US press: pick of the papers

1. One flew over the EU's mess (Wall Street Journal)

Upstairs we have the Acropolis Room. This is where Dr. Draghi and Nurse Merkel tend to chronically ill patients, some of whom are hooked up to life-support machines, writes Hugo Brady.

2. A campaign that's gotten stuck in a rut (Washington Post)

We need a goal -- something more practical than a moon base. We need a mission. We need a reason to get out of bed on Election Day, writes Eugene Robinson.

3. When the good do bad (New York Times)

People who murder often live in situations that weaken sympathy and restraint. People who commit massacres, for example, often live with what the researchers call "forward panic," writes David Brooks.

4. The States get a poor report card (New York Times)

All the Republican presidential candidates think it would be a good idea to hand some of Washington's most important programs to state governments, which so often combine corruptibility with incompetence, says this editorial.

5. A welcome piece of good economic news (Washington Post)

As developed nations have struggled with financial instability and unsustainable debt, developing economies have raised hundreds of millions out of poverty. Our long economic winter is a pleasant summer in distant places, says Michael Gerson.

6. Don't let Americans Elect muddy the 2012 race (LA Times)

Whoever Americans Elect's nominee turns out to be, that person could well replicate the signally dubious achievement of Ralph Nader in the 2000 election: Throwing the election to one of the two major-party nominees who otherwise would not have won, this editorial argues.

7. What Romney wants to "get rid of" (Chicago Tribune)

For many women, the only doctor they see all year is at Planned Parenthood, says Courtney Everette.

8. It's a good time to read, or re-read, "Uncle Tom's Cabin" (The Plain Dealer)

Stowe was a vital ally in the fight against slavery. And for those who declare Uncle Tom a character to be ashamed of, you should read the book. He is a much more complex and positive character than you think, says Kevin Alexander Gray.

9. College loans the next "debt bomb" (Philadelphia Inquirer)

Higher education is a multifaceted problem that needs a multi-faceted solution: for starters, lowering tuition, raising financial aid, and getting Wall Street out of the student-loan business, says this editorial.

10. From bin Laden's files: Evidence of a lion in winter (Oregonian)

Bin Laden was hidden in a compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, pacing in his courtyard, watching television, dictating messages to his wives, says David Ignatius.

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Saudi Arabia is a brutal and extremist dictatorship – so why are we selling it arms?

With conflict in Yemen continuing, it’s clear that we’re failing to moderate the actions of “our despots”.

This year, during Pride week, I noticed something curious on top of the Ministry of Defence just off Whitehall. At the tip of the building’s flagpole hung the rainbow flag – a symbol of liberation for LGBTIQ people and, traditionally, a sign of defiance, too.

I was delighted to see it, and yet it also struck me as surprising that the governmental headquarters of our military would fly such a flag. Not only because of the forces’ history of homophobia, but more strikingly to me because of the closeness of our military establishment to regimes such as Saudi Arabia, where homosexuality is a sin punishable by jail, lashing and even death

That relationship has been under the spotlight recently. Ministers writhed and squirmed to avoid making public a report that’s widely expected to reveal that funding for extremism in Britain has come from Saudi Arabia. The pressure peaked last week, after a series of parliamentary questions I tabled, when survivors of 9/11 wrote to Theresa May asking her to make the report public. At the final PMQs of the parliamentary term last week, I again pressed May on the issue, but like so many prime ministers before her, she brushed aside my questioning on the link between British arms sales and the refusal to expose information that might embarrass the Riyadh regime. 

The British government’s cosy relationship with Riyadh and our habit of selling weapons to authoritarian regimes is “justified" in a number of ways. Firstly, ministers like to repeat familiar lines about protecting British industry, suggesting that the military industrial complex is central to our country’s economic success.

It is true to say that we make a lot of money from selling weapons to Saudi Arabia – indeed figures released over the weekend by the Campaign Against Arms Trade revealed that the government authorised exports including £263m-worth of combat aircraft components to the Saudi air force, and £4m of bombs and missiles in the six months from October 2016.

Though those numbers are high, arms exports is not a jobs-rich industry and only 0.2 per cent of the British workforce is actually employed in the sector. And let’s just be clear – there simply is no moral justification for employing people to build bombs which are likely to be used to slaughter civilians. 

Ministers also justify friendship and arms sales to dictators as part of a foreign policy strategy. They may be despots, but they are “our despots”. The truth, however, is that such deals simply aren’t necessary for a relationship of equals. As my colleague Baroness Jones said recently in the House of Lords:

"As a politician, I understand that we sometimes have to work with some very unpleasant people and we have to sit down with them and negotiate with them. We might loathe them, but we have to keep a dialogue going. However, we do not have to sell them arms. Saudi Arabia is a brutal dictatorship. It is one of the world’s worst Governments in terms of human rights abuses. We should not be selling it arms.”

With Saudi Arabia’s offensive against targets in Yemen continuing, and with UN experts saying the attacks are breaching international law, it’s clear that we’re failing to moderate the actions of "our despots".

The government’s intransigence on this issue – despite the overwhelming moral argument – is astonishing. But it appears that the tide may be turning. In a recent survey, a significant majority of the public backed a ban on arms sales to Saudi Arabia and just this weekend the Mayor of London denounced the arms fair planned in the capital later this year. When the government refused to make the terror funding report public, there was near-universal condemnation from the opposition parties. On this issue, like so many others, the Tories are increasingly isolated and potentially weak.

Read more: How did the High Court decide weapon sales to Saudi Arabia are lawful?

The arms industry exists at the nexus between our country’s industrial and foreign policies. To change course we need to accept a different direction in both policy areas. That’s why I believe that we should accompany the end of arms exports to repressive regimes with a 21st century industrial policy which turns jobs in the industry into employment for the future. Imagine if the expertise of those currently building components for Saudi weaponry was turned towards finding solutions for the greatest foreign policy challenge we face: climate change. 

The future of the British military industrial establishment’s iron grip over government is now in question, and the answers we find will define this country for a generation. Do we stamp our influence on the world by putting our arm around the head-choppers of Riyadh and elsewhere, or do we forge a genuinely independent foreign policy that projects peace around the world – and puts the safety of British people at its core?

Caroline Lucas is the MP for Brighton Pavilion.