In posts below I outlined the theory, first put forward in JA Hobson’s Imperialism: A Study, that imperial adventures abroad impoverish a nation but enrich certain powerful interest groups within it. I applied this to the Iraq war. Market events of the last few days bear out my description of the fragility of the United States’ current financial architecture. Gordon Brown has loyally bought $125 billion of US Treasury Bonds in the last few months to help shore up his ally, with my money. Brown is a man who prides himself on economic prudence, that is a move he will come to rue.
When I give talks on Murder in Samarkand , I am keen to emphasise that the driver behind US Central Asian policy was the meeting between Bush, Enron and the Uzbek Ambassador in 1997. From twenty years experience as a diplomat I can tell you that the idea that big companies drive foreign policy is not an abstract concept, but comes down to very real contracts, very real money and very real, and often very nasty, people.
The same point was made last week by a BBC report that the arms manufacturer British Aerospace has made record profits due to the War in Iraq. The BBC, for once, deserves some credit for the frankness of this report, which begins:
BAE profits soar on Iraq conflict
Work to re-equip UK and US troops in Iraq and Afghanistan has helped profits to soar at defence group BAE Systems.
The UK’s largest defence firm, BAE made a pre-tax profit of ‘657m ($1.4bn), compared with ‘378m a year earlier.
BAE said the “high tempo” of UK and US military operations was increasing demand for land systems to support armed forces overseas. BAE, which is facing an anti-corruption probe by US authorities, saw its half-year revenues rise by 10%. The firm said its sales had benefited from its US operations, which achieved organic sales growth of 12% during the period.
Overall sales at BAE’s Land & Armaments business, which includes everything from tanks to munitions, rose 43%.
British Aerospace is of course the company that provided $1.2 billion in bribes for Saudi Princes, as well as trafficking in sex for them, and had Tony Blair decide that an investigation into the crime should be dropped “In the national interest”.
British Aerospace has the closest relationship with New Labour. When Robin Cook became Foreign Secretary in 1997, he announced that he intended to institute an “Ethical Foreign Policy”. Blair was determined to scupper this, particularly as it was known in the FCO and Downing St that Robin Cook planned to block a substantial sale of British Aerospce Hawk jets to Indonesia, a country which had a record of using air power against civilian populations in internal dissident areas.
Before Cook was ready, Blair ambushed him on the issue at one of New Labour’s very first Cabinet meetings. Jack Straw led the attack speaking in favour of BAE, strongly supported by Gordon Brown. In the first few weeks of Blair’s premiership, nobody was prepared to speak against him at Cabinet, and Cook was not just defeated, but deliberately humiliated by Blair. I have had an eyewitness account of this meeting from a then Cabinet Minister.
Cook was later to say that:
“I came to learn that the chairman of BAE appeared to have the key to the garden door to No 10. Certainly I never knew No 10 to come up with any decision that would be incommoding to BAE.”
Jack Straw has always been the most pervasive and insidious supporter of BAE in the Cabinet. It was Straw who lobbied hardest against Cook’s plans to limit BAE arms sales, and when Blair sacked Cook it was Straw who replaced him as Foreign Secretary. It was Straw who lobbied hardest for the investigation into the BAE bribes to be dropped, and it is Straw who now has become, supreme irony, Minister of Justice.
When Straw escorted Condoleeza Rice around the North West of England in March 2006, a BAE arms factory was the highlight of the trip.
Straw’s links with BAE are partly conducted through Lord Taylor of Blackburn, the former leader of the Blackburn with Darwen Council that includes Straw’s Blackburn constituency. Lord Taylor, an archetypal New Labour apparatchik from Straw’s constituency machine, has lived off the taxpayer in Labour Party appointed posts all his life. He is now chiefly known as the second highest claimer of expenses in the House of Lords. In 2005 Lord Taylor claimed over ‘57,000 of tax-free expenses, over three times the average claim of under ‘19,000. he spoke 15 times in the year.
But he doesn’t really need that public money anymore, as the grasping creep Taylor is the primary conduit between the defence industry and New Labour. He has been a highly paid “Consultant” to BAE for over a decade. He also has used some of that money to make major contributions to Jack Straw’s election expenses in his Blackburn constituency, declared by Straw in the Register of Member’s interests. Lord Taylor also regularly makes large contributions to fund Blackburn New Labour. When I stood against Straw in Blackburn at the last election, Taylor was present with Straw at a black tie event hosted by BAE in the constituency said to be “unrelated to the election”.
Interestingly, this year in the House of Lords’ Register of Members’ interests, BAE has disappeared from Taylor’s list of eleven paid consultancies and two paid directorships. It might be interesting to dig for links between these companies and BAE. Some are certainly arms firms – including the highly sinister Electronic Data Systems.
EDS is another of the arms companies that has made many billions from the Iraq war. Among their many current defence contracts is a $12 billion project on electronic systems for the US armed forces. Presumably a well-plugged in New Labour apparatchik like Lord Taylor was of no hindrance to EDS in March 2005 when they landed a ‘2.5 billion contract from the UK MOD for a similar project. Indeed, if Lord Taylor cannot help swing that kind of contract, why are EDS paying him?
I do not have power of words sufficiently to condemn the institutional sleaze of a system where a scumbag like Lord Taylor can be put, unelected, by Labour into a seat for life in the national legislature. There, while a legislator, he can act as a well paid and highly connected lobbyist for the arms industry. As someone who has been deeply patriotic, I must now say that I find myself unable to have any pride in my own country any longer.
What are our soldiers dying for again?