Not so special

Remind me again what the British get out of the US-UK “special relationship”? Writing in the Guardian, Richard Norton-Taylor sets out this disfunctional relationship in all its glory:

  • A senior British military commander says that Donald Rumsfeld should be tried for war crimes.
  • The Brits are still furious that the decision to disband the Iraqi army after the invasion contradicted orders given by British military chiefs to their commanders in the field.
  • Warnings from British officials that the Bush administration had no post-invasion strategy
    went unheaded.
  • The British begged the US to bomb the poppy fields of Afghanistan because most of the heroin in Britain comes from Afghanistan. The US refused.
  • Bush has blocked a billion-dollar deal with Rolls-Royce to build engines for the proposed joint strike fighter, despite repeated lobbying from Blair.
  • The US refuses to share advanced military technology with the UK.
  • It refuses to let British agencies question terrorist suspects.
  • The US has a longstanding demand that the US-UK relationship “may entail on occasion the applying of UK resources to the meeting of US requirements” (but not vice versa).

Norton-Taylor asks:

Is it in Britain’s national interest to be so closely allied to a US that takes Britain for granted, to an administration that sets up Guantánamo Bay – where the treatment of prisoners led a high-court judge to remark that “America’s idea of what is torture is not the same as ours and does not appear to coincide with that of most civilised nations”?

I think that GitMo is indeed symbolic of the distance between the US and UK: in Britain, we just cannot believe how the US can justify it. Still, despite the ideological chasm on many things, the Brits will continue to play poodle: the US gives us a seat at the table, a seat we wouldn’t otherwise have. Of course, the dinner invite has one requirement: you get what you’re given. Be quiet and eat!



  1. I don’t know either what the British peoples get out of this. But it is worthwhile for British officials.Tony was a good boy. So he got special treatment during the State of the Nation address of the president.Then there are all those cozy jobs for former Thatcher and Major operators in the United States. George Herbert Walker Bush got a KB and John Majors got to be on the board of the Carlyle Group. That’s a fair trade, isn’t it?


  2. I think that’s about right, Hellmut. I do think that it also appeals to the British sense of vanity: it’s cool to hang out with the big boys, and America allows Britain to punch above its weight (so long as Britain is punching those whom America wants it to punch).


  3. Please, Ronan not your tired old Gitmo diatribe? Do we have to run that one down again? I mean the fact that there is not (in the substance of any law) any demonstrable violation of “international law” in the US decision to detain illegal combatants. Let me know if you need me to walk you through this again.And do you seriously believe that the Guardian is giving you a balanced view here? That they aren’t editing for presentation? That instances where the British position is being taken FULLY into account and actually deciding the course aren’t being cut out? Like….oh…. where is the part about when Tony Blair insisted that the US not lean on references to Israeli intelligence in building the case for the Invasion and the US acquiesced? Or about how the US was persuaded, by Blair, to delay and make the case to the UN? Or when Tony argued that, in making the case for the war, that the strictly LEGAL case should be emphasized (i.e. WMD) and not the humanitarian imperatives? Again, Tony was heeded with regretable results.Sorry RJH, but the Guardian isn’t even trying to paint an even picture.


  4. Funny, Stu, you just proved the < HREF="" REL="nofollow">point I made here<> that Americans have a lawyered-up view of morality. I will, just so you know, bleat about Gitmo until they close that God-forsaken place.Stu, email me if you’re still in DC


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