Vichy Britain: The truth exposed by WikiLeaks

For special relationship read special doormat, says Neil Clark in the light of latest WikiLeaks disclosures

By Neil Clark

December 06, 2010 "
First Post" -- Oh, how the mighty have fallen! A hundred years ago, Britain was the centre of a vast global empire, which controlled about a quarter of the world. Today, as the WikiLeaks disclosures reveal, the one-time rulers of the world have been reduced to the status of arch-crawlers to American imperial power.

Saturday's batch of leaked cables - published by the Guardian - reveal how leading Conservatives, when in opposition, promised to US diplomats that they would run a 'pro-American regime' and buy more US arms once they got into power.

The level of obsequiousness shown by the self-confessed 'children of Thatcher' to their imperial masters in Washington is quite extraordinary.

To stress his pro-American credentials, William Hague, now Foreign Secretary, reveals that he has a sister who is an American and that he vacations in the US. He assures the US Deputy Chief of Mission that he, George Osborne and David Cameron, are "staunchly Atlanticist".

Liam Fox, now Defence Secretary, affirms his party's desire to "follow a much more pro-American profile in procurement". Fox also boasts about how he has "rebuffed" those in the Conservative party who are less enthusiastic about the US alliance than he is, and who have been asserting that "we're supposed to be partners with, not supplicants to, the United States".

It's hard not to laugh at this shameless sucking-up to Uncle Sam. Even the Americans themselves are shown by the leaked cables to find the British neurosis about the so-called 'special relationship' amusing.

But in reality there's nothing very funny about the British elite's sycophancy towards America - because the consequences in recent years have been calamitous.

Our determination to follow the US, come what may, has seen us become involved in disastrous wars in Afghanistan and Iraq - conflicts where the wisest course for Britain would have been to stay on the sidelines.

Our "staunchly Atlanticist" elite have helped make Britain a prime target for Islamic terrorists. Does anyone seriously believe that the 7/7 bomb attacks in London would have happened if Britain had not taken part in the Iraq war?

In return for its slavish obedience, Britain has received precious little, if anything, in return from Washington. As WikiLeaks revealed last week, Prime Minister Gordon Brown couldn't even get the US to agree to allow Gary McKinnon, the 43-year-old computer hacker with Asperger's Syndrome, who is accused of hacking into US government computers, to serve his jail sentence in Britain.

For 'special relationship' read 'special doormat'.

The tragedy is that it doesn't have to be like this. For the first 35 years after World War Two, our leaders were far less sycophantic towards America, despite Britain's indebtedness to the US.

Harold Wilson, to his great credit, refused to send British troops to Vietnam. Edward Heath defied Washington by adopting a policy of strict neutrality during the 1973 Yom Kippur war between the Arab states and Israel and refused to allow the United States to use Britain's spy and air bases on Cyprus.

But from 1979, things changed dramatically. Margaret Thatcher's election not only destroyed the domestic post-war mixed-economy consensus, it also shifted Britain's foreign policy towards a more hardline pro-American stance.

And when the Blairites took over the Labour Party in the mid-1990s, both Britain's main political parties were in the control of people happy to pledge their undying allegiance to Pax Americana.

Public opinion has had nothing whatsoever to do with this shift.

Given our historical and linguistic ties, most would consider it perfectly reasonable for Britain and America to enjoy amicable relations. But there is a world of difference between the Anglo-US friendship of the immediate post-war era and today's subservience.

Things could get worse if, as seems possible, a gung-ho right-wing Republican president evicts Barack Obama and takes over at the White House in January 2013.

If a President Palin or a President Huckabee asks the British government for support in a US/Israeli attack on Iran in early 2013, we know only too well what the response of the 'staunchly Atlanticist' Cameron, Hague and Fox is likely to be. Yet a war with Iran would almost certainly develop into a full-scale Middle East conflict, and be far bloodier than even the Iraq invasion.

The cables detailing Hague and Co's crawling behaviour towards the Americans make me think of Vichy France under the Germans. If Britain is foolish enough to get involved in such a terrible bloodbath, we'll only have our Vichy-esque elite to blame.