The British pretense around human rights and democracy is so transparently thin now that I am surprised that anyone anywhere any longer buys it. The British state was deeply involved in the creation of this despotism [Saudi regime] to begin with, and many other despotisms in the region and elsewhere. It has kept such despotism and it will persist to do so until the last drop of blood.
This January George Galloway, a prominent British politician, writer, and fierce advocate for both civil liberties and people’s right to self-political determination opened up to Catherine Shakdam, commentator and journalist, in an interview with Khamenei.ir, relaying his thoughts on recent developments in the Middle East – mainly Saudi Arabia’s destructive policies and Western powers’ inclination to overindulge the House of Saud for fear of economic repercussions.
CATHERINE SHAKDAM – How would you define the UK-Saudi relations in view of Riyadh’s aggravated human rights violations? More importantly how does the government reconcile al-Saud’s despotism to its self-proclaimed democratic values?
GEORGE GALLOWAY – The British pretense around human rights and democracy is so transparently thin now that I am surprised that anyone anywhere any longer buys it. The British state was deeply involved in the creation of this despotism to begin with, and many other despotisms in the region and elsewhere. It has kept such despotism and it will persist to do so until the last drop of blood. And ever there is a shift, the Establishment will make sure that this shift is in their favor, or at least they will make sure they minimize their losses. Britain is not a democracy, it is a hypocrisy. And no one should be surprise any longer at the behavior of the British state, no more than when the frog was stung by the scorpion while crossing the river … it is in the nature of the scorpion to sting. An imperialist country behaves as it does because it is an imperialistic country.
– Why do you think though that the public in UK is under the impression that their government still stands and promotes such values as political self-determination, civil liberties and other democratic principles?
– There are few levels to this. The first one is good news: Fewer people today trust and believe their governments … fewer than in any given time in history. There are millions of switched on British people – mainly young people, but not only – who know that their government’s role in the world is very much removed from what officials have claimed. They understand the hypocrisy of the state! The reason for that is the spread of alternative media, the internet, social media: twitter, facebook etc … People know that if they want to, they can know the truth, and that’s the good news!
There are two other levels: – one, there is a great number of British people who don’t know anything about foreign affairs, and who couldn’t place Saudi Arabia on a map, and in any case are more pre-occupied with the miseries and insecurities of their own lives. And those are in their millions, maybe 10 million … And then there is a last segment of people who have a false consciousness about their country, about its role in the world, its history, and those have bought into the propaganda of the empire – this idea that the empire is civilizing the world, that Muslims are the dark others, that the Arab are sand-jockeys and other prejudices. Britain comprises all three of these people.
Our role is to increase those who are switched on, and want to see positive change in the world!
– Are capitalism and interests now running world affairs? Looking at Britain’s reluctance to curb its weapon deals with Riyadh it is difficult to understand how exactly London is championing democracy and freedom across the region?
– The problem is, you are assuming that there was such a time in Britain where the rules of capitalism did not apply. Capitalism and imperialism go hand in hand. The purpose of imperialism was defined best by George Orwell when he compared imperialism with theft and banditry. An empire does in fact send troops abroad to steal others’ lands and properties. There are no ethics, there are no morals in imperialism. The religion of these people is money … it is not much that they want to invade or cause bloodshed, rather it is their greed which has pushed them to venture outside their borders and conquer. There was never anything but greed behind Britain’s foreign policies. Of course they dressed it up under many cloaks: it was Christianity first, this idea that other nations had to be brought into the fold of Christianity for their own sake. Then under Tony Blair, imperialism was dressed up under humanitarian assistance.
To go back to your point I would say that Saudi Arabia and Britain’s relations are based on financial interests and greed.
The British ruling class has only contempt for al-Saud. Contempt for the way they live, the way they pray, the way they dress … Absolute contempt!
I went to a trip to Saudi Arabia as part of an official delegation more than 25 years ago and I was met there by a Grande, Lord Francis Pym – former foreign secretary. His attitude and whole demeanor during the trip made it painfully clear that the British government harbored nothing but contempt for al-Saud Royals.
The purpose of our visit was merely to smooth over, and assuage our hosts over an upset they had over a television series: the death of a princess, which scandalized al-Saud royal family, by exposing certain truths they wished to keep hidden.
Our job was to preserve our commercial and financial ties with Saudi Arabia.
It was very revealing to me, because at that time I still believed that there was some form of a love affair in between Britain and the Saudis. There must have been some Arabists, but for most of the ruling class the Middle East is just another region to exploit and draw riches from.
They don’t care whether you are Sunnis or Shiites … most do not even understand what those adjectives stand for. Most politicians have no understanding of Islam history, its school of thought and its traditions. To be honest they don’t care … Remember that Britain was perfectly comfortable dealing with the Shah of Iran, a Shiite. Religion has never been an issue, rather it is access and governments willingness to play by Britain’s capitalistic rules.
Understand however that they are ready to use sectarian tensions to forward their agenda. Interestingly MPs know little about religion…
– Do you think Saudi Arabia is on its last leg here? There has been a lot of noise around the idea that the kingdom has over-stepped its boundaries and largely under-estimated other nations’ determination to rise against its rule?
– There is a gigantic deficit today in Saudi Arabia: I’m not just talking about the commodity bubble, but the many crises which now threaten to unravel the kingdom: unemployment being a major drive of this brewing social malaise. The only way for a regime such as this to remain in control is to make their people fear what might come after them, and hate the “other”: other Muslims in that case. Wahhabist Saudi Arabia’s strength is based on its ability to project hatred and division. There is also a rise in consciousness in the UK … people now understand that it is Wahhabism which stands at the root of terrorism, and they understand that Saudi Arabia sits at the center of it all.
– I’d like to go back to Sheikh al-Nimr’s execution. Why has the UK failed to voice more than a timid condemnation, when clearly his sentencing to death was but a ploy to silence freedom, and calls for democratic reforms? Why are the media putting the blame on the victims?
– Well because they are hypocrites and because the media are the regime’s echo chamber. Many media outlets in the UK are partly owned by al-Saud. Prince Alwaleed bin Talal for example has shares invested in the Sun, Sky News, Fox News … he controls the narrative and how stories are being run. There is no loyalty to Britain but to the investors, and so the media are guilty of the same organized hypocrisy as the ruling class.
The Saudi regime we now know went into the beheading of Sheikh al-Nimr knowing very well what the reaction would be. They knew exactly where the reactions would be the most violent and vocal, and so to some degree it was engineered.
Until the dichotomy al-Saud created is destroyed, until people and communities learn to transcend their taught hatred of the “other” to concentrate on the injustices perpetrated by Al Saud regime, there will only be unorganized fury in the Middle East.
Arab nations have lost a lot of their standing. If such an execution would have taken place during the time of Egyptian President Abdel Nasser, or the Palestinian Resistance Movement, there would have been repercussion … but today nothing.
No one tells them anything, they are free to continue to do as they please.
Until that changes you will not be looking at a new paradigm I’m sorry to say.
Interview realised by Catherine Shakdam