Thursday, December 02, 2010

Cablegate: UK lied to Parliament on cluster bombs

The Cablegate archive isn’t just good for showing us the hypocrisy and deceit of the US government; they also show us that our governments are engaging in the same behaviour. The Guardian has uncovered an excellent example today, with its discovery of a secret deal between the US and British governments to bypass the Convention on Cluster Munitions.

The Convention on Cluster Munitions prohibits its parties from using, producing, developing or stockpiling cluster bombs, or assisting anyone else to do the same. The UK was a major supporter of the Convention during its development, and this support reportedly convinced many other states to sign. But it was all a lie. At the same time as the UK was moving publicly to outlaw cluster bombs, it was cutting a secret deal with the US to ensure they could still be stored at and deployed from US bases on UK soil.

The relevant cable is here. It shows that the US and UK had agreed that a "temporary exception" (not supported by the Convention) would be invoked every time the US wanted to use cluster bombs from a UK base. It also shows that the UK government deliberately misled Parliament about this during the debate over ratification of the Convention:

it would be better for the USG and HMG not to reach final agreement on this temporary agreement understanding until after the CCM ratification process is completed in Parliament, so that they can tell Parliamentarians that they have requested the USG to remove its cluster munitions by 2013, without complicating/muddying the debate by having to indicate that this request is open to exceptions.
The junior ministers responsible for the debate didn't know this, and were arguing in good faith. But their boss, Foreign Secretary David Miliband, did. Aren't you glad he didn't become Labour leader?

The British government, both the politicians (who are now in opposition) and the bureaucrats (who still have their jobs) need to be held to account for this. But it also shows that hosting US bases is deeply destructive of British democracy. Its long past time they went.