Accusing Jeremy Corbyn of betraying the wise policies of Trump’s US and Mohammed bin Salman’s Saudi Arabia, Tory headliners redefine the UK’s sense of moral purpose.
As the Iran crisis begins resembling Iraq in 2003 — which not surprisingly resembled Vietnam in 1965 — the UK is toying with its eventual, if not inevitable “duty” to fall in line with US foreign policy, a duty that becomes exacerbated particularly when the stakes are war. This is occurring despite Britain reaching a prolonged state of utter cluelessness about its own identity as the Brexit melodrama drags on.
Though little else is predictable in UK politics, and though party unity has become a relic of the past, the world can at least count on the Conservatives backing participation in a US war and today’s Labour leadership (in contrast with Tony Blair’s Labour) opting for non-involvement. Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn counseled the government not to act or judge concerning the attacks on oil tankers in the Persian Gulf without “credible evidence” to avoid increasing “the threat of war.” This didn’t sit well with Tory leaders currently obsessed with sorting out which one of the contenders will, in the coming weeks, replace Theresa May as prime minister.
In response to Corbyn’s meddling, according to The Guardian, “Michael Gove accused the Labour leader of ‘failing to stand up for our values of freedom and democracy’. Dominic Raab accused him of ‘anti-American prejudice.’”
Here is today’s 3D definition:
Stand up for:
Engage in risky acts or demonstrate unwarranted bravado to prove oneself a fearless defender of abused rights, even if the fact of standing up for something itself turns out to be an act of abuse
Gove’s comment could seem unintentionally comic or simply perverse if the reader considers how closely it resonates with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s threat to deploy bellicose means if necessary to “stand up for” Saudi Arabia’s rights and interests. “The kingdom does not want a war in the region but it will not hesitate to deal with any threats to its people, its sovereignty, or its vital interests.” Does Gove expect his countrymen to believe that Saudi Arabia and the crown prince somehow embody Britain’s “values of freedom and democracy”?
Citing Max Abrahms, a political science professor in the US, Al Jazeera observes: “Analysts reacted to the US allegations with scepticism. Even those who found the claims credible said Washington may have forced Iran’s hand with its ‘maximum pressure’ campaign of punishing financial sanctions.” In other words, analysts with no political agenda appear to support Corbyn’s warning that suppositions do not constitute proof and should not be put forward to justify war.
But even if Iran was responsible for the attacks, there is a context of aggression that Corbyn reminds us must be considered: the history of provocation initiated by the Trump administration. “Britain should act to ease tensions in the Gulf, not fuel a military escalation that began with US withdrawal from the Iran nuclear agreement,” Corbyn tweeted. Abrahms elaborates on the context, explaining that “Tehran has the capability to commit such attacks and has threatened to interfere with shipping in the Gulf, while it is also in a state of desperation due to the tight sanctions and international isolation.”
Another expert cited by Al Jazeera, Barbara Slavin, without denying the possibility that Iran orchestrated the attacks, provided the following analysis of Iran’s motives: Its aim could be “to show the international community that its acquiescence to US secondary sanctions is not cost-free and to show the Trump administration that far from curbing Iran’s ‘malign’ policies, US actions are incentivising them.” Abrahms points out that engaging in such actions makes little sense at this point as it would harm Iran’s image. It could be a false flag operation or something else entirely. He also points to “the unreliability of [US] intelligence,” and the precedent of the 2003 invasion of Iraq on false pretenses.
If this was a false flag operation, it wouldn’t be the first in US history, especially as the CIA, ever since the notorious Northwoods operation, has for decades actively cultivated the art of devising false flag operations as a standard strategic tool of deception.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres stepped in to highlight the need mentioned by Corbyn for “credible evidence” and suggested that it be established by an independent commission. “It’s very important to know the truth and it’s very important that responsibilities are clarified. Obviously that can only be done if there is an independent entity that verifies those facts.”
Before engaging in yet another armed conflict to “stand up for … freedom and democracy” alongside Saudi Arabia, it might be a good idea to determine who actually committed the act that provided the pretext for war. Concerning Britain’s role, it might also be a good idea to determine who ultimately is in charge of UK politics.
Raab’s accusation that “Corbyn allows his anti-American prejudice to skew his moral compass and political judgment” seems just as curious as Gove’s and possibly more revealing. British Foreign Minister Jeremy Hunt echoed the same sentiment: “Why can he never bring himself to back British allies, British intelligence or British interests?” Corbyn hasn’t yet responded, but he might consider answering: Because… Blair and Iraq.
The true meaning of Brexit becomes clearer as the chief Brexiteering Tories confirm that they see jilting Europe as the long-awaited opportunity to elope with their secret lover, the United States. It may seem a bit incestuous, as the US is historically the offspring of Britain, and it may upset quite a few Brits to think that Washington’s gunslinging Wild West bullying can adequately replace Brussels’ constraining and bureaucratic law-making. But, for the Tories, the US clearly has more muscle than Europe.
Raab’s unskewed “moral compass,” unlike Corbyn’s, seems to point directly west, rather than north, straight at Washington, where Donald Trump’s and John Bolton’s moral magnetism, like that of Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush, has so powerfully attracted British political leaders in recent decades, from Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair to the present crowd of aspiring Tory prime ministers. It’s their way of simplifying the problem of “standing up,” since they will be able to count on their muscular superhero and his quintessentially democratic allies — Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Israel — to stand up for Britain and its interests.
*[In the age of Oscar Wilde and Mark Twain, another American wit, the journalist Ambrose Bierce, produced a series of satirical definitions of commonly used terms, throwing light on their hidden meanings in real discourse. Bierce eventually collected and published them as a book, The Devil’s Dictionary, in 1911. We have shamelessly appropriated his title in the interest of continuing his wholesome pedagogical effort to enlighten generations of readers of the news.]
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.