(Update: Michael Fallon resigned as Defence Secretary on November 1st for reasons unconnected with defence. He has been replaced with Gavin Williamson.)
The carpet bombing of Yemeni civilians by the Saudi Arabian air force continues. The bombings include deliberate mass release on schools, hospitals and, bizarrely, cemeteries. Alongside the targetting of civilians and civilian infrastructure, the Saudi navy, assisted by other nations’ navies, is deliberately blocking the supply of food and medicines to Yemen. As a result of the destruction of infrastructure including hospitals and the lack of supply of medicines, fatal diseases are endemic in Yemen. The diseases are treatable but, without treatment, lead to death. The blockade and continuing attacks on hospitals are (purposefully) preventing treatment.
Saudi Arabia is receiving direct assistance from the British government and the British armed forces to carry out its assault on Yemeni civilians. The military assistance includes tactical advice, elite training and naval support re. the aforesaid blockade. The political assistance is jointly as an overseas PR team that protects the reputation of Saudi Arabia regardless of its actions and as brokers to ensure lucrative arms deals proceed swiftly and without difficulty. British arms manufacturers and distributors are well-financed by Saudi Arabia and the Tories are very keen to keep the money flowing. Thus, it is important for the Tories, without hesitation or qualification, to support Saudi Arabia’s actions with no heed given the mass slaughter of Yemeni civilians.
The keenness of the Tories to work obediently for the arms industry is merely part of the normal Tory relationship with the corporate world. Tory MPs are corporate plants in parliament or else (or both) they are working as MPs to attain a future lucrative consultancy non-job. The normal corporate lines of business that employ Tory MPs are financial services (e.g. Sajid Javid), businesses that acquire public contracts (e.g. Jeremy Hunt), and, of course, the huge arms industry.
Defence Secretary “Sir” Michael Fallon knows how the system works. He knows that his priority as Defence Secretary is to facilitate arms deals for the industry based both in Britain and elsewhere (particularly USA); such arms deals can be with almost any country no matter how despotic, undemocratic, violent and opposed to basic human rights and freedoms that country’s government is. It’s all about the money. Fallon alternates, sometimes combines, between the roles of broker for the dealers and public relations for the customer. Nothing Fallon does is remotely connected to maintaining the well-being of any civilian in any country that may be affected by his brokerage of an arms deal.
Recently, there has been an increase in visible political opposition in Britain to Saudi Arabia’s assault on Yemen. Fallon has noticed the growth of this opposition and its success as persuasion. The government of Saudi Arabia has also noticed and, in order to put pressure on the British government to quell such opposition, has stalled signing an agreement to buy some weaponry. Fallon, as joint broker for the arms industry and PR guy for a dictatorship, reacted plaintively when answering questions at a parliamentary defence select committee; he said
“I have to repeat, sadly, to this committee that obviously other criticism of Saudi Arabia in this parliament is not helpful and … I’ll leave it there, but we need to do everything possible to encourage Saudi Arabia towards batch two. I believe they will commit to batch two.”
He left it there. The thousands bombed to smithereens, the thousands dying unnecessarily from treatable diseases, the hundreds of thousands made homeless with livelihoods destroyed, the millions displaced – none of those people matter to Fallon. It’s the arms industry profits that matter to him and, consequently, it matters to him to keep kissing the backsides of one of said industry’s biggest customers. For other MPs to doubt the ineluctable modality of the corruptible seems to Fallon to be inexplicable. He’s befuddled by it. He is perplexed by soul, by empathy, by social responsibility and by integrity; he is a Tory.