Many people in Britain live under the illusion that war happens ‘out there’ and only involves other countries across the globe. But as new evidence from journalists Mark Curtis and Matt Kennard demonstrates, this isn’t true. The UK’s currently engaged in “seven covert wars”. And our government also continues to profit from these wars.
“Zero parliamentary or public oversight”
Curtis and Kennard’s article in the Daily Maverick reveals that UK special forces (UKSF) are currently engaged in conflict in: Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Pakistan, Somalia, Syria and Yemen. Yet the nature of UKSF operations means that our “political system enables ministers to conduct secret wars in our name with zero parliamentary or public oversight”.
As the authors explain:
The British government states that its policy on the covert wars it fights is “not to comment, and to dissuade others from commenting or speculating, about the operational activities of special forces because of the security implications”.
Added to this, the UK’s Freedom of Information Act gives “absolute exemption” to UKSF activities. So this makes it virtually impossible for anyone to question or “scrutinise policy”. And if any information is leaked to the establishment media, there’s another layer of control in place.
to prevent material deemed damaging to the national security interest from being published in the media.
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So any leaks that do emerge, must first be “approved” and “sanctioned” by the DSMA committee. As the article also shows, these covert wars often take place “alongside MI6”:
The UK’s special forces are shielded from all forms of democratic accountability. Currently they are fighting wars in at least 7 countries, often alongside MI6, who are also completely unaccountable.
— Matt Kennard (@DCKennard) September 17, 2019
But another crucial factor is that in most of the seven countries named, the UK government also profits from selling arms to parties leading those same wars. Since 2008, UK arms export licences totalled £44bn.
British special forces have been secretly working in Yemen since at least 2016, while the UK’s Ministry of Defence has been covertly supporting the Saudi air campaign in the country.
In 2016, the government stated:
There are no UK Armed Forces personnel based in Yemen.
But as this article demonstrates that simply isn’t true. It notes that a 2016 report from Vice News:
based on interviews with UK officials revealed that British special forces were in Yemen. They were, in fact, seconded to MI6, which was training Yemeni troops fighting Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula
Curtis and Kennard detail all the evidence of further involvement of UK forces in Yemen. But UK arms exports also prop up this same war. Arms exports to Saudi Arabia are currently on hold. Yet Liz Truss has since admitted the government broke the law. It shipped £261,450 worth of equipment to Saudi Arabia despite this ruling.
In July, a UN report found that:
more civilians were killed by Afghan and international coalition forces in Afghanistan in the first half of this year than by the Taliban and other militants
As the article shows, UKSF play a role in this:
By 2018, the SAS was reportedly fighting almost every day in Afghanistan, usually in support of Afghan commandos leading the battle against the Taliban.
It states that by mid-2019 there were still about 1,000 UK troops in Afghanistan. And, yet again, there’s further profit here for the UK government. Since 2016, UK arms exports to Afghanistan totalled over £42m.
Money, money, money
Curtis and Kennard paint a harrowing picture of the true extent of UK involvement in so many global conflicts. And in too many of these, it’s impossible to ignore the UK’s integral role in the current crises.
For example. chaos followed the NATO bombing campaign of Libya in 2011. David Cameron was instrumental in a military assault that left the country both splintered and a perfect playground for terrorists. But not only did the UK play a leading role in the bombing campaign, it also facilitated unrest in the country while Muammar Gaddafi was in power.
As Curtis noted, taxpayers pay for UKSF:
Image below is a military base we’re not allowed to know of, for a regiment we’re given no information on, that’s fighting 7 covert wars hidden from the public. Which we pay for. Good that UK is democracy otherwise SAS might just be totally out of control. https://t.co/Pk5l4FvoZl
— Mark Curtis (@markcurtis30) September 17, 2019
And yet our government still profits from death.
As Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) notes, since 2016, UK arms deals totalled:
Curtis and Kennard’s research is meticulous. The UK is involved in covert wars. Our government doesn’t want us to know this. Neither does it want us to know how much it rakes in from global arms deals. We can’t ignore these facts.
Featured image via Flickr – ResoluteSupportMedia
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