Watching Prime Minister’s Questions every Wednesday makes me want to vomit. It’s not just the sight and sound of Malevolent May desperately doing what she can to save her own skin no matter the chaos and destruction inflicted on ordinary households and communities across the UK with her ‘my way or the highway’ Brexit approach. It’s the realisation that her and her Government represent deceit, dishonesty, hypocrisy and self-serving greed on steroids. They really are lower than ‘vermin’ and every week provides additional evidence to support such a description.
On July 4th 1948 at a Manchester Labour Rally Aneurin Bevan MP, the passionate anti-poverty campaigner and key proponent of a universal health service that went on to become the National Health Service, lambasted the Tories for their treatment of the poor and blatant disregard for the poverty inducing effects of their policies. He summed them up with words that were as accurate and appropriate then as they are now. Drawing on his own early family experiences of difficult poverty he said:
“That is why no amount of cajolery, and no attempts at ethical or social seduction, can eradicate from my heart a deep burning hatred for the Tory Party that inflicted those bitter experiences on me. So far as I am concerned they are lower than vermin. They condemned millions of first-class people to semi-starvation. Now the Tories are pouring out money in propaganda of all sorts and are hoping by this organised sustained mass suggestion to eradicate from our minds all memory of what we went through. But, I warn you young men and women do not listen to what they are saying now. Do not listen to the seductions of Lord Woolton. He is a very good salesman. If you are selling shoddy stuff you have to be a good salesman. But I warn you they have not changed, or if they have they are slightly worse than they were” https://www.sochealth.co.uk/national-health-service/the-sma-and-the-foundation-of-the-national-health-service-dr-leslie-hilliard-1980/aneurin-bevan-and-the-foundation-of-the-nhs/bevans-speech-to-the-manchester-labour-rally-4-july-1948/.
The terms ‘very good salesman’ and ‘lower than vermin’ sum up perfectly the Tory Party and particularly Government Ministers like Jeremy Hunt.
Lord Woolton back in 1948 was a rich businessman who became the Tory Party Chairman. Bevan was spot on to warn us about their use of paid for ‘propaganda’ via the newspapers and news channels they own or influence and their attempts to seduce us with their slippery tongued sales pitch. Hunt is a surname which lends itself to colourful amendments that fit the man perfectly. He almost brought the NHS to its knees with cuts to budgets and dangerous contract changes which forced junior doctors to take part in industrial action in 2015 to highlight the damage being done https://www.independent.co.uk/news/health/nhs-jeremy-hunt-junior-doctors-had-point-patient-safety-strikes-admission-a8030136.html to the health service under Hunt’s watch. Hunt’s incompetence should have lost him his job completely but instead he was shifted sideways into the Ministerial portfolio of Foreign Secretary. In that office his vile and dishonourable character has flourished.
In November last year after evidence from international aid groups and incredible campaigning from the likes of the Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) https://www.caat.org.uk/ Germany joined Denmark, Netherlands and Finland in halting arms sales to Saudi Arabia in protest at their cruel, conscious and consistent breaches of human rights laws and orchestration of war crimes in Yemen. Since the outbreak of civil war in Yemen in March 2015 Saudi Arabia has launched wave after wave of air-strikes and rocket attacks in an attempt to crush the Houthi rebel uprising against the unpopular Yemeni Government.
The Houthis secured massive support throughout 2014 calling for greater democracy, openness and the return of fuel subsidies to alleviate poverty and suffering across Yemen. Using a vast arsenal of sophisticated weapons purchased from Western countries, but particularly the US and UK, the Saudi Government has indiscriminately bombed schools, hospitals, civilian homes and food and medicine factories. Carnage and loss of civilian life has resulted. More than 60,000 civilians have been killed https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2018/12/12/yemen-death-toll-six-times-higher-estimated/.
The United Nations World Food Programme (UNWFP) has described the situation in Yemen after almost four years of war as a human “disaster” with the country on the brink of a “full-blown famine”. 18 million of its 29 million population is food insecure and 8.4 million “severely so” https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2018/09/yemen-undeniably-world-worst-humanitarian-crisis-wfp-180928051150315.html. The military onslaught organised by the Saudi Royal Family and executed by the Saudi military has had a devastating impact on millions of lives:
“Yemen is undeniably the world’s worst humanitarian crisis by far,” according to UNWFP’s Executive Director, David Beasley https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2018/09/yemen-undeniably-world-worst-humanitarian-crisis-wfp-180928051150315.html.
The respected children’s charity, Save The Children, estimates up to 85,000 children under the age of five have died from severe malnutrition in Yemen over the last three years as a direct result of the Saudi led military intervention. That represents the entire under five population of Birmingham, the second most populated city in the UK https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-46261983.
Saudi Arabia has unleashed hell in Yemen with atrocious consequences for ordinary civilians and children. They are guilty of multiple war crimes and consistent international law violations. No wonder not one but two separate House of Commons cross-party committees called for British arms sales to the Saudi army to be halted back in November 2016 after they considered evidence and heard testimonies of what the Saudi army was responsible for in Yemen:
“Saudi forces have been widely accused of committing war crimes during the campaign in the country, where reports on the ground suggest they have blown up international hospitals, funerals, schools, and weddings” https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/saudi-arabia-arms-sales-committee-mps-government-response-rejected-a7417191.html.
The two committees of MPs, the International Development and Business Committee, which sit on a parliamentary ‘super committee’ called the Committee on Arms Export Control (CAEC), released a joint report calling for the suspension of arms sales until a UN investigation had been conducted into the alleged atrocities.
Not only did the Government reject this Report but individual Tory MP’s on these committees issued a joint statement of rejection as well. With morality free abandon and blood soaked ink Dr Liam Fox, Boris Johnson, Sir Michael Fallon, and Priti Patel all refused to support the cross-party consensus. That was in November 2016. The situation has significantly worsened since then and as each atrocity is committed the weapons used to inflict the brutal deaths have been supplied by Britain. Since the start of the conflict UK arms sales to Saudi Arabia for use in the Yemen assault have amounted to just under £5 billion.
Less than three weeks ago on February 16th even the pampered octogenarians in the House of Lords were compelled by international moral outrage to compile a Report https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld201719/ldselect/ldintrel/290/29002.htm into UK arms sales to Saudi Arabia which concluded that they were “unlawful” and should be immediately halted. Their unanimous Report described the plight of Yemeni civilians as “unconscionable” and highlighted that Ministers are failing to make any independent checks on the use UK supplied weapons are being put to and that they were most likely being used in the murder of civilians in breach of international law meaning the UK as a country was “on the wrong side of the law” in continuing to sell arms to Saudi Arabia https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/feb/16/uks-saudi-weapons-sales-unlawful-lords-committee-finds.
Even the US Congress was motivated by the reported international law violations and multiple war crimes to pass a vote late last year outlawing further supplies of weapons, bombs and fighter jets to Saudi Arabia. Potential 2020 Democratic Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders said:
“Today we declare we will not long participate in the Saudi-led intervention in Yemen which has caused the worst humanitarian crisis on Earth, with 85,000 children starving to death. Today we tell the despotic regime in Saudi Arabia that we will no longer be part of their military adventurism” https://qz.com/1514582/us-supports-saudi-war-in-yemen-even-after-senate-votes-no/.
Sadly that 56-41 vote in favour of banning any further US involvement in arming the Saudi war criminal was largely symbolic as Trumpet Trump immediately indicated he would use his Presidential powers to ignore the Congressional decision and continue to sign arms sales licences. This is despite Congress hearing clear evidence of war crimes:
“Saudi Arabia has the third-largest fleet of F-15s in the world, behind only the US and Israel. Since March 2015, Saudi and coalition aircraft have carried out over 16,000 air strikes according to human-rights groups, nearly one-third of which have hit civilian sites including hospitals, weddings, and water-desalination plants. In August, a Saudi-led coalition warplane bombed a school bus in northern Yemen, killing 51 people, 40 of them children” https://qz.com/1514582/us-supports-saudi-war-in-yemen-even-after-senate-votes-no/.
So on the back of compelling evidence that Saudi troops have been indiscriminately killing Yemeni civilians and children with US and UK supplied weapons; conducted at least 4,000 bombing sorties targeting schools, hospitals, weddings, funerals, food and water suppliers using UK and US supplied aircraft and bombs; and the reliable reports that over 60,000 civilians have been killed directly and 85,000 children have starved to death from the consequences of the devastation caused by the Saudi bombardment the Germans, Dutch and Finish Governments decide enough is enough. They can be complicit in such war crimes and acts of human cruelty no longer. The House of Lords labels continued arms sales to Saudi Arabia “unlawful”. What does slime-bag Jeremy Hunt do only four days after the House of Lords Report is published? He goes to Berlin and urges the German government to lift its ban and continue to supply the Saudis and remain complicit in the civilian slaughter https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/feb/20/jeremy-hunt-urges-germany-to-rethink-saudi-arms-sales-ban.
Hunt and his Tory colleagues are bereft of any normal moral code. Their only concern is profit, power and big business. So what if 60,000 civilians have been slaughtered? So what if 85,000 children have starved to death as a result of bombings using UK jets and bombs? These Tory vermin have licenced arms sales amounting to £4.7 billion since the start of the Yemen war in 2015 https://fullfact.org/news/uk-has-licensed-least-47bn-arms-exports-saudi-arabia-start-yemen-war/ but their big business friends in British arms companies like BAE Systems and Raytheon have raked in astronomical profits on the back of the Yemeni catastrophe with some charities estimating their profits from the Yemen war have reached £600 million and accusing those companies of:
“profiteering from the deaths of innocent children by selling missiles and equipment to the Saudi-led coalition” https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/yemen-war-saudi-arabia-human-rights-british-weapons-trade-uk-6bn-war-child-report-crimes-civilians-a7953496.html.
I hope some of the information supplied in this opinion piece for Solidarity puts into perspective claims by US President Trump and UK Prime Minister May to be supporters of the CIA puppet and self-declared President of Venezuela, Juan Guaido, because of their concern for human rights in Venezuela. Maybe the human rights of Yemeni citizens just don’t register on their moral scales or maybe the pretence to be interested in Venezuelan human rights is just a pile of hypocrisy laden manure.
It is arguable that the media blackout of the everyday carnage and bloody war crimes committed in Yemen let Saudi Arabia off the hook it should have been dangling on as an international mass murderer. Compare and contrast the demonization of elected President Nicolas Maduro in Venezuela with the kid glove treatment of the unelected and serial abusers of human rights in the Saudi Royal Family. Saudi Arabia is the US puppet state in the Arab world and both Britain and the US turn hypocritical blind eyes to their plethora of human rights abuses while pretending to be concerned with human rights in other countries, namely the ones they want more control over. However the brazen murder of Saudi dissident and Washington Post correspondent, Jamal Khashoggi, in a planned and Saudi ordered assassination in the Turkish embassy last October 2nd caused such an outrage in the Western media that even the US and UK were publicly embarrassed.
That embarrassment, of course, did not stretch to withdrawing arms sales to the brutal regime. Imagine Cuba, Bolivia or Venezuela had been responsible for the luring of a native dissident to an embassy on foreign soil to have them executed in cold blood in broad daylight? The outrage would have been overwhelming and economic and military sanctions and retaliations would have been swift. Not so with Saudi Arabia. Their public scolding hardly reached the status of a slap on the wrist. The word hypocrisy is now synonymous with Saudi Arabia.
CAAT challenged the legality of UK arms sales to Saudi Arabia in the London High Court. They sought to challenge an earlier ruling that permitted such sales. On 12th April 2018 their outline appeal case was heard by two judges. On 4th May 2018 those judges agreed there is a case to be heard and a full Appeal Hearing will take place in the Court of Appeal in London on 9-11th April 2019.
Please indicate your support for CATT by signing up as a supporter or sending a donation https://www.caat.org.uk/campaigns/stop-arming-saudi/judicial-review. They do outstanding work highlighting the role of the arms industry in fuelling wars and conflicts across the globe and exposing how morally corrupt and literally corrupt the arms industry and the government licencing regime is and why arms conversion programmes to more socially useful production is essential.
The last words in this contribution to the Solidarity website were read out at the recent jamboree of international arms dealers which took place in the luxurious surroundings of the Grosevenor Hotel in Park Lane, London, on January 23rd. The annual dinner of the Aerospace, Defence and Security (ADS) Group, or ‘Arms Dealers Dine While Yemen Is Starved,’ as CATT and the Peace Pledge Union https://www.ppu.org.uk/ protesters dubbed it, allows major arms companies to assemble with politicians and other powerful forces to lobby for industry de-regulation and the freedom to trade and sell arms to anyone across the world regardless of human rights practices. Simon Hill of the Peace Pledge Union summed up the gathering:
“Not only does this absurdly expensive dinner provide an obscene contrast to the starvation that accompanies war in Yemen and elsewhere. It also provides another opportunity for arms dealers to exercise undue influence over politicians – yet another case of militarism subverting democracy” https://ppu.org.uk/news/alan-johnson-faces-protests-he-addresses-arms-dealers-dinner.
The peace protesters read a message from Ahmad Algohbary, a Yemeni freelance journalist:
“My country has been under bombardment by the Saudi-led coalition for four years. The UK has sold billions worth of arms to Saudi. This has been used to destroy infrastructure, kill thousands of civilians and displace millions of Yemeni people. Thank you so much for standing with us… When you stand against the arms trade and against these companies, you are really helping us to bring peace over Yemen” (CAAT NEWS January-March 2019 – ISSUE 251).
The Tories who continue to supply arms to the brutal war criminal regime of Saudi Arabia are lower than vermin to me.
Tommy Sheridan: Solidarity Executive Committee & Political Advisor