February 19, 2001

Britain, the Middle East and Oil
Why are we there at all?


Britain does well when the oil price goes up. You see, we are a net oil exporter, and the government takes quite a handy chunk of revenue on taxing crude oil (please do not get me started on the nonsensical 80% tax on petrol). A rising oil price means that oil exporters like us do better. So why in heaven’s name are we fighting to keep the oil price down?


This question, which I have asked many times before (and still never got a good answer) struck me today when I went to the local newsagent. Suddenly our "Baghdad Blitz" was all over the front pages. This in itself is highly odd. The newspapers do not tend to mention strikes on Iraq, and there have been plenty of these recently. Indeed the news is reporting this as if it was a tougher line on Iraq. The reason why they are not reported is that they are barely announced. So why was this announced given such a high profile? I suppose time will tell – it usually does.


Back to the main question, why are we fighting to keep oil prices down? Of course the present trading embargo on Iraq means that Iraq’s oil is off the market so OPEC is able to force the price of oil up, but that was not the intention. Again, why are we fighting to keep the oil price down? Part of the answer would have to be the now incestuously close relationship with America. I usually try to avoid criticism of America. Firstly, I am not American so I have little right to do so. Secondly, I really like America, and the optimism and friendliness that I meet there. We seem to have made the calculation that we have to be involved with everything that America does. America is the playground bully, and the only way to avoid being thumped is to help him do the thumping. Of course Northern Ireland does prove that America can interfere in Britain’s affairs no matter how willing an accomplice we show ourselves to be. Then there was Suez. The point is not to say that America was wrong to act in the way she but just to point out that sycophancy does not equal security. In addition, what happens when they gang up on the bully? If the term "balance of power" has any application at all, this will happen eventually.


Britain’s disgusting behaviour in Iraq, not just in the past few days, but in the past ten years, is only premised on the idea that we have to do everything America does. If this is the case why not just call it a day and close down our Foreign Office? Obviously it is of no use at all and is just a drain on the revenue. If all our policy decisions are to be made in Washington, why not also get rid of the separate insignia on our uniforms? They may look pretty, but what real use are those union jack arm patches? It all seems like unnecessary confusion.

Text-only printable version of this article

Airstrip One Article Vault

Emmanuel Goldstein

Go to the most current column by Emmanuel Goldstein

Sign up to receive Airstrip One by e-mail

Airstrip One Article Vault

Emmanuel Goldstein is the pseudonym of a political drifter on the fringes of English classical liberal and Euro-sceptic activity. He is a former member of the Labour Party, who knows Blair and some of his closest buddies better than they realise, yet. He has a challenging job in the real world, working for a profit-making private company and not sponging off the taxpayer in politics, journalism or the civil service. "Airstrip One," appears Mondays at Antiwar.com.


What is puzzling is that no alternative to pathetic dependency is spelt out. The Conservatives criticise the Labour government for being too distant from the Americans. There is some sense in this approach, the government of the most powerful nation in the world is no longer a fan of Mr. Blair, and to point this out is not going to do the Conservatives any harm. Nevertheless, what about the national interest? A party that has vastly improved on its woeful state under John Major still can not find the guts to stand up for independent military action. If the Conservative Party is no longer about the national interest then it is nothing. I firmly believe that most Conservatives do care about the national interest, but someone somewhere has to tell them that the Cold War is over.


Ah, I will be told, there is an alternative, the European Army. Suddenly the frying pan does not appear so uncomfortable. The idea that the alternative to losing your de facto independence of action is to lose it de jure as an argument is stupid beyond words. Of course, there is another argument, made by intelligent columnists like George Szamuely, which roughly goes along these lines; America is a bully and we must be part of the gang to put it down. Well, I am not willingly going to put myself in the line of fire against a military power that spends more on its military than the next ten military powers, combined. Glorious isolation is an option.


Before I finish a few facts for those of my English readers who support this military action. We have killed half a million Iraqi children through our sanctions policy. Half a million, think about it. That is roughly the size of the Catholic population of Northern Ireland, or higher than the entire population of Malta. Forget about stopping Iraqi genocide, how about stopping the genocide of Iraqis? Then there is the idea of national sovereignty; is it only good for the British? Remember we bombed an air defence facility. Sure, we have bombed Iraqi water purification plants in the past, so this is hardly the worst thing we have done in this forgotten war, but how offensive is air defence? It is hardly a weapon of mass destruction, a tool of racial genocide or a threat to Iraq’s neighbours. And many of these installations were actually outside the "no-fly" zone.


We are duty bound to protest this disgusting action. We have no business in the Middle East, and the idea that we have no higher duty than that of America’s fig leaf is grotesque. Nevertheless, it is in a strange way poetic, as the relationship that Britain has with America is a fitting illustration of the air headed intellectual catamite who calls himself our Prime Minister.

Please Support Antiwar.com

A contribution of $50 or more will get you a copy of Ronald Radosh's out-of-print classic study of the Old Right conservatives, Prophets on the Right: Profiles of Conservative Critics of American Globalism. Send contributions to

520 S. Murphy Avenue, #202
Sunnyvale, CA 94086

or Contribute Via our Secure Server
Credit Card Donation Form


Have an e-gold account?
Contribute to Antiwar.com via e-gold.
Our account number is 130325

Your Contributions are now Tax-Deductible

Back to Antiwar.com Home Page | Contact Us