Freedom Isnít Free
"An incursion into a rich country is never hurtful” were the words of Samuel Johnson, in an age where Britain took a certain national pride from its thin lines of red-coated Derbyshire yeomen. Their unswerving ability to crush our third-world cousins with industrial efficiency, brought glory, reputation, and most importantly cash into a burgeoning society of nabobs and company men. It is an age long gone, and you won’t these days find a pith helmet as widely accepted as American Express. There are few who genuinely desire the return of Empire, and most of them are happily ensconced, sipping vintage port next to mantled Oxford fireplaces; but is it possible that our modern day D’Israelis could learn a trick or two from the imperialists of the past?
“curious that while the government daily uses the excuse of national security to pour more and more money into anti-terrorist units, it cannot use the same reasoning with the military”
War is an expensive business and the systems we have in place to pay for it are clearly not enough. The MoD has always been stretched and stories abound in the internal newsletters of Apaches without pilots, Euro-fighters with lead weights for cannon, and Land Rovers without armour, all for the want of funding. Now, they are being asked to maintain deployments of 6,000 troops in Afghanistan, and 10,000 in Iraq, without a serious rise in resources. In fact, it seems this month a £40m reduction in spending is needed to meet budget restrictions.
Even the normally obsequious all-party defence committee has recognised the danger, describing both occupations as conducted ‘on a shoe string’ and stressing that equipment shortfalls must be addressed as ‘a matter of urgency’. It is clear that to continue in this way will not only prevent any form of victory in the Middle East (if such a thing is possible), but will put the lives of servicemen in unnecessary danger.
The simple solution of course is a rise in taxes, or a reduction in spending on other departments. It is curious that while the government daily uses the excuse of national security to pour more and more money into anti-terrorist units, that it cannot use the same reasoning with the military. Properly presented, it is hard to see more money for our brave boys at the front attracting much opposition from Labour’s favoured red-top readership. However, with the possibility of David Cameron’s ‘constructive opposition’ constructively pointing out the huge potential for tax cuts in upcoming elections it seems unlikely to appeal. For the history conscious government there is an alternative.
The American position is clearly defined. This war was a massive expense. Quite right then, to rebuild the local infrastructure with American contractors, send aid through American businesses and quietly ensure American refineries a continued supply of oil. The irony of this view from a nation who threw their toys from the collective pram at the merest suggestion that they should pay for a foreign power’s war on their soil will not be missed. It is however a model which should not be ignored.
“The suggestion that Iraq should fly the Union flag might leave even the most crusty Clive-fancier spluttering into his Darjeeling”
Latest figures suggest that sixty-one British companies have made a total of £1.1bn from our presence in Iraq. Of that however, British tax payers have paid £80m, and the US nearly nine times that much. Only £150m has come from Iraq itself. Next to US corporate profits from the invasion this total figure is laughable. As early as 2003, seventy companies in America had secured contracts for £8bn with at least £2bn of Iraqi money residing in US coffers by 2004. The tax from such enormous profits would certainly help keep the armed forces in all the steel upholstered Range Rovers they could ever need.
The suggestion that Iraq should fly the Union flag might leave even the most crusty Clive-fancier spluttering into his Darjeeling, but if we are intent on claiming the globe for democracy, then a more open corporate imperialism may have to be examined. If the corporate sector’s green-tinged toadying to Notting Hill, fair-trade benevolence is anywhere near genuine, they may even be able to help in the drive towards a civil society.
Perhaps alongside the Golden Arches which may already have appeared in down town Baghdad, the smiling face of a Mr Wimpy should put in an appearance. Perhaps Wilts & Dorset buses should ferry our Iraqi allies to work, with Marks & Sparks sandwiches and BHS shirts. Perhaps. Either way, the day will soon come when a decision has to be made; are we willing to pay to free the world, or has the time come to repaint the globe with a smattering of ‘Middle East Company’ pink?