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John Kerry and the Role of the Anti-War Movement

John Kerry's comments reveal the value of focusing anti-war activism on our government and its allies


Image: Public domain

In a farewell press conference in Washington, John Kerry made a statement about Britain’s role in stopping the US from initiating military intervention in Syria in 2013. Following a diplomatic spat after the UN Resolution condemning illegal Israeli settlements, John Kerry perhaps made the comments as a comeback to Theresa May’s criticisms. He has instead offered a further vindication of the UK anti-war movement and painted a clear picture of what UK and US foreign policy really looks like.

When Obama’s publicly announced “red line” in Syria was crossed in 2013, he promised to use force in retaliation. The UK Parliament’s decision not to support David Cameron’s proposition to intervene in Syria has been cited in the past as a causal factor in the US’s failure to follow through on their planned action, but John Kerry just explicitly confirmed this was a direct result.

Given the recent horrors witnessed in Eastern Aleppo, some have claimed that the fault lies in the failure to intervene in 2013. However, several of John Kerry’s points in his statement vindicate the positions of the Stop the War Coalition.

According to Kerry, “we actually got a far better result of getting all of the weapons of mass destruction out of Syria without dropping a bomb. If we had dropped a bomb, there is no guarantee we would have got any of them out.”

In what the Guardian has described as an “unusually frank account,” Kerry also admitted to the exact events that transpired at the time. What has been made apparent is that, just like the drive for the Iraq War in 2003, military intervention was not a last resort but rather the primary consideration. Kerry recalled that diplomatic discussions with Russia to take out chemical weapons from Syria without the use of force were only considered after the UK Parliament had voted against intervening.

John Kerry also made clear the contempt that the establishment has for democracy. He unhappily recounted David Cameron seeking parliamentary approval for the action they had agreed upon: “Now, we were marching towards that time when, lo and behold … Prime Minister David Cameron went to the parliament … and he sought a vote for approval for him to join in the action that we were going to engage in. And guess what, the parliament voted no, they shot him down.”

This was the “blame” apportioned to David Cameron – for seeking a democratic mandate for initiating a war. And that subsequently the US Congress asked the Obama administration to seek approval from them as well: “And the president had already decided to use force but then the question became, ‘Do I need to go to Congress to get that permission?’"

The decision by Parliament to vote against David Cameron’s plan to intervene in Syria in 2013 was a direct result of the tireless campaigning by the Stop the War Coalition and anti-war activists all over the country over the preceding decade. The vote was a clear indicator that the anti-war movement has been successful in exposing the truth about the War on Terror and in shaping public opinion.

That “the president [Obama] decided that he needed to go to Congress because of what had happened in Great Britain” and that diplomacy was resorted to instead of war are proof that our actions are best placed focusing on our government and its allies.

Tags: syria

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