UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson suggested Libya could become the next Dubai, but it has to clear away the “dead bodies” first. The comment was made at a Conservative Party Conference fringe event this week, prompting fresh calls for him to be sacked.
Johnson was also accused of being remarkably undiplomatic after a video emerged of him reciting a colonial poemon his visit to Myanmar earlier this year.
RT spoke to political activist and social justice campaigner George Barda to discuss these latest statements by the UK foreign secretary.
RT: What do you make of this latest statement by the foreign secretary?
George Barda: We need to understand people like Boris Johnson… in this particular type of environment where they were taught to see, as Britain has for hundreds of years, in fact, international politics as this ‘great game,’ as it used to be referred to in imperial times. It just seems to me extraordinary that, especially in the context of a place where Britain clearly has blood on its hands in terms of yet another attempt at regime change that ended in bloodshed, to be able to make what was meant to be a joke, this was a punch line in an optimistic speech about Libya.
The very fact that what he was talking about is British businesses coming and turning Sirte into Dubai has huge questions in terms of what many people have called ‘disaster capitalism,’ where the powers-that-be economically in the world are better and better exploiting catastrophe to come in with foreign money and take over beaches and all sorts of other things.
Leaving that aside, it just seems to me incredible that he can have such callous disregard for other human lives. But then if you look at global foreign policy as it has been for hundreds of years and continues to be today, not just in this country, any serious place in the world has a great tendency to see the lives of others as less significant than the lives of their own.
It would be unthinkable if Boris Johnson had referred to the scene of the bombing in Manchester, for instance, that happened in the UK, and said, “Once we clear the dead bodies, then we will be able to be back to business.”
This comment about the ‘Road to Mandalay’, which is a quote from Rudyard Kipling, who was an absolute celebrator of imperialism. I think it goes to the heart of a conversation which is very live in the UK at the moment: Boris Johnson on the one hand and Jeremy Corbyn on the other, representing two very different futures in the UK. One in which we take responsibility with Jeremy Corbyn for our imperial past and for recent aggression which are still causing bloodshed and horror. Or we go with Boris Johnson and decide on recreating some kind of post-imperial state after Brexit. And I think that is a fantasy in many ways and certainly a very dangerous fantasy for the UK and for the world.
RT: What reaction do you expect?
GB: In many ways, what he is doing is very much like what Trump is doing. He is saying outrageous things, grabbing the limelight back to himself over and over again. He is maybe taking a leaf out of that book. Many commentators in the UK think he is basically trying to get himself fired from Theresa May’s government so he can then be a sort of Brexit martyr, a kind of magnet for the kind of hard-right Brexiteers that very much don’t want what the Chancellor Philip Hammond and many others in the Conservative party want from Brexit, namely a very close relationship moving forward. What Boris Johnson and his lot in finance and the Tory backers want is this kind of offshore tax haven where, because we have been thrown out of Europe, we have to slash taxes and attract investment, provide flexible working conditions, which means actually far worse working conditions where we trash our welfare state and the NHS.
I hope he goes for this because many people think this is entirely unacceptable in the 21st century, especially when we have blood on our own hands; in this situation, to talk about other lost lives and this horrific situation in this way is mad…