Site Meter

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

British Militarism Marches On

It's not enough that retired colonels in hotel lobbies drone on about their military campaigns and kill ratios; the Conservative government's latest wheeze is to recycle former senior military and intelligence officers into an "officer class" of Britain's police forces. Plans are being floated of a Sandhurst-style police training facility to improve the quality of policing, as well as to develop a US-style FBI, a national police force.

In truth, this has been on the cards: British police increasingly resemble soldiers in terms of their uniforms, equipment, helmets, vehicles. It is staggering to think that back in 1981, when youth riots and uprisings hit Britain, police were reduced to using dustbin lids for protection. It was shortly after that that Margaret Thatcher's "stop youth in their tracks" policies really took hold, and we saw the appointment of a Metropolitan police commissioner, Newman, with experience of policing the north of Ireland. One assumes that the Cameron government is preparing the Eton Rifles for service against British people squeezed out of their jobs and pensions and benefits.

But the open espousal of plans to place former soldiers in the top ranks of the police suggests that the militarisation of practically all aspects of national life marches on. We have nursery militarism, military charities working in schools, broadcast on popular entertainment programmes at peak time, and the virtual hijacking of poppy day by the British Legion which has come under fire for militarising what is supposed to be a solemn remembrance of men and women who were killed in war and a reaffirmation of the universal desire for peace. And we know that, as a matter of policy, the British military recruits virtual child soldiers at the tender age of 16 years on the basis of some semblance of a career for kids from council estates. We also know that the British military welcomes the impacts on kids of air shows and military parades, with all their pomp and ceremony and colour, as it sows a seed that latter germinates into signing up. No mention of death and destruction, of unjust wars.

It is also interesting that the crisis in the Metropolitan police brought to attention by their extremely close and corrupt relationship with News International is being used as a lever to inaugurate change in the police. Meanwhile, the larger lessons of the Murdoch empire's behaviour, that a media in the hands of a tiny number of large corporations is corrosive of free speech and democracy, and that successive governments have been in hock to Murdoch appears, to have slid onto the inside pages of most newspapers. No calls there for a radical shake up of media ownership laws.

The Conservative government may well plan deep cuts in military spending but it is clear, from its leading role in the intervention in Libya's internal affairs, and in its other actions and plans, that it still marches to a militarist tune. And the full brunt of that militarism is to be faced by those who protest against job losses, cuts to benefits and university places, those very often who have very little in the first place. What more could be expected from the most elitist Cabinet in recent history?

Monday, 4 July 2011

Reagan - warmonger and reactionary who waged war on the poor

It is only fitting that the current British government unveils a new statue of Ronald Reagan, while a war rages in Libya, a country the US illegally bombed back in the 1980s, while Reagan was president and Margaret Thatcher the UK's premier. Of course, US bombers took off from UK bases which Mrs Thatcher had considered entirely appropriate.

In those days, the Reagan administration backed or fomented many civil and other wars around the world - via the "sons of Reagan" murderous Contras in Nicaragua against the democratic government of Nicaragua, built up the Osama bin Laden-led forces of Islamic fundamentalism in Afghanistan, militarily intervened in Grenada, sold arms to Iran, backed Saddam's war of aggression against Iran in which around a million people were killed. Claims by human rights organisations - backed by evidence - that Iraq used chemical weapons during the war on the West's (and their repressive friends in the Gulf) biggest 'enemy' were rejected as inadequate by the British and American authorities. The world lives even today with the fruits of Reagan's achievements.

Reagan's greatest achievement was in pulling the US out of the national hand-wringing that arose from the war of aggression in Vietnam, where ca 2 million Vietnamese lost their lives, alongside around 55,000 US servicemen, mostly conscripts, and the coruption at the heart of America's politics exposed by the Watergate scandal. Reagan taught America that it was "morning again" and time to walk tall and to not worry too much about the costs of America's past aggressions, but instead to celebrate her achievements. President Carter had begun the process but Reagan completed it. Eliding history is a core principle for imperial powers.

At home, Reagan did his level best to reverse the gains of the civil rights movement, cutting the largest welfare bureaucracies that employed minority workers the most, and radically increasing racialised social polarisation. For white workers, Reagan was no better, despite electoral backing from that grouping. Reagan famously declared that he did not care what the US produced - potato chips or microchips, so deindustrialising America was no problem for the millionaires who backed and gained most from the ' no taxation with full representation' Reagan Revolution. America's rotting cities are a testament to the Reagan revolution.

President Barack Obama declared an interest in learning lessons from Reagan.

In the 1980s, we talked of the 'Reagan Revolution', a metaphor for reversing the legacies - what was left of them - of the New Deal, inaugurated by Reagan's original inspiration, Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Resurrecting Reagan today is to empower and encourage the most reactionary elements of US imperial power and their supporters in this country. It is to declare that might is right and wars of aggression will continue. It is to confirm America's self-serving right to continue its imperial mission.

But there was another, alternative 1980s too: one in which there was mass opposition to US militarism and its Thatcherite backers, and a slogan was advanced across Europe when Reagan visited 10 Downing Street and the other capitals of Europe: "Yankee Assassin Go Home!"

There may not be a statue to mark that resistance, but it remains a powerful legacy nevertheless.