The warmongers may have won the vote, but they are losing the argument. Not starting new wars might be sensible, says Lindsey German
Remember just over a month ago, when we were urged to support British air strikes in Syria? When we were told that success in the fight against ISIS depended on Britain’s involvement in military action there, and the use of British Brimstone missiles, its unique contribution?
Hilary Benn even evoked the fight against fascism in the 1930s as a precedent for this action. His speech, loudly applauded by the Tories and right wing Labour, supposedly swayed around 20 Labour MPs who might otherwise have voted no.
They might like to know how this fight against fascism is going. In fact, airstrikes by British planes were carried out on Syria from the 3rd to the 6th of December. Since then, nothing – apart from a Reaper Drone attack on Xmas Day.
These facts were reported on the BBC Radio Programme The World This Weekend. They illustrate what many of us said at the time: that there was no military justification for the airstrikes, that the bombing already taking place in Syria was not succeeding in its stated aim of weakening ISIS, and that the British government’s desire to join in was to get a seat at the table for any imperial carve up of Syria and to reverse the defeat of 2013, when Ed Miliband stopped airstrikes (then, of course, aimed at Assad).
Or, as George Osborne put it in a Washington speech before Xmas, it enabled Britain to ‘get its mojo back.’
Despite all the talk of scrutiny, accountability and the seriousness of the moment (apart from the cheers and applause when the warmongers got their way), this latest military intervention is being treated in the usual way by most MPs, whose philosophy seems to be ‘out of sight, out of mind’.
Instead, the resignation of three unremarkable (and for the most part unremarked) MPs from shadow ministerial roles has triggered another spate of criticisms of the anti-war movement, implying that Stop the War (and Jeremy Corbyn) blame the existence of terrorist attacks on western foreign policy and in this way somehow excuse groups like ISIS.
This is of course completely untrue. Events like the Paris attacks have to be condemned, and there can be no justification for them. Individuals who carry out such attacks have to take full responsibility for them. But it is frankly disingenuous of politicians and their cheerleaders in the media to pretend that there is no connection between the wars and occupations of the past nearly fifteen years and the rise of terrorism.
To explain this fact is not to justify terrorism but it is to try to explain, and hopefully to combat it. One obvious conclusion to draw is that if wars increase the risk of terrorism, not starting new wars might be sensible. Instead these wars keep on going. The wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya -all subject to western intervention to end wars – still continue. Syria remains a disaster for its people, as the number of refugees testifies.
The failure of airstrikes to achieve their aims is leading to the creeping introduction of ground troops – now in small numbers, but with the potential to draw in more. The US has an expeditionary force in Iraq, which can also operate in Syria. Germany is sending non-combat troops. Britain is considering 1000 troops going to Libya.
Now the Tories are claiming that those of us who oppose wars and want an end to nuclear weapons are a threat to national security. A real sign that the warmongers may have won the vote, but they are losing the argument.
Source: Stop the War Coalition
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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