The Curmudgeon


Monday, April 02, 2007

Duty of Care

Kim Howells, the underling at the Ministry for Lesser Breeds who gained some attention last year with his dramatic nearly-lukewarm semi-qualm over the Righteous State's rampage in Lebanon, has displayed a similar degree of plain speaking and ethical rigour in answering a parliamentary question about the Government's hiring of private security companies - mercenaries, in Oldspeak - to help with the crusade in Afghanistan and Iraq. Britain has spent a hundred and sixty-five million pounds in Iraq and forty-three million in Afghanistan, "mainly for guards for British staff and facilities"; which means, of course, that the money comes out of the aid budget. After all, the soldiers are there to help the natives (the overthrow of Saddam and the Taliban being a Good Thing and all), so spending twenty-five per cent of the Iraq aid budget on armed troops to deal with the "deteriorating security environment" which has resulted from our occupation of Iraq with armed troops is almost virtually no different from spending it on fripperies like food, medicine, and all that other stuff which the term aid connotes to the vulgar imagination. Howells was careful to note the ethical dimension in his answer, stating that the Ministry for Lesser Breeds "has a duty of care to its staff and to ensure all contracts are subject to rigorous selection so that we obtain full value for money". It is particularly gratifying to note that one of the rigorous selections for ensuring the fulfilment of the Ministry's duty of care is the British aid company ArmorGroup, which gained half its revenues last year from philanthropic activity in Iraq. ArmorGroup is "headed by the Conservative MP Sir Malcolm Rifkind", who demonstrated his disinterested benevolence thirteen months ago by cheerleading for an attack on Iran.


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