By Dr George Venturini
On 11 and 12 February 2015 Charles visited Saudi Arabia for the twelfth time since 1986. He had been there in January to pay his condolences following the death of King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud. The Prince was representing The Queen.
The day after his arrival, on his tenth visit in February 2014, Prince Charles donned traditional robes and joined Saudi princes in a sword dance in Riyadh, and B.A.E. announced that agreement had finally been reached on the sale of 72 Typhoon fighters sold to the feudal monarchy.
The deal arrived just 24 hours before the publication of B.A.E.’s most recent results, and followed Prime Minister David Cameron’s visit to the country in November 2013 in which he failed to secure a deal. The B.A.E. share price was expected to fall if sales were not confirmed.
The first in line to the United Kingdom crown dressed to the nines in traditional military regalia of the Saudi nepotistic despots.
Campaign Against Arms Trade again claimed that the United Kingdom sells more weapons to the Saudis than any other country in the world. On the day of the Prince’s arrival to Saudi Arabia a C.A.A.T. spokesman urged him “to disassociate” himself from the “despotic regime” so as not to confer legitimacy on it C.A.A.T. also urged Charles to raise the issue of human rights abuses in the Kingdom.
The following day, C.A.A.T. was more forthright and condemned Prince Charles for securing the Typhoon deal with the ruling clan. The spokesman once again reiterated the organisation’s contention that the deal primarily lends “legitimacy” to the Saudi repressive regime. On the other hand, an analyst at the investment bank R.B.C. Capital claimed that with “Salam cash coming in, this should give BAE more flexibility for cash deployment moving forward.”
Particularly during the past decade, Saudi Arabia and the Arab statelets (i.e. Kuwait, U.A.E., Qatar) designed by British Imperialism during the decline of the Ottoman Empire in the late nineteenth century have been pumping billions into the British economy keeping it afloat in financially difficult times. Each of the states has highly dubious human rights records and none are democracies in any sense of the word.
Is it really a contradiction that the world’s main harbingers and supporters of jihadism, al-Qaeda and the theology that spawns these violent trends is also the main and largest customer of the United Kingdom’s ultimate merchant of death, B.A.E.? More so, when Prince Charles complains about the ‘tragic plight’ of Christians in the Middle East is it he exposing his own and Her Majesty Government’s hypocrisy knowing full well that this plight is caused by the ‘sugar daddies’ of the British economy, i.e. the Gulf states, in their support for jihadis in Iraq and Syria in particular, and throughout the Middle East in general?
Conducting business with the Saudis and the other Gulf nepotistic despots today is just as important to the United Kingdom prosperity as piracy, the slave trade, imperialist military conquest and colonialism was in the past.
Andrew Smith, spokesman for the Campaign Against the Arms Trade, commented: “It is clear that Prince Charles has been used by the U.K. government and B.A.E. Systems as an arms dealer.”
The Prince’s aides rushed to clarify that he had nothing to do with the deal, and had not discussed it during his trip. A spokeswoman for Charles said the Salam phase of the deal “did not come up in any of his conversations” with the Saudi Royal Family and politicians, including the deputy prime minister, Muqrin bin Abdulaziz, Saudi Arabia’s former Intelligence chief.
He made his trip – the press was told – at the request of the Foreign Office. Once again, in its annual human rights report, the Foreign Office had continued to list Saudi Arabia as one of the “countries of concern”.
In 2014, for instance, it declared: “Allegations of torture continued to be heard, in particular from political activists accused of terrorist offences … We judge the allegations, by virtue of their frequency and the variety of sources, to be credible … ”
Andrew Smith of C.A.A.T. pointed out that Saudi Arabia was ranked 163 out of 167 countries and was given zero points for: “electoral process and pluralism”. The only countries ranked lower were Syria, Chad, Guinea Bissau and North Korea.
Transparency International U.K. called once again for ‘the deal’ to be subjected to close scrutiny and transparency. That must include transparency in the offsets arrangements, and the use of subsidiaries, subcontractors, and agents, so that taxpayer money is not wasted and the integrity and reputations of the governments and companies involved are protected. It noted that its Defence Anti-Corruption Index found that Saudi Arabia presented a very high level of corruption risk in its defence sector. Mark Pyman, a director, said: “Too often in the past, deals like [Al-Yamamah] have been shrouded in secrecy and beset with allegations of corruption. B.A.E. and the Saudi and British governments should have nothing to hide.”
B.A.E. denied any wrongdoing – of course.
Donning traditional robes and joining Saudi princes in a sword dance in Riyadh was obviously comical, in one sense, but not quite so funny when one remembers how the Saudi monarchy and its ‘justice’ usually employ their swords. Saudi Arabia executed more than seventy people the previous year, mostly by public decapitation with a sword. But Charles’ visit was not just defined by such distasteful “dance of shame”, but also the marketing events which immediately followed.
Prince Charles obviously did not see it that way, isolated from every day’s life as the privileged Royals are. The actions of Prince Charles and other members of his family are largely reflective of the entrenched elitism of British politics.
Perhaps Charles is too removed from reality. On the contrary, B.A.E. was aware that its share price was set to fall that very week unless agreement could be reached on its latest sales of Eurofighter Typhoon jets to Saudi Arabia. So the U.K. government sent in the royals to seal the deal. As a Buckingham Palace spokesperson – clearly reflecting that moral vacuum – said: “Middle East potentates like meeting princes.” In point of fact, Charles was in Saudi Arabia at the request of the U.K. government’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
Maybe, to put it plainly, Charlie does not understand. Wearing the Saudi uniform he might have thought was just like one of the many uniforms he uses ‘at home’ – full of un-earned medals for un-fought battles in un-attended wars.
Human rights organisations had highlighted Saudi Arabia’s appalling record on human rights and urged Prince Charles to use his visit to promote reform. Instead he has sent a clear signal of support for repression.
It is difficult, but not impossible, to believe that Prince Charles does not know that the religion and customs of Saudi Arabia dictate not only conservative dress for men and women, but a uniformity of dress unique to most of the Middle East. Traditionally, the different regions of Saudi Arabia have had different dress, but since the re-establishment of Saudi rule these have been reserved for festive occasions, and “altered if not entirely displaced” by the dress of the homeland of their rulers.
Saudi men and boys, whatever their social status or occupation, wear the traditional dress called a thobe or thawb – the standard Arabic word for garment – which has been called the ‘Wahhabi national dress’. During warm and hot weather, Saudi men and boys wear white thobes. During the cool weather, wool thobes in dark colours are not uncommon. At special times, men often wear a bisht or mishlah over the thobe. These are long white, brown or black cloaks trimmed in gold. A man’s headdress consists of three things: the tagia, a small white cap which keeps the gutra – a traditional keffiyeh headdress – from slipping off the head; the gutra itself, which is a large square of cloth; and the igal, a doubled black cord which holds the gutra in place. The gutra is usually made of cotton and traditionally is either all white or a red and white checked. The gutra is worn folded into a triangle and centred on the head.
The sword – sulthan is the tool which was used to spread Islam – through hatred, violence, blood, and persecution along with it. It is particularly dear to the House of Saud. It is now used for execution. One could ask Saudi Arabia’s leading executioner Abdallah al-Bishi, who takes pride in his work, who like his father before him can execute ten people in one single day. His style of killing is by decapitation, using a sword. He also removes limbs by his sword under the country’s sharia law.
Barbaric stuff by universal standard! Clownish pantomime unworthy of a serious character as Charles Windsor-Battenberg believes himself to be!
The reality is different: in May 2018 Sir Roger Carr, chairman of B.A.E., gave a speech to shareholders at the B.A.E. annual general meeting. He said: “There is no doubt that 2017 was a successful year as reflected in our sales, profits and cash flow, which, I am pleased to say, has supported an increase in your dividend for the year to 21.8 pence per share.”
Shareholders in arms production benefit from bloodshed globally. The deaths of Yemeni children pay “healthy” dividends.
It really does not matter that the embargo/blockade against Yemen and the Yemenis violates the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 9 December 1948 as General Assembly Resolution 260. Article 2 of the Convention defines genocide as: “… (c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part.”
In 2015 the United Kingdom exported £ 2.94 billion in arms to Saudi Arabia over a period of 9 months. The illegal aggression against Yemen began in March 2015. B.A.E. jumped at the opportunity to reap a harvest from the murder of Yemeni civilians.
According to Amnesty International: “[The United Kingdom] recently diverted a batch of 500-pound ‘Paveway IV’ bombs to Saudi Arabia. These bombs are used by Tornado and Typhoon fighter jets, both of which are manufactured and supplied to Saudi Arabia by the UK. arms company B.A.E. Systems.”
In May 2018 Carr said “our customers are our lifeblood” while those customers shed blood globally. Saudi Arabia is crucial to B.A.E.’s success in the arms industry and is its third largest market sector after the United States and the United Kingdom.
“According to the company’s own figures for 2015, the Saudi military market helped boost its overall performance. Sales increased by £1.3 billion to £17.9 billion.”
In 2016 Carr was questioned regarding the ethics of supplying arms to Saudi Arabia. Carr dismissed such troublesome moral issues, saying: “We are not here to judge the way that other governments work, we are here to do a job under the rules and regulations we are given.” The shareholder returns weigh more heavily upon the minds of businessmen like Carr than the mass murder being committed with B.A.E. weapons and equipment in Yemen by a despotic Saudi regime and human rights violator of world record proportions.
In 2016 B.A.E. defended the sale of weapons to Saudi Arabia with a very familiar slogan “We provide defence equipment and support to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia under a Government to Government agreement.” The old self-defence canard, deployed so rigorously by the Israeli government while it batters the concentration camp which is Gaza with chemical weapons and uses the Gazan people as lab rats for testing new armaments on behalf of firms like B.A.E.
In 2017 U.K. arms companies had earned in excess of £6 billion from trade with Saudi Arabia during the war waged against Yemen since March 2015. Profit are extracted from the bombing of schools, hospitals, civilian infrastructure, weddings, blind schools, fishing villages and residential areas across Yemen – a bombing campaign which has created the breeding ground for cholera and other silent killers.
According to Carr – “We [B.A.E.] supply equipment government-to-government to enable the job to be done as seen fit. We separate ourselves from the war itself … we are not involved in any part of prosecuting, planning or executing the war.” This defies logic, if you knowingly hand the means to commit mass murder to a known psychopath, you are an accessory to the dreadful consequences Mr. Carr.
A report in Drone Warfare pointed out that “While being repeatedly questioned about civilian deaths by supporters of the Campaign Against Arms Trade, Sir Roger claimed that B.A.E. Systems hoped for peace in Yemen and other countries, adding: “One death of anybody is one death too many.” Carr’s rank hypocrisy was exposed when he later refused a minute’s silence to commemorate the innocent victims of his products worldwide.
The self-defence slogan was unfurled again by Carr who claimed that the U.S/U.K-supported Saudi regime had the right to “protect itself” against “Houthi” cross border missile attacks. No mention of Yemen’s need to defend itself against the ravages of imperialist super-powers and their sophisticated weaponry being rained down upon the Yemeni people!
“We are not an aggressive company. We don’t conduct wars, we manufacture equipment in order to ensure that those who protect and serve us are equipped appropriately and hope that having given that equipment it will avoid others being aggressors,” was Carr’s plea for exoneration from international justice.
But when did Yemen aggress the U.K., Sir Roger? Why not be truthful, why not admit you will supply arms to global terrorists if it expands your profit margins and maintains the cycle of perpetual war?
“The reason that B.A.E. doesn’t know if its weapons were used in the bombing of the wedding in Yemen is because it doesn’t want to know. Its entire business model is based on perpetual war. To ask questions or to take any kind of moral stance would be to jeopardise its position as a major arms exporter,” said Mr. Andrew Smith of Campaign Against Arms Trade.
At the 2018 B.A.E. annual general meeting, Carr stated that “our defence customers are approved by government and products are exported under strict regulations.” How stringent are those “regulations”? How are they influenced and how are they enforced ?
It is worth noting that among Prime Minister Theresa May’s Business Ambassadors is former B.A.E. executive, Sir Richard Lake Olver, of the Goldman Sachs stable, who is the Prime Minister’s Ambassador for “Manufacturing and Advanced Engineering.” This role includes: leading trade delegations, one-to-one meetings with senior government ministers, hosting high level incoming visitors, meeting key businesses in market. and delivering keynote speeches at business events.
Effectively one of the élite influencers attached to the Prime Minister’s office was a major player in the military supply sector and a promoter of B.A.E. in particular.
Mr. Philip May is Theresa May’s husband. Philip May is also a ‘relationship manager’ at an investment management company, Capital Group. According to Capital Group “[Mr. May’s] job is to ensure the clients are happy with the service and that we understand their goals.” Capital Group happens to be the major shareholder in B.A.E. and the second largest shareholder in Lockheed Martin, also heavily invested in partnership with the Saudi regime and its campaign to wipe Yemen from the map.
It also cannot be a pure coincidence that B.A.E. profited handsomely from Prime Minister May’s unlawful aggression against Syria in April 2018 alongside the United States and France. Based upon open source narratives provided primarily by the United Kingdom Foreign and Commonwealth Office-organised and financed White Helmets, May’s government clumsily put together a flimsy pretext to bomb alleged chemical facilities in Syria which had already been designated non-chemical-weapon manufacturing sites by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons earlier in 2018.
“It has been reported that the U.K.’s contribution to military strikes was to fire eight ‘Storm-Shadow’ missiles at an alleged chemical weapons facility, each of which cost £790,000 ($1.13 million) – totalling £6.32 million ($9 million). The missiles were manufactured by B.A.E. Systems.”, and so MarketScreener reports.
It is not known whether Mr. Philip May relationship assisted by consenting for that illegal strike and its subsequent financial benefits for B.A.E.?
The Conservative Government connections with B.A.E. do not end with Mr. May. The Right Honourable George Gideon Oliver Osborne, CH, former Chancellor of the Exchequer, presently editor-in-chief at The (London) Evening Standard, also works as a consultant for Blackrock Investment Institute, which Blackrock has substantial shares in B.A.E. Since February 2017 Osborne has secured £162, 500 per quarter, plus equity as the “adviser on the global economy to Blackrock.”
On 9 August 2018 Mr. Johannes Bruwer, Deputy Head of the International Committee of the Red Cross in Yemen, reported that a total of 50 people were killed and 77 were injured. Of those the I.C.R.C. hospital in Al Talh received 30 dead and 48 injured, of which the vast majority were children A bus which was carrying a group of students attending summer classes had been targeted. (Saudi, UAE, USA, UK and France Slaughter Dozens of People, Including at Least 29 Children on a School Bus,…, 09.08.2018).
On 12 June 2018 Doctors Without Borders reported an airstrike which destroyed its newly constructed facility for treatment of cholera, in the town of Abs, built in anticipation of a third epidemic outbreak of cholera in Yemen.
Professor Isa Blumi, of Stockholm University and author of the book Destroying Yemen, believes that the goal of coalition attacking Yemen, the poorest country in the Arab peninsula, since March of 2015 is to bludgeon Yemenis into complete submission and finally to exert control over ‘a gold mine’ of resources, including oil reserves, natural gas, minerals, and the control of a strategic position.
Business profits motivate American and British weapon companies which continue benefiting from weapon sales to the Saudi-Emirati led coalition. (K. Kelly, ‘U.S. Is Complicit in Child Slaughter in Yemen’, 10 August 2018).
Even the vassal-government of Australia got into the action by supplying military exports to both Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. And the so-called ‘Liberal’ Minister for Defence Industry Minister, Christopher Pyne, has plans to expand this arms trade. (Amnesty International Australia, ‘Who supplied the arms that killed the children in Yemen’, 14 August 2018).
These conflict-investment cartels and their war-brokers will not spare a thought for lives thousands of kilometres away in a poverty-stricken corner of the world: they represent nothing more to them than attractive salaries and shareholder perks. The moral bankruptcy of these military industrial structures defines description when they can survey the broken bones and emaciated corpses of children, the birdlike skulls and protruding eyes of human beings clinging to life, without sustenance and they can super-impose balance sheets and project forward to the next killing field. (V. Beeley, ‘U.K Military Industrial Cartel and Tory Government Profit from Mass Murder in Yemen’, 9 August 2018).
In that they are aided and abetted by the insipid smile and the mindless congratulations of Prince Charles.
Continued Saturday – Charles lll
Previous instalment – A conga line of bludgers: Prince Charles (part 7)
Dr. Venturino Giorgio Venturini devoted some seventy years to study, practice, teach, write and administer law at different places in four continents. He may be reached at George.email@example.com.
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