First, kudos to Britain’s new leadership team of Prime Minister David Cameron and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg. They have embarked on a second Battle of Britain.
Britain’s two youthful leaders have launched the biggest political revolution since 1832, one that aims to revive Britain’s battered economy, and restore the nation’s debauched finances.
The Conservatives and Liberal Democrats aim to slash government spending 25% over five years, shrink Britain’s bloated government, which consumes half of national income and employs half of the nation’s work force. Large numbers of bureaucrats will be laid off or eliminated by attrition.
No more “nanny” state. The era of savage austerity has dawned. Britain is in for some very fraught years. The Cameron-Clegg revolution promises to be even more sweeping and dramatic than Margaret Thatcher’s reforms.
Under Blair and Brown, Britain’s debt exploded from $540 billion to $1.3 trillion, a full 90% of GDP. “Borrow Britannia” became the national anthem.
Britain’s vast expansion of government and its foreign wars were financed by borrowing, as the economy became addicted to debt. The Conservatives vow to halve Britain’s towering debt that was threatening to plunge the nation into something close to a Greek-intensity financial crisis. How far the Tories succeed with this very difficult, unpopular, but necessary campaign remains to be seen.
Cameron flew to Washington two weeks ago to meet President Barack Obama and reaffirm the hallowed US-UK “Special Relationship.” Cameron made clear Britain remains a loyal American ally but it will no longer slavishly follow Washington’s lead, as did former PM Tony Blair, who is widely despised across Britain. Cameron and Clegg have made it clear, as I reported from Europe last May, that British and US interests are not always identical and may diverge.
Compare this British conservative revolution to Barack Obama’s borrow more/spend more policies that threaten to keep the US mired in recession and debt.
Instead of the painful austerity that the US desperately needs to restore its finances, Americans will get more war in Afghanistan. The enormous US military budget keeps getting bigger and bigger. Congress lacks the courage to cut its own spending.
The Washington Post’s stunning investigation, “Top Secret America,” revealed last week that the US security/intelligence establishment doubled under President George Bush and is now largely out of control. National security and intelligence functions have been outsourced on a massive scale to large numbers of private “contractors,” many closely aligned to the right wing of the Republican Party. What, one wonders, will happen when all these Rambos are let lose on the United States?
Britain’s former Labour government had also become highly intrusive over its 13-year rule. Critics charges Britain under Labour was sometimes verging on a police state. One of Cameron’s first acts was to order tens of thousands of street cameras spying on Britons removed and to put an end to many repressive security and police programs.
The Tory-Liberal Dem alliance is to make the House of Lords an elected body, and change Britain’s archaic, unfair electoral process, both long-overdue democratic reforms.
Britain will likely begin withdrawing from Afghanistan, which Cameron and Clegg consider a failed war and waste of British lives.
In Washington, Cameron also had to dodge angry Republican accusations that a Libyan, Ali Megrahi, convicted of bombing Pan Am flight 103 over Scotland in 1988, had been freed in a sleazy deal between British Petroleum and Libya.
In fact, strong suspicions remain the Libyan was framed.
New evidence has emerged that appears to undermine the case against him.
Megrahi’s appeal based on new evidence was scheduled to move forward when he was released on compassionate grounds.
None of the outraged American critics of Britain ever mentioned the Iranian civilian airliner shot down by the US cruiser “Vincennes” over the Gulf in 1988, killing 290. Its captain was actually given a medal.
The cost-conscious Cameron flew home from Washington on a commercial British Airways flight. This column has been urging for decades that all politicians fly commercial, just like taxpayers. Bravo Cameron! Attention Barack and Hillary. Maybe at a time of $1.47 billion deficit you could consider going commercial yourselves.
Back in London, Baroness Manningham-Buller, former director of Britain’s internal security agency, MI5, made a damning indictment of the Blair and Bush governments in the 2003 Iraq War.
She told the official Chilcot inquiry that Britain’s involvement there and Afghanistan had “radicalized” young people who saw “our involvement in Iraq, on top of our involvement in Afghanistan, as an attack on Islam.”
Five years ago I was asked to address a large gathering of US and Canadian security and intelligence officials on “terrorism.” I told them that the biggest threat to the US and Canada was from local Muslims outraged by the savage wars against Iraq and Afghanistan. I was given and icy send off and never asked to return.
Britain’s former security chief also confirmed that Iraq had posed no threat to Britain or the rest of the world. Her testimony comes at a time when Iran has become the target of the same type of hysterical accusations that were made against Iraq.
There was no link between 9/11 and Saddam Hussein, she asserted, a falsehood spread by the Bush administration that was believed by 80% of Americans in 2003. Many credulous Republicans still believe this falsehood worthy of Dr. Goebbels.
MI5 “did not believe” Iraq was working on nuclear weapons.
The Baroness flatly stated the Bush administration had manipulated and falsified intelligence to justify its invasion of Iraq. She stated invading Iraq was “unnecessary” and diverted attention from the real threat, al-Qaida. There was no “substantial” reason for war.
Invading Iraq, Baroness Manningham-Buller told the commission, led to an “almost overwhelming” increase in homegrown terrorism. MI5 had to double its budget.
“We gave Osama bin Laden his Iraqi jihad,” she concluded. Exactly what this writer has been saying since 2001.
Former members of the Bush administration and neocons still try to justify invading Iraq by claiming other Western intelligence agencies also believed Iraq had nuclear weapons.
The US routinely shares intelligence with its allies. False US reports about Iraq, many concocted by Israeli intelligence and then fed to US intelligence, were distributed to other NATO members. The Bush administration then cited them as proof Iraq had weapons of mass destruction.
Manningham-Buller’s testimony, and previous high-level commission witnesses, further exposed Bush and Blair’s untruths, deceptions, and egregious violations of international law over Iraq.
This weekend, WikiLeak revelations over Afghanistan erupted, opening the way for the truth to finally emerge about the ugly imperial war in Afghanistan.
Eric Margolis [send him mail] is contributing foreign editor for Sun National Media Canada. He is the author of War at the Top of the World and the new book, American Raj: Liberation or Domination?: Resolving the Conflict Between the West and the Muslim World. See his website.