Behind Cameron’s new push for war, lies a total failure to recognise the for the growth of Isis, writes Lindsey German
"We are going to war.” These are the remarks of a “senior Cabinet minister” following David Cameron’s speech on Tuesday when he declared his intention to put further military intervention — this time the bombing of Syria — to a vote in Parliament.
Last week that vote looked less than likely, especially following the report from the House of Commons foreign affairs select committee, chaired by Tory MP Crispin Blunt, which was extremely critical of a strategy of air strikes in Syria.
But a week is a long time in politics. Cameron is assuming that the wave of revulsion following the attacks in Paris will increase support for further military intervention.
Although opinion polling on this varies, some may well be swayed by the argument that “something must be done” to stop further killings.
It is a good question, but the problem is that military intervention is precisely the wrong answer.
To start with, there already is military intervention in Syria. At present the US has been bombing Syria for over a year.
Since September, France has been involved alongside them, although other members of a coalition put together last year, including Canada, Australia, Saudi Arabia and Jordan, have effectively withdrawn from bombing.
The bombing has failed in its stated aim, to weaken and defeat Isis. Even by the admission of the US, the group is as strong as it was before the bombing began, despite thousands of Isis supporters having been killed by the attacks. In the month after the bombing began, 8,000 joined Isis alone.
In addition, Iraq is already being bombed, including by Britain, with little evidence that this is affecting the strength of Isis.
Russia too has been bombing Syria. Whereas that bombing, which I oppose, was met with warnings of it increasing the threat of terrorism for Russia, any suggestion that this might also apply to other countries is met with derision.
Yet both Russia and France have now experienced severe terrorist attacks. Are we saying they have no connection to the bombings being carried out?
Behind Cameron’s new round of banging the drum for war lies a total failure on the part of most politicians to admit the reasons for the growth of Isis and other groups.
Because the inescapable truth is that the “war on terror,” as it was named after September 11, has not only failed to stop terrorism, it has presided over a massive growth of groups linked to al-Qaida and Isis, in an increasing number of countries, in those years.
One major reason for this has been the invasions, wars and occupations which the West has carried out over the past 14 years.
In every case, large numbers of civilians have been killed. Many more have been displaced and made refugees, and whole societies have been ruined by the ongoing consequences of war.
Every single one of those wars involving our government is still going on — Afghanistan, where the Taliban is strong in many areas and where Isis is also growing — Iraq, and Libya where tens of thousands have been killed by bombing and where the country is embroiled in a civil war.
Religious sectarianism and ethnic division has often been fostered, as it was in Iraq under the US occupation.
Isis itself is a child of war. Its origin lies in those fighting against Western occupation in Iraq in 2007, and it eventually spread to Syria in 2013 following the civil war there.
It was backed by key Saudi figures and Qatar in terms of arms and finance. Turkey, a Nato member and Western ally, has given major logistical support to Isis at various times, and has allowed it to sell oil across the Turkish border, providing a major lifeline.
Despite supposedly joining in attacks on Isis, it has been much keener to attack the Kurds in Syria, who actually are fighting Isis on the ground.
A good start in dealing with Isis would be for the allies of the Western powers to stop supporting it.
In terms of funding and ideology, Isis is close to Saudi Arabia, which is a valued Western ally.
It has been bombing Yemen for months, with little complaint from the Western powers, and this week the US agreed a £1.2 billion arms and bombs deal with Saudi Arabia.
The British arms industry relies heavily on the desert despotism, flying flags on government buildings at half-mast when the king died, and turning a blind eye to human rights and women’s rights abuses.
Instead, we are told that bombing is the only way to deal with Isis. It will further inflame the Middle East, and possibly will lead to a much wider war.
After 14 years of war across south Asia and the Middle East, millions are the casualties, including those killed in Paris last week. We have to stop those wars.
One of Cameron’s aims is to isolate Jeremy Corbyn in his own party, by fomenting rebellion led by right-wing Labour MPs.
We have a big job to do in the weeks ahead protesting, lobbying MPs and building the case against war. Honest accounting from those who voted for past wars is probably not an option.
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’.
More articles from this author
- The price we pay for the prince – weekly briefing
- The Individual and Collective in Women's Liberation - video
- Police bill: the protestors aren’t for turning – weekly briefing
- Vaccine bounce or Starmer slump? – weekly briefing
- How do we end violence against women? - video
- Who polices the police? – weekly briefing
- Sarah Everard killing: can women ever be safe?