Monday, October 29, 2007

Vince Cable boycotts the Saudi king

Congratulations to Vince Cable for his refusal to attend any of the ceremonial events associated with the state visit of King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia.

I was also struck by the emptiness of the Conservative response:

Conservative shadow defence secretary Liam Fox warned that Mr Cable's move would be seen as "juvenile gesture politics" and risked insulting one of Britain's main allies in the Gulf.
This could have come from a most starry-eyed Blairite junior minister at the time of the invasion of Iraq. Fox has nothing new to say and nothing to add because he agrees with current government policy.

The Conservatives' trouble is that many senior members of their shadow cabinet - and Fox is prominent amongst them - are essentially neo-cons. Because of this they have no time for the traditional Tory scepticism about foreign entanglements when Britain's national interest is not directly affected.

And what exactly is this main ally in the Gulf of ours like? This morning's Independent gives us the answer:

While King Abdullah is cheered by our political leaders, many of his victims will be protesting outside. Sandy Mitchell, 52, went to Saudi Arabia to work as an anaesthetic technician at a hospital in Riyadh more than a decade ago – and got a rare outsider's glimpse into how the king maintains his power. He explains: "One day in 2000 I was getting out of my car at the hospital when I was pounced on. I was battered to the ground, a hood was put over my head, and they manacled my hands and feet. I thought – I'm being kidnapped."

He woke up in the Madhethe interrogation centre, where the Saudi police demanded he confess to being a British spy ordered to plant bombs in the country. He told then the bombs were obviously the work of Saudi Islamists – a view now accepted to be true – so they hung him upside down and began to beat his feet and buttocks with an axe handle for eight days. All the while, he could hear his friend Bill Sampson being gang-raped in the next room.

Mr Mitchell was eventually released after 32 months, when he was swapped for several Saudi citizens being held in Guantanamo Bay. But he warns: "The torture chambers in Saudi weren't created for me. These rooms were like a human abattoir. There was years' worth of blood on the floor that nobody bothered to clean. It was all over the walls. We were lucky we survived, but there are countless Saudi people who we never hear about who don't survive those chambers."
Later. According to the BBC, Kim Howells:
told a conference ahead of a state visit by Saudi leader King Abdullah that the two states could unite around their "shared values".

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I read Sandy's book and was there working in a Jeddah hospital when he was arrested. We all knew it was bullshit. The big thing was how our goverments british/American feel our relationship and oil is more important than the lives of our citizens. I bought a new book off Amazon called "Paramedic to the Prince" which gives the best inside view of Saudi I have ever read. No westerner has been this close to the King and written about it. If you want to know what the real Saudi Arabia is like read this book by an American Paramedic.