Lindsey German, Stop the War convenor, looks at the state of play in 2014 between the war-makers and those who give voice to the majority opinion that opposes their war policies
- We should recognise the importance of the vote in the British parliament which opposed immediate direct intervention in Syria. It marked a turning point in modern British history. The fact that former government minister Alistair Burt now claims that Britain can only intervene in Gibraltar and the Falklands/Malvinas shows what a blow this was to Britain's tradition of following behind the US in its imperialist projects. The vote itself shows the continued legacy of Iraq, and the role of the anti-war movement in forming public opinion.
- US Imperialism is a wounded and decaying beast, but this makes it all the more dangerous, particularly in a world where it is beginning to be challenged economically and militarily by other major powers, especially China. The 'pivot to the Pacific' where the US gears itself up militarily in order to confront its rivals, is already leading to major tensions in the region, as we saw in November with the conflict over airspace between China on the one hand and Japan and the US on the other. This rivalry is also being played out in Korea.
- The terrible situation in Syria, where a number of foreign powers are intervening in the civil war, can be a presage of the future, with 'domestic' wars spilling over into international conflicts. This is already happening in the Middle East and parts of Africa, and these 'proxy wars' have the potential to become much larger conflicts.
- The 100th anniversary of the first world war in 2014 will dominate the news. The government and its allies want to use the anniversary to highlight and promote the role of the military in society. Various 'revisionist' historians are arguing that this was a war for democratic freedom, despite the evidence that it is was an imperial war between rival powers, highly industrialised, which ended in revolution and major social change because of revulsion at its consequences. Our argument is that there is No Glory in War and we will be joining with all those wanting to promote peace and to remember what the war was really about. The role of imperialism has only grown since then, and as the Economist recently pointed out, prospects for a similar world conflagration, with even greater consequences, are by no means remote.
- The government's attempt to rehabilitate the military is extending to promoting 'military values' in schools. Anti-war campaigners and teachers should oppose such moves, arguing that children should learn the truth about war.
- There are still tens of thousands of Nato troops in Afghanistan, and even though the proposed withdrawal date is the end of 2014, many troops and bases are proposed to remain, further prolonging a conflict which has lasted longer than the first and second world wars put together, and which has not been about helping the Afghan people, but about strategic control of the region. The rivalry with China and Russia makes the need for this western control even greater. All troops and bases must leave now.
- Drone warfare has become an increasingly serious part of modern war. Its use is recognition of the failure of 'boots on the ground' wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. So now increasing numb ers are killed by remote control. Drones are being directed from RAF Waddington in Lincolnshire, and there will be further protests against them in the New Year.
- The constraints of austerity do not apply to war, where money is always available for the latest adventure. While people are suffering benefit cuts, a privatised NHS, worsening public transport and infrastructure and cuts in their living standards, billions are being spent on Trident replacement, and the cost to Britain of the Afghan war alone is £4-5 billion a year.
- The arms dealers who help make the world such a dangerous place are central to the British economy and are regularly seen accompanying Cameron on trips to various repressive regimes. We should argue for a different set of priorities: British industry should not be based on weapons of war but on production of goods that people actually need.
- The war on terror has failed in its stated aim, to eradicate terrorism and to make the world a safer place. Instead terrorism has spread to many countries, and the war has failed to find any political solution.
- Alongside the war on terror have gone attacks on civil liberties, and a growth in anti Muslim racism. Guantanamo remains open and rendition continues. Any opposition to war needs to also oppose Islamophobia and reduction in our rights to organise and protest.
- The Chilcot report on the Iraq war is due to make its belated appearance in the New Year. It is our chance to demand a holding to account of Tony Blair, Jack Straw and the rest who took us to war in Iraq based on lies. There should be full disclosure of all secret documents and an indictment of Blair.
- We should do all we can to oppose imperialism and war, strengthening the anti war and peace movements and recognising that war is hardwired into neoliberal economic policies which are devastating our welfare and public services. Our campaigns against one should also be against the other.
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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