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Tuesday, February 22, 2011 

David Cameron thinks you're a cretin.

Last week at prime minister's questions, as wonderfully noted by Simon Hoggart, the Labour MP for Greenwich Nick Raynsford stood up and asked David Cameron what abiding image those visiting London for next year's Olympics games would take home with them. The suggestion was that it could well be the number of homeless on the streets as a result of the double whammy of the "government's economic failure and harsh housing benefit cuts". While it wasn't the sharpest of questions and in any case as past Olympics have shown such undesirables are "moved on" from the vicinity of the main gaming locations for the duration, Cameron completely ignored the implication and instead answered the question he hoped to have been asked, a ploy increasingly abused at PMQs. Even though Raynsford had explicitly made clear that one of the memories that could be taken would be a "brilliantly, successfully staged Olympic games", Cameron decided that his inquisitor had somehow besmirched the glorious 3-week long farrago of dick-measuring, replying "if the Member who represents Greenwich cannot speak up for the Olympics, there really is a problem".

As for whether Cameron was being deliberately obtuse or whether it comes naturally to him, why can't it be both? While we hardly expect prime ministers to answer every question posed to them in the chamber in the fashion in which they are asked, especially as it would set some sort of precedent, when they start acting in the same obscurantist fashion outside of parliament in a supposedly neutral venue like Kuwait it suggests firstly that they're a complete cretin and secondly that they think you are as well.

One of the best ways to do this at the same time as misrepresenting the criticism being made against you is to feign disbelief. While then Cameron has been attacked for essentially acting as the fluffer for the arms firms he's touring the Gulf states with and for deciding to go ahead with the whole shebang just as most of the oppressed peoples of the region are either rising up or planning to protest against the self-same autocrats he'll be glad-handing, he limited the entire argument just to Kuwait. Poor old Dave simply can't

understand how you can't understand how democracies have a right to defend themselves. I would have thought this argument is particularly powerful right here in Kuwait which, 20 years ago, was invaded by a thuggish bullying neighbour who disrespected your sovereignty, invaded your country and destroyed parts of your capital city.

No one, it's almost needless to say, had so much as even suggested that democracies should be denied the right to defend themselves by being entirely denied the weaponry with which to do it with. Kuwait is after all a democracy, although not one which we would instantly recognise as such. Indeed, according to Human Rights Watch freedom of speech and assembly both came under attack last year, while only on Saturday a peaceful protest was broken up using "water cannons, teargas, smoke bombs, and concussion grenades", or in other words exactly what David Cameron has gone to the country to help flog, and which aren't much use in putting down say, a renewed invasion attempt by Iraq. We could also point out that at the time Iraq invaded Kuwait we'd been clandestinely supplying weapons or their precursors to Saddam anyway, although perhaps it'd be better if we didn't go over those past Conservative-helmed indiscretions in too much detail.

In any case, as Cameron went on, when we do take part in the defence trade "we do so with probably the tightest set of export licences and rules almost anywhere in the world". So tight in fact that as we've seen, last year we sold ammunition and tear gas to Libya while Bahrain gratefully received assault rifles. Neither prior to last month's protests was anything resembling a democracy, to address Cameron's first point, while we should acknowledge that as he said it's a "difficult process to get right on every occasion". It certainly is: who could have possibly imagined what purpose Gaddafi and the Sunni absolute monarchy of Bahrain would have used tear gas for? As for the United Arab Emirates, where defence minister Gerald Howarth is currently at the Idex 2011 arms fair, to whom last year we sold heavy machine guns amongst other "controlled" exports and which Cameron will be making a stop off at some point, HRW informs us that last year things worsened, with a member of the royal family acquitted of torturing a man despite the video evidence which showed him "abusing Afghan grain dealer Mohammed Shah Poor with whips, electric cattle prods, and wooden planks with protruding nails".

Who then could possibly be ashamed of our "properly regulated trade in defence"? Certainly not our completely unembarrassed, straight-forward and honest prime minister, and most certainly not the beneficiary he went out to meet. Sheikh Nasser Mohammed al-Ahmed al-Sabah has £70bn to spend over 4 years; something of a raise on the under £7,000,000 Kuwait spent on goods sold under military licence last year. Money, as they say, talks.

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Timely and informative - I'm linking.

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