A Chance To Break With Our Addiction To War
Corbyn’s re-election creates a real opportunity to end our bloody record of military intervention, writes Lindsey German
Now that Jeremy Corbyn’s predicted second victory in the contest for Labour leadership has been clinched, it’s perhaps time for a little reflection on why he has achieved such victories against all the odds.
While the media and his opponents in the Labour Party mutter about his unelectability, they should consider the following.
This summer alone, Chilcot reported on the Iraq war, damning Tony Blair in the most trenchant terms and making it clear that this was a war which never needed to happen.
This was followed by the parliamentary foreign affairs committee report, which was scathing about the role of David Cameron over the intervention in Libya in 2011.
That war became a war for regime change, killed an estimated 30,000 and has left the country wracked by civil war. So damning was the report that Cameron stood down as an MP the day before its publication.
Now Julian Lewis MP, from the Commons defence committee, has laid into the British intervention in Syria, arguing that it is not central to the overall coalition intervention there, and disputing Cameron’s claim in Parliament last year that there were 70,000 “moderate” opposition fighters that British aircraft could support.
There is bitter division among MPs as some call for restrictions on arms sales to Saudi Arabia, the reactionary regime which is Britain’s closest ally and major military hardware customer in the Middle East which is now engaged in a huge bombing campaign in Yemen.
That two of the three last prime ministers have been discredited and their reputations trashed on these central questions of war and peace is remarkable enough.
That the political and media Establishment has been happy to draw a veil over these damning criticisms is perhaps not so surprising, given their own complicity in banging the drum for these interventions.
But their failure to hold themselves and their colleagues to account should not blind them to the reality.
These wars have failed, have actually made the situation worse and have helped not to contain terrorism but to spread it.
They now constitute a major fault line through British politics. Millions marched against the Iraq war, but Blair ignored them and went ahead.
Later interventions have only helped pour fuel on the flames of an already dangerous situation.
Corbyn is known as an anti-war campaigner, has voted in a principled fashion against all these interventions, as he has against Trident and all forms of nuclear weapons.
To many people this now makes him “electable” — someone who predicted the disastrous outcomes of these wars. Despite the Blairites repeatedly arguing that their man won three elections, does anyone seriously think Blair would be given a hearing now?
It is precisely Jeremy’s commitment to sometimes unpopular causes, and his strong sense of opposition to war and support for peace, that has helped to fuel his successive leadership campaigns.
It is almost exactly 15 years ago that George Bush launched the “war on terror,” following the events of September 11 2001.
Blair was his most devoted disciple. It is also 15 years ago this week that Stop the War held its first launch meeting. A huge number — over 2,000 — turned up on a Friday night, signifying the very deep unease and opposition to war among wide sections of the population.
The first war, against Afghanistan, was rapidly declared victorious, but is still continuing all these years later.
Despite the biggest mobilisations in British history, and an estimated 30 million marching worldwide on February 15 2003, Blair and Bush were determined to go to war.
The devastation of the Middle East is there for all to see today, and the interventions — both covert and overt — are still continuing.
Stop the War is marking this 15-year anniversary with a conference on October 8. Corbyn will be speaking at it, joined by an array of international speakers from the US, Afghanistan, the Middle East and Ireland, along with experts on a range of topics.
The conference will look at the anti-war campaigns after Chilcot, the Gulf and the war in Yemen, what’s happening across the Middle East, war and internationalism, and drone warfare.
The conference will reaffirm the centrality of an anti-war movement — the largest and most significant in any Nato country — and the continued need to oppose British imperialism and its allies.
This does not mean supporting British imperialism’s opponents. We have repeatedly been accused of being pro-Taliban, pro-Saddam, pro Gaddafi and pro-Assad. We are also accused of being pro-Russia.
In fact, we have repeatedly condemned all foreign interventions in Syria and elsewhere, and have condemned all bombing which in every case results in the deaths of innocent civilians and often also helps fuel greater opposition.
Those who attack us — and by extension Corbyn — are the same people who want to diminish criticisms of Blair and Cameron (and Brown, who continued a heavy involvement in Afghanistan), and who cheerled every escalation of war, every new intervention.
They are the same people who voted for bombing Syria last December and were willing to suck up every one of Cameron’s lies to do so.
Corbyn’s leadership of Labour raises a whole series of questions about foreign policy. It reflects a deep desire for change. But such change will require coming to terms with Britain’s imperial past and its imperialist present, and that is something which strikes fear into the hearts of the Tories, the right of Labour, much of the media, and the whole British Establishment.
It is precisely why the issues around war, peace and imperialism have become such touchstones since last year’s leadership election.
Both the Syria debate and that on Trident became major tests of Corbyn’s strength and commitment.
That isn’t going to change. Nor is the constant pressure over Israel and Palestine.
Those on the left who think we can ignore these questions, or soft pedal on them, are making a big mistake.
Foreign policy will remain centre stage, whether over Nato and eastern Europe, Syria, Libya or Latin America.
For the first time in decades, there is a Labour leader prepared to challenge the consensus, where Britain’s wars and economic dominance go hand in hand.
Source: The Morning Star