THE British ruling class and its state power have never been greatly concerned about the sanctity of human life, except when it suits their purposes.
This is true not only when it comes to foreigners, whether killing them in huge numbers or watching them die from preventable hunger and disease.
It is also the brutal reality here at home, where thousands of mainly elderly people freeze to death every winter and dozens of sick or unemployed claimants commit suicide when they find their benefits unjustly withdrawn.
The idea that the lives of one mercenary Russian turncoat, his daughter, a courageous police officer and the good people of Salisbury matter much to a Tory government would be risible were the situation not so tragic and dangerous.
Tragic, because people going about their everyday lives have been attacked in a cold-blooded and savage manner, putting many others at risk of illness and death.
Dangerous, because powerful circles in Britain, the US and the rest of Europe seek to use the Salisbury outrage to escalate their strategy of tension with Russia.
What upsets them is not that Vladimir Putin and Russian state agents may have exhibited the cruelty and vengefulness of which they themselves are perfectly capable.
Of course, some politicians may genuinely be outraged by a murderous assault on the streets of Britain. But for others, the outrage is either selective or synthetic.
Moreover, any government hoping to be re-elected must try to protect its citizens and those in its care, however inadequate their efforts.
Nonetheless, the real crime of President Putin’s regime is to obstruct Western imperialism’s strategic designs in the oil-rich Caspian and Black Sea region, at the interface between Europe and Asia.
Over the past decade, Russia has stepped in to halt Georgian aggression in South Ossetia and, in effect, block Georgia’s accession to Nato and the EU.
Putin’s response to the Western-backed coup that overthrew the democratically elected government of Ukraine was to reincorporate Crimea into Russia, denying Nato a naval base, and to support communities in eastern Ukraine under bombardment from state and neofascist forces.
Again, Russia’s determined response has delayed EU and Nato plans to enrol Ukraine in their ranks.
Most recently, Russian intervention in Syria at the behest of the legitimate government in Damascus has helped turned the military tide against pro-Western and Islamist rebels.
Whether this will scupper US imperialism’s intention to partition Syria remains to be seen.
In all cases, Kremlin actions have met a crescendo of condemnation from US, British, EU and Nato leaders.
For the latter, Western military or political intervention in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Ukraine, Georgia and the rest is always selfless, humanitarian and justified; Russian intervention around its own borders, on the other hand, is always an example of aggressive expansionism.
Given this record of British hypocrisy and double standards, what should be the response to any proven Russian state involvement in the Salisbury attack?
Certainly, Britain is entitled to demand that the Chemical Weapons Convention directorate send an inspection team to Russia to assess the extent of that state’s compliance.
Sergei Skripal was brought here under a solemn and binding agreement with the Kremlin. Diplomatic expulsions are therefore justifiable, if largely symbolic.
Sanctions against pro-Putin oligarchs in Britain would also be understandable — although London should never have become a haven, laundrette and playground for any country’s oligarchs in the first place.
Today, Prime Minister Theresa May did not explicitly back Ofcom’s latest threat to revoke the TV broadcasting licence of RT (Russia Today).
Unlike the state-owned BBC, RT frequently carries interviews with critics of British and US foreign policy.
Salisbury must not be the pretext for shutting RT down.
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