The issue of Britain's endless involvement in foreign wars has been ignored by the main parties in the 2015 UK general election.
DON'T MENTION the wars. That’s the consensus from the main parties in this election. It’s not the only issue of course, as George Monbiot points out today
But it is the issue that perhaps more than anything shows the damage that this political consensus can bring. The Iraq war, launched twelve years ago, is regarded as one reason for the decline in Labour’s support over the past decade, and one reason for the rise of the SNP (which opposed the war back in 2003).
The failure of the British establishment to even publish the findings of the Chilcot inquiry (more than four years after it took its final evidence) could be held up as representative of the failings of this consensus foreign policy.
If Iraq is the issue that still helps define modern British politics, it is only one of many in terms of foreign policy failures. It has led to the growth of terrorism, particularly in the form of ISIS, in Iraq itself.
But the bigger picture is that the war on terror, supposedly launched to root out terrorism nearly 14 years ago, has created terrorism across large parts of the globe. Al Qaeda, ISIS and related organisation operate in Syria, Libya, Iraq, Yemen, Somalia, Afghanistan, Pakistan…and many others. Britain is bombing Iraq, and has troops and advisers in a number of countries.
The last few weeks have seen very little news of any of this in the British media. Ed Miliband’s one attempt to connect the terrible plight of refugees drowning in the Mediterranean with the disastrous Cameron-led bombing of Libya (which is after all only the truth) was met by howls of outrage by the self same British media, and it was rapidly dropped.
Yet this government that preaches austerity for the poor, working or otherwise, is profligate in its use of bombing to supposedly deal with the problems of the world.
Ed Miliband opposed the bombing of Syria two years ago, which helped bring about an important victory for the anti war movement. Since then he has however supported the bombing of Iraq and has stressed his commitment to the broad outlines of foreign policy a la Blair, Brown and Cameron.
The consensus in newspapers, and by broadcasters alike, mirrors these policies. Missing from the televised debates, for example, was any serious consideration of foreign policy, or any idea that possibly there could be another course of action other than military intervention and obsequious adherence to US foreign policy.
The issue of Trident – and we have to thank the rise of the SNP for bringing it to the fore and breaking the main party consensus – is the only question of weapons and the military which has been allowed as a subject of debate.
Yet we know some of the largest demonstrations in recent years have been in support of the Palestinians and against British support for Israel. We know that there is a strong anti-war sentiment in this country. We know that there is widespread revulsion at Britain’s role in the arms trade, and it’s dealing with despotic and undemocratic regimes such as Saudi Arabia.
So there could have been a very different election campaign, where voters discussed the rights and wrongs of these issues. Unfortunately it was only the smaller parties that even touched on these issues.
So now we face an election on 7 May 2015, the results of which are likely to be less conclusive and more divided than any in recent years. What should we be arguing for after the election when a new government is eventually formed? These are a few of my thoughts.
- Abandon a foreign policy that has resulted in the growth of terrorism, the Middle East in flames and billions spent on weapons and war while the poorest in Britain suffer from austerity;
- Stop the bombing of Iraq, withdraw all troops from the Middle East and South Asia;
- Scrap Trident and spend the billions saved on the NHS and welfare services;
- End the "special relationship" with the US that has been so disastrous for Britain;
- Oppose Nato expansion in Eastern Europe and stop the sabre rattling over Ukraine;
- End Britain's intervention in Muslim countries that has led to the rise of Islamophobia and racism;
- Impose an arms embargo on Saudi Arabia, sending a message to one of the world's most brutal regimes that it must stop attacking Yemen.
Source: Stop the War Coalition