The hypocrisy of the hawks

From Blair to McCain, how can we take these people seriously on Libya and military action?

One of the weirdest features of the Libya crisis has been the re-emergence of T Blair. I was both annoyed and amused to see our former premier -- described by Saif Gaddafi as a "close personal friend" of the Gaddafi family -- penning pieces for the Times and the Sun in recent days, supporting military action against his (former) friends.

Then there's David Cameron's hypocrisy -- as I note in my feature piece in this week's magazine, the current premier has enthusiastically sent British jets to bomb a regime to which his own government last year issued £231m worth of arms exports licences (including the supply of small arms munition, tear gas and sniper rifles). Are we supposed just to forget this? Turn a blind eye?

But British hawks aren't the only hypocrites around. Take the pro-war Republican senator John McCain in the United States. Here's a report from the Associated Press from August 2009:

A delegation of US senators led by John McCain met with Libya's leader yesterday to discuss the possible delivery of non-lethal defence equipment. The visit and Washington's offer of military equipment was another sign of the improving ties between the former long-time adversaries.

"We discussed the possibility of moving ahead with the provision of non-lethal defence equipment to the government of Libya,'' McCain said during a press conference. He gave no details on the kind of military equipment Washington is offering.

So, back then, he was recommending the sale of military equipment to the Gaddafi-run Libya; these days, the same McCain is agitating for a ground war in Libya and the ouster of Gaddafi -- the same Gaddafi he praised in 2009.

In the sarcastic words of the HuffPo's Jason Linkins:

John McCain was in favour of supplying military aid to Gaddafi before he was for supplying military aid to the forces looking to topple Gaddafi.

Is it any wonder, then, why some of us are so suspicious about the motives of the so-called liberal interventionists?

Mehdi Hasan is a contributing writer for the New Statesman and the co-author of Ed: The Milibands and the Making of a Labour Leader. He was the New Statesman's senior editor (politics) from 2009-12.

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The SNP thinks it knows how to kill hard Brexit

The Supreme Court ruled MPs must have a say in triggering Article 50. But the opposition must unite to succeed. 

For a few minutes on Tuesday morning, the crowd in the Supreme Court listened as the verdict was read out. Parliament must have the right to authorise the triggering of Article 50. The devolved nations would not get a veto. 

There was a moment of silence. And then the opponents of hard Brexit hit the phones. 

For the Scottish government, the pro-Remain members of the Welsh Assembly and Sinn Féin in Northern Ireland, the victory was bittersweet. 

The ruling prompted Scotland’s First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, to ask: “Is it better that we take our future into our own hands?”

Ever the pragmatist, though, Sturgeon has simultaneously released her Westminster attack dogs. 

Within minutes of the ruling, the SNP had vowed to put forward 50 amendments (see what they did there) to UK government legislation before Article 50 is enacted. 

This includes the demand for a Brexit white paper – shared by MPs from all parties – to a clause designed to prevent the UK reverting to World Trade Organisation rules if a deal is not agreed. 

But with Labour planning to approve the triggering of Article 50, can the SNP cause havoc with the government’s plans, or will it simply be a chorus of disapproval in the rest of Parliament’s ear?

The SNP can expect some support. Individual SNP MPs have already successfully worked with Labour MPs on issues such as benefit cuts. Pro-Remain Labour backbenchers opposed to Article 50 will not rule out “holding hands with the devil to cross the bridge”, as one insider put it. The sole Green MP, Caroline Lucas, will consider backing SNP amendments she agrees with as well as tabling her own. 

But meanwhile, other opposition parties are seeking their own amendments. Jeremy Corbyn said Labour will seek amendments to stop the Conservatives turning the UK “into a bargain basement tax haven” and is demanding tariff-free access to the EU. 

Separately, the Liberal Democrats are seeking three main amendments – single market membership, rights for EU nationals and a referendum on the deal, which is a “red line”.

Meanwhile, pro-Remain Tory backbenchers are watching their leadership closely to decide how far to stray from the party line. 

But if the Article 50 ruling has woken Parliament up, the initial reaction has been chaotic rather than collaborative. Despite the Lib Dems’ position as the most UK-wide anti-Brexit voice, neither the SNP nor Labour managed to co-ordinate with them. 

Indeed, the Lib Dems look set to vote against Labour’s tariff-free amendment on the grounds it is not good enough, while expecting Labour to vote against their demand of membership of the single market. 

The question for all opposition parties is whether they can find enough amendments to agree on to force the government onto the defensive. Otherwise, this defeat for the government is hardly a defeat at all. 

 

Julia Rampen is the editor of The Staggers, The New Statesman's online rolling politics blog. She was previously deputy editor at Mirror Money Online and has worked as a financial journalist for several trade magazines.