“If you tell a lie long enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.” Goebbels had a point. Try googling “When was America discovered?” Immediately “1492” pops up, and the man who made the discovery is declared to be Christopher Columbus. This is hard-core rubbish. What they really mean is “When did the white man first come to America?” Long before 1492 – thousands of years, maybe. The native people of America had ‘discovered’ and lived in this amazing territory for centuries. The year 1492 marked the year when their persecution and destruction began. But that’s not the truth that schoolchildren are fed. They get the big lie.
Actions, of course, speak louder than words, and sometimes those words are pious or even hypocritical. For example, the United States is probably the world’s major force in the drive to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons. On the face of it, this is good: the fewer nuclear weapons in the world, the safer is the world from disaster, deliberate or accidental. Weapons of mass destruction are dangerous – you’ll remember that they prompted the invasion of Iraq. The fact that no weapons of mass destruction were found didn’t overly bother the US or its favourite poodle, Tony Blair.
In its pleas for non-proliferation, the US rarely adds “Believe us, we know what a disastrous idea they are.” And they know because they are the only country in the world ever to have used such weapons, killing and horribly disfiguring tens of thousands of innocent people in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. And yet the US and Britain work on the assumption that of course they are civilized states so it’s OK for them to pack a nuclear punch; but to let rogue states like Iraq have nuclear weapons would be unthinkable. The almost certain fact that Israel is in possession of nuclear weapons is also a matter which doesn’t keep US and UK governments awake at night.
But it’s in the area of non-nuclear weapons that Britain, by its actions, lies most consistently. There hasn’t been a British prime minister in the last fifty years that hasn’t urged the Irish people, especially those here in the north, to settle their disagreements peacefully and through politics, and to lay aside the gun.
Does Britain put these wise words of her prime ministers into action? Um, no. In fact, it’s worse than that. Here are a few facts:
- Britain sold £82 millions –worth of arms to Israel during David Cameron’s time in office. These were almost certainly used in the bombardment of Gaza in 2009, with Israel being accused of war crimes.
- Since 2013, Britain has sold Turkey almost £450 million worth of arms. The Turkish army has been locked in a vicious conflict with its Kurdish minority.
- Since 2013, Britain has sold over £115 million in arms and £40 million in combat vehicles to Egypt. Two years earlier, Britain sold Egypt tear-gas which they used on their own citizens.
- Since 2010 and the Arab Spring, Britain has sold Bahrain some £50 million worth of machine guns and assault rifles. Last February, the Bahraini army were believed to have used teargas and water cannon to crush pro-democracy demonstrations.
- In the past two years, Britain has agreed arms deals worth £388 million with the United Arab Emirates, £170 million with Qatar and £120 million with Oman.
You see the direction this is going: Britain will sell weapons to just about any state they can find to buy them. Supposing some enterprising group were to set up a stall in East or West Belfast (or both) and offer to sell citizens AK 47s or rocket-launchers or car-bombs. The outcry would naturally be massive. People may have their differences, but supplying them with lethal weapons is no answer to those disgreements. Certainly that’s the message Britain has preached here for fifty years and more. This message appears not to inhibit them from selling infinitely bigger assignments of weapons to states with dubious human rights records.
Still, look on the bright side. This is one industry which Britain will be able to continue engaging in profitably, regardless of the Brexit decision.