Through the revolving door

By Paul Flynn MP

It’s a deeply perturbing thought that 617 British lives may have been lost to serve the interests of the US defence industry.

PFlynnThe evidence is persuasive and increasing. The Guardian reports that the US Envoy to NATO is demanding that money saved on an Afghan peace dividend should be spent on new armaments. The UK military bill alone for that war was £17 billion.

A doctrine of perpetual warfare is precisely what the greedy, influential arms industry want. Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have racked up massive costs in blood and treasure. In Iraq one old rotten government has been replaced by a new rotten government. In Afghanistan the Taliban and the Northern Alliance will probably return to government in 2015 – a return to the thirteenth century.

Staggering evidence has emerged of the reach of the tentacles of US defence contractors. The disgraced General Petraeus, when he was the top US commander in Afghanistan, allowed lobbyists Frederick and Kimberly Kagan unique access to secret information and private meetings. They used these privileges to advocate substantive changes in the US war plan, including a harder-edged approach that intensified war activity. The Kagans repeatedly campaigned against peace initiatives to serve the commercial interests of their defence contractors’ paymasters. Although they were always at the elbow of Petraeus, they were not paid by the Government or the military, but by US defence contractors.

This is lobbying at its most pernicious. Petraeus allowed the Kagans to help draft his reports to the US Government. The resultant war-mongering decisions lengthened the conflict and increased the total of NATO and Afghan casualties killed.

Another sensational story surfaced recently. A taped conversation reveals that in early 2011, Rupert Murdoch sent the boss of his most important US media outlet, Fox News, to Afghanistan to persuade General Petraeus to run against Barack Obama as the Republican candidate in the 2012 presidential election. Murdoch promised to bankroll Petraeus’ campaign and commit Fox News to provide the general with wall-to-wall support.

Murdoch’s efforts to put his own man in the White House failed because Petraeus decided he did not want to run for office. “Tell them if I ever ran,” he says in the recording, “I’d take him up on his offer.”

In Britain we have news of the revolving door from the Ministry of Defence to the arms industries. Three and a half thousand civil servants have found lucrative retirement jobs in the industries that were their previous customers. The traffic is two-way. Employees of defence companies are transferred to work temporarily in the Ministry of Defence. A monstrous Siamese twin of government and the arms trade is fomenting the doctrine of perpetual war.

This is potentially even worse than commercial lobbying. Thirty years ago, top public sector jobs were seen as the pinnacle of a civil service or military career. Now, the danger is that top jobs are merely a steppingstone to private sector riches – and that, rather than serving the taxpayer, become the prime objective of civil service life.

Incontrovertible proof of the corrupting nature of this was revealed by the Times’ Insight team. They reported that the head of the Royal British Legion offered to lobby politicians and military chiefs for his private defence clients during Remembrance Sunday events held to honour fallen servicemen and women. Lieutenant-General Sir John Kiszely boasted that his role as president of the charity gave him access to key figures such as Defence Secretary Philip Hammond and General Sir David Richards, head of the armed forces, at what he described as “various extremely boring affairs”.

He also said that he used the role to secure official meetings with the armed forces minister, Andrew Robathan, on the pretext of discussing Royal British Legion business when his real purpose was to lobby for private defence firms.

Offered a sum of £110,000 a year, he talked of pushing their product while entertaining the Prime Minister and other senior figures in his private box during the Festival of Remembrance at the Royal Albert Hall on 10 November. He described the Festival as “a tremendous networking opportunity”.

I accused the Coalition of using our soldiers as human shields for politicians’ reputations. There is nothing to be gained by continuing risking lives – except to spin a fable that the conclusion will put politicians in a favourable light. Now the Government is softening public opinion for participation in conflicts in Iran and Syria.

Canada and the Netherlands have independent foreign policies. They have withdrawn their combat troops from the futility of Afghanistan. The streets of Amsterdam and Toronto have not been blasted by Taliban terrorists.

We must wait for permission from the US before we withdraw all our combat troops. We have no independent foreign policy. History will rightly condemn British donkey leaders who led our brave soldier lions into conflicts that primarily serve the US arms industries.

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