Sanctions and the Hypocrisy of Washington and London

Sanctions and the Hypocrisy of Washington and London

On March 4 this year a British spy and former Russian citizen, Sergei Skripal, was poisoned in the town of Salisbury, England. He recovered, as did his daughter who had also been affected, and is now in deep security with a new face and name and an increase to his already generous British salary. The toxin involved was a nerve agent usually referred to as Novichok. The British government immediately blamed the Russian government for the incident and ten days after it took place the BBC reported that the British prime minister had expelled 23 Russian diplomats which she described as “actions to dismantle the Russian espionage network in the UK.”

It is notable that it took only ten days for the British government to decide to take action against Russia, in spite of there being no proof whatever that the Russian government was involved in the toxin-induced collapse of Skripal. And London didn’t only expel diplomats, it cancelled all high-level bilateral contacts with Russia and froze “Russian state assets where there is evidence that they may be used to threaten the life or property of UK nationals or residents.”

Then Washington joined in, expelling 60 diplomats, and Reuters reported that “US sanctions against Russia tied to a nerve agent attack in Britain” would add “to the array of economic penalties it has imposed on Moscow in recent years.”

The definition of “sanction” is generally accepted as being “an economic or military coercive measure adopted usually by several nations in concert for forcing a nation violating international law to desist or yield to adjudication” (Merriam Webster), or in the same vein, but with slightly different emphasis, “measures taken by a state to coerce another to conform to an international agreement or norms of conduct” (Oxford).

The swift imposition of sanctions against Russia by the United Kingdom and the United States was presumably taken because of their high moral principles, in that the Trump Administration in Washington and the May Government in London were shocked — shocked — by what they regarded as an international crime. To their minds the “norms of conduct” had been violated and it was necessary to punish the country that they alleged had done something wrong, even if there was no evidence that Russia was responsible for violating any national or international law.

Now we come to their actions following the murder of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Turkey, after he entered the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul on October 2 and was never seen again by anyone in the outside world. There were many reports that hard evidence in video of his torture and death was held by the Turks, but they played things down, presumably because they didn’t want the world to know they spy on diplomatic missions of various countries, which would excite the amusement of such organisations as the CIA and the British techno-dweeb spy agency, Government Communications Headquarters, or GCHQ. (For example, Germany’s Federal Prosecutor, Harald Range, stated on June 4, 2014 that “sufficient factual evidence exists that unknown members of the US intelligence services spied on the mobile phone of Chancellor Angela Merkel” and in the superbly named “Operation Socialist” the previous year, GCHQ had hacked in to “Belgacom, Belgium’s largest telecommunications provider, which serves millions of people across Europe.”)

According to Voice of America, “Saudi officials at first said that Khashoggi walked out of the consulate and that they did not know his whereabouts. Then they said he died in a fistfight in the consulate. Then they said Khashoggi was killed in a chokehold when he tried to leave the consulate to call for help.” But VOA reported that the only certain proof of his murder is a voice tape that was listened to by CIA Director Gina Haspel when she visited Turkey on October 22. The BBC noted that “Turkey's Sabah newspaper said she had listened to audio recordings of Khashoggi's interrogation and death, but gave no details about the contents or how the audio had been obtained.”

Gina Haspel is a person who has much experience with torture, and when asked about it during her confirmation hearing before the US Senate Intelligence Committee behaved in exactly the manner one would expect of a dedicated intelligence professional:

“Senator Kamala Harris, of California, asked her a simple question: ‘Do you believe that the previous interrogation techniques were immoral?’ Those techniques — acts of torture adopted by the CIA in the years after the 9/11 attacks — included repeated waterboarding, confinement in a coffin-like box, exposure to extreme temperatures, sleep deprivation, and forced rectal infusions. After a pause, Haspel began to answer, in careful tones, ‘Senator, I believe that CIA officers, to whom you refer —‘

‘It’s a yes-or-no answer,’ Harris said. She clarified, ‘I’m not asking, do you believe they were legal? I’m asking, do you believe they were immoral?’

There was another pause, and then Haspel, again, dodged the question. ‘Senator, I believe that the CIA did extraordinary work to prevent another attack on this country, given the legal tools that we were authorized to use’.”

Then she declared “under my leadership, on my watch, CIA will not restart such a detention and interrogation programme.” She refused to answer the question “Do you believe in hindsight that those techniques were immoral?”

In other words, she knew exactly what was going on, but it didn’t even cross her mind that she should protest or resign because “those techniques” were illegal, immoral and made you dead. So she’s exactly the sort of person who would fully understand the vicious, disgusting, remorselessly savage treatment of the doomed Mr Khashoggi. In other words, she is a total hypocrite.

Which takes us back to the actions of the United States and the United Kingdom following the Khashoggi murder on October 2.

When the Saudis stated that Khashoggi died in a fistfight in its consulate, Donald Trump said this was credible and a “good first step.” Then on October 23, three weeks after the murder, the United States announced that Washington is “taking appropriate actions” against Saudi Arabia. These “appropriate actions” involve revoking visas of those identified as being involved in the murder in Istanbul.

Then the Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, who had travelled to Saudi Arabia to smilingly discuss the murder of Khashoggi with the Saudi dictator, Mohammad bin Salman, declared “These penalties will not be the last word on this matter from the United States. We will continue to explore additional measures to hold those responsible accountable.”

On the other side of the Atlantic, Germany’s Chancellor Merkel, an outstanding Western leader with moral convictions she actually puts into practice, said “The case of journalist Khashoggi is, of course, something incredible, I told the Saudi king yesterday in our telephone conversation. We need to clarify the background of this horrible crime and until then, we will not supply weapons to Saudi Arabia.”

And what happened in Westminster, London’s stronghold of moral values?

Three weeks after the Khashoggi murder it was announced that Prime Minister Theresa May “said the Home Secretary is taking action against all suspects in the murder of Mr Khashoggi to prevent them entering the UK. If these individuals have visas, they are being revoked.”

There is no question of cessation of all the lucrative arms sales, or sanctions — or any other action whatever — against a country that clearly violated international law by torturing and killing one of its citizens.

All is explained on the Washington side by Lockheed Martin’s chief executive Marillyn Hewson who announced on October 25 that “Lockheed has made selling to foreign governments a key target for growth. Further, “Hewson said her company’s international sales had jumped from 17 percent of total sales in 2013 to 30 percent in 2017. Saudi Arabia played a key role in that growth, she said, and made it clear that the relationship would continue. ‘Saudi Arabia has expressed its intent to procure integrated air and missile defence systems, combat ships, helicopters, surveillance systems and tactical aircraft in coming years’.”

Members of the European Parliament voted to “impose an EU-wide arms embargo on Saudi Arabia”, but the selectively righteous Prime Minister May paid no attention, which is not surprising because the UK’s arms deals with the Saudi dictatorship are extremely lucrative, and she rejected a call in her own Parliament to end sales.

The message is clear: The US and Britain are determined to damage and if possible destroy Russia, and will continue to use whatever means they can to do this, by military confrontation and inflicting economic sanctions. On the other hand they are steadfast in their resolve to support the Saudi dictatorship in pursuit of their money-spinning arms industries, no matter what evil excesses may be perpetrated by the Riyadh regime.

In other words, they are complete hypocrites.