If you judge someone by the company they keep, then you judge a nation by its allies. So imagine you've just started seeing a guy called Britain. He's a bit arrogant, a bit reserved, maybe a bit too keen on weird sex stuff, but you want to give him a chance because he seems like he could be charming. Then you go to the pub to meet some of his friends and it turns out they're all arms dealers, oil merchants and torturers. More than one of them wears a Johnny Depp style fedora. "I mean, I know they're a bit shady," Britain chuckles as he gets the shots in, "but I reckon they'd be a lot worse if I didn't occasionally think about telling them to take it down a notch." You make an excuse and leave. Britain goes back to the table with his shots. "Don't know what the problem was," he says.
Jesus told us to love our neighbours as we love ourselves. Jacques Lacan pointed out the irony in this injunction: people, after all, hate themselves. Accordingly, Britain's foreign policy is an exercise in disowning morality. "Osborne praised for not 'not stressing human rights' in China" ran a BBC headline today, reporting on the chancellor's visit to Xinjiang, home of the repressed Uighur people. What with the Chinese media's delight at our boy Osborne's laid back attitude, and another ally, Saudi Arabia, preparing to crucify and behead a teenager, it felt like a good time to compile a list of Britain's most evil allies.
Ali Mohammed al-Nimr (Photo via Facebook)
In 2012, 17-year old Ali Mohammed al-Nimr was arrested during an anti-government protest in Saudi Arabia. In the authoritarian Gulf state, using your Blackberry to try and promote democracy is even less chill than telling a bunch of posh Oxford students to go easy on a dead pig.
Al-Nimr was tortured, denied access to a lawyer and forced to sign a confession. Now, he has been sentenced to crucifixion. That's right, the West's favourite oil-rich kingdom is set to crucify (and also, just for good measure, behead) a juvenile for peacefully suggesting that a little bit of democracy might be a good idea.
Campaigners are calling on the UK, a longterm ally of Saudi Arabia, to denounce al-Nimr's sentence and insist that he is released. But with Saudi still the number one market for British arms and the Gulf state's oil still in demand (until Cameron has fracked the living shit out of the English countryside), Britain will continue to put the human rights chat to one side in favour of flying royal flags at half-mast and getting Prince Charles to sing for his supper in traditional Arab dress. In fact, the UK is tacitly supporting the execution of pro-democracy activists by continuing with a bid to provide services to the Saudi prison system, despite the upcoming teen-crucifixion-and-beheading-fest.
How evil are they? These guys will fund terrorists, hoard oil and repress their own people – and they'll do it with your grateful support.
The Uighur Muslim minority of western China have long been violently repressed by the state. Quite how much is hard to tell because Xinjiang province is a blank spot for reporters and media companies operating in China's potentially huge, lucrative market are unwilling to test the resolve of the Chinese state. Like those media companies, the UK government sees China as a giant, well-fed cash cow that, if it would allow itself to be milked, would bring great prosperity to those doing the milking.
And so George Osborne is currently in Xinjiang – the first UK minister to visit the province – beating the drum for British business, talking big about China's plan for a "new Silk Road" and laughing loudly and nervously anytime someone mentions Uighurs.
How evil are they? They'll use the prospect of investment to get they want but God damn it you need the money.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
Ever since America made it so that happy young Brits didn't have to "grow up speaking German", Britain has followed Uncle Sam around the world, eagerly carrying his bags of Bibles, trade manuals and drones while he wages perpetual war for perpetual peace from Vietnam to Afghanistan. Britain's postcolonial melancholia is so strong – and its need to feel like a player so deep – that it will gargle America's balls in its mouth before invading half the Middle East if it ensures a good seating position at a top White House dinner.
Somewhere in the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, British citizen Shaker Aamer, who was accused of being a terrorist but has been cleared for release by American authorities since 2007, is only now being allowed to return home.
How evil are they? They're not called The Great Satan for nothing, you know.
Britain has always been selective in its support for democracy so it was hardly a surprise that Britain did not approve of Egypt's democratically elected Muslim Brotherhood (MB) government. After all, the party has the word "Muslim" in the title.
Now that the army runs Egypt again, Britain is back on board and keen to show its support. Our military is now training Egyptian troops and Egypt's Chief of Staff recently visited the UK for security talks. Just so there was no misunderstanding about quite how much Britain loves Egypt's military, UK defence secretary Michael Fallon wrote an op-ed in Egyptian state-run newspaper Al Ahram, in which he said that his country "stands shoulder to shoulder" with Egypt. That's "shoulder to shoulder" with a military government that is directly responsible for the arrest and torture of thousands of protestors, journalists and citizens, many of whom have since received death sentences.
How evil are they? Not as powerful as they were in the days of the Pharaohs, but still capable of imprisoning thousands of their innocent citizens
Islamic terrorism. It is bad and anyone who fights it is good. This is one of the reasons Britain supports Egypt's military rulers and it's also one of the reasons it supports an Ethiopian government whose commitment to democracy was there for all to see when the ruling party won every single parliamentary seat at this year's general elections. Britain gives Ethiopia hundreds of millions of pounds of aid money every year. In return, Ethiopia fights the militant group Al Shabaab (trans: "the lads"), in Somalia. If they didn't, then obviously we'd all be living in The Lads' Islamic Republic of Great Britain .
This commitment to fighting the war on terror with Ethiopia has led to some problems for Andy Tsege, a British citizen currently sentenced to death in Ethiopia for his involvement in opposing the current Ethiopian government. The UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has repeatedly raised Tsege's case but, given that it can't alienate a crucial regional ally, there's not much they can do apart from mumble something about giving the chap a fair trial, before apologising and murmuring a couple of sentences about, you know, not torturing him...
How evil are they? I know we keep banging on about Andy, but then he is still in prison.
In May 2015, the Abu Dhabi Police and New Scotland Yard signed an agreement under which the two organisations will "cooperate in providing modern training programmes, equipment and experts". A few weeks ago, UAE police visited London for training and the UK routinely encourages arms and policing exports to the UAE. This, in spite of the fact that police there regularly torture confessions out of their victims – confessions that can result in the death penalty. Ahmad Zeidan, a British student, had just such a confession tortured out of him, but the UK has repeatedly refused to intervene robustly with the UAE on his behalf.
How evil are they? I don't want to sound like a sixth form student railing against George Bush, but a country with this much oil has got to be pretty evil.
Like many of the world's countries, Pakistan is a British creation – a product of an empire that once extracted gold and slaves from the Atlantic to the Pacific. Today, Britain spends millions of pounds on Pakistan's Anti-Narcotics Force (ANF), which is responsible for the execution of hundreds of people who have "confessed" to what are often minor drugs offences. UK military personnel are suspected of having participated in the CIA's drone war in Pakistan but the UK also supports the Pakistani state's war on terrorist groups operating within its borders. Of course, the empire had no part in creating any of this instability. The empire was about fair play. And cricket.
How evil are they? How can drones be that evil if some of them have been designed to deliver Amazon parcels?
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