There are serious lessons to be learnt about the way Western forces have operated for the past 13 years, and also about Nato’s role in the remilitarisation of central Europe.

Jeremy Corbyn

David Cameron was on D-day form in Parliament on Wednesday. Freshly back from visiting veterans on the Normandy beaches who heroically defeated fascism, he tried to turn this into a justification for interventionist military activity elsewhere.

Perhaps he ought to reflect for a moment that since 2001, 13 years ago, Britain has been heavily involved in wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya, and also supported military action in Mali.

Successive prime ministers including Tony Blair and Gordon Brown have presided over an enormous expansion of Nato into a global force and through the Lisbon Treaty have linked Nato and EU membership as far as possible making them one and the same thing.

But if Cameron, Barack Obama and French President Hollande looked briefly around the world they would see the consequences of Western intervention.

While no-one was complacent about the human rights record of Saddam Hussein, Iraq was not threatening anyone else in 2003 and most certainly was not a centre of al-Qaida operations.

After 10 years, at least $1 trillion dollars of military spending and the loss of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi lives, there is now a major insurgency which has swept the Iraqi army before it in Mosul and Tikrit, causing hundreds of thousands to flee.

How much longer before the Iraqi government asks for the re-engagement of Western forces to protect Baghdad and the country’s oil wells?

Afghanistan, with an even longer deployment of Nato forces, is chronically unstable and deeply impoverished, and has become a test bed for drone aircraft and modern surveillance methods being used against people in desperate poverty.

Obama has now agreed to deploy around 14,000 US, Nato and other international troops permanently in Afghanistan and to retain bases there, just as the US is seeking to maintain its bases all over the region.

Libya was paraded as a great success story following the John McCain-inspired intervention and is now sporadically a place of civil war but also a departure point for some of the most desperate refugees from conflicts all over the Middle East and north Africa, who seek to get to Europe in search of safety.

Surely there are some serious lessons to be learnt about the way in which Western forces have operated over the past 13 years but also about the role of Nato as the major driver for the remilitarisation of central Europe.

The Times on June 2 reported that Britain is involved in talks seriously considering sending troops to Poland, Estonia and Ukraine, not just as part of the US-led Nato military exercises but as part of a bolstering of the armed forces in those countries.

When questioned about this by Helen Goodman MP, Cameron waved it away as being of no great importance. When I questioned him on the expansionist role of Nato that could provoke increased military expenditure by Russia in the region, he suggested that this was not the right way to see foreign policy.

The situation of desperate people fleeing from wars regularly fills our TV screens, no more so than those fleeing from Syria into Turkey and Lebanon.

While Britain is not directly involved, it is also clear that US money, together with Saudi and Qatari military support and British training, are fuelling the conflict there and making the urgent need for a ceasefire and renewal of the Geneva process ever more difficult.

Surely it is high time that we had a serious debate about Britain’s overall defence and foreign policy. More than 60 years of Nato membership has brought us enormous levels of military expenditure and by our close relationship with the US through Nato and the Mutual Defence Agreement involved us in countless conflicts.

In a world beset by conflict, often around the grab for natural resources and fuelled by the greed of arms and defence manufacturers, surely it’s time to reassess our priorities for a foreign policy based on human values, peaceful development and not exacerbating military aggression.

Next Tuesday June 17, the People’s Parliament event in the House of Commons  will be discussing just that (email for more information).

I hope this can be a catalyst for a much wider debate about a foreign policy not based on the interests of Nato military thinkers or US-based multinational corporations. The renewed disaster in Iraq, if nothing else, shows it’s time to change course.

13 Jun 2014 by Jeremy Corbyn

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