For years I've been a passionate admirer of the U.S. But recent events force me to ask: is it time to ditch our strongest ally?
Ever since World War I, there has been one solid plank of British foreign policy - the special relationship with the U.S. Two basic calculations lay behind this decision to stick with America through thick and thin.
The first was that we believed it stood for everything that was decent and true: freedom under law, democracy, human rights, freedom of expression.
There was also a more cynical consideration. Successive prime ministers have maintained that our selfish national interest benefited from standing blindly behind the U.S.
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Is it now time to end our unspecial relationship with America and its president Barack Obama?
The belief has been that this country's security will benefit from defence and intelligence co-operation.
However, a number of recent events have led me to ask an important question: has the time come to ditch our oldest and strongest ally?
For evidence is growing that the U.S. can no longer be regarded as a loyal or trustworthy friend of Britain.
Even more worryingly, it's no longer clear that Barack Obama's administration represents the decent and humane values of which Britain has long been so proud.
As a result, standing by the traditional transatlantic alliance is beginning to be damaging to our reputation overseas and to our national interest.
For example, consider the appalling revelations contained in this week's speech to the House of Lords by the former MI5 spy chief Elizabeth Manningham-Buller.
Dame Elizabeth shockingly disclosed that U.S. officials had deceived Britain over their use of torture following their capture of the Al Qaeda commander Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in 2003.
She said that when she asked why he was talking so freely to his captors, she was cynically told he was boasting because he was proud of what he'd done.
The truth, she later found out, was that he had been subjected to the controversial torture technique known as waterboarding.
'It wasn't until after I retired that I read that he had been waterboarded 160 times,' she said. 'The Americans were keen to conceal from us what they were doing.'
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Dame Eliza Manningham-Buller revealed that Britain had been deceived by U.S. officials over their use of torture on terror suspects
This remarkable admission proves there was no trust in the relationship between British and U.S. intelligence chiefs - in complete contrast to the easy-going and harmonious relationship of popular myth.
This deception by the White House made Britain complicit in its barbaric and illegal behaviour, and thereby inflicted deep damage to our reputation around the globe.
Moreover, this revelation follows the controversial role played by the U.S. in the case of the terror suspect and torture victim Binyam Mohamed.
We now know that when U.S. officials leaned on British ministers to bring pressure to bear on our courts not to disclose information about his mistreatment (arguing that it would jeopardise the sharing of intelligence between the two countries), ironically, the same information had already been released by a U.S. court.
Indeed, our hapless Foreign Secretary David Miliband has sacrificed his reputation for ethical behaviour in his attempt to conceal British complicity with U.S. torture.
The British court's decision to release that information was said to be one of the reasons behind the Obama administration's coldness to Britain's concerns when Argentine forces recently started to menace the Falkland Islands in an uncomfortable echo of their 1982 invasion.
Britain was surely entitled to expect President Obama to come to the aid of an ally which, alone among European nations, has stood loyally alongside the U.S. in its two greatest conflicts of recent times - Afghanistan and Iraq.
Thousands of British soldiers have been injured in these hideous conflicts and many hundreds killed.
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Foreign Secretary David Miliband has attempted to conceal British complicity with U.S. torture
But their sacrifice, the support of the British public and the loyalty of successive prime ministers (despite the huge problems it causes in the polls) has apparently counted for nothing with the U.S..
Obama's team made the coldhearted calculation to stay neutral in the Argentine standoff, thus seeming to condone the menace to dearly held British interests and citizens.
Perhaps we shouldn't have been surprised.
For the U.S. is also the country that has launched a long and deeply shameful campaign of persecution against Gary McKinnon, a British citizen who hacked into Pentagon computers in a misguided quest for information about UFOs.
The U.S. authorities' campaign to extradite him to face trial there is devoid of all humanity, decency and compassion. American prosecutors have been told many times that they risk inflicting the most appalling mental damage on McKinnon, who has Asperger's.
They have been told that a psychiatric report has warned that suicide was an 'almost certain inevitability' should he be extradited and that he is, beyond all doubt, not an Al Qaeda spy.
Sadly, in this instance, the Americans seem to be driven by sheer vindictiveness over a dysfunctional young man who humiliated the Pentagon.
Another case of a different order, but indicative of the strain between London and Washington, concerns the fate of Cadbury.
For almost two centuries, it has been one of Britain's proudest companies and a model of corporate governance. Yet it was the subject of a vicious take-over battle by U.S. giant Kraft Foods (which was advised by the amoral U.S. investment banks Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley). Within weeks, in a shameful breach of promise, Kraft announced it was to close the Cadbury plant in Somerdale, near Bristol, with the loss of 400 jobs. It is also likely that the company pension scheme will come under threat.
Yet Kraft chief executive Irene Rosenfeld has contemptuously turned down a request to be questioned by a committee of MPs who are investigating the takeover.
Many blame this new era of anti-Britishness on the election 16 months ago of President Obama, whose anti-colonialism has been traced to stories of his grandfather having been imprisoned and tortured by the British in Kenya in the Fifties.
But this is not the principal reason. The Pulitzer Prizewinning journalist Ron Suskind has revealed recently that the CIA withheld vital information from British intelligence over Saddam Hussein's alleged development of weapons of mass destruction in the run-up to the
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Former U.S. president and former prime minister Tony Blair
So even while Tony Blair was at his most prostrate in front of President George W. Bush, U.S. intelligence bosses had no hesitation in deceiving us.
For many years I have been a passionate admirer of the U.S. and never had the slightest doubt that Britain was utterly right to stand by the Americans in the long Cold War against the Soviet Union.
But I have come to believe - and it pains me terribly to say this - that U.S. values are no longer civilised values.
In recent years, there have been too many troubling and hideous episodes, ranging from the abuse of human rights at Guantanamo Bay to the horrors inflicted on Iraqi prisoners in Abu Ghraib jail and the U.S. security services' immoral recourse to torturing terror suspects.
The time has come to work out a fresh and much more distant relationship with the U.S.. For too long, British politicians - with Tony Blair merely the most abject example - have humbled themselves before U.S. presidents. This strategy has clearly been unsuccessful.
Significantly, Benjamin Netanyahu, prime minister of Israel, a country with a population of seven million, has demonstrated again and again that it's more effective to defy the U.S. and treat it with contempt.
Only this week, the Israeli government announced a plan to build hundreds of homes in disputed east Jerusalem in defiance of the wishes of U.S. Vice-President Joe Biden, who was on a visit to Israel.
The U.S. government has shown over and over again that it is prepared to stand by Israel while ignoring that country's many abuses of human rights.
Maybe if our politicians stood up more to our American cousins, they would treat us with more respect - and honesty.
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