
Kashmir. The two countries fought a full-scale war over that territory in
1965, and there was fighting on the frontier last summer. Tension is still
acute, and war could break out at any moment. If it does, it could well
become nuclear. Is this the time to add to Pakistans military capacity? 

Nuclear programme 

Since 1991 the US Congress has banned arms sales to Pakistan because ot
its nuclear weapons programme. Other countries have tried to fill the gap,
and so far France has been more successful than the UK, winning orders for
40 Mirage fighters and 3 submarines. It briefly suspended deliveries last
summer but announced their renewal in November.

Selling to virtually anyone 

The UK sold some elderly frigates and helicopters in the early 90s, but
since then its exports have consisted mainly of components, such as
head-up displays for the French fighters. However, 119 licences for
military equipment were issued in 1998. And even if our sales would not be
of overwhelming practical importance, their moral and political
significance would be huge, signalling that this government is willing to
sell weapons to virtually anyone. 


This is a discussion list run by the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq
For removal from list, email
Full archive and list instructions are available from the CASI website:

[Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq Homepage]