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Menwith Hill – thank goodness someone noticed

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Burying bad news works. That’s why the government does it. It doesn’t do democracy much good, and it doesn’t say much for the democratic credentials of this administration (or its courage) but it often succeeds.

So it has – almost – with Des Browne’s announcement last week that the UK would allow the US to install its early warning missile defense system at Menwith Hill.

The announcement was pushed out so hurriedly, in amongst so many other policies (46 in two days) before Parliament rose for the summer, that virtually no-one took any notice. It merited 54 words in The Times, a round up in the Guardian, a short piece in the Independent, and was ignored entirely by the Telegraph.

The only quotes used in the pieces written were from Des Browne himself and Kate Hudson, chair of CND. This is despite the fact that other, less extreme people have raised questions about the value of letting the US use Britain as its early warning system, not least MPs who have not even been given the opportunity of discussing the policy.

So thank goodness George Monbiot highlighted the issue in the Guardian today. How, as Monbiot says, can this be in Britain’s self-interest? You don’t have to be left or right wing to be sceptical about how Britain gains from this deal. Browne himself was even straining to find positives:

This will guarantee the UK’s continued access to essential missile attack warning data,” Browne told Parliament, “as well as enhancing the US’s ability to deal with any attack aimed at their country“.

In other words, even if the system works, the UK will not be defended but we’ll know we’re being attacked. As Monbiot notes, Menwith has already become a missile target.

Still, it’s the silly season and the media are more interested in the threat of Great White sharks off Cornwall than they are geopolitics and Russian missiles.

Written by Martin Moore

July 31st, 2007 at 4:46 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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