|Cameron with Bahraini Tyrant|
Today, David Cameron is to make a speech in Jakarta, Indonesia - predictably already leaked to the press - in which he will attempt to make an impassioned plea to the Muslim world, to reject extremism and embrace democracy. I can see no reason why that shouldn't be feasible, and also a decent idea.
What I reject is a hypocrite like Mr Cameron feeling he has the right to tell them this
Citing the "extraordinary journey" of Indonesia since the end of the Suharto regime in 1998 as an "example" the rest of the world can follow, the Prime Minister is to say:
"What Indonesia shows is that in the world's largest Muslim-majority country, it is possible to reject this extremist threat and prove that democracy and Islam can flourish alongside each other."
A Brief Indonesian History
General Suharto's reign of terror ran from 1966 to 1998, with the most fervent Western backing. In the 1965-66 coup in which he deposed the former President Sukarno, his forces are estimated to have killed between 500,000 and 1 million "communist sympathisers" in a pogrom. Western intelligence supplied him with "hit-lists", rubber-stamped by JFK and Harold Macmillan.
His embrace of globalisation and neoliberalism was praised among Western commentators as a "model" for others to follow.
In 1975, he invaded tiny East Timor, wiping out 200,000 civilians - or one third of the population. This was done to allow international oil and gas companies to exploit the rich seabed of the East Timorese coast. This they duly did.
In 1997, the Indonesian economy crashed under the weight of debt, corruption and short-term speculation; following this General Suharto resigned in 1998, to the tune of a "severance" package estimated at $15 billion - or one eighth of his country's national debt.
The only reason that exists for Indonesia's shaky transition to parliamentary democracy - or "extraordinary journey", as our Prime Minister puts it - is that they spent the previous thirty years under a brutal junta ruled, funded and armed by the West - primarily the US, the UK and Australia.
In Blair's first year in office (and Suharto's last) he approved eleven arms deals to Indonesia under cover of the Official Secrets Act, making the UK Suharto's biggest arms supplier in 1997.
|Blair's first foreign sec, Robin "Ethical" Cook|
- with Indonesian tyrant Suharto
"One of our best and most valuable friends."
- Margaret Thatcher on Suharto.
John Major's Foreign Secretary Douglas Hurd championed Suharto's "Asian values."
Is it not strange that Cameron mentions nothing of the mistakes of his office's predecessors, and indeed of members of his own party? In a speech dedicated to condemning "repression of peoples", "corrupt elites," and "authoritarian leaders", made in a city and country which has very recently experienced all of these things at the hands of a brutal, corrupt, authoritarian regime enthusiastically funded and armed by the UK, is it not strange, disrespectful even, not to at least acknowledge even some of this, if not outright apologise for it? Surely if he was being authentic, the Prime Minister would?
Of course, there is nothing strange about it, indeed it is unsurprisingly obscene, and entirely in-keeping with the standards of British foreign policy. Devoid of ethics or authenticity.
But that's all in the past, right?
Wrong. People who point to the Libyan example are deluding themselves. Libya represents a windfall of cash for oil companies. Gaddafi and the rebel forces were engaged in a civil war - neither was committing genocide. Incidentally, many factions of the rebels we funded and armed and backed with airstrikes have a substantial orientation towards the extremist Islamism Cameron feels is such a cause for concern. The rebels have been busy wiping out Black Africans too, on the flimsy basis they might be former Gaddafi mercenaries.
A power vacuum which is sucking in other areas of Northern Africa, Mali being an obvious example, is validating that old law of unintended consequences - consequences about which the British political and media establishment no longer seem to give a jot. We've done "our bit", now let democracy work and the oil flow! This is how we should've done it in Iraq folks! Get in, blow the place up, plunder the resources and get the heck out!
For Cameron to cry Democracy! is incredibly insulting to many regimes in the Middle East and Central Asia with large Muslim populations who remain under the brutal yoke of Western armed-and-backed regimes. From Karimov in Uzbekistan, to the Princes of Saudi Arabia, they are many and their human rights records long and grisly.
I am just going to use one particularly ugly and current example.
When the Arab Spring kicked off, the people of Bahrain weren't slow out of the blocks. Their Shia majority revolted and demanded democracy.
Bahraini King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa responded predictably - with overwhelming force. Indeed, that still wasn't enough, and Saudi Arabian troops were drafted in to massacre hundreds if not thousands of protestors.
David Cameron authorised the sale of £2.2 billion in arms sales to Bahrain, when the repression and unrest was at its height.
So, truly, what of Mr Cameron's alleged values of anti-authoritarianism and democracy?
They are absurd hypocrisies.
Syria was one of the main focuses of Cameron's speech, and I don't have a lot to say on the matter except that in light of everything above, this part of the speech was as equally vacuous as the rest.
To simplify it all, I'll just say this: Syria is the final stepping stone, and indeed last regional ally, of the Iranian regime. And Iran's natural resources are the last, and greatest, prize of the lot.