01 November 2007

Britain's son of a bitch

The British have been making a lot of noise recently about a lack of human rights in Burma and Zimbabwe and have supported the U.S. sanctions against Iran. One might conclude they really don't like dictators. One might be wrong. The UK is currently entertaining Saudi King Abdullah Bin-Abd-al-Aziz Al Saud, and he is getting the red carpet treatment. He was greeted by Prime Minister Gordon Brown, the Queen and an honour guard. Not bad for one of the world's more repressive despots, and almost certainly the most misogynistic.

During the Cold War, when the West supported various anti-communist dictators, the justifying phrase was "he might be a son of a bitch, but he's our son of a bitch," a phrase often attributed to Franklin Delano Roosevelt commenting on the Nicaraguan dictator Anastasio Somoza Garcia.

The phrase obviously still applies. The Sauds may be autocratic sons of bitches, but they are useful sons of bitches to the Brits. They may brutally abuse human rights, they may have even have sponsored a little terrorism in their time, but they are reliable suppliers of oil and they buy large quantities of arms from the UK. Last year, British exports to Riyadh exceeded £3.5-billion; about 20,000 Britons work in Saudi Arabia; and the Sauds have just put in a massive order for Typhoon fighter jets. For that, you get the PM, the Queen and an honour guard. All sins are forgiven.

Hell, if the Sauds wanted nuclear weapons, the Brits would probably sell them a baker's dozen.

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