Socialist Worker

'Ethical foreign policy' is a sham

Issue No. 1740

John Pilger and Bruce Kent accuse new labour

'Ethical foreign policy' is a sham

TWO YEARS ago this week British and US planes began their bombing of Kosovo and Serbia. Tony Blair told us this was New Labour's promised "foreign policy with an ethical dimension" in practice. Two years on, arguments by opponents of the war have proved correct. Kosovo is riven with vicious ethnic cleansing, blighted by miserable poverty, and is gangster-ridden.

The Albanian forces the West has encouraged are threatening to unleash even greater ethnic conflict across the region, with armed attacks designed to destabilise neighbouring Macedonia. All this has been a direct result of Western policy. "Something went very wrong and we are trying very hard to figure out where. There is a feeling that we incubated this thing," a US official recently admitted.

A commander of NATO forces in Kosovo told the Observer newspaper last week, "The CIA has been allowed to run riot in Kosovo with a private army, and now seems incapable of reining in its bastard army." Kosovo, and much of Serbia too, is littered with deadly depleted uranium shells fired by Western planes in the war.

The promised massive Western aid to the region has not materialised. As even the main Albanian newspaper admits, what little money has arrived has gone straight into the hands of gangsters. Kosovo exposes the hollowness of New Labour's talk of an ethical foreign policy, but it's not the only example. Journalist and film-maker JOHN PILGER, and veteran peace campaigner BRUCE KENT spoke to Socialist Worker about New Labour's record.


We have a violent and imperialist government

THE WHOLE notion of a "foreign policy with an ethical dimension" is nonsense, a hoax on those who wanted to believe the best of a Blair government. The reality is that this government has taken violent international action outside United Nations control four times. There was the bombing of Baghdad in 1998 and again this year, the action in Sierra Leone and the bombing of Yugoslavia. That is virtually unprecedented since the end of the Second World War.

Each action had no basis in international law and may have been openly illegal. Arms exports have increased under this government. While Robin Cook was standing up making his ethical foreign policy Commons statement, the government was secretly selling equipment to Indonesia. In fact, this government in the same period has sold more arms to Indonesia than the Tories.

I've always regarded government deception as something journalists have to deal with, or ought to deal with, so I expected it from this pro-business government. You could add the pursuit of a scandalous sanctions regime against Iraq.

Although authorised by the UN security council, its legality is now being questioned. A report commissioned by UN secretary general Kofi Annan says the sanctions are illegal and raise questions under the Genocide convention. What we now have is a violent, imperialist government, though before we give it too much distinction remember that Labour foreign policy has always been mostly imperialist-Denis Healey invented the arms trade.

The 1997 election merely confirmed people's disgust with the previous Tory regime. That's why Blair was elected. Many Labour supporters invested his win with false hopes. Many of them won't acknowledge that this is a second Tory regime.

In some respects it is even more reactionary than its predecessor. Kenneth Clarke himself has said so, certainly. It's a close run thing between Jack Straw and Michael Howard-I would put Straw ahead! Robin Cook and Douglas Hurd are interchangeable.

In parliament there are now only about five MPs who are true dissenters-for example, who have made a stand against the huge atrocity that has been done to Iraq. Both Labour and Tories share the same pro-business ideology that uses our votes for legitimacy. Democracy has little to do with it as the Chartists, who gave us the franchise, would recognise.

On Europe there are distracting arguments inside both parties. But a great many people understand what the European project is really about. It's about concentrating power in the central banks, about destroying the last vestiges of social democracy.

The parties play a game about who is more pro or anti-Europe, but neither spells out that the European Union is about the promotion of neo-liberal policies, the dismantling of the public sector and the centralising of power. Both parties are nervous about the social unrest this will cause. They've seen the way European workers have reacted, the French in particular. They're nervous about similar mass action breaking out in Britain, in spite of the collaborative efforts of the trade union leadership.

Only a Blair government could produce a minister for globalisation like the almost comical figure of Clare Short. Her recent white paper might have been written by the World Bank and the IMF, whose propaganda says they are devoted to poverty reduction when the very opposite is true.

Their record in Africa and Latin America is dire. They are pushing a rapacious, neo-liberal agenda across the world, designed and approved by the US Treasury. In the general election I think people should vote Socialist Alliance, but they should also be aware that within the limits of the Westminster system this is a protest vote, and that what will count in the months and years ahead is direct action-of the kind that is sweeping the world as millions of people, the young especially, mobilise against so-called globalisation.

Voting only makes sense if it has a parallel strategy of direct action, of being part of the growing international movement that is causing the rulers of the world such sleepless nights-justifiably.

  • JOHN PILGER

Missiles madness

EVERY intelligent person knows that the new version of "Star Wars", the NMD, is destabilising and dangerous. People from all backgrounds have condemned it. It is quite immoral. The option that ought to be under consideration, and which has been supported by the United Nations, is opening serious negotiations aimed at the elimination of nuclear weapons. Yet that is the one option the nuclear powers are not prepared to consider.

It is claimed that it is a means of dealing with the threat of missile attack from "rogue states". But any "rogue state" firing a missile at the US would have to be suicidal, as their country would cease to exist half an hour later as the US responded.

The real danger of the NMD is it will be perceived by the Russians and especially the Chinese as a means of the US gaining a first strike capability. I do not mean to say that the US plans to start a nuclear war. The point is that the Chinese are not going to want to be in a position where they feel their own limited nuclear missiles are vulnerable. If the US extends the system to Taiwan, that could also destabilise the situation with China.

Overall the Labour government's record is very patchy. There is some progress on debt relief, they are one of the few governments that have paid up their due to the UN, and they have supported a World Criminal Court. But they've maintained sanctions in Iraq. The intervention in Kosovo was in defiance of the UN and a disaster. On weapons and war the record is bad.

  • BRUCE KENT

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Sat 24 Mar 2001, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 1740
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