There are people who could be very confused by the UK government’s support for human rights in Syria.
People in Bahrain have been banned from protesting by a government that has killed countless numbers of peaceful demonstrators. Far from supporting the protesters’ peaceful struggle, UK ministers are continuing to sell arms to the Bahraini regime that is killing them.
People in West Papua have for years faced violence and oppression at the hands of the Indonesian authorities that occupy them. Indonesian troops have bombed West Papua with British-made aeroplanes.
People in the West Bank continue to suffer the restrictions and humiliation of Israeli occupation. Israeli troops use aircraft and other equipment sold by UK-based companies with the approval of the UK government.
People in Saudi Arabia, who face imprisonment, torture and death to quietly assert their rights, know that their government has for years been making arms deals with the UK government, which looks the other way whenever the topic of the country’s human rights record is raised.
And, perhaps most shockingly, people in Syria will wonder why companies that supply Assad’s vicious regime look set to be allowed to exhibit their products at the London arms fair next month.
The arms fair, euphemistically called Defence & Security Equipment International (DSEi), will almost certainly include representatives of all the regimes mentioned above. They are invited by the UK government. DSEi happens every two years, subsidised with taxpayers’ money.
David Cameron and his colleagues may be genuinely horrified by what is happening in Syria. Most of us are more inconsistent than we like to think. I don’t claim to be any less hypocritical than David Cameron. However, we cannot be expected to swallow the government’s a humanitarian argument for war in Syria two weeks before some of the world’s nastiest dictatorships are invited to send representatives to London to meet arms dealers.
The march to war is eerily familiar. The government are talking about human rights. The opposition are frightened of disagreeing. The media are contrasting war with “doing nothing” as if these were the only two options, and using the term “intervention” to mean “military intervention” as if they were always the same.
Whatever people in Syria need, they do not need yet more weapons and soldiers in their country. They do not need more war, more lies, more feeble excuses. They do not need to be the victims of profiteering or the pawns in other people’s strategic plans.
Arms dealers will benefit if UK and US troops go to war in Syria. Few others are likely to do so.
The London arms fair takes place from 10-13 September, with the main protest on Sunday 8 September. Click for more information.