UK spends fortune on army ‘as if it still had Empire’
Earlier this week, Prime Minister David Cameron announced he was “very open” to spending money from the UK's 10-billion-pound ($US15.2 billion) aid budget on peacekeeping and other security operations.
The move sparked a wave of criticism in Britain, with opponents insisting that money should be spent on things like hospitals rather than the military.
RT:There had been cuts on the cards for the UK defense budget - what do you make of it possibly getting an extra peacekeeping handout?
Lindsey German: I think it’s fairly shocking. Although, perhaps, not so surprising. David Cameron is making a move away from the relatively very small budget for overseas aid towards yet again the military. Of course, there is talk of cuts in defense. Of course, the amount spent overall on wars, on continued interventions is very high.
For example, Britain spends from 4 to 5 billion pounds ($US6-7.5 billion) a year for the war in Afghanistan, whereas last year it was committing 178 million pounds to aid. And you do really ask yourself: what would be more useful in a country like Afghanistan – more training of troops or money spent on improving infrastructure, agriculture and giving people better education.
RT: Prime Minister Cameron talked of moral and security responsibilities. Shouldn't helping the ailing economy at home be a bigger priority?
LG: The cost of fuel and food is very high in the UK. We are in the recession. And people say that this is very largely because people’s wages aren’t sufficient to cover anything apart from their housing, their fuel and the very basic food that they need.
Yet, there seems to be endless money for war. And this is a war which is generally recognized as not being won. It’s also generally recognized that whatever scale of withdrawal is in the end of 2014, none of the fundamental problems in Afghanistan will be dealt with.
So we are declining imperial power at home and spending money on wars which are benefiting to nobody.
RT: It's not supposed to be about waging wars here - the suggestion is to spend more on peacekeeping operations - sounds like a noble cause, doesn't it?
LG: I think that people can be forgiven for not understanding the difference between going to war and peacekeeping. It involves the military and soldiers, and it involves an operation which is about countering insurgency. So I think that people have the right to be very skeptical about this and to wonder why so much money is spent this kind of way.
Cameron has just been in India and said that he would not apologize for the [1919 Amritsar massacre where at least 380 unarmed protesters were shot dead by troops under British command]. Because that would mean that we have to apologize for so much during the colonial period.
And yet, this government and the previous governments are behaving as if Britain still had an empire and still had the wealth to sustain the kind of army that it has.
RT: How can people be sure the aid money won't be misused?
LG: One of their arguments here is that they don’t want to give too much money to, for example Afghanistan, because the government is corrupt. They don’t mention the fact that they support this corrupt government. So, there’s a very easy way of dealing with this. But that would require some honest accounting about why they went to war in the first place, the terrible mistakes they made with war and why they do back such a corrupt government.
People in Afghanistan are among the poorest in the world. They are crying out for some of the very basic things like education, a decent standard of living, and rights of women. Money will be much better spent paying for some of these things than for supposed peacekeeping which nobody wants.