Saturday, April 14, 2012

The ineffable charm of the British political elite

The Hindu had an op-ed reprint from The Guardian on 14 April headlined "The war on terror is corrupting all it touches."

The story was interesting, but it had little to support the headline, which should have read: "The British elite corrupts all it touches."

It noted "that MI6, the UK Secret Intelligence Service, rolled the pitch for Tony Blair's bizarre 2004 hug-in with Libya's Colonel Qhadhafi" by arranging for the kidnapping of the dictator's enemy in exile, Abdul Hakim Belhaj.

"He was seized in Bangkok, where he and his wife were en route to Britain" The Guardian story said. "It's been suggested they were "rendered" via the British colony of Diego Garcia to Tajoura jail in Tripoli. Belhaj spent six years and his wife four-and-a-half months at the tender mercies of Qhadhafi's security boss, Moussa Koussa. Belhaj's pregnant wife was taped like a mummy on a stretcher, and he was systematically tortured."

The "gift" of Moussa came with "a covering letter from MI6's Mark Allen, offering Koussa congratulations on 'the safe arrival' of the 'air cargo'." That "was the least we could do for you and for Libya to demonstrate the remarkable relationship we have built over the years."

The story then went on to note: "Within two weeks Qhadhafi was welcoming a fawning Blair in his famous desert tent and announcing that he would abjure terrorism and set aside his 'planned' weapons of mass destruction. The plans were spurious but the deal allowed Blair to walk tall in Washington."

The rest of the story is even more revealing about what it terms Britain's "strange relationship" with the Qhadhafi regime. "It was claimed Britain would not just deliver Belhaj but lift sanctions. Qhadhafi would welcome British Petroleum's Lord Browne, accompanied by Allen, who switched with full ministerial approval from being an MI6 officer to  a £200,000 special adviser to BP" Three years later, Allen reportedly pressed his old boss Jack Straw, "to release Libya's Lockerbie bomber." Allen was also a senior adviser to "Monitor consultancy, which helped boost Qhadhafi's world image," and he sat on the Board of the London School of Economics where one of the dictator's sons got a much publicized PhD. "The new Chairman of BP was none other than Sir Peter Sutherland, also chairman of the LSE."

Under American pressure the British government was forced to abandon its cozy friendship with Qhadhafi and take down his regime. During that process, US-based Human Rights Watch beat MI6 to the cache of secret documents left behind in Tripoli by the Qhadhafi regime, and soon the highlights of the story recounted above were reported around the world. British politicians have either denied knowledge of the matter or claimed that they cannot comment because Belhaj is suing the British government and the matter is now sub judice.

For no clear reason The Guardian tacked on a disquisition about the war on terror to the story above and gave it a completely misleading headline. The Hindu, as ever in thrall to the British world view, followed suit.

From an Indian perspective it is necessary to note the seamless relationship between BP, MI6, the LSE and senior British politicians. They are but different faces of a formidable power elite.

When Reliance Industries sells BP a hefty stake in strategically important Indian gas fields, when Cairn-Vedanta is allowed to invest heavily in sensitive border states, and an Indian company like ESSAR stands accused not only of subverting the national interest in the 2G license scam but of financing Maoists, we are not talking of "foreign investment" or "corporate policy" in any sense that economists understand.

We are talking of the British elite engaged in a game at which it has the world's best track record: cold perfidy.

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