The history of Western governments talking about democracy and freedom while backing the most thuggish groups in the world is long and sordid.
The UK-based Corporate Watch does a wonderful job of uncovering the many links between business and government.
Here is its Phil Miller on a story that shows why we always need to separate rhetoric from reality:
Margaret Thatcher gave her approval to British mercenaries working with a Ugandan paramilitary unit during the bloodiest human rights abuses in the East African country’s civil war, newly-released documents reveal.
Falconstar Limited, run by ex-SAS officers Jeremy Trevaskis and Peter Le Marchand, trained the Ugandan Police Special Force, a notorious group implicated in mass killings, beatings and rape during President Milton Obote’s crackdown after the fall of Idi Amin.
Trevaskis wrote to Prime Minister Thatcher in September 1983 to inform her that Falconstar was “in the process now of completing a major contract with the Government of Uganda, where we have trained over 1,500 Special Force constables in two years”, adding that this had “made a large contribution to internal security and to foreign investors’ confidence in Uganda”.
Thatcher’s private secretary, David Barclay, wrote in reply: “Mrs Thatcher was most interested to read about Falconstar’s services, and sends her best wishes for continued success.”
Just months before in July 1983, Malcolm Rifkind, then Foreign Office Minister for African Affairs, had warned Obote about human rights abuses when he visited Uganda.
Human Rights Watch has said the civil war from 1981-1986 was characterized by “military excesses against civilians which are believed to have exceeded the brutality of the Amin era”. An estimated 300,000 Ugandans died and 500,000 were displaced.
Corporate Watch found the papers among Downing Street files released under the 30-year-rule at the UK National Archives. This latest revelation comes from the same batch of Thatcher’s correspondence which showed the Prime Minister secretly dispatched an SAS officer to advise the Indian government on storming the Golden Temple in Amritsar and gave tacit approval to SAS veterans training Sri Lankan commandos to suppress Tamil rebels in 1984. The respective situations in Uganda, Sri Lanka and India’s Punjab region ranked among the world’s worst conflicts in the mid-1980s.