Belfast Telegraph

Mark Steel: How nice that we make King Abdullah feel at home

That should stop those liberal types who complain we don't do enough to welcome people who leave a country that practises persecution. Admittedly, with King Abdullah, he's the person who organises the persecution, but the main point is we made an effort.

I wondered whether, to make him feel even more at home, we might behead a couple of adulteresses in Pall Mall, with Gordon Brown saying: "This one was specially chosen by Mr Blunkett, and this one personally selected by Mr Prescott, Your Highness."

Instead, Foreign Office minister Kim Howells assured him we have "shared values" with His Majesty. He could have added: "For example we've decided not to have an election, and so has he."

The visit also reminds us of Tony Blair justifying the invasion of Afghanistan by referring to its "appalling record on women's rights". Which is why we offer a state visit for the King of Saudi Arabia, as his kingdom is the world centre for radical feminism. For example they insist you say a woman has been stoned to death and never a bird. And women are so revered there, they're not allowed to drive, which means they're the only people in the world who can't be punished for drinking and driving, as they'd be executed for either one so they might as well do both at the same time.

A cynic might wonder whether this cheery relationship with the Saudis might be connected to the weapons they buy off us, which might also explain why we don't worry that their dealings with us are riddled with corruption. Lord Gilmour wrote of the time he was defence secretary: "You either got the business and bribed, or you didn't bribe and didn't get the business."

And when you put it like that, what else can any man do but bribe a dictator to sell him warehouse-loads of tanks?

Burglars should try this argument, saying: "The thing is, your honour, I either got the telly by robbing the house, or I didn't rob the house and then I didn't get the telly."

The former managing director of Thorn defence systems, which admitted to paying 25 per cent "commissions" on a £40m arms deal, said: "I don't know of a Saudi royal who'll get out of bed for less than 5 per cent." So they must have the same agents as supermodels and Premier League footballers.

Presumably they get a bit extra for their image rights as well, and sort out sponsorship deals where they say: "People often ask me how I have the energy to buy five Eurofighter Typhoon jets in one morning, and I always answer 'Lucozade Sports Drink' – it brings a good vibe to a good bribe."

But the awkward part to the King's visit is how confusing it must be for poor President Ahmadinejad of Iran. He doesn't grab anywhere near as many weapons and gets in all sorts of trouble. If the British Government hired the super-nanny woman off the telly, she'd say: "No wonder you're getting no discipline from your dictators, you're sending out mixed messages."

The treatment laid on for the Saudi King shows how the issue of whether Iran is developing a weapons programme makes hardly any difference to whether it gets bombed or not. The USA, and therefore Britain, has decided it wants to control the place so they'll bomb it if they think they can get away with it and use whatever excuse they fancy.

This appears to be the strategy of the American Enterprise Institute, which is led by Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle and other supporters of the Project for the New American Century that was behind the occupation of Iraq.

The vice-president of this institute, Danielle Pletka, wrote in The Wall Street Journal: "There is clear information regarding Iran's link to a weapons of mass destruction programme." To which the first point must be: "Oh for God's sake at least use your imagination and come up with something different."

They seem to have become so lazy they're going to use excuses from old wars, so in the next statement they'll say Iran is threatening the sovereignty of Prussia.

Hopefully, Colin Powell will give us something new. For Iraq he showed us photos of the desert and claimed the vague grainy blur in the middle was a group of rocket launchers. So maybe this time he can prove the Iranians are turning men into frogs, by showing a photo of a man, and then a photo of a frog. And the same idiot journalists that believed him last time will go: "Well no one can refute that evidence."

A logical mind might assume they can't attack Iran while they're stuck in Iraq, but it doesn't seem to work like that. It was when it all went wrong in Vietnam, they decided to bomb Cambodia. Perhaps it's like at a fairground, when you've had a go at knocking all the tin cans off a shelf with a squishy ball and not got anywhere near – so you hand over another two quid for another pointless effort.

The difficulty for Bush is that only 15 per cent of Americans support a war with Iran, and there's a chance that after the last war turned out to be based on a pack of lies, the opposition to this one could be even greater than before.

And wouldn't it be brilliant if someone finds footage of the Queen saying to King Abdullah: "So – you can deal with trollops with one blow – no inquests, no Fiat Unos – hmm, interesting."

Belfast Telegraph


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