Editorial – Gangs and counter-gangs
Britain is a peace-loving country, so the claim goes. It just happens to always be at war. It can’t help it. There’s always bad people in the world, and Britain needs to fight for freedom, human rights and against an endless supply of Hitlers. So the pro-War camp from the Balkans to Iraq, to Libya, to Syria have always said. So, this time, when Britain and the United States bomb Yemen, it is refreshing to hear the powers that be say that it is to protect trade routes.
It is appropriate that this happened in the same month that General Sir Frank Kitson, GBE, KCB, MC & Bar, DL died at the age of 97: a man who effectively killed for Britain all over the world, including Malaya, Kenya and Northern Ireland. His writings on the role of military force in the modern world were clear-eyed:
‘Countries are obliged to fight where their interests demand they should, and this is not necessarily along their geographical frontiers.’
So, of course, when the flow of shipping is being re-routed away from the Red Sea, when the insurance cost of shipping is increasing by 10 percent with the consequence that everything that has been shipped will naturally cost more, it will be natural for our masters to turn to violence in order to protect their interests.
The protection, in this case, is from the Houthi rebels in Yemen, who are backed by Iran, a regional power itself trying to extend its interests by asserting control of the sea lanes. The US and its allies have been seizing Iranian ships and their cargo, and this month Iran has taken to boarding ships and has recaptured the St Nikolas (formerly the Suez Rajan) laden with oil which had been taken from them last year in a US ‘sanctions’ operation that confiscated 980,000 barrels of oil.
This is the hypocritical background to the UN Security Council resolution passed to condemn the Houthi rebels that asserts as universal values the navigational rights and freedoms of merchant and commercial vessels, which, in accordance with international law, must be respected. The Security Council also affirmed the right of UN member states to defend their vessels from attacks in accordance with international law. Navigational rights and freedoms, but on terms that suit powerful groups, and ‘self defence’ meaning the right to defend property and profits at the expense of human lives.
The slogan ‘none are free until all are free’ is resonant in this situation. While the only way the world is run is through force of arms seizing and controlling wealth, no one can be free from coercion and fear of violence. This is, perhaps, best summed up in the title of one of Kitson’s books Gangs and Counter-gangs.
Socialists are opposed to gangsterism and counter-gangsterism and for the common ownership of the world’s wealth so that co-operation and creation can replace conflict and destruction.