Blood Price

The debate about what the war is for, and whether it is the right thing to do, is at the centre of British politics, and looks like staying there for the time being. The worst argument I have heard is that it would be a betrayal of those who have already died to withdraw the troops. What a terrible justification for a war, which would logically mean opposing the armistice in 1918 because it would be a betrayal of the millions who had died.

This ‘I’ve started so I’ll finish’ argument was also deployed in Iraq as the war and occupation became increasingly bogged down, defending a rotten and unpopular government, and facing growing resistance from a population suffering from the occupation.

Sound familiar? It doesn’t stop them repeating the same errors in Afghanistan. The politicians are increasingly calling for more troops or more equipment. They sense the unpopularity of the war but don’t have the honesty to call for a withdrawal. Instead, they peddle the line that a few thousand more troops or more helicopters will make all the difference. They will not admit that this war has failed in every one of its aims.

It was originally launched by George Bush and Tony Blair in order to capture Osama bin Laden and Taliban leader Mullah Omar. Its other justification was humanitarian intervention, including Laura Bush and Cherie Blair calling for war to help liberate women. None of these aims has been even remotely successful. Bush had to stop talking about bin Laden in the later years of his presidency because it drew attention to his failure.

So now we have another series of spurious arguments: that we are protecting democracy in Afghanistan or stopping terrorism on the streets of Britain. These arguments might have more purchase if the war were a few months old, but it has been going on for eight years. Eight years where the Taliban has emerged stronger, where the war has spread and where the connection between terrorist attacks in Britain and the prosecution of the war on terror is palpable.

This is a terrible dilemma for the enthusiasts for the war. They really have no coherent argument. So they resort to exhortation and desperate hope that it will turn out better than they fear. Having lost in Iraq, Britain and America have to win over Afghanistan. But they aren’t.

Hence the onslaught of spin, calls to patriotism and (apparently) the wearing of black ties by Sky presenters when the 8 soldiers died. Hence also the Guardian poll which showed a narrow majority opposed to the war, and a total of 56% who want the troops out by the end of the year, headlined as ‘Public support for war is firm’. Another poll, from ITN which puts support for troops out at 59%, is described by Guardian political editor, Patrick Wintour, as ‘contradict[ing] a Newsnight Guardian poll…showing increased support for the war. ‘

No it didn’t…both showed a majority for troops out. And I reckon that’s firm support.

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’.