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UK military puts earnings before ethics

British tanks. 15 September, 2020 Photo: Sgt Mark Webster

The British military complex is a shadow of its former empirical past plagued by huge budget deficits, deteriorating equipment, and a very demoralized staff. Therefore, in order to bolster the bank balance, the British have leaned on their experience in the service sector and have turned their military into a training facilitator for paying customers.

Following a freedom of information request by an anti arms sales group, it has become apparent that the UK military has recently been responsible for training foreign military forces from over 150 countries around the world, equating to some two thirds of all countries, and it has included tasks ranging from battle training to military band practice.

Whereas this could be seen as a sensible way of making money, the reality is that some 15 of the countries who have paid for the training have been reviewed by the British authorities for violations of human rights, raising the question as to just how serious the British are when it comes to human rights, and why they would agree to train such countries?

This is a difficult situation in that the opposition parties in Parliament have raised the question. The campaigning organisation at the centre of the current story, Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT), has tried through the courts to bring into force a more coherent British ethical foreign policy. But that has not happened so far and the Minister of Defence considers that its relationships, particularly with certain Gulf monarchies, is very strong and important to Britain and, therefore, it is basically giving them a green card to go ahead and do what they want.

Jonathan Fryer, Author and Lecturer

Media spokesman for Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT), Andrew Smith, was quoted as saying that the act raises a very serious question for the British government asking why they are so readily willing to support countries that apply repressive laws and have been accused of torture, or have a known history of human rights violations.

British government downplayed allegations

Yet the British government and military complex downplayed the allegations, stating that such cooperation was merely part of the statecraft designed to improve international diplomatic relations, claiming that all decisions are made on a country by country basis.

With the UK on its knees financially from the impact of Brexit and the COVID-19 pandemic, it seems that when it comes to income, one can turn a blind eye to certain events, as every little bit helps when it comes to earning money.

When the former British Prime Minister Theresa May, traveled to the Persian Gulf, to meet the leaders of Bahrain, the sole intention of the visit was to represent and sell British made weapons to the island, a strategy that is emulated today with other such nations in the West Asia region.

With Saudi Arabia also a loyal customer of Britain when it comes to the arms trade, it seems that money flowing in from the arms trade to Britain is enough to divert attention away from the repressive regimes that they sell to.

In fact the Saudi led war on Yemen is a prime example of such oppression, with Saudi bombs killing over 100,000 people in the country, making up nearly half of the 233,000 people who have lost their lives as a direct or indirect result of the war on Yemen.

British culpability

With the supply of arms knowingly being sold to the Saudis to perform such actions are then the British not an accomplice to the crimes being committed by Riyadh, and if so, should the UK not be sanctioned for its role in the deaths of so many innocent civilians?

Well certainly there's been concern expressed about British training for sniper forces in Bahrain, given the efforts of the Bahrain defence force against the Shia majority population in certain situations. And then, of course, British support through the arms trade for the Saudi led Coalition's efforts in the war in Yemen since 2015. So this is something which is certainly full of contradictions. And, again, the opposition parties in Parliament have raised these questions, would like to see the policies changed, but at the moment, there is no chance of that happening so long as Boris Johnson and his conservative ministers are in power.

Jonathan Fryer, Author and Lecturer

Yet the truth of the matter is that Britain itself is guilty of human rights abuses and has been demonstrated throughout time with atrocious allegations being made against British soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan, and of course a lot closer to home in the treatment of the people of the North of Ireland during the troubles, which saw British soldiers committing acts that will long remain in the memories of the victims, hence proving that Britain has no moral values when it comes to certain issues.


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