Bob Ainsworth MP

Maybe it’s one of the less interesting characters in Dad’s Army. He certainly doesn’t fit in with my image of a minister in a Labour government. But I have a feeling that’s because I’m stuck with an image of Labour ministers which doesn’t really make sense any more.

After all, Bob is the latest in a line of Secretaries of State for Defence who have repeated every MOD line, milked deaths for a jingoistic moment, and denounced those of us who oppose the wars they have dragged us into.

Now Bob’s at it again. In this week’s New Statesman he bemoans that ‘some in the UK believe the fight is not worth it’. He’s quite right – a definite majority, it appears from all the polls. He calls this ‘defeatism’. What on earth is this meant to convey? I fear that it is a cynical attempt to defend the war in Afghanistan by harking back to the terminology of the Second World War.

Government ministers want to give the impression that the enemy is at the gates, that anyone who doesn’t side with the government is on the other side. Partly they have to do so, because they have to pretend that this is a defensive war. How better to do this than to reference an age when careless talk cost lives and when any ‘defeatist’ could be pilloried by right minded people. They also have to pretend that the enemy is at least distantly related to Adolf Hitler and therefore has to be opposed.

The British are old hands at this: they said it of the Arab nationalist Egyptian leader, Gamal Abdul Nasser, over Suez, of Argentina’s General Galtieri in 1982, and of course Saddam Hussein since, well since he stopped being their best friend in the Middle East.

It appears that Ainsworth was moved to this thought by the comment of a British officer ‘We are here to help the Afghan people and to protect national security’. As he says, ‘I was struck by his words’. No offence to the officer concerned, but I can’t see why, since they represent exactly the kind of platitudes peddled by the army and government all the time.

Many soldiers don’t accept this view, but like Lance Corporal Joe Glenton, who is facing court martial, feel that they should not be in Afghanistan. So do the growing number of ‘defeatists’ here, who ask what is the point of more deaths when they struggle daily to figure out the government’s war aims.

Labour ministers promoting this scoundrel patriotism should be ashamed of themselves. The problem is they’re not.

Lindsey German’s Blog

Lindsey German

As national convenor of the Stop the War Coalition, Lindsey was a key organiser of the largest demonstration, and one of the largest mass movements, in British history.

Her books include ‘Material Girls: Women, Men and Work’, ‘Sex, Class and Socialism’, ‘A People’s History of London’ (with John Rees) and ‘How a Century of War Changed the Lives of Women’.