Profiting from crime

Yet again, sections of the bourgeois press and official society went into one of their regular fake moral spasms. This time it was the case of the nurses, Lucille McLauchlan and Deborah Parry, recently returned from a none-too-pleasant sojourn in a Saudi Arabian jail. Acres of media space have been filled with the subsequent ‘scandal’ - this time about the fact that both their nurses have published their prison diaries in The Mirrror and The Express.

In some respects this is a re-run of the recent Mary Bell affair. Then, as now, we had MPs and newspaper editors thundering about ill-gotten gains. The nurses’ diaries stung George Galloway, the eccentric Labour MP with a history of ‘left’ Arabism, into commenting: “Criminals are not supposed to profit from their crimes.”

One of those who cried loudest was ... the Daily Mail. This is monstrous hypocrisy - as The Mirror was quick to point out with some glee. The source of the Mail’s extreme annoyance is, of course, that it was successfully outbid by The Mirror for Lucille McLauchlan’s diaries. The Daily Mail’s offer of £175,000 was easily trumped by its tabloid rival. It seems its ‘morality’ is dictated solely by the ratings war.

We live in a commodity society. Why should not these nurses be allowed to sell their commodity - ie, their story - on the market just like everybody else?

The current scandal is not good news for the unstable Saudi regime - propped up as it is by the US and Britain who ensure it is armed to the teeth. Its extreme reactionary nature was exposed once before by the dramatised account of the execution for ‘infidelity’ of a member of the Saudi royal family which appeared on British television, ‘Death of a Princess’. The regime’s reaction provoked a crisis in relations which threatened lucrative British investment. No wonder British businessmen stumped up the £750,000 in ‘blood money’ required to waive the death penalty on Parry - and eventually get both nurses out of jail.

By a wonderful coincidence, Robin Cook outlined his ‘ethical’ foreign policy guidelines at a Brussels meeting of foreign ministers on Monday. Immediately a row developed. Claims were made that he had diluted his new ‘ethical’ codes. Cook backed the position of France, which ensured that any verdict on human rights violations that would prevent arms sales had to be delivered by a “competent body” - such as the European Union, the Council of Europe or the United Nations. Governments suspected of such violations have the power to refuse access to official monitors. Cook also assented to the French “no undercutting” rule. If a country seeking to buy arms is turned down by Britain, and then goes to France, France will inform Britain only in private that they are considering the request, rather than notifying all other EU countries.

In summing up the attitude of the British government, Cook declared: “The key criterion of this code is whether the arms are to be used for internal repression or external aggression. From now on, our arms industries will compete on price and on quality, but not on the standards that we will all apply on human rights.” Translated: at the end of the day, Cook will not allow ‘ethics’ to interfere with the proper and correct business of making and selling arms.

Isn’t it terrible how Mary Bell, Lucille McLauchlan and Deborah Parry are profiting from crime?

Eddie Ford