Lindsey German despairs at the dishonest accounting that passes for the media’s scrutiny of the War on Terror
Last week I took part in the BBC radio programme Any Questions. Unusually, two of the four questions were to do with issues of war (the others on the Olympics and higher education). It was a kind of 3 to 1 panel – two Tories and Labour MP Chuka Umunna, who I think made one brief swipe at the Tories, but several at me.
One was on the ongoing civil war in Syria, the other on Jeremy Corbyn’s statement that he would not automatically go to the defence of a Nato member if attacked by another. Cue a series of attacks by Umunna: you would think that Nato was a wing of the NHS when you heard him say how proud he was that the post-war Labour government had set it up, and that it had kept the peace in Europe for 70 years (apart from a few pesky wars like Yugoslavia or indeed its totally failed war in Afghanistan.)
This ignores the evidence of Nato aggression which has increased in the years since the fall of the Berlin wall, the decision last month to increase and make permanent military manoeuvres by the Russian border, the extensive sea operations in the Baltic and the breaking of the promise to Gorbachev not to expand east of Germany.
Ditto on Syria, where I was told that Daesh (ISIS) pushed gays off buildings and beheaded people, a totally incontrovertible fact but one which actually tried to prevent discussion of whether or not the bombing of Syria and Iraq are actually achieving anything. Iain Dale joined in to say this was because the anti-war movement was all pro-Russian, a lie but one which has been wheeled out against opponents of successive military actions in this country.
If this is the standard of debate from two MPs and a media presenter, it is little wonder that there is so much despair about politics in Britain. It is quite incredible that we have had 15 years of foreign interventions, directly involving the British government, and yet there are so few serious attempts to assess their outcome. We have had the Chilcot report, about as damning as could be to the then prime minister and the political establishment around him, but it has just been passed over by MPs after the most unsatisfactory of debates in the House of Commons. We have had a growth in terrorism, predicted by security forces and many others, which is delinked from the question of the wars.
In fact, Afghanistan sees the Taliban stronger than at any time since they were defeated in 2001, and likely to take more of Helmand province, where most British soldiers died. Iraq is a disaster zone: the site of the birth of ISIS, riddled with sectarian division, a terrible war going on and still being bombed 13 years after George Bush declared mission accomplished. Libya, bombed in 2011, now home to guess who – ISIS, and now witnessing more western intervention. Syria, a country destroyed by war with a range of powers intervening on all sides and with the bombing voted for by parliament 8 months ago hardly taking place.
These are some of the questions that could and should be addressed. But no. Shout and smear, and blame Jeremy Corbyn, who has consistently called it right, much more so than the vast majority of MPs over the past 15 years.
On the topic of the Labour leadership, Sadiq Khan has said that Owen Smith, like him, opposed the Iraq war. Is that true? All I can say is, 2 million people marched against that war on February 15th 2003. I don’t think he was one of them.
Happy to be proved wrong, of course. Or maybe that’s another fact that those with the war mentality prefer to ignore.
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’.
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